Day Writing: Three years post-Atlas
I’m writing this on the day, three years ago, that it started to rain before turning to snow. Nobody knew the punch that early winter storm dubbed Atlas would pack. But, by three or four days later, about the day you may read this in print, we all had a sobering and clear picture.
It was a life changing storm for countless reasons. It shook foundations, and crumpled the structure of livelihoods in more than one instance. People suffered health issues from the stress brought on by the storm. There are big gaps in cattle herds where the storm cut its swath. The remains of cattle taken in the storm are still found while riding, and someone will almost always note who they belonged to before moving on. It remains an emotionally charged memory and mental whisper whenever the weatherman calls for snow.
But, the most awesome change came from living through an example of God’s ability to take a tragedy full of darkness and turn it into a light-filled blessing. He brought our great industry together in ways seldom seen. Prayer was frequent and fervent in the hearts, minds and mouths of many. He worked through people in indescribable ways to bring hope to those most affected. While time has worn the edges of some memories softer, both good and bad, the clarity of what God did for and through people during and after that storm remains clear.
Somewhere over the past three years, we stopped focusing on simply putting one foot in front of the other, and slipped out of survivor mode. The incredible prices, abundance of hay and feed grown, and our livestock themselves are no accident. They are gifts, both tangible and intangible, as they have not only filled our hay corrals and made a dent in our finances, but also lifted our spirits and reminded us of the joy we find in our occupation.
I am continually amazed at how God held this little part of the world in the palm of his hand in the days, weeks and months following the storm. He brought us through a great trial, enabling us to increase our faith and better reflect him going forward. Because of that experience, we are more grateful for today’s blue skies, mild temperatures and light breezes than we ever could have been before Atlas. There are a handful of cows grazing our pastures that came all the way from Virginia, and they’re doing a fine job making a living in South Dakota. Our house is dotted with comforting reminders from those who sent well wishes after the snow melted. We experienced, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” and we remain humbled by those actions.
Our lives are richer for the experience as a whole, and we are better cattlemen and people for having gone through that storm. I often thank the Lord for these things, and then I also pray he never sees the need to send such a storm again.