Ponies from heaven

I think the pony who wandered into our yard saw our compost bin as a fast-food stop. He is cream-colored with curly hair, and very gentle, and he follows anyone who will feed him old lettuce leaves. We tied him up out back and I hopped in the truck with Isaac to drive around looking for his owner.

An hour later, nobody seemed to know where he belonged. The boys — led by Wife, their ringleader — were starting to talk like it had rained ponies from heaven. I closed him in a fenced yard where he would have room to trot, the same yard where we’d just finished building a giant sandbox.

Yes, he did eventually get in the sandbox, but that’s not the point of the story. He is a gentle enough pony, but I was concerned that he might kick someone, so I told all the boys to stay out of kicking range. I walked behind him to demonstrate, because little boys are visual creatures, and because I am an idiot. As I stood behind the gentle pony, lecturing my sons about how one ought never to stand directly behind a pony, I noticed something shiny on the ground. Perhaps it was a rare bottle cap, or maybe even a nickel. I bent over to pick up the shiny thing. I felt a whoosh just over the back of my head, as the pony did a little Bruce-Lee style double-kick before trotting away.

I surveyed the wide-eyed, duly impressed faces of little boys. “See what I mean?” I asked them, like I’d planned it, like I’d known the pony would try to brain me and had given him my special Sugar-Ray Robinson evasion at the last second, using my ninja reflexes. There was nodding. I couldn’t tell if they were thinking Dad is awesome, or Dad is a doofus. I am fairly certain, however, that none of them will be standing behind a pony any time soon.

I left them there to contemplate the danger of standing behind ponies, and went inside to pray a special prayer to that angel assigned to morons who stoop down behind livestock. The boys returned to sandbox playing, and ball throwing, and running alongside their new friend, who behaves more like a puppy than a pony.

Last night I tracked down the pony’s owner by phone. It turns out he wanders the fields behind our property, and he’s drawn to children’s voices. I pegged him for a Larry, but his name is actually Trigger. He’s going home today. There’s no ponies from heaven after all.

Needless to say, there is now talk afoot about my building a pen and acquiring our very own pony for the Woodlief homestead. I am trying to discourage this. I am not winning.


  1. Marc V

    Horses are walking vet bills, much more expensive than cats/dogs. With you out in the country I’m surprised there has not been a bigger push for more animals. Rule #1 (well, at least it’s my rule) at the house is “The less animals the better”, though I’m fighting a losing battle with my wife and her attempt at bringing in a stray cat. We already have one cat in the house, but apparently she wants another.

    I would recommend you compromise and set up a chicken “ranch” at the Woodlief compound. Get about a half-dozen or so and let them lay eggs for you. Be sure to pick a patch of land you don’t mind seeing scratched to bare ground. There’s plenty of good books to help guide you in setting up a small chicken operation. They’re relatively easy to care for and can even provide some entertainment, country-style.

  2. Lucy


    Y’AL don’t need a pony, you just need some treats to entice the neighbor to let the pony “visit”. And one grooming brush per boy, its no good trying to take turns brushing the pony. And a LOT of carrots. And apples. And peppermints. Ponies like peppermints a lot 🙂

    Man! You are SO lucky!

  3. English 210

    The boys deserve a new pony. We in English 210 say buy a pony for your boys. Tony says, you can name this one “Larry”.

    We’re looking forward to seeing you on Thursday.

  4. Carl Holmes

    May your physical recovery go smoothly and quickly, because the rest will take awhile to recover..

    And for the record, Get a big dog. The little ones wont know the difference, they will ride him around anyway.

  5. nichole

    Delightful story! Much to my mother’s chagrin, I used to take my pony in the house. She was like a dog and I took her everywhere. I have many wonderful childhood memories of my pony, and later, several horses. We also had cows, chickens, cats and dogs.

    Didn’t you move to the country to help your boys learn to work? Nothing like scooping horse stalls to teach you a good days work, especially in the 90+ degree summers…and baling hay for them, feeding them 2 times a day, cleaning them, exercising them, etc.

    Good luck on winning the battle with the family. You’re going to need it.

  6. wife

    a – we have a dog. and she needs a friend, one who will herd those boys. that’s another discussion for another day. let’s stay focused…

    and two – we all need a pony. we miss trigger! tears were shed. Isaiah repeated hoars-is over and over as trigger was led away. very sad, very,very sad. what will we do with the oats?

    pony, ponY, poNY, pONY, PONY!

  7. Lucy

    I thought surely y’al would already have an LGD (Livestock guardian dog) which is just a catagory of dog that protects “livestock” (ie small children) instead of property. Of course, the downside is that they’ll eat anyone that gets near your family, like neighbors and other children.

