In my nearly finished novel, A Long, Long Summer, the children are surprised when a pony arrives on the farm. The novel is fiction but the setting and the pony were real in the Summer of 1943.
Everyone watched Uncle John and the driver disappear into the dark truck. It seemed like a long time before they tugged and pulled the new cow down the ramp. Once she was off the truck, Uncle John led her into the barnyard where he untied the rope to let her go, and refastened the gate. Chum, now at Uncle John’s side, studied his new charge.
On the porch the children turned away when the driver said, “Where’s the other one go?”
What other one? Instantly, all eyes went back to the truck, but they couldn’t see inside it.
“We’ll put her in the barn,” Uncle John said.
The driver went into the truck and came out leading a black pony.
Sally stood unbelieving. “It’s a pony!”
“For us?” Johnny looked at his mother.
The pony was also reluctant to walk down the ramp, but Uncle John patted her head, took hold of the pony’s halter and led her slowly off the truck to the front of the barn.
The driver disappeared into the truck again. He came out and tossed a saddle and bridle onto the grass. He lifted the tailgate, slammed it closed, and locked it in place. He hopped into the driver’s seat and waved as he drove off.
The three children and Aunt Belle hurried down the bank. Uncle John led the pony back to the grass where she dropped her head a grab a mouthful of it.
Jeanne, fearing to get close, stayed back of everyone else.
Sally reached out to rub the pony’s forehead. Johnny patted its shoulder. Aunt Belle took a carrot from her pocket and offered it to her in the palm of her hand. Jeanne held her breath, sure the pony would bite Aunt Belle. Instead the pony took the carrot between her soft gray lips. She nodded her head as she chewed it up.
The picture is of my pony, Patty.
Many kids grow up wishing for a horse. Why? As I remember Patty, it was a bit of freedom to get on her back and have her respond to my commands–fun to trot or gallop across a field. Perhaps, it’s like the first time one gets to drive a car or any vehicle–a sense of being in charge.
As an adult, I had little chance to ride for many years. Then for a few years a close neighbor had Brownie. He was a stubborn animal and often had his own idea where he wanted to go. It took the same stubbornness to persuade him that in the saddle I was boss, and he was the horse.
I’d been well prepared. Patty had also been stubborn. She and I had that same conversation more than once. She would not go on the road.
My father hated to shoe her because as soon as he picked up one of her hind feet, she rested her body on his back. It wasn’t easy to hold her weight.
She would do anything for my mother, especially if rewarded with a licorice gumdrop, probably because my mother gave her daily attention. She grew to be an old lady on the farm.