"The Real America Of Old With Big Hearts and Faithful and Peaceful Souls !"

Longhorn breeders open hearts and home to 15 children from other lands

If the State Fair of Texas sets attendance records this year, it can thank Jay and Suzanne Faske.

Their entire family will be traveling to Dallas.

No "maximum capacity" signs are posted on the hearts or the home of this cattle-ranching couple from Burton whose selflessness and generosity led them to orphanages in Kazakhstan, China, India, Russia and Colombia, where they adopted 15 of their 17 children, some with special needs.

The Faskes’ answering machine asks callers to:

"Please leave a message for . . ."

Then each child, beginning with the oldest, speaks his or her name.

"Elizabeth . . . Rebekah . . . Andrew . . . Naomi . . . Abigail . . ."

The recorded roll call continues.

"Jacob . . . Joshua . . . Samuel . . ."

All are biblical names, an affirmation of the couple’s bedrock, sustaining faith.

"Hannah . . . Sarah . . ."

The cascade of voices calls to mind the closing scene of an old television series when the lights inside a homestead on Walton’s Mountain are extinguished and family members, one by one, bid each other good night.

Home-schooled, the children, ranging in age from 4 to 19, spend afternoons and weekends working at the family’s Vida Nueva Ranch near Somerville in Burleson County, 12 miles north of their home.

The 10 girls and seven boys, members of the Texas Longhorn Breeders of Tomorrow, will exhibit some of their prized animals during the State Fair, which continues through Oct. 19.

"When I look at them," Suzanne said of her brood, "and remember all the places they came from, sometimes it’s hard to believe they’re cowboys and cowgirls now."

The Faskes have two "homemade" children, biological sons Jacob and Joshua, both 15.

Life-changing decision

Twelve years ago the couple made the prayerful decision to pursue international adoption after watching a BBC documentary titled The Dying Rooms about Chinese state orphanages.

The disturbing film showed evidence that young Chinese children were deliberately neglected and allowed to die in agonizing ways.

The Faskes learned about an infant in India whom police found wrapped in cloth and left alongside a street in Delhi. She was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate.

After she was adopted, Jacob Faske, then a preschooler, asked to take her photo to class for show-and-tell.

His mom agreed but worried that others might make fun of the girl’s birth defect or dark skin tone.

"This is my baby sister, Sarah," Jacob proudly announced to friends.