The Bronco Buster (by Krystyna)

Summary:  This is a coming of age story for Joe.  Determined to become a horse breaker he learns a hard lesson when he faces a challenge from the horse itself.
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  6400


I could remember the very first time I realized how much I loved bronco bustin’. I was seven years old and perched on the top rail of the corral fence watching my big brother Adam being tossed about like a sack of potatoes by some crazy looking black stallion. The sun was hot on my back; I recall how much I enjoyed the feel of the heat through my shirt and on the top of my head. Guess I should have worn my hat but I was too busy waving it about in the air as Adam and the horse fought it out in the ring with me and Hoss sitting there, yelling our heads off at him. Pa was standing close on by, watching with that wary concerned look on his face. He was never one for enjoying breaking in the horses but preferred to pay others to do it.

I loved the power of the horses as they arched their necks and tossed, twisted and turned to unseat their riders. Their muscles would bulge and their eyes would show white in their sockets. Some were real mean critters and could turn their heads and bite worser’n a bear. I recall Hoss got a real bad bite in the rear once. He was more annoyed because he had thought he’d tamed the beast, dismounted and was walking off when the wretched thing crept up on him and sunk his teeth in where it would hurt most. We all showed concern but I could see Adam was struggling not to bust out laughing right there and then. Poor Hoss. Funny, though; he called the horse Chubb and it’s been his favorite horse ever since.

If I recall rightly, Adam won that tussle with that particular horse I was talking about earlier. He came over to me with a grin and lifted me off the top bar before setting me down on the ground. “Well, shortshanks, I thought you were going to topple right off that bar for a moment or two. Did you enjoy it?”

“I sure did, Adam. When can I have a go?”

He laughed and ruffled my hair – I hated him doing that, but if I said anything, he’d just have done it some more – and said I was too little. Had some growing to do yet, he said. I could see Pa looking a mite anxious just at the thought as he came on over to join us, then he ruffled my hair and said perhaps one day I could but he didn’t say it with any conviction.

I think it’s because of what happened to my Ma. He was always rather over-protective of me once Ma had gone. She was crazy about horses too, and in the end, it was a horse that caused her death. Pa always got a kinda tight look around the eyes when I got near the horses when I was small. I can remember that day, though; he looked over my head at Adam and they seemed to share a look between them that I think if I were writing a book, it would be written down as ‘speaking volumes’. I kinda figure that you’d know what I meant by that anyway.

Yes, I remember that day so well. It seemed to set me off wanting to break horses for myself. I whined and wheedled as much as I could but Pa said I was not to bring up the subject again until I was old enough, strong enough and big enough to handle an animal as strong, powerful and mean as a wild horse. That didn’t really shut me up, though; I just went fussin’ about it to the ranch hands, to Hop Sing and to Hoss. There was no point in talkin’ to Adam about it because he and Pa were two of a kind when it came to ganging up on me.

Years passed during which I always made sure I was around the corral to watch the horses being broken. I could tell from a man’s walk and set of the shoulders if he was going to be good at the job. Some men even have the gift of being able to communicate with horses so that they hardly seem to do any work at all; they just talk and look into the horses eyes. I tried it once or twice but nearly got my face chewed off. Guess I’m not a good horse talker, although Cooch and I get on real fine.

Pa started to take me with them on the horse round ups when I was getting on to fifteen. It used to annoy me how Hoss got to be so bossy on these occasions, claiming I was so small I’d get blown away with the wind or would disappear in the dust clouds the horses kicked up. I knew it was because he was a mite protective of me, him being so big and strong. I guess beside him I did look kinda puny, but I was a lot tougher than he realized. Come to think of it, I always seemed to be having to prove to someone or other that just because I was shorter, thinner, smaller than them I was just as tough, if not tougher.

There’s a strange feeling comes over me, and I guess any man there, on those round ups. Looking down on the herd of horses gets the juices going in your insides and your mind starts racing and your whole body gets the itch to ride on down and get racing alongside them. They are so beautiful, and to see a whole herd running together is like seeing a fantastic machine in motion. I loved seeing those horses and being able to pick out those for breaking in later on was just such a thrilling prospect.

Pa said I had a good eye for a horse. I know, even now, that I would never be a match for Adam but when it came to breaking a horse, or bronco busting, and then I reckon I could stand on equal ground as him. I said that to him once and he just looked down his nose at me and said he couldn’t see where I’d put the box, to stand on; well, he thought he was being funny.

