the Labrador...

is the most recent of many of these wonderful creatures to roam the woods and fields at Shady Pond. Each had their own individual traits that left many pleasant memories with us. But, Simon is unique. He is well known by our fellow tree growers from across the nation and enjoyed by our customers for his antics.

Simon follows the tractors constantly. If a stick flies out from under one of the cutters, he catches it before it hits the ground. Be assured that catching one of these high speed projectiles is no simple matter. It takes eye-mouth and paw coordination that legends are made of. Collecting the sticks individually is not sufficient, he gathers them up in multiples. If one is in his mouth, he captures the second one with his front feet, puts the first on top of the second one and picks them both up together. He is commonly seen following the tractors with six and sometimes eight sticks, depending on size, in his mouth at a time. And catching the sticks is no restrained event, it's was always accompanied by enthusiastic flips and twists, that really get to be a bit much. If the cutting area happens to be clean of debris, small insects were substituted for the sticks. As they flee the approaching equipment, Simon tries to catch them one after another. It is unbelievable. This goes on for hours, for days.

When the tractors aren't running, he finds large branches; really huge, mammoth tree limbs 6 and 8 feet in length, and 2 to 3 inches in diameter. He drags them on the ground in an apparent attempt to break them into smaller pieces. And he's occasionally successful. The animal is obsessed.

The Christmas tree customers discovered Simon's skill. The children collect the bamboo stakes, that are used to support the trees when they are young, and throw them for Simon to catch. Can you imagine a dozen of these in his mouth at one time, he's becoming famous.

At times, his attention turns to the Christmas tree cleaning station. Here the freshly cut trees are cleaned of any loose needles and debris using very high velocity tractor powered blowers. Needless to say the needles fly everywhere. Simon loves it. He stands poised ready to leap as the needles fly out of the trees and the customers go wild. Now they bring him gifts; tennis balls, doggie toys, those leather chewy things. We've created a monster!

Simon's Hiding

But, the most bizarre event occurred one Friday night a few years ago. I was in the barn all alone, Simon had gone off to make his rounds. No one else was on the property that evening. It was a moonless night and the darkness was still. Ground fog had filled the fields, as it does in the fall, and the air felt thick and damp. I was submerged in the task of preparing the machines for the next days work on the trees; when I was overtaken by a cold sense that someone, or something, was approaching. Unable to shrug off the feeling, I went to the edge of the old building to investigate. It was difficult to see in the darkness, but I could hear what sounded like an animals feet approaching through the fog. When its silhouette came in to focus, it appeared to be a deer and it was heading directly toward the barn, an unlikely destination. I was startled and tried to analyze the vision quickly, but the pieces didn't fit. It looked like a deer; but if it was, it was the shortest deer I had ever seen. It was really close to the ground and moving fairly fast. Well, it turned out to be Simon with a set of antlers that he had found. Heaven knows where he got them. The skull plate was still attached; he had it in his mouth. And the horns swept back around his head. So, the Labra-deer was born. I saved those antlers and he still loves to do his Labra-deer trick for anyone who will watch.

The Labra-Deer

The End...

came for Simon on March 10, 1997 after a series of illnesses that began the prior Thanksgiving. His departure was far more painful than I ever expected. This unique animal brought joy to the lives of many with his unrestrained enthusiasm for life and his passion to join in all things human. The void he left behind will not soon be filled.

And so, Simon now takes his place among the Ghosts of Shady Pond.

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