Remember Jefferson, the steer who escaped from an Eastern Market slaughterhouse at Christmastime two years ago?
He careened down city streets for more than a mile, stopping traffic and fascinating onlookers. Eventually, police cornered him, and he was shot with a tranquilizer dart. A lot of sympathetic people then fought to save him.
Anyone who cheats the executioner ought to get a second chance at life, they reasoned. The owner of the slaughterhouse saw only that $1,500 worth of steak had walked out of his front door, and wanted his cash on the hoof.
Well, that story had a happy ending. Animal rights activists sent in donations and paid his ransom. Last week I saw old Jefferson, who was grazing happily with a herd of other rescued cattle at a place called SASHA Farm, which is just outside Manchester, in southwest Washtenaw County.
I think he is bigger, said Dorothy Davies, who runs the place. He was certainly looking well-fed. Lets just say Jefferson, who was named for the avenue he used as a highway to freedom, is one former Detroiter who doesnt regret leaving the city. But whats this place where the runaway beef ended up?
Until recently, Id never heard of SASHA Farm, which was started almost by accident by Dorothy, a Garden City native, and her husband, Monte Jackson, a trucker who hauls between here and Wisconsin.
They fled the exotic life in Westland and bought 65 acres in 1981. They got involved in 4-H, which seemed like a good thing. Then they learned that after kids raise little farm animals from infancy, they send them off to be killed.
The day they come to get the animals is awful. The kids are crying, the parents are upset with their kids ...
Somehow, impulsively, they started saving goats. Then a pig or two, then a few cows. Manchester is known as the home of the chicken broil, so one time Dorothy and Monte decided to have one of their own. They managed to kill one chicken. That was it. They became vegans, and the rest were spared.
Today, something like 250 animals are living the good life on SASHA Farm, many after earlier lives of unspeakable cruelty. There are chickens with their beaks cut off so they cant peck one another in overcrowded quarters. There are pigs with their tails and front teeth cut off for the same reason. There are also a vast number of cats, and a sleepy old chow mix who was liberated years ago from a vivisection lab, as Dorothy puts it, at the University of Michigan.
There are four donkeys from Arizona, and a beautiful racehorse named Brave, who after winning $325,000 for his owner was going to be made into dog food because of a slight bone injury that shaved six seconds off his time.
Then, of course, there are the refugees from Hurricane Katrina, several of whom are still recovering from broken bones and heartworm and starvation and other ailments. As I write this, Dorothy is jammed into a large van borrowed from DaimlerChrysler, going to retrieve more dogs from Gulfport, Miss.
Incredibly, some of them have been reunited with their owners. Others go to foster homes, and eventually up for adoption. We ask if people might be interested in a dog who isnt from Katrina, and if not, we throw the applications away, she said, reasoning that those people may tire of the animal when the novelty of the national tragedy wears off.
Thats been the case with many a potbellied pig, another fad pet whose owners are famous for dumping them when they get big. Eleven of them are now snorting around SASHA Farm, along with some farm pigs and Boris, a wild boar who was brought in, newborn and half-dead, by a hunter.
Dorothy doesnt have any illusion that she can save all the animals. But she does think she has a mission to make up for what is a world of cruelty.
Years ago, for SASHA Farm, she quit her job as Manchesters librarian. These days, she spends seven days a week cajoling foundations and corporations for donations, and she could use some help, especially in the form of money or stuff.
Volunteers who are willing to do a little honest work are always needed, especially in the colder months, when working outside isnt that appealing. Plus even if you remain a meat-eater you ought to see where, or whom, your dinner comes from. The best way to learn about SASHA Farm is on the Internet (sashafarm.org or [email protected]), or by calling 734-428-9617.
SASHA Farm, by the way, was named for the border collie that used to help run the place; the name also stands for Sanctuary and Safe Haven for Animals.
You cant make this stuff up: Meanwhile, back to the less civilized animals: Last weeks Michigan Citizen had an ad on its back page that included me as part of a white male media lynch mob out to install Freeman [sic] Hendrix as mayor and turn control of the city over to the white suburbs, yadda yadda yadda.
This is, of course, all true. Freman long ago told me that if I helped him win, he would not only make me chief lavatory attendant at the Manoogian Mansion, with a brown uniform and everything, but he would turn Tiger Stadium over to me, so that my famous guinea pigs could graze on the lawn where baseballs immortals played.
The current mayor, of course, has been looking out for the interests of African-Americans in his bankrupt city by paying Mike Ilitch $400,000 a year for maintaining the stadium. (In fairness, lets note this outrage started while Dennis Archer was still mayor.)
Maintaining the stadium evidently doesnt mean taking care of it, since as a helicopter ride is quick to reveal, the grass is turning yellow and the place is falling apart. The pizza baron did cut his fee in half recently, after lots of other contractors proposed to take better care of the stadium for less money.
What the city really does for its Little Caesar is prevent anyone else from using Tiger Stadium. Ilitchs fear always has been that somebody might put a minor league team in there, giving Detroiters interesting baseball at a fraction of the price. Not to worry; with just a little more maintenance, the most important spot in the history of Detroit sports may be ready for the wrecking ball.
Incidentally, I originally planned to make fun of the Citizen ad because of its implication that Mildred Gaddis, the popular host of WCHB-AMs morning drive talk show, Inside Detroit, is really a white man.
But I then learned that a thread on DetroitYES, a blog that seems almost exclusively devoted to moronic slander and drivel, is now seriously charging that Mildred is, in fact, a man.
Ive sat next to her on many a panel. If shes a man, Im Lindsay Lohan.
Escape all this: Youd be well advised on any Tuesday night in November to go to the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights Film Festival at St. Johns Episcopal Church, Woodward and 11 Mile, in Royal Oak. Four splendid films will be shown at 7 p.m.; if you miss em, theyll be screened at Madonna University the next night. Rudy Simons, who tends to be involved with everything good, swears its pure coincidence that the film being shown on election night is about people being held in bondage who ought to be freed.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]. Hear him weekdays at 1 p.m. on WUOM (91.7 FM or