Home and Shop Companion 0085
Home and Shop Companion 0085

I Have A Secret

by Stephen Bishop of Shelby, NC

I want to thank Lynn and all the Small Farmer’s Journal crew for letting me pinch hit for William during his well-deserved break. One of the first pieces I ever had published was back in 2013 in the Small Farmer’s Journal. It was a little essay using Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” as an intro for some agrarian philosophizing. Back then, I was still secretly harboring dreams of a poet/farmer career track. Now, I secretly harbor dreams of a humorist/farmer career track, so I’m glad SFJ lets me contribute a few humor pieces to the newsletter.

Still, there’s a certain degree of irony to my contribution. Another secret I harbor is that, well, brace yourself — I’m afraid of horses. When we bought my wife’s old family farmstead from her grandparents ten years ago, my wife was actually excited that Ringo, a Missouri Foxtrotter, was thrown in for free. Thus, she dismissed my general life philosophy that, “All horses should be feared, and free horses should be feared always.”

Haunting me were childhood memories of my cousins’ lunatic steeds: Red, Pepper, and the pony (I forget the pony’s name, though its memories are largely the most traumatic). I remember the pony rearing and galloping toward a barbed wire fence with my wailing cousin atop. She looked like a miniature Annie Oakley. At one point, her cowboy hat, attached by chinstraps, fully deployed like a parachute and was the only thing slowing the runaway pony. Soon thereafter, my cousin toppled off the side, and the pony skidded to a halt in front of the fence, which at that point was the best possible outcome.

I’m not sure whatever happened to that pony — I lost touch with it after it nearly killed my cousin, but I suspect it was probably donated to another family who needed a good free pony.

Unlike the pony, Big Red and Pepper occasionally proved trustworthy enough for excursions outside their pasture. Though I have no particular horror stories of Pepper, the frequent warning “Never walk behind Pepper” still reverberates in my mind. So much so, the pepper shaker stays hidden in a cabinet, lest I walk past the kitchen table and flinch.

Once, my family took Pepper and Big Red on a horseback-riding trip to Sugar Loaf Mountain. Sugar Loaf was really more mound than mountain, but being in the coastal plain where everything was flat, the abnormal increase in elevation achieved mountain status. I viewed much of the surrounding countryside while performing a full split atop Big Red who was intent on wandering wherever he pleased, his jockey experiencing too much paralysis to control the reins. To continue his journey unencumbered, Red eventually reared and dropped me on a nice plush pine sapling.

Admittedly, I haven’t been thrown by a horse since — mostly because I haven’t ridden a horse since. My wife tells me that Ringo can sense fear, which is why it’s best if I stay off him. That said, I do admire you horse folks. We have a lot of Amish families moving into the North Carolina foothills, and sometimes I envy them, like last week as I steadied myself upon hearing the price for new tractor tires. Horse shoes seem a lot cheaper.

Stephen Bishop is an SFJ contributor and writes about agrarian antics from Shelby, NC. You can find more of his farming misadventures at www.misfitfarmer.com or follow him on Twitter @themisfitfarmer.

William Castle is taking a break. Thank you very much to Stephen for sharing!

Home and Shop Companion 0085

Home and Shop Companion 0085