December 5, 2019

John and the Hobby Horse

Janine Pineo Photo | The winning smile of the hobby horse

Janine Pineo Photo | The winning smile of the hobby horse

• By John F. Chisholm •

The hobby horse lay discarded atop the scrap heap.  Broken pallets, brush, nail-studded two-by-fours and ripped-out kitchen cabinetry completed the funeral pyre.  Its body splintered, split and broken, the hand-painted face still laughed at the world, its expression of irrepressible joy painted firmly in place. I eyed it carefully.  It was hand-made.  At one time, it was beautiful.  “It needs a lot of work now.  Look!  The seat is split.  The head’s detached.”  I looked around.  “The legs are completely missing.”

I turned my back, determined to harden my heart.  I have dozens of more pressing projects at home.  Doesn’t every farm?  Beyond all that, my children are grown.  Exacerbating that condition, we still have their old hobby horse waiting in the attic, an insurance policy for grandchildren.  I walked away.  “Be sensible,” I directed myself.

Janine Pineo Photo | The finished hobby horse

Janine Pineo Photo | The finished hobby horse

Wouldn’t you guess?  Somehow that horse followed me home, regardless.
In fact, sensible and me never could agree.  Isn’t it amazing how the heart always betrays the mind?  I paid for it though.  Paid in the time it took to brace the seat, turn new legs and surgically reattach the head.  The rockers needed attention.  Someone had duct-taped them into position.  Actually, that repair held ― at least until the tape was ridden away on the underside.  It left a sticky residue behind that defied solvents, scrapers and sandpaper and only surrendered at last to elbow grease.  Quite a lot of it, actually.

All that was before the gluing, clamping, screwing, reattachments and complete reassembly.  And I’m not done yet.  I still have to finish it.  I rubbed in several coats of linseed oil yesterday.  I cut it with paint thinner to ensure that it sunk in.  I imagine that I’ll use wipe-on polyurethane as a top coat.  I’m guessing that it will need at least two to protect it properly.

That horse laughed through the entire process, retaining the same attitude it had atop that woodpile, just before the burn.  Now I laugh back.

My friend Cameron has two little girls, a newborn and a 2-year-old.  I believe they might be a trifle young for the horse at the moment.  That’s OK.  Everybody knows that won’t last.

That means that coming right up, that hobby horse’s irresistible smile can once more be mirrored in the delight of children.

Come on.  Let’s face it.  As much as there is to do on every farm, shouldn’t that be everybody’s top priority?