King Allen

By Mary Bok | Oct 23, 2010

It was bound to happen sooner or later. My dad bought that horse for me when I was 12. I figured that he just loved me that much, but I knew he also loved to flex his pride in front of his friends down at his office in town, and he was known to sometimes boast about the young horsewoman he believed his daughter would one day become, and the fact that he made it all happen!

Fathers are like that, I guess. "That horse may not look like much to you, Ham," Mr. Bartlett said to my dad. "He's got some age on him, and he had a pretty hard winter hauling wood last year up in the county. But with some TLC and a lot of love, I think he'll do you just fine. He is the smartest animal I ever had in my barn. He has raised up a bunch of first class riders in his time, and they have, each one of them, loved him more than life itself. They all became state champions during their showing seasons. Two of them are all grown up and now have their own daughters competing in the regional's this season."

That was all my old man needed to hear. He had his checkbook out of his breast pocket, and his pen in his left hand. A small breeze blew up off the lake across the road from where we stood, blowing my dad's necktie up and over his shoulder, making him look so cool, so easy going, so in-charge-of-it-all, as he loped along behind Mr. Bartlett, toward the house. When they came back, Ham paused by the gate in the fence that enclosed the ring in which I continued to ride King Allen around and around, practicing what I could remember from my riding classes at the 4-H horsemanship camp I attended the year before. I had no idea what had just taken place. I thought I was being tested on my riding skills to see if I was advanced enough to enroll in Mr. Bartlett's riding school that coming summer.

Ham leaned on the top rail and watched me coming down the near side of the ring. When I got up to where he stood, I eased King to a stop and reached down to stroke the long arch of his neck. Ham smiled at me in a funny way I couldn't quite read. I watched his face and waited for the words that would explain what that look meant.

"Well?" he asked me. "What do you think of this horse you've been riding?"

"Oh, Ham,*" I started. "He's great! He'll do anything I ask him to. He seems to know what I'm thinking, because sometimes he does it even before I have to give him the cue!"

"Think we should take him home with us?"

"Yes, sure! But Ham, we don't have a trailer. How could we do it? And, anyway, do you mean I could keep him? Like he'd be my own horse from now on?"

"Yes, that's what I've been thinking. I just arranged it with Mr. Bartlett, and he says he'll loan us his horse trailer for a few days after your riding camp next month. So we could take King home with us when I come over here to pick you up. Does that sound like a good idea?"

"OHhhhh m'god! It's the best idea I've ever heard of, Ham!!!" was all I could reply.

And the rest is history.


Mary Bok lives in Camden.

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