    Growing up, we had a solid-black English Shepherd (which are hard to find, but I’ve heard rumors there’s a solid-black-bloodline in Texas) that would herd us kids. We had to play on two sides of the house where he could sit at the corner and watch both of us. Otherwise, he’d move us. Gently but firmly. And once he killed a mountain-lion. And the meter-reader had to make appointments, especially after he maced the dog which just made the dog really cranky.

    LGD’s are also unusually good at killing threats like snakes, and ground-hogs, and squirrels.

  8. The Flamingo

    During 2008 the number of animals at/in/around our house swelled to three dogs, three birds, one coyote, two alligators, two roosters (Pete and Repeat) and a leopard gecko. By the end of the year, we were down to one dog (due to natural attrition in the case of the dogs and faulty latches on cages in the case of the birds). The rule around here now is that you are welcome to bring a new pet home or encourage a wandering homeless one to stay so long as it does not poop. All non-pooping animals of any variety are welcome.

  9. Karen

    tony, man this one gave me flashbacks- we had a pony when i was a kid for about a month. They can be fiesty and high spirited, but my guess is you and the fam are a match for a pony. Go for it!


  10. Ken Larson

    With your lightning quick ‘ninja reflexes’, you shouldn’t have any trouble dodging any surprises the pony might leave under your feet. Build a pen or corral and go for it.

  11. C. Brace

    The children gathered as I read this one out loud – they loved it!

    We’ve eight children, ten goats, sixty chickens and a BIG John Deere tractor.

    Our youngest daughter has named ALL of the chickens “Julia” and has 1 or 3 in the house each day. They sit cradled in her arm or lar, in the bucket on the back of her tricycle or in a baby doll stroller for rides all throughout the house.

    None of the other children can even CATCH a chicken. That little girl is “the chicken whisperer.”

    The goats come in occasionally – that’s always interesting.

    All the way from Texas, we vote with Wife. So count ten more votes on her side.

    You have an amazing life! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  12. Billy M.

    I love this post and it’s very timely as we’re going through a similar family debate about our first dog.We (myself, my 3 daughters and 1 year old son – i know he’d vote with me) are trying to convince my wife to “let us” get our first dog. So far to no avail, but we have staying power and eventually we’ll prevail. I’ve got to side with your wife and kids on this one. Good Luck!

  13. Molly

    As a horse owner myself, I vote for getting a pony. Have you thought about looking at pony rescue organizations? You could give a good home to a pony in need and not pay much for him/her. Gotta tell ya though, it isn’t the initial payment for a pony/horse that proves expensive. It is the upkeep. Keeping your pony on your own pasture will save you money and is best for the animal. Horses are herd animals. You might want to consider adding a goat for company…

    PLEASE keep us posted on this!

  14. connie

    I agree with wife…My boys grew up too fast. They had dogs, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, and parakeets. We had gardens and we taught them to work and do chores and take care of their animals. Then they went away. I got sick. We moved to the country. I got dogs, cats, chickens, and goats. I REALLY need a pony! I am 60 years young and wish my husband and I had moved to the country 40 years ago and raised our boys that way…with lots of working animals.
    Hope you all find the right mix. Make the animals work for you. Plant seeds, too.
    God bless.

  15. Michale

    Visiting the neighbors’ pony keeps the magic alive. Having your own is like having your own of anything else.

    Also, think “Zero degrees and who unfreezes the water….”. That, my friend, is reality. And YOU are the man….

    We love our animals, but the kids had to be old enough to take care of them before they were allowed to have them. Also, because I was not going to.

    Good providence in your decision. 🙂

  16. Paula

    Get a pony. But take someone with you who can help you find one that is good with children and won’t kick. Then get some books on keeping ponies and, maybe, take a course. Also get the kids in 4-H Horse and Pony. It is a great organization and helps teach responsibility. And will help you network with other horse people. You’re gonna have such FUN!

  17. wife

    ice breaking sounds like code for character building.

    actually they have nifty little bucket warmers for that sort of thing. I know ’cause I’ve been checkin’ on these things. You know, just in case.

  18. Donna B.

    Sounds to me like the Woodlief household is getting a pony.

    Of course you need a herding animal and I have just the one for you. A very friendly Great Pyrenees just shy of a year old who needs more space, exercise and work than this retired city-dwelling couple can give him.

    The only drawback is he requires as much or more grooming than the pony will.

    All shots, etc., up to date, free delivery.

    It really is sad that we need to give him up, but we’re too old for a young dog of that size. He needs a family like yours. We’ve been looking locally, but haven’t found a suitable one yet.

  19. db

    Another compromise, workable if the pony’s owner lives not too far away, and your boys are old enough for the responsibility:

    Talk with neighbor; propose a pony-share arrangement. For example, the boys might agree to come over daily to muck the stalls / change the hay / load the oat bucket / whatever; in exchange, they get visitation and riding rights.

    Or, if the boys are too young, they merely get to pet the lil’ critter every now and again, and feed him apples and carrots.

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