"Surely, one of the biggest thrills
of my life was being allowed to sit up next to Dick
Sparrow when he made two passes up and down a large
field driving his six-horse hitch at full tilt.
"Like I said, what a great time! I smile
every time I think of it. Can't wait for the chance
to do it again!"
After the school, Steve sent us some
nice photos, one with him driving a unicorn, and wrote:
"Thanks for being a great host. It was terrific fun!
I'm still smiling!! Keep me on the list for next time."
We did, and Steve came back! In July 2001, Steve completed
his second clinic. (and again, later on). It was a real pleasure to see him
again, driving so well, with such confidence!
After Steve's second class, he writes: "You don't
disappoint. The second time around was as good as the
first -- different -- but just as good. I learned a
bit more this time since I was able to focus more."
~~~~~~ Rest In Peace, Steve ~~~~~~~~
In May 2016, we learned that Steve had died suddenly. His sister Dawn was kind to let us know: She wrote "Steve always so enjoyed everything about great horses and his time spent with you, I wanted to be sure that you knew of his passing. He apparently had either a stroke or a heart attack." So, but ONLY with her permission do I include here my reply:
"Dear Dawn, Long before we ever met, Steve called me to explain his deficits, asking if we'd try to teach him to drive four big horses. "Yes", we say, and so began a journey.
"Stephen was special. He drew a short straw and he knew it—he openly discussed his spinal bifida surgery, primitive by todays standards, and its aftereffects...even in the driving school class discussions because his deficits affected others' safety—but had decided it was not to impinge his joy of living.
"I watched him struggle—as all beginners do—to comprehend the complexity of the harness, to help with the hitching up of the teams, and the massive size of the beasts. At the same time, Pam and I—as instructors—were assessing his greatly impaired agility and non-existent lower body strength. We tried to determine whether he actually could drive four alone, without help. That's our goal and all students succeed. Much of that ability comes from using the legs when driving a team.
"Well, right there's a problem. The man could not stand erect without two canes.
"Finally, we figured it out. His massive upper body strength (kayaking for twenty miles was easy for him) gave him full control of the teams at the walk, even at the trot. But faster? I stood behind Steve in the cargo box and when he said "Canter, boys" I just locked my hands around his waist and I became a seatbelt. His "Yee Haw!" was heard several miles away, I'm certain. When he asked them (with the lines) to slow down---it's probably a 50# pull to slow the horses, loving it, finally getting to run---his butt never moved and he wasn't pulled forward out of the seat. Cool. Fun!
"Of all my students, he was my favorite. He had the most grit, the most "Git 'r did!". I really admired him, I loved him. I can't count the times he returned to take the same course all over again. It was the only way he could drive the four-up, actually."
It was our great privilege to know such a man.