At 2 a.m. on the night of Ariel’s magical midnight ride, we arrived at Bethesda Fountain, Maria and I got out and walked down to the water, and as we began our climb down a carriage pulled by a white horse walked by, it was a spectral image, a mystical appearance, the horse seemed to be an apparition, a myth from another time. Behind the horse, the dark and beautiful park, the lights of the great city glowing in the darkness.
The horses looked sometimes as if they were part of the statuary, it is hard to imagine the park without them, every sight of them in the night was stirring, healing, we were transfixed.
The court appearances for Joshua Rockwood have already taken on something of a ritualistic feeling. Different tribes show up before the hearing and stand in the parking lot – the conservative Oathkeepers, members of the Tea Party, some reporters. The TV stations have already lost interest, they love putting up mug shots and photos of allegedly abused animals, but they don’t much care to find out anything more, or to give people a chance to reclaim their reputations by telling the stories.
The biggest showing by far are farmers, neighbors, friends and customers of West Wind Acres farm. Joshua Rockwood has been charged with 13 counts of cruelty and neglect to his animals, all of the charges related to the brutal winter that gripped the Northeast last February.
There was no news from the brief hearing tonight, but I get to speak to several of Joshua’s neighbors, people who see him and his animals every day and have seen how hard he works to take care of them, and how healthy the active they are. They said the cold wave in February was horrible, their own pipes froze and burst, sometimes more than once. They all said how much they admired Joshua, what a good friend and neighbor he was.
The next hearing – next Monday – is to assess the boarding and board charges a horse rescue farm is charging to care for the three horses seized from Joshua’s farm. The hearing will not deal with the animal cruelty and neglect charges.
Joshua’s next door neighbor said “these charges are just outrageous, we are all here to defend him and support him for as long as it takes.”
Between 250 and 300 people packed the Glenville Town Court to support Joshua. It was a standing room only crowd. The actual hearing on the charges against him was moved to 10 a.m., April 27, at the Glenville Town Court. Ken Norman, our friend and farrier showed up to support Joshua, so did Paul Rickenbach-Moshimer of Blue Star Equiculture. Maria came too.
Ken has long been involved in horse rescue, he describes the charges against Rockwood as “Bullshit Misdemeanors,” the most succinct description yet.
After each hearing, Joshua, stone-faced per his lawyer’s instructions, goes out into the parking lot with his attorney and talks things over. I hope to visit Joshua over the next few days and see the baby pigs and lambs on his farm. Most cases like this are settled because it is grueling and expensive to go to court. I have no idea what Joshua will do, I believe he will fight hard to get his three horses back, they were seized during the raid on his farm.
I’ve been to Joshua’s farm, I have seen absolutely nothing that would warrant his arrest and prosecution for cruelty and animal abuse. One farmer after another at the hearing said the same thing: it could have been me. I am a fan of justice, but justice takes it’s own time and move in it’s own way. You can contribute to Joshua’s defense fund here.
Joshua’s court hearing is tonight, I have no idea what will happen. Joshua has been instructed by his attorney not to talk about the trial or the charges, and he has not. I do know and can say that he is strong and calm and looking to the future, he is not afraid or angry. He is a strong man, he understands that great things can come out of everything if your head is on straight, and his head is on straight.
There are points in a man or woman’s life when they are tested, it has happened to me more than once, it will happen to me again. One of the ways I judge my own character is to ask whether I have the strength to stand behind good men and women who I believe are not treated justly.
Joshua is, I believe, such a person. He has many friends and supporters and well-wishers, I imagine many of them will be in court tonight. My friend Paul Moshimer of Blue-Star Equiculture is driving up from Massachusetts to stand with Joshua, he says the hearing could be of “monumental” significance. I agree.
Joshua is a warrior and victim in a conflict that is much wider than him or me or Paul or any of the people who will gather tonight. There is a way of life on the line, a value system, a tradition of freedom and privacy and peace of mind that is also on trial. Unlike so many other victims, Joshua used our new technology to reach out, and his call for support was answered by thousands of people. This is something new and powerful, I am eager to see how it plays out.
Maria has also decided to come with me. I also think it is an important day, and I admire Joshua for the decent and forthright way he has stood up for his life. I believe him to be innocent of any wrongdoing. His crime is to be a young farmer trying to sell healthy food from the bodies of animals that are well cared and fed in a brutal and overpowering winter. I hope this never comes to be a crime in America. I hope he is cleared and released from this nightmare, and that his animals are returned to him.
The hearing will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Glenville, N.Y. Town Court.
A friend sent me this precious gift this week, it is a sketch of a New York Carriage Horse driver in a beautiful old gold-trimmed wooden frame. It is unsigned. Her late husband bought it on a business trip to New York some years ago, before he became ill. The carriage horses have touched so many people in so many different ways.
She and her husband returned to New York some years ago after adopting their daughter there. The first thing they did was to take a carriage ride in Central Park, which they loved. A year later her husband bought this graceful sketch from an art dealer. “He loved the little piece because of the memory of the first carriage ride with his family. Jon, would you do me the honor of rehoming it in your office?”
It seems, she wrote, “that many years ago another creative soul like yourself took a loving interest in the carriage horses and their drivers.” The sketch seems quite old, I can’t say how old.
The sketch and the message moved me deeply, I am honored to re-home this work and hang it in my office. The horses mean so much to so many people, and they mean a great deal to me. What a gift to be able to look up at my desk and see it. How humbling to be thought of in this way.
Thanks, good friend, it is up on the wall and will stay there, in the light and in honor of love and connection.