All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
“I don’t believe you!” I screamed. “We’re moving to Kentucky to go live with your fiancé on his horse ranch? You’re expecting me to ride horses every day and clean out their stalls? You expect me to start working on a horse ranch even though you know I hate horses?”
“First of all, Stacie,” Mom replied, brushing her light brown hair vigorously. “He won’t be my fiancé when we go to live there. We’re going to be married. And no, I don’t expect you to ride horses every day. You may have to clean out stalls, and that won’t be very hard. You might not even have to touch the horses at all. And I know you dislike horses, but there isn’t much we can do. That’s what happens on a Thoroughbred training ranch like Cherry Lane Ranch. Everyone has to help.” I stared at the pale green walls of her bedroom, tears welling up in my eyes.
“How can you go run off and get married?” I asked. “It’s only been three years since Dad…since Dad…” Mom sighed.
“I know, dear,” she said. “It’s hard to let go of the past. But Rob is so…so perfect. He’s like your father, and…oh, how can I explain it to you?” At this, I got mad.
“Why? Because I’m only fifteen? I’m only a teenager? Is that it?”
She stopped brushing her hair and looked at me in the mirror.
“No, honey,” she said. “It isn’t because you’re fifteen. It’s because you’ve never been in love.” She laughed and started brushing again. “I guess being fifteen kind of comes with never having been in love.” There was a pause, before she said, “I think you’ll like Rob’s ranch.”
At Cherry Lane Ranch, Rob and several ranch hands trained Thoroughbred horses to run in horse races. But when I was little, a horse stepped on my toe at the fair. From then on, I hated horses. And this news that I was going to be living with them and taking care of them wasn’t exactly pleasant. But I figured there wasn’t much I could do, so I tried to be optimistic as I got ready for Mom’s wedding.
Two months later, Mom and Rob got married. At the reception, Rob told me, “When I was young, I told myself I’d never get married. And I made it this far.” He laughed. “But I guess I couldn’t help myself. Imagine! A forty-year-old man getting married for the first time!” We laughed and Mom walked up from talking to some relatives no one knew we had.
“I’m glad to see you two are getting along,” she said. “Because you’re going to be living together from now on!” Jokingly, I replied, “Unless I decide to elope with one of the ranch hands!” Rob glanced at me, a worried look in his eyes. I laughed. “Don’t worry, I was just joking.” He looked somewhat relieved, but I think he knew something I didn’t.
Rob was tall and muscular; he had dark brown hair and brown eyes. He wasn’t horribly good-looking, but neither was he ugly. He definitely had a sense of humor and he was nice to be around. He employed nearly thirty people to help with the farm. It was huge, and he owned over a hundred horses. Only about seven of them did he keep, though. The rest of them he had bought from breeding farms and he would only keep them for a few months, long enough to train them to be race horses. Several of his horses had run in the Kentucky Derby, and one of them had almost won! Cherry Lane Ranch was a well-known ranch in those parts of Kentucky.
Only about two months after Mom and Rob got back from their honeymoon, we were all moved in. I got a pretty big room (Rob had added on a huge addition when he and Mom got engaged) and Rob bought me a brand new stereo as a “home-warming present”. (Mom thought it was hilarious.)
It was early Wednesday morning in July when I was out in the barn, mucking out stalls, that I saw a teenage ranch hand brushing a horse. He looked Hispanic, but I could only see him from the back and it was hard to tell exactly. When he walked over to the other side of the horse, I stopped cleaning out the stall and stood there, my shovel in my hand, watching him.
After a minute, he saw me. I blushed and looked at the ground, trying to make him think I hadn’t been watching him. He didn’t say anything, just went on brushing the brown horse. Likewise, I went on mucking the stall.
Probably ten minutes later, he was done with the horse. He put it in the stall and then walked over to where I was. I was putting new straw on the floor. He stopped outside of the stall, waiting for me to finish. When I was done, he said, “I don’t think I’ve met you yet. I’m Guadalupe Ramirez, and I work here. I assume you’re Stacie Taylor, Mr. Conner’s step-daughter.” I smiled.
“Yes, I am. Nice to meet you, Guadalupe.” He extended his hand for me to shake it. “Sorry,” I said. “But my hands are disgusting.” He shrugged, not withdrawing his hand.
