Spotlight: Mary Forrester (MaryE)

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on December 6, 2010

I have a lovely friend who inspires me with every word she writes. She paints pictures with her words and takes us on trips through sunrises and snowfalls. More than likely she'll take you for a ride on the back of her horse if you ask. Let's go to Oregon for a little while; she's waiting there for us.

My friend, Mary, is a writer. Her words can carry you to the highest peak of a mountain, or leave you stranded in the depths of a valley.  For about three years now I’ve been fortunate to write with her in various places. She’s one of those whose words play havoc with your heart.

Finally I coaxed Mary to share her life with you. I asked a few questions here, a few there, and as she answered I compiled her words into the following story.  It’s a story that needs no interruptions, so I’ll sit quietly by as you read it. When you are finished reading Mary’s word2010-12-03/Sharran/cfe9a2s, then I’ll join you again. Enjoy, my friends, this is a lovely, warm story about a woman who is as gentle and caring as her words imply.


In a word, my early life was disrupted. Divorce, stepfather, moving many times, junior high and high schools where I didn't fit and really didn't want to, leaving home (if you could call it that), and finishing high school while working for room and board at a boarding home for elderly folks.

After my parents divorced I was Grandpa's little shadow for the next 5 years, “helping” him with the vegetable garden, taking walks, picking the wild blackberries that grew along the abandoned rail line behind their house. A little corner of the big garden became my garden where I grew a few small veggies. Of course I didn't know that I was also learning something and putting down some roots of my own. Grandpa read me the funny papers, Sunday mornings were the best with so many colorful pages. He needed a helper in his basement workshop, s2010-12-03/Sharran/2f73feo I sat or stood on boards while he sawed them, bored holes, or planed them with his assortment of hand tools. My favorite things about that were the tickling sensation when he sawed a board, and the curly “dillys” made by the plane. I'd put them on all of my fingers like rings. Grandpa's basement had a nice smooth cement floor where I learned to roller skate, dodging support posts, piles of storage boxes, the workbench, and the furnace with it's many pipes that reached out like tree branches, while wearing those old metal skates that fastened onto shoes and were tightened with a key.

After my mother remarried we had horses. I spent most of the daylight hours on my horse, riding cow trails and jeep roads. It was a different world then, as long as I was home for dinner and bedtime, it was all OK. Most of the time they didn't know where I was, and there were times when I really didn't either, but as the saying goes, “all who wander are not lost”. I have a good sense of direction and nobody ever had to come looking for me.

In the winter I harnessed our husky and had him pulling me on a sled. That was cold! He gave me some wild rides, but we managed not to be hit by a car or become frozen in a snow bank. The sled was one of those old o2010-12-03/Sharran/ed7aafnes with the narrow metal runners that every kid had. It didn't steer very well. I was on my stomach, so the view wasn't that good either, but I was outside having fun!

And then my life continued, meeting my husband and marrying at 17, graduating, getting pregnant and giving birth all in rapid succession. Yes, I was married before I graduated. Hubby became my legal guardian and signed my report cards.

Gardening started when the kids were small and we wanted to eat. Hubby didn't make much money, so I grew food to supplement, learned to can and freeze it, and had fun doing it. Some of my early bread making efforts are still a topic of conversation and amusement. They eventually improved before they killed anybody!

After our second child was born we started going to church. That is when the real change in our lives bega2010-12-03/Sharran/316559n. We both accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and promised to serve Him. We really had no church background so we had a lot to learn. There were ups and downs, but we didn't give up. God guided us to a different town through a job change and we found a good church where we grew up spiritually. Our adventures with God were just beginning.

My hubby became a police officer, a job he never wanted, but God directed his steps and he loved it! After retiring, we moved to Ketchikan, Alaska where he assisted a friend who pastored a sizeable church. Hubby traveled via floatplane to logging camps and fishing villages in the area to hold church services and Bible studies. He had more requests than he could handle, but regularly went to 5 communities every week when the weather permitted. After 3 1/2 years we were lead into another kind of ministry.

We moved to Oregon, bought an old 6 acre farm with a 4 bedroom house and began a by faith ministry we had been thinking about for almost 30 years. We had no church or organization backing us financi2010-12-03/Sharran/2022b6ally, so any help was unsolicited and came from people who believed in what we were doing. We had learned that people who are in Christian ministry often have no place to go to have time away from their congregations. They don't have the money to take a “real” vacation as their parishioners do. We provided that place, without charge, to numerous pastors, missionaries, and an assortment of other people who needed a place to stay for a while, and for several people who wanted to help us at Sonshine Farm. Yes, that is Son shine, as in the Son of God. He will shine through our lives if we will let Him.

Ten years later, after a move to a larger farm with more buildings and a bit more privacy, we felt led to turn it over to others and move to our present location. Hubby got a job with the county District Attorney's office as investigator. He was well prepared from his police career. He worked there until about 2 years ago when he retired for the 3rd time.

We live on 80 acres, small for our area where most ranches or farms are hundreds or thousands of acres. The cattle in our county far outn2010-12-03/Sharran/4ba67bumber the people. Although we consider ourselves to be retired we keep busy hosting missionaries and others, some who once stayed with us at Sonshine Farm. I grow a large garden, can and freeze a lot of the produce we can't eat fresh, and sell some of the excess to the local food co-op where I work several hours per month. Hubby keeps busy with repairing, rebuilding, changing, and assisting me with projects around the farm, and doing some police related volunteer work with the local police department. This year the community needed a Santa Claus, so he said yes.

