All Pictures taken by Jeff Beeman, except the one of Shawnee taken by me.
Jeff Beeman became my first real friend in Abiquiu. I first met him when I walked by his house to wander up the arroyo back into the little round hills. Jeff’s home and business are perched on a rise that overlooks the Chama river valley with the mountain range I call “the reptiles” that hover over the n/eastern horizon with the Pedernal marking the spot from the south. Sunsets are stunning from this location, but the view was not what drew me to this place.
Jeff’s animals were the reason I first stopped by. I noticed that the large and immaculately kept enclosure housed my favorite farm animal, the mini- donkey, and Jeff had three of them so I was anxious to get to know each one personally. When I discovered these animals were equally anxious to make my acquaintance, I was delighted. Shawnee, an older mini – donkey (all three are 16 to 18 years old) immediately stole my heart, and before long seeing them on the daily hikes I took with my two dogs became something we all looked forward to.
Jeff and I had a lot in common, I realized, because of our mutual love for all animals. I was impressed by the way he took such good care of all of his non – human friends, and how much they adored him, following him around and standing at the fence to be noticed the second he popped out of the house!
Jeff also impressed me with his honesty. I gravitate towards folks who are upfront with their opinions regardless of whether I agree with them or not. Over the following months I also met a lot of his guests, who seemed equally impressed with Jeff’s attention to detail as a host. Many of his people have been returning to his Casita(s) for years.
But back to my story… It wasn’t long before the other animals, one a magnificent horse (that became my favorite horse in the world because he was so gentle and sweet natured) captured my affection. I had been uneasy around horses most of my life because they seemed so high strung, but Buster, an American Paint Horse, given to Jeff a couple of years ago, changed my perceptions with his loving and sometimes very humorous attentions. Buster has a habit of pulling shirt sleeves to get more attention! And when I am inside his enclosure he has a tendency to lean on me, which is always a shock because Buster is a very big horse and I am a little person!
All Jeff’s animals except for Buster are rescue animals. The two Llamas, Cinder and Cusco, were a bit introverted at first, paying close attention to us but keeping their distance too. I promised myself that I would make friends with them in time. Sadly, not long after Jeff and I became friends Cinder had to be put down, and the other, Cusco, became even more distant – even depressed. Jeff was deeply concerned about him and I could really feel the depth of that concern on a visceral level. Cusco would watch me intently with his beautiful black pools for eyes, sometimes positioned behind a shredded juniper. He seemed too lonely, even with the other animals close by, and this sense I had made me even more determined to befriend him. To our mutual amazement (Jeff’s and mine) within a relatively short time, Cusco was approaching me at the fence along with the other donkeys (Sunny and Lolita), Shawnee braying the loudest of all.
So many farm animals seem to have lost their souls but not these characters who are clearly people oriented and respond with great enthusiasm to attention once they are befriended. It took a couple of months before all of them started a conversation with me every time I walked by! I had to teach them that I would visit on my way back from a hike because otherwise they wanted me to stop each way, and often I was trying to stay ahead of the heat because my little dogs don’t like to walk in the hot sun except during mid – winter.
When Copper and Forest were rescued I was thrilled because I hadn’t seen any alpacas since I lived in Peru, and I had become attached to one while living there. These two were so friendly and so funny to watch as they cavorted around. When Jeff had their hair shaved off for the warmer months he left each with fuzzy topknots. For the summer they were given what I would call a sail cloth to provide them (and the others) with more open shade to help keep them cool, and they also received fly masks.
With Jeff’s permission I fed them organic carrots last fall (all but Cusco, who could only eat pellets). I think it was around Christmas that Jeff started leaving a pail of pellets for me to feed my friends but I was cautioned to feed only a few to each animal, because overeating was a threat to their health.
I was amazed at how gentle all these animals were with my five and six pound Chihuahuas, and felt safe enough to allow them to interact on a regular basis. Sometimes though, I just wanted to be with one of Jeff’s crowd and that was when Jeff put up a hook so I could keep Hope and Lucy away from their enclosure while I visited.
Leaving Abiquiu for the summer was made so much more difficult because I knew that it would be a few months before I got to see all my barnyard friends again. I miss all of them a lot.
One day soon, I hope, I will be surprising Shawnee, Lolita, Sunny, Buster, Cusco, and the sprites, Forest and Copper with a return visit from me.