McLEAN — Before Randy Van Hoorn's remains were interred in the same rich soil from which he made his living, his friends already were there for him.
Van Hoorn, 60, of rural McLean, died unexpectedly Sept. 19 outside Atlanta. With its driver fatally struck by a medical condition, Van Hoorn's tractor hit a power pole and was fully engulfed in fire when the Atlanta Fire Department arrived.
With his brother Jim, 59, and father George, 86, Randy VanHoorn had farmed in the McLean and Atlanta area, operating VanHoorn Farms. When Randy died, lifelong friend Buster Compton and others quickly built a group of volunteers that at one point consisted of a dozen combines and related equipment.
The farmers knew that while they had been hit by a tragedy, the crop still needed to come in from the field. On Wednesday, the last two corn fields were being tackled in rural McLean and Atlanta.
As equipment left the empty field, Jim VanHoorn leaned against a combine.
"Everyone just got together. Everybody wanted to help. It's a pretty good feeling, a good family of farmers," said Van Hoorn, a third-generation farmer. "I want to thank the whole farming area in McLean and Atlanta for the help."
Compton lived down the road from his friend. "We traded equipment; we were there for each other," he said. "It's good to know friends are out there willing to help. You find out just how much you need them."
Then Compton climbed into the cab of the Case IH combine, rolling out of the just-harvested field with a small clump of black earth clinging into the rear tire.
The same earth Van Hoorn rests in a few miles away.