I would hazard a guess that many, if not most, girls go through a ‘horse fetish’ at one time in their young lives. My generation was egged on by movies such as ‘My Friend Flicka’ and ‘Fury’, and when I wasn’t dreaming about becoming an interstellar space explorer, I was convinced ‘jockey’ was my destiny.
There was one teenytiny problem: I lived in San Francisco. City of concrete, with not a stable, barn, or bonding opportunity with some lost stallion to be found.
No troubles (as they say in England): the lack of above amenities couldn’t shake my conviction that ALL I needed was a proper ‘horsie’* to realize my lifelong (i.e. 7 years) passion. (*Tip: if you find the ‘horsie set’ annoying in any way and have plans for some sort of verbal slur, just begin calling their mighty steeds ‘horsies’. It brings out the cutlery, as it slashes away heavily at any pretensions of the god-like horseback rider…)
I had a place to keep it (a ‘good-sized’ back yard the size of our living room and dining room put together, all of some 30 square feet). I had PLENTY of grass (lord knows, I was SICK of mowing – which gave Horsie a decided plus on ‘Diane’s Pros and Cons of Horse’ list). There was room to ride (after all: wasn’t that what SIDEWALKS were for??)
Really, only one real obstacle stood in my way: and that was my Parental Units. Who had NO Imagination between them. (FINE. I could FIX that….)
I had had 7 years expertise absorbing the Basic Rules of Converting Parents.
One big rule was to Demonstrate Knowledge.
Me: MOM! Guess what??
Mom (Wearily. She was often inexplicably tired.): …what?
Me: Do you know you should never walk ‘round the back end of a horse?
Mom: No, I never knew that. Ummm – why not?
Me: It COULD KICK. (Adding an authoritative footnote:) Good thing you have a Horse Expert in the house – I don’t know what you’d do, otherwise! Maybe you’d have no teeth.
(Shaking shoulders was my only reaction to that pearl of wisdom. Parents were SO dumb!)
From where did I learn all my facts? From books, of course! Lacking a stablemaster’s sage advice, I instead checked out every horse book in the library, including (but not limited to): all 18 books in Walter Farley’s ‘The Black Stallion’ series, the nearly-too-adult reads of Mary O’Hara’s ‘My Friend Flicka’ and ‘Thunderhead’, all of Peyton’s also-nearly-too-adult (and very-decidedly-too-English) ‘Flambards’ series, ‘National Velvet’ and ‘International Velvet’, ‘Black Beauty’, all the Lyons horse novels, C.W. Anderson’s books, etc. etc. I also pestered the librarian for further facts until she was ready to scream. (No Internet in those days, so the [oh-so-sadly-uninformed] librarian with the inexplicably too-volatile temper had to do…)
I had never seen the back of a horse but was absolutely certain I’d leap atop my stallion and, fueled by the knowledge of some 50 books, would be a Natural with none of that bouncing butt stuff amateurs demonstrated on TV.
Another rule was to Demonstrate Ongoing Interest. (…‘Unrelenting’, in my case.)
Every morning I woke up and rushed to my bedroom window, certain TODAY was the day my horse would appear in our backyard. Every morning I queried my mother about the imminent fact of the event and when I came home from school, another mad dash to the window confirmed said horse was obviously still in transit.
Xmas came ‘round annually and ‘Horsie’ remained at the top of my list for three years running. At age eight, fearing I was rapidly becoming too old to be a jockey, I removed ALL my other ‘wishes’ from my Xmas list and left Horsie, figuring that way Santa’s sleigh to our house wouldn’t be too cluttered with less desirable packages, leaving PLENTY of room for said Horsie. (Obviously there was a Space Problem in the sleigh: perhaps why I hadn’t achieved my gift goal years ago. One shouldn’t be too greedy when it came to requesting a BIG gift, after all…)
My parents seemed unusually secretive that year. Lots of whispering and abruptly-stopped conversations (well, more than usual…). Something was definitely UP and seemed to prove my theory: that Santa was In Cahoots with my Parental Units.
I was convinced it could ONLY mean one thing: years of study and reflection were gonna result in my very own Horsie at last!
Xmas morning dawned early that year and at 5AM I was at my bedroom window, wiping off the frost and aiming a flashlight into the darkness so as to better view my new acquisition. (Hopefully not a pinto – I hated spots. A stallion would be grand, but I’d take a roan. Heck, I’d even take a Starter Pony at that point….)
