Upon learning that fellow farmer Keith Zenger was slowly losing his battle with cancer, farmers in Republic County, Kan., jumped to help harvest his wheat crop.
Although Zenger of rural Cuba was told ahead of time about the so-called “cutting bee” that would come to his crop’s rescue, he didn’t get to see his buddies harvest his wheat for him.
He passed away on July 2.
He was 78.
Farmer-to-farmer and neighbor-to-neighbor, word spread and a dozen farmers from the Belleville and Cuba communities converged at the Zenger homestead on July 7, in an outpouring of concern and respect.
Driving combines, tractors and grain trucks, the farmers parked and gathered to discuss their plans to harvest wheat over Zenger’s 90 acres in five separate fields.
The week prior, when Zenger’s son, Greg, of Belleville, was getting his dad’s combine ready, fellow farmer Mark Popelka and Greg discussed organizing the “cutting bee.”
“Keith’s wife, Betty, was pleased when she heard,” Popelka said. “They hadn’t lined up anybody to cut.”
As farmer Clay Shulda put it, “it’s just what we do ... out here.”
“It’s something dad would really appreciate,” said Greg Zenger, whose father fell victim to bladder cancer. “When he heard about it, he smiled.”
The day before the “cutting bee,” a grave side service was held at Hawks Cemetery in rural Cuba.
“After family, farming was Keith Zenger’s second love,” said Phil Goombi, the officiating pastor at the funeral. “Farming is not an occupation; it’s a calling. You have to have a lot of faith to farm and persevere.”
In the background at the service, a Johnny Cash song was heard in Keith Zenger’s memory:
Never grow old,
Never grow old,
In a land where we’ll never grow old. ❖