My Dad's Pony

The moving mash goes on.? A couple weeks ago it was the pictures on the walls. This week, it was getting a start on sorting photographs, which went slowly because of several detours down Memory Lane.? One tiny black and white photo unearthed was of my father, age 10, on his pony Marrylegs ? that’s the writing and spelling of his mother on the back of the photo. ?It would have been taken around 1920. I doubt she ever saw the wonderful book ?Merrylegs? by Paul Brown, about a grey rocking horse, one of my own childhood favorites, or read ?Black Beauty,? who had a pony pal by the same name. Anyway, my dad used to tell me that he rode 7 miles to school every day on his pony, and here was proof.? He’s barebacked, barefooted and bareheaded, the perfect picture of a farm boy in a remote corner of Eastern Oregon.? Another photo shows Marrylegs being ridden by three of his brothers, while Dad and a pal are sitting on a horse.? Dad told me his great sense of direction came from riding to school across country where there weren?t any roads, and looking at this photo and the terrain it’s easy to believe. I have a lousy sense of direction, made worse because I grew up in Oregon but now live in NY, so the ocean is simply on the wrong side.? it’s remained on the wrong side even though I’ve lived in the East for over 40 years now.? Dad proved his great sense of direction once when I got horribly lost in the farmland of Chester County PA leaving the steeplechase races at Fair Hill MD, beautiful lush farmland but not exactly a remote area.? I thought the races would be fun for him, since he?d never seen anything like that back home in Portland.? Anyway, we’d been driving for an hour and I just couldn?t figure out where we were, while he kept discretely silent about it.? Finally, he told me the way to turn.? I asked him how he knew, and he asked, ?We have to go west, right’? ?Yes,? I answered, ?but, how do you know which way is west’?? ?Because the sun is over there.?? Dad said he could never have found his school on his pony if he didn’t know where the sun was and thus could tell west from east. Oh! duh!? All those years of me of getting lost!? You don’t learn important things like that growing up in a city. One of my favorite recent reads is ?The Heart of Horses,? by Molly Gloss, set in Eastern Oregon during World War I, exactly the period and area where this tiny picture of my father was taken.? When I read it, I felt I was learning a lot more about his life growing up, but it’s a marvelous story on its own.


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