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BOW VALLEY, Neb. – Any dairy farmer will tell you there’s a certainty to milking cows.

Twice a day, every day, holidays and weekends — there’s a herd of cows waiting for you.

Periodically, a milk check will be deposited in the bank, providing the security of a consistent revenue flow.

Ten years ago, Kenny and Kristi Kruse faced a decision. Should they give up that security and devote their efforts full time to a growing stained-glass business that was taking more time away from their cows?

“We decided to do stained glass and haven’t regretted it a day since,” Kristi said.

Two days after the decision, the cows were sold and headed down the lane of the Kruses’ Bow Valley farm.

“It was an adjustment not having that milk check,” Kristi said.

Soon after, Kristi quit her job as a registered nurse. The Kruses’ future would now depend on restoring and fabricating stained-glass windows for churches throughout the region.

“It was the right place at the right time,” Kenny said. “We saw the opportunity, and we went for it.”

It’s a decision that’s worked out as beautifully as one of their stained-glass windows.

From the beginning, Kenny said, it seemed as though fate led them into stained glass.

Kenny happened to be on the parish council at Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Bow Valley in 1995, when the window restoration project at the church ground to a halt after three years. After looking over the windows, Kenny, an experienced woodworker, thought he could fix them.

“I thought it was something we could do,” Kenny said.

“I told him he was crazy,” Kristi said.

With help from Bogenrief Studios, then located in Merrill, Iowa, Kenny learned how to restore the windows. As she searched through classified ads for a kiln, Kristi noticed an ad from a china painter, someone who could teach her how to paint stained glass. That led to painting lessons for more than a year.

Using their new skills, the Kruses finished the windows for their church. They liked the process. It got them thinking.

“We had always talked about diving into something else,” Kenny said.

They took out an ad in the paper, just to see if anyone would be interested in hiring them for more window work. They got a job to make 17 windows for another church.

While doing that job, they built a sample window and placed it in the mall at Yankton, S.D., for three months. It’s all the advertising they’ve ever had to do. Jobs kept coming in.

All the while, they kept milking, but the stained-glass work was taking more time away from the farm. A big job in Mitchell, S.D., brought them to the point at which they had to choose. The job would require them to be gone for three weeks.

“That was the clincher,” Kristi said. “At the time, we had a year’s worth of work booked ahead. That was our security.”

In July 2000, with the cows gone, Kruse Stained Glass became their full-time job.

“It was an easy decision,” Kristi said. “You still worried you’d have enough work to do. We’re thankful we can do what we like and keep busy at it.”

When opportunity calls, you’ve got to listen. Even if the noise inside the milk barn makes it hard to hear.


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