Cobb book brings back memories of a stubborn pony

Some days it takes a gentle nudge to jog my memory. This week I got a nudge from the late Ty Cobb.

Mike Sion, editor of "My Virginia City: A Columnist's Memories" is looking for help getting the word out about a new book of columns written by Cobb.

Cobb was a Virginia City native who spent 60 years as a journalist. Known first for his sports writing, he is probably best known for his columns -- Cobbwebs.

A book signing for "My Virginia City," a collection of 37 Cobb columns about the Comstock, will be from 1-4 p.m. June 23 at the Fourth Ward School. The books sell for about $20 and proceeds will benefit the historic school where Cobb graduated in 1933.

In "My Virginia City" Cobb reflects on his boyhood in the shadow of Sun Mountain, the glory days of the bygone boom of a mining town and a whole slew of characters I too remember.

But the biggest jog Cobb gave my memory has mostly to do with Princess the pony.

The first column of Cobb's book talks about his parents' efforts to help him recoup from a serious illness by purchasing him a Shetland pony. A pony the now late Jack Flanagan remembered years later as "A mean, vicious little critter."

In addition to taking me on several jogs through the countryside surrounding Virginia City and Gold Hill, Princess delighted most in tossing me on the ground.

In the company of other equines the four-legged beast really was a princess. She'd keep up with my dad's Arabian, Fannie, and go forever. It was only when you turned toward home or when just riding in the pen things got exciting.

Princess and I would traipse north toward Virginia City along the old V&T Railroad bed to meet up with my cousin. The more we'd climb, the more the saddle would slide, requiring several stops along the way for cinch tightening. Each stop to Princess meant it must be time to return home, back to the peace of her pen, a full water trough and some hay. But she was often wrong.

More often than not, I'd end up doing the one-legged hop as she'd try to reel around and head home. I'd have to jump quick, which sometimes meant I'd land on my bottom under her belly if I hadn't tightened the cinch all the way. I probably should have abandoned the saddle at the first and rode bare back, but I didn't.

Going downhill was worse. The tiny saddle would slide up on her neck despite my best efforts to get it to stay put. On several occasions, I'd just abandon ship and Princess and I would trudge single file down the mountain side.

They say, though I'm not sure who "they" are, that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Well, in this case I can credit Princess for much of my strength because she made it her mission to try to kill me on several occasions.

When my family first moved to lower Gold Hill I was about 2 years old. We had a great pond, which in time became the upper horse corral after the county fixed its leaky water system and the pond dried up.

The rim of the pond was Princess' and my riding path. The training ground, as it were, for our adventures forth in the sage covered hills.

The bottom of the pond became the straightaway or rodeo ground depending upon her mood.

She'd take off at a lope and for the first four strides we were as one, then she'd drop her head and launch me like a rocket. Just how far or fast I flew isn't nearly as important as the landing. In horseback riding, as in anything where you're airborne, gravity always prevails.

I would land with a thud in the hard-packed pond sediment, breathless and in defeat.

She, in victory, would wander over to where I lay, place each front hoof just above my shoulders, put her face down to mine and laugh. And at that point my dad would come over tell me to get back on and try again.

Like they said, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Kelli Du Fresne is a native of Virginia City and features editor at the Nevada Appeal.


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