Editor's note: Kevin introduces you to rancher Bill Brooks on tonight's broadcast. He filed this blog post to supplement his on-air report, which will be available as text and video at Nightly.MSNBC.com at 7:30 p.m. ET.
On the Colorado plains the wind bites so cold it reaches right through your winter gear and rips your lungs out. They say they haven't seen a winter like this out here forever, and with back-to-back blizzards much of the state continues to dig its way out. Four feet of snow has fallen in some places, along with several inches of ice. The January winds managed to create drifts 10-12 feet high.
Buried under the weight of winter is much of Colorado's beef industry, and dead, frozen cattle dot what otherwise is a barren, white landscape. Newly minted Colorado Governor Bill Ritter even told us he's heard from ranchers that some herds sought shelter in canyons that were 50 feet deep, only to be completely buried in the snow and suffocate. It's estimated more than 10,000 head have already perished, and the price of beef is expected to rise as a result.
What's perhaps doubly sad for ranchers this time of year is that the calving season is underway, and many are losing the bulk of their newborns.
Bill Brooks' family has raised cattle in Colorado for nearly 100 years... four generations still work the farm. They've already lost 25 of 35 calves to the cold.
"If they were born in the snow, we'd try to pick them up to keep them warm," he says, "but if we're not here... they don't make it."
Many ranchers are either a) out of hay, b) have cattle still lost or stranded in the snow, c) facing financial ruin or d) all of the above.
Still, as only someone involved in agriculture can be, Brooks remains stoic.
"I saw a sign somewhere that said 'I'm an optimist. An optimist is someone who thinks things can't get any worse than they are right now.'"
And spring is still two months down the road.