Who Would Believe? (A Holiday Story)

A Girl, A Holiday and a Remedy (from "The Joy of Country Living")

A nine-year-old and holiday boredom and a remedy…

Who would believe a nine year old girl would be moping around because she had nothing to do on a holiday?

Mama and my oldest sister were in the kitchen preparing Christmas Eve dinner and just chatting away about the new baby due in mid January. My sister was barricaded in her room with her friend, Sue Nutt, listening to records play on the record player. My brother had ridden off on his scooter to who knows where with his buddy Clark Carter.

And there I sat.

I knocked on my sister’s bedroom door. She cracked the door open and I asked to come in and visit.

“No! Sue and I are talking about important things. Go on!”

“I don’t have anywhere to go, nothing to do, and I am bored. Please let me come listen to records with y’all.”

“Go on, Joy Lane and leave us alone.”

She saw the slumped shoulders and sad look and took pity on me. (I have no idea if my shoulders were slumped or I looked sad. But something made her change her mind.) She suggested I ride the horse.

What a great idea!

Daddy and Bobby Wright were at the pig parlor working. I jumped on my bike and rode over to ask if Bobby could catch the horse and saddle him up for me. It was a really warm Christmas Eve because I was wearing Bermuda shorts and a sleeveless blouse. Daddy suggested I put on long pants while Bobby got Blackburn ready and I resisted. He reminded me my legs were in pretty sad shape after the last time I had ridden. I knew I didn’t plan to ride anywhere near as long, but back to the house I went to change out of my shorts.

Bobby opened the back door, peered into the kitchen and told Mama to tell me the horse was ready and was tied to the fence beside the house. My mood had lifted dramatically because I finally had a reason for being. I grabbed an apple, clomped out of the house with absolutely no one in that kitchen paying one whit of attention. I know this because I thought it was a good idea to wear my plastic pink heels with infused sparkling glitter to ride a horse. They didn’t fit anymore and were far too small. I couldn’t walk in them anyway without falling or slipping or sliding because walking on the plastic soles was akin to walking on greased glass.

But hey! It was Christmas; I had something to do, and I was going to do it in style.

Farmhouse Front Porch Watercolor

Such foolish decisions nine year old girls make.

I approached Blackburn, petted him, talked to him and shared my apple. I started to mount the saddle then realized I needed to take the pink plastic sparkling heels off to get my foot into the stirrup. I took them off, hooked them to the saddle horn and up I went. The fun was about to begin.

I had absolutely no idea how true that really was. Then again, what defines fun?

Horseback riding on our farm was nothing fancy, folks. It consisted of a saddle, reins, and nothing else. There were no riding lessons, no instruction, just get on and ride…it was what we did.

Blackburn was always my go to horse because Blackie was just a little too spirited for me. I wasn’t the adventurous type and Blackburn was as gentle a horse as God ever made. The family joke was he was appropriately named because sometimes he moved like the molasses he was named after. It just depended upon his mood.

We started off in a slow trot through the yard toward the road. I was singing Silent Night in my loud, young alto voice. The second time I sang “all is bright” it reminded me to put on my bright pink plastic heels. Somebody might pass by and see me riding in the front yard and I needed to be properly dressed for Christmas caroling.

The first shoe went on without incident. The second one, not so much.

I did something to spook or hurt Blackburn while trying to get that other shoe on and he broke into an unusually fast trot. Being a fashionista, one simply could not ride a horse with just one high heeled shoe so I was determined to get it on my foot. Bouncing along on the horse, struggling to get the shoe on, I began to sing “Hark the Herald angels sing…” Blackburn must not have liked that song too much and he allowed his displeasure to show. He had gone into a gallop now.

I was a little alarmed and pulling on the reins when I realized the saddle was slipping. It scared me. I went from singing Christmas carols to quoting scripture. “At what time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.”

I had just learned that verse in my GA class at church and it sure seemed like an appropriate time to remember it.

Horrified, I realized the saddle was slipping sideways. It gave a whole new meaning to riding sidesaddle and I don’t mean in the ladylike sense. I had a death grip on that saddle horn, holding onto Blackburn’s mane and trying to pull on the reins at the same time. Now, logistically you don’t have to be a horseman to know that wasn’t really possible and it definitely wasn’t working. The saddle slipped more; I was trying to keep my plastic high heeled feet in the stirrups; I knew I was going to die. On Christmas Eve. In my yard. My Tiny Tears doll and doll bathtub hidden behind blankets in my parents’ closet.

It all seemed so unfair.

The saddle had gone as far sideways as possible and yet I held on while Blackburn was running like the wind. I saw a tick on his leg. For a split second, I wondered how I could let go with one hand and pull the tick off. It is something about staring death in the face that robs one of the proper compassion. That damn tick would have to stay there.

I started to scream. The jabbermouths in the kitchen didn’t hear a thing. The disc jockeys in my sister’s room couldn’t hear over the record player. But Daddy and Bobby heard me. They jumped in the truck and headed toward the screams but it was too late.

Blackburn made a sharp turn, headed straight for the very front yard of my house and stopped dead still like he had put on brakes. I still held on because if I fell off now, I would likely fall under the horse and even I knew that was trouble. Blackburn was tired of my Christmas carols, tired of the high heels, tired of my pulling his mane and definitely done with my riding his side. He reared straight up and shook at the same time.

I let go, fell to the ground and lay there with my eyes closed.

Amazingly, the grass in Heaven felt just like the grass in my front yard. I slowly opened my eyes and couldn’t believe it.

God was trendy. He had decorated the Pearly Gates with an aluminum Christmas tree that changed colors from green to blue to red to yellow exactly like the one in the picture window of our living room. It even had the same red glass balls on the tree. Imagine that.

Then I heard the voices of angels. No wings and chariots, however. They came in a red and white Ford pickup truck and sounded just like my Daddy and Bobby. They even looked like Daddy and Bobby.

Daddy scooped me up and truthfully, I was a bit dazed.

Nothing was broken and I was not really injured.

Blackburn trotted back up to the scene of the near tragedy and stood there with my plastic high heeled shoe still dangling in the right stirrup.

Daddy carried me in the house and after inspection, confirmed I wasn’t hurt. Mama and Ann started fawning over me, feeding me hot biscuit pudding right out of the oven. Nancy and Sue got all compassionate and let me listen to ONE record with them. (The song was “Go Away Little Girl”. I am not making this up. When Chubby Checker dropped on the turntable, I was sent on my way.) James and Clark came home and were dejected they had not witnessed the whole thing but had a great time hearing the story. James said I could have at least broken an arm or something.

I had to throw the shoes away.



Joy Dixon Payne
About Joy Dixon Payne 3 Articles
Joy Dixon Payne grew up on her family's farm in Benton, MS. It was here, during her formative years, that Joy absorbed principles, teachings, and familial modeling in a patriotic Christian family. A graduate of Mississippi State University, she is married to Tony Payne. She has one daughter, Lindsay, and two precious and precocious grand daughters. She resides in Madison, MS and spends her work days in the healthcare finance field. She will have a regular column called "The Joy of Country Living".


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