Tales of Beacon Hollow Farm: Old Charlie
Charlie, the Belgian horse owned by Rick and Renée Batchelder, died recently, He was 33 years-old, unusually old for a draft horse. Charlie was probably best known for his own Christmas story from a number of years ago when he returned to Beacon Hollow Farm one Christmas Day after wandering off from the Batchelder Farm when a gate was left open. The largest of horses, draft horses are gentle giants and Charlie was the gentlest of the gentle. He was brought to our farm as a three-year old more than 30 years ago by Rick, along with two other Belgians. They resided here for years before they were eventually taken to Rick’s farm. Charlie never forgot his first Block Island home and returned on his own when the opportunity presented itself on that Christmas morning.
The Belgians were represented on the streets of Block Island led by Charlie and Rick. They pulled hay wagons, wedding parties, a stagecoach, a white Cinderella carriage, a Surrey with a fringe on top. Sometimes three abreast, Babe, Rodney, and Charlie paraded on the Fourth of July and were always a vision from another time, outfitted with black leather and chrome. To this day, I have hanging in my living room a huge string of brass sleigh bells that once hung around Charlie’s vast waistline. These beautiful creatures didn’t bite, kick, or bother people, but could do some damage if they stepped on you, which only happened accidentally.
Beacon Hollow Farm had the pleasure of their company over many years. One winter, Rick brought his increasing herd down to our farm for the winter months, all 14 of them. The Hollow is naturally protected from the harsh cold winds. There was a beautiful golden filly foal born that year called Lori’s Baby Doc, but it wasn’t Charlie’s. Eventually the herd was sold off and some returned to the Amish country where they all started out, but Charlie remained. Rick’s neighbors were blessed by the sight of Charlie in the fields, always ready for a treat. He became a recluse, so to speak, in his old age, pasturing alone in his field, outliving all his friends, but proud to have lived his long life on Block Island.
The ordeal of passage of beloved animals is difficult, but remembering them is a renewable pleasure.