When I was a young boy my uncle, Willard Hoyt, had a farmhand that went by the appellation "Henry." I presume that he had a last name but we all knew him simply as Henry. Henry dressed in blue overalls and a plaid work shirt and seemed most times to wear a bandana around his neck. His attire would nowadays seem to indicate "cowboy" although my uncle kept few cattle for him to tend to.
Uncle Willard and Aunt Violet with their four daughters lived on the first farm east of the Stone Church. My great grandfather was the stone mason who helped build that church, which is located at the crossroads about 15 miles south of Culbertson. My uncle's farmstead was created by my grandfather and featured a huge white barn, a magical place in my childhood. My uncle's farm was one of my favorite places in the entire world to visit because he kept horses and encouraged us all to ride. He also had an airplane and a landing strip where he gave me my first airplane ride.
Somehow Henry appeared and hired on to work for Uncle Willard and just seemed to stay as just another fixture in the farm operation. To us kids he seemed old and was always painfully thin, however wiry would probably be a more accurate description. He was a favorite of my cousins, always seeming to be available to saddle their pony and teach them the ways of caring for livestock. If he had family we never knew of it, just a solitary but pleasant old gentleman who lived in a corner of the basement of their large farmhouse.
In later years with advancing age and ill health, Henry realized that he was becoming a burden to care for by my aunt and uncle, and asked Uncle Willard to take him to Hastings. There he could be with his sister where he most likely eventually died. The girls sorely missed the nice old gentleman as he passed from their lives.
That was in an era before nursing homes or assisted living facilities but the county did maintain a "poor farm" for the indigent. It seemed to be a pride thing, because absolutely no one wanted to go there. Incidentally Ronda Graff and her family have converted what used to be Red Willow County's poor farm into a comfortable family home.
That is the way that elderly people were cared for in their twilight years in the community where I was fortunate to be raised. Family took care of their own and if one didn't have family the deserving were taken in and treated as family.
Now I think the worm has turned and this old guy is starting to be taken care of by younger folk. You see this Thanksgiving our children and grandkids had other plans so it looked like we were to be alone on my favorite secular holiday. Not good.
Then we received an offer that we couldn't refuse. We accepted the invitation to participate in a cooperative dinner with Lifeteam No. 12, a new enterprise in town. Lifeteam operates the only fixed-wing air ambulance in Nebraska, a King Air 90, which is an all-weather-capable twin-engine turboprop aircraft. Now stationed at the McCook airport, the flight crew, two pilots, an RN and a paramedic pull alert duty 24/7 in the large modular home located just behind my hangar.
The crew "lucky" enough to pull Thanksgiving duty here this year all live in Kansas, so they too were separated from family. So, in a sense, it was a whole group of individuals, 11 in all, gathered to celebrate as a "new extended family" with aviation a common theme.
Ann prepared the large turkey with dressing and each contributed as they could: green bean casserole especially requested by one of the copilots, candied yams, cranberry dishes, relish trays, rolls, and more, plus desserts and desserts, the traditional feast. Ann warned that if they were called out on a run that was fine, we'd just eat without them! It was a wonderful satisfying time to give thanks for the privilege of living in this good old USofA.
Lifeteam is a Newton, Kansas,-based company that operates rotory wing, ground and three fixed-wing ambulances to cover the entire state of Kansas plus reaching into Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. Their mission is to provide critical care while transporting patients from smaller rural hospitals to larger facilities that provide the specialty care for the critically ill.
Their turboprop aircraft has the range to quickly reach Denver, Omaha, Rapid City, Wichita, Kansas City and all places in-between that have an adequate airport. Recently the McCook crew flew to Great Bend, Kansas. and transported a patient to St. Louis. Each aircraft has adequate equipment on board to stabilize a critically ill patient during their journey plus a superbly trained paramedic and a registered nurse to tend to every need.
They could even deliver a baby en route if need be, but seem to prefer to decline that honor for some reason.
Several of the Lifeteam crewmembers are in the process of establishing residency in the McCook area, although one flight captain is a native. Only the crewmembers on duty are required to be on alert at the airport, so the company also rents an apartment or two for off duty pilots to get crew rest.
The economic impact to this community has to be large: living facilities, utilities, groceries, gasoline, jet fuel and shopping all contribute money to our economy. We are fortunate to have them choose McCook as their base of operation. Welcome Lifeteam.
That is the way I saw it.