Like most 12 year old girls, I had a slightly unhealthy obsession with horses. I had to have one. We lived near the heart of Downtown Orlando, miles from a pasture.
As soon as I was old enough, my parents shipped my sister and I off to a wonderful camp in Clyde, North Carolina, Skyland Camp for Girls. My Mom was a local rep for the camp and we got to go at a discount (therefore the 2 month stay for both of us). We felt very privileged and were so grateful our parents loved us so very much that they would sacrifice to send us off to camp for the summer. Uh no, after I became a parent I understood that little fallacy! Well they may have had their freedom for the summer, but those were the best summers ever and it was at Skyland where I fell in love with a Quarter Horse named Little Man. I was determined to not leave there without him.
Now while at camp, you were not allowed to call home except in case of an emergencies. In those days long distance calls were only made on Sunday evenings, if at all. I had to call my Dad and make sure he was coming up with my Mom for the Horse Show at the end of the summer…so he could write that check for Little Man! Miss Hemphill “Hempy”, the camp owner, would not let me call. I came up with some crazy excuse and she finally relented. To my horror, my Dad said due to his heavy workload, he would not be coming up. My Mom was already at her parents summer home in Franklin and planning to pick us up. So I proceeded to start sobbing about how “hurt” I was that he was not coming up to get us after being gone ALL summer (anything to guilt him into coming up so he could buy me that horse!)
Next little obstacle was the fact that Mark, the owner/horse manager for the camp, said the horses were not for sale. Apparently I drove him so nuts by stalking and begging him to sell me the horse, that he finally relented and gave me a price IF he were to sell Little Man. OK I am thinking, done deal.
My cabin counselor at the time was one of the esteemed riding instructors. She was totally in on my scheme, helping me groom and get Little Man ready to show my Dad. I told her that if we could get him to ride him, he’d go for it.
The day came and we had my Dad down at the barn, got him to ride, and I am convinced we’re taking that horse home. But we left Skyland without a horse. At some point I must have driven my poor parents completely insane, because my Dad tells me that IF I can find a way to get Little Man home HE WILL CONSIDER IT! And so, at the ripe old age of 12, I get on the phone in Franklin, North Carolina, looking for a horse trailer to rent. In the late 1960’s in Franklin, nothing. But then a call to a gas station produces an open U-Haul trailer that the guy convinces my Dad will work with a “tarp” tied to the front. And that is how we drove down to Orlando, pulling a U-Haul open trailer with Little Man. He stayed in our backyard for 4 days while my poor Father found a place to board him. Turned out my Dad’s barber lived out on Clarcona Road on acreage with horses and that’s where Little Man lived until I went off to college and he became my Mother’s God Daughter’s first horse. He was the best horse ever. My Dad? My Hero.
Fast forward 25 years, I am pregnant with my second child, accompanying my sister who is picking up her two girls from Skyland Camp. Sitting outside I see a pickup truck driving up the “hill” to camp. I say to my sister “Oh my god…that looks just like Mark the horse guy!” She informs me it is! He is still there! Very pregnant (remember the last time he saw me I was 12), I waddle up to him and say “You probably don’t remember me but I’m the girl who bought Little Man in the 1960’s.” After a few minutes he sighed heavily and said, “Oh yeah, I remember.” Yikes.