Espinosa is a collector extraordinaire

Barbara Espinosa places the plastic rocking horse #41 that her brother made for her on her Christmas tree displaying most of her rocking horse collection.

Barbara Espinosa is a collector extraordinaire. Not only does this Preston resident have an amazing assortment of small rocking horses but several other collections displayed throughout her home: 275 cookie cutters, ceramic chickens, ceramic creamers, metal lunch boxes, wooden puzzles, antiques, and 505 County Fair ribbons. Espinosa also has a stamp collection.

Her first collection was the cookie cutters.

“I read a poem in my cookbook “The Magic of Wheat Cookery” by Lorraine Dilworth Tyler about how important it was to have snacks and a kiss for your children when they came home from school. So I bought some cookie cutters, made cookies and had milk and cookies for my children,” she said.

Since then she has found collections a way to express the importance of something or the joy something brings to her. 

For example, her rocking horse collection reflects a lifetime love of horses.

Born in Los Alamitos, California, Barbara grew up in a house located next to the Los Alamitos Race Track. “I grew up with horses. There was a giant pasture across the street from our house full of mares and colts. When I was 4-years-old, I tried to coax the horses to eat grass. They would come over to the fence to me. I could stand there with the horses for hours,” said Espinosa. 

Her mother purchased six weeks of riding lessons for her. “Later on I asked the owner of the stable if I could ride a horse in the parade,” she said. “Someone loaned me a saddle and purple and yellow harem costume similar to what Jeannie wore in the television series ‘I Dream of Jeanie,’” and at age 10, she rode in the Los Alamitos parade.

Being tall and responsible, she looked older than her 12 years of age. “The owner asked me if I would like to work for him. I liked saddling the 20 horses. I knew their temperament and which saddle and bridle went with each horse. For the $1.50 lesson, I was also in charge of renting the horses out to people to ride. I kept $1 as my pay,” she said. 

Eventually she was teaching other children riding lessons.

“ It was the best part of my young years to work there,” Espinoza recalled. 

Furthermore, her grandfather cared for the horses and stock on a ranch belonging to movie producer Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter for several movies including “Spartacus” and “Exodus.” at his ranch in Frazier Park, California. 

“My grandma was the cook and housekeeper for the Trumbo family. When we visited them, I was just a toddler then, grandpa took me by the hand as he went out to feed horses,” Espinosa said. “I loved going out with him to feed them and pet them.”

A frequent visitor to the library, as a child, Espinosa found a book that has remained one of her favorite books, “Merrylegs: The Rocking Pony” by Paul Brown written in 1946. “The main attraction of the book for me was its illustrations. I read “Merry Legs” to my children,” she said. 

Three years ago Espinosa was thrilled to find the book on Amazon. “When I got the book, I made sketches of a life-sized Merrylegs. That’s kinda my dream, to make a life-size rocking horse, have it in the Preston Fair, and let children sit on it,” she admitted. “It’s a “bucket-list” thing for me.”

 Friends and family started giving Barbara horses in 1973. “I didn’t want them bigger than about 3” so that they would fit on shelving that I had started to display them on,” she said.

She also bought rocking horses at Deseret Industries and antique stores. “There is quite a variety of horses such as plastic, wooden, cloth, glass, metal, fuzzy, candle holders, musical, jewelry box, etc,” she said.

Her brother made her a rocking horse that he designed and cut out of white plastic. “He sent the horse to me for my 41st birthday. I call it #41,” she said. 

Before moving to Preston in 1985, Barbara had lived all over the country, from Maryland to California, and Mexico to Alaska. 

At age 18, she joined the Navy, and was shipped to Bainbridge, Maryland, where they trained her to be a dental hygienist. Then she was stationed at the US Naval Hospital in San Diego. 

She met a corpsman and their marriage gave her two children before they divorced. She remarried and they lived the yours, mine and ours story. 

Barbara and her second husband lived in Mexico. While there she designed and made wooden puzzles in the shapes of animals with a band saw for her children to play with. She also made wooden names and step stools, on which she did tole painting. 

“I made wreaths out of the grape vines that I grew and gave them away. I love woodwork,” she said. “When my husband couldn’t find work, we returned to California.”

Now single, she lives across the street from Preston’s City Park where the last five of her children grew up.  Today they have all moved to other cities.

While there she tried her hand at raising Shetland and Welch ponies. She showed two of them in the Preston Fair one year where they won first and second place ribbons. 

“I’ve always wanted ponies so my children and grandchildren could have fun driving them. A kind neighbor, Don Kofoed, let me keep the ponies in his large corral. He got some two-wheel and four-wheel carts and we drove them all around town.” The little horses gave rides for participants of the programs at the Developmental Disabilities Agency (DDA-Home Health). “We gave pony cart rides to the clients with special needs. That was an exceptional delight for me and my children,” said Espinosa.

Ponies aren’t’ the only thing Barbara enjoys entering into the Franklin County Fair - an event she looks forward to each year since she has lived in Preston. She grows flowers, herbs, crops and fruit. 

In 1988, she helped set up an art gallery on State Street with Robert King and Wayne Johnson. Community artists’ were able to display their work for sale there.

At Christmastime she makes gingerbread houses and candy trains.