by Paula Redmann | Photos by Tom Redmann
Every now and then, Cherie Woodcock has a bad day, which can happen when you give out parking tickets for a living. She says she gets yelled at. A lot.
Cherie has a remedy for bad days. She leaves her job in Bismarck and drives north to Baldwin, turns past the post office, and then into Cher Wood, to her animals. It’s her sanctuary; the place where she and Ed have lived for 20 years and the place and life she loves.
“I can just lie down in the middle of the barnyard, in the sun and in the dirt, and the animals come out and surround me. My bad day goes away,” says Cherie.
Oh, and not just a few animals. Let’s just say there are many. Quite a few. One could say, several.
There are sheep, cattle, horses, chickens, alpacas, dogs, donkeys, cats, and birds. Some are purchased. Some wander in. Many are rescued. Most are named. All are known, cared for, appreciated, loved. The animals know Cherie, and she knows them.
“Of course they know me. I’m their mama,” says Cherie.
The two two-week old lambs gallop across the barnyard.
“That’s because I have their bottles,” says Cherie.
One lamb’s mother died despite the Woodcocks’ gallant efforts. The other lamb’s mother rejected her baby. Cherie bottle feeds them three times a day.
The barn is filled with fur, fleece, hide, and happiness. While Cherie feeds the two lambs, Sven the cat stretches waaaaay up just to touch Cherie. Siam, the Siamese cat, pleads for attention while perched on a post. There are 16 cats in all; 12 in the barn and four with health issues indoors. All are neutered or spayed, minus the orange tabby, who wandered into Cher Wood with head wounds and some roughed up teeth.
“He’ll get neutered as soon as he’s well enough. He’s got enough to deal with right now.”
A mama knows these things.
There are 72 sheep, all told, and 11 alpacas. The alpacas, with their soulful eyes and perked up ears, want to get close to Cherie. There’s Homer, Cinnamon, Midas, and Patches to name a few; all part of the barn family. The alpacas earn their keep by supplying fleece, which is shipped to Cherie’s friend in Kindred, North Dakota, to be made into yarn. Cherie knits and crochets scarves, mittens, and hats with the yarn and sells them. She can pick up the yarn and tell you which alpaca it came from, like a mother knows which child’s artwork is on the fridge.
Taking up a great deal of real estate in the barn is Snoopy, a large, gentle Scottish Highland bull. Snoopy retired from Dakota Zoo and is on assisted living at Cher Wood. The donkeys, three-legged Rudy and four-legged Hershey, are instinctive guardians. Cherie has seen them protect the sheep from coyotes that pass by their 80 acres. Several of the barn animals have experienced stardom, providing very important supporting roles in Christmas manger scenes.
Cherie’s love for the animals is real, and so is her practical view of them as a source of food and livelihood. Chickens provide eggs. Cattle provide beef, and some sheep go to the sale barn. And then there’s Cherie’s 15-year-old business, Farmer Tillie’s Homemade Dog Treats. She’s got treats to bake and orders to fill. She sells the treats through Pride of Dakota and at area street fairs. Doesn’t she ever relax?
“Well, if I watch a movie, I’m on the exercise bike or crocheting. That’s kind of relaxing.”
Hobie and Daisy, both Newfoundland dogs, greet visitors. Hobie is blind, and feels better when he hears Ed’s voice. Dexter, the Scottish terrier, wants Cherie’s attention. Baby, the cockatiel, is quite vocal about being put back into her cage.
“Our days start early, just after 5 a.m., and they can go late. We get home from work and do inside animal chores and outside animal chores, and we eat supper around 8 p.m.,” says Cherie, with a smile.
One gets the distinct impression the chores, although real and time consuming, don’t really faze Cherie. She and Ed share six children and seven grandchildren.
“I’m known as ‘Animal Grandma,’ and I like that.”
Life at Cher Wood is good for Cherie, and it’s good for the animals, too.[supsystic-gallery id=127]
Paula Redmann is the Community Relations Manager for Bismarck Parks and Recreation District. She married her high school sweetheart, Tom. They have two grown sons, Alex and Max.