As floodwaters forced some South Carolinians to evacuate in Hurricane Florence’s aftermath, the man known as the “Hurricane Cowboy” rode into dangerous areas to save abandoned animals.
In the past week, Patrick Mckann, a 42-year-old Virginia horse trainer, said he and his friends have rescued six horses, two donkeys, around 14 guinea fowl and lots of chickens threatened by the disaster’s encroaching waters.
Mckann — who got his nickname helping folks in Texas after Hurricane Harvey last year — and longtime friend Travis Holstein traveled a week ago to Burgaw, North Carolina, to join the rescue efforts.
Arriving in the town north of Wilmington, they met up with other volunteers from Harvey, Sean Irion and Malachai Huffman.
Together, the men were intent on going to hard-hit areas to save animals that otherwise would have drowned or starved.
“We just do what we can do,” Mckann told CNN.
Rather than waste their time in meetings with other volunteers, the men took a traditional cowboy approach to their rescue work, he said.
“As cowboys we just said let’s get in a huddle and say, ‘You get a rope, I’ll do this and get a handle this way,’ ” he said.
In Burgaw, a veterinarian whose truck had been engulfed in the flooding reached out for help, so the men took Mckann’s horse trailer and answered the call.
“The vet had sank her truck in high water,” he said. “(While) they checked on her, we roped two donkeys.
“We pulled them back to safety,” he said. “They actually pulled us for a while.”
‘That’s him! That’s the Hurricane Cowboy!’
Mckann has been around animals all his life and “cowboying” since he was a kid, he told CNN. At 5, he started riding auction horses and then at 14, race horses. By the time he was 17, he had moved on to broncos and bulls.
But it wasn’t until Hurricane Harvey that he earned his moniker.
“I bought a new truck and was listening to CNN on Sirius radio,” the former bull rider said. “They were talking about flooding and people down there (in the Houston area). I had this new truck and a trailer … so that’s when I said, ‘Well, I guess I’m going down there.’ ”
With the trailer full of supplies donated by friends and other community members, Mckann packed up and drove 1,200 miles to southeast Texas, where he said he helped rescue cows, horses and chickens.
He even drove home to Virginia, picked up more supplies and brought them back.
“We put about 25,000 miles on (the new truck),” he said, between the two trips and driving around the Lone Star State.
Mckann was loading up his trailer on a return trip to Virginia when he overheard a woman telling a volunteer she wanted to give her donations to the “Hurricane Cowboy.”
“You know, the cowboy that loads up his truck and takes it down himself,” Mckann recalls the woman saying.
That’s when she turned around and saw Mckann standing there. “That’s him!” she said, according to Mckann. “That’s the Hurricane Cowboy!”
The nickname stuck.
On the road again
After helping the vet in Burgaw, Mckann and his fellow cowboys wanted to head to the next town in need. They quickly realized animals in Conway, South Carolina, were in trouble.
With rivers converging in the inland town near Myrtle Beach — and news reports indicating conditions could get worse — the Hurricane Cowboy and his team wanted to focus their efforts there.
“We took a few minutes, looked at a map, figured out where the water would be high,” he said.
Once in Conway, they went straight to work after a man told them that three of his horses were trapped. He was afraid they would drown, Mckann said. It was the perfect chance for the rescuers to put their skills to the test.
They had to walk 4 miles, Mckann said, mostly in floodwater. But they managed to ride the three horses out to safety.
A local news outlet did a story on them, and residents began reaching out.
One call came from an older couple who said they had to leave their animals behind, Mckann said. He and his friends made the miles-long journey to the couple’s house by boat, tractor and then by foot — at one point walking in water up to Mckann’s chest, he said.
The men found three horses, one of which was unbroken, Mckann said. But he managed to get things under control, and they saved all three, he said.
On Friday night, Mckann headed back to Virginia to pick up more donations with Holstein. He pledges to return to the flood-ravaged region — either to Conway or Lumberton, North Carolina — to drop off supplies as soon as they can get back.
He said he’s only too glad to lend a hand to “these little towns no one helps.”
“People forget about them,” he said.
“We’re just cowboys out here doing our job.”