Monday, June 6, 2011

The ghost of Summers past

Long long ago, in a land far far away, at a place where child labor laws did not exist and 7-year olds got to cross big roads all by themselves, I spent myself a number of summers.  I think about those days now, as I am now "working" (including commute) 12-hour days, just like I used to when I wore a girls size 4 shoe.  I now wear a woman's size 9.  I've always wished I had stopped at a 7 1/2; seems like the perfect size.

As a further aside, here's a picture of me from about the time frame we're talking.  Actually, I think I'm 6 in the picture below; first grade, thats right!  And if you doubt that I wore stirrup leggins with that sweater and turtle neck, you'd be wrong.

Yes, I know I have bangs in my face.
How else is a girl supposed to look like Jessica Rabbit, as I fancied I did??
p.s.- I can't explain that.  I just liked her hair, I think.
p.p.s.- There's food on the picture, upper right corner.  Please ignore it.

Back then, summers were officially heralded in on Memorial Day weekend, and we always spent the preceding days praying for sunshine and no rain, an unusual event for May in PA.  We wanted no rain, because Memorial Day weekend was the weekend we finally opened up the campground and the canoes and the horseback riding stable and the miniature golf and the bumper boats and the gocarts.  My grandparents own this, what seemed to a young girl, summer paradise, and we lived right across the street from it.

Starting on that fateful weekend, which stood as an omen for how the summer would go (well - $$, or poorly - 0.00), I would work at the horse stable as much as daylight and my mom would allow.  Most days we would meet on my grandpa's porch at 8 AM, but Mem. Day weekend we always started at 7, because it was gonna be a big day.  These mornings always seemed ripe with anticipation to me.  

Then we'd go to the pasture, round up the horses, feed and bridle them, then ride them up to the stable.  This part, the riding up to the stable, was the proving ground; would you ride a docile horse, or a spirited on?  how many other horses would you lead?  only as many as you could hold in one hand?  could you do two?  These questions were always running around, especially for a little slip of a girl (i.e.- me) who wanted so badly to be taken seriously as a horsewoman.  Really, I didn't have to make many any of these decisions, since I had to lead the ponies until I was about 13.  Which was awful, because they were bad and kicked each other and usually at least one got away.

After the horses were up at the stable and brushed and saddled, there were other chores to attend to, and then the rides began.  And OH! on a warm and sunny Memorial Day weekend, did the rides ever begin.  I believe (although I may be making things up as I am prone to do) that I once rode for 14 hours per day two days in a row, and then 11 on Monday.  Everyone would do something similar, as we would have 20+ customers on each ride, and generally a lot of little children who needed extra attention.  We would develop what is medically known as "numb-butt", where you just can't really feel your rear any at all.  And on such a sunny day, everyone would be wearing jeans, as riding in anything less would really be much worse than suffering the heat.

At the end of these days, you'd unsaddle, give a little brush down, and then the same decisions would have to be made pertaining to riding/leading the horses back to the pasture.  Sometimes, at the end of the weekend, when the campground was empty (for we rode through the campground to get to the stable/pasture), we would send someone down to open the gate, and then we would just "cut them".  Oh, the anticipation that arrived with "cutting them" was nearly more than I could bear.  If I sit here and relive it, its still just as great of a thing.  You would tie all of the horses out on pegs, and loosen all of their chin straps; when the word came that it was time, you'd keep your one horse bridled, and go through quickly stripping all of the other horses of theirs.  Then they'd take off through the campground, and you would hop on your horse and chase after, herding them and whooping as though you were living out the Wild Wild West.

I'd do similar activities probably 5-6 days a week for the rest of the summer, until Labor Day.  Another big weekend, Labor Day marked the close of the season, and was always both welcome and bittersweet.  For me, a horse-lover, a summer like that was all I ever wanted.  When I got older, the 8 AM start and 10-14 hour days were a little much, especially considering how little my grandpa paid.  But as a kid, I loved it.  And let me tell you, if it paid half as good as my current job does, and I had the chance, I'd do it.  Lot of sweating, little reward, sure; but you get to be outside, and you get to be on a horse, and still, there's a 7-year-old inside of me who can imagine nothing better for a summer.

What were your summers like as a kid?
Strangely longing for the smell of manure,

1 comment:

  1. I love Ghosts of Summers past, and yours sounds great! Like out of some of the old books I've read, Trixie Belden and such. You were really lucky to have had such a Summer Paradise to grow up in.

    I spent alot of my younger years summers with my Great-grandparents on their cow farm.

    Funny you said about longing for the smell of manure; anytime we pass a pasture and everyone's hollering "Shoo!", I'm inhaling likes it's perfume. Smells like The Good Old Days.


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