Jenny Batchart

(Jenny Betschart) I’m Jenny Betschart from Ashland, Kansas. My family ranch is on Giles Ranch. It’s a partnership with my parents, my grandma, and two of my sisters Molly and Katie. On the day of the fire, we lost all of our ranch and 30,000 acres burned. We lost almost half of our cowherd and just as many calves. All three of our homes burned. My parent’s was saved, but all three of our homes burnt. We lost a barn and we lost our office. The night of the fire, we were all trying to get off the ranch. Dad and I had just left his house and we were trying to cut fences for some cattle on the way as we headed south. As we cut those fences, the two groups of cows we’re cutting for turned around and ran back into the flames. That was a tough one. As we were headed south then, my husband had come by and picked up all of the animals at our house. My mom and Brett were headed out and Katie called them. She had headed south. When we couldn’t save the horses at dad’s house, she headed south, unhooked her trailer and was trying to drag more cattle off the wheat. The fire caught up with her. The winds changed so quickly. It was there before you knew it. She was trapped. She was surrounded by flames. She was upset and she is the calmest, strongest person I know. She called. She couldn’t get a hold of her husband and she’s like, “What do I do? I don’t know what to do.” She was able to find her way to a wheat field. There’s no way she could have found that on her own in that smoke. I truly believe she was divinely guided and ended up on that wheat field. We stayed on the phone with her for quite a while until the smoke started to die. My phone was at 4% and that battery lasted. How that battery lasted on a phone call like that, I don’t know, but we were able to stay on the phone with each other. The reason she wasn’t able to get a hold of her husband is because as he was evacuating, he, in the smoke, hit a cow. He was able to make it a little bit farther, but finally, his truck died and he got in and drove my mom then. That turned out, to me that was another God moment because she was in a panic and he was able to be with her. They were able to get the kids, all the little ones, off the ranch together. We have another little miracle at our house for the day. My husband took all of our horses, our dog, and our bucket calves, but he wasn’t able to get our cats. We had four cats at our house. One of them was a house cat that I had left in the house that morning. I am guessing that when he walked through the house to grab some stuff, she ran out, but I don’t know if she did or not. Lots of times, when we come home in the afternoon, as soon as you open the door, she’d go out. I’m guessing that she wasn’t in the house. Half of the fur on one side, one side of her is melted. All her ears are crispy and her whiskers are all curled. We had a friend that came in after the fire was over when we were in Bucklin for the night, and he called me and was telling my husband that our home was gone. He goes, “But I see a cat there,” and he said, “Is it a calico?” He said, “Yeah,” and he goes, “Get that darn cat.” He was able to catch that and one other one and his mom took care of him for a week for us. Then we went back a couple of days later and found one more cat. Out of the four, we were able to save three. We decided right away that we knew that we wanted to rebuild in the same spot. I have family in Colorado that builds homes. They’ve come out for the week with a mini-excavator and lots of manual labor time. Another man from Minnesota brought some heavy equipment down volunteering his time. He didn’t know us and they were able to tear out our basement in one day and everything – out and buried, and so we’re ready to start building again. (Jenny Betschart) Ranching is all that my family is known. That’s for fifth generation to be on this ranch. Not just our livelihood, but they are our life from day one. Surrounding ranchers from the surrounding communities we’re here helping. I would say on average, we probably had 50 to 75 people here a day extra that just showed up. If they hadn’t just shown up, we would still be looking for cattle and burying them right now. The night of the fire, some of our good friends from Bucklin came down. They took our 4-H calves, they took our horses home, and they cared for them for two weeks. The mother and daughter that were taking care of our calves sent pictures of them every day. They haltered them. They treated them just like they were their own. Also, during that first week, we had 11 bottle calves that community members were coming out and taking care of every day. A company from somewhere in the Colby, Kansas area came in and took all of our bottle calves back. Not only did they take them back to care for them, they sent pictures the next day. The guy had pictures of all the calves lined up in their little huts eating bottles. They still had our tags in them and we knew they were theirs. I guess from our perspective, they were taking in all of these calves, giving off their time to do this, and then they took the time to send us a picture. That just was so special. We’ve had so many people reach out to us with really, really wonderful, neat thoughtful things. One of the most special ones was the R.A. Brown Ranch got together with Mr. Brown and his church, 50 people got together, they bought five deep freezers. They filled them with homemade casseroles and desserts, put notes of encouragement on each item, and brought them up to Kansas. They’re friends with Mark and Eva Gardiner and Eva and her son Quanah came with him. They lost their home. They lost just as many cattle as we did and they took time out of their day to come out here and bring one of those freezers to our family. It meant so much. It actually happened on a day that we were getting ready to go to Dodge and buy a freezer because we couldn’t eat all the food that was coming in and all of our freezers were full. It was just this random act of kindness that we cannot wait to pay forward. Friday on St. Patrick’s Day, it was my son Ethan’s eighth birthday. It was kind of a downtime that we had. Lots of the friends that have been helping us were able to come and eat supper with us and just relax a little bit. One of those people that came was Sandra Levering and she had friends from out-of-state send things for our family. It was a whole truckload full of toiletry items and paper goods and food. Along in the piles that we’re bringing in the house was a happy birthday banner. I just thought that was probably something Sandra threw in because she’s a very thoughtful person and she put the flag up on our basketball goal for the night. I never thought to thank her for it. I just, in the commotion of things, didn’t ask her about it. Then I saw a Facebook post of it the next morning. Well, what it turns out was the family that had sent all of those items, that had been their family’s birthday banner for 20 years. They randomly threw it in, not knowing that anybody would be celebrating a birthday and send it to our family. It was one of those goose bump, give-me-the-chills God moments.

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