Paul followed his Dad as he went to find Dan, his older brother, who was a grown-up eleven years old.
“Do you want to go with me this weekend to get a Shetland pony from Uncle Tommy?” his Dad asked.
Dan, the thinking brother, “Yes, I will go! When do we leave?”
“I’m thinking Saturday morning early, and then load up Booger and drive back.”
Paul’s mind reeled. It is Thursday….a Shetland pony….then he couldn’t hold back any more. “Dad, can I go with you to get the pony?”
His Dad grinned and lazily replied, “I don’t know whether you are old enough.”
Paul could see his chances slipping away….he stood tall, ”I’m almost as old as Dan!”
“But you would fall asleep just when I need you.”
“No, I wouldn’t, I promise I will stay awake.”
Finally Dad relented and softly said, “Well, if you can stay awake, I will take you.”
Paul, with same temperament as his Dad, softly spoken and easy going, was excited. A horse! A Shetland pony horse…a four footed creature that he could ride like the wind right on the Fort Dodge Road farm. He was so excited.
Paul returned to his joy, climbed the ladder and tried flying again. Dan’s fascination with cryptonite and Superman had exploded in Paul’s mind. Dan even had a cape his Mom made, s
o that when he jumped from a high place, the cape flowed behind him, just liked Superman’s cape. He could see himself giving the horse a lump of sugar, and the horse would be so tame that he would obey every command. He would ride the horse bareback.
The day began before daylight when his Dad roused him from his dreams of the horse, and awakened Dan, so they could begin their western odyssey. They arrived after a long drive to a ranch. And there Dan and Paul spied this shorter-than-a-horse horse! Black as the night.
“This here horse’s name is Booger. He'she a mean ‘un,” Uncle Tommy ‘s introduction sounded full of danger. Up to that point Paul had thought boogers resided in the nostril – and here was a four-legged Booger. He wondered why that poor pony had to live with that kind of name,not like Fury, Trigger or Silver.
“Bought this horse at an auction, bid low, and no one wanted it, so I got it for $10, because Booger is a mean ‘un,” Uncle Tommy explained. “Why he is called Booger is because he starts fights with other horses and ‘boogers’ them up, you know. Are you sure you want ‘im?”
Paul held his breath, finally his Dad answered, “We’ll take ‘im.”
On the way home insistent dreams of riding the horse persisted and he wanted to close his eyes and dream on. Paul looked at his brother who took the acquisition of the pony in stride. He was reading a book. Paul continued to day dream about Booger. His dreams were interrupted by a voice that collided with the hypnotic movement of the car and the pleasant dreams of Booger! “Are you staying awake like you promised?”
Paul jolted fully awake by indignant anger. He always kept his word, although he wanted nothing more than to retreat in slumber. The anger kept him awake the rest of the way home. He often turned and checked Booger who seemed to stare at him with baleful eyes. Paul thought,I promise I will take care of you.
When they arrived home after the lengthy ride, Paul’s eyes were burning with the strain of trying to keep the Sand Man from infiltrating before bedtime.
Dad led the horse from the trailer tied him with a rope near the garage/barn. Dan was designated to bring him water, since he is the oldest.
During the first night, since there was no fence, Booger was tied securely with a rope around his neck. Paul checked on him before he went to bed and early the next morning. Booger was not 'settled', but paced back and forth, the length of the rope. When Dad checked the next morning Booger, his neck had a rope burn that was raw. He put some ointment on it.
This ‘honor’ became difficult when Dan had to break the ice to provide water for Booger before he caught the bus to school. Paul was glad he wasn’t oldest. After school each day he learned things about Booger. Booger was a mean ‘un. He lived up to his name.
Dad bought 90 bales of hay that made a great hay mountain, and provided hay for Booger. Everyone knows a horse needs hay. It also made a great place to practice flying. Soon the 90 bales were whittled down to about 60 bales with loose strands of hay at the bottom. Paul fell off the top while he, Tim and Anna were playing. Paul fell off the stack of hay and landed on his back and a bale landed on him. He was OK, except for the asthma attack due to allergies to hay.
Anna wanted to ride on Booger, so Paul helped her get settled on Booger’s back. Then Booger, true to his name, walked away from everyone. Anna was frightened that she would have to ride Booger into the sunset and beyond. Dad came to her rescue and severely chastened Booger. Later, when Anna stood too close to the fence Booger managed to step on her foot. All the boys learned to step lively when they stood around Booger.
