When the Sheriff's Department Stops By: Farmer's Response Goes Viral

( Doug Downs )

When Illinois corn and soybean farmer Doug Downs started fueling up his combine on Nov. 7 and saw a note on the combine door, his heart sunk. 

“As a farmer, stress levels are high this time of year. I’ve got 997 things to worry about, and the 18-hour days wear you down,” Downs wrote in a post on Facebook that has been shared nearly 500 times in the past 10 days.

When Downs leaves the field, he always silently hopes that nobody messes with his equipment in the middle of the night out in the middle of nowhere.

So when he saw the note on his combine, his mind immediately thought the worst. But the note from Sgt. David Trimmell of the Sheriff’s Department in Vermilion County wasn’t what he expected.

“Just checking on the equipment. Have a safe harvest.”

At 1:30 a.m., Trimmell left this unexpected note on his business card in Down’s combine.

Downs couldn’t believe it and posted the note to Facebook, asking his friends if anyone knew this guy, to please pass along Down’s appreciation.

“It’s nice to know this is actually happening. Hopefully he wasn’t thwarting a crime. He had to walk 150 feet out into the field at 1:30 a.m. to leave this,” Downs wrote.

Just part of the job
But Trimmell says this isn’t uncommon for deputies to be out and about on the country’s backroads in the middle of the night, especially during harvest and planting season.

“We generally spotlight equipment in the fields as we go by, just to make sure nobody is in them and everything is ok,” Trimmell says. “It’s just something we all like to do and we are encouraged by the sheriff’s department to do so as well.”

Tractor break-ins do happen, but not often. He says a tractor sitting out in the middle of nowhere is always an opportunity. 

When he’s patrolling the country roads, he looks for obvious signs when he spotlights equipment – such as broken windows and open doors. 

“Farmers are very meticulous with their equipment. You’re going to find them in good shape. For example, doors won’t be open. If they are – we go check it out,” Trimmell says.

In addition, he watches for standing equipment with its lights on in the middle of the night.

“Sometimes farmers will hit something as simple as the hazard lights or turn signal when they get out of the tractor after working all day and being tired. If I find that, it sticks out, so I stop and take a look,” he says. “If a farmer leaves those on, it could run down their battery.”

The last thing farmers need during this time of the year is a dead battery, especially if it can be avoided, he adds.

Although he doesn’t always leave a note, he says he likes to every now and then if he hasn’t been in the area for a while. 

“I do it so they know we are out there, but no one requires us to,” he says. 

Stressful season isn’t over
There’s no question 2019 is a farming season that many want to move on from and forget. As farmers race to wrap up this season, Trimmell says he was especially touched that this farmer took the time to share a public thank you on Facebook.

“His post was such an amazing reminder that farmers are under a lot of stress this time of the year. To hear what it means to him to know someone is watching out for him as a farmer, that’s just awesome,” Trimmell says. “If I can do that little bit for them, I’m more than happy to do so.”

Farmers don’t need additional delays or challenges – especially in the form of a ransacked tractor – as Mother Nature always provides her share.

Trimmell grew up in the country and although his parents weren’t farmers, most of his friends’ parents were.

“I have great respect for the farming community. If I can give them a little peace of mind by throwing a card in their tractor, it’s the least I can do,” he says. “It’s very common for deputies to spotlight tractors and be out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night – it really comes down to us simply doing our jobs.”

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