Fire causes devastating loss for North Dakota’s Woodbury family | TSLN.com

Fire causes devastating loss for North Dakota’s Woodbury family

Dick Woodbury's sheep had been a reason for him to travel to more than a half dozen rodeos this past year, and helped him inspire at least 15 youth in his area to show lambs at their local Grant County, North Dakota, fair.

And on Feb. 25, the Carson, North Dakota family's 95 ewes were the reason he was getting up early and heading to the lambing shed.

He turned off the alarm at 5:30, put on his work clothes and coat and was ready to check the ewes in the barn, just like he had been doing every morning for the past couple of weeks. Nobody had been out since his wife Jessica got in an hour and a half earlier. Nothing was out of the ordinary except the lights in the house were dim, which did tug at his mind.

As soon as he looked outside, he knew why the electricity was failing, and he yelled through the house to his wife and kids to call the fire department. While he doesn't remember for sure how he got there, he thinks he ran the 60 yards to the sheep barn, which was engulfed in flames, started the tractor, which was warm enough due to its close proximity to the fire, and began moving hay away from the barn.

“If I could do it again, I’d grab snow and dump it on the fire. When it got that air, it was game over.” Dick Woodbury

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He didn't hear any noises from inside the barn, other than the fire, and he figured the sheep were already gone. "It was probably a good thing, so nobody got hurt going into the barn." Unfortunately the ewes were unable to get away from the deadly flames – a few had jumped out of the pens they were in, but were stopped by a panel inside the barn. All of the sheep including ewes, some new lambs and last year's ewe lambs were lost. Only three bucks survived the fire.

The hay he was moving was on fire, and when he moved the first bale, he inadvertently allowed air to hit the barn and hay, making the fire even bigger. "If I could do it again, I'd grab snow and dump it on the fire," he said. "When it got that air, it was 'game over.'"

When the fire department arrived, they convinced Woodbury to abort that dangerous mission, so they moved to the other side of the barn where they were able to save 57 bales out of about 500.

"I was going to have enough to make it until summer came," he said.

The kindness and generosity of friends and neighbors has been an overwhelming surprise.

"Everyone wants me to start again. We had probably 15 kids at the fair with lambs from us that wouldn't have otherwise been showing livestock," he said.

Woodbury had started with Suffolk ewes, and in the last couple had introduced Hampshire bloodlines which had proven to be a successful cross for the showpen. His kids had won a couple of weight classes at the state fair two years ago, surprising all of them. "I thought, maybe we have something. You don't know what you have until you are up against all of those other sheep from across the state," he said.

Misty Steeke, Rhame, North Dakota, who sold Woodbury bucks in recent years said that their families have become friends and that she respects their livestock management and experience.

"Their stock is well cared for. They are very hard workers, and very sincere people." Steeke said she and her family have already told the Woodburys that they want to donate a ewe lamb to each of the two younger boys – they will get their picks of the Steeke flock.

"They have made so many friends and have more and more kids coming to pick out lambs, I sure hope they rebuild," said Trevor Steeke.

"People are showing up with truckloads of hay," he said. A crew will bring a backhoe soon to bury the animals, and friends scheduled a pancake breakfast and silent auction benefit for March 11.

Stur-D products, a company that Woodbury worked for up until about five years ago, is donating a cattle working tub for the silent auction. "This place we live in, the people and generosity is overwhelming," he said.

Woodbury said his three boys, Colton, a college freshman, 16-year old Dylan and 13-year old Layton enjoy showing both sheep and cattle and helping others learn the skill. His wife Jessica is an integral part of the program, too. The whole family is lost with out the lambing duties to tend to.

"We go 24 hours a day, checking, feeding watering, tagging. Now we come in the house at 5:30 and we don't know what to do. It's the spring of the year, it's supposed to be the beginning of new things and rejuvenation. This is not how I anticipated my new year beginning."

"There are reasons and purposes for sheep," he said, telling that his sheep would clean up corn left on the ground by his cows. Woodbury had been troubleshooting with his veterinarian to figure out why some of his ewes were aborting. The vet called on Tuesday after the fire to tell Woodbury that he had figured out the cause of the problem. "I told him I'm not in the sheep business anymore. I think I threw him off guard and then I think he wanted to crawl in a hole when I told him what had happened."

The barn and hay were insured but the sheep were not, Woodbury said. He doesn't know what caused the fire but it could have been heat lamps or electrical problems. His family will likely rebuild their flock, but not until they have had time to recuperate from Sunday's tragedy.

Woodbury once fought bulls and has had off-ranch jobs but now works on the place full time. Jessica is a teacher, bus driver and more. "She's always really helpful – she can't say 'no' to anyone. She might be the reason we have all of these people willing to help us," he said.

Benefit information

Monetary donations can be sent to:

Grant County State Bank

202 N Main

PO Box 317

Carson ND 58529-0317

c/o Dick and Jess Woodbury

Silent auction item contacts for donations

Please get ahold of one of gals below.

Bis/Man Janelle Frederick

Flasher Jill Flath- Eckroth

Carson Andrea Mitchell Muggli

Leith/Elgin Kathy Madler Hoff

West Kami-Russ Kling

South Carson Priscilla-Jeffrey Werner

Thanks for your thoughts, prayer and consideration!

Benefit Breakfast

For

The Woodbury Family

Dick, Jessica, Colton, Dylan and Layton

A fire destroyed their entire flock of sheep while lambing, also destroying the barn and large percentage of their hay for their cowherd. They have been striving to improve the genetics of the herd the past 12 years. 4-H has been a big part of the kid’s lives with the sheep. Many other kids have gotten involved with 4-H with the help, time and generosity of the Woodbury’s and their flock. The benefit will help compensate the loss, and possibility of rebuilding the flock.

What: Pancakes, sausage and egg Breakfast

When: Sunday March 11, 2018

Time: 9 A.M. Mtn. – 2 P.M. Mtn. Time

Where: Grant County Fair Building Carson, ND

Thoughts from oldest son Colton Woodbury:

It was definitely an unexpected shock when I found out that our barn had caught fire. I found out when my grandma called and woke me up Sunday morning. She had said that I should come home the barn is gone and so are all the sheep. Before she hung up the phone, I was already in my car. On my way home, I had all the time in the world to think. So many things went through my mind, but one thing that kept reoccurring is our sheep show for the coming years. As 4-H supporters we spent most of our summer promoting kids showing sheep and making our county show a lot more interesting. I kept thinking a couple years ago there were maybe four or five showmen and as of last year, we had a total of twelve showman in just the market class! That was outstanding and we hoped to have even more this coming year. I also thought of all the work we had put into genetic remodeling, we finally were to the point where we were proud of our sheep. As I pulled into the yard the emotions got even worse as I saw all the damage. All the work of building the barn as a family, forming our sheep industry, and the majority of our hay crop, were all gone. It was heartbreaking when you could see the outline of little lambs and their moms’ bodies in the ashes and rubble of what used to be our barn. I want to thank everyone that came out to our place during the day. All the friends and family, being there for moral support was much needed, they took the whole event off our minds and it really kept our hopes up in this dreadful time. As this year’s fair comes around, I know it will not be as big, but I will still encourage the program even if they aren’t using our genetics. The competition is there, and even with the downfall of this event, I will encourage all families to continue in the show ring with sheep prospects.

Colton Woodbury

18

Bismarck State College