The love of animals in the Walton family goes back a long way. Both Jean and Bill grew up on small family farms; Jean in southern Iowa and Bill in northern North Dakota. They met in Des Moines, Iowa where Jean was working as a secretary and Bill was attending a computer school. Shortly after their marriage in 1966 Bill was drafted and spent 3 years in the Army which included over a year in Viet Nam. Upon discharge from the Army in 1969 they moved to St. Paul where Bill was accepted into the police department in January 1971.
They bought an old abandoned gravel pit in White Bear Township in 1979, cleaned it up, made it a small farm and called it Walton's Hollow (as it was not a mountain like the home of some TV Waltons but was a hole in the ground or "hollow"). The animals came a few at a time, starting with Ginger, a Welsh pony mare, they bought to help ease the change to country life for their 2 young sons. Having a pony meant building a barn; and, of course, the barn was then too big for just a pony, so other animals were added. First came chickens and rabbits, then ducks, pygmy goats and donkeys, followed by calves, pot-bellied pigs, geese, turkeys, lambs, llamas, and Great Pyrenees dogs.
Bill and Jean started putting on the children's barnyard at the Ramsey County Fair in 1985 to help out the 4H program. Their growing collection of "critters" proved more popular every year and soon they were going to schools, nursing homes, theaters, churches, community festivals, and even to customer and employee picnics for various businesses. The "children's barnyards" attracted "children" of all ages, from the little tikes getting up close and touching real live animals for the first time, to the seniors, for whom the animals always brought back many memories. Bill took early retirement from the police department in 1995 so he could help Jean full time with the petting zoos that continued to be more in demand each year. Ponies were added to the delight of many children. Then came the addition of Norwegian Fjord Horses which were quickly put to work pulling hay wagon and carriage riders.
2001 brought the big move. A 20 acre hay field was bought in Lino Lakes and a big new barn, fencing and a new home were built. The animals made the move a few at a time. Bill and Jean were finally able to start living in their new home in February, 2002. They are now thinking about how they can expand the sharing of their animals by allowing people to also come to the new "Walton's Hollow".
Bill and Jean love their animals and love sharing them with others, and even though it involves a lot of hard work they intend to continue doing it for a good long time.