The unprecedented Texas Panhandle wildfires of February and March 2024 reduced more than 1.2 million acres of grassland to ashes and cost the lives of more than 15,000 head of cattle. Firefighters, families, neighbors and ranch hands worked tirelessly and continuously throughout the 20-day inferno to protect lives, property, and livestock.

Four months later, costs from cattle loss and rebuilding continue to mount, and Western Bloodstock, the leader in Western performance horse sales, is reaching out with a special auction of stallion seasons to benefit victims of the wildfires.

The auction will be held on Saturday, July 20th, during the 2024 Western Bloodstock Mid-Year Cutting Horse Digital Sale. Proceeds from the auction will go to the Working Ranch Cowboys Association Foundation’s Crisis Fund, which will distribute the proceeds to those in need.

“We feel that this auction offers people a great opportunity to access breedings to great stallions, while coming to the aid of our ranching community,” said Western Bloodstock’s Jeremy Barwick.

Long-term setbacks due to the wildfires include lost grazing; reduced calf crops due to the loss of young heifers and pregnant cows; as well as rebuilding and repair of destroyed and damaged ranch infrastructure, including fences, barns, corrals and windmills.

“The timing for this auction at the Mid-Year Sale is perfect because this will be when people are really feeling the impact as they are gearing up for the fall and winter months and wondering how they will make it,” said April Bonds, of Bonds Ranches. “This shows that all aspects of the Western community are there for the victims of the fire.”

Bonds can speak with authority about the needs of the victims. Her family’s ranch in the Panhandle county of Hemphill was hit by a wildfire in 2017 that affected parts of five states.

“It went right up to the doorstep of the houses where the headquarters were,” Bonds recalled of the 2017 disaster. “Ninety-eight percent of the ranch burned and we lost half our herd.

“But this fire (2024) was so different in so many ways because everybody was on fire [at the same time] and communications were down for hours. It was all over chaos. Lots of people lost houses, and a lot of our neighbors are wondering what the future will hold and whether or not they want to try and rebuild again.”

Andy Holloway, a Hemphill County extension agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, in an article for The Texas Tribune, attested that “Historic homes and ranches burned to the ground – literally museums to our region and way of life. Genetics bred into cows over decades and generations have been lost. Historic trees used as land markers by the early pioneers are gone. This is the hidden cost that deeply affects our ranchers and their way of life.”

“I’ve never met a group of people who have as much strength of character, spirit of community, and generosity to help a neighbor as these people of the Panhandle, affirmed Bonds. “And to see them shaken to their core breaks your heart.

“That’s why I commend Jeremy Barwick for doing this benefit auction. It’s a reminder to all these good folks to not give up, that the Western world is coming together and saying, you are not forgotten, we support you. It means the world to all of us.”

Because the Working Ranch Cowboys Association, with its motto ‘A hand up not a hand out,” represents the spirit of the Western community, its Foundation Crisis Fund was chosen for distributing the proceeds from the Stallion Service auction by Barwick, who noted, “There are a lot of people right now who need a hand up.”

The mission of the WRCA Foundation’s Crisis Fund is to provide financial and other assistance to working ranch cowboys and their families who are suffering significant hardship and who are not otherwise able to provide for their immediate needs.

A working ranch cowboy is defined by the WRCA Foundation as any person, male or female, deriving a significant portion of his or her income from taking care of cattle on a cattle ranch, with day workers included.

For information about contributing stallion seasons for the Special Stallion Season Auction during the 2024 Western Bloodstock Mid-Year Cutting Horse Digital Sale contact Jeremy Barwick at 254-485-2542.