Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Noble Steed

One evening a few weeks ago, Hubby and I were sitting with my Dad and his longtime girlfriend on their front porch after a nice meal. The house was once my Nan and Pap's house and before they lived there, it was a hunting/summer camp from which the family escaped the Pittsburgh area into the comparative wilderness of Potter County, PA.

Though the house is much changed since my grandparents lived there--added on to and improved upon (there is hot running water now, just for one example)--it is natural to think of my grandparents when I am there. Perhaps because Pap was still living there when he died, his essence seems to permeate the house in a much deeper way than the essence of Nan, who moved into an apartment and then into a nursing home before she passed away. It is not only possible to imagine him sitting in his spot by the kitchen woodstove looking curmudgeonly while waiting for his ridiculously strong tea to steep, it is next to impossible not to.

So, the subject of my grandfather came up. He was a complicated man--with a bawdy sense of humor and a hair-trigger temper that exploded out of all proportion at times. He and my grandmother both had told me many stories about his temper and, of course, I had witnessed some examples firsthand as a child. He was also an alcoholic, though he had stopped drinking ("cold turkey," my grandmother told me) before my father was old enough to remember.

The story Nan told me of his quitting was that he had taken all of his pay straight to the bar and Nan found herself without milk for the baby, my father, and felt she had no choice but to borrow the money from the bartender. When word got back to Pap, she said, he never drank another drop. (He would not tolerate alcohol in the house--even made his beer-battered haddock recipe with Sprite. So sweeping was his prohibition and so forceful his personality that even years after he died, I felt guilty for putting a couple of wine coolers in the fridge at his house, where Nan then lived alone and absolutely didn't mind.)

That night on the porch, Dad said to me, "You remember that old ride-on metal horse? He rode that thing to the bar!"

"Mobo!? He rode Mobo to the bar!?"

Now, I'm sure some of my readers are not "horse people" and, therefore, may be totally unfamiliar with the world-renowned Mobo Bronco, who belonged to my father first and later was my near-constant companion throughout my early childhood. I rode him in Maryland, Texas and Colorado. I can even remember, when I was nine or ten, fighting my Baby Brother for a ride long after I should've given Mobo up. Getting Mobo going on the gravel driveway of the Pennsylvania house we lived in then was not easy, but was completely worth it.

He is a metal horse who stands about 19" high at his withers (4.3 hands to all you horse people out there) and 30" high at the top of his head. A rider sits on him and propels him along by pushing down on the "stirrups" which raises the body of the horse and as the body comes back down the mechanism pushes the horse forward on wheels hidden in his hooves.

I hadn't thought of Mobo in years--decades. I think I had seen him last when, about 24 years ago, we helped my parents pack up the house they'd lived in when I graduated high school and I assumed he was long gone. Then here is my father, with this blast from the past--and the hilarious (and somewhat pathetic) image of my 5'7" grandfather drunkenly maneuvering this (non-steerable) metal children's ride-on toy to the bar*. As my father laughingly pointed out, he must've already been drunk--surely he could've gotten there much faster walking or even crawling.

Talk turned to other things--politics, especially misinformation about Obamacare that is causing the fear and confusion that Republicans are only too willing to take advantage of (if not actively foster)--but my father couldn't let the horse thing go. Every few minutes he'd say, "I wonder where that horse ended up. I'm pretty sure it's right up in the attic."

Clearly, it was going to keep bugging him until he checked--it's a cursed trait he and I share. I have been in the attic or basement or rifling through filing cabinet drawers at 3:56 a.m. on a wild goose chase for something of only marginal practical importance on more occasions than I can count.

So, he went to the garage and toted in the ladder and crawled up in the hatch to the attic that is really just a glorified crawl space--you can stand up straight at the peak of the roof, but otherwise, there's crouching and hunching. I can remember crawling up in that attic for Nan as a kid and standing up in the wrong place and driving a roofing nail into my scalp more than once. I loved every minute of poking around in all that old stuff, though. I was born with an overactive nostalgia gland, I'm pretty sure.

