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Mucking stalls with Reagan

Coupeville resident Andrew Evrard, a retired Navy corpsman, has a memory of the late Ronald Reagan that may be unique from those of all the other thousands upon thousands of people who met the late U.S. president.

Evrard worked beside the Commander in Chief in a barn, pitchforks in hands, shoveling horse manure together. “I was mucking stalls with the president of the United States,” Evrard said. “It’s something I will never forget.”

It may not be the most flattering image, but Evrard said the scene captures some of the essence, the folksy-ness, of Reagan.

“It dawned on me that he was an ordinary guy,” Evrard said. “You see the president and here he’s in blue jeans and a T-shirt, gloves and a pitch fork, just like everybody else.”

Evrard ended up working as a corpsman at the Reagan’s Santa Barbara ranch, providing medical coverage to the president’s staff, in 1985. That year, Evrard had been named Sailor of the Year at the Pacific Missile Test Center at Point Magu and was supposed to meet Reagan as sort of a reward. When that fell through, he was instead sent to the ranch while the president and First Lady were on a nearly three-week vacation.

Evrard regularly saw Reagan outside working on his beloved ranch — clearing brush, riding horse, feeding the animals. He said he was surprised to see how much hard work the aged, but physically fit, politician was able to do.

One day, Evrard was in the horse barn and decided to help out a little. He had been around horses his whole life, so he just naturally grabbed a pitchfork and went to work shoveling out a stall.

But Reagan came by while he was working and told him to stop, explaining good-naturedly that he could get in trouble for allowing a member of the military to do work on his farm.

“I said, ‘You’re the president of the United States. Who are you going to get in trouble with?’” Evrard said.

Reagan laughed and the two men worked shoulder-to-shoulder for awhile, finishing cleaning out the horse stall. But the president made it clear that Evrard wasn’t supposed to do any more work on the ranch.

Evrard said he was also impressed by Nancy Reagan, who he also saw around the ranch. It wasn’t until he met her, he said, that he realized what it must be like to be the First Lady.

“I was overwhelmed by the fact that Mrs. Reagan had so much to deal with,” he said. “When I made eye contact and shook her hand for the first time, that’s when it dawned on me.”

Evrard even got the chance to bring his late wife, Stacy, to meet the Reagans at the flight line.

“The effect that meeting the Reagans had on me,” he said, “was to make me realize that anybody in America can go all the way.”

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