I’m about to throw my mom under the bus and I really really hope I’m not making a mistake doing this so close to Christmas, but the alternative is spending time whacking down my immense shopping list, so here it goes.
Years ago, a mother of three girls, married to a man who would be known as Dr. Dolittle far in the future, received this request: "Mom, I want a pony!" Most mothers have no choice but to deny this kind of request, but this mother was uniquely qualified to grant this most outlandish wish. She had recently moved to “the country” with acreage and zoning for equines. Her daughters each owned, and wore, cowboy boots. She had experienced local experts to call upon for advice. It was a perfect storm of pony-enabling circumstances.
Soon a white pony, with a round stomach and a fierce case of barn sour, appeared in the yard. His name was Winter. He was led by George, a scrawny man of indeterminate old age, wearing a cowboy hat over his bald head, protecting his deeply etched sun-baked wrinkles. He smelled of tobacco, leather, beer and sweat and his thumb was missing. His lower lip was distended, and his speech slurred, by the huge hunk of chew he kept tucked in there.
This was the mother’s local expert. He seemed just a little too eager to help a city-slicker mom and her three little girls learn how to care for a pony.
George taught the mother and daughters how to feed Winter hay and oats. It seemed clear to all involved that Winter had been eating far too much, but they paid careful attention. They learned how to put the bridle on and take it off, how to saddle Winter, and how to ask him to pick up his feet so they could use an evil-looking pick to clean out the underside of his hoofs, inexplicably called his “frog.” They learned how to brush him. They did not learn how to cut and style his forelock and mane, a question they were dying to ask but did not feel brave enough to voice. They did not learn how to ride him. That would be someone else’s job to teach. Ol’George, he lost his thumb in a roping accident when he was bringing down a calf and the rein was wrapped around his thumb. The rein pulled his thumb right off. He finished roping the calf, picked up his thumb, put it in a coffee cup, covered it with whiskey to preserve it, and still keeps it by his bed. Nope, he was not the person to teach the little girls how to ride.
Once the three little girls were sufficiently terrified of George, they went off to feed daisies to the pony and he and the mother went over some of the other tasks involved in keeping Winter clean and happy.
Riding lessons began and the little girls lived happily ever after. The mother, however, discovered that the maintenance of this pony was perhaps more taxing than she had bargained for. She was finding that following George’s instructions to clean Winter’s sheath were a little tricky. She had to have her supplies at the ready, and keep her eye on Winter. When he dropped his sheath, she had to immediately run over to him with her towel and bucket with soap and water and clean it. Her concern soon proved unfounded. As Winter got used to his new home and owners, he would routinely drop his sheath as soon as he saw the mother, and she could easily clean it.
The mother began to notice the country neighbors stopping their trucks along the road to see the cute white pony. They watched admiringly as she groomed and cleaned him, a city mom so knowledgeable and capable in the art of animal husbandry.
Or so she thought.
You see, tricky, crusty ol’George had taught the mother how to pleasure Winter, waited until the routine was well established, and then told all the town to stop by and check it out.
Winter was no longer so cute. There was no chance he would ever get over being barn sour.
The future Dr. Dolittle had a hardy laugh. The mother never forgave ol’George. She told her girls he deserved to have his own thumb as his bedside companion.
Strangely, I don't have any pictures of Winter, and my mom claims she does not either.
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