As part of my Lift My Spirits and Feel Good List, I, of course, wanted to write about horses. I'm going to do this in a couple installments because I want to start at the beginning, when I was a child in the suburbs, completely obsessed with horses.
I would sit in front of the TV dressed in black, vinyl cowboy boots and a black felt cowboy hat that sat loosely on my head and threatened to slip over my eyes if I made any sudden moves. I strapped on a holster, complete with cap gun, around my waist and watched Roy Rogers and Dale Evans riding into the sunset.
I loved the idea of the open range, riding everywhere you went, the freedom, the quiet solitude, time to think and dream, and best of all, a horse that came running to you whenever you whistled or called his name.
I fancied myself to be the Lone Ranger without the mask and begged my parents to buy me a pony. They looked disappointed in me, as they often did, when I asked for things they couldn’t afford. “You can’t keep a pony in the suburbs! It’s against the law,” they said.
I suggested ways we could hide the pony in the garage, only letting it out at night. I promised I would take such good care of the pony, they wouldn’t even know it was there. My father shook his head and went back to watching television and drinking his martini while my mother told me, “Stop being ridiculous.”
I climbed aboard Snowball, my brightly painted rocking horse, and pretended I was riding through sage brush, with Tonto riding beside me. I brought Snowball buckets of grass and water. I brushed his smooth plastic surface and petted him and told him what a good pony he was.
I trotted around the house with a clickity-click, clickity-click of my tongue, stopping and rearing up with a long, heart-felt whinny. I pawed at the ground a few times and blew my lips, pllllplllll, as I shook my mane. I think this was very embarrassing for my mother when her lady friends came to visit.
When Snowball threatened to splinter in two under my weight, I switched my attention to toy horses with plastic toy dolls to ride them.
I had a palomino horse named Lady. She came complete with saddle, saddlepad, bridle, and a saddlepack that actually opened so you could put something the size of a peanut in it. Her rider's name was Jane.
Jane was no foxy lady. She was the anti-Barbie, with chin length blonde plastic hair and a rather manly, square jawed face.
Jane had a companion, whose name, of course, was John. I think they used the same plastic mold to make both Jane and John with only a slight variation in hair and some boobage on Jane. Both dolls were jointed in the knees, elbows and wrists so they could sit comfortably on their horses and hold the reins.
Good old Jane did have accessories that poor Barbie wouldn’t even know what to do with -- a canteen that conveniently hooked over the front of the saddle, a tan vest with fringe, a holster and gun, and spurs.
I made additional accessories for Lady and Jane, including some fancy bridles made out of the yellow braided fringed ties that came on my Dad’s whisky bottles, a barn for Lady made out of a cardboard box, feed dishes made out of caps from large liquor bottles, and I tried to make some clothes for Jane out of scraps of fabric my mother always had on hand but Jane never looked quite right in them.
When I belonged to Toastmasters (a public speaking group) many moons ago, I used Jane and Lady during a speech where I had to use props and overheads (Powerpoint didn’t exist then) to present some type of information to an audience.
I chose to demonstrate horse jumping. People didn’t know what kind of demonstration they were in for when I showed up wearing spurs and carrying a whip, which came in very handy for pointing things out on the overhead screen. I had put together some jumps from some sticks I glued together and Jane and Lady showed the proper way to go over them. They did a marvelous job.
But I made the mistake of allowing my stepdaughter to play with Jane and Lady. I didn’t realize at the time that children have changed since I was little. Or maybe it was just the way I was. I had toys from when I was five that looked like they just came off the shelf. I knew if I broke something, it wasn’t going to be replaced.
Plus, you only received toys on your birthday and Christmas. There was a huge dry spell in between those two holidays unless you count some of the homemade toys my father sometimes created for me, like the stilts he made out of tomato juice cans, punched with a hole on each side that a rope was strung through. You stood on the cans and held the rope so the cans would stay with your feet when you started walking. I loved how tall I felt walking around on those things and they were so much easier to handle than a pogo stick or the real kind of stilts.
Anyway, my stepdaughter broke Lady in half and Jane disappeared completely. I shudder to imagine what could have become of her. She could have been tied to the railroad tracks behind our townhouse and decapitated for all I know.
But out of all the toys that have been misplaced since I was a child, I miss Jane the most. Maybe because of her plainness. Maybe because of all the hours I spent playing with her and Lady and imagining that I was doing all the riding and having all the adventures that I pretended Jane was having. Jane was brave and daring. She didn’t take any crap from anyone.
I was 27 years old (if I remember correctly) when I got a job working at a stable, which put me on the road to buying my very own horse. I'll tell you about my stable job in my next post.