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North Texas rancher adopts calf from the ashes of the Texas wildfires

North Texas man takes in calf injured in Panhandle wildfire
North Texas man takes in calf injured in Panhandle wildfire 02:54

NORTH TEXAS — An unlikely bond has formed between a North Texas rancher and an injured calf after devastating wildfires in the Texas Panhandle. Now their story is inspiring hope after the deadly and historic destruction.

Garret Duvall says his family and neighbors were affected by the fire and have been helping distribute donations to victims and fellow ranchers. 

"I was packed up and ready to go in 15 minutes and drove the three-and-a-half hours up," Duvall told CBS News Texas.

He says ranchers have not only lost their land and livelihood but also thousands of cattle and horses. 

"Basically, all livestock is requiring several 4,5, and 6 hours a day of doctoring and cleaning wounds and then medicating. It's just terrible," Duvall explained. 

"There's been a lot of crying, a lot of tears."

With so many animals hurt and killed, Duvall says he was losing hope until he met a small calf crying for help. He says she was clearly burned, but fighting to stay alive. 

"She was about 2 ½ weeks old when we got her, and she was standing next to her mother who was just completely burned and not alive," said Duvall. "I knew I had to help her."

Duvall quickly captured the calf and started to mend her. After a few days, the calf showed signs of recovery.  

"She has extensive burning in her back legs, her tail is mostly gone, and she has extensive burning around her nose," he said. 

"She is a fighter for sure. She could have just laid down, but she is giving it her all."

Duvall named the calf Ashley, but nicknamed her "Ash". He says it's a fitting name for a calf who rose from the ashes and beat all odds.

"She is learning to trust, and we are just becoming little best friends I guess. I have raised a lot of bottle calves and raised a lot of animals. But, I never, ever thought I would fall in love like this with a little baby," Duvall said.

Duvall took a picture of ash, which has quickly become viral on social media and has been shared thousands of times. It has made her a mascot for other fire victims in the panhandle. 

"I took those pictures of Ash to bring awareness. I wanted to post it on Facebook to show this is what we are dealing with," Duvall said.

Amy Houston, director of the non-profit Rancher Navy, says donations will be needed for animals like Ash for months to come.

"One large bale of hay -- which weighs about 800 pounds -- will only feed five cows only for a week. We're talking about 10,000 cattle, which means we need about millions of pounds of feed," Houston said. Her group helps ranchers who are victims of natural disasters.

"It's going to take time for the grass to grow back and for that to be substantial enough to take care of the herd that [the ranchers] do have," she said

Duvall plans on taking Ash back to his North Texas ranch and believes she will make a full recovery.

"[She] is a little bit of happiness and sunshine on a really dark day," Duvall said with a smile on his face. "Every day I tell her, 'I am so proud of you little baby!'"

He tells CBS News Texas he and Ash are no longer just friends, but now family. 

"I have to take care of her. I feel like it's my responsibility to make sure she is okay through all of this," he said.

You can visit Ranchers Navy's Facebook page for more information on donations and drop-off locations across Texas.

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