This harvest, Reno County farmer Al Miller has been blessed with good wheat and the help of good friends.
Diagnosed with bone cancer just a few weeks before harvest, Al, 73, and his wife, Dorothy, headed for Virginia where he is currently undergoing treatment. Their son, Verlin and wife, Violet, loaded up their five kids and left their home in California so Verlin could get his dad's wheat cut.
But something unexpected happened as Verlin drove the family's John Deere combine through the field near Hutchinson Saturday afternoon.
First one combine showed up. Then two.
"I was surprised," Verlin said as he stood with his son, Jason, amid the newly cut stubble, watching as trucks filled with wheat headed to the elevator.
"The support and encouragement goes beyond just the wheat harvest," he added.
Al's brother-in-law, farmer and auctioneer Paul Nisly, started calling friends and neighbors in the area to see if they could lend a hand. By Monday about a dozen were helping Verlin cut wheat - some with trucks, some with combines.
Nisly's son, Matt, drove one grain cart while Al's grandson, Roxton Schrock, drove another grain cart.
If it goes well, Al's roughly 500 acres of wheat should be cut by Tuesday, Nisly said.
"It's what you do in this community - you help each other out," Nisly, said, adding that some of the farmer neighbors have experienced similar support in the past. "You never know when you need help."
Reno County farmer Stephen Lee said folks came to his family's aid when his own father had cancer. When Nisly told Lee of his effort, Lee was one of the combine driver's who showed up Saturday to help.
"Al called me Saturday night and wondered what we were doing," Lee said as he maneuvered through the thick wheat Monday. "I told him we were helping him out.
Other friends and neighbors have come off and on the past few days, Lee said. One farmer, Raymond Weaver, finished his own field Monday afternoon, then pulled his combine into the Miller field to help until dark.
Everyone has their own wheat to cut, Lee said.
"But it's just good to give back," he said.
"I've known Al my whole life," Lee added. "He has a servant's heart. He would do the same thing for us."
One of the hardest parts for Al is missing out on cutting a bin-buster harvest. Averaging 80 bushels an acre or better on the fields friends and family have cut so far, it is the best crop the Miller's have ever raised - especially after several years of drought hurt the area's yields.
"We're thankful," said Al.
Nisly and Lee said their own fields were yielding just as well thanks to crop-saving rains that finally fell in April after a dry winter.
"Rain came just right," said Lee, adding his 80-bushel wheat was also the best he's ever harvested. "A week later, and it would have been a lot less. The Lord blessed us this year."
Nisly said the high test weights have helped - which are averaging between 62 and 64 pounds a bushel - well above the 60-bushel benchmark for No. 1-grade wheat.
"It's amazing, it really is," Nisly said the yields.
"We'll tell him he won't know what to do with all his money," Nisly joked of Al, then added, "The prices aren't that good but the production is making up for it, that is a good thing."
While Al is thankful for a good harvest, he also feels fortunate to have good neighbors a "community that bands together and helps each other," he said.
"It is very humbling, but it is also very gratifying" Al said. "We feel unworthy.
"We are grateful for our community neighbors and family," he said.