There’s got to be a pony somewhere

There’s an old joke that goes like this:

Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. In an attempt to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile and began digging.

“What are you doing?” the psychiatrist asked.

“With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”

(Stolen shamelessly from some random web site with the assumption that retelling a joke is as fair use as it gets.)

I had to Google the joke itself because I couldn’t remember the setup, but the punch line has been a favorite of mine for years, although when I say it I use shit instead of manure. Maybe that’s because I didn’t remember that a little boy said it, or maybe because it just sounds better that way.

In any case, my husband and I were out with friends the other night. One of the guys said something that prompted me to remark, “There’s got to be a pony there somewhere.”

He laughed appreciatively, but his wife cocked her head and looked at me as if to say, “Huh?”

A third friend said, “What are you talking about?”

I said, “The joke. With all that shit, there has to be a pony somewhere.”

She shook her head. “Nope. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

I turned to her husband. He shrugged. Horrified, I said to the first guy, “Well you know the joke don’t you? You laughed!”

“Never heard it,” he said.

“Then why did you laugh?”

“I figured you were trying to make me feel better by saying something about a cute little horse.

How could it be that I was the only one who knew that joke? We’re all within a few years of each other, age-wise, so it’s not like there was a generation gap. Even my husband claimed he hadn’t heard it, and I guarantee I’ve said it in front of him before. (That, however, may be a case of the selective hearing practiced by all happily married couples.)

He did point out that I have been known to say to him, in exasperation, “Why aren’t you two ponies?” which is what Charlie Brown said to Snoopy when he was trying to figure out how to ask out the little red-haired girl. They didn’t know that reference either.


Up until now I’ve accepted as a universal truth that at some point in their lives all children ask, “Can I have a pony? It can live under my bed.” But maybe that was just me. Maybe I have an unhealthy pony obsession. Come on friends, saddle up and weigh in on this.

If I said to you, “With all this shit, there has to be a pony somewhere,” would you know what I was talking about? Inquiring minds want to know.


33 responses to “There’s got to be a pony somewhere

  1. Absolutely I would know! Love this story/joke. When a teenager, I actually read a book called “There Must be a Pony.” It was the same genre, in fact a pretty overt wannabe imitation of Catcher in the Rye. So not about cute kids and cute ponies. But I did learn the joke. And, of course, growing up nearly living with my horse, I developed an addiction to that unique barn bouquet — a sweet mix of hay, leather, horse sweat, and — yes — manure. And, because of this, horse manure actually IS different than “shit” (although every good horse person uses the word shit. But usually as a contextually acceptable expletive 😉 Other animals “shit” smells much worse. My dad used to refer to my olfactory addictive substance as “eau de manure.” And, when I had my own horse farm, there was nothing so magical as coming down on a freezing cold, snowy morning, being welcomed by the nickers of hungry horses, steam coming from their nostrils. Yet the barn itself was always about 20 degrees warmer as I entered…..because of the heat from the, ummmm, fertilizer they produced.

  2. No…. have you heard the one about the half filled glass?

  3. Time to clean up your act, Judy. If you change the reference from “shit” to “manure,” most of your friends will probably get the reference even if they never heard the original joke. Of course, that’s assuming that in our sophisticated era, people still connect manure with farm animals.
    But don’t change your style. You think and speak vividly. That’s why your blogs are so special.

  4. I must say that I have never heard that joke, but did enjoy it (and I am covered for when/if someone uses it).

  5. A sense of obligation commands me to inform you that in *my* childhood, such a crass joke would have fallen so far below our sophisticated taste that we could scarcely have mustered a grin of the most rueful nature. However, we might have stooped to some merry tittering if great-great-grandpapa trotted out his well-worn jape, “Il était une fois qu’un petit garçon a vu une montagne de merde. Il a dit, «Venez voir! Il faut qu’un poney doit être là-dessous!» Domage qu’il n’y avait pas de gants.” Indeed, great-great-grandpapa was quite amusing, nouf nouf.

