Where I grew up, we were surrounded by "sharecropper shacks" and poverty stricken families. However, none of us kids ever knew what poverty was. For some reason, in these times, you didn't look at what someone else had and want it, you just figured out a way to share assets with one another. For a bunch of 10 year olds, that became a great way to get to know one another.
Five miles from my childhood home was an old country store. On a good day, one could strike out and pick up enough coke bottles from the ditches to pay for a cold drink and a candy bar. It was worth the trip and time it took to get there. In between my house and the store was Sybil Norris' house. Sybil, Donna and Pam were my best friends. Sybil's house still had an "outhouse" which was the greatest adventure in the world. Indoor plumbing was such an easy route to take. A real farmer had an outhouse!
Sybil also had a pony - a REAL LIVE Pony! This tiny pony was a most disagreeable creature but he was a pony just the same. My Daddy hated horses and mules and would not let them on the farm, ascerting that tractors were a great replacement feature for modern day farmers. I loved horses and dreamed to one day have my own herd. Daddy forbid me to even get near the wretched creatures certain that any moment in their presence would result in my sudden death or insanity. How can a young girl get any more insane than spending every waking moment drawing horses, writing about them and dreaming about them? Dads always mean well.
I had a Schwin Bicycle. It was a gift from Santa when I was 9 years old. It was a blue beauty with a basket on front which was quite useful for holding the coke bottles we could find on our way to the store. Sybil didn't have a bicycle. What a deal! This was not even a barter. I would head out towards the store on the bicycle and stop at Sybil's house. She couldn't wait to get on the bike and I couldn't wait to get on that pony! I would ride "Trigger", my feet nearly touching the ground, both of us fighting to keep him from running back to the house and she would ride Old Blue and we would happily strike out towards the old country store.
We would often stop at the creek and play a bit, making sure to tie Trigger up or one of us - me because the deal was for Sybil to ride the bike - would end up walking. We would pick up bottles, talk about boys, the snobby girls at school and what our dreams were. Of course, every young girl's dream is to buy a ranch and own a gazillion horses! When we got to the store, we would use the bottles to barter for treats, talk to the owner, pretend to NOT BE interested in the boys who may have shown up and then we would head for home.
The trip home was faster. Trigger always stepped up the pace and sometimes Sybil had a hard time keeping up on that bike. We would then laugh at ourselves and at Trigger, but Sybil mostly laughed at the fact that Trigger was a good two sizes too small for my long legs. Fortunately for Trigger I was a very skinny kid! Of course there was the occasion that Trigger simply ran out from under me since we didn't have a saddle, or managed to scrape me off or toss me into the ditch. When this happened, it wasn't upsetting, we would laugh so hard we would have to sit down.
By the time we got to Sybil's house, any bounty we scored at the store was finished and I would take the bike on back to my house. I am sure Daddy knew my secret adventure, people talk in small communities and probably were as amused at seeing my feet dangling off that glorious creature as Sybil was. But, he never let on. I guess he figured a tiny pony couldn't actually kill me though he would occasionally interrogate me regarding new scrapes and bruises.
Oh how times have changed. I now have my own herd of horses and my little tiny piece of ranch. Life for me has been a rather rewarding experience. But there are many times I wish I still had a friend with a pony and my own bike. We could just meet up at the crossroads and spend the day on a trip to the store.
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