Fulfilled After Fullerton

Driving through about an hour and a half of empty fields, we took a left, drove down a damp dirt road  and almost disappeared into the earth as the wet sand nearly ate our cars. 

Luckily we pushed through and made it to the farm.

When thinking of a farmer or rancher, you tend to think you know all there is to know about the gig, but when me and my crew set sail to Fullerton, Nebraska, it was all, but ordinary.  His name was Tony Lesiak, and he shared stories that touched the lives of many. 

This man wined and dined with Moroccan kings and nearly got put to death by his horse due to it falling on his head.

After we nearly sank in the sludge, we pulled up to meet Tony and help document his efforts of putting up a 6.5-mile fence that was donated with materials from the Kansas FFA. 

Tony’s first words were “Who here is from Nebraska?”  We would soon come to learn how proud this man was of his state and people. 

We met agricultural teachers and workers from all over the Midwest who worked until their calluses got calluses. 

People from Kansas, Wisconsin and other areas of Nebraska were there to bring this farmer back to where he should be. 

Tony allowed us to use his four-wheelers to examine the grounds of his land. 

This included the Pawnee burial ground literally in his backyard and also his grandparents’ cabin that was rocked by the flood and holding on just by a thread.

Four-wheeling through Tony’s land was anything but easy. 

We dipped and dodged tree stumps, and swerved around dead cow carcasses because many things had washed up because of the disaster.

Several students trudged across the farm land of Tony Lesiak on a four-wheeler in Fullerton, Nebraska, on June 11, 2019. Photo by James Keely.

During all this mayhem, we had five people on one four-wheeler. It looked like some sort of comedic clown car act. Co-worker Shelby thought her phone fell out during all this so we looked hopelessly throughout the land. Just as we were calling it a wrap on the cellphone hunt, Shelby reached into her pocket and ended the search.

Pissed off, hungry and confused, we went back to the meeting spot for lunch. 

Tony had informed us that his mother had planted onions on the land and that you could eat the flower if you were so inclined. 

We had empty guts so we munched away and very much enjoyed the wild all-natural onions right from the earth.

You could probably smell me from a mile away because my onion breath could clear a room, but it was worth it.

This is one of thousands of onion plants in the pasture land of Tony Lesiak in Fullerton, Nebraska. These plants are fully edible and many of the students took a little bite of them. Photo by James Keely.

Thank you, Tony.  

Our squad was supposed to eat with Tony and his crew, but there was some miscommunication, and so we all went to a subway.

We all knew lunch was on Professor Shepp, so we were ready to give her wallet hell.

We were just about to walk in when suddenly an angel driving a minivan pulled up and gave us enough food to supply a family of 50.

This angel was a young woman named Megan Taylor who works for Extension, and we couldn’t have been more grateful. 

We headed back to Tony’s ranch to say our goodbyes, and he shared some rich stories including his family.

Tony has 12 doctors and a few lawyers in his family, some of which are his kids. 

He had a hilarious story about how one of his family members invented the prosthetic knee cap at MIT. I probably can’t share the punchline, but there was clear brilliance all over Tony’s family. 

We asked who the farmers were in the family and to our surprise he said

“None.”  

We’ve all learned too much to count during our work, but one thing that’s stuck with me is that farmers and ranchers are more important than one might think.

I don’t know if it’s the hard work that may possibly detour people from farming, but I know that we should appreciate what these fine woman and men do everyday because their importance is not always recognized. 

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