December 3rd, 2007

Dig A Pony

Song Info (from Beatlesongs):”Dig A Pony” is on the Let It Be album and was 100% written by Lennon, who also sang lead on it. In an interview in 1980 he said, “Another piece of garbage,” about the song. The song was most likely written about Yoko Ono.

When I was seven, our family moved across town from a duplex to a two-story home on two acres a few miles outside of town. There was a lot of room to run and, more importantly, a lot of room to mow. I’m pretty sure it was soon after we moved there that we boys were drafted into the mowing business – two acres can take a pretty big chunk out of a person’s Saturday. The property also had a barn on the back half, which turned into a pretty good place to store things, including spiders the size of your head and probably rats. The barn never seemed all that sturdy, but almost 30 years later, Dad’s still waiting for it to fall over so he can get some insurance money out of the deal.

It was at this house, the third I’d ever lived in, that we started having pets. The first cat was Sparky, black and white and friendly as all get out, but I think there was a hamster before that (Munchausen – named by my brother, and aptly so, as it bit pretty much everyone all the time). After and along with the first cat there was a dog named Charlie, who in his later years was looked upon quite fondly, but in his first several years with us probably didn’t get as much attention as he deserved or wanted. The thing I most remember about Charlie is that he jumped a lot and that the jumping usually put him at or above the level of my head. Garrison Keillor put it best when he said, “The affection of someone larger than you can be a terrifying thing.”

I’m a little shaky on the exact years (EDIT: Turns out it was the summer of 1978), but somewhere pretty quick along the way we got a pony. I’m not sure where he came from, but he also came with a saddle and all the little horse-y things you need for a little horse. His name was Sundance, but because we were Baptist, he was rechristened “Sonny.”

(A quick aside: You know why Baptists don’t like kissing? Because it could lead to dancing. That’s my favorite Baptist joke.)

We found out pretty quickly that Sonny the Shetland pony had a Clydesdale-sized temper. He was mean. He didn’t like kids, he didn’t like Dad, he didn’t like anybody. Sure, we rode him a few times, but it was always with Dad’s help, and never loose of a bridle attached to a rope attached to something (usually Dad). Sonny was prone to running off, apparently thinking that kids were so awful he’d rather try to make a life for himself in the wild. With the lack of lions in the southeast corner of Wisconsin, I’m sure he would have become the dominant lifeform in the area if he’d made good his escape.

Me, Sonny, and Dad in July 1978

The winter after we got Sonny turned out to be the harshest, snowiest winter on record. There were literally several feet of snow on the ground most of the winter. My brother and I would go out to the back half of the property and slide down little hills we’d find that had drifted into existence. After sledding down one particular hill several times, we discovered that it was actually a defunct Ford Pinto that my dad had parked backed there. There was so much snow that a completely-covered car was indistinguishable from regular drifts.

Sonny lived in the barn and had to be fed every day. As I recall, we also needed to break the ice in his water bowl every day, as it would freeze over. The snow was so deep that Dad actually had to shovel a walkway the whole distance to the barn so we kids could take care of this ungrateful beast.

It was sometime the following spring that Sonny made a couple of final mistakes that led to his dismissal from our ranks. He’d had a habit of biting people, and I think he bit the neighbor’s daughter one day. Some time after that, he bucked my brother off and ran quite a distance down the road. My dad was able to recapture him again, but that was pretty much the nail in the coffin.

I’m not sure how long it took Dad to find a buyer for Sonny, but it seems to me that it was pretty quickly. Once he was gone, it seemed a cloud had lifted and we were once again able to enjoy life.

It’s mostly because of this experience that I mutter an inward “Ha!” when I hear about some child wanting a pony. Be careful what you wish for, I say. Also, while on the subject of clichés, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Seriously.