Colley Bay

Carl knew very well,  pulling on the reins of Colley Bay even with a large bit in her mouth would NOT have helped to slow her down, so he kicked her for more speed.  Maybe she would get tired and stop before they reached the next town.  Bahalia, Mississippi was 5 miles up the road.  It was fine with Carl either way.

Here is some background information you might find entertaining before reading about the main event.

Carl was from a small town.  People were very fond of  him and others not so much.  Carl was always pretending to sign autographs.  He was always trying to sign this and sign that.  He would offer to sign everything. “Hang on to this.  It will be worth something someday” Carl always said.  His imagination and optimism was huge.  At the time, however, he never dreamed forty years later he would become as famous as he did.  The name Carl became the name writers used in the movies and commercials that was always picked on or made fun of.  He was fun to pick on for some reason.  Carl always gave a great reaction but wasn’t really bothered. People could sense it.

Even as a young kid Carl listened to the Beatles music and also loved Elvis Presley.  Hardly any kids his age were into rock and roll.  The parents in his day did not approve of Rock and Roll but were helpless to stop it from becoming popular.  They sure tried though.  His family did not have a color television but the family did have a reliable AM radio.  Carl watched the westerns Gunsmoke, Rawhide and Bananza when he was invited to friend’s house.  He loved them all.

He was an extremely complicated kid. Carl was aware of this and was okay with it.  He learned early on that he could not please all the people all the time.  He was known to be a kid that defended weaker kids and was very high-strung and got in lots of fights.   He had learned how to fight from an older man who worked at his Dad’s brick plant.  Carl always won but showed mercy to his defeated opponent.

He had a wide variety of interests and would try most anything once.  His friends were varied.  They  were athletic, very smart and some were troublemakers.  Friends of Carl were young, middle-aged, senior citizens, male and female.  He attended the First Baptist Church every week. He loved singing the hymns very loud with his friend David.  His Sunday school teacher liked telling the story about the time Carl used a curse word twice when she called on him to say the prayer.  He prayed ” Dear God! please stop the damn rain before the damn brick plant washes away. Please help those less fortunate than us. Bless the snacks we are about to eat.”Aman”

Carl had one thing that he really disliked and that was hunting and killing animals.  He went hunting once with his dad on their farm and he got a sick stomach when he shot and killed a squirrel and a bird. It was just not his thing.  His Dad was disappointed but to his credit he did not insist he become a hunter.  Carl was not a picky eater and would eat anything except beets.  He had a huge appetite and ate a lot of food.  He was athletic, competitive, very tall and skinny.

The school classes that week were finally over.  Carl arrived home around 4 pm on Friday.  He decided to put his books away and placed his grade card under his bed for safe hiding.  The scores were 1 A, 1 C-, 3 D+’s and an F. The F was in conduct. The A was in Math.  He always got an A in Math.  He just automatically understood math.  He helped some other kids in class with Math.  The teacher said nothing when she saw Carl out of his desk once again but explaining Math to a fellow student.  She was always amazed at his contradictory behavior.  He would be sitting on top of a kid smacking him one instance and then helping a little girl up(dusting her off) after accidentally knocking her into the dirt on the play ground another.  Later in life Carl learned that the teacher actually started taking notes and wrote a paper for her masters degree in kid psychology using Carl as her subject.  That explained why Carl and his Mom seemed to run into Mrs. Stone so often when they were not at the school.  She observed him in many different settings.  Carl just thought great minds thought alike and said as much to her when they crossed paths.

Carl had improved his grades from last six weeks period(except in conduct) and was optimistic.  Carl liked to tell a great story and lots of jokes.  His teacher Mrs. Stone was just the opposite so that explained the F in Conduct, partially.  Carl thought his jokes were funny.  After all, everyone else laughed.  He saw Mrs. Stone suppress a smile a few times. He could see the smile in her eyes even though the rest of her face was stone cold.  Carl thought that was why they called her Mrs. Stone because she never smiled.   It made perfect sense to him.  Carl claimed she looked at Medusa too much.  The kids laughed.

On the ride home from school on his horse Shorty, (the tallest horse in town actually), Carl had decided to show the school report card to his parents Sunday night after church rather than be grounded for the weekend.  He had lots of fun stuff planned for all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon.  He would not ruin his parents weekend either he rationalized.  He knew his Dad would whip him with a belt until he Carl could not breathe for getting the bad grades.  This happened because Carl would refuse to cry so the punishment lasted much longer than it had to.   As always he would cross that bridge when he got to it.   So, he would wait to worry about that.

Now,  it was dark thirty on a Saturday evening and Carl a 3rd grader was just getting home and limping slightly.  He took off his keds tennis shoes at the back door vestibule.  Converse shoes were too expensive. The shoes started out that morning tide white but were light tan by the end of the day.  He wasn’t in trouble.  This was normal and within the family rules.  Carl made his way through his family’s small yellow brick house into his room that he shared with his younger brother.  His family did well but was far from being affluent.  His Mother wondered out loud as he walked by the kitchen, “You missed dinner again.” “You are a mess.”  “Did you have an accident riding horses today?” “Are you okay?” “Are you hungry?” “We had your favorite tonight breakfast for dinner if you want some.”  Carl answered, “ I’m fine, I’m not hungry, I got tackled really hard in a playground football game this afternoon by Margaret Sullivan’s older brother Pat and I got stung a couple of times by some hornets when Colley Bay decided to play steeplechase one more time and took a shortcut home through the woods.” “I might eat after I take a bath if that is okay?” he said.

