Sperryville column: The Bagley’s Belties

By Molly M. PetersonBy Molly M. Peterson
Beautiful Belted Galloway’s, informally known as Belties, roam Delma and Jack Bagley’s farm.

At the foot of Old Rag, on land once deeded to Francis Thornton by King George III of England more than 250 years ago, lies Delma and Jack Bagley’s farm, “Fields of Athenrye.” Delma and Jack enjoy the bucolic surrounds adorned with their beautiful Belted Galloway’s, informally known as Belties, a breed of cattle native to Scotland. They have adapted to living on the upland pastures and windswept Scottish moorlands, and are known for the quality of their marbled beef, milk — and their striking appearance.

They are, Jack tells me, affectionately nicknamed Oreos, because of “the white belt around the middle of their body surrounded by black.” Their long haired coats and soft undercoats provide significant insulation, waterproofing them from rain and providing warmth during cold winter months. Belties are currently listed with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy as a “recovering breed” which means there is now a global population in excess of 10,000. In 2007, they were removed from the UK Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s list.  

Delma and Jack were inspired by a trip to Scotland not so long ago, and they were “mesmerized” by the breed. Jack was raised in a family of dairy farmers. His dad told his children, “go forth young ones, make a living…there is no living to be had in dairy.” But Jack, in his retirement, decided to pursue the family history. He and Delma have 15-20 or so head of cattle, steers and calves periodically for sale. Their mission is to strengthen the lines and beef up the breed, so to speak.

These Oreos, Jack and Delma say, not only possess “a docile temper but are good mothers, and Beltie beef is noted for its juicy tenderness and minimal fat content compared to other breeds.” The Bagley’s Belties are grass fed and enjoy rotational grazing to ensure sustainable pastures with access to fresh water at all times. For more info, check out their website www.rappahannockbelties.com.

Living Sky: Supporting the arts and the environment

Lindsay Sonnett/Foothills ForumLindsay Sonnett/Foothills Forum
Living Sky Foundation Director Cherl Crews and her daughter Tessa in front of the organization’s Rappahannock Central office.

Cherl Crews is director of the Living Sky Foundation and manager of the Sperryville ARTist Cooperative, as well as an enthusiastic Rappahannock resident who believes in protecting and celebrating the wealth of wildlife we have in the county. Her foundation, Cherl says, is “a small community organization that supports and promotes creative and cultural enrichment programs and environmental stewardship for all ages. Services to the community include home school lesson plans, community and classroom art projects, and conservation efforts.”

Two years ago, LSF opened its first public studio, the Sperryville ARTist Cooperative. The Cooperative promotes new, emerging and independent local talent and youth projects. It offers an artist sustainability program to aid young artists and provide them with a place to showcase their art and assist them with managing and promoting their talents.

The mural that is exhibited in front of the studio illustrates a new pledge called “Earth Allegiance” and will be the inspiration for a new campaign to raise awareness of wildlife conservation. This summer, the effort will culminate in a weekend event celebrating music, art and the environment, and promoting organic agriculture.

LSF is a non-profit organization that depends on member support. It offers youth and community service opportunities and encourages volunteer participation.

For more information, to schedule a private workshop or event, or for more information about the ARTist Cooperative, please visit livingsky.org.

Good luck to you Cherl with your terrific organization that benefits so many children and adults in the community.

Welcome back, Esther

We reported not long ago of the passing of revered Rappahannock resident Franklin Schmidt. His wife of 48 years, Esther Schmidt of Woodville, is back home from an extended stay with her brother in California. According to a good friend, “she is better, and walking more and welcoming visits and calls from her friends. Her telephone number is 540-987-8410.”

Welcome back home, Esther. We missed you.

Chris Green's beloved Logan.
Chris Green’s beloved Logan.

All dogs, especially Logan, go to Heaven

“All Dogs Go To Heaven,” the classic children’s animated film, features Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise as the voices of Charlie the German Shepherd and his sidekick Dachshund, Itchy Itchiford. On the topic of  heaven and creatures, Pope Francis ignited a worldwide debate not long ago. When in conversation with a young boy in St. Peter’s Square, perhaps attempting to assuage the little boy’s broken heart over a deceased pet, the Pope said, “Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

I thought of this childhood film of late, and of the Pope’s comments. Maybe because I know deep in my heart, without question nor religious debate, that the soul of a beloved four-legged creature soared up to Heaven’s gates this past week. His name is Logan, affectionately known by his current owner as Wuttzi.

He was a mix of Black Lab, Rottweiler and Terrier, and grew to up to be quite large, sporting an adorable wiry beard. When he was the size of a cupcake, his first owner left him, alone and forlorn, crying outside in a sterile, concrete suburban backyard, subject to the cold and rain. To the delight of my children, I set about making him our own.

Brought into the folds of this new family, little Logan flourished and inherited a big step brother; a gentle giant, a 165-pound Great White Pyrenees named Beethoven, who took him under his wing and became his lifelong protector. For many a year they lived happily in Falls Church. The kids grew tall, and Logan romped with his big brother Beethoven in the expansive county park across the street. Then they moved, however, to navigate the lush acres of a new home in Harris Hollow, in Rappahannock.

Beethoven reigned over his bucolic kingdom, his majestic silhouette admired from a distance, long white fur billowing in soft winds atop his mountainside. And his resonant baritone bellow, reverberated throughout the hillside alerting bear to his presence. He passed at a ripe old age.  

But Logan was quickly joined by two sidekicks, two partners in crime; the gentle Shepherd/Black Lab  Otto and the comical, ever pudgy Black Lab Jaeger, affectionately referred to as Fatso. The four-legged Musketeers became inseparable, accompanying me everywhere in the pick up truck, putting smiles on many a face, their antics legendary. Logan was often observed grazing in the pasture alongside the horses,  raising equine eye brows.  

An economic downturn of horrific proportions, a force beyond their doggie comprehension, caused me to seek new employment and residence deep in the city. My heart couldn’t stand their relegation to doggy parks and a housebound lifestyle, so the three were given wonderful rural homes.

Logan was affectionately renamed Wuttzi by his new family. He was fawned over, loved and accompanied his new owner everywhere including, to the delight of clients, her place of work. Wuttzi was visited by Otto, and the two would cavort happily as if never separated.

In his advancing age, arthritis kicked in, and Wuttzi’s owner spared no expense to ease his discomfort, going so far as to seek a derivative of marijuana, not available in the U.S., from Canada. Last week Renate, Wuttzi’s current owner, called me, her voice quivering, her words tumbling out and filled with anguish. Abandoning her adopted English, she sought comfort in speaking her native tongue to express her pain.

Tears falling silently, current and past owners of this beloved animal, spoke in hushed tones of  his diagnosis. An aggressive bone cancer had set in, and the reluctant decision was made to honor the advice of a well respected veterinarian. Logan and Wuttzi got together one last time. Renate and I hugged and cried, two women, two good friends, sharing in their common grief.  

We know without doubt or question, Wuttzi is looking down upon us from above right now, his tail wagging fervently, his staunch protector and good buddy Beethoven standing close by his side.

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