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Joy in the Journey

June 13, 2013

by Linda Beerman
It has been five years this week since we experienced the tornado that changed the look of the countryside around our farm. Watching all of the news the past few weeks, and seeing the destruction in all of the photos reminds me of the night our hearts raced with fear and sadness. On June 11, 2008, my grandchildren, Brayton and Ranissa, had just come home with me for a few days while we waited for the birth of their brother, Tayden. The three of us were upstairs changing bedding for the first night of their visit. It was around 6:00 P.M. on a warm, summer evening.

As we talked and laughed together, we suddenly became aware of the loud wind and noise coming from outside. I grabbed Ranissa's arm and told Brayton to go quickly down the stairs ahead of me. We were headed for the basement, but by the time we hit the bottom steps, it was over. It was deadly quiet in an instant, and we just stood there in the little hallway, hugging each other and not for sure what to do. It had been a matter of seconds from the time we heard the thundering noises until all was still.

We walked slowly into the dining room toward the windows to look outside. What we saw was eerie and a sight I will never forget. It was something between light and darkness, but still and hushed. The little sounds of electricity throughout the house were muted from the wires ripped and hanging useless from the house. The power could no longer flow into our home from the damage done there. As we looked quickly around the rest of the downstairs, it seemed that the damage had been kept outside, protectively away from the three of us. Thank you, God! But...what about Grandpa? Where was he?

As our gaze looked toward the milking parlor, we saw him. He was leaning on the block building outside of the screen door, looking up towards the house. We ran to the door, pushed it open only to hear him yell, " Stay inside..don't come out. The wires are all down and they are alive." Our house was the only place there was no electricity. His milking pumps were still running and the power was still strong on that end of the farmyard. We returned to our lookout point at the windows, only to see the forty foot Blue Spruce just a few feet from our living room completely uprooted. Thankfully it had fallen away from our home. Looking in the opposite direction we saw two more large Boxelder trees also ripped out at the base, plus many more trees and limbs tangled and laying loosely everywhere we could see.

In a few moments, Dan made his way to the house to make sure we were alright. As we hugged and held our grandkids and each other for a moment, we said a prayer of thanks and praise for the sparing of our lives and home. Until you experience this kind of power and destruction in such a blink of an eye, you don't realize how quickly life can change. When he knew we were all right, he told us to stay safely in the house. He had to return to the barn to not only finish milking the last six cows, but survey the damage of the buildings and animals there.

The events for him in those devastating seconds were crazier than ours. He was doing the evening milking while listening to the storm build, and unexpectedly the window panes began to crack and shatter. At the same instant, the milk room door blew open and a garbage can flew into the pit where he was working. He immediately went to his knees to keep from being hit with flying debris. All the while the familiar hum of the milking machines kept going, not losing a beat. It was over almost before it started, and he thought to himself, "That wasn't too bad". That was when we spotted him as he pulled the milkers off and came outside to look around.

That was when he realized his first thoughts were wrong. It was quite a lot worse than he had thought. The machine shed roof was partly gone, and the building had twisted on the foundation. As he turned to look at the barn, he gasped as it was no longer there at all. Nothing standing, just a pile of lumber twisted and turned in all directions. It had been only feet from where he was milking, and housed some calves. Were they safe? Had they made it through alive? Then he saw the cement stave silo, cracked and gaping holes letting light through where there shouldn't be any. The rest of the yard was littered with all kinds of "stuff". Most of it shredded, twisted, and blown into places where it didn't belong. Kevin Schettler, a neighbor from the down the road, was here in a few minutes. He had seen parts of our barn fly away into the air! He helped Dan free some cattle that were in the barn wreckage.

About ten minutes after it hit, our phone rang and it was my good friend, Carol Naumann. She was listening to the reports on the radio, and called to tell us that a tornado was coming close to us. I had to inform her that her message was too late, it had already made its whereabouts known to us! She came soon after that, to sit with us in the house, help calm two scared little grandkids, and also brought water, candles and flashlights. Another neighbor, Bernadine Kramer, came to just sit quietly, encourage us, and ended up holding grandkids and reading to them. It was wonderful to have them here, as I was answering the phone every couple minutes, plus welcoming more and more cars that just kept coming to see how we were.

They brought caring hugs, happiness and hope into our scary, mixed-up evening. Some even brought water and food, wondering if we were in need of such necessities. We were overwhelmed with the thoughtfulness of people from all directions. Many said they would return the next day to help begin the clean up. It was already getting dark and the work would have to wait until sunshine again returned to our world.

Before it got too dark, Brayton and I took a walk down by the barns. As we listened to the cows mooing, he told me, "Grandma, the cows are sad because they have lost their home". What insight little people have, don't they? Even today, our grandkids that experienced this event with us still remember the fear and uneasiness of that night.

Mike Loosbrock came to our rescue that evening too. He came to repair the wires dangling from the house to once again give us electricity and welcomed light into our darkened home. Would you believe we just reminded him a few weeks ago in Fulda that he had never sent a bill to us! He has now, and we have that debt paid.

Thanks to so many of our wonderful neighbors and friends for your thoughtfulness to us in that fateful hour and days afterwards. Over one hundred people showed up the next day to help clean up, fix, and remove piles. They brought chain saws, tools, tractors, skid loaders and whatever else they thought was needed. Food came by the basket loads, and a temporary dining room was set up in our garage. Johnny Bents and Gaylen and Marlene Cuperus had damage from that storm too, and they came and joined us for some meals. The fellowship and friendships shared those days were so encouraging to us all. As the Bible tells us, "Joy comes in the morning...." It sure did, and we just want to say another thank you to all of you who so willingly gave of your time and effort to help those of us in need. It will never be forgotten, and forever appreciated.

In the aftermath of the storm, I asked Dan what would happen to our milking. (You see, I have encouraged him to quit for a few years now.) He said we would probably have to be done, but within a half hour he found me again and said, " I changed my mind. We will rebuild and continue on with the dairy." Well, that was short lived! Ha... Since his early teens he has milked, and most would think he would be tired of it. But, no, he likes it very much. I think it brings him good thinking time and relaxation from the hassles of the outside world. When I retired from teaching last year, he told me that was fine, but he was not ready. No problem! I have decided it is his choice, and I will support his wishes as long as he feels he wants to continue. I dislike the part of being tied down every day of the year, but it certainly has been a good life for our family and it did teach all of our children how to work. And that is a good thing!

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