Tuesday, July 18, 2017


     When I started high school, Heidi and I lost some of our youthful and innocent freedom. It was college prep all the way, which meant six hours of homework a night. Later, when I was away at Swarthmore, my father used to write and tell me not to work so hard, to relax, to go out with boys. But in high school pressure to get good grades overshadowed everything else. Still, Heidi and I raced the beach together on weekends, and conversed evenings while I cleaned out her stall.
     And of course there were the early mornings.  !, who am such a night person now, used to get up at 5:45 a.m. so I could have a quick ride and feed her before I showered, gobbled breakfast, and went to wait for the school bus. My classmates all thought I was crazy. What a way for a girl to behave! I was given a lot of lectures. Even before I started high school, I knew I was going to have to impose a new regimen on my life. With more time devoted to studying and less to riding, I worried about Heidi. After all the hours we were used to spending together, wouldn’t she be lonesome and depressed? So we bought a goat, Heidi and I. I had read that race horses often had goats as stall mates, so why not my own prize filly?
     Our goat’s name was Pocahantas. When she first arrived, she wasn’t tall enough to see out over the sides of the box stall, and she’d bleat and scramble and complain about not being able to watch what was going on beyond the stall walls. Heidi, ever helpful, not to mention brilliant, chewed a hole in the door of the stall just at the level of Pokie’s head. It was the first and last time Heidi ever chewed  wood, so I know the hole wasn’t accidental. I can still picture the scene that awaited me whenever I walked into the barn—Heidi with her head hanging over the stall door, and Pokie with her face sticking through the hole below.
     Pokie turned out to be good company but rather bad-mannered. At feeding time, she would gobble up her own little pan of grain, then butt Heidi’s head away from her horse-sized bucket of oats. Heidi, sweet thing, was infinitely patient and always gave up her supper gracefully. Afterwards, when they were both loose in the barn while I cleaned out the stall, Pokie would go jumping up on the old boat that was dry-docked for the winter, then leap onto Heidi’s back and go bounding off, laughing a goat-type of laugh. A little hellion, she was.
      But a loyal companion. Pokie came with us on almost all our rides. She, too, loved to trot along  the beach, past all the summer houses that lined the cove. If she was left behind while Heidi and I rode along 143 Atlantic Avenue, she’d bleat and holler and carry on terribly. It used to upset Heidi,who’d keep turning her head back to look for her friend.
     I have such joyful memories of those two. They were the light and saving grace of my adolescence. I don’t know where Pokie is now. When I went off to college, Heidi went to stay with friends who had a horse of their own. We bred Pokie and gave her to a family with a little girl who was allergic to cow’s milk but thrived on goat’s milk. I suppose poor old Pokie could be dead now. I worry about the day that Heidi will die. Even though I see her only a couple of times a year, and she fails to recognize me, I will be sad when she is gone.
    I wonder what she thinks about when she’s grazing in her field. She’s a fat and spoiled old pony now, as all ponies should be when they’ve spent the best years of their lives taming an outlaw mistress. Does she remember rolling back and forth, again and again in the sand, when we had been for a swim on a steamy summer day? Does she remember me giving her her head as we tore along a dirt trail through the woods, both exulting at our wings? Those were peak experiences for me. Ah, Heidi, I hope you remember, too.

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