Sunday, December 13, 2009


We MUST meet again!

It had been a tough week. On Monday, June 22nd, dear Addie-Girl was eased to her next life with the help of dear Dr. Brian’s medicines. She seemed fearful to me and so I had asked Miss April to come and stand by her side to give Addie comfort and strength. Miss April did just that. She eased Addie-Girl’s fears and stood strong while Addie reluctantly put her emaciated body down onto the ground.

Dan was here and her burial was swift given the heat and humidity of the day. Out in the pasture, far from human touch, Addie-Girl was placed at rest. Finally. Free of her fears of humans and their mean and aggressive – even thoughtless – ways to her. Finally, this little mare could rest and relax.

That was Monday. On Wednesday, June 24th, a brief departure from THE FARM for less than two hours yielded a pair of Belgians in the corral. A sickly pair of Belgians. Starved and abused beyond my belief. A little mare with a horrible eye tumor and no body mass to speak of. A dangerous mare that swung her head and struck with her front feet in an attempt to keep cruel and pain-generating humans out of their reach of her. And a huge, chocolate Belgian. Kentucky Jack. I knew this horse. I had seen him pull at a few competitions. A Mahoney horse out of Kentucky. Years ago I had tried to buy this horse. But was turned down. “He’s too much for a little girl like you”, I was told.

I took some comfort in the fact that Kentucky Jack had found his way back to me. My energies immediately went to assessing him and formulating a plan for his recovery. Twelve hours later, however, I saw clearly that the best thing I could do for this gentle, chocolate giant of a horse was to help him cross over. His maggots and his hips were just too far gone. His pain was too present. What loss engulfed me!

And so we spent a day of eating feed and hay and drinking cool, clear water. We spent a day of dressing his wounds and stopping those maggots from biting his leg meat and muscle. We spent a day with a big fan on us in the shade and out of the flies. We spent a day singing to the songs on the radio and generating calm and loving touch on his frightened hide. We spent one last day.

That evening, after the sun had gone down, I took him back out to the corral to join the little mare that had waited so patiently for him that entire day. She hollered for him and he rumbled back. When they met, he scratched her with a fierceness that told me he that knew his time had come. He was loving her and passing onto her his strength. Strength to continue without him. He had been her eyes. He had been her protector. He had been her guide. And he was leaving her.

The next day, Friday, June 26th, he left her. And she mourned. We all mourned.
It was a very, very quiet little patch of land that day as we all grieved the loss of Kentucky Jack. I stood in the corral next to him that Friday afternoon and the tears just poured out of me.

What a waste of a marvelous creature! What a kind soul he was to still be gentle and forgiving after the horrible suffering he had been put through at the hands of humans. Sick humans. Humans that, I told him, would burn in hell for what they had done to him. Even Dr. Brian had been affected. “The suffering that horse has been through...”, he said as he hung and shook his head.

So, it had been a tough week. Addie-Girl's crossing. The arrival of the two Belgians in horrible condition. The crossing of Kentucky Jack. And then being left with a mare that would rather kill me than let me touch her and treat her. It was time to withdraw and regain my center, I told myself. I need some time to get past this and then all will be well again. I’ll be okay. I just need some time alone.
I need to grieve.

It was Monday, June 29th when I walked out of the office in mid-morning and saw them walking down the driveway. An elderly couple, a younger couple, and about four children or so. One child small enough to be carried by the Mother. They were walking back from the barn to their waiting vehicles. I walked outside and asked, “May I help you?”

The young man explained that his parents knew of Refuge Farms and thought he and his family would like to see the place while they were in town. I listened politely but I knew my face showed my lack of tolerance for trespassing. I knew my face wasn’t looking as friendly as my voice was attempting to sound.

I took them on a brief tour – only the old barn – and encouraged them to come back during our public hours on July 4th. I explained that the public hours would have volunteers here so they could meet the horses and hear their stories. I tried to be polite but I had no heart in me. I was still deep in grief and my time to heal had been interrupted.

