“The Year Everything Changed”: An Unpublished Work by Fred Lape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