The stable owner sighed as Easterly limped to the oats barrel. “If you keep this up, I’m going to start selling food to the crowd. I thought of tamales, but you don’t ride long enough for anybody to eat one.”
“I’ll ride her, sir.”
“That horse will never be rode. She was snake bit as a colt.”
Easterly paused, holding the wooden lid like a shield. “Are you trying to tell me that made Skewy mean?”
“No.” The owner scraped his boot against a board knocking off a layer of mud, manure, and straw—a perfect mixture for adobe. “I’m trying to tell you the snake died. That foal was born under an evil moon and neither man nor beast can claim her. It’s just the way she is.”
Easterly scooped up a handful of oats. He could feel Skewy’s soft nose and lips against his hand as she ate them. “She’s not evil,” he whispered.
Atá Halné and Hund had waited for Easterly to come out of the building. The Navajo carried the saddle and hackamore so Easterly could carry a kerchief full of oats in one hand and feed the horse with the other.
The usual rail-sitters weren’t the only ones waiting for Easterly to arrive. The skewbald mare was at the gate.
“At least you’ve trained her to expect a treat,” Atá Halné said. “Why hasn’t she trained you what to expect?”
Easterly didn’t answer. He fed Skewy the oats as he patted her neck and told the tough little mare all the things they would do together. He scratched her ears and combed her coarse mane with his fingers. He cinched up the saddle, found the stirrups, mounted and braced.
She bucked him off.
He brought her oats again that evening.
Recuperating in The Hogan
Atá Halné added a stick to the fire. “I didn’t see it at first, but I have to admit that your scheme is working well. Smell those enchiladas.”
Easterly was shirtless, sitting on the antelope hide rubbing a greasy ointment on his shoulder. “What are you talking about now?”
His older companion chuckled, “This past week, I thought you were trying to break a horse, but you’ve got so many people interested in your rodeo that they’ve taken to sharing their food with us. How do you think we’ve been eating so well? Even your mongrel dog is gaining weight.”
“Hund isn’t my dog.”
“Well, you’re his master as far as he’s concerned.
The young Anglo stared into the alert eyes of the small dog. “Well, that’s a kicker, ain’t it? I try to tame one animal that wants nothing to do with me, and pick up another when I wasn’t meaning to.” He fed Hund a piece of jerky and went back to rubbing his own aches. “Maybe it’s time for pride swallering. It ain’t in me to tame Skewy.”
Atá Halné stirred the beans in a slow swirl, squinting at the would-be horse tamer. “There’s no shame in being defeated by one better. Then, there’s quitting …”
Getting What’s Important
The next morning was different. Easterly didn’t mean it to be, it just kind of unfolded.
Skewy waited at the gate for oats as usual, but Easterly walked past her and toward a sorrel gelding. When he extended a handful of oats, Skewy whinnied, snorted, and pushed herself between Easterly and the gelding. She turned her nose to Easterly’s chest and pushed him back to the gate.
Easterly went around her back to the sorrel.
Skewy pushed him away.
The only sound was the swishing of tails shooing flies, the crowd enraptured by the new standoff.
Easterly and Skewy were eye-to-eye as the boy held up the kerchief of oats and tied it into a bundle. He saddled the horse and rode her around the arena, once, twice, three times. He dismounted, unsaddled, and gave Skewy the oats.
The on-lookers exploded into a cheering frenzy of hat-throwing, back-slapping, and wild yelling that drew mule-skinners to a stop on the road.
The stable owner slapped his thigh. “That’s widdershins to everything I know about a horse. I’m glad I seen it.”
What kind of relationship will Easterly and Skewy have now? Leave a comment.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.
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