One of the earliest fights I can recall having was when I was five. The fight itself was fairly insignificant-- the other boy and I missed more blows than we landed--and it was over such a silly little argument.
See, at five years old, I thought my pony Comet would grow up to be a thoroughbred. My neighbor (and I use that term loosely, considering this neighbor lived several hundred yards away from me) was a bit older, and his life experience gave him a huge cognitive and physical advantage.
"A pony is just a pony. It won't grow up," he said. And he said it smugly.
"It will too. It will grow up, and I'll ride it when I'm a cowboy." I believed it, too.
" Listen, your pony is already as big as it's gonna get."
"You're lying! I hate you!" I yelled. I swung first, but he hit hardest. And fastest. And hardest again.
My Mom broke it up, and delivered to me the bad news. The kid was right: Comet was a pony, and he was never going to be a stallion. I was devastated. Not only was I sad for Comet--I had such high expectations for him, after all--but my hopes were dashed as well. And I hated the neighbor kid who burst my bubble. He was a bully anyway, and easy to dislike. But I thought he took particular pleasure in winning this argument with me, so I hated him for being mean-spirited. And besides, his name was Dinky.
How'd you like to lose a fight to a kid named Dinky?
Dink--as he became known as he grew out of adolescence--was one of seven kids raised in a three room house. There was no running water in the home, so the family used an outhouse that was built 50 yards or so from the front porch. (I remember often imagining how much it would suck to have to use the john really, really badly at 3:00am in Winter.) Well water was drawn and used for drinking and daily sponge baths. Real baths were given during hot summer months, when a large tub was placed in the front lawn and filled with soapy water. Dink and his siblings made an afternoon of it; splashing and squirting, slipping and sliding.
Dink and I didn't hang out together much after I hit the junior high years. Our lives were just too different, I think, and we didn't really have much in common. As kids, we used to play the "What Will You Be When You Grow Up?" game. While I seemed to have lots of ideas and options--"A cowboy! Or a teacher. Maybe a doctor," I was always a bit put off by Dink's most consistent answer: "I dunno."
Because he didn't.
Dink had no reference for a career, or a future or how his soon-to-come adult life might turn out differently than the life his own father lived. Dink's life lacked the spark of inspiration that can change a life path, and a role model who can provide a map for success. I sometimes wonder how two kids who grew up so near each other could see the world so differently, and have such different perspectives on how we each fit into that world view.
Some of us, I suppose, dream our ponies will one day become stallions.