Helping hands: Fellow Oklahoma farmers help family harvest peanut field after father passes

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WILLOW, Okla. (KFOR) – With an early cold snap over the weekend, the peanut harvest is underway in southwest Oklahoma.

In the small farming community of Willow, one field was tended to with extra love when a fellow farmer passed away from cancer.

“He was just a heck of a good guy. Larry is the reason we were digging them,” said Gary Rippetoe.

On Saturday afternoon, 11 tractors lined up to turn peanut fields for their fallen friend.

Back in March, Larry Thomas was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Despite the diagnosis, the 56-year-old was determined to grow a crop of peanuts like he had the last 16 years. His friends and 16-year-old son helped plant in the spring and water the fields throughout the summer as Larry’s health deteriorated.

“He started getting sicker the first of September and we were hoping he could make it long enough to see the crop, but two weeks shy of digging, he passed away,” said Tabatha Thomas, Larry’s widow.

When Willow got an early frost Friday, Thomas’ fellow farmers knew they needed to turn Larry’s field.

“They just called me on Saturday and I looked outside and there were 11 tractors out in the field, ready to start digging,” said Thomas.

In all, 25 people put their own crops on hold to help out their friend.

“We dug ’em as a group effort. There was a lot of help and a lot of tears,” said fellow farmer Chad Rippetoe.

Maybe the most touching moment of the four-hour effort was Larry’s 16-year-old son, Sean, making the first pass in his dad’s tractor.

“It meant a lot that I got to do what my dad used to do, do everything that he did,” said Sean Thomas.

This kind of compassion for your neighbor is just par for the course in this part of the world.

“If you want to find good-hearted people, come to southwest Oklahoma,” said Chad Rippetoe.

Tabatha says the peanuts will be threshed on Saturday.  She says just as many folks will turn up for that event as well.

The Thomas family says if you want to help honor Larry, you can make a donation to the American Cancer Society in his name.

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