Editorial: Heartwarming story for season
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel-Tribune Editor   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 10:38
Jan Larson McLaughlin
This time of year, journalists search for heartwarming stories to share. It's rare for those stories to stroll in our front door.
Judy Snyder walked into the Sentinel-Tribune office Monday with a thank you note scribbled on a napkin. She and her husband, Arlyn, wanted to buy an ad to make sure people knew how thankful they were for those who tried to save their beloved barn as it burned to the ground, and those who continued to help after the blaze left their cattle without shelter.
The Snyders, who live on Kellogg Road near Liberty Hi Road, were on their way home from dinner out last Friday in Bowling Green when they got a call on their cell phone from a neighbor boy. He asked if everything was OK. The Snyders soon understood his question.
"By time we rounded the corner we could see the flames," Arlyn Snyder, 83, said.
The lane back to their barn was already crowded with fire equipment from Washington Township, Middleton Township and Central Joint fire departments.
Though firefighters responded quickly, the flames moved quickly, whipped by high winds and fed by hay and straw inside.
"It spread so fast," Arlyn Snyder said.
But through their loss, the couple found something of great value.
As the Snyders watched helplessly, neighbors, family members and fellow farmers gathered to help.
Though most of their 19 cattle were already out of the barn, someone opened gates to let others out of the burning building.
When the fire was out, the Snyders had lost tractors, two big lawnmowers, the stalls and a grooming chute.
"All the stalls are gone. The whole roof fell in," Arlyn Snyder said. "I couldn't believe it burned that fast."
But their cattle were safe and no firefighters were hurt.
"Everybody got out safe," Arlyn Snyder said. "All the animals got out, so you can't ask for more."
As soon as it was safe to enter the smoldering barn, their miniature Australian shepherd named Sophie was found huddled in her cage, where she had gone to seek shelter.
They are just short one kitten, "and I'm not giving up yet," on the kitten returning, Judy Snyder said.
But extinguishing the blaze was just the first dilemma. As the ashes smouldered, the couple contemplated how to care for their cattle left out in the cold.
"I didn't sleep that night," Arlyn Snyder said, wringing his hands that bear the scars of a working man.
But they didn't need to worry about caring for their cattle alone. Without asking, fellow farmers brought water troughs, feeders, hay and windbreaks.
"The response from the neighbors has been great," Judy Snyder said.
The morning after the fire, several cattlemen showed up to help round up the livestock. Even in the midst of tragedy, Judy Snyder found humor in their efforts.
"We had 11 guys show up. They were all cattle guys - so that meant 11 ideas on how to do this," she said, smiling.
People called and offered to do the chores, and some offered to house the cattle on their farms.
"People offered barns to us, but it's better to keep them home where they're used to it," Arlyn Snyder said.
But the couple will probably take up the offer in January when two of their heifers are expected to give birth.
Their nephew built a temporary shelter for the cattle.
"They stood there and watched him build it, and when he got done, they went right in it," Judy Snyder said.
The cause of fire has not been determined. Arlyn Snyder said he was adamant that the structure had no exposed wires. "And I was so careful. Nobody could smoke in the barn," he said.
They hope to rebuild their barn.
"People have been outstanding," Arlyn Snyder said.
The Snyders also didn't have to look far for their own heartwarming story of the season. It came right to them on that cold night in the form of neighbors, family and fellow farmers.

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