I never met the unfortunate young people who perished last week in the devastating wildfires that swept across the Texas Panhandle, northwest Oklahoma and southern Kansas. We may have been in the same room at a farm meeting at some point over the last few years, but we were never formally introduced.
But I knew them. I know who they were—the livestock producers who put their own comfort and safety in peril to get their animals out of harm’s way. I know the ranchers who venture out in the dark of night to assist a cow in a hard birth. I know the producers who brave freezing temperatures and frostbitten fingers to chop ice out of water troughs, and those who haul barrels of water in triple digit temperatures to remote grazing sites to keep their animals alive during prolonged droughts.
I know the ones who rode into hell last week trying to save cattle from the blazing inferno. They didn’t do that just to save an investment. They didn’t sacrifice themselves for money; they did it to save their animals from the fire because they were responsible for keeping them safe and because they refused to sit by and have them suffer.
The attempt went terribly wrong—shifting winds, blinding smoke, fire burning faster than expected—no one knows for sure what combination of events led to this unthinkable tragedy.
The loss is unimaginable for family, friends and for those involved in agriculture who understand the devotion livestock producers feel for their animals. I am saddened by the loss, even though I did not know these brave young people personally. But I’m not surprised at their courage or their commitment to save their livestock. I’m sure others made similar risks and survived. It is who they are.
These are the people who misinformed activists accuse of animal abuse. How many of them would risk their lives to save a cow?
Folks in West Texas, northwest Oklahoma and southern Kansas are mourning. They have lost much, but they have been buoyed up by the kindness and generosity of friends and neighbors and people they don’t know. It’s not enough to fill the void, but it is comforting to know good people care.
Take a minute and remember the people of the Southern Plains; donate hay, or fencing, or a few dollars if you have it. And pray for healing of earth and spirit.