We are excited to share a guest post written by Carl Hatfield, son of Dennis & Ginny Hatfield. This post is his perspective of the parlor fire on his parent’s farm back in March 2018. Our tour operation is delighted to partner with the Hatfield family, as they all are devoted to the success of their family farm. The tragedy, as seen thru Carl’s eyes, is a great recounting of the hard work, determination, and persistence his family exhibited in this unfortunate circumstance. We share his words and images with permission.
Time stopped at 12:26pm on March 5th, 2018.
I was in class when I got a phone call from my mom that the milking parlor was on fire. Without hesitation, I yelled “oh f@&/“ and my eyes went from a drowsy state of sleep to wide-eyed and frightened. I’ve never experienced a state of shock until this moment, but I had so many concerns fighting each other in my mind. It was difficult to go in one direction, but in the middle of a blizzard, I made it home as soon as I could.
I did things that don’t make sense to me now but at the moment did, in fear of not being fully prepared for what I’d see when I got home. It took me a few moments to get out of the classroom as I was trying to wrap up my program in fear of possibly never coming back or taking a leave of absence. I stopped to fill my car up in case we needed my car later and I couldn’t get to a gas station in the blizzard, filled the wood stove at Matt’s in case he couldn’t get there later that night, packed a week-long bag, and found my way to my parents. It was when I saw the rolling black smoke about a mile away that I lost it.
I felt anger. Not only at the moment but for a good 2 months. I was mad that something had hurt my parents like this, that something could possibly take the light out of their futures. How could this happen to my dad right after getting on the liver transplant list? Why now? I didn’t know how we’d be able to adjust as a family through this. I was mad that I had to balance two internships, work, and studying for my boards exam through this. My mind was solely focused on my family for the last six months as much as I tried to keep all of it together. My parents put their whole lives into this farm and it had been attacked. My childhood attacked. My home attacked.
I could not stomach false hope before this and I can confirm I definitely don’t like it still. All I wanted to hear was someone just agreeing that it was an awful situation. Outsiders don’t actually know that it’s going to turn out okay. I didn’t know how to adjust in public with my emotions when asked about it, but I grew from this moment. I learned that caring people cared enough to ask and there was value in that. Truth is, nobody knows what to say in these situations especially when they don’t know the fine details. I found the best way to deal with it was to open up and share little progress or little setbacks in the current moment. I was honest and real with people who took the time to ask. (Sorry to those that got the full brunt of the emotions in the beginning, but I just couldn’t hold in the anger anymore).
My parents went through hoops with the insurance company, had a bank from hell telling them to find a new career, and forcibly made to adjust to unforeseen costs traveling two times a day every day for six months in order to feed and milk a heard of 160 cows. This is only a glimpse of what made it difficult to find peace in such an emotional time.
We found friends from near and far that helped financially or with baked goods. Others showed up to chase cattle in a blizzard and transported them to a neighboring farm where we would unknowingly spend the next six months. A special thanks to the McCauley family for opening up their facilities to us without hesitation. There was a food chain that started within the week and lasted for a good couple months that helped take the stress off of my mom significantly in that trying time. Coworkers of mine reached out to me and helped financially or sent food, which helped me see the good in people when all I could be…was angry. A good friend of mine let me vent every few weeks over drinks and honestly, I don’t deserve your friendship dude haha. You kept me sane and that’s a task not suited for many.
Moving home after graduation and my internship I tried to distract my parents with projects around the house or farm (whether they knew it or not) to keep their minds off the farm situation for even just a moment. I witnessed the structure of the building torn down & scraped into an ugly pile, & eventually saw the building form into something familiar. Our hearts healed a little more the day the face of the building was tacked on – we could now look out the window of the house and almost have to be reminded that anything had happened. I even became a builder one day helping the guys hold up some tin 💪🏼while on scaffolders. Mom and I painted and painted some more in the new build (as we did originally 12 years prior, but I was a little shorter then). Our family became closer throughout this, from the very first night, even if it started out with a lot of yelling. Each of us boys and our extended family brought to the table anything they could to help. We came together when Mom and Dad needed it most. Our grandparents were there every step of the way helping financially and helping me distract my parents with projects.
Luckily we have a great sense of community in our area that came through for us when we needed it most. From the truck drivers on the day of the fire to moving back home and the neighbors that helped my parents in ways that I couldn’t, financially or physically as another hired-hand on the farm when I wasn’t able to be here – YOU ALL MADE A DIFFERENCE AND I’M FOREVER GRATEFUL! ❤️ Wayne Morse, Kent Kanable, Lester Parker, Gino, & Justin we most definitely could not have made it throughout the last 6 months without your flexibility and loyalty. Thank you, thank you for sticking by our sides.
I never understood the depth of how incredible my parents are until watching them hurdle through these obstacles. Most days they stayed calm and driven, and I look up to them for showing me first-hand how to get back up when the world knocks you down, even in your most vulnerable moment.
Special shoutout to Orson Jones for framing a clock that I salvaged from the fire. He used barn boards from our farm and cherry wood as the frame. You can see a picture of the salvaged clock at the beginning of this post. This gift means a lot to our family and we will forever cherish it.