Sentinel Mountain

Chapter Forty-nine
Champion Bronc Rider and a Magic Sorrel

"Are any of these broke to the saddle?" Nelson asked Sally.

"I'd hardly call any of them broke to the saddle, but they all have had a saddle on. Both the buckskin mare and stallion have had a saddle on with a bag of oats across it, but none have been ridden by a person. As you could guess, none of them took kindly to a saddle," she laughed. "The stallion… well, you know about males. He is a stubborn one. The mare is sneaky. You really have to watch her." The stallion was a bit darker than the mare and had black points. The mare's tail and mane were a dark coffee color. They were two beautiful animals.

"Any problem with me trying to saddle the stallion, Josh?" Nelson asked.

"Be my guest," Josh responded. Nelson went to the tack room and Josh was surprised when Nelson returned and had a lariat he had brought from Utah. He was also carrying a saddle and blanket which he placed on the corral fence. Nelson then moved slowly into the corral until he had a clear shot at the buckskin stallion, spun the lariat like the expert he was and dropped it over the stallion's neck. The stallion immediately reared up on his hind legs and snorted. He gave Nelson a hard time as he moved slowly toward the horse, speaking softly. When he reached the horse, he stroked his neck, hanging onto the lariat while the horse pulled against it, trying to get away. Nelson was finally able to get him to the corral fence and tie his halter to a post. He started rubbing his hands over the horse and the horse was in a dilemma. On the one hand, he wanted nothing to do with the man and on the other, he was thoroughly enjoying being groomed. He finally relaxed and seemed to be dozing when Nelson finished and threw the blanket on his back. He was no longer dozing! Nelson kept stroking him and speaking softly and when he had calmed down, Nelson put the saddle on his back. He was having none of that! He tried to buck it off and did, finally. Nelson moved him until he could safely pick up the saddle and put it on the horse again. It took a while, but Nelson finally got the saddle on the horse, untied him, grabbed the saddle horn and was atop the horse in a single fluid movement. Neil had said Nelson was a good rider, but Alex said, "That boy rides like he's glued in the saddle."

He spoke too soon as Nelson left the saddle headed for the ground. Somehow, he managed to land half on his feet, still holding the reins. He started speaking softly as he approached the horse, and stroked his neck when he reached him, still speaking softly. Once again, he grabbed the saddle horn and swung into the saddle. The horse started his tricks again, but Nelson was wise to him. After he had settled down a bit, Nelson asked the gate to the pasture be opened and he rode through and gave the horse free rein. The stallion headed down the pasture in a full-speed gallop and when Nelson turned him he came back the same way. Nelson turned him and he again started out flat out, but three quarters of a mile from the corral, the spectators saw him slow down in a fast trot, a gait he could have maintained all day. When they came back, Nelson motioned for the gate to be opened and when he had the horse tied to a post, stroked him as he said, "There's going to be argument since Mustangs supposedly have a limited number of gaits according to the experts, but I'll bet money this stallion has more than most horses, period. I can feel it in him."

"That Mustangs have a limited number of gaits is bull," Sally said, "I have definitely seen plenty."

Winston was leading the ponies toward the corral and it was clear the tiny bodies were tiring even though they claimed to be ready for more. Winston brought the ponies around to the stable, picked up a couple of crates and tied up the ponies. He sat the crates beside them and had the boys dismount, instructing them how to do it correctly. The boys were still standing on the crates where they could reach the horses and Winston gave them curry combs and showed them how to curry the ponies. "That man knows education regardless of whether or not he can spout theory. Privilege carries responsibility, a very important lesson most adults haven't learned," Mr. VanWinkle said.

Sally and Brenda came walking up and Sally said, "Josh, I didn't believe you when you described the pastures here. I thought you were exaggerating, but I see it is true. Glad the horse pastures haven't been mowed so they have mature grass. There's never enough grass in Utah for grass foundering to be a problem, but it could be a major issue here."

"We'll feed hay before putting the horses in the small holding pasture and keep an eye on them," Josh said. "We can round them up midmorning and hold them until evening before releasing them to graze if needs be.

