Helping Hands: Neighbors harvest wheat after Gebes is burned fighting fire
July 27, 2016
Mike Gebes' wheat is in the bins. Most years, that wouldn't be remarkable, but it took 70 friends and neighbors just four hours to harvest his 270 acres—a job that neighbor Heath Morrison estimates would have taken Mike about a week.
On Sunday, July 10, a neighbor's field caught fire and Mike left his own field to disc a fire line around the stubble field. He was caught by the fire and had to choose between staying with his tractor and making a run for it. He jumped out of the tractor and ran through the flames, ending up with burns over 22 percent of his body, mostly his upper torso. He is now recovering in Minneapolis, according to his son, Darren. The fire melted the tires on his tractor and did extensive damage.
When Morrison heard about what had happened to Mike, he started talking to some of the neighbors in their rural community of Milesville, South Dakota. "We all decided that, since he left everything he had to do to go help his neighbors, we could leave what we needed to do to go help him."
Morrison said he made a couple calls and sent a few texts and the only response he got was, "What time and what should I bring?"
This wasn't the first time Mike has been involved in something like this—but last time, he was in the combine, harvesting for a friend who had broken his neck in a car accident. "Mike was one of the first guys to go over with his combine and help them out," said Morrison.
Several people took photos and sent them to Mike's daughter, Courtney, who is with Mike and his wife in Minneapolis. Courtney downloaded the photos and showed them to Mike. "He was pretty impressed and relieved that it was all combined in such a short time," said Darren.
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The Milesville community was more than happy to help out Mike and his family. Morrison counted seven combines, three grain carts, seven or eight semis, plus tractors and balers. The volunteers baled and moved off 190 bales from 65 acres.
Everyone met in a summerfallow field and put their headers on, then roaded them down to the field. "I was the last combine pulling in the field. I kicked it on at 10:45 and shut it off at 2:58," Morrison said.
The Philip and Milesville Volunteer Fire Departments each brought a truck. "Just to make sure a good deal didn't turn bad," Morrison said.
The South Dakota Farm Bureau and South Dakota Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers organization brought a grill and fed the volunteers hamburgers, brats, salads and desserts.
Midwest Coop in Philip gave the Gebes family free storage for their wheat for a year.
"One thing I do want to say—nobody did it for recognition. We did it because it had to be done. It was probably one of the easiest things to line up," Morrison said.
"It was one of the most awesome things I've seen in my life. It was families—mothers, fathers, children—driving equipment, coming to help. I didn't realize what a few phone calls and texts could do."
"A big thank-you to Heath and my brother Brad and everyone else that coordinated it and all that donated time and effort," Darren said. "It was a pretty big show of support from the community. You don't see that everywhere you go."