crates full of blankets left at the back door.....
a grocery bag of supplies with a Christmas note on the back rug.....
cash left at the antique store for Refuge Farms.
It seems to be happening more and more and so, in all optimism and hope, I'm going to start sharing the instances for all to read. So that you, too, can feel the support and love of the people for our Missions and our efforts.
So maybe I'm getting caught up in the Spirit of The Season. Maybe I'm seeing only the good. But honestly, I believe I'm seeing the appreciation for our work, the realization that we are solid and steady and doing our best, and the generosity and kindness of strangers.
Read on to hear what is happening to me and here at THE FARM. And please share those that are happening to you! It is, after all, a small world filled with people just like us trying to do the very best they can. Find joy in these simple acts that speak volumes!
It is December 26th and I am scheduled to work at the antique store in Menomonie from 10am to 5pm. Typically, this is a slow day at the store because everyone is at the malls and the big stores! In that anticipation, I've brought four boxes of items to clean, sort, mark, and put in our booth. This would be a good day's work and I would be thrilled if I could get these four boxes emptied.
HAH! As usual, the best laid plans go somewhere else! It is a busy day with steady traffic all day long. We sell several hundred of dollars in items from throughout the store and the four boxes I brought in sit quietly waiting for another time. It's okay. I am, after all, at the store to work, aren't I?
At 5pm, I bring in the sidewalk signs and start to shut down the lights, lock the doors, and close up the store. There is one customer still in the store and she is shopping downstairs. Not a problem as I have at least ten minutes of desk work to do before I need her to check out. Not wanting to be rude, I work on these tasks until she appears upstairs, ready to pay for her treasures.
When she realizes we are closed, she is apologetic. I tell her not to worry! I have tons of work to do! And, I comment, it isn't too cold outside so the horses are fine until I get there.
We begin to talk. You have horses? Yes, several. What kind? Well, all kinds. I work at a rescue not far from Menomonie. Oh, a rescue? Which one? Refuge Farms, just over by Spring Valley. Oh, the one with the horse needing his eyes removed? The one working on the rescue up north? Yes, that's us. Refuge Farms.
We continue to talk as I ring up her items. It is a modest amount due that she pays for with a crisp $50 bill. I count back her change and help her to the door, since I have locked it. From her wallet, she pulls a second crisp $50 bill. I notice this but move and pick up her items that I have carefully wrapped and start to walk with her to the door.
Partway to the door she stops. Looks me in the eye and says, "Here. Merry Christmas to you and those horses", as she hands me the $50 bill.
Of course, tears well up in my eyes as I look and clumsily say my appreciation and my thanks for her generosity. She just smiles and says, "They deserve it. And you deserve it. Merry Christmas." With that kind gesture, she turns and walks out of the store at a brisk pace.
Yes, they deserve it. And many thanks to this mysterious woman who touched me so deeply on that dark, winter evening in a little antique store in Menomonie, WI. Merry Christmas, for sure!
Thank you, Ma'am. Whoever you are. Know that it wasn't the size of the gift that has left the mark on me. It was your gesture. Your act of kindness. Not expecting anything in return. Just feeling the need to help and so you did. Without asking for a reward or even a receipt. A pure and genuine act of support.
It is Wednesday, January 23rd, and it is frigid outside. PONY! is scheduled to return home from the semi-heated stall at the U of M on Thursday. I must wash his blanket so it can hang in the shower and be thoroughly dry before we need to bundle him in it for his journey back to reality at home!
The Spring Valley laundromat is usually empty in midday. Not today, however. On this particular Wednesday there is a handsome young lady with baskets and baskets and baskets of her family's laundry to wash, dry, and fold. I could tell by the amount of clothing she was sorting and the paperwork she had with her to occupy her time that she would spend the majority of the day in this little building.
I brought in PONY!'s blanket and detached the leg straps, opened the blanket fully, and placed it into the extra-extra-extra large washing machine. It would be noisy as the buckles clanked against the glass and so I apologized for interrupting her quiet time.