For the past 20 years I have been competing in endurance rides, long slow events like marathons done on horseback. I've had some good horses and some that weren't so good. One horse has carried me through 6,245 miles of 2010-12-05/Sharran/8a0219endurance events, another 5,065, and another over 3,000. Those are all retired or have died of old age. There were a few others I owned, and a few that I borrowed for a ride or two. I have a wall full of award plaques and ribbons, pictures and trinkets, numerous buckets and belt buckles, horse blankets, halters, and other useful items. Presently I only have 2 horses which function mostly as pasture ornaments. Maybe I'll do more endurance, or maybe not. I enjoyed it, but I can live without it. After thousands of miles and being in the limelight many times with year-end awards regionally and nationally, I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else. It was fun, and as the name implies, at times I simply endured to the end of the event. 

After moving here, I started working part time for my neighbors who raise sheep and cattle. My experience wit2010-12-03/Sharran/7b2b71h my own flock of sheep has come in very handy. Every year at lambing time, I go to my neighbor's barn and pasture in the middle of the night to serve as midwife to sheep. I see baby lambs that nobody on earth has ever seen before. I hug them and often I  save their lives. Sometimes I have to call the owner to help me, but usually I can handle things alone.

I also help with moving sheep and cattle, sorting or doctoring animals, shearing sheep, or helping pull a calf when the cow has problems or the calf is in the wrong position. My endurance horses come in handy when it is time to move a herd, but sometimes I just jump on the Yamaha 4 wheeler to do a quick job.

A year and a half ago my hubby had a heart attack. Until this event he had no history of heart trouble. We now eat a very low fat diet. Some new foods appeared in our pantry, some old ones disappeared. Cooking methods changed as well. Breakfast in town is no longer an option except on very special occasions. Lunch and dinner are a bit ea sier but we still have to be thinking all the time. A major event like a heart attack 2010-12-03/Sharran/11f7acrevealed that at our ages we had become quite set in our ways.

Hubby was the Chieftain for the day when our local Celtic Society held their annual Celtic festival and games.

He is an ordained minister so he performs a few weddings every year. One was on the lawn of the courthouse next to a large cannon. He said it was a very big shotgun wedding.

More on Sonshine Farm. It was like Old MacDonald's farm with cows, milk goats, chickens, pigs, turkeys, sheep, horses, and a garden. We tried to raise all of our meat, milk and eggs as well as a good amount of our vegetables. The horses were for fun, they did not end up on the table! I taught some basic skills to a couple of city girls who came to help. When they left they knew how to grow some vegetables, can or freeze them, milk goats, make bread, cook for 10 or 20 people, and one helped with chicken butchering. The other girl opted to go grocery shopping that day and be sure we all had pizza for lunch. Nobody wanted to eat chicken for a couple of weeks after butchering, cutting and bag2010-12-03/Sharran/6bf8dfging 25 chickens!

We have 2 biological sons, another who came to us as a young man who had no other family, and another whole family that adopted us when their kids wanted a grandpa. The father of that family was a student in my hubby's Sunday school class. Family is much more than biological. People need people!

Last February we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. It's all the more remarkable when you consider that both of us came from broken homes and really had no idea what a real family was all about. God gets the credit for that, we simply tried to cooperate.

When I was an unhappy teenager I "hid" from the other students in books and writing. My best subjects in school were related to that. Math, science and some other subjects did not come as easily. I turned down the best opportunity for a career when I left home. I had been selected as editor of the school newspaper in a school with 3,000 students. Who knows where that might have lead?

2010-12-03/Sharran/87d655We still believe that God has things for us to do. It's been an exciting trip, one we never expected to make.  Where will the road lead? We don't know, but we do know Who is leading us.


Now you see why I didn’t interrupt.  Mary’s beautiful story needed no words from me. As you read, I'm sure you learned more than you knew about the lovely lady behind the words.

Mary’s love for life as well as her deep faith shine through each word she writes. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more gentle or a more genuine person.  It is an honor for me to be her friend just as it is an honor for me to write with her on our occasional group stories. She continues to be a daily inspiration to me.

If you haven’t yet discovered them, you can find our round robin stories on the Writers and Words Cubit. Mary is one of our strongest writers, and our stories would be lost without her contributions. 

2010-12-03/Sharran/3595a3Thanks for joining us here on Spotlight. Remember to scroll over the pictures for their descriptions and click on them to see them enlarged.  If you’d like to chat with Mary, you can do so in the threads that follow this article.

I hope you are enjoying this holiday season. Please join us next week to see Who’s Who in Nancy’s Spotlight!

Related articles:
Christian, family, farms, horseback riding, horses, Oregon

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher living in western Kentucky. I love writing and art with equal measure, but I also have a passion for nature and plants.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
MaryE KathyJo Jan 25, 2013 7:52 AM 6
Wow MaryE and Sharon candyd Jun 16, 2012 6:36 PM 4
Beuatiful! adinamiti Mar 24, 2011 10:55 AM 5
waving from across the country Kathleen Dec 11, 2010 10:12 PM 14
This is a wonderful article Elena Dec 9, 2010 8:07 AM 19
Wonderful kaglic Dec 8, 2010 11:20 PM 2
Wonderful! Sashagirl Dec 8, 2010 10:36 PM 8
Such a Wonderful Story! Trisha_S Dec 6, 2010 7:39 PM 1
Honored to be called friend Hemophobic Dec 6, 2010 2:58 PM 1
Beauty that is more than skin deep Zanymuse Dec 6, 2010 9:10 AM 18
What a wonderful story! nap Dec 5, 2010 9:25 PM 4

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