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Bud Grossmann’s
Words of the Week
for the Week of
October 9, 2016

Published as Family History
in a Gramma Letter
dated October 14, 1997

© 1997, 2016 by Bud Grossmann.
All Rights Reserved.

Leading (2007)
  Leading (2007)
© 2007 by Bud Grossmann


Tuesday, October 14, 1997

Dear Gramma,

      Nearly every Sunday afternoon since the first of June, my daughter, Elizabeth, has done volunteer work at an old folks home. In some ways, the home is not so very different from the one you live in. My little Lizzie—age ten—brushes the hair of some of the residents, helps prepare and serve the evening meal, tidies up the sleeping quarters, and lovingly accompanies her new-found friends as they move around this assisted care facility.

      In these several months, the old-timers—you might be surprised to know—have given your great-granddaughter not one single word of thanks or praise. Elizabeth nonetheless seems to find satisfaction in spending time with them, and she has enthusiastically recruited some of her classmates to share the chores. If you think, from my description, Granny, that Liz’s retired friends might be a bunch of neigh-sayers, you are entirely correct. The place I am describing is Olomana Ranch—an old folks home for horses.

      The setting is idyllic. The ranch’s acreage is at the foot of the Koolau Mountains in Waimanalo. Wispy clouds cling to the mountaintops and thread themselves through the pleats of green-blanketed cliffs. The horses spend their days in springtime-colored pastures, which are bordered by enormous tropical trees that sway when whispering winds bring the fragrances of flowers and fruit and the salty scent of the sea.

      The retirees at Olomana Ranch—Mare, Charlie, Stormy, Misty, Thunder, Tonka, and Huki—are, in truth, only semi-retired. They all do part-time work for a program called Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii. Some pull carts, some give rides, and some soothe visitors’ troubled souls simply by demonstrating an enviable equine equilibrium.

      Elizabeth’s involvement with “THH” began when the local Easter Seals office arranged for kids on crutches or in wheelchairs to spend an afternoon with the horses. Elizabeth’s brother, David, uses a wheelchair, you know, so he received an announcement in the mail. He read the invitation and said to me, “Dad, where there are horses, there is horse manure. I don’t want to go.”

      “Aw, come on,” I argued. “You’ll get to see old friends.” He knew I was talking about not only some of the kids who would be there but also the ponies Dave rode a few years ago when he took horsemanship classes with THH. (He completed the six-week course but was not rhapsodic about it.)

      “No, thanks,” said David. His sister, however, very much wanted to go. And since Eliz would have to ride in on her brother’s coattails before she could ride up in a saddle, she persuaded Dave to be a good sport and take the whole family to Olomana Ranch. When the day was done and the horses were heading to their stalls, Elizabeth asked Candy Nichols, the director of THH, if there was work available for a girl who loves animals.

      As it happens, Candy, like a lot of other retirement home administrators, depends heavily on help from unpaid staff. She herself draws no salary from THH, and she reaches deep into her own purse to cover the cost of blacksmithing, veterinary services, and the special diet elderly horses require. She was pleased to add a new name to her roster of helpers. Elizabeth became an eager and dependable worker, quite content to collect her wages in the form of an occasional trail ride.

      When I go with Liz on Sundays, I’m always reminded of you and Grampa and your Wisconsin farm. I also think, each week, of your present home and the many people who take care of you there. I hope you remember to thank them often—or at least stomp your hoof to let them know when you are pleased.


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