Family and friends discuss the day’s harvest plans at the Mike and Linda Gebes homestead, July 13.

Friends rally ’round Gebes family


Whether an accident or a tragic loss, one thing can be counted upon in western South Dakota, that of friends, neighbors and family stepping up to help during a difficult time.
Mike Gebes, Milesville, was helping a neighbor whose wheat stubble field had caught on fire from a lightning strike, Sunday, July 10. As the fire departments from Milesville and Philip were fighting the blaze, Mike was using a tractor and a disc trying to create a fire break. 
Unfortunately the fire was growing fast as it used the high stubble for fuel. Mike’s tractor stalled and would soon be overtaken by the fire. Mike’s choices were slim, and none were good. He could stay in the tractor which would become an oven, try to outrun the fire, or run toward and through the fire. 
The 68-year-old grandfather decided his best chance of survival was to run through the fire. He received first and second degrees burns over 20 percent of his body, mostly his forearms, torso and face. He was life-flighted to the St. Paul, Minn. burn facility. His wife, Linda, and daughter, Courtney, followed by car. And the tractor? Its tires melted and had other substantial damage.
Meanwhile, Mike had his own wheat that needed harvesting, as well as hay. That’s when friends began organizing a day to combine and bale Mike’s harvest. Heath Morrison contacted Mike and Linda’s son, Brad, about the harvest. Brad visited with his brother, Darren, and the harvest was on.
Seventy people answered the call, some driving equipment – in road gear between 20 and 25 mph – from more than 40 miles away, the farthest started nine miles south of Philip. The start time was set for 10 a.m., Wednesday, July 13. Lining up were seven combines, three tractors pulling grain carts, six semis, two tractors with balers and three tractors to move bales. 
Everyone met in a fallow field just north of Gebes’ house, put their headers on the combines, then drove a few miles to the west to start in the first wheat field. The field that was adjacent to the neighbor’s field that had burned Sunday. 
About four hours later approximately 270 acres of winter wheat were down and about 65 acres of hay was baled (nearly 200 bales) and moved off the field. It was around an hour later that the last of the wheat dropped into the bin on the property. Central Harvest States/Midwest Cooperative, Philip, offered to store some of the grain for one year as well. 
Others supported the family and the harvest crew by providing water and a meal. The local Farm Bureau chapter organized a meal, grilling hamburgers and brats. Neighbors brought in side dishes.
Dusti Berry with Creekside Reflections Photography and Karen Gebes, Darren’s wife, recorded the day in pictures, which have been shared on social media sites. A video on CHS’ Facebook page had 10,000 views within a few hours of being posted.  
Heath noted the day went as smooth as it possibly could. Everybody was happy to be able to lend a hand, and they knew what needed to be done. While he worked with the combining crew, Mark Radway, Milesville, organized the haying and Jordan Schofield, Philip, lined up the semis. While these men helped organize the harvest, they and all those 70 who showed up did not do it for the recognition, said Morrison. It’s all about being there for each other.
If Mike’s treatment continues to go well, he may be home next week, in time to celebrate his birthday.
Over 100 years ago, when the area was settle, neighbors helped each other plant and harvest, a tradition that continues to this day. It truly is a community of family and friends coming together to help one of their own. 

The Pioneer Review

221 E. Oak Street
Philip, SD 57567
Telephone: (605) 859-2516
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