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A hopeful message during a time of rage

Photos by Dicken Crane Dicken Crane and his employees have painted new bales with a message: love, unity, respect
HOPEFUL MESSAGE: Days after his original hay bales were burned by a local man, Dicken Crane and his employees have painted new bales with a message that he hopes resonates far away from his farm gate.
After a local man burned his hay bale sign, Dicken Crane replaced it with a message of unity.

It’s easy to get caught up in the current political turmoil, even if you live on a farm.

Take the recent incident involving farmer Dicken Crane of Dalton, Mass. Dicken and his family are Joe Biden supporters and made their support clear by putting out 19 wrapped hay bales on a corner of their farm, which is in western Massachusetts. The bales were painted with “Biden Harris 2020,” “USA” and “VOTE.”

The bales went up on Oct. 8. The very next night, they were engulfed in flames.

A local man, 49-year-old Lonnie Durfee, was arrested and charged with setting fire to the bales. Dicken says that some of his farmworkers, who were working fields at the time, saw the bales go up in flames and called the fire department.

News reports claim that Durfee was heard bragging about burning the bales at a local bar.

Of course, the national media was set on fire — no pun intended — after hearing of the incident. The Washington Post ran an article Oct. 12 claiming that it was the latest in a series of ugly episodes in our politically charged environment.

“In 2020, political yard signs are devolving into a charred symbol of the country’s polarization,” reads the Washington Post article.

Dicken says that he expected something to happen as soon as he put the bales up. Western Massachusetts is the most rural part of the state, and signs supporting President Donald Trump are everywhere. Dicken has even gotten messages on his farm’s Facebook page from others who say that given the opportunity, they would light the match next time.

The Oct. 9 fire that burned Dicken Crane’s hay bales were set by a local manSIGN OF TURMOIL: The Oct. 9 fire that burned Dicken Crane’s hay bales were set by a local man. He called the man in jail and talked to him, and the man apologized for what he did.

But as it turns out, every story has two sides. And in this case, it’s a sad one.

Dicken claims that a friend of his told him that he ran into Durfee in the woods while deer hunting about a week before the bales were set on fire. His friend told him that Durfee was looking for a place to spread his son’s ashes. Durfee’s son died in a motorcycle crash earlier this summer.

Dicken wanted to learn more about the man, so he called Durfee in jail a few days after the incident. He said that Durfee told him he was a recovering alcoholic and fell off the wagon when his son died.

“He said to me, ‘I don’t even know why I did it,’” Dicken sayys. “I realized that what he lost being his son was so much greater than a pile of bales. He was so sincerely apologetic, saying he wanted to pay me back. He didn’t know why he did it.”

To be fair, Durfee has done this before. According to an article in the Berkshire Eagle, he told police that he burned a Biden-Harris sign in front of a vacant house earlier this year. He’s pleaded not guilty to a charge of burning personal property and is being held in jail without bail.

A few days after the burning of his bales, Dicken and his crew put out 18 new bales. The new bales have different messages: “LOVE,” “UNITY,” “RESPECT.”

Personally, I would be angry if someone burned my yard sign. We live in a country that protects our freedom of speech, especially if it’s on our own property. No one deserves to have this kind of violence brought upon them. And thank goodness none of Dicken’s employees or his 100 head of beef cattle were injured.

Between COVID-19, the presidential election and the bad economy, everyone has a reason to be on edge these days. But Dicken’s message goes beyond politics.

We could all be a little more forgiving, and be a little more loving, of each other these days. The media salivated at the chance to make this purely about politics and focus on the violence. Kudos to Dicken Crane for turning a bad situation into a positive one and spreading a message that will hopefully resonate far from his farm gate.

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