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Record flooding in 2012 led to cattle rescues at Howard McLeod Correctional Center

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

ATOKA, Okla --When the thunder rolls, the cowboys come out. Inmates at Howard McLeod Correctional Center are responsible for relocating hundreds of cows and calves. 

There are thousands of acres of pasture land, ideal for cows – until it rains. Running right through the property is Muddy Boggy Creek. Agri-Services Operations Coordinator, Jeff Vaughan said, “You can be misled real quick on the power of the Muddy Boggy and how quickly it changes when you have rainfall." 

In the spring of 2015, a fast and relentless rainfall caused the creek to spill out of its banks. According to Vaughan, “The worst flooding was down here in Choctaw County. 12 to 15 feet deep. Our pastures were that deep.”

The cows took refuge on top of a levee with nowhere to graze.

Jeff Vaughan and some colleagues from ODOC’s Agri-Services Division came up with a plan. Using two 18 foot bass boats, they began saving the smaller animals.

Their first rescue was a newborn calf. “I was here and Brad Bailey and the calf, we had the calf in the center section,” said Vaughan, “Brad was holding it down while I tried to steer the boat. We took him back and took care of him. And we was able to save his mama too. They got back together just a little later.”

They also began shuttling hay to the stranded cattle. It took two weeks for the waters to finally recede. Jeff Vaughan recalled, “It was all about saving every animal we could save. And we saved a lot of them. We would do it again in a heartbeat to save every one we can save."

Jeff Vaughan’s plan worked beautifully. Most of the herd was spared from the wrath of Mother Nature.

There have been lessons learned and improvements made along the Muddy Boggy to prevent another natural disaster at Howard McLeod.

Today, when the forecast calls for rain, they are better prepared. According to Vaughan, “We can move them all to the safe ground up here.”

Always staying one step ahead of the tumultuous and unpredictable Oklahoma weather.

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