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Old Joe - Chapter 4
 By mosquito   •   25th Aug 2012   •   2,306 views   •   2 comments
Old Joe Horse StoryThe air just kept getting colder and colder. It didn’t help that it had been so hot that Bess and I had been sweatin’ up a storm, and now as the temperature dropped we shivered as the sweat didn’t so much as dry as just seem to cling to our coats and chill us like a blanket of ice. Ben pulled his collar up and his hat down, and his hands disappeared into his sleeves. Snowy seemed warm enough, dancing round and snorting and looking into the storm like a frightened child. I could feel tension coming down the reins, and Ben wanted the whole train to hurry up. They wouldn’t though. Some of the teams – horses mostly – were getting scared and not thinking about what they were doing. Only the mules seemed to know how to keep their minds on the job. Funny how we all seem to be able to think the least when we need to the most, isn’t it?

"Joe-bess, Gee!” I heard behind me, and swung sharply to the right on Ben’s command, shoving Bess over with my shoulder – she wasn’t paying attention either and I could tell she was scared. She stumbled a little as we heaved ourselves up out of the wagon tracks and into the long grass. The wheels creaked and groaned as they bent sideways against the axle, then rolled up off the tracks. In the long grass the wagon felt heavy, and Bess and I leaned hard into the collars and pulled forward, overtaking the wagons to our right. The clouds were rolling closer, and the sky changed ever darker. The wind was picking up, and the grass rolled and swirled like an angry sea. Ben was quiet – he knew we were doing our best, and we slowly passed the wagon train until we were near the front. The horses took no notice of us, but the mules looked knowingly at us as we went past; I almost thought they shook their heads at the pointlessness of what we were doing. I confess I didn’t know either – why head faster into the storm?

There was no shelter, no trees, nothing. Ben called again and we turned further right, angling away from the train. We were going uphill, and that seemed even more foolish to me until we reached the crest. What goes up, goes down, and Ben was seeking shelter on the other side of a little ridge that had been running alongside the trail. The heavens opened; first a few big, heavy, cold raindrops, so heavy they stung my hide. Then it was ice, small stones, like pebbles, stinging and bouncing off me and Bess. Snowy really felt them; his coat and hide were was much thinner than ours, and he was dancing around, as if somehow he could step between them. Luke stayed aboard, but I could see the fear in his face as he shouted at Snowy to settle down, and pulled and tugged at the reins. Snowy paid him no attention at all, but I know Luke, and he can stay on Snowy no matter what he gets up to. I leaned into the collar for a last big push and we crested the ridge.

It was steep down the other side, and Bess and I steadied ourselves with small steps, creeping down at an angle. The wind was whirling, so loud now I could barely hear even if Ben called to us, but he was silent, afraid and focused, and I expect he was busy prayin’. The hail was heavy now, and I longed for a roof of any kind, but there was nothing. We dropped down into a bracken grove next to a river bed. Bess pulled and leaned to go down into the dry river bed, but now Ben spoke up.

‘Whoa, Joe-Bess, Whoa!’ and he pulled hard on the reins. I leaned back on my haunches to stop the wagon, and pulled against Bess who was heading for the bank. Ben was right; it could flood, and we sure didn’t want to be down there no matter how sheltered it was. There was some gorse on our right, and the prickly bushes closed together in front of us and we could go no further. The reins went slack, and Luke came up and looped Snowy’s reins around my collar. Snowy crouched down and leaned into me on one side, and Bess leaned in on the other. We lowered our heads down into the brambles for what shelter we could find and readied ourselves to wait it out.

The storm drew closer. You could feel the air heavy like water, and the air was almost too thick to breathe. The noise was unbelievable, and the wind swirled around. The gorse pulled and swayed, scratching our faces and tangling in our bridles. I was grateful for the blinkers, because there was dust flying up everywhere. The wind felt fast but light, tugging and pulling at the wagon, the harness, at everything. It seemed to pick up and pull on the reins like it was the hands of an invisible, angry, howling driver. Once in a while I could hear little Amy crying, and Mary singing to her, her voice carrying softly on the wind. I turned my ears back and listened to her sweet, reassuring tones, craving every calming note.

It seemed like years, but as fast as it came it left, and the skies opened and heaven shone down on us again. Amy was up and running around, picking up branches and leaves and all kinds of stuff. Mary and Ben rummaged around in the wagon; I could feel it leaning and it swayed as they rearranged their belongings. Luke came for Snowy, who looked exhausted, but Luke had a shine in his eyes like every teenager by who’s had a brush with death – I don’t know why but they seem to seek scares out over and over.

Ben came up to our heads, and gave me and Bess a smoothing stroke down our faces, and I could hear him let out a breath like he’d been holding it in for a fortnight. A reassuring pat – as much for him as for us, and we started to carefully back up and maneuver the wagon out of the gully. There was water in the river bed – no flash flood, thankfully, but there was enough rolling down the hillside that our feathers grew heavy with mud and our feet slipped as we tried to find footing. Ben stayed to one side as we lurched and pulled and half rolled, half dragged the wagon back up the crest to return to the train. Once near the top, the grass that once felt heavy and slow suddenly felt smooth and fresh, and Ben, Bess and I rounded the crest, with Luke back aboard Snowy. As we came over the top, we all stopped and stared down at the trail, and what once had been the wagon train.
Horse News More In This Category:  Horse Fiction      Horse News More From This Author:  mosquito
Double Spur Ranch  
Ah! :) I love it keep it going :)
  Aug 25, 2012  •  2,026 views
 
Hobnob  
I love this! You're such a talented writer.
  Aug 25, 2012  •  1,958 views
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