There Must Be A Pony
Remember that old joke? The story involves an eternally optimistic young boy. His dad tries to show him how the world really is, and attempts over and over to get the boy to be realistic.
See, son? he says, showing him the glass of water. Its half empty. Thats the way life is.
Dad, smiles the boy. Theres plenty for us both. The glass is half full.
Look, replies the father pointing out the window to a cold and drizzly day. Its pretty gloomy out there.
Dad, smiles the young fellow again. Its almost Christmas, and the rain and cold help us appreciate the spring.
Exasperated, the father finally fills a room with horse manure, and opens the door to show his son that life is just waste.
The kid stares for a moment, then jumps in and begins to shout with joy.
What good can you possibly find in this situation? asked the stunned father.
DAD! yells the boy. With all this manure, there must be a pony in here somewhere!
I always loved that joke. Theres just something about that kid who refuses to be downtrodden that warms our hearts. And I suppose there is a deeper reason that little story resonates in our memory. Like all good stories, the tale gives us hope that even in the worst of times, perhaps we too can find a pony.
Rebecca and I were on the road recently, and as the fields of Kansas flew by, she related a similar incident about a time in her life when something wonderful came from the worst of times.
One of my loved ones became ill, she said looking out the window remembering.
I was full of fear, and only eleven years old at the time. I felt the world caving in around me. I dreaded going to bed every night, and the tears would not stop. I remember thinking, Im too little for this awful thing to happen. Then
she stopped and remained silent for quite some time.
she struggled for the words. It wasnt a voice, or even a presence. It was more like something inside my mind said, Be at peace. This will work out, and you will be stronger for it.
Funny thing was, she continued, I argued with the thing, whatever it was.
I remember saying, Are you crazy? How is this going to work out? This cant make me stronger because this is going to destroy me. But
She leaned the seat back, and put her bare feet up on the dash. Seeing his momma move,
Big Poochie dog shifted his body in the back seat, and stuck his head up between us for a pat.
But, she continued rubbing the dogs head, the
thing or thought, or whatever it was
was right. From that night on, when fear came over me, the thought was there. And things did work out, and I was made stronger because of the ordeal.
Her telling of the experience caused my thoughts to drift back to a similar time in my own life. When I was 45, my world caved in too. My kids grew up and went off to college, my long solid job became shaky, and in the midst of that, the divorce came.
For a person who was such a creature of habit, all the chaos and change seemed unbearable and overwhelming. Finally, I became convinced I would be unable to continue. I dont exactly mean suicide. I had considered that option, but quickly realized I was too chicken. Being unable to continue to me meant whatever internal resources I possessed no longer seemed adequate to live effectively in the world. Then one night, I found myself walking in the woods.
Winter was packing up to leave, and spring was just pulling in. The evening was soft and mild, and it crossed my mind just how long it had been since good weather. That didnt cause my spirits to lift much
Look at you, I said to me. Look at what and where youve come to. You were going to do something good when you started, and now look at you. Youre old, and alone. Youve done nothing, and what little you had is gone
And then, walking along a little dusty path in the woods, with a million stars hanging over me in the sky, a thought came from somewhere and perched on my shoulder.
There must be a pony in here somewhere, it said.
I stopped. The feeling and the memory of that story was so strong, I stopped. Then, returning quickly to the cynical self I had become inside, I smiled without humor.
No, really, whatever this thing was said. There must be a pony in here somewhere.
And just like Rebecca, I argued with the thing. It wasnt a voice, but more like a thought, but it wasnt my thought. The stars were so bright they illuminated the dusty little trail before me, and I had to laugh at my self. Here I was in the middle of nowhere, walking alone in the middle of the night, having a conversation with the stars.
But just like Rebecca, the thought (or whatever it was) was right. From that night on, when I was overcome with feelings of loss or despair, the little thought would come bubbling up in my memory, and sit there smiling on the top of my mind. And as the days and weeks passed, I began to wonder. And now
Ten years have passed since that night, and the little thought was right, except for one thing. There wasnt one pony in there, there were five. Bud Wiser, Big Shine, Little Blue, and Beccas beloved broodmare, Miss Lady. And inside Miss Lady grows a baby due in February by a silver gray Goldfinger stud. Thats five. And there was Becca Jan, Big Poochie and all the barn cats, and love, and friends, and roping, and on and on.
So, Becca and I learned something. When times are bad, and the world seems dark,
there will come a brighter day. Hard to believe at the time, but its true. Happened to both of us, and the same will be true for you.
Late the other night, I walked up to the high hill in the pasture behind our barn. Theres a massive black-jack oak standing guard up there. He works on our farm. He provides shade for the horses and steers, holds up an old wooden swing, and his other function is to look beautiful. Does all three really well.
Seeing me sitting in the swing, the horses were a bit surprised for their daddy to be out that late, but they all came up and began to nuzzle, bumping each other to be petted. The stars hung on the night in their same places, and as I looked up, they all said, Well?
I said, as the horses crowded around me. You were right, and I was wrong. There were ponies in there after all.
See all Michaels books, tapes and CDs at michaeljohnsonbooks.com. Pick up a copy of
the July issue of Western Horseman Magazine for a review of Michaels Cowboys and Angels, named Best Non-Fiction Book of 2002 by the Oklahoma Writers Federation.