FINNEY COUNTY – Tom Klassen knew he needed to do something to help fellow farmer Charles Seibert and his wife, Twilla.
Twilla recently was put in hospice care, after being diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. Doctors found a tumor on her lung in May 2015.
So on Saturday, Klassen and nearly 30 others showed up with their combines and grain carts to help a friend.
“It’s considered a smoker’s cancer, but she’s never smoked in her life, never been around smoke,” Charles Seibert said. “It’s just one of those unfortunate health things you have to worry about. It’s very aggressive. It happened to be the worst lung cancer you can get.”
Klassen, who lives about a mile north of the Seiberts in northeast Finney County, said these acts are common in the farming community.
After Klassen’s wife, Carolyn, died in December of complications from a brain aneurysm, the Seiberts, along with other neighbors, were there for him and helped him out in various ways, including bringing food to his house.
Since Twilla and Charles were there for him, he wanted to return the favor.
Klassen began planning last week, and as word got out about what he was doing, it did not take long for the area farmers to pitch in.
“The neat thing is, they called me. I didn’t have to call any of these guys,” Klassen said.
Whether it was cutting the wheat, driving a grain cart, or taking food and water around to volunteers, area farmers and people who just wanted to help flocked to the Seiberts’ farm to do their part to help their neighbors.
Charles’ brother, Bruce, came down from Hillsboro to help. Terry Algrim and Finney County Commissioner Duane Drees were manning combines to contribute. Trevor Hands from the Garden City Co-op was taking video footage of Saturday’s event. The Garden City Co-op also provided snacks and drinks for those volunteering.
The farmers maneuvered 10 combines around the Seiberts’ nearly 320 acres of wheat, with the goal being to cut all of the couple’s wheat in one day. Charles said if he was cutting on his own with some help, it would take at least four days. With the number of combines cutting on Saturday, getting all his wheat harvested in one day could be easily done, he said.
Charles said all of his neighbors coming together to help him during harvest season is overwhelming.
“You know what kind of neighbors you have when you have problems. We all stick together and help each other,” he said. “It takes the pressure off of trying to deal with the issue of my wife and her health and the issues she’s dealing with right now. To see the neighbors come over and take care of that concern that I have, it takes the worries away.”
Along with the combines, multiple semi-trailers lined up waiting to be filled with freshly cut wheat.
“We’ve been on the side where we help people,” Charles said. “It’s much more of a joy to be on that side than the side I’m on, but it’s heartwarming to feel the love the way we are.”
Amy Browning, one of Charles and Twilla’s daughters, said she was completely overwhelmed by everyone coming together to help her parents.
“This is an awesome community,” Browning said. “My mom and dad have always done stuff for everybody, so it’s nice to see it turn around and come back.”
Browning, who works at Deerfield Elementary School in Deerfield, said the community of Deerfield also raised money for her parents. The money raised went toward airfare and hotel expenses so Charles and Twilla could go to a clinical trial in Maryland.
Twilla started chemotherapy in September and finished in December. Charles said she was off chemo for about a month and a half before doctors did more scans and found that the cancer had come back more aggressively in a short time. Doctors then proceeded with radiation treatments in the “hot spots” of the cancer.
Without treatment, doctors estimated Twilla to have four to five months to live, and with treatment, about 12 months. But it is difficult to put a number on it, Charles said.
“We feel pretty fortunate that she’s lived as long as she has,” Charles said. “She’s outlived the prediction.”
Charles said that even before his neighbors came together to help with harvest, there were people giving him cash and helping around the farm.
Twilla was able to leave her house and watched the commotion of harvest from the car with her daughter, Heather Schaefer.
Twilla said it was humbling to see, and she appreciates all of her neighbors.
Browning said the hardest thing for her mom is getting help instead of giving, since she’s always been a giver.
Christine Dillingham, Twilla and Charles’ daughter, described her mother as selfless and said all neighbors should be like her parents are, loving and friendly.
Josh Harbour is a reporter at The Garden City Telegram.