Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Once and Future Carpenter

Yesterday we buried our beloved horse, Cotton (his full racing name was "Cotton's Last Hope"). This was the horse that Dad raised, the one he trained and carted across the country (along with his wife and their two loud little girls who enjoyed playing "who brought the skunk?" ... while romping around in an attachable camper separated from front seat sanity by a mere sliding glass window) to race, the horse that has been a farm fixture for 31 years, the horse that symbolized so much more than "longtime pet." This horse gave the farm life and, in the past 14 months, gave me a sense of purpose. Cotton made me feel connected to Dad, as though with each stall cleaned or each bucket of feed prepared or each hug and "you're a good boy" given, I was standing in the barn beside CLT, asking him what I could do to help or listening to him tell some story I should've taken the time to write down. Cotton helped me realize why Dad loved this farm so much. For that, I am truly grateful.

Even if I am sitting here crying my eyes out as I type this, the purpose is not to be dramatic. In fact, I know there is terrible beauty in yesterday's events. Mom made the decision because it was the best thing for the horse. He was simply old; he couldn't see well, he had lost a lot of weight, he had arthritis. Last year when the vet had to come check on him, he implied that he probably didn't have a ton of time left. Mom didn't want to see him suffer or struggle through a tough winter or be left hanging on, but not really living. So, yesterday she made the exact decision Dad would've made. She and I put the racing blanket on him that he won in the 1984 Hope and Dreams Derby, we fed him a huge bucket of sweet feed, we walked him over to Dad's plot and she told me a couple of stories about a wonderful man and the horse he loved, and we hugged him as he lay there in the barn lot adjoining the field he had called home for many happy years. It was the humane thing to do and the right way to do it, even if it was incredibly sad.
So, in one way, I felt like a connection to Dad, one I have desperately clung to over the past year, was disappearing. It just broke, and continues to break, my heart. There's no better way to say it. In another way, however, I smile somewhat coyly, the way I remember Dad doing, when I think about the similarities between the two jokers. When given the chance to be in the cozy barn or in the field last year, Cotton always chose the field, no matter the weather conditions; Cotton, who was a pretty even keel horse, would neither instigate trouble nor take crap from the other horses; Cotton knew the farm better than I do; I feel like if he could've talked, Cotton would've been sarcastic a good portion of the time; He was tough as nails, but didn't mind hugs and pets and silly little comments. He and Dad were a good match.

In the midst of the sadness, I therefore remember these things: we did what Dad would've wanted; we took care of Cotton over the past year and a half in a manner that would've made Dad proud; both are buried in the barn lot they loved; and, I'm exactly where I need to be. Wendell Berry writes about it and CLT always implied it...this is the stuff that matters.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss, Liza. You ladies did good. Your Dad would be so proud of you.

  2. Its stuff like this that makes me realize all the time how truly unlucky I am to have only known your father a short time. I love to listen to you, Adrienne, Jackie, and Leigh talk about him. The indelible mark he left on so many people is more apparent to me every day. I loved this post, and I'm so sorry about Cotton.

  3. Billy, thank you so much for reading and for seeing the beauty of Turner Farm. Your paintings, which we all cherish, give it life too.

    Zach, we all wish you could've known him longer, too. Luckily, he blessed us with TONS of stories, both that he told and that we've come to smile and tell about him, to which you'll have years and years to listen. Thanks for wanting to hear..glad you're the one Adrienne especially gets to share them with.

  4. You are so much like your dad and he would be so proud of how you and your mom honored Cotton and the entire farm. I love you all and am very proud of the entire Turner family (as always).

  5. Liza, I am sending love and compassion for such a day on Turner Farm. This poem was a help when we had to have our kitty put to sleep just days after John's cat, who lived with us, got sick and died.

    If It Should Be

    If it should be that I grow frail and weak
    And pain should keep me from my sleep
    Then you must do what must be done
    For this last battle can't be won.

    You will be sad, I understand
    Don't let your grief stay your hand
    For this day, more than all the rest
    Your love and friendship stands the test.

    We've had so many happy years
    What is to come can hold no fears
    Would you want me to suffer so?
    When that time comes please let me go.

    Take me where my needs they'll tend
    But stay beside me to the end
    And hold me firm and speak to me
    Until my eyes no longer see.

    I know in time that you will see
    The kindness that you do for me
    Although my tail it's last has waved
    From pain and suffering I've been saved.

    Do not grieve, it must be you
    Who decides this thing to do
    We've been so close, we two, these years
    Remember joy among your tears.
    Author Unkown

  6. So touching and heart warming to read. I also am crying which someone said is good for the soul. Bless all of you.

  7. Lindsey, Mrs. Nancy, and Carolyn, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Mrs. Nancy, the poem is absolutely perfect. Truly, thank you. I read it with happy tears in my eyes. Lindsey and Carolyn, love you all. I'm lucky to be able to call you family.

  8. Liza, you don't know me, but I am a friend of your mothers. I would like to convey to you that if your Dad had a GIFT to tell a story (and apparently he did) his legacy is safe, as he has left it in very capable hands. Very touching.....


  9. I am finally getting to read this and find myself choking back tears, not necessarily just of grief but also in celebration of both Curtis and Cotton. Thank you, Liza, for carrying on the legacy of your dad's story telling "gift" as mentioned by WDA. Your words always have a way of comforting me, lifting my spirits, and most importantly giving me strength and reassurance to carry on life here on Turner Farm as CLT would've have wanted. I love my life and my three girls with all my heart. Just know that whatever the future holds for us all we will be right by each others' side. LOL (Lots of Love...Mom)

  10. Hi, Doug. I'm not sure how you stumbled onto Pillow Book, since I'm sure my mom NEVER talks about her girls to anyone.., but I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment. Dad was the best storyteller I've ever known. To be anything like him would make me proud. Thank you for your kind words.

    Mom, I love you, our life, our herd of animals, and Turner Farm. And, of course we'll be by each other's side...remember, I'm coming to live with you again after Adrienne gets married;). LOL.