Scarred for life

There was not much left on the landscape after the 2017 Starbuck fire in Clark County, Kansas. (Journal photo by Kylene Scott.)

The images of charred earth, destroyed homes and dead livestock are stark reminders of the wrath of wild fire. I’d be lying if I said it can’t be that bad. But it is. The smells, the sights, the reminders. It’s a terrible thing to have to endure. I’m scarred for life and I never saw the flames. 

My family lived through a wildfire of our own in 2017 when the Starbuck fire burned part of the Scott Farm in Clark County, Kansas. It leveled the 100-year old farmstead and decimated our small cow herd. Ultimately the Starbuck fire destroyed more than 400,000 acres in my part of the state. And what made it even worse was the fire happened the day I buried my Dad. It was truly the worst day of my life.

Now in 2024, it’s like deja vu all over again with the wildfires. Nearly a week before the seventh anniversary of the Starbuck fire, the Smokehouse Creek Fire has destroyed more than a million acres and spanned 100 miles in the Texas Panhandle. I’m terrified to learn about the economic impact of all those ranches, infrastructure and livelihoods that have been destroyed. 

A friend of mine who lost her home to the Starbuck fire in 2017, shared her thoughts on social media in the hours following the news of the Texas fires raging about what victims of the fire really needed. There in black and white, her words, “bullets” stopped me in my tracks. 

Her family knew what it was like to put down burned cows and calves. They knew what it was like to have to take pictures of (for insurance and assistance purposes) and later bury the animals you cared for for so many years. They’d faced those dark days once. They had to sift through what remained of their home and only hope to find a piece of a precious belonging.

In the days and weeks following the fire, at times I had hopeless feelings that I’m nearly positive those folks in Texas probably have had or will have. It was hard to look past the charred remains of the fences and cattle. It was hard to see past the black and all the dirt that was blowing.

But it eventually did rain again. The grass did grow again. The sun came up the next day. Folks out here in the High Plains are a hardy bunch. We’ve grown tough because of the conditions out here. Whether it’s weather related, fire, water concerns or the economy, we’re able to survive. 

My faith in humanity was restored after the Starbuck fire in 2017, and I’m seeing how Texans and many others from around the area and U.S. are stepping up to help the farmers, ranchers, and residents of the towns who lost their everything. Donations are pouring in to many different outlets and that is a start for healing. Now we just need a rain.