"I talked to a vet and he gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to inhibit fermentation of the grass sugars in their gut and by careful addition of grass, the antibiotic and feeding hay, all should be well. Brought the antibiotic with me and a copy of the prescription. He also warned me about a fescue fungus which can wreak havoc with reproduction from breeding to birth and beyond.

"Rob tells me they have never allowed fescue to be sown here. In fact, the only seeding has been with native grasses and wildflowers. I understand there are flowers blooming April until November most years, so we don't have to worry."

Nelson came walking up and Josh said, "Nelson, I see you can ride, but how are you at training horses?"

"Honestly? Not as good as some, better than most. Alex, you ever help break horses?"


"Think you can stay on one like that buckskin beauty, the mare?"

"Not sure. I can try."

"Can you handle a lariat?"

"That I can do."

"What say you take that one and I'll take the stallion again and we'll work on the two?"

"What about me?" Cam asked.

"Ever been on a horse?" Nelson asked.

"No, but I can learn."

"You best learn to ride before you take on a wild horse," Nelson said. "I've been riding since I was the twins' age and you saw how I couldn't stay on. Maybe in a week or so, we'll have a horse you can try. Ok?"

"Sure," Cam said. "I guess it's not easy."

"Matter of fact, it's not," Alex said. "My ass will probably be on the ground in less than a minute and I, too, have been riding ever since I could sit in a saddle." He went to the tack room and got a blanket and saddle and filled a pocket with oats. He put the saddle and blanket on the corral fence.

Alex walked into the holding pasture, moving slowly. He carried a lariat, but wanted to see if he could catch the horse without it. When he was approaching the middle of the small pasture, the horses had all stopped grazing and stood looking at him.

A bay walked toward Alex, then stopped. Alex stopped as well. She took a few more steps toward him and he started speaking to her very softly. She took a few more steps and stopped. Alex was perfectly still except for speaking, "Come on, beautiful. Come to Alex, lady." He continued speaking as he raised his arm slowly, holding it in front of his chest, moving his hand in a 'come to me' motion. Nelson had also stopped and watched as the horse took another few steps and stretched her neck as though she was reaching for Alex's hand, but was afraid to get too close. He kept talking and motioning with his hand as Josh remembered the twins had done when they were looking at the ponies. They had ended up with the ponies selecting a boy rather than the other way around, the way Prince had selected Josh. The bay was finally close enough to nip at Alex's fingers with her lips and did so, he supposed tasting the salt on them or maybe getting his scent. She stepped closer and Alex reached up slowly and started to scratch between her ears. When he touched her, she threw her head back, but then lowered it and he scratched between her ears which she clearly enjoyed. He stroked down the side of her face and grasped her halter. She threw her head back, but he held on, holding with one hand, stroking with the other and speaking to her.

In a few minutes, Alex started gently leading her toward the fence where he tied her to a post. He rubbed her neck and across her back, She liked that, but certainly did not like being tied. When he extended a handful of oats, she shied away from him, but gradually extended her neck until she could lip the oats into her mouth. She pulled away again while she ate them. Alex continued speaking softly and when the mare stretched her neck and nipped at his fingers with her lips, he again filled his hand with oats and she grabbed them and did not back away. He took the blanket from the fence and put it on her back and she promptly shook it off. Keeping an eye on her hooves, he picked it up and put it on her back and held it there when she tried to shake it off. She gave up when it was leave the blanket on or not get the oats in Alex's hand.

While she chewed the oats, he put the saddle on her back and quickly cinched it. The horse of course tried to get it off and Alex pulled the cinch tight as she carried on. When he was sure the saddle was secure, he grabbed the saddle horn and, as Nelson had done, got in the saddle smoothly. The bay mare stood still, but was trembling. Alex kept rubbing her neck and talking to her as he gradually turned her head and she started walking very sedately around the corral. Alex was thinking, "What's going on?" when she went from a sedate walk to a fast trot, bent double in a buck and he had to hang on with both hands when she came down on all fours, jarring his whole body and causing him to bite his tongue when his teeth came together. She then put on as good a display of her displeasure as the buckskin stallion had done. Following Nelson's example, he asked the gate to the pasture be opened and he rode through, the mare again being very sedate.