Came the day, though, when I got the chance to ride a horse that even Adam said should be cut loose and allowed to go back to the herd. He came in one morning looking all hot and bothered, and I could see from the grim set of his mouth that he was far from happy.

“What’s wrong, son?” Pa asked, although I think from the way he asked that he already had a good idea.

“It’s that horse, the sorrel. He’s got the look of the devil in his eyes, and the meanest spirit in him. He’s just tossed Jake Weatherall sky high and broken his thigh. Hoss has sent for the Doctor. It’s a bad break.”

Pa didn’t look too happy about that, I mean, about Jake getting a broken thigh. That could be a killer if not treated right, and even if it is, it could mean the end of Jake’s career breaking in horses. He was a man with a good reputation too, and Pa was paying him top dollar to break some of the new horses.

Hoss came in then with his hair sticking up on end as though he’d been in a wind storm. He looked at Adam and then Pa, and shook his head. “Jake’s in a bad way, Pa. I got Hop Sing to take him into town on the wagon; thought it better to get Doctor Martin to see to him as soon as he could.”

Pa nodded and got to his feet. He looked at Adam and said that he didn’t want him to try the horse, to let him go back to his herd. “Some horses are just made to run wild,” he said, “like some men are just born bad.”

I could see Hoss and Adam look at one another, and as no one seemed to be taking any notice of me, I thought I’d go on out and take a look at the sorrel for myself. If it was the horse I thought to be it, then I knew for sure it was going to be a horse worth keeping. He had stood out from the crowd, so to speak, when we were cutting out horses from the herd a few days earlier.

I clambered up to the top rung of the corral fence and looked at him closely from a point of safety. I reckon he had the same idea because he just fixed those big liquid black eyes on mine and stared at me as though trying to figure me out.

Honest and truly, that horse was the best looking beast I had seen in a long time. His sire and dam had certainly produced between them a magnificent specimen. He had a wonderfully arched neck and his back was strong and low. His legs were a mite long and thin still but the power of them was in the haunches and withers. He pricked his ears forward and tossed his head, then stood perfectly still.

I swear that I knew it — I knew it then as sure as I’m standing here now — that horse was challenging me. He was saying ‘So, what are you looking at? Fancy your chances?’ and yes, I did, I most certainly did.

I slid off down that fence and told the hands to set the horse up in the holding stall. Then I pulled on my chaps and gloves, fixed down my hat, and clambered up the rails. Paddy O’Leary pulled at me and told me not to be stupid, but I shook him off.

“Look, boy, he’s already tossed Jake off. What chance do you think a lightweight like you stands against him? Now, git off and leave this kind of horse to a man.”

That really riled me. I was nearly twenty now, and a man in every sense of the word. I pushed him away and he went running off towards the house. I looked at the other men, but they just kept their mouths closed, although it was obvious to any there what they were thinking. So it wasn’t just the horse I was taking on; it seemed to me that morning that I was having to take on the world.

I dropped into the saddle as neatly as could be and slipped my feet slowly through the stirrups. I laced the reins around my hand and signaled for the bar to be lifted. Harry pulled it up; it rattled some, and the noise was enough to make the horse go wild.

It shot out of the stall like a bullet fired from a gun. It moved so fast that it nearly left me behind, but I clung on to the pommel of the saddle and the reins for sheer death. It was as though this was the very first time I had sat in the saddle of a wild horse and everything I had learned over the years just went right out of my head. I clung tighter to that saddle than a barnacle would to a ship’s keel, and was shaken about like a rag doll as a result.

I swear that horse had read every rule in the book, and how to break each and every one of them. Just as the breath had been shaken out of me and I knew I was going to lose this one, he came to a grinding halt. I mean exactly what I said — a sheer grinding halt. Feet down slam bang on the ground, jarring every bone in my body. Then it stood as still as a rock in the middle of nowhere. I could feel the tension in his body quivering in every muscle, twitching in every tendon. To be honest, I was doing a fair bit of quivering and twitching too.

I was thinking that Jake must have broken the critter after all and was just beginning to relax when I saw Pa, Adam, and Hoss running towards the corral. All three of them looked like they were about to see me hanged on the gallows and not one of them clambered on the rails to cheer me on but stood there as though frozen in horror.

I took off my hat in a grand gesture and was about to give them the benefit of a huge grin when the horse took off. He went up like a rocket and once again landed on all four legs with a slam. He threw himself sideways, left and right, reared, bucked, practically turned himself into a figure eight. He ran to the bars of the corral and slammed himself into them. He truly did everything he possibly could to dislodge me from that saddle.

