Cheryl and Kenny Ley stand at their farm March 4 near Lake Henry, Minnesota. The Leys milk 55 cows in a tiestall barn. 
Cheryl and Kenny Ley stand at their farm March 4 near Lake Henry, Minnesota. The Leys milk 55 cows in a tiestall barn. PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE

LAKE HENRY, Minn. – Kenny Ley had a problem. Significant snowfall was accumulating on the roof of every building on his farm. So, Ley climbed a ladder to resolve the problem, but he did not come down the same way.

With no broken bones or lasting injuries from the fall, Ley is grateful to say he fell 16 feet through the skylight on his machine shed but was able to stand up and walk away.
As Ley landed on the only patch of ground not covered by machinery, he looked around and saw his skid loader less than a foot away and, on his other side, an original 4020 John Deere tractor.
“That 4020 was my first tractor,” Ley said. “That’s how I got started. As I was falling, I thought, ‘Is that how it’s going to end?’”
Ley walked away from the fall Feb. 7, which occurred while he was shoveling heavy snow off the sagging roof of the 40- by 80-foot shed on his farm near Lake Henry.
“I told a buddy of mine, ‘I’m pretty lucky,’ and he said, ‘No, luck is when you win bingo; when you free fall 16 feet and walk away with no broken bones and no internal injuries, you move into the category of a miracle,’” Ley said. “There’s a lot of truth to that.”
Being a first responder for 26 years with Lake Henry Fire and Rescue, Ley said he assessed himself and did not have any tingling in his hands or feet. He happened to have his cell phone with him and called his son, Brandon, who lives in Rockville. Brandon then made the 25-minute drive in 15 minutes.
As Brandon pulled into the farm so did Ley’s son-in-law, Lance Kalthoff, who Ley called second. Ley’s wife, Cheryl, was at home on the farm getting ready to milk their 55 cows in the tiestall barn, but she did not have her phone with her because of bad cell reception.
By the time the men arrived, Ley was standing up and stretching out his muscles on a pallet fork in front of the barn. Though both son and son-in-law insisted Ley go to the hospital, he refused until the next day.
“After I fell, the first thing that went through my mind was that 11 months ago, we just buried one of our own firemen who fell off a chicken barn,” Ley said. “Last summer, there was a man by the Sauk Centre/Melrose area who fell through a turkey barn.”
The day Ley fell, 1.5 feet of snow was sitting on top of each of the six skylights on the shed’s roof.
“I’ve heard of so many guys falling through those skylights,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d fall through with a foot and a half of snow on top of the skylight, but I went right straight through.”
 Ley was scraping off the heavy snow that had fallen in the weeks prior. He had scraped the house roof, the sloped roof of the barn and the heifer shed. All he had left was the machine shed, which had started to sag.
The machine shed has 11 rafters, and Ley said eight of them are cracked. The week prior, Ley and his son had reinforced all of them, but the shed roof was still sagging toward the top of the poles.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would just take all the machinery out and let the shed fall,” Ley said.
Ley said he is maneuvering insurance coverage, which states the shed is repairable.
Ley’s grown children along with his friends, Dale and Mary Lenzmeier, took turns helping on the farm, and the community rallied around him.
“I just had to think about something, and somebody would come and do it,” Ley said. “I didn’t even have to ask.”
Ley took two weeks off from regular chores and his full-time work at Notch Manufacturing to recover.
“Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – even the guy that butchers our cows – called and offered to help,” Ley said. “Lake Henry is a town of 100 people, and the amount of help that was offered was unreal.”
Though he was on a skid loader an hour after the fall, Ley’s muscles tightened over the coming days and would not relax. The day after the fall, he went to the doctor, having had his self-prescribed regimen of six Ibuprofen tablets and two glasses of milk before bed to stave off the pain.
“The doctor asked me, ‘How much milk do you drink that you fell 16 feet and didn’t break anything?’” Ley said.
Between Ley and his wife, they drink 1 gallon of milk a day.
For the next two weeks after the fall, Ley drank two glasses of milk at bedtime, intentionally knowing it would force him out of bed in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. His plan was that getting up regularly would prevent stiffness. Still, one morning it took him three hours to rise from his bed.
What finally made the difference for Ley was a massage from a fellow first responder.
“I don’t know what she did, but that took care of all the stiffness and soreness,” he said.
Back when Ley was thinking about volunteering for the fire department, his uncle, who was the fire chief in St. Martin, gave him a special prayer to keep him safe.
“I say that every morning for me and the kids; it’s just automatic for me now,” Ley said. “I truly believe there is something to it.”