December 04, 2008
Christmas Cowboy Daze
My Dad as well as my Uncles Joe and Neal used to tell me stories when I was little about riding ponies across the windswept prairies near Thunder Butte when they were growing up. It was exciting, all these stories told by my relatives who, at least in my mind, used to live in the olden days—just like the cowboys on TV. That was my introduction to cowboys, and I wanted to be one. I used to prop a child's straw cowboy hat on my head and strap on my plastic six shooters. Then, I'd climb on my mount – usually a stick or a broom handle – and gallop about my suburban San Francisco Bay Area yard terrifying my sisters and our dogs. And, then, one Christmas when I was about eight, my grandmother, bless her kindness, thought it would be a really good idea to get her California grandkids a pony.
I remember the great excitement I had on that Christmas morning about the idea of having pony rides, and not just at the amusement park, but whenever I wanted. I pulled out my plastic revolver, strapped it to my hip, cocked my cowboy hat over one eye and sashayed out back to take possession of my trusty steed. My cowboy daze didn't last long.
The pony's name was “Peanuts,” the kind of name that suggested a gentle, hooved companion, and maybe the kind you would feed peanuts to or bits of straw from the palm of your hand. But just as quickly as these thoughts passed through my mind, the reality of a bucking monster that would just as soon bite your hand off as nibble on peanuts set it. As my Dad tried to tie a harness to the pony, it just reared up, raising a ruckus and waving its hooves about wildly. My Dad did all he could to calm the animal, but it just seemed to want to attack him. The wild beast seemed to tower over me. My Dad tried to get me on top of it, but it quickly threw me off and then stepped on me to make matters worse. Crying, that was the end of the cowboy romance for me. From then on, I tried to steer clear of the pony, but it would charge every time I went out into the backyard. I became adept at hopping over the fence at the last minute in a sheer panic, always thinking that these were indeed my final moments in this world.
I was so terrified of Peanuts. Every time the creature saw me, it reared on its hind legs and threatened me with a nasty bump on my head or worse. It was a wild animal. I think my Dad had the idea that the pony and I would eventually get right with each other. He was so convinced of it that he gave me the job of seeing that the pony was secured in his pen every night with fresh food and water. Instead, when I got home from school every day, I would get down on my knees and pray. I'd beg God to just please get the beast back in his pen without my help. Then, all I would have to do would be to slip out the back door, sprint to the gate, and fasten it just in the nick of time before the pony would notice me and come charging. It only worked about twenty-five percent of the time, so I guess God was listening to somebody else's prayers most of the time.
Although we tried to keep the pony in the backyard, it kept breaking out. More than once my Dad had to go chasing the pony down the street to keep it from taking off after and terrifying the neighbors. Once, one of the neighbors, Mr. Taylor, came looking over the fence to see if my Dad was about. The pony immediately charged, broke through the fence, and chased him all the way down the street. Mr. Taylor never came back. Never. Even after we got rid of the beast, which we were eventually forced to do after about three months because even my Dad could not control the thing. This was all a surprise, of course, because he had grown up in the Cowboy Days, hadn't he?
Editor's Note--Merry Christmas!
I was terrified to go into the back yard!
Julie, the neighbor!!!