I’ve lived as far away as Jakarta, on the other side of the globe. But every step there and back has always circled around to where I began, that little girl from Byfield. Today I was searching for something and came across this sign. This is the stall sign for my first, black and white pinto pony.
My aunt Gin lived in Antrim, NH when I was growing up. She taught at what was then called a “reform” school for boys and ran a summer camp on her farm at the end of Liberty Farm Road. At some point she had invested in a string of horses from somewhere out west. they were a scraggly bunch of paints named things like Apache, Chief, Goldy and Cheyenne. She was the first woman I had ever met who wore Wrangler jeans and a big silver belt buckle. I loved her on sight. When I first met Cheyenne, we were both quite young. On a family outing to my aunt’s farm, someone took these shots or my first ride on “Cheybee.”
Roughly five years later, the family had embraced 4-H. My brother and I had proven our responsibility with sheep. We housed them at a nearby farm owned by an elderly couple. The husband had shown me his immaculate tack room from days gone by. We polished the mahogany english saddle and shined the heavy bits on rainy days, as he told me stories of his horses. He was not the least hesitant when my pleading for a pony lead my parents to his door. I think he was my co-conspirator. My dad made some sort of arrangement with my aunt to sell him a pony from her string for $200. The farmer watched as we worked to carve a stall out of the hay barn next to our sheep stall. One Saturday in June we all gathered on the lawn of the farm and watched in awe as my aunt drove up the long dirt drive. The back of the pick-up had high stake walls. Above the wall, a black and white pony’s head was raised to the sky, trumpeting his arrival.
She had to back up to a small hill to unload him from the truck, and with no more than a moment to look around, she tacked him up. I climbed aboard my pony and, as they say, the rest is history.
So when I saw his sign today, I remembered that it was not at that old farm where he earned his stall sign. It was years later when we moved him to Orland Farms, a Morgan horse breeder in West Newbury, MA. I took him with me to summer camp one year and we stayed from then on. I rode him all the way there from the farm the first and only time. Perhaps that should have been an omen. We couldn’t afford to truck him those ten or so miles but once we moved into that circle there was no going back.
From a simple western pony who found himself in New Hampshire, to the local horse show circuit as an english saddleseat pony, he adapted to what was asked of him. How many years later did Nelson, the brown and white paint pony, arrive as my daughters’ first tutor? Another refugee from the west who took to fox-hunting and life in the deep freeze.
Life has a way of circling back. I now find myself in the same state as my long-gone, crazy aunt, boarding my mare at a paint pony farm where I am surrounded with subtle reminders of where I started.