In the grain belt, autumn brings frost-tinged mornings, color-coated leaves, and the frenzy of the harvest. It can also bring farm communities together in times of sorrow. The first two links describe the spirit of helping out when friends are in need.
The blog below is from several years ago–about a tragedy, a community effort, and a move toward healing.
It’s What Farmers Do
Statistics place agriculture near the top when it comes to fatalities on the job. Regulations and technological advances have helped, but tragedy can strike even when a farmer is simply trying to finish the harvest. Mark Brown of Anita, Iowa, worked his final harvest on an October day several years ago.
Rescuers found him dead under his burning combine. He apparently was trying to unhitch part of the equipment to save some of the machinery from the fire. Brown had sailed around the world in U.S. navy submarines, but he settled on the land and became passionate about his family, his faith, and his farm. He also became a statistic in the ledgers of farm dangers.
Mark Brown’s untimely death points out more about agriculture than safety awareness. As a Des Moines Register article put it, “One of rural Iowa’s greatest traditions was renewed.” Neighbors arrived with combines, friends prepared food, and at one time, a line of 39 semitrailer trucks stood by to haul grain. The Brown family had 1,400 acres of corn still in the field, and neighbors made sure the harvest carried on.
I left the Midwest and its rural communities for 25 years, but Dad sent letters with hometown news, and I was relieved to note that even as the farming landscape changed, some of the spirit remained. In the 90s, he wrote, “A few good old boys helped Albert and his two sons combine the rest of his corn while he slows down a bit for some chemo treatments.” In another letter, he pointed out that “Arden spent much of the week in Des Moines where they’re treating his son for leukemia, so Scott and another neighbor did his chores.”
Good neighbors bake pies for funerals, deliver sweet corn in the summer, and help roundup cattle that have gone walkabout. The community barn-raising days are mostly gone, but Dad’s letters contained anecdotes about the sharing that occurs in agricultural circles. “Larry and his family lost their house and belongings in a fire, but some neighbors let them use the house and all its furnishings while they’re away in Arizona.” Dad pointed out that the ones giving usually got greater rewards from doing the deeds than the recipients did.
Being neighborly is not peculiar to Iowa. No doubt, rural folks around the world have ways of bonding together and helping each other out. Agriculture is a dangerous profession, but for many, it is more of a “family” than a profession. A few days after her husband’s death, Nancy Brown looked out her kitchen window at four combines harvesting corn and said, “It’s what farmers always do.”
by dan gogerty (top pic from townnews.com/fox59.com and bottom from kearneyhub.jpg)