Suddenly she became the untamed horse she was and took off, almost catching Alex unaware. He let her gallop at full speed to the end of the pasture, turned her and headed back to the stable. He restrained her until she was moving at a fast trot. Alex knew the trot was best for her to throw him and thought he was prepared when she suddenly burst into a gallop headed directly for the corral. As she approached, she suddenly lowered her head and came to an abrupt stop, her aim to throw Alex over her head. Alex was headed in that direction when she again went from a standstill to fast trot, giving Alex the momentum he needed to execute a trick rider move, a kind of out of the saddle, bounce off the ground, back in the saddle. To say the mare was confused was an understatement. She stopped, shook her head and snorted. Alex got her moving again and rode her around the pasture trying her at different speeds to see how she moved.

Nelson joined him, riding the stallion, and the two continued riding, changing gaits to get the feel of the two horses. They finally raced to the end of the pasture and back. Both horses were ready for a rest and the riders slowed them to an easy walk to cool down. Back at the corral, they tied the horses and curried and brushed them until their coats gleamed, put them in a stable and fed them half a scoop of oats. In the days that followed, both men raided an old apple tree and carried apples for the horses they rode. They set up a schedule and ended each day riding the bay and stallion, swapping so the horses wouldn't attach themselves to only one rider. After that first day, Josh joined them until they were working with six horses, hoping to get them to the point where Cam and others could ride in relative safety.

After Nelson and Alex ended their ride, Josh said he needed to get Mr. VanWinkle back to Asheville and invited Cam to join him. As they flew back, Josh and Walt discussed the need to swap planes as the turbo was a little much for flying a single person from Asheville and Walt needed the small plane for pilot's training. As soon as they reached cruising altitude, Walt said, "Josh, why don't you let Cam take the co-pilot's seat?" Josh did and Walt let him 'fly' for a while before Josh again took over as co-pilot for the descent and landing. Of course Cam was about to burst when he got to the House, but then he needed all the help he could get in overcoming his past and opening his future.

Alex and Nelson were in showers when they got back. Winston said he guessed they were trying to wash away some of the bruises and aches from their morning of horse breaking. When they came down, Josh had them and Sally and Brenda join him in his office to talk about the trip back to Wellsburg, Boulder and San Francisco. Sally said she and Brenda had planned on being gone for a week and a half to two weeks. Alex needed to get back and check in with Shawn, but he had talked to him for an hour from the Mountain and Shawn said he thought everything was going as well as he expected, then added, "Actually, better." He definitely thought the Mountain was doing his patient good. Alex did too. The final decision was that Josh would fly them all to Boulder and drop off Alex, then fly Sally and Brenda to Wellsburg in the small plane and he and Walt would fly on to San Francisco.

He would spend a day with Luc while Walt made final arrangements for selling his house and getting rid of the things he still had in the house. Josh would fly back to Boulder in the small plane alone while Walt would find a co-pilot and fly the large one back to Sentinel Mountain. Josh wasn't uneasy about flying the plane to the Mountain by himself, but Walt reminded him his insurance required a co-pilot. They finally agreed to leaving on the following Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Josh and Shane spent Tuesday and Wednesday getting their proposal in order. They met both mornings at ten, took a break for lunch and worked again from one until four. Thursday, they took a day-long break in order to come back to the proposal fresh on Friday. Josh and Alex were up before eight each morning and after breakfast, explored the surroundings.

