This I Believe

Bart - Portland, Oregon
Entered on June 10, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in the power of small plastic horses.

To explain, let me share that my neighbor Marco called the other day to tell me that I am a genius.

I was happy to leave matters at that, but Marco continued. “That plastic horse at the end of your driveway is inspired. How did you think of it?”

What Marco was referring to a plastic toy horse tethered to an iron curbside ring. While Marco admired the whimsy that inspired it, I’m afraid that my pretty pony is by no means unique. If Marco had looked further down the block, he might have noticed a variety of half-pint horses hitched up to the curb. Our Portland, Oregon neighborhood dates back to the early 1900s, and the curbs were designed with iron rings so that horse-drawn vegetable carts and buggies could be safely parked.

These once useful rings have long gone unused until a gentleman named Scott Wayne Indiana came up with the Portland Horse Project. Scott began tethering toy plastic horses onto these iron rings, both as a playful gesture and as a nod to our not-so-distant past. He encouraged others to do the same, and soon hundreds of wannabe horseowners were grazing on his grassroots idea.

Including us. My wife, Lynn, ponied up a dollar for a plastic horse at a garage sale. It cut a small but commanding figure for the street at the same time as other neighbors began giving free rein to their playful side. One of our neighbors has a full-size rocking horse tied up by her driveway, and we’ve also seen cows, pigs, and once, even a dinosaur tied to its own prehistoric hitchin’ post.

I duly informed my neighbor Marco of all this. But despite our conversation’s merry tone, it ended with the most disappointing words I’ve ever heard.

“Well,” said Marco, “it really is a brilliant idea. But I guess you’re not a genius after all.”

I guess not.

And I also guess we should have known that horse rustlers might take our plastic horse. After about a year, the horse did in fact disappear. But amazingly, within the week, a different plastic horse was tied to our iron ring, cheerfully pawing at the turf. Where did it come from? We had no idea. But our anonymous benefactor showed me the true power of these ponies.

Walking through our neighborhood, it’s clearly that the Portland Horse Project has become something more than just a fun idea. Children run from one horse to the next, wondering about the tiny riders who saddle up on them. Visitors take pictures, shaking their heads in puzzlement and admiration. And neighbors interact with each other more, as horse stories are exchanged and tethering styles are compared. In short, the collaborative quirkiness of our pet plastic horse craze has made our big city feel more like a… community.

And that makes the Horse Project not only a stroke of genius, but a little bit of magic as well.