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Together we will survive ...

Gary Kropf, here with his wife, Janice, looks like a Norman Rockwell painting when I saw them on the farm at work. He visited Philip as you may remember. Photo by Bill Kunkle

The recent roiling of the financial markets is unparalleled in our generation. Financial collapses, forced buyouts, reports of big banks faltering have sent shudders throughout the world. The Great Depression is distant history to most of us, but the current collapses can be more than facing history.

All this can remind us to evaluate our priorities. A debt load should not be a burden to us, so it's time to tighten our belts, focus on what is really important, what are our needs and not our wants.

So when our local Ford dealer, who had been in business in Junction City, Ore., for about 87 years closed, my thoughts went to how things are in my home area of Haakon County, S.D.

The Burns family have been Ford dealers in Philip most of the time since 1938 and serves an area from Pierre to Rapid City. Don Burns said, "Nobody saw this coming, but maybe the perception is worse than it really is here." But he also said people are in total lock-up because they don't really know what is going to happen. "Our area (farms) had the best yields and prices in years, but seventy percent of the wheat is still sitting in storage and should have been sold when the price was high."

Main street in Philip and Midland are also feeling the pinch of the economic slowdown. But like the local car dealer, who handles several automobile name plates, they are confident about the future. Their businesses have been building relationships for years. In times of turbulence and uncertainty, we look to those who have proven themselves over time.

And Philip has a strong, stable, well-capitalized bank which has been the cornerstone of the area's financial needs for many years.

Sonia Nemec has been a spokesperson for Midland for a long time, having taken over Ida Hunt's column in the Pioneer Review. She said the biggest loss there was the closing of the high school, "really tough on our town." People no longer come there to shop, attend sports activities or work. Kids go to school in Philip and Kadoka (high school) and many mothers need to go there to work just to keep up on rising costs of everything.

Gary Kropf is a farmer in Oregon's Williamette Valley. He visited the Philip area recently to see how they did it there. He was impressed by the open honesty of the people and the differences in how they made a living on their part of the earth. We can learn too from the Amish-Mennonite people who settled years ago in Oregon. Gary's family and his neighbors, many whom are descendants of Pennsylvania-Dutch (German) immigrants that came to Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries, are noted for their faith and humble simplicity. But he and his family farm 700 acres of grass seed and wheat, using the biggest tractors and combines available. And they grow most of their food and, yes, hang their clothes out to dry. By getting by with what is really necessary, they have little worry about the economic conditions just now.

When asked how fuel prices were affecting agriculture in South Dakota, Marsha Sumpter of Kadoka said, "The only answer is devastation." She and her husband, Bill, are farmers and made the sacrifice to stay on the land, which is really your best security, she said. Marsha is also a writer for the Philip Pioneer Review and is widely read.

My dad worked on the C&NW tracks from Ft. Pierre to Rapid City for 40 years and weathered the Depression of the 1930s. A native South Dakotan, he had deep reverence for life and needs that were simple. He was a very moral man, but thought religion was a club out of which many people were excluded. He said he saw God every morning, when he got up, in the smell of the wind. But in these times, I think we need each other as a body of believers.

South Dakotans are a resourceful and resilient people who have all weathered many storms and survived. And they will again.