by Yakira G.
(Dover DE USA)
“Phillip Markus Reynolds! If you don’t hurry up and get in the truck, were leaving you home!” Phillip’s mom called form outside.
Phillip tied his shoelaces into a sloppy bow and grabbed his duffle bag off the kitchen table. He rushed outside and stopped beside the truck door.
“I’m all ready!” he said opening the tuck door.
His mom smiled. “Well then, get in the truck,”
Phillip climbed into the truck and dumped his duffle bag onto the floor. He smiled as he slammed the door shut. He was ready to see the ranch again.
He and his family every summer went to visit his aunt and cousin on their ranch. He and his cousin Holly would always escape early in the morning to get in a quick ride before they had to do chores. That was one part of the visit he never liked. Though riding was fun, he never was crazy about horses like his cousin was.
The thing he liked most was swimming in the lake in the woods, though he wasn’t too crazy about the mosquitoes that guarded it during the hotter part of the day.
Phillip watched as the world outside the car zipped by. He couldn’t wait to get to his aunt’s house and jump into the lake.
Soon the houses became less and less and were taken over by farms and a ranch here and there. Phillip glanced at the farms and ranches, silently named each. He and Holly had once taken a trip to all of the farms and ranches that lined the road, just for the fun of it.
His dad pulled the truck down a small dirt road and Phillip leaned in between the front seats. He could just see the white fence that lined the horse and cow pasture of his aunt’s ranch. The truck swerved into the ranches and driveway and even before the truck stopped, Phillip opened the door and jumped out.
He looked up at the ranch’s sign and read the name. That was always the first thing he did. Redwood Ranch. He smiled. The name was derived from all the redwood trees that grew in the woods behind the ranch.
He heard the screen door slam against the side of the house and before he even turned around, he was tackled and knocked to the ground.
“Phillip! It’s so good to see you again! You don’t how boring it’s been lately!” Holly squealed.
She stood and hoisted him to his feet. He brushed off the front of his green shirt.
“It’s good to see you too Holly.” He said.
She smiled, her blue eyes sparkling. She stood on her toes and patted his dusty reddish brown hair.
“You must’ve grown three inches since the last I saw you!” she punched him in the arm. “You want to go ride? Mom said we could once you came.”
He shrugged. “Sure, but let me put my bag in my room first.” He walked over to the truck and pulled out his duffle bag.
He followed his parents into the house and smiled as his aunt gave him a less tackle-like hug. She held him out at arm’s length.
“You’re getting so tall!” she exclaimed. “Your now how old? Ten?”
“Aunt Margaret, I’m thirteen,” he said with a half smile.
Aunt Margaret laughed. “I’m just teasing. Go and get ready to ride before Holly takes off without you,”
Phillip ran took the small set of stairs two at a time and jogged over to the second door on the left. He walked in and dropped his bag onto the bed nestled into the far corner of the room. He opened the bag and pulled out a pair of boots. He quickly changed into the boots and ran back outside.
He jogged over to the barn and was greeted by a whinny. He smiled and walked over the red roan Quarter Horse who stood in the crossties. He rubbed the stripe on her forehead and pulled a mint from his pocket. The mare lipped it up and let out a nicker.
“Hey Princess Sweetheart. How you doing?” he asked.
Princess rubbed her forehead onto his chest and let out another nicker. Holly walked out of the tack room holding a saddle and saddle pad. She dropped them into his arms.
“You get Princess tacked up. Copper isn’t going to stand in the wash stall all day without getting a bath.” She said then disappeared back into the tack room.
Phillip draped the heavy western saddle onto Princess’ back and reached under for the girth. Quickly he tightened the girth and walked around Princess with one hand on her side so as not to spook her.
He walked into the tack room and peeked out the open door. He saw Holly walk into the wash stall with a hackamore draped over her shoulder. He walked over to the hooks on the wall and pulled down Princess’ bridle and walked back out. He pulled her halter off and carefully pulled the bridle on. He put his boot into the stirrup and pulled himself up.
With a slight nudge, Princess walked form the barn and around to the back where the wash stall stood Holly rode out on Copper and she tipped her hat at him.
“Did you forget something?” she asked as she pulled up beside him.
He smiled and pulled a crumbled baseball cap from his back pocket.
“Not at all!” he shoved it onto his head and turned Princess towards the pasture.
Together, Holly and Phillip rode through the gate and urged their horses into a canter towards the woods. When they reached the woods, Phillip held the gate open and Holly rode though. He through after her and closed the gate. They rode out onto a trail in the woods and settled into a walk side by side.
“Mom’s going to an auction tomorrow. You wanna come?” Holly asked.
Phillip shrugged. “I guess so. Is she getting cows?”
“No silly, she wants to get some more horses. She wants to start a summer camp.” Phillip raised his eyebrows. “Oh really? Well then, I guess I should come along to help pick out the horses.”
