The day was July 21. A brisk westward wind was blowing across Hwy. 281 directly towards the heart of the Underwood Garner Park Ranch. The shoulder was brown with summer grass, as was the property inside the high fence, providing fertile fuel hazard for a fire.
The dreaded fire possibility became a reality as the day approached the 11th morning hour. I was shredding that morning when I answered a call from DPS Trooper Scott Rountree reporting three fires were burning from the highway shoulder onto the ranch and spreading rapidly. In a matter of seconds, the fire had spread through the high fence threatening the ranch. Trooper Rountree alerted the sheriff’s department, which in turn alerted the Morgan Mill Volunteer Fire Department and Erath Fire Department. The Calvary was mobilized and headed our way in a matter of minutes.
Meanwhile, the fire was spreading unabated when Shaun Cain, driving a northbound cattle truck for Thigpen Cattle Haulers, stopped on his own volition in hopes of containing the grass fire. Shaun crossed the highway with only one thought in mind - doing his part to save the ranchland he knew meant so much to the owner.
Within minutes, the grass fire had consumed 30 yards of highway shoulder - both north and south. During the following seconds, the brisk wind fueled fire crossed through the 8’ deer proof wire fence.
Shaun was not prepared for fire fighting. His only tool being a bath towel. Observing the fire spreading in all directions, Shaun’s next move was to fight the fire as it spread inside the high fence. He scaled the fence, with no concern for his personal safety, and was doing his best when Trooper Rountree arrived. Noticing the young man’s losing, but heroic efforts, Trooper Rountree instructed Shaun to climb back over the fence to safe ground.
Shaun, knowing that help was on the way, returned to his idling truck and proceeded to drive northward to his scheduled destination. It is worth noting that Shaun departed without leaving his name. Trooper Rountree recalled his name was Crane, or something similar, and added he was driving a cattle truck with Thigpen Trucking painted on the door.
Quick action by unsung heroes - Shaun Cain, Trooper Scott Rountree, volunteers from Morgan Mill and the Erath Fire Department, less than two acres of our ranch was burnt. Without further elaboration, miles of ranchland would have been decimated and reduced to charcoal had it not been for our community which unselfishly cares for one another.
Shaun Cain, out of Prairie Lea, Texas, has a wife Kimberly and 5 year old daughter, Mikenna.
I was able to track down Shaun through Thigpen Trucking Company. When I asked him his motivation for helping me, he modestly said—it was just the “thing to do.”
I then asked why he did not leave a contact with Trooper Rountree. After a few minutes of self deliberation, he was reminded of a quote from his grandfather - “A man’s character is defined by the actions he takes when he believes no one else is looking.”
Garner Park Ranch