Sunday, November 28, 2010


Volunteers Who Volunteered

My work style tends to be "old fashioned". I went to college in the 1970's before computers and calculators and cell phones. In my classes, the "technology" we were allowed to bring into the classroom was a slide rule and a No. 2 pencil. Not even a mechanical pencil! Period.
No internet access. No laptops or PDA's. Heck, there wasn't an internet to access!

So when I thought about this past week while picking the barns this morning,
I found myself needing to go back to my old fashioned technology. I just now
went to the cupboard and pulled out my dictionary.

Yup, it is a book. A dictionary book. I've had this particular dictionary for years. This hard copy volume with black tabs indented for each letter, gold foiled edges on the pages, and fine quality sheets that feel like silk. This particular book has gone with me to work. It was a mainstay in my office. I took it with me to Oklahoma City when I worked for Andy Durco. And when we began Refuge Farms, I deliberately placed it in the cupboard right next to the desk where all
of the paperwork and computer work for THE FARM is done.

So, this morning I needed to pull out the dictionary. I wanted Old Man Webster's definition of a word. "Volunteer". What does Webster say is a volunteer?

Webster says a volunteer is a noun and comes from the french word "voluntaire". Huh. The primary, or most common, definition is "one who enters into or offers himself for a service of his own free will".

My last step was to research "volunteer" in the other hard copy book I depend upon, the Thesaurus. Many times while writing, I'm searching for a word and cannot find it in my mind. I look up the concept in the thesaurus and eventually,
I'll find exactly the word that applies. Handy tool, this big, heavy book!

The thesaurus tells me that synonyms for "volunteer" are "unpaid helper" and "unpaid assistant". A little more searching in the thesaurus and I find what I'm searching for: a volunteer is one who "freely offers their help". There. That's what I am looking for. A volunteer is someone who freely offers his help with no expectation of payment or recognition. Perfect. Now I can tell you about my week. A week filled with volunteers.

This week saw the first big blast of really cold weather blow in. We had ice, sleet, snow, and winds that would not stop! And we had below zero temperatures. Even without the wind, the thermometer in the barn was below zero late Thursday when I walked my last bed check before retiring for the night.

Throughout the week, I pretty much just stayed focused on cleaning barns, insuring tanks were heated well and topped off, moving small square bales of hay to the big barn, feeding, blanketing horses and then re-blanketing during the night or at the point when the fronts came barreling in. Once the four wheelbarrows that can hold manure were filled to the brims, I had to leave the barn floors alone. It wasn't pretty, but I decided not to start the skid loader for just those four wheelbarrows. Not with the current prices of diesel fuel!

So by Saturday morning, I had four plump full - and now frozen solid! - wheelbarrows of manure and barns that looked more like manure piles than barns! Rosalie called and volunteered - freely offered her help - to clean barns with me.
I warned her how bad it was but she arrived regardless! And, bless her heart, we raked and picked and pried and worked. Six - yes, six! - skid loader buckets later, the barns were spotless and the tanks were topped off once again. Order was restored. Thanks to Rosalie. A volunteer who volunteered.

Earlier in the week, I discovered another gift from a volunteer. I've shared with Pam my technique that I used when I drove semi. The technique was for staying awake and alert while driving. What was this technique? I ate. Yup. M&M peanuts. By the bag. The crunching and eating and motion of my arm to search for just the right one in that bag of candy kept me awake. So, as I told Pam, I use the technique today. When I am returning from a rescue, I am usually cold and tired and somewhere far from home. I have horses in the trailer that are going to need to be sequestered and settled in for the night but first, I have to cover miles to get home.

The heater begins to heat my frozen feet and hands, the snow begins to melt,
and I begin to settle into the seat. I am a bit relieved and relaxed because those frozen little creatures that no one cared for were now in the trailer and I knew their lives would be better from now on. Relief tends to flow over me in waves. And the tears come. It would be so easy just to close my eyes. To rest. But I must drive. And that's when I use my old technique. I eat. Never thinking of calories,
I know that eating will keep me awake and so I eat.

