Influence of promising lives echoes across the state

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Farm Forum

Windmills used to dot the prairie, pulling life-sustaining liquid from the ground to quench the thirst of livestock and people. As times have changed, the windmills are nostalgic images. To once again use the power of the wind, wind towers stand in rows across stretches of prairie, snagging the fierce winds to provide electricity.

In the midst of a windy night with lots of fog, an airplane carrying four young men to their homes somehow clipped one of the wind towers, claiming the four lives. Those who knew the men said they were returning from a trip to Texas to meet some of the people they respected and to make a make a personal connection.

That effort, so typical of those in agriculture, has ended for them, but the impact of their promising lives resonates through the state.

When hearing of such an accident, “You hope it’s not someone you know.”

But in a state like South Dakota, there is a good likelihood that there will be some connection. Those in the plane were Brent Beitelspacher, 37, of Bowdle; Logan Rau, 25, of Java; Donald “DJ” Fischer, 30, of Gettysburg and Nick Reimann, 33, of Ree Heights. (See Page 1F.)

As family and friends grieve for the four young men killed in a plane crash near Highmore on Sunday, people who didn’t know them are learning about their lives

Even though I didn’t know any of the victims, it’s evident from what has been said and printed that the men had touched many.

Mike Mimms, a veterinarian in Hereford, said Beitelspacher, Rau and Reimann were in Texas for a cow and club calf sale Saturday.

Mimms, who oversaw the sale, said that he has been buying cattle from the Beitelspachers for the past 15 years, but that he met Brent Beitelspacher in person for the first time for about a minute before Saturday’s sale. That meant a lot to Mimms.

The three men had excellent reputations in the cattle industry, Mimms said. He said he and Beitelspacher have done millions of dollars in business over the phone without any concerns or problems. Beitelspacher had a sale barn in Gettysburg for 10 years before he began working for Northern Plains, a diversified farmer-owned county operation of Cenex Harvest States. There were lots of connections between the two.

Mimms said Reimann had been down for the show multiple times and is known across the industry as a master in livestock genetics.

“He was honestly the No. 1 guy in this business and one that people trusted,” Mimms told the AP.

Fischer, a crop sprayer for Air Kraft Spraying Inc., followed in his father’s footsteps into the aerial business and was extremely involved in his community, state Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, said.

“This is one of those things that’s going to hit the community pretty hard, because I would venture to say there probably are not many people here who DJ didn’t touch their life in some way,” Brown told the AP.

Rau’s sister, TiAnn Poloncic, said her brother could sell a ketchup Popsicle to someone wearing white gloves.

Rau married his wife, Natalie, last year and made the choice to head back to the family farm and run the operation with his father Todd, Poloncic said.

“He was living the American dream,” she said.

As the ag community struggles with understanding why tragedies like this happen, the lives of these young men and what they have done in the state will foster connections among the people they have left behind.