First-Hand Atlas Blizzard Tragedy Experience

Join WRCF in Efforts to Help the Atlas Blizzard Area

The Working Ranch Cowboys Foundation is responsive to the needs of the ranching community, and one of the most dire needs in recent months has been the Atlas blizzard that struck the western one-third of South Dakota, as well as parts of Wyoming and Nebraska. WRCF has announced that it will match donations – up to a maximum of $10,000 – to send to our neighbors to the north.

“We’ve got to react to what goes on out there in our community,” said Randy Whipple, WRCF secretary-treasurer.

The Atlas fundraising initiative was announced during the World Championship Ranch Rodeo, which is hosted in Amarillo Nov. 7-10 by the Working Ranch Cowboys Association as the primary fundraiser for WRCF. The foundation encompasses a crisis fund – which aids ranch cowboys and their family members in case of illness or injury – and a scholarship fund that sends ranch kids to college. Special cases such as the Atlas blizzard are also prime opportunities for WRCF to step in and offer assistance.

“All the money that’s generated at this event, and at the World Championship Ranch Bronc Riding, all the money that people give the foundation out of their generous hearts … all that is directly funneled right out to the people it’s designed to help,” Whipple said.

“That’s the great thing about the foundation. It’s not some great big bureaucratic business. This is money from cowboys to cowboys and their families, to get that cowboy back in the saddle and get that beef-raising going again.”

One cowboy at the World Championship Ranch Rodeo was able to offer a first-hand look at the tragedies of the Atlas blizzard.

J.D. Williams is manager of the Four Three Land and Cattle in eastern Wyoming.

“We were just on the west side of the ‘kill zone,’ ” he said, “and so we weren’t hit near as hard as some of our neighbors, but we lost approximately 5 percent of our cows and 10 percent of our calves. But when there’s a hundred or 200 head in a pile, it’s a pretty big deal, regardless of the percentages.

“One neighbor just to the east of us, he had 150 2-year-old heifers in a pile, and then we know a couple of guys a little farther east, one that lost 380 out of 400 head and one that lost 460 out of 500 head. It’s a pretty big deal.  Some of them … what do you do when a cow’s replacement value is crowding $2,000 and there’s 500 dead ones? There’s not a lot you can do.”

Sadly, many ranchers in the area have been put out of business. Many more were hit hard but are trying to survive.

The Rancher Relief Fund is among groups who are working to help, and that’s the group that WRCF will work with to disburse funds.

“They’re doing all they can,” Williams said. But it’s still hard to get enough help.

“That’s a huge amount of capital that’s gone. Everybody in that neck of the woods is trying to help those people that were affected the most. But it’s a big area. It’s probably a two-hour drive across the kill zone. There are a lot of people there that all their neighbors are creamed, too, you know?”

To join the WRCF in its efforts to help – and receive that matching donation – please make checks payable to WRCF, with “Atlas blizzard relief fund” in the memo line. WRCF is a 501(c)3 organization, and donations are tax deductible.

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