“It’s, okay,” my dad said. “they’re big, but they’re very gentle.” It was New Year’s Day and my parents had taken me to the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. It was years ago when nobody had thought to blanket the area with security guards. People like us were strolling around looking at the bands, floats and horses waiting for the parade to begin. And now I was standing close to a huge — massive — horse. A Clydesdale.
The handler was standing nearby. “It’s okay,” he said, “you can pet him. This is Captain.”
Pet him? How on earth was I going to pet this huge animal? I mean, even if I wanted to — he towered above me. Horses have always scared me and this one was mammoth — a super-horse. His feet were the size of a dinner plate.
“Captain, say hello to the little girl,” the handler said. Captain looked down from his amazing height and bowed his head. I shrank back against my dad. “It’s okay,” my dad said. “He’s friendly.”
The handler said “look, you can pet him; like this” as he placed his hand on Captain’s neck. My dad lifted me up and I gingerly patted the huge neck. Captain didn’t move. His big brown eye looked right at me. “Nice horsey,” I managed to stammer.
Dad chuckled and set me down on the ground. I grabbed his hand. Dad patted the horse’s neck. “Hello, Captain,” he said and the horse nodded. “He’s a nice horse,” my dad said as we stepped away. “Uh-huh,” I agreed glancing back. “And big.”
Later as we were sitting in the bleachers watching the parade I was much braver. As the Clydesdales came by, I told my mother, “I petted that horse!”
“That one,” I said pointing vaguely at the eight identical horses. “His name is Captain.”
Mother wisely didn’t pursue the subject, but I assured her “they’re big horses, but they’re very friendly. They won’t hurt you.”
“That’s nice,” mother said looking at my dad like “what’s this all about?”
“You couldn’t have one for a pet, though,” I went on. “They’re too big. We could probably have one in our backyard, but it would get lonely. I don’t think we should have one.” I felt my parents exchange a glance over my head as they sometimes did when I was explaining things to them.
“I guess we’ll just have to enjoy looking at them from here,” mother said.
“Yes, that’s best. But you could pet one if you wanted.”
I don’t remember any of the rest of the parade, but today, New Year’s Day, watching the parade on television, as the Clydesdales passed by, I remembered that little vignette from a lifetime ago.
I’m still not fond of horses, but I do love seeing those big old Budweiser Clydesdales and their great commercials with the beautiful horses, the frisky colts, the cute Dalmatians. They put on a great show. and every time I see one, I think, “Now if they could only make beer half as good as their ads, they might actually have something there.”
Today is New Year’s Day — a day for champagne. I raised my glass as the Clydesdales trotted by. “Here’s to you, Captain. Thanks for the memory.”
He winked at me. I swear he did.