Wildfires, Blizzards & Million-Dollar Rains
I was driving through Nebraska last weekend where I was speaking at a conference. Navigating through Omaha at midnight on a busy Friday evening, the rain poured down, the lightning shot across the sky, and the winds blew furiously.
And all I could think was how thankful I was to see the moisture. Prayers answered for so many.
It’s been a hard spring for many producers. In Colorado and Nebraska, terrible drought conditions have escalated into wide-sweeping wildfires. Thousand of acres have been devoured by the flames, killing livestock, destroying homes, eating up fence posts, and consuming everything else in its path.
On my way home from the event, I stopped for gas in a small one-horse town in Nebraska. I was greeted by three fire trucks, manned by local volunteers — each lined up to refuel before they headed back out to fight the flames.
I asked one of the drivers how everybody was holding up. His shoulders were slumped, and there was a dusting of soot across his nose. He looked weary and tired, and by our brief exchange, you could tell he was weary from the fight, but also anxious to get back out to the countryside to help stomp out the flames.
I thought about that firefighter the entire way home, as well as the families who have been impacted by this unexpected devastation in their communities.
Just as the fires rage in Nebraska and Colorado, in North Dakota and Montana, producers there have faced a different battle — blizzards, ice storms, unrelenting winds, and now flooding, as well.
Power outages. Frozen waterers. Newborn calves born in snow drifts or in knee-deep mud. Sleepless nights. Bitter cold. The loss of life. It’s truly hard to describe how hard calving through a blizzard is unless you’ve lived it, and by the reports from my friends north and west of me, this has been one of the worst they’ve experienced in their lifetimes.
I’ve worried about and prayed over those ranching families facing harsh weather, and although I know this is just a short season, and these challenges will pass, I also know that mental health in our agricultural industry is becoming an increasingly difficult issue — one that we cannot ignore.
As I approached by final exit before I turned north-bound for the final 10-minute stretch to the ranch, my pickup suddenly sputtered to a halt. I coasted to the side of the road, assessed that my vehicle was not going anywhere without a tow truck, and I called my husband for a ride.
As one tends to do, we started guessing just how bad the bill would be by the time the pickup was towed to town and fixed. It always seems like you get one step ahead, and then move two-steps back, and it’s hard to stay optimistic when the setbacks eventually come to roost in your own life.
Yet, as we made the final stretch for home, I couldn’t help but be thankful. A gentle rain was pouring down on the South Dakota prairie, and for the first time in several months, I felt a surge of hope that we might have grass for the summer grazing season. It’s been dry all winter long in my neck of the woods, with barely any snow cover at all, and lately, the dust storms have been whipping the topsoil of every field in the area around like little brown tornadoes.
I didn’t realize how much worry and tension I was carrying around with me until I saw that beautiful two-inches of rain coming down. They call showers like this, “million-dollar rains,” and I felt like I had just won the lottery.
It was a reminder to keep everything in perspective. My problems paled in comparison to those in the path of devastating wildfires or in the middle of calving during a blizzard. My family is healthy, and we have a way to make a living and take care of ourselves. We have a good church community, and we enjoy spending time together as a family. For me, there is much to be thankful for, and it’s high time I spend more time acknowledging the good that surrounds me instead off focusing on the bad or fearing the worst.
I don’t know what challenges you may be facing right now, my friends, but know that you are a valued member of this agricultural community. If you work the land, and tend to the livestock, and love your family hard — well, you’re my kind of people, and we take care of our own around here! So here is my reminder to you to take care of yourself, to count your blessings twice, and to know that if you’re walking in a dark valley at the moment, don’t worry — the sun is going to be shining when you get to the top of the mountain again.