It’s been a month since the devastating wildfires burned nearly 2 million acres of rangeland in the Texas Panhandle, northwest Oklahoma, Southern Kansas and in Colorado.
We’ve published reports of the tragic loss of human life, including young people who died trying to rescue their cattle. We’ve posted updates on the enormous cost in lost forage, lost cattle, ruined fence lines and burned buildings. We’ve touched on the enormous emotional losses farmers and ranchers have suffered, but I know of no words to adequately describe that.
We’ve offered information on where to find assistance; USDA, for instance, offers help through the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Cooperative Extension offices continue to provide updates, best management practices for range recovery and animal care.
Extension, industry, and individual farm families have also rallied to collect and transport thousands of bales of hay and other feed materials to affected areas. The outpouring of concern, backed up by contributions of much needed supplies, has been overwhelming—but not surprising to anyone who knows anything at all about farmers. Helping your neighbors seems to be hard-wired into their DNA.
But, as I said, it’s been a month. And folks tend to move on. The national news stations and big-time papers have focused on the newest shiny object to come into focus and their interest in Southwest wildfires is as cold as the ashes left from the earliest March fires.
But folks out here still need help, and government assistance will take time to reach the ranches in dire need.
My good friend Shelia Grissom, from Seminole, Texas, reminds me and others at least weekly, usually more often than that, of the continuing anguish ranchers feel for their lost animals, the unending worry about what comes next, and the uncertainty about how to go about repairing fences, reviving grassland and restocking decimated herds.
In a recent Facebook post Shelia reminded us that ranchers now need more than hay to get them back on their feet.
She describes a “desperate, need for 12.5 gauge barbwire and 6 foot T-posts, 1.33 pounds per foot. Please, please share,” she implores her Facebook friends. “Share with everyone you can. I said it before, and I will say it again, there is no doubt that they would be here for us, and we are our brothers’ keepers. You have no idea of the lives you are touching and changing by giving just what you can.”
She says folks in the Seminole area are trying to collect barbed wire, T-posts—and cattle replacements.
“I promise, when you give you will be blessed,” she says. “We have people standing by to pick up and deliver. Thank you guys!”
Thank you, Shelia, for keeping me reminded that even though the worst of the fires may be out (though some are still flaring up), the recovery is just beginning, and will continue for months—several years, in some cases. And some pains will never heal. Forgetting these people simply is not an option.