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Magic Pony Carousel #3: Star the Western Pony
"Look! It's a lasso game!" cried Laura. "Let's try that next!" She ran across the fairground, with her three brothers chasing her. They all loved anything to do with the Wild West! But Laura was the only one who also loved detective stories—she was always looking for a new mystery to solve.
As they waited in line to throw lassos over different prizes, Laura hopped from foot to foot. "Come on, come on," she chanted.
Suddenly she heard a voice booming across the fairground. "Step up, step up for the most exciting ride of your lives! Choose your favorite pony and let Barker's Magic Pony Carousel whisk you away on an amazing adventure! Ride a circus pony, a princess's pony, or a cowgirl's pony straight from the Wild West. . . ."
"Did you hear that?" Laura gasped. She loved riding ponies as much as she loved the Wild West. A cowgirl's pony sounded like the most exciting thing in the whole world! She looked hopefully at her oldest brother, Sam. "Can I ride the Magic Carousel, please?"
"You and your ponies." Sam grinned. "Okay. But I don't think the carousel's a ride for me. I'll just watch."
"Thanks!" said Laura.
They left Laura's middle brothers, Harry and Paul, in line for the lasso stall and made their way to Mr. Barker's Magic Carousel.
Close up, the carousel's twinkling lights glowed merrily in the dusk of early evening. Laura stared at the swirling red, gold, and silver colors, desperate for a glimpse of the cowgirl's pony. There was the circus pony with a sparkly feather headdress and an Arabian horse that had afiery glint in his eye. She saw the princess's pony with its neck proudly arched . . . but where was the cowgirl's pony?
Then Laura saw her. She was the most beautiful pony on the carousel! She was a rich golden chestnut color all over, apart from a star on her forehead and three pretty white socks. She wore a fancy leather bridle and a heavy tan Western saddle. She looked just like the ponies in Laura's favorite Western movies!
"Step up, step up!" called a tall man in a red-and-green striped top hat. "Choose your favorite pony!" He caught sight of Laura. "Hello, young lady! I'm Mr. Barker. Welcome to my magnificent Magic Carousel!"
Laura smiled. Mr. Barker had such friendly, twinkling eyes! "I think I know which pony I want," she said.
"Well, that's a good start. But has that pony been chosen for you?" asked Mr. Barker mysteriously.
Laura was puzzled. "I don't know," she said.
Mr. Barker laughed and lifted his striped top hat. There was a flash of pink paper as he pulled something out from under it. It was a ticket! Laura glanced at Sam to see if he'd seen how the ticket had appeared, but he was busy looking at the ponies on the carousel.
"This is yours," said Mr. Barker, handing her the ticket.
Laura looked at it. There was a name on it in swirling gold writing. "Star!" she read out breathlessly. The cowgirl's pony had a star on her forehead—could that be her name? Feeling excited, she ran over to the carousel to take a closer look. The horse's name was written on her browband.
"It says Star here, too!" she said.
"Then that's the pony for you," said Mr. Barker.
Star's painted brown eyes seemed to be encouraging her, so Laura clambered quickly onto the carousel. The Western saddle was very different from the English saddles she was used to. It was much more complicated, with a big horn at the front, lots of ropes and leather pouches, and stirrups that were much lower. But as the carousel began to turn, Laura felt so safe and comfortable that it was as if she'd always known how to ride a cowgirl's pony.
Laura waved at Sam, who grinned and waved back. The carousel music grew louder, and the horses swooped through the air as they gathered speed. The breeze blew on Laura's cheeks, and the fairground lights seemed to glitter and twinkle around her. To her surprise the breeze felt warm, like on a summer's day, and the air began to glow and shimmer like a summery mist. She looked up and gasped. It was no longer a cool autumn evening. Instead, the sky was a beautiful bright blue, with the sun blazing down. And she wasn't holding on to the golden pole anymore. She had real leather reins in one hand and a rope lasso in the other!
Laura blinked. When she opened her eyes again, she could see Star's chestnut mane flying in the breeze. Dust swirled around her, and the sound of thundering hooves filled her ears. Her jacket had disappeared. Instead, she was wearing a pink-and-white-checked shirt with the sleeves rolled up, denim jeans, and beautiful pale leather cowboy boots. The fairground had gone, and she was cantering beside a long line of cattle that stretched far ahead across a rolling plain. The cattle were all colors—brown and white, speckled and patchy—and they all had big, dangerous-looking horns.
Laura shielded her eyes against the sun. She could see a river up ahead, and in the distance rocky mountains jutted into the sky. There were other riders cantering beside the cattle, too, wearing wide-brimmed hats and long leather chaps.
"Wow!" Laura exclaimed. "It's a Wild West cattle drive!"Magic Pony Carousel #3: Star the Western Pony. Copyright © by Poppy Shire. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.