In Which Jennifer Sexton Illuminates her Tendency to Sit on Blobs.
“Whoa! What is that?!”
I’m nine years old. My father has just walked me into the garage to show me a surprise he has brought home from work. I open my eyes and I am stunned and baffled by a huge, blobby organic yellowish thing balanced on a couple of boards on top of two sawhorses. I approach the mass, which is five feet long, about 18-inches wide and two feet high. It is rounded on top and flat on the bottom, like a gargantuan Twinkie. It vaguely resembles the headless and legless body of a horse, and perched on the saw horses it is just about horse height. I poke at it. It seems to be made of a firm yet spongy, foamy substance.
“It’s a well plug!” my father announces triumphantly.
My father works for a natural gas company. He started out in the field as a young geologist and engineer, but moved swiftly up through the ranks to become General Manager of Geological Services, complete with suit and tie and glassy corner office downtown, though he would much rather be back out in the field, covered with mud. He savors any chance he gets to visit well sites. Nevertheless, I announce his title with pride whenever anyone asks what my father does. In layman’s or nine-year old’s terms, he is the man who decides where the wells are drilled in our beautiful Western New York State countryside, turning meadows and thickets (like the one where Bambi was born) into ugly muddy puddly scars which quickly sprout over with buttercups and Queen Anne's lace and buzz with cicadas. I am not sure exactly how the well plug works, but it has something to do with squirting foam insulation from a tank truck through a huge hose into a hole in the ground to stop up a well. This plug is what is left after the solidified insulation is pulled from the hole.
“I thought you could carve something out of it,” my father says. Hmm.
I get a knife from the kitchen and stand in front of the big yellow horse blob. I stare at it. I walk around it. I tentatively poke the blade into a spot underneath where it won’t show. I put the knife away.
I get a five gallon bucket, which I turn over and use as a mounting block, and I swing one leg over the big yellow horse blob. I sit on it. It feels like sitting on a horse. I know this, because I ride several times a week at lessons. In a year or so, I will have my first horse, a big red chestnut quarter horse gelding with two white socks on his rear feet and a white diamond between his eyes. I will name him Red Cloud. My second horse will be a big blood bay grade gelding, possibly a draft cross, named Oscar, with a white snip on his nose, a tiny white dot on his forehead, wavy blue-black movie star locks and three white socks. I call him Captain after the old war horse character in “Black Beauty”. Later, without parental consent or knowledge, I will trade a saddle at a 4-H Club meeting for a solid chestnut off-the-racetrack Thoroughbred gelding named Buffalo General, called B.G. for short. But for now, I have my big yellow horse blob in the garage on its saw horses. I sit on it every day.
Even after I have my own horses, I occasionally sit on the big yellow horse blob in the garage between the stacked firewood and the game meat freezer, facing my mother’s sunshine-yellow station wagon. Why? It becomes like a meditation cushion. A familiar-feeling seat where I can let my attention wander, unlike on a real horse, and which my father carried home to me in an uncharacteristic gesture of fatherly congeniality. It’s a place to puzzle. To ponder. To be alone in the chill of fresh air but out of the wind, close to the family but far enough away that their voices hush down to an unintelligible drone. A place to be alone. But not too alone.