Like an equine version of "Old Yeller"
This is a story I wrote a few years ago (although I've changed it somewhat to fit this forum.) I like to think of it as sort of like "Old Yeller", but with an equine twist.
I can't promise that I'll finish it here. I guess it depends on if anyone is reading it and likes it enough for me to continue. Please let me know what you think. My chapters are not long, but they are packed with action.
WARNING: While this story is clean (no sex, drug use, or bad language), there is some violence later in the story. It has a lot of suspense and drama as well. I'd give it a 'T' rating.
Jessie was trying very hard to be quiet as she sneaked into the barn where her Uncle George attempted to calm Dove, his Quarter Horse mare, as she struggled to give birth. This was her first pregnancy, and it was hard to tell who was more distressed- Dove or Uncle George. He’d set several wet rags on Dove’s face, hoping that they would help to cool and settle her down as her body involuntarily convulsed in trying to expel the foal. Dove’s head rose several times and she glanced nervously at her heaving side, perplexed and frightened by the mysterious sweat, exhaustion and pain. Especially the pain! Never had she experienced the kind of pain that now wracked her body. Dove’s head went limp again, and she whickered weakly, closing her eyes tight.
Eventually, after what had seemed like forever- but really had been several tense hours- the little one’s nose came into view. Uncle George reached in and found a foreleg, and then the other. He took a firm hold on them and pulled with all of his might. He managed to get the baby’s head and front legs out, but that was all. The foal seemed to be stuck in that position. Then suddenly, Dove panicked and tried to stand up, but because she was still so weak she fell back down in her stall, snorting. The abundant straw on the floor cushioned her as she went down, but did little to make her comfortable. At first she lay motionless, her sides still heaving with labored breath and her eyes half white with fear. Then, with no warning, Dove’s hind legs thrashed as she kicked at the air.
“Jessica!” Uncle George shouted. “Get back, now! Didn’t I tell you not to come in here until I said it was alright?”
“But Uncle, I just wanted to look at the baby.”
Uncle George’s voice took on a new urgency. “Keep back! I mean it, Jessie. You could get kicked so easy!”
“Dove wouldn’t think of hurting me, Uncle. You know that. Please, can’t I stay? I’ve never seen a foal being born before, not in real life.”
He sighed. “If you must watch, then at least stay over there in the corner, away from flying hooves. I know Dove wouldn’t hurt you deliberately, but when an animal is scared or in pain, you just don’t know what they might do. Don’t come any closer until I say it’s alright. Got that?”
Jessie nodded and turned silently, walking to the designated corner of the barn where she could watch the drama unfold in relative safety. But before she got even halfway there, Dove gave a final big push, and the foal was out. Wet and shivering, it lay in a heap on the straw. Right away, Uncle George began to rub the tiny frail body with towels, to both dry it and to stimulate it to start moving on its own.
“It’s a girl, Jessie!” Uncle George cried, unmistakable excitement in his voice.
“Oh, Uncle, isn’t she beautiful!” There was no question in Jessie’s outburst, this was a statement.
“Well, I don’t know about beautiful. She kinda looks like a drowned rat to me right now,” Uncle George said, trying to sound gruff but not really succeeding. Jessie wasn’t fooled at all. She knew that he had a soft heart, especially for animals and little girls.
“What would be a good name for her?” Jessie asked, hopeful.
“Now you just hold on there, young lady. The little mite is barely even been born an’ already yer talkin’ about namin’ it?”
“Not an ‘it’, Uncle- a ‘she’. And she needs a name sometime!”
“Well o’ course she does, Jessie. But let’s not go and get too hasty. Why not wait a while and get to know her a little first. Then we can pick just the perfect name. Something that would suit her perfect-like, rather than just any old common horse name like Beauty or Flicka. No, she needs a special name, something meant just for her.”
Reluctantly, Jessie agreed. “I guess we can wait a while.”
Of course, Uncle George knew that plenty of folks named their animals right away after they’re born, and that didn’t bother him. But years of experience also taught him that baby animals don’t always survive for long, and he just wanted to prevent Jessie unneeded heartache if she bonded with this baby right away and then something happened to it.