Dad was up in the attic for less than two minutes when he handed the horse down to me. It is probably a testament to both my overactive nostalgia gland and to the general emptiness of my adult existence, that I got a little misty-eyed at the sight of him.

It's been a while, but when my father said, "You can have him." I'm pretty sure that was actual glee I felt.

And so, I've been reunited with one of the loves of my young life and Mobo has taken up residence in my entryway--where he startled the crap out of an unsuspecting Daughter-Only who first encountered him on a dimly-lit evening home alone. She said his eyes seemed menacing in the half-dark.

Maybe it's just me, but all I see is intelligence and warmth and, maybe, a couple of family secrets.

I told Daughter-Only of Mobo's long and noble history with our family (including the new tidbit I'd just been given), but she remained unconvinced of his value so I was forced to dig through the photo tubs until I found this:

L. to r.: Me, Our long-lost friend Tammy Cox, Little Sister & Mobo, off in the distance, looking steadfast as always. This was in Texas, so 1973 or '74. Mobo was probably the one thing I didn't fall off of during our stay in Texas.

Still, Daughter-Only did not warm noticeably to Mobo and I briefly despaired of passing along my appreciation for his pivotal role in so much family history but then Baby Brother stopped by and we dragged old Mobo out to show him to three-year-old Seventh Niece. She was lukewarm about him at first, the expression on her face verging on creeped out, but later, she came around:

Mobo rides again, sturdy as ever, beneath a fourth generation.

Mobo, recovering from his triumphant return to the family fold.

* A photo footnote:

Does this look like the sort of man who would drunkenly ride a children's toy to the bar? Uh, on second thought, never mind.


  1. I love this story. Thank you for providing the then and now photos. What treasures. Nope, sorry. I cannot picture that handsome young man riding on Mobo. But taking a second look at that devilish grin…hmm, on second thought, yep maybe I can.

    1. My thoughts exactly on the devilish grin. ;)

    2. I'm not sure where else to leave this comment, but I've finally had the chance to get caught up over at your blog. However, I was unable to leave a comment on any of your posts. I keep gettting a message that says Disqus is not supported in my browser and that I should upgrade to a "modern" browser. I already use Internet Explorer 9, which is one of the upgrade suggestions. So I'm not sure what is going on there. I would've sent an email, but didn't see that option on your site. :)

    3. I am soooo frustrated with Disqus. It is the comment system I have been using since I started my blog over a year ago. Until now, I never had problems with it. Then they did an upgrade, which is called Disqus 2012. And the bug is the one which you describe. I have appealed to their support. Their knowledge base acknowledges the bug, and their fix is to have my readers make changes to their browser. Unacceptable!
      So I opted out of the upgrade and now my comments won’t load.
      The best, best thing of all and it is quite shocking, they have disabled the “delete your account” function. So I can’t even remove Disqus!
      GRRR!! anyway, thank you for reading my posts and trying to comment. my email is lggoldstein@comcast.net

    4. Duh…I just remembered that I can remove Disqus from my blogger layout which is what I just did.

  2. I love love love this! Such such such a treasure! I agree with Lynda ... that grin gives it away. (:

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Larissa. ;)

  3. What a treasure and to be reunited with him after all this time, it would be all I could do not to have a go myself just for old times sake. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Trust me, I've been tempted. :)

  4. Great story! Love the photos and the glimpse of what is up in your memory attic....

  5. little sister9/4/12, 1:34 PM

    Saw some of Mobo's less-loved pristine relatives at an antique shop in Corning this summer...one is priced at $264 the other is about $370...The comparison reminded me of the Velveteen Rabbit. Your Mobo experienced more life than these other orphans ever experienced. Made me feel sad for them...if I'd had more money probably would have "adopted" one and taken him home.