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Resilient Business Owner Empowered by Bobcat Joystick Controls

A crash changed Mario Coss’ life in an instant. What didn’t change was his desire to be a business owner. Bobcat machines with joystick controls enabled him to fulfill his dream.

Watching from a distance, the husband-and-wife firewood operation along the San Bernardino Mountains in California could appear routine. Mario Coss operates a chainsaw and his Bobcat® E42 compact excavator, and his wife, Hilda Garcia, runs a wood splitter and hops in the couple’s Bobcat T770 compact track loader to transfer pallets of wood. But that passing glance would not begin to explain the perseverance required to get to this moment and how distant a dream it once seemed.

The drive home on a summer night in 2021 changed Mario’s life forever. He was on the 60 Freeway east of Los Angeles, California, and one of the cargo belts on his trailer came loose. Another driver motioned to him to check out the problem. Mario pulled over to take a look. Just then, a car veered onto the shoulder, slammed into him and continued down the freeway. Mario knew immediately: he had lost his left leg.

Sparking the Fire

Long before the accident, Mario dreamed of becoming a business owner. For more than 20 years, the father of three had worked at an HVAC company and picked up side jobs wherever he could. But he wanted something of his own. The opportunity came unexpectedly in 2020, when the family bought a rural property near San Bernardino. Their new home had a lot of trees that needed to be cleared. Ever the entrepreneur, Mario decided to make the most of the timber. He bought a chainsaw and a wood splitter and started selling firewood. He named the new business Hildawood in honor of his wife.

Dream Deferred, Not Denied

The family business grew until the night of July 23, 2021. The devastating crash threatened Mario’s life, not just his business. As he lay alongside the freeway, he yelled out a prayer: “God, I know I lost my leg. Please give me the strength to keep going.” Hours later, he was given the news that he would survive, and he had a choice whether to undergo a second surgery to amputate his leg in a way that would work with a prosthetic. He said yes.

The day after losing his leg, Mario took three phone calls from his hospital bed, each from people trying to place orders for firewood. Even in his condition, he was not willing to give up on the family business. “Somehow we have to find a way to support our family,” he told Hilda. “I can do this!”

“I didn’t think we could do wood anymore,” Hilda says. “I said we have to be realistic and think of something else.” The true answer lay in the middle. They could keep the business dream alive, but they needed some machines.

New Business Partner

The decision to invest in new equipment was based on more than wood processing. Machines opened the potential for new jobs — cleanups and dirt removal, at first — in addition to expanding the capabilities of Hildawood. “It strengthened my resolve to provide for my family by getting back to work,” Mario says.

Only 15 days after the accident, Mario went home and immediately picked up his chainsaw to get the business running again. Meanwhile, he and his wife wanted to find machines that matched their own resilience. Mario had heard good things about Bobcat equipment and wanted to check out the selection for his family’s growing business. The loss of his leg narrowed down the specifications for that search.

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The couple went to Inland Bobcat to find machines that would accommodate Mario’s needs and enable Hildawood to grow. They took advantage of a financing option to buy an E42 compact excavator and a T770 compact track loader — both of which operate using joystick controls, an optional feature on the loader. That convenience was perfect for preventing more pain from shooting up Mario’s leg.

“The compact excavator and track loader work great with the prosthetic,” Mario says. “I don’t have to use my legs at all.”

Hildawood not only remained in business, but it began to grow with Mario and Hilda operating the equipment. The compact excavator easily cleared timber, and the track loader quickly hoisted pallets of firewood for sales to grow exponentially.

The compact excavator and track loader work great with the prosthetic. I don’t have to use my legs at all. - Mario Coss

Family Matters

Hilda was Mario’s emotional strength throughout the recovery process, in addition to operating the machines and running the wood splitter for the business.

“I wouldn’t do what I’m doing without her,” Mario says. “She is my biggest support.”

Business owners cannot predict how things will go once they flip over the “open” sign in the window. Mario and Hilda’s journey took a dramatic turn one year into their venture. The accident caused them to rely on each other and find machines that could help them continue their dreams of owning a business.

For now, Mario continues his full-time job working as an HVAC foreman, and he works on the firewood business the minute he gets home. One day, he hopes to expand Hildawood’s offerings to include concrete and construction services.

“I’m a dreamer who wants to give everything for his family,” Mario says. “I will never give up, no matter what happens.”

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