You Can Lead a Horse to TV . . .
The Captain, Trigger and me
By Cynthia Adams
Watching my father lead Trigger into the den one sunny morning to watch Captain Kangaroo, he proves a point. The pony is as gentle as my horse-loving Dad claims. And Trigger’s taste in TV is spot-on.
This is a moment of undiluted magic.
Because I am every bit the scaredy cat my sister insisted I was, Trigger terrifies me, though Dad argued he’s a fantastic pony. My puny 5-year-old self is certain that, like other horses in Westerns, he cunningly waits to rear up and buck me off.
Dad, laughs, knowing Trigger isn’t itching to buck me; Trigger simply has an itch.
“He didn’t buck you, Cindy girl,” he insists. “Trigger is just twitching at a fly.”
But I grow ever more anxious about riding.
So one Saturday, inspiration strikes Dad. His right brow rises up, a tell-tale sign when he has such moments, and he heads to the barn. With a few clicks of the tongue and some sugar cubes, he returns, leading the pony through the back door straight into the den where I sit munching Alpha-Bits. He recruits my older sister, Sharon, to keep lookout for Mama.
It is so masterful, Trigger doesn’t even jostle the Progressive Farmer magazines on the coffee table as my father leads him.
Stopping before the boxy RCA television, he commands Trigger to lie down on the braided rug. I giggle excitedly as Trigger obeys.
After a few giddy moments watching the Captain, Grandfather Clock and Mr. Green Jeans with Trigger, my sister hisses a warning. Pulling on my Keds, I hastily follow them outside.
Dad saddles Trigger and hauls me up. Then Trigger flicks at a fly.
I fall right off.
I lack something essential in the horsewoman department. Pluck? Certainly. Assurance? That, too. Also, weight and balance.
Dad swears me and my sister to secrecy about the TV session, and Mama is none the wiser.
But the episode has done its work, solidifying my desire to somehow become a cowgirl like Sharon. I dream of becoming bigger and sturdier. One worthy of such an erudite pony as Trigger, a superior pony who appreciates the Captain like I do. Unlike my sister and dad, I remain wary of life on the range.
Sharon, with her sassy cowgirl outfit, hat, red boots and holster, fears nothing. Maybe she’s not a gun slinger, but she does break her shoulder blade defending me from the neighborhood bully.
So I study cowgirl arts, like fire-making, perfected in my bedroom closet, where I strike match after match. Though I never catch my clothes ablaze I am successful in building a roaring campfire — directly outside our front door.
After serious punishments are meted, I abandon fire making and attempt to make a name for myself as a magician, ordering a magic set from Bazooka bubble gum. I envision entertaining cowgirls and cowboys exhausted from fending off desperados on the range.
The main component in the minuscule magic set — lifeless Mexican jumping beans that looked suspiciously like dried black beans — are a huge disappointment.
Even Trigger looks puzzled by the inert beans.
Ditto for the desiccated sea monkeys I order. Magician David Copperfield reports he was similarly inspired by the Captain, too. But the magic act never materializes. Despite my best efforts, the only thing I am able to vanish is my dream of being a magician.
Trigger proves a fine listener as my ambitions unspool and die. The Captain teaches patience, so feeding my confessor carrots and apples, I cluck my tongue like my dad when visiting him in the pasture and barn. Trigger regards me with softly nonjudgmental eyes.
Still, when he flicks, I bail.
Slowly understanding it is neither his fault nor mine, I scramble up to try again. He becomes a good friend to have, despite all the past and future falls.
So, we brace for them together, Trigger and me, waiting for the day I grow bigger, stronger. Worthy of my own cowgirl suit. OH
Cynthia Adam is a contributing editor to O.Henry magazine.