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The many faces of Oxford Hills: A Big Mac, fries and Tara
FRIES PLEASE – Tara Shepherd has been working at McDonald’s for seven years. She works as a cook in the kitchen during breakfast and the drive-through during lunchtime.
NORWAY – This woman may look familiar to you. She is someone that you may see and speak to every week, but do you really know who she is?
Here is a way to meet one of the many faces of Oxford Hills; a person who many may know on the outside, but not within. Meet Tara Shepherd.
Tara’s parents met in Ashland, Maine, near the Canadian border.
“My mom was from the South,” smiled Tara. “And she was always traveling around. She would get bored and move .... She loved the adventure of it all. She was waitressing when she met Dad and actually spilled coffee on him.”
Even as Tara and her two, older brothers grew up, the family never settled down for too long.
“Mom actually swore we were part gypsy, because she never wanted us to be stuck in one place either. I even found my birth certificate and it says I had been born in the Azores, Portugal!” she added.
Tara was considered a US citizen since her mom and dad were both from the US and they returned before she was two.
Even after Tara’s children were born, she continued to live in different parts of the country.
“I wanted them to experience the same great life I had.”
Another thing Tara has in common with her mom is rescuing animals.
“She was always rescuing something,” she said. “And it wasn’t just dogs and cats. She rescued horses, snakes; you name it. She was a nurse, so she never had to take them to the vet and I would help her. It was fun and something for me to do because there was a major age gap between my brothers and me.”
“I loved it so and always will,” she added. “I still rescue and rehab pit bulls to this day.”
She remembered her first rescue dog.
“It was a bait dog,” she explained. “It was a dog they would throw into the pit to make the other dogs more aggressive while they were training them to fight. Breezy had been so abused. I was volunteering at the pound and they didn’t think she was going to make the night. I peeled the duct tape off from her and ended up having her for 19 years. My daughter learned to walk by grabbing her harness.”
Right now, Tara is working with a pit bull puppy.
“We are getting her a Good Canine Citizen Award to prove to people that pit bulls don’t have to be mean dogs. It’s not the breed, it’s the deed.”
Tara’s three children, ages 12, 14, and 16, are her life.
“Luke is an amazing 16-year-old,” she laughed. “Even if he loves horror movies with blood dripping down! He is going to go to the University of Montana and wants to help in preserving the wolves. Aisling is next and she is into dog sledding and Claudia is a very bright young lady who is independent and loves her cat Mushu.”
One reason the family moved to Maine was to allow Aisling to raise and train her sled dogs.
“We were in Connecticut and she saw her first Iditarod when she was three. I got her a dog when she was four and she raced him in the Peewee Division. She loved it so much, and I thought it was a passing phase until she showed up at home with a Siberian Husky one day.”
“In Connecticut they think it’s abusive to race sled dogs,” she added. “So we came to Maine since my parents lived in Harrison and it was much, more sled-friendly. Dad fell in love with it and I even bought him a team and he and Aisling are quite the buds.”
Little Aisling has done well.
“Since she has been racing, she had the fastest team in the state for Peewees, which is one dog. She won Juniors with three dogs and she came in second in the Adults.”
The family also travels for races.
“We go everywhere!” said Tara. “And in the Junior division of the International Dog Sled Racers Association, she came in third out of 500 racers. And now she is in the pros and finding her feet. She doesn’t just race for points, she is racing for money and she is the youngest kid in the pro world.”
“She has also met Lance Mackey, who has won the Iditarod and he has offered to train her for a year, but I don’t want her to leave and she said she wants to make her own way to the top.”
Young children and sled racing is one reason Tara took the job at McDonald’s.
“My kids were in elementary school when I moved here seven years ago. I needed a job that went around their school hours and, my boss April is great and flexible when it comes to going to dog sledding races.”
And at McDonald’s, you name it; Tara does it.
“I’m on the grill for breakfast,” she said. “Then to the drive-through for lunch. I love the people I work with. I know it’s not brain surgery, but it’s a great job with flexible hours for a mom with children.”
Working the drive-through is her favorite part of the day.
“Hey, I grew up in the South!” she laughed. “I smile at everyone. People come in, say thank you and leave. I just always give them a big smile and after a while they smile back and say hello. I’ve gotten to the point, where I know who is going to drive up by their special orders and, of course I know all the dogs that come through.”
Will this wanderer stay put in Maine?
“Well, I doubt it,” she said. “I actually went to Montana in April and between Luke going to school out there and dog sledding, we’ll probably move out there if I can sell my house. I found a great place in Anaconda and it’s up on a mountain with 30 acres and it’s totally off the grid. It even has two houses on it for my parents to move with us.”
Tara says we’ll know when she’s gone.
“When I’m not there with my woodsy comments and southern hospitality, you will know I’m happy in Montana; Maine will never be the same.”