Many a neighbors’ windowshade sprung up inexplicably as the flashlight examined every nook and cranny of not just my yard, but all around me (in case one had jumped the fence and was hiding out.) But, still no Horsie. Hmmm…what could have gone wrong?
I trudged to the Xmas Tree in the living room: very likely a Shetland had been dropped off there: it could temporarily fit in the living room and its proximity to Santa’s preferred port of entry, the fireplace chimney, couldn’t be denied. In fact, it made perfect sense since everyone knew gifts appeared under the tree in front of it. Nope…no horse there, either. A pile of wrapped gifts; but nothing that snorted, pooped, or whinnied. Perhaps they boarded it in the garage of the neighbors next door so it could be a total surprise? Yeah, that must be it! There was just no other logical explanation for the void.
My parents interrupted my 6AM frontal assault on the neighbors’ doorbell just in time and directed me back home to our house and the tree (…they were well experienced in looking next door and in other folks’ yards whenever they sought me…).
OK, I got it: the horse had been delayed in the Xmas rush and was STILL IN TRANSIT. Sheesh. A wrapped gift card box would undoubtedly announce the actual date of its arrival. Hopefully in time for the Grand Nationals.
I tore into my gifts. The first one I opened totally stupefied me. It was a PLASTIC HORSE. And we’re not talkin’ the Quality Plastic of today: we’re talking the plastic of the 1960s. As in: no way this is TAXIDERMY (which would be nearly as cool as a real horsie…)
The second gift was a STUFFED HORSE. See note above.
Every box contained a plastic or stuffed horse. I kept looking for The Gift Card Announcement of the real thing’s immanent arrival, but in the end there was none. Just a pile of plastic, a few horsie books, and some stuffed animals.
At my age it was impossible to contain my disappointment. I had been CHEATED. Santa was seeking to buy my affections with REPLICAS. It was simply unacceptable…
My parents viewed my disappointment and I sensed they were sad. Seemingly an adult-appropriate reaction was required despite yet another crushing holiday blow. (Parents were overly sensitive, that way.)
First: ‘thanks’ were obviously in order. Even whilst I was plotting revenge on Santa for his insensitivity….
Me (solemnly): Please thank Santa for me. This is amazing. I’m sure I got ALL the horsies every other child had on his list: Santa’s been TOO generous this year.
(Unsaid Me: “I’ve had ‘Horsie’ at the top of my list three years running and Santa tries to buy my affection with BAD PLASTIC REPLICAS?? What a rip!” )
Secondly: parents were always much happier when you demonstrated your joy by immediately playing with your toys. Fine. I could do this.
I dutifully lined up the plastic horses so it looked like they were marching to the tree. Then I made them line up around the tree, replica butts facing outward. As Mom occupied herself with Xmas supper, happy her child was (for once) quietly playing with her new toys, I asked for and got the coveted raisins that looked amazingly like Horsie Poop, and liberally strewed the entire family-sized box around all the backsides around the tree. The lemonade Mom loved to give us looked awesomely (and appropriately) like pee on the fake white ‘snow’ canopy fleece around the tree.
I remain puzzled to this day as to why a spank and ‘go to your room’ resulted from the Authentic Horse Scene I created around the tree. (Wasn’t the pee realistic enough?? Oh, it was ‘too realistic’?? IS there such a thing in the world of dioramas??) But, FINE.
I took a pile of plastic horsies with me and in defiance opened my bedroom window and THREW THEM INTO THE YARD (those were the days before my parents thought to fix the windows so they’d only open 2 inches…). Being generous and quite a good throw – I also threw some into the yards around us so nobody would feel left out.
All the pretty little horses: there were blacks and bays, dapples and grays – now happily munching grass in my backyard and those around me.
It was by no means the end of my Horsie dreams.
But, it was the beginning of the end of my faith in ‘Sandy Claws.’
I mean gee: what kind of miracle man weighed over 300 pounds but rode sleighs like a teenager, kept a spreadsheet on the good/bad prospects of every child in the universe, and fit his large ass down a non-functioning chimney yearly …yet failed to produce anything more than a plastic menagerie of horsies at Xmas? Insanity? I think so….my parental units obviously believed all this; but this glaring Horsie Void led me to question reality long before most kids had a clue.
But, what a rip!
Am I still waitin’ on my Horsie? You betcha…