NORMAN, OKLAHOMA — Nature runs amuck on Roy Neher’s ten acres.
“It’s really exploded in the past month,” he says walking into the bramble of his back yard.
“There’s so many new plants that I haven’t seen.”
Some of his weeds reach past 8 feet.
The birds crowd for space on his home made feeders.
There isn’t a mower or weed whacker in sight and that’s just how he likes it.
He stops and says, “These may look like weeds to everyone else but to me it’s wonderful.”
He likes the profusion of greenery because one year ago his house was the center of ‘hell’s half section’.
His little valley south of Highway 9, his home amidst a secluded grove of old growth cross timbers was all swept away by wildfire.
Roy remembers when he saw it for the first time.
“We pulled over the hill and looked down into our valley and it was all gone.”
He pauses to collect himself.
“It must have been devastating to see,” suggests a visitor.
“Yeah,” he responds. “It was still in flames.”
For such a long time his place looked desolate, a home for dust devils and soot.
It’s wasn’t until April that things started to change.
“Everything changed,” says Neher.
As the plants grew, the birds came back.
Roy is a professional photographer who used to shoot still pictures and video right off his back porch.
Gems from among an amazing digital collection include Painted Buntings, Baltimore Orioles, and even a young Cooper’s Hawk which took its first bath in front of his camera.
“In the springtime when they all start singing it’s outstanding, like an orchestra,” he says.
Roy and his wife Kathy put a new home on the old lot.
They worried the wildlife would not return.
They didn’t know it would return and then some.
“We have lots of animals now,” he says.
“We even have more species than we did before.”
A few trees survived the fire.
The Nehers planted 300 more and hundreds of different wildflowers.
A wet Spring and Summer did its share too.
One year later and their place is transformed, changed forever yes, but altered in new ways.
“It gives me hope, a lot of hope” smiles Roy.
“Things are all right.”
Life has come back from far to Neher.
The fire that burned the Neher’s home took place August 3, 2013. It started near the town of Slaughterville and swept northward to Oklahoma Highway 9.