Thursday, December 24, 2009



I was just in the barns on this Christmas Eve. All is quiet. The rain has stopped and snow is finally falling. The horses are extraordinarily calm. The radios in the barns are playing Christmas music as I feed and move among them and talk with them. Touch them and assure them that I love them. Feed them the special treat which is now a Christmas Eve tradition for me and The Herd, whoever that may be as these years pass by. These horses give to me, on this Christmas Eve, the calm and peace and joy of the season. I am grateful on this warm, snowy night.

My ears hear an old familiar song and I am once again back in Homecroft, Minnesota as a child. Busily doing child chores in the living room as I ready the house for Christmas. Mom is in the kitchen readying a meal for all of us when Dad arrives home from snow plowing. When, on that old console radio, I hear my favorite Christmas song of all time. I begin to sing along since I knew all the words - every single word. Who did not know those words? Read on and see if you don't recognize the song, too. The first line should give it away . . . .

"C" is for the Christ Child, born upon this day. Yes, the "C" in Christmas is the very reason that this holiday is even celebrated. The birth of a leader. A leader of the world born among the common people. A birth in a lowly manger. Out in the cold of the night. In a barn amidst the cows and the sheep and probably, a mule. In the straw. Not even a bed.

This year, I don't think the Christ Child would mind if we also made "C" for Cole, too. The old leader of Refuge Farms has just crossed and his vacancy is still so new and so very obvious. The absence of his whiny is still loud. And the noise of his rambunctious antics is still too vacant.
On this silent night, "C" is for the Christ Child. And "C" is for Cole, too.

"H" is for hope. In this world all around us, I fear we are misplacing our hope. Misplacing our faith. Misplacing our upward trust. Whatever it is that is "upward" for you, that hope must remain and must prevail. Whether it be God or Buddha or Allah or Mother Nature or The Great Spirit or your dog or your horse. Whatever it is that is the Faith Source to you, may you find your hope and faith renewed this Christmas Season. May your hope become strong within you and fight to spread itself out through you. Remember that a human reaps what he sows. Let us not become weary in doing good, for when we cross we will reap the harvest of our works. Let us have hope and faith and do good to all people.

"R" is for rescue. It is what we are. It is what we do. A word that describes our actions but also describes our purpose. We rescue. We go out in the worst weather. In fact, the worst of the weather is when the need for our services is at its greatest. We are a rescue. A shelter and a safe place for those whose lives have been brutal and neglectful. Those who are old and blind and of "no good use anymore". Rescue. It is what we are. And it is what we do.

It is not a fancy or well recognized purpose. It certainly isn't a popular or financially supportive purpose. But the rewards are those that cannot be priced. The saving of a life, even for one day, is worth more to those who rescue than any donation check. To help one cross rather than lie there to wait for the end. To console and sing in the ear rather than have only the sound of the wind and the approaching varmints. We do not ask age or breed or personality. We go.
We rescue. Because our hearts demand we go. Rescue. It is what we are. It is what we do.

"I" is for intensity. This world of rescue is intense, to put it mildly. We deal with the results of what humans can create. We smell the filth and the rot. We hear the moans and we hear the calls and their cries. We see the sores and the maggots and the wounds. We shake our heads at the weakness and the skeletons so visible under the thin, torn hides.

But we also see the spirits and the determination of these creatures to survive. Their wills to live are strong. Their wills to live are intense. And our call to rescue is equally as intense. To meet them partway and to receive them. To support them. And to adore them. To celebrate and revere them. This world of rescue is intense, to put it mildly.

"S" is for the stories. Their stories. The stories of what their lives were before the rescue. The stories of the rescue. And then the stories of the magic they have worked while here. Their stories are their lessons. Their teachings. Their legacies. How many times have we told the story of Big Guy? How many times will we tell the stories of Ole' Man Cole?
The stories - their stories - are their purpose. In the stories are their lessons. Their destinies. So we tell the stories and in telling the stories, they never die. They live on with us through their stories.

"T" is for The Three Promises. Given with tears. Given with a heart so full of hope and love and dreams that it becomes difficult to breath. Given with a vow to keep those three promises. Those gifts. To keep them until they decide it is time to let them go. The Three Promises are solemn and righteous. Not given lightly. Not given as theatrics. Given as solemn oaths to a creature from a creature. The Three Promises. Something to hold onto. And something
to work for. Something to count on. And something to trust.

"M" is for miracles. The miracles they work in our hearts. In the barns. In each other. To see a killer mare become a peace giver. To see a fearful huge one become interested and curious in these little humans and now so readily approach them. To see one who could not be tied stand quietly while tied. To see the one who has sore feet relate and communicate to the young man who uses the wheelchair. To see the miracles that love and calm and safety and routine can provide. Miracles. They are visible in these barns from these horses every, single day.

"A" is for Andy Durco, Jr. The man who began this whole thing we now call Refuge Farms. The man, who with his simple challenge, created a sanctuary where miracles happen. Where promises are given. Where hope resides and faith guides our decisions. Where stories are made. And where rescue is a way of life.

My dear Andy, did you know? Did you know what you were creating? I wonder if you did. And yes, I wonder if you didn't. But, my dear Andy, I am grateful to you and for your challenge. Now fully immersed in this world of rescue, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. Doing anything else. Did you know I was lost, Andy? Did you know? And do you know now that I am found? Do you know? Thank you, my dear friend. Thank you.

"S" is for the season. A season of smiles and hugs. A season of strangers holding doors for strangers. A season of goodwill and good deeds. Of giving and caring.
Of hope and faith. Of humming songs while you work or shop. A season that, this year, is my prayer. May this season last beyond December 25th. May this season reside in our hearts the whole year long.

With a full and grateful heart, I wish each of you a peaceful, loving, and joyful Merry Christmas. God bless you and your loved ones as He has certainly blessed me. May your heart be filled with love and the true meaning of Christmas today, tomorrow, and forever more. Pray for peace. Amen.

Enjoy the journey of this very Special Day,
Sandy and The Herd

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