Wagner Ranch and the Elks

Who knew when David started gathering friends on RVillage.com, the Facebook of RVer’s,  we would start a friendship to last a lifetime! We hadn’t even taken possession of our new Tiffin Allegro Bus yet but he wanted to start making friends. Because wasn’t the friendships along with the travel what we were so excited about?

To make a long, and continuing, story short…..we connected with Mike and Donna Wagner as one of our “new friends” on RVillage. As we got to know them online the connections started to unfold. Of all the places in the United States they could be from, it just so happens they live in a small town just out side of Modesto, CA where Michele grew up. Michele’s father Ron was with the California Highway Patrol and Mike and Donna worked for the Sheriff’s Department. Mike was part of the mounted sheriff’s posse for years and they both knew Ron.

They asked if we belonged to the Elks Lodge and we said no. But it peaked Michele’s interest and she started to research the history of the Elks.  Fascinating stuff! Mike and Donna played a major role in sponsoring us into the Modesto Elks. In fact, if it wasn’t for the friendship that began online we would never have met them and possibly never been part of the Elks organization.

Mike Donna David at Elks

It’s Official! We are now members of the Modesto Elks Lodge! The Elks are more to us than just a fraternal society. We are Elks because we believe in what they stand for: helping Veterans, kids with disabilities, girl and boy scouts, giving back to the community and country! Now that we are planning to travel across the US, we have a place to go in most cities where we can connect and volunteer! There are many Elks Lodges that have a place to park your RV too! We are very excited to be a part of this historic organization that began with a few actors who liked to socialize and grew into a national organization for doing good deeds and raising money for charity!

Why Elks

One of the things we love about the Elks is the dedication to supporting our Veterans!

Scout Troop 51

Another is the connection with community. A grand evening of Veteran’s Day celebration at the Modesto Elks Lodge! There were veterans from wars as far back as WWII at the dinner we had the privilege to honor. Patriotic presentation, songs and the retiring of old flags by Modesto Boy Scout Troop #51, sponsored by the Modesto Elks, retired an old, tattered flag in customary fashion by burning the flag in a very moving ceremony.

Wagner RV SPot

Now we are really counting our blessings! New friends Mike and Donna Wagner now seem like old friends! They generously offered their ranch for our stay near Modesto. Did I mention we have full hook ups with water, power, and sewer on our friends ranch? Hand painted mail boxes with our RV tucked into it’s full hook up cozy space in the background! And our spot even comes with an Elf!

Sewer elf planks
When David went for fuel, it started to rain. He came back, parked and was going to “dry camp” until the rain stopped. Donna, said to Mike, “They’re back!” And he ran out and hooked us back up in the RAIN!!! He is now affectionately called the “Sewer Elf”! Next morning the “Elf” appeared and laid planks down so we didn’t have to walk in the mud! Keep this up and we may never leave!! THANK YOU!!!

Wagner park

Wagner Ranch is a beautiful, peaceful place to relax with our new friends, share a glass or two of wine and endless conversations. We each like to present the other we our latest wine finds. And Michele likes to bring on the snacks! That girl is always thinking of food! Aren’t I lucky?


Oak Wood (Woody) the rescue horse that became a Sheriff posse horse! Mike and Donna were at a Sheriff Posse roundup but Donna had to beg off due to allergies. They had taken their horse trailer up with them and had pulled it over under a stand of oak trees. Mike when off on the ride while Donna hung out reading her book. Off in the distance the flicker from what seemed like a flag flying caught her eye. She would glance up occasionally to see what it was. After a while she just watched. It seemed odd so she decided to walk over and check it out. She was shocked by what she found!

Donna and Woody

Under one of the oak trees was a 2 day old colt who was very thin and very dehydrated. As she slowly approached the colt he nickered, making a quite  vibrating sound  with his mouth closed, from his vocal cords. He was saying “Hi, I’m so glad you came to me!”  Donna held him on her lap and looked at a large white spot on his fore leg thinking if I ever see you again I will know you by this spot. With the help of a friend, Mike was able to carry the Colt back to their horse trailer. They took the colt back to the owners of the ranch, explaining where they had found him. Mike and Donna had goats on their ranch and brought one back to the Brooks Ranch to use the milk for feeding the new born colt. A week later, Leonard Brooks, owner of Brooks Quarter Horse Ranch, asked Donna if she would be interesting in raising the colt since she rescued him. Of course she would!

Woody in sun

What they later found out is most amazing! The Brooks Quarter Horse Ranch in Jamestown, CA  had an old Double Diamond bloodline mare, which they thought to be barren, so they put her out to pasture. On the 7,000 acre ranch was an old stallion of fine lineage that had also been put out to pasture. The stallion, Two Eyed Barrwas a descendant of Two Eyed Jack, a Quarter Horse stallion and showhorse, and the leading all time sire of American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Champions. Somehow the two horses found each other and proved that the mare was not barren and the stallion was not too lame to mount the mare. Thus the colt was sired. The birth of the colt was too much for the old mare. Knowing she was dying, she left the colt by an oak tree, told him to stay and she went off into a raven to dye. She was protecting her baby from the coyotes which later came for her.

In a fashion so true to Donna, she became the colt’s mamma. Donna would milk the goats, mix fresh farm eggs and vegetable oil together and feed the colt 4 times a day for 6 months. Within a few months he was consuming 3 gallons of goat milk each day and they were milking three goats to keep up. They named him Woody because Donna found him under an oak tree. They put Woody’s  first halter on him after the first week and began teaching him to lead. He grew into a beautiful horse from all the love and attention he was given in his new home.

Woody and Mike

Mike and Donna recognized the calm demeanor of Woody and began to train him to be a Sheriff’s Posse horse. It takes a certain personality to  be a posse horse. After a horse has been given general training, he is pass a battery of rigorous tests to see if he has the right temperament to handle the job of being a law enforcement posse horse. Some of the tests the horses must pass will prove that they can remain calm in situations that usually frighten horses. For instance, a tube is placed on the ground with a leaf blower blowing dust through the other end, dirt flying every where . The horse must step over it with all the commotion going on. Being able to take direct and remain calm while standing beside a police car with flashing lights and sirens going off is particularly unnerving. Another part of the testing is to have the police helicopter fly so low the officer can reach down and touch the horse. They are trained and then tested for their ability to push against people in a crowd who are resisting arrest. Something that horse do not naturally do. And these animals are re-certified every year. Woody was a natural! He went through test coarse and qualified the 1st time!  Woody was with the Sheriff’s Posse from 2001 -2008 when he and Mike both retired.

View from Wagner Patio

Lovely view from the patio where we shared our 1st glass of wine with our new friends! And some very festive champagne flowed too! The 1st of many glasses of wine we will share together!

Wagners Us Elks

We know, this is the beginning of a very beautiful friendship!

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