Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kids on Ponies

Deby Miranda, Los Angeles, CA
There used to be this guy ... he'd come through the neighborhoods with a pony and a set of child-sized, mythologically-correct cowboy gear: the hat, vest, chaps, sometimes a bandana.  And he'd smooth-talk the parents while the pony charmed their kids: a picture, just a few dollars, every kid's dream.  Remember that guy?  More importantly, remember that pony?

It's the iconic American Childhood photograph: a kid, somewhere between three and twelve years old, seated on a generic pony.  Sometimes frightened and cowering, sometimes living the fantasy with a yell or a waving hat, the children vary by age and ethnicity, but the theme is always the same: Wild West!  Cowboys!  (Injuns!)

I have two of these photographs.  In one, I am sitting with a broad grin, but fairly sedate.  That's the cover of Bad Indians.  In the other, much faded, I have my left hand raised in a proud "V," giving the peace sign.  This second picture makes me think that my father was the adult who put me up on that pony; he loved encouraging the Brown Power Fist or the Peace Sign.  Or, perhaps he was already gone by then, and I was signaling to his absent spirit, far away in San Quentin.  Either way, that second picture has my dad's flare for the radical flashing across my face.

Because the Peace Sign photo was too faded to work well on a book cover, I used the sedate version for Bad Indians.  But you know which one is my favorite.

 Do you have a Kid on Pony picture of yourself?  Send it to me at and I'll put it up here.  

Two of my sisters have already started off the collection with their contributions!
Louise J. Miranda Ramirez, Seaside CA

Patricia Miranda Maldonado, Seaside CA

Send me YOUR kid on a pony moment!

Tiara Ramirez, San Jose CA

Terry, Grand Rapids, MI

Susan, Columbus OH

Mickey, Seattle WA

Johnny and Jenny, Butte Montana

Timmy, Los Angeles CA

Katrina, Albuquerque NM
Joshua, Chicago IL

Margaret, Portland OR
Rosa, Tijuana Mexico

Chris, Kansas City MO
Ku'ualoha Ho'omanawanui says,
 So this is "riding a pony Hawaiian style." That's me on the right, one of our old time paniolo cowboys Keoki Ka'eo, a rodeo legend back in the 1950s on the left, my sister and our friend Tina in front. Keoki's horse's name in Manyana. The horse I'm on is Peso Bar. This is about 1972.

Rosie (Age 5) and German Gonzalez (Age 2), Photo: Recuerdo Del Parque Agua Azul, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, August 21, 1970.


Mira L.  Love the photo of a photo that's happening here!

Here is mine. Was going to use it as my back cover photo on my next novel (my first novel Yellowbird won the NWCA first-book award. my second novel--Dragonfly, Walking Stick just out). Cheers, Judy Smith

  "As you can see from attached photo, I also rode the range at a young age—perhaps 20 years before you did—watched over by my own Jewish mother.  Having so much in common with you, I look forward to attending your 17 Jan reading at California Historical Society, especially to hear about aspects of your life that differ from mine." - Harvey Hacker

Jacqueline Marx on the middle pony in Morristown, Tennessee - now Cantor at Temple Emanu-El in New Jersey.  She's a secret writer, folks; just wait till her book comes out!  If it's anything like what I've seen so far, it should knock your socks off.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 24: Autobiography of a Name

Autobiography of a Name

Another girl – that’s what my father said.
Five! Disgusted, he went out for a drink.
He had a crush on Debra Paget, a B list 
movie starlet.  My mom took classes with her
at Hollywood Professional High so 
she said yes, as long as we spell it right.

“Ann” came from my mother’s then-best friend.
Lived downstairs, shared cigarettes, coffee,
rides to the grocery store. Two women, camaradas
in this war called womanhood. I know how it is:
sick kids, errant husbands, secrets no one 
else knows to this day. Best friends -
till one moves away. Or runs away, 
and never comes back.

And "Miranda," well, that’s from some Spaniard
who made it across the monster-pocked Atlantic, 
sponsored a neofito, some tribeless Indian 
with a name in the Devil's tongue; saved him
at the baptismal font way down at the tip of Baja,
back when California was still an island, 
still hoarding her gold like a coquette.
From that tiny barren mission, the newly-
minted Mirandas walked all the way up the coast
to Monterey. Imagine that journey. I can’t.
Talk about tough. Tough, and fertile.
Twelve kids in fourteen years; three survived.

So I carry these names, these stories,
these people around on my body like little pebbles
picked up from all the places I’ve been. 
In one pocket, Debra’s best movies: Broken Arrow, 
Ten Commandments.  In another, Ann’s brief loyalty 
to my mother when a friend meant a hand, 
across a ravenous abyss. And that Spaniard: 
Soldier?  Colonist?  Priest? Did he leave his family 
behind, flee the Inquisition? Which ship was he on?
Did he rape Indian women? Sic dogs on children?
It is difficult to imagine a nice Conquistador
in Baja California in the 1600s. But I carry him
around, too. He is the rock in my shoe,
a sharp piece of gravel named choice,
luck, cruelty, kindness. I carry his name
like the son my father wanted.  A name
that lives on, tags us, marks us with a beacon
visible for centuries.

Blog Archive