Notes from the Porch

A Port in the Storm

A boy, a pony, an unforgettable image of peaceful friendship

By Bill Thompson

The overly pessimistic weather forecasters predicted that the “tropical depression” would “dump a lot of rain” and produce “potentially dangerous winds.” It was actually just a breezy spring rain storm.  

On my way back from a luncheon in Morehead City, I stopped for gas at a convenience store somewhere in Carteret County. The rain was still falling, and on the tiny traffic islands in front of the store, the erratic wind created wobbly oleanders, their lavender flowers complemented by contrasting gray sky. 

While pumping gas, I noticed across the road a small fenced-in pasture. The fence appeared a weathered gray, the product of many rains and ensuing sunshine. It enclosed an area no larger than fifty square yards. The gray  boards and the green grass drew a distinction between the old and the new, a ribbon of gray durability surrounding a green declaration of new growth. The grass was high but losing the growth battle to the weeds that whipped back and forth, up and down, in the wind and steady rain.  

At first glance I didn’t notice the small shed at the back of the enclosure, but a movement in that direction got my attention. A boy, maybe 12 or 13  years old, had hoisted himself up to sit on the feed box in the back corner of the shed. His companion was a small Shetland pony that had also retreated to the protection of the shed.  

The boy was dressed in typical warm-weather garb: a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. He also wore a pair of cowboy boots. The incongruous footwear may have been for protection or because, in a young boy’s fantasy world, a cowboy always wears his boots.  

The pony’s shaggy coat was flattened and wet along the top of his back  where the rain had soaked it, and he was standing just under the boy’s outstretched legs. When the boy began to rub his boot-clad feet along the  pony’s back, its short, furry ears lay back on its head as it backed up closer to the boy. They both seemed to be enjoying each other’s company, providing a certain amount of mutual comfort as well as protection from the rain. 

A neatly trimmed line of boxwoods ran between the fence and the highway. From my point of view across the bushes, I could see only the top of  the handle of what appeared to be a lawnmower on the inside of the fence. It was a small push mower, abandoned between the shed and the fence, which ran parallel to the highway. 

I began to make some assumptions based on my own boyhood experiences. Apparently, the boy’s assignment had been to give the pasture a much-needed mowing. Dutifully, he had begun his task but, as evidenced by the newly mowed path, he had made only one round before seeking refuge with his equine partner. It was probably not an unwelcome situation. Not only had the boy gotten a respite from his chore, but he was also able to share the company of a friend. 

I finished pumping gas and started to get back on the road again. As I turned back onto the highway, I could see clearly the scene in the little shed  at the back of the pasture across the road. There was the boy, sitting on a feed box, leaning back into the corner of the building; his arms folded across  his chest; chin down and eyes closed. It was a most remarkable, tranquil scene: the image of the boy, his legs straight out in front of him, his feet on the back of the pony, which was standing very still with his shaggy head  hanging drowsily. It was a portrait of two friends resting safely in each other’s company as the rain and the wind swirled around them.

Bill Thompson is a speaker and author who lives in Hallsboro. 

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