Lessons From Tragedy

Lessons From Tragedy

Category : Miscellaneous

*Feature Image Credit: Tree Thrasher Facebook Page

I met Todd Pringnitz about 4 to 5 years ago at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, PA.  That was when he was still involved with Wicked Tree Gear, a company he founded that made high end tree trimming saws for hunters.  Todd wouldn’t have remembered me; as, since that time, he’s undoubtedly met thousands and thousands of other hunters at trade shows and our short five-to-ten minute conversation carried no more or less significance than the next, or the next.  What I can say about that interaction with Todd is that I found him to be very much the same guy you see on camera when you watch any of the video content he has produced over the years; an energetic, exceedingly positive guy who appeared filled with genuine excitement for life.  Todd was a Michigan native from the Grand Rapids area, (a high hunter density area I too lived in for 5 years), but he followed a dream and moved to the storied big buck area of SE Iowa.  Todd bought a 63 acre chunk bordering the Snake River and used his engineering background to continue to manufacturer and innovate in the hunting space while he manicured his small property into a piece of land capable of producing mature, Boone and Crockett caliber animals, year after year.  By all means, Todd was living the American Dream, and every hunter’s dream, simultaneously.  But, in the early morning hours of February 25, 2019, Todd Pringnitz passed away as a result of injuries sustained in what can only be described as a horribly tragic ATV accident.

              As I mentioned, I didn’t know Todd on a personal level, although there are many people who did, and they would be much better equipped to provide more insight into Todd’s life, accomplishments and who Todd Pringnitz was.  The reason that I decided to write about this tragedy is because all day my mind has drifted back to this incident.  I’ve been thinking about Todd’s wife, and his 2 month old son.  My youngest son is also approaching the 2 month mark and so, resultantly, this tragedy caused me to contemplate and reflect perhaps a little more than it might have otherwise.  I can’t imagine what his wife, family and close friends are feeling right now.  More than likely, life is probably a bit of a blur right now for them, and that may not change for a while.  Healing takes time. Its true.  But, there are also lessons to be taken from tragedies, and in doing so, I believe they help the tragedy, itself, seem less in vain.

Todd Pringnitz was a young guy.  That day he left his home and got on the four-wheeler, I’m sure was just another typical day for him.  Yes, it sounds cliché, but the one lesson we can take from this is that we never know when it is our time.  More importantly, however, because we don’t know when it is our time, its exceedingly important to treasure every minute we have with the ones we love.  Make sure you don’t leave home angry; don’t let the sun go down on your anger; hug your kids every chance you get, even if it annoys them.  Engage with your children, and your spouse- they will remember those interactions and quality time, if your time here is cut short, far more than the amount of money you made or the title you held at your job.  Put down the phone and actually talk to people.  Keep life in perspective: that thing you are upset about, would it still be important to you if the other person was gone tomorrow?  And I don’t mention these things as lessons for us all to bear in mind because I believe Todd Prignitz didn’t do them.  Precisely the opposite, in fact.  Nevertheless, Todd’s untimely passing highlights that we all must make vigilant efforts to conduct ourselves and interact in positive ways, because none of us have a crystal ball. Furthermore, don’t procrastinate, don’t assume a damaged relationship will get better solely with time.  Don’t ever wait to tell your children what they mean to you.  We never know when our window of opportunity will close.

I believe the second lesson we can take away from Todd’s passing is to live your own life and live it to the fullest.  Todd was a Michigan guy who wanted to kill giant whitetails in Iowa, and was just crazy enough to think he could make it in the outdoor industry, to boot.  Todd founded several companies and helped with product innovations for others.  Todd never appeared to be the kind of guy who was overly swayed by naysayers and critics.  He had his own style, he was chasing his own dreams, and he was committed to doing that.  He was on a path that he chose and he chose it deliberately.  He took risks, he bet on himself.  I’m sure those career moves and entrepreneurial endeavors came with a certain amount of angst, but ultimately what seemed to prevail most with Todd Prignitz was a high amount of enthusiasm and the love for life that eludes far too many people nowadays.

Third, when tragedies happen, its far less tragic for the person involved than it is for their family.  Todd’s son will grow up without his biological father, and his wife lost her partner in life.  Regardless of what you may believe about the afterlife, Todd is no longer suffering, but the heart ache and challenges ahead for his family are still very real.  We pursue an outdoor lifestyle that comes with risks.  Most times, we can calculate and mitigate those risks.  Some types of hunting and outdoor activity come with more inherent risk factors than others.  I don’t know all of the details of Todd’s ATV accident, but we do know that he sustained a serious head injury and underwent some form of brain surgery.  Was Todd wearing a helmet when he wrecked on the ATV?  I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter.  This is not a criticism of Todd.  What it is, is a reminder that almost everyone has people back home that need them to make it back home.  When we venture into the woods, it’s our obligation to our loved ones to take those precautions that are within our control so that we do make it back home to those who need us the most.  The use of safety harnesses, lifelines, general firearm precautions, helmets, tractor roll bars, etc. etc. should all become non-negotiables when we venture afield.

              Lastly, as I scrolled through the comments left on Todd’s various Facebook pages, I was captivated by one commenter who said something along the lines that their heart breaks for Todd’s wife and son, but his son will be able to grow up and watch hours and hours of his dad doing what he loved to do- hunting big bucks.  This struck a cord with me because when I started to casually take a video camera afield with me, my motivation really was never to produce videos for anyone but my children, and myself.  I hope that one day they will enjoy watching those videos with me, or enjoy reading some of my ramblings on this blog.  I hope all of it will give them insight into who I am as a person, and then ultimately motivate them to be better than me.  Todd Pringnitz has produced countless hours of footage both shed hunting and archery hunting his small piece of property in Iowa.  To his family, these are more than just hunting videos now.  They are a portal back in time.  They are a way to hear Todd’s voice and see his excitement, and relive moments that were important and significant to him.  His son will hear stories about his father, but he will also be able to see his father and hear his father’s voice, and have insight into his father’s hobbies, passions and business pursuits.  What an invaluable gift and blessing that video footage becomes.

A father, husband, son, taken before their time is always a horrific tragedy.  There is no other way to describe it.  There isn’t any way to make it less horrible and its hard to fathom the emotional toll it must place on those closest to the deceased.  But, in some way, it seems that using that person’s life to inspire careful self-reflection, and as a vessel to receive valuable life lessons, is one of the best ways to honor those who are taken from this world far too soon; and that is what compelled me to take to the keyboard today.  RIP Todd Pringnitz.

If you feel compelled to donate to the GoFundMe account established to help Todd’s wife, Katie, and young son, Baker, please follow this link: https://www.gofundme.com/funds-to-support-todd-pringnitz

By Reuben Dourte