The Groundskeeper

by Rhonda, August 11, 2022

Quite a few months back, the kids and I had an opportunity to visit Kentucky.  Considering my daughter's (extreme) fondness for horses, this was a dream trip for her.  The Kentucky horse farms are really something to see, and my daughter was chomping at the bit (pun intended) to see some horses.

Horses, she hoped for, and horses she got.  They were in abundance.  Even just driving down the highways of Kentucky gave glimpses into beautiful horse farms, with perfectly groomed horses, their coat shining in the sunlight.  

Given she is visually impaired, she could only see some of the horses near the road, but Alex and I would describe the ones to her further away.

"There's one up the hill," we would explain.  "A brown horse with white spots, with a foal."

She would ask for us to describe it in more detail, so she could identify the breed.  We tried, but we often didn't explain well enough, much to her disappointment.  

I wasn't satisfied with our drive-by tours, though.  I had a surprise up my sleeve for her.  I was able to get us a tour with a groundskeeper of a particularly famous horse farm.  

We met up with an elderly groundskeeper, complete with southern charm and an accent to boot.  He gave us a glimpse into a whole new world.  We entered the gated property and drove past the most meticulous, beautiful barns I'd ever seen.  They were stone, and they housed future famous racehorses.  As a result, we weren't allowed to actually go inside of the barns, but many of the horses in the paddocks were close enough for Leeza to see.  

He drove us slowly through the farm, which went on for miles.  He let the kids get out many times to take pictures of the stunning scenery.  I have to admit, I'd never seen anything like it.  The ground were absolutely beautiful, landscaped to perfection.  Multiple crews worked to keep the grass perfectly trimmed, the flowers maintained, and of course - the paddocks looking gorgeous.

Our guide told us story after story about the horses as we passed by.  He knew them all.  He knew their history, their lineage, and we enjoyed each and every detail.  He explained how things work on a professional horse barn, and Leeza was hanging on his every word.  Since she's worked in a horse barn, she asked him "What do you do when you clean the stalls?  Where do you put all of the used straw."

He smiled at her question.  "You wouldn't believe it," he said.

Then he drove us to the drop off facility for the used horse bedding.  

"Every day," he said, "there's a truck that comes in and picks all of this stuff up."

Leeza was amazed.  We spent a good twenty minutes talking to our guide about the mechanics of removing horse poop from the stalls.  He got such a kick out of her questions.  She was genuinely curious about how it all worked.

Soon, we came upon an empty barn where the horses had been put out for the day.  Leeza got to peek inside of the barn.  It was spotless, complete with fans for every horse, and beautiful doors sporting the name of the resident in each stall.  Of course, Leeza could not believe how clean it was.

"There's literally no dirt.  Its as clean as our house!" she exclaimed.  Our groundskeeper laughed.  "These horses live a better life than a lot of humans."

I nodded in agreement. 

We ended the trip with the last paddock, which had seven or eight horses together in one field.  The groundskeeper parked the car as we sat inside.  

"Leeza," our guide said.  "Can you see all of those horses?"

"No," she sighed.  "Can you describe them for me?"

"Honey," he said, "get out and stand by the fence and take a picture so you can see them."

He didn't have to ask her twice.  She bailed out of the car and stood by the fence to take a photo.  

Then, the most amazing thing happened.  The horses spotted her by the fence and all of them came running towards her.  They didn't just run over to her, they formed a line, one by one, and began to run along the fenceline.  Each of them ran in front of her, showing their beautiful form, their grace, and their speed.  She got to see every single one of them, up close, in amazing detail.

I watched in amazement from the car.

"I've been here a long time," the groundskeeper said.  "I've never seen that happen."

Leeza put her camera down and just watched the entire thing.  I don't think she got a single picture, she was so overjoyed in the moment of watching prized racehorses running past her.  They were so close she could reach out and touch them.

She must have stood there for fifteen minutes, just staring into the field, long after they had returned to the other side of the paddock.

I opened my door to retrieve her, since the groundskeeper, Alex, and I were all waiting on her in the car.

"Don't." the groundskeeper said.  "Let her enjoy it."  

So, I did.  Once she was sure they weren't coming back, she returned to the car and immediately asked me, "Did you see it?"

We relived the excitement of it together in the car, while the groundskeeper drove us outside of the gates and back to our hotel.  It was an amazing day, and we have told the stories from our trip on the horse farm multiple times.  Even now, I can't get over how it ended, with the horses parading past her.

A few days later, we were in the airport on our way home.  The groundskeeper called me on my cellphone.  "I want you to know, your kids are top shelf.  I've driven around many rich people on this property, even corporate executives.  But none of them were as polite as your kids.  You're doing a good job with those kids, Mama."

My eyes filled with tears as we hung up.  Sometimes us Moms don't hear those words very often, so to hear them from a stranger was pretty meaningful.

To my sadness, I received a message today that the groundskeeper from that horse farm passed away.  I told the kids, and they were very grieved to hear of the passing of our wonderful guide, the southern gentleman who was willing to share his knowledge with a girl obsessed with horses.  

I have been thinking about him all day.  He was so generous with us.  He would have stayed as long as we wanted, explaining everything with a tremendous amount of patience.  He was so kind.  He was so supportive.  He went out of his way to let us know we mattered to him.

We knew him for one day, but we will remember how he made us feel for a lifetime.

I can't help but think about how much God blessed us that day.  I know God lined those horses up for Leeza, but without the patient groundskeeper, she wouldn't have seen it.  I wonder if our guide went home that night, thinking about the grand finale of our visit like we did.  He must have thought about it, since he called me a few days later.

I am thanking God tonight for this man's life, and the one day we got to spend with him.  I am hoping heaven got a bit more southern today, with a deep laugh, and an unmistakable accent.  

He was, indeed, top shelf.

1 Thes 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

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