Click here to read Chapter One
Click here to read Chapter Two
[Chapter Three resumes as Jean and Lily have encountered more excitement than they'd planned for. Nonetheless, they move on...]
By Maddy Butcher Gray
got back on the trail. Lily automatically started back towards the ranch to
return to her herd.
honey,” said Jean, smiling. “Just because we started off rough, doesn’t mean
we’re throwing in the towel.”
her horse, of course, meant convincing herself even as
her hands involuntarily shook and she
stomached a wave of nausea.
It was the backside of an adrenalin
rush and she wondered if Lily might be feeling the same sensation.
was a dodgy start to a trail ride!
“Well, heck,” she smiled. “We’ll have
plenty of time to tell our tales later. Let’s head up to Hollow Top.”
mother, long dead, appeared in her mind. A wide-brimmed straw hat covered her
eyes. Her pants, loose and worn, were cinched up with thick black belt. The
big, turquoise-embellished silver buckle shone in the dusty light of Jean’s
recollection. Her mother was casually running her fingers through the scruffy
mane of their old pony, Caesar. She placed her other hand gently on Jean's shoulder.
“Horses will feed off you and you will
feed off your horse,” she heard her mother’s words from decades ago. “Think of
yourselves as plugged into one another – not like a truck and trailer. More
like Siamese Twins. You don't haul
this pony out for a ride, Jean. You agree to it. You're the leader, but you move as a
was true then, was true now.
and Lily moved on, as partners. She took a full breath and blew it out slowly.
She sat more deeply in her seat and stroked Lily’s neck.
your lightning rod and you’re mine, aren’t you?” Jean said.
dropped her head. The loose reins swung gently from side to side.
moved through Baker’s Meadow, where an old logging path cut through thigh-high
grass and wildflowers. The meadow was roughly the size of a football field.
They reached the end, where pine trees marked the beginning of a pleasant
ascent towards Hollow Top Mountain.
mother came back into view. This time, the belt was off and the big buckle was
being swung across Jean's butt.
She was a stubborn
, strong-willed, ignorant, eight-year old, and she'd been arguing with
her pony. The pony was tolerating her tantrum, standing obediently as Jean
smacked him with the reins and yelled at him for stepping on her new cowboy
mother had watched the spectacle from the big bay window of the kitchen and
marched across the ranch driveway, whipping her belt through the loops as she
is getting beat for no good reason,” she told Jean, in a low and stead
voice that belied her swift actions. “You are getting beat
for mistreating him.”
punishment was swift and shocking.
After three whacks, her mother released, looked her in the eye, and asked, “Do you understand?”
nodded yes, fighting back tears. Her mother let go of Jean’s arm and walked
back into the house.
her head and perked her ears at two squirrels chasing each other through the
deadfall. Jean stroked her mare’s neck again and refocused on the path ahead.