“The Year Everything Changed”: An Unpublished Work by Fred Lape

By Lee Latimer

In the win­ter of 1981, Fred Lape wrote a sequel to A Farm and Vil­lage Boy­hood,” enti­tled The Year Every­thing Changed.” It was nev­er pub­lished and exists in a type­writ­ten and most­ly unedit­ed form.

The fol­low­ing is an excerpt from that work, which prob­a­bly deals with the years 1930 – 31.

The school was run by two women from Mass­a­chu­setts. Each year, they took about twen­ty chil­dren of wealthy par­ents from the Mass­a­chu­setts coast and Long Island Sound area, pro­vid­ed each with a horse, and taught them the req­ui­sites of low­er grade or ear­ly high school edu­ca­tion. My job would be to ride hors­es with the chil­dren each after­noon and in the evenings to teach a cou­ple of the old­er ones alge­bra. For this I would receive the use of a lit­tle cab­in on the prop­er­ty to live in and my board. I was pro­vi­sion­al­ly engaged. I should come up that after­noon to ride with the chil­dren as a try­out.

I had nev­er rid­den a horse in my life. My expe­ri­ence with hors­es was good, but it was with hors­es hitched to wag­ons or sleighs. I didn’t even know on which side of a horse one mount­ed. I went fran­ti­cal­ly back to Carmel to the man from whom the school hired its hors­es and explained my predica­ment. Give me a gen­tle horse and do the best you can for me in the hour I still have left.” I plead­ed. I can’t remem­ber whether I learned any­thing about rid­ing in that hour, but I went back to the school at two o’clock, hop­ing for a mir­a­cle.

Instead of the gen­tle horse I had asked for, the own­er of the hors­es gave me a con­trary geld­ing with … an aver­sion to being mount­ed and an addic­tion to bit­ing when annoyed. I sup­pose the man hoped that I would fall off and that would be the end of what he con­sid­ered a bad risk for the school. But I man­aged to mount, after some dif­fi­cul­ty. For­tu­nate­ly, the sad­dles used were west­ern sad­dles, from which it is hard to fall off, and once in the sad­dle I man­aged to get my horse more or less in line for the exer­cis­es we were to do. I also man­aged to keep the horse occa­sion­al­ly in line for the exer­cis­es and, at the end of the after­noon, dis­mount­ed suc­cess­ful­ly.

The ladies must have been des­per­ate. I was engaged. Then fol­lowed two weeks of sore legs and blis­ters on my rear and my knees. But I was young, with strong legs and arms. The horse ran away with me once, but I got him under con­trol and even­tu­al­ly learned to like him. At the end of three weeks, I could ride rea­son­ably well. The win­ter in my lit­tle cab­in beside the Carmel was enjoy­able if not pro­duc­tive. In June we took the chil­dren back East by train, and I returned to Esper­ance and to the seri­ous busi­ness of writing.

Spring 2019

Volume 37 , Number 1

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