Horse News

Alabama Couple Copes with Barn Fire that Killed 12 Horses, 13 Cats and Dog

By Paul Huggins | phuggins@al.com as Published at AL.com

“It was like I could look into his eyes and see my own soul,”

Carroll Williams points to where he and his wife, Atha, kept 12 quarter horses killed in a fire early Saturday. A lightening strike caused a fire that burned up a barn with the horses as well as 13 cats, a dog, six vehicles and antiques. The two-story barn was made of oak and occupied 13,000 square feet. (Paul Huggins/phuggins@al.com)

Carroll Williams points to where he and his wife, Atha, kept 12 quarter horses killed in a fire early Saturday. A lightening strike caused a fire that burned up a barn with the horses as well as 13 cats, a dog, six vehicles and antiques. The two-story barn was made of oak and occupied 13,000 square feet. (Paul Huggins/phuggins@al.com)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Atha Williams concedes she broke all the rules in the book about owning her first horse.

Sometimes, however, life calls for going with your heart. And that left Atha with the heaviest of hearts Saturday and Sunday as she coped with the pain of losing Trigger, her first horse and soul mate despite a rough start, and 11 other horses that died in a barn fire.

She and her husband, Carroll Williams, also lost 13 cats, a dog, and six vehicles, one of which was a regular in the Huntsville Christmas Parade, as well as antiques, collectibles and one of the most magnificent barns you’ll ever see.

Listening to Atha recall the past 12 years at Cheval Farm, a horse breeding facility on Green Mountain, it’s clear she loved all her animals and aches over losing each one. She laughs recalling how Portia, a dog she rescued in 2013, would slide on her back down the steep slope of their back yard. Then laugh more describing Fang Fang, a 30-pound cross-eyed cat, and Polly, a 5-pound kitty with the heart of a 100-pound mountain lion that preferred a live kill over any store bought food.

But Atha can describe nearly every detail of how she came to own Trigger, even though it was a painful topic Sunday that took her back to 2001.

“It was like I could look into his eyes and see my own soul,” she said of her special bond with Trigger.

Atha had wanted a horse she was a child, but didn’t get her first chance until reaching her late 30s. On the way home through Marshall County looking for lake property, she spotted a horse in a pasture near Arab and insisted Carroll stop, turn around the find out who owns the pasture. While Carroll entered a nearby feed store to inquire about the pasture, Atha hopped a fence, sneaked around a stable and suddenly found a small herd coming toward her.

“This one horse, he would walk up to me and drop his head. And when the other horses would come close, he would charge at them to scare them away and then come back to me,” Atha said.

Carroll found the owner’s phone number, but when Atha called, the owner said the horse was for his grandkids and not for sale. A week later, however, he changed his mind and she found herself the owner of a 3-year-old Morgan-mustang mix that had never been ridden.

“I bought him and then I bought my first book,” she said. “And it said I did exactly what I was not supposed to do. It said I should buy an old horse, already trained. Those first months were really hard on both Trigger and me.”

It took two trainers and persistent attention but eventually the horse she named Trigger became an animal she could ride or pull a cart in parades.

The horse bug had bit.

Carroll bought a quarter horse and a pregnant miniature mare. About nine months after getting Trigger, her former owner called and offered her a new Palomino mare that Trigger had sired before he left. Suddenly, the Williams had gone from never owning a horse to having five. Before long, the Williams bought 28 acres about a mile from their Green Mountain home and built a two-story, 13,000-square-foot barn with an upstairs apartment. Half the barn was for Atha’s horses. The other was for Carroll’s cars.

That was far more barn space than they needed at the time, but when Atha got to hold the 30-pound foal from the miniature foal in her arms, she said she wanted to delve into breeding. She and Carroll came home from a Kentucky auction with seven more horses and before 2003 ended, Cheval Farms was off and running.

“I loved it,” Atha said. “There’s just something about a newborn horse. I just praise God for it.

“What we did is we would stay with the mares after they had the babies and stayed with the babies from birth. They need to be imprinted to humans,” she said. “I didn’t want them to go through the trauma that Trigger and I went through.”

Carroll was able to walk among the burnt rubble with hardly any emotion for the loss of his prized cars, particularly a rare Sparks convertible — only 300 made — like Cruella de Ville drove in 101 Dalmations and he drove in the Huntsville Christmas Parade. He repeatedly said “could have been a lot worse” and explaining the luck by which other cars were spared. But when he thought of the pain his wife was going through and how much the animals meant to her, tears began to well up.

“She was just amazing with those animals,” he said. “She could get those animals to do things the people we paid to take care of them couldn’t do. When she came out here, the horses would run to her.”…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the story in it’s entirety and comment

Enhanced by Zemanta

Categories: Horse News

Tagged as: , ,

14 replies »

  1. My heartfelt condolences go out to the Carrolls. Such a great loss of your beloved horses, dog and cats. God Bless you.

    Like

  2. We ALL are diminished by your loss. Holding you both in my heart and prayers that you will rebuild and continue to make the lives of our 4-legged partners better. Blessed Be!

    Like

  3. I left a comment suggesting that anyone that has horses or any animals that are housed in a barn should have a overhead sprinkler system installed. Every barn fire I have ever read about they had no sprinkler system at all. If these folks had had something like that the sprinklers would have put out the fire and saved all the animals that perished. Such a shame.

    Like

  4. So very sad for your loss.. You obviously have a special bond and ability to connect with animals. Hopefully you will be able to continue in your passion to help and work with animals. There are many who could benefit from your God-given gift….don’t give up.

    Like

Care to make a comment?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.