My heart goes crazy every time I think of it. It's been six hours, at least, and I don't know if I've thought about anything else. I'm home and I've had dinner, so I must've thought about how to lift my fork, but I should be doing homework, and I can't.
I can still hear the little pink nostrils sucking. I can still feel choking, as if it was my throat filling with milkshake-thick mud. And the thing that makes me mad is that it wasn't Mother Nature that almost killed that little palomino foal. It was a careless human. He probably doesn't even know his horse is gone, yet.
I've opened my journal on top of my history book as I'm writing and that won't look good to Brynna if she pokes her head into my bedroom to say good night. But maybe if I write about what happened, my mind will quit obsessing and I'll be able to care about the French Revolution.
"April showers bring May flowers," Gram said as she sent me off to Deerpath Ranch, with a saddlebag full of fudge granola cookies (Gram's new recipe) for Mrs. Allen to try. But whoever made up that saying probably didn't mean snow showers. I was dressed in layers - my jacket over my sweatshirt, plus gloves and my brown Stetson - and I was still cold.
When Ace clopped across the bridge, icy wind blew off the river. It sure didn't feel like Spring. I pulled up my sweatshirt hood and tugged down my hat. My ears wouldn't freeze off, but I couldn't hear much of anything.
That's why Ace is the hero.
We were maybe ten minutes from Deerpath Ranch when I saw a motor home and empty trailer parked a few yards off the road. I spotted a gray terrier running laps in a portable pen the size of a wading pool. He seemed to be alone.
ATV tracks lead through the slush toward the mountains, so his people were gone.
I would've ridden on by - the terrier's bared teeth indicated he didn't want my company - if Ace hadn't heard or scented the baby's distress.
My sweet bay mustang shied so hard I lost a stirrup and slipped so far to the left I had to grab the saddle horn to keep from sliding all the way to the ground. Ace stopped and pointed his black-edged ears so intently, I felt him tremble.
He didn't want to go forward, but he had to do it. I could tell he'd noticed something important.
I squeezed my legs--nothing. I clucked my tongue - he stamped. Finally I said, "Show me, boy," and, side-stepping and bobbing his head, he moved closer, until I saw it.
A palomino foal - about two months old - lay on its side in another portable pen. All around, mud was scored with curved lines made by his hooves. For some reason he hadn't been able to get up. Exhausted from trying, he lay still, even though his nose was in a puddle and each breath sucked in ice water, not air.
I don't remember bailing off Ace, or knocking over the little pen when I couldn't see how to open it. I do remember the gray dog barking like I'd come to devour his chew toy, but all I wanted was to save that tiny horse.
Sitting here now, writing, I press my lips together and breath in super fast through my nose. My chest rises and falls just as the foal's did. He didn't struggle to get out of my arms; he just struggled for breath.
When he was finally still, I managed to shake my right arm free of my jacket while my left arm held him. Then I rested his head on my right arm, while my left arm shook loose from my other sleeve. I draped my jacket over him and thought about what to do.
More than anything, I wanted to yell, to blame someone. If I hadn't come riding along, really, what were the odds someone else would've? Where was the foal's mother? Why didn't it have any shelter? What was wrong with some people?
I had a million questions and no one to ask, but I was close enough to Deerpath Ranch that I could take this baby to Mrs. Allen. IF Ace would coooperate.
Luckily, the little palomino was too tired to fight. Except for pointing his nose at the sky and rolling his eyes, Ace cooperated.
I just realized, sitting here in my bedroom, that I didn't leave a note for the colt's owner.
My heart gets all crazy again as I think about it.
I got the foal to Mrs. Allen. I rode home and gave Ace a long brushing because he'd been a good boy. No one asked me until I just asked myself. I bet they'd thought: of course she left a note! And no one wanted to insult my intelligence.
But was it pure dumbness or panic that kept me from leaving a note?
I guess that makes me a horse thief, and I guess I'll have to see what happens in the morning.
Right now seems like a really good time to say my prayers.
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