Written by Richard Barnum
Tinkle, the trick pony part 1
Tinkle stopped nibbling the sweet, green grass of the meadow, blew a long breath from his nose, raised his head and looked around. Then he blinked his eyes slowly, turned to look first on one side, then on the other, and to himself he said:
“I’m going to run away!”
He did not say this aloud for fear some of the other ponies or the horses would hear him. Oh! I forgot to tell you that Tinkle was a little pony that lived in the big green meadow; and, being a pony, of course Tinkle ate grass, and liked it, too.
So, as I said, Tinkle stopped eating the grass and said to himself once more:
“I’m going to run away!”
The reason Tinkle did not want the other ponies and the horses to know what he was going to do was because his mother and father were over in one corner of the meadow, and if they knew he intended to run away, they would not let him do it; any more than your mother or father would let you run away.
Of course I know that horses sometimes run away when they are frightened by something, and I suppose ponies, too, may, once in a while, trot off when they ought not to. But that is not saying it is right.
“Yes,” said Tinkle to himself, “I’m going to run away. I’m tired of staying in this meadow all the time. Why, I’ve been in here over a year now, and not a thing has happened except for a thunderstorm now and then, or a rain shower. I want to see something more than that. I want to have some fun, and go off to a big city, such as the other horses tell about.
“Why, there’s Dapple Gray,” went on Tinkle, looking at an old horse who had come to the green meadow for a long rest. “I’ve heard Dapple tell stories about drawing a big shiny wagon that spouted fire and smoke just like a chimney on the house where The Man lives. That was great! I’d like to pull the kind of wagon Dapple tells about, and hear the bells ring and see the sparks fly and the water spout out on the fire. I wonder what kind of wagon it was?”
Of course you have guessed. It was a fire engine that Dapple Gray had pulled, and he never tired of telling the other horses about it.
Tinkle used to often listen to the stories Dapple Gray and the other horses told as they gathered in the shade of the clump of trees in the green meadow after their dinner or their breakfast of sweet, green grass.
For Tinkle lived on what is called a stock farm, not far from a big city. The farm was owned by a person whom the horses called “The Man.” Really his name was John Carter and he raised horses and ponies to sell to other men.
Mr. Carter liked his horses very much, and was very kind to them, and he loved his little ponies, of whom Tinkle was one. The ponies and the horses lived in a warm barn in the Winter, but in the Summer they were “turned out to grass,” and could walk or run all over the big meadow, and do almost as they pleased.
Sometimes men would come to the farm to buy horses. They might want one to pull a coal wagon or a wagon from which vegetables were sold. Some of the horses, like Dapple, were used to haul fire engines, while others pulled fine carriages in which men and women rode. The ponies were sold, too, but they were only put to such easy work as carrying boys and girls around on their backs, or pulling little carriages in the parks.
“But nothing like that ever happened to me,” said Tinkle as he began slowly to walk away. “So I am going to run off, as far as I can go, and maybe I’ll have some adventures like Dapple Gray.”
Tinkle had eaten plenty of the sweet, green grass, so he was no longer hungry. He did not need to take anything to eat with him when he ran away. In the first place ponies have no pockets in which to carry anything, though, of course, if they are hitched to a wagon, that would hold corn, hay or oats which ponies like to eat.
But, as for that, all around in the meadow where Tinkle lived was grass to eat. He had only to stop and nibble some when he was hungry, so he had no need to carry anything with him.
“There is more here than I could eat all Summer,” thought the little pony. “And when I get tired of running away I can just rest myself, eat grass and then run on some more.”
Though Tinkle called it “running away” he was really walking. Just as some children do.
One reason why Tinkle did not care to run was that he did not want his father, mother or the other ponies or the horses to see him. They might not notice him if he just walked, but if he started to run some one would be sure to ask:
“Why, where is that Tinkle pony going now?”
And then Tinkle’s mother would look up and say:
“Oh, dear! That silly little pony will get into trouble! I must go and bring him back.”
Then she would run after Tinkle, and all his fun would be spoiled. Of course the ponies and horses in the meadow often used to run about, kick up their heels and roll over and over on their backs in the soft grass. But this was only because they felt so good and frisky and lively that they simply could not do anything else.