Carl had been riding since before daylight.  The clock had displayed 4:30 am when she heard him leave out the back door that morning.  His Mom was a very light sleeper.   As always on Saturday morning, his mother groaned, rolled over and tried to fall back to sleep.  And as always, she did.

When Carl arrived at the small pasture located 500 yards north of his house, to his delight he discovered his Dad’s horse Colley Bay was standing next to the water trough.  Normally she was out in the middle of the pasture by herself and very difficult if not impossible to catch.  He carefully walked up to her and firmly grabbed her mane and slipped the bridle onto her.  He smiled and thought that the day would have some extra adventure and unexpected challenges.  Carl was in the mood for a little excitement most of the time. He thought “ I am wide awake NOW!”

So, even before lunch the horse had already taken Carl into a wasp’s nest twice and into a deep but slow-moving river, once.  The horse had also raced a pickup truck, without being asked.  And Carl watched Colley Bay kick a man square in the butt at the convenience store when the man walked up behind her and stopped. The man’s coffee and doughnut went flying up into the air and back down to the dirt parking lot. When he realized the man was okay he laughed out loud.  The man was ticked off to say the least and asked whose horse it was while he was looking straight at Carl.  Carl said ” Don’t know, I’m just sitting on him.  I have no idea”, but asked why he was standing behind a horse he did not know in the first place.  The man rubbed his butt and went inside to reorder and then got into his pickup truck and left a few minutes later. The guy kept shaking his head and adjusting his pants while he waited in line to pay.  When he came back out Carl was going to ask him if he intended to pick up his litter all over the ground but decided to leave well enough alone.  Carl grabbed the Man’s napkin from the ground, quickly signed it and offered it to the guy. The man ignored Carl.  Carl went over after the man left and picked up the coffee cup and sipped some.   He spit it out and said “shit”. He put the empty coffee cup in the trash.  Then he dusted off the doughnut ate half and gave the rest to Colley Bay. Carl laughed and called it the 5 minute rule.

As for the race with the truck on highway 78 , Carl had kicked Colley Bay for more speed rather than try to pull on the reins.  Pulling on the reins would NOT have helped to slow her down.  The driver of the truck had slowed down to pace them and after a minute or so yelled 35 mph out his window and then raced off smiling.  The driver was more impressed with the little rider than he was with the fast horse.  Carl wondered later if it was the same guy from the convenience store.  How I-Ron-Nick would that have been he thought? He was not sure who Ron and Nick were but he had heard his Dad mention them in similar situations.  Carl also wondered about the significance in (Sandy-Spider-and guide-her) sung in the National Anthem.

Anyway, Carl would go all over the city.  He would charge a cherry coke and grilled cheese to his Dad’s account at the pharmacy for his lunch. He would visit friends, play in football games, stop for a swim at the country club, be a caddy for nine holes to one of the golfers for a couple bucks and offer unsolicited advice on putting speeds and angles and club selections.  Rumor was that if Carl was your caddy you would knock 3 strokes off your score for nine holes.  Eventually, Carl would get $3 dollars instead of $2 like the other kids.  Carl would try and caddy for the men that cussed.  It was more fun.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  One of his sister’s friends, (an older tough guy football player,) wanted to borrow Colley Bay for a while to run an errand.  Carl said no but the guy insisted.  So Carl gave in and stepped back to watch the show.  It lasted about 30 seconds and the boy was on the ground rolling away in horror.  Carl turned his back so the kid would not see him smile.  Carl secretly liked the guy and did not want to have to hurt him in case he tried to rough Carl up some.  His imagination was always working overtime.

Carl never had a strict plan for his day, but the time always flew by.  This was fairly standard for his Saturdays and his summer vacation days.  He did not have a bicycle and he was already 8 years old.  Many of his friends did not have a horse either, so they were all even-steven as far as Carl was concerned.  When School was in session he rode his horse to elementary school most days, rather than take the bus.  As long as he had his horse he felt like he had some acceptable semblance of independence and freedom.

Carl lived 2 miles out in the country from the small rural town called Holly Springs in the state of Mississippi.  Population 7500.  It was one hour south of Memphis, Tennessee and 15 minutes north of Wall Doxey State Park. Ole Miss college was about an hour south in the town of Oxford.  It was 1964 and Carl had friends in both the white community and in the black community.  This was very unusual for this time when segregation was the norm.  The Blacks were not treated well and this always bothered Carl.  Separate schools, churches, movie theaters and entrances to retail establishments and separate water fountains, were just a few examples of things Carl knew about and thought were wrong.  His white friends were always mad at his black friends but Carl knew they had no good reason to be angry with them.  His black friends had the bare essentials.  Some had no plumbing.  They did have electricity at least.  His black friends were a lot of fun and seemed to be in a great mood despite their situation.  The blacks did the back-breaking work like picking cotton in the fields and stacking the bricks at his Dad’s brick plant.  Carl took a page from his black friend’s book in this area of his life.  A positive outlook and gratefulness could be any mentally healthy person’s choice.  All a person had to do was decide to choose it.

