Basic economics – 14-year-old, paper route, horse


Thank God I grew up in a situation where I was not taught to borrow at the drop of a hat.

At fourteen years of age, horses became my saving grace. Although I was raising rabbits and chickens in my suburban back yard, I still did not have enough to do to keep me out of trouble. Throwing snowballs at cars in the winter turned to throwing rocks at cars in the summer. I do not know how I distanced myself from the broken windows and trauma my peer group and I caused motorists, but to us it was a game.

I can see how gangs can originate, considering my own experience. My dad died when I was 11 after about a four-year illness resulting from a brain stroke. My mom worked full time and obviously could not keep an eye on her five kids (ages 6-16) well enough to know my extracurricular activities.

We moved to another house when I turned 13, with the five of us helping our mom prepare the house by painting the inside, then renting a U-Haul truck to move everything.

I then asked my mom if I could have a horse. She said sure, earn your own money, find out where you can keep it, buy it and we will see how you do. I got a newspaper route later that year, saved enough to buy a horse in three months, then bought a three-year-old appaloosa gelding. It was a fairly easy-going horse, although he had a little buck in him to start. I found a place about two miles from our house (still in the suburbs) that had a basic pasture, which was supplemented by grass clippings from commercial lawn services in the summer, and hay in the winter. They had a barn in which we kept our saddles, and supplied metal drums where we could keep our grain.

Although I had no saddle to start with, I bought a bridle kit that I put together from Tandy Leather Company.  I can really understand what God is doing when he limits our resources, because it was the best way to motivate me to become responsible and develop skill. My situation helped me to think for myself and become a more skillful rider than usual. I did not buy a saddle until I saved, and then found a good deal on one about four months later. I spent many hours practicing riding bareback, after school and on weekends, in place of the time I spent in front of the television, or lazing around or getting into trouble (I was not motivated enough to do sports consistently). My mom would tell me to quit sleeping my life away, and get outside and do something.

Horseback riding was something I finally began doing consistently (besides chores at home). As I began noticing different types of horse people, there were two obvious situations I observed: People who spent time earning money to buy more things for their horses, and people who actually spent time with their horses.

There was a lady at our barn who boasted of owning nearly every kind of bridle, saddle, blanket, and bell-and-whistle known to horse people. She was also the first one to fall off and get hurt, or make excuses for not practicing with her horses. People did like to gather around and socialize at our barn. We all did have fun talking, and sitting around. But a few of us would put quite a lot more of riding time in. Whenever we went to horse clinics we seemed to get quite a bit more from them because of the time we put in practicing.

Once I finally bought a saddle, I thought “how does anyone even fall off a horse if they have something like this on their back?” I got a little proud of myself until I came across horses a little later on who could buck pretty darn hard.

I admire people in the Bible who had few material sources, but were very resourceful with what little they had. They are great examples of people who knew exactly where all of our resources come from and made great use of what God had available to them. Before God used David to slay Goliath, you know he spent time practicing with a sling when others would have fallen asleep watching sheep or gone to town socializing. Jesus said that there was no greater man than John the Baptist, and here was a man who was the first Baptist preacher (actual first preacher, period) who dressed like Tarzan, and had hair like the Duck Dynasty folks. He could show us all how to be content without all of our adult baby bottles.

Of course, the Creator himself did not consider it important to have many resources at his disposal when he lived the most important life and completed the most important task since creation. When the Bible gives record of Jesus Christ, not only did it have him born in a barn, but also said he was not particularly attractive in any way, shape, or form. Apparently, in order to help us all run faster and jump higher in the most important way, we do not need what we think we do.

Looking back 40 years, when I established a habit of biking or jogging the two miles to where I kept my horse (with my beagle dog in tow), it prepared me for the future. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. every morning delivering newspapers helped me see the best time of day. I owe it to my mom for not babying me, and my God and the first preacher, John the Baptist, for inspiring me to run faster and jump higher in life without borrowing money to do it.

Next time, the “15-year-old bicycling horse trader.”

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: