Authors: Dandi Daley Mackall
Tags: #Retail, #Ages 8 & Up
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The Tyndale Kids logo is a trademark of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright Â© 2004 by Dandi Daley Mackall. All rights reserved.
Cover photograph copyright Â© 2003 by Bob Langrish. All rights reserved.
Interior horse chart given by permission, Arabian Horse Registry of America.Â® www.theregistry.org.
Designed by Jacqueline L. NuÃ±ez
Edited by Ramona Cramer Tucker
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible,
New International Version,
Â® Copyright Â© 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.â¢ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or publisher.
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ISBN 978-0-8423-8723-1, mass paper
For the Medina County Career Center
Animal Care Program.
Thanks for passing along your
gift and love for animals.
Our animals are in great hands!
Table of Contents
A rare streak of sunlight poked through the barn slats and made the new black filly glow. Tiny frost clouds puffed from her nostrils as she stared, wide-eyed, at me across the stall.
I held out the bottle of goat's milk to her. “Come on. I'm not going to hurt you,” I pleaded.
But the orphan foal ducked behind my horse Nickers and stood alert, her long, knobby-kneed legs stretched, giraffe-style.
I gave up and rested my head against my white Arabian's neck. “We've got to get that foal to trust me, Nickers,” I whispered. I breathed in her horsey warmth and could have fallen asleep right there.
Since the birth of the foal on Christmas Eve, I'd spent three nights and three days in the barn, making sure she got the bottled colostrum, or first milk, she needed to survive. Now I wanted to get her used to goat's milk, the next best thing to mare's milk. Annie Goat was on loanÂ to me from Granny Barker. As soon as the filly stopped being so scared of me, I planned to train her to nurse from the goat.
Annie was in no hurry to take on the foal. Ignoring us, she stood at the opposite end of the stall, munching hay. She looked like an old man chewing tobacco. I'd been bringing her into the stall with Nickers and the foal, hoping they'dÂ all get used to each other. I needed the foal to nurse from Annie Goat.
Nickers licked the filly's neck and jaw. It made me proud, seeing the way my horse had adopted this scraggly orphan. The foal was born with four white stockings, a blaze on her forehead, and a black coat that was bushy and curly. She was beautiful but fragile. It was going to take everything I had to keep her healthy.
I stood on tiptoes to peek over Nickers at the foal.
The filly bolted as if I'd attacked her. She bumped the wall and nearly toppled over.
I stepped back to the stall door. “It's okay, girl. I'll stay away. I know how you feel.”
She'd lost her mother, and the world didn't look friendly to her. I did know how the orphan felt. It had been two years since I'd lost
mom, and I still had trouble trusting humans.
I was born in Wyoming and had a pretty perfect life for my first ten years. My mom was the best horse gentler in the county, the state, maybe even the world. Everything I know about horses I learned from her. When she died, Dad moved my sister, Lizzy, andÂ me from place to place until we ended up inÂ Ashland, Ohio.
Things were working out, though. I think Mom would have been proud of me. I'd already become known as Winnie the Horse Gentler. And even though I'm only in seventh grade, people bring me their problem horses and actually pay me to gentle them.
That's kind of how I ended up with the foal's mother in my barn.
I glanced into the next stall and felt the tears press against my eyeballs as I remembered Gracie there. The dapple-gray mare had just shown up in my pasture one morning, an anonymous problem-horse gift for Winnie the Horse Gentler. I'd dubbed her “Amazing Grace.”
But Gracie's only
had been neglect. It had been a miracle that, sick as Gracie was, she held on until she delivered her foal.
My mind flashed me a photo of the oldÂ gray mare, lying in the hay, craning her neck toÂ see her newborn foal. I have a photographic memory, so the details were all thereâGracie's big eyes glazed, the foal slick from birth, steam rising from the bed of hay.
Sometimes having a photographic memory isn't so great. Without my permission, my brain snaps pictures that etch their way deep into my mind forever, then pop up when I'd least likeÂ to see them. My brain has stored 100 photos of the accident that killed my mother. And now I have snapshots of Gracie dying too.
