Big Bay Gelding
From the Wagon Train Diaries
The teenage girl was out horse riding. The horse was not hers; it belonged to the Wagon Master Alastar Brown. She loved that horse and he gave her permission to take it out and give it some exercise. The horse was a big bay gelding, even tempered and beautiful.
She was told to stay close to the wagon train, but after the third leg around the camped wagons, she decided to venture out. She wanted to see what the big bay gelding was made of. She rode for several hours and her muscles were beginning to complain at every bump. As she reined the gelding in, it snorted softly, with annoyance and impatience. The horse loved the hard climb and it let the rider know with several snorts.
“I know big boy,” she said under her breath. “I think I’m lost.”
The gelding tossed his head and kicked the dirt beneath him with his left foot.
“I’m sorry,” she chuckled.
Alastar Brown created the riding trail for the young adults, and she enjoyed settling into that rhythm, but she wanted more. The trail was just not enough for her. Unfortunately the more came with a price.
The teenage girl jumped off the horse and went to the river to drink some water. The gelding did the same. She could feel the movement of the horse, and hear the sound of hoof-beats as it approached the river beside her.
Suddenly she realized where she was. Her own breathing, the wind, and the rush of the river stream paralleling the wagon train trail. She knew that the wagon master purposely followed the river for the water. She smiled a wide smile and decided to mount the gelding. She couldn’t see the train camp, but she knew that it was just toward the central lowlands. Her attention and anticipation were directed toward the high sun, where the trail zigzagged downward.
She knew she’d be okay and she had all the time in the world. But suddenly time was an interruption. Even though some interruptions were nagging, this one was life threatening. She hadn’t realized it, but while drinking from the river she was snake bitten, not once, but twice. She watched the serpent swim down stream and her eyes were open wide in shock.
Her body went limp but she managed to stay on the horse. She felt her speech slur, and she couldn’t utter any commands to the gelding. The sun was still hot, but the air was growing colder, and while she stayed on the horse it was cold enough to provoke shivers.
She was losing consciousness and the air around her was tight and difficult to swallow for breathing purposes. The gelding started moving and she felt an abnormal drift, and that drift shook her bones. Everything around her was still, but every now and again the stillness was broken by the big bay gelding.
She was a young girl and she really wanted to make a home in the new west. She wanted to teach when she was old enough. She had so many plans, and it went down stream with the serpent.
The images of her brothers and sisters stained her mind, and all she could see was her mother crying on her father’s shoulder. She wasn’t a troubled girl, but she did like riding and this time the riding took her life. The wagon train had its share of problems and the joy was rare enough, but precious enough in life.
She saw a dark shadow flapping low and then suddenly disappeared behind the mountains. Everything was strange as the air kept rushing into her and rushing out at the same time. Her pupils were so black against the white. She would blink and realized that it was some sort of movement. She then started praying to God for salvation. She didn’t want to die. She wanted to be home with her mother. She wanted to be on the wagon train, and she wanted to help the scout groom the horses.
The teenage girl saw the images of her family laughing and smiling. She saw the happiness that always blessed their hearts. They were a loving family and she was part of it. She felt herself laughing and smiling too, but it wasn’t real. Reality would intrude soon enough, as she felt her body rock in pain. The shadow of death moved a little closer, veering past the face of the young girl.
The pain had stopped, but everything around her went black. If death had taken hold of her, at least she got to die riding a beautiful big bay gelding.
“The fever broke!” shouted the doctor. “Alastar!”
The teenage girl opened her eyes and saw the wagon train’s doctor standing over her. “What happened?”
“You were snake bitten my dear child,” he replied. “Good old Sandy brought you back to the camp in the nick of time.”
The doctor smiled.
Her family rushed toward her screaming in utter delight. Their child had returned from the threshold of death.
The doctor gave the young girl a carrot and called the gelding over. She lifted an amused eyebrow and let the gelding take it from her hand.
© 2013 Frank Atanacio
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