In March, when wildfires ravaged more than a million acres across Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas, Plano restaurant and bar Love & War in Texas quickly lent a hand to the families who lost property, livestock and loved ones. Now it has partnered with country musician Gary P. Nunn, a native of Oklahoma, to host a Plains Fire Victims Benefit this Sunday.
Tickets are $20 for the all-day event, and proceeds will go to the Working Ranch Cowboys Association. The WRCA is a Panhandle-based nonprofit that helps working ranch cowboys and their families by providing crisis assistance and scholarships. Among items that will be auctioned to raise money for organization is a guitar signed by George Strait.
Nunn got involved at the encouragement of his friend, cattleman and horse trainer Damon Rogers. “I’m always willing to help a working cause, but this is one that particularly touched my heart,” Nunn says. “The thought of these guys out there trying to save their livestock and everything and getting caught up in it, it’s just heartbreaking.”
Rogers described those impacted by the wildfires as people whose word means everything but who are also very proud.
“There’s no facade to these people,” he says. “What you see is what you get. They’re not going to ask people for help. They’re going to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And they’re going to go on. But that doesn’t mean we should let them suffer in silence.”
Nunn, who lives in the Hill Country, was a cattleman for more than 15 years on his family’s ranch in Oklahoma. He’s a cowboy at heart, he says, adding that Luckenbach has been “home” to him since the '70s.
In addition to doing ranch work, training horses and emceeing for Nunn, Rogers has “played a little music and shoed a lot of horses around Austin,” Rogers says. He also spent more than 15 years “buckarooing” in Montana, Idaho, Utah and the Dakotas before moving back to Texas, where he now breeds and trains horses and dogs when not roping loose cattle.
When the wildfires happened, Rogers wanted to load a trailer and help find and doctor cattle or build fences, he says. But since day labor on a ranch costs about $150 a day, he thought he could make a bigger impact by organizing a fundraiser.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he says. “I’ve got a waiting list of musicians that were like, ‘Hell yeah.’”
Others are helping by donating items for the benefit’s live and silent auctions. Rogers says there are gold buckle National Finals Rodeo tickets, Professional Bull Riders Finals tickets and a helicopter hog hunt along the Red River.
“George [Strait] is sending me a signed guitar to help out,” he says. “And I’ve got a [musician coming] from Luckenbach that was a close personal friend of one of the victims.”
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Others on the lineup include Jeff Hopson, David Lee, Sam Watson, Woody Eastman, Mike Blakely and Jeff Posey. The Powell Brothers are scheduled to open for Nunn.
“I’d like to see all of Dallas there,” Rogers says. “It meant the world to me that my old friend [Nunn] said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be there.’ The reason this is important to me is these are my people. They are who I am.”
Plains Fire Victims Benefit, 12:30 p.m. Sunday, May 21, Love and War in Texas, 601 E. Plano Parkway, $20, see Facebook.