This week we say goodbye to an old friend, a burro named Friendly, whose long life is inextricably entwined with that of Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch. She arrived at the ranch’s beginning, and we remember her good nature at her end.
In 1979, Cleveland Amory led the The Fund for Animals in a dramatic two-year rescue of 577 burros set to be killed in the Grand Canyon. Of all the burros The Fund for Animals and Cleveland Amory rescued, there was one clear favorite: Friendly. She did not trot away from her rescuers, but stood her ground and eventually even came closer.
“Friendly had come up in a sling in the very first batch of burros, and I was in the corral when she was lifted up over the rim and delicately dropped to the ground,” Amory wrote in his last book, Ranch of Dreams. “I was one of the crew who untied her. … She must have thought … we all were [crazy.] But she also realized, I felt then and still feel, that no one had really hurt her, and therefore we were not all bad.”
In spite of the chaos of whirring helicopters, being roped and tied up, and finally lifted 7,000 feet out of the canyon, Friendly seemed to have a perspective the other burros did not.
“She was absolutely beautiful,” remembers Marian Probst, Chair of The Fund for Animals, who was on the rim of the Grand Canyon when Friendly was airlifted out. “Friendly reacted just like your next door neighbor. She was always an extremely outgoing and gorgeous animal.”
One evening Amory went to the corral to look for Friendly, who would typically approach him as soon as she spotted him.
“I kept walking up to burro after burro [but] I could not find her,” he wrote. He heard the cowboys, who were sitting on the corral fence, laughing at him, and when he turned around, there was Friendly. She had been following him so closely he couldn’t see her.
Friendly was one of the first burros to reach Black Beauty Ranch. Pregnant at the time of her rescue from the Grand Canyon, she gave birth to a foal some months after arrival at the ranch. The foal, Friendly Two, was introduced to Amory by Friendly herself. Her usual greeting to Amory was to shove her head into his stomach. This time, she brought her baby over to Amory and instead shoved the baby into Amory, who proceeded to hug and talk to Friendly Two. Then, Friendly shoved the baby out of the way and inserted her own head back into Amory’s stomach; she obviously still wanted most of his affections for herself.
“Of all the animals that Cleveland knew in his life,” Marian says, “Friendly was one of the closest to him.”
A Good Life on the Ranch
Toward the end of her long life, staff members showered Friendly with tender attention. She received specialized care for senior equines and spent her days socializing with the other resident animals on the ranch.
Friendly was always good company to staff and visitors. She might have nudged you in the stomach for scratches. If you put your head to hers, she would stand for a long time just touching heads with you, sometimes closing her eyes. She seemed to appreciate this kind of exchange, simply sharing the same space, experiencing each other’s breathing.
Friendly’s life will remain a reminder of the miraculous beginning of the ranch. Since her arrival at the 83-acre ranch, it has grown to nearly 1,300 acres and become a permanent sanctuary for more than 1,200 animals, many of whom have been rescued from suffering and cruelty. But the history for the ranch began with that initial Grand Canyon airlift—and with Friendly.
“Friendly emphasized the bond between man and animal. She’d been born in the Grand Canyon. Nobody had ever looked after her. No one had ever given her a pat. And from the moment she was rescued, she became this animal who loved everyone, who became your best friend. She really is a symbol of that bond between animals and people,” says Marian.
Friendly’s slow and purposeful stroll, her distinctive bray to her compatriots and her gentle manner will be remembered and continue to inspire all those fortunate enough to have known her. As we say goodbye, we’ll remember her unmistakable silhouette against the evening sunset of East Texas.
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