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Life on the family farm under an open heaven: Grandpa didn’t quit

Tom Heck Published on 11 September 2015

dairy barnIt was the way-early 1930s, and the Great Depression was hitting the country very hard. My grandparents, George and Augusta Elbert, were struggling to hang onto the family farm with their three young children. With a double mortgage on the farm, things looked pretty bleak.

On this particular day, they had gotten the evening chores all done, which included putting the cows and horses out to pasture. Then they retired to the house, for they could see a dark storm forming in the west. Soon it started to pour rain with lots of lightning and strong winds. Grandpa started to go from one house window to another, looking out as the storm raged.

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And then he said, “The barn is gone!” His big 40-by-100-foot barn he had built just 18 years before, in 1914, was gone. A tornado had come out of the northwest and destroyed his beautiful barn. Fortunately, the bottom story of the barn had been built into the north hillside – and therefore was left undamaged. But the whole large top of the barn, where they stored so much hay and bedding for their livestock over winter, was totally gone.

What was Grandpa to do? Quit farming? Never. He knew God had called him to farm, and he enjoyed it and did it with all his heart. Besides that, it was almost impossible to find a job back then. He had a family to provide for that he loved. He knew what he had to do. The next day, he went to cleaning up with the help of his family and neighbors. Then he went to building his barn back on the original foundation.

dairy barnIt was a summer of long hours and hard work with taking care of the livestock, putting up crops and building his barn back. Fortunately, he had the help of many neighbors and friends; otherwise, I don’t think he could have done it.

It was getting later in the summer, and they had the barn almost complete, and then the unthinkable happened. A storm came out of the northwest again with another tornado in it. The tornado followed the exact same path as the earlier one and totally destroyed the top part of the barn again.

What was Grandpa to do now? He did the only thing he knew to do: He went to cleaning up and back to barn building. This time he got his barn completed, and it has stood these many years, providing shelter for livestock.

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Grandpa died in 1968, but his barn still stands today. As a young man, I did a lot of work in that barn and was always impressed with what a big, beautiful, strong barn it was. It took a lot of inner strength to build that barn back twice in one year when the nation was in the Great Depression. But Grandpa got his strength from God, for he knew God and spent time in prayer and in his Bible.

So many times, when things don’t go well, people want to just quit and walk away from difficult situations. That’s why we see so many broken lives, marriages and families today. Unfortunately, they often turn to drugs, alcohol or other things. But that isn’t God’s way.

Grandpa knew to keep his eyes on God, and God would see him through, no matter what terrible storms came his way. If we will keep our eyes on God, He will see us through the storms of life also.  PD

Tom Heck, his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Contact him by email or order his new book at his website.

PHOTO 1: The first photo is Grandpa’s first barn that he built in 1914.

PHOTO 2: The second photo is the barn he built after the second tornado in 1932. Photos provided by Tom Heck.

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