By JOYCE GRAHAM
Cows, horses, even pigs are common sights on the roadsides of Columbus and Horry counties.
Alpacas? Not so much.
That’s just what you’ll see along US 76 near Cerro Gordo. Many who pass Laurel Oak Farms slow down to take a second look, and owner Cathi Gruber says many stop.
Gruber says she’s just as intrigued as the sightseers, and the alpacas are just the start of her menagerie. There are “fainting goats” that pass out cold at a sudden sound or movement, a miniature horse, Shetland pony, and numerous horses, sheep, chickens, roosters and an emu.
“I love it here,” Gruber said. “I don’t want to ever leave here, and my husband has a time getting me to the grocery store!”
Her love of the animals is very apparent and very much mutual. The sound of her voice can bring the resting horses to their feet and the pastured animals to the gate line, hoping for a hug and a treat.
These animals are not just for looks, as this is a “working” farm. Alpaca and sheep are sheared for their fibers, and Gruber milks the goats and gathers eggs.
Many of the horses are show horses, with several also being rescue animals. Everyone and all the animals just seem very happy to be where they are.
Gruber recently took ownership of the emu, who took a little longer settling in than the other animals have, but has started to warm up a little.
“My veterinarian is Dr. Jeff Burrows, and he really has had to study up on some of my animals here, not being used to treating alpacas, for example,” Gruber said. “He is just great, the best veterinarian ever.”
Attached to the farm is part of the “other” family business. The family owns Olde Carolina Nursery of Myrtle Beach and are moving some of the plants to the nursery on the farm with plans of having a nursery that folks can come in and purchase plants. The nursery in Myrtle Beach is primarily a commercial business.
“My animals are a lot of work, but I enjoy every second I spend with them, and my 7-year-old son loves them, too,” Gruber said.
How could he not?