She was an old horse, but she still had a lot of life in her. And she was the best friend Luke needed after the pain of his parents' divorce and the move to Oklahoma to live with his difficult grandfather. Luke could have had a younger horse, one better able to keep up with a boy's adventures. But it was Beauty that Luke loved. He found himself sharing his hopes, dreams, and fears with the old horse. With Beauty, Luke was finally able to enjoy life again.
Until one night, in a wild storm, Beauty escapes from the corral into a terrible trap, and Luke is faced with the most difficult decision he's ever had to make.
|Product dimensions:||5.02(w) x 7.58(h) x 0.52(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
One of the most memorable trips took place on the far side of Lake Lawtonka, at the base of Mt. Scott. He and his best friend, Gary, spent the day shooting shad with bow and arrows, cutting bank poles, and getting ready to go when their dads got home from work.
Although there was no "monster" in Lake Lawtonka, one night there was a "sneak attack" by a rather large catfish tail. Checking the bank poles was not nearly as fun or "free" after that point, but it was the inspiration for this story.
Bill Wallace has won nineteen children's state awards and been awarded the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award for Children's Literature from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.
Read an Excerpt
It wasn't the Morning Trail, but I was riding.
Well, not really riding. Grampa was leading Beauty around with me on her back, like I was some little kid on a pony ride at a carnival. But at least I was sitting on a horse again.
She looked kind of old and ragged when I first saw her in the corral. But from up here on her back, she was beautiful. Her mane draped to the right side of her neck, fine and smooth as corn silk, like the touch of butterfly wings against my hand as I held the reins low in front of the saddle.
While Grandpa led her around the pen, I couldn't help noticing how her walk was as smooth and gentle as a snow skier gliding down fresh powder. Still, I could feel her power and strength.
Grampa led her slow and easy. About all I could see of him was his white hair. Every now and then a puff of smoke came curling up over his head and back toward me. It smelled like a mixture of coconut and old dirty socks, kind of good and kind of yucky, both at the same time. I sure hoped Grampa's pipe tasted better than it smelled.
"Got five acres in this pen," he said over his shoulder. "Think I'll just have you walk her in here today. Let you two get used to one another 'fore I turn you out on your own."
I slumped a little in the saddle. "I know how to ride, Grampa," I said, feeling a little disgusted. "I've been riding with Daddy up in Aspen for years."
A big puff of smoke rolled back over his head. He stopped and turned to me.
"It's like trading in a bicycle for a motorcycle," he said, smiling.
I felt a frown tug at the corners of my mouth. "Huh?"
"Beauty. Even though she's old, she still ain't exactly what you're usedto."
The corners of my mouth dropped farther, since I didn't have the slightest idea what he was talking about.
"What do you mean?"
"Beauty, here." Grampa patted the horse on the side of her neck. "She ain't like the horses you're used to." He cocked one burly, rumpled eyebrow at me. "Your mom's written me a couple of times 'bout you and your dad riding up in the mountains. You rode stable horses or trail horses, didn't you?"
Grampa grinned. "Well, trail horses are used to following another horse. They keep their place in line and track their back feet." He stopped, noticing the puzzled look on my face. "'Track their back feet' means they put their back foot down in the exact same spot where their front foot just left. Makes for a good sure-footed mount. Good for riding narrow mountain trails."
He took another puff on his crusty-looking black pipe.
"Anyhow, a trail horse is good for following. They don't stumble much. Best horse there is for being in the mountains. But if you ever tried to make one gallop, you'd beat the leather off the heels of your boot and still wouldn't be able to get it into a trot. Right?"
I felt my lip curl, remembering. "I guess."
"Little ole mare you're sittin' on ain't no trail horse. You kick her like you have to do one of them, she'll shoot clean out from under you. Leave nothin' between your butt and the ground but empty air. Got a lot of get-up-and-go. Gonna have to take it easy with her till you get used to the way she handles."
I tried to smile, not really enjoying this long winded lecture.
"Mike Garrison took her on the rodeo circuit five no, six years back. Used her for a roping horse and trained her for cuttin', too. You get yankin' the reins, she'll move on you, and you won't know where she went till you scrape the dust out of your eyes and look around from where you're sittin' on the ground."
I smiled and nodded my head at Grampa. I heard his words, but I really wasn't listening to what he said. Shoot! Daddy had been taking me riding since I was five.
"Can I ride now?" I tried not to sound too disgusted.
Grampa's pipe had gone out. He looked down and stuck his finger in the bowl to pack the ash. I waited for more advice while he lit his pipe again.
