Oniontown Pastoral: An Old Friend with a New Name
Over two years ago I decided to call the blonde stallion on Route 19 Onslow. Each time I drove by, he seemed disheveled, like maybe he had recently enjoyed a roll in the dirt.
His namesake was from the old British comedy television show “Keeping Up Appearances.” This Onslow wore a sleeveless woolen vest with nothing underneath and a baseball cap. Other characters described him as bone idle, but he was amiable, if lazy, neither judging others nor doing much other than swilling beer and eating crisps. The fictional Onslow and his equestrian counterpart seemed to be kindred spirits, easy in their own hides and tranquil about their lot in life.
I figured that one day I would stop and meet Onslow. But what reason could I give for knocking on a stranger’s door and asking permission to introduce myself to one of the barnyard horses? If a good excuse ever came along, I would find the hutzpah necessary to make my request.
Last week Garage Sale signs in front of Onslow’s house gave me an opening. Even then I drove a quarter mile past before turning around. “Dog gone it, Coleman,” I thought, “get back there.”
The St. John’s Lutheran folks and I once laughed it up when I confessed that I was trying to muster the courage to make a cold call not on a man but a beast. No doubt about it, Pastor John was going to look silly.
A one-buck electric can opener in the drab olive green of the 1970s caught my eye. I carried it to the card-table sales counter and introduced myself: John Coleman, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran over on Mercer Road.
The friendly proprietor was Darlene, and as soon as I mentioned writing about her horse in The Record Argus, she had me. A friend had put one of my Oniontown reports under her nose and said, “Hey, is this about you?”
“What was it you called my horse?” she asked.
“Onslow,” I answered. “I made up the name.”
“That’s right, Onslow.”
“But what’s his name really?”
Trigger? Trigger. I tried to take it in. Sure, the name had a fine pedigree, pared as it was with Roy Rogers, but it would require effort to let go of Onslow. The name glowed in my imagination, and no kidding, when wife Kathy and I brought our grandsons to church, we would all wave and shout, “Hi, Onslow.”
“Would it be OK if I said hi to Trigger?”
“Sure,” Darlene said. “He’s the friendliest horse in the world. He might even come over to you.” Every morning, she explained, she goes outside to feed a duck named Clyde and says hello to Trigger.
So my old friend with a new name isn’t a grouch. He occupies his own yard because—and I was the last to figure this out—impure masculine thoughts and impulses take possession of him when he spends too much time with the ladies.
My loafers got covered with dew on my way across the yard. In a modest stall beside the stallion formerly known as Onslow was Sandy, a mare who by genetics or modification doesn’t awaken his inner Don Juan. I still don’t quite understand this wrinkle.
“Trigger,” I said, holding out my hand, palm up, “I want to say hi. Come here.”
He stomped a few times, shook his head to shoo away flies, but didn’t budge. Sandy arrived for tufts of grass and strokes on her nose.
To folks who live in Oniontown and thereabouts, getting close to horses might be commonplace, but to me, magnificent is not too strong a word to describe the experience of running fingers between those flaring nostrils, watching those great lips open to receive grass and listening to the deep, guttural crunch as they chew.
I stayed for half an hour, communing with Sandy and calling out to Trigger, but finally had to leave for another day in the pastor’s saddle at St. John’s.
So now I know Trigger’s real name and must say godspeed to Onslow. On Sunday mornings we grandparents and grandkids will say, “Hi, Trigger! Hi, Sandy!” I’ll keep an eye open for Clyde.
And I’ll check with Darlene to make sure it’s OK to visit Trigger again. He’ll come to me eventually. I’ll brush away flies and offer him grass or an apple if I’m allowed. Hopefully he’ll know I’m perfectly serious when I call him my friend.
John, this one is special. Not only will Trigger live in my my mind as Onslow, but surely – given his attitude towards her – Sandy will forever be Daisy. We still watch reruns of the show on Britbox!
I love this sweet sweet story! Thank you.
“…had to leave for the “pastor’s saddle” at St John’s”… ! While I love your prose so much, the way you have a gift of writing, I once again respect your sense of duty to your parish! You were there for all of us all back in the day!! I appreciate your passions, love for family, small and larger critters too!!
I wrote that! Just didn’t complete correctly!!