When my youngest daughter was young, she moaned about not having a horse. At times, it has become so bad, I hated to drive by a pasture where horses might be nibbling on a leaf of grass. She will use that voice, “Oh, Dad, aren’t those horses beautiful?” We did succumb and give her riding lessons, but that didn't lessen the desires of having a horse. She thought that since she had riding lessons, a horse should follow, something akin to if you go to a basketball camp, your parents should buy you a basketball court or put you on a basketball team. Fortunately, manufacturers solved that problem: portable basket hoop, which we had for years in our driveway. Now, what about a portable horse?
My Uncle Wilford solved that problem years ago—at least for me. With his nifty bandsaw, a chunk of inch or inch and one half pine board, a couple of white tacks, colored string, and 36" dowel, he was in business. One family reunion at the old rock building in Menan, he brought a whole herd of horses in the back of his pickup. And they didn’t even make a mess or require much coaxing to get them out.
He maneuvered them through the white doors of the building and handed them out to the little people, me included.
Mine was a beaut. The way I remember him, he was the epitome of a perfect stick horse: black head, cut carefully by a bandsaw; white tacks stuck deep in the pine and served as eyes. Carefully placed in the crevice where the saw dipped in to make his mouth, the yellow string reins were drawn tight to the back where the mane was supposed to be and stapled high on the neck. Its body was one slim dowel smushed tight in a round hole, held in by wood glue. How could you not love such a wonderful creature? And he was mine and didn’t take much of corral to keep him, either.
At that time, my corral was 1509 Beverly Road in Idaho Falls. Our backyard bordered what was to become Casseopeia Street. I don’t remember a road then, just high weeds that had some semblance of a trail weaving through it, built just right for little boys and stick horses. The weeds served simultaneously as sagebrush and big trees we could lope around and through. And on a good day, I could jump them although my horse’s hoofs sometimes dragged in the brush. I could never get him to make the clean jump. His 36" shank just couldn’t clear the tall timber. Not once, though, did we roll or get bucked off because of it.
I usually rode bareback. I climbed on from the left side, just like a regular cowboy, and grabbed the reins with my left hand. Sometimes, I was plain bold and hopped on from the back end, like I had seen Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger do. And when I was in a big hurry, I stuck the long shank between my legs and rode pell mell out into the back yard, out the back gate, and through the weeds, pretending I needed to save folks holed up in fort just over the ridge. My job was to save souls and ride hard.
Often, my little pony would begin to buck incessantly. I have to admit, though, I induced him to buck more times than not. It was awesome the way I stayed on, left hand on the reins, right hand back (often vice versa), sometimes with my hat waving in the wind. He bucked high, and then he twisted around like some wild bronco I had seen once at the Jefferson County Stampede. If the judges had been there on those occasions, I probably would have scored high.
Somewhere along the way, my stick pony ended up in the fire bin, I suppose the way all good pine horse go. But I had several along the way. I think I even made one, once in cub scouts.
My daughter is now too old for a stick horse and out of the house. I figure by now the thoughts of possessing a pony have dissipated from her mind although I doubt it. I still think about the reasons why I just didn’t buy her a regular horse. But the thoughts of a different kind of horse comes to mind: one that does not need a garage or insurance or new tires or beaded seat cushions. I wonder if I could talk her into just riding her shank pony.