Susan and Winston had looked over the two houses she thought would fit them with the addition of an apartment for Alma. Winston took a look at both and immediately decided one was definitely better for them than the other and laid out the reasons why. There was, of course, no question about the matter once he had explained his choice. Tuesday after he and Shane called it a day, Josh went to look at the house with Susan and Winston. Like most of the houses on the Mountain, it was a Craftsman design, but with more and larger windows. It was two-story with three bedrooms up and the master bedroom down. When they picked it out, Rob said he would get the blueprint and Josh discovered there were blueprints for every building on the Mountain including the simplest hay shed and the latest, the garage. He noticed the same firm had done the latest and the first, the House. He called the firm and was soon connected to one of the architects who knew the Mountain and the buildings. He had an assistant pull the blueprint in question and said, "My first impression is to convert the garage into an apartment—small bedroom, living area and studio kitchen and build a free-standing garage, but give me a couple, three days and I'll get back to you."

When he called back, he had two options. The first was to extend the back of the garage by eight feet, which could be done without blocking a window, and adding a free standing garage in the same style as the house. The second was to make the free standing 'garage' an apartment with a living area and kitchen down and two bedrooms and a bath up. Alma immediately vetoed that idea because it involved stairs and she expected to be in it for a long time and the time would come when she didn't need stairs. Susan vetoed it because it would be unattached to the house. Both she and Alma liked the idea of Alma having her own space, but neither liked the idea of her place being unattached since both knew Alma would often share meals with them and babysit the twins. Josh gave the architect the go-ahead and he said he'd have the plans in a week or so. Rob said it would probably take a couple months to build the apartment.

"Look," Susan said, "we will have three bedrooms up and we'll only be using one for the next few months…"

"Whoa!" Winston exclaimed. "What do you mean only using one of those for the next few months?"

Susan got a smug look on her face and said, "Well, I assumed the twins will insist on sharing the same room."

"Well?" Winston said. "That's one room."

"Then we'll need a room for the babies."

"Room for the babies?" Winston gave Susan a look which said, 'Ok, I know what's going on, out with it!'

"Yes, babies. I'm pregnant and will probably have twins, maybe triplets, but most likely twins. Well, I guess I can't be sure about that. I'm eight to nine weeks along and won't have an ultrasound until week thirteen or fourteen, but I did see an OB-GYN last week and she's pretty sure I'm pregnant with twins again."

Winston was beaming. "Girls this time."

"I think you've already determined that."

"Don't blame that on me!"

"I'm afraid she's got you there," Alma said. "The male determines a baby's sex."

"Well, damn, we have no say in that either."

"Glad you know who's boss, baby," Susan said, and gave him a deep kiss. "Anyway, it will be six or seven months before we need another room and, Alma, if you won't mind being upstairs, you could move into what will be the guest room and we can get out of Josh's hair."

"I'm not too sure Josh wants you out of his hair," Josh said.

"You will. Even I'd like to have those twin tornadoes out of my hair at times."

"I guess that means we schedule a Get the House Ready Day," Josh said. He called Rob and they decided to do it Friday and Saturday, since the house was much larger than Cam's and Walt's.

Susan called Cam and asked if he could help her out with a decorating scheme and he was delighted. Winston made it very clear that whatever Susan chose would be fine with him so long as the bed was big enough. Alma said the same thing about the room in which she would be staying since she'd have her own place before long.

While Shane and Josh worked on the Boys' Camp proposal, Alex and Nelson worked with the horses; Susan and Cam on the decorating scheme after school; and Winston and Rob on getting the cars, trucks and tractors in top notch shape. Winston arrived at the garage an hour before Rob and stayed an hour afterward getting the garage organized to suit himself.

Cam showed up at the corral when he and Susan took a break and it turned out the blond sorrel liked him. So long as he was around the corral, she acted as though she was thoroughly broken to ride, but when he was not, she could put on quite a show. "Gee, I hope all of these guys don't turn out to be one-person horses," Alex said.

"I don't think they will," Nelson said. "I bet so long as you're not around, someone else could ride Princess. I wonder what the sorrel would do with Cam in the saddle?"

"I'm sure he's game, but he could be hurt easily."

"He's seen us on the ground enough to know that," Nelson said.

"But he doesn't know how to fall."

"Guess he can learn the same way we did, by being thrown."

"I know he wants to try," Alex said. When Josh showed up at the corral, Alex asked him if he thought they should let Cam try to ride."

"Clear it with Walt," he said, "before you ask Cam."