Paul remembers the trip to the Farm and Ranch store in Wright, Kansas. The feed purchased for Booger looked like chicken feed. Paul sniffed it., “I think it probably it tastes like it smells,” Paul said as he wrinkled his nose. He never ate any. He was glad Booger seemed to like it.
One day after school, Paul admonished Booger, “Other horses let their owners ride them up a mountain.” Booger just had one look, and he looked at Paul balefully and nickered. Paul took that as an agreement. He slipped the bit into Booger’s mouth, and settled the bridle and mounted Booger.
Dad warned his children about riding too far back on Booger That would make him buck. Of course, Paul, the cautious risk-taker tried and tried to get Booger to buck. But Booger just stood there. Riding double or just sit on his back was great. One day Paul jumped up on him and Booger started bucking like a wild bronc. A few minutes later Paul was sitting in the dirt, watching Booger trot away. “Wow – so that is how it feels to get bucked off a horse! Boy, that was fun!”
Paul loved to read stories of western heroes and they said “Giddap!” So Paul said “Giddap!” When Booger swung his head and stared at Paul, Paul decided that wasn’t the right word. His brother and sister, Tim and Anna were hanging in the tree watching the non-progress of the ride up the hill. Paul remembered the one story when Indians bit the ears of their ponies when they didn’t behave. Paul laid down on the back of Booger and bit his ear. It didn’t taste good and Booger was still stubborn and lazy.
Finally Paul got off and pulled Booger up the hill. Then Booger would let Paul ride down the hill. A sled would have been easier to pull up the hill. Booger’s rule was, “I let you ride only on level ground or down hill.” It took awhile and a lot of effort to learn Booger’s rule.
When did Booger leave? When did Dan, Paul, Tim and Anna lose their companion, Booger? Dad thinks Booger lost his attraction as Brownie Combs (the dog) and Chocolate, Scratchy, and other cats, and we mustn’t forget the chickens who were ruled by Tiger, the Rooster.
Yet, whenever Paul sees a horse on TV, he remembers how it felt to catch Booger, slide the bit into his mouth and buckle the bridle around his neck and how he smelled. It makes him feel young at heart.
Addendum - Verbatim from Dan!!! September 1, 2010
We got up really, really early one morning to head out to Colorado to get a horse. A real horse! Like Flicka or... yeah, like Flicka! It was still dark out when we left. We drove a really long way. I don't remember much about the drive. But then, I didn't promise to stay awake during the whole thing either.
I remember we got to Colorado. I was surprised that all of Colorado was a giant field full of farmers and combines and tractors. It must have been Fall. We stopped in the middle of one field and my dad talked to some of the guys before heading up to the house to get... the horse!
And when we got there. I gaped at this, well, I guess it was a horse. It was a Shetland Pony. No! Horses are tall and sleek and had shiny manes which rippled in the breeze. Sigh. One out of three was a start. Maybe he'd grow.
At home we tried to ride him. But as Paul so aptly remembers, Booger would never let more than one ride at a time. And only downhill. If you mounted him near the fence or by the trees, he'd try to rub you off by going as close to the branches as he could. If you kicked him in the sides and said, "Giddyup!" he would turn around and try to nip at your feet and knees. It just wasn't as much fun as on Sky King.
Finally came the inevitable "family meeting." Should we keep the horse or not. He was becoming expensive and no one was riding him - like anyone could! Everyone was so down on poor ol' Booger. But *I* knew what "get rid of" meant for this broken down old horse, er... pony. It was the glue factory for him! Or worse! Hmmm, what's worse than the glue factory? So I made an impassioned plea to stave off the inevitable. Let's keep him! I'll take care of him! And so Dad agreed that we could keep him but *I* would take care of him.
So began my Winter of discontent. It was cold that year. Very cold. Booger was totally inept at breaking the ice in his watering bin. And the water had to be hauled from the house since a hose would freeze up. Water is heavy. It was a long way from the little shed where we kept the good smelling horse food pellets to where Booger normally ate, by the fence out back. By Spring, or maybe it didn't take that long, I was realized that some of my priorities had to be rethought and assented to Booger's removal to... well, I'd rather not think about it.
On the plus side, that little old shed still held the saddle my Dad rode on the farm. It was hitched on a wooden saw horse that didn't bite. Didn't try to rub you off on the tree branches. But wouldn't take you for a full gallop down the hill to the feed trough except in your imagination.