By this time Dove had made it back onto her feet and intently sniffed the filly, nickering softly through dilated nostrils as she did so. The trauma and pain of birth had vanished and in its place flooded instinct geared toward her new role as mother, and she followed that instinct with every fiber of her being.
Several times the filly tried to stand, and each time she toppled back down to the hay-covered ground. But persistence paid off, and twenty minutes later she stood squarely on four spindly, wobbly legs.
And then she discovered something amazing: that wonderful thing that we humans call milk.
“Well, I still think you are beautiful,” Jessie whispered to the foal. “I don’t think you look at all like a drowned rat!”
Dove and her baby paid no attention to the girl. The filly just continued to nurse until her belly was full with its very first meal.
Jessie stood by the corral fence, with one foot resting on the wooden cross beam, watching. Her horse. Mourning Glory was going to be hers, Uncle George had said so! Jessie had dreamed of someday owning her very own horse for as long as she could remember, but her uncle always said that he had no time for “pets”, or any animal that didn’t pull its own weight. He was a no-nonsense rancher who was all business. Yes, he had a big heart, but he simply didn’t have the time for the whims and wishes of little girls with big dreams.
This situation, however, was different. Mourning Glory had been an unplanned surprise. Uncle George had never intended to breed Dove, or any of his mares for that matter. He always acquired his animals from auctions, because breeding was too risky, and selling horses these days too difficult.
At first, he hadn’t even known what had happened with Dove. He’d discovered the broken fence, with his best mare injured, with gashes and cuts on her flank, withers, and neck. He had thought that someone had broken in and attacked Dove, until he noticed the hoofprints in the dirt. He then came to realize that someone’s stud had broken loose and mated with Dove.
Uncle George never did find out whose stallion it was, but when Mourning Glory was born, it was quickly obvious that her father was no Quarter Horse. She was big boned and had abundant hair, even as a newborn. Long, silky hair covered her fetlocks, and once the baby fuzz was replaced with an adult coat, her mane and tail grew long and very thick, completely unlike Dove's smooth legs and short hair.
Most striking was the filly's color. Uncle George had never seen any horse with a color like that. There simply was no one word to describe it- for she seemed to be several different colors blended together. Her coat carried shades of gray, black, and brown mingled with an almost reddish tinge that reminded him of dried blood. And yet, overall she had an almost greenish-gray look to her coat. It was very strange, and Uncle George didn't care much for her looks. At least Mourning Glory, as Uncle George had finally named the filly after two months, had inherited Dove's white blaze and one white sock, which gave her some contrast to her unattractive Oscar-the-Grouch-like coat.
But looks weren’t what was really that important to Uncle George. What was important was what sort of uses he could find for this animal. He’d wanted to train her to be a cutting horse. Soon, however, he saw signs in the filly's behavior that told him that she just wasn't going to be suited for ranch work. So he finally swallowed his pride and gave in to Jessie's nearly constant begging for a horse of her own. What else could he do with Mourning Glory? He had no apparent use for her, he doubted that anybody would be interested in buying her, and he couldn't stomach the idea of sending her to slaughter when she was young, strong, and perfectly healthy.
"You're gonna hafta be patient and wait a couple o' years before you’ll be able to ride her, you do know that, right Jessie?" Uncle George asked.
Jessie hadn't heard him approach the fence, and she jumped at his sudden words. "Oh, that's alright, Uncle. I'm just so happy that Mourning Glory is mine! I'll train her, and take really good care of her, you'll see! You'll be real proud of me, I promise."
"No need for promises, Jessie. I already am proud of you just the way you are," Uncle George winked and smiled.
He had adopted Jessica five and a half years ago, after she lost both of her parents in a car accident. She was now thirteen, and her uncle was like a father to her, even though no one of course could replace her real parents. But living on a working ranch was a dream come true for her, and she wouldn’t have traded it for the world.
"There's just one thing I'd like to ask you about Mourning Glory," mused Jessie, deep in thought.
"Well, please don't be mad, but I really don't like her name."
