What secrets did Lady the Wonder Horse know?
May 19, 2014
BOBBY SAT in the passenger’s seat while his mother kept her eyes peeled on the shoulder of the road, watching out for side roads and drives. The car crept upon the bucolic lane near Petersburg Pike and Ruffin Road, just outside Richmond. It was lined with dairy farms, ranches and white fences. Liddie slowed the car to a stop once, to read the business card again.
“We’re almost there, I think, Bobby. Are you excited?” Liddie thought her son looked quite dapper in his newsboy cap and knee socks.
“Yes, I am!” The eight-year-old exclaimed. He was tying knots in a piece of string he kept in his pocket to relieve boredom.
“Have you decided what you are going to ask her?” Liddie asked.
“Yep,” he replied.
Bobby and his mom, Lydia, were proud to be native Virginians. Liddie, herself, had always wanted to make this trip as a youngster, but had never been able to. Something always interfered, so she was determined to take her young son before the opportunity faded away.
She eased the car up the drive and applied the brakes. As a reflex, her right arm flew out to prevent forward movement of her son when the car came to a complete stop. Bobby reached for the door handle, to bound out, but his mother restrained him.
“Wait a minute, Bobby. I want to read this again. She looked at the well-worn business card that had sat on her dresser for years. She had picked it up and looked at it often.
Bobby and his mother walked up the drive, past the house, to a stable. “Lady Wonder” was painted on a sign above one of the stable doors.
Claudia Fonda walked out to greet them. Liddie shook her hand and introduced her son.
As Mrs. Fonda ushered them into the stable they caught sight of Lady Wonder. She was an older horse, but still fetching—chestnut colored with a wide white marking that started over her eyes and ran the length of her face covering her muzzle.
She was tied to a post with a short rein attached to her bridle. She stood behind a wooden contraption that vaguely resembled a xylophone. She whinnied and shook her head from side to side, her customary greeting.
“You can pet her on the nose, Bobby, if you want to,” Mrs. Fonda offered.
After Bobby and his mother gave Lady Wonder a few loving strokes, Mrs. Fonda asked Bobby if he was ready with his questions. He nodded.
“Can you really read minds?” He asked.
“Y-E-S.” Lady Wonder flipped alphabetical cards set up on the wooden contraption that spelled this out. She used the end of her nose.
“Who is your favorite horse?”
“S-I-L-V-E-R.” Lady Wonder spelled out the name of the Lone Ranger’s horse. Bobby and his mother laughed.
“Who is going to win the next presidential election?” Bobby asked.
“E-I-S-E-N-H-O-W-E-R.” She did not hesitate.
“You mean it will be Eisenhower, again?”
Lady Wonder had anwered three questions, as promised, for fifty cents.
“Who will win the ’54 World Series?” It was Liddie’s turn to ask questions.
“G-I-A-N-T-S.” Lady Wonder flipped the cards with aplomb. Before Liddie could ask any more questions Lady Wonder added something. “4 G-A-M-E-S.” Liddie gasped.
“I only have one more question for you, Lady Wonder,” Liddie said. “What movie will be Best Picture at the Oscars this year?”
“O-N T-H-E W-A-T-E-R-F-R-O-N-T.” Lady Wonder was slower with this response, but she had no trouble answering.
“We will have to wait until the Oscars and the World Series to see if you are right, but why wouldn’t you be? You are absolutely amazing. We are so glad we came, today.”
“Yeah,” Bobby agreed.
After giving Lady Wonder a few more affectionate rubs of the nose, Liddie and Bobby paid Mrs. Fonda their admission fees, plus a little extra. They said their farewells and promised to return late in the spring.
Claudia Fonda had been showcasing Lady the Wonder Horse from her stable for almost twenty-five years. She was able to avoid the show business circuit that way, and Lady was more comfortable in her own surroundings. She made headlines predicting elections, ball games and even horse races. She could answer questions about current events. She astounded people until she retired in 1956.
Magicians, skeptics and naysayers were convinced that Mrs. Fonda was coaching her horse by moving a riding crop within the horse’s peripheral vision, but no one could ever prove this. Maybe a little help would have been possible, but not to the extent that Lady was able to perform and answer correctly. Lady, herself, was not bothered by the accusations and amazed audiences for all her working days.
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