Painted skies and ponies with names like Midnight, Rainbow and Champion. Round and round to the carousel's music, yet in each kid's mind they were on the range riding a wild stallion that no cowboy could conquer.
When you are three and your dad lifts you to ride, your heart pounds, and blood rushes. The excitement of that first ride drowns out the music.
He rises forever, nearly touching the painted sky. Burying his head, he tries to toss you on his way down but you hold on. You feel your dad's hand helping to balance you, all the while convincing yourself that you survived by your own daring and skill.
Grown now, mounting is easy. At seven, you bravely hold on with one hand and wave to your dad with the other. Closing your eyes now to catch that feeling of flying an extra inch or two, mounted upon the wild mustang.
Then one day you walk by, leaving the merry-go-round for the little kids. The bigger rides offer the challenge and you make sure no one ever catches you glancing at "Rainbow" as you walk by.
These thoughts went through my mind as the school bus passed the old Circle "R". The Circle "R" was an ice cream, combination hot dog stand with an old carousel off in the back. A nickel a ride. When dad had a little extra change, we headed for the Circle "R". Rainbow was always waiting. Try as he might, he never threw me. Then one day it happened. It was my last ride.
I guess I thought the Circle "R" would be there forever, but like everything else progress brings change. Crews were tearing down the building and I strained to see what was becoming of the carousel. As soon as the bus stopped, I ran to the site. Large wooden crates, packed with straw, were spread around and the ponies were laid gently in them. I watched as the sling went around "Rainbow". Faded and scratched, he still held that special place in my heart.
A young boy with his grandfather watched as the crowd gathered around the workers. The kid was crying as he thought the ponies had died. I will never forget the line his grandfather used.
"Wooden ponies never die. They go on riding in everyone's minds forever."