I have always been proud to call myself a farmer or rancher, but never more so than the last few weeks.
In case you haven’t heard (and if your only news sources are the major networks and big-city newspapers, you may not have), catastrophic wild fires recently burned through hundreds of thousands of acres in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. The fast-moving inferno destroyed homes, buildings, equipment, pasture, livestock and entire ranches that have been under the same family ownership for decades. In a few instances, people also lost their lives trying to protect their property and animals.
While attending a purebred cattle sale recenlty, an old ranching friend asked me, “Why doesn’t the national media air some footage showing the devastation? This is as bad for farmers and cattlemen as Katrina was for the Gulf Coast.”
I didn’t have a good answer for him, but I’ve done a lot of thinking about his question since then.
The number of farmers and ranchers affected by the fires in the sparsely populated High Plains, probably doesn’t approach the number of urbanites harmed by a hurricane over major cities. The last time I looked, places like Ashland, Kan., and Beaver, Okla., don’t have TV stations that can rush out and take live pictures of the goings-on.
Finally, I haven’t seen any riots or protests demanding that our government come in and rebuild their houses, barns, thousands of miles of fencing, and replace the animals that were killed. That’s not the cowboy way.
What IS happening, though, is the outpouring of donations of hay, feed, posts, fencing, gates, and cash from farmers all over this country to aid fellow farmers in this time of immediate and overwhelming need.
Most of the people contributing to this massive effort don’t know a single one of the people who were impacted by the fire, but we know they are farmers and we feel confident that they would be helping us if it had happened here. My friend from the cattle sale told me he had already made two trips out west to deliver goods he had donated. He also told me that he had ordered 150 metal gates from a local merchant and he would deliver them as soon as they were ready.
“I don’t know how I’ll be able to pay for them,” he added, “but they need ‘em and I’m going to see that they get ‘em.” That is the cowboy way.
If you have given already, God bless you. If you haven’t, I’d encourage you to contact your local Cattleman’s Association, Farm Bureau office or University Extension office and they can tell you what is needed today and where you can take your donation. In many rural communities, the local bank has set up an account to forward funds to the farmers and ranchers that were decimated. For all of these groups I’ve mentioned, no one skims any money off the top to fund their own programs. All the money goes directly to people who need it and, trust me, they need it.


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