The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Just Like Cinderella

By Lee G. Stallard © 1986

Issue: June, 1986

My little mare, Beauty, clip-clopped briskly along the county road. The antique Studebaker Buggy she pulled was one I had acquired a few years before and restored from a dilapidated state to very nearly its original excellence. Beauty, her white mane and tail flowing in the breeze, was transporting me to an activity unique in today's society.

The clear air was tense with anticipation as I knew the crowd was gathering at the church to receive the bride, lovely in white ruffles and flowers, whom we were supposed to pick up around the next turn and deliver to her wedding.

Beauty and I had shown the buggy and given rides at the community antique day the year before. Joan had been an enthusiastic participant at that outing and had remarked, "When I get married someday, I would like to ride to the church in a horse drawn carriage like Cinderella meeting her prince."

So I answered, "I have the horse and carriage so all you need is the groom, and a pretty girl like you should be able to pick up an incidental like that most any time."

It was some months later when Joan and her mother called at our house. "I am making wedding plans," Joan said. "Could you please, if it isn't too much trouble, be ready with the horse and buggy?"

So here I was attempting to fulfill my part of the bargain. The responsibility and the danger of dogs and automobiles along the road weighed somewhat heavily on my mind.

However, we were on our way and as I rounded the turn, I saw the bride and her twin sister, Judy, waiting rather anxiously for the arrival of her carriage.

Now my grandfather may very well have known just how to get a girl in a long wedding gown up into a buggy with its little iron step and high wheels, but being of a considerably later generation, I wasn't quite sure.

The two girls cooperated enthusiastically. So with much giggling and straightening out of the wedding gown, we got her settled on the seat, covered with its bright yellow blanket, leaving the traditional right hand side for the driver.

Beauty's ears pointed forward and I could feel the power of her. In our mute understanding I knew she was ready for the road. We were off into springtime with its fragrance of lilac bushes, newly seeded fields and suburban flower beds. The orchards, garlanded with apple blossoms and sheltering the newly returned song birds, seemed in tune with the new beginning we were helping to create.

The satisfaction of looking out over your horse from the seat of a splendid driving vehicle and feeling the horse's mouth lightly with the driving lines is an experience few people have had today. The countryside moves gently toward you in all its natural color and you have time to see every bush, tree and mailbox along the road. A scene unfolds before you so different from one seen from the seat of an automobile. Here we were in the 1970's and looking like the 1890's. I felt the excitement but also the strain of delivering the groom's precious and attractive bride into his arms at the church.

We had only gone about a quarter mile when several dogs ran out from a suburban house, barking furiously at this strange conveyance intruding on the privacy of their stretch of road.

Beauty was a gentle mare but this was just too much, so she plunged ahead with all she had. I breathed a short prayer and set about the task of holding her She was gaining speed in spite of my restraint and I thought, I've just got to hold her at any cost!

The fences were really going by on either side and I thought again, Oh God, don't let us wreck this buggy and hurt the bride, to say nothing of spoiling the wedding!

The dogs seemed ferocious and relentless. They had found something they could run after and chase and weren't about to miss it. With their gnashing teeth and savage growls, it appeared as though they were going to eat us up, buggy and all. I stole a glance at my fair passenger. She maintained a white-knuckled grip on the handrail - her eyes wide, her white gown flying in the wind, her veil in disarray, I thought, this would make a good scene in a western movie, but the cowboy who rides up and stops the horse seems to be late arriving. To say the least, I felt a little bit on my own.

Fortunately, the dogs started falling back as we moved out of their territory. By that time, Beauty had decided they were not going to have her for lunch and I could feel her starting to respond to my restraint. I breathed a sigh of relief as I was able to calm her and come down to an easy gait.

Judy, who had been following at some distance in a car, pulled up, so we stopped to put the bride back together. Much to my amazement, she was looking lovely in no time and had stood the ordeal like a true princess. As the excitement started, I had jerked my western hat down hard over my forehead and it had stayed on all the way. All in all, we had come through fine. We proceeded happily and a little more gracefully on to our destination.

As we arrived at the church, a soldierly-like row of white tuxedoed men were waiting to received us and help "Cinderella" out of her coach. When Joan's father lifted her down and took her arm, I felt greatly relieved and said, "Jim my boy, from here on it's your responsibility." So he led her down the aisle to a little different beat of music than the hoof beats of the frightened and running horse that Joan and I had experienced. I tied my horse behind the church while the strains of Mendelssohn's Wedding March sounded softly on the air. Then I joined the wedding party.

At the reception, as I was basking in the first feeling of relaxation and enjoying my second cup of coffee, a number of guests remarked to me, "What a smooth entry you made with your horse and carriage!"

I just smiled and said nothing, thinking, little do they know of the excitement we encountered along the way.

My lifelong love affair with horsemanship, aided by my little mare Beauty, had paid good dividends again in excitement, pleasures and memories. The camera of the photographer and those of the guests were clicking all around; all were happy and that moment was forever ours.