Uncle George looked shocked. “You don’t? Why not? She takes after her dam’s name, Mourning Dove. It’s a play on the words ‘morning glory’.
"I know, but I just don’t like it all that much. Could I maybe give her another name?" Jessie asked, giving him her best puppy eyes.
"Well, she's your horse. Go right ahead if that’s what ya want. Got anything in mind?" Uncle George asked, knowing the answer already.
"Um, yeah. I was just thinking about how soft and silky her fur is. So that’s what I’d like to call her, Like Silk. Silk for short."
"Silk, 'eh?" Uncle George muttered. "Yeah, that'll be fine. Still can't say I think she's pretty, but I'm glad at least you do. But I can't argue that she's silky-soft. That she is."
Jessie grinned and held out her arm over the corral fence. "Come on, Silk. That's a good girl!"
The filly walked over to Jessie's hand and gingerly took the offering of grass from her fingers. As she chewed the succulent treat, Jessie patted the filly's smooth muscular neck and said, "You and me are going to be best friends!"
The young horse snorted in appreciation as she rubbed her itchy head against a fence post as Jessie laughed.
This is a great read so far. I like the story line very much. I hope you do finish it for at least my reading pleasure.
I'll try to get the next chapter up soon.
As the months slowly turned into years, Jessie finally was able to earn Silk's trust. The oddly-colored, gangly filly had come out of her ugly duckling stage and had blossomed into a young, pretty little mare. The strange color of her coat remained however, and, at least in Uncle George's mind, too much hair. But at least now she was much more attractive than as a foal. Additionally, Jessie had even begun to ride Silk, albeit with a good deal of caution. When she had casually mentioned to her uncle about wanting to try Silk out on the trails in the woods behind the ranch, he had stated his disapproval strongly.
"That critter ain't ready for that kind o' ridin' yet, Jessie. 'Specially alone. She needs to be conditioned to the trails, otherwise you have any little thing, say a squirrel or a pheasant crosses your path. Next thing you know, yer face down in the mud lookin' up at yer horse's heels as she high-tails it home without you."
"But Uncle, Silk would never...."
"Horses spook easy, Jessie. It's just in their nature. As a prey animal, flight is their best defense. You might think that Silk would never throw you, but you can't expect an animal to go against its nature. You've been raised in the city, so you're still learnin' about horses, but they need to be trained to be safe on the trail, and that will still be a few years down the road. Horses mature slowly. She's still a young 'un. Not just that, but I never, and I do mean NEVER, want you to take ANY horse on those trails alone! Ridin' alone is never a good idea, not for anyone. You hear me, girl?"
"Yes, Uncle," Jessie muttered in a voice that was barely audible as she looked down at her shoes. What her uncle was unaware of was that Jessie had, many times, taken the various ranch horses on the nearest trails by herself. She hadn't thought anything about it and never dreamed that he would mind. After all, he let her ride them all over the ranch property.
Well, just because her uncle thought it was a bad idea didn't make it so. In fact, Jessie was pretty sure that it was important to do so, to help get Silk used to the idea. She was by now actually hatching a plan to sneak Silk onto the trails. Oh, she wouldn't ride her, not yet, but just to get her out there and let her see what it was all about.
Jessie normally would not disobey her uncle, but she knew that if she didn't take Silk to the trails, then nobody would. Uncle George was always so busy with the ranch chores, he didn't have time to bother. Besides that though, she was afraid that he really didn't like Silk all that much because she wasn't a working horse. She believed that he saw no value in her mare and regarded her as just a "useless" pet. And since Silk was costing Uncle George money for her upkeep, Jessie sure didn't want to rock the boat since she had no way yet to pay for her horse's care.
But of course Uncle George realized that Silk had value, even if just to Jessie. The critter had finally filled that horse-shaped void in the girl's life. She finally had her deepest wish.
"Easy, girl. There you are. Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Jessie whispered to Silk as she fumbled with the buckle on the halter she'd just slipped over Silk's tossing, protesting head.
Stroking the mare's face, she softly spoke again. "I'm taking you for a little walk. Just you and me. I need to show you some things. it's important, so I can take you out riding some day. Uncle George won't ever get around to it, so I'll have to."
