In 1849, four year-old Thomas Kandell, is growing up on the family farm in Danville, Illinois. His chore is to feed the chickens. One day, he inquires of his father, Aaron, if he can have one of the young chicks to take care of as a pet . Amused, his father agrees and Thomas selects the smallest chick, a pretty black one. Thomas names her Sadie. Soon little Sadie is following young Tom everywhere...most likely due to him constantly feeding her. True to his word, he does indeed take care of Sadie. Aaron and Tom's mother, Priscilla, are genuinely proud of his humble responsibility initiative. When Tom is seven, Sadie goes to chicken heaven one night during unexpected freezing weather. There was never even the faintest consideration that Sadie should end up in the cooking pot as dinner. Heartbroken over her demise, Tom helps Aaron build a small wooden box; he bravely places Sadie inside, and buries her behind the barn. Tom writes of this in his diary.
Weeks go by and one afternoon a stray female cat appears at the house. She is black and has amazing brown eyes. Priscilla suggest to Tom the cat could be a nice pet. Tom is thrilled and immediately declares that her name shall also be Sadie. They become constant companions. Though she is not allowed in the house, Tom "occasionally" opens his bedroom window to let Sadie in at night. Aaron and Priscilla both know of this mischief, but decide to say nothing as the cat is causing no harm. Just before midnight, on a snowy night the following February, Sadie begins the most unearthly howling and shrieking sounds one can imagine, of course waking everyone from their sound sleep. Thinking she might be in heat, Aaron rushes to escort Sadie outside to the barn for the night. He is startled to find Sadie producing her outcry in the living area...not Tom's room. Immediately he discovers her reason for distress....the living room rug is on fire! A rogue ember from the fireplace is the source of trouble. Quickly Aaron douses the flame just before it reaches their modest wood furniture. Sadie watches, as if she is in charge of this one-man fire brigade, and then returns with Tom to his room. From then on, Sadie is a welcome guest in the house. Tom writes of this and many other experiences in his diary.
The years go by, and when Tom is seventeen, Sadie becomes weak and sickly, and one day she vanishes. Priscilla believes Sadie has gone off somewhere to die alone. Though he is missing his old friend, Tom does not have time to dwell on the loss....the Civil War is raging and his father, a Union officer, has not been heard from in months. Priscilla has become so distraught concerning Aaron, she does not eat properly and becomes ill. She is unable to help Tom with the many chores. He understands her anxiety and works the long, back-breaking hours without complaint
Late one afternoon in September, Tom is hunting deer. Sitting on a fallen tree on the edge of a field of corn stalks, Tom notices a movement to his left and raises his rifle in preparation to fire. The animal enters the field, but it's not a deer....just a spirited young horse walking straight for Tom. He un-cocks his rifle, stands and walks to it. She is solid black, has a long, thick mane, has dazzling brown eyes, and she wears no halter. Tom checks her for possible injuries and a brand. Finding none, he slaps her on the rump and moves away. She follows him and gives him a gentle nudge in his back with her nose. This is the first time Tom laughs in a long time. He attempts to shoo her away, but she refuses to leave him and follows him home. There Tom informs her, "Alright, until someone claims you, you are welcome. How about if I just call you Sadie for now?" Though inquires are made with the townspeople, no one knows anything about the horse and Sadie is never claimed. One more event to note in his diary.
Word comes in early 1863, that Aaron has been killed in a horrific battle in Virginia and is buried there with hundreds of others. Priscilla, shocked and grieving for her loving husband she'll never see again, chooses to leave home and go to New York to live with her sister for a few months. Though this is supposed to be a temporary move, Tom will never again see his mother. He works the farm, Sadie always eagerly helping with any tasks for which she is needed. By the time Tom turns 21, he is restless and bored with farming...he wants more from life.. He sells the farm and departs for California with nothing but a pocket full of money, his clothes, and his extraordinary horse. In a few months they come across the small town of Flagstaff in the Arizona Territory. The year is 1867. Tom is taken with the breathtaking western countryside, and yet senses he has been here before, though he knows that is unlikely.
California can wait and Tom acquires 800 acres west of Flagstaff to start a horse ranch. Working alone, his life is difficult, but he is accustomed to hard work. He is soon able to buy a few horses and one of the stallions takes a keen interest in Sadie. Before too long, Sadie is pregnant. During the foaling, the foal is in the wrong position and unfortunately Tom is unable to turn it correctly for a proper birth. Both the foal and Sadie expire during this futile struggle. Once more his diary writings reveal his surreal sadness of losing this Sadie.
Tom's ranch progresses nicely, but in his third winter, he is stricken with a particularly severe strain of influenza and is bedridden, much too sick to work, or even to eat. He awakens briefly from his feverish misery one evening when he feels a soothing, cooling hand gently touching his burning forehead. He beholds an attractive young lady at his side urging him to sip some broth. She has long, raven black hair, piercing brown eyes, and a smile that would melt butter. Too sick to argue, Tom swallows a few spoonfuls of the warm liquid and then a small sip of whiskey. He continues to drift in and out of sleep for almost two days, and every time he opens his eyes, the cheerful young woman is there by his bed. Eventually, he awakens long enough to inquire, "Who are you?"
She leans down and whispers in his ear, "Tom, it's me...Sadie."
Tom, convinced he is merely dreaming of angels, smiles and drifts back into a peaceful slumber. Upon awaking the next morning, Sadie feeds him again. She tenderly conveys to him, "Please take more broth and then rest. It is my turn to take care of you, Tom." Bewildered and still weak, Tom accepts her care without question. In a few days he is well enough to manage some much needed chores.
Sadie becomes Tom's friend, constant companion, and soul mate. They talk for hours every night after the ranch work is completed and her fine dinner is enjoyed. There are never any explanations as to her appearance when he became sick. No questions are asked as to why she came to be there, or how long she might stay. Many times Tom senses he has known Sadie all of his life. When he tells her about his chicken, the cat, and his horse...all named Sadie, she merely flashes her adorable dimpled smile. He makes the decision to accept her devotion and love without further examination of motive or reason.
In the spring of 1871, Sadie and Tom marry. They share an extraordinary love and life. Together they expand the ranch to over 20,000 acres, too many horses to count, and they raise three fine handsome sons. In 1905, Sadie and Tom turn all the ranching responsibilities over to Aaron, James, and Charles, and they board a west-bound train to belatedly explore California. Of course Tom writes about their many adventures in his diary.
The years pass and their sons marry and have children, and Arizona becomes a state. Four days after his 80th birthday in 1925, Tom passes away. The next afternoon, quietly sitting in her rocking chair by the fireplace, Sadie joins him once more. They are buried together in one grave on a hill overlooking the ranch. The elegant marble tombstone placed by their family reads simply: Thomas and Sadie Kandell.
Tom's well-worn diary is now on display in the Museum of Arizona History at Kandell College. The last entry, written by youngest son Charles, is: Mom and Dad - together in life, together forever after.
And so they are.
Copyright 1998 Dwain Lamon