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Mother Nature’s hits just keep coming.

The May 12 derecho felled many trees in our farm’s windbreak. He also picked up a calf shed on my parents’ farm and dumped it on a pair of grain silos. The resulting wreckage is an unrecognizable pile of twisted steel and broken planks. On the bright side, our neighbor’s pontoon boat, which had sat in the calf barn, escaped without a scratch.

Memorial Day dawned hot and heavy. The weather service issued forecasts mentioning the possibility of severe thunderstorms.

The sky became more and more threatening as the day progressed. At noon, my wife and I were huddled by the television, watching meteorologists as they tracked the development of storm cells with their nifty Doppler radar. Weather alerts scrolled continuously across the bottom of the screen.

In the middle of the afternoon, our iPhones sounded a startling alarm tone. Their screens indicated that a tornado was in our area and that we needed to take shelter immediately. The weather guy on TV said radar indicated a tornado two miles south of the Volga. We live four miles south. It was too close for comfort.

My wife grabbed her travel bag and stood at the top of the basement stairs, waiting for me. I stood at the window, determined to stare into the eyes of the beast that had come looking for us.

The wind suddenly picked up, blowing over everything with blinding torrents of sideways rain. Visibility dropped to near zero as the storm howled and rumbled. Several trees in our windbreak have collapsed. All have missed our home.

The storm passed within minutes. I was happy, because it looked like we had avoided any major damage.

But then my phone rang. It was one of our neighbors asking if we were okay. I replied that things were just dandy. “Did you know your dairy barn is gone? » He asked. I do not have.

As soon as the rain subsided, we drove to my parents’ farm, a mile north. Our dairy barn had been turned into a disjointed mass of twisted sheet metal and broken wood. You could say it looked like a bomb went off, except a bomb has a distinct explosion zone. We found pieces of sheet metal a mile away. It was as if the storm had swept away the barn and swept it over the ground.

Seeing the wreckage was heartbreaking. I thought about how my wife, my parents and I planned this barn, deciding to place the fountains here, the doors there. I remember helping the construction crew as much as I could, driving nails and hanging free stalls.

I left the dairy business 20 years ago, but the barn continued to serve. Our neighbors used it to store machinery. I would use it to house the hay bales we feed our Jersey steers.

The 1947 John Deere “A” that dad bought when I was a kid was also stored in the barn. The tractor sat in the middle of the wreckage, its muffler twisted at an odd angle, its tinplate dented, a rear tire impaled by a ring-stem nail. It somehow felt more personal than the rest of the damage.

The barn is a grotesque mess, its exposed rafters shining in the sun like the ribs of a whale. I’m glad my parents aren’t here to see it.

I thought of all the hours my family and I had spent in that barn, the sweltering summer afternoons, the freezing winter mornings. I thought of all the Holsteins who had been sheltered by the barn roof, a structural element that suddenly ceased to exist.

I also thought of all the people we had met because of the barn. This included several hired men, most of them students, as well as food representatives and various other company representatives. I remembered that on pleasant spring evenings, my parents, I, and the hired guy would stand by the barn and enjoy the twilight while chatting and joking. Dad always suggested coffee and a snack, and we moved the jokes to my parents’ farm.

The day after the storm, our dairy neighbor and his son used their huge loader tractor to clear the debris that had been blown across their field. The next day, friends and neighbors came to help us clean up. Much of it had to be done by hand.

My wife brought refreshments and snacks. The cleaning crew gathered near the barn and enjoyed the food and camaraderie. Lots of gossip and jokes ensued.

That was the last time the barn would witness such jokes.



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