Silk shifted in her stall and whinnied loudly. Jessie jumped, startled. "Shh! Silk, you need to be quiet, or Uncle George'll hear you! And we'd both be in big trouble if he found out what we're up to!" Jessie hurriedly clipped the lead rope onto the halter and tied it around one of the bars on the stall door, just enough to secure Silk, yet allowing enough slack so that the mare could get free if she spooked.
Next she saddled Bob: an elderly, chunky, non-descript gelding who was well-seasoned and nearing retirement. Then, checking carefully to be certain that the coast was clear, Jessie quickly and quietly led both horses out of the stables and into the sun. She knew that this would be the best time to pull this off, while her uncle was busy with the ranch work. He had a couple of sick cows to tend, he had calves ready for branding, and he would be leaving soon for another livestock auction. She was glad now that she had declined going to the auction with him- something that she normally loved to do- but this was her time with her mare.
Jessie lifted her left foot into the stirrup, hoisted herself up and swung her leg over Bob's wide, ample back, and clucked at him to move. She grasped Silk's lead rope and as they rode slowly away, Silk skittered along behind nervously but obediently. The well-worn trails were just a short distance through the dense woods that bordered the ranch. At least the trees would provide cover to help hide them from view, just in case Uncle George happened to look in their direction. Even if he did, he was used to seeing horseback riders out here. He would never be able to tell that it was Jessie and Silk. If he could even make out the two horses, he would naturally assume there were two riders and never suspect a thing.
As the three of them made their way through the brambles and the brush, she heard the occasional thump of one of Bob's hooves on the tree roots that criss-crossed their paths. She also heard twigs snapping and small rocks being accidentally kicked. And the squeak, squeak, squeak of saddle leather with every lazy stride that Bob took.
She noticed something else, too. Silk seemed alarmed at nervous at all the strange sounds, smells, and sights. The young horse was not accustomed to anything beyond the ranch and stables where she had been born. She had scarcely been off the property, and all of this was completely new to her. It was a world beyond her comprehension.
After riding the trail for a little while, Jessie dismounted and allowed Silk to investigate her surroundings. As the young mare lowered her head to sniff at the dirt trail, it disturbed a small, harmless but fast snake that darted across the trail directly in front of her. Silk exploded in terror at the sight of the reptile. Her head shot up and she reared, and it was all Jessie could do to keep her horse under control and stop her from bolting. Jessie knew it was extremely dangerous, but she held tightly to the rope and spoke soothingly to Silk while patting her sweat-glistened neck. Silk's eyes were wide with fear, the whites showing at the edges, and her breaths were coming in loud huffs blowing through widened nostrils.
Between Jessie's gentle persuasion and Bob's calm demeanor, the frightened horse eventually began to settle down. But just at the moment that all seemed well again, Silk did something totally baffling. Jessie stood next to her, combing her fingers through the mare's thick, tangled mane, when for no apparent reason Silk became enraged. She pinned her ears, squealed loudly, and whipped her head around, clamping her powerful jaws hard on Jessie's shoulder.
Jessie screamed with pain, but Silk held fast, her teeth sinking deeper into Jessie's shoulder the more the girl struggled. In desperation, Jessie slapped and punched at Silk's face to get her to release the arm. Only then did the mare let go of the girl. Then she just stood there, trembling and snorting, looking completely bewildered.
Jessie looked through tear-blurred eyes at the damage. Her blouse sleeve was torn, and a steady stream of blood was oozing down her injured arm. She knew that this little outing had just been cancelled at once. She'd have to hurry home and put the horses away, clean herself up and change clothes before Uncle George found out about it!
Jessie's shoulder hurt too much for her to ride Bob, so instead she walked, leading the two horses back home. Through the years she'd lived with her uncle, Jessie had been bucked off, knocked over, and stepped on by horses on the ranch. None of these experiences had fazed her, nor diminished her love for these animals. But now, for the first time, Jessie was afraid of a horse. And that horse was her own.
More please..... :)
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what happens next? what happens next! More please!!!
