For Scott Knudsen, it was shaping up to be a good day. It was his daughter’s first birthday, and his wife Tracy had just called to say she had a surprise for him. Knudsen had been in town, fetching hay and running chores for their ranch in rural Texas. He thought Tracy might have got him another horse. But when he got home, it was even better: Tracy was there, with baby Hailey and they had washed his dirty tractor. Now, nearly 20 years later, still on the same ranch, Knudsen smiles at the memory. “Oh my goodness, it made me so happy.”
It was mid-afternoon, on a July day in 2005. Knudsen was 37 years old. In the distance there was a thunderstorm – he could see the rain clouds, 15 or so miles away – but where they stood there were blue-skies and calm. Several of their horses were out to pasture; there were chickens around, pecking at the dirt. Tracy handed Hailey to Knudsen to hold.