“Mine are just as filthy,” he replied. I could see that they were, so I shook his hand. He smiled. “I’ll be seeing you around, Stacie.” With that, he sauntered off down the isle of the barn. I watched him go.
That Saturday, Rob was hosting a party for all the ranch hands. He said he wanted to say how much he appreciated their work. I had dressed up a bit—I was wearing my nicest pair of jeans, a pink blouse, and black boots. I had worked for hours on my hair and make-up, so I looked like I had stepped out of a JC Penny catalog.
A few of the ranch hands had already shown up and I was sitting on the living room couch, chatting, when I heard Guadalupe’s voice. I turned away from Brian, the blond guy I had been talking to, and smiled at him.
“How are you, Stacie?” he asked. “Mind if I join your conversation?” He took a seat next to me and the other hands glanced at each other.
Guadalupe was wearing some nice jeans and a clean T-shirt; he looked nice. I crossed my legs, wished I was skinnier, and said, “Not at all. We were talking about the horse races.” He grinned.
“Are you starting to get interested in horses now?” he asked. I rolled my eyes.
“Yeah, right!” I said. “I’ll never get interested in those huge, slobbery beasts!” The guys laughed.
“You live on a ranch and you hate the animals they train!” Brian said. “I guess I should say ‘the animals I train’. I’m the guy that rides them!” I looked him over.
“You should be a jockey!” I said. “You’re tiny!” As soon as I said it, I wished I could stuff the words back into my mouth. It sounded like an insult, but he just laughed again and glanced down at himself.
“I wanted to be a jockey when I was young, but it didn’t work out. I just don’t…I’m not meant to be a jockey.” He worked at training the horses on the track Rob had behind the barn.
“Do you have your own horse, Stacie?” asked Guadalupe, changing the subject. “I mean, has Mr. Conner given you one for your own?” I wrinkled my nose.
“Yeah, but he stinks.” Laughing, I explained, “Rob got this colt from a farm and decided that I should have him. I went out there to see him when he got here and I thought he just smelled awful. So Rob doesn’t make me get near him.”
“Are you talking about that black colt from Griffin Breeding Farm?” asked Brian, leaning forward. “The one named Midnight?” I nodded, turning from Guadalupe to Brian.
“Uh-huh,” I answered. “That’s the one.” Brian shook his head in wonder.
“I don’t know how anyone could ever think he was anything but gorgeous!” he said. “If he smelled worse than the county dump, I’d buy him for all that I have! I can tell he’d be fast in the races. Griffin Breeding Farm owns some of the best horses ever. I wouldn’t be surprised if that colt has got some good parents.” I shrugged.
“I don’t care,” I said. “I still think he stinks. I’m not going near him.”
“He’s big, too!” exclaimed Guadalupe. “He’s gotta be about seventeen hands!” I smiled.
“You guys know a lot more about horses than I do. I don’t even know how big a ‘hand’ is!” Brian’s eyes widened.
“You don’t?” he said. “Wow! Okay, a hand is four inches. You measure from the withers to the ground.”
“The withers?” I asked. He laughed.
“You’re serious?” he said. “Man! The withers on a horse is its shoulders! So you measure from the shoulder of a horse to the ground. Seventeen hands is a pretty big horse.”
“Is Midnight a Thoroughbred?” I asked. Brian shook his head.
“I never thought I’d see anyone who knew so little about horses! Of course he’s a Thoroughbred. The only horse on the ranch that isn’t is Rob’s quarter horse, which he uses sometimes because it’s small.”
“Could I sell Midnight for a lot of money?” I inquired, plans forming in my mind. “I mean, if I never ride him, why not sell him and get something out of it?”
“Don’t sell him!” gasped Brian. “No, don’t sell him! You could race him, if you want to get something out of him! But whatever you do, don’t sell the guy! He’s the best colt I’ve ever seen!”
“Yeah, he is a beauty,” agreed Guadalupe. “I’d give my right arm to be able to ride him.” I shrugged.
“Go ahead,” I replied. “I don’t care. Ride him all you want!” A smile broke across his face.
“Are you serious?” he said. “Dude, I’d love to ride that colt!”
Since it was already dark outside, it was decided that tomorrow afternoon, when we were home from church, I would let all the ranch hands ride Midnight for a little while.
