SALEM, Ohio – The temperature hovered below the freezing mark Jan. 28 as Steve Walker and two of his grandsons headed out to the barn to take care of Walker’s cattle.
It was already noon and the wintry air didn’t show any sign of getting warmer. But Walker wasn’t worried about the temperature. He loved to farm and he loved working with his grandsons – 13-year-old Zachary Elbiali and 8-year-old Jamal Judd.
When they got to the barn, the boys waited inside while Walker walked to an open area outside the barn to band a calf. The farmer carried a pitchfork for protection, just in case.
The accident. Through an open window, Elbiali and Judd watched their grandfather band the calf. The process went as planned until the calf’s mother made a terrifying move.
“All the sudden he looks and sees a cow running full blow at him,” said Lisa Burns, Walker’s daughter.
Walker’s grandsons said their grandfather yelled and tried to backpedal through the frozen, rutted ground. The boys ran to help, but when they got outside they found Walker lying in the dirt.
The farmer couldn’t see or talk, but he pointed to the cell phone in his pocket. Elbiali grabbed the phone and dialed 911, giving the dispatcher the address of his grandparents’ house. While the boys waited for the ambulance to arrive, Burns said Walker tried to communicate with Elbiali.
“He grabbed my son’s hand as hard as he could and put it on his heart,” she said.
When the sirens started to wail, Judd stayed with Walker as Elbiali sprinted down the farm’s 200-yard lane to flag down the ambulance since the barn is listed under a different address than the house.
Despite his grandsons’ efforts, Walker died Jan. 30 at Mercy Medical Center from a fractured skull and swelling of the brain. (See related obituary on page A5.)
What happened? No one is certain what really happened during those few seconds when Elbiali and Judd were racing to help their grandfather, but Burns said the family has a theory on what might have taken place. They think the cow may have butted Walker as he ran backward, causing him to fall and hit his head on the frozen ground.
It’s unclear what happened to the pitchfork.
Burns called the situation a freak accident, but said her father was doing something he loved.
Walker and his wife, Linda, keep about 20 Angus and Limousin cattle on their Stark County farm. Elbiali and Judd aren’t sure which animal caused the accident, but they are certain it was a Limousin.
The farm, Walker Farms, has been in the family for more than 70 years, according to Burns. Walker got his first taste of farming at 5 or 6 years old when he helped his grandpa around the barn.
“He’s really been doing that for a long time,” Burns said.
Young farmer. Walker worked hard as a youngster, starting out as a 4-H’er and FFA member.
“By the time he was 18, he had his own farm,” Burns said.
The Alliance native worked at Hoover Co. for 37 years, but he never lost his passion for the farm, spending his evenings and weekends in the barn. Walker retired in June 2006 and Burns said her dad was looking forward to being on the farm full time.
“He was just a person who really respected the simple things in life,” she said.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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