So the past two weeks, I’ve cried.
And I am definitely an ugly crier. Especially when surrounded by the heartbreak of others.
Depressing camera footage televising miles of embers, ashes, and smoke where some of the most beautiful rangelands and pastures once painted the Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado skylines. Gut wrenching photos of dead cattle and horses mangled up in the remnants of barbed wire fences as they tried to flee the flames. Tear jerking interviews and biographies of farmers who have lost it all…some including their lives. The small remainder of a world that literally went black in a matter of seconds and forever changed the lives of everyone who once called it “home.” Inspiring testimonies of the ones watching on the other side of the television screen who immediately jumped up to lend a hand in some way, whether it be through semi-loads of food and clothing, trailers loaded down with hay, gift cards for T-posts and barbed wire, or simply heartfelt thoughts and prayers. And – in the midst of all the disaster – false “animal abuse” bull crap from terrorizing groups like PETA and HSUS who have been sharpening their pitchforks only to stab farmers in the back and kick them some more while they are already down when they have to put down another animal.
An animal that can’t physically breathe due to excessive smoke inhalation.
An animal that is unrecognizable because its manes, tails, and hides are literally singed to what’s left of their skin.
An animal that can’t see, smell, or hear because its eyes and nose and ears are now part of the ashes scattered on the ground.
An animal that can’t walk because their hooves have completely burned off to nothing but bone.
An animal that lost its mom to the flames just moments after its birth.
An animal that is lying there, suffering in writhing pain and torment, as Hell burns with raging fury all around it.
An animal over which a farmer sinks his head into his palms in tears, despair, and guilt because he could not rescue it in time.
An animal that hasn’t died…yet.
If you are still clueless while reading this, I advise you take some time to research the catastrophic wildfires that have been running rampant out west these past few weeks. I assure you that if you have any sympathy at all, you will not walk away from all of the devastation unchanged – regardless if you farm or even know the difference between a heifer and a steer or not.
As I sit here watching the news and scrolling through all the Facebook articles about this disaster, I can’t help but think…what if it were us?
The mere thought of this leaves me plastered with goosebumps and tears stinging in my eyes.
My husband and I are both 23. We are just starting out, trying to build a farm from the ground up together as newlyweds in Cross Timbers, Missouri. We have considered this home since we married three years ago. Our operation may not look like much to some (as any farm couple knows how hard it is to get going in the first place let alone keep making a living on it) but we take pride in our rusty tractors, weedy fields, patched up fences, and small herd of non-registered angus crossbreeds. Farming is something that flows through my husband’s veins and stems as the result of a childhood dream to carry on the family tradition of farmers’ tans, sweaty ball caps, stained T-shirts, calloused hands, and manure-caked boots. It’s also something that I have learned to love and value alongside him – oftentimes from the comfort of the back rack of a four-wheeler during a spring rain to tag new calves that have just hit the ground, the fender of a no-cab tractor weaving through the windrows during hay season, or the bouncy buddy seat of a combine during another fescue seed harvest in the June heat.
We love it – all of it.
And if the day were to ever come where all of a sudden all of the dreams we have built together on this land were to suddenly unravel and completely disintegrate before our eyes…we would both go down in flames with it.
To us, there is no more beautiful place on earth that we could possibly imagine spending the rest of our days together raising kids and chickens, watching sunsets, catching crappie in the pond, hunting trophy bucks off our back porch, and watching new calves frolic in the fields.
So today I am simply being thankful. For life. For our farm. For happy, healthy cows we get to watch graze out our front window. For green grass in the summer and full hay lots and grain bins in the winter. For old barns that are still intact and that abandoned grain silo covered in vines. For broke-down machinery that can be fixed with a quick jump start, tack weld, or a shot of WD-40. For mended, crooked fences that outline and embrace these fields that we get to call ours. For the old farmhouse we will one day fill with love, laughter, memories, and all-things Fixer Upper inspired. For blue skies, sunshine, and bright stars that blanket overhead of it all. For another day to watch my husband’s eyes light up as he heads out the door to check on his cows or fix the baler – and one more chance to fall into his arms at the end of the day when he returns, alive and safe.
For this place we call home.
So thank you, God, for blessing this farm. Remind us to never, ever take it for granted. Wrap your arms around all these families who have lost it all – and comfort those dealing with the unimaginable loss of their loved ones who gave it all to fight the flames for their animals.
And guide all of us on the sidelines as we band together and try in every way we can to help them reclaim and rebuild their dreams up out of the ashes, one by one.