A family who survived the wildfires in the Texas Panhandle last month is thanking Brown County residents who have come to their aid in the weeks since several hundred thousand acres were consumed.
“In the midst of this devastation, we’ve seen such beautiful moments of generosity and kindness,” Kinsey (Murphree) Burris, formerly of May, wrote in an email to the Bulletin.
She and her husband, Dillon, work on his family’s ranch near Lipscomb, in the far northeast corner of the Panhandle just north of Canadian.
“On March 6, the ranch was almost completely burned in the wildfire,” Kinsey Burris wrote. “We didn’t have time to move cattle or protect our homes. When the fire moved over us, it was moving at 70 mph. Only a wind direction change at the last minute kept our homes from burning.”
She said her in-laws lost about half of their herd and the two neighbors on either side of them lost a combined 600 head of cattle. Other cattle died in the days that followed as the result of injuries. Even the cattle that escaped were left without pasture.
“My husband and I custom graze, so grass is our business, and it all disappeared in a matter of minutes,” Kinsey added.
Assistance came from numerous areas, but Kinsey wanted Brown County residents to know how much what they did helped, and expressed her family’s appreciation “with love.”
“A couple weeks after the fire, I got a Facebook message from a friend from high school, Shana Gregory,” Kinsey wrote. “She said that her family and some of their friends wanted to help. A week later they showed up with a semi-load of almost three miles worth of fencing supplies for us and our neighbors.”
She said that Jeff and Shana Gregory spent “an unbelievable amount of time and money organizing, loading, and hauling the materials to us. As I read down the list of Brown County neighbors, friends, and even a few strangers, I cried. I’ve cried more tears from the acts of kindness I’ve seen than I did about the fire.
“We are humbled and very grateful. Gosh, I’m proud to be from May, Texas. If you see any of these people around, please pat them on the back or give them a hug from us.”
Those she named who helped out were Jeff and Shana Gregory, Bo and Pat Allen, Tyler and Jamie Tabor, Josh and Heather King (Big Country Livestock and Equipment), Steve and Kathy McDorman (Starr Sales), Nathan McCartney (Woods Ranch), Steve and Bobbie Petty, Justin and Krissy Posey, Brett Sawyer, Wayne Clark, Brandon Smith, Jim Brown, Dan and Teresa Eoff, Jay and Melesa Everitt, Craigan and Megan Tidwell and Superior staff, Samantha Johnstone, Dr. Dan Stewart, Stacee Ribble, Wayne Clark, Kallie Reich, Andrew and Megan Wheeler, and Chris Hager.
After the fires were under control, Panhandle ranchers spent almost a week finding and putting down burned cattle, Kinsey said.
“Hills that were once knee-high grass are now just sand. A friend came to help us ride horseback and look for calves said, ‘This place looks like the moon.’ He looked around for a minute and then asked, ‘Why the hell was there such a race to get to the moon?’ “
Kinsey listed some of the other ways many people came to the assistance of ranchers affected by the fires.
“We were fed a hot meal every night for two weeks by friends in Canadian, Texas,” she said. “Friends came from as far as Throckmorton and Fort Worth with horses to help us gather the cattle that were left and move them off the burn. People have offered to do my laundry. We’ve received hay donations from all over the state. People have donated their time, their money, and their assets.”
The Texas A&M Forest Service described the fires that spread through the Panhandle in March, claiming the lives of four people, as the third largest in its history.
While numbers are expected to climb as producers complete actual damage assessments, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service estimated that 2,500 head of cattle were killed and twice that many were left without pasture or feed. Preliminary agricultural losses were conservatively estimated at $21 million, the Extension service said.