Water from a rock. With the moon chasing the sun toward the end of a short winter’s day, Ed Hain watched a well drilling crew pack gravel and drive away, leaving him standing alone at field’s edge, tasting fine grains of turnrow dust. Ignoring expert analysis in favor of divine intervention, and fully aware of geological limitations in the ground beneath his feet, Hain shifted his gaze from well to sky, and began to pray in full faith. The Nebraska farmer was seeking a miracle.
Hain, 85, is an advocate of precision technology, agronomic data, and mathematical analysis across his ground—and a steadfast believer in the hand of Providence, certain of a dual role played by faith and science on his farmland across a 60-year span. “Time and again, I’ve seen real miracles on my farm from the hand of the Lord. I don’t care what scoffers say: I believe because I’ve seen. I was there.”
“God had a hand of protection on my farming operation for years. I know many other guys feel the same way. Look back across your farming life and you’ll see that it’s not all chance.”
The Wishing Well
After a lifetime working 800 acres in Butler County, roughly 80 miles west of Omaha, Hain retired in 2008, bookending a maverick career dotted with high-low corn planting (two rows tall; two rows short), box blending (short and tall varieties) and six-row configurations. Boiled down, Hain never relied entirely on convention.
In the 1990s, 80 acres adjacent to Hain’s farm hit the sale block. Located directly across a two-lane road, the acreage was peppered with good soil and sat on flat ground. Hain penciled the numbers, paid $1,500 per acre, and prepared to plant the following spring on the newly purchased 80-acre patch. However, there was a significant sans-H2O caveat: The acreage lacked a well.
“I knew it would be hard to get a good irrigation well on the piece, because a neighbor right across the fence drilled 26 test holes in his quarter section (160 acres). He didn’t find anything decent except way off, clear in the corner, literally as far removed from my land as possible,” Hain recalls.
Hain dotted the 80 acres with five test holes—and hoped. A single spot showed potential, with a reported 17’ of gravel at a 300’ depth. “The tester man said it might yield 500 gallons per minute…maybe. I knew if I could get 500 on 80 acres, that could do it for my pivot needs.”
In late November, a Nebraska drilling company arrived with a big-rig, placed equipment directly above the test hole, and bored into the depths. Essentially a process of discovery, Hain was rocked by the meager results: 17’ of gravel and 500 gallons per minute were fiction. In reality, he was faced with 9’ of gravel and 8’ of sand. “I didn’t want to hear about 17’ total, and I already knew sand didn’t yield water like gravel. Bottom line, these guys knew their science and told me I might get 350 gallons per minute. Things got serious really fast.”
Dashing away to make a quick call, Hain checked in with a trusted source who manufactured well casings. “I described the gravel and he estimated 19 gallons of water per foot.”
Painfully simple math: 17 multiplied by 19 equals 323 gallons of water per minute.
Standing over the hole, a dejected Hain mulled over limited options. Pull up the drill, bulldoze in the hole, fork over $2,000, and go home? Or, case the well, gravel pack, set in a test pump, and drop $5,000 on the barrelhead?
Hain paused, asked the three-man crew for a moment of time, and turned on his heels, crunching residue as he deliberately walked into the field. “I stood by myself for a couple minutes, looked up into the sky, and said out loud, ‘Well, boss, what do you want me to do?’”
No thunder. No audible response. Just the faint sound of a light wind crossing Nebraska level land. “There was no voice, but I heard an answer, and maybe some other farmers know what I’m talking about. I felt my spirit get strong with a good direction to see this through, and I felt it came from God.”
Hain cut a brisk beeline back to the well-drilling crew, and cast the die: “I walked up to these guys who were waiting, and said what I felt, ‘The farmer is the biggest gambler in the world. He takes all he’s got and puts it in the ground and tries to raise a crop, just to get his money and a little more back. I’m putting $5,000 on the table; deal the cards.’”
As evening approached, the crew completed the construction process and left Hain’s property, intent on returning the next morning. Alone, beside a well projected at 323 gallons per minute, the Catholic cornhusker farmer prayed for a miracle of flow, and then followed suit, heading for home.
