As I stood at the gate talking with my neighbor Tucker the other afternoon, we heard the clip-clop of horse hooves coming up the street. Our conversation stopped and we both turned, watching and waiting. I’m sure we were both smiling. Such a familiar, though infrequent, sound in Oysterville can’t help but gladden the heart.
Just as it’s been a long, long time since there were enough kids in town to keep the schoolhouse open, it’s been fifty years or so since almost every family had a horse or two. In those days, the horses were for the kids of the family. Fifty years prior to that, of course, families had horses mainly for transportation purposes — but for kids, too, as one of our hundred-year-old photos of the Espy children shows.
As the horse approached, we greeted the riders – two girls who, it turned out, were riding through Oysterville ‘on their own’ for the first time. The horse, “a purebred thoroughbred” had been a present to the girl handling the reins – for her thirteenth birthday, she told us. She had ridden through town several times before with her mom but now she had permission to be on her own.
The horse, it turned out, would be thirteen, too, in May. “She was a brood mare,” we were told, “and now she is retired. Some of her foals have become champions.” The birthday girl didn’t think she would continue breeding the horse but… “maybe.”
She said she lives nearby and we said we hoped we’d see her riding through Oysterville often throughout the summer. “Oh, you will,” she assured us. Nyel came out of the house about then and joined us. He greeted the horse owner by name – one the perks of working as a substitute teacher is knowing the kids of the area – and joined the conversation.
Soon, girls and horse continued on their way. By then, we were all smiling – probably even the horse! Another neighborly interlude in Oysterville!