Today, I’m focusing on a more serious topic. The above photo is from KXAN.com, documenting the Panhandle wildfire. That area is only 2-3hrs away from us. In short, it’s scary.
There are some tough things to remember when it comes to ranching: not every calf or cow will make it, there isn’t always enough grass or feed to go around and cattle needs to be sold (for example, the drought of 2012), not every season affords a life of ease.
Sadly, this past week, Mother Nature reminded us of her power to control our fate.
If you haven’t heard (we didn’t even know until late Wednesday) there was a massive fire in the Texas Panhandle and surrounding areas. http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/07/us/wildfires-texas-deaths/
Ranchers literally lost everything: grass, buildings, and – most important – their cattle. When you only get one paycheck a year, the blow comes even harder. I saw some sad and disturbing pictures of cattle who tried to save themselves by sitting in their own stock tanks of water, hair burned away, udders singed meaning calves had no access to milk, others who looked as if they were trying to get away only to turn back and realize their calves were lost in the blaze. They went back in for their little ones and never came out.
Cowboys and cowgirls were out there, not trying to pack their own belongings and head to safety, but trying to gather their cattle and herd them away from danger. Not everyone made it back. Meanwhile, firefighters who also ranch lost their own herds while trying to save the land and cattle of others.
This is a dark, dark time for ranchers. It’s the one thing you never want to see or experience. So much land scorched. So many people taken away too early. So many hard decisions made time and again.
We do love our life out here on the ranch but it’s not just a fun hobby to pass the time. Ask any rancher worth the manure on their boots why she does it and you’ll realize that we consider ourselves stewards of the land. We obsess, we struggle, we grieve, we try to find ways to keep things going because we value what we’ve been given. And when decades of toil, an entire livelihood, is taken away…
The most redeeming part of this sad time is our community. I thought I knew how to be a good neighbor but now I realize that you’ll never see another group come together like ag people.
So many times the heart of a smaller town is bigger than the population. In Clayton, people donated barbed wire to help keep surviving cattle penned in safe areas. Hay and feed from surrounding feed mills, even the truck and flatbed to haul the hay were donated; cases and gallons of water, food, clothes of every size donated, medical supplies for veterinary care. All given without question and with open hearts. Why? Because we can. Because we should. Small town living seems to come with people whose hearts are bigger than the sky above them. I’m proud to see the outpouring of help and be counted amongst them.
If you can help out, here are a few articles I found listing donation sites. If you can’t donate in the form of tangible goods or cash, even a prayer for those still out there containing this fire and ongoing prayers for those who will rebuild (and they will rebuild) is appreciated.
American Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation
(ARC is also providing assistance to those affected in the Florida wildfire. Naples, FL isn’t too far from Sarasota Opera, where I was privileged to sing a few years ago.)
There aren’t any pretty or funny pictures this time. A quick Google search for Panhandle wildfire will give you enough to see. I’ll be back soon with another update on ranch life. For now, I’ll be praying for our neighbors.