The Horse Poop Story
My first picture book, Reunion, begins when Jon climbs into the old photograph over the couch at his grandparent’s cottage. He falls into the black and white world of the past. He meets a boy named Paul, who he later learns is his own great grandfather. Jon’s adventures are a re-telling stories my grandmother and grandfather told me about life when they were growing up. One of my favorite parts comes half way thru the book when Jon, the boy from the present, and Paul from the past start fooling around in a Model-T car and it starts rolling down the hill.
Once in awhile Grandpa would tell us stories about growing up on a farm. He’d say, “When I was a boy I had go out to the horse barn every morning before school to clean up; shovel up the poopy straw and put down fresh straw.
You might think the- poop is the bad part of that job. But horse poop isn’t so bad, not like dog poop. The horses: that’s the bad part. You go out to the barn, it could be 10 below zero and those horses are grumpy and cold. As you start cleaning one horse says to another ‘why doesn’t that boy go back in the house and leave us alone ?’ Another horse says ‘I’ll take care of it, I’ll tell the kid to go back in the house.’ Then Grandpa would ask us to guess how a horse tells a little kid to go away. Someone always said, “He kicks you.” Grandpa would shake his head say: ” You don’t know much about horses. They’re too smart to kick, they might get in trouble if they kick a kid. No they don’t want to be sent to the glue factory, so they don’t kick.”
“They wait till your little foot gets too close to one of their big hooves — these horses weigh of a thousand pounds, — and when your foot is right next his big hoof the horse just lifts that hoof and slides it over your toes. When he stomps you let out a yell and all the horses look startled and snort and say ‘Oh my, was that your little foot?’ just as innocent as can be. Well after you’ve been stomped on 10 times before you’re 10 years old, stepped on accidentally on purpose, you’d say what I said: when I grow up I’m not going to live on a farm, and I’m not going to live with horses; I’m going to the move to the city and drive an auto – mobile. And my grandpa was one of the first kids in history to be able to say I’m going to drive an auto mobile because the auto -mobile had just been invented.”
My grandpa would end with the best part, “Did you know that when the car was first invented you didn’t have a license to drive a car?’ We didn’t know. But we knew what that meant — kids could drive, and when grandpa asked who would have tried driving back then a nine year-old cousin raised his hand, my grandpa would say, “oh I’m sorry, I need to explain. A nine year-old COULD drive a car, the police couldn’t stop them, but adults all over America got together and decided the 12 was a good mature age — the 12 year olds were allowed to drive.
“The twelve year olds were driving automobiles, into town and out to the back fields… but what did the younger kids think when their 12 year old brothers and sisters started driving? They thought ‘That’s not fair! If she can do it, I can do it.’ Grandpa said, “all over America when the car was first invented nine, ten and eleven year olds, were getting in cars and crashing them into the barn, and sliding them into the pond. And when they got better at driving, and the adults had gone to town, they were out chasing the bull around the back field yelling ‘Yahooo.’ “
That’s my grandpa’s story about the turn of the last century. Since I wrote the book I’ve heard many variations of his story. You should ask if anybody in your family, or a family down the street has an old story about kids who got in trouble driving an automobile.