Ritzville community comes together for farmer with stage IV cancer

Ritzville community comes together for farmer with stage IV cancer
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Larry and his longtime friend, Brian, get to work on his farm in Ritzville.

It is no secret small town America is full of support and Sunday afternoon in Ritzville was no exception.

Dozens of people hopped on their combines and bankouts Sunday to flood the sprawling fields of Ritzville, honoring one of their own while thanking him for all he has done for their community.

“It looks overwhelming, but it wasn’t,” said farmer Brian Doyle. “You know, a matter of a few phone calls and things start to happen in a hurry.”

Brian couldn’t sit by and let his friend Larry Yockey’s wheat crop go to waste. A stage IV cancer diagnosis left Yockey, a fourth-generation farmer, unable to harvest his wheat field for the first time in nearly 50 years.

“I was 13 years old when I started here and I’m 63 now, so it’s been a few years. I’ve been out here my whole life,” said Larry. “I was hoping, of all hopes, I could do this.”

What started as a spot on his back in February has spread to his bones. Melanoma has staked its claim on Larry’s skeletal system, cracking his ribs and hip, making the hard work that comes with harvest nearly impossible — until his town rallied together to make sure the cancer didn’t claim his land, too.

“The way all of us look at it, it’s a way to pay him pack,” Brian said. “I mean, he didn’t want this at all. He wanted to do it, but we just feel it’s a way to pay him back.”

Brian called in 18 semis, 17 combines and 11 bankouts to harvest the wheat field Larry and his family have been caring for for four generations. Larry’s friends, family and the entire town of Ritzville came together to crank out three weeks of work in just six hours.

“You hope you don’t have to go through this to find it out, but every few years, believe it or not, we go through this. We support each other — even people that you think you’ve had disagreements with. This pulls everybody together,” Larry said. “It’s not describable the gratitude I have for what’s going on today.”