Once Upon a Pony

Old Bill and me

Once upon a time, a long time ago, my dad got us kids (well, me) (my brother had a quarter horse) a pony.  If you know anything at all about the equine world, you know that ponies are mean little you-know-whats and stubborn.  My dad had a sense of humor, and I can only imagine he bought this pony so he could laugh his buhiney off at the things it did to me.  That’s him sitting on the porch with my little sister on his lap, getting ready for a big guffaw no doubt.

I was six or seven in this picture.  Back then kids had more freedom to move about and play, and were allowed to do all sorts of dangerous (in the eyes of today’s world) activities.  We didn’t have Wii or other games like that, and television wasn’t nearly as interesting as going exploring or playing with friends.   Today, kids think it’s dangerous to walk or ride their bike down the street, even in our little rural town (one of the effects of instant news).  And truthfully, I would have a cow if my grandgirls did half what I did when I was growing up.

My dad had a small farm about a mile or a little more out of town.  Down the dirt road to the north from our house, past the horse show arena, on out toward pee curve, turn to the west and go up a sloping, steep hill (especially on a bicycle in the hot summer), then breeze on down the other side to the farm.  We had a great time on that place.  That’s where Mom had her garden, where Dad had animals of all sorts through the years, and where the barn with the horses was.

Some days I would drive out to the farm with Dad (back then we could sit in the truck bed) and ride Old Bill.  This particular day I was going to ride him back into town to the house, following Dad’s truck.  We did just fine till we got to the top of that steep hill.  It was summer, and I guess Old Bill just didn’t like to be pushed that hard.  We were in the part of the road that had shade trees on either side, and Dad’s truck was waaaaaay down the road turning pee curve to head on to the house.  He was gone.  And I have to admit, I felt just a bit more than a smidgen of panic.

I don’t know if Old Bill sensed I was scared to be there all by myself or if he had it planned the minute he saw Dad’s truck make the curve, but he started to lie down in the road… with me on him.  I pulled on the reins and kicked the fat, stubborn thing with all my little years had in me to no avail.  It was either jump or get squashed.  So I jumped off just as he did the full lie-down.

Oh, I got Old Bill to the house.  I led him the rest of the way home.  Every time I tried to get back on him, he would lie down in the road.  As soon as I quit, he got up and would start plodding along.  I know I couldn’t have felt any heavier than a mosquito on his back.  By the time we got home, I was spitting mad… at Old Bill, at Dad, and at me for my inability to control that stubborn pony.

Now, though, I give myself a little credit.   I suppose at the age of 7 or 8 that I had some control… or he would have bucked me off and ran away.

But that’s another Old Bill tale.

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Nancy and Darla… and babies and diaper bags and…

Nancy and Darla with their babies

The neighborhood wouldn’t have been complete without the “little sisters.”  That is, Terry’s little sister and my little sister.  You never saw one without the other.  You never saw either without their babies in one arm and their diaper bags thrown over the shoulder of the other arm.

Nancy lived up the hill from us, a block away.  Those two kept that road hot.  I can still see them walking up or down that hill with their “children.”  They would meet in the middle to discuss important “stuff” or just to walk with the other to one of the homes.

As they grew up, they embraced Barbies (along with the babies) and went wild and crazy over the Beatles.  One of them would get a pretend microphone and stand on the bed and pretend to be the Beatles, singing her heart out, “I Want To Hold Your Haa-aa–and,” while the other, standing at the foot of the bed, would squeal and scream and fall down on the floor… just as the girls on the TV did at the Beatles concerts.

Nancy was Catholic; Darla was Southern Baptist.  I’m not sure what kind of Catholic game they played, but I was privy to the Baptist one where Darla would stand and preach to Nancy and sing hymns.  She perfected her preaching when she was raising her children and ordering them to get dressed, clean their rooms, just generally behave…  and she still sings hymns.  I’m thinking that Baptist preaching Darla taught Nancy may have come in handy as Nancy raised her own four children and had to do a little preaching herself.

Mulberry Groundhog

Our corner of the world, our neighborhood, was a magical place.  There were wheat fields all around us with “town” only a couple of blocks away.  An arena for horse shows was just down the dirt road.  The big new Catholic Church was being built right across the street from my house, chock full of nooks and crannies for our never-ending curiosity capers, sitting right on the corner that met three houses full of my friends and playing partners.

sledding

That was the same corner where the big hill sat for sliding down on our sleds in the winter or flying down on our bikes with hands held high in the air in the summer, right beside the house where Terry and Nancy lived, all the way to the corner where the Martins lived.  There was the  pond that froze over in the winter on which we “shoe” skated, down in the woods on the other side of Gail’s house and Peggy’s house.  A short walk, maybe a half a mile, would take us to “Pee Curve” and the gullies where we swung from one side of the deep ravines to the other on long, thick grapevines.

And we kids had an appetite for adventures.  We wrote and acted in our own plays, then sold tickets to our family and neighbors, even selling popcorn at one of the plays.   We rode horses all over the place, putting the stubborn animals in the local horse shows (at least mine was stubborn).

one of the horses

We made Barbie towns in the basements.  We even had our own village in Peggy’s basement with a restaurant, dress shop… now the details are fuzzy.  We became blood sisters; climbed up and sat in the big tree and cut our palms and rubbed them together.  We snuck out at night and rode our bikes around town.  (Terry made me do it.)

riding bikes

And we made up this really neat game:  Mulberry Groundhog.  Since my memory was kind of fuzzy on the actual play of the game, I enlisted Terry and Gail to fill in the details, hoping they weren’t fuzzy as well.  Turns out, if we were leftovers in the fridge, we’d be so covered with fuzz that we’d be ready for the trash bin.  We did deduce it had something to do with a long stick, one participant being the Mulberry Groundhog with the other suckers sitting on a blanket squirming around to keep from getting whacked or jumping up and running off to be chased… or something like that.  We remember bits and pieces.

days gone by

But what we all remember… is how very much fun we had growing up in our neighborhood.