About the Author
Dandi Daley Mackall is the author of numerous books for children, including Larger-Than- Life Lara. She lives in West Salem, Ohio, with her husband and their three children.
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By Dandi Daley Mackall
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Dandi Daley Mackall
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWild West
It's the most important race in the old Wild West. Ellie James and her speedy horse, Dream, step up to the starting line. Next to her, Cowboy Colt lopes in on Bullet, the famed cow horse. These two trusty steeds join fifty other horses. They're all itching for a chance to ride for the Pony Express. The winner of this here Wild West race will earn a spot on the Pony Express, America's new mail delivery system. Horses will deliver the mail across the United States (since mail trucks and airplanes haven't been invented yet).
The sheriff shoots his pistol. The horses are off and running!
Bullet and Dream take an early lead. It looks like they don't plan to give it up, either. Off they go—through the desert, into the mountains, across the wide-open prairies. Folks cheer as hooves thunder down Main Street. Riders gallop past the old saloon, past the sheriff's office, past the church with the white steeple.
Dream and Bullet are neck and neck as they cross the finish line. It's a tie!
"Hurray for Colt and Bullet!" the crowd shouts. "Hurray for Dream and Ellie!"
The Wild West fades back into my imagination. The dusty prairie becomes the tile floor of my classroom in Hamilton, Missouri. Cheers are swallowed up by the stern voice of my fourth-grade teacher, Miss Hernandez. She looks surprisingly like one of the cheering prairie women from the Wild West.
"Ellie, answer me, please. Are you or aren't you ready for it?" My teacher tugs on her ponytail, which is one of the best things about her. Her ponytail, not the tugging. Tugging means she's losing patience with me because she caught me daydreaming again.
"Uh," I begin. "Hmmm. Am I ready or not? Good question." I'm stalling for time because all is not lost. I'm looking for my best buddy, Colt Stevens.
Lucky for me, my teacher has walked over to my desk. That means Colt is behind her. One of the best things about Colt Stevens is that he took up sign language when I did. We learned it so we could talk to my little brother, Ethan. But sign language also comes in handy for helping each other out of trouble in the classroom.
I could sign What? to Colt, but Miss Hernandez knows a little sign language herself. So I just raise my eyebrows at my buddy.
Colt grins, then finger-spells r-e-c-e-s-s.
Recess? Cool. "You bet, Miss Hernandez!" I answer. "I am so ready!"
My teacher looks confused. She doesn't have old wrinkles like my parents do. But her forehead squeezes wrinkles into it anyway. "Really, Ellie? Well, good for you. I'll expect to see great improvement from you, then."
Great improvement? At recess?
"Totally," I say. Only my stomach is getting funky.
Colt is laughing now.
"I guess you've been studying, Ellie," Miss Hernandez says. "Because we all know that those fourth-grade math proficiency tests can be tough if we don't study, study, study."
Colt Stevens! Our teacher did not ask if I'm ready for recess. She asked if I'm ready for the state math tests. That answer is a big, fat no. I'd like to sign something mean to Colt for tricking me. Only his back is turned. I can see his shoulders bouncing up and down like he's riding Bullet at a trot. He thinks this is so funny.
I gaze out our classroom window until the green grass turns into the dust of the Wild West again. Then I back things up:
Bullet and Dream are neck and neck coming down the stretch. They gallop lightning-fast toward the finish line. It sure looks like it's going to be a tie ... until Cowboy Colt starts laughing. His shoulders shake. He topples to the side. And boom! Colt falls off his horse, landing in a soft mud puddle. Poor Colt is left behind in a cloud of dust as Ellie and Dream cross the Pony Express finish line.
Hurray for Ellie and Dream! The winners!
Miss Hernandez hands out more math homework. Our teacher is in the middle of another pep talk, explaining to the class how important those tests are to us and the state of Missouri and the whole entire United States of America when the speaker system comes on.
"Would somebody please find Ellie James?"
I blink a few times to make sure I haven't imagined this. I haven't. I'm in my classroom staring at the speaker like everybody else.
Slowly, kids turn and stare at me. Rashawn and Cassie look more worried than a pair of spooked horses.
From the speaker, a squeal, or maybe a scream, is followed by a shuffling of feet. There's a crash like a chair is being knocked over. Then I hear the voice of Principal Dwayne Fishpaw shouting, "Now! Tell Ellie to come right this minute! There's a horse in the library!"
We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. 1 John 4:16
Excerpted from Chasing Dream by Dandi Daley Mackall Copyright © 2012 by Dandi Daley Mackall. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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