Paul's Story

The story of the Belgians begins long before my involvement and I invite those who were there to fill in the details of the early days. What is know is that Danny had the original pair, Bud and Blondie, in Alaska, and they were brought to the Ranch. Bud and Blondie begat Sunday, Windsong, and Golden Dawn before Bud passed on. For most of the early days at the Ranch Blondie and Sunday were the working team. At some point Jay (Innocence) became the horse master and really took on the role, accumulating a wealth of knowledge about draft horses, and forming a real connection with them. When I got to the Ranch I had little experience with horses but had been introduced to Belgian draft horse by one Lynn Miller in Junction City, OR who published, and still does, the Small Farmers Journal. So the horses were already part of my vision for sustainable agriculture, and I was grateful for Jay taking me on and teaching me how to care for and work the Belgians.

During this period, with Bud now gone, we took the mares to Bremerton, WA to be serviced by a stallion named Major Jan. These unions led to the geldings, Thunder and Lightening. The mares had always been a bit on the temperamental side so we were happy to finally have a team of geldings. About this time a young man named Jesse (Amad) (now James Israel) came to live with us and became the day-to-day caregiver for Thunder and Lightning during their first year or so.

One day Jay and I were off the Ranch doing a construction job, which we had started doing to bring in a little money. We had no cell phones in those days so it wasn't until that evening when we returned home that we learned that Blondie had died. Just like that she was already gone and buried. They say God works in mysterious ways and we couldn't help but marvel at how Blondie would pick the one day we were gone to leave us. I'm sure Jay took it a lot harder than I did, having cared for her for much longer.

About this time Jay got banished from the Ranch to China Bend, along with Sunday and Windsong. Maybe banished is too strong a word, and I hope Jay gets to tell his side of the story, but I know he was none too happy about it. He had put his heart and soul into building the Ranch, not just with the horses but as the main architect of the yurts and much more.


So I was now in charge of the horses at the Ranch. Ahmad was a great help but I don't think he stayed that long. I continued to work the team and accomplished more and more with them.

I should mention here that none of us really knew what we were doing. Some of you may recall some horrific runaways. Only by the grace of God did we escape without someone getting killed or worse. Jay and I both got kicked in the face (mine happened after the Ranch). Maybe Bill can add his story about having to step out in front of his kids, facing a runaway team coming straight at them. Love once bragged about how no team of horses would ever get away from him. Maybe so but then I don't recall ever seeing him getting dragged through the mud while hanging on to the lines.


When the family dissolved and most everyone left the Ranch I stayed on and kept doing what I had been doing, working and caring for the horses. I had a hard time letting go. After the settlement with Danny, when it became evident that Love's remnant were going to get the Ranch (a just fate I felt as these were the very people who complained so bitterly about having to be there years before), we high tailed it for Eastern Oregon taking the Belgians with us. I had hopes of making a go at continuing to raise draft horses as they were becoming more popular and fetching good prices. Dave Titus offered us refuge and we spent a few months at his place before moving to Kettle Falls, about 10 miles from China Bend. Danny helped me get the horses over there but I don't remember all the details. I do remember that part of the deal was that I was taking care of Golden Dawn's offspring, a colt, that was to become his. It was this horse that kicked me in the face. I worked the team every day that winter cleaning up after a logging operation and selling firewood. It was a whole new experience skidding logs on frozen ground in below freezing temperatures and I was having a great time. Unfortunately I wasn't making any money and we were not making it. The bottom fell out of the draft horse market as well so that idea wasn't going to happen. I sold Golden Dawn to a man in Chewelah, who had a couple of years earlier, acquired Sunday and Windsong from China Bend. So the three daughters of Blondie spent their last days together.


About this time I had several offers of horse logging work which led to me hearing about this fellow who had a team of stallions up near Northport. He and initially acquired a son of Major Jan (the father of Thunder, Lightening, and Golden Dawn), and then acquired Major Jan himself and tried to work them as a team. Of course the two stallions tried to kill each other and the fellow had them gelded. When I went to see them they were already gelded. The most massive, majestic Belgians I have ever seen, were now living in a muddy paddock in the woods.  I felt really bad for them. A real waste.


So that's about it. We took Thunder and Lightening with us to Southern Oregon, at first to a beautiful piece of land with Mt. Shasta staring you in the face, and plenty of pasture for them. I sold them to a dude ranch in Northern California, but Linda reminded me that a woman from Eagle Point, OR acquired them after this. Danny still had the last of the line up in Northport so maybe he can fill in from there.


I am eternally grateful for the time I had with the Belgians. They remain a big part of who I am. For one short moment of my life I was the eternal farmer, working the soil the way thousands of generations had always done. It was a priceless experience.