The woman read the Globe-News story about Ashley Smith one week ago, and couldn’t put it out of her mind.
“I thought about it all day,” she said, “and even woke up in the middle of the night. What should I do?”
Smith, 26, is the owner of the Adobe Pet Cemetery located off Rockwell Road. Though her mom and sister help some, it’s basically just her.
As chronicled in a column on Dec. 4, Smith bought the cemetery four years ago after the owner saw her weed-eating the area and asked if she were interested in buying it. It took all her savings — and then some — but she bought the cemetery.
This lover of all things animals, It seemed more like a calling to Smith. There are about 4,000 plots in those eight acres of hardscrabble land. Smith estimates about 1,000 of those graves are hers. She even has a section cordoned off called “Community” for those animals she finds along the road.
An old excavator came with the sale, but it might have lasted a year before it conked out permanently. Smith took to digging the 4-feet-deep graves a with shovel. Initially, it took her about a day on the hard ground. Ah, those were the good times.
This past year, it took about two days to dig an ordinary marker. That’s because the onset of diabetes and neuropathy.
In about half the cases, those with diabetes also get peripheral neuropathy. That causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually a burning sensation, in the feet. Smith believes she was misdiagnosed by doctors and wasn’t officially diagnosed with diabetes until May.
Just to rent an excavator for the day was expensive, much less to purchase even a used one. But Smith wasn’t about to quit the cemetery, so she was determined to continue.
“There are days I want to sit down and cry because I’m hurting so much,” Smith said, “but I’ve never known to quit. It’s all about pushing through the pain.”
The woman, who read the Dec. 4 column, wondered if a fund had been set up. One had not. Then, even if one had, she thought, it would take awhile to get enough money together to solve this problem.
She kept thinking about Raymond, her late husband of 57 years who died in 2014. What would he have done?
“I know what he would have done,” the woman said. “I know exactly what he would have done.”
So, last Tuesday, she gave it a shot. Living about two hours from Amarillo, she called James Brothers Implement Co. in Amarillo with a rather unusual request — to buy sight-unseen an excavator for an Ashley Smith, and to keep her identity a secret.
“He seemed really interested in getting me the right one,” she said, “because I didn’t really know what I was talking about.”
After talking with manager John David Shannon, the two of them came up with a suitable mini-excavator — model K008T4. At about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Shannon called the Smiths to tell them a bit of good news. Janey, Ashley’s mother, answered.
“Just in shock,” Janey said. “Just absolutely in shock about it. I’m telling Ashley, and she didn’t know what to say. She was stunned.”
The mini-excavator was delivered about 4 p.m. Thursday. The timing couldn’t have been better, as Ashley had the request to bury a 165-pound bull mastiff, which was going to be a three-day project. Using the Kubota on her maiden voyage, Smith was done in about an hour.
“Never in a million years did I think this would happen,” Ashley said. “Now if someone needs a grave dug that day, I can do it that day. Just wish I could thank whoever did this.”
But the donor prefers to remain anonymous. It was a considerable undertaking — $21,650, to be exact. She will just have to imagine their reaction.
“When he (John David) was leaving, he called me and told me they were all smiles,” the woman said. “I told him that I could see her picture in the paper and felt like I could see Ashley smiling. I just feel really good about the whole thing.”
That is quite a gift, m’am, quite a gift.
“It is a gift to them,” she said, “but, let me tell you, it’s a gift to me as well, just to be able to do this.”
Jon Mark Beilue is an AGN Media columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 806-345-3318. Twitter: @jonmarkbeilue.