The horse's pasture to the East...

Monday, September 15, 2014

TASTE : Carrots and Ice Cream, second in a series

Being eight had it's perks. It was 1959 and deep in to Summer. My Grandparents house was in the 1700 block of Kentucky street, in Lawrence, Kansas and it was hot. The asphalt on the street was beginning to bubble, would stick to your shoes if you didn't move fast enough. The sky was white with heat and the few clouds stood still in the metal dome of the sky, waiting. All we had to keep cool were metal fans in the windows and the shade under the trees.

Ding...ding...ding. That was the call of nirvana for all of the little kids in the area. It was the ice cream wagon. This one wasn't a truck like it was at home. This was a wagon pulled by two soft eyed draft horses who knew the route so well that the bored teenager driving them wrapped the reins around the brake and read a book between stops.

Grandma always had a dime for the ice cream cone and a bucket of water and carrots or apples for the horses. That was my job, carrying the water and carrots to the horses. It was how I earned my dime for my ice cream. 

The wagon always stopped one street over on Vermont street in the shade. I'd grab my little brother's hand and off we'd go, down the alley and across through the neighbor's drive. There they were, waiting and watching for me. They knew I had water for them, and carrots. I'd give the first one on the left his much needed drink, standing there in awe of his beautiful brown eye so close to mine, his mane tied up in small braids, leathers creaking while he drank.

The other kids were all around at the back of the wagon where the door was open and cold air poured out in a cloud, picking out their ice cold concoctions. But I was at the neighbor's water hose filling the bucket, ready to carry it back to the other horse, a perfect match with quiet, intelligent brown eyes. He waited so patiently, only calling a little while he watched. It was a long hot day for them and there were other kids along the route who carried water to them, but I was the one with carrots. They 

knew me, looked for me.

I'd stand there breaking the carrots in to pieces for them with my teeth, snap..snap! The carrots were grown by my Grandad so they were always fresh and sweet. I'd stand there chewing on the carrots, taking my own bites and pretending that I was tall, had four legs and deep ginger blonde hair and a white blaze down 

my nose. I was horse when I was 
with them. They would crunch their 
carrots up, blowing their lovely 
grassy breath in my face with big sighs and soft calls to me.

Those moments didn't last long but I never noticed. I was lost in their presence, falling in to their kind eyes and away in a magical place where I was with them every day, running with wind in my hair and ice cream cone flowers that gave forth chocolate and vanilla ice cream cones that didn't melt until I had them in my hand.

It was done, my chore and the focus of every Summer day that I was there. I'd stand there watching them walk down the street away from me, ice cream melting in my mouth and running down my 

arms. I'd catch every single creamy, melted drop before it ever hit the ground and watch them walk away, already dreaming about tomorrow when I would see them again.

The walk home was an adventure in well earned home made ice cream on a cookie cone, made by local Mennonites. I can still taste the cold, snappy carrots and smooth raw milk ice cream, see those lovely giants who did their job so willingly every day but Sunday. The smell and taste of carrots, well water and home made ice cream cones is so clear, so real that I can still hear the clop, clopping of their feet echoing down the long quiet lane and see that old, garish wagon, when I eat an ice cream cone and lick the drips off my arms.

The sense of taste is entwined with the sense of smell, the sounds of the seasons and colors of the light falling through the leaves of the ancient Elms that lined the streets, arching over the roads. When I see that late Summer light, hear the rough calls of cicadas and smell the carrots I cut for my own horses it always gives me a taste of ice cream melting on the back of my tongue, sliding down my throat and dripping, almost, from my elbow.

I can still taste the sounds of two ancient horses, carefully groomed and wearing harnesses that had shaped themselves perfectly to their broad shoulders and chests. I feel ice cream and cookies, see great hooves clopping and remember dreams of my eighth Summer and hear the light falling through 

the leaves quietly playing music that only I could hear.

Ice cream and cookie cones are still my favorite dessert. They lead me to the flavors of my childhood when time moved slow and the sun stood still in a white metal sky.

Sent from my iPad

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