'She was a wonderful presence'

Remembering Sassy: Olson House horse

By Juliette Laaka | Jul 10, 2014
Photo by: Kim Lincoln Sassy on the steps of the Olson House.

Cushing — The horse who had free rein of Hathorn Point for more than two decades died July 2 at age 33.

"She is probably in photo albums all over the world," said Sarsaparilla's owners, Linda and John Duffy, who live beyond the Olson House on Hathorn Point. "And there's no question, she was posing," they said.

The Morgan, bred for riding and carriage driving, was often seen on the Farnsworth Art Museum-owned Olson House property, standing on the granite steps of the house, her muzzle to the screen door, peeking into the 19th-century house.

Sassy roamed the property before the home of Christina and Alvaro Olson became a museum to commemorate the Olsons and their friendship with artist Andrew Wyeth, who painted them for 30 years. "Christina''s World," a 1948 painting of Christina Olson in the field, looking toward the house, is shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and is an internationally recognized work.

Shirley Stenberg, a docent for more than 20 years, remembers Sassy fondly.

"She was a wonderful presence at the Olson House," she said, recalling Sassy visited at the side door of the house each morning. "She really wanted to go in the house, it was almost mystical, " said Stenberg.

Writing a condolence to the Duffys, Stenberg said Sassy's spirit was strong and powerful, like Anna Christina's and Alvaro's.

"And you know, Andrew Wyeth loved her. He loved that she was free to roam and that she went to the Olson House," Stenberg said.

Many tourists and artists came to visit the landmark home to see the horse, known to most as "Sassy."

Sassy, some believe, channeled Christina Olson's spirit. "That's her legacy," said Linda, recalling that a niece of Christina Olson noticed Sassy would often stand on the steps Christina often settled on, both preferring the same summer light.

Born in Texas in 1981, Sassy moved from Colorado to British Columbia, and to  Massachusetts before she was bought by the Duffys and brought to Maine.

"That's when the adventure began," Linda Duffy said.

Stories abound when speaking with the Duffys about their horse, and they often laugh remembering her antics.

"You haven't lived until you've ridden around in a SUV, honking the horn, trying to drive horses home, " Linda said.

During Wyeth's 80th birthday party, the Duffys recalled her tearing toward the Olson House festivities, sampling cake and hors d'oeuvres. She also ate the woodwork on the door of the museum because the wood was salty from its close setting on the St. George River.

Sassy is notable in her own right, being featured in Down East magazine, "Good Morning America," and a myriad of other books and magazines. She was at the Olson House so much that John and Linda eventually gave the employees at the museum a pitch fork to clean up droppings on the lawn.

Linda and John recounted a trip to the Amalfi Coast, in Italy, where they met another couple and planned to have dinner. In conversation, they discovered the other couple had been to Cushing, visited the Olson House, and remembered Sassy on the lawn of the landmark.

During a field trip to the Olson House, children lined up their backpacks, only to return and discover the lunches had been eaten by Sassy, plastic bags and all. The children had to go to Fales Store for lunch, Linda said. Stenberg also remembered Sassy was curious of what students brought for lunch during field trips.

Nordy, a Norwegian fjord breed, who was a stall mate of Sassy's, whinnied for three days, calling for his friend after her death.

When asked if she will get another horse, Linda said she will not.

"Sassy was a once in a lifetime," she said.

Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@villagesoup.com.

Linda Duffy, Nordy, and John Duffy at their home in Cushing. The Duffy's Morgan horse, Sassy, a mainstay of Hathorn Point, died July 2 at age 33. (Photo by: Juliette Laaka)
Nordy, Sassy's companion, and owner John Duffy. (Photo by: Juliette Laaka)
Nordy and John Duffy walk in the field Sassy often roamed. (Photo by: Juliette Laaka)
John Duffy walks with Nordy near Sassy's grave. (Photo by: Juliette Laaka)
The steps on the side of the house was one of Sassy's favorite places to stand. (Photo by: Juliette Laaka)
The Olson House (Photo by: Juliette Laaka)
Sassy on the steps of the Olson House. (Photo by: Kim Lincoln)
Sassy on the steps of the Olson House. (Photo by: Kim Lincoln)
Sassy on the steps of the Olson House. (Photo by: Kim Lincoln)
Comments (3)
Posted by: Dennis Simmons | Jul 10, 2014 12:20

I have many fond memories of Sassy and her antics. She truly was a once in a lifetime horse. Thank you Linda and John for "loaning" her to the rest of us.

Posted by: robert garcia | Jul 10, 2014 11:49

Linda and John are the best horse-whisperers...they have a lot to do with Sassy and Nordy. All their animals are precious...last year their lovely dog won Boatyard Dog! Sorry to hear about Sassy, but glad she got to live her life in such a wonderful and magical place.


Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Jul 10, 2014 11:05

We remember Sassy fondly when we were docents at the Olson House several summers ago. She certainly had a dignity and a sense of humor, too.  Kendall & Phyllis Merriam

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