My Father always said the worst mistake he ever made in raising me, was taking me to Main Street to ride the Shetland ponies. I remember it like it was yesterday…
It was a warm summer day. Riding in the front seat, I was hardly able to sit still as the minutes seemed to drag on for hours. I held tightly to the plastic baggie containing the allowance money, mostly pennies, I had earned doing chores. A whole dollar! My fingers started to sweat. At the ripe age of six, I was already stricken with it. That dreaded life long disease called Horse Fever.
My heart was racing. From the moment we pulled into the drive to park, I was stretching and twisting my head to look at all the horses. Never would I let them tell me which one to ride. Waiting and watching carefully, I looked for a horse of size and spirit; one who would certainly canter if I asked! At the Main Street Pony Rides, a horse of size was only 11 or 12 hands high. After watching the other children ride and carefully making my decision, I would take my bag of coins to the ticket booth.
“Four tickets please.” I said hoisting my payment onto the counter.
The old man behind the booth was tall and thin. His unshaven face or the fact that he had dirt under his fingernails did not blemish my opinion of him. In my eyes, he had the best job in the world!
Cocking his head to the side, he picked up my bag of money.
“How much is in here?”
“A whole dollar!” I exclaimed.
He moved the bag off to the side of the counter and tore off the 4 tickets.
“Aren’t you gonna count it?” I questioned.
Ever so slightly his left eyebrow rose.
“No Hun. I trust you.” He said as he handed me the passport to my dream!
I ran over to the gated area where the horses stood, each tied to a fence line under a small covering. Bouncing up and down I held tightly to my Father’s hand while waiting for my turn.
The young barn hand walked over to us. He was dirty, but he smelled wonderful..just like the horses. Dad waited outside the gate as I was let through. I held up my tickets at the same time I was pointing to the pony of my dreams. An ancient palomino gelding whose body hair rivaled the length of his mane. He raised his head and looked over the other horses backs, watching my approach.
“That one?” the man asked.
“Yes. He is the one I want to ride.” I said as I made my way to his side.
I was lifted up into the saddle and placed my feet into the stirrups. I put one hand on the saddle horn and with the other I held the reins. We were led to the entrance of the track. Looking ahead of me, it looked massive. We walked just a few steps; enough to be out of reach of both my Father and any one else who might object. No one was in front of us. I cued the pony to canter. He picked up the trot. Determined not to waste my hard earned money, I leaned forward and kicked harder. This time I made the kiss noise my Grandfather told me about too. The well trained steed listened and obeyed and off we went. Busy with another horse and child, the attendant barely noticed my mischievous act but as we came back into the corral, he looked at me from the side of his eye. I dropped my chin and was smiling back at him.
“Do you want to ride him all 4 rounds?” he asked.
Whew! I thought I was about to get into trouble. I smiled even bigger as I nodded yes. I knew better than to make any eye contact with my Father lest he order me to obey the rules!