Darrell Herrick steadies Little Joe who loves carrots while on duty

Darrell Herrick steadies Little Joe who loves carrots while on duty

Kindness on Patrol Little Joe gambols around like his namesake from the old Western TV show Bonanza. Youthful, confident, and handsome, the pinto patrols the Sumter County Farmers Market with his rider, Darrell Herrick.

The pair offers supervision on the 40-acre grounds of the oldest and largest flea market in Florida. Established in 1937, the market still sells local produce and cattle.

Market administration contracted with the mounted patrol for added protection for visitors. “We were looking for a source with authority,” said Kristina Fort, market office manager. “Darrell and Little Joe have almost turned into an attraction themselves.”

The glossy black-and-white horse prances a bit around stalls with loud motor sounds. “He just has to get over himself,” Herrick said. “Little Joe doesn’t like the mechanical noises.”

What Little Joe does like is the fresh carrots that vegetable vendors share as he passes by their stall. Herrick uses these incentives to sweeten the deal as the horse maneuvers around large crowds. Herrick patiently stops for any pedestrian who wants to pet the horse, and Little Joe preens with the attention as any young man might.

With a steady hand, Herrick guides his mount. Herrick spent 26 years in law enforcement before retiring to build his dream log cabin with his wife. They enjoy family time with six grandchildren. “We don’t have any trouble here,” he said.

“Darrell is very good with the public,” Fort said. “And if I allowed Little Joe to come in my office, he would!”

The team trots off on a new adventure under the shady oaks and pole barns. They sneak up behind a vendor sitting in a lawn chair at his stall. Mischievous Little Joe pokes his head around the cloth screen and nuzzles the bald man’s head. The recipient of the affection rubs his crown where horse whiskers tickle, then laughs.

While some may believe authority supervises with cold indifference, Little Joe and Herrick believe differently. They know building relationships and showing kindness work wonders.

Today’s Bible verse:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant….” (Matthew 20:25-26 NIV).

Anyone interested in more information about the market may go to www.sumtercountyfarmersmarket.com/default.asp.