BOARDMAN, Ohio – Anyone who reads Janie Jenkins in the “Farm and Dairy” knows about her horses – her 33-year-old Taggie and his constant companion, the 20-something Pinky.
Horses have been a central theme in Jenkins’ life, running like threads through the fabric of her 78 years.
At every important moment in her life, there has somehow been a horse involved.
Jenkins, who wrote for the Youngstown “Vindicator” for 40 years until her retirement in 1986, has been writing a biweekly column for “Farm and Dairy” since that time.
Her column, “On My Mind,” is often a chronicle of the change of seasons and of the affairs of her many animals.
On her 8-acre estate in south Boardman, she shares her life with her two aging horses, two Dalmatians – Orion and his full-blood younger sister, Sister – and a cat, Lisa, adopted from the Angels for Animals shelter.
And all the wild things.
She also has a yard full of birds, a pond that attracts migrating ducks and geese, and a pasture where she discovers all measure of wild things to observe, oversee and care about.
What Jenkins wants people to know about her is how much she cares about her animals, and how full she feels they have made her life.
She said the idea that there will come a day when she can’t open her kitchen door every morning and greet the two shaggy heads looking back at her from their stalls across the aisle of the stable is “unimaginable.”
She got Ori as a puppy six years ago because two of her three dogs had passed away, and she thought the idea of having only one dog was too scary.
“If there is only one and something happens to it,” she said, “the void that it leaves is overwhelming.”
But she has a special place in her heart reserved for horses.
“They have been a wonderful force in my life,” Jenkins said.
Came to board.
Taggy has been there for 30 years. He was a svelte 4-year-old, when the young girl who raised him as her 4-H project brought him to board at her stable.
Jenkins acquired him when the girl’s interests turned to boys.
“Many little girls develop an obsession for horses,” Jenkins said. “I’m one of those who never got over it.”
When she was 10, her parents used a horse, or at least the reward of getting to ride it, to get her to stop biting her fingernails.
She loved that dear old gray horse named Alice that she could rent for $1 an hour from a riding stable, but unless all 10 nails were intact, she wasn’t allowed to ride.
The most lasting friendship of her life was formed in the second grade when she discovered a young neighbor’s family had horses. That girl became her best friend then, and still is.
When Jenkins married, it was to a man from Kentucky who was a horse breeder. Before the wedding, she rode her beloved first horse, High Noon, across the fields from her childhood home in Poland to the renovated stable that was to become her home for the rest of her life.
Led to promotion.
A moving obituary she wrote about High Noon when he died in 1962 was the piece of her writing that caught the eye of the editor of the “Vindicator.” She was invited to move out of the social section, where she had been for 20 years, to the city side to write news.
The two women she regards as almost daughters found their way “up the drive” and into her life by being attracted to the horses. She taught both of them to ride on Taggie, and both spent many happy hours during their teen years hanging around the stables.
She describes one of the most moving moments in her life as the birth of the foal in her barn in 1957 to her own little pony.
She loved that colt so much she snipped a lock of his hair, tied it with a pink ribbon, and put it away.
When that colt grew up to be a prize-winning dressage horse, she rode him with pride at fairs, at horse shows, even once in the circus.
He is buried on her land along with the ashes of the two dogs she lost, and beside the ashes of her father. That is where she, herself, intends to be buried.
On Easter Sunday, April 15, when she turns 79, Jenkins will be riding, as she hopes she also will be when she turns 80 in 2002.
Her Arabian mare, N’Ahli, that she keeps with her niece Judy, is also the latest of a long line of gray horses that Jenkins has cherished.
When Jenkins got N’Ahli in 1988, she spoke of her as a “dappled glory as beautiful as her kindly demeanor.
“Her craving for affection is being satisfied to the point of ridiculousness, and she responds with every ounce of her being,” Jenkins wrote.
Now that Jenkins is turning 79 and N’Ahli, 21, they ride only in the indoor arena that Judy has at the riding stables she runs.
“I don’t think I should be out galloping across the countryside anymore,” Jenkins said, “as much as I would love to.”
She intends never to stop riding.
There was a time, Jenkins said, when her stable and her life was filled with horses.
The stable, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1915 by David Arrel to adjoin the new Southern Park harness track. The track had been developed in a 60-acre park south of what is now U.S. 224, by H.M. Stambaugh and Sen. David Todd.
Acquired by Jenkins brothers.
In the late 1930s, it was purchased at a sheriff’s sale by the Jenkins brothers, who had come to Youngstown from Kentucky to start a neon sign company.
Janie Steinfeld married Ed Jenkins in 1946, and they moved into the stables, which had been remodeled with a small house attached to one side and a garage to the other. When Janie and Ed divorced, he took the thoroughbred horses he was raising, she kept the house and land.
She was left with a stables big enough for 16 horses occupied by three, Taggy, her colt Noon Tide, and a chestnut left to keep Taggy company, Whiskey.
When Whiskey died in 1985, Tessie moved in, and after Tessie was gone she was replaced by Pinky.
Now as Jenkins anticipates the dreaded day when Taggy might die, she has made arrangements with a friend to bring another horse to the stables immediately to ease the shock Pinky will feel at being left alone.
Jenkins joined the staff of the “Vindicator” in 1944. She was working at a furniture store downtown, she said, and helped put the store’s newspaper ads together. She decided that the newspaper business looked like a more interesting thing to do.
She called the “Vindicator” and expanded the truth by telling them she had writing experience, she said. (Until then what she had mainly written were college essay exams.)
She said she was taught to write by a hard-bitten and hard-drinking older newspaper man she shared the Warren bureau with for two years. Then she filled a downtown opening in the social section.
She wrote in her “On My Mind” column recently that her first by-lined piece was about an injured doe she saw on her way to work one May morning in 1947.
When she moved to the city desk, she said, she had already been writing news on a volunteer basis. Over the next 26 years, until she retired, she taught herself to be a feature writer and columnist.
What she loved, she said, were the stories about animals, about the area’s history, about the natural world, and about people.
She still has mementos – a decorated egg made by the woman she wrote about, a creche from another craftsman she profiled, a cane made out of a tree root.
But Jenkins said she is most proud of the many nature editorials she produced for the opinion page that she never took credit for.
They didn’t carry her name, and nobody knew who wrote them, but they were about the things she cared about most – the weather, birds, changing seasons, and historical items.
These are the things she still writes about every other week for “Farm and Dairy,” her animals and her deep relationship with nature.