Thursday, March 13, 2008

Get Your Hooves Off Our Crabapples

I’d say it’s time for another Franch story. Maybe it’ll make me forget the people calling to ask if we will rent them our house even though they are going into bankruptcy and own fifteen poodles. Anywho, back to the Franch. This story predates Jeff, so sorry for those of you…Danny and Eric….who like the ‘Jeff and Meg dates from the farm’ stories. I promise there are more to come.
Just down the road from our house growing up, there was a park. I use that term loosely. There was a big triangular area of grass, with an old-fashioned red-white-and-blue bench merry-go-round at one end. Unfortunately I cannot find any pictures to share with you, so I'll try to describe it. There was a concrete birdbath and bench sitting under a tree. There was a picnic table at the other end. Near the merry-go-round, there was a crabapple tree, which provided endless hours of entertainment. We would pick them, eat them, throw them, and come up with all kinds of other clever uses for them. We had this park all to ourselves. Rarely did any other children play there. It was pretty much our park. Every month or two in the summer, someone would flood-irrigate the grass and the well underneath the merry-go-round would fill with water and we would ‘ski.’ We’d get it spinning as fast as we could, then hold on with our arms as our feet glided across the water. We would climb up the frame onto the top. Everything moved more slowly, and it felt like we were on top of the world, or at least the Loma Park. I have lots of memories from that park. In fact, it was even where Jeff took me to ask me to marry him!

It was in front of the park where the school bus would pick us up. We would walk down the road (
uphill both ways, by the way) and stand next to the ditch and wait for the bus. To give you a little background, periodically when we would leave home for the bus, we would find a stray horse or two grazing in our yard. The neighbor’s horse had the skills of Houdini and could unlatch the gate. So seeing a stray horse, we always assumed that it was Sam’s. Sometimes we’d chase it back in that general direction. That said, it was no surprise to us when we found a horse nibbling away at the crabapple tree in the park one morning. As we waited for the bus, we shooed and shouted at the horse. He was too interested in the crabapple tree to pay us any attention. We continued to pester the horse when lo and behold, a cowboy stuck his head out from behind the tall grass and pushed his hat out of his face. He looked at us like a man who had just woken to three shouting, laughing children trying to shoo his horse away. I think he was startled, but we were even more startled! We had no idea why a man was sleeping at the park with his horse tied to ‘our’ crabapple tree. We climbed onto the bus and spent all day wondering what was going on. When we got home, the man was sitting in the park on an Indian blanket spread out on the grass. He had his saddle laying out, a bedroll (seriously!) and a big buck knife. Once we saw the buck knife, we quickly decided it was not time to make friends. We had already given him an early morning wake-up call. We didn’t want to test our luck. We headed home and asked our parents what he was doing there. Apparently, he was just some guy heading across the country on his horse. He would sleep wherever he knew someone, and he happened to know someone nearby. After that, we curiously watched him from a safe distance. No sooner had he rode into town was he gone again. He'd probably laugh to know that we still remember his mysterious presence in 'our' park.

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