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Ol’ Sticky

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Does imagination ever live stronger, or less fettered, than in the mind of a child playing make-believe? Give a boy or girl a stick horse and he's suddenly chasing outlaws across a desert or she's riding the range amongst the purple sage. In the blink of an eye, that cowboy-marshal can switch to being a great Apache Chief, a yellow-bandanaed cavalry officer or, maybe, a he-bull rancher who settled the country and now defends his million acre spread from late-comers. This poem is my hat-tip to  the unabashed glee of childhood and the wonder-filled imagination and creativity that abides in the uncluttered minds of children.

Ol’ Sticky

Right smack in the middle of Montana
Was our family farm where I grew up
It was the perfect place to be a kid
With my cap gun, my sister and my pup

My sister and I played together
Mostly Cowboys and Indians out back
Or lawmen chasin’ bad outlaws
I was the Blackfoot scout who could track

There weren’t much cash on our little farm
Dad said we had just enough to get by
Mom was forever clippin’ coupons
Augmentin' our slim  groceries supply

I always wanted to ride a horse
Figured it'd be the most real way to play
I begged Mama for one when I was four
She said she'd sure get me one ... one day

I regular reminded her of her promise
Especially as Christmas was drawing nigh
She just gave me her Mom-smile
Learnin’ me to be a patient little guy

Finally on my birthday she said he was here
I got all excited and ran outside
Yee haw, I finally had me my horse!
I was gonna throw a leg over and ride

From the front porch I beheld a stallion
A fine, tall stick-horse with a leather rein
I quick-mounted up right eagerly
Grabbing a handful of cotton-mop mane

We dashed off down a dusty trail
Hollerin’ Hi Yo Silver away!
Then I reared him up like Trigger
His forelegs pawin’ air all a’splay

Every horse needs a good name
"Sticky" was what mine answered to
Lookin’ back that wasn’t very original
But perhaps the best a five year old could do

I rode him everywhere I went
Taught him to walk, trot and back-up
You should'a seen him at a gallop
Man that stallion had some giddyup

I swear I could hear him whinny loud
Whenever I’d call out his name
In my dreams when I’d whistle, 
Happily trottin’ over to me he came

Naturally Sticky didn’t eat much
He was sure enough cheap to keep
I’d occasionally curry with sandpaper
Right next to my bed he’d sleep

You mighta’ knowed he was a painted horse
Bein’ a wooden stick-horse and all
And when that tinted covering got worn
He simply looked more seasoned as I recall

He never needed doctorin’ or shoein’
And he never wore out his tack
Only took a little glue to fix him
That time when his neck got a crack

I had the strength to pick him up
When he’d fall over time to time
I’d tenderly dust of his feelin’s
And right back on him I’d climb

You should’a seen that horse float
Best times were down to the river
If I’d get tired I’d hang on to his tail
Seein’s he was wet, I never got no sliver

We’d play rodeo over in the bullpen
Sticky and I were the pickup team
My sister bending coffee can barrels
We were powerful-livin’ the cowboy dream

I tied him up with the big horses
When I started goin' to school
He got kicked and splintered once
When I tied him next to Willy’s mule

Sticky was gone one day when I came out
He'd never much cottoned to bein’ tied
I found him at the house and scolded him
For makin’ me walk home ‘stead’a ride

by Rik Goodell

© 2022. All rights reserved


This nostalgic painting by Vickie Wade will take many of us right back to our childhood. I am grateful for the opportunity to post it here alongside my poem. See many more of her inspired paintings at

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