THAT DANG HORSE

THAT DANG HORSE

From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

That Dang Horse

Remembrances last longer than present realities.

Jean Paul Richter

I was seven years old and clinging to my dad’s hand as we walked toward the mercantile store. My other hand was holding my piggy bank that contained my life savings. Dad sneaked a peak at my determined face, knowing I was about to make the biggest purchase of my life—a bridle.

As we entered the front door, I made a beeline for the farm-and-ranch section. As usual, Dad stopped to pull two bottles of Coke from the cooler near the front. The tall clerk was used to me hanging out in the tack department while my dad shopped. He smiled as I approached, nervously chewing the ends of my long pigtails. Spotting my piggybank, he said, “So, today must be the big day. Now let’s see, it was this one with the buck stitching, right?”

That night I proudly hung my new bridle on the bedpost. My dad came to tuck me in. He should have known why I was spending my life savings on that bridle.

“Now I lay me down to sleep and pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless Mommy and Daddy and Annie and Dadua. And God, please bring me a horse of my own to wear this beautiful bridle.”

Now I’m a little fuzzy about just how my prayer was answered, but it wasn’t too long afterward that a big white horse named Babe came into my life, which was no easy task since we didn’t exactly live in the country. My dad owned a movie theater, and we lived smack dab in the middle of town, so we boarded the horse. Dad was smart enough to know that a seven-year-old girl and a thousand-pound horse would need all the help they could get. He promptly dubbed Babe “that danged horse,” but he always said it with a smile.

Dad was amazing. This man who had never even been on a horse became a 4-H leader. This man who lived in a nice house in town became an expert on the rural lifestyle. He even had a trailer hitch welded on to his convertible so he could haul me to 4-H clinics and the county fair. This man who knew lawnmowers and edge trimmers became an expert on bales of hay and sweet feed. This man who wore suits and ties suddenly had a wardrobe of cowboy boots and bolos and sported a Lyndon Johnson cowboy hat with pride.

“Horses still make me nervous,” he admitted, “but that horse is important to my daughter, so I hold the dang thing while Annie gets on.”

Somewhere along the journey he recognized that horses and kids were a good combination, so he campaigned to get riding paths and outdoor arenas added to the plans for the new fairgrounds. As a city councilman, he seemed to spend just as much time with the county commissioners, talking about their projects that affected his daughter, her friends . . . and that dang horse.

But that dang horse brought us all so much joy. For the next ten years I raced my bike home from school, threw down my books, changed into my jeans and was out the door to ride Babe. No boys. No fast cars. Just that horse— and my father, doing what he could to support my love affair with it.

When I graduated from high school with straight A’s and nary a trip to the principal’s office, my dad whispered to my mom, “It wasn’t us—it was that dang horse.”

A generation later, my husband, Dick, and I were unpacking boxes in the living room. After ten years of living in a ski area, we’d just moved to the foothills along the Colorado Rockies’ Front Range. The front door slammed, and our seven-year-old son, Richy, flew into the room, hollering. “Mom! Dad! You’ll never guess what! Our new neighbor’s got a great horse that he’ll sell us for only $250—and he’ll throw in the saddle!” Our delighted son was already back out the front door, red hair flying, yelling, “They call him an Apple-Sassy, but I’m gonna call him Dusty!”

Dick and I looked at each other and sighed. Dick said, “Good grief, we haven’t even been here for an hour yet, and he’s already found a horse!”

I thought of Dad and smiled, “Well, we should have known—he already had the bridle.”

Ann Clarke

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