Jody and I were getting our horses ready to enter the Quarter horse show, when she reminded me of all the conflict we had about riding horses when we were young kids. I was very small for my age, and insisted everyone called me Amanda, not Mandy. I was in the sixth grade and extremely touchy about my height. All the kids at school towered at least a head above me even the girls. They were all nice, and never mentioned it like Jody, she called me short stuff, shrimp, squirt and all kinds of names which I resented, and was always telling me not to make such a big deal over it.
Jody was in the ninth grade and to hear her tell it she never was little. She liked horses and I loved them. In fact I thought they were fantastic.
Grandpa bought Jody a black mare that year named Sugar Babe, because she had outgrown our little pony Pokey quite sometime ago.
Sugar Babe's short black hair glistened as the sun danced across her sleek body.
I loved Pokey, but we were both too small to enter any of the events in Grandpa's horse show. Pokey stood barely twelve hands high, she had short stocky legs, white with brown spots all over her body and a white star in the middle of her forehead. I don't know how she got the name Pokey, because she could run faster than lightning.
It seemed like Grandpa had lived on the ranch with Mom and Dad forever. I was certain that he knew more about ranches and horses than anyone.
I always tagged along and listened to Jody brag to her friend Beth about Sugar Babe.
"I can't believe she's mine," Jody would boast. "Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure I'm not dreaming."
"She's a beauty all right," Beth always answered. "Much better than that little squirt you rode back when you were in the fourth grade."
I would go into the stall and pet Pokey. She never failed to nuzzle my hand as if to let me know she understood. After all, she was little too.
I constantly wished that I could grow to be Jody's size in about a week. I knew that was silly and no one could grow that much in a week, but it was fun thinking about doing all the things Jody could do.
Early one morning I was awaken by the pounding of a hammer. I drag my body from the bed and stumbled over to the window to see what was going on. Grandpa was nailing up posters advertising his annual horse show. I moped across the room and crawled back into the bed. I'm not interested, I thought. I never get to enter any of the events anyway.
I spent the next few days feeling sorry for myself. I guess you could say I was pouting. I wouldn't go to the barnyard because I knew Jody was there. I could see her from my bedroom window, and was envious as I watched her practice riding Sugar Babe in the show arena. Oh, how I wished I could be her size just for the day of the show.
Friday morning I was cleaning Pokey's stall while Jody and Beth were grooming their horses. Beth had brought her horse Honey Bun over Wednesday to get ready for the show.
"Sugar Babe's sure to win the barrel racing event," Jody gloated. "You've seen how fast she runs those barrels."
"You're absolutely right," Beth said seriously. "That horse is going to be a real champion."
"That horse is going to be a real champion," I mimicked under my breath. "I wish they'd take their horses some place else to groom them."
I had to sit through supper Friday night listening to Jody brag how sure she was that Sugar Babe would win the barrel races. All the time we were doing the dishes she didn't let up. I was glad when it was time to go to bed, at least I wouldn't have to listen to her brag any more.
I wish it would rain tomorrow, I thought, and then she couldn't ride in the show.
I woke up to the sun peeping around the edge of the pink ruffle curtains. "I should have known it wouldn't rain," I grumbled. "I'm not watching the show this year. It's no fun just watching."
"Amanda," Mom yelled. "It's time to eat breakfast. "Hurry before it gets cold."
I'll have to listen to Jody brag all through breakfast, I thought. Maybe I can manage to ignore her.
I could feel everyone staring at me as I pushed my eggs and bacon around in the plate.
"Let's get the dishes done, Squirt," Jody said not mentioning anything about the show. "Come on, I'll beat you to the kitchen."
We finished the dishes and I went to my room. Maybe Jody's sick, I thought. No, she can't be sick, she's in her room getting dressed for the show.
The show began at one o'clock and the barrel race was the very first event. "The winner of the barrel racing event is Jody King on Sugar Babe," came crisp and clear over the loud speaker. "With a record time of fifteen seconds."
Jody had worked hard, I thought. She really deserved to win. I decided to go watch the show for just a little while. Besides, I was getting bored staring at the teensy white flowers on the pale pink wallpaper.
I was walking across the yard when the speakers roared again. "And second place goes to Beth Lane on Honey Bun," the announcer said. "With a time of sixteen point seven seconds."
"That does it," I said wheeling around. "I'm not watching. I'll have to listen to both of them brag for months. I'm going back to the house and stay there."
I watched Pokey from the window picking a few straggly blades of grass when I caught a glimpse of Grandpa coming toward the house. His face was red and he was out of breath from walking so fast.
"Amanda, Amanda," he shouted. "Where are you"?
"I'm in my room," I said. "I don't want to watch the show."
"How about entering"? He grinned sheepishly as he came into my room. "I've added a new event and it's just your size. It's a prettiest mare contest. Go to the barn and get Pokey ready. You've barely got enough time if you'll hurry."
I grabbed Grandpa around the neck and gave him a bear hug, "You're the greatest Grandpa," I cried. "I really do love you."
I snatched two red ribbons from the dresser on my way out and ran to the barn fast as my short legs would carry me. I brushed Pokey's long full coat, and tied the red ribbons in her mane. I slipped the bright red halter over her head then stepped back to admire my great artwork.
"You're going to win, girl," I said. "You'll be the prettiest mare there."
I latched the white lead rope to the ring on Pokey's halter and led her to the arena. It was time to enter the show ring by the time we got there. I looked at Sugar Babe all slick and shinny, and Honey Bun's hair was white as freshly fallen snow. They both stood out among all the other horses.
What judge in his right mind would pick two little squirts over those gorgeous horses? I thought. I'm just going to embarrass Pokey and me both in front of the whole crowd. Why did I enter this dumb show anyway?
I stood in line watching the judge stop in front of each horse. He walked around slowly looking them over then wrote something on his note pad. He tore off a sheet of paper and handed it to the announcer.
I'd cover my ears, I thought, but Mom would skin me alive for not showing good manners.
"The winner of the prettiest mare event goes to Pokey," the announcer said. "Step forward Amanda King to receive your blue ribbon."
"We won, girl," I squealed. "We really truly won. I knew we could do it all the time, didn't you"?
"I'm glad you won, Squirt," Jody smiled hugging me. "Congratulations!"
Jody wasn't such a bad sister after all. I just hadn't realized what a good sport she was.
I thought at that time, I wanted to grow up to be just like her, and in many ways I have, especially learning to be a good sport. Now that we're grown, I always put my arms around Jody and hug her tight before entering the arena now. And I never fail to say, "Good luck, Sis, may the best rider win."
Copyright © 1992 Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.