Wet and wild rodeo: FHS alums help save animals in Texas

Published 4:19 am Saturday, September 2, 2017

Two former Franklinton High School Demons, Connor Ackerman and Ethan Pittman, have a rather unusual Hurricane Harvey rescue story to tell. The two friends, along with Ashleigh Young, recently rescued flood-endangered livestock in Texas.

“Ethan, Ashleigh, and I decided we were tired of sitting around doing nothing and just watching all of this unfold before our eyes,” Ackerman said. “I got a call from Ethan yesterday morning (Wednesday, Aug. 30) asking what I was doing. He said he was loading up the boat and headed out and wanted to know if I wanted to go with them.

“Our first stop was Orange, Texas, which is the first place we saw boats in the water, so we just put in wherever we could. After we found that there were plenty of boats in the water and people helping, we got word that Port Arthur, Texas was undermanned and needed help bad. We had to look at maps and make multiple phone calls to people we knew, to try and find a route around Beaumont, Texas.

“Once we finally found our way around flooded I-10, having to take the westbound lane to go east, we got to Port Arthur and found a man wading in a flooded field alone. He was trying to catch his horses and cows, so we stopped to try and help them. We figured that’s where we would help where others couldn’t, with Ethan and Ashleigh both being on the McNeese rodeo team.”

Ackerman piloted, while Pittman was on the front of the boat trying to rope horses, and Young gave Ackerman directions, because he couldn’t see what was under the water while he was operating the boat.

“She was also tying halters out of ropes to tie them up once we caught them,” Ackerman said. “Once we got them all together, we had to lead them down the highway. Ethan was leading the two cows, and Ashleigh was helping the other man with his two horses and donkey while I drove the truck behind them until we found someone with a trailer to load the animals into.

“After that, we left Port Arthur and went to Sour Lake, Texas, as more people with boats started to come into Port Arthur. Once in Sour Lake, we put the boat in the water and moved down a ways looking for people and ended up finding a horse tied to the ground with its head barley above the water.

“Ashleigh and I cut the horse free as Ethan maneuvered the boat into the small space we had to get to the horse.”

When they got the horse to the middle of the road, which was still flooded with water to the horse’s belly, the horse refused to move anymore.

“Ashleigh decided to get in the water with the horse to keep it calm and walked about a half a mile as Ethan and I took turns giving the horse a push from behind on the boat,” Ackerman said. “We were unable to get that horse all the way to safety, unfortunately, but we did get him out of deep water and we gave him a better chance than he had tied up with his head barley above water.”

When Ackerman had returned home, he added a message relating to what the hometown trio did for the animals.

“People need to understand that it isn’t just people that need saving out there,” he said. “Everything and everyone needs help out there.”