SAYRE, OKLAHOMA — It’s an environment that punishes waste and sentimentality.
But on a foreclosed ranch in far western Oklahoma, Stephanie O’Neail still buys feed, pays vet bills, and houses a blind cow named Boomer and a seeing eye steer who ought to be named Sooner.
Instead she named him Casper.
The old Flying W Guest Ranch was closed when Stephanie’s family took over operations.
The place hadn’t seen much activity for 5 years.
The O’Neails cleared things off, opened up the guest cabins.
“We came here to run and RV spot,” she says.
In her own very limited spare time, Stephanie brought in a free cow (Boomer).
“She would have been hamburger at any other ranch by now,” observes a visitor. ”
I definitely believe so,” she responds.
She also adopted a friendly miniature pig, a lonely but affectionate cat, a bearded lizard, goats, and even a couple of sugar-gliders.
“As long as I can remember I’ve been called Elly Mae,” she smiles.
Her plan, to make a special place for other kids cast off by handicap or circumstance to come and help.
“Autistic kids, handicapped, or disabled. There’s something that the animals do to them that definitely makes all of this worth it.”
Boomer is an extremely gentle cow who Stephanie thought would be perfect for kids, but she worried the cataracts on the animal’s eyes might be concern if she couldn’t see children approaching.
Not willing to give up, O’Neail sought out veterinarians who were willing to do surgery.
Speaking of potential costs, Stephanie quoted, “The lowest was about $5,000 and it went up to about $7,500.”
Without money, she thought a unique fundraiser might help.
“A lot of people think I’m crazy,” she says. “But they’re like my family members.”
By now most western Oklahoma cattlemen are probably shaking their heads, but they might admire the gumption of Stephanie O’Neail and maybe even wish her luck.
They might even see a different way of doing things out here, where mercy and sentimentality now seek a foothold together.
O’Neail has scheduled a benefit trail ride to raise money for Boomer’s eye surgery.
If your interested she wants people to call her at (580) 374-8643.