Our new church was pretty good, but everyone there was totally obsessed with horses and I was the oddball. They were surprised when I told them I owned a colt that I didn’t want to ride. I made quite a few friends, including a nice girl named Brianna who had blond hair and blue eyes. She lived on a small farm with her parents, who both worked in town. She took care of the horses. She told me that she had one and her parents each had one, so they had three horses in all.
“We also have a little Shetland pony for my brother, Kyle,” she said just before we left. I nodded, not really caring about the horses and ponies she owned. “Maybe I can come visit your ranch sometime,” she continued. “Where is it?” I told her and she said it would probably only take about twenty minutes to get to our place from hers. “You can come over to my house sometime, too,” she added. So we set up times to visit each other and I was excited to have something to do besides talking to ranch hands and cleaning stalls.
As soon as we got home from church, I went to my room and changed into grungy clothes. Then I went out to the barn, where Guadalupe, Brian, and some other ranch hands were waiting to ride Midnight. I went to the colt’s stall and took him out.
He was bigger than I remembered him and not as stinky. While Guadalupe held him, I got his saddle and bridle and got him ready to ride.
“Have you even ridden him yet?” asked Brian as I fastened his saddle. I shook my head.
“No,” I replied. “Here, you can ride first.” He looked surprised.
“Don’t you want to ride him?” he asked. I shook my head again.
“No, you go ahead and mount him.” Reluctantly, he got on the back of the gorgeous horse. I handed him the reins and he walked Midnight out of the barn to the pasture where a few mares were grazing. Then he kicked him into a trot and began to ride across the pasture. Guadalupe, the other ranch hands, and I followed him to the gate, and then watched the beautiful horse as it switched to a canter at the command of its rider. Its strides were long and smooth. I watched in admiration and pride, thinking, That is my horse. I own that gorgeous colt.
When Brian was done riding, he handed to reins to Guadalupe, who mounted and immediately broke into a trot, then a canter, then a full gallop as he went soaring across the grass. I smiled; he was an excellent rider and he was on an excellent horse. Midnight’s coat shone as he galloped to the other end of the pasture. Guadalupe swung him in a wide circle and came back to us. Then he slowed to a walk and, as he passed me, yelled, “This is a wonderful horse, Stacie!” Then he turned and kicked Midnight into a gallop, heading straight for the white fence at the other end of the pasture.
I watched first in admiration, then in fear as I realized he wouldn’t have time to stop or turn! Before I could think, Midnight had leaped into the air, soaring over the fence gracefully. Guadalupe kept his seat splendidly as the colt landed on the grass on the other side. Then he pulled the horse to a halt and turned it around. He yelled across the pasture to us, but we couldn’t hear what he said. I jogged over to the fence and said, “What?”
“Your horse jumps perfectly,” he said. “Can I try it again?” My mouth hung open in surprise.
“You meant to do that?” Now it was his turn to be surprised. He raised his eyebrows.
“Of course! I wouldn’t let a horse jump something I didn’t want to jump! I hope you don’t mind!”
“I don’t mind,” I replied. “And go ahead and jump him again. But you’ve been on it for quite a while. You should let the other hands have a chance.” So he backed up enough for a head start and Midnight jumped the fence perfectly once more. I admired both the way Guadalupe rode him and the way the black colt ran. It truly was a beautiful horse and much as I despised horses, I had to admit that this was a good one.
The other ranch hands rode the horse, but none of them tried to jump it. And none of them rode as well as Guadalupe.
After the last one was done riding Midnight, I unsaddled him and took him to the barn. Guadalupe followed me.
“Want some help?” he asked softly as I began wiping the sweat off of the horse’s coat.
“Sure,” I answered, having second thoughts about not wanting to ride Midnight. So he grabbed a cloth and began to wipe the other side of the horse.
“Guadalupe,” I began. Then I stopped, not sure what I wanted to say.
“Yes?” he said, prodding me on. I sighed and focused on the horse.
“Can you…can you teach me to ride sometime?” That wasn’t really what I had wanted to say, but it was okay. I did want to learn to ride.
Guadalupe laughed. It broke the tension and, not being able to help myself, I laughed along. When we were done laughing, I felt that I needed to explain myself further, so I added, “I sort of want to ride Midnight but I really don’t know how.”
“I’d love to,” he replied with a grin. So we decided that tomorrow morning he would teach me to ride the beautiful colt.
