When Texans fled the Hurricane Harvey, many brought their beloved animals with them. They pushed their dogs in coolers through waist-deep water. They brought rabbits in cages onto rescue boats. They even carried pigs to safety. But to save her family’s animals, Logan Goudeau had to think a little bigger.
Goudeau lives in Hungerford, a ranching community 50 miles southwest of Houston. To herd cattle in a flood, residents, including seventeen-year-old Goudeau, turned to helicopters.
When Goudeau first heard about the approaching storm on August 24, she left the area for safer ground, spending the weekend with a friend in College Station. On Wednesday, when she was finally able to make it back home, she and her dad drove to their land near the Colorado River to assess the damage. “We got there, and the water was everywhere,” Goudeau said. Some of the cattle were trapped in water that reached midway up their backs. “You could hear the cattle lowing,” she said. “It was heartbreaking, because you knew they just wanted to get on dry land.”
Along with other members of their community, Goudeau and her dad got to work. Their family owns a hay operation, Goudeau Farms Hay, so they drove trailers stacked with hay bales out to shallow water, and loaded the hay onto airboats. The pair made multiple trips each day, delivering the dry nutrients to cattle submerged in belly-deep water to keep them alive.
But as the water levels continued to rise until Friday morning, the Goudeaus and their neighbors realized they needed to move the cattle to drier ground. They reached out to ranchers in San Antonio and George West, who often work cattle from helicopters, and put out a call for help. “The word spread like a wildfire,” Goudeau said. “Once they found out we needed help, they were down here before you knew it.”
Over the next few days, ranchers in five helicopters crisscrossed the skies of Wharton County, redirecting hundreds of cattle to higher pasture. Sometimes a rancher would climb out and cut fences to clear a path, but often, they hovered the helicopter behind cattle and pushed them until they moved. “It’s nothing that I had ever seen before,” Goudeau explained. “It was just like working cattle on a horse, but it was in the air.”
The ranchers—neighbors, friends from Louisiana with airboats, volunteers from San Antonio—came together to help save the cattle, no matter the herd. “We didn’t really know whose cattle was whose at some times, but it didn’t matter if you mixed cattle,” Goudeau said. “The point was just that we gotta get to them high ground because they got to survive.”
From the ground, the flooding seemed severe, but from the skies, Goudeau had a full perspective on the storm’s devastation—not only for the cattle, but for the residents of Hungerford. “At times, you knew where you were, but all you saw was the rooftop of a house,” she recalled. “And you were like, I know those people. And all they have is a roof now.”
From the seat of a helicopter, Goudeau captured these images of her flooded community with her Nikon camera. She has enjoyed taking photos since she was a kid, photographing cows and bulls for the local junior cattle association, and she thought to bring her camera along to document how the community came together to save their livestock. “I just posted them for the realization of what’s going on, and what everyone is doing to help save the cattle,” Goudeau said.
By Sunday, the floodwaters had receded. The residents of Hungerford were safe and ready to come home, as were their cattle. But the hurricane had left its mark on the animals, which spent days standing in sometimes back-deep water; on the homes, some flooded to the second story; and on the people.
For Goudeau, now in her senior year of high school, the storm that ravaged her community has doubled her resolve to stay a part of it. “I have had second thoughts about coming back to the ranch, and the flood right here cleared everything up for me. It’s where I want to be,” she said. “Seeing everyone come together to help, and the love everyone has for the livestock, made me appreciate it so much more.” Hopefully, Goudeau’s future on the ranch won’t involve any more rescues-by-helicopter—but if it does, she’ll know what to do.