A rural view on Desert Storm

2022 June portrait, WYO Writers

“Lt. Col. Dow called and you are to report for duty at Fort Riley in four days,” I told my husband, Russ, when he was recalled to active duty for Desert Storm. We knew the Army would take care of him, but what about us, the farm and ranch? On our irrigated farm we raise corn, alfalfa hay, cattl— and boys, which are far and away our best crop. Our sons, Carl and Neil were 11 and 8 years old, respectively. We worked together as a family on the ranch but suddenly Russ would be 640 miles away in Kansas — if we were lucky and he didn’t have to go overseas. We had done our official preparations, such as the power of attorney, and a new military ID card for me, so I could manage the farm affairs, and our wills were in order. We had “practiced” getting along when Russ had been gone to the Army in the past for as long as three weeks. 

Aug. 2, 1990. That was the day Iraq invaded Kuwait. Living on an irrigated farm/ranch near tiny Oral, S.D., why would that event matter to me? For starters, prior to 1990 Iraq had been the importer of 50% of the United States’ edible bean crop. We had beans to harvest and sell. They became worth nothing in the flash of a gun.

At the time, Russ was a captain in the Army Reserves and he was assigned to a mobilization office, sending other people to their duty stations.

We ran the farm by phone, checking in nearly every night. There was hay to put up, fall cattle work to get done, corn to harvest, and the boys of course were in school. Problems just got handled in the best manner possible. My brother, Jerry Wyatt, lived near us and he ran the corn harvest. His father-in-law came from California to drive the farm truck back and forth from the field to the grain bin. My dad, Russell Wyatt, other friends and neighbors pitched in as needed, and others offered. At one point the grain auger broke, repairs were made, and the job went on. The next fall Russ commented that he didn’t remember repairing the auger in the manner in which it had been done. I told him it had broken and someone else had fixed it. And, that he would probably find several things like that as he worked. Because he was not here to fix the problems himself, we just didn’t tell him about all of the little things that happened. We felt he had enough to worry about without the details.

For four and one half months Russ was gone. He remained in Kansas and did not deploy overseas; he returned to the farm the day the air war started. Right on time, just like the Pentagon promised. Six days later we started calving.

Sanders writes from the home ranch near Oral, S.D., where she reflects on the soldiers who are now deployed, and their families. Sanders can be reached at

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