Authors: Bonnie Bryant
“Oh.” Emily grinned. “I guess I’m still a dude after all. But by the end of the week, I’ll be a cowboy.”
“Watch this!” Kate called to them. She gathered
Moonglow’s reins lightly in her hands, and before they knew it, Moonglow was prancing across the prairie in the light, cadenced movement of a collected dressage trot. Kate sent Moonglow into a half-pass, taking her diagonally into a stand of sagebrush, and then turned and brought her back toward the others in a flashy, athletic extended trot.
“Pretty good,” Lisa admitted. “But watch this!” She shot Chocolate into a fast lope, then brought the reins up and back just the way she’d seen John do on their first day. She spun her weight around, and to her delight Chocolate did just what Lisa hoped: a fast rollback. They galloped back.
“Wow, I’m impressed,” Carole said. Lisa grinned. She was still the least experienced member of The Saddle Club, and it was fun sometimes to try something the others couldn’t already do.
“I know it was rough, not elegant like John’s,” Lisa said.
“Still, we could tell it was a rollback,” Stevie said. “Let me try.” Her rollback, though also recognizable, wasn’t quite as good as Lisa’s. Her version of a stop, however, was impressive. Stewball
nearly sat down, and Stevie came perilously close to flying over his ears. She threw her arms around his neck and pushed herself back into the saddle.
“Nice,” Lisa said. “But aren’t there supposed to be skid marks?”
“Stewball is so cool he doesn’t need to skid,” Stevie replied, unruffled.
After that Carole made Berry jump a fallen log, and then they all had to follow her. Kate tried to teach Emily dressage collection, but Spot, in his Western bridle, refused to learn. Emily gave up, laughing, and took him for another gallop. Stevie tried to make Stewball cut Lisa’s horse out of the crowd. “I’m not a cow!” Lisa protested. “Neither is Chocolate.”
Between the noise of the wind and their laughter, they didn’t notice Mr. Brightstar’s pickup until it was very close to them. “Look, Kate,” Carole whispered. They all halted and turned their horses to face the truck. Inside, they could just see Monica sitting between her mother and Mr. Brightstar. They couldn’t tell whether or not she was looking at them.
Kate waved, tentatively, and then they all did. Mr. Brightstar stuck his hand out the window to
wave back. Monica might have waved, but they couldn’t really tell. The truck drove on.
Carole felt an unreasonable surge of guilt. It wasn’t her fault Monica wasn’t riding, but it seemed a shame that the other girl couldn’t enjoy the same fun they were having.
“It was her choice,” Kate said, almost bitterly. Carole knew Kate was thinking the same thing. “We asked her to come with us.”
“I think I’m ready to go back,” Lisa said quietly.
“Me too,” Stevie said.
“All of us,” said Emily.
“Yeah,” said Kate. “This stinks!” Carole couldn’t tell exactly what Kate meant, but she thought that whatever it was, she agreed. It stunk that they were riding and Monica was not.
, as they drew close to the ranch buildings. “There’s Dad’s trailer! He’s home!”
Frank Devine’s big stock trailer was parked near the gate of one of the middle-sized outdoor paddocks. The girls quickly turned their horses out for the evening, put their tack away, and went to see if they could help.
“Stand back, girls!” he told them. Mr. Brightstar and John were there already, and as the girls watched they set up tall pieces of plywood to make a chute leading into the pasture. Carole
climbed up on the fence to get a closer look. Inside the trailer, the horses moved nervously.
“Okay—careful!” Colonel Devine swung open the back of the trailer. John and Mr. Brightstar reached through the vent windows and unsnapped the lead ropes that tied the first two horses in place. As soon as their heads were free, the horses backed out of the trailer, whirled, and galloped into the pasture. They squealed and tossed their heads.
“You’ll have your hands full with this bunch, John,” Kate said with a grin.
“Oh yeah? Aren’t you helping?” he asked back.
Carole felt a sudden pang of envy for these two, already living full-time around horses. Of course, she did get to spend a lot of time with her own horse, Starlight. Still, to live right next to your horses would be something. She’d love to be able to look out her bedroom window and see Starlight grazing.
The new horses, a buckskin, two pintos, two sorrels, and a bay, milled nervously in the field. Colonel Devine clanged the paddock gate shut, and the girls helped him dismantle the plywood chute.
“They’re scared,” Emily observed, watching the horses through the fence.
“They’ve had a confusing day. We’ll leave them in there for a few days, give them time to settle, and then start working with them and introducing them to the main herd. They’re a good bunch of horses.”
“Did you have fun, Dad? Was old Mr. MacGillicutty there?” Kate turned to her friends. “He’s this ancient rancher, and he tends to get carried away at auctions. His wife says he can only buy one horse, and he’ll buy one, and then he’ll start bidding on others. Once she whacked him on the head with a program—” Kate began to laugh.
“I believe Mr. MacGillicutty filled his trailer today,” Colonel Devine said with a grin.
“Four horses!” Kate roared. “But I bet they were all ‘purty.’ He only buys ‘purty’ ones.”
“What does he do with them all?” Carole asked, at the same time as Stevie said, “Just how many horses does he have?”
“A hundred, at least,” Kate said, wiping her eyes. “And that’s the best part—he doesn’t do anything with them. He’s got an enormous ranch and the horses seem happy, but all he does is sit out on his front porch and watch them and say,
‘Look at all the purty horses!’ Sometimes his wife makes him sell some. They are all pretty, too, and it’s always easy for him to find buyers.”
“Mrs. MacGillicutty wasn’t too pleased with him today,” Kate’s dad added.
“I bet not,” said Kate. “What else happened?”
