A Ferry Full of Love 9/25/09

One of my “informants” had left an email message late Wednesday afternoon that a large group of horses would be leaving Thursday morning on the 10 o’clock ferry.  I had spread the word that I wanted to hear when they would be coming down the hill in large numbers. I planned to be waiting to photograph them on Cadotte Avenue, as they came sweeping past the Grand. 

I also knew that Pasha, the white horse that is McGyver’s neighbor, was leaving this morning, so I wanted to photograph him getting on the ferry. Pasha belongs to Katie, one of our favorite young people on the island. 

Leaving the condo a little after 9:00 this morning would give me plenty of time to get ahead of them, so that’s what I did.

Ben was outside the Grand stables when I went by, and I stopped to ask if he knew how many horses might be leaving today.  He looked surprised and said he didn’t know of any.  He called Chambers, Cindy’s, and Jack’s, and none of them were shipping horses off the island.  I decided to go on into town since I was already half-way there – surely there was more than one horse taking the cargo ferry.

I stopped at the corner of Cadotte and Market Street to talk with Nadine from the Chip, and when I turned around to look up the hill, who should be coming but McGyver himself!


I couldn’t believe that I was going to be able to get a picture of our grandchildren’s favorite horse getting on the ferry, so I hurried down to the Arnold cargo dock.  McGyver’s trainer was gracious enough to allow me to have my picture made with him.


I chatted with his trainer a few minutes and found out that McGyver would be spending the winter nearby on a farm in Mackinaw City.  Next spring he will be back on the island and ready for more carrots, apples, marshmallows, and Lifesavers when Jordan and Matthew visit.

I asked permission to board the ferry and take pictures from inside as the horses were loaded.  On board already was Moonshine, a registered Appaloosa belonging to Jack and his family.  Jack owns the Cannonball Restaurant out at British Landing.  Moonshine was on the way to Ellsworth, Michigan for the winter.  While there, she will be a lesson horse for the county 4-H program and will get lots of love and attention on the mainland.  Jack said that Moonshine was really his daughter’s and had been a little girl’s horse all her life.  Moonshine is used by the island 4-H program during the summer.

Four Mackinac Island 4-H horses came next.  The island has a strong 4-H program, and children spend their summers learning all there is to know about grooming, saddling, feeding, and caring for horses – including mucking out stalls.  The 4-H program provides riding lessons for island children, and these gentle horses have been selected specifically for that program.  Fund raisers have been held all summer to contribute to the building of a new barn.  When it is finished, there will also be a stable area available to summer residents who want to bring their own horses, but who do not have land on which to build stables of their own.  A fenced outdoor riding ring has already been constructed at the new location near Wawashkamo Golf Course.

My new friend Liz, who teaches at the island school, had shared that her son is in the 4-H riding program.  She said he may not learn to love riding horses, but she wants him to learn a healthy respect for these animals who are so important on the island. He loves riding Ginger Snap, a little pony just his size.  Liz says the best part is when the ride is over.  Her son always stops to give Ginger Snap a pat and tells the pony, “Thank you.”




To most of these 4-H horses, boarding the ferry is as “old hat” as it is for island residents.  They do it year after year.  Others have a few boarding jitters, but are soon calmed down.  Fiona, a beautiful bay Morgan/Welsh cross, was a little apprehensive,  but Leanne gently led the mare on board, and as soon as she crossed the “plank”, she was fine. 


Trish led Nokona, a large, multi-colored gelding, on board next. 


Then came Ann with Prancer, a white American quarter horse, followed by Lisa, with little Ginger Snap.


Prancer will be joining Moonshine in Ellsworth, Michigan as a lesson horse for their 4-H program.  Fiona will be wintering at Central Michigan University, where she will be ridden by a member of the university’s equestrian team.  Ginger Snap and Nokona will winter on a farm in Mackinaw City and enjoy a much needed rest.

Last was Pasha, Katie’s horse, and this was to be a bittersweet parting.  Pasha is 23 years old – that’s in her 70’s in human years.  Pasha will not be returning to the island next summer, but will be continuing her life in Cheboygan at a facility that pairs people with handicaps with horses.  She will spend the rest of her days happily providing unconditional love to a special group of individuals who will shower her with all the love and attention she can take in.  

Pasha will also be close enough that Katie can visit her whenever she likes, which is a big plus for them both.






Katie said that Pasha does not like boats or water, so it was a blessing that she would not have to make the crossing again.  She led her aboard, and they took their place in the row of horses.


When the seven horses were loaded, I was still snapping away, paying no attention at all to what the ferry workers were doing.  When I finally noticed what was going on, the gangplank had already been raised, and several of us had to “jump for it”.

