There is a classic problem from Algebra that torments many a math student. If one driver leaves New York going 150 miles an hour, and another leaves Chicago going 200 miles an hour, where do they meet? (the answer- jail; they both were arrested for speeding!) Another classic problem haunts Calculus students, in which the volume created by revolving a function around a line is calculated. It is that latter problem that I was reminded of as I watched daughter, who would soon be too big to be riding such a small animal, ride a pony around a circular path last weekend.
We went to a picnic last weekend held at a park that is a working farm. We went there often when my daughter was younger, and I took her there for the first time when she was in a stroller, which she needed to be able to sit up to be able to see the animals. I remember struggling to get the stroller onto a horse drawn wagon that takes visitors around the park, and of being thrilled when I managed to get it onto the wagon and point out the horses to her, all the while gasping for breath. Getting it down was more of a struggle, but we managed, and then I pushed her into the building that held the baby animals, adding my own infant to the collection of piglets, bunnies and baby sheep.
As she started to walk, taking her to the park became a little more difficult, as she liked run around and to see everything and to touch as much as she could get her hands on. I remember watching the demonstration of the Border collie rounding up sheep, and wishing that I also had someone to round her up when needed. We came back almost weekly in those days, often bringing neighborhood friends with us. I always loved the baby piglets, who, so little and pink, kind of reminded me of human babies. One summer, we rooted on the “runt” of a litter of piglets, who was so tiny that needed to be fed with a baby bottle. We were happy to learn that it was still alive at the end of the summer. This, of course, avoided the question of what happened to the pigs in the long run. After all, this was a working farm, and most of the animals were not sold to become someone’s pets. I tried to keep this truth from my daughter as much as possible, but she eventually realized that the chickens in the barn and the chicken sandwich she liked to eat had similar beginnings.
It was at this park that she took her first ride on a pony. She was only about three years old, and I thought she would surely fall off. Instead, she sat up straight and held on, looking ahead with a regal expression on her face as the pony took a one dollar per minute walk around a path. It took investigating the possibility of horseback riding lessons to convince me that the price of a pony ride was really not as expensive as it seemed.
That first pony had hair the same color as her own, and its tail matched, in some ways, the ponytail she wore on her head. The pony was named “Sunshine”, and when we went back to the farm a few weeks later, we were able to find it in a stall in the barn. With a little girl sound to her voice, and pronunciation that hinted of future struggles with language, my daughter happily greeted her old friend. “Hello, Sunchine. I’m back!” We always made a point of letting her ride Sunshine whenever we went to the park, and, if Sunshine was not available, we would let her ride one of its cousin ponies.
Last week, as the party wound down, my daughter asked me if we could go see the horses. So we went back to the farm that had been the site of so many lazy afternoons with my daughter in her first few years. We rode the horse drawn wagon, which was now much easier to climb onto, and visited the barn, where the baby animals were growing up. There were no piglets this time, but she had enough knowledge now to explain to me that they were probably in the belly of the big mother pig, who might actually be one of the baby pigs we had seen a year earlier.
I found myself growing sad as we made our way through the park, as I knew that I would probably not come back for a while. She was really getting too old to be entertained by the park anymore, and she had started to become more interested in other things, such as hanging out with her friends.
Still, in the minutes before we left, we took a detour as she took one last walk around the pony path on her old friend, Sunshine.