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The Edge This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     When our horses shuffled through the dust to thelip of the bluff, we saw the ranch below and sighed in relief, shifting sorebones in our saddles. It had been a good day of hard riding, with the only soundthe creaking of the saddles and the deep snorting of our mounts, with the bignessof Wyoming surrounding us, making us feel like royalty.

Theranch, with its hot baths and steaming plates of lasagna, was a welcome sight.Our horses raised their heads and their ears strained forward. All ten of us fellinto line on the zigzag trail down the face of the bluff, letting the reinsloosen and rolling stiff shoulder muscles. I was second to last in front of mymother; I half-twisted in my saddle to grin at her sweaty, beaming faceunderneath the pristine black velvet riding helmet. While all the others worecowboy hats, my parents firmly insisted that we wear our hard ridinghelmets.

The sun was beginning to sink behind the mountains, lending thesky and the ground an orange glow. I slouched in my saddle and half-closed myeyes, remembering how that morning we had trotted over a grassy hill in aneat line like ducklings behind their mother, and then there had been a coyotesitting there in the brush. He was only a smudge of gray with eyes; he sat calmlywhile the horses trotted past. I wondered what he thought of the curious facesthat gawked at him.

I shaded my eyes to see the corral at the bottom. Mel,the stern, inscrutable woman in charge of the horses, was letting out a bunch.The horses turned as if one for the path leading up the bluff, and I realized,with a shortening of breath, that they were headed straight for us. It was theend of the day; their work was done, and they wanted a good feed, a drink, and aromp in the grass. But we were between them and their pleasure.

Our guideushered us down the end of the path to let the horses pass, and I felt a thrillto feel the breeze their passage made with their pounding hoof beats. Then Ilooked up the path, and the thrill ended. My mother was still in the middle ofthe path, at the highest point of the cliff, blocking their way.

Horsesare herd animals. When my mother's horse saw the pack charging toward freedom, hebecame determined to run with them. In an instant, the meek creature who hadcarried Mom all day became what he was - a wild animal. He threw back his headand screamed so fiercely that the hair on the back of my neck stood up. When Momgrabbed the reins and tried to haul his head around, he backed up until his hindfeet were kicking pebbles off the edge of the cliff. The air seemed to hang heavyand hot; I couldn't breathe. The guide leaped off her horse and ran forward,trying to grab the bridle, but the horse tensed and reared, his forelegsthrashing the sky. It was like a scene from "The Lone Ranger," with thesun blazing behind him.

Miraculously, my mother still clung to the saddle.I could see her face, alabaster white against her damp red hair. She had gonebeyond fear and was fro-zen in terror. She clung to the snorting, thrashing beastby instinct and in the next moment, the guide had the reins. As if by magic, thehorse calmed. We all sat like stones while Mom swung down from the saddle andwalked toward us, looking as if she had aged 50 years. No one said anything untilwe were down the bluff, the horses unsaddled and rubbed down. We sipped hotchocolate and cast testing looks at Mom. She had regained her color, and herhands holding the mug didn't tremble, but when we talked about the ride andlaughed at our escapades, we never joked about the cliff. Two hooves, teeteringon the edge of a cliff, marked the line between one future and nofuture.

I think about the sun sinking behind the mountains, the reinsflopping loosely on my horse's neck, the little puffs of dust rising with eachclop of the hooves - and then, the flaming bronze statue sculpted against thesky, the stones fall-ing from the edge of the path. It had changed so fast! Theline between here and there is finer than a single hair.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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