Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Horse Of Course

If you don't know who this is...SHAME ON YOU! Forget J.K. Rowling, Cornelia Funke, Christopher Paolini, and anyone else in the presence of this great lady, this championess of my childhood, the catalyst for my raging teenage bout with horse fever, Marguerite Henry!
And thanks to Purple House Press for this great digitally preserved autograph! They have a great selection of classic children's books so if you are looking for a childhood memento, chances are you'll find it there!
What brought on the fit of nostalgia, you might tearful viewing of Seabiscuit this fine evening. You might say, "But Holley, that is not a sad movie! It's a story of the perseverance of man, of triumph over adversity, of the stalwart strength of the common man!" I won't disagree with you; the story...the horse himself, is all that and more. But to tell you the end, you must know the beginning.
Picture this....
I was horse crazy as long as I can remember. I ate, slept, dreamt, played, pretended, read, watched, talked, murmured, whispered, hummed horses. I had horse posters, books, figurines, plush dolls. Horses on my shirts, pants, shoes, name it. The fodder for this obsession was the books I read: Marguerite Henry, Wesley Dennis(wonderful illustrator I endless tried to imitate), Walter Farley. I read about Seabiscuit, Man O'War (did you know he had a 27 foot stride?), War Admiral, Native Dancer, Seattle Slew...endless others I'm sure...
Finally, in my 12th year the dream came true. My dad had to go to Texas for some job training and brought back that and my two little ponies, Joe and Dan. They were neither little, nor ponies, nor even healthy really. It was a long time before I could even think about riding them. Dan had bad feet and Joe was just plain skinny. Dan's feet never really got any better but it was not this that kept him from being my favorite. Dan was a big, tall, raw-boned horse...not particularly friendly towards everyone. So I really bonded with my little Joe. I was delighted over his name (I loved Bonanza and had a crush on Joe), his small size, and his mischievous good nature from the very beginning.
As an adult, I can look back and see his bad behavior....he tended to bloat up while being saddled making the likelihood of falling off later more than a possibility, he also would sneak in a tree rub when he could (how do you get the extra peanut butter off of your butter knife? same principle), he nibbled on plants as we rode along and would frequently fall asleep while walking. Most perplexing, he would not cross pooled water. He would awkwardly jump over it and, as I had not kept up my taxing steeplechase training, I was in danger of falling if I didn't pay attention to the terrain. If you weren't clever with a slip knot when you stopped somewhere while out on a ride, he would untie himself and walk home, leaving you stranded. In spite of all that, Joe loved potato chips, ladies' perfume, and a good brushing and I loved him right back. He was little, he was flawed, he was my Seabiscuit and I was Red Pollard.
My Joe went lame after a severe cut just above one of his back hooves and they had severe separation anxiety so I never rode them after that. They got food, water, love, and no responsibilities. We should all be so lucky. Since they stayed at my grandmother's house, my mom became caretaker and a wondrous thing happened. Grumpy, crotchety old Dan who liked no one and nothing fell head over heels for my mother. He whinnied when he saw her walking down to the pasture and begged for petting whenever he could. I choose to believe this is what happened and it had absolutely nothing to do with the donuts and cakes that she got off of the day-old shelf and fed to him :)
I lost he and Dan to old age a couple of years ago and it is still fresh. I suspect it always will be. I had to watch a man on a backhoe cover up my ponies and I'll never forget it. I had them for 15 years and they were at least that age when I got them. I had no records of their birth and the vet could only estimate their ages from examining their teeth and she said they were in their late 20's or early 30's. I hope I provided them with a good life, they certainly did for me. I have photos, memories, and experiences that I cherish and I'll always remember my little ponies.
Sorry to bring you down, if that's what this tale has done.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved Seabiscuit too. And I cried too.