By Matt Reese
Through hard work and good fortune, Charlie Reffitt had ascended through the ranks and was managing nearly 3,000 acres and a high-end Wagyu beef operation at Hondros Farms based in Delaware County. He and his wife, Crystal, lived in the home on the farm.
As it sometimes does, though, life took a dramatic turn for Charlie 5 years ago.
“It was a cold, snowy January day. I had been hunting a big buck up on a farm we have in Morrow County. I hiked back in a ways off the road to his bedding area where I thought I might have some pretty good luck at getting him. I got up to my tree stand and saw one of the welds was snapped and the other one I could see was just popping apart. Right as I said, ‘Oh no!’ I fell almost 30 feet. I knew right away something wasn’t right. It hurt horribly bad. I tried to stand up and fell back down a couple times,” Charlie said. “I broke one bone. I had landed on my feet and the pressure burst my T12 vertebrae in my spine and it left me paralyzed from the waist down. I was in rehab and the hospital for a little over two months before I got to come home.”
During his time in the hospital, Charlie began to plan out his inevitable future off of the farm he had grown to love. One day his employer and mentor, well-known central Ohio businessman John Hondros, came to the hospital to visit.
“I thought there was no way I could continue on the farm because, as we all know, it’s hands on,” Charlie said. “John came to visit me and I said, ‘John as soon as I’m feeling a little bit better, I’ll get some of my buddies over to the house and my wife and I will get moved out so you can get someone else in there to run the farm. He looked right at me and said, ‘Charlie you’re not going anywhere.’ That just kind of tells you the quality of the guy he was and I’m just forever grateful to him. He was able to help me get a Life Essentials lift on my truck. It will put me in the driver’s seat of a sprayer, a combine or a skid steer. Then all I have to do is hit a button and I can drive with my hands instead of my feet. He also got me an Action Trackchair to help me get around the farm. It’s amazing the equipment that is out there to help you get through these situations.”
After his extended recovery, Charlie had to re-learn how to manage the livestock and crop operation.
“I’ve found there is a way for me to do just about everything. You just have to relax and think it through. A camera crew came out because they were so impressed about how fast I got back going with my situation. We were out looking at some of the cattle and I had opened the electric fence to let the cows in by the pond just to flash graze it and knock the grass down. It was springtime and we were having calves,” he said. “It was a beautiful day and there was a cow that decided she was going to have her calf right there in front of the camera guy. She had this calf and it slipped into the pond. I was on that Action Trackchair and I was able to slide out of it, crawl to the pond and grab ahold of this calf ‘s leg and get it pulled up out of the water. I’ll never forget the cameraman didn’t want to miss videoing the action instead of trying to help me.”
Despite the challenges, life is good. At the spot of his accident one year later, Charlie got that same buck he had been hunting the previous year. John Hondros passed away in 2022 and Charlie is now the president of Hondros Farms.
“I’ve always been really stubborn and determined. That hasn’t always been to my benefit, but it has been in this situation. I’ve always had faith in God and a really good group of family and friends that have supported me. My wife Crystal has been with me this entire time in everything. I just have to take it one day at a time. Still, over five years later, there are times where I start to get that pity party going. I’ve just got to remember you get one chance at life, make the most of it every chance you get. That’s kind of how I go forward,” he said. “I feel almost glad that it happened to me over someone else that wouldn’t have been able to overcome the situation. What I mean by that is, I’ve I have had a good life. I’ve accomplished so much. I’m only 39 years old now but I’ve been to 48 states. I feel like if this would have happened to a 15-year-old, how horrible that would have been to cut their life short. Or what if it happened to an older person that could not have handled the recovery physically or someone who didn’t have the mentor I had or the family support that I have? It would have been a horrible life for that person. So, not quite as I did before, but I’m able to continue and carry on. When you go out early in the morning and see that sunrise, when you’re out working late having to deal with a cow loose and you watch that sun set, it helps me remember what it’s all about. Slow down and think about the good things in your life, the blessings that you do have instead of focusing on the negative. Nothing is ever that bad. I really believe that.”