(By Judith Sutherland)
Part Two: In the world of neighborhood pony racing, I thought I had heard them all. But then, along came Frisco Pete, and the racing world was set afire, sparks flying.
Picture this: A little girl named Cindy, likely with a blond braid and cowboy attire for an adventuresome summer day ahead, paired up with a pony raring to go.
And, I ask you, what pony isn’t?
Frisco Pete was a Shetland-Hackney cross: black, thin, wiry. When Cindy’s grandfather, Glenn Sigler, called for a farrier to the little town of Jeromesville to shoe a pony, the fellow thought surely there was a mistake.
“You want me to put shoes on this little thing?” he asked in dismay. “Well, she rides every day!” her grandfather answered.
“And I can tell ya nobody is gonna get her to stop riding,” the grandfather said.
So, a set of horseshoes went on Frisco Pete, and they were the first of many.
Perfect match. Cindy might have had a wiry little pony, but she matched him for enthusiasm and vigor. This 6-year-old cowgirl got tired of waiting for something big to happen. She rounded up her little red wagon and made her own cart.
Using twine, she turned the wagon into a pony cart, attaching the wagon to Frisco Pete, designing reins out of twine. She was ready for a show all her own.
She headed past the Jeromesville Elevator toward the slope of alley, sitting big, the leader of her one-horse parade.
What the kid could not have known to figure in was the trouble with a hill. As the pony picked up speed, so did the little red wagon.
The tongue of the wagon began colliding with the back of the pony’s legs like an angry prod.Suddenly, Cindy was lying in the street, watching in horror as Frisco Pete took off fast, sparks flying to beat the band.“I remember lying in that street and thinking, ‘maybe I should just play dead’ because either way, I was pretty much dead.”
Frisco Pete was all fired up in to the crazy pony spooks with that little red wagon sparking him ever faster: He took out Newcomer’s garden, snapped little old ladies’ beautiful floral designs down to nubs, trampled across pretty little lawns, turned landscaping picket fence in to kindling, and wreaked general havoc in the otherwise sleepy little town.
Picture the screams, the telephones being picked up all over town, the looks of horror, the pony still running wildly. Some brave soldier (or that’s the way we picture it) stepped out of the abyss and tamed the savage beast.
When Cindy’s grandparents tallied up the damage, it was Cindy who was sent door to door, hanging her head in shame, offering her apologies for the cowboy parade that turned in to pandemonium.
I would bet she met the most blustery hostility in the Jeromesville Garden Club ladies, blocked of any hope for a blue ribbon by the fiasco of Frisco Pete.
Her additional punishment hurt even worse. Cindy was confined to pasture riding only, where Frisco Pete wouldn’t be doing any damage to a civilized society.
“After that,” Cindy says, “I learned the best thing about riding was joining up with other kids with ponies. Allen Metcalf had a pony named Billy, and my brother Brad’s pony was Lucky. We would meet up with the Funk kids: Jim riding Buddy, Joe riding Smokey, shared with their little sister Laurie.
“We would take off for hours, riding out in to the country, up and down stream banks, playing cowboys and Indians with our cap guns. We almost always rode bareback, because who wanted to waste the time to saddle up?”
Sometimes their fun was cut short by the fact that Jim and Joe were needed to help with the evening milking at my place.When Cindy saw the movie National Velvet the search was on for a jumping tree. She found an enormous one and years later we realized it was on one of my dad’s farms.
There were lots of hits and misses and enormous bruises as Frisco Pete tried to live up toNational Velvetas a tree jumper. When Grandpa Sigler spotted the chosen tree, too enormous for girl and pony to be jumping, he nearly croaked.
It was then, in quiet desperation to keep his young granddaughter corralled, he began building an indoor arena.Next week: Glory of The Midnight Riders.