Well-known Santa Ynez Valley farmer Larry Saarloos, who planted his first vineyard near Los Olivos in 1999, was severely injured last Tuesday after falling from a horse on Hollister Ranch.
“It was an unfortunate accident,” said his son Keith Saarloos. “True to form, my dad was out there to help a friend. He’d been moving cattle for the past two days at one of the most beautiful places on earth.”
After being airlifted to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Saarloos, who is 65 years old, was flown to UCLA Medical Center, where he later underwent surgery to repair two broken vertebrae in his neck. He is now conscious, alert, and recovering, though remains in pain and has no movement yet below the waist.
“People found out about it very quickly, as the old man does throw a big shadow,” said Keith Saarloos, who credits the countless prayers coming from his dad’s extensive support network for empowering his survival and recovery. “From his church group to his friends who have never prayed before, they’re saying, ‘I’m praying for your dad,’ which is an amazing feeling,” said Saarloos. “I know some people are skeptical of that, but when you’re in the midst of it, it’s impossible to deny. We’ve felt it physically as a family.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been difficult for his wife and children to visit Saarloos, though they have been able to in recent days. Meanwhile, there’s been a wide outpouring of support via social media, as Keith Saarloos continues to make regular updates on his Instagram account @saarloosandsons. When Keith’s brother, former professional baseball player Kirk Saarloos, posted the news on his Twitter account @kirk_saarloos, he received nearly 10,000 likes and more than 750 well-wishing comments. They said that the digital support is helping Larry recover.
“Social media gets vilified, but I have seen the opposite,” said Saarloos. “The outpouring of love has really been the factor in bringing his spirit up and up and up.”
The Saarloos family owns vineyards in Ballard Canyon and near the intersection of 101 and 154, and operates the popular Saarloos and Sons tasting room in Los Olivos. Their brand is very family-forward, with relatives often featured on the labels.
When asked how Larry would like to be described, Keith replied, “Legend. What do you call Paul Bunyan? Is he a lumberjack? Husband, father, grandfather, farmer, cattleman, force of nature.”
Whether he will regain the use of his legs is unknown at this time, but the family remains hopeful. “The spinal cord wasn’t severed, just damaged, so we’re still hopefully for a twitch in his toe,” said Saarloos. “There are thousands of people praying for this guy, so I’m not ruling anything out.”
The family is asking those who’d like to show their support to visit tribute.co/saarloos and upload their own message to Larry Saarloos.