Volunteers offer helping hand to Renville-area farmer who suffered extensive burns
WILLMAR - Kurt Kramin felt as if he had escaped the worst when the July 1 storm that tore through Renville County toppled 35 trees on his farm place, but spared his home and buildings. That was until July 13, when he put a match to fuel to burn the tree limbs he had cleaned up.
"Just a flash and it was over," he said.
Caught in the fumes from the fuel, Kramin, 53, suffered third-, second- and first-degree burns to his arms and face. He remembers rolling on the ground and seeing the giant blister that was his right arm open up, leaving much of the arm without skin.
He would require skin grafts to three fingers and days of hospitalization. He currently wears a protective cover over his right arm. And these days, he's counting himself as very fortunate.
Volunteers with Farm Rescue arrived at his farm southeast of Renville and went to work harvesting his soybeans fields Friday.
"Relieved and humble," said Kramin when asked how it felt to have the help.
He said he's also been receiving lots of help from neighbors, but appreciates the fact that he can lessen the burden on them during the hectic harvest time.
Bill Gross, founder of Farm Rescue, of Jamestown, N.D., said that's a big part of why he founded it six years ago. There are fewer farmers today and fewer yet with children that can help out when misfortunes occur.
Farm Rescue helps farmers experiencing misfortunes with planting and harvesting in North Dakota, South Dakota, eastern Montana and western Minnesota. Some of the volunteers are retired farmers.
Gross pilots a Boeing 747 for UPS on international routes from a base in Anchorage, Alaska. He grew up on a farm near Jamestown, N.D., and loves the chance to replace his pilot's cap with a tractor cap and take the wheel of a combine.
Charlie Bartsch, a retired farmer from Minot, was one of the two volunteers handling the harvesting at Kramin's farm on Friday. The Renville County location represented a 530-mile drive from his starting point, but Bartsch said the opportunity to help is all that matters.
It also puts your own troubles in perspective when you see the challenges facing others, he noted. He's helped other farmers who have been sidelined by injuries from burns and falls, diseases such as cancer, or are coping with serious illnesses to their children or spouses.
Kramin's sister, Kara, lives in Valley City, N.D., and knew about Farm Rescue. She let them know about her brother's plight, and they contacted him about offering help.
Kramin said knowing that help was available reduced the stress he felt while resigning himself to the fact that he had to pull back to allow himself to recover.
The July 1 storm may have indirectly brought some of the worst in pain to his life, but he said he also saw some of the best life has to offer when the volunteers from afar and his neighbors all made it known they were there to help.
Gross believes that Kramin is the 158th farmer assisted by the organization since its start, and probably the eastern-most in location to date.