The first day of 4th grade can be hard. Especially if you are a county kid. Instead of spending your summers playing and bonding with your school friends, you moved to your family’s summer ranch to work. OK, work might be a slight overstatement, riding my horse and fishing was more like it. But this made me the ‘new kid’ almost every year. The beginning of every school year I would have to re-make friends and re-strengthen bonds. Normally this wasn’t a problem for me. I was very enthusiastic and outgoing, even as a child.
4th grade, however, was new territory. I was actually in an 4th/5th grade combination class. Having the big kids in the same class was scary. Ten and eleven years olds are cognitive, they realize their words and actions can hurt or have consequences. The one golden lining was my teacher was the State Veterinarian’s wife. I’d spent a lot of time with her and her husband the summer before, as he worked on the ranch. I figured I’d have a friend in her. And I did, actually too much so. As my Teacher was making introductions she stopped at me and exclaimed “Oh Megan! Boys and girls, I’ve known Megan forever! In fact my first memory of Megan is of her galloping through a pasture of wildflowers on her golden horse with her long blonde hair flowing in the wind behind her”.
That was effectively a death sentence in elementary school. I could feel all the other girls shooting eye daggers at me. My Teacher forgot that I was the only girl in the whole school that lived on a Ranch. Horse fever runs rampant in girls that age. It was usually a hair-pulling, wait-listed mess, to even try and check out a horse book on library day. The fact that I had my own horse, that I could ride whenever I wanted, that matched my hair color was just too much for some girls. I was a marked girl, in 4th grade.
Dusty D (my horse) was a Christmas gift. My entire, huge, extended family would always gather at my Grandparents house to having dinner and open gifts. All 9 or so cousins would play all day with the new toys Santa left us. Norman Rockwell had nothing on us. The particular Christmas I received Dusty, the adults would not let us play outside, and I was pissed because I got a roller racer (10 points if you are a child of the 80’s and know what that is), and my Grandparent’s house actually had a sidewalk that I could ride it on. The Ranch only had dirt and gravel, my new roller racer wouldn’t go on that, I was wasting precious new toy play time!!! Finally we were allowed to go outside, actually the whole family made its way outside and urged me to look around the corner of my Grandparents’ fence. There was a horse the exact same color as my hair, and he had a big red bow around his neck. He was mine, registered in my name. My little mind was blown. I got a palomino horse for Christmas.
Dusty was a dream horse. My Grandfather, Fletcher, said Dusty was too much horse for me. He was right, but Dusty seemed to know it too. Dusty was a perfect gentleman horse with me, but not with other people. Dusty was only two years younger then myself. I was seven and he was five, and barely green-broke, when he was given to me. We grew up together.
If Dusty didn’t like you he would crow-hop, toss his head, prance around and just generally be a butt. When I rode him we were a team, I could do anything on him, and did! We worked cows, rode in parades, went to horse shows, went swimming (even though my Parents said not to), rode around Indian Valley with a herd of other country kids.
He was my once in a lifetime horse, I doubt I will ever have a bond like that with another horse in my lifetime.
Dusty eventually developed a mild case of navicular when I was a teenager.
I retired him to pasture pal and sometimes, when a little kid would come over, he would give little walks around the Ranch. Dusty died of heart failure on St. Patrick’s Day 2009, he was 25.