As clouds of dust dotted the sky along Townline Lima Road, a Clay Township farmer’s heart ached as he watched friends and neighbors harvest his soybeans.
“This is true love here,” Don Regula said with a smile as tears formed in his eyes.
“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” he said as he talked about the 30 people who came to help, taking a day off school or work, and in many cases a perfect day off from harvesting their own beans to help another farmer in need. “These guys have all got acres and acres at home and they gave up their fuel, equipment and time to help me.”
With seven combines running in the fields and six semitrailers hauling beans to market, while wagons were unloaded in bins on the farm, it only took a few hours to harvest approximately 150 acres. Those who weren’t farmers found other ways they could help.
Many are expecting to do so again when it is time to harvest Regula’s 200 acres of corn, although that will be a slower process.
For the past six months, Regula, who was experiencing a great deal of pain, underwent a barrage of tests and saw a variety of different physicians trying to find its source before a malignant tumor was discovered during an ultrasound. Biopsies have been done and Regula’s gallbladder removed as well as the tumor.
He now waits for the news next Friday about whether the tumor spread and the required course of treatment.
“We are hoping for good news,” Regula said.
His physicians told him in the meantime they didn’t want him around the dust from taking off the crops and he is limited in his mobility, unable to drive or lift anything heavier than eight pounds.
Regula, who turns 67 on Sunday, said not being able to do the work himself is tough, because he is so independent, but it makes him all the more appreciative of what everyone is doing to help him.
The Auglaize County commissioner, who spent more than 20 years as a Clay Township trustee, is known throughout the county, which was evident in the list of people who came to help with his harvest and where they came from to do so. One he hadn’t seen in 20 years.
The help hasn’t just come at harvest time, but Regula said he has had a chauffeur wherever he has needed to go and has received enough cards to fill a large box.
Businesses such as Trupointe donated hats for everyone to wear and there were offers from both Farmers Equipment, in New Hampshire, and Brad Steinke from Sign Services, wanting to provide lunch, although that was already covered.
Landowners, Marie Gerstner and Robin and Denny Hoge, have stood by Regula in his desire to keep farming their land.
“There has been an outpouring of generosity. It shows what a great community we live in,” said Linda Regula, Don’s wife of 44 years.
The couple has a daughter, Kristine, and her family, including two young grandchildren, live in Hilliard.
“Everybody thinks the world of Don. He’s a very good neighbor,” said Stephanie Fisher, who earlier in the day had hauled beans and was doing whatever was needed to help.
John Schwarck, a friend of Don’s for more than 50 years, said they left their own fields stand to come and help because it is what Regula would have done.
“If anybody needed help with anything, Don was always there,” Schwarck said. “He needs the help right now.”
Schwarck, who organized the volunteers, said he didn’t have anyone turn him down and when word got out, it just snowballed.
“Don has always been there for any other neighbor who needed help. It’s time to pay him back,” Schwarck said.
Regula himself has stepped in for other farmers before who needed the same kind of help. More than a decade ago, he helped bring in the crops for Sue Metzger, when her husband and his friend, Joe, died of mesothelioma. He helped her son take over the farm.
While other farmers have gotten together before to help each other like this, Schwarck said this is the first time in years farming neighbors in this part of the county have come together to help one of their own.
“When you’re out here in the country, farmers are close knit people and whenever one is in need they all are there to help,” Schwartz said.
With a simple thank you not enough to express his gratitude, Regula said the love of everyone — some from people he barely knew who heard about him through church prayer lists — has been overwhelming.
“It’s unreal,” said Regula, a 43-year farmer, as he stood beside his wife and continued to watch wagons of beans pull up the drive and combines work in the fields.
Tears again forming in those farmer’s eyes.