LISTEN TO RUSSEL
More than 85% of Clark and Comanche Counties in Kansas burned. In total, the “Starbuck Wildfire,” as it has been named, burned more than 800,000 acres in Clark, Comanche and Meade Counties. To put this in perspective, Michigan’s Belle Isle Park is 982 acres and Isle Royale National Park is 571,790 acres.
Anyway, 6 a.m. had me sitting at a neighborhood road corner listening to the local radio station playing our national anthem. I sat there with my dad in silent respect, hats off, goosebumps and tears present. Earlier that week I had asked my grandmother to play some patriotic hymns on the piano. Despite having Alzheimer’s, she played several without a problem. Pride in our country runs deep and is nearly impossible to forget.
Our mission on March 31 was to bring 20 trucks with trailers overloaded with donated animal food, fencing supplies, household items and other supplies for farmers and ranchers to carry on one more day to rebuild from the ashes. Imagine miles [and miles and miles] of homes, barns and garages, vehicles and farm equipment, windmills and grain bins, electrical poles, pastures and, tragically, animals, all burned. I take that back – please don’t imagine it. We saw just a fraction of the devastation, and we only brought a fraction of what is still needed there. However, the unspoken understanding of our gifts of community solidarity were perhaps the strongest message.
When telling people about convoy plans, the support was overwhelming. Roy Smith, a dairy farmer who helped organize the convoy, said, “There are tons of people across the U.S. sending relief and supplies. Seeing this made me think about our community and what we could do. I decided to get on the tails of many great people who have already trucked south with hay. This may be the most humbling experience I have ever been part of.”
Hear and see more of Roy’s story in this short video about coordinating efforts for the convoy:
LISTEN TO SARAH
Chatter between our trucks on the CB radio to this point had been almost constant. As we neared our final destination, conversation ceased. Could everyone feel it? We came over a hill and there it was – nothing. Behind us stood beautiful, impressive countryside and ahead stood charred remains of homes, farms and ranches. If I still had goosebumps from the anticipation of 6 a.m. the day before, I couldn’t feel them because now I was numb.
After unloading supplies in Ashland, I took a moment to ask a group of local residents in the gas station what was needed most. Their shoulders slumped a bit when they said, “Help.” Here were people who have worked their lifetimes building businesses hand-in-hand with the land and animals – diligently and oftentimes silently. They have respect for our environment, and a rediscovered respect for fire and wind, natural elements out of our control. Asking for help – both physical and monetary – when so many others are in need isn’t a natural request for many in the agricultural field, but this community has had to accept an overwhelming amount of help from “neighbors” across the country.
LISTEN TO VICTOR
Michigan farm families truly care for the communities we share, which expands beyond state and county lines. People who provided donations and who made the trip continue to think of ways to help the communities impacted by March 2017 wildfires in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Farmers are anxious to help the communities of people who care about feeding their families and others’ with products they raise on land that’s now in a regrowth stage.
LISTEN TO LARRY
Jock Kartes, one of the convoy organizers and one of Larry’s sons, described his experience and the ways his community stretched its arms out to the community in need in this short video:
For more information about how to help, click here for a list of places accepting donations.
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