Sunday, January 3, 2010

Meeting Coconut

November 13, 2006: My son, Corey, and I head out equipped only with a page-print of the ad and some scribbled down instructions to some obscure place without a real address in Monroe, WA. As we drive out Highway 522, we actually discussed my guilt at having abandoned my intention of giving a previously rescued horse it’s permanent home in favor of this fancy Arabian mare we were going out to meet. Coconut Macaroon!

Making the turn onto Woods Creek Road, we realized that we’d been out this way before. Some friends of our had a home out that way for awhile and we recognized some of the landmarks: The beautiful Thoroughbred Facility, complete with it’s immaculate barns and practice track…the old abandoned trailer that had been completely overgrown with vines & weeds (or was it a motor home? Hard to tell under it’s green cocoon) …and we remembered our friends, Michael & Lisa, as we passed their old street…and missed them. Then began the directions that Map Quest never could have given us…after you crest the hill, you’ll make the very next right (at a sign that said “Sleepy Valley Farm”) and pass through someone else’s farm (that looked like something from Sanford & Son…only worse…every building on that property was filled to the gills with junk!) before you cross the creek and park in the dirt lot on the right just on the other side of the bridge. That was the place where I would meet the owner, Jean Elledge…

When we pulled up, there was a newer looking green truck parked across the dirt road. When we parked the couple in the truck came over to meet us. I looked around. This valley was huge…lots and lots of grass. There had been flooding all over Western Washington the week before and obviously this pasture…more correctly, these pastures, had not escaped. Water covered much of the grassy area forming a large and wide arc to the west along side the creek that ran along side the pastures, dividing the two visible pastures from the crazy junk-yard/farm (presumably Sleepy Valley Farm!? It didn’t look so peaceful to me…)

Jean Elledge came up and introduced herself and said we needed to go out to the pasture to meet Coconut. Doing so required crossing a flooded area of the pasture up near the fence next to the road. She looked at our feet and made a comment about how we hadn’t come prepared. I had on white tennis shoes and Corey had on black suede skateboard shoes…no, not proper footwear for a flooded pasture at all. I get asked quite often what I thought of Jean when I first met her…and everyone will eventually understand why this encounter holds so much interest… and I’d have to confess that I felt a little intimidated by her. She was, after all, the one vote in the decision about who gets this fancy Arabian mare and I was looking a bit naive at the moment, what with my poor footwear and all. Overall, however, she was a little understated; a bit on the small side both in height and in personality. She spoke very softly and didn’t appear judgmental at all. Still, I felt the judged. I don’t believe I ever understood exactly who the man was but he appeared to be about my own age and I’d guessed her to be about 10 years older than me.

As she undid the barbed wire makeshift gate through which we all passed through, she told me to hold up as she, in her rubber boots, stepped directly into the water and stopped half way across, holding out her hand to me. She instructed me to step on some rocks and reminded me to be careful, as they could be slippery. I don’t recall that she made such a gesture to Corey. We walked out onto the huge pasture (one of two that flanked the dirt road that I’d just come down) and a herd of horses approached us. I scanned them but did not see the white one I’d seen in the ad. She explained that this was her stallion pasture and that she had geldings out there as well. Many of them were boarders. She pointed back at the pasture behind us, on the other side of the road and indicated that those were mares and foals. Confused as to why we were headed to the Stallion Pasture, I just kept following her until we reached what looked to be the edge of the pasture and a line of trees. As we got closer I realized that it was actually a creek and about a five foot deep embankment. She made her way to a small green plastic crate foot bridged that spanned the river and she walked across slowly. Upon reaching the other side she undid another barbed wire makeshift gate and turned to us, instructing us to cross over one at a time.

Once we reached the other side I saw a group of four horses grazing. One of them lifted her head and walked up to us. Jean clipped a lead rope to the halter she was wearing and presented the rope to me. “This is Coconut Macaroon!” she smiled and proclaimed. I tried hard not to make that scrunched up face that one makes when they bite something sour but I was thoroughly confused. This hardly looked anything like the grainy photo I’d seen online, let alone the mythical horse I’d convinced myself the photo couldn’t possibly have captured since it was probably taken with a cell phone and she was undoubtedly the most regal Arabian mare ever…and yet here stood this overgrown fuzz ball with a large belly and black socks. My first impression was that she looked more like a mule.

The next moment still brings a tear to my eye…

This horse, this very awkward looking pathetic little horse took a step toward me, slowly lowered her head, placed it softly in my chest and let out a little sigh…to this day I swear she said “Lady, I don’t know who you are or where you come from, but please take me with you, wherever that might be. I bet you have food there!”

I probably didn’t understand the full message there that day but I certainly did get the first line and with that sigh, she had me…

At this point I felt the shift of judgment and suddenly the flags were popping up all over the place and I had to remain calm and professional because my instincts were telling me this small little woman still held the keys but could flee like a scared deer with the slightest hint that I might be starting to realize that something was very wrong there. So I played the game and started asking the questions…

Why was she for sale?

Coconut had been a boarder and her prior owner’s checks had started bouncing. Eventually, according to Jean Elledge, she stopped paying all together. It took Jean a few months to get in contact with the owner and they offered Coconut to her as a board surrender.

