Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Punching A Gift Horse In The Mouth

Watching the film Year Of The Dog recently caused me to reflect heavily on my years growing up in central West Virginia, on a small but functional farm. In the movie, Molly Shannon's character relieves extreme loneliness through a close relationship with her dog, Pencil, and then experiences tremendous grief when Pencil ...

I won't give it away. Catch the movie yourself.

We had pets on the farm, but I don't think I ever really felt a closeness to to any of them. There were lots of dogs, but those dogs were really tools we used to get food. Lots of wild animals those dogs hunted down were cooked up and placed on our dinner table during my youth. We had horses and ponies, but they were used on the farm too. It was common to see my father or grandfather use the horses to plow fields or haul logs. Even my favorite pony, Comet, was often used for burdensome tasks. Rabbits were sometimes on the dinner menu, and a goose we had made a fine Christmas meal once, as I recall.

I avoided naming pigs; one's breakfast sausages shouldn't be too familiar. And, of course, a hamburger made from a cow you thought was pretty ain't really that appetizing.

Animals were food, or tools to get food. I never really learned to develop relationships with them. And that's sort of sad, considering my wife is such a lover of all-things-furry. When Cecil, the canine love of her life, died several years ago after being hit by a car I was unable to really help her get through the grief. I just didn't get it: the mourning, the trauma and the angst. Those emotions are usually reserved for people in my world. But I'm trying, and even making some progress.

My favorite pet story goes like this:

My dad purchased a new, coal-black pony when I was 12 and my brother, Jeff, was 6. Jeff tried to ride the pony most every day, but it would buck and bounce and try to throw him off. It was really a mean-spirited animal; it wasn't uncommon for him to take a nip or two at the kids with his teeth, and he'd step on us on purpose.

(I may have made up that part. At this point in my life, I'm not always sure what's real and what's not. I do know that damn pony was mean.)

One Sunday, after Jeff jumped on it's back, the pony started thrashing around. Dad, witnessing this happen from several yards away, ran to help , arriving just as Jeff hit the ground with a thud. A really big thud!

Without pausing, my Dad hit that pony in the mouth with his fist as hard as I've seen anything get hit. Ever. A straight fist to the teeth. The pony immediately dropped to the ground. My Dad checked on Jeff to make sure he was OK, then tied up the pony. It was gone the next day.

My Dad was my hero for a long time after that.


Bionicbigfoot said...

I can't believe your dad cold cocked a pony. Did he take its milk money too?;)

Anonymous said...

You writing is beautiful, picturesque, thoughtful, informative, entertaining, analytical, poignant, funny, amusing, comprehensive and whimsical. There's just one small, tiny, teeny thing: just take your apostrophes out of your "its." The only time a writer should use "it's" is when it is short for "it is." No one's perfect. But your writing would be pretty close to it if not for that one little thing. (Sorry, but if you put yourself out there like you do, you're just going to get constructive criticism such as this.)

The Film Geek said...

Hey Bigfoot: I never saw my Dad hit another living thing, but I swear to God that pony fell to the ground. To a kid, that's bigger than life.

Hiya Anonymous: Point taken. It's one of those fundamentals I miss while writing. I do it regularly, and shouldn't. No apology necessary. Thanks for the other kudos. Stop by again sometime.

Bionicbigfoot said...

I don't know.. I can sort of see it from the ponies perspective. He's kept locked up all day in a pen.. forced to eat a less than nourishing diet of hay with the occasional apple thrown at him. Also, on a daily basis children climb on his back and kick him mercilessly screaming in an incomprehensible language. Do you see the parallels yet to battlefield earth? Its just a damn good thing you didn't try to educate the pony and teach it mining techniques. Silly man animal..

The Film Geek said...

LOL, Bigfoot! And was one of the many, many people who did NOT see the Travolta flick Battlefield Earth. :)

By the way, the pony had freedom to roam over a whole 50 acres or so of the farm. No pen, and he was pretty well cared for. Kids did jump on his back pretty often, though.

Bionicbigfoot said...

You haven't seen battlefield earth? I don't know whether to be sad or congratulate you. I liked it personally, but I also liked the postman. I know Kevin Costner blah blah.. I'm just a sucker for apocalypse movies. Its sort of like porn. Sometimes, when you're in the mood, it doesn't matter whose doing it. Yes, I have officially compared Kevin Costner to a fat Russian hooker who commits heinous crimes in the back of a van..