Holly smiled and urged her horse into a canter.
“Race you to the lake! She called back.”
“Princess can beat you any day!” he yelled and took off after his cousin.
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The noisy sound of bidders and neighing horses filled the air as Phillip, Holly and Aunt Margaret walked through the barn where all the horses were held.
Aunt Margaret insisted on looking at the horses before bidding on them. Phillip glanced at the horses, not really interested. He watched as his cousin cooed over the pretty ones and exclaimed over the plain ones. No horse is a bad horse, according to her. Phillip believed that the horse had stolen her heart and ran away with it.
He passed by a deep brown Morgan gelding and his gazed lingered a while longer than usual. It was a pretty horse. But then the horse flattened its ears at him and he passed by quickly. He stopped behind his cousin and aunt as they looked over a pony they said had “potential”. He looked at the small white pony and thought it cute but boring.
He shrugged as they inspected the pony and walked along by himself. He looked at the horses, not really paying attention. He leaned up against an empty stall and stared across to the next one. A low nicker echoed from the darkness. Curious, he pushed away from the stall and walked over to the stall. He peered in a gasped at the pitiful sight in front of him.
A huge dapple-gray, Tennessee Walking Horse stood in the back of the stall, her head low. Her head hung close to the ground and her sides heaved. Her ribs showed plainly through her ruff coat that was missing tufts of hair. Scars covered her neck and chest. Her hooves were untrimmed and cracked. Her big brown eyes seemed to stare pleadingly at him.
Phillip felt a lump come to his throat as he stared at the poor horse standing in front of him. He turned and hurried back to his aunt.
“Aunt Margaret! There’s something I want to show you,” He said stopping by his aunt’s side.
Aunt Margaret turned away form the pony and raised an eyebrow. “Did you find a horse you liked?” she asked.
Phillip nodded. “She needs help.”
He turned and led Aunt Margaret and Holly away from the pony and over to the last stall in the barn. He gestured to the mare held within. Aunt Margaret gasped and a hand flew to her mouth. Holly sniffed and wiped a tear from her cheek.
“I don’t know if she’ll make a suitable mount for a summer riding camp.” Aunt Margaret said skeptically. “Though I do pity her, she isn’t what we need.”
“Please mom! We need to give her a second chance!” Holly pleaded.
“Yeah,” Phillip agreed. “She needs someone to take care of her and show her that she can be cherished,”
“Please?” Holly whispered turning her big blue eyes up to her mom in a pleading manner.
Aunt Margaret put her hand on her hips. “And who is going to take care of her and train her?”
“I will,” Phillip said.
“I thought you weren’t a big fan of horses?” Aunt Margaret said.
“I just hadn’t found the right horse yet,” Phillip said. He turned back to the mare. “She needs me. If you don’t get her, then, she might get bought by a dog food company.” he turned back to his aunt. “She deserves a chance to live.”
Aunt Margaret sighed then smiled. “Alright. But you have to take care of her, you hear? And I can’t guarantee anything. This is an auction. The horse’ll only go to the highest bidder.”
“Thank you!” he gave his aunt a quick hug and gave the mare one last look before following his aunt and cousin out of the barn and to their seats.
As the auction went on, Phillip waited eagerly, always straining to see which horse was coming out next. Holly let out a squeal of happiness every time Aunt Margaret came out the highest bidder and they got a horse or pony.
Philip wiped the sweat form his forehead. Just a few more horses to go. A big black draft was led onto the auction block and Holly let out an awed gasp. Aunt Margaret reminded her that they were getting small horses and Holly pouted.
Finally, the gray mare was led onto the auction block. Phillip’s heart nearly thumped from his chest when Aunt Margaret started the bidding. A man in a business suit also raised his number paddle. Holly clutched Phillip’s arm, her nails digging into his skin.
“Ow!” he exclaimed, trying to shake her off.
Holly pointed at the man. “That guy works for a slaughter house! We have to save her from being turned into dog food!” she hissed in his ear.
Phillip felt like he was going to faint. The bidding continued and Phillip trained his gaze onto the big gray mare.
Her soft brown eyes seemed to look into his. He felt another lump form in his throat. The mare pointed her nose in his direction. At that moment he knew that they had to get the mare, no matter the cost.
Aunt Margaret sighed. “I don’t think we’ll have enough to buy her. That man’s pushing some high prices.”
“Keep going Aunt Margaret! He’s got to have a limit!” Phillip said, his gaze locked onto the mare’s.
“Alright, but if the price gets anymore outrageous, I’m done.” She turned back to the bidding.
Phillip glanced at Holly and saw that she had crossed all her fingers and toes. He smiled. She smiled back. He turned back to the bidding. He looked at the man and saw him shake his head and stand.
“Going once, going twice, sold!” the man shouted and Holly let out an ear-piercing scream.
Phillip bent away from Holly and slapped his hands to his ears. He laughed with relief. The gray mare was his!
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