Ranching community lends hand to grieving neighbor

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It's haying season for ranchers, but when a local rancher's wife ended up in the hospital during her battle with cancer, neighbors came together to give him a head start.

Some dream of living the rural life - to find peace and quiet on the plains.

Farmingdale, South Dakota is a community of ranchers whose very name is "life on the range."

However, as rancher Frank Bloom said, life goes on, even in the most idyllic places.

“Jack Dustman told us he put his wife in the hospital. She’s very ill, and I was talking with Jerry Hammerquist, and he said ‘let’s get together and put up this 140 acres of hay just for neighborly gestures,’ and that’s what we did.”

When these folks heard about the personal tragedy of one of their own – rancher Jack Dustman, whose wife, Robin, is battling cancer – the community stepped up over the weekend.

Over breakfast, ranchers Jerry Hammerquist and Bloom said something had to be done.

“Well, we were talking over coffee one morning, and Frank said we ought to help him, and I agreed,” Hammerquist said.

“Being that he’s at the hospital, watching his wife, we thought we would come in," Bloom said. "He ain’t got time to put it up. So, as neighbors, we just came in to put it up for him just as a good gesture."

Haying, baling and stacking bales; teams of seven ranchers cut and baled rows of hay at the Dustman Ranch, giving a hand to a family in need.

“This hay will be fed to his cows in the wintertime, so we’re coming in and we cut the hay, then we rake it and bale it, and then that in bales will be used in the winter time to feed his cows,” Bloom said.

While the hay won't be enough to get the Dustmans through the winter, the work done will give him a good head start. The ranchers baled 140 acres of hay - a week long task for the Dustmans - in roughly half a day’s work.

Rancher Jerry Mader said that rural hospitality is the norm.

"Just kind of a neighborhood thing to do, and I think we live in a very good community," Mader said. "If anybody has any kind of trouble, the neighbors are really good about coming over and helping out.”

If anyone was in Dustman's shoes, rancher Clint Stangle said Dustman would help out just the same.

“You just want to help out your neighbor because you never know when it might be your turn," Stangle said. "If it was one of us in his situation, I know he’d be right in it - helping us.”

Farmingdale – what locals call the “best community in the world” – gave their best to Jack and Robin Dustman.

"He's got family here from a ways off, so he'll have time to spend with them," Jerry Hammerquist said. "He doesn't have to worry about this, and that's our whole intent."

“We just wish the best for the Dustman family. We know they’re going through a pretty hard time right now - sure wish them the best of luck,” Mader finished.

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