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NickerNews Wovel, Chapter Three

Published: 1/20/2010
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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

They got back on the trail. Lily automatically started back towards the ranch to return to her herd.

“Oh, honey,” said Jean, smiling. “Just because we started off rough, doesn’t mean we’re throwing in the towel.”

Convincing 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.

Certainly 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.”

Jean’s 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 pair."

What was true then, was true now.

Jean 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.

“I’m your lightning rod and you’re mine, aren’t you?” Jean said.

Lily dropped her head. The loose reins swung gently from side to side.

They 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.

Her 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 boots.

Her 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 advanced.

“Caesar 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.”

The punishment was swift and shocking. After three whacks, her mother released, looked her in the eye, and asked, “Do you understand?” 

Jean nodded yes, fighting back tears. Her mother let go of Jean’s arm and walked back into the house.

Lily lifted 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.


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"Here lies the body of my good horse, The General. For years he bore me around the circuit of my practice and all that time he never made a blunder. Would that his master could say the same." - President John Tyler's epitaph for his horse