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    Chapter 21

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    Chapter 21
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    JUMPING MUD PUDDLES



    Johnnie Green had often ridden bareback. Lacking a pony, before Twinkleheels came to the farm to live, he had ridden the old horse Ebenezer back and forth between the barn and the pasture, guiding him by his halter rope.

    Ebenezer was a steady old fellow. He never jumped nor shied. He preferred walking to any other gait. Without a whip Johnnie Green had hard work to make him trot. It took a great deal of drumming against his ribs by Johnnie Green's heels to induce him to hurry his steps.

    Twinkleheels was different from Ebenezer. He was frisky. Yet Johnnie sometimes put a bridle on him and rode him without a saddle. Especially after the circus men came along and pasted posters on the barn Johnnie Green liked to ride bareback. He had a notion that some day he would learn to ride standing on Twinkleheels' back.

    Farmer Green, however, did not approve of that plan. When Johnnie mentioned it to him he said "No!" in a most decided fashion. "That pony would be sure to throw you," he told Johnnie.

    "I could try standing on Ebenezer first," Johnnie suggested. "His back is broader. And he certainly wouldn't object."

    Somehow his father didn't care for that scheme either. "We don't want any broken legs around here," he declared, "nor necks, either. Broken necks are very slow to mend."

    So Johnnie Green had to give up his plan, for the time being. He made up his mind, however, that when he was grown up he would learn to ride standing up--and turn somersaults in the air off a horse's back. But now he knew that he must content himself with less risky sports.

    Something happened one day that caused Johnnie to admit to himself the wisdom of his father's advice. He was riding Twinkleheels along the road, bareback, after a heavy rain. And the first thing that Johnnie knew he was sitting almost on Twinkleheels' tail. Instead of splashing through a big mud puddle, Twinkleheels had taken it into his head to jump it.

    His leap took his rider unawares. Johnnie had slipped to the rear as if Twinkleheels' back had been greased. And if he hadn't clutched the bridle reins he would have dropped off into the very middle of the puddle.

    After that Johnnie kept a sharp eye out for mud puddles. When he knew that Twinkleheels was going to jump one he had no trouble in sticking to his seat.

    Soon Johnnie decided once more that it would be easy to learn to be a circus rider. Certainly it was no trick at all to sit on Twinkleheels' bare back so long as he knew what the pony was going to do. It was as easy as walking a tight rope. And that was a feat that Johnnie Green had already mastered.

    He only broke a collar bone learning that.
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