When I was six years-old I got my first pony. He was perhaps the ugliest pony that ever lived, and he made up for this deficiency by also being one of the meanest ponies that ever lived.
But I was six and I had my own pony! He was a Shetland pinto named Dan Patch with a ewe neck, a Roman nose and a watch eye-(that’s what horseman call a white eye; I’ve never trusted watched-eyed horses since Dan Patch.) At first we bought our horses from a horse dealer. Horse dealers had the same reputation as used car dealers do today-they were famous for lying, so in the free market of horse trading, buyer beware.
Here’s a tip in case you ever hang around horses: they tell you how they’re feeling with their ears. If their ears are forward, they are interested in what they are looking at. If their ears are lolling around they are relaxed. If their ears are pinned back, somebody’s about to get hurt. Notice that in the painting I made of Dan Patch, his ears are pinned back. This is the last thing I remember before he kicked me smack in the forehead.
I woke up several feet behind him and started crying, making a wide detour around his rear end on the way to the house. When I went inside my parents came running to see why I was crying but I didn’t answer their questions, I just kept crying. My mom brushed my hair back off my forehead and there was a hoof print. “My God, the pony kicked her!” she yelled. Pop, who was worthless when someone got hurt, turned on his heel and came back a few minutes later with his shotgun.
He, who couldn’t kill anything, was going to shoot my pony. Now I cried louder, “Don’t shoot my PONY!” He put the gun down. “Maybe she has a concussion,” Mom said. “We have to keep her awake or she might slip into a coma.” I sat on the couch and stopped crying after awhile; to tell you the truth it didn’t hurt that much. Then it got late and I was tired. I didn’t know what a coma was but I didn’t think I was slipping into one. However, Pop sat in a chair by the couch all night long and every time I started to go to sleep, he gave me a shake.
By the time the night was over I wished I hadn’t told them I got kicked. So the next time Dan Patch kicked me in the arm, I didn’t tell anyone. However, I made the mistake of wearing a short sleeve shirt and one night at the dinner table my mom lifted my sleeve and said, “What on earth happened to your arm?” My whole upper arm had turned black and blue. “Boo hit me,” I answered, cleverly blaming it on my big brother.
Boo got in a lot of trouble for that and the funny thing was, he was such a roughneck he couldn’t remember if he had hit me or not. Of course, you’d practically have to hit someone with a sledge hammer to do as much damage as a horse kick.
Little girls have romantic ideas about ponies. They think they are big doggies with long hair you can brush. They are actually 1,000 pounds of muscle running on instinct. Even the horse lord Ghengis Khan, who probably started riding at age three, died from falling off his horse when it spooked.
I had many more horses after the infamous Dan Patch, none as ugly or as mean. But ever after, In touchy situations, I kept an eye on their ears.