I’m not sure even now how I managed to stay put. My insides seemed all broken up, my spine could have been shattered in half, every muscle ached and my arms felt as though they were being torn from their sockets. I couldn’t see anyone now; my eyes were too blurred by the perspiration and tears that were streaming down my face. I just knew that whatever happened, I was just going to have to stick it out.

I was also beginning to feel light-headed and rather sick. The last thing I wanted — well, almost the last thing I wanted — to do right then was vomit while I was being tossed about by this demon horse. I ground my teeth together and swallowed back, hard.

For a moment he stopped. There was a stunned silence as he came to a full stop and then very calmly and as gentlemanly as you please he cantered around the circumference of the ring. I had time to wipe my brow and see Pa, Adam, and Hoss coming closer to the corral fence. Men were beginning to climb up to mount the rails. The horse was snorting. His breathing was not labored but it was heavy. I was fool enough to think he had run out of steam.

I realized how dry my mouth was because my lips were sticking to my teeth and my tongue felt overlarge. Sweat was trickling down my back and prickling my armpits. My own breathing was heavy, rising and falling in time with that of the horse.

He pricked his ears forwards and snorted. I just instinctively held onto the reins and my thighs gripped the saddle. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Adam and Hoss running from the corral and wondered where exactly they were running and why. That was when the horse propelled himself forward and headed for the corral rails.

I didn’t even have time to clear my feet from the stirrups but just clenched my teeth and closed my eyes. I don’t even think I had time to utter a prayer before that fool horse jumped and cleared that top rail by an inch. I recall now a story about a flying horse called Pegasus; well, that horse had nothing on the idiot creature I was trying to tame.

He had his head down and was running his heart out. I knew no matter how hard I pulled at the reins that he had managed to get the bit free from between his teeth and that there was no control over him. I couldn’t jump free from him, and I sure was not going to let him get free from me, not that easily anyway.

I held onto those reins like grim death and hugged down low in the saddle. My mouth tasted of blood, which I had to swallow; my eyes were streaming tears down my face and perspiration dried in the breeze that came from the speed he was whipping up. It was now I started praying. Praying that nothing would get in his fool way. Praying that he would stop and it would be over. I even prayed that we would both, somehow or other, survive this crazy ride.

He dodged tumbleweed and gopher holes with an unerring ability. He twisted and turned around boulders and rocks as though they simply didn’t exist. All the time, I just held on tight, barely able to see ahead of me now because of the salt tears that came because of the wind in my face.

I could hear nothing but my own pulses thudding in my ears, like a heartbeat that echoed the drumming of his feet against the earth. Spittle splattered against my chaps, streaked his neck and formed flecks of white in his mane.

Onwards he ran, as though his heart and soul were all combined in running this last final lap, like an athlete who saw the winning tape ahead and knew he had to pour all his resources in gaining that prize. It was something I felt, a certainty, a knowing, as though he and I were just one soul, one being, racing through to the final tape.

And then, I was flying through the air. My stomach was about a foot ahead of me and we met up again as I crashed down onto the ground. I heard a crunch. I tasted more blood in my mouth and wanted to vomit. There was pain, the most awful pain and then, thankfully, there was nothing, nothing but a warm drifting into deep black.

*****

I guess all kids take a lot for granted. A roof over our heads, food in our bellies and an allowance that keeps us just about solvent. One thing I could never take for granted is waking up to see my Pa by the side of my bed with his near black eyes gazing anxiously into my face.

I’ve seen him sit by our bedsides for hours on end. When any of us have been ill or injured, he just would never leave us alone for a minute. He would pray, read, think over old memories, hope for the future. But he was always there, waiting. I like that; there’s a comfort in that, knowing he was always there, waiting for us to open our eyes and look upon him to see that careworn face crease into a gentle tender smile.

Folk often see my Pa as being a proud, ruthless man. They say to look at his face and you can read the kind of man he is, so, I guess, in a sense they would be right. My Pa has got a proud face, but then he has a lot to be proud about for one. They don’t see that face the way that we do, the softening of the eyes and the gentle curve of the mouth when we‘re just sharing time together.

So when I opened my eyes and looked up into his face, my heart kind of swelled in my chest which caused a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. His hand came and touched my cheek, and then he smiled, nodded and leaned back in the chair, as though that was enough for him. He had seen what he needed to see.

“Pa?”

“Yes, son?”