But when the colts ran that way, they nearly always went around in a circle, like a merry-go-round, only bigger, and the father and mother horses thought nothing of that.
“I’m not going to run that way,” said Tinkle to himself. “I’m going far off.”
By this time he was quite far away from the other horses. But, as he looked back, he saw them all standing in a circle with their noses close together. Dapple Gray was in the center of the ring, and Tinkle’s father and mother were among those on the outside.
“Dapple is telling another story about how he drew the funny wagon with the chimney on it,” thought Tinkle. “I don’t want to hear that again.”
Ponies and horses, you know, can talk among themselves and think, just as we can. If they could not talk among themselves how could the mother pony tell the little pony what was good to eat and what was not? So, though horses and ponies can’t talk to us in words as we talk to one another, they do speak among themselves.
You have often heard horses and ponies whinny, I suppose; and perhaps that is when they are trying to talk to us, though I must say I never could understand what they were trying to say. Perhaps some day I might.
At any rate Tinkle was thinking to himself, as he slowly wandered across the meadow. He was thinking what wonderful things might happen to him—adventures and travels.
On and on he wandered, looking back now and then to make sure neither his father nor his mother nor any of the others saw him. But they were listening to Dapple Gray tell of once falling down in the street while drawing the fire engine and how nearly a trolley car ran over him.
And the other horses liked the story so much that none of them thought of Tinkle, or looked at him. They listened to Dapple Gray.
The other young ponies, many of whom were about the size of Tinkle, were down at the far end of the meadow, having a game of what you would, perhaps, call tag, though what the ponies called it I do not know. Perhaps they had some funny name among themselves like “hoof-jump” or “tail-wiggle,” or something like that.
Anyhow, they were having so much fun among themselves that none of them paid any attention to Tinkle.
“They won’t see me at all,” thought the little pony. “I’ll run away where they can never find me.”
Of course Tinkle was doing this because he was tired of staying in one place so long, and he wanted to have adventures.
On and on he wandered, and finally he came to a fence. Now the fence was put around the meadow to keep the horses and the ponies from getting out. But Tinkle had heard stories of horses jumping fences so he thought he would try it; for he was not strong enough to push down the fence, as he had once heard of Bellow, the big black bull, doing.
Standing off a little way from the fence Tinkle ran toward it, gave a jump up in the air, and then—he did not get over the fence. Instead he fell against it and hurt himself.
“Ha! that is no fun!” thought Tinkle. “I must jump higher next time.” And the next time he did jump high enough to go over the fence, coming down on the other side, kerplunk!
“At last I have really run away,” thought the little pony.
He found himself in another green meadow, but it was not nice like the one he had left. The grass was longer, but it was hard and tough, and hurt Tinkle’s mouth and tongue when he chewed it.
“But I don’t have to eat it,” said the little pony. “I can wait until I get to where there is better grass. I’m not very hungry.”
So he walked on a little farther, and pretty soon he came to some trees. In and out among them he wandered, and when he stopped to look back he found that he could no longer see the meadow in which he had lived so long with his father, his mother and the other ponies and the horses.
“And they can’t see me, either,” thought Tinkle. “They won’t know where I’ve gone, so they can’t find me. I’m going to have a good time all by myself, and there’ll be nobody to say: ‘Don’t do this. Don’t do that’; as they always do when I’m in the green meadow.”
On and on went Tinkle and soon he was quite a long distance from what had been his home. Then he noticed that the ground, instead of being hard and firm under his hoofs, was getting soft and springy, and that his feet sank down in it a little way. He saw, too, that when he lifted his hoofs from the marks they left little pools of water in the holes they made.
“This is strange,” thought Tinkle. “I must be getting near the lake I have heard my father tell about. I wonder if I can swim?”
Tinkle looked about, and just ahead he saw a puddle of water. It was too small for a lake, but there was enough of it for him to splash in, and, as he was now thirsty, he ran on to get a drink. And then a strange thing happened.
Just before Tinkle reached the water he felt his legs and hoofs sinking down in the soft ground. He tried to lift his left front foot, but he couldn’t. And his right hind foot was also stuck fast.
“Oh, dear! What has happened to me?” cried poor Tinkle. “I can’t move!”
And really he could not. Tinkle was caught in the sticky mud of a big swamp!