Bob survived surprise strike from Shetland

Bob survived surprise strike from Shetland By Bob Karolevitz Back in the dim, dark days when I haunted the dime movie houses, there were only three important personalities in the world: Tom Mix, Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson.

Vicariously I rode through the mesquite and sagebrush beside them, sitting tall in the saddle as I envisioned myself astride my own gallant charger. Unfortunately there is a great chasm between boyhood dreams and reality.

I think I've told you about the horses we have owned during our 48 years of marriage. When Phyllis was still riding, I tried several times to be her trail partner, but anybody who saw me fearfully clutching the saddle horn could never have mistaken me for Gary Cooper at high noon.

I was more like Fatty Arbuckle at half-past five!

Riding a horse, I learned, was a lot like straddling a bouncing sackful of road rocks.

Anyway, as we were nostalgically discussing our equine experience the other day, the subject turned to our first horse, an anti-social little Shetland stallion named Tiny. Almost immediately there had developed a personality conflict between him and me to make the Hatfield-McCoy feud look like a peaceful mountain romance.

For one thing, Tiny did not accept the fact that the lion is king of beasts. He reserved that distinction for himself, and he automatically included the entire human race among his lesser subjects. As it turned out, I was the least of his brethren.

Our mutual distrust blossomed from budding rancor into full-bloom animosity. Once I tried to ride him, and the results were singularly unsuccessful.

He was so small that both my feet almost touched the ground when I sat astride. I think I out-weighed him by a few pounds, too.

Tiny did not buck or carry on in rodeo fashion. Instead, he merely tucked his head down between his front legs, and there was hardly any horse left to sit on. I just sat there like a boob on a beer keg, while my wife and daughters giggled, and I think Tiny smirked derisively.

A day or two afterwards as I walked through the corral, the feisty little mini-horse rose up on his hind legs to attack me like Trigger stomping rattlesnakes. Now I hadn't resorted to fisticuffs since my brief fling at Golden Gloves training in my youth, but I promptly punched Tiny right on the end of the nose after one of his front hooves just flicked my baggy sweatshirt.

The very surprised pony sat back on his haunches, shook his head and eyed me like a gladiator ready to fight to the bitter end. And that's the way it probably would have turned out had I not turned on my heel, stormed into the house and issued the lone irrevocable ultimatum of our marriage.

"That horse has got to go!" is the way I put it.

He went all right, but Phyllis rubbed salt in my wounds by getting twice what she paid for him from a pony breeder who liked Tiny's gray dappled coat. As far as I was concerned, any self-respecting lady Shetland who had anything romantic to do with him deserved the consequences.

Tiny's ancestry, my research later told me, dated back millions of years to miniature horse-like animals called Eohippus, Orohippus and Miohippus. Eventually Shetlands evolved and got their name from the islands off Scotland where they were beasts of burden.

Ha! Tiny was no beast of burden. Except for that punch on the nose, he remained king of all he surveyed. He never admitted defeat, and he left our farm regally and proud.

Flushed with the success of her sale of the Shetland, Phyllis promptly went out and bought another horse.

I'll tell you about that next week.

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