Well, Pam knows this, and so early this fall she left a bag for me. A bag that she said should last me a "rescue or two". I stumbled on this bag again this week as I was moving things in the living room. It wasn't the bag (or the M&M's inside!) that caused me to pause. And smile. But it was the note that I taped to the wall that gave my heart a song to sing. Pam's note simply said:

"For rescue work only!
For outer strength.
And my prayer for your inner strength!"

Pam had listened. And she had volunteered her support in a way that only she can do. I will stay awake. Thanks to Pam. A volunteer who volunteered.

And then Friday, I came home from work long after the sunset. It was still raw outside and I was concerned about little Gracie out in the wind and PONY! and Appaloosa Mare and Blaise. These fragile ones get so cold so quickly and it takes so long to warm them up again. I needed to get changed and out to the barns quickly.

Dropping my armful on the kitchen island, my focus was on changing clothes, getting my boots and jacket on, grabbing the dogs, and heading out to the barns.
I looked for an empty spot on the island and then I saw a note. And I stopped and read the note. My smile and my heart told me to pause and appreciate this person.

Colleen had been to THE FARM on Friday. She had driven out with a car full of cardboard for my wood stove fires and pet carriers of all sizes. The purpose for the carriers was to attempt to catch the two feral kittens living in the hay in the old barn. We had been talking and really wanted to capture these two before they became too old to "humanize" and we also wanted to see if there were only two! Last year we had captured two and a few days later, out came their little brother. Cold and hungry and easy to catch with just a little food.

So, Colleen came armed with carriers and cat food and she spent the morning trying to coax the two little ones into a carrier. No such luck. The mama cat must still be coming around because they were interested in the food but not desperate. So, Colleen left all of her goodies for the cats and stopped at the antique store on her way home to update me on the morning's efforts.

Into the store she walked. Arms full of lunch from Culver's. Bless her heart. She knows me well. We sat and ate and talked and every once in a while, I waited on a customer. Traffic was slow and so it gave us some time to catch up and strategize on how to catch these two little kittens.

She left to go home and I thought nothing more of her visit until I walked into the kitchen. Then I saw a box on the island with this note from Colleen lying on top of the box:


My only Black Friday shopping was for a Refuge Farms donation. Here's a Back-Up Drive for the computer!

It's 1500 GB - mine is just 250 GB and I have lots of room! But this way you should easily have plenty of room! If you fill this, I think your computer would explode! Hee-hee!


Bless her huge heart. This is something that we need but the money never seems to materialize. And so we continue to play the odds. And Colleen knows the risk of losing our files. She knows how I back up to multiple CD's to insure that all would not be lost. And she knows the age and fragility of the computer we run Refuge Farms upon. She knows it is just a matter of time before THE computer failure will happen. And so she fixed it.

And because of her big heart, I will spend this evening opening the sizable "Seagate FreeAgent Desk External Drive" box and reading installation instructions. Then I will proceed to setup the backup procedure to automatically create a backup every Sunday evening at 11pm. And one of those nagging little things that needs to be done will be erased from the back of my mind. Backups will be completed. Thanks to Colleen. A volunteer who volunteered.

And so as I reflect on this week, I remember the cold. The Thanksgiving holiday. The prayers I prayed for those standing in the cold with no shelter, no blanket, and no food in their stomachs to keep them warm. And I think of the volunteers.

I think of Rosalie and her freely giving of her time and her energy. I think of Pam and her freely giving of her support and her knowing how I will need to stay awake. And I think of Colleen and her wisdom. And her effort needed to rise so early and fight those crowds to help Refuge Farms avoid a crisis.

Today I say an extra prayer of thanksgiving. For the volunteers. Those who "freely offer their help". There are many volunteers. And each one with each talent and skill is needed to keep this organization humming. So to each of you - whether you be a "formal" volunteer or someone in the wings or somewhere in between. Whether you be a newbie or an "old-timer" with THE FARM or somewhere in between. Whether you be a horse person or not. Thank you. Thank you for freely offering your help. I and the horses are grateful. And I work hard every single day to be worthy of your support.

May you reap the rewards of your giving. May you know the peace of sharing. And may you be rewarded in this world - and the next - for the kindness of your hearts.

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

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