1966 I went to live with my mother and her husband, my step- father, Dick. Everyone concerned figured it was closer to my school and I wouldn’t have to ride two buses twice a day. Everyone except me that is. I hated school and had plans of my own, like quitting as soon as I legally could.
Living with my father was certainly a life with less drama, but, you can’t keep a horse in the city. Mom and Dick had a place in the country and had a few ponies out back. I was a horse crazy kid, horses and pigeons made up my world. I didn’t care about sports or cars, although girls always had their own special place , but mostly, I was quite content when I was around the animals.
I rode the ponies everyday after school but they were much too small for me and I starting hinting in the biggest way , that I should have a horse. “When you get a job” was always the answer.
Then one cold winter day Dick and I stopped to visit a drinking friend of his who was a horse dealer. The guy was on the barn roof when we drove in. He was tacking down a few roles of tar paper to repair a persistent leak, which always seems to be a problem with flat roofs.
Dick told his friend, Norm, to come on down and volunteered me to finish the job. You ever hear the saying ‘ If looks could kill’ ?
So, while those two gangsters sat inside a warm kitchen drinking beer, I was thirty feet up hammering away at stupid stubborn, tar paper. I wasn’t prepared for this and had no gloves, or hat, and only a light jacket, which had little resistance to the frigid north wind.
My bony fingers, redden ears, and throbbing toes were numb by the time I finished the job, but I knew this guy sold horses so I did as good of a job that a frozen pissed off kid could do. It looked ok to me anyway.
I climbed down a rickety ladder and went into the barn to warm up and check out the horses. As soon as I walked in a huge palomino mare turned toward me. She was in a common stall with four others but it was her that came straight over to me when I reached out my hand. I warmed my hands on her massive neck and talked to her. She was more of a draft horse than a riding mount , the other horses were obviously better bred animals , but I believe that mare and I clicked. I could tell that she liked me.
Eventually I made my way to the house and a soon as I got the opportunity I mentioned how much I liked the palomino mare. Norm seemed surprised, he said that the mare was called Dixie and was better suited for pulling wagons than a saddle horse and that I should be setting my sights on something a little more flashy. Even the owner has forsaken the animal and has not paid board in months.
I didn’t have a red cent to my name anyway so I sat in the corner and patiently waited as these two drank and bullshitted the day away.
They must have got bored with one another and turned their attention to me. Norm thanked me for repairing the roof, finally, and said that if I paid the one hundred dollars that was owed for board I could have the horse. I almost fainted. I gave Dick the biggest ‘have mercy on me’ look I could muster.
Dick hummed and hawed a bit , and I promised him I would get a job and repay the loan and buy my own feed. And so there it was, as quick as a hound dogs honeymoon, the deal was made.
I suppose I should thank the brewery for this sweet transaction, because I’m sure alcohol had a lot to do with it, but I think I have thanked them plenty by my loyal patronage for the past 40 or so years.
Norm leant me a bridle but wouldn’t spring for a saddle. So, with the snow getting worse , the wind howling and me dressed for the spring Dick tossed me up onto Dixie and off I went. The ride home was about eight or maybe ten miles. Dick followed behind with the cars four-way lights flashing as it was very dark and the weather turned into blizzard conditions.
Dixie didn’t like the car following so close and the visibility was almost zero, so she was throwing her head around and sidestepping all the way. My legs and bum were toasty warm from Dixie’s body ,but the rest of me was colder than a witch’s _ _ _ foot.
I was one relieved punk when I rode into the yard . Dick opened the barn door and when I slid off the big horse I collapsed. Dick thought that was pretty funny. He took the mare inside and into a nice cozy stall. In a few minutes my land legs were back and I think I spent most of that night out in the barn brushing and talking to Dixie.
The next morning, I headed out for the two mile walk through the bush to school. A short way in I ducked into the brush until Dick drove off to work. Sneaking my way back hedge to hedge, I slipped into the barn. My mother knew I was there, somehow mothers always know whats going on, and she brought me tea as the barn was not heated.
I turned sixteen that year and figured that I had the whole world by the ass.
Little did I know tragedy was about to fall. Dixie would be hit by a car and severely injured.
I will leave this post here my friends ; I don’t want to keep you too long, but in my next post I will write about that horrible accident and how Dixie and I coped. Thanks, Jack
Keep the faith friends, it gets better, it always does.