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Free Again Free Again (Phantom Stallion, #5)
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Terri Farley
HomeBooksThe AuthorConnectEducationWild Horses

March 1

Tempest got a bubble bath today because she's my star model in the "Home Means Nevada" photo contest. Of course "Home Means Nevada" is our state song and the winning photos are supposed to represent what about Nevada means home to me.

Even though the deadline's off a ways, I think almost-Spring is the perfect time to take pictures of my black filly before she's all grown up, before she starts graying around her muzzle --not from age, of course, but that's what THE PHANTOM did, when he was about her age and I think she might be on her way to turning pure white, too.

Anyway, I'd asked Jake to come over and help me pose her because she's way frisky when the wind's in her face. He agreed, mainly because Dad wanted Jake as the first rider on a curly mustang from Battle Mountain, that he'd agreed to train.

I knew Jake would be impatient, so I rolled out of bed before my eyes were wide open and got outside before Gram could make me eat.

I bathed every mud splash off Tempest's legs and scrubbed her back and shoulders. She loved it, leaning into my hands as if a filly massage was the best thing in the world. Okay, she didn't love having her forelock shampooed, and she stared back over her shoulder and sniffed when I used conditioner on her tail. Still, she looked great!

Even Ross, the quietest of River Bend's cowboys, noticed how pretty she looked.

"Shiny as a crow's wing,," he muttered as he rode out toward the bridge. At least I think that's what he said.

My only problem was Tempest's winter coat. Even after I'd rubbed for half an hour, I was still getting Tempest's black hair under my fingernails and up my nose.

Sneezes kept me from hearing clopping hooves, but Tempest whinnied and pranced out from under my hands, straight over the fence and there they were -- Jake and Witch.

Watching Tempest touch noses with Witch, you might think they were mother and daughter. It wasn't surprising for sweet Tempest, but it sure was for Witch!

My eyes shifted from the horses when I heard a creak the front door of our house open.

Jake knew he had an audience -- Brynna and Dad stood on the front porch, letting my baby brother Cody see what was going on -- so Jake didn't tease me loudly.

I couldn't see his eyes, the way he had his black Stetson pulled down so low, but I saw that lopsided smile and knew he was going to say something in that fake Western accent he uses just to make me crazy. And I was right, but he pretended to be talking to Tempest, not me.

"Tempest! Ain't you lookin' just as slick as a Shewahwah pup!"

Why didn't I tell him to knock off the countrified talk? Because Tempest had decided to run laps and kick her back hooves at the sky, showing off for Witch. I'd never be able to get a good photo of her without Jake's help.

I just smiled, and Jake saw it was a waste of time to try to provoke me today. So, he ground-tied Witch and a minute later he came out with Tempest haltered, on a lead rope.

And then, it was like I'd totally forgotten how to shoot photos. I was using a digital camera I'd borrowed from school , and I kept checking my shots.

"Hold her close," I told Jake, "This shot chopped off her nose."

Somehow he got Tempest to stand so still, she might have been carved from obsidian, but even then I said, "That's no good. It looks like the fence post is growing out of her back. Move her that way. No! Jake!"

His sigh about blew me over, and Tempest echoed it.

"Sorry," I said. "I'll get up here. Maybe that will be better."

I climbed up on the fence. Even though I was sitting kinda side-saddle, I felt secure.

"Now what?" Jake asked. He wasn't taking any chances.

"Just trot her around, and I'll get a shot as she passes by."

But then, I took a shot where I'd cut off her tail, which was long and full, floating like a grown mare's. And that was when I made a disgusted noise.

Tempest didn't like that sound , and since she and Jake were even with me, Tempest lunged at the lens.

I gasped as the lens made her head way big and her nostrils huge. Even though Jake was ready for her, I leaned back too far and toppled off the fence.

I stood up and dusted off the seat of my jeans.

"Not a word," I warned Jake, but thank goodness I was still holding the camera, and when I looked down, ready to delete the shot, I couldn't believe what I saw

I'm pretty sure it's a prize winner. And I know it's the picture I'll enter. Somehow, as I was falling, I shot between the fence rails, and though it's sort of a fish-eye view, the rails framed Tempest, Jake, my Dad, Brynna and Cody, on the front porch of my white house with the green-painted shutters.

All the things that say home to me, were right there.