The Last Laugh: The Miracle Horse

Lacking financial resources, it would have taken a miracle for his daughter to get a horse. A miracle horse arrived.

| August/September 1994

Carrying a bucket of oats in one hand, I whistle down our small pasture. His ghost-white head snaps up: Oats? He spits out the grass. I'm only twenty feet from the fence now, and the pony is well over a hundred feet off, but Silver will reach the gate first, crossing the pasture at a fast run: big as a cow, not so fleet as a deer, white as a sawed-off unicorn, and a wide pink tongue darting out from his old-man's mouth. He stands at the fence, waiting for me, and makes rumbling noises through his nose.

I never thought that small equines had personalities. But I wasn't raised around horses, unless you count television, and those horses were trained to do everything but card tricks. To me, a pony was a particularly vicious species of horse: mean, neurotic, and hard to ride as a kangaroo. A pony was something that wanted you off, and, if possible, to kick you in the head. The one I rode (and flew) at my uncle's farm cured me of horses for thirty years.

Our daughter Serenity knows more about them. At ten years old, she can ride Silver at a full gallop while sitting backward in the saddle. Seen from the highway, it makes the tourists slow their cars, especially if Silver is wearing his old straw hat with ear holes. If he has his sunglasses on (we warned Ren about the ozone hole, so she took steps), they'll park and get out with the camera.

Serenity was only five when she first asked if she could have a pony. We had bartered eggs for riding lessons from a local lady, who explained the facts to me: "Little girls either have horses in their blood or they don't. But if Ren does—personally I think so—then she'll never stop asking for one."

But the life of a writer pays little and late; every penny of hard cash is spoken for, long before it arrives. A child-safe horse is not cheap, and visa-versa. We had no pasture land, no barn, and no money for either, let alone bucks for saddles, tack, feed, or vet bills, not to mention a perfectly gentle, practically harmless, downsized horse. One night, we added up the cost. About as much as a yacht, we figured.

Ren never told us that all her friends had ponies, which was largely true. But she offered us the entire contents of her savings account, all $22.07 of it, and promised to do chores until she was an old lady. Is there anything I could do?" she asked.

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