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Harvest in Harcourt

By Staff | Oct 30, 2015

Duane Peterson walks back from talking with the driver of this combine, while a row of more farmers wait for their assignments. Peterson organized about 70 people to help harvest about 400 acres Monday for his neighbor, Chuck Gustafson, who has cancer.

HARCOURT – Work wasn’t scheduled to begin until 10 a.m. Monday, but Duane Peterson already had his hands full.

Peterson got an early start directing trucks, tractors and combines as friends and neighbors began showing up to help bring in the harvest for Chuck Gustafson.

Gustafson has cancer, so he could use a little extra help this year, Peterson said.

“It’s just a neighborly thing,” said Dave Tjepkes, of Gowrie. “Chuck is quite sick, and he needed somebody to do the harvest. So the neighbors stepped up to the plate.”

“He’s got an awful lot of friends, as you can see,” Peterson said. “Everybody wanted to help. That’s what’s good about this community.”

Dave Tjepkes and Bud Johanson look over a diagram held by Duane Peterson, while a combine empties corn into a wagon in the background.

Peterson organized the harvest day and helped 12 combines, 13 tractors and chase carts, nearly 40 semis and around 70 volunteers find their way to the right spot at one of the five locations being harvested that day.

Altogether, there were about 500 acres across the five farms, which were finished by 3 p.m., Peterson said.

Peterson also helped all the truck drivers get the special scan code they’d need when they dropped their corn off at West Central Co-Op elevator in Gowrie.

The co-op also provided lunch for the farmers, Peterson said.

Gustafson came out to see the harvest himself. All the neighbors coming together, he said, was one of the best things he’d ever seen.

Two combines work an 80-acre field just northwest of Harcourt Monday morning. Duane Peterson expected as many as 13 combines to turn up to harvest nearly 500 acres at five different locations.

“You never dream you have this many friends,” he said. “It’s almost overwhelming.”

“You’d do the same thing for anybody else,” neighbor Don Sandell replied.

“In the past, when somebody needs help, he’s always one to help,” Peterson said of Gustafson. “I’m a good friend of Chuck’s. We were in each other’s weddings, and we’ve just been friends for a long time.”

Gustafson said he had surgery about two years ago, which helped for a while, but the cancer came back.

“He’s doing better today than he was doing five weeks ago, and he’s feeling better, but still has a long way to go,” Peterson said.

CHARLENE ANDERSON drives a combine through one of Chuck Gustafson’s fields, while a second combine harvests farther to the east. About 70 friends and neighbors came out to help finish Gustafson’s harvest as he battles with cancer.

“Nobody minds helping out somebody who’s been battling what he’s been battling,” said Alan Burger, who farms just south of Gowrie. “It’s been quite a few years.

“I’ve known Chuck for 40 or 50 years,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of fun with him. He’s one of the good ones.”

Helping out a friend in need is just what farmers do – not just in Gowrie or even in Iowa, but all over the country, Burger said.

“And there are enough people here it’s a community effort, so it doesn’t take much time,” Denny Heatherington added.

A lifelong area resident, Gustafson married his high school sweetheart, said Robert Anderson, who drove one of the grain wagons.

In fact, the harvest day was organized from the farm where Gustafson’s father-in-law once lived. Gustafson took over the farm there in 1977 when his father-in-law retired, after spending 20 years in the co-op business.

“We built a new house where we lived,” Gustafson said, “and we raised our kids there.”

“It’s doing a nice thing for a nice guy. It makes everybody feel good,” Anderson said.

His wife, Charlene Anderson, was driving the combine.

“When cancer so severely affects one of your own, you want to do whatever you can,” she said.

Gustafson’s daughter, Amy Hock, was there Monday morning, and was also overwhelmed by all the support.

She’d given some thought to what it all means to her.

“A measure of a man’s wealth isn’t by how much money he has. It’s by his friends,” Hock said. “And today he’s the richest man around.”

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