This beautiful woman just smiled at me and asked, "How do you keep the horses warm in weather like this?" I replied with a series of statements: plenty of hay in front of them, always keeping the stock tanks filled with clean water, closing them in on the brutal nights like last Saturday night, and making hot pulp and feed for the older ones to be fed every 3 hours for the duration. I told her it was a ton of work but that it was what needed to be done to care for them. And we promised we would care for them and so we did what was needed to keep that promise. And then I added that clean blankets were needed so that they could provide as much wind protection and heat as possible to our horses.
I asked if she had ever been to THE FARM and she said she had. She also said that she enjoyed reading the newsletters when they came to her. She read them cover to cover, she said.
My response was to encourage her to return. She and her children! We have little horses and an entire herd of horses that love children - bring the children! It will be a fun when the grass is green and the earth is finally warm again!
This woman smiled at me as I added the laundry soap to PONY!'s blanket. The clanking began and I muttered another apology and then turned to leave - always in a hurry to run errands, it seemed.
On my way to the door, the woman approached me. Do you work at the rescue? she asked me. Yes, I do, I replied. Well here then, she said as she pressed a roll of quarters into my hands. Here then. The next blanket to be washed is on my children and me.
It was Wednesday, January 30th and we were busy preparing for the coldest air yet. Colder than the 4 year record breaking cold we had experienced just ten days ago. Frigid cold with winds, of course.
I was scrambling to clean blankets, dry blankets, fill feed tanks, get heated water buckets hung and working, and working out the locations of every head so that there was not a second spent thinking or planning when the cold hit. It should be just a matter of execution when the temps begin to fall.
Stockman's Farm Supply is the keeper of our feed. I had already filled the feeders with Roman's Purina Equine Senior and so we needed SafeChoice and a new supply of beet pulp for Duchess, RockMan, and Big Handsome. These three struggled in the cold and their "hot oatmeal mash" that I served them every 2 hours during the nights seemed to help them get through the worst of it. I had yet to see anything left in the buckets so I was preparing for another round of servings.
At the sales counter, I looked at my list and reminded myself to add "beet pulp" to the sales ticket.
"Already done", was the reply. That's odd, I thought, since I hadn't mentioned it yet. At least I didn't think I had but then I knew my brain was "fried" and so I just let the comment slide.
Paying for the receipt, I thought it looked light. I checked the receipt and then, I thought, corrected the salesperson that the beet pulp wasn't on the ticket. "I know", she said, "already done". And handed me a receipt.
The receipt was for two bags of premium beet pulp shavings. Bought and paid for a few days prior. Someone knew what was coming and someone knew we would need the materials to make the oatmeal mash. Someone listens and tries, in her way, to relieve some of the stress of the frigid air.
On Sunday I stopped at Stockman's and purchased one of their dented cans of interior paint for $5 (!!) to paint our new try-on room at THE STORE. While I was there, I thought I would stop at the shoe counter and check on my summer Redwing Work Boots . . . . .
Several months ago, I brought in my summer work boots for repair or return. I didn't care which. All I cared about was getting my relatively new Redwing Work Boots back to the point of being able to wear them.
What was wrong with them? The gel-style sole on the $189 boots has simply disintegrated. It had cracked, disappeared, crumbled, and basically looked like the loaf of bread I had baked earlier in the summer. Yuck.
What would Redwing do about these boots? They had not lasted a summer let alone the usual 3 to 4 years I get out of them. That's why I buy them! Because they hold up, give good support, and last!
Each time I had checked since last fall, the woman I was working with was evasive and seemed not to want to talk to me. So I just let it ride. Yesterday, however, it was just she and me in the shoe department and here is what she said:
"You have a full exchange coming. A new pair of boots. Whenever you want them just come in and you have a new pair of boots."
My response was a WHOOPPEE!!!! Redwing came through, eh?
This woman then told me the story . . .
The week that Rex Stockman, the original owner of Stockman's Farm Supply, had passed away there was a large article on him in the Spring Valley newspaper. It seems that week, as well, was my monthly article. This woman told me that I had written the story of the retrieval of Big Guy. We both stood quietly for a moment as we remembered that horse and the horrid story of his journey that led him to Refuge Farms.