I woke up early Tuesday morning and, after almost going back to sleep, thought, I get to learn to ride Midnight today! Then I laughed at myself. A week ago, I would have chosen to pick up garbage on the side of the road if it was an alternative to riding a horse. Now I got myself up early to ride one.
I dressed into some faded jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt. Then I put on a bright pink sweatshirt over the top because these early mornings were rather cold.
When I reached the barn, I could see that I was alone. Guadalupe wasn’t there yet, but I didn’t blame him. It was only seven o’clock after all.
I walked up to Midnight’s stall and watched the colt as he flicked his tail back and forth, watching me and what went on behind me. I smiled at him and said quietly, “Good morning! Are you ready for a ride?” He blew out through his nose and bobbed his head, as if in answer to my question. I laughed and put a harness on him. Then I opened the gate to his stall and let him out into the isle.
Somewhere down through the barn, another horse whinnied. Midnight turned his head and whinnied back. Then he began to tug on the rope by which I held him. I held firm, hoping he wouldn’t try to bolt or anything.
Just as I was wondering if I should simply let him go where he wished, I heard footsteps from the back door of the barn. Apparently Midnight heard them, too, because he turned and looked at the door just as Guadalupe came into sight.
“Hi, Guadalupe,” I said, pulling the colt around so he stood at my side.
“Hey, Stacie,” he replied. “Ready to ride?” I smiled.
“Definitely.” He grabbed a brush and curry comb off of a shelf near the door and approached us. Then he fastened Midnight into the crossties and we began to clean him.
When the colt’s black coat was shiny and his mane was empty of tangles and dirt, I went to get a saddle, leaving Guadalupe with the horse. I found a nice-looking saddle which I was pretty sure was the same one I had used the day before when the ranch hands were riding Midnight. So I brought it back and Guadalupe helped me put it on the beautiful horse.
“Are you ready to mount?” he asked. “Or do you want to take him out to a paddock first?” I shrugged.
“I don’t care,” I said. So Guadalupe handed me the reins and had me lead Midnight out of the barn.
The sun had come up and it was just breaking over the roof of a neighboring barn. I squinted into the sunlight and Guadalupe directed me to turn the horse so it wasn’t facing the sun. So we walked to an empty paddock and I stood still, holding Midnight’s reins. The horse stood stock still, except for a slight twitching of his tail while the Mexican ranch hand closed the gate.
“Do you want me to hold his head while you mount?” asked Guadalupe, walking over to where I stood, holding Midnight. I nodded and answered, “Sure.” So he took the reins from me and helped boost me into the saddle.
When I was in the saddle, I smiled. I was sitting on a horse of my own free will! When I moved here to Cherry Lane Ranch, I never would have imagined that I’d be asking a ranch hand to teach me to ride a horse! But now that it had happened, I was glad.
“Sit up straighter,” Guadalupe directed me. “And turn your toes out from the sides of the horse.” I did as I was told; Midnight stamped his hoof, impatient to be moving, I could see. “Now nudge him with your knee and heel into a walk,” said Guadalupe. This I did, and Midnight moved forward. I grinned.
“He wants to gallop,” I said, tugging gently on the reins to slow him down. Guadalupe nodded and replied, “Yeah, he definitely has Thoroughbred blood in him. If you want, you can try trotting him in circles now.” I decided to do this, and gave him a little nudge. He sped up and I bounced up and down in the saddle.
After trotting in circles around the paddock for a minute or two, I thought I’d speed him up to a canter. So I pressed my heel into his side, but instead of just speeding up to a canter, he broke into a gallop and I began to tug on the reins. He wasn’t supposed to be galloping in a small enclosed area like this! Suddenly, my eyes grew wide as I saw the white fence getting rapidly closer…and closer…and closer!
“Aah!” I let out a scream as Midnight leaped into the air, clearing the fence easily. If I hadn’t been so scared, I might have enjoyed that moment of being airborne, but I wasn’t used to jumping and when the colt hit the ground, even though he landed perfectly, I went flying over his shoulder, landing with a thud in the grass.
Air! I needed air! Suddenly, my breath came back to me and I gulped in a few huge breaths before looking around for Midnight. I saw him slow from a trot to a walk and then stop to lower his head and eat some grass. Then I turned around and tried to find Guadalupe. He jumped off the fence and came running over to me.
Helping me up, he asked, “Are you okay?” I nodded, but my legs felt shaky.
