old it right there, mister", Rocky yelled to the calf in his most convincing whinny. His man had just looped a rope over the neck of the last calf of the day, and Rocky was tired. "Stop, now, I said" he whinnied again. Just then, the calf reached the end of the rope, and was jerked to the ground. At the same moment, the rope also tightened on Rocky's saddle horn, pulling the saddle down on his whithers, a feeling he was sure he would never get used to.
As his man jumped down and ran to secure the calf, Rocky tried to apologize to the calf, but he could not ever be sure that cows could undertand him, just as he never knew if he were forgiven. Nevertheless, he always tried to reason with them. "I gave you a chance to stop before you were roped. Why don't any of you ever listen?"
As my reader can probably guess, Rocky was not taking readily to his new job as a working ranch horse. Yet as you probably remember from the last chapter, Rocky, Skylark and the others,who had spent the year together working for the Forest Service, were about to be sold because of budget cuts. Well, first they had been taken back to the honor farm for further training as saddle horses.
Horses don't like leaving their friends any more than humans do,but they were all stabled together at the Honor Farm that winter, so the only change for them was in their surroundings. But they felt that a separation was coming. They knew the honor farm was just a place where horses were trained for sale. Rocky and Skylark were proud to have been promoted to saddle horse, but dreaded the coming spring when uncertainty would overrule any good feelings they would have about the warmer weather, and growing green grass.
Spring did eventually arrive, however, and the day of the sale was one of the worse in Rocky's life. The weather was awfull with cold rain and wind. The only good thing, Rocky thought, was that not many people had shown up, so maybe no horses would be sold. He and Skylark and six of the other mustangs had been saddled, and led out into the arena to be put through their paces. As he and Skylark were being ridden around at different gaits, he suddenly heard what he dreaded the most, "I'll take that dark chestnut, that stocky one, over there", and Rocky knew he had been sold.
As he was being led out of the arena, he whinnied back to Skylark, who returned his call. They had said their "goodbyes" the night before, but Rocky wasn't finding the separation any easier. Her whinny was so pitiful that he became frantic, and dispite his training and compliant nature, he balked, and refused to leave the arena. His new man, however, seemed to understand his feelings, and did not try to force him forward. Instead, he began to talk very softly to Rocky and to rub his neck and ears. Finally Rocky allowed himself to be led to a trailer waiting in the parking lot. But he didn't stop calling out to Skylark, and he could still hear her calling in return as the truck and trailer pulled out, and departed down the road. Rocky hadn't felt this badly since his separation from his mother.
A few hours later, Rocky felt the trailer slow down, and turn gently on to a crunchy gravel road. He felt grateful that at least his new man knew how to drive the trailer so that he was not thrown from side to side around sharp turns or pitched backward or forward from sudden starts and stops. Minutes later, the trailer stopped, and after he had been allowed to get his legs under him , the doors were opened and he was able to turn around and jump out.
It took Rocky a few minutes to orient himself to his new surroundings, but when he did, he was suddenly very happy. The weather had turned sunny, and the sky was blue with fluffy white clouds scuttling slowly across the sky in the mild breeze. And the pasture was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. It was hugh, and filled with thick, green grass dotted with bright, yellow, dandelions. It stretched far into the distance to meet the foothills of the Medicine Bow mountains still capped with snow where they met the brilliant, blue, June, sky. Closer in, he saw barns, corrals and other ranch buildings where he hoped and felt that fresh water would be available. And next to them, he saw a grove of Aspen and fir that looked like ideal shelter from rain or the hot, midday sun. Greatly comforted, he settled down to munch some of the delicious, new grown, meadow grass with a dandelion or two for garnish. He vaguely wondered if his man was going to let him eat too much of the rich grass and get sick. He himself knew that unless he was used to eating it regularly, that this was a real danger, but at this moment, he didn't care.
Then to his delight, he heard the only thing that had been missing from what he otherwise thought were perfect surroundings: other fellow beings. Looking up, he saw five other horses emerge from the trees, where they had been taking their midday naps. In a simultaneous reaction, Rocky and the small herd galloped towards each other. A rather large sorrel was in the lead, and he met Rocky first. The two met head on in battle stance, pawing the ground and arching their necks. With flaring nostrils, they greeted each other with snorts and squeals. The sorrel snaked his long neck towards Rocky in a gesture which clearly said, "I'm in charge here, don't get any ideas". Rocky skillfully avoided his bared teeth, and with a loud squeal, wheeled around and galloped off. The rest of the herd joyfully joined in the chase. Around and around the large pasture they went with Rocky in the lead. Finally, after a few further confrontations, they all tired of the game, and stopped testing the newcomer's speed and agility. They had come close to trapping him at the corner of the fence, but Rocky's triple kick with both hind feet had proved extremely effective against attempts to actually push him into the fence. Over the next few days, Rocky would find his place in the herd, following a few milder challenges. That afternoon, however, everyone was content to munch the fresh new grass, and doze in the warm June sun. And that evening all the horses were brought into the corrals lest they eat too much, too soon, of the rich, green, grass.
That summer, Rocky learned what was expected of a ranch gelding. But he wasn't too happy. For one thing, although he was doing well as a saddle horse, and could be relied on to carry his man safely, he really wasn't well trained as a rope horse. A rope horse has lots of training that allows his man to effectively chase and secure a cow by roping it. The horse knows that he is expected to slide to an instantaneous halt after the rope goes over the cow. He knows his man will quickly dismount, and run to the cow, and he knows that he is to help his man to keep the rope taunt by whatever means possible, even if this requires him to backup rather rapidly, an action not easy for a horse.
But Rocky was determined to do well, if he could. So if the present drought doesn't dry up all the grass and streams, Rocky will be back soon to tell the rest of his story, and I, Reddy Mouse, will be here to help him do so. Meanwhile, all the stable help are busy helping the mares have their babies at all hours of the day, so its difficult to get on the computer without being seen.
WHY STOP NOW? ON TO CHAPTER 6! !
SOMEBODY SHUT THE RODENT UP!