By Lexus Haut, Summer Intern
Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative
“My goal in life? To someday be able to step back and see ‘Wehri Farms Mott ND’ in crisp, bold decals on the door of a semi. To know that what I am doing is feeding thousands. To wake up every morning and be proud of my accomplishments and excited to start the day. To be able to look around me and see for miles all the hard work I have put into my life. To have a loving wife that helped me raise beautiful children to who someday I can pass it all down to. Someday.” – Michael Wehri, 2013
At the age of only 19, Michael knew what he wanted out of life. He knew his responsibilities, and he was more than ready to undertake them… but as willing and eager as he was, Michael never got his someday. He had just finished double-checking the clearing of his equipment when the wind took a power line and caught the sprayer unnoticed. Mike grabbed the ladder to get in, sending a surge of 7,200 volts.
Mike died on June 10, 2013.
On that day, the world lost a son, brother, nephew, friend, classmate…
the world lost a farmer.
Although this happened out in western North Dakota, it’s hitting home again working as a summer intern here at Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative. In life, it’s all about the people we love… and Farm Safety is important wherever you may be!
What I’m learning in my internship scares me. Between the service areas of Dakota Valley and its sister co-op, Northern Plains Electric, the number of accidents between farm equipment and power poles has more than tripled since 2009. In 2013, 134 accidents were reported. That’s compared to 41 accidents reported in 2009.
Safety is a huge priority here. We work really hard to spread safety messages – we purchase radio ads, billboards and send press releases to the local media. In many cases, Northern Plains and Dakota Valley even work with farmers to raise the height of a pole at no charge. We hope that this story, along with those efforts, help raise awareness to this issue. Our goal is that everyone makes it home at night, safe and sound.
Michael Wehri was a classmate of mine at Mott-Regent High School and also one of my best friends. He was a one-of-a-kind guy. Multiple times, people told me that he was “the guy your parents would want you to marry.”
Here’s an example of the type of person Michael was: The guys came into class one day and told me I had a flat tire. Of course I didn’t believe them! I looked outside and sure enough – flat. They gave me a hard time. Michael, however, without even hesitating, said he’d change it during study hall. He even offered to take the car to the shop for me when he was done. Once he stepped up, the others guys offered to help too. Michael was a leader. He was a role model.
I grew up in a larger town, I didn’t know people would willingly drop everything to help someone out. Michael taught me a lot about genuine kindness and doing the right thing. Coming from Jamestown, there were many weekends I traveled home. Occasionally, Michael would be in Wahpeton or Fargo and pick me up on his way back to Mott. He’d carry my bags, hold doors open and hug me goodbye… just what a gentleman should do. He was the one to crown me as queen during Homecoming our senior year… and as you can see in the pictures below, he always had a thumbs up of encouragement and reassurance – most optimistic person I’ve ever known. During these moments, in class or on the road, I came to learn a lot about him… like his love of suckers, his fabulous fashion sense (he had a thing for watches) and his passion for music not only playing, but listening (to Kesha in particular).
Farming truly ran through his veins. In his free time he’d read magazines for farming equipment, or random manuals. It was just what he loved. It was his God-given purpose and he carried that through his last day.
In the end… it truly is the little things. Those small memories we all hang on to. The way Mike impacted my life will live on – this I promise. Stay safe out there.
“Your Safety Matters to Us.”