John, the Irish groom would saddle up Little Joe and I would spend long periods of time roaming around the 250 acres, exploring the endless hills, fields of alfalfa, hay and corn and the meadows where horses and cows grazed. I became more confident with each ride. Joe was a perfect horse to train a young girl! He began his life as a wild range horse in Wyoming. He was caught and broken by a rancher who sold him to the Calvary where he was used during the first world war to train the calvary. After the war he was sold to a polo player and spent many years as a polo pony. He stood about 14.3 hands, not a pony technically but a small compact horse with great spirit as well as gentleness. He was my perfect and best friend. And on rainy days, when I was in need of some companionship and comfort, I would spend hours talking to Joe- scratching under his “chin”, behind his ears and sharing hands- full of sweet feed with him. The possibility that mice and other vermin may have roamed through the sweet feed barrel never occurred to me.. or to Joe for that matter. He would give a happy little snort from time to time. And it did taste really good… sort of an early granola..
The day would begin with my dressing for school, going down to the dining room for breakfast which was usually served by Nixon. I would then leave the house through the kitchen where the cook would hand me a lunch box to take to school with me. The adventure of the long trek to the bus would begin with walking down the half-mile-long driveway, across Thornton Road to a farmer’s dirt road. There was a little wooden bridge that crossed the stream… (and during rainy springtime, often would overflow the banks and flood the pasture surround. The water would sometimes reach my knees.) After another half mile walk there would be an ancient deserted red barn full of dark glassless windows with strange sounds coming from it. I was convinced there was the cackle of witches but I imagine it was the sound of crows. Then a short walk along the railroad tracks (B&O or Pennsylvania RR… can’t recall) past the few amenities of Riderwood. Next move, cross the tracks..but always look both ways!.. Then under and up the underpass to Joppa Rd. where I waited for the old green bus with the long nose driven by Mr. Padgett. If I missed the bus, I would begin a walk to Towson which was 4 miles away. Bust most of the time, Beau and Louisa Ridgely (friends of Aunt and Uncle) would drive along next to me and offer to give me a ride. It was an old two seater with a small compartment in the back which I would squeeze into.
Louisa would regale me with stories about her cousin, Wallis Windsor. They spent much of their childhood together. This was 1940 and there was much talk of Wallis and the Duke of Windsor and why on earth h would abdicate the throne of England to marry her. The Ridgelyes lived in an ancient ESTATE nearby which recently I read was haunted.