That horse was a Derby winner …
In my previous article about The Narragansett Race Track, I wrote that I had little experience with horses prior to seeing them race. Well, that is not quite true. I did have an experience with a nasty pony at Roger Williams Park in Providence.
On most Sundays, I was led around the dusty oval track by a tight-lipped lady. Oh, the boredom of riding on a dejected pony led by a depressed woman in scruffy cowboy boots, wearing worn dungarees held by a big-buckled belt, a plaid wool shirt, a sweat-stained cowboy hat and a bulky flannel jacket. On this afternoon, I thought, “This is the day I ride the pony on my own.” After all, I was ten. I was dressed in my Sunday clothes, the ones Mom prescribed … pleated pants, a matching jacket, Buster Brown shoes, and a white shirt. As I handed the lady my ticket, I beamed, “I’m riding alone.”
Detached, she droned, “Yep. Alone. Sure. OK. That one.” She pointed to a docile jet black pony biting on his bit and frothing.
“What’s his name?”
“Uh, yuh, ‘Lightnin’.”
“Lightnin’!” As I patted his neck, he pulled back, jolted and drove his front feet deep into the dirt. Foam speckled the air. Oops.
The horse lady took the reins from the post and barked, “Git ‘er on up on ‘im.”
“Yep. C’mon, kid. Put yer foot in.” I slid my Buster Brown in the stirrup. With her large hand on my butt, she gave me a boost. I whisked my right foot over the saddle and positioned the matching Buster Brown in the other stirrup. Lightnin’s ears snapped back. His nostrils flared. “Er ya on ‘im?” she droned. I choked the saddle horn.
“Er…ya…on…’im? Dern it. Dunt yer unnerstan Inglish? Grab the rins.” Before I could settle, she hit his rump and Lightnin’ took off with hooves propelling sand on high. I never had the chance to grab the reins. The charger became a beast, raw power, a Derby winner, sand flying everywhere. I was bopping in the saddle like sliding down the stairs on my butt when he slammed into the rail. As my shoe came out of the stirrup, my foot swung around to the matching Buster Brown still caught in the other stirrup. Sitting sidesaddle, I waved at the saddle horn and grabbed his mane.
A final mustang kick and I was in the air, thrown to the other side of the fence like a bolt of electricity. Thump. From my seat, I watched the pony stop at the next bend, now as calm as a grazing cow. I jumped up dazed and bewildered. I brushed myself off, climbed the fence and ran across the track where Dad was waiting. “Too much horse, Edward?”
“No he wasn’t! She never gave me a chance to get set in the saddle. It was her fault.” I put my hands in my pockets and walked head down to the car.
*** Published in yesterday’s GoLocalProv