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Ranches recover from massive wildfires

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“I’ve decided the ranch life is not for the weak,” said Corie Ash, one week after the Lipscomb County wildfire scorched a large portion of her family’s property, Ash Ranch. 

Corie and her husband, Brian, a fifth-generation rancher, were without power for 11 days during January’s ice storm. Now, the wildfires have created even more work. 

It seems they’ve been awake for the last week, she says, eating cereal for dinner, bottle feeding orphaned calves at their neighbor’s property and now unloading hay from trucks that just keep on coming. 

On Sunday, Ash said her husband was up at 3 a.m. delivering donated hay. They’ve been accepting random donations for themselves and their surrounding neighbors. 

“Of all days, I want to be in church (on Sunday) because we owe God everything,” Ash said, attributing the fact that her home was untouched by the fire a divine miracle. 

As the flames ate away at Ash’s property, she said she could feel the hair on her face burning. 

“My Suburban was parked and (the kids) were loaded and I had a friend come hook that trailer up to load all the show calves, and I turned around to take one last picture and was like, ‘Dear Lord, this is the last time I’ll see my home.’” 

Then, Ash said, the wind changed. 

“It was like God,” she said. 

While the week has been horrific, she said it’s been beautiful to watch the community rally. 

Her son, Teagan, 12, has been doing most of the hay unloading, hopping into the tractor and lining the bales up in a neat row. He’s volunteered to sort through donated medicine at a vet clinic and was even thanked for his service with a basket full of eggs. 

And the trucks, piled with hay, keep coming. 

Two students who traveled from Texas A&M University in College Station arrived at the ranch Monday afternoon with another load. They are among some 40 volunteers sent from Canadian Animal Health & Nutrition, a local store that has been designated as a donation drop-off location. About 2,000 bales of hay have been donated so far, said Andy Holloway, AgriLife extension agent for Hemphill County, which has affected about 100 ranchers in Hemphill and even Lipscomb counties. 

“We’re just in the mode to getting hay out to these ranchers,” Holloway said. “They’re just almost desperate for it and the cattle are hungry.” 

In addition to that, tens-of-thousands of dollars in fencing materials have been donated and, Holloway believes, more than $100,000 has been donated to fund more relief. 

“You know, a lot of these people don’t want to ask for help but when you send it to them, we’ve seen people just tear up. They totally appreciate it,” Holloway said. 

Ash’s blue eyes teared up again as she watched Teagan unloading the hay. Surrounding the family are black fields, but they still have one another and the memory card of photographs Ash grabbed when she thought they were going to lose it all. 

Written for the Amarillo Globe-News

Lauren KoskiComment