A month ago when Coldwell-Banker Mark Campbell and Associates made it known this year's “Hands on a House” was going to be larger than any before – large enough someone could practically live in it, Cody Crouch decided he'd like to win the house.

If he had a little house like that, he'd live in it. He'd set it up on the property he and his family owned near Brookesmith.

“You know something like that would be a new start,” he said, “a first house for me, maybe start a family.”

Of course, Crouch, 26, also figured if he won the contest, he'd do it single-handedly.

Crouch's left arm is mostly paralyzed and he has no use of his left hand. He was injured eight years ago in a four-wheeler rollover so about all he does with his left hand most of the time is stick it in his jeans pocket.

Crouch outlasted more than several of the 26 Hands-on-a-House contestants. At about 4:30 Sunday morning though, the judge made a call on the placement of his thumb. Crouch said he may have dozed; he was pretty exhausted by then.

It was time to let go, he knew. The contest was only going to get harder and Crouch said he was ready to collapse.

Monday, after he'd worked all day, Crouch said he may have lost the house, but he gained a lot of friends and a genuine appreciation of the kind of people who live here.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” Crouch said. “I just want to thank everybody, the other contestants, the judges. The judges really, really tried to make it fair, but help me stay in the competition.”

Crouch said the compassion and support he got amazed him and his father, who was there through the 35 hours, and Clifford Crouch was just as touched by the kindnesses shown his son.

“It's raining,” said Clifford Crouch, “and the contestants to either side of my son are wiping his face with a towel.”

Other contestants shared clothing articles so Cody could participate in the costume contest.

“I mean, really, there were people – contestants and judges – who would scratch my nose, swat mosquitoes away from my face,” Cody said. “They wanted to win just as bad as me, but they were trying to help me.”

Some contestants confessed they were able to stay in as long as they did because the guy with the disability wasn't giving up.

Clifford Crouch said Cody is a “never give up guy.

“Cody will always try,” he said. “He can tie his shoe with one hand. He drives a maintainer with eight levers for McCulloch County, and his boss says he's one of the best drivers he's got.”

During the contest, Cody said, he saw how the judges were trying to keep the contest fair, but also keep him in the competition.

Said Mark Campbell, “I talked to Cody before the contest, and we all talked it over. We wanted him to be included, and we made the decision to accommodate him. Really, Cody and his dad made this year's contest special for us. He didn't ask for special treatment, just for a chance.”

“I don't know, they may have saved the harder challenges until after I dropped out, but everybody was really great to me,” Cody said. “If the judges asked me something, and I had to get my left hand out of my pocket to show them what I could do, they'd help me put it back in my pocket.”

For the parade, when contestants were supposed to hold a rope with one hand and a canned good with the other, Cody was allowed to carry a bag of beans under his arm. Campbell said he heard the other contestants tell Cody not to worry if he dropped the beans, they'd pick them up for him.

“There's not anything I'm not going to try,” Cody said. “I didn't win this one, but I wouldn't trade for the experience and I just wish I could thank everybody out there. They didn't know me, they helped me for their own reasons.”