When my great-grandfather Charlie was a boy, he really wanted a pony. Owning a horse wasn’t within his family’s means, because they were quite poor. Indeed, all the brothers and sisters except for Sidney, the youngest, didn’t get much past junior high school because they needed to get to work. But Charlie loved horses and he still wished he had a horse of his own, even though the likelihood of him getting one was slim to nil – at least until he was an adult and could afford one himself.
What Charlie did have, if he didn’t have a pony or a family who could afford one, was some brothers who were more or less big bullies who liked to pull pranks, particularly his brother Lou. He also had a family that was quite Jewish, but still put out stockings on Christmas Eve. One year in particular, perhaps one where Charlie fervently expressed the wish he’d get a pony for Christmas, he woke up to find his stocking very full. Full of horse crap, which had been put there by his brothers. Now, I don’t know how old Charlie was when this happened, but I suspect he was probably relatively little and probably pretty upset. I also don’t know what happened to his brothers for doing this, but I hope that they got in really big trouble with their parents.
Later, when Charlie grew up, he would serve in the Army where he would pose for this photograph astride a horse. I doubt this picture was specially taken to commemorate his being in uniform – I think it probably was taken on a day when a photographer made a visit to Camp Humphreys, Virginia and made many pictures of soldiers, both on and off of horses, which were sold to the men as picture postcards, probably to send back home to their families. Even later, Charlie realized his dream of truly owning his own pony – many of them in fact. He invested in racehorses for a time and there are scrapbooks of clippings about his horses, pictures of them racing or posed in the winner’s circle. I’d like to say that just as Charlie got to own ponies, his brothers got their just desserts for picking on him, but they didn’t really. That would be a little too perfect of an ending – even though it would make me feel even better for that little Jewish boy with a Christmas stocking full of horse poop.