Sunday, October 15, 2006

At Black Beauty Ranch

"It will be interesting to see, but it will probably be sad," Christine said on Friday as we discussed going to an open house at Cleveland Amory's Black Beauty Ranch.

"No," I said, "These are the success stories, it'll be fine."

So of course it was me fighting tears the most as we stood in a rare East Texas rain looking at the animals cared for at Black Beauty, originally created as a spot for Grand Canyon-area burros that were to be shot by the National Parks Service in the '70s in order to free up grazing lands.

Now a host of animals are housed there -- camels, horses, chimps once kept in zoos or research labs, and burros including one named Friendly who was part of the original airlift from the Grand Canyon.

It's only on occasion that Black Beauty's gates are opened for visits because, as the keepers stress, it's not a zoo. The animals are there to live out their days following harsh and inhumane treatment in many settings, not to be viewed.

Babe, the lone elephant, was left an orphan in South Africa by culling procedures there and wound up in the U.S. as a circus elephant.

Her legs on her right side were injured and untreated during that stint and require ongoing care.

A huge pile of sand is kept in her living area so that she can lean against it to take weight off those legs. She's kept on a strict diet to hold her weight down and relieve stress on those legs.

She lives alone now, her companion, an elderly Asian elephant having died. Upon that death, volunteers say Babe issued a rare trumpet sound from her trunk.

A sign of sentience? Who is to say?

Black Beauty also houses blind ponies, their sight lost to disease. Two of the blind ones are frequently guided by a third resident pony who stays beside them.

The burros, calm and docile were the last animals we visited. They were quiet hosts, mingling with visitors as they frequently do with other animals at the ranch.

Friendly, now around 30 years old, and another named Eeyore stood close to us and to others, allowing their fur to be stroked by children and often bowing their heads.

When their heads tilt now, the markings across their fur become more obvious, dark brown on their coats.

Legend holds those markings were left by the shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ as the donkey He rode into Jerusalem gazed up at His crucifixion.

Yes, it was sad, but it was also wonderful.

For more on the story of Black Beauty Ranch check out Making Burros Fly.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

It's a good thing there is such a place, and a visit there would be both sad and wonderful.

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