Just say neigh

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer December 02, 2011 12:57 am
Thanksgiving is a great time for getting together with family, feasting, giving thanks for blessings and wearing out the knees in blue jeans pretending to be a horse.

Yes, great-uncles do make fair to middlin’ ponies.

Cadence, our 3-year-old great-niece, among her many passions, loves horses. And since no pony awaited in her grandpa’s front yard, only several golden retrievers who are averse to saddles, I was called into service.

I didn’t mind. After turkey, gravy, spuds, three pieces of pie and a Green Bay Packers football victory on TV, I could use the exercise. Besides, Cadence weighs about the same as a cat, except with fewer claws.

Cadence could have named me something exotic like Rocket or Thunderhead from “My Friend Flicka” by Mary O’Hara.

Instead she named me Jeff the Pony.

It could be worse. At least she didn’t call me Glue-Boy.

Cadence would ride throughout the house, over imaginary mountain ranges and to imaginary towns and schools. The horse then would be called into service to read real books.

Then it was back to the mane attraction. As I rode over the “mountain range,” I’d still be speaking English.

“Should we go here? There?”

Cadence would insist, “Just say neigh.”

We’d return to the living room, the rider brimming with enthusiasm, the horse just saying neigh to overeating ever again.

There she’d put me in the “stable” and I’d pretend to eat oats and then sleep.

The imaginary nights, however, were over in a flash. None lasted more than five seconds.

“Good morning,” my rider would say sweetly.

She’d hop on my back and yell, “Giddy-up.”

That was my cue to spring into action.

Again. Then again. Then again until my knees were more or less permanently indented with the pattern of the carpet.

Now I see why great-uncles occasionally buy great-nieces ponies without alerting the great-niece’s parents in advance.

The pony just shows up in the suburban backyard. The great-uncle drives away quickly, often in the dead of night, and sends the parents a text message.

The 3-year-old is delighted. The parents are horrified.

However, in this case I was happy to be of service as a human pony. It was the least I could do to repay Cadence for the terrific job she did as flower girl at our 9-10-11 wedding.

The bigger point is, being a relative other than the parent is a great deal. You get to play with the kids, let your imagination run wild. You can leave the discipline, the teaching, all the hard stuff, to the parents.

And if you hear a 3-year-old sweetly say good morning, run for the hills. Or just say neigh.

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