“Why did he jump the fence like that?” I asked. “I only nudged him into a canter.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I guess a racing horse like him just wants to run and he didn’t want to stay at slow paces. So when you gave him a little nudge, he just took off.” I brushed off my shirt and didn’t reply. Guadalupe walked over to where Midnight was now grazing quietly. I heard him say, “Why did you do that, Midnight? Your rider wasn’t experienced and you bucked her off!” He took the reins and led him back over to me.
“Do you mind if I go in?” I asked. “Can you put him away?”
“Usually when a horse bucks you off you have to get back on,” he replied. “You gotta show him that he can’t get away with being disobedient.” I sighed.
“All right,” I said, rubbing a sore spot. The ground was harder when you fell onto it from a horse! So Guadalupe helped me into the saddle and I took the reins. He stood by Midnight’s head as I rode him slowly back to the first paddock. I rode him a few times in circles before I was brave enough to bring him up to a trot. But after only a few more circles of trotting, I reined him in and stopped him.
“I think I’ve ridden enough for today,” I told Guadalupe. “Okay?”
“Fine,” he replied. “Let’s take Midnight into the barn and give him something to eat.”
“After that let’s get ourselves something to eat,” I said. “I’m starving.”
So we put Midnight in his stall after unsaddling him and then we fed him.
“Wanna feed him a carrot?” asked Guadalupe. “He’ll love you forever after if you do.” I was reluctant, but I agreed and took the carrot from his hand. “Be sure and hold your hand flat,” he instructed. “Don’t let there be any wrinkles of skin for him to bite accidentally.” I did as told and Midnight gobbled up the carrot in such a funny manner that I wanted to feed him another one. Guadalupe gave me one but told me that I shouldn’t spoil him too much.
After saying good-bye to the beautiful black colt, I headed inside. Guadalupe stayed out in the barn to do some chores.
That evening, I called my friend from back home, Chelsea. As I dialed her number, I thought about what I would have to tell her. I would tell her about Guadalupe, definitely. I’d also tell her about Rob, Midnight, and how I was starting to like horses a little bit. I just liked the way it felt to be riding on them. And Midnight was beautiful.
“Hello?” It sounded like Chelsea answering.
“Hey, is this Chelsea? This is Stacie.”
“Stacie! Why haven’t you called sooner? I’ve been dying to know how you’re getting along! You never gave me your number so I couldn’t call you! I was wondering how you’re liking farm life!” I pulled the phone away from my ear. She was practically yelling at the top of her lungs.
“Chelsea! For heaven’s sake!” I said. Then I began to explain a few things. “The reason I haven’t called is because I’ve been busy. I had to move in, and then I’ve been busy getting to know the ranch hands and I even got my own horse, Midnight! He’s a gorgeous black Thoroughbred colt who all the guys love.”
“Stacie,” she said. “Are you actually saying something nice about a horse?” I laughed.
“Yes, I believe I am. They aren’t all that bad. The ones I’ve come in contact with in the past were bad-tempered ones, I guess. Midnight is as sweet as honey.”
“Huh,” was all she said.
“And as far as the ranch hands go, there’s this one Mexican dude named Guadalupe who’s really nice. He even taught me how to ride a horse earlier today. I also got to know a guy named Brian, who’s pretty small and rides the horses to train them.”
“Cool,” said Chelsea, obviously interested in the guys part of what I was saying. “What kind of horses are there on the farm?”
“Mostly Thoroughbreds,” I replied. “That’s the kind of horse they use in races.”
“I see,” she said. “Is Guadalupe cute?”
“You bet!” I exclaimed. “He’s adorable! But I’m not thinking of romance really right now. I mean, he’s cool and I think of him as a friend, not a possible boyfriend.”
“Can I have him then?” she asked jokingly. I laughed.
“Yeah, right!” She laughed, too and I told her more about ranch life.
A little later, we hung up. It was good to talk to someone back home because to tell the truth, I was rather homesick.
“Stacie!” It was Mom calling from downstairs. I opened the door and hurried down, placing the phone back in its cradle when I got there.
“What is it, Mom?” I asked.
“Some ranch hand wants to talk to you out in the barn.” My heart leaped. Was it Guadalupe?
“I’ll go see what he wants,” I said.
But when I got out there, it wasn’t Guadalupe. It was Brian. He looked worried.
“What’s the matter, Brian?” I asked. He led me to Midnight’s stall. He was gone! I gasped.