After supper, alongside his wife, Alethea, Hain crawled into bed, overcome with a peculiar feeling about the well, and reached for a rosary to begin a series of prayers. “I always say prayers in my bed going to sleep. Whenever I’ve had genuine needs, I prayed the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, and I did so twice that night, asking for a good test: ‘“Lord, if it be your will, I’d sure like to have an adequate well in that field.’”
When morning broke, Hain prayed the Chaplet once more, and headed for the 80 acres, eager to crank the pump.
According to Hain, his insistence and confidence in a strong flow drew the attention of the drilling company’s top field boss. At 8 a.m., Hain and the well crew were on pause in the winter chill, dressed in heavy coats and clothing, holding for the field boss’ arrival at the well site. A half-hour later, a pickup truck pulled close, and the boss exited, ordering the crew to start the pump at 500 gallons per minute.
“Huh? They’d been telling me 350 was the best I’d get, but the boss kicked it off at 500. It didn’t occur to me till later, but he was going to start me at 500 and let me watch the well draw down. Suck air and then back off until it stabilized, somewhere around 350 gallons.”
As the pump churned into action at 500 gallons per minute, the flow surged down the discharge pipe and spilled into an adjacent ditch, while Hain observed from the periphery. “They were fishing with a deal on the end of a cord and kept letting it down the hole, and when it hit water, a light would come on. They kept fishing and nothing went wrong. It took about 15 minutes and the boss said, ‘Boost it to 800.’”
“The crew did what he said, and screwed the valve to 800. Maybe 20 minutes later, the well was still pumping full strength, and that’s when I could see the crew stealing glances at each other. The boss had a really serious look on his face, and it was pretty clear they had no idea where the water was coming from.”
And next? 1,200 gallons per minute.
Once again, the output was increased—at roughly four times the original estimate, but even at 1,200 gallons per minute, the well showed no sign of weakening, Hain recalls. “The guys were standing around in disbelief when the boss told them to open it up and find out the max.”
Wide open, the flow hit 1,433 gallons per minute. Wearing a blank stare, the field boss walked over and spoke above the din, according to Hain: “He came up to me and his face looked like he’d seen a ghost, and he says, ‘I’ve been drilling wells for 33 years and I ain’t never seen nothing like this. Not even close. I don’t have any idea where the water is coming from.’”
A few months later, Hain received a phone call from another well driller, inquiring about a “miracle well” and an unusual story overheard at an irrigation convention. “The drilling crew had passed it around, and this other driller just couldn’t believe it without calling and getting the details from me. He knew 17’ could never hold that much water.”
Hain felt certain of the water’s source, and from the Butler County producer’s perspective, the well was another notch in a chain of answered prayers across his farming career. He saw; he believed. “I know God intervened on my land. Today, that same well is nozzled at 800 and that’s where we decided to leave it. I’m 85 and may not remember what I had for breakfast, but I’ll never forget the miracle of my well.”
In rapid-fire fashion, Hain reels off a series of events that shaped the trajectory of his farming operation, and, he believes, are attributable to Providence. Several years after the well incident, during a bone-dry stretch, Hain was checking pivots and pumps during the heart of irrigation season on Aug. 1. (For Hain, irrigation typically ran July 1 to Sept. 1.)
Uniquely, Hain’s on-farm vehicle of choice for rambling down turnrows was a blue, four-door sedan—a beat-up Ford. Serving as his rolling shop, it was packed to the gills with tools, oil, grease guns and a motley assortment of farming paraphernalia. “It was my field car and I preferred it to a truck because everything was more secure. All my gear was enclosed and I never had to worry about dust on my tools or oil cans. It was perfect and I had many conversations alone with God inside that old car.”
As the Ford rolled beside a field of seed corn with corners planted into grain sorghum, Hain noted extreme stress building in the milo, and questioned whether the crop would head out and make grain. “Out loud, I said, ‘Lord, it’s so dry. We’re pumping hard and I’m afraid my milo won’t make grain. Could you send a general soaking rain and meet this need?’ Then I prayed the Chaplet.”