I managed to swallow the lump in my throat and blinked back the tears. My tongue didn’t appear to be functioning too well, though, so I just looked up into his face and once again he leaned forward towards me. “What is it, son? What do you want to say?”

“The horse?”

“What about it?”

Was it my imagination or had the smile tightened a little, the eyes become a little more wary. I tried to lift my hand but it was heavy, too heavy for me to move, which made me quiet for a moment while my brain tried to work out where I was and what had actually happened to me. “Am I home?”

“Yes, Joe. You’re at home in your bed.”

I closed my eyes. I just felt so tired that thinking was making my brain hurt. I was home and in bed. The last thing I remembered was landing in a heap in the dirt.

“Hi, Joe, d’you want something to eat?”

I forced open my eyes to see Hoss looking down at me with his kindly, concerned smile on his face and the blue eyes wide and anxious. Pa must have gone to bed for a rest, I thought; knowing I was back in the land of the living was all he needed to be assured about before letting Hoss or Adam take over. It was typical of Hoss to equate comfort with food, but somehow I didn’t feel like anything to eat.

“Some water?”

“Sure, Joe, sure.” Hoss turned away and I heard the glug of water being poured into a glass. Then his big arm came under the pillow which supported my head and raised me up so I could drink it. It was good, cool and sweet. I ran my tongue over my lips and felt them rough and dry. I looked at Hoss again, and he smiled down at me.

“How’re you feeling, little brother?”

“I don’t know. Odd feeling, like I’m not really here in my body.”

“Probably the stuff Dr Martin gave you.”

Hoss sat down and stretched out his legs, while his blue eyes never left my face. I wondered what had happened for my face to be so strangely interesting, I mean, I know I’m handsome but the way Hoss was looking at me was rather unnerving.

“Anything wrong?” I managed to ask rather nervously.

“No, nothing at all. I was just…” He shrugged and grimaced. “You sure got a beaut of a black eye, Joe. Wonder you didn’t get all your teeth knocked out.”

My teeth? I ran my tongue over my teeth, and felt relief that I could feel just a few jagged edges. What woman wants to kiss a guy with no front teeth?

“What happened to the horse?” I managed to ask before he said anything else to completely confuse me.

“Wal…” He sighed a long drawn out sigh and stared down at his feet, as though he had to reassemble his thoughts before he could speak. He sighed again and addressed the bedside rug, “Had to shoot it. Sorry, Joe.”

“You shot him?” I sat up in horror and then flopped back down again. It made me feel sick the sudden realization of how weak I felt. I didn’t even have enough strength to sit up for a moment, so I lay there, closed my eyes, thought of that horse and wanted to cry.

I don’t want you to get the impression that I’m some kind of cry baby, because I ain’t. It’s just that I was ill and in shock, you understand. Somehow I didn’t want to think that horse had been killed because it made me realize I was to blame. It was my fault. That kind of realization is enough to make any man weep when knowing what a beauty of a horse had been killed.

“Had to, Joe. There was no other choice.” Hoss sighed again and I knew that it wouldn’t have been easy for him to have killed the animal. Hoss loved animals of every kind and it would have broken his heart to have destroyed that horse.

“I’m sorry, Hoss. It was my fault, wasn’t it?” I looked up at him and he just gulped a bit noisily and I knew he didn’t want to say. He knew I would punish myself enough as it was anyway.

I think I must have drifted off back into sleep again because when I woke up, it was dark in my room with only the bedside lamp glowing. I wondered if I were alone but a sudden movement by my bed assured me that I was not, and sure enough before I could say a word, Adam had leaned forward,

“How are you, Joe? Feeling any better now?”

I wanted to reach out and take hold of his hand. For some reason, I wanted his strength to pass into me and make me more like him. I loved my brother Adam. Oh sure, he annoyed me to bits, but if I wanted to be like anyone at all, it was him. I guess that’s why I wanted to be a bronco buster — because of him. I don’t know if that means I’m a weak or shallow kind of person, because I want to prove to myself — as well as to him — that I can do just as well. Perhaps even better would be good, but at present, just as well would do nicely.

“I’m sorry about the horse,” I whispered and was relieved when his fingers gripped hold of mine.

“So am I, Joe. He was a beauty.”

“I thought so,” I said with my mind filled with the picture of the horse as it had stood pawing the ground and looking at me with those big brown eyes, challenging me to get on his back and ride him. “I…I killed him, didn’t I? It was my fault?”

“We were going to let him go back to his herd. He was that kind of horse…” Adam replied slowly. He released my hand, got to his feet and walked over to the window.

