Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Neighbor Jim Comes Through

Even Neighbor Jim has gotten into the Argus project. He loaned me his pasture.

Neighbor Jim loves FFA (that's Future Farmers of America), the county fair, and anything relating to pigs. He used to raise food animals at his place, and he did it right, with good care and a quick end at home. Neighbor Jim doesn't see much use in horses.

These days, with Neighbor Jim's kids grown and gone, his empty barn echoes with the ghosts of 4-H projects past, and the beautiful pasture is knee high with the last vestiges of grass he so carefully planted and tended over the years. I drive by it every day, on my way down the driveway to our farm. It hurts me just to look at it --- a whole 3 acres gone wild.

One day recently I cornered Neighbor Jim and screwed up the courage to ask a question that I was sure he would answer a resounding NO! to:

"Would you consider," I pleaded, "letting me turn the horses out on your pasture?"

After all, it would be so simple to install a gate between his pasture and mine. It would be like a miracle, all that extra grass. I braced myself for his answer. At least I had tried.

"You gonna put that big white horse out there?" (Neighbor Jim waved his hand at Argus. Everybody knows Argus' story it seems, even Neighbor Jim)

I hestitated, then answered meekly: "Yes?"

Neighbor Jim grunted back, grinning slyly over his shoulder as he trudged toward the house: "Do with it what you want. It's all yours."

After that, the Watermark Farm work crew (that's me and the four children) got to work. There was fencing to repair, hot wire to string. Barbed wire to remove. T-posts to cap. More T-posts to cap. Even more T-posts to remove and hide in a pile far away. Chicken eggs (that's my rent) to deliver. Pony rides (more rent) to give the granddaughter of Neighbor Jim.

Our four acres of pasture plus his three acres = 7 ACRES!! That sounds silly for those of you lucky enough to live someplace where you have acres and acres at your disposal, but here in Sonoma County, and especially the part we live in (a tiny pocket famous for its Pinot Noir grape growing mojo), land either has homes or grapes growing on it, and that which doesn't have either of these has a "For Sale to Big Corporate Winery" sign out front. Heck, billionaire wine guy and racehorse owner (think Curlin) Jess Jackson has a nice 'little' winery just down the road. Seven acres of horse pasture? Heaven!

I finished all the preparations on Saturday, my eyes puffy from Dancer's burial that morning. The horses still in a state of shock. Here's a picture of them, mourning (the black horse and the bay mare were especially affected, both of them part of Dancer's inner circle). They looked so depressed. What else could cheer them up besides a field of green?

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Sunday, my long-suffering husband installed the gate. We led the horses through the new gate (which really blew their minds --- an opening where there once was none) and around the new "annex." It was all a formality, really, because they were so intoxicated by the tall grass (as opposed to our fetlock high grass) that a jet airplane could have landed on the driveway and they wouldn't have looked up.

Argus seems to relish every step he takes out there. He follows Ridge like a puppy dog, observing his movements and mimicking him. Ridge has proven to be a valuable teacher and mentor, taking Argus under his wing (almost literally) when Argus feels insecure and starts his whole-body shaking (yes, he still does it). When my heart is heavy, I need only look at Argus out there to feel that all is right with the world again. It's been a lot of work, saving Argus, but here in the pasture, it all makes sense.

That's Andy the goat, by the way. He is Half Pint's friend. Everyone else pretty much tolerates him. And no, we don't leave the portly Half Pint out there long...

