“Yesterday is but a dream,
Tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope.”
I write this blog post heavy with emotion. I have shed alot of tears the past month, but they have been tears of tremendous joy. As many of you know, the Atlas blizzard devastated parts of western South Dakota and northwestern Nebraska. I’m not going to go into details of the storm, but tens of thousands of cattle, horses and sheep perished in the storm. If you want to find out more about the blizzard, the path of destruction and the havoc it wrecked in these areas, please Google the Atlas blizzard. You will find a wealth of information.
I have a very dear friend, Don, who lives in Rapid City, located in the heart of western South Dakotas cattle country, and also a place where they suffered large losses of livestock. I called him about 10 days after the blizzard, mainly because I was curious to know if it was really as bad as what I had read. What Don described to me was so heartbreaking, I had to pull over on the side of the road and gather my thoughts.
He told me the story of a young couple, Riley and Jimmie, who also happened to be my age. They had two young daughters. Riley and Jimmie worked very hard to build the numbers of their cows, and were also very proud of the genetics they had acquired over the years. The cows were their life. They built their mama cows with alot of sweat and hard work. Determination and genetic selection. Then in a 24 hour period 90% of their cows and 80% of their calves were gone. Their world came crashing down, because of a freak early season storm. I couldn’t stop thinking about this couple who lost it all, who were my age and loved ranching.
The timing of this storm couldn’t have came at a worse time. The cattle were grazing late summer/early fall pastures, which are usually miles from the ranch headquarters. The temperatures had been warm so the cattle had their slick summer hair coats and weren’t acclimated to the cold weather winter brings to the region. The ranchers hadn’t had performed their fall roundups to bring the cattle home for the winter. They were only a few weeks away from marketing their calves for the year.
The storm started out as rain, alot of rain, 3-4 inches fell in many areas. It soaked the cattle, and without their winter haircoats, it offered very little protection from the weather. Then the snow began to fall, 36 inches of heavy, wet snow. The winds picked up to 75-80mph, hurricane force winds in the northern plains of Americas heartland. The cows began to drift looking for windbreaks and relief from the storm, but because they were miles and miles from ranch headquarters, very few could find what they were looking for.
Farmers and ranchers do everything they can to provide for the livestock who depend on them. This was the perfect storm that brewed up, and wasn’t forecasted to be anything like what it turned out to be. When the sun came up and the winds settled down, the aftermath was unimaginable.
For several weeks I couldn’t get this couple who I had never met or talked to out of my mind.
Everett Benoit, of Benoit Angus Ranch, Esbon, KS and the two heifers he donated.
Troy and Zane!
One morning while I was at work Troy called me with a question – what did I think about donating two heifers to somebody in South Dakota that was affected by the blizzard. To give them hope. A new start. I told him, as I choked back tears, I knew exactly who these heifers needed to go to.
A few days later I tracked down Riley, via my friend Don.
Cherri and Wayne, who donated 2 young cows, and Troy and I, the afternoon before I left
Getting the cows ready for travel
With the help of some very generous farmers and ranchers in our area, we were able to put together a group of 7 young cows and heifers to donate to Riley and Jimmie. These animals will help them begin the process of building their herd back.
When I first met them, we all shed many tears, and I knew I had two new lifelong friends, who were very grateful for what we had brought them.
Riley, Jimmie and I after unloading their heifers and cows
This is December and Christmas will be here soon. A time of hope, faith and love. We celebrate the reason for the season with close friends and family. This Christmas time I encourage you to reflect on what you truly would like to get out of this season. Your answer may surprise you. For me, my Christmas gift came early. It came in the form of shedding tears with a couple who were separated from me by 500 miles worth of fenceposts. It came in the form of delivering 7 young cows and heifers, their angels of hope, to help begin to build back their beloved herd of mama cows. Hope that it in time will happen.
I am blessed with two new friends for life, who two months ago were complete strangers to me. I am overwhelmed with joy that these determined young ranchers have a chance to begin to rebuild what was lost.
I have been asked several times, Meghan why did you do this? Starting at an early age my parents taught me to make a difference in someones life. Do this when life gives you an opportunity. Sure, this donation gives me the biggest warm fuzzy a person can feel. But the real reason? I made a difference in the life of a young couple. Hope that they can rebuild their cowherd. It gives them a chance to continue doing what we love. Ranching.
“Because happiness sometimes isnt what you get, but what you give.”