The Legend of El Caballo
By Tim Bete

It’s difficult for me to shave the bottom of my chin because I have a deep, crescent-shaped scar there. While the scar is tough enough so that I don’t cut myself, I have to come at it from several angles to get a smooth shave.If you ask my mom or dad how I got the scar, they usually say something like, “When Tim was a toddler he was very clumsy and spent most of his time picking himself up off the floor. One day he fell off his cute little rocking horse and landed on his head.”I can only agree with two aspects of my parents’ explanation of my scar. First, that I was a toddler once. Second, that a horse was involved—or should I say, a renegade stallion that ate two-year-olds for breakfast. His name was El Caballo.El Caballo lived in the basement of our home. His molded plastic body was painted bright blue and green. His face included two big, bright eyes and a large red smile. Most adults, including my parents, thought that El Caballo was cute. I alone knew his secret. El Caballo used his attractive exterior to lure toddlers onto his back so that he could throw them. He was a beast who would not be ridden.If he were still around today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission would find great pleasure in slapping a “rejected” sticker on El Caballo’s back. You see, El Caballo’s base was just narrow enough so that his metal legs came off the ground if he was ridden at more than a trot. The large metal springs attached to each leg and to his body provided plenty of vertical lift. El Caballo’s most dangerous features, however, were the open ends on the top of each metal leg that, coincidentally, had a similar shape to the scar on my chin.It was a Tuesday afternoon and I had just finished three fingers of milk with a graham cracker chaser upstairs at Mom’s Saloon. I wasn’t looking for trouble, but trouble always had a way of finding me. As I gazed across the room, I saw El Caballo grazing with his back toward me. “Now’s my chance to break that metal-legged mustang once and for all,” I thought.I moved toward El Caballo with the bow-legged strut of a cowboy, not because of long hours on the range, but because my diaper was full. I slowly slipped onto his back. “Easy, big fella, I’m not going to hurt you,” I whispered. El Caballo snorted loudly, indicating that he didn’t trust me.Just as I thought El Caballo was growing accustomed to my weight on his back, I spotted the largest mountain lion I had ever seen perched on a ledge ten feet in front of me! I drew my water pistol and fired a warning shot over the giant feline’s head to scare her off. The droplets of water landed on our cat as she sat on the nearby washing machine. She hissed and glared at me before running away, but it was too late. El Caballo knew that I had taken one of my hands off his reins and took the opportunity to rear up on his hind legs to try to throw me!I hung on for dear life as El Caballo lunged forward, then backward, and side-to-side. For two full minutes I countered every move that bouncing bronco had.I don’t know if it was the effect of the shot of milk I had earlier or the smell of my diaper that finally made me lose my concentration. But, while El Caballo was moving right, I leaned to the left and the next thing I knew I was in mid-air, sailing over the horse’s head and onto his front metal leg.As I gazed up from the floor, dazed, dizzy, and hurt, I could see my mother bending over me. “Did you fall off your cute little rocking horse,” she said as she put a cloth to my chin to help stop the bleeding. “Fall?! Cute?! Little?!,” I thought. I could hear El Caballo laughing and snorting behind my mom.I don’t remember ever seeing El Caballo again after that day. Perhaps he was put out to pasture. And while he was dangerous to ride, today’s My Little Ponies and Prancing Princesses just don't have the same character. That’s why, in my family, the legend of El Caballo lives on.Cowboy Timhas had a distinguished career as the editor of Early Childhood News and School Planning and Management.