Of course, that horse came in dead last next time. It's because I wrote about him, I am quite sure.

Partly because of "Mr. Ed" and the fact that I was a young female, there was nothing more I wanted as a child than my very own pony. PONY!!!!! We lived right next to a farm, and were very friendly with the kind old folks that owned it, and there really would've been no problem to board a pony there. I brought this logic to my father right before my 4th birthday. He was reading the paper. He folded it down, looked at me and with an almost-but-not-quite-imperceptible hint of patronization, said "You may have a pony on your 9th birthday." Oh, Dad. Dad Dad Dad. You didn't know much about kids, and you sure didn't know your own baby daughter too well yet.

Let's fast forward five years. OF COURSE, I didn't forget his promise. I as much counted off the days. That spring, as I was getting closer to nine, my excitement built. I dropped all kinds of pony-related hints, drew pictures of lovely tan ponies with blond braided manes, read "Black Beauty" and "Misty of Chillicothe" again, and spent hours imagining riding and brushing and hugging my very own pony. But, I knew. I did. I knew our family was struggling for money at the time, kids always know these things. My dad became more sheepish and quiet when I blathered on about ponies and saddles. I knew.

My birthday came, a blustery bright-white cloudy day with a little touch of the summer warmth ahead. Part of my heart thought that maybe the pony was already over at the farm, with a red bow tied to her tail, but it was a pretty small hope. My dad asked me to sit down in the car with him for a minute. It was as honest and plain and humble as he had ever been with me, and maybe ever was again. He was a gruff kind of guy, so this was quite a moment for me as he told me he was sorry. He told me he thought I would never in a million years remember his promise, and he regretted saying it to me. He went on to say we just could not afford to buy and board a pony now, that he wished I could have one, but we couldn't do it. I think he expected me to cry and complain, but I didn't. I told him it was OK, and I smiled as best I could. Something told me that this was a whole lot worse for him than it was for me, and I just wanted to let him off the hook. He seemed so relieved.

I stepped out of the car, my thin yellow windbreaker flapping in the wind. The little crack in my heart started to mend.