His black friend George Edward was socially awkward but a very tall good-looking kid.  He lived down the hill from Carl with his Grandmother.  George Edward’s parents lived in the projects of south Chicago. All the black girls around the area admired him. (Carl learned 20 years later that George Edward never married and he had four kids and many girlfriends).  The black boys picked on him when he was not with Carl.  They were jealous of George Edward and how handsome he was.  When Carl and George Edward were together no one messed with them.  Separately though was a different chronicle.  Stories for another time actually.

A large and deep clay quarry was only 100 yards or so from Carl’s backyard and beyond that was a brick manufacturing plant where his Dad was the general manager.  Big earth moving equipment, forklifts, bulldozers, dump trucks, large 2000 degree furnaces, tall sand mountains and a railroad were just a few of the awesome things Carl got to explore whenever he had the time and friends over to visit.  His imagination had few limits.  They played army, cowboys and Indians and hide and seek to name just three.

Carl really liked riding his Dad’s horse Colley Bay.  The horse was a mare about 15 years old and 15 hands tall. He rode his own horse named Shorty most of the time, but when he wanted to spice things up he enjoyed riding the unpredictable Colley Bay.  His Dad had gotten her real cheap.  Carl’s older sister could ride Colley Bay okay, but preferred her horse named Midnight.  It was solid black with a star on his forehead.  Midnight was very fast.  Few riders in town could race her and win.

For no reason at all Colley Bay would rear up and take off into the woods, bucking up and back down in a huge jerking motion and then for no reason just be completely normal again.  You could never be sure what her next move might be. She could decide to veer off the path along the side of the Highway 78 and stand in the middle of the road, staring at the oncoming 18 wheeler.  If she had her mind made up no amount of kicking, jerking of the reins or yelling would help.  It was better to just jump off and try to lead her back to the path next to the highway.  She stopped many 18 wheelers dead in their tracks.  After being detained the truck drivers’ comments ranged from “Seriously” to “Get the Hell off the road” and others not appropriate to repeat in mixed company.  Carl asked one driver once, sarcastically,  how to translate “Get the Hell off the rode” into horse language.  Carl said “just roll your truck up slowly and bump her a little and help me out here”. Carl said “I don’t have all day!  sir”. The driver just shook his head and laid on the horn.  It worked as Colley Bay shot off of the road and stood behind Carl.  Carl nodded appreciatively and then offered to sign his log book as he was rolling off.  The driver never looked back as he drove away shaking his head and grumbling.  Carl said “okay we will do that next time.”

Later in Carl’s life this experience with Colley Bay came in very handy.  After many years of a difficult marriage, Carl would finally realize that his wife Laurie was like Colley Bay in so many ways.  Carl would think however “I did not have to sleep in the same stall with Colley Bay”.

Once Carl came to this realization his marriage vastly improved.  Carl realized that he just needed to steer his wife as best he could and hold on for the ride when his wife decided to take a certain route.  It was impossible to stop her just like it had been with Colley Bay.  Carl knew he did not want a slow, predictable, non-eventful experience all the time.  It could be tiring at times though.  Progress at times would just have to stop to a standstill and that was part of the deal.  It came with the territory.

That horse Colley Bay would act very kind if she thought Carl might have an apple or carrot in his pocket. Then after she got it she would flare her nostrils and chase him out of the pasture.  She was a piece of work and had a lot of spirit.  There was never a dull moment when Colley Bay was around but you had better not drop your guard or turn your back or ignore her too long.

Trying to cinch the saddle on Colley Bay was always a challenge if you were able to catch her to put a bridle on in the first place.  She would stand still, then move some, hold her breath, then breath out, snort real loud, step on your foot, slap you in the head with her tale, raise up on her hind legs or nip your shoulder. Most of the time Carl did not bother with the saddle and just rode bareback.  The ride was worth it for Carl. Only two people rode Colley Bay regularly and lived to tell about it.  Carl and his Dad.

That horse was very beautiful and amazing to watch as she trotted, galloped and sprinted around the fields. If someone tried to lead her, it was not going to happen, ever.  If she was in a stall and she wanted out it was a sure thing that the kicking would not stop until you let her out.  There was no use in latching the stall door closed.  Colley Bay reminded Carl of the horse in the cartoon movie named Spirit.  She was very determined, fair and temperamental.

Two years later at the age of 10 Carl was told they were moving away to live in another State.  Carl knew he would have some adjusting to deal with and he a lot of concerns but also wondered what God had in store for him in this new City.  He wasn’t too worried.

He knew he would have a lot of autographs to sign before leaving but he was up for the challenge.
To be continued……..

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