The families left and I went back deep into my hole. After their departure I realized I had not even given them a brochure or asked them to sign the guest book. It had not been a good visit. I had been intruded upon and my grief, I felt, was written plainly on my face. I needed time to heal. I needed time alone.

A couple of days alone and I am beginning to find my center again. I am working with the “Killer Mare” and trying to get her to trust me. Trying to get her to stop tearing the gates down and the hinge pins right out of the wall. Trying to get close enough to get a lead rope on her filthy, puss-coated halter. Trying to get her used to my voice and associate it with shade and fans and feed and hay and water and a fly mask. After only a week or so, it seemed hopeless. But I had promised Kentucky Jack that I would take care of his little mare. And so I persisted. For Kentucky Jack I persisted.

The following week, I looked up at the sound of tires on the gravel driveway. I recognized the car and the family in the car. It was the family that had “intruded” last week. I had a bit of my center back and so when the eldest daughter approached me, I bent down to look her in the face. I glanced at the rest of the family who stood in waiting as she presented me with a card and a gift.

Dad spoke for them. They had sensed I was in grief. They had sensed I was deeply troubled. And so they had gone home to his parents and gone to the Refuge Farms website. There they had seen the black banner for Addie-Girl on the homepage. There they had read about Kentucky Jack. And, upon arriving today, they had seen the two black flags flying here next to the road sign and they had read my words on the road sign. “You’ve had a tough go of it”, he said. “We are sorry for intruding and wanted you to know we respect your privacy and your need to grieve.”

This time we hugged as they departed. I smiled and waved and thanked them for returning. I confirmed his assumption by saying that the week had been one of the worst. But that there had been a purpose to it. I just couldn’t see the purpose yet.

After they left, I sat in Donna’s swing and read the card. It was addressed to “Sandy & The Herd”. The picture on the front was perfect. Absolutely perfect. It showed a little girl pushing up against boulders that were twenty times her size. No, a hundred times her size. She had her feet planted and the determination was written on her little body as she pushed these boulders that any observer knew she could not budge. The message inside said:

"Dear Sandy -
Thank you for welcoming us even though we dropped in unannounced. I read your blog and realized you have been through a lot lately. You may be feeling like the girl in the picture. Just know that even if you can’t move the stone your effort is NOT in vain. God bless!
Your friends, (Dad) & Elaine”

The gift was a small box. I opened it and fresh, new tears flowed. It was a Willow Tree figurine. A young girl in a plain floor length gown. Standing with her head bowed. Her hands holding a single flower. Standing bare footed and in reverence and respect. The title of the piece is “Remember. Always remember.”

I wanted to thank them. I have wanted to thank them every day since that last visit. But even on that second visit, I did not have them sign the guest book so I don’t even know their names! I can’t make out his name on the card and all I know is the wife’s name is Elaine. There were three or four children and their grandparents are from River Falls. That’s the extent of my knowledge of them.

But they touched me beyond belief with their compassion and support. With their gentle and kind ways. They did more for my healing than all of the time I spent alone. I am glad they dropped in unannounced. Glad they disturbed my quiet time for grieving and healing. I treasure their card and the Willow Tree piece is in my curio cabinet. I look at it and remember Addie-Girl and Kentucky Jack. And I marvel at that “Killer Mare” and what she has become. I would love to send them a CD of Laddee's story so they could see the good that did become of that week. Amidst all of that grief and pain and sorrow.

It had been a tough week. But the unexpected kindness of strangers brought me back to my center again. Thank you, Family. Whoever you are. I pray you or your parents read our blogs from time to time. I would love to hear from you so that I may personally tell you of the gift of strength that you gave to me. And I so want your names. Address, too, if you are willing to share it. The final piece of this story is yet to be played out. We must meet again and I must look you in the face and I must say "Thank you"!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

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