© 2018 Bill Murphy
I was 12 the day that Ponie walked onto our property and into our lives. I was the first to notice the dirty, yet beautiful colt which came from who knows where, and was to alter or lives forever.
Ours was small dirt farm/ranch, mostly dirt, of 30 something acres, nestled in a small valley surrounded by low mountains. We were the only homesteaders in the valley, our closest neighbors over the hills were at least 30 miles distant. But we loved the simple farm-life, and quiet isolation. It was as if our family was alone on the earth.
Dad said that Ponie looked to be about a year old, give or take a few months. Obviously, she was well accustomed to people, because she approached us willingly. It was as if she was seeking us out. No doubt, she’d walked away from her own home. But who’s?
Trips into town were few and far between, and then a 2 day trip. On Dad’s next trip into town he inquired about any missing colts, but learned of none. He left a description of Ponie at several locations, taking care not to give too much detail, lest someone, using details they didn’t previously know, might come claim and take Ponie from us. There were never any inquiries.
We all loved Ponie. I thought her eyes were her finest feature… they seemed to be unnaturally large. ‘Cow eyes,’ Mom called them. But perhaps Julia, my older sister by 3 years, loved Ponie best. The two bonded quickly.
Julia had a soft and tender heart. Perhaps it was because of her frail and sickly early years. They say she spent her first 2 years almost constantly in Mom’s arms. Julia was a voracious reader, and wrote the most beautiful poems. She soon developed the habit of taking tablet and pen, and riding Ponie off into the hills to think, write, and as she put it: ‘to become’ – in peace and solitude.
Early on we learned that Ponie had one unusual trait. She was afraid of thunder – and terrified of lightning, especially if both were close. The first storm which visited our humble farm after Ponie arrived, reviled this. That summer night, over the thunder, we could hear her wails coming from the barn. Julia and I raced to her side. We found her cowed in the corner, trying to bury herself under the hay. Oh how our hearts broke at the sight. We snuggled next to her until the storm passed.
It was a freak storm which changed our lives. Far stronger than most, it roared over the hills to the northwest as if out of nowhere, suddenly, and with unbelievable strength. It ripping our land with terrible winds, while heavy rains plunged daylight into darkness. Yet this night appeared to flash into day – with every brilliant explosion of lightning. The accompanying thunder was deafening. And – Julia and Ponie were out there somewhere! Hours earlier, she’d ridden out to her writing place.
Dad grabbed his heaviest coat, and his lantern, and headed toward Julia’s spot. He was gone for hours, or so it seemed. The storm was just beginning to wain, when we saw Dad’s lantern thru the rain. Ponie followed close behind. As they drew neared, we saw Julia, draped across Ponie’s back. Dad stopped yards from the house, and shouted for us to stay inside, but Mom raced past me and to Julia’s side. I’ll never forget her agonizing screams. I thought they’d stand there in the rain forever. Looking back, I’m glad they did. The rain bathed most of the blood away.
Soon, Julia’s lifeless body lay on the table. She looked as though she was sleeping. It was the first time I’d witness a lifeless person, and this was my beloved sister! As I stood over her, not knowing what or how to think, I noticed the deep imprint of a horses‘ hoof on her forehead – Ponie’s.
I’d not noticed that Dad had walked away. There was another crack of thunder, but I quickly realized that it was the sound of a shotgun blast. I raced to the door, to see dad standing over the body of Ponie. I’d lost two of my closest companions that awful night. Mom and Dad were never the same again. They seemed to age daily, right before my eyes.
I was too young then to understand, but looking back now, I can see why Dad took Ponie’s life that night. We all do what we believe is best. We all act and react to events beyond us, and beyond our ability to change. Even Ponie had.
Julia had been compelled to ride out to her hallowed spot, to put on paper her thoughts, her desires, her plans, her hopes, and her prayers. Her keen focus on these things, I know, blinded her to the fast approaching storm.
Ponie surely reacted in terror to the sudden storm that summer afternoon, and in her inability to cope, she had somehow struck Julia. It was not something she would have done otherwise. Her action was simple in-bred reaction.
And Dad, in his helplessness to face the being which had taken his beloved Julia from him, had forever removed Ponie from his sight.
I now know that each one involved, Julia, Ponie, and Dad, were each simply doing that which they were apt to do, that which they were compelled to do, that which their hearts and lives led them to do. There was no right or wrong involved, no guilt or innocence. They were simply doing and being themselves.
It was a painful lesson for me to learn. We each have our personal lives, our unique dreams and ambitions. If we were all alike, this would be a most boring world. But sadly, many people never learn this simple lesson. When I am just being myself, someone want me to be like them. They never realize that I perhaps, might wish that they were like me. Can’t we just be ourselves?
I miss Mom and Dad. I miss Julia. And I also miss Ponie. While it lasted, Ponie brought joy to all our lives.
The illustration above that I chose to use for Ponie was painted by me, for my grandmother in Carthage, Mississippi in 1953, when I was 12 years old. Bill Murphy