Moonshine, McGyver, and Pasha

Moonshine, McGyver, and Pasha


Prancer, Ginger Snap, Nokona, and Fiona

Prancer, Ginger Snap, Nokona, and Fiona

Seven horses left the island this morning, and all seven carry with them the love of their owners and caregivers.  All have known the love of children over the years, and in their great hearts they must know there is no purer love than that.  As the years have passed, they have watched as “their” children have grown into teenagers and young adults.  But the bond that was forged between that child and that horse will continue on.  And both the child and the horse is the better for it.

There was a lot of love on that ferry today.



21 thoughts on “A Ferry Full of Love 9/25/09

  1. What a special piece brenda. I loved every picture and word. This seals it, you must come over to Mackinaw city for tea this fall. I live very close to where your horses are staying and we can visit and “do” Magulpin lighthouse too. thank you for all of your heartfelt posts on this wonderful connection to the Island.

  2. What a touching story and the way you write it just brings tears to my eyes. Thanks for making me feel that much closer to Mackinac Island.

  3. S sure did love riding those 4-H horses this summer. Ginger Snap and Blaze were his favorites. He’a already asking when Giddy Up and Go will start up again.

  4. Just a GREAT, great story today Bree!! Not that every story isn’t great, but this one was sooooo- heart touching & special! Stories like this one is why you have such faithful blog readers. And how perfect God planned it so you could be there at the right time to say a special goodbye to your family friend, McGyver. (LOVE the photo of you two together!)

    Now I have to wipe away the tears & get back to work, (especially after reading about Pasha)- my co-workers think something is wrong with me!! (smiles)
    Have a wonderful weekend!

    • I thank the good Lord everyday for the blessings, Marianne. Hope Cecil is feeling better. Fall is definitely in the air up here today. The wind is blowing hard, and rain will be moving in tonight. A few weeks of this, with much colder temperatures, and we will be heading home to our little wood stove on the sunporch! Love and hugs all around.


  5. Beautiful. This was one of the most touching stories this year. McGyver is as beautiful as ever and I use the picture of him and Bear together as my wallpaper. Your title said it all–Pasha and all the others are cherished members of their families and of the community. They will be missed.

    Now I must do a Google search for some windshield wipers for my glasses because I caN’t
    see a thIN g………..

  6. OK Bree you got me. I won’t say anything bad about the horses again. I had no idea they volunteered at 4-H and disabled camp and loved children. Great pics of the the horses and their pretty trainers. I guess Ted was playing golf.

  7. Wonderful story about Pasha and very close to my heart. I donated my Arabian mare, Sammy, to the local handicapped riding camp called the Fowler Center. There they use her for the people with disabilities and also the 4H program. They also have a handicapped 4H program. Sammy has a ‘strange’ eye issue that meant I could no longer show her anymore and required forever care the rest of her life. Here she has 24/7 attention, and that same love that Pasha will be receiving. It was a VERY hard decision, but very close to my heart…

  8. Oh my goodness. I can’t believe I’m crying like a baby right now. I really appreciate your story. Katie is my sister and Pasha means the world to her. They grew up together and she put so much time and love into him. Their personalities were a perfect match: bold, fearless, and spontaneous. I am very thankful that he will be going to such a great cause, and also that you captured their last moments on the island, the place of so many of their adventures together. Thank you.

    • Well now I’m crying, Lily. Sometimes God just puts you in the right place at the right time. I ordered prints of the pictures today for Katie and will get them to her as soon as they come. Your and your family are very special to Ted and I. See you soon.

  9. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon your blog via Twitter. I was scrolling through your photos when I screamed “MacGyver!”. I was his caretaker last summer and it brings back so many fond memories. I miss the island and Mac so very much. Thanks for your lovely post.

    • Welcome Mel! So glad you happened upon my blog. How exciting for you to have lived on the island and taken care of McGyver! We just love him. When the grandchildren are here in the summer, all they want to do is go feed him. I’m so glad he will be back next year, even though he will have new owners. You need to come back and see him! Thanks so much for your comments!
      Brenda (Bree)

  10. Thank you! My summer on the island was definitely one of the world’s best experiences. I’m only sorry that I didn’t stumble upon your blog when I was actually there! It would have been nice to have a friend. Mac is wonderful- I do miss him very much. Do you know who the new owners will be? I haven’t heard anything from my former bosses recently, but that definitely comes as a surprise!

    Your blog is a wonderful tribute to the island and it’s unique beauty. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Mel,

      I hadn’t started the blog last year. It began about three weeks before we left our Georgia home in May to come up here – mostly as a daily letter for friends in Georgia. It has blossomed over the summer, and I now have around 450-550 readers per day. I love doing it, and plan to continue when we return to Georgia. I know nothing about the new owners of McGyver and the house that “went with him” – it was a package deal, I think, and I’m so glad he will be right back in his corral and stable next summer.

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