She said that when she read that story, she knew that someday she would be able to help us. Today, she said, she knew how to help us. No, Redwing had not come through. But she was. This was why she had not wanted to tell me when others were around. This woman was replacing the boots that protect my feet because she had loved Big Guy. And because, in his honor, she would like to make sure that having a good pair of boots was not a worry. "You have more to worry about than where you are going to find a pair of summer barn boots!"
Sometimes the love and support of others leaves me with only a hug and a small, little "thank you" whispered in their ear.
Last Friday, a woman visited THE STORE for the first time. She nosed through our items and purchased several lace tablecloths from one of our dealer's booth. We began talking about her use for the linens and she disclosed that her daughter was getting married and she was going to make the flower girl's dress from old linens.
She then asked about the wicker daybed we have in the booth right next to our checkout area. We talked about it and how rare it was and she asked if we had a mattress for it. I told her no, but there would have been one - probably out of old ticking material - when it lived on a porch in a late 1800's house.
Then, to my surprise, she said, "I'll make you a mattress for it. No, I'll make it for the horses."
So, this stranger is at her house constructing a mattress for our wicker daybed. She thinks if the daybed has a mattress it will be more attractive and will sell better - and that will help the horses.
The kindness of strangers comes right when you need it the most.
Tracy came over yesterday afternoon and helped me tape the tops of 1100 breakfast invitations and then affix 1100 mailing labels to those newly-taped invites. We applied the labels in zip code order so minimal sorting was required. WHAM! We were done!
Or so I thought!
I brought my paperwork (2 pages worth) and the invites to the post office this morning and ran into a new rule: both sides of every invite also needs to be secured with a tab or tape. That's another 2,200 tapes! And the invites HAD to go out today!!
I told the PostMaster that I would stand in the post office, if that was okay, and get them taped so they could go out on today's truck. Took off my jacket and started the process averaging about 3 invites per minute. You can do the math.
Next thing I knew, a woman I had never ever met stepped up next to me. She had her jacket already off and said:
"I can never make it to one of your breakfasts and so I'll help you tape. That way I'm helping out with this breakfast."
Unbelievable! We stood for almost 2 hours and talked about dogs and cats and ferrets and kids and life in general. Her name is Judy and she is a dear one. We taped until we ran out of tape and only 20 or so invites remained.
Thank you, Judy! Your random act of support is so very appreciated and allowed our invitations to, in fact, get mailed today. Many thanks from the horses and me!!!
Late on this Friday afternoon in mid-May, a woman walked into THE STORE and said, "Good! I found you!"
I welcomed her to THE STORE and asked if she had experienced difficulty in finding THE STORE? She replied that she had gone to 320 Main Street and was told we were in 230 Main Street. So yes, she had needed to walk a block in the rain to find us but she did it!
We chatted a bit and she shopped. As I made her change for her purchase of a Refuge Farms Anniversary T-Shirt, she told me she rarely - almost NEVER - wore a shirt with anything on it: Nike, Polo, anything! She said she was not a billboard and refused to wear such clothing.
BUT, she said . . . "I drive by your horses everyday on my way to work and your horses always look so well - happy and calm and content. And so because I appreciate what you do, I'll wear your t-shirt in honor of Refuge Farms and as my way of thanking you for what you do for all the horses."
My response? I came around the counter and quietly whispered "thank you" as we hugged.
Here is one that came from within our very own selves . . .
Sunday morning was warmer and damp and so I gave everyone time outside before hooking to feed while we took Big Boy out to play. My first stop was the old barn for The Big Ones and so I putz'd a little bit to insure the cats were set and I then closed the door and headed to the big barn.
Lying in the hay on the south side was none other than Liz-Beth. In that all-too-familiar pose of being trapped in the hay. I hollered to her to tell her I was coming and snapped into action.
My heart sank. It had been over a year since I had needed to help her get up and so I couldn't be too disappointed but the fears of hurting her swelled up in my throat again. My heart was beating and the noise in my ears was loud. Dang it! I HATED getting her up!!
I got the garage open, the skid loader started, and headed out with the long strap to get her ready. My first 10 steps were engrossed in prayer and then I looked up.
