Do something.

Two weeks have passed since our trip to Kansas. The suitcases are unpacked; the dust is washed off of the trucks; our days have settled back into a routine. Although our lives are returning back to normal, the stories we heard and the people we met are etched on our hearts.

Although not as frequently as the week leading up to our trip, occasionally, I still receive phone calls from reporters wanting to share our group’s story. One question that always makes its way into the conversations is, “Why did you do this?”

Typically, the answer I give has something to do with being involved in agriculture and feeling empathetic toward the needs of the ranchers in Kansas. In a good year, farming and ranching is challenging. When a catastrophe like this hits, all bets are off. We know that if we were to face a similar hurdle, farmers we’ve never met would be knocking on our doors to help.

All of that’s true, but there’s more.

The world needs more doers. People who see a problem and step up and pitch in. People who don’t wait for someone else to take care of each other’s needs. People who take charge and make the world a better place. There’s a song by Matthew West that says what I’m trying to say way better than I can say it.

For me, one of the neatest things to come from this project has been the ripple effect. I cannot count the number of convoys that have headed west from our state. Groups that have jumped up and said, if we can do it, then so can they. That’s true, you know. There’s nothing stopping any of us from doing something to help. Whether it is ranchers we’ve never met 1100 miles away or our next door neighbor, we all of the potential to make a difference. All we have to do is something.

“…If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something…”

Advertisements

The top 10 takeaways

image1

Written by Candace Lease

Well, it has been a week since we left Kansas behind us, the ashes and sand have been cleaned from under my nails, and the ash and soot that covered my bib overalls is washed away. My mind has been in constant reflection mode over the last week though, and I could go on and on forever about the things seen, stories heard, people met, and actions completed through our time to Kansas. I have decided to instead go about this ‘Late Show’ style, and compile the Top 10 takeaways from an extra-long weekend in the Panhandle.

10) You learn a lot when you’re in a van for 30 hours with the same folks – there were so many incredible people who made the decision to give their time and resources to the people of the Panhandle, and it was great to get to know people from across the state who chose to be involved in the effort. I think I was fortunate to be trapped in a white van with some of the best of our fine state, and the stories swapped and stupid moments on the journey forced us into friendship, for which I am lucky.

9) It doesn’t matter your age or occupation, there are people who go the extra mile for neighbors near and far – the oldest members of the trek out west with supplies were retired men, the youngest a young man in the fifth grade. Those are just examples within our group that had made the journey from Ohio; from Clark County, it was easy to see that extra mile mentality in people such as the volunteer fire departments saving homes even as their own houses went up in flames, or seeing the disc marks circling places like the community’s school, keeping people safe. There are some people who are hard-wired to make a difference when they get the chance, and the world is a better place for it.

8) Sometimes you’ve just got to dig a big hole, fill it with your garbage, and then burn it up, bury it, get rid of it all – this was standard procedure on one of the ranches we spent some time on. Am I trying too hard to make this an analogy for life? Probably. Oh well.

7) If a beer tastes good after a long day of work, it tastes even better after a long weekend of working to help others get back on their feet – ‘nuff said, thanks for the cold one, Derek/Darrell.

6) Tough times don’t last, but tough people do – in agriculture, we are all at the mercy of factors out of our control, from commodity markets to Mother Nature. You learn to be steadfast in your passion for your work, but formidable in your methods to success.

image2

5) The American farmer and rancher is a resilient species – the fires were still fresh wounds to the terrain, but everyone we talked to was beyond dwelling on the destruction, and focused on the rebuilding of their land.

4) Nothing gives you goosebumps quite like truckload after truckload of hay covered in American flags, signs, and other signs of love headed west on I-70 – cool convoy if I do say so myself.

3) Clark county Kansas may be low in quantity about human beings, but they are darn high in quality – every person we talked to, worked for, roomed with, or encountered in Ashland and Minneola treated us with the kind of kindness and appreciation that made me even more honored to be able to help these people of God.

2) We are all blessed to be from communities that look out for one another, I have all the proof I’ll ever need in that fact thanks to strangers who quickly became friends in Clark County, Kansas.  

1) “I don’t care what Trump’s slogan is, America is pretty great already, look at all this.” -a paraphrased quote from one of the ‘Two old guys in a truck driving to Kansas’ as we awaited the group of trailers to have dinner on our way out – and a statement I thought about as we helped others and were helped by the Clark County community. I think we should all be proud to be Americans.

Living an “Arrows Out” kind of life

Written by Luke Dull

So much to say, so little space to say it.

The decision to go to Kansas was an easy one for me. I lived in Kansas for 4 years, met my wife there, and got married there.  I’ve always considered it to be my second home.  Of course I was going to load up and head west.  I’ve made the long drive down I-70 a hundred times: straight through Indy, around St. Louis and finally past Arrowhead Stadium to Kansas City.  Obviously, this particular trip was different.  I rode by myself the whole way and spent the majority of the time with the radio off, imagining what I was going to see when we reached Ashland.  Approaching the top of every hill I prepared myself to look out onto the damage of the fire that came through just weeks before.  The illuminated sign on the side of the road reading ‘Warning: Fire Damage Ahead’ gave way to a landscape that the 14 hours of driving barely prepared me for.  It seemed like we would have to drive forever to see the green on the other side.

It’s the reality of the scope of this disaster that hit me hardest and has stuck with me since we returned from the trip to Ashland.  When I parked my trailer in the lot to get unloaded I remember contemplating: “What difference is this really going to make?”  I spent the next few days ripping out and repairing fence and getting really good at rolling barbed wire.

The night before we left, I had a conversation with the woman we’d been working for.  Earlier in the day I had noticed that she got emotional while we tore out a fence along the cedar row that had burned behind her old house at their ranch.  That night she sat in her chair and described her childhood memories of playing out in that row of trees and even saving them all during a drought years ago.  She described how proud her grandfather was that she took the time to make sure they all survived.  That row was what made that place home to her and now every tree sat there, blackened by the fire, waiting to be ripped out.  She cried as she continued to recall memories of the time she spent out on the ranch and I was happy to sit with her, listening to her stories.  Toward the end of our conversation her disposition changed and she began to share her plans to replant and nurture new trees so the next generation could find use for them.  I watched and listened as her language changed from ‘what was’ to ‘what will be again.’

unnamed

It was in these moments that I found the difference that we made by travelling out there.  While we couldn’t save everyone’s ranch in 3 three days, we certainly made a big difference for a few small families.  When I met Jackie and Dean on Sunday morning they seemed unsure about the way forward with the amount of work yet to do.  Jackie admitted she hadn’t even had time to think about her cedar trees prior to our arrival.  When we left Monday afternoon I could tell things looked clearer.  It had rained a bit the night before and we had rolled up miles of fence and set more than a few posts.  After watching the Ohio boys at work I think Dean was forced to rethink his ideas about ‘those Yankees’ from up north.  We had got them to the point where they were close to having the fencing crews come in to put up new fence and at that point, it was a game changer for them.

Driving away from Ashland, I didn’t know how to feel.  It was hard to feel good or fulfilled because the drive north takes you past miles of fence and pasture that needs work still.  I honestly felt guilty for leaving.  The 6 hour drive to Kansas City by myself, once again, offered a lot of time to gain perspective on what just happened.  I finally arrived at a place where I felt hopeful about the work we did for the people who needed it most.  By being people of action, not just words, we were able to make a real difference for a few families.  The church I used to attend in Kansas City had a motto that encouraged people to ‘point their arrows out’ and be active in the lives of others.  My ultimate hope is that by taking a trip like this, I can encourage others to live an ‘Arrows Out’ kind of life.