s you all remember,I hope,at the beginning of the summer, I (Reddy Mouse) had to stop telling Rocky's story. Please refer to chapter 3 for more details on this. Anyway, we had to leave Rocky and his friends in a perilous perdicament. While on assignment, one summer with the Forest Service, to work on improving trails in the Wilderness, Rocky and the other horses had been secured at night by ropes tied to lines between trees. This way of tying horses up to lines rather than the trees themselves is called highlining, and keeps the ropes from injuring the bark of the trees as the horses inevitibly pull at the ropes as they move around. Rocky and the others would have rather been hobbled and turned out to graze in the meadow all night. But since they were so far into the wilderness, the men didn't want to take any chances that something could spook the horses and cause them to run away. Some horses can go quite far with hobbles, and in rough country, they can injure themselves, or just plain get lost.
So, there they all were, tied up at camp, when one night it happened. A little after midnight, a lightening storm with little rain had sparked a fire in the deadfalls at the edge of the little clearing where the camp was. Rocky had been unable to go back to sleep after the thunderstorm, and had detected the threat. After waking his best friend, the appaloosa filly, Skylark, and the rest of the horses, he was now thinking of how best to waken the men who he knew could put out the fire if it were caught soon. He had tried whinnying several times, but with no result. " Hmmm," he thought," maybe"...."Ok" he said,"lets all whinny together." This suggestion met with agreement from the others, who were beginning to panic and pull at their ropes. So on the third nod of his head, Rocky and the others gave out their loudest whinnies. The simultaneous calling of all ten horses reverberated loudly within the confines of the small valley, and seemed likely to awaken even the most tired and sound sleeper. But, as the seconds ticked by with the horses holding their breaths, nothing happened. Rocky and the rest of the horses now prepared to break loose by pulling all together on the highline rope strung between the trees which may not have worked if the horses were tied up in opposing pairs. Panic was taking over, and it seemed that pandimonium would shortly ensue, and horses would be injured in their attempts to break loose.
Suddenly, one of the tent doors opened, and out stumbled Rocky's man. At first, he thought that something was wrong with the horses, but as he walked towards them, the flames flickering along a fallen tree trunk caught his eye. Now he knew what was wrong. Fully awake now, and yelling to the other men, he grabbed two of the canvas water buckets near the horses, and ran to the creek to fill them up. The other men had now emerged from their tents, and were grabbing shovels and axes. The men converged on the site of the blaze, and with the water from the creek and shovel-fulls of dirt, the fire was quickly extinquished.
Rocky, Skylark, and the other horses began to relax and settle down. Their fear turned to anticipation of an early breakfast. Afterall, by this time, dawn couldn't be far away. Surely the men would want to reward them for being so smart, and warning them in time to put out the fire. Finally Rocky's man, who was the foreman of the crew, left the others and walked over to the horses. He came over to Rocky first and started to stroke him on the neck, and talk softly to him. "Well, old friend,you've really saved us this time. I heard you whinnying, but until you got all the others to join in, I thought you just wanted me to get up and feed or scratch some itch you had. You are a lot smarter than we knew. In fact you are just a wonderful horse, and perhaps just to good to be a pack horse. Maybe its time you became a saddle horse. I bet you'd like that, huh, boy?" Now all the other men had come over, after making sure the fire was really out, and were petting and talking softly to the other horses, too. After a few monutes of all this, the horses began to forget about an early breakfast, and just went back to sleep, happy in the knowledge that they were well cared for and all was well. After all, it was only two in the morning, but as we know, horses are always looking for more food, even when they are not really hungry.
Anyway, the following morning dawned cool and clear, and the horses did find that their feed bags were a little heavier than usual. And they were staked out in a nice grazing area with lots of fine-stemmed grasses. Everyone was a little tired after the night's excitement, but the camp was in good order, and the regular day's routine was soon reestablished. The rest of the summer was relatively uneventful, and the trail work was finished on time.
By late august, the horses and men were back at the Forest Service base camp. Work was over and everyone was looking forward to a little recreation before the season was over. One day, Rocky's man put a saddle on Rocky's back, and while another man whom Rocky also trusted, held his lead rope, Rocky stood still while his man put a foot in the stirrup and mounted up. Rocky was used to heavy loads on his back, so he remained calm. His man sat in the saddle for a few minutes, and petted Rocky all over his neck and rump, and moved his legs back and forth on his sides, all the while talking to him in a soft voice. Rocky's man knew that horses have extremely keen hearing, and that loud talk can upset a horse. Slowly, Rocky began to realize that his dream of having his own man to carry was coming true. Well, at least one was sitting on his back.
And in fact, for the next few weeks, whenever his man had the time, Rocky was trained to be a saddle horse. Rocky even went out on some trail rides with his man on his back. And to Rocky's delight, it turned out that Skylark was also being trained as a saddle horse, so that they ended up going out on the trails together. A few times Rocky's man took him to high wilderness lakes where he could fish and he let his girlfriend ride Skylark. Rocky had always thought that Skylark deserved to be more than a pack horse since she was especially gentle. And now it seemed that his man thought so too. Click here to see pictures of Rocky and Skylark out on the trails and Rocky's man fishing.
So it looked as though he and Skylark had indeed been promoted, and were well on their way to being saddle horses in the employ of the government. Indeed, it seemed as though Rocky and Skylark would live out their days together working for the forest service.
However, such was not to be. For what Rocky didn't know was that the Forest Service's budget had been cut for any further trail work in that Wilderness. Soon Rocky, Skylark, and the others would be sold again.
I WANT TO READ ABOUT ROCKY ON THE RANCH IN CHAPTER 5!
ITS PAST MY BEDTIME!