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Building Back

January 17, 2022

by Wesley Denton, NJHA Director

On December 15, 2021, a widespread windstorm affected many farmers and ranchers. Wind gusts of up to 100 mph caused damage to buildings and barns for many ranchers across the central part of the country and reporting 19 tornados across three states. This storm led to destruction and danger for many ranchers in north central Kansas, my home state, and this combination of high winds and dry conditions led to the start of wildfires with Oklahoma and Texas also being affected by wildfires.

In Guymon, Okla., many residents were evacuated and Texas reported at least five wildfires. In Kansas fires were reported in Russell, Trego, Osborne, Sheridan, Ellis and Rooks counties leading to evacuations from the “Four County Fire,” in the Waldo, Paradise and Fairport, Kan., communities. Two of the ranches affected were the Bar S Ranch, owned by the Stielow and Dickerson families, and the Pelton Ranch.

Sarah and Clay Pelton are the daughter and son of Chris and Susan Pelton, who own and operate the Pelton Ranch. “Ranching is a very time-intensive and a very thankless job. Out here feeding the world and…no one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom,” said Sarah. “Right now, we’re pretty close to the bottom.”

It is estimated that 400,000 acres were burned leaving many ranchers and farmers heart broken and devastated. “It’s the awareness of what we do… and the risk we take to do it, but it’s part of it. It’s what we do,” said Chris Pelton.

Grady, Ethan and Jayce Dickerson are the sons of David and Stephanie Dickerson. “It’s going to be a long road to recovery,” said Grady.

Nearly a dozen homes were burnt to ash with all the family’s belongings in them. Stephanie says, “My husband went to get on his horse (Thursday) and didn’t even have boots and spurs, because he just had his tennis shoes on.”

The wildfires prompted the Kansas Livestock Association and other agriculture groups to begin coordinating donations of feed, fencing supplies and cash for affected ranchers. Cash donations can be made through the Kansas Livestock Foundation (KLF), by visiting or sending a check, with “wildfire relief” written in the memo line, to 6031 S.W. 37th, Topeka, KS 66614. All proceeds will be used to help those affected by the recent weather event. Just because it’s been a month, doesn’t mean these families aren’t still struggling to find footing after the devastation. If you would like to make an in-kind donation, call KLA at 785-273-5115.

I think a lesson to learn from the December 2021 wildfires and tornadoes, is to not take anything for granted. As a cattle producer I’m proud of how our industry rallies around our friends who are suffering from any tragedy. In this case, by donating hay, cash and fencing supplies, cattlemen across the country will always stand together and support each other.