When I was a kid, I always wanted a pony. I never got one, despite the fact that we lived on a farm with room a'plenty for a pony or two. I think my parents always figured it was the typical little-girl-horsey obsession thing and I'd grow out of it. I didn't, not really. I still kind of want a pony. Although I'd have to get a horse, these days. My legs would probably drag on the ground if I got a pony.
So, anyway, pony. I wanted a pony.
My parents, conservative hippies that they were, were very into cross-country camping trips. So we were visiting the Grand Canyon for the second time when I was five. The South Rim, specifically. (Much drier and less interesting than the North Rim, IMHO...) As you probably are aware, the Grand Canyon is famed for their mule rides. You can take a whole day ride, a half day ride, a short jaunt, or even do an overnight trip. Some of the trips actually go down into the canyon, and some just skirt the edge. Mules, strange unnatural freaky things that they are, are for some reason considered sure-footed and thus are preferred for precarious canyon trips. Personally, I think that they're just bigger and cuter than donkeys, and are used for that reason. Oh, and because horses are basically assholes and are unlikely to go into a damn canyon if they don't want to go into a damn canyon.
I wanted desperately to take a mule trip.
Of course, (back then, anyway) that was not going to happen with a five and a three year old in tow. Never mind that I was the five-year-old in question. No mules. No horses. No animal riding of any kind.
I was bitterly disappointed.
Of course, I was also very creative and perhaps a bit "eccentric" (a five-year-old can't really be crazy, can they?). I concocted an imaginary friend. Specifically, an imaginary mule. Her name was Jenny.
From then on, Jenny accompanied us on the trip. I rode her up and down hills, over winding roads, past historic landmarks. She was a very good mule, quite undemanding in every way. I just needed to pluck a few blades of grass every now and again and fling them down in front of her for her to "eat". If we'd go out for dinner, I'd wail plaintively: "But what will we do with Jenny?"
The answer, my parents assured me, was to tie her up to a nearby tree, or post, or even the blue VW rabbit we were driving. This worked beautifully. Except when I occasionally asked the waiter/ress for a carrot for my mule, who was tied outside. This may have elicited some strange looks.
Jenny came home with us, but it was never really the same. I rode her, but only back and forth to my grandparents' house, or just outside while I was playing. She didn't get much exercise during the day, or anytime I just plain didn't feel like playing with an invisible mule.
Then, whether it was gradually or just a sudden one-day thing, Jenny was gone. Much like little Jackie Paper deserted Puff the Magic Dragon, I deserted poor Jenny the Mule.
It makes me wonder--where do all the imaginary friends go when their creators are done playing with them?