I shut my eyes, but the picture grew even sharper. Gracie died in my arms.
“Winnie? You okay?” Lizzy came up behind me. She didn't have a coat on, even though the temperature was below freezing.
“I still can't get the filly to trust me, Lizzy. I don't know what I'm doing wrong.”
Mom used to say that the first 48 hoursÂ could determine how well a foal got along with humans for the rest of its life. I'd passed the 48-hour mark and still couldn't get close to this filly.
“I'm sure you're not doing anything wrong. That little horse will come around!” Lizzy said, looking like a cheerleader. My sister is a year younger than me, but she's two inches taller. WeÂ both caught Mom's dark hair and lean build, but Lizzy dodged the freckles. “Just give her time. She'll see what a terrific friend Winnie Willis can be!”
Lizzy seemed to be glancing around the barn for something. “Geri hasn't come by, has she?” she asked, picking up Churchill, a giant gray cat that belongs to our friend Catman Coolidge. The cat rubbed his smushed-in, flat face against Lizzy's neck.
Geri is Lizzy's best friend. My sister loves all things lizard, and Geri is a frog nut. Sometimes I admit I'm a little jealous at how easily Lizzy makes great friends. If she got that from our mom, I guess I dodged it. Horses are so much easier to get along with than humans.
I put another fleck of hay in the hay net for Nickers to play with. Nelson, my barn cat and Churchill's son, got in on the action and hopped to the feed trough, where he could paw at the hay net with his one white paw. “I thought Geri was coming over to spend the night.”
“She is. We're supposed to work on her frog palace. Did I tell you she got a salamander for Christmas? I can't wait to see him! Salamanders really rock, you know? They shed their skins and sometimes eat the old skin for nutrients. And when it's coldâ”
“Lizzy,” I interrupted. Once she gets going, she talks faster than a trotter trots.
Â has to stop her. “Did you come out here for something?” My sister usually stays as far away from horses as she can. She'll gladly hug spidersÂ and toads and bugs, but she won't even touch Nickers.
Lizzy smacked her forehead with the heel of her hand. “Telephone! For
“Me?” I almost never get phone calls. Except from Hawk, Victoria Hawkins, who was still in Florida visiting her dad. But Hawk had been calling at night.
“Sorry.” Lizzy set down Churchill. “I can't believe I forgot the phone call! Duh to me. It'sÂ a girl. At first I thought it was Geri. But I think it might be Sal.”
I doubted it. Sal, Salena Fry, is in most of my seventh-grade classes, and we get along okay. But she's buddies with Summer Spidell and the popular kids. Summer and I got off on the wrong foot the first time we met, when I was shoveling manure in her dad's fancy stable. I guess you could say we've pretty much stayed on the wrong foot since then.
Lizzy and I plowed through the snow toward the house. Our yard looked a hundred times better snow-covered. You couldn't even see the broken toasters, rolls of wires, and other machine parts Dad keeps around for his inventions and for repairing stuff. Snow had turned the tallest junk into white statues.
Once inside I kicked off my boots and ran to the kitchen phone, hoping the mystery caller was still there. “Hello?”
“Sal, she's here! On the phone!” The voice on the line sounded familiar, but it wasn't Sal. And whoever it was wasn't talking to me. She was screaming away from the phone.
“Hello?” I said again. “Who's this?”
“Uh .Â .Â . um .Â .Â . it's
to be Sal.” Then away from the phone, she screamed, “Sal! You have to come right now! I'm not holding the phone any longer. I mean it!”
“Geri?” I was pretty sure I recognized her voice. “Are you at Sal's house?”
Lizzy was sticking a tray of cookies into the oven. She stopped and frowned at me.
“Uh .Â .Â . hi, Winnie. How are you?”
“What are you doing over there, Geri? Lizzy has beenâ”
“Oops .Â .Â . here's Sal!”
The phone shuffled and clattered. Then another voice came over the line. “Winnie? Man, am I glad you're there! I thought you'd never get to the phone.”