The skies broke the following night, and Hain received a total of 11 inches of rain in August—typically a dry month—negating any further irrigation. On Sept. 1, Hain began making the well circuit, prepping for off-season, and as he drained a final pump, he offered thanks for the abundant water, and, once again, was struck by what he considered a genuine need. “I’d just had a need met, but I was overcome with another. I said, ‘Thank you for the rains, Lord. By the way, I’m 70 years old now with three married daughters and no grandchildren.”
“I prayed the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy so my twig wouldn’t drop off the family tree. Ten days later, my daughter tells me and Alethea she’s expecting. I knew it was God. Seven more days, and another daughter tells me triplets are coming. All I could do was look upward and say, ‘Thank you.’ Months later, just to confirm it was God’s doing, we had four grandchildren born in less than four hours, 50 miles apart.”
“Some people might look and think rainfall and grandchildren are the function of nature and nothing else. I’m here to say that’s not what happened in my life. I’m not judging the circumstances of anyone else’s life, but in my case, my real needs were met.”
The Black Cloud
Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday following Easter. Hain and Alethea had served on a Divine Mercy committee for several years, and in 2006, the couple was conflicted between a seed corn contract and attendance at an afternoon Divine Mercy service roughly 100 miles from their farm.
Typically, at planting, the couple worked in tandem. Alethea disked; Hain planted. “She is a wonderful farm wife,” Hain says. “Always by my side, helping in any way possible. I could never have farmed at all without Alethea.”
At 10 a.m., the Hains arrived home from regular church service and prepared for work. Foregoing the afternoon Divine Mercy service, Hain readied the planter, stacked seeds and chemicals on a truck and trailer, and drove to a field roughly a half-mile away. After chewing time loading the planter with seed and getting chemicals in place, he set off across the field, planting seed into soil.
As the first half-mile pass ended, Hain noted a tiny dark cloud above the northwest corner of the field, but continued planting at 5 mph and paid little mind, certain the dark spot would pass by his ground. Yet, as he headed back for a second round, the cloud was rolling fast, bearing down dead-center of the field. “It was like it came from nowhere and I could tell it was about to drop heavy rain.” Hain remembers.
He jumped off the tractor, climbed into the truck, and sped for shed cover, pulling a trailer of seed corn at risk in paper sacks. After securing the seed, and getting a tarp pulled over the planter boxes, Hain watched rain hammer down around his property, and realized the planting day was finished; the Divine Mercy service was not. “We got cleaned up, drove 100 miles, and walked into service with 15 minutes to spare.”
Later in the afternoon, driving back home, the Hains noted continuous dry ground—until they reached within a half-mile of the farm. “There was water everywhere, enough so the ground was soaked and muddy,” he says.
The next morning, while his neighbors rolled into fields, Hain’s phone rang with a call from the seed corn company’s field manager. “He asked me if I was planting,” Hain says, “and I told him, ‘No chance.’”
“He was short and shot back, ‘Your neighbors are planting. Why aren’t you?’”
“I told him everything was wet, way too wet. The phone went silent.”
A half hour later, Hain heard a truck rumble down the drive, and saw the field manager exit the vehicle and stare down in disbelief. “He looked at the puddles on the ground and said, “It rained. It really rained.”
“I know,” Hain answered. “I just told you that.”
Weighing all the factors, Hain claims the episode defies reasonable explanation. “I don’t demand anyone believe me, but I was supposed to go to that service. I’m here to tell anyone what occurred in my life.”
“It Happened to Me”
At 85, looking back at what he contends are repeated miracles, why does Hain believe his prayers were answered so many times? “I’m a regular man, no different than so many other farmers. I pray regularly in the good times and bad times, and I’ve never been bashful to ask God to meet my real needs, and I’ve always given thanks and never put things down to luck.”
“I’m not trying to tell others how to live based on anything I’ve done. I’m telling them God intervenes in our lives all the time, sometimes when we can’t see it. I’m also not a special person compared to anyone else, but I believe in the Lord and I’ve experienced so many miracles.”
“Some people might laugh and think I’m delusional, but that doesn’t bother me in the least. There is no way to make someone else believe and that’s not my job anyway. I have the testimony of a simple farmer to tell about what God has done on my land, and I know it all happened, because it happened to me.”
For more, see: