By Carol Bogart
I spent most of my life believing my 4-H horse, Ringo, ended up at a glue factory and my parents lied to me about it.
We didn't have running water in the barn and after I left for college, taking care of him was a pretty big chore.
One of dad's partners had a farm outside another rural community near ours. He said he'd pasture Ringo so he could graze. (My horse was broken winded and couldn't eat dusty hay.) The man had a 10-year-old daughter who fell in love with Ringo. One morning, a big wind storm kicked up and knocked down a fence in the pasture.
Ringo and a mare took off cantering up the middle of State Route 224 – a 4-lane, very busy truck route.
A semi came up over the hill and hit them both. The mare was killed outright. Dad went, and said Ringo's guts were hanging out and dad thought he couldn't possibly survive.
The vet came though, and patched him up, and that girl spent every night in his stall. Applying ointment. Making him get up on his feet.
In about mid-August, Dad called and said she'd asked him if she could buy Ringo. She'd saved up all her babysitting money, and instead of buying clothes for school, she wanted to buy my horse.
I told him to tell her to buy her school clothes, and that Ringo and his tack were hers.
About a year later, her dad got out of farming. My folks said that a "family with three girls" had come and gotten Ringo. But when I wanted to go see him to say goodbye, they wouldn't take me. Dad felt bad for the man's daughter, and he thought that, before he got rid of Ringo, he should have called us to see if we wanted to take him back.
I never believed it, though. I knew he was broken winded. That about all he was good for was petting. I was sure the man had sold him to the glue factory.
In 2001, when, as it happened, I was working for the paper that community, I wrote a column about it. The day it was in the paper, I heard from the vet who'd patched Ringo up. He said he still vividly remembered the scene on 224 when he first arrived, and how terrible it was.
Then, I got an email. From one of three sisters who had rescued a big bay horse from a pen full of pigs. Muddy. Covered with burrs. She wondered if I had a photo of Ringo.
I found one of me riding him when I was 16 and sent it to her. She emailed me back a photo of her kissing the soft oatsy-smelling nose I knew so well.
She said he lived for another 13 years, and even though he died in winter when the Ohio ground was frozen solid, her dad got out the backhoe and dug a grave. Now, that resting place is marked with a woodburned 'Ringo' sign – the one that always hung above his stall at the county fair. I'd kept it for more than 30 years.
Maybe the original girl who'd saved up all her babysitting money to try to buy a big bay horse read the follow up column I wrote, and knows that the horse we loved was adored 'til the day he died.
Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.