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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Clayton gets a pony

© Another Day in the Country

What could be more symbolic for a kid growing up in the country than to get a pony of his very own?

Well, it is another day in the country, and Clayton has himself a pony. She’s a cute little mare, old enough to be gentle and experienced, with enough energy to challenge a 7-year-old.

“What shall we call your pony?” his mother wanted to know.

Clayton stopped whatever he was doing to ponder that thought, looking at the sky, then down at the grass, before he made up his mind.

“Patricia,” he announced, looking his mom in the eye.

“You can’t name her that,” his mom said as she laughed. “That’s Pat’s name!” 

Now the young boy was positively stumped because Pat’s name is Pat and what does that have to do with what he wants to call his new pony? Patricia is altogether different.

And then, of course, his mother explained this whole business about nicknames and how someday maybe someone may shorten his name to just Clay, as a term of endearment, or just because it’s easier, instead of calling him by his full name, Clayton.

Clayton, with his full name intact, pondered this new and unusual development in life.

Nicknames. That was something new.

“Cactus,” he announced. “We’ll call her Cactus!”

We all agreed it was a good name for a pony, so Cactus she is!

In the scheme of country life, three dogs and one boy may not be enough to keep a pony company, and so a goat also has come to live on this blossoming livestock oasis outside of Ramona. 

As I watched Clayton riding his pony around the yard, I remembered how much I wanted a horse when I was a kid. My yearning began when I was a little older than 7 but it began right here on a farm outside of Ramona. 

My grandpa Ehrhardt still used horses for farming back in the 1940s. In fact, he preferred them to tractors. He could call the team, and the horses would come.

They’d stop when he said, “Woah,” so he could move the hay wagon around the field, loading it up without help — except for the horses, of course.

“Get a tractor to do that,” he’d chuckle to himself.

When my parents and I came back to Ramona to visit my grandparents, I loved to go out into the field with Grandpa and “drive” the horses. They were smarter than me, but I loved pretending I was in control of the situation. 

Sometimes Grandpa would put a bridle on Old Jim, my favorite, and let me ride around the pasture. Sometimes my cousins would be there, and we have pictures of the three of us — Patty, Carolyn and Virginia — sitting on Old Jim’s broad back. This was where the dream began.

I was a city kid by then, and whenever I’d even hint at having a horse, my dad would say, “We don’t have anywhere to put one.”

That, however, didn’t cool the burning desire to have a “real” riding horse with a proper saddle and slim contours. No more bareback riding on a wide-backed, bony steed that only rarely could be urged into a trot!

Actually, that dream did come true, but I was over 30 and pregnant with my daughter when it happened.

We had moved to northern California. My husband was asked to be chaplain at a Christian college in the hills above Napa Valley.

We went looking for a house to rent and found one down a long, twisted lane not far from the college, and it had a barn! We lived there less than a year before I found a horse I could afford. One of the faculty members at the college had a quarter horse for sale.

“I bought her for my kids,” he explained. “But they’ve lost interest, and I’m looking for a good home.” 

“I’m a good home,” I exclaimed. “And I’ve even got a corral and a barn!”

He was eager to get rid of this responsibility, and I was thrilled to be satisfying a life-long desire to have a horse of my own. 

“She’s yours for a hundred bucks.” he laughed.

And just like that, I had a horse.

“Was this wise?” you might ask. “What do you know about taking care of a horse?” you may wonder. “Now is NOT the time,” you may be thinking, “when you are about to have a baby.”

But I forged ahead, blindly thrilled to finally have a horse of my own.

Her name was Shawna. I was briefly tempted to change her name because I had a friend named Shawna, but I figured they’d probably never meet, and since I knew the difference between them, we’d just let well enough alone on another day in the country.

Last modified Aug. 13, 2020

 

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