I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, farmers are some of the best.
I have written many stories about and photographed when neighbors and complete strangers came looking for family when they needed to harvest, plant or work in a disaster.
A post recently appeared on my Facebook from a friend, and honestly, a family member. His father and my stepfather were cousins. His father died very unexpectedly on May 21. Now we are all part of that dreaded club where we lost a parent. One of Chris’s four daughters takes care of their farm work, but it still made it a bit difficult for her to bring in this year’s wheat harvest.
His mother was surprised by a neighbor’s offer to come and help cut the wheat on their farm. Kristie wanted me to document. Without hesitation, I replied, “Of course!” My oldest son and I were out within minutes with a camera bag in tow.
Now, I never know the right words to say when someone suffers a loss. Be it a person, animal, farm or ranch or whatever. But one thing I know how to do is use my camera. Words don’t always come quickly, but the camera can help show how I feel or how I feel on the pitch. Fortunately, we were able to document the event and have memories for the Enlow family.
After posting some photos on my social media, a former colleague, Rod Swafford, messaged me and told me a story from his childhood. It was 1957 or 1958 and a local farmer (ironically not far from where the Enlows and I live) had fallen ill from some sort of chemical exposure. Unfortunately, this had happened at a time when the wheat had to come out of the field. Rod thought there must have been 18 or 19 combines in the 80-acre field that day, and I imagine that left a strong impression on a 10-year-old boy at the time. He said all the farm girls were cooking a hell of a meal. I imagine fried chicken and all the trimmings.
He thought there was a photo somewhere and gave me the name of the photographer. I sure hope I can find it. What’s ironic about his story is that Chris’ father, Cressie, was one of the reapers who came to help him.
Even in the rush of the harvest, there are kind neighbors and people who stop what they are doing and come to help someone else. Maurice Bleumer and his team stopped what they were doing and helped their neighbors across the road last week and I’m sure there was enough help to go around and make a quick stop on their own harvesting adventures.
I told my older sister about the photo. She works at the Kansas Heritage Center in Dodge City and she had time to do some research. While she couldn’t find a 1950s image, she instead found another instance of a farmer helping a farmer in the 1970s. Again, the Enlows and the Bleumers were there to help. It’s funny how things come full circle.
So happy that we have good neighbors in my part of the world.