Betty Elmhirst, from Drummond Island in the U.P. of Michigan, decided to come to Mackinac Island this past Saturday to attend the Festival of the Horse Breed Show. A horse lover all her life, Betty has owned and trained her own horses for many years and was looking forward to an afternoon of sitting in the sun and watching some great looking horses strut their stuff.
The day was also a celebration for Betty. After a battle with cancer, she had returned for more testing last week. A few days later she received word she could now celebrate her one-year anniversary of being cancer-free. She was pumped and ready for a worry-free, happy day of watching horses. She got so much more than that.
Betty arrived on the island, made her way up Cadotte to the Burroughs Lot, paid her entrance fee, and settled into a good viewing spot to watch the show. About half-way through, a beautiful black Tennessee Walker, ridden by owner Penny Barr, entered the ring. The announcer began to talk about the horse, named Drummond because Drummond Island was the horse’s home when Penny bought him.
Betty’s heart began to pound as she watched the horse walk around the arena in the smooth gait for which Tennessee Walkers are known.
A thousand thoughts went careening through Betty’s mind. She once owned a black Tennessee Walker named Domino’s Dazzie. She had trained him herself, then sold him to a teacher on Drummond Island. Black Tennessee Walkers are not common, and Betty remembered Dazzie as easily trainable, with a wonderful disposition. At some point she heard Dazzie had been sold again. Years passed, and she often wondered what had happened to the special horse. As any animal lover would, Betty often thought of Dazzie and hoped he was healthy and in a good home.
The more Betty watched Drummond in the ring, the more her interest perked. When he turned and came toward the area where she was sitting, she saw the star on his forehead, then looked down and saw he had one white sock. She remembers screaming, “That’s my horse!”
I was standing at one of the corners of the arena fence, snapping photos when I heard Betty’s words. I turned to find Janice Groat – wife of Jim, whose company built the new community stable – listening as Betty (as yet unintroduced to me) talked about the Tennessee Walker in the ring. Jim and Janice own Mystic Meadows Farm, a certified riding academy and home to champion Tennesee Walker Horses. Janice’s eyes were sparkling as she listened to Betty’s story, and of course, sensing a story, I introduced myself to Betty and started listening.
By this time Penny and Drummond had finished in the arena, and Penny, not knowing about the drama playing out nearby, had walked away to chat with someone, leaving Drummond with a handler. We all walked over to Drummond and watched as Betty was reunited with her horse. It was evident right away that Drummond aka Dazzie recognized Betty. His ears perked forward at the sound of her voice, and within moments Betty was in the saddle, guiding Drummond through the moves she had taught him.
Eventually, someone found Penny, and she came over to see what the fuss was all about. She was so excited to meet Betty and learn some of Drummond’s background. She invited Betty to the island to ride Drummond anytime she wanted.
When we think of those companions who traveled by our side down life’s road, let
us not say with sadness that they left us behind, but rather say with gentle
gratitude that they once were with us.