Though pony ownership is every little girl’s dream, to this very day it remains a bit of a mystery to me as to how my own family ended up fulfilling it. Sure, every kid has dreams, but one thing I learned early on was that a dreamer was sure to be disappointed.
Ours was not one of those, “Darling, be a good girl and daddy will buy you a pony” kind of families. It was not a family of shiny leather and acres of well-manicured equestrian paradise, paddocks and riding crops and golden sunshine shafting through the haze of sawdusty air.
*cue Horse Whisperer soundtrack*
Hang on… I’m stuck in a Robert Redford moment….
(Umm… where was I again?)
My family was more like, “Pony dreams are for rich girls – does your daddy look like he plays Polo?” My family was more, “beer in the woods” than “juleps on the veranda.” My family was a functional barn and 30 acres, utilitarian to a fault, leaky, dusty, ancient, with a curved roofline standing in defiance of gravity. It was composting manure piled high and a zillion scary barn spiders. It was rusty ploughs and an ancient baler, a dozen head of cattle, chickens, occasionally rabbits and a duck we called George.
Any girlish fantasy of Scarlett, Rhett and Bonnie Blue leaping fences on her pony were just that: Fantasies. Wipe that dream out of your head right now. (I did say no juleps…)
So how our motley crew of hillbillies came to be in possession of a Shetland pony is one of life’s mysteries that, for me at least, will probably never be solved.
Her name was Lady Jane… but as the saying goes, “She was no lady!” Lady Jane was a stubby legged brown and white creature with wide, sharp brown eyes that always seemed to know you were coming before you got there. Just in time to bare her teeth and take a nip out of your hide.
She was mean as the day is long. Any attempt to ride her without a competent grown-up holding the lead rope landed you in a fresh pile of pony droppings. If nothing else, Lady Jane had excellent aim. She could land you in the muck with pinpoint accuracy, only narrowly avoiding your skull as she mule-kicked the air in her own special brand of victory dance.
Lady Jane was also a marvellous escape artist. I have vivid memories of being piled into the back of the car along with my siblings, armed with a bag of carrots, as we drove the countryside, hanging our heads out the windows and calling for her. Mind, this was well before the days of seatbelt and car seat laws, so hanging out of car windows at the tender age of 5 was perfectly acceptable in those days. Advisable even. The only way it could have got better was if we were riding in the back of a pick-up truck. With no tailgate. Ah, good times, good times…
Once we located our errant little mare, it would be another fine chase through someone else’s field to catch her. Somehow, the little minx managed to avoid so much as a scrape of barbed wire as she exited our fields and entered anyone else’s. I wish the same could be said of those chasing her down. She was wily as a fox, but also short-legged and easily tired out. Eventually and after much dirty fuss, we would lead the shamed and stubborn girl back home… until the next time she decided to leg it in favor of greener pastures.
Whatever became of her? Now that is yet another mystery. Perhaps my folks just got sick of running after her and decided to let her run.
I like to fantasize that one day, when they spotted her opening the gate and tiptoeing for freedom, they stood on the veranda (mint julep in hand), and watched indulgently. Daddy would straighten his cravat, dust off his breeches and look all pensive. Mummy would dash away a tear and straighten her wide-brimmed hat. A perfectly barrelled lock of shiny brown hair was caught by the gentle breeze as she whispered, “Run, little pony… run! Feel the wind in your hair… the sun on your withers! Just be free, little pony…” Mummy and Daddy would settle down on their rocking chairs and watch Lady Jane disappear over the horizon into the sunset…
Hey, this is my fantasy. If I want to allow a Rhett and Scarlett moment here and there, I am allowed. This fantasy surely beats what was the most probable alternative: A trip to the knacker’s yard followed by a beer in the woods.
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