The Wrangler

Austin nudges Travis at feeding time

January 15 2010

It’s a cold, rainy winter day. The buzzards are perched on the electric line towers with their giant wings spread open, adding a mournful aspect to an already dreary scene.

Last week we dealt with lows in the teens and below for several straight days running. But through it all the staunch barn team carried on. I marveled as I sat shivering (and sniveling) in my barn office.

Kyle, Sterling, and Travis all live in Joseph House.  Don expects them to be up and ready at 7:00 AM to feed the horses on the Spur.  If they aren't he bangs on their windows until they come tumbling out.  (They really love it on the rare occasions that Don oversleeps and they get to bang in his window and wake him  up.) 

After feeding, the guys have breakfast and come to the big barn,where Natalie, the fourth member of the Barn Team, meets them. The four  worked uncomplainingly all last week cleaning the stalls in the bitter cold, moving the horses from inside to outside stalls as needed in order to get it all clean.

Tuesday, I watched our newest Rancher, Kyle, taking Pete out to pasture.  Kyle is just learning the ropes of horse handling. He'd let his lead slack a bit too much and Pete moved his head over towards Kyle. Kyle dodged to the left and Pete obliged by swinging to the left also. Kyle kept moving  and soon he and Pete had completed a 360 degree circle. They made a little progress toward the pasture and then Pete swung his big head over towards Kyle again.  They repeated the maneuver two more times before Lori looked back and saw what was going on. She went over and helped Kyle shorten his lead and showed him how well behaved Pete was when he was firmly directed.

I marveled at Kyle’s determination and courage with Pete, even as I chuckled their little dance. Kyle’s not a big guy, and has little experience handling horses. He clearly felt intimidated by the big chestnut, but was brave and determined to do his job.

Kyle came to Down Home Ranch because he wants to work on a real ranch and he was going to hold up his end of the bargain.

It’s funny, but lots of people say things like, “Oh, people with Down syndrome are so…” and then generally fill in the blanks with a rather limited repetoire of adjectives—stubborn, charming, sweet, cute, funny, friendly.

But people with Downs are more complex than that.  Like other folks, some are willing to work hard and some aren't. Some are courageous and some aren’t. Some decide what they want in life and others wait passively for whatever life has to offer. 

They’re people first—a complex mixture of genetic material, upbringing, and self-determination.

The DHR Barn Team is a group of hard-working young people who don’t complain and who work outside their comfort zone  and come back for more.

“We’re cowboys!” the guys say when they turn out of a morning to feed their horses. They’re proud of their work and know they’re good at it.

And I'm proud to know them.