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Beauty, surprises for volunteer

MEDINA, N.D. -- John "Jack" Rutledge, 69, grew up in a Chicago suburb. After a stint as a Navy corpsman in the Vietnam war, he spent about 20 years in the Champaign-Urbana area of central Illinois. He worked in aviation-related fire and medical t...

MEDINA, N.D. -- John "Jack" Rutledge, 69, grew up in a Chicago suburb. After a stint as a Navy corpsman in the Vietnam war, he spent about 20 years in the Champaign-Urbana area of central Illinois. He worked in aviation-related fire and medical training and as a flight instructor and commercial pilot. He retired from that in 1990 and moved to the Atlanta area, where he took a second career teaching management skills to Delta Airlines officials. He retired in 2005.

A few years ago, Rutledge was studying agriculture-related rescues -- grain bin drowning -- and found Farm Rescue on the internet.

"I put my application in," he says. "I had a lot of truck driving experience before, but I didn't have a CDL (commercial driver's license). I got that and here I am." The CDL allows him to haul combines and equipment from case to case.

Rutledge says the side benefit is seeing the beauty of the Dakotas.

"To me, some of the most beautiful scenery is late on a sunny fall day ... the colors really stand out and the shadows are long."

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In his third year as a volunteer, Rutledge has spent a month in the spring planting. He spent a couple of weeks in August and was in North Dakota for another month.

"Mostly it's about six weeks a year, maybe four," he says. Volunteers who stay longer sometimes end up coordinating cases.

"Everybody brings certain skills," Rutledge says. He says the technical support from RDO Equipment, which donates the machinery, is outstanding. Mechanics are quick to help in the field, if needed.

"That's what I love about Farm Rescue: You don't know some of the people, but sometimes you're surprised at the skill they have and the knowledge they have about farming. They may not know specifically about, say, the GPS, but the combine, the machine and how it works. I don't try to tell them what to do. I just ask them, 'What do you think?' And if you ask for help and learn to say 'please' and 'thank you,' it helps a lot."

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