I am looking at a very crudely fashioned, green-painted, fired clay ceramic horse. It is about 5 inches high. It’s totally out of proportion but has the small finger imprints of love. If you turn it upside down you will see the initials, S.A.R. and the date, 1954 neatly engraved into the clay. The lettering is not so amateurish as the actual horse. I suspect the instructor carved the text, for which I am most grateful. I was six-years-old when I made it in the crafts room at Memorial Park across the street from my home in Oklahoma City.
Horses were my life. I got my love of horses from my father. He had grown up on a Texas panhandle ranch and even though he eventually became a businessman, he never lost his connection with horses. My earliest memory of riding was propped in the front of his saddle. I must have been three or four. And I can still conjure up the smell of the saddle, feel the gentle rolling, his big hand, resting on the saddle horn as his arm encircled me. I was indeed safe and loved.
I couldn’t get enough of horses. Dad used to say, “if you were to open up Susie’s head you would see a million little horses running around”. And I secretly loved that image.
He was a member of the Shrine Mounted Patrol and I can still recall how proud I felt watching him put his large, strapping palomino, Buddy Khan, through his paces at the parades. Buddy was decked out with a shiny black bridle and saddle studded with shiny, glittering conchos. He was my hero. (And daddy, too)
I begged and begged for a horse. Dad patiently and continually reminded me that the initial cost of a horse wasn’t necessarily the problem, but the expense of boarding it was. The hay, the feed, the vaccinations, the pasture rental. I was oblivious to those details and that inconsequential bit of logic did not deter me.
I remember one of many attempts to lure him in when I was about 8. I cleverly positioned myself next to him in his big, red leather armchair.
“Daddy,” I cooed, and snuggled up to him.
“My teacher told me to have you sign this paper.”
And it was a school paper that needed his signature, however, using all my powers of ingenuity, I had surreptitiously placed a piece of carbon paper between the school paper and a crudely drawn up “contract”. Said contract declaring that ‘one Dub Richardson would buy his daughter, Susie, a horse… and soon’.
After he signed it, I said with great pride, “Now you have to buy me a horse!” I gleefully pulled out the signed contract. He feigned shock as he said, “Oh my goodness, look what I have signed!” Unfortunately, my ploy did not result in a horse. But I do recall a gentle tongue-in- cheek discussion about my penchant towards duplicity.