Life has no limits for Scott Hendricks
Don’t tell Scott Hendricks that life has limitations. He won’t believe it. Nor does he believe that he has to sacrifice anything in order to live life to its fullest. According to Hendricks, he has only one small problem. He can’t walk. But he can do anything else that he puts his mind to.
In 1980, Hendricks was riding his motorcycle along a twisting highway in California when he hit a patch of sand. The cycle skidded, flew off an embankment and traveled 40 yards before landing. Hendricks lay twisted in the wreckage.
“I knew right away that I was paralyzed. I just waited for someone to confirm the news,” said Hendricks. “But I had a pretty good attitude right from the beginning. ‘Get on with life,’ I told myself, and that is what I’ve done.”
In the construction trade as a glazier, not only did Hendricks lose the use of his legs, he lost his profession.
“The first thought was that I had to support my family,” said Hendricks. “I built race cars and I had always worked in the mechanics trade, so I decided to go back to something I enjoyed.”
But first Hendricks needed to rehabilitate. He was scheduled for six months in a Northridge rehabilitation center, but left much sooner.
“After six weeks, I knew I had to get out of there,” said Hendricks. “I saw a lot in rehab; 70 percent of the people just wanted to die right then and there. I’m a positive person, and I didn’t want to be around that atmosphere.”
Hendricks’ positive outlook is a direct result of his youth. Raised in a family involved in what he called “extreme activities,” Hendricks wasn’t ready to change his attitude.
“Everything my dad has done, he’s taken to the limit,” said Hendricks. “I had to take my disability to the limit, too. I had to find solutions to change those negatives into positives.”
And then Hendricks discovered the Carson Valley.
“I drove through the Carson Valley to visit my son in Shasta, Calif.,” said Hendricks. “I took my dad along on one trip and that was all it took. We pulled up stakes and moved.”
Hendricks settled in the Gardnerville Ranchos, his parents in Wellington.
“The main reason I moved here was to open my own shop,” said Hendricks, who through ingenuity became proficient as a mechanic. He uses a hoist to raise his wheel chair high enough to reach over the fenders of trucks, and stretches out on a creeper to work under a vehicle.
“I worked for a couple of years for other people, and then opened my business. I moved into the shop four years ago and have been going full speed ahead ever since,” he said.
Even after the accident, Hendricks refused to abandon his love of the outdoors. Using a Polaris quad and a specially designed Jeep, he is as mobile as any person can be.
Fishing requires a dunk in the river on his quad.
“I drive into the creek with the Polaris and work down the stream. And the local ranchers and landowners have been fantastic about bird hunting,” said Hendricks, adding that one rancher has even cleared a space by the river for the Polaris. “They leave the gate open for me, and away I go.”
Although Hendricks loves to hunt, this is the first year he has gone deer hunting. He, his dad, and two others, drew an area in Elko County that included the Ruby Marsh Game Reserve.
On opening day, Hendricks and his crew wound through the rugged country in his Jeep.
“There was a forked horn across the canyon at about 275 yards,” said Hendricks, who explained that special considerations are given to hunters with handicaps, including shooting from a vehicle. “I inched the Jeep over the edge of the canyon, flipped down the windshield and took one shot.”
The deer fell, and an argument began over how to get the deer out of the canyon.
“One of the things I specialize in at the shop is modifying Jeeps into rock crawlers. I just worked my way down into the canyon and up the other side to the deer. And then I packed the deer and the rest of the crew out in the Jeep,” said Hendricks.
Hendricks created and formed the High Mountain 4X4 Club to supplement his passion for rock climbing.
“We’re a brain-dead crew that plays pretty hard,” said Hendricks. He and co-pilot Bill Sugden have entered many national rock crawling competitions with his Jeep, the most famous being the Rubicon.
“I have a rock garden in my backyard where we test vehicles,” Hendricks said, laughing. “I guess it’s more like a boulder garden. I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong impression.”
Hendricks doesn’t have much use for the term “handicapped.” He only parks in handicapped spots when there isn’t anywhere else to park. He is also helping others overcome their limitations.
“It takes a lot of practice to learn how to do something. It took three days before I was able to get into the Jeep efficiently,” said Hendricks. “A man in Missouri wanted to know how I did it, so I made a video and sent it to him. Now, more people are contacting me for advice.”
Every time Hendricks competes, he builds his business as other competitors and spectators want him to modify their Jeeps.
“They don’t care that I am handicapped, only what my Jeep can do, and I sell a lot of Jeep jobs,” said Hendricks.
Most people are inquisitive about how Hendricks does what he does from a wheelchair.
“I tell them there is no easy way – just a lot of practice,” said Hendricks. “But the amazing thing is that after people have met me in the shop, they don’t see the wheelchair anymore.
“I’m just an ordinary guy who can fix their vehicles or turn them into rock climbing machines. I don’t see myself with a handicap, and they don’t either. That is the real accomplishment.”