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Miniature donkey a sure draw

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

Sam the donkey has arrived at Dan Nicholas Park. Now, he’s waiting for lots of children and his new barn.

Sam is the first addition to the new Stanback Petting Barn that’s nearing the construction stage.

Folks who know Sam describe him as really cute and spoiled rotten. Oh, and he has a taste for hard candy.

A year or so ago, Sam joined the mini-animal kingdom of Julius W. “Catfish” Veach of Goodman Lake Road.

A charter member of the Spencer Moose Lodge and a member of AMVETS Post 460, Veach loved to fish and loved animals.

“He had goats, calves, dogs. He just loved animals and the outdoors,” said his brother, George. “He would go out in the pasture and they would gather ’round him.”

“Sam’s really cute,” George said.

Over the years “Catfish” Veach had an impact on Dan Nicholas Park.

“Anytime we needed turtles, we’d give him a call,” said Jim Foltz, retired parks director. “We bought catfish from him and stocked our lake.”

The Veach animal collection was next door to Louise Hellard.

She struck up an immediate friendship with Sam when the two-month old donkey arrived and plopped down in a lot with much bigger goats.

“I was being nosy, I wanted to see what was going on,” Hellard said.

Sam won over the goats, calves and Hellard.

Sam kept a close eye on her comings and goings — hoping for a treat.

While he may have lived with goats, his eating habits were decidedly upscale. No turnip greens or turnips.

“He likes honeysuckle vines … and he really likes biscuits,” Hellard said. Sam also likes “curly” greens.

When Veach became sick, Hellard helped out by feeding his collection of animals.

And when Veach died earlier this month at the age of 78, the family found new homes for the animal collection.

Before long, Sam found himself alone in the pasture.

“Sam was very lonely. I tried to give him extra attention,” Hellard said.

Friends and family members wanted to find a new home for Sam where he could make lots of friends.

A friend of Veach’s, David Wilson, contacted park officials and asked if they would like a miniature donkey.

Although the new petting barn is still a collection of blueprints, park officials weren’t going to to miss an opportunity to get the miniature donkey.

“It’s a serious donation,” said Bob Pendergrass, supervisor of the Nature and Learning Center.

There was one stipulation from the family: Sam would get a candy cane on Christmas Day. Veach always gave his animals a candy cane on Christmas.

On Christmas Day, Pendergrass kept the deal. And on Tuesday, Sam got another cane “for being good.”

Thus far, Sam, hasn’t bestowed his special “thank-you” on Pendergrass.

It seems that Sam has a habit of kissing those who provide special treats.

Hellard has a picture of Sam kissing her. She already misses him.

Hellard went down to the park Tuesday for a visit — and took him a bit of hard candy.

“He wouldn’t talk to me,” she said. “When he was up here, he would let out one of the hollers.”

But he didn’t refuse the candy and he did give her a kiss.

Sam is currently in the deer barn and will be put out for public viewing at a later date.

Pendergrass said he appears to be adjusting well to his new temporary home.

Park officials recently opened bids for a revised version of the petting barn that burned March 19. Bids appear to be within budget.

Park officials said Bill and Nancy Stanback have pledged to donate up to $100,000 to make up any deficit that exists between the insurance funds and the cost of the barn.

The original petting barn was named for Dr. Tom Stanback, Bill Stanback’s father.

A decision on going forward with construction will be up to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

And Sam is waiting.

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