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“The trouble with you Scott,” Jack said with his face only inches from his stepsons. “Is that you’re soft.” He emphasised the tt”s in Scott’s name spitting in the boys face as he spoke.

“You’ve got a lot of work to do in this field, you and that old nag of yours.” Even though the mare was far too old to pull a plow Jack insisted she, like everyone else, work to earn their keep. And if she was too old to work she was certainly too old to be having a baby, but that didn’t matter to Jack. He had bred her to his young stallion Ranger despite Scott’s tearful protests and now she was due to foal any day.

Jack continued his tirade, “What with plowing and picking all them little sharp stones. Why I expect you and that nag will probably be out in this field working all night.” Jack let the full impact of his words settle into Scott’s already heavy heart. Knowing full well there was nothing that the boy could do to stop him. Then to add insult to injury Jack told Scott to saddle Ranger so he could, “Go and bring sweet little Mary home.”

He spit in the boy’s face again not emphasising anything except the point that he was making. The point was obey me or else.

Scott had learned that point the hard way, fighting back tears he stuck the handful of sharp little stones that he had just picked in his pocket clutching them so hard his fingers bled. Then with a heavy heart he went to saddle Ranger

Scott hated how Jack treated Tess, his dear old mare but he hated even more how Jack treated his sister Mary. His cold humourless eyes were always following her and he was always trying to find a reason to be alone with her. Now with their mother gone to the doctor at Timber Lake it looked like Jack had found his reason.

Earlier this morning Scott had urged his sister to run up the mountain to Grandma Namie’s and not to come home till their mother returned, Mary had left running. Jack had been enraged when he found out that Mary had gone. Now he was going after her.

Scott saddled the fidgety stallion and when he was done Jack checked the girth twice, just to make sure it was tight, it was.

“You’re just too soft Scott,” Jack sneered. They were the last words he said to the boy before he galloped wildly out of the yard. In fact they were the last words he said to anyone. Those little sharp field stones that Scott had in his pocket, he had managed to slip a few of those stones under the saddle blanket before he had carefully placed the saddle on Rangers’ back. Those little sharp stones had set that stud to buckin before Jack was half way around the bend. He bucked so hard that the only part of Jack that stayed in the saddle was the boot of his left foot. The rest of him bounced along that rocky path up the mountain, till there wasn’t anything left to bounce.

The Sheriff brought Scott the news of Jack’s fatal accident, just as Tess had finished delivering a small but perfect little stud colt.

“I don’t imagine you’ll want that rank horse?” The Sheriff asked nodding towards the dejected stallion tied to his saddle horn.

“I’ll keep him,” Scott surprised the sheriff by replying.

The sheriff was uncomfortable leaving the stud in the care of the youngster, but Scott reassured him that in the morning he would have the vet come and geld Ranger. Then he would use him for working the fields, since Tess had just foaled he was in need of another horse.

Try as he might the sheriff was unable to convince Scott that with Jack now deceased he would be able to buy as many plow horses as he might like. But Scott was adamant, “You can’t blame Ranger,” he told the Sheriff truthfully.

“You’re soft Scott,” Sheriff said clasping the boy’s hand and smiling. “Not a lot of men could take the attitude you have towards that horse.” If he noticed that the boy’s hands were cut up from the imprint of small sharp stones same as the cuts on the Stallion’s back he said nothing about it, he just turned his horse and rode away.

Bio-I am blessed to live in the beautiful Alberta sunshine, where I can be found either curled around my computer writing or on my horse thinking about what I would like to be writing.


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