County, 31 houses and over 440,000 acres were burned there. My longtime friend John Swayze said, “Pat, it took me 43 years to build up this operation, and it took about an hour to take it all down.”
Riding with Sheriff Ketron, we were assessing the town of Ashland where a volunteer fire-fighting force managed to save the town when it became surrounded in flames.
Some volunteers were fighting fires elsewhere in the area and learned their own homes had become engulfed and lost.
I met with people in the towns of Englewood and Ashland, Kansas, in the heart of Clark County who had just come through frightening experiences fighting the unpredictable and unstoppable fires. Some were out driving cattle away from fires and had become separated from loved ones. When the flames turned they were left to pray for their safety.
Kylene Scott, with the High Plains Journal calls it “The worst day of her life.” Kylene wrote a courageous and honest account of the day. I will read her words now:
"I think I had them going the right way, and then the wind switched. Now I don’t know."
When I heard the crack in my husband’s voice yesterday afternoon, I knew it was bad. He’s normally the calm, cool, collected one.
A family friend alerted him to the fire in Clark County very near the Scott farm after we’d returned home from burying my Dad yesterday. When they said the closet neighbor was being evacuated he went as quickly as he could fearing for the cattle herd he’d worked the last five years to build following the death of his own Dad. I stayed behind with the boys at our house 40 miles away.
When the wind switched at my house from south/southwest to the north, I began to worry even more and called him. At this point he was waiting out the fire and smoke in the wheat field, helplessly watching the house and barn burn. I wanted to be at the farm so bad, but there wasn’t much that could be done. When he made it home unscathed I was pretty happy, but sad at the same time. Knowing there was nothing we could do to fix what it took Mother Nature mere minutes to destroy.
Fifty-two cows are on the farm, with about half or 3/4 of them with young calves. Most are accounted for. All the grass is gone, as is the hay stockpile. He went and hauled water to the cows this morning and some are scorched and others have udders with burns. One cow is bawling for her missing calf. "Those poor mommas," was my text reply to him this morning.
I made my way early this afternoon to see the farm or what’s left of it with my own eyes. As bad as I wanted to be down there, a piece of me dreaded the drive. The closer I got to the farm, the worse it got. Blowing dirt, darkening