As bad as it got for Russell and Becky Creel, it could have been worse.

For a while, it looked like the Creels would be directly in the path of Hurricane Katrina once it made landfall and worked its way inland. But the hurricane made a northeasterly jog at the last minute, sparing the Creels a direct hit. The Creels still lost electrical power, forcing them to rely on back-up generators. Their original generator burned out after five days, and they missed one milking. They were able to rent another generator and used that to milk for another 10 days until electricity was restored on Sept. 13.

Other dairy producers in the affected areas of Louisiana and Mississippi were not as fortunate. They lost power and, without adequate generators to back them up, missed several milkings and the cows were ruined.

Then, there is New Orleans. Lying 70 miles to the south of the Creels’ farm, New Orleans and its residents endured far greater problems than most people will ever know. 

“What we’re dealing with is nothing compared to some people losing their homes or getting out with nothing but the shirts on their backs,” Becky Creel says.

The Creels’ oldest son, Benny, works for the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Department as a detective, and was activated by the Louisiana National Guard the weekend before the storm hit. He was one of the National Guardsmen stationed at the Louisiana Superdome, along with 15,000 evacuees. Conditions in the Superdome were horrendous.

Most of us will never have to deal with that kind of misery.

Lanny Conerly, who milks 230 cows in Kentwood, La., lives about 25 miles northwest of the Creels, so he was even further removed from the eye of the storm. Yet, winds reached speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour, he estimates. And, the winds lasted for several hours.

“I’d never seen anything like it,” he says.

   Conerly’s farm was without electrical power for 11 days. Fortunately, a generator he purchased several years ago was up to the task, allowing the Conerlys to continue milking their cows. The Conerlys did miss one milking, however, when a milk pump went down, and it took a few hours to hunt down the repairman (since normal communications were unavailable).

Conerly still considers himself one of the fortunate ones, compared to what others have had to endure.

And, as a council member for Dairy Farmers of America, he had the opportunity to hand out numerous $1,000 cash grants to other DFA members in the area. The cash was much appreciated, since no one could get their money out of banks, and service-providers wanted to be paid in cash. It was a good gesture, and made Conerly feel like Santa Claus. 

Things could have been a lot worse.

Becky Creel looks at it this way: You can go around with a “poor old me” attitude when adversity strikes, stay depressed and not get anything done.   Or, you can pick yourself back up and move on with life. 

“There’s so much we take for granted,” she says. For instance, when the electricity went out, she had to go back to hanging clothes outdoors on a clothesline rather than having the convenience of an indoor dryer.

Next time you stub your toe, shake it off. Next time someone does something to make you mad, such as cutting you off in traffic, shake it off. Next time a tractor breaks down, shake it off. Remember, things could always be a lot worse.