Refuge Farms home of "Horses Helping..."

The Dunn County News
May 27, 2007


A time for remembering


   I first met Andy Durco, Jr. in 1988 while consulting in Electronic Point-of-Sale for the Food Service Industry. Toward the close of my career, I actually worked with Andy as we built Chickasaw Technology, Inc. out of Oklahoma City, Okla.

   Upon retirement, we both secluded ourselves in our respective worlds - he in Texas and me in Wisconsin. Seeing what I was becoming, Andy gifted me a deformed Clydesdale colt in April 2001. Handing me the lead rope to Charity Case, as he called him, Andy challenged me saying, "Take this horse, Sandy, and make a difference in somebody's life with it."

   Over the next two years, we discussed and finally formalized our goals of healing, Refuge Farms, Inc. was born. The following January, Andy crossed. There are times, now, when I talk to himů

   Hello, Andy -
   It's Memorial Day again. My, but time does pass so quickly, doesn't it? Everyone is busy getting ready to go to the lake or go to a BBQ or to just go somewhere. Me? I'm sitting in the grass under your tree in the yard. I thought I would spend a bit of time catching up with you. I have much in my heart to ponder, Andy. So much to tell you. And so many things to talk over with you. It's been too long since we've talked.

   Do you see what it is that we have become? Did you ever think it would be like this? Did you ever fathom when you challenged me that this would be the result? Did you know, Andy? In your wisdom, did you know? Did you think this is where your challenge would take us? I didn't, either, Andy. I sure didn't either. But do you like what you see? Are you proud? Are you pleased to see us grow? Do you see the difference we are making, Andy?

   Our Declaration of Purpose is still untouched and still serves us very well. I read it often. And I work so hard, Andy, so hard to follow it! To rescue the horses with no options and then to use these thrown out horses to make a difference in the lives of Human Beings. Just like we talked and like we planned.


   Oh, Andy, we both were so innocent when we wrote the Declaration of Purpose. So innocent and good-intentioned! So na´ve, Andy! We were so na´ve!

   The horses, Andy! They never stop coming!!! We have no more room and yet there are more horses! We have a barn that's too small and falling down and yet there are more horses! We have too little money for feed and hay and shots and dewormer and hoof trimmings and yet there are more horses! Oh, Andy! we na´ve.

   But the few that we can take, Andy, oh, how glorious it is. They watch me and test me and play with me and eventually they trust me. Oh, Andy! Sometimes it's years before they trust me!

   They are teaching, me patience, Andy - yes, me patient! But they do come around and then they begin to give back. They begin to give to me of all that they possess. And they give freely and honestly. Just as you said they would, Andy. Just as you said.

   Can't you just imagine how big and beautiful Charity Case would be by now? Oh, I do miss him! Oh, how glorious he would be by now!

   But Andy, do you see Addie-Girl? Do you see her coming along? Do you see how shiny she will be? And do you see Babee Joy? Do you see The Roan Horse in her? He lives inside of her, Andy. His spirit is in her, I know it! Can't you see him in her?

    "Blessed is the horse that finds it's way to Refuge Farms." Do you remember when you said that to me, Andy? Do you remember what horse had just arrived? Well, she just crossed, Andy. She has left such a huge hole. And a still flowing line of tears on my face.

   Oh, Andy! We were so na´ve! We thought only of the good part! We talked only of their comings! Neither one of us had the courage to venture in to the pain of what to do when they cross! We didn't talk that part over, Andy, and I'm here trying to deal with it! Give me some of your wisdom, Andy. Please? Help me with this crossing part, please? I feel so inadequate to deal with it.


   The work is hard and it never ends. Just as you said, again. Yes, Andy, I know. You were right. You said it would be hard and never-ending work. And you said it would be honest work. It is. For sure!

   But you could have told me that you were serious about that part, my dear Andy! You could have warned me to buy work gloves when they go on sale, my friend!!!

   Keep on chuckling. I can almost hear you!

   But Andy, the magic! When it happens, it's beyond description. I can feel it, truly feel it, when it happens. It is almost spiritual when that connection happens. And it is at those times that I miss you the most, my Andy. It is then that I want only to tug on your sleeve and say, "See? See, Andy? Do you see what we have done? It's good, isn't it? It is a good thing we do here, right? It's worth all the work and the tears, right Andy?"

   I see magic in their faces, Andy. I see it in the face of a child giggling when Big Guy nuzzles her hair and drools on her face. The sheer enormity of Big Guy isn't even a thought to the child. The child sees only the gentleness of the giant horse. And that enormous horse that humans have shot and beaten and starved now only sees the innocence of the child.

   I see magic in the face of a troubled but determined grown man as he focuses all of his energy on the task of Miss April's mane and making a difference in it. All the while, he's forgetting his worries and his troubles. Right now, he is a child again and enjoying his time and progress with Miss April.

   I see magic when frantic young children stop still long enough to pet a horse. And the horse that stops for them is the one I affectionately call "The White Tornado". Two high-strung and highly active creatures stop and stand still to absorb each other. Quiet. Amazing. Peaceful. Unlike them both but happening just the same. It happens and causes us all to stop to watch.

   I see magic in the hands of the volunteers, Andy, as they work hard to keep us safe and clean. I see it in their hands and their smiles and I feel it in their hugs. They are good people, Andy. You would love every one of them as I do. You would see the goodness of their hearts and admire their dedication. And you would be right next to them getting just as dirty and just as sore. And you, too, would be back the next time.

   And I see magic in the flowers and the trees scattered all over my yard. Flowers and trees marking the ones that have come and gone. Your tree is doing very well, Andy - so tall, just like you, you big Texan! I must walk past your tree every time I venture in to the barn, Andy. And you remind me to go in to the barn to play, not to do chores. You remind me to enjoy the horses every second that I can. You remind me that life is brief, that every heartbeat is precious and can never be gotten again. You remind me to breathe deeply of this air of life.

   I miss you, Andy. I could use you here to coach and mentor me. I feel small at times, Andy. And sometimes I'm very tired. Sure do wish you were here to hug. Can hardly wait to see you again, my dear friend. Stay close by me. Please. Guide me. Remind me to stay true to The Missions, Our Declaration of Purpose. And help me to make wise decisions - those tough decisions.

   So, it's almost Memorial Day and here I sit talking with you - you, who changed my life forever. And today, I am grateful. The magic works with me, too, every day. And I will count my blessings today on this holiday meant just for that purpose. And on my list of blessings, my friend, you are at the top.

   I think of you as I offer this prayer, "Bring the cool breezes of summer and the heat of the sun. And bring the peace that is so needed everywhere in this world. Help us to love and respect one another. Help us to remember with respect.

   Thanks for listening, Andy.
   I will enjoy the journey of today,
   Sandy, Caretaker of The Herd

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