Liz-Beth was standing in the hay looking for me and asking what in the H was taking me so long? Why did I get her up when she was so comfortable if I was going to do something else before coming down to feed her!
I hollered my joy to her and said another loud prayer of Thanksgiving! Liz-Beth was up and all was put back as if I had never panicked.
This act of support came from Dr. Anne, the meds, the time that has passed to help heal her body, and from Liz-Beth herself. Truly, she is my model. She is so strong and resilient and determined. I want to be like Liz-Beth!
A dear Friend of THE FARM stopped at THE STORE today. She was hard to see as a large bag of wafer horse treats hid her face from me. But something about the Parelli logo on her cap told me exactly who was in our store!
We chatted and as she prepared to leave, she looked deeply into my soul and said, "It's going to take a long time to leave this winter behind you."
With those simple words, I felt a kinship and recognized another Human Being that understood these past few months. She knows that it will not be simply the first spring day of sunshine and warm breezes that scabs over this huge wound. She knows that even in the heat of summer I will still have pictures in my mind, regrets in my heart, and sorrow to express. She knows that this winter left scars, inflicted pains, and many were born silently or simply with The Herd.
Thank you for seeing "it" and for seeing me. Thank you for expressing your understanding. And as I replied to you, I now know that we've survived. I knew that hugging you would affirm for me that we had made it. Maybe not in a pretty fashion. Maybe with a ton of scabs and bruises. Maybe not as whole as we were going into the winter, but we made it.
Earlier this week, a local woman entered THE STORE for the first time. She meandered through the sales floor and then she paused at the front counter. I took that as my cue and began asking her if she had ever been to THE FARM? Has she heard of Refuge Farms? Did she remember when Refuge Farms had a monthly article in the Dunn County News?
Yes, she used to read the stories of the horses and the antics at Refuge Farms. She has been there but it has been a few years. In fact, she said, there was a very sick mare there the last time she was there. A mare that was heading into surgery even though we couldn't handle her yet. That horse, I told her, was dear Laddee, the Little Belgian Mare.
So we told some horse stories and she asked if I had seen the movie, "My Friend, Flicka". I confessed to her that I had not seen Flicka, Black Velvet, or any of the classics! It told her the last horse movie I had seen was SeaBiscuit and THAT was a movie! We chatted a bit and then she left THE STORE.
And so just who showed up today? In the snow and the rain? This very woman came in to town with a single destination - THE STORE. In her hands was a DVD of "My Friend, Flicka". "Here", she said. "Sit one evening with some popcorn and enjoy yourself! Getting lost in a movie is grand therapy!"
I am so excited! I'm going to the movies this weekend! A classic filmed in 1943 starring the very, very young Roddy McDowall. Because of the kindness of this woman, I am going to escape and watch a classic featuring a beautiful little colt and his human friend, a young boy. Oh, my! I wonder if I even have any popcorn!!!
Yesterday began as a "normal" day at THE FARM - hook, feed, medicate, clean wounds, check ulcers, release with hugs of love and then attack the "TO DO LIST" that had to be completed by the time I rested.
I managed to get the cares of the horses completed!
The telephone rang and it was the coordinator of the K-Mart teardown in Menomonie. There were display units and an entire jewelry display set sitting in the store. No one had purchased them and if I could get them torn down and out of their store that day (Tuesday), Refuge Farms could take what it could use. HOLEY MOLEY!!!
I didn't even bother to change clothes! I grabbed some bungies, some tools, some old blankets and headed to their store. By 1pm I had four (4) display units in our store and my eye on that jewelry display set - which consisted of a 5' glass case, 2 4' glass cases, and a corner glass case. An entire run of glass cases! Complete with locks and no missing doors!
My mind raced with who would be willing to help me at least get them into the truck so I could abide by their needs of getting the items out of their store. One call, and a fellow retailer in Menomonie was there by 4pm to help me. By 5pm, we had the entire display in my truck (thanks to the help of Charles, who was a member of the crew and willing to help lift them!).
Once at THE STORE, Jan called his son who came directly from work and the pieces are sitting on our floor - intact and with no broken parts!
What a grand random act of support! We now have the cases we need to properly display our beautiful jewelry! AND some of our existing cases will now be available to add to the layout for Bonita's Boutique!
