The art of neighboring

Good neighbors are worth their weight in gold, especially in the country. Ours are so great even the cattle know it.

We’ve all seen images of rows of combines showing up to help when a neighboring farmer is ill or injured or passes away. It’s not at all unusual for members of rural communities to show up for each other like this, but no matter how many times they do, it tugs at the heartstrings.

Good neighbors come through for us in big ways like that, but it’s the little, everyday things that really define a quality neighbor. My family is blessed beyond measure because Mike and Julie Ford are our neighbors.

The most dramatic example is when my husband, Jayson, was out of town, our boys were little, there was a blizzard, and one of our cows was down. Without hesitation, Mike came over and discovered she was trying to calve and was having problems.

It’s a long, sad story I won’t go into here, and the cow and calf both ended up dying. Mike probably knew that was the most likely outcome, but he still did everything he could, including scooping the cow up with his front-end loader and moving her into his dry, warm barn so the vet could treat her. When someone will put his arm inside your cow in the middle of a blizzard, you know you’ve got a good neighbor.

Over the past 20 years, our families have helped each other out more times than I can count. They seem to do most of the helping, but that’s only because we seem to need the most help. Whenever they do need us, we drop whatever we’re doing and go.

I helped Julie when one of their cows was having trouble calving. The two of us got her corralled and the vet came to pull the calf. I thought, “This is a pretty great moment,” when Julie and I and the female vet did what needed to be done. That cow had a happier ending than ours.

We’ve watched Mike and Julie’s kids grow up, get married, and have kids of their own. We’ve bought a lot of FFA cheese and sausage from their kids, and they from ours. We do each other’s chores when needed. We help each other when our cattle are out.

Honestly, ours get out way more often. In fact, when we get a call from Mike or Julie, our first reaction is, “Oh no, the cows are out!” That’s because whenever our cattle do get out, they always head straight for Mike and Julie’s.  Even the cows know a good neighbor when they see one. 

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