NOBLE COUNTY – One could hardly imagine a more idyllic scene than these hills of corn and wheat at one of the highest points in Noble County.
A stressful growing season of drought and heat has finally led to a harvest better than expected for the Barker family. But it wasn’t done alone.
Helping each other is often a given in rural communities. And on a nearly perfect 70-degree day – a mid-fall gift – a lesson of Thanksgiving would be retold.
For people such as Dave Barker, who helps farm 450 acres northeast of Kendallville for his mother and father, thoughts of cornucopias and turkeys are set aside this time of year for plain hard work.
Even on a Sunday.
On Nov. 11, at about 5 p.m., Barker was putting equipment away after a day of work. An hour earlier, he had been talking to some deer hunters, and everything was fine. But as he got off a tractor, he felt weak.
Heading to the house, he knew something was wrong. As he entered, it was all he could do to stand.
Barker took a couple of aspirin. But as his world began to spin, he told his mother, Josephine Barker, she needed to call an ambulance.
Besides managing the farm, Dave Barker keeps an eye on his parents, Max, 81, and Josephine, 78. Max Barker, using a cane, can no longer care for the farm.
Emergency workers were at the house within minutes. Dave Barker’s health had diminished rapidly. His right arm and leg weakened. His speech was slurred and he was confused.
Barker was rushed to Parkview Noble Hospital and then transferred to Parkview Hospital Randallia in Fort Wayne within an hour and 20 minutes after leaving the house, said his sister Jeanne Hosted.
It was a stroke.
Dave Barker, 51, would live. But rehabilitation is the only work he can expect to do in the coming weeks.
And left behind on that perfect fall day were acres of corn yet to be harvested.
With the family still grappling with events of the day, the calls started coming in. It wasn’t just a trickle. Neighbors – the entire neighborhood, it seemed – wanted to help.
The corn would be harvested.
It was a lesson Max Barker taught his six children: Help your neighbors and they’ll help you.
Dad always said, Whatever goes around comes around,’ Hosted said.
Neighbors helped when Dave’s brother-in-law died. They helped when his dad had surgery in the early 1990s.
We’ve been through this before, said Hal Barker, 58, Dave’s brother. We helped other neighbors and it was fun. I guess it just came around.
So it was no surprise that several families pitched in. Some showed up the next morning at daybreak. Members of Wayne Center United Methodist Church provided food for the farmers.
One of the helpers was Hal Schuman, who works 715 acres near the Barker farm.
I’ve known his family since back when I was in high school in the late ’60s, Schuman said. It’s just the way I was raised. You help a neighbor.
Within a couple of days, the corn crop was in. Hosted calls this year’s harvest a bountiful crop.
This week, Barker cattle were sent to market, again with neighborly help.
The Barkers say there are a lot of thanks to go around: The firefighter early responders, the quick EMT response, the medical workers, the neighbors.
And, of course, they’re thankful Dave will pull through.
We feel he’s real lucky, Max Barker said. He could have fell out of a combine.
Out of bed and eating lunch a little more than a week after being stricken, Dave Barker sits in a chair at Parkview Hospital Randallia and talks about how thankful he is. He needs physical therapy for his right leg and arm, but he is told the future is positive.
You don’t realize how people will do for you in the time of need, he said of his neighbors.
Barker and his family also encourage people to learn the warning signs of a stroke. Barker said he had high blood pressure.
If somebody has really high blood pressure, they need to go get checked out, he said. I don’t want them to go through what I went through.
For his sister, Jeanne Hosted, the lesson learned through her brother’s illness is the one their father taught them: Help others and they’ll return the favor.
It does pay back, she said. What you do for people pays you back.