GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — Todd Nelson hasn't been able to farm for a few months because he's been battling throat cancer.
Nelson, who farms northeast of Boelus, finished his cancer treatments Sept. 15. He's been on a feeding tube since Aug. 18.
Nelson, who's never smoked, has had a rough time. It's been devastating to watch him go through the ordeal, said his wife, Katrina.
Nelson, 54, has been home since Nov. 8.
The cancer cells are now dead. But he still has to deal with severe radiation damage, and it's going to take a while until his body heals.
Katrina is encouraged that things will get better. "It's just going to take time because the radiation takes a lot of time to get over," she told The Grand Island Independent .
The last time Nelson was able to work was Aug. 20, after his second chemo treatment.
In the meantime, his family, friends and neighbors have stepped up to take care of his operation.
The Nelsons' youngest son, Jesse, has done a lot of the farming, even though he's only a junior at Centura High School.
"Well, he asked me to run it while he's sick right now," Jesse said. The 16-year-old will keep at it until his dad is feeling better.
Jesse has been going hard since June. His dad did the planting, but Jesse's done a lot since then, including irrigating, cutting alfalfa and harvesting corn and soybeans.
"Jesse's been saying he's wanted to farm since he was 3 years old, and it never left him," his mother said.
"Jesse knows the farm inside and out. There's nothing he can't do on the farm. He does it all," Katrina said.
He can't drive the truck because he's not 18, but he would if he could, she said.
Jesse even has his own cattle. Even before eighth grade, his parents got him started. Then, in eighth grade, he got a loan through the FFA youth loan program. "He sells calves just like we do," Katrina said.
Centura School has been good in dealing with the Nelson family the last few months.
"Knowing the circumstances, they let Jesse have work release" so he "gets out of school just a little bit early," she said.
Last month, Katrina attended parent-teacher conferences.
"He's maintaining a high B average, and that's where he's always been. So it hasn't affected him there," she said.
Two of Jesse's friends who've helped in Nelson's absence are Kyle Pullen and Ethan Hurt.
Four Centura students were recently harvesting corn after school. Jesse was being helped by Hurt, Pullen and Tessa Raymer.
Hurt, 16, is assisting Jesse "because he's a good friend. I'd do anything for a friend. He'd do the same for me."
Pullen, 18, said he's "just helping a guy carry on a tradition."
Hurt and Pullen have known their friend a long time. "Jesse and I go way back," Pullen says.
Raymer is Jesse's girlfriend. In the field, she was recently helping to keep Jesse awake, one of the friends joked.
As of Nov. 15, Jesse had 120 acres of corn left to pick. The total workload included 400 acres of corn and 700 or 800 acres of soybeans.
"It's been quite a road," Hurt said. The whole project is in Jesse's hands and he's doing pretty well for a 16-year-old, Hurt said.
"I couldn't do it. It'd be too much stress for me," Hurt said. "Yeah, I'm proud of him. He's doing pretty good."
The family has also received a lot of help from adults.
Todd's brother, Mel, is a diesel mechanic who hauled beans for the family.
Help has come from area farmers James Nelson, Marv Caspersen and two of the farm's landlords, Tim Koperski and Steve Kyhn.
Another of the Nelsons' sons, Curtis, has helped, even though he works full time. Also pitching in have been Aaron Reikes and Curtis' girlfriend, Cameron Hemphill.
Family friend Levi Woodring has come from Holdrege to help. He turns down offers of money, saying he's happy just eating Katrina's meals.
Aurora Co-op drivers asked if they could pull some pipe apart.
Katrina appreciates all the things people have done. That includes jobs that people do without being asked. "They just do it," he said. It is "so nice," she said.
Information from: The Grand Island Independent, http://www.theindependent.com