From the time I could walk, there were two main things I was known for around our small Pennsylvania town. The first was my bright red hair, which sometimes brought teasing, and the second thing was my precocious knowledge of, and love for, horses. Anybody who knew anything about me understood that there was nothing I wanted more than my own pony. That was my life's dream, ambition and obsession. I also knew my pony was looking for me.
While other boys were fishing or trading baseball cards, I was collecting miniature horse statures and hanging paint-by-number horse pictures around my room. On Saturdays, when friends wanted to go the movies or roller skating, I'd first have to be sure there wasn't a horse show around. By the age of eight, if anything was clear to me it was that If I didn't get a pony, everything would be wrong in my world. And I understood that my only chance was to win one.
Though our apartment was too small, with a rent too large, my parents seemed happy to buy me a ticket for every win-a-pony contest that came along. The only price I had to pay for each new chance was to put up with hearing over and over again how much the "odds" were against me. I was too young to understand the concept of "the odds" but I figured whatever they were, I didn't like em. I didn't like any thing that was bent on keeping me and my pony apart.
So from the time I was a toddler until the age of ten, I entered every pony contest I could find. All based on what everybody called "luck." I'm sure that most adults considered me to be one misguided little wrangler, caught in a poignant and hopeless pony quest, destined only and ultimately to have his fondest dream trampled. Perhaps that explains why the more excited I grew, with each new ticket of opportunity, the easier it was to see real concern on my parent's faces. I'm not sure which they were more worried about: that I would have my dream crushed… or that I might actually win a pony and present us all, given or living situation, with a real nightmare.
But I never believed that luck would, or could, have anything to do with me getting my pony. And whether that was the beauty of innocence, or some kind of soul-certainty I was born with, I knew that all I needed to do was keep trusting the wisdom of my heart. That and keep my hopes up. But not hopes that God would roll the dice and a pony might just randomly happen to clip clop onto my doorstep accidentally. No. I mean hopes that I would be able to stay strong and true to my most authentic self. That I would be able to tame this buckin bronco called "luck" – kick those pesky odds to the curb…and not allow any kind of doubt to throw me off the trail. And In truth, it really wasn't that difficult. I felt so connected to my dream that it was as if I already had my pony. It was as if she was stabled somewhere in my soul. All I needed to do was keep trusting this prayer – this calling…this knowing in the center of my being.
Well… here we are. And because I think I've been leading you along, long enough, let me just jump right in here and tell you (flat out and oh so happily) that I did finally win my pony!
I don't know about 'beat', but I guess I did somehow manage to run roughshod over those odds!
And, truth of my heart, it was every bit the blessed highlight and turning point of my life that you could imagine. And wouldn't you also know; just to make it even more like a fairy tale, it happened just four days before Christmas,1957. I guess I don't need to tell you – Santa really out did himself that year! And for quite a long time, I think I actually may have been the happiest boy in the world.
My parents, on the other hand…well…after the initial shock and repeated feinting spells…they soon realized that my dream would be theirs to embrace as well. That is because, almost immediately, unexpected opportunities and "coincidences" kicked in to help us accommodate our pony.
What happened was: I had entered a TV contest offered on a local kids show. The hostess of the show was a beautiful cowgirl. I never missed her cartoons and western movies. One day… I was shocked and surprised (to say the very least) when she suddenly announced that the station was offering a free pony to any boy or girl who could make the best cattle brand out of their initials . "Yee-ha,This is it!" My heart rang out. "My pony is calling to me." I knew instantly, and beyond all doubt, that the sun was going to shine again… and that my world was going to be just fine.
I won't pretend it was easy, or that it didn't take me more than a few hours of racking my brain…but, finally, I took my initials – TAN – turned the A into a rounded, upside down horseshoe with the top part of the T still in it, and then stretched the N across the whole thing like a lightning bolt. Excitedly, I titled the brand the "Lightning-T-Horseshoe"…
mailed it in… And I won!
I got to appear on the TV show to receive my pony (who I ironically named "Lucky") and as it turned out… we were able to keep her in an unused, little barn beside my father's work. Plus, a retired caretaker offered to feed her whenever we couldn't be there. Everything worked out beautifully – like it was meant to happen. My father even got a promotion, enabling us to stock up on plenty of hay and oats.
By the time the universe had wrapped up granting me this great gift to myself…this deepest wish – this soulful realization and fulfillment of my heart…all that my younger brother and I needed to do was walk about a mile to the barn, throw the red saddle on our beautiful Shetland, and joyfully gallop around the country side. Getting periodically, and deservedly, getting bucked off now and again, of course…but wow – What truly wonderful memories. And I loved letting my friends ride my pony anytime they wanted. Wait a sec… now that I think of it, my red hair all of a sudden became less the object of ridicule.
Glad that Lightning Struck
Now days, I am a white haired grandfather still sharing my pony stories with my children and their children. I have also written a book about those beautiful times with Lucky, in which I share wisdom from the lessons she taught me. Using artwork, humor, sound mind/body/spirit principles and growth tips, along with and many other beautiful stories, my book reveals how my Lightning-T-Horseshoe experience set the stage for me to continue to realize many dreams to come.
A key realization for me is that it was because of they way I choose to think that enabled me to find my original (real) pony, and then continue throughout my life's journey rounding-up many other important dreams "metaphorical ponies."
It is clear that trusting your inner wisdom, rather than relying on outside luck, is the best way to round up the "ponies" – dreams in your heart. Thank you for riding along with me and Lucky.
I believe as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "Work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of chance."