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North Dakota youth's love of ranching motivates him to push forward after utility vehicle accident

Chance Jacobson, Hatton, North Dakota, was injured on July 18, 2022, when he was driving a side-by-side utility vehicle home after an afternoon of checking on and repairing pasture fences.

A boy in a gray and green sweatshirt, shorts and with his legs wrapped and one in a cast, hugs a black dog with a white spot and white leg.
Chance Jacobson is glad to be at home on the family farm near Hatton, North Dakota, where he is surrounded by livestock and the family pets, including Rex, the cattle dog.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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HATTON, N.D. — A fencing tool in his hand and mooing cows and the stamping of horses' hooves within earshot,15-year-old Chance Jacobson is at home on his farm near Hatton after spending more than a month in the hospital.

Chance was released from Sanford Children’s Hospital on Aug. 23, 2022, 37 days after being taken there for treatment from injuries sustained when the side-by-side utility vehicle he was driving collided with a minivan.

Chance was injured on July 18, 2022, when he was driving the side-by-side utility home after an afternoon of checking on and repairing pasture fences. He was making a left turn off of the highway when his vehicle collided with a mini van that was attempting to pass him at a Steele County, North Dakota, intersection.

Both of the youth’s femurs were broken in the accident and the right leg sustained severe internal leg degloving, a condition in which the top layers of skin are torn off of the underlying muscle. The meniscus in his right leg also was destroyed

During the past several weeks, he has been undergoing medical procedures, including 10 surgeries, and physical therapy. He has begun walking on crutches and next week will return to the hospital for skin graft surgery for his legs.

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Being back on the farm also helps with healing.

“It feels a lot better here than it does at the hospital. It’s nice to go out on the deck and hear the sounds of nature, hear the horses stopping and the cows bellowing,” Chance said on Sept. 7, 2022, while seated in a recliner in the home southwest of Hatton that he shares with his father, John, mother, Stacey, sister, Sydney, and brother, Zane.

The family has a black Angus cow herd of about 85, and Chance and Zane bought a dozen head of bred heifers this spring.

For as long as he can remember, Chance has been interested in farming and ranching.

Stacey recalls that her son used to get frustrated, even as a young child, when he couldn’t ride in the tractor with his dad.

“He was never one to stay inside and watch TV or play video games,” said Stacey.

“I’ve always liked cattle and everything about them,” Chance said. Instead of playing sports after school, he enjoys going home and working on the farm. Summers are spent doing the same.

“I’ve been in charge of all the fencing, keeping the cows in, helping make hay," Chance said.

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After Chance, now a freshman, graduates from Hatton Eielson School, he plans to earn an undergraduate degree from North Dakota State University in agriculture and a master’s degree in business from the university,

Chance’s father, a former North Dakota Farm Bureau member relations coordinator, a few years ago documented his sons’ passion for farming in a series of YouTube videos called Chores with Chance. The videos show Zane and Chance feeding heifers, watering sheep and checking the 4-H hogs.

Given Chance’s well-known interest in all things livestock, it’s no surprise that a family friend gave him the fencing tool as a gift, post-accident.

“A lot of people know I like that stuff. It’s basically my personality,” Chance said.

Besides the fencing tool, the NDSU Bison sweatshirt he is wearing, a couple of farm caps in the box beside his recliner and the adoring look that Rex, the family cattle dog, gives him when he comes in from outside for a visit are testimony to Chance’s love for agriculture.

Chance noted that the athletic shorts he wears now are new since the accident but are not attire that he's comfortable with.

A man wearing a gray t-shirt that says Chance's Champions holds a gold-colored horse for a boy whose legs are bandaged.
Keith Johnson, a friend of Chance Jacobson, brought his horse Dusty to greet the teen during an outing at Rocking R Ranch near Hatton, North Dakota.
Contributed / Stacey Jacobson

“Before that, it was boots and jeans. I’ve probably worn more shorts in the last few weeks than I have in my entire life,” he said.

A horseman since he was 7, Chance has enjoyed spending time with his Palomino, Melody, since he returned home.

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“We brought her right up to the deck,” Stacey said.

Chance also got a chance to visit Dusty, another horse he used to ride, when he recently visited the Rocking R Ranch near Hatton.

Though it's been a long road to recovery — and will continue to be — Chance is grateful to be alive. He credits being able to plan for a future in livestock production to buckling up when he got in the side-by-side and encouraged others to always wear their seat belts.

“You can never be in too much of a rush that you don’t have your seat belt on,” he said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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