At the Line Shack (by Visage)

Synopsis:  A story where Sport saves the day, or at least Adam.

Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  G
Word Count:  900


I trudged through the snow-filled trail, the flakes of the storm blinding my view. I could feel my companion’s grip failing. I had to hurry. I searched my mind for the closest shelter to our position. My rider wouldn’t be able to last the trip home to the Ponderosa. Suddenly, I remembered the line shack, just to the north of us near the pasture.  It was only about a few minutes ride.  I could make it…but would Adam?

All day my human had been making coughing noises, sounding a lot like Cochise when a bit of coffee goes the wrong way down his throat. The wind was piercing my flesh, making my bones feel frozen. I could only imagine what the cold was doing to Adam, layer upon layer of cloth or not. I quickened my pace, trying to softly nicker comfort to my human.

He let out another rasping cough, making my stomach jump in fright. I willed my legs to move faster. He let out a soft moan of protest, trying to slow me down.  I ignored the slight tug on my reins and hurried even more. I was disobeying my human, and I felt terrible about it. I wished I could tell him how sorry I was, but he needed to be warm and out of the storm more than I needed to listen to him.

Then I saw it in the distance. The blessed outline of a line shack. I resisted the urge to throw my head back in joy. Instead, I hurried to cross the last few feet between my human and shelter.  I walked as close to the front steps of the shack as I could, hoping the respite my human needed would be inside.

I could sense him look up deliriously. He reached down and patted my neck. “Thank you, boy,” he said quietly before letting out another fit of coughs.  He slipped down off of my back and onto the ground. He held onto my saddle, still leaning against my body for support. He lowered his head to rest on my neck for a moment. I could feel the heat radiating off of him.  I turned my head and nudged him slightly. He needed to be inside.

Seeming to understand me, he staggered to the door. My stomach gave another jump. I wished there were something I could do for my human. As he walked inside, I shut the door behind him with a nudge of my nose to keep out the fierce wind.

I noticed a window was set in the side. I wasted no time dashing over and peeked in. I saw Adam, on his knees now, in the middle of the room. He was facing the fireplace, and I could see the thoughts forming in his mind, but it was almost as if his body wouldn’t obey his commands. Slowly with many deliberate movements, he started a fire in the hearth before collapsing in front of it.

Right then was one of the few times I regretted being a horse.

I kept my eyes focused on Adam, but my ears alert for any sound other than the wind around me.  I debated whether I should stay put and be a good horse, or if I should run the distance to the Ranch House. The rest of the family must have known that something was wrong by now. Besides, if I went back they wouldn’t take me out again. My body shivered in protest, but I had made up my mind.

I kept my gaze focused on my human. He thought of me as his, but I knew better.  We had been together for as long as I could remember, since I was a colt and he was just a young man, fresh out of college. We trained together until we were just about the best horse and rider on the Ponderosa. Even now, the only horse who could beat me was Cochise when Joe was riding him.  In the back of my mind, I had a feeling that Buck could have given me a good run for my feedbag in his younger years.

I watched my Adam, still barely moving from his place on the floor. I thought back to that afternoon, before he had started acting so sick. I could still taste the apple we had shared from his midday meal. He was always doing things like that with me. Giving me sugar cubes and carrots from the pantry that I probably shouldn’t have been having. He knew the spot, right behind my ear where I liked to be scratched too.

To some, my Adam seemed aloof.  Perhaps a bit “big for his britches.”  But that was the outside appearance that he held.  When it was just the two of us, riding along or in the barn, he was different.  More serene.

For nearly an hour, I stood, watching over my Adam. I sent up prayers and wishes to anyone who would listen to a horse. I needed my companion. My human. My Adam.  Then, I heard it. Off in the distance I could hear the whinny of a horse.  Chubb!  That meant Hoss was on the way.  My Adam’s family was there to help him.


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