Drought, grasshoppers, and wildfires have left many Montana ranchers struggling through a hay shortage. No hay means sell your herd (your income potential) or take a trip to the bank, buy hay, and pay top dollar to ship it in.
“They would be paying back the bank for this hay for several years to come,” said Jaxon Allen, a rancher from Lewistown. “I mean, the cattle wouldn't even come close to even breaking even. I mean they'd be in the hole on that hay for some years to come."
But Allen, owner of Wild Wild West Inc, also drives a truck and has a YouTube page documenting his adventures hauling cattle and hay across the region.
While most ranchers are struggling, motivated Montana truck drivers like Allen are in the green.
So when his friend Buck Mosby from the small town of Roy in Fergus County called him up to ask if he could pick up some hay 800 miles away, Allen told him just how much it was going to cost.
Mosby had already sold off about half his herd, but he still had the other half to feed, and Allen knew Mosby and his wife, JoAnn, were making the extra effort to succeed.
They both work side jobs to make their ranching work, and that day, Mosby was at the local school.
“You know, you can just imagine the picture in your mind of him with the phone on his ear and he’s serving lunch to these kids, trying to get a hay deal together, and getting this done,” said Allen, “and that’s when it really settled on me.”
As Allen hung up the phone, he decided he would find a way. He pulled in a friend, loaded up his boys into his Cab-over, and hit the road.
“The last two years have been so much division, so much strife, hatred, angst. And the best way that I found in my life to settle those things out of my way is to serve. To do service,” explained Allen.
They took the trek, some 800 miles, all the way to Canistota, South Dakota, loaded up the hay and headed home.
At the same time, two more trucks loaded with hay were headed to Montana from Aberdeen, Idaho. Allen had also called on his friend, Heavy D Sparks, also knows as one of the Diesel brothers.
The two teams met up at Allen’s ranch and from there, formed a committed convoy. “He knew we were coming, but he was totally surprised at the end,” said Allen, “when Heavy D slid that check across.”
On top of the donated trucking from Allen, Sparks had already decided he was paying for the hay.
“This right here is going to cover the cost of the hay from South Dakota,” said Sparks in the video, “and all the other stuff is donated, so we’ve got you covered.”
Allen said he could feel the emotion in the room.
“You rarely get to be part of something like that. Where you get to see somebody receive such a great blessing in their life, right there in person,” said Allen.
Buck and his wife JoAnn are still blown away by the gift. “You can't even begin to describe the feeling. I mean, there's a lot of gratitude,” said Buck, “but even that does not go nearly far enough. To explain how it was.”
That blessing is already growing, as the Mosbys took in a half dozen cows from another neighbor.
“He didn't have hay either,” said Mosby, “So I told him, just bring them. I will winter him I will calve them and then I’ll bring them back. Just trying to pay back some of the goodness that was brought to us.”
With a big smile on his face, Allen said, “It is definitely returning, and coming full circle and doing much more good out there.”
“Pay it forward,” said JoAnn. “Try to be kind and considerate to your fellow man.”
“When you sacrifice something for somebody, you grow in love and compassion for that person, and we need more of that unity,” said Allen.
“As cliche as that sounds, that's the message,” he said, “Wherever you are, be there and help where you're at. There are so many opportunities out there to help and so many people that can help. We got to do it.”