There is nothing like being a “Ballerina” Barbie at a “Tomboy” Barbie doll gathering. My grandson, Jeremy, was recently invited to play with one of his friends from school. We have played together many times outside of school. Never at either of our homes. Usually, we met at the skate park, playgrounds, sports fields, community pools, and the beach. Our visits were always outside and generally involved some form of physical activity.
Dillian lives on a working equestrian farm with his mother. They care for the property and the animals that live on it. His family has lived off the land in Manatee County for several generations, and he, already at seven years old, is a “Survivalist.”
Maggie, Dillian’s mom, is the youngest child of six and the only girl. She is fit and robust and can efficiently perform any task, especially manual labor. Yet, she isn’t much bigger than me.
I was impressed yet scared to death of even the thought of Jeremy playing with any of their toys. Considering I am the “Queen of the Chicken-hearted” and my little man is a pampered prince, Jeremy would have been better off if I had just dropped him off for the afternoon. But no. I chose to stay and participate in the wildlife adventure.
Don’t get me wrong. I have been on farms before. I was raised in the “Garden State.” I’ve ridden horses and cleaned up animal waste. I’ve also trailed through the Pocono Mountains and swam in the Delaware Water Gap. But these activities occurred in the northeast, where alligators do not reside.
Dillian’s home had it all on one property, and we didn’t have to pay for a ticket to enter. A little too far from suburbia for me, but we were excited to have been invited. I was wearing my purple Chuck Taylors, and Jeremy had on his Crocks when everyone else was wearing either Timberlands or cowboy boots. Nonetheless, we were prepared to get our hands dirty.
“So, do you want to take Jeremy for a ride to run the boys?” Maggie asked.
“Do you ride horses?” she questioned Jeremy.
“Yeah, I’d love to,” he said.
“At the fair,” I blurted out.
Dillian interrupted, “My mom means, do you want to ride our horses along the fence for their daily run?”
“On a horse by myself?” Jeremy questioned.
“No,” I was about to say as Maggie saw my facial expression and suggested they do something in the yard.
“Don’t you have some eggs they can collect or a stall they can clean?” I giggled.
“What about the 4-wheelers? Would you like to ride those?” she asked.
“Alone?” I questioned as Maggie started to laugh.
“I’m sorry,” I said as I shook my head. “The DeMarcos are not forest-friendly people. Vacationing in a cabin to us means we are taking a cruise.”
“Okay,” she smiled. “How about some target practice? Has Jeremy ever done archery while on a ship?”
“No, but we love to play it on the WII. Does that count?” I asked.
“No, it doesn’t,” Dillian laughed.
Then, Dillian motioned Jeremy to follow him, and they ran off to the other side of the property, where they had an actual shooting range- equipped with moving targets. Maggie walked me over to the boys. They were already in this colossal metal shed next to three rather large piles of manure, dirt, and mulch. I felt my stomach drop, and my head got dizzy. At this point, I wasn’t sure if it was the heat, smell, or pure fear.
Dillian pointed out all his weapons and discussed how to use them appropriately. There was definitely enough firepower in this arsenal to keep the county safe, yet I was a nervous wreck.
“They can just use the bow and arrows. Or we have pellets and paintballs.”
Then, I decided it was time to bite the bullet. “How about those 4-wheelers? Maybe I could ride on one with Jeremy, and we could follow Dillian?”
Maggie agreed. Then she said with a wink, “Do you think I need to have you fill out a waiver first?”
After that, we spent the next couple of hours touring their hundred or so acres along the Manatee River. A day Jeremy and I will never forget. Unfortunately, any future playdates at our house will seem awfully dull compared to visiting the farm. Sadly, all I could hear the whole ride home was the theme song from the old TV series “Green Acres.”
Laugh on. Peace out!
Lisa DeMarco is a columnist for Villages-News.com.