Horse Stories


The best tip I can give any new parent: “Don’t do anything you aren’t prepared to do ten thousand times”. My father found this out the hard way. Poor sweet man. He’s a good story teller, if your taste runs to long stories with little point and less plot, which is exactly the way my tastes run. I’m sure he didn’t mean to create his own sub-genre of children’s stories. Never-the-less, my brother and I pestered him endlessly for “horse stories”. Not just any horse story would do. It had to be about horses he had personally known, and their true adventures. If we were lucky or he was desperate for some quiet, he would settle in and start talking. There was a marvelous consistency in the stories. Each story had a happy ending, and the worst thing that ever happened was Jack and Huldy splitting the wagon fork around the pear tree between the garden and the barn. The words were always the same, just as if he were reading a printed page. And his voice was practically hypnotic. It was soft and slow and even. Not hurried or impatient. Looking back, I suppose that was one of the biggest draws about the Horse Stories, the way he told them. I would have been glad to listen to him read the phone book. We never even considered that he might rather be somewhere else (or that my mother would rather have a root-canal than listen to another horse story).

A few weeks ago my parents were preparing for their visit next week. I was talking to them on the phone when my Dad said (with a smile, I could just tell) “I suppose I should start practicing the Horse Stories, I think the boys are old enough”. I find that I remember the stories in the smallest detail, even to what kind of jelly sandwich 5 yr old Robert was eating when he watched the horses lose control of the hay-wagon as it missed the turn around the barn at the bottom of the hill, spilling loose hay and uncles into a big messy pile.

I laughed as I told him that the boys would love the Horse Stories, the same way they love the Robert Stories. See, I tell them stories about “a boy named Robert who was a good boy and his little brother Alfred who sometimes did naughty things and his little sister Ann who was a nice sister”. I tell them about when my father saved my grandmother from Alfred’s rubber snake. I tell them about how Alfred liked to sneak off and not help Robert with yard work. I tell them about Robert feeding his pet cow “pancake syrup” (because Lee didn’t understand what sorghum was) . I tell them about Robert helping Ann plant SweetPeas for her school project, and then spending the next forty years trying to eradicate that crazy vine. (Well, I don’t tell the part about Robert trying to kill the pretty flowers when he grew up). I tell them about Robert visiting his grandparents, and pretending to drive recklessly, and going to get ice-cream with his uncles, and picking yellow flowers for his mother. Every story I tell them ends with “… and when Robert grew up he turned out to be Papaw!” Each time they laugh like this is the most amazing revelation they’ve ever heard!

My father had no idea there were Robert Stories. He was speechless. I don’t have the luxury of being speechless. I still have Robert Stories to repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

Waves
 
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