It’s been a week and a half since The Name’s Jimmy died. I just couldn’t face blogging about it till now. Over the years Jimmy had become one of my best friends. Helping out with the press release was easier, since it gave an opportunity to share some wonderful stories Brian Burns, his former owner, told us when he phoned us that day. My favorite was how Jimmy made it, against all expectations, when he was lost in Hurricane Katrina. “He stayed out in the bayou for two days before Pope McLean, Jr. found him,” Mr. Burns told us. “It’s a wonder he wasn’t eaten by an alligator or bitten by a snake. After that, Pope and I called him The Survivor.”
And a survivor Jimmy remained. His passing wasn’t unexpected. He’d increasingly had mobility issues and for nearly a year. The surprise, the cause for admiration, was that Jimmy kept his will to cope, and kept his enjoyment of the little pleasures of life, for longer than any of us expected. These pleasures included butterscotch candies, red delicious apples–he usually refused other kinds. A few months ago a visitor thoughtfully brought wonderful orchard apples, freshly picked. Jimmy would have none of those. Supermarket red delicious only, got it? And there’d better not be any juice from Creator’s watermelon slices on Jimmy’s apple slices–that was serious. And razzing Bull Inthe Heather, a definite pleasure. And joking around with people. Jimmy loved to act tough, to grab in a playful way, to engage with you. Right up to his last days he kept what I can only describe as a sense of humor.
But on the day when even Jimmy’s mighty willpower was no longer enough to keep his body going, he knew how to communicate that, too. The way Michael put it says it all. “It’s always difficult to euthanize one of our great retirees but Jimmy made it easy. The look in his eye spoke volumes and we were able to help him in his final hour. We’re very grateful for all he gave us.”
I was lucky to know Jimmy. I will never not miss him. But I know contending with a body that could no longer obey his strong will can’t have been easy for such a high spirited horse, and he decided when it was time to go. I’ll always admire his power to survive so long and to enjoy the good in life.
Yet even as we mourn the passing of one survivor, I think it’s appropriate to express thankfulness for two other survivors, our two oldest residents, each of whom has outlived threatened slaughter, and each of whom has recently had yet another happy birthday. Though all Thoroughbreds officially turn one year older every January 1, Clever Allemont had his real birthday on February 11. He turned 32 years old. That’s the same as a human being over 100. Though old, Clever is as perky and sweet natured as ever. He’s one of the kindest horses I know.
…And, of course, today’s birthday boy. Ogygian was foaled on St. Patrick’s Day 1983. Today he had a happy 31st birthday enjoying the warmer weather and extra attention from Tom and the visitors he guided around the farm. Ogygian doesn’t like sweets, so he celebrated with lots of carrots, and my acknowledgements that he’s the most wonderful horse in the universe.* which is pretty much how he celebrates his ordinary days, too.
* If you tell me one of our other horses is the most wonderful horse in the universe I can’t argue. They all are.
Our two other oldest horses don’t have birthdays for some time. Gulch will be 30 on April 16, and Mixed Pleasure 29 on May 20.
Two final photos I can’t help sharing. Early Pioneer, his new best buddy Ferocious Won, and their paddock mate A P Slew aren’t that old. They’re just cute.
All photos except Ogygian by Laura Battles