Neighbors pull together through storms


Some days come and go with little left behind to be held in our memory. Some are emblazoned forever.

Wings of steel

It was a beautiful morning as I ran my errands last Wednesday. I had spent time with a great friend, and we talked about how neighbors and friends used to be there for one another through the very good and the very bad. Before this day was over, those words would come back to me on wings of steel.

Shortly after I arrived back home, the gray clouds began rolling in. Another day of rain, it would appear, and we were already saturated. Mud has been our best crop of the year, and we worry for our family and friends who rely on crop yields to keep on farming.

Severe weather

My phone suddenly carried a message from my daughter, working about 30 miles to the north of us. “If you aren’t home, get home,” the message read, and she had attached a weather map that showed bright red, symbolizing serious weather for all of us.

Doug was working in the barn, with help from our Amish neighbor boys. He heard the tornado siren go off, and brought the boys inside, telling me to turn the TV on to listen for tornado reports. The skies had turned ominously dark and the winds picked up. Suddenly, gusts of wind bent trees completely over and the whistling of the wind was unlike anything I had ever heard. Rain came down in sheets.

Barn leveled

Shortly after the rain stopped pummeling us, we received a text from my sister, saying, “Our heifer barn was leveled in the storm just now — fire department trying to jack up parts to see if any cattle are still alive — many hurt and killed.” A downed electric wire prevented her from leaving home. We grabbed rain gear and headed a couple of miles over to the Fickes barn.


The scene was unbelievable. The silo stood, with the barn a twisted mess. Hundreds of bales of straw stood among barn debris. No cattle were visible. All was quiet. Our nephew Todd and his uncle Dan were developing a methodical plan, trying to determine just how many heifers were trapped under all that rubble. Doug helped pull the first heifer out, still alive. Others would not survive. Dozens of people, young and old, began arriving to volunteer their help. Heat and mud and debris made the job of rescuing pinned heifers an agonizingly difficult one.

In the end, eleven bred heifers were killed. The storm was confirmed a tornado, and a photograph snapped by a neighbor captured the funnel cloud which snapped trees, damaged many homes, scattered debris.


Before the night was over, news crews were on the scene, volunteers continued to arrive, and a neighbor brought bags of food and enough cold drinks to serve everyone who worked very late in to the night. It was an impressive view of the best of humanity in our community.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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