- Where Barn Banter Goes Global
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NickerNews Wovel, Chapter One

Published: 10/6/2009
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What is a Wovel?
It’s a web-based, audience-plotted novel.
We've got the first few chapters down.
Stay tuned for home page voting to decide how the
story progresses.

Jean and Lily's Encounter

By Maddy Butcher Gray

Jean headed to the barn and whistled.
“Lily, let’s get out on the trail, huh?”
Lily was the bell mare of the 20-horse herd at the 3 Bar E. She picked up her head and pricked her ears forward. Jean entered the paddock and moved past a few horses, reached Lily and paused to stroke her neck.
She was a special horse, born on the same day as Jean’s niece, Janey. It was Easter Sunday, thirteen years ago.
Jean had been there, running from barn to house, fielding calls from the hospital and helping Lily’s mother bring her filly into the world.
It’d been one heck of a day for new life.
With Jean’s encouragement, Lily had slowly developed into a strong leader.
She was a vital member of the ranch staff, keeping track of the herd instinctively and incessantly. She could count her charges faster than any wrangler. She looked after them like a kindergarten teacher looks after her students on a field trip.
A never-ending field trip, that is.

Jean brought Lily into the barn, tossed the lead line over a half-wall and grabbed a brush and a hoof pick. Lily shuffled her angle to look out at the herd. When Jean picked up one of her front hooves, Lily touched the woman’s lower back with her muzzle.
“Yup,” answered Jean. “We’re heading out. Just you and me.”

Jean filled two Nalgene bottles with water from the tack room sink and tossed them in the worn saddlebags.
They moved out of the barn and away from the paddock. Lily whinnied. Several horses turned their heads and answered, then bowed their heads to continue grazing. Lily whinnied again and pranced nervously, not used to leaving alone. Jean tightened the girth and mounted.
It felt good, Jean thought, even if she was getting old and perpetually sore. Her tanned, rough, and wrinkled hands stroked Lily’s neck.

Most days, the two were consumed with ranch duties: moving cattle, checking fences. Only occasionally did Jean have the time and energy for a pleasure ride. And when it happened, it was always a welcome respite, a getaway, a reminder of how good they had it.

She checked her saddle. She carried rain gear, bear spray, and a folding eight-inch knife with a serrated blade. She often used the knife for impromptu trailblazing. But the rain gear and bear spray? Never used them. Oh, once she had accidentally set off the bear spray. Most unpleasant.

Bear spray, sold in a slender, 10-inch aerosol can, is a jumbo unit of Mace. Last summer, she’d accidentally released the trigger while helping a ranch guest with his saddle. It’d got her right between the eyes. Instant pain and blindness!
She spent the next hour in the bathroom, where Janey had flushed her eyes with warm water over and over and over and over until the pain subsided and sight returned.

At least she knew it worked.

With a gentle nudge, Jean turned her horse and headed towards the old logging road leading into Towas National Forest.
Lily looked back and stepped sideways.
“Stop it, girl,” Jean answered with a squeeze of her thighs. “We’ll be back in no time."
With her legs, her hands, and her voice, Jean won the argument and the two moved smoothly away from the ranch.
They both looked through the forest, where the light filtered down through large evergreens and bounced off exposed rocks. Squirrels flitted out of sight. Woodpeckers flew casually from dead tree to dead tree. It was cooler, quieter, and the light was softer in the woods.
Jean maintained a steady dialogue with Lily. It was a strategy she’d used since she was a girl to calm and distract her horse. Heck, it'd been a way to calm and distract herself in those days when she had less faith in her abilities.
But then something interrupted the conversation…

Click here for Chapter 2

View Reader Comments:

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10/7/2009 Kathy
I love this idea.
10/7/2009 Nora
i'm not much of a story teller, so not much help there. i love the story so far and cannot wait for the next page. Hope it will be full of adventure :-) ,and not gloom and doom.
10/17/2009 MaryAnn
I'm with Nora...can we have a light, positive story? And horses, plenty of horses.

"If the horse does not enjoy his work, his rider will have no joy." - H.H. Isenbart