Sooner or later we all get around to hoping for something, even if it is just a good night’s sleep. Texans have been hoping for rain for so long that our preachers have shiny knees on their pants legs. On the way to Decatur and back today we ran through the smoky smell from the range fires that have devastated thousands of acres of grassland and some small communities. It’s horrible to contemplate the loss of life involved in this particular fire. It wasn’t just cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and a few armadillos—we lost good folks as well. Range fires can engulf an area faster than a bullwhip can snap, but this one was whipped by winds that hit 70 mph.
Reading online tonight, I found the suggestion that at least one fire in Oklahoma was set by arsonists. On the side of the road outside Bellevue where the Stoneburg-Montague fire began, we watched the police who are arson specialists going over that site. If someone set that fire on purpose, the person is guilty of murder. But even if a fire starts out of nature’s storehouse of surprises, the results can be just as deadly.
My horse at home stayed in our backyard and had the run of the entire area. She could trot around and graze or just roll around in the grass—what there was of it. One night I heard her screaming. Yes, a horse can scream. When I went outside to check on the horse, I realized that she was not the only one screaming. The horse was about to hit a fence when I caught her and held her down, but the screaming continued. A man who lived in a two-story house behind us was screaming as he burned to death. That was a nightmare in wide-awake stereophonic sound. I had always liked the young man and his family, and to know that he was hurting like that just about made me sick. I knew by the next morning that he had been murdered—the fire was set intentionally. But the men who ran the murderers out of town could not bring back the man for his family. They bulldozed the house so his parents would not have to see what was left.
Losing a home, a vehicle, even livestock and family pets would be enough to hurt a person for a very long time. But to lose a family member stays with a person from now on. We don’t forget those we love. And we don’t forget our friends. We know in our minds that hurting stops with death for someone who is gone, but our hurting will be with us unless we can remind ourselves of the good things in that life.
Today we saw areas which had burned back a few months ago. The old growth was burnt off, the new grass was coming up, and the cattle were grazing on it. We have learned that fire is sometimes good for the land and its growth. We just forget sometimes that we are only borrowing a few spots of God’s green earth while we live here. If we are careful, we can live in peace with the land and the elements. If we are careless . . .we can forecast the future all too easily.