In the path of Hurricane Harvey - CBR survivors tell their story


 In the path of Hurricane Harvey - CBR survivors tell their story

Texas, home to the country’s fourth-largest city, is also home to the most cattle, sheep, and goats in the nation. It also leads the United States, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture, in number of farms and ranches, with nearly 250,000 of them covering 130.2 million acres.

There are no hard figures on how many bucking bulls and bull riders live in Texas but it is probably safe to say Texas leads the nation in that category as well and many were in the path of the monster storm.

As Hurricane Harvey, the category 4 storm the National Hurricane Center described as a catastrophic and life-threatening, came ashore –the storyline 1,110 miles away was the Championship Bull Riding (CBR) season opener which was scheduled to launch in Huron, South Dakota.

CBR staff, cowboys, stock contractors and bullfighters lived in Harvey’s path. Bull riders, Garrett Jones, Braeden Richardson, and bullfighter Bryce Redo all escaped before the roads became impassable and the airports closed, but not all were that lucky.

Many cattleman including bucking bull contractors, along with their families drove the cattle to higher ground. Some worked round the clock to save their livelihood and each other.

In their own words, here are their stories.

J.C. Knapp, Knapp Bucking Bulls, Mansfield, Texas

J.C. and Amber Knapp were already loaded and on the Road to Cheyenne’s season opener in Huron when he decided to check on CBR World finalist bull rider Demond Haynes.

“I called Demond to check on him and he sent back a text of his house with water up to the eaves – he was in the attic- the only part out of the water. He sent back pictures of his girlfriend’s new black Camaro under water - and he said he was scared.

His cousin’s aunt drowned when she went downstairs, the electricity went out and his phone was about to die and he told me he had been crying hard and praying hard.

My heart sank, I had to do something – he is one of us, so I called back home and forwarded the text messages and my nephew (Jimmy Fricks) and my boys, Christopher and Jacob…they answered the call.

They put it on Facebook and it was great, people just started responding, Diapers, water, supplies, money, formula – they gathered enough stuff to load up a trailer and head out the next morning. 

By then Demond had gotten to dry land with his girlfriend, and new baby girl.

It was moving and a great feeling, it all came together and people brought money for fuel, mine and Demon’s prayers were answered.”

 The Knapp Ranch crew made two trips with supplies to the Houston area and with Demond’s help they were able to distribute the much needed items to those in need.

Demond Haynes on August 30 via Facebook:

“My brothers been txtn me since this storm started to make sure everything ok Jacob Knapp Jimmy Fricks said we don't care where u at we coming I told them how bad it was an they wasn’t taken no for an answer thank y'all Houston I'm trying much as I can to make sure y'all ok and thanks pops JC Knapp for making stuff happen right away after we talked an another big thanks to my big dawg who tells me right from wrong Ronny D Kitchens.”

Tammie Todd, D4 Cattle Company, Aransas Pass, Texas

“Our house is in Aransas Pass, Texas, which was one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Harvey, along with our neighbors on each side:  Ingleside, Port Aransas and Rockport.  Although we had devastation and returned immediately after the storm passed to primitive living conditions, consisting of no electricity, no running water, no sewer, no fuel, no cell service, no grocery stores, etc. for over a week, we had a choice.....unlike many others who didn't....we had other places to go!  We had our homes elsewhere with belongings that were safe and certain securities on stand-by.  I do believe that is the hardest part daily, knowing many lost everything, stripped of their entire livelihood and forced into uncertainty. 

Don't get me wrong, it is emotionally and physically draining being immersed in devastation and turmoil day in and day out, not even getting to feel warm water on your skin. As the sun starts to fall and the citywide curfew kicks in, it is like walking into another world of total darkness. There is an uneasiness patrolling the streets of your neighborhood after dark armed alongside police and National Guard trying to protect your property for yourself and your neighbors.  You feel ashamed knowing that you could buy a hot meal, but standing in line for a handout because at that particular moment there is not even a place that can take your money.  It has been a life changing experience!  As the clean-up is only just beginning, there is a "silver lining" starting to emerge...neighborhoods becoming united, friends being made, communities working together.....Texans being Texans!  God Bless all those effected by Harvey and/or the many other named storms this season, and thank you to all those that came to help. I promise you, it will never be forgotten!”

