The family farm was gone

Published 10:30 am Thursday, July 8, 2010

When Dave and Becky Ausen and two of their daughters emerged from their basement June 17 after a tornado went over their house, they saw something they will never forget.

There, amidst their belongings — surrounding them — were thousands of shards of glass.

Though their home still stood, the roof had been picked up off of it and then slammed back down, Becky said. The windows on the east and south sides of the house had been blown out, some belongings were slimed over with mud, and cracks had begun forming on some of the walls of the house.

Email newsletter signup

But as they opened the front door and walked outside, the view turned worse.

“I remember when he opened the door I thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re in a war zone,’” Becky said.

There, around them, the more than 150-year-old Ausen family farm had been destroyed.

“My husband has lived here all his life — 54 years,” Becky said.

At least 100 trees had been snapped and several grain bins were totaled, along with grain dryers, two silos, a barn, a hog house, a chicken house, a machine shed, two semitrailers and two trailers.

Dave said a few of the empty grain bins were picked up and smashed like tin foil.

At least one pickup truck was badly smashed, along with a shop that Dave had recently built.

“Right away you just go into shock,” Becky said. “It’s generations here. It’s not just ours. It’s the Ausen family’s.”

Dave’s brothers and sisters have come back to view the damage and help with the cleanup. Other uncles, cousins and other relatives have also come as well.

“It’s been phenomenal to see their reactions,” she said.

Dave said on the night of June 17, the family was watching the weather on TV.  Meteorologists were predicting the storms.

When the meteorologists gave the “take cover” warning for Manchester, the family hurried to the basement.

Dave said all of a sudden, he could hear what he thought was hail; however, it actually was debris. His ears were popping.

“We’re just grateful to be alive,” Becky said.

The first day after the tornado, the family said they spent the day making a path out of the house through the debris.

On the third day, they picked up debris in fields.

At one point along the way, they counted over 100 volunteers.

“And the crazy thing is we never called one of them,” Dave said.

Friends and family responded, along with vounteers from the Freeborn County chapter of the American Red Cross  and the Albert Lea Salvation Army.

Their church, West Freeborn Lutheran Church, also offered meals, which Becky said gave neighbors a chance to meet together and compare notes and feelings of their experiences.

“Faith has helped us get through this,” Becky said. “It could have been much worse. It’s hard to see this, but this is stuff, it’s not somebody’s life.”

Some neighbors even came to help unload corn from what was left of some of the ripped-up grain bins so that the corn would not be ruined by rain and spoilage, Dave added.

Some teachers came from Blue Earth to help, and even workers of the new Bent Tree Wind Farm and AgStar came to offer their assistance.

“Southern Minnesota is a good place to live,” Becky said. “The community support is phenomenal. If you have to have a disaster, it’s a good place to be.”

The couple said they plan to rebuild, though they are waiting to hear more back from their insurance agent to find out what’s covered and what’s not.

Becky said an engineer has told the family that the house will probably need to come down, as it is developing more and more signs of structural damage.

“Hopefully a year from now this place will look a lot different,” Becky said.

They hope to get a stable roof over their heads by winter, and Dave’s shop up still this summer.

They’re taking it one day at a time.

The Ausen farm is located at 69128,  260th St., rural Manchester.