• 66°

Donnie and Prince provided good childhood memories

By By Lloyd Albritton
Columnist
I was only seven or eight years old when my father bought a pretty little gray mare whose name was Mable. Mable was not old then, but in the fine tradition of farm animal naming, we called her Old Mable from the beginning. I was the second of six children, which fact was chiefly significant in that my brother, Ronnie, who was two years older than I, got to ride in the front and I always had to ride behind him. When we eventually got a saddle for Old Mable, Ronnie rode in the saddle and I still had to ride behind.
Ronnie and I did everything together in those days, though Ronnie always acted like he hated it, especially when his friends and school classmates were around. I was like my brother's shadow. In fact, folks seldom referred to us individually. It was always Ronnie and Lloyd, in one single breathe. I swear, I thought my name was Ronnie and Lloyd until I started school and the teachers started calling me Lloyd.
Later, Daddy bought an old red plowhorse named Doc, or Old Doc, if you will. Old Doc was a huge, big-boned horse with big ears and a round nose, commonly referred to as a Roman Nosed horse. He was heavily muscled with a thick neck and big hooves. Daddy bought Old Doc to plow his corn field and the family garden, but he allowed that I could call Old Doc mine for riding purposes.
Now, when it came to saddle-horse qualities, Old Doc was sorely lacking. He plodded along in a pokey walk, not changing his pace in any appreciable degree with any amount of kicking or whipping. He was also what is called a "tough-mouthed horse," so that not only could I not get him to go any faster than he wanted to go, but when he did get to going, I couldn't get him stopped either. Old Doc was so big and tall that the only way I could get up onto his back was to wait for him to lower his head to eat grass, then I would jump up over his head onto his neck. When he raised his head, I would slide to his back and simply turn around.
In the Sixth Grade, my brother had a classmate named Donnie Patterson, a lanky boy who lived a short distance from us. Donnie had a beautiful little black pony named Prince. Little Prince was a stallion and he was mean as hell. He would buck and rear and bite and wanted to breed everything in sight. Donnie's feet almost drug the ground when he rode Prince and he was constantly complaining about Prince, not only because he was too small for him, but also because he had trouble keeping up with the bigger horses. During the school year of 1955-56, my brother and I became good friends with Donnie Patterson. That summer we rode our horses together almost every day. Not a day went by that Donnie did not cuss his little stallion and swear that his daddy had promised to buy him a bigger horse soon.
When school started in the fall of 1956, Donnie did not show up at school on the first day. When Ronnie and I returned home on the school bus that day, Mama told us right away that we needed to go over and see Donnie's new horse. She said Donnie's family were moving away that day and Donnie had ridden his new horse over to our house earlier in the day for us to see. My brother and I jumped on our horses and hurried over to Donnie's house, but alas, the house had been abandoned. We did not know where Donnie had moved to and never learned. In the ensuing years we often talked about our good friend, Donnie Patterson, and regretted that we did not get a chance to say goodbye to him or to see his new horse.
Over thirty years later, I found myself working for an investment firm in Pensacola as a stock broker. Among the brokers I became acquainted with was a tall, quiet fellow named Don Patterson. Don and I became friends and business associates over a period of about three years. Later we both joined a different firm in Atlanta and shared an apartment there for several months. One evening as we drove together to dinner, we began to share in conversation about our lives, as friends often do, and I told Don that I had grown up in a rural community near Atmore, Alabama. He mused that he also had lived in that area for a short time as a child.
Thinking that we could not be too far apart in age, I asked Don where he attended school then. "I went to a little wood-frame school called Davis Something Or Other," he said.
"Yes, Davis School," I exclaimed. "I attended elementary school there too. It was such a small school that surely we must have known one another, but I don't remember you. Did you go by any other name as a child?"
"Well," Don replied, "when I was a kid, everybody called me Donnie."
I looked at him in amazement. "Did you have a little black pony named Prince?" I asked excitedly.
Donnie snapped his head around in surprise and replied, "Yes, I sure did. How did you know that?"
"You're Donnie Patterson!" I blurted.
He laughed. "Of course I'm Donnie Patterson," he chided. "Don't you think I know who I am?"
"No, you don't understand," I said. "You really are Donnie Patterson. We played together as boys and rode our horses together every day. Don't you remember me?"
Don looked at me hard and said, "No, can't remember you. But I do remember riding my horse with some boys who lived close by and one of them had a big old plow horse and the only way he could get up on him was to wait until the horse ate grass and then he would jump up on his neck."
"Donnie!" I screamed. "That was me!"
Don Patterson and I spent many hours after that day laughing and reminiscing about those days of playing cowboys along the dusty dirt roads and piney woods of a little rural community called Nokomis. The more we talked the more our memories were refreshed. We became closer personal friends after that day and have had a continuing friendship in the years since. Our lives soon took us once again in different directions, but every few years I call Donnie, or he calls me, and we catch up on one another.
I have had many treasured friendships through all the years of my life which have passed into history when we reached a fork in the road and parted ways. Most likely, our paths will never cross again. Yet, it is one of life's great joys when they do.
Lloyd Albritton publishes The Albritton Letters on the Internet at www.Lloyd-Albritton.com. He can be contacted at by e-mail at LloydAlbritton@aol.com or by telephone at (850)384-6676.