Two generations of horsey girls
Ahhhh, spring! I can't wait for it to arrive this month – or at least it's supposed to, according to the calendar. Except for the tornados that come with it, spring is my favorite time of year.
Those first breezy, blue bird sky, emerald grass spring days often still remind me of my elementary school days in Fort Smith – when some of my friends and I would race like wild horses past our playground toward the (off limits!) banks of the bordering Mill Creek that gave our school its name.
Some of us would even munch on the emerging spring grasses near the creek and end up with “wild onion breath” that grossed out our teachers and other classmates. I never grazed on those spring plants to irritate teachers or other students – I just wanted to actually BE a horse. And, not just any horse. I wanted to be the black, Arabian horse I had started reading about in author Walter Farley's still world-famous “Black Stallion” books.
My mom used to tell me I had loved horses since I was a toddler. There were family photos of me being led around on ponies when I was 3 or 4 and riding double on my country cousins' tall saddle horses when I was in grade school. I started reading Farley's “Black Stallion” books in about the fourth grade and could whinny, toss my head and run like the wind, just like the books' magnificent Black.
My phase of wanting to be a horse didn't last long, though, and was replaced by an obsession to own a horse. By the time I was about 12, my dad, in an apparent effort to preserve his sanity and put an end to my nagging, agreed to make up the difference of the money I had saved and what I still needed on two conditions: I take complete care of the horse and purchase its hay and feed with my babysitting and odd jobs money.
When he found me a handsome, fleet-footed pinto gelding, I promptly named it “Amigo,” because I was certain that cow pony would become my best friend forever.
Amigo and I did have some fun, but not necessarily at the same time.
In case you've never read any previous stories about my adventures with Amigo, I'll just say that any good traits he had were eclipsed by his two major flaws – he was impossible to catch until he was ready to be caught, and he could escape from any pasture, paddock, barn or fenced enclosure he was ever kept in. Thanks to some of his Houdini-like escapades, that horse nearly caused me to be stung to death by bees and my Methodist minister dad to nearly lose his religion during all the times he had to help me round up the fugitive pinto.
I didn't ride much after my husband, Frank, (who also used to ride and have his own horse) and I had five children within eight years while he was working and going to college. Of the five, only two – daughters Laurie and Lanci – were ever horse crazy like me.
I'll never forget the day Frank and his friend Tom Terrill (who had always had horses and looked just like the Marlboro Man) decided it was time the sisters had their own ponies.
Laurie and Lanci were only 8 and 7 when Tom came by in his pickup one Saturday to take them and Frank to buy a nearly matched pair of dapple brown ponies he thought would be perfect for the girls. The girls had ridden before, but never like they did that day.
When they got back to our house with the horses, I was stunned to see Tom just back his truck up to the low ditch around the front of our house, lift each girl onto the back of her own pony and have the ponies jump out of the truck and over the ditch into our yard.
Neither girl had ever done anything like that, but you would have never known it. They looked like they had been jumping horses off trucks across ditches every day for years.
And that's how it was from then on. Both girls loved animals and we had plenty – chickens, rabbits, goats and dogs – they had already helped care for. So, with a few parental instructions, they right away began taking care of those ponies through everything from sub-zero Illinois blizzards to spring monsoons and blazing hot summers, just as if they had always been doing it.
Until we moved from the farm a few years later, Laurie and Lanci had nearly as many adventures with Cocoa and Cinnamon as I had had with Amigo – except, thank goodness, they never had to chase them all over creation like I had to do with my ornery horse. But, when we moved from that farm and they had to see their ponies sold, I knew they felt just like I did when I had to sell Amigo before my senior year in high school.