Too often it seems like all of the news we hear is bad; at least a high percentage of it is negative. That’s why I always look for positive, uplifting stories. There was an event that occurred over the last few weeks in our community that is worth retelling.
During this time of year, in the west, we are often faced with dry conditions leading to major wildfires. This year, here in Idaho, we had an extremely wet spring. That is great for getting the crops off to a good start. But toward the middle to the end of June, the weather turned hot and dry. We haven’t had a good rain for a month or more.
The problem with this is that the heavy spring rains also made the grass and shrubbery proliferate. But then when the rains quit, and the sun heated everything, the grass and shrubs dried and became tinder for a fire. It made for a dangerous situation. Add to that dry lightning storms, lightning strikes with no rain to quell the sparks, and the fire season turned explosive.
The dry rangeland to the north of us, thousands of acres of sagebrush and prairie grass, was in this exact situation. Fires started, presumably from some dry lightning strikes. Soon the fire was burning at high speed across the range. The fire crews rushed to save a small town that was in the fire’s path. However, they didn’t have resources to try to save the cattle that grazed this land.
This is where the wonderful part of the story comes together. The ranchers, farmers, and anyone else who could, rushed to help those in need. People who work the land are often independent and determined to take care of their own needs, but what nature was throwing at them was more than anyone could face on their own.
Everyone involved came together and made a plan. It was determined what land would be most defensible. All cattle would be driven there and fenced in together. The concern of separating whose animals were whose would have to be dealt with later. While horse riders set out to bring in all of the cattle that could be found, farmers took tractors and disks and harrowed the perimeter of the area where the cattle would be detained, determined to make a stand against the fire. By the time the cattle were rounded up and brought to the protected pastures, a large amount of soil had been turned to cover anything that would burn.
The fire came and burned through, sweeping everything in its path, but it could not cross the harrowed fields. The smoke was heavy and caused the sun to glow red if it showed at all. Farmers with tractors also helped the firefighters, harrowing to create fire breaks around towns and homes in the path of the fire. For a week it was hard to breathe as the fire burned, but when it was finally brought under control, the damage was minimal compared to what it could have been.
This valley is known for the early settlers coming into an arid, inhospitable land, and working together to dig canals that would bring life-saving water to the crops. To survive, neighbor helped neighbor. No single man could do it alone, and when the work was finished, everyone benefitted as the water flowed to all.
The people of this valley showed themselves to be worthy descendants of those early settlers. Even those whose land and homes were in well-irrigated areas and were not threatened by the fire, worked as if their own land were at stake. And everyone who was not needed on the front lines worked as support. It was a wonderful story of community teamwork.
And when all is said and done, there are few stories worth retelling, but this one of community teamwork is one of them.