A Heartfelt Harvest

A Heartfelt Harvest Dick Gregoire watches from the cab of his combine as he unloads freshly harvested soybeans into a semi truck owned by Tom Ostrem, Vermillion. In the foreground, a stream of beans flows from another combine operated by Gregoire's brother, Bob. by David Lias Shortly before noon on Thursday, Oct. 9, combines operated by Bob Gregoire and his brother Dick licked up the final rows of soybeans from a field southeast of Wakonda.

It's a common sight these days. But there was something special about the men's harvest work last week.

The field they worked in wasn't their land; the beans they were gathering weren't their crop.

They belong to Don Lyso, a friend, a neighbor, a fellow farmer who is in need.

Lyso and his wife, Janice, kept busy driving from field to field later that day, watching the heartfelt harvest. It was a re-enactment of a story that's as old as Dakota Territory.

If a neighbor is hurting, you do what you can to help.

There is no way Lyso could harvest his ripened soybean crop. He's been hit hard by the West Nile Virus. He's slowly getting his energy back, but when the illness was at its strongest in his body this summer, he suffered meningoencephalitis.

He's lost the ability to move his right leg. Lyso is now strong enough to walk by using two canes and a brace on his leg.

But harvest is a time of climbing up and down a ladder just to get into the cab of a combine. Despite the automation of today's farm machinery, tractors and combines are controlled with foot-operated clutches and brakes.

It's work that Lyso, so far, can't do. He and his family hope his health ultimately will improve, that strength will return to his leg.

The 54-year-old farmer realizes, however, that the damage West Nile has caused to his body may be permanent. He's ready to adapt his farming operation, should that be the case.

Lyso has been farming since 1973. He's not ready to leave the land.

Thursday, Lyso clearly was relieved to know that his crops wouldn't end up spoiling in his fields. And he found it difficult to adequately express his appreciation to all of the men and women who helped his family that day.

The Lyso harvest was organized by Hubert and Tim Gregoire. Janice Lyso was reluctant to try to name everyone who was helping that day, fearing she would forget to mention someone's name.

"We don't want to forget somebody's name," she said. "Everyone has been so good."

"This is quite humbling. It's fun to go on these (harvest bees) and do it for other people, and when you are on the receiving end, you are so thankful," Don Lyso said. "The community has been so good about helping out. It's just been overwhelming with all that they've done."

They sent cards when he was hospitalized. They prayed for him. And when it was time to cut his hay crop for the cattle he raises, they did that too.

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Lyso has 350 acres planted with corn, and a similar number of acres in beans. He planted 30 acres of alfalfa, and the rest of his land is pasture for his 50 stock cows.

The Lysos are the parents of four grown daughters who, as farm kids, often helped their dad.

They return to the farm to help when possible. "One is in Sioux Falls and she comes back on weekends," Lyso said. "One is in Wakonda here, and one lives in Yankton. They've come back and they combined the corn and filled the drying bin here last weekend. They're really good girls."

"When he was in the hospital, the one from Idaho came home and she did some cultivating."

He figures he was bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile in late June shortly after he worked on fence near a wetland. He became ill on July 7, and soon had to be hospitalized.

"This West Nile causes you to really, really wear out in a hurry and get tired, and now without the use of my right leg, it's tough getting around," Lyso said.

Doctors don't know yet if the Wakonda farmer is suffering nerve damage in his leg, his spinal cord, or in his brain. West Nile is a relatively new illness in South Dakota. Much about it is still unknown.

Lyso said he likely will hire extra help to keep operating his farm. He also plans to adapt his machinery, if needed, so he can continue to work his land.

"The community support has just been astronomical," he said.

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