I am thrilled. Sore and tired but thrilled! Today, I hope to get the corner unit in place and the layout for the other units planned out. Also, I'll make room for one of our old cases to fit into the boutique area. How exciting!!!
Thank you, K-Mart! Thank you so much for thinking of us!!!
And now . . . . when to focus on that list??
PS - The price tags on the pieces total $850 - not counting the free piece to the set that she just "threw in for the horses".
Yesterday was a day PACKED with tasks to be completed - hook and feed, move round bales, fill tanks, unload the first load of hay, and then pick up a donation of two (not just one!) pickup loads of furniture for THE STORE. Whew!
The woman who donated the furniture, bless her heart, came to THE STORE with me and helped me unload. So by 3pm, I was standing in THE STORE with the doorway full of furniture needing to be placed. Which means moving tons of things around and out of the way, moving the new furniture in, and then moving everything back again. I told Lucy to bear with me and that I would be there until late but we had to get it done yesterday since Monday was packed, as well.
As I was formulating a plan so as to minimize the moving efforts, in walked a familiar face with an unfamiliar face. Looking toward the door and the glare of the outside, I could have sworn it was Jeanie D. in the doorway. . . . AND IT WAS! I was so thrilled to see her! Nothing at all to do with anything other than just reconnecting with her again after years of missing her.
Jeanie and her children had volunteered here at THE FARM for several years. And as we talked, we both realized how long it had been. Jeanie knew Big Jim, Bonita, and was there when Unit and Babee Joy arrived. She remembered the sadness of our loss of Jerry, the Roan Horse and how we talked of the first generation's crossings. It was Jeanie that talked with me about Handsome and Liz-Beth (Miss Bette, as Jeanie knew her) and said it was "the second generation's crossing". Her words stopped me cold.
For months now, I have been trying to figure out how to better care for there horses. I'm so very busy with THE STORE that I'm feeling I'm not seeing things that I should be seeing. Is that why Handsome crossed? Why I didn't see if Liz-Beth was weakening? I explained my ideas - through the tears - to Jeanie and she hugged me and whispered, "It was their time Sandy. REFUGE FARMS gave them years they would never have had. And love. REFUGE FARMS gave them love they had never known before." Her words helped to ease the guilt a bit but the hug did more. It helped and I slept a bit better last night.
So good to see Jeanie. So very good to hear that the kids are doing well. Once again to hear her talk about compassion and tolerance and how her children were raised with it and to have it. I always did admire Jeanie and her quiet but solid stance on how to live.
And yes, they both helped me move the furniture into place. Two hours later, we hugged so long and I stood and smiled as I watched them leave. I hugged Lucy good-nite and was on my way home. Happy with the work done, yes, but more than that, happy that Jeanie said, "I'll be back!" as she walked out the door!
A husband and wife were in THE STORE late yesterday afternoon. When they walked in, the man stood and looked at our banner hanging on the wall, called to his wife, and pointed up to the banner. She looked, nodded, and smiled. So, I knew they knew of us somehow.
They shopped for quite a while and then before they left, she asked about the shoes in the display case - the Big Guy shoes. And so I briefly told her the story of that gentlest of big ones and then she pointed to the picture of Beauty. "What happened to this one? Is she in pain?" And so we talked of Beauty, the 5 1/2 years of mediating just to halter her, and the new creature we have in our barns now who approaches us for scratches.
The woman works and has a customer in Spring Valley and so she drives by THE FARM from time to time. The husband is very quiet. We talk and we look at the calendar. Before they leave she tells me of the long term illness she is battling and how her horses are her comforts. How her husband grew up in the city and is learning about horses because of his love for her. And she asks if sometime she can come to THE FARM and meet Beauty up close.
The conversation of strangers upon their entry into THE STORE closed with three Human Beings hugging as they wished each other "Merry Christmas!". New friends found from a simple banner. And the profile of a mare who was used for financial gain for the 18 prime years of her life. But who now, because we were there to pick her up out of the stock yards, is shining and carefree.
The Plan, when it comes together, is a remarkable thing to experience.