I’ve written from time to time about when, as a kid, I learned to ride a horse. One of the first times I was on a horse it tripped and I went sailing over its head and hit the ground with a thud I can still hear to this day. But I don’t think I’ve ever told you about what my family went through trying to find some ponies or horses to buy for our horse and pony needs.

When my father decided he would buy either some ponies or horses for us kids, he let people around town know that he looking. The first thing we learned was how different those two species and the people who deal with them are. We learned that the people who deal with ponies won’t generally have anything to do with horses or horse people. And horse people, as a rule, avoid ponies and pony people.

“Ponies are awful cunnin’,” said one horse person we knew, “but there’s 100 bad ones for every good one,” he added.

Pony people had a lot to say about horses and horse people, too, but I probably shouldn’t spell it out here. Let’s just say that if I quoted them at length on the radio these days I’d probably get a stiff fine from the FCC.

Right off, we learned that a pony isn’t just a large version of a dog and it ‘s certainly not a small version of a horse. It’s a pony, and some of them can be difficult.

We finally came across a pony named Juliet. She could take a saddle for riding and she could pull a small wagon. My father was so impressed by the cute little thing that he bought her.

For a while it was a lot of fun hitching Juliet up to the wagon and taking her down to Main Street to let her show off for all the out-of-staters.

Sometimes we’d have her pull the wagon down to the garden to get some fresh corn or beans for supper. It was a lot of trouble, of course, but still a lot of fun.

The only bad habit Juliet had was stamping her front hoof on people’s toes. She’d be standing there all cute and innocent like and because she was so cute people just had to come over to pet her and fuss over her. But as they stood there fussing, if they weren’t paying attention, she’d suddenly stamp her hoof on their toes and – all of a sudden – wouldn’t they turn ugly.

Sometimes people would ask if it was all right to pet her and I’d say “OK, just watch her front hoofs” and they’d say something like “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.” But when they were least expecting it, that sneaky pony would stomp them something awful.

I was 10 when we bought her so I knew only too well a few of the more generic “bad words” that were in popular use at the time. But once I started taking cute little Juliet around and she started stomping on peoples’ toes, well, let’s say I started learning more curse words and creative expressions than I probably would have learned from the entire United States Navy.

One Sunday afternoon, my brother and I took Juliet to town with the wagon and hitched her outside Farmer’s Store and went in for ice cream. When we came out the local pastor, the Rev. Kellogg, was petting Juliet and going on about what a cute pony she was.

Before we could say anything, the pony, looking innocent as a lamb, brought her sharp little front hoof down on Rev. Kellogg’s left toes. The good pastor then let loose a string of words and colorful compound phrases that could have peeled paint off a barn. I only wish now that I had taken notes.

We didn’t tell too many people about the “Rev. Kellogg incident,” but I can still repeat from memory some of his more creative phrases.

Soon after that my father concluded that we weren’t pony people, so he sold Juliet to a nice couple in Warren. We then began looking for a good horse.

John McDonald is the author of “A Moose and a Lobster Walk into a Bar,” “Down the road a piece,” “The Maine Dictionary” and “Nothin’ but Puffins.” Contact him at [email protected]


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