Anecdote: There=?windows-1252?Q?=92s_?=got to be a pony somewhere. (February 1953)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 17 18:37:42 UTC 2013

LH wrote:
 I'm sure Reagan didn't invent his beloved story about the boy who was
delighted to be sent to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure
"because there's gotta be a pony in here somewhere".

JL wrote:
I read it in James Kirkwood's novel, "There Must be a Pony!" (1960).

JL also wrote:
I see Charlie found a reference from 1958. (Dictionary of Modern Proverbs:
highly recommended.)

[Text from previous messages ends here]

Google Books has matches that are supposedly dated in the 1940s for
the anecdote about optimism, manure, and a hypothetical pony.
Investigation shows that some of the dates are simply incorrect.
Probing shows that some of the volumes with matches contain material
from several years including the 1950s. At this point I do not know if
GB contains an earlier citation.

However, here is a citation with a publication date 1953 from an
online repository of material from an Alcoholics Anonymous group. The
repository is not part of a library but it looks authentic.

[ref] 1953 February, Central Bulletin, Volume 11, Number 4,
(Newsletter for Alcoholics Anonymous subgroup), A Giggle with a Moral,
Quote Page 2, Column 1, Published by Cleveland Central Committee of
Alcoholics Anonymous, Cleveland, Ohio. (Online repository at; PDF of scanned pages; accessed November 17, 2013)[/ref]
      (This link leads to a 6 megabyte file)

[Begin excerpt]
The parents of identical twins were plagued by the fact that one was a
cheerful optimist and his brother a morbid pessimist. Not knowing how
to cope with the problem, they sought the advice of a psychiatrist. He
pondered a few moments and then made a proposal.

“Go home,” he told the parents, “and fill one room with
toys-everything that a boy desires. Have all the packages beautifully
gift-wrapped. Put the pessimist in this room at 7:30 tomorrow morning.

“Fill the other room with fertilizer-and maybe a shovel-but that’s
all. Put the optimist in this room at 7:30. I’ll be around at 9
o’clock and we shall see what we see.”

Next morning the psychiatrist was prompt. He followed the parents into
the room with the wonderful toys. The kid was slouched in a chair with
a dejected look on his face. He hadn’t even removed the gift
wrappings. “What’s the use?” he asked glumly,  “I probably won’t like
what I find-and if I do, I won’t get to keep it.”

A marked contrast greeted them in the other room. With a broad grin on
his face, the optimist was shoveling for all he was worth. “With all
this fertilizer,” he declared, “there’s got to be a pony somewhere.”
[End excerpt]


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