Chapter 6: As Young As You Feel

This was still the time she loved the best. Each Sunday afternoon, Mary Ida Young met her daughter Sally at the stable for a ride, rain or shine. They didn’t go out in the dead of winter, but the rest of the year, it was an appointment seldom missed.

The weather today was simply spectacular. It was late October and the autumn foliage was at its peak splendor — a riot of golds and reds waving against a royal blue sky. Wood smoke scented the air, which was just cold enough to make the horses exhale steam in big white puffs.

Apple pie. When she got back to the house, she’d make an apple pie while the chicken was roasting. The grandkids loved apple pie with ice cream.

Mary Ida on Claude 

“Mama, would you mind if we rested for a moment to admire this view?” Sally asked, coming up from behind and turning Bluebell to look out over the valley.

“Of course not,” Mary Ida responded, giving Lady’s reins a gentle tug. She knew full well Sally’s interest was not so much in the sight of the Connecticut River Valley spread out beneath them as slowing down her aging mother. Mary Ida had learned long ago that it was easier to pretend to oblige than it was to resist her children’s concerns.

“You know, I’m not frail,” she had barked once in exasperation.

“Of course you’re not. You still have the energy of a teenager, Mama, and that’s exactly the problem. You are not a teenager. You need to slow down before you hurt yourself,” Sally pleaded.

So. She pretended to slow down. But at 83 Mary Ida felt no real need to put on the brakes. She was still running the company. Sally was Vice President now, which was working well. Her daughter got to feel she was helping Mary Ida (and she was) and Mary Ida had the chance to stealthily prepare Sally for stepping into her shoes one of these days.

Sally had always been the social butterfly of the family. She had loved to travel as a young woman, was marvelously outgoing, liked to entertain and enjoyed charitable work. Mary Ida realized those attributes could work well for the company and it helped that — as different as this mother and daughter were — they shared a genuine passion for animals. Sally loved horses as much as Mary Ida did and had four dogs. So, Mary Ida knew that Sally had the heart to lead the company, and as long as someone like Caswell was still around to offer his experience and advice, heart was the most important ingredient at W.F. Young.

As they turned their horses and started downhill on the trails to the stable, they reminisced and chatted about family plans and current events, but Mary Ida’s deeper thoughts roamed freely.

Mary Ida was as glad as the rest of the country that World War II was behind them. She’d seen enough life to know that periods of war and turmoil were eventually replaced by peace and prosperity but if you looked at the far horizon, there were always some storms clouds… sometimes they’d dissipate, and sometimes they’d gather together and ruin… well, more than a picnic or two.

Absorbine Veterinary Liniment Carton 1949

Mary Ida and Sally had just come back from a trip to Saratoga Race Track. Absorbine® products had been finding great success with professional trainers and Caswell had suggested that a long weekend at the track would be fun and good business. He was right, as usual — she’d almost forgotten what a pretty town Saratoga was! — but it made her a little wistful. Memories of their early years, when Wilbur Sr. was selling Absorbine® from the back of their wagon, caught her by surprise. Hard to believe that almost 50 years had passed!

Mary Ida gave Lady’s neck a rub as they came to a level clearing. She was glad to see the new fly repellents the lab had been working on were improving. It infuriated her to see those vicious black flies anywhere near her horses. When they bit, they hurt.

The latest worry in the air was tension between the Soviet Union and the United States, a brewing “Cold War” that divided itself along the political lines of World War II. Allies and Axis, winners and losers. There was bound to be some bad blood left over and the Berlin Blockade was proof of that. So was this House UnAmerican Activities Committee. The hearings on Hollywood had been riveting to most of the country. Movie stars and communism. You’d think the film industry was run by Stalin to hear McCarthy on the subject.

As they reached the base of the hill, Mary Ida briefly wished she could gallop across the field toward the stables, but these days her mount was a Tennessee Walker. Nevertheless, in Lady’s smooth gait, she could feel the horse’s joy to be nearing the comforts of fresh water, sweet hay and a warm stall.

Mary Ida rode Lady into the paddock. She wanted to give her a chance to stretch and cool off after the long trail ride. One of the reasons she loved animals with such devotion, she realized, was because they seemed not just innocent but wiser than people — or at least, less concerned with things that ultimately didn’t matter. Look at the turmoil and devastation mankind had wrought in her lifetime. Of course, there was progress, too. New vaccines. Amazing inventions. And these were W.F. Young Company’s forte.

As she led Lady back to the barn for an Absorbine® rubdown, she felt something charged and positive in the air. Hope. Optimism. The War was over, the economy was booming, the middle class was thriving. America seemed on the ascendant. Mary Ida could just feel that new opportunities were on the way.

Read more about the history of Absorbine® here.

W.F. Young, Inc. is a marketer of many top equine brands, including ShowSheen® Hair Polish and Detangler, UltraShield® Insecticide and Repellant, Hooflex® and Horseman’s One Step® Leather Cleaner and Conditioner.

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