A bluebird sat on a fencepost, whistling a merry tune. A chipmunk chewed on a cloverleaf as he scampered through the dew. But all was lost on Beauty as she stared across the dale, and watched a team of horses pull a wagon up the hill.
“What a pitiful kind of horse I am!” she thought with a wistful sigh. “I do no work to earn my keep, I just watch the world go by! Day after day I whirl and spin ‘til I think I will go mad. And all the while real horses run and frolic in the grass!”
Her longing gaze swept past the road to a meadow across the way, where a small white pony ran about and munched on fragrant hay. All of a size the ponies were, both sported coats of white. Their eyes were black, their noses pink, their hooves well-shaped and light. But one possessed the gift of life as she ate the meadow hay. The other was made from a Linwood tree and painted with colors gay.
The pony’s name was Flicka and she had her dreams as well. For she often thought how it would feel to live on a carousel. “Just think how wonderful it would be to spin while the music plays. To run in the midst of twinkling lights and wear such bright array! If only I could make a wish, I’d trade with the white one there. Who looks like me, only grander far than an ordinary mare!”
Now it happened on that very day a Wood Elf happened to be exactly in the middle, precisely in between; as the painted pony wished a wish that was echoed from below by a softly breathing real live horse, her black eyes all aglow. The Wood Elf clapped his hands before, he clapped them twice behind. Three times he clapped them over his head as the wishes flew entwined. “So! Let it be!” the Wood Elf cried. “Let’s see how they behave when each to the other’s world is thrown, and now, the switch is made! “Twill last until each spurns the life she prized above her own. But each must wish in a moment’s time, as they wished here, both alone!”
Beauty found herself knee-deep in clover and she knew somehow a new dimension had opened to her view. She saw away upon the hill the carousel and park, with pennants flying in the breeze and horses light and dark. She trembled with excitement, prepared to take a step, but tripped and tumbled to the ground, at walking, quite inept! It took some time to learn to use the body she had found. But soon her hooves were pounding hard upon that meadow ground. She tasted water from a spring flavored with leaves of mint. She ran a race with a butterfly, just for the fun of it. No matter that each time she ran she circled roundabout, or that she had a habit of jumping up and down!
She ran so long and hard that day her legs began to cramp. Her tail was full of cockleburs, she’d been bitten by an ant. She waded in a spring-fed stream but slipped and fell in the mud. Her shiny coat was soiled and dull with no one to give it a rub. At close of day she looked around with eyes grown newly wise. “Some parts of this new life, I see, are not so very nice! I kind of miss the twinkling lights and the children on my back. And I especially miss the nice young man who gave my daily bath!” She remembered how he always waxed her saddle ‘til it shone, and polished her eyes so they gave off sparks, but now she stood alone.
No one came to pat her, no chubby arms took hold. No bobbing curls tickled her nose; she missed the music bold. The sun went down, the air turned chill as Beauty took account of how it really felt to be away from the Carousel.
Meanwhile, Flicka was spinning around upon that magic wheel, with fancy trappings upon her back and a similar tale to tell. She’d found herself transported to a frozen world of wood, with never a chance to stretch her legs – she’d never understood – that all the dancing movement came not from the mounts themselves, but from a great machine that held the ponies in its spell. She could only see the meadow for a second now and then, and the fragrance of sweet clover she longed to smell again was lost in the smell of dust and oil; in cotton candy clouds. And, she found when she tried to whinny, she could not make a sound!
“I threw away my freedom for a dream I thought was grand. But now I know how fine it was to run across the land! To be so close to grass and sky that I could taste and feel the sweetness of the morning dew and earth beneath my heels!” She almost wished the wish it took to change their roles again; but the lights blinked on and a laughing child climbed on to take a spin.
Many days went slowly by while the ponies longed for home. And each one vowed she’d never ask for a fairer field to roam. No one came to the meadow gate to take sad Beauty out. She was no more useful here, she knew, than spinning roundabout. “At least up there I charmed a child as he rode upon my back. And I liked the sound of squeaky boards on the undulating track!”
The Wood Elf watched the ponies as he passed them once again. But no one saw him, save the birds, as he walked from now to then. At last he sat on Flicka’s back one night when all was dark. And told a secret that made her glad before he left the park. Next day she watched each time around to see what Beauty did. And, sure enough, there came a time when she stood with lifted head. She gazed so sadly up the hill toward Flicka and the rest, that Flicka knew she was thinking about the life she dearly missed.
“It’s time!” the pony whispered, and she wished with all her might. The Wood Elf smiled to see at last the problem had been set right. Each pony found her special place and stood contented there. And neither ever wished again another’s lot to share. Now, if you ride on Beauty, you just might get to see how quietly happy she’s become and how content to be a pony on the carousel, a ticket for a ride, giving dreams a place to grow for each happy little child.