Kathleen Gurbacki: Old horse revives happy memories - The Buffalo News
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Kathleen Gurbacki: Old horse revives happy memories

Can we see if my horse is still there? I usually ask my husband, Fred, this question when our travels take us to Buffalo’s East Side. He humors me and turns down the street. The anticipation mounts as the thought of it no longer being there is a possibility. And then, there comes the sigh of relief. Yep. It’s still there! The old boy is about 50 years old now and looks good considering its age.

Now you may be wondering what a horse would be doing on a side street in Buffalo. Well, it actually belonged to my grandmother and obviously it’s not a live horse. But after all these years, I just can’t get over the fact that it still stands guard on the house I grew up in.

My grandparents owned the house, and the horse is one of those aluminum brackets that protects the screen door. Most brackets at that time had a curly-Q design. But my grandmother loved the horse design, so she bought it and put it on the door to the front porch.

My grandmother, Babcia, as we called her, fell in love with Little Joe Cartwright of the television series “Bonanza.” She loved his silly antics and the jokes he played on his brother Hoss. And then there was Joe’s horse – a colorful pinto. Babcia couldn’t get over how beautiful this animal was.

So when she purchased the screen door bracket, she asked me to paint the horse to look like Little Joe’s. I was about 12 years old at the time, and this was a much-preferred project over the one I usually had painting the railings every year so they wouldn’t rust.

Over the years, that horse enjoyed many quiet evenings when the family came through that door to relax on the front porch. It knew everything that was going on in the area because neighbors stopped by to chat.

If that horse could hear, it would have listened to me when I came out that door with my guitar to practice Girl Scout songs that would be sung at summer camp.

If that horse could smell, it would have picked up the scent of my grandfather’s chewing tobacco as he crossed the horse’s path for his daily morning walks.

If it could see, that horse would have noticed the many colorful threads and yarns that my grandmother and I used as we would crochet or do needlepoint on that front porch.

If that horse had a tender heart, it would have witnessed the good-night kiss my boyfriend would give me after each date.

My grandmother’s horse saw me walk through that door with my wedding gown as I left the only home I knew for a new life. My husband and I still share a good-night kiss every evening, as we have for more than 40 years now.

If that horse could cry tears, it would have experienced sadness when the ambulance that took my mother away never brought her back.

Babcia loved Little Joe and his horse. I love the memories that horse brings to mind every time I see it. There are times when I’m half-tempted to stop and tell the current occupants of that house the story of my grandmother and how she came to this country from Poland, learned the language, became a U.S. citizen and fell in love with a horse. I would also tell them that I was the little girl who painted it.

Some people take walks down memory lane. As for me, I have a horse to take me there.

Kathleen Gurbacki lives in Lancaster.

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