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Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

As is usually the case around the Labor Day holiday, our weather warmed up considerably over the last 10 days or so. Afternoon temperatures in Santa Ynez climbed to 103, with high 90s around Los Alamos.

Grape growers welcome the warm weather as it will help ripen the fruit on the vines. Winegrape harvest this season has begun slowly and I am guessing it will get into full swing in the next few days.

We have been busy not only getting ready for harvest, but also helping with several events to raise money to support agriculture in Santa Barbra County. Several weeks ago the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau held its annual Celebrate Harvest event at the beautiful Tres Hermanas winery on Foxen Canyon Road. Guests enjoyed as special rib-eye steak dinner under the sprawling oaks of Foxen Canyon while they helped raise money for the Farm Bureau and its programs supporting young folks enrolled in local FFA programs, along with the Young Farmers and Ranchers Club at Allan Hancock College.

The following weekend was the kickoff fund-raiser for the year-old Hancock College Rodeo team at the Elks Lodge in Santa Maria. Last season our daughter Kathleen and her friend Xochil Guzman represented the college at several college rodeo events. This year their numbers have grown to nine members. Thanks to this fund-raiser spearheaded by Jim Glines the team can move forward in finding a coach and help the kids as they get ready for this year’s college rodeos throughout the state.

Both the Farm Bureau and Hancock Rodeo team fund-raising events were a huge success, thanks to the generosity of our community and the hard-working volunteers who put them together.

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It does not seem possible to me that Kathleen is participating in college rodeo. It seems like yesterday our first horse arrived for the kids to begin riding 10 years ago. The horse’s name was T-Bone, and thanks to my sister Elisa, came to us as a retiree from the Alisal Ranch, where he took guests both young and old for memorable rides throughout the oaks and sycamores dotting the rolling hills of the beautiful ranch.

My sister Elisa was a wrangler at the Alisal for several years, working alongside Jake Copass. Elisa likes to tell the story of when she and Jake named T-Bone after they bought him for the Alisal. The white marking on his face was the exact outline of a T-bone steak, so that became his name at the ranch.

Both Kathleen and Clayton learned to ride T-Bone taking lessons from our friend Donna Thompson who was also a 4-H horse project leader at the time. Both kids entered the County Fair 4-H horse show riding T-Bone, who really did not appreciate the loudspeaker used in the arena. He also did not care for Mariachi music playing behind him when the Vineyard 4-H kids rode in various parades in the area.

T-Bone was probably all of 26 years old when he first arrived with us, as time went on and the kids graduated to riding younger horses, they all shared the corral with T-Bone from time to time. He was pretty good at reminding the youngsters’ who the boss was, especially at feeding time.

At the ripe old age of at least 40, T- Bone went off to run in the hills of horse heaven last Saturday morning. While we were sad to see him go, we felt blessed to be a part of his long life.

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Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineyard.com

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