 Crystal Chandler, GEM Bucking Bulls, Richmond, Texas

The winners of the Window Rock Bull Team Challenge, Ruby Bausch and Crystal Chandler, known as GEM Bucking Bulls almost didn’t make it to Arizona to compete in their first CBR Bull Team Challenge.

The plans was to pick up the newly purchased bulls on Tuesday from CBR contractor William Barnett  who is north and east of Houston in Cypress, Texas. With the Hurricane Harvey dumping over 52 inches in the area, things got a little twisted.

“We live in Richmond, Texas and we were fortunate we did not get any water in our house, we had lots of flooded roads and we actually had to leave on Tuesday (Aug. 29) so we could get out and not get stuck and not able to go to Window Rock.  On our way out we stopped and helped a group of people – they have a horse ranch and they were trying to swim them out to the middle of the road where they had the trailer. We just stopped traffic, backed up our stock trailer to the water and got the horses loaded. I helped them before we went on to Barnett’s. Most of the cattle around us were moved to the higher pastures and they stayed dry, but William Barnett called to say he wasn’t sure he could get the bulls out.  It was so stressful, we did not know if we would be able to get the bulls out at all and we began the process of borrowing bulls in case we couldn’t get our bulls out from Barnett’s place. We had some lined up as replacements, but we were fortunate enough after two days, Mr. Barnett was able to drive thru the flood waters and get them out. He met us in Waco and we laid over and then headed out.”

 “They say whatever you do, don’t let your kids grow up to be cowboys,” Chance Ward joked as he shot footage of the event where his son Rowdy was horseback leading horses to safety in Liberty County. He had tens of thousands following the livestock rescues via Facebook.

 “Somehow I let mine grow up to be cowboys, but I don’t know if he’s bred any other way. That’s all he knows.”

Their fanfare led to cowboys across Texas showing up with their horses to help in the rescue effort. Texas state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s agency has no firm estimate on the number of cattle lost during Hurricane Harvey - the storm and floods that followed. But he estimates that crops worth $200 million were destroyed -- and he expects that number to rise.

The counties that sustained damage when Harvey first came ashore Aug. 25 were home to 1.2 million head of cattle, representing 1-in-4 of all beef cows in Texas, the nation's largest producer. Texas A&M economists estimated that Hurricane Ike in 2008 caused about $13.3 million in cattle losses, with an additional $23.3 million in damages to fences, hay and other farm equipment.

Harvey may be more costly because it affected a larger area, said David Anderson, an A&M professor and agriculture economist. However, Anderson said he doesn't expect the losses to affect meat prices, because the number of cattle lost in Harvey won't be enough to impact the national beef market, which is expected to yield a record amount next year.

The current was so strong that the cattle were pushed back, fences destroyed and hay bales, each weighing up to 1,000 pounds floated away.

In Hardin county, west of Beaumont, one family with rodeo in their blood lost 800 bales of hay, but only three cows and seven calves out of a large herd. That was considered a victory for Casey Dishman, NFR bareback qualifier Monk Dishman’s nephew, as no human life was lost.

The water was treacherous and posse’s of cowboys navigated up to six feet high, sometimes swimming in on horseback with no idea of what could be under the water beneath them.

While the nation was glued to the television watching Irma and Houston flood rescues, some of the CBR’s own were horseback and a foot rescuing drowning horses, moving cattle to high ground, and checking on each other and sending help - away from the fanfare of the television cameras.

 Texans take pride in helping each other and during the raging rain and subsequent flood waters rising, several of its residents that were either preparing to leave or already on the Road to Cheyenne. Bull Riders and stock contractors were caught in the battle not only to compete, but to get out and to survive.

The final stop on the CBR tour, the Conroe Bull Mania, will honor First Responders, Military veterans and teachers with free tickets.  Conroe Bull Mania Ticketing Link.