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Column: Buckets of mush and prayers to see ol’ Charlie Horse through
Ronda Rich
Ronda Rich

The summer after we married, I gave Tink his most treasured gift.

A handsome brown-and-white paint horse who came with registered papers and a sophisticated name, which Tink changed to Charlie in honor of his great-great grandfather, Charlie Tinker, who worked for President Lincoln in the White House.

Tink, a city boy, dreamed all his life of owning a horse. This desire, undoubtedly, started with the Christmas gifts from Walt Disney. Not the company. The man. 

Tink’s father and Mr. Walt Disney were friends. Annually, Mr. Disney sent a big box of Christmas gifts to the children of his friends. Tink adored the cowboy outfits, hats and holsters.

When I decided to buy him a horse, I wanted it to be purchased with dollars I had earned. I wanted to include in the gift a bit of sweat from my brow and work from the turn of my hands. I’ve always been a saver and have rarely ever taken from money I saved.

I made an exception.

From a safe deposit box, I pulled money that I had been saving since I was 10. It was babysitting money, college jobs, Christmas gifts, tax refunds and a $100 bill that an old woman once gave me for the many errands I ran for her as a favor. She was dying and time was drawing nigh.

“I want to settle my debts before I go,” she said. “I know you never helped me for money but I want you to have this.”

The money I retrieved from the box was so old that the design of the denominations had changed at least twice. It was antique money and probably worth more than the face value. The teller called over the bank manager to have a look at the old money.

In horse terms, it was a modest amount, but it bought a good 15-year-old horse. On the morning that Charlie was to be delivered, Tink woke up, sat straight up and exclaimed, “Baby! Charlie comes today!”

The 8-year-old John Tinker, who received a big Christmas box of goodies, was no happier than the grown-up John Tinker who was about to have his lifelong dream: a horse.

Over the years, I occasionally mentioned to someone that Charlie was once a world champion and Tink would quickly interject, “He was NOT. That makes it sound like he was a grand and expensive horse and he wasn’t.”

He was to me because it had taken 35 years of saving.

Despite Tink’s protestations, Charlie is a champion of some kind. I don’t know what exactly but it had something to do with standing still and having a big rear end.

Now, he just eats a lot, bosses the barn and has a life of adoration. Recently, Charlie was losing weight so Tink called the vet. When Tink returned from the barn, he was downcast with a sadness cloaking his face.

“Charlie has a heart murmur,” he said quietly. “He could live for years or he could go quickly.”

My heart broke. For Tink. For Charlie. And for me.

In the months since, Tink has stepped up determinedly. He makes buckets of mush for Charlie and gives him an abundance of tender loving care. We pray for him daily, believing more in the prayers than the buckets of mush.

The other day, Dr. Pam returned to check on Charlie. I was at the barn, sweeping as they talked. She said, “Charlie is a good name.”

Without breaking my sweep, I said, “His real name is Skips Fancy Enough. His father was Skips and his mother was Fancy.”

“Oh yes,” she replied casually. “I know the Skips line. It’s famous.”

I stopped sweeping. Tink’s jaw dropped. This was big news.

“Tink, I TOLD you so,” I exclaimed.

What’s really amazing is what $2 an hour in ancient babysitting money was able to buy.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Sign up for her newsletter at Her column publishes weekly.