“What happened to Midnight?” I cried.
“He has disappeared!” Brian said. “I don’t know what happened to him!” I glanced down the row of stalls, searching for the colt. He wasn’t in any of them. “I went to ask Guadalupe what happened to him but he wasn’t there. Guadalupe’s missing, too.” I groaned.
“Oh, no,” I said. Brian frowned.
“Do you think Guadalupe took him?” he asked. I started walking toward the tack room in the rear of the barn.
“I don’t know. Brian, get me a horse that Rob wouldn’t mind me riding.”
“Now!” He did as he was told, bringing a chestnut mare with a white stripe to me. I put a saddle and bridle on the horse, hoping I knew how to ride well enough.
“Where are you going?” asked Brian. “Are you going to try and find him?” I started leading the mare out of the barn.
“Yeah,” I replied. He hurried to the house to tell everyone while I glanced worriedly at the sky. Dark clouds were coming from the north. I shivered, but I had no time to go get a jacket. Midnight was gone!
As I mounted the chestnut mare, she stomped a foot. I sat in the saddle, trying to remember all that Guadalupe had taught me about riding. I could only hope he was telling me the truth then.
I nudged the horse into a trot, and she headed for the pastures. As we went through a patch of mud, I noticed fresh hoof prints heading for some woods to the left. I turned the mare to follow the tracks and made her canter.
The horse was a good horse, I could tell. She had long, smooth strides and took me fast across the ground, but I was impatient. Even though I was scared to go faster, I nudged her into a gallop.
She was heading fast for the woods and I saw a rotten log lying on the ground in front of us. I knew I couldn’t direct her around it, so I prepared to jump it. She leaped over it and, before I knew it, we were racing on.
As we approached the woods, I slowed her to a trot and entered into the trees, which weren’t very thick. I looked in vain for Guadalupe and Midnight. I had lost their tracks farther back.
Suddenly, the mare stopped and whinnied into the cool air. I listened, hoping for an answering whinny from Midnight, but the air was silent. I sighed and nudged the chestnut into a walk.
We wandered the woods for another twenty minutes, but we saw no sign of Guadalupe and Midnight. But then the mare turned suddenly and there, right behind us, stood Midnight, with Guadalupe on his back. The colt took a step forward and reached out his nose to sniff the mare, but Guadalupe, with a frightened look on his face, forced him to turn and canter away. I kicked the mare’s side and said, “Canter!” She did as she was told, and we kept up with the horse and rider in front of us until they broke out of the woods. Then he kicked Midnight into a gallop and they were gone. When we left the forest, I could see them galloping for the road. I had to stop them!
I kicked the mare hard and she immediately started to gallop, but she wasn’t as fast as Midnight, and the gap between us got bigger until Guadalupe and Midnight disappeared over a hill.
I made the horse I was on gallop until we cleared the hill, and then I slowed her to a trot, for Midnight was not anywhere in sight.
I trotted around on the mare for the better part of an hour, but to no use. I couldn’t find Guadalupe and Midnight anywhere.
When I got within sight of the barn, I could see a crowd of people waiting for me. I sighed and dismounted, leading the sweaty mare up the barn.
“Did you find them?” asked Mom, running up to me. I shook my head.
“I saw them in the woods and chased them out over that hill,” I said, pointing to the hill. “But when I got over the hill, they were gone. I looked all over the place there; I even searched the woods again, but he wasn’t there. I don’t know where else to look.”
“Guadalupe will probably sell Midnight,” said Rob. “If he raced him, we could easily track him. He’ll probably get used as a breeding stallion.” I frowned, trying to keep the tears in.
“He is such a beautiful horse!” I cried. “And I thought I could trust Guadalupe.” Brian sighed.
“He was one of my best buddies,” he said. I led the mare into the barn and put her in the crossties.
“You worked hard for me today,” I told her. “Thanks. You deserve a treat.” So I got a carrot and fed it to her. Then I wiped her down, trying to get all the sweat off of her coat. After she was free of perspiration, I brushed her and combed out the tangles out of her mane and tail. Then I picked her hoofs, getting all the dirt and mud out of them.
By the time I was done, everyone had gone into the house except for Brian, who was leading in some mares from out in the field. When he was done, he approached me. I was putting the mare in her stall.
