When the phone rang at 5 a.m., Graham Tapley felt the bottom of his stomach drop.
When the phone rang at 5 a.m., Graham Tapley felt the bottom of his stomach drop. Fire had jumped the road and was now burning the family farmland, threatening everything he and his wife Kristine had invested in to convert an abandoned gravel quarry into pasture: their cows, their savings, their young business.
“It’s scary when you’re that helpless. You’re really at the mercy of Mother Nature,” he says. “There is no high-tech stuff that can really help in that situation, nothing that can replace going into the field.”
Kristine stayed back at home with their newborn son, while Graham and his in-laws sped across acres on ATVs, searching for their cows. In good weather, with sunlight, it usually takes weeks to gather all the docile Angus-Hereford crosses they breed. On this day, they corralled all 320 cows in four exhausting hours and the ordeal ended with a water bomber drowning the flames—a technology the Tapleys have a new appreciation for.
In recalling the incident, Graham wears a reserved smile that shows his relief. The stress of farming is still a touch foreign to him. He’s originally a city boy. He grew up in St. James, Winnipeg, but his grandparents had a grain farm south of the city and he loved it, wanting to spend every minute there and hating that school got in the way.
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