Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 25, 2017

Ranchers host appreciation dinner for donors

By Xiomara Levsen | Aug 21, 2017

 

Ainsworth — A Kansas Wildfire Relief Appreciation Event was held Sunday afternoon in the conservation education center at Marr Park.

Over 50,000 acres of land in Comanche, Mead and Clark counties in Kansas were burned last March when wildfires hit that area. People from all over Iowa donated fencing supplies and hay bales to help the farmers recover from the losses they had.

“There were many, many people from Iowa who went down to help these ranchers recover from the fires and I grew up down there,” said appreciation event host Sid Rowland, of Wellman. “I don’t want to say ranching is like a fraternity but these are my ranching brothers and sisters.”

Sid’s wife, Laurel, was co-host of the event. Sid worked on a ranch near Protection, Kansas, for seven years, he added. Several of his friends suffered big losses from the wildfires. Soon donation drives across Iowa began and volunteers began showing up in Kansas.

“These people knew what they needed and did a wonderful job,” Rowland said.

The ranchers and farmers were all very appreciative of the efforts people made to help them.

“Even now I get a little choked up thinking about it,” said Phil Harden, a rancher from Ashland, Kansas. “The number of people that dropped what they were doing and drove down supplies — it’s just overwhelming.”

Hardin had 18 1/2 of fencing on his ranch needing to be repaired or replaced, he said. Eleven-and-a-half miles were replaced completely. Every mile of fencing has 450 T-posts, which Hardin said would take him a long time to do by himself. He is very appreciative of those who came down to help replace fencing.

“It helped a lot of people to be ready to turn cattle out on the grass when the grass greened up,” Hardin said, “and it did green up. We got rain in good time and in most places the grass greened up well. Without the volunteer labor there wouldn’t be enough fence to put the cattle back in.”

Hardin said his family was fortunate. He has three brothers who ranch and only one of them lost some cattle in a wildfire because most of them were out on the wheat pasture and were protected by the stroke of luck.

“The bigger ranches lost half or more of their cow herds,” Hardin said. “Driving by the Mount Jesus Road, there’s what is called the yellow ranch on both sides and he had a beautiful herd of Red Angus and before the fire I think he had 400 cows and 300 calves on the ground and of course his bulls. He ended up with 75.”

Sid was one of the volunteers who helped Hardin replace/repair his fence, Hardin said.

“He actually came out there and worked on my ranch for a day and a half,” Hardin said.

There was also a group of 27 people from Washington County who worked on Hardin’s ranch. At the event Hardin was speaking to the volunteers thanking them for their efforts.

Jerome Vittetoe, of Washington, was one of the people who donated his time driving down to Kansas.

“Sixty percent of everything that happened in southeast Iowa started right here,” Vittetoe said. “I’m still choked up thinking about it.”

Vittetoe credits Carol Horning and Megan Coakley for starting a donation drive for fencing supplies and hay bales. They also helped get the word out to people about what was happening in Kansas.

“I was surprised at how little people know about it,” Vittetoe said. “We were down there five days after the wildfires hit and there was still a lot of smoke.”

Vittetoe was able to speak to the ranchers from Kansas that were at the event.

“We thought it was awesome that they came,” Vittetoe said. “They’re still overwhelmed by the generosity.”

Vittetoe was very thankful to Sid for getting this event together. He had never met Sid before Sunday.

“Sid sent everyone a personal letter telling them the agenda of the day,” Vittetoe said, “and at the end of each letter was a personal paragraph. I thought that was pretty cool.”

 

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