“Hey, Stacie,” he said. “That mare—Rob says you can keep her. She is called Bride.” I turned to him.
“No horse can replace Midnight,” I replied. “But she’ll have to do. She is a wonderful horse.” He patted Bride’s nose and said, “Yes, she is.”
We looked at her for a while, and I thought about Midnight. What a wonderful colt he was! And what a shame it was for a thief like Guadalupe to get him!
“You worked hard today, Stacie,” said Brian after a while. “You’re very brave.” I let out a little laugh.
“Oh, yes you are,” he said. “You rode a horse you’d never even seen before and you’d never even galloped before, really. And you were out there for over an hour, searching. You’re a brave and wonderful girl, Stacie.” I turned to look at him, tears in my eyes.
“You’re the best guy in the world, Brian,” I said. “Thanks for not stealing my horse.” He smiled.
“I’d never steal a horse.” Then I turned and headed for the house, but he stayed out in the barn; he had some work to do.
The next morning, I woke up early and went out to the barn to check on Bride. She was standing happily in her stall. I gave her some grain and she began to eat. Then I went to look in Midnight’s stall, as if just to be sure he wasn’t there. He wasn’t. So I walked back down the row of stalls, stopping in front of a different black horse that reminded me of Midnight. But he had a blaze down the front of his face. I patted the horse’s neck and said, “No one would ever steal you, would they, buddy.” He nuzzled me and I kissed the tip of his nose. Suddenly, he pulled his head up and turned toward the door. I looked to see what he had seen.
The rising sun was just peeking over the horizon and, outlined against the sunlight, stood a horse. I gasped. He stood right in the middle of the doorway, like in a movie. I ran up to him and started to cry. The horse was Midnight!
“You came home!” I cried, hugging his neck. “You came home! You came back!” Then I turned and, grabbing his bridle, which he still wore, led him into the barn. His stall was nice-looking, so I put him in there. Then I fed him and kissed him and cried some more.
“I’ll be right back, Midnight,” I said. “I’ve got to go tell everyone else!” With that, I ran back to the house to spread the news.
“Mom! Rob! Midnight is here! He came home! Midnight is home!” I yelled, running into the house. The door slammed and I ran up the stairs, not bothering to wipe my feet on the rug.
“Mom! Rob!” I yelled. Rob was just coming down the stairs.
“What is it, Stacie?” he asked. “What’s the matter?”
“Midnight is here!” I yelled. “Midnight came home! I just found him! He came home by himself! He’s here!” Rob’s face lit up and he hurried down the stairs to go see for himself while I told Mom. We all headed out to the barn, but when we got there, we saw something none of us expected to see.
Guadalupe was leading Midnight out of the barn by his bridle! I yelled at him and ran up to him. He pushed me away and began to run, with Midnight following after him. Then Rob ran up and struggled with Guadalupe, who was still trying to steal the colt. I managed to get the reins, but Rob was on the ground, holding his arm. Guadalupe was running at me. I couldn’t outrun him and I couldn’t survive a fight with him. I hurried over to a stack of crates next to the door of the barn and, using them as stepping stools, climbed onto the un-saddled horse. Kicking him into a canter, we began to ride for the woods.
“Go, Midnight, go!” I said, trying to get him to gallop. Suddenly, he was going faster than I’d ever ridden before and I was afraid of falling off. In fact, I almost did, so I slowed him to a canter again.
I turned to try and see Guadalupe behind me. He was in a struggle with Rob and Brian at the barn, so I stopped Midnight and turned him around.
Trotting back to the barn, I saw that Guadalupe had been overcome and he was being held tightly by Rob, Brian, and another ranch hand. I dismounted and led Midnight to his stall. Once he was safely in there, I kissed his nose and said, “You were great, Midnight.”
Mom had called the police, and I heard sirens in the distance. I knew all would be well now.
After giving Midnight and Bride extra carrots, I went inside for some treats of my own.
Midnight is safe at home and Guadalupe is going to jail for theft, I think. I’m starting to like Kentucky. I think I’ll be quite happy here. In fact, I like living on a horse ranch even better than living in town, like I was in Indiana. I can’t wait to ride Midnight some more later today. And I’m going to visit Brianna tomorrow! I’m so excited! She and I will get to ride and get to know each other. Also, Rob said I could help train the horses now. I can’t wait until I learn to ride really well. Hee, hee. I guess I’m a horse person now!