Jerry Nelson: Lucky in April
It has been said that April is the cruelest month.
And for good reason. In our neck of the woods, no other month can take you from a cool autumnal fog to summertime heat to blizzard-like conditions to balmy springtime sunshine all in one day. April is the equivalent of going on a whirlwind tour of the planet’s climatic zones without ever leaving your backyard.
There are those who say that we should plant our root crops on Good Friday. They must live a lot closer to the equator than me.
I have seen Good Fridays when winter hasn’t yet taken the hint and taken its leave. You could theoretically plant potatoes on Good Friday if you don’t mind shoveling several feet of slushy snow from your garden and using a pickaxe to chisel holes in dirt that’s still frozen and as hard as titanium.
Many have been the Easters that looked like Christmas. And many have been the Easters that were as muggy as the Fourth of July. My wife and the month of April both seem to have trouble making up their mind.
The April when I was 10, I invited my pal Bobby to come over to our farm to play. We made plans for him to spend an entire Saturday afternoon at our place.
Bobby would normally traverse the two miles of gravel roads between our farms on his bike. But then Bobby made an exciting suggestion: he could come to our farm riding on his Shetland pony, Lucky.
This was excellent news! For years, my siblings and I had begged our parents for a horse, but Mom and Dad had resisted our pleas and our watertight kid-based logic. They said that horses were just hay burners and that we had plenty of Holsteins to ride if we were suddenly seized by the urge to recreate the opening scene from the TV show Rawhide.
We had tried to ride some of our cows and quickly discovered that sitting atop of a Holstein’s pointy spine is similar to perching on an axe blade. Adding insult to injury, the cows ignored our verbal commands. The bovines we chose to ride would either bolt off at a gallop as we frantically shouted “whoa!” or would simply stand there and chew their cud as we urged them to “giddyap!”
I anxiously watched the forecast as the day of Bobby’s visit drew near. I felt that my efforts to convince our parents that having a pony was a splendid idea would be enhanced if we had splendid weather. The TV weatherman had used the term “partly cloudy” which, in our area in April, could mean anything from “shorts and T-shirt weather” to “we might have snow squalls, so you’d better bring your parka.”
Mustering every last bit of my preadolescent mental powers, I did my best to will the weather into being perfect for Bobby’s visit. Fluffy clouds began to drift in at midmorning, so I glared at them and willed them to depart. They didn’t leave, but I hoped to at least prevent them from multiplying and blocking out the sun.
A distant whinny announced Bobby’s arrival. Lucky cantered jauntily down our driveway, his head held high in a regal fashion. My siblings and I were instantly and insanely jealous of Bobby.
Bobby trotted Lucky in a loop around our farmhouse, a feat that would have been impossible with one of our insipid Holsteins. Bobby reined Lucky to a halt near the house. We all wanted to pet Lucky. His velvety muzzle looked infinitely more inviting than a cow’s cold, slobbery nose.
Bobby warned us not to get too close to Lucky’s head as he (Lucky) was known to nip. We were also told to stay away from the pony’s hindquarters as he was prone to delivering unpredictable kicks.
I expressed the hope that Bobby would let me ride Lucky, but Bobby said that he and his father had had a dickens of a time catching and saddling the obstinate equine. Bobby added that Lucky was a handful even for a highly seasoned horseman such as himself. As if to emphasize this point, Lucky pranced beneath Bobby like a horsehide-clad perpetual motion machine.
Bobby soon said that it was time for him to go. But before he left, one of my sisters memorialized the event by taking a photo of Bobby and Lucky and me with her little green box camera.
The photo reveals that the day was overcast, so my mental attempts to control the April weather were a total bust.
I also recall now that Lucky was black and white. Not unlike a Holstein.