The next day at school, Jessie sat at her desk in fourth period history, unable to concentrate on the teacher's droning. Instead, she kept rubbing her arm and shoulder subconsciously while brooding over yesterday's events. Her teacher noticed that Jessie wasn't herself, and she also noticed that something seemed to be wrong with her arm. When class was dismissed for lunch, she caught Jessie's attention just as the girl was about to go through the door. "Jessica, could I see you a moment?"
Jessie was genuinely shocked and a little scared. She wasn't one to ever get into trouble, so why did the teacher want to talk with her? As she made her way over to Ms. Childers' desk, Jessie was relieved to see no hint of disapproval on her face. "Sit down for just a minute, I don't want to make you late for lunch," Ms. Childers said softly.
Jessie pulled up a chair next to the desk and sat in it. "Is everything all right?" Ms. Childers asked.
Jessie stared at her, confused. "Sure. What do you mean?"
"I couldn't help but notice that you keep rubbing your arm. Did you hurt it?"
Even as her teacher said these words, Jessie became aware of her hand gently massaging her very sore shoulder. She looked down and said, "Yes, ma'am."
"Can I see it? I won't touch it if it hurts. I just want to see what the problem is."
Reluctantly, Jessie pulled her sleeve up and exposed her injured shoulder. Ms. Andrews gasped at the sight. The shoulder and top of the girl's arm was a dark purple bruise, and there were oozing wounds within it that were in danger of becoming infected.
"How did this happen?"
Jessie didn't answer. Instead, she looked down again and shook her head- an indication that she didn't want to tell.
"Jessie, listen to me. I'm going to write you a note, and as soon as you get done eating lunch, I want you to go straight to the nurse's office, OK?"
Jessie nodded, knowing she had little choice, and took the note and went on to lunch.
"I'm sorry, I know this stings," the school nurse said as she applied an antiseptic medication to the wound, noticing Jessie's wincing.
"Jessica, I want you to know that you can confide in me. I promise not to betray your trust. But I really must know, did your uncle do this to you?"
"Uncle George? No! He would never hurt me!" Jessie replied with fire in her eyes.
"OK, then who did do it? Somebody did this to you. Are you being picked on by other students? Is someone bullying you?"
"No- it wasn't a kid. I-I mean, it wasn't a person."
"It wasn't a person? Was it a dog? Did you get bitten by a dog?"
At first Jessie was tempted to lie and say, yes, it was a dog. A neighbor's dog. Or a strange dog that she never saw before. But as she thought about it, she had enough insight to realize that a lie like that could get somebody's innocent pet destroyed. So against every fiber of her being, she decided to tell the truth- on one condition.
"If I tell you what it was, do you promise not to tell my uncle?"
"Well, Jessie, I'll try my best to honor your wishes. But it really depends. Please, do tell me."
"It was...one of the horses." Jessie cleverly left out- at the last second- exactly which horse it was.
The nurse's eyebrows arched in surprise. "You mean one of your uncle's ranch horses bit you?"
Not one of his horses. My own horse! She thought to herself, as she nodded.
"Why do you not want me to tell?"
"Because if you do, and Uncle George finds out, he might get rid of the horse or even have it put down."
The nurse tried to be gentle, but there was no skirting around the issue. "That might actually be for the best, Jessica. I'm sorry to say that, but it looks like a very dangerous animal."
Jessie's eyes widened. "Please don't say anything! Please? It's not what you think it is. The horse isn't really mean. It just got scared by a snake and bit me for some reason. It's really not a bad horse!"
"Well, I won't tell, but I still think your uncle should know that he has a potentially dangerous horse on his ranch. I guess you know which horse it is?"
Jessie nodded again.
"Promise me you'll stay away from him, alright?" The nurse pressured.
Her, not him! Jessie thought again as she falsely agreed to have nothing more to do with the horse that caused this.
I'm afraid of Silk, she thought, but I can't just ignore her. I still have to take care of her. And I'm going to do it. She's my horse!
A new courage and determination welled up in Jessie's heart.
Wow very good! Only read the 1st chapter so far looking forward to reading more!
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