“If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” That's what my father, Bill Greeley, a rancher from Imperial, Nebraska, had to say after blizzard Selene foiled his plans of swiftly transporting newly acquired cows home from the Ogallala Livestock Market.
The storm hit just as he left the sale barn, the trailer filled with pregnant cows. Bill had hoped to get the cattle home before the storm got worse. An hour and 30 minutes later, he had only made it 19 miles down the road to the small town of Grant.
With still 26 miles left to go before home, Greeley was determined to get the momma’s to shelter. But mother nature had different plans.
Unable to travel (he had been stuck three times on mainstreet), he sought shelter in a nearby building where he was able to dry off and warm up before continuing the trek home (he got stuck three more times on his trip home). Unfortunately, during the endeavor one cow died before arriving at the ranch.
Meanwhile just across the Nebraska, Colorado border, Bill’s youngest daughter Amanda, and her husband Brady, who ranch near Wray, were battling the storm as well. The blinding snow drove some of their cows through a fence and forced them onto railroad tracks. The next morning the couple discovered two cows were killed by an oncoming train.
On top of that tragedy, the 12 inches of snow and cold temps had proved life threatening to a few of their newborn baby calves. While some took refuge in the couple's barn, one calf, who was severely cold and on the verge of death, was welcomed into their home. A warm soak in the bathtub proved successful as the calf thawed out and was soon up and well on it’s way.
While wind and snow wreaked havoc for Nebraska and Colorado, wind and wild fires were wreaking havoc in Kansas, where the Greeley’s middle daughter, Echo lives. Echo and her husband Andrew escaped the wildfire that raged near their home near Burrton, Kansas, but some of their neighbors weren't so lucky.
People were able to evacuate the area, but much of the livestock were unable to escape. The Ninnescah Veterinary Service in Hutchinson reported hearing of baby calves that either died or were severely burned by the fires. The vet expected to see many cases of respiratory issues from all the smoke for weeks to come.
The storm had tragic consequences that affected many rural people across the Midwest. Yet one thing binds these people together. They are rural. And if rural people are one thing they are a tough, hardy stock.
They will get through this as they have gotten through so much adversity before. After all, "If it were easy, everyone would be doing it." Thanks Dad, for teaching me how to survive and thrive on the rural plains. I'm glad you're safe.
Several relief efforts are underway to help those affected by the fires. You can find out more here.
Feature image: Photo of Brian Bowman saving his cattle herd. The picture was taken by Greg McCurry. Above, baby calf after a warm soak and bottle at my sister's home in Colorado.
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