  6. Absolutely I would get the reference. Heard the joke in various forms, same punchline.

  7. But I am enjoying Andrew’s comments even more than the original joke! I really have to scan those letters you sent to me in high school, Andrew…

  8. What’s the point of filling a glass half-way with manure? I don’t get it. Does that make me a Nihilist? Only my mother was from Nihil.

  9. But of course…I thought this one was so well-worn that everyone knew it. Amazing how many culturally deprived people there are in New England.

  10. Karen the Ketzel

    Not to be pedantic, Judy (when am I EVER pedantic?) but I believe you only told half the joke. As I learned it, the parents take their twins to the psychiatrist because one is too pessimistic and one is too optimistic. The psychiatrist assures the parents he will be able to adjust their attitudes appropriately. So he puts the pessimistic twin into a room filled with wonderful toys and puts the optimistic twin into a room piled with horseshit. After an hour, he checks in on the first twin, who is sitting in the middle of the floor bawling. “Why are you unhappy?” asks the psychiatrist. “Look at all the wonderful things you have to play with.!”
    “Yes, but they’re not MINE!” cries the pessimistic twin. “I bet that any minute you’re going to make me go home and leave them all behind!” Then the pyschiatrist goes to the second room and etc.

  11. some Congressman just used it re the Republican failure to pass Plan B

  12. Judy, Just wanted you to know that I have also told this joke even when I was a child. I knew exactly what it meant but have only told it to intellectuals knowing not to cast pearls before swine. But my version is as follows:

    “There is an old story about a little boy on Christmas morning talking to his buddy on the phone discussing what they each got for Christmas.
    The one boy goes on and on about all the cool toys he got from Santa. Then he stopped and asked his friend what he received from the guy in the red suit?
    “Well,” said the little boy. “There’s shit everywhere. There must be a pony around here somewhere!!”

  13. Judy, as I continue to age, I continue to have a harder and harder time thinking of the specific word I want. Today the word was “optimistic” so I Googled “with all this crap, there has to be a pony somewhere.” That is how I found this blog entry. Because I have been very optimistic my whole life, this story was told to me at a very young age, about 7 or 8. That was 60 years ago. I have used the punch line many times, and every now and then I also get the “huh?” response. It was fun reading the comments others have left, and I feel the best one was from cmadson, “What’s the point of filling a glass half-way with manure? I don’t get it. Does that make me a Nihilist? Only my mother was from Nihil.” And yes, sitting here by myself I did laugh out loud too! And my take on the glass half full is that it really is always clear full, maybe 1/2 water, but the other half is full of air, therefore the glass is always full. Like I said, I’m very optimistic. And thanks for helping me find the word I was looking for!

  14. I am 60 years old and of course I have heard the joke, and I also remember that it was assumed that all kids at one time or another asked for a pony. Matter of fact, I got to this site by googling the punch line!

  15. Wow! I thought, like you, that everyone knew that reference over the age of 45 – Ronald Reagan used that joke a lot to describe being overwhelmed with stuff (dung).

  16. Absolutely! When my daughter posted that this morning and says she remembers me telling her the “with all this manure around, there has to be a pony in here somewhere”…..growing up…..but I mentioned to her that I remember my Dad telling me that same “joke/story” as well growing up.

  17. Yes, you’re not the only one who is Alone in a crowd on this one. “There’s got to be a pony in there somewhere” has been my tag line about manure circumstances for decades. Just this week, I realized that none of the people in my life knew the anecdote. They just smiled and nodded each time I said it without knowing the story.

  18. This was one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite jokes. He used the word ‘manure’ in public, but in private he used the word ‘shit’. Which I think is more effective, because the point of the story is that when you’re up to your elbows in shit, there’s got to be something good coming along. Manure just doesn’t get that across.

    • Reminds me of a story about Harry S Truman. The head of the Chicago Horticultural Society pulled Bess Truman aside at some high-class function, stone cold munchin’, and said, “Bessie, we love when Harry comes around and he always has such nice things to say about the flowers, and all the women love him, but could you get him to stop saying we must have good manure to grow the flowers so well? It’s borderline scandalous!”
      Bessie supposedly said, “Oh, dear, do you know how long it took to get him to say ‘manure?'”

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