Remembrances of a 10-year old boy and his horse Falcon!
By: Tim Mooney
That is how my love of horses began!
It was early 1965 and my family was beginning another adventure in Southeast Asia after living in Bangkok, Thailand for approximately 3 years. My father had previously worked for the U.S. Embassy, but was now working for USAID – the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). His first overseas assignment with (USAID) was to Vientiane, Laos as the Director of Public Safety for the American mission.
We arrived on an incredibly hot afternoon to our new home at K-6…the American housing compound – six kilometers from the center of downtown Vientiane. As we entered the compound and pulled into the driveway of our new home, I saw several kids riding horses. They were riding bareback…riding fast…and having the time of their lives.
As we were getting out of the car I said to my parents, “I want one of those!” The reply was swift and definitive from my father. “We will be getting you, your brother and sister bicycles from Sears”. It became clear after a few days that getting bicycles shipped from America, from Sears, in 1965 was going to be a major undertaking and cost a great deal. It also became clear that I was not going to let go of the idea of getting a horse.
After relentless badgering of my parents – and after they found out that the horse would only cost $50 and $5 a month to feed and stable – we began the search for my horse. I found Falcon pretty quickly and he moved into his new home at K-6. I loved that horse the minute I saw him and I began riding him with friends from school that same day. Falcon was friendly, frisky and fast…just what I was looking for in a horse. He was also very fond of my family; in particular, my mother. When I would bring Falcon home to graze in the yard, my mother would bring him carrots, bananas (from our trees in the yard) and all sorts of other treats. She would pet him, wash him and oftentimes walk closely beside and behind him. I always warned her that Falcon could get spooked and possibly kick her…but she was not worried in the least. Falcon just nuzzled up close whenever she came around. I think he was also fond of my older brother Pat…but Pat wasn’t terribly fond of Falcon; particularly after he managed to bite down on the backdoor doorknob, walk into the dining room and head directly for my brother’s birthday cake. The cake was saved but the relationship suffered greatly!
There were five or six of us that rode together often – usually 5 – 6 times a week (except during the rainy season when torrential downpours happened daily and often). We would head to the stables right after school and bridle our horses and ride for hours, bareback, wearing not much more than shorts (at the risk of sounding 1,000 years old, I am not sure they had invented sunscreen at that point!). We would race throughout the countryside of Laos riding 10 – 15 miles a day. One of our most favorite things to do was to jump rice paddies while racing with and/or from water buffalo. We would canter and often gallop through the paddies…racing for hours without a care in the world. Like most 11 – 12 year olds, we were blissfully unaware of any potential dangers. We would swim with the horses (just about the most fun I have ever had) in muddy waters with all sorts of things that make me shudder to think about even to this day. There were leeches (we always carried some salt when we were planning on swimming – in the event we had to remove the leeches from ourselves or the horses), snakes and who knows what other kinds of germs and bacteria in the water. That said, I think the horses were so large that no other animals dared approach them; at least that is what we told ourselves.
I am amazed to this day that none of us was ever injured or thrown from our horses…particularly when we were racing with the water buffalo. It seemed that Falcon and the other horses always seemed to keep us out of harm’s way. I had three wonderful years riding Falcon. Outside of my family, he was the most important thing in my life. When word came that we were moving back to the United States and Falcon would not be coming with us…I was inconsolable! On my final ride with Falcon, I was galloping through a familiar pasture on a brilliant afternoon and remember thinking…”I will never be this free again!” Little did I know that was indeed the truth! And little did I know that after finding my way to the “magic” that is Sprout earlier this year…I think I still “want one of those”!!
I was unable to locate any photographs of Falcon but will share them with you as soon as I can get to our family photo bin (wherever that is these days!). My friends and colleagues from Sprout want to get me “back in the saddle”. Until that happens – if it ever happens – this will have to do!