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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Fire that Pulled Farmers Together

What a crazy last couple of weeks it has been especially for our friends and neighbors in Central and Western Kansas.  Incredibly high winds coupled with extremely low humidity had wild fires raging in 21 of the 105 counties in Kansas on one day.  

Almost two weeks ago, my husband traveled to Protection to help a friend, Bill, who had fire come across his entire ranch.  Bill talked about watching the fire early in the day and deciding to walk his year old calves down the road to the neighbor’s wheat field.  When he got all of his calves in the field, he noticed another neighbor’s cows at the fence wanting in and he let them in as well.  These cattle were spared going through the flames thanks to his forward thinking.

The generosity of neighbors whether right next door, across the state or across the nation reminds us how great it is to live in rural America.  Bill told stories of how the day after the fire came across he had a friend call and ask what he needed.  He was still in shock that all of his grass and hay was gone that he really didn’t know how to reply.  The friend assured him he would help and as he thought all he could say was, "I need some wheat pasture."  His friend said give me a few minutes.  In five minutes, his phone rang with an offer of wheat pasture and the next morning more than half of his cattle were loaded on trucks and moved to lush, green, growing wheat and out of the ashes.  He story is not unique, this has been happening since the fire.    

Neighbors helping neighbors has been a constant theme this week whether it was 4-H’ers taking in orphaned calves or thousands of hay bales being shipped in from Utah, Michigan and everywhere in between.  These loads of hay are teamwork in themselves.  Truck drivers often own the truck, have borrowed a trailer, loaded hay donated by someone else, and the fuel is being paid for by yet another person.  Stories of a highway patrolman or random people at a gas station donating toward fuel are common in this story.

Farm work just doesn't stop because you want to leave.

I have been sharing the convoys of supplies moving to Kansas on my Facebook page.  It is hard to not get emotional as you think how much these kind souls left behind to go help their brothers and sisters in agriculture that they have never met. 

When my farmer left, I told him he needed to go, but that did leave me to do chores by myself.  I did a quick post on Facebook and had a freshman in high school willing to come help out that day.  Did everything get done that day that we had planned?  No.  The wheat still needed some extra fertilizer, but it got that this week and we finally have the corn planter ready for planting season which is right around the corner.

Ranch work doesn't stop just because the largest fire in Kansas history tore through your pastures.

Our friends affected by these fires whether the Starbuck Fire or the others scattered from Texas to Nebraska made a tremendous amount of work for our friends.  Destroyed Fences.

Downed powerlines.  Hurt animals.  Orphaned calves.

It all has to be taken care of NOW and when you are invested emotionally it is hard to prioritize what is the most important today.

Just like the Anderson Creek Fire (aka The Fire the National Media Won't Tell You About) last year, it seems the media covered the story for a day and then moved on and we are left wondering if anyone remembers middle America.  I am still in shock that it has not be declared a national disaster yet.  When we mentioned that to one friend that was affected he said, "What?! Rancher's lives matter, too."  Yes they do and I thank God that there are people out there sharing the needs of our rancher friends and that they don't have to wait on the government to show up to get help.

As you are making donations to the fire victims, don't forget about the Rural Volunteer Fire Departments that are sure to be running low on funds with more high fire danger days to come this week.  These guys give their all to protect friends and neighbors some even travel a hundred miles or more to help out as well. 

Farmers and Ranchers are a tough bunch.  This might slow them down, but most are finding the bright spots in this fire.  How one of my brother's friends responded the day after a fire went through their farm and ranch land sums up how tough these people truly are. 

This is what sets farmers and ranchers apart from everyone else in this world.   There is no glass half empty in agriculture. It is always half full and next year will always be better. Every adversity is merely a challenge to get to something better. 

-A Kansas Farm Mom

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