The day started off with grey skies, chilling drizzle and wind. And a call alerting us to the poor health of our Appaloosa mare Chinoek. “Collicky,” our manager warned. The vet was coming. At the stable we peered into a stall at a long brown and white speckled face. Chinoek, at 30, was no longer the proud, galloping steed who, with a flick of her head, could back off the herd. She had been given medicine to settle her stomach. She wore a navy blue blanket. She gazed at us sadly, then limped to the bars of the stall, to Burton and me in turn. We each reached in to give her a gentle scratch. She lumbered to the center of her stall, bent her arthritic legs and heaved with a thud to the sawdust laden floor.
That day we had agreed to host a trail ride on our farm as a fundraiser for The Front Porch restaurant in Ellsworth, MI, a tiny town hard hit by the last recession. The Front Porch is unique and not just for its yummy American fries. Begun and supported by several local churches, it operates on an unusual basis. Diners pay what they can for breakfast and lunch–sometimes more; sometimes zero. When only a few riders signed up for the trail ride, it was postponed–fortunately since it was a sad day around the barn.
Part of the event was a raffle. A $500 cash prize was donated. By the day of the drawing, all 1000 tickets were sold. Additional donations raised a total of $7000. John, manager of the Hastings Funeral Home in Ellsworth and past president of The Front Porch, was the star ticket seller. Early on he’d tried selling a ticket to a local man. It was against his religion to gamble, the man said. “Don’t look at it as gambling,” John parried. “It’s a charity donation.” The man reached for his wallet. John started to write his name on the ticket. The man objected.
John had recently conducted a funeral for someone who died in his young 50s, leaving behind a wife and six children. The widow was struggling to support her family. John wrote her name on the ticket. Others joined in this effort, without ever informing the possible recipient. By the end of the raffle, John had racked up 670 ticket sales.
The drawing took place at our barn. The winner turned out to be a retired woman who’d taught in the Ellsworth schools, as had her husband. Their son was getting married soon. She was thrilled to save the money for the church wedding.
Sara, the large animal vet, showed up. Burton met her at Chinoek’s stall. I didn’t have the heart to join him. Winter was approaching. Chinoek was suffering. Sara had put down her sister the day before at a different barn. She recommended the same for Chinoek.
Burton returned to the farmhouse and told me what had happened. I said, “This morning when Chinoek came over to each of us, I had the feeling she was saying, ‘Goodbye.’”
“So did I,” Burton said. “I mentioned it to Sara. She said, ‘I don’t think she was saying goodbye. I think she was saying thank you.’”
Now, it’s your turn …
Please send me your Godsign stories, big and small, about humans or animals. And, please, share this story with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook icons or the envelope-shaped email icons. Invite friends to share their stories, too.
(And special thanks to jumpinghooves for the photo, today.)