Paul and Ashley stepped from the barn into what looked like a war zone. The entire south barn was destroyed. The hay they’d spent the past week stacking and storing for the winter was gone; probably scattered over three counties. Almost every corn stalk was flattened. A swath of grass had been torn up across most of the large pasture and almost every length of fence was broken or missing. The feeder cattle were nowhere to be seen. Shingles were missing from the other three barns, windows shattered and broken limbs were forced through holes in the sides of the buildings. Full-sized trees were ripped from the roots, and branches and leaves were everywhere.
Miraculously, both homes and the swine building had escaped most of the damage. Windows were blown out of the houses, but Ashley felt confident their families had been safely kept in the basement of the Davis’ home.
As they wandered into the yard, and stepped over tree limbs, she saw downed power lines to the north-east of the property, and assumed there was no longer power to any of the buildings.
She saw their fathers at the same time that they saw them. Even at such a great distance, Ashley could see her father lower his shoulder in what was obviously a sigh of relief. She felt bad for the stress she’d caused them, but not sorry for having run to be with her animals. They were her babies as much as she was his. It would have been very difficult for her to have huddled in the basement, not knowing if they were okay.
Ashley suddenly realized how her mother must feel now, not knowing if she was safe. She hadn’t taken that into consideration before, and started hurrying along to get back to her mom. She rushed to her father’s arms, gave each of her brothers a quick hug, and then hurried into the house. She took the steps two at a time and ran to her mom.
Deanna broke down in tears and held Ashley. “I’m so thankful you’re alive.”
Ashley quickly reassured Sue that Paul was okay, and she even hugged her sister, Sarah.
The women took turns going up the stairs to view the damage, then returned with blank stares and agreed to keep the children downstairs for now. Sarah and Mrs. Davis took a few minutes in the kitchen to clean up a bit and fixed the kids a big snack. They tried to distract the children with books and toys and food for most of the afternoon while the men worked outside to attempt to clean up the yards.
Within a few hours, the electric company arrived to disconnect the downed power lines, but they were told that it could be a couple of days before power would be restored. A swath of electric poles had fallen all along Mason Road for almost a mile.
The generator for the swine barn was quickly fired up and there was almost no damage to that building. They decided to wait to turn on the generator to the house until later in the evening, and instead gathered candles and flashlights. Chainsaws were brought out and they cleared a few paths throughout the yard, stacking wood and limbs as best they could. Miraculously all of the cattle were found scattered in the tiny woods to the north-east side of the Hardman’s property where they had sought shelter. Not a single animal on either farm had been lost.
The same could not be said for the crops. The soybeans were mostly left alone, but very few corn stalks were salvageable. Because it was too early in the summer, none of them had even produced a single ear of corn. The entire crop was wasted.
There was very little evidence that there had ever been a hay crop and all of the work from the past week was simply gone. That was the store of feed for the animals for the winter. Their only hope was that the frost would hold off in the fall long enough to get a third cutting before the cold weather set in. It was almost too much to comprehend at once.
There was very little talk as they worked together to attempt cleaning up the damage. It was going to take weeks to even come close to bringing order to the chaos.