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


PaintedPromise said...

too cool Neighbor Jim! here's a cyber pat-on-the-back!

wow, what my guys couldn't do with 7 acres of pasture... our "pasture" is DIRT!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to send you all my condolenses on the loss of Dancer. I have never had the "luxury" of having a horse pass on his/her own. I've always been there, as hard as it is, holding the lead line then the head as you did. Stinks, but its the most unselfish gift we can give our loving steeds.
What I'd love to do, is be the one who holds the noose of the person who had Argus! (and still has others in the same digusted environment!) Theres no place in this world for a this jerk, and can only imagine who and what else he/she has neglected and abused thru their life. I will continue to send prayers, that the rest of the horses get saved and live their lives in the manner as Argus, as a horse should, with peace, food and love. While I enjoy your blogs on Argus, I want the others saved. I live in Connecticut, so I can not be their voice, hopefully there are several voices now, for them. Thank you

Argus' foster mom said...


The other horses WILL be saved. Things are in motion...
I must be careful what I say.

Know that they have not been forgotten, and many people are working hard EVERY DAY to free them.

I will post more when I can. Give it a month or so...

Meantime, horses like Argus are all around us. CALL ANIMAL CONTROL and COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN and make a stink when you see an animal in a bad situation. Ask 10 friends to do the same. Call weekly. That's what it took to free Argus --- one neighbor calling AC 5 times a day!


Anonymous said...

What a great neighbor! And what a nice treat for Argus and Company. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a great guy. My neighbor would freak if he saw my horses in his pasture :P

Martha said...

Yay Neighbor Jim!!
I have a good friend like that. Seems very gruff.. until you get to know him.:) Argus looks so happy and content.

anonymous- have you read Quincy's story?

10 YEARS of abuse and the MSPCA was going to let him walk. Still might let him off on the charges.

barrelracingmom said...

Wonderful! All that green and now its yours to use! Awesome!

Suisan said...

Thank you for writing so beautifully about Argus, his experiences, his fears, and his friends.

It's a beautiful blog you've put together, and it brought me joy this morning to see the pictures of the boys all out munching on grass.

Thank you for telling us about it.

GreySomeday said...

Hurray for Neighbor Jim! I love the last picture of all the horses munching away, with the lovely hills in the background. It's amazing what people will do sometimes if you just ask them.

I did not realize you were in Sonoma, Katie - it is a gorgeous place. You are very fortunate to live there but it must be really expensive!

Rachel said...

Thank you, Neighbor Jim!

I want to applaud you, Katie, for having the gumption to ask... I know personally, I'm too much of a wuss to do something like that, unless I was desperate.

Here's to seven acres!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful blog you have! Thank you for keeping us all updated on Argus and some other aspects of your farm, I enjoy reading about them :]

Anonymous said...

Dear Katie
I think of you and dear Argus daily now. Just a mile or so down the road is a big white/grey TB who I assume is retiring in the paddock nicely. I will stop and take a photo of him/her but he has dark markings so similar to Argus' that I can't help think of you everyday on my way to town & work.

It makes me smile and I wonder how the weather & grass are coming on in your part of the world - a very long way from my home in New Zealand.

Jessica said...

Kudos to good neighbors! Does Neighbor Jim know he has his own growing fan base? :-)

And my condolences to you and Dancer's owner (and your family, too). At least you were there with him at the end and treated him as quickly as possible. Sometimes that's all we can do for our equine friends, but that still doesn't make it easy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie, I am anonymous from 4/9/08. I've been the voice of troubled horses. I've lost friends because I speak for them. I feel that unfortunately with the upcoming economy being so hard on most of the US citizens, that there is going to be so many more abandoned animals. When you can just barely live the American Dream and feed your family, the poor animals get less. So heres a suggestion, to all who read your wonderful blogs, to please open your eyes, heart and mouth. Be the Katie in some poor creature's life if you can be. The price of fuel, feed, and hay, its getting really tough to keep the horses, especially here in Connecticut, the most taxed citizens in the country! Thank you for all you've done, again Katie, and I am sure enjoying your blogs.

Amy said...

Argus look SO incredibly happy in the new field!

Amy said...

Argus look SO incredibly happy in the new field!

Anonymous said...

Hi, love reading your updates on Argus. And that pasture looks lovely! Your horses/mule/goat look very, very content!

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