When wildfires devastated pastureland in several Great Plains states, Kentucky hay farmer Charlie Nuckols got rolling to help send relief.
In mid-March, high winds and low humidity caused wildfires to spread rapidly across the plains of Oklahoma, Kansas and parts of Texas. The largest fire started east of Beaver, Oklahoma, and spread to northeast parts of the state. Ashland, 40 miles away, was evacuated. A few people lost their lives in the blaze, and the fire destroyed hundreds of miles of fences, farmers' and ranchers' equipment and multiple structures. Hundreds of head of cattle were also lost.
When Kentucky farmer Charlie Nucklos heard about the devastation, he knew he had to take action. "It just kept eating at me," he said. "When I saw all the wildlife and farmland that was being burned up, and the people who died trying to protect their farms, their homes, and everything they'd built — it just really touched me. The media (in Kentucky) didn't really pick up on it, and being in the agricultural field, I wanted to help."
Being in the agricultural field, I wanted to help.
Nuckols Farm, in Midway, has been in business for more than 100 years. Eight years ago, Charlie started Nuckols Hay & Grain after realizing it made more economic sense to mow the pastures a few times a year and sell the hay, rather than maintaining them continuously just for looks. The decision turned out to be a profitable one.
Since Nuckols had a surplus of hay, he decided to donate several truckloads to help feed the stranded livestock. In an effort to find transportation, he posted a picture of the hay on his Facebook page with the caption, "Nucklos Hay and Grain has 400+ 4×5 wrapped mixed grass hay rolls that we would like to donate to the people affected by the wildfires. If you find the trucks, I will load them 24 hours a day." To his surprise, the post spread, well, like wildfire. The post was shared more than 8,600 times in the first four days, and he'd received about 60,000 page views.
The help came quickly. Scotty Perdue of PECCO Environmental agreed to provide the trucks. And with help from friends Megan and Michael Cole, the first two truckloads of hay headed west to Buffalo, Oklahoma. "When that first semi went out, it put a lump in my throat," Nuckols wrote in a follow-up post. That also went viral, and since then, Nuckols has been inundated with gratitude from people all over the country. "My phone kept blowing up with calls and texts, to the point where I had to put it on 'do not disturb' at night," he said.
Oklahoma officials are calling the wildfire damage "unprecedented" and Nuckols is currently looking into organizing a donation center to provide long-term assistance. He encourages anyone wishing to help to get in touch with him.
"I was just trying to do a good deed – I really had no idea that it would snowball like this," he said. "I'm generally a humble, quiet person and I'm flattered that people have reached out to thank me. There have been a lot of other national disasters that have touched people in various ways, and I guess this is the one that touched me."