Walterboro’s own ‘Elly May’ | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | October 13, 2017 5:00 am
Last Updated: October 11, 2017 at 10:45 am
When Amy Hardee arrives home from a day in the classroom, she is greeted by a menagerie of sounds.
“The donkey starts braying, the horse is whinnying, the sheep start baaing, the chickens are all talking and the dogs are barking,” Hardee explained.
It’s a time when her inner “Elly May” takes over. The nickname, derived from Elly May Clampett, a character from the television show “The Beverly Hillbillies,” comes naturally.
The television character was usually tending to a critter in her family’s Beverly Hills mansion — Hardee’s love of animals is real.
One day, Colleton County Fire-Rescue Chief Barry McRoy, a family friend, visited her kindergarten classroom. He asked the students if they knew their teacher’s real name, telling them she was Elly May Clampett.
Hardee turned it into a teachable moment, employing the smart board to show them who Elly May really was.
Hardee is entering her 22nd year of teaching kindergarten in the Colleton County School District.
“Tending to the kindergarteners is a job. I have 27 five-year-olds this year. They are lots of fun, but very demanding. There is never a dull moment, but I never get a chance to stop and relax, ever,” Hardee said.
“When I come home in the afternoons, the animals are all waiting for me to love them and to love me. It is just so relaxing. It is my calming place, my happy place,” Hardee said.
After a long day spent in the classroom, Hardee trades her teaching attire for jeans and boots and heads out to Amy’s Funny Farm. A family friend even provided a sign naming the fenced-in area where Amy’s animals reside.
Then it’s time to tend to the menagerie. “Most of the time I’m outside till dark,” Hardee said. “It is not work. I enjoy it so much and it is so peaceful and calming, it doesn’t feel like work.”
Growing up, Hardee pondered a trio of possible career paths.
Joining teaching kindergarten as a possible career were becoming an interior decorator (“that is one of my passions”) and becoming a veterinarian.
Veterinarian fell by the wayside. She realized, “the first time I had to put something to sleep or do surgery, I would have been in trouble.”
Teaching won out, but “I think I’ve loved animals longer than I have loved teaching kindergarten,” Hardee said.
When Hardee is headed for her farm, Pedro and Elly usually trot over to the fence to greet her arrival. They know she is coming to visit with a cache of vanilla wafers.
Pedro is the miniature horse her brother, Corey Easterlin, brought her from a Charleston farm. The larger horses at that farm tended to bully Pedro and he needed a new home. Corey suggested his sister’s home would be the perfect place.
Elly is the donkey. She’s pregnant and is expected to give birth in late February or early March. Hardee got Elly to protect her four sheep from the coyotes that roam the area. Coyotes don’t like to cross paths with donkeys.
“Donkeys and sheep were the two of the things I wanted,” Hardee said. “I thought they would be fun to have.” She has now set her sights on adding miniature goats and miniature pigs to her farm.
Like all the other residents of the farm, Pedro and Elly were standoffish and a bit defensive when they first arrived.
When new animals arrive, Hardee explained, “It can be overwhelming because of all the other animals. In a week or two, they all learn to get along. It is always a happy ending.”
When Pedro arrived, he and Ely did not get along. Back then Elly was best friends with Alley Cat, one of the family’s pet cats. “Alley Cat would sit on the donkey’s back — they were inseparable.”
Once Pedro settled into his new home, he and Elly became inseparable. “The cat is out of the picture now,” Hardee said.
Yes, every permanent resident in Amy’s Funny Farm has a name. All four of the sheep, the squirrels, the chickens and roosters. Outside the fence, the family has four dogs and five cats — all but one are rescues.
“We have found them under trash cans, in the middle of the road. Sometimes they just show up at our house,” Hardee said. “When I retire, I would like to have a farm where I can have more rescues.
“They find their way here even though we are so far off the road,” Hardee said. “I’ve had horses come here; pigs, cows, and chickens. It is funny how everything migrates to my house. I guess they know where they are loved.”
It could be that word has spread through the animal kingdom that at Amy’s Funny Farm, “everyone gets a treat.”