Everyday Heroes:

The Great “Bale-Out”

by Edgar E. Eaton

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    If a certain farmer ever builds a monument …

    Grant Tracy grumbled as he wrestled with his hay crop just outside of Carbonado, Washington. A rainstorm threatened. This was July, when it’s not supposed to rain, even in usually damp Puget Sound country. But the clouds wrapped themselves around each other like huge clumps of dirty cotton, dark and rumbling. And a thunderstorm would ruin his hay.

    To top it off, Brother Tracy had promised his barn to the stake youth that night for a barn dance following their annual youth conference. Even with the help of his sons and their families, Brother Tracy was convinced he would never get the hay in before the rain, and the teenagers on their way only accentuated his problem.

    For six hours that morning the 200 Auburn Washington Stake teenagers and 50 leaders had cleaned yards and homes, painted inside and out, put booklets together, fixed food, cleaned headstones in a cemetery, and helped with children.

    For six hours they had fun together helping others. Then they cleaned up and returned to church for dinner and a testimony meeting. Now it was fun and games time at the Tracys’. They arrived in cars, vans, and pickups—ready to dance. And dance they did until around 10:00 P.M. It was about then that Chris and Jeff Williams of the Buckley Ward, who had worked for Brother Tracy on the farm at times, could see that even though he had finished baling the hay, he was going to have trouble getting it in the barn before the storm.

    Chris and Jeff went to Rae Dell Killstrom, one of the Young Women leaders, and told her they were going to “buck hay.” A self-declared “city slicker,” Sister Killstrom thought that they meant they were going to go play in the hay. Picturing them with hay all over them she said no, if they left the dance they couldn’t come back.

    But then Sister Killstrom talked with Geraldine Tracy, Grant’s wife. Once she understood the problem, she talked with other stake leaders and found that some of them had just been discussing the same thing. And that was it. As soon as the problem was explained to the kids, there was no hesitating. With no gloves and with bare arms, they marched out, swarming over the fields like seagulls attacking crickets.

    By then it was pitch dark and lightning danced across the sky, illuminating groups of young people everywhere, racing the weather. Within an hour the hay was in the barn and stacked—stacked by a bunch of kids in their party clothes.

    Grant Tracy was overwhelmed. “Oh, man, I’ll tell you, it was unbelievable,” he recalls. “It just gave me …” He breaks off, searching for the right words. “You could see kids all over the field.” He pauses again. “It would bring tears to anyone’s eyes. It couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to their conference.”

    If Grant Tracy ever builds a monument on his farm, it won’t have a seagull on it. It’ll be a golden replica of a teenager with a smile on his face and a bale of hay in his hands.

    Photography by Steve Bunderson and Edgar E. Eaton

    Top: (front) Starlaing Einbender; (l–r) Andrea Abenroth, Eryn Einbender, Naomi Beckstead, Katrina Smith; (rear) Alex Smith. Above: Grant Tracy visits with Andrea and Starlaing.