My first solo flight with an equine pair was shared with a team of black Shetland ponies called Peanuts and Popcorn. They lived a mile or so up the road from our house. My aunt and uncle also lived there. I had stopped in to say “Hi.” Well, that’s a lie. I stopped in to eat some of Aunt Ida’s pie but there was no one at the house so I went to the barn. No one was there either except for Peanuts and Popcorn, who were head to tail on the shady side of the big open shed. They were swishin’ flies off each other and minding their own business.
Peanuts and Popcorn were broke to ride and were also broke to drive. I knew exactly where the pony-size wagon with the red box was stored and I knew where the harness was. I didn’t have any business of my own so I thought, why not help them mind theirs?
Standing on my cowboy boot soles, I could just see over the top of their backs. Puttin’ the snaps and straps in the right places would be like some kid plain’ Nintendo today. So we were soon hitched and headed up the gravel lane.
Big Piney, Wyo., was only three or four miles away and that was the original intent, but this neat little pony-size wagon with the red box had iron wheels and no seat or springs. I was settin’ flat on the bottom of the box. With the noise, the discomfort and the continual need to keep urging “Peacorn” and “Popnuts” away from the barn, this whole deal soon lost its country charm. So I skillfully brought them about using the full width of the road since this vehicle wasn’t undercut.
I was about done praising myself and thinking how proud Uncle Chuck would have been to see what a hell of a teamster I was when I felt the cool breeze of change.
If there was anything I already knew about horses at that time in my life it was: if you were riding a Shetland pony, you did not have to worry about getting lost. They knew right where the barn was at all times and you could bet the pace would pick up in that direction. This crisscrossed my mind as I scotched up to get those same cowboy boot soles up against the board across the front of the wagon box.
By this time things was goin’ downhill fast. I had been taught about the same time they was teaching me to walk, if you get in trouble on a horse or Shetland pony, pull one rein and circle him. As near as I know that’s what happened. They quit the road and headed for the bar ditch.
Back in those days telephones had to have lines and telephone lines had to have poles and that is why there was a stand of telephone poles between the edge of the road and the fence. The first pole moved over a little and missed us, but any way you looked at it that next pole was going to play a part.
When the neck yoke dead x’d that pole the wagon stopped like a dead end street, but the board across the front of my cowboy boots and most of the seat of my pants kept going. One hip pocket with the rivets still in it stayed on the remnants of a nail in what was left of the front of that neat little pony-sized wagon with the red box.
Peanuts and Popcorn were soon back under their shed swishin’ flies off each other…when they weren’t fallin’ down laughing.
During the succinct discussions that followed it was pointed out to me that I was not one of the brightest stars in the dipper. They were right. Don’t try this at home. It could tear your clothes.