If I really let myself dream, I’d be living in a small English-style cottage with walls painted in lush ivy and a wisteria-covered wooden gate that opens into a flower garden. Butterflies would be plentiful. An arched bridge would span a cool brook not far from the thatched roof house.
I saw a painting of such a cottage as a child. Seemingly, time would stand still as I sat and gazed at the drawing, imagining myself along the grassy bank, dipping my toes into the water.
But, alas, for me at least, the cottage, and certainly a flourishing flower garden, are just childlike dreams, tucked far enough away so as not to cloud reality, but close enough to escape a sometimes maddening world.
Everyone has dreams, those images of themselves in defining situations if only they had the money, time or gumption. But turning dreams into reality can be a frightening endeavor, not unlike the first time you take off on a bike secure in knowing your father is running beside you with a tight grip on the seat. However, with one glance across your shoulder comes the realization that you are the driver. That is usually the moment you have to make a decision – to keep pedaling or to use the side of your parents’ station wagon for brakes.
Through the course of my lifetime, figuratively speaking, I’ve left my share of dents in station wagons. Though I walked away with scruffed shins and bruises, it was better than flying solo. But the downside to never taking chances, never taking that leap of faith, is that dreams remain dreams and nothing more.
That’s why I admire Karen Hodges so. About a week ago, while helping me prepare our church newsletter for the mail, she began laughing as she told me about taking a chance on her dream of being a small entrepreneur. I thought she was about to tell me about her plans to open a coffee shop or a clothing store. That’s what most would assume when looking at this petite blond. But we’ve all heard that age-old adage about assuming and what it makes us look like, which is ironic, since that’s exactly where our story takes us.
Karen is now an official burro farmer. Although burro farming wasn’t her exact dream, owning a business that allowed her to be outdoors and share some quality time with her daughter and husband were. So, when a Nettleton man who raised and bred burros was interested in selling his stock, Karen decided to take the investment plunge. She is now the proud owner of 11 burros, six of which are pregnant and contented roaming 80 acres on their Richmond community farm.
But is there a market? You’d be surprised. Burros, Karen said, are ideal for predator control as well as clear-cutting dense areas of acreage. And although raising burros can entail a lot of work and worry (like when one of Karen’s burros was bitten by a cottonmouth), some burros most especially a spotted burro can carry a price tag of $1,500 or more.
Right now, Karen admits she’s a novice, reading everything she can about raising and caring for burros. But she’s as stubborn and determined as her equine friends, and I have no doubt her leap of faith will pay off in the end.
My only advice? Hunker down, pedal hard and believe.
Mary Farrell Thomas writes a weekly column for the Daily Journal.