He just stood there, a dark shadow within shadows, his arms folded across his chest, his head bowed. I knew he was thinking about the horse too, and wondering why I had been so determined to ride him. Adam was always honest; he never prevaricated for anyone, not even now, when I was sick and ill. I knew he would tell me the truth, not to hurt me more but because he was that kind of man who would expect me to be man enough to take it.

“I…I wasn’t intending to ride him. But when I went out there, I just couldn’t stop myself. He was looking at me, like he was challenging me to try taming him.”

“Mmmm.” Adam didn’t move from his position by the window and I knew he was angry. I could tell by the way he held himself, his back so straight and his head bowed.

“Adam, honestly, I’m telling you the truth.”

“You didn’t have to ride him, though, did you? You could have just walked away, left him alone so we could let him go free. It wasn’t kind, Joe.”

“I know. I know…” My heart seemed to shrink inside of me and I wanted to cry. That beautiful, wonderful powerhouse of a horse, dead because of me.

“But, these things happen,” Adam said quietly, “I’ve known it happen before, a horse commanding the situation, almost hypnotizing a man and forcing them into the saddle. An Indian once told me that the spirit of the animal draws out the spirit of the man so that it can go free.”

“Only this one didn’t, did he? Didn’t go free, I mean.”

He sighed then, passed his hand over his face. I didn’t have to see him do it; I knew him too well. He came and stood beside my bed and smiled down at me. “We were worried about you. You’ve been ill for some time, you know.”

“How long?”

“Nearly four days. You broke your arm. Dr Martin put it in splints. We thought you may have broken your back, but thankfully you came off lightly, it’s just very badly bruised.”

“Oh, that’s good. I promised Lucy Henderson the first dance at the social this weekend.”

“That was last weekend.” He sat down, his dark eyes gentled. I could see the crinkles around the corner so I knew he wasn’t really so angry with me now. “It’ll be a while before you go dancing again, Joe. Your back will need time to repair itself.”

I nodded and closed my eyes again. I remembered the moment that horse had decided to jump, Hoss and Adam running from the corral and how I had wondered why, so I asked him.

“We could see exactly what that horse was going to do. If he got over the rails, there was no knowing where he would take you, so we got to our horses and went after you. We were close enough to see him come down.”

“Did he stumble over something? He sure seemed mighty sure footed to me.”

“He was, to be sure, but he just went down like a rock. Thankfully, you must have lost your stirrups along the way, and just went sailing over his head. You scared us to death, you know?”

“Sorry.” I reached for his hand again, needing the reassurance of his understanding, and when his fingers curled around mine and squeezed them gently, I knew things were alright between us. “Sorry, Adam.”

“We had to shoot him. He was dying anyway, but it wasn’t merciful to leave him there while we took you home. Then you were so ill, thought you were going to die as well. It’s been a tough few days, Joe.” The pressure on my hand was gentle, and then he pulled his hand free. “Try and get some more sleep, Joe. I’m here if you need me.”

So I closed my eyes and drifted back to sleep. I dreamt about that horse and how it seemed as though we had become one, melded together, forged into a single unit and running wild over the plains and meadows. I dreamt of my family too — my Pa, Hoss and Adam. Oh sure, I knew they’d always be there for me just as much as I would always be there for each one of them. Pa had always said that no matter what the odds, the four of us, together, could meet them, head on. I always believed him to be right about that because we proved it so often.

*****

Dr Martin came several days later and poked and prodded me, looked in my eyes and ears. I was just about able to sit up for half an hour at a time now, but he gave my back a thorough looking over and then looked so stern that I was scared that perhaps I had damaged my back beyond repair. I wondered if my stupid stunt with the horse was going to mean life in a wheelchair forever.

He beckoned Pa over to one side and began muttering something to him, looking over at me every so often. I turned my head away because it was irritating me so much. Instead I looked out of the window and watched the clouds float by, and listened to the sounds of the ranch outside.

There was the sharp snap of his bag being closed so I turned and looked at him. “Well, Dr Martin, when can I get up?”

He smiled at me, rather indulgently and shook his head in just the same way he would do when I was a kid and had fallen out of a tree,

“I’m sorry, son, but you’re going to have to be patient with yourself. Your arm’s healing well, but your back…” He shook his head and pulled the corners of his mouth downwards. “It’s severely bruised. You can’t expect to get up and walk away from those kinds of injuries. In fact, if you try, you could do more damage. You do understand what I’m telling you, don’t you?”

