I was thinking a lot about horses. I love them, have always loved them, will always love them. I cannot remember when my love for them began but it seems like it has been with me forever.
My absolutely best moment as a child was when my father gave me a horse.
I was a chubby, nine year old, horse loving little girl who at first read only horse stories. Black Beauty, the Black Stallion, the Stallion series and every other horse book I could find. I loved western movies because of the horses and knew all of the famous horse's names. Trigger, Champion, Silver, Buttermilk, and Fury to name a few. We didn't have a TV yet so I had to content myself with the movies and horses I saw in the fields around where I grew up. I remember the farm a few miles away had a pinto pony and I looked for him whenever we went to Potsdam for shopping. I begged my parents for a pony/horse every time I could. Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, whatever. I just wanted a horse; any horse.
My parents kept telling me all the reasons I did not want a horse. I would have to take care of the horse completely by myself. I would have to fetch the bucket of water from the outside pump on the hill near the house to the barn/garage at the foot of our property(we had one acre). I would have to feed and water the horse daily and bring him out of the barn and tie him to graze on our lawn during the day. The property was not fenced. I would have to shovel the manure and the hay bedding out of his stall onto the pile at the rear of the barn. This meant daily I would have to carry shovels full of the stuff about 10 feet from the stall to the small door at the rear of the barn, and fling it out the door. I was to curry and groom the horse and, co-incidentally I would have to learn how to ride.
All of this I agreed to and more if I could only, please, please have a horse. I was continually told no, especially by my mother.
Then one mystical, magical evening, nearing the end of spring, something wonderful happened. My dad had gone out and I was working on my homework in the dining room with my mother. This was always traumatic because I always had trouble and this drove my mom, who was a teacher, nuts. We heard my dad drive in and heard men's voices outside but I thought it was just my dad and uncle. A few minutes later, it was just at dusk, I heard my father calling me and my mother and sister to come outside. There, tethered to the little old apple tree in the front yard was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. A huge bay horse stood with his head turned toward me. I yelled and ran to him with tears streaming down my cheeks. I simply could not believe what I saw. I threw my arms up high around his neck and hugged him then patted and stroked his neck, all the time blubbering. My father stood holding the halter to be sure I didn't get hurt. He told me laughingly, that the horse's name was Pete and he was a gelding who was a retired pacer.(a kind of racehorse). He was 13 years old and was now MINE. I absolutely could not believe it. I stood with the horse for hours, refusing to come in and go to bed. I will never forget the wonder of that first night with my friend. My chest swells and I sigh just remembering it.
Later of course reality had to set in. I had to do by myself all that was mentioned above and additionally I had to do the feeding, watering, and tethering before getting on school bus in the morning. It was just a few short weeks before summer vacation, but it all began again in the fall.
I developed a reputation for smelling like horse even though I washed and changed clothes before getting on the bus. I should mention I was the only country kid below 7th grade who went into the town school. The other country kids went to the country school where everyone smelled the same. I was still a little ripe for the townies.
I learned to ride but I was not allowed to ride alone on the roads. Pete wanted to race every car that passed, and he was just too big for an amateur little girl to handle. Later my dad, without my permission, traded Pete for another brown horse named, Pinocchio, as he was a bit long in the nose. I didn't care how he looked I loved him anyway.
He too, had been a race horse(a trotter), but he was a bit older and didn't thrill to the sport like Pete had. He too, I was not allowed to ride alone, until I was older. The fall was fine but it was a long cold winter. Pinocchio was in the barn all winter because it was just too snowy and cold to tether him outside. It was really hard for a 10 year old girl to prime the pump; pump and then carry the bucket to the barn in the freezing weather. My father absolutely refused to help me with anything but Mama would feel sorry for me and sometimes help, and the two of us would carry the sloshing bucket through the snowdrifts to the barn. In Daddy's defense he had to get up at 4:30 AM and get his car started in below O degree weather and drive 25 miles to work in Massena each morning. Mama was not working then because she didn't drive yet but she got up with him to get his breakfast and pack his lunch box.
At the end of the following summer my mom began to work on me before school began. She reminded me how the kids teased me in school about my smell and called me Clara, the horsey girl. She reminded me that winter was coming again and how the Farmer's Almanac predicted a worse than usual winter. (It was always worse in upstate N.Y., but anyway...) She reminded me about the carrying water and the manure and played on my emotions saying Pinocchio would get lonely by himself again, in the barn all winter, waiting for his little girl to come home from school.
Her coup de gras was, that the farm that had the pinto pony had, several other horses and a teenage girl, who was quite a young horsewoman. She gradually convinced me that I should give Pinocchio to Maryellen. My dad had talked to the family and they said I could come and visit and ride my horse anytime I wanted. I finally bowed to all the pressure and my horse became a lovely memory to me.
To this day I wish I had held out. Of course everything else would also be different and we can only go back and imagine the what it might have been. I have always felt a yet unfulfilled yearning to have a horse again and board it on one of the horse properties we live near. Every time I go out I try to take either 43rd or 51st Avenues so I can look at the horses in the pastures. One of the things I love about living where I do in Phoenix is that within the town limits you have all these wonderful horse properties just a minute away. You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the horse out of the girl.