Wow, I am sorry

Death comes with raising cattle: coyotes, blizzards and the inevitable trip to the slaughterhouse and dinner plate. But after 30 years of ranching, Mark and Mary Kaltenbach were not ready for what met them after a wildfire charred their land and more than one million acres of rain-starved range this month.

Dozens of their Angus cows lay dead on the blackened ground, hooves jutting in the air. Others staggered around like broken toys, unable to see or breathe, their black fur and dark eyes burned, plastic identification tags melted to their ears. Young calves lay dying.

Ranching families across this countryside are now facing an existential threat to a way of life that has sustained them since homesteading days: years of cleanup and crippling losses after wind-driven wildfires across Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle killed seven people and devoured homes, miles of fences and as much as 80 percent of some families’ cattle herds.

But for many, the first job after the fire passed was loading a rifle.

“You think you’re done,” he said, “and the next day you got to go shoot more.”

For decades and generations, ranching has defined people’s days. Mr. Kaltenbach would wake up at 4:30 a.m. without an alarm clock…“It’s our life,” Mrs. Kaltenbach, 57, said. “We lost our routine.”

“We did what had to be done,” Mr. Kaltenbach, 69, said. “They’re gentle. They know us. We know them. You just thought, ‘Wow, I am sorry.’”

~ Jack Healy, Burying Their Cattle, Ranchers Call Wildfires ‘Our Hurricane Katerina’



  1. They do it tough out there. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So sad. My dad was a rancher. Glad he didn’t have to experience this, it would have killed him.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. roseanne333 says:

    This is heartbreaking. “Our Hurricane Katrina….” I’m disconcerted that I didn’t know this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Never thought about this before…tears now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It is sad. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make for spectacular news and remains unknown to most.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Devastatingly sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hard to read, David. Death — no matter what form it takes has always been difficult for me. I can’t imagine what they all went through both human, animals and all life forms. My heart hurts for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hard to read – heartbreaking. Getting back up on their feet requires lots of courage…and support.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. hunnybee73 says:

    I agree with the last comment, very hard to read. Going through death on my own small farm recently I genuinely feel for those suffering.


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