He picked up his bag in a no nonsense manner and nodded at us both before turning smartly around and leaving the room. Pa and I just stared at each other for a minute, and then he came and pulled a chair up to the bed so that he could sit down.

“Just how long will I have to stay here?” I asked petulantly.

“As long as it takes, Joe. You’re young, strong and healthy. It you’re patient, it won’t take as long as you think.” He reached out a hand and took hold of mine.

I can remember when I was a little boy placing my hand onto the open palm of my fathers. It seemed so small. I often wondered if I would ever grow big enough to cover his hand with my own. So far I haven’t; in fact, Hoss is the only one who can now. My Pa has big strong hands, capable of great power, and exceeding gentleness. They’re calloused as a result of hard work over the years. First on the merchant ships sailing out of Boston Harbor — hauling on ropes, furling the sheets over the masts, and by sheets I mean the big sails that were tough as leather. My Pa cut down the trees to build the Ponderosa, then hauled them into place. His hands smoothed the wood to make the plank flooring, caressed the cradle in which I slept, carved out every shingle that covers the roof. His hands tell more about his life than anything else of which I can think.

“I don’t know if I have the patience, Pa.” I entwined my fingers through his, and then looked up at him and smiled. I still had some way to go it seemed and he laughed, softly,

“You’ll find the patience, Joe. Your back needs healing, and that means you need to give it time.”

I settled back against the pillows and stared up at the ceiling. I already knew every crack and every cobweb (not that I’d tell Hop Sing) in the room, and was sure that by the time my captivity came to an end I would be totally stir crazy.

Pa began to treat the bedroom as an extension of his study, bringing up his ledgers, which he would work through as he sat beside my bed. At first I found myself falling asleep and suddenly waking up, wondering what had happened. Pa said it was because I was really weak. I guess it was then that I realized just how badly I had injured myself. I speculated on what life would really be like confined to a wheelchair throughout. Just thinking about it was enough to convince me that I had to snatch at patience somehow. But it was not easy. I’m an active young man and those weeks in bed tested me to my limit.

We would talk, Pa and I, about a variety of subjects. When I look back now to that time, I think the one real blessing out of it was that I got this chance to spend so much time with Pa and to get his thoughts on so many things. I got to know what he had been like as a boy — impatient, just like me, to grab at life.

In the evenings, Adam and Hoss would come and share the day’s events with me. It gave me an itch to get up and doing, but I didn’t give in to it. It was hard listening to the sounds coming from the ranch through the window which I always had open. I would close my eyes during the lonely hours and imagine who was where, what they would be doing, and where they would be going. I could smell the heat of the dust and the hay; the sound of the horses brought the smell of their bodies to my nostrils, and I would long to be astride Cochise just riding around the Ponderosa.

I’m not much of an enthusiast about reading, but I guess I did indulge in a fair number of books during those weeks of confinement. I vowed never again… Words in a book don’t mean that much to me, and when they start dancing around in front of one’s eyes, then it’s best to put the thing down.

Came the day Hoss brought me downstairs and I was able to sit in the old blue chair on the porch and watch them all going about their work. I could feel my body healing, which may sound an odd thing to say, but I really could. Hop Sing brewed potions and concoctions, and I had quite a bit of Dr Martin’s medicine as well. The best thing of all was being out in the fresh air though.

Adam would bring any new horse to the house and parade it in front of me, showing off its best points and asking my opinion about it. He would tell me about the new hand they had hired to do the bronco busting and describe some of the day’s events to me in a way that no book could. There’s a word — quite a long one — to describe someone who can tell stories with skill and wit. I know it begins with an r. Anyway, that’s how good Adam is and it sure helped me through those long days, I can tell you.

Hoss brought Cochise out to me every day, and while I fed him — Cochise I mean — with oats, Hoss would chat away. Hoss could chat the hind leg off a donkey, I swear, but it kept me amused.

I guess, looking back to that time, I learned a lot of lessons. About my family, as well as about myself. I never forgot that horse and the way he looked at me. Every time now I see a horse look like that, I turn away and refuse to get drawn into that duel that could culminate, once again, in the destruction of a noble beast. I regret it ever happened in the first place, but Adam says that you have to find the positive in the most negative situation and build on it. I know he’s right, of course.

Tomorrow we’re going down to Papoose Peak where a herd of wild horses are gathered. It will be exciting and dangerous and everything I love about these hunts, cutting out the horses we want and marveling at their strength and beauty.

I just can’t wait …

***The End***

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