“Oh, let’s see. One horse reared up when it was being presented, and the auctioneer said, ‘And look what a fine belly this horse has!’ ”
Carole giggled. She knew that rearing was the most dangerous habit a horse could have, and she also knew that you could rarely, if ever, tell anything about a horse by looking at its belly. But she did wonder how Colonel Devine had decided which horses to buy. His six all looked nice, but temperament was one of the most important things about a horse, and that couldn’t be judged on sight. She knew you weren’t allowed to ride horses at auctions—so how would you know anything about them? It would be a ferocious gamble. Suddenly, Carole almost wished she’d gone. Colonel Devine could have taught her a lot.
“And the Wilsons bought an adorable elderly pony for their little boys,” Colonel Devine continued. “The cattle weren’t very impressive, so we didn’t buy any, and I had to sit on your
mother, Kate, to keep her from bringing home a sheep. The last thing we need is a sheep. Loretta Matthews had another batch of kittens to give away—she always does. That’s all. Ate a hot dog, loaded up my horses, came home.”
“It sounds like a carnival!” Stevie said. She always thought of auctions as being staid, stiff, formal events, where people in dress clothes silently held up numbered paddles to signify their bids.
“More like a country fair than a carnival,” Colonel Devine said. “But we always do have a nice time.”
“Gosh—I didn’t know it would be like that!” Stevie said.
, she thought for a moment,
we should have gone. Only that would have meant no riding
. “But we had a really great time today,” she added quickly.
“I wish I’d seen you bid on that sorrel,” Emily said, pointing to one of the horses in the paddock. “I like him. I would have liked to have seen how he came into the ring, and how much attention he paid to the crowd.”
“Yes—that’s a good way of learning something about a horse at auction,” Colonel Devine acknowledged.
“I like that little sorrel, too. He may be the best of the bunch. And he was cheap, too.”
“Really?” Lisa wondered how cheap exactly, but she thought it would be rude to ask. She had begun to realize that she didn’t know much about fair prices for horses, and she figured she needed to learn. Someday—someday soon, she hoped—she was going to talk her parents into buying her one. “I guess I would have learned a lot, if we’d gone.”
“You’d have learned a lot about pigs and sheep and cattle, too,” Kate said. “Also dust and farm equipment. I wish those auctions were more horsey. Dad, we had the best day ever! Two beautiful rides!”
coming?” Kate asked, as they sat down to dinner. Lisa could hear the sadness in her friend’s voice.
“I’m afraid not, dear,” her mother answered, setting a plate of food on the table. “Mrs. Hopkins asked for carryout again.”
Lisa touched Kate’s elbow. “We’ll ask her to ride with us tomorrow,” she reminded her.
“Are you riding tomorrow?” Mrs. Devine asked. She sat down next to Colonel Devine, and they began to eat. “Kate, did you ask them about going to the Wild West Show?”
Kate rolled her eyes. “I forgot! I tell you, all this riding and worrying about Monica has made me forgetful. Right, the Wild West Show is tomorrow, but I wasn’t sure you guys would want to go, since you’ve already seen it twice.”
“Seen it?” Stevie said indignantly. “We performed! Stewball and I were the stars of the show!”
“And if I remember correctly,” Lisa cut in, “you were so spectacular that you were asked not to perform again.”
Amid everyone’s laughter, Carole and Kate told Emily about the Wild West Show. “It’s a touristy thing,” Kate said. “Cowboys, shoot-’em-ups. The Old West like they show it in movies. They do it in town, right in the middle of the day, so that at first tourists don’t realize it’s a show. The organizers always need local volunteers.”
“Once we were playing pioneer women and one of the fake bank robbers threatened Stevie,”
Carole said. “Stewball was tied nearby, and he broke lose and went after the man. It looked like he was defending Stevie, but really he was just trying to get the rock candy the man had in his pocket.”
“Stewball,” Stevie explained, “loves rock candy.”
“His reaction was a little extreme,” Kate said. “If we go tomorrow, we’ll leave the horses at home. As long as we do that, I’m sure they’ll let us be actors again.”
Emily thought a Wild West Show sounded fantastic. “I’d love to see it,” she said. “It’d be like a movie come to life. And I’d especially like to see you guys perform. I don’t think I could, though—I bet they aren’t equipped to deal with disabled people on zero notice. Are there steps? Would I have to move fast?”
“Yes, and probably,” Kate admitted.
“We won’t go,” Carole said. “We were planning on riding every day, remember?”
“I’d love to come and watch,” Emily persisted. “Maybe Monica would want to come, too. Really, I’d rather—” She cut her words short. It occurred to her suddenly that The Saddle Club
had already done the show twice. Probably they didn’t want to do it again. “Riding’s great, too,” she concluded.
“I don’t know,” Stevie said. “I guess without Stewball it wouldn’t be the same, anyway. Lisa?”
Lisa bit her lip. She loved acting; she really loved the Wild West Show. But she tried to put herself in Emily’s shoes. How much fun would it be to sit on the sidelines watching your friends run around in bonnets and long dresses? “Let’s ride,” she said.
Colonel Devine shook his head. “I’ve heard of horse-crazy, but you all take the cake. Don’t you ever get sick of riding? Isn’t there anything you’d rather do?”
Carole grinned. “If there is, we haven’t found it yet.”
“What about Monica?” Emily said. “Should we ask her about the Wild West Show?”
“Oh, come on.” Kate sounded bitter. “If she won’t even get on a horse, if she won’t even come out of her cabin, what are the odds of her going to the Wild West Show?”
Even though she thought that Kate sounded a little harsh, Lisa had to admit that she was right. They didn’t need to bother to ask Monica.