They stacked the flatbed high with hay bales and loaded their gear boxes with chokers and chains in hopes of finding some Texas oil-drilling equipment to haul back to Montana.

Driver Billy Percifield gave one final crank on each load strap, throwing his body weight onto the ratchet bar until his face reddened and the veins in his forehead resembled fault lines on a topographical map. The 1,400 miles from farmer Howdy Hildebrand’s hay pasture to the heart of the Texas drought is an odyssey the men have come to know well.

“Up until about a week ago, I was getting about six phone calls a day,” Hildebrand says. “I’ve got guys calling us wanting us to haul round bales,” which normally wouldn’t be hauled more than a few miles because of the way they hang off the sides of the trailer.

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