I couldn't help noticing the funny, knowing smile on his face when he motioned to the far end of the five acre pasture.
"Go right ahead."
He let go of the reins and stepped back.
I remember thinking to myself, I'll show him who knows how to ride.
And I remember pulling the reins.
And I remember kicking Beauty in the sides with both heels.
But that's about all I remember.
The next thing I knew, the right side of my bottom hurt. My head was aching and throbbing something terrible, and Grampa was picking me up out of that red Oklahoma dust. He snatched me off the ground like I was no heavier than a sack of feed and pitched me back on the horse. It all happened so fast, I hardly knew I'd been thrown off, except for having a sore tail and a terrible headache.
Grampa stuffed his pipe in his pocket and kind of growled as he cleared his throat.
"Now that we got your attention, you figure I need to talk to you again or can you remember what I said?"
I blinked a couple of times, trying to make sure where I was.
"I can remember." I picked some sand out of my teeth with the tip of my tongue.
Grampa backed off again. "Some people got to do everything the hard way," he said with a shrug.
This time I latched onto the saddle horn. I'd take it a tattle easier. It'd been a long time since Daddy and I rode in Aspen. I just needed to get used to the horse, get used to riding again.
Easy as could be, I brushed my heels against Beauty's side. She leaped into a gallop that sent me sliding against the back of the saddle. I yanked on the reins. She stopped so quickly, she almost threw me over the saddle horn and onto her neck.
Behind me I could hear Grampa chuckle. It made me so mad, I wished I had something to throw at him.
"Just use your knees," he called. "Don't kick -- just squeeze with your knees when you want her to go."
Beauty and I sat there for a long time. Finally, I got up the nerve to try and make her move. I held the reins really tight and squeezed just a little with my knees. It worked. She started walking.
Still, I was scared and tense and shaking so much I could hardly enjoy riding. We walked around the pen a couple of times. Then, feeling a little better about the whole thing, I squeezed a little more with my knees.
She started trotting.
Now you're getting it, I told myself. Now you can handle her. You're riding her now.
And as I trotted past Grampa, I turned to smile at him.
This time I landed on my right shoulder. Stars popped in my eyes for a second. I hurt something terrible.
When I finally managed to sit up, the old horse was standing a few feet away, staring at me with a funny look on her face as if to say: "Well, what are you doing down there, stupid?"'
Her standing and looking at me almost made me madder than getting thrown off. The first time, I guess I asked for it -- trying to show off to Grampa and prove what a good rider I was. But this time....
I was on my feet before Grampa got to me. My fist was clenched at my side. I could hear the sound of the dirt grinding between my teeth as I glared at that stinking horse.
Grampa tried to dust me off, only it hurt my shoulder when he brushed it. I yanked away from him.
"What'd I do?"
Grampa shrugged. "She's a trained cuttin' horse. You put your weight in one stirrup, she's gonna cut."
"All I did was look back at you."
Grampa nodded. "And when you looked back, you leaned in the right stirrup. And when you leaned in the right stirrup, she cut left. Just been trained. You didn't do anything wrong, and neither did she. Just been trained different. Neither one of you know what to expect from the other."
He took my hand, then walked over and picked up Beauty's reins.
"Figure that's enough riding for the first day." His eyes seemed to twinkle. "Besides, I don't want you hurting my horse." He started off for the barn.
I rubbed my aching shoulder and felt my sore seat as I walked.
"Me hurt her?" I yelped. "I can't believe you said that, Grampa. She's thrown me off two times, and you're worried about me hurting her."
He only nodded. "Right. Fallin' off ain't good for a horse. Do it too often, and they get to figuring that's the way it's supposed to be. Then, first thing you know, they're doing things to get everybody to fall off. You done enough falling off for one day."
"Falling off, falling off? I wasn't falling off. I was thrown off!"
Grampa only shook his head and kept walking. "Wild horse will throw you off. Bucking stock will throw you off. Gentle, well-trained horse don't throw you. You either get off or, if you don't know what you're doing, you fall off. She's only doing what she's trained to do. Now come on. Let's get this saddle off her and -- "
I didn't hear the rest of what Grampa was saying. I was so mad, I couldn't see straight. It wasn't right. I did know how to ride. It's just that Beauty was a wild, spooky, crazy horse who didn't even act like a horse. It was all her fault. Not mine.
I was mad!
Only I didn't even know what mad was. Not until I saw the way Mama acted after she came out to check on how we were doing.
Copyright © 1988 by Bill Wallace