Thursday, March 3, 2011

Childhood and Horses

As a child, I had a great imagination. I don't believe I had a waking moment that wasn't full of thoughts and ideas and plans. I went through a time when I was enamored with horses. I was scared to death of them, but still, I loved them in books and seeing them from a distance. It was probably due to the many tv shows in those days, which included Fury, Black Beauty, Roy Rogers, Wild Bill Hickok, Lone Ranger, Annie Oakley and others.

Many hours were spent watching those shows. I loved watching those steeds, with the sense they had to run back to a person who could help in time of trouble. They seemed to be heros, to me, as they were hitched to a rope with the other end wrapped around a floundering child who'd fallen through the ice. Or maybe they were attached to someone who was stuck in quick sand. They seemed to be such obedient animals, backing up on command, until the victim was free from the dangerous encounter.

When I had a willing partner, we'd take turns being the horse, with a jump rope around the waist for reins. We'd hear the 'giddyup' and we'd take off running. At the sound of the driver behind us, yelling, "Yah, Yah..." we'd pick up the speed until we were running like the wind. The Cavalry might have been chasing our rider, or maybe a posse of lawmen tried to catch us after we'd robbed the stagecoach. Sometimes we were 'fancy' horses, prancing to the music of the circus band.

There were times when we kids would climb trees and straddle a command to our pony beneath us. The wind would blow through our hair, and the horse would bump us around as it cantored and trotted. When we lived in Bay Shore, the family a few houses up and across the street, lived in front of a deep stand of trees. Several large trees along the boundary between the woods and the row of neighborhood homes had been felled, probably by a bull dozer when the properties had been prepared for houses. Those large trunks made perfect horses for us. We'd sling a rope with loops on each end (our stirrups) over the tree trunk, tie the middle of the rope around a spot where a small branch had broken off (the horn of a saddle) and leave a portion of the rope at that point to act as our reins. Many an afternoon would find five or six kids lined up in a row on a tree, imagining that they were a posse riding off into the hill country in search of Billy the Kid.

It's been years since I've seen children playing this type of game. These days, I see them riding in motorized minicars at the age of two, or on very small motorcycles when it would be far more appropriate for the preschoolers to be pedaling a tricycle. What has happened to the world of children? I fear their little brains are not encouraged to 'dream' or to 'pretend.' Will they learn to invent new things, or will they ever be on the wait for the next piece of technology? Sadly, I think they are likely to opt for the latter. I'm sorry for them that it's come to that, and so glad that I was born before this era.

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