Santa brought me a horse a few months after I turned 9 years old, in 1972.
Up to then, I had Dolly, a Shetland pony and my best friend of five years. But I had physically outgrown her compact frame.
Dolly had saved me from being trampled once. I had fallen in the riding ring in the path of a herd of horses loose for exercise, running full speed. Dolly stopped and stood in front of my prone body while the others went around.
One time, Dolly broke into the feed room and gorged on sweet grain. We walked her for hours during the night to help rid her of colic. After the danger had passed, I stayed in her stall and woke at first light with her head on my lap.
We had horse shows, trail rides, parades, and overnight camp outs together. She listened to every problem, complaint, or worry I had or imagined without judgment.
What would my old friend think about this recent development?
The previous summer, we kept a show pony for a friend out of town. I rode her for exercise one day in full view of Dolly who was in the fenced pasture nearby. A little while later, the phone calls start. Dolly is spotted running down the middle of Coal River Road, away from home. She had crawled under the bottom wire of the electric fence and had made it a mile before being detained. It was several days before she forgave me.
How would she react to this new fancy horse?
And that’s where his name originated. Granddad had a professional sign made for Fancy’s stall door and it hung there for years until they sold the barn.
My fear of Dolly’s negative reaction to Fancy being part of our lives was unfounded. They became inseparable friends, which eased the guilt I felt when I left in 1981.
Like Dolly some years before, I ran away from home.
It was the night of my 18th birthday and there was a power struggle, one which I “won” by showing my grandparents how mature and grown-up I was. By running away.
Fancy entered my life when I outgrew early childhood. He stayed behind when I made my abrupt escape into adulthood.
But he had Dolly, and she had him.