Friday, October 19, 2007

Old Reliable

The new pony, Apache, was not drugged after all. He’s still dead quiet and unless there is some new kind of drug that never wears off, it turns out this is just one mellow pony.

Kelly has had some good horses. There was her first, Minnie, about as high as my hip and cute as a button and who we still have even though everyone begs us for her, pleads, cajoles, promises great favors and even blackmails us: “I’ll tell everyone how you fell off Lowdown and were hanging upside down like a monkey if you don’t let me have her.” You don’t find ponies this cute and bombproof. Desperation kicks in. But the most I’ll do is a loan and that’s only to my very best friends. I say, “When you have a grandchild, I’ll lend her to you.”

Buddy the pony was blind, had half an ear and one foot in the grave. I’m embarrassed to admit we didn’t know these things when we got him because we bought him in the dark. One of the many lessons we learned—always buy horses in good light. In fact, here are some tips about horse shopping:

1. Don’t go when you’re hungry. Just like food shopping, everything looks good. In this case, you’re not going to eat the horse but you’re in a rush to get to Pizza Hut on the way home and you’re not thinking straight—tonight’s the Veggie Lover’s Special.

2. Don’t get on the horse first even if it’s supposed to be a bombproof child’s horse; even if you’re a tough barrel racer who’s ridden some wild and high spirited colts; even if the seller has a sprained ankle and can’t ride. ESPECIALLY if the seller has a sprained ankle and can’t ride.

3. Don’t use the seller’s saddle and don’t trust him to cinch it up. The last time I did that, the seller put me on an English saddle, which I had never sat in before and about the time my butt barely grazed the seat, it slipped sideways and a 13-hand child-safe pony bucked, bolted across the arena and promptly threw me to the ground before I even knew what hit me.

4. If the seller says he’s never done this before, make a note that this is his favorite mode of operation.

5. Don’t pull up with the horse trailer even though it’s three hours away because no matter what you do, the seller won’t give you a dollar off the price even if he told you over the phone before you left home that the price is negotiable. If he sees the horse trailer, he thinks you’re easy, not unlike some chick with her boobs hanging out. Don’t look motivated.

Luckily we only broke the rule about buying a horse in good light when we got Buddy. The good part is he was child-safe, but Kelly only got a year out of him before it was time to retire him. We gave him to my friend Danielle who feels even more sorry for animals than I do and has a lot more money. He now lives a life of leisure and indulgence. He gets acupuncture, massage therapy and his own special food eight times a day since he’s lost some teeth. Danielle pays someone to take him for walks, groom him, and install and remove his fly mask every day while she’s at work. If he was a human, he’d be writing his memoirs and giving interviews in one of those high class nursing homes celebrities retire to.

I tried to unload Doc a number of times after we bought him. He’s the big guy. I didn’t like buying him from the get-go because of his size. I wanted a pony. Little kids should be on little horses. They’re closer to the ground. They’re used to getting bows put in their hair and Barbies balanced on their backs. But when we were out in Oklahoma, though we searched high and low, we couldn’t find a child-safe pony. All the kids out there ride big horses. They’re a bunch of wild Indians, practically born in the saddle and kids barely out of diapers ride horses with smoke coming out of their noses. So, even though this was horse-land, there were no ponies to be had.

Doc was a full-size horse, actually bigger than both Kurt’s and my horses. But he was a child-safe, ex-barrel horse. His riders were a couple of kids who rode him double and their father, a one-legged man who had used him on barrels. If that wasn’t an indication of a well-trained horse, I didn’t know what was and so we gave up the search for Misty of Chincoteague and we took him. But I was scared to let Kelly ride him.

About a year after we had him, I decided to try to find a pony again and I put him up for sale. Luckily I was honest and though I could have thrown his papers away and told people he was 15, or even 12, I told them the truth; Doc was 22. As soon as I said that, they suddenly got a call coming in. “Uh, can you hold on a minute? Someone’s beeping me.” And then they never came back. Everyone was scared of the age. No one wanted to buy him even though I assured them he had plenty of life left and was healthy as a horse, sound as a two-dollar bill, all the good clich├ęs. Finally, my girlfriends yelled at me. “Just let her ride him! You have a perfectly good horse right there in your own barn!”

At the rate the pony hunt was going, if I didn’t listen to them, Kelly would have had grey hair by the time she got back in the saddle and so I let her start riding him. Before long, she was riding him all over the place and he never did anything wrong. If you wanted to go out on a trail, you could take him out on a trail. If you wanted to go to a show, you could take him to a show. If you wanted to take him down the road, you could do that. He’d go out by himself or with other horses; it didn’t matter. Whatever we asked him to do, he did, and he acted exactly the same every single time even if Kelly hadn’t been riding him, even if he’d been sitting around in the pasture for a few months, twiddling his thumbs—he was still true blue. Old reliable. One of those once-in-a-lifetime horses, and this may sound corny, but I feel that God rewarded me for being a good person and not concealing his age because I never would have known.

But now he’s turning 25 and though farting around the field or the occasional trail ride is fine because he’s still sound and healthy, we also barrel race and Doc doesn’t deserve to have to work that hard. So we are semi-retiring him. When the out-of-town guests come down from the city once or twice a year and want to play cowboy, we’ll put them on Doc. Or if one of Kelly’s friends comes over who’s never ridden a horse before and she wants a ride, Doc’s the man. But for hard riding, it was time for Kelly to move on. Which brings me to Apache, the pony.

I started riding him because I wanted to see what was under the hood. Lucky thing, because with his disposition, I wouldn’t have expected trouble. He’s still dead quiet but I’ve discovered he’s herd-bound. I suspect he was owned by some kid who let him get away with murder and therefore he has been testing me. He’s a creative pony with a variety of methods in his repertoire. He tried to run me into the trees and he tried to whirl around to go back to Doc. The trickiest maneuver in his arsenal is what I call the combo. The combo consists of a buck, rear and whirl, all at the same time. It sounds lethal, but this is not a very athletic or fast-moving pony and so it is more like a half-hearted crow-hop, a lightening on the front end and a watered down turn. Your basic temper tantrum by a two-year-old. Annoying, yes. Scary, no

He’s doesn’t rattle me one bit. Actually, I love riding him. He’s easy. Easy on and easy off. Nothing bothers him. And he’s comfortable, which is unusual for a pony. In fact, I like him so much I asked Kelly if I could have him but forget it. Talk about temper tantrums. But he’s not ready for her now. One drawback about buying a child a bombproof, child-safe horse is that they never learn how to handle the bad things. Minnie, Buddy and Doc never did anything bad. So she doesn’t know what to do when something goes wrong. She’s never learned that part. She wouldn’t know how to handle a combo. So I keep riding him.

In the meantime, she is still on old reliable.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Jamie's Artwork For My Book

The colors didn't come out right on my computer, but this is the illustration that Jamie did for my stories. Check out the high heels and the cell phone.

She's a great illustrator and I'm not just saying that because I'm her mother! So if you need something, check her out. She also makes the cutest jewelry that looks like real food and it's real cheap--here's her craft website: