Despite cattle, property losses, rancher looking forward following fires: “We’ll be alright”

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HARPER COUNTY, Okla. – Days after wildfires threatened R.A. Bentley’s family’s long-time home, buildings and cattle, it wasn’t easy for him to conjure up the willingness to survey some of the damage he witnessed first-hand Monday evening.

“As soon as sun rose on Tuesday morning, it’s kind of like you’re anxious for the sun to get up,” said Bentley. “I haven’t even went in that barn.”

A new combine ready to go for his winter wheat crop, as well as everything else – gone.

“There’s the combine,” said Bentley. “My son was really excited to run it.”

Walking under the large metal structure – its roof support beams bent from the heat of the fire – the ground was covered in inches of soot and debris. The interior filled with remnants of farm equipment, from the run-of-the-mill tractors, to the sentimental.

“This was actually, this was a tractor of my granddads that I was trying to get to when the shed went up," he said.

Bentley estimates the fire consumed roughly 1,000 acres of his land, threatened his brother’s home and destroyed his shed and equipment, with some things still smoldering inside.

“Oh, that sucker is still on fire, after Monday afternoon,” he said, trailing off.

The damage to his property – as well as dead cattle – is clear. But what’s not so clear is if the surviving 60-70 head of cattle will have any lingering effects from the fire.

“I’ve probably only lost seven or eight cows, and maybe ten or 12 baby calves, maybe more. A lot of those cows, it’s just like us. They have smoke inhalation,” he said. “Some of the cows, we may have to put them down.”

But Bentley isn’t looking at the past, but staying positive with what lies ahead.

“We’re pretty blessed, we’re a lot better off than a lot of other people were. We’re still all here and all this is just stuff. God gives us the opportunity to do it all and I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to be here. It’s not real fun right now. But guess what? It will be alright.”

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