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I've written on occasion about when - as a kid - I learned to ride a horse. One of the first times I was on a horse it tripped and I went sailing over its head hitting the ground with a thud I can still hear to this day. But I don't think I've ever told about what my family went through trying to find some ponies or horses to buy for what we thought of as our horse and pony needs.
When my father decided he would buy either some ponies or horses for us kids he let people around town know that he looking to buy a few ponies or horses.
The first thing we learned was how different those two species and the people who deal with them are. We learned that the people who deal with ponies won't generally have anything to do with horses or “horse people.” And “horse people” - as a rule - avoid ponies and “pony people.”
“Ponies are awful cunnin'," said one horse person we knew, "but there's 100 bad ones for every good one," he hastened add.
Pony people had a lot to say about horses and horse people, too, but I won’t spell it out here.
Right off, we learned that a pony isn't just a large version of a dog and it 's certainly not a small version of a horse. It's a pony and some of them can be “difficult.
After looking over a few ponies we finally came across one named Julie. She was said to be good with kids, could take a saddle for riding and she could pull a small wagon. My father was so impressed by the cute little thing that he bought her on the spot.
For a while it was a lot of fun hitching Julie up to the wagon and taking her down to Main Street to let her show off for all the out-of-staters.
Sometimes we'd have her pull the wagon down to the garden to get some fresh corn or beans for supper. It was a lot of trouble, of course, but still a lot of fun.
The only bad habit Julie had was stamping her front hoof on people's toes. She'd be standing there all cute and innocent like and because she was so cute people just had to come over to pet her and fuss over her. But as they stood there fussing, if they weren't paying attention, she'd suddenly stamp her hoof on their toes and - all of a sudden - wouldn't those people turn ugly.
Sometimes people would ask if it was alright to pet her and I'd say “OK, just watch her front hoofs” and they'd say something like “Don't worry, I'll be careful.”
But when they were least expecting it that sneaky pony would stomp them something awful.
I was ten when we bought Julie so I knew only too well a few of the more generic 'bad words' that were in popular use at the time. But once I started taking cute little Julie around and she started stomping on peoples' toes, well, let's say I started learning more curse words and creative expressions than I probably would have learned from the entire United States Navy.
One Sunday afternoon my brother and I took Julie to town with the wagon and hitched her outside Hall's Market and went in for ice cream. When we came out the local pastor, Rev. Kellogg, was petting Julie and going on about what a cute pony she was.
Before we could say anything Juliet- looking innocent as a lamb - brought her little front hoof down on Rev. Kellogg's left toes. The good Pastor then let loose a string of colorful compound-complex phrases and words that could have peeled paint off a barn.
I only wish now that I had taken notes, for future reference.
We didn't tell too many people about the Rev. Kellogg “inciden” but I can still repeat from memory a few if his more creative constructions.
Soon after that my father concluded that we weren't “pony people” so he sold Julie to a nice couple in Warren.
We decided – as cute as ponies are – we were probably meant to be “horse people.”
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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