March 15, 2021 at 4:22 p.m.

Six feet from a hero

By Tina Hinchley- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

    The anticipation of leaving the farm for a few days is often filled with stress and anxiety. The days are filled with lists of things that need to be done and notes to leave for those we will not see before we take off on our adventure. Going on a journey during the pandemic was not what we wanted to do, but our certificate for a condo stay was going to expire. So, the flight was booked, car rented, and the condo room was confirmed for our stay.
    Duane and I were gone for four days, but being alone on the farm for just one day with problems is too much for anyone to handle. Our daughter Anna was in charge. She managed the mornings, and then our student crew arrived in the evenings to fetch cows to the robots and feed calves. Anna had the phone numbers for the veterinarian, electrician and Lely support. Kevin, her husband, mixed feed in the evenings after he returned from his position as a plumber and maintenance engineer.
    Planning the trip to San Diego, California, was simple. We flew out of Madison a little after 5 a.m. To our surprise, the plane was packed. Every seat had been taken, and the attendants were watching closely to make sure everyone’s mask was over their noses. The only time the mask could be removed was to take a drink or eat, and then the mask needed to be put back on.
    After a layover in Arizona, we flew into San Diego with the sun shining brightly and warming us as we made our way to get our rental car. We found out California had just recently opened up for outdoor dining and limited activities. We had planned to hang out at the condo, cooking in and relaxing on the beach. We knew the Midway aircraft carrier was open for visitors, but the tour was unguided and restricted to only a few areas that had enough airflow. We planned to tour the Midway on our second day in California.
    The condo did not have cooking supplies. So, we needed to find a place to eat for the evening. Duane looked on his phone and saw that Outback Steakhouse had an eat-in option. As we left the condo, we noticed it was a lot cooler than just a few minutes earlier. As soon as the sun set, we needed to wear our jackets. It was actually cold for us.
    To our dismay, when we entered the steakhouse they directed us outside under a canopy but near a propane patio heater. The waitstaff pulled the heater toward our table and gave us a paper menu. Not long after the waitress took our order, an older couple was seated at a table just over 6 feet away, and our heater got moved closer to them. We had to share the warmth.
    We struck up a conversation about how chilly the weather was, and that we were from Wisconsin. We came from the cold and got to enjoy a little bit of the sun on our visit to San Diego. Both of them are from Illinois and grew up on farms. Their families owned land and were crop farming. The farm talk continued. How many children we have, how many cows, how much land, and then we showed them our camera app on our phone. A cow had just calved in the calving pen. We talked back and forth while eating and enjoyed each other’s company. We mentioned we wanted to tour the Midway aircraft carrier and see what else was open. The woman lit up and mentioned she was a volunteer on the carrier, and she dug through her purse to get us free coupons to tour the ship. After she got out the coupon, her husband got out his card, and we exchanged our business card with them.
    The card said John C. “Jack” Ensch Captain, USN (Ret.), and it went on with his address and phone number. I commented that we were pleased to have met them, and I called him Captain Jack and thanked him for his service. They both smiled and nodded their heads.
    We finished our meals at the same time and left together. Before heading to our cars, Kathy mentioned we should look her husband up on YouTube. He was a prisoner of war held captive for over 1,000 days in Vietnam.
    After returning to our condo, Duane looked Jack up on YouTube. This man who sat near us through the evening was quiet, modest and enjoyed talking about farming. We never could have imagined what we learned from that video. All four POWs spoke about their last flight before capture. Their injuries, torture and the support of each other every day. Listening to them speaking and then talking about leaving Vietnam Feb. 12, 1973, and returning to the United States gave me a new appreciation and a personal look at the man we had met only an hour before.
    The next day, we went to tour the Midway. We arrived shortly after it opened at 10 a.m. and walked around for six hours listening to the hand-held audio in our self-guided tour. On the top of the carrier where the different types of aircraft were on exhibit we listened to Captain Jack’s voice on our handheld speaker as he talked about the planes and told personal stories. There were many volunteers and several who knew Captain Jack and the other three POWs. All four of these men volunteer on Midway, sharing their stories about their lives in the Air Force and as a POW.
    What a joy it was to spend an hour eating next to this man and his wife. Jack is a humble hero; Kathy is too. I am thankful they and so many others have done so much to protect our freedom. I have already written to them to let them know what a great time we had on the Midway and how thankful we are to have met them.
    Tina Hinchley, and her husband,  Duane, daughter Anna, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  The Hinchley’s have been hosting farm tour for over 25 years.


You must login to comment.

Top Stories

Today's Edition



27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.