Alex called Walt and asked him about putting Cam on the horse and told him why they would even consider it. "He'll likely break his neck," Walt said, "but he's been bugging me about when he could ride. Let him go ahead. Right now he is with Susan. They have been together since he got home from school. I guess she's chosen him to be her interior decorator." Walt laughed, "I wonder what his macho friends in Oakland would say about that?"

"I suspect we both know," Alex said, "fortunately, he's where his talent is appreciated."

"Yeah, the change in the boy for the better is remarkable. I'll tell him when he gets home or you can call him. I may come down to watch this."

"Do. He will appreciate it."

Alex called the House and Janie said Susan and Cam were at the Masons' place. He called and told Susan what was up and asked if she and Cam had finished. "No, but we'll be there shortly." Fifteen minutes later Susan, Cam and the twins arrived.

"Cam, that sorrel seems to like you. When you are here, she behaves and when you're not, she's as difficult as the stallion. If you're up to it, and knowing you might break your neck—and that's no joke—Alex and I think she might let you ride. Your decision."

"Now that I've watched you two, I'm not as anxious to climb in a saddle as before, but with help, I'll try it."

"Not if you're frightened. Nervous is ok, frightened is not. Horses sense that at once."

"Ok, where do I start?"

"Start by seeing if she'll let you catch her. If she won't, then I'd say, forget it for a while. Go to the tack room and get some oats, and a blanket and saddle."

When Cam brought the saddle, Nelson tossed it over a barrel and had Cam climb on it and adjusted the stirrups. He also showed Cam how to sit. "Ok, you have seen us catch the horses who allow it; see if you can catch her."

Cam walked toward the sorrel who came to meet him. When she reached him, he held out a handful of oats and she lipped them from his hand. He started stroking her neck and scratching between her ears. The horse leaned into him and Cam led her to the fence. When he put the blanket on her, she didn't move. The same with the saddle. Nelson and Alex said nothing, but both were holding their breath, waiting for the horse to explode. When Cam had the saddle cinched, Nelson checked it and was surprised the cinch was nice and tight. Most horses puffed up their bellies so the cinch was loose if the rider didn't check and make sure it was tight. Cam grabbed the saddle horn and attempted to mount like Alex and Nelson and ended up with one leg on the saddle and the other firmly planted on the ground. Nelson linked his hands and held them for Cam to use as a step and he hoisted himself in the saddle. When he clicked his tongue, the horse looked back over her shoulder at him as if to say, 'You're sure about this?' then started a very sedate walk around the corral.

Alex and Nelson debated whether or not to open the gate and allow horse and rider into the pasture and decided it was ok. Once in the pasture, the sorrel picked up her pace a bit and clearly she and Cam were thrilled. "Well, I don't think I've seen anything like it," Nelson said. "Ok, anyone else want to try? We've got five more horses we've worked with, but I think that's the only magic one we have."

Josh said, "I want to see how that buckskin stallion will behave with me," and walked toward the horses. He was very close to the stallion when it started backing away, then turned and ran. It was pretty clear he was not going to come willingly so Josh whirled Nelson's lariat and dropped it over the horse's neck. He kept it tight as he walked toward the horse and took it by its halter and walked to the fence where Alex and Nelson had placed three saddles. He tied the stallion to a post and dropped a blanket on his back, then the saddle. The horse used every trick in the horse book on how to avoid being saddled, but he was not up against an amateur and Josh soon had the saddle cinched and mounted in as graceful a motion as Alex and Nelson had done. Meanwhile, the two of them had caught a paint and a bay and brought them to the fence to be saddled. When all three were mounted and headed out into the pasture, Alex said, "I guess we forgot about Cam. I hope he's not lying in the pasture with something broken."


Editors: Jesse and Scott.

As always, I own the copyright, so no use beyond personal copy, without permission. If you are too young or whatever to read literature which may describe explicit sex, don't or take any consequences.

All persons and places are fictional and any similarity to persons or places living or dead is coincidental. Again, it's fiction, folks.

~ Sequoyah