Area Farmer Helps In Relief Efforts For Victims Of Plains Wildfires

A Williams County farm is sending aid to a Kansas ranch left devastated by a wildfire that covered across several states.

Dave Traxler of Basswood Farm has teamed up with a Utah-based long-haul trucker to bring bales of hay and cow’s milk supplements to the disaster area. Traxler wants to get the word out to the area so other farms might their surplus with the fellow farmers in need.

A perception of a lack of media coverage since the initial outbreak earlier this month and a slow government response has created a grassroots relief effort through social media, he said. The farms and ranches affected by the fires have kept going as best they can, he said.

“We’re farmers; we’re quiet,” Traxler, an eighth-generation farmer, said. “We just take care of ourselves.”

Traxler learned of the disaster through Facebook on a farming page and from friends he has out west. The pictures of the devastation were enough motivation for him to get involved.

“I had extra bales of hay and I knew I needed to do something,” Traxler said. “I posted I had hay that needed to be delivered and I needed a truck.”

That’s how Traxler came to meet Daisy Delaney (She Beast) who is from the west and wanted to help. A common contact on Facebook got the two together. She worked out a run to Michigan so she could come back through Ohio and pick up Traxler’s hay.

Delaney called Traxler at 10:30 in the morning March 16 to let him know she was on her way to his farm.

In a driving, freezing rain storm March 17, Traxler placed 34 round bales onto Delaney’s flatbed. Traxler was aided by Brock Zuver of Pioneer, who operated a Bearcat to load the bales onto trailer.

Delaney is involved in the relief efforts as well. She issued a challenge on social media to her friends to “fill the bunk,” with milk supplements.

“I had heard about it,” Delaney said. “I had friends down there (Texas) and it didn’t seem like it wasn’t getting any national attention.”

So, by spreading the word about the wildfires, she generated support across the country.

“Farmers, ranchers and truck drivers are pretty much tied to the hip.”

Delaney raised enough money to purchase 24, 50-pound bags of milk supplements ($65 each) from Superior Farm Supply of Montpelier.

The goal was to buy from independent stores, not chains, she said.

Superior Farm Supply owner Paul Haines was skeptical at first when Delaney told him of her plan. Those doubts were washed away when the orders started coming in.

“We had nine or ten people buy one or two bags,” Haines said.

The supplements are for calves who have lost their mothers from the fire or whose mothers are too injured to nurse.

“They have got to have milk,” Delaney said.

Delaney will take the hay and supplements to Gardiner Angus Ranch in Kansas which lost 600 head of cattle in the wildfires.

Watching the film and seeing the photos of the devastation, it was easy for Traxler to identify with his ranching brethren out west. He has been out in the cold trying to dig out a cow or assisting in the birth of calve that is stuck.

“It hits home if you ever spent the night trying to keep a calf alive, dig it out of a pile of mud or its mother and have it die on you and have to bury it,” Traxler said. “It really sends it home, because we’ve seen it.”

The ranchers have had to kill many of their herd and are doing the job themselves rather than having their hired hands do it, Traxler said.

“Farming and ranching never gets the credit it deserves,” Delaney said.

The fires consumed 1 million acres and claimed seven lives, according to agweb.com. Fires were reported in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. While he can see a big article on Facebook complaining about a new golf course by Donald Trump, he has not seen a similar piece about this disaster, Traxler said.

“People are losing their livelihoods,” Traxler said. “It’s going to affect your dinner table.”

Traxler is helping the Gardiner Angus Ranch in Kansas for a lot of reasons, even though he has never met the owners and probably never will. Farming is a family and he wants to help someone who is hurting in same way his farm was aided in 1988 when a drought and excessive heat was killing the land.

Also, three of his cows are genetically linked to a bull at the Kansas farm.

Traxler has more bales of hay to donate, he just needs a truck. He figures he has 20 round bales and 22 square bales to give.

The trip to Kansas is 1,025 miles and at $2.50 per mile, plus the driver’s time, that is a hefty bill he can’t pay himself. The situation is so dire, there hasn’t been time to set up a donation system, but people can call him at the farm.

“If I can get the money, I can order a truck,” Traxler said.

The farms and ranches also need fencing supplies, including posts, barbed wire and high-tension wire, Traxler said.

The situation is so dire that farmers are sacrificing their wheat fields to the cattle, Traxler said.

“The cows are eating that cash crop,” Traxler said.

James Pruitt may be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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