Jean told me she instantly recognized what a fine Arabian mare she was and tried to get her registered. She said she tried really hard because she wanted to use Coconut in her Arab breeding program but when she was unsuccessful she realized that her babies could only be registered as half-Arabs and that, according to Jean, was the ONLY reason she was giving her up. She preferred to breed full Arabs. I looked around the pasture and didn’t recognize any (not even Coconut) as Arabian so I asked her how many Arabs she had in her breeding program and she down-played it by saying that she kept “those” horses at her home which was a few miles away. I then returned my attention to Coconut’s large round belly and began to wonder if she wasn’t trying to pass-off a pregnant mare to me already. By this time I was already sold on the horse and fully understood that I may have just gotten a two-for-one deal but was keeping my mouth shut and my best dumb smile beaming.

Jean went on to tell me that the previous owner used to ride Coconut out on the trails adjacent to the pastures and that she was a great little trail horse. Although she never really answered the question when I asked how long she’d had Coconut but she did say that she’d been “off” for about a year and probably needed a tune up.

I decided to give Coconut my best version of a “once over” and was pleasantly surprised when she lifted her foot for me and then in turn offered me all three other feet as I made my way around her. I’m no expert but the feet felt a bit spongy to me, but what was I going to do, say “No?” …Hardly! We went for a little walk around the pasture while Jean and her companion moved over to another horse, presumably to give us some room. She wasn’t but 15 feet away, when I heard her remark to her friend “I like how she’s looking the horse in the eye!” To this day I’m not sure why that seemed significant but at the time, I recall wondering how she could not understand that I could hear even her meek little voice over the quiet pasture and my impression was not that she intended for me to hear it…or perhaps she did hoping I’d make a decision by her compliments. I do, however, know it stuck me as odd and the concern she appeared to be expressing didn’t match the vibe I was getting from her or her friend. The whole thing was feeling more and more uncomfortable for me but I was clear that my mission was to get that horse out of there.

About this time, Jean came over and casually (with purpose, I’m sure) mentioned that someone else was supposed to have come out to see her the day before but had gotten lost (really??? With the lack of an address and obscure directions and everything…someone might not have found the place??) And was going to reschedule a visit for the following day (maybe, maybe not…is Jean really that kind of saleswoman…creating a sense of urgency!?) but I knew I was going to buy the horse and informed Jean of my intention.

We unclipped the lead and Jean said, “Before you go, you’ve got to see her run!” Coconut seemed pretty content to stand there and just hang out with us but Jean turned to her, shook the lead rope in the air, waving the other arm and belted out a deep “He-YaH!” and Coconut took off in what I remember as an almost slow motion but intense gallop off into the pasture before she stopped suddenly and came back right at us, turning off at the last minute, tossing her head at us in a move that has almost become her signature mythical Coconut-Arabian move… If she’d sprouted wings and flown off like Pegasus at that moment I’m not sure I would have been surprised… It truly was stunning!

We all walked back across the bridge and Coconut came to the very edge of the embankment and watched us leave. I’d done it…I’d agreed to buy a horse but the problem was how was I going to get her home? Obviously she would not fit in the trunk of my Chrysler Concorde so something was going to have to be worked out. Jean said she had a broken axle on her trailer or she’d offer to haul her home but in the meantime I could keep her on the pasture as long as I needed for $170 a month. I let her know I would be taking her to Federal Way as soon as I could arrange it so she said she’d pro-rate the board until I did. Wow, thanks!

I offered to write Jean a check for the horse but would have to work out how to get her back to Federal Way. Apparently Jean could not cash a check written from my bank, or so she thought…so Corey and I, in a weird financial vortex never to occur again in our lifetime, managed to have the $500 in cash between us and I handed it over to Jean. It started to rain (I know, this is starting to sound like some sappy Hallmark movie, but it’s true). Jean asked if I had a piece of paper to write out a bill of sale and the only thing I had was the page-print I had of the ad so she hand-wrote it on the back. I have it still, rain stained and all!

Corey and I headed home and no sooner got onto the highway before we both started recounting just how weird that whole thing had been. We both felt a bad vibe and remarked that everything fell into place, from the deal I’d made with myself before my trip to actually having exactly $500 between us in cash. Everything pointed to the fact that we were meant to have this horse.

May I just say that I also secretly loved that my new horse, my first horse, had suddenly become “our” horse. I also had a little bit of guilt that I’d never introduced Corey to horses before this and wondered what difference it might have made to have them in our lives at a much earlier time? But onward and upward, right? We had a horse and there was a lot to be done in the next several days. I called Les on the way home and announced “Congratulations Mr. Parrett, it’s a horse!” (A nod to a private family joke about babies and horses…a post to be mentioned later, I’m sure!)

If this is dragging on, I’m sorry. It’s just that now that I’ve started to tell the tale, it’s almost too difficult not to actually tell the “WHOLE” story. I sense this will continue on for days…so if you’re hanging in there with me, next up is the week in the pasture…

I’d also like to give a small hint to an upcoming “making a difference in the lives of horses” subject…just so ya’ll know I don’t intend to turn this into the all-Coconut-all-the-time kind of blog…I’m very excited to say that I have said Yes! to exploring a new project…but that’s all I’m gonna say for now… I knew I couldn’t go too many days without a new horse adventure and being that it happened on the second day of the year (and blog) I think this idea of blogging might work out close to how I envisioned it.

Is my Mother reading it yet? I don’t think so, she’s sick this week so she gets a pass but I fully expect her to read every-single-line once she’s better! Love you Mom :)


  1. I'm just going to snuggle up here with my blankie and listen to your Coconut Story, okay? Sounds like it's going to be a good one. Shall I pop some corn for us?

    Well wishes to your mum!

  2. love the love you have for this horse.....i too remeber my first meeting with tyler

  3. Thanks you two :) do have a way with words, don't you! I can practically smell pop corn right now...yummmmmm