Tragedy strikes, neighbors respond
To the Editor:
Saturday morning, April 11, 2009, began as every other Saturday on the farm. My husband, Russell, left before daylight to tend to cows before going to Atlanta for a farmer's market. However, when he arrived at the farm he quickly realized that it wouldn't be a typical Saturday. All of the cows were grazing on the front lot between the barn and the road. Friday's storm damage had been significant and our feedlot was destroyed. The shelter and roof were lying on the concrete, and several fences were flattened by the fallen shelter. This allowed the cows to leave the pasture, but the shelter blocked any access to the barn by the cows. You can imagine his dismay. He and my son, Ransom, had to wait until daylight to survey the actual damage. In the meantime, Russell called Everett Williams to borrow a saws-all. A few minutes after daylight, Everett and Daniel Williams arrived with a saw, gloves, and tools ready to work. Russell called his nephew, Aaron Johnston, and his neighbor Daniel Jacobs and they quickly came over to offer assistance, too. Carol Williams arrived shortly after and immediately seeing that this wouldn't be a quick job, headed home to cook breakfast for everyone. Jerry Dodd and his sons, Justin and Christopher, pulled up within a few minutes ready to work as well. With all of the help we took down the damaged fences, put up temporary fences, and were able to herd the cows into the barn for their morning milking. This all took place before 7:30 a.m.
My father-in-law, J.H. Johnston, had been on the phone trying to locate a lift to move the sections of the feedlot as it was disassembled but had no luck. Someone mentioned that Lee Nunn had a lift, and Russell called him. Lee dropped what he was doing and was at the farm within an hour. During this time Dave Clark came to help as well. As soon as he saw the damage, he called Steve Lamb and asked him to bring two feeders to our farm so that the cows could be fed in the pasture.
When Steve arrived he jumped in and helped, too. Carol, Katie, and Michelle Williams arrived a few minutes after Steve with some much needed breakfast and two coolers full of ice cold drinks.
At 8:30 a.m. we were finally ready to begin dismantling the shelter. Everett and Daniel climbed on top of the roof and began sawing the shelter into 12 to 15 foot sections. Dave and Russell chained the sections to Lee's lift and each section was moved to an open area away from the cows and barn to be removed later. As each section was moved everyone else either herded the cows that had been milked back to the pasture or cleared debris. At some point during the morning, Justin Williams arrived to help after finishing his morning duties at the Williams' Dairy.
Amazingly enough the 110 foot long by 24 foot wide shelter and all of the debris that came from the storm was completely moved away from the concrete pad and feed trough by 12:15 p.m.
None of this could have taken place with such efficiency if it weren't for our employee, Perfecto Valente, who is such a steadfast and reliable worker. He shepherded the cows through the unfamiliar circumstances at hand and carried on with the morning milking as if it were any other normal Saturday morning. His three sons, Victor, Luis, and Christopher, also helped herd cows and clean up debris.
We can't express enough our thanks and gratitude to those friends and neighbors that took time out of their day to come by and help during our time of need. Without them, Russell says that he would still be trying to remove the shelter.
When I think back on the events of Friday night and Saturday it still amazes me that no one was injured – people or cows. Even during this difficult time,there was a beautiful lesson to be learned. Our two boys, Ransom, nine, and Rush Larkin, five, were able to see a shining example of friendship, Christian values, and compassion for others in need.
When they see someone in need I hope that they will remember how others came and helped us in our time of need.
Perhaps this lesson is our silver lining on an otherwise storm damaged day.
Johnston Family Farm
PRINTED IN THE APRIL 16, 2009 EDITION