Growing up, I was not your normal city girl.
I was a tomboy from the word “go”. My friends were boys. I read boy’s books. I absolutely loathed anything even remotely feminine. I wasn’t gay, nor am I now. I was just a girl who was not girly.
What I was, from the very start, was horse crazy. Despite having been born in urban Detroit to two very non-horsey parents, all I wanted was a horse. I’m certain my first words were “I want a pony”. When a western was showing on the TV, I watched for the horses. I pretended I was a horse…my upper body the rider, with reins in my fists, my lower body the horse, which trotted and cantered and even jumped. I learned to draw horses, indeed, it’s the only thing I CAN draw. I designed my stable and ranch. I had plans on owning dozens of horses…chestnuts. Bays. Racehorses. Cowponies. I had names for every one. In first grade, I was reading at 4th grade level, and devoured every horse book in the library.
Having been born the first week in May, I was convinced that the Kentucky Derby was run for my personal pleasure.
I made plans that someday, I would ride a horse from Michigan all the way to the Rocky Mountains, where I’d buy a ranch and raise horses.
My mother tried desperately to convince me that I was a girl. Putting me in dresses, buying me baby dolls: all that did was make me miserable. She tried to console my longing with dogs. I didn’t want a dog. I wanted a horse.
My younger sister was a girl. She had dolls, she liked to play dress up, later on, she sneered that because I refused to design my wedding dress that I’d never get married.
Wellllll, I’m on husband #3 and haven’t designed a wedding dress yet…nor did I ever wear one.
I remember my mother saying in despair, where did this passion for horses come from in you? Why don’t you just accept that you’re a girl in the city?
As children will when they are told by their family that something is wrong with their dreams, I had come to believe that loving horses was something to be ashamed of. So, while I still rebelled at my sister and mother trying to turn me into a girl, I began to keep my passion hidden. But I swore that someday I wouldn’t be a girl in the city, but a girl in the country with a hundred horses.
Well, now I am a woman in her sixties. I live in the country with plenty of room for horses, no longer want a hundred of them. One will do just fine.
And now, I believe that I can finally answer my mother’s question of ‘why was I so horse crazy’.
The picture at the bottom of this post is the last of a series of four that my mother had hanging on the wall of my childhood home. I believe she’d gotten the four as a wedding gift. How I came to be in possession of this last one…the other three are long gone, I don’t know…but I have it.
I don’t know who painted it when, but judging by the clothing and the woman riding side saddle (a mode of riding I will NEVER do. I always felt sorry for the woman who was forced to ride that way, solely because some male decided it wasn’t right for women to ride astride.) I believe it is set sometime during the Victorian era in England.
The only other artwork that I can remember in the house was religious…which probably is why I became an atheist in second grade.
So I believe that my mind was affected early on, perhaps as a toddler by a set of four lithographs, all showing the most amazing, incredible animal on the planet…the horse.