Farm life during the summer seemed to be filled with endless hours of busying oneself. Help pick the beans, pick the cherries, wash the vegetables, gather the eggs, and other chores my mother gave me to keep busy. We were getting ready to go for a visit to Baltimore to see relatives and I could not get there soon enough. We always gathered a bunch of fresh goodies from the farm to take with us. At that age you can't appreciate having fresh produce for your taking when you want it, but I recall my grandmothers expression of joy when Mom would take in her box of homegrown pride.
The trip to the city was always a day long affair and the best part for me was a place called Windy Valley. This would become a tradition for us that would last for years until it closed. You could smell the burgers cooking a mile away before you arrived. It was a kid's dream place to stop at. A wooden building that looked like it was straight out of the series Gunsmoke. You could almost imagine Marshal Matt Dillion standing on the porch waiting for Miss Kitty to come across the street. A small corral off to the side with all types of ponies saddled up ready to go. A petting area that you could get up close to the ponies and pick the one that you wanted to ride. They even gave you a real cowboy hat to wear while you were riding. People gathered outside at picnic tables enjoying burgers, fries, and milkshakes while waiting for their turn on the pony rides. The best thing about the burgers is that they were fresh, hot, and small with tiny bits of chopped onion on them. The bun was warm, tucked inside of a wax paper pouch with a man riding a horse while lassoing a bull in red and gold print.
They carried a small array of western wear and toys and the thing that I really noticed was the sheriffs badge. It was like a shiny shield of honor that made you the boss. I would daydream of having one of those badges and being sheriff of our town (the farm). Someone had to keep law and order or those varmits would surely get out of control. I had wanted one of those for a really long time and of course my own pony that I was told that would happen when I was old enough.
Then one hot summer day it happened. It had been a long morning and I was a little under the weather. So we made all of our usual stops but missed Windy Valley. My mother had promised that we would stop to ride the ponies on our way home. It was late after visiting with the sun was starting to set when the familiar smell of burgers and horse drifted into the window as we approached. As we pulled into the parking lot I noticed the ponies were unsaddled and being cooled down for the day. We were too late for the ponies. I was so disappointed but took it in stride. There would be a next time. Mom and I ate our burgers outside at the picnic table and watched as the ponies were fed some hay and oats and put into their stalls for the day. We got into the car to began the rest of our journey home when she placed a small white box on my lap. I saw that familiar gleam when I lifted the lid off the box, it was the sheriffs badge! I took it out carefully and examined every inch of before proudly pinning it to my shirt. It had turned out to be a good day and my mind started to drift as the night air pulled through the window of the car. I drifted off to sleep with the dreams of a small town, a pony, Matt Dillion, and Windy Valley.
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6 years ago