Roy Exum: How We Should All Be

Monday, September 28, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Over the weekend we had continued rioting and destruction in Louisville, Seattle, Portland, Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., Raleigh, Kansas City and Baltimore. A female driver zoomed into a crowd of protesters in Orange County, Calif., critically injuring two, in what police believe – seriously -- is attempted murder. A male in a pickup truck clobbered some others in Buffalo, N.Y.

There were quieter protests in Worcester, Massachusetts; Greenville, South Carolina; Poughkeepsie, New York; Akron, Ohio; and Daytona Beach, Florida. In Bristol, Pennsylvania, several dozen people held a candlelight vigil on the banks of the Delaware River and 300 marched in Nashville.

(In Chattanooga about 40 gathered to protest the Breonna Taylor findings, but soon it began raining and most hurriedly abandoned the cause.)

Meanwhile, Amy Barrett was announced as President Trump’s appointee to the Supreme Court and she was immediately rebuked for adopting two black children from Haiti. Democrat activist Ibram Kendi, for example, believes both Haiti adoptions were a planned effort by Barrett and her husband to shield themselves from accusations of racism. Have you ever evidenced a mind as sick?

And then there are the people of Crosby, North Dakota, the northernmost town in the northernmost county (Divide Co.) in one of the northernmost states in “The Lower 48.” Crosby is six miles south of the Canadian border and 25 miles this side of Montana. That is northernmost, indeed.

There is no way the 1,000 people who live in Crosby can get their arms around the idea that burning down buildings or looting rampages make any sense. Further the other 1,000 who comprise the rest of the entire population of Divide County can fathom the blatant calls of racism when it appears to those across the globe that the rioters, obviously criminals in their intent, are also the most despicable racists as well.

No, the good people in Crosby are instead devoted to one another. Just over two weeks ago, a popular farmer by the name of Lane Unhjem was prepared to start the harvest of his approximately 1,000 acres of durum wheat and canola.

So, you’ll know, North Dakota is the nation’s leading producer of red spring wheat, durum, barley, sunflowers, field peas, beans, lentils, and canola. North Dakota is actually “semi-arid,” the cold, wind-swept winters combining with wet and warm springs and summers to make its plains idea for America’s grain belt.

But on Sept. 9, a Wednesday morning, as the 60-year-old Unhjem guided his massive combine to begin his harvest, he smelled smoke. Within mere seconds the cab on his combine was filled with thick smoke and his massive machine was totally ablaze. The billowing smoke signaled several neighbors, and the volunteer fire department, but the machine was clearly a total loss.

And that’s when Unhjem, extremely popular in the farming community, slumped to the ground with a severe heart attack. Friends rushed him to a local health facility where he “flat-lined” three times before being airlifted to a hospital at Minot. He remains hospitalized.

Without his combine, Lane’s harvest would go fallow but his neighbor, a family friend and fellow farmer Jenna Binde at age 28, had a different idea. “We are small here, it’s a very tight knit community, and word travels fast. Everybody has their own harvest to do, but I made a couple of phone calls and started to get offers of equipment and the expertise to do it.”

Three days after Unhjem lost his combine and was still in intensive care in Minot, a heavy morning fog settled over his farm. Yet through that fog, a distant rumble of rolling heavy machinery got stronger and stronger. When the sun burned off, there were 11 fully fueled combines, six mammoth grain transports and at least 16 semi-trucks gathered around the Unhjem barns.

Normally it would take over two weeks for Lane to get his crops in his grain elevators (silos) but this crowd of good neighbors, or angels if you so prefer, got it done in less than seven hours. Most came back the next day, after changing the heads on their combines from grain to soybeans and gathered Unhjem’s 350 acres of soybeans “in no time at all.”

"Everybody knows the Unhjems, and they're good people and good in the community, and it's just kind of the farming way of life, too. You help your neighbor out when they need it, and don't expect anything in return," the modest Binde told reporters.

As his neighbors stored the soy beans to dry, another bunch moved Lane’s cows to better pasture land, and all the while the farmer’s wives and children, the local churches and unknown individuals from all across the Dakotas provided mounds of hot food, hundreds of water bottles that would be delivered to the workers, and an immense love for all men that regretfully only small towns can still deliver.

“There were guys there who had their own harvest to do, and they just quit and came to help,” said Brian Sparks, a neighbor who was there with his machinery that day. “In this part of the country, any time anybody needs a helping hand, everybody will stop what they’re doing at the drop of a hat and come help,” he smiled. “That’s just the way it is here. People from 30 miles away showed up with trucks.”

Newsman John Anderson marveled at 1,000 acres being harvested in less than seven hours. "The Unhjems have a beautiful crop that will be safe in the bins today, and more importantly, they have the comfort of knowing that they have a community of friends that are helping, praying, and doing whatever they can to help them get through this tough time," wrote Anderson in a post that went viral Saturday.

So, why can’t we take the bigness of America and sprinkle it with what kindness is infused on a tiny town in northernmost North Dakota? It cost nothing, and there are no flags or buildings burned, nor broken glass.

* * *

In the Bible’s book of Matthew, in chapter 22, we read about a question that Jesus is asked and answered: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

royexum@aol.com


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