Farm communities are full of charitable acts. They say a farmer will give you the shirt off his back, and, in my experience, that’s always been true. The neighbors around our farm helped each other, kept an eye on each other’s fences and property, lent equipment when needed, and borrowed equipment, if it was needed. In times of serious trouble, the entire neighborhood came together to help, if someone was injured or hospitalized and unable to work.
Fortunately, on our farm, we never had a call for the neighborhood to come to help out. But Dad remembers several times when he or his father helped a neighbor in need, and here are just a few of those stories:
In the summer of 1953, Huston Kreul had a heart attack and died, just as his oats had been cut and windrowed, ready to be run through the combine and stored.
“In those days,” Dad said, “the windrows had to be turned by hand, so a group of men with forks walked through the field doing that. It took the better part of a day and four or five combines to finish the job.”
Dad stayed home to do chores, and my Grandpa went to Kreul’s to help.
In the fall of 1958, Glen Ruchti had back surgery at corn-picking time; this time, Dad went and helped bring in that 35-acre harvest in just one day, along with about 20 other men.
“We had 10 one-row Woods Brothers corn pickers in the field that day, as most everyone in the neighborhood had one,” Dad said. “Even with two elevators set up at the corn crib, the men there couldn’t keep up unloading the amount of ear corn we were sending them.”
In the summer of 1960, Orville Hoffland had a heart attack, as his oats were ready to be combined. Dad joined four other neighbors with their pull-type combines from various manufacturers to bring in as much as they could before they were rained out.
“By this time, you didn’t have to cut and windrow the oats before running them through the combine,” Dad said. “These combines did all the cutting and separating.”
Hoffland had a second heart attack the following year, and Dad joined Glen Ruchti and others to mow 40 acres of second-crop hay.
“Jack Northouse and I teamed up to unload and put the baled hay in the barn,” he added.
That fall, Raymond Bender had heart trouble; the neighborhood, including Grandpa, rallied to cut and stack wood for winter heating.
In the spring of 1965, Dad had two different opportunities to help neighbors. When Shirley Kreul (the wife of Carroll “Jiggs” Kreul) had surgery, folks from the neighborhood—including Dad—helped sow his oats and, later, plant his corn.
“I also helped prepare the oats ground earlier with my disc.”
Also that spring, Bender had a heart attack and stroke, and Dad said that both Grandpa and he helped “about 10 other neighbors put in his oats and corn.”
In addition to field work, Dad recalled the way the neighborhood would come to a farm to help prepare for a sale.
“At least a couple of days before the sale,” he said, “we would go there to pull equipment out of buildings, load smaller items on wagons, line up the machinery, and help get the animals ready.”
Among the sales Dad recalls were Huston Kreul’s in 1953, Orville Hoffland’s in 1961, Ed Burr’s in 1963, Gert Olsen’s in 1974, Terry Arndt’s in 1985, and Howard Kreul’s in 1995.
“Farm sales are a thing of the past,” he added. “Buyers are interested in the real estate; they don’t want the older equipment. It’s not large enough for these megafarms, where bigger equipment is needed to cover the increased acres.”
One other thing Dad said he remembers from all these charitable events was the lunch.
“It was always big and it was always good, since the wives would help put it together.”
In later years, many of the neighbors had raised large families, so they didn’t need neighborhood help as much. Nevertheless, an accident or death or other need would still bring food or other donations, as it does to this day. In fact, these days—with many of our old farms being operated by Amish families—you’ll see a number of neighbors come together to help each other.
Did you or your family ever have the opportunity to help your neighbors? Or need help yourselves? What do you remember? Tell us in the comments below.