The Radke Report: Prayers needed for ranchers in path of blizzard

Amanda Radke
The Radke Report
Radke

Every rancher has that one storm that sticks with them.

It could be a devastating wild fire that devoured the prairie with wind and flames. A hurricane that swept through with torrential rain and unimaginable flooding. A tornado that whipped a nasty streak through towns and farms, tossing around everything in its path. Or a blizzard that just wouldn’t quit with its bitter cold temperatures, mountains of snow and an unrelenting wind that made conditions unbearable for most.

For me, that storm was the blizzard of 1997. I was just a kid, but my family was snowed in at our ranch for two weeks with no electricity, no path to get to town for supplies and the fight of our lives to save the new calves being born into this harsh world.

My parents made it an adventure for my sisters and me. We pretended to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, cooking our meals over a kerosene lamp and cuddling together in the twin bed with a mountain of quilts to keep warm. And even though there was a sense of novelty about the whole thing, I could tell my parents were stressed, exhausted and fighting with every ounce of their being to get through this storm that just would not quit.

That storm stuck with me and, consequently, so did the lessons that came with it. I learned that life can be cruel, that you aren’t guaranteed an easy path to success and that sometimes your decisions can mean life or death — for you or for your animals. I learned the importance of families sticking together. I discovered the power of prayer. And I realized that with grit, determination and a never quit attitude, your body and mind can withstand some really difficult circumstances and overcome.

Right now, my thoughts are with the ranchers who have been affected by an April blizzard that will have lasting and devastating impacts on their communities.

This historic blizzard was centered in North Dakota, but has also hit parts of Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota. Reports are coming in where some places have received 30-plus inches of snow with terrible winds.

This blizzard is a blessing and a curse mixed into one. The blessing comes in the form of much-needed moisture for an area that is experiencing ongoing drought conditions. The curse is the timing of this snowstorm lines up with many ranchers who are in the heart of spring calving.

I remain in close contact with many of my neighbors to the north, and I’m hearing reports that this is the worst storm they have experienced in their lifetimes.

As these folks dig through the snowbanks, chop ice out of waters and haul baby calves out of harm’s way and into shelters, my thoughts and prayers are with them.

For most folks, food comes from the grocery store, power comes from a switch on the wall, water comes from the faucet, heat from the vents and fuel from the pump. But for farmers and ranchers, it’s a whole different world when you’re the one working the land, tending to nature and trying to produce the essentials of life in the toughest of circumstances.

Nature can throw relentless and unforgiving curve balls, and right now, it is testing the best of the best — our cattlemen and women who are out in the middle of it all.

These are the folks I want to provide a platform for. It’s these folks who need their voices amplified. It’s these individuals who deserve our applause and praise. These are the salt of the earth people who continue to do the hard jobs nobody else wants to do, and they do them knowing fully that there is an agenda to eliminate what they do — through regulation, litigation, smear campaigns and worse.

I hope we never forget that our ability to enjoy life’s pleasures — to read, to travel, to explore, to listen to good music or appreciate fine art, to go to the movies or visit an amusement park — none of this is possible without hard-working people in rural America who are dedicated to providing the world with the essentials of life — food, fiber and energy.

To those in the trenches right now, hang in there. The sun is going to start shining, and that green grass your cattle will get to enjoy this summer thanks to this moisture will hopefully make this brutal storm a distant memory.

Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, education and leadership, Radke is a blogger for BEEF Daily.