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The ride to save king, p.1
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       The Ride to Save King, p.1

           Camille LaGuire
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The Ride to Save King

  The Ride to Save King

  by Camille LaGuire

  * * *

  As a killer hurricane approaches their town, a girl and her mother decide to evacuate their horse by riding him to shelter.

  * * *

  Copyright 2013 Camille LaGuire. All rights reserved.

  = * * * =

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  = * * * =

  back to Table of Contents

  Chapter 1 - 6:00 PM Sunday

  * * *

  LYSETTE SAT IN front of the television, watching images of one worried person after another. The hurricane was approaching Florida, and the reporters were interviewing people who said they would not leave their homes.

  “I can’t leave,” said the old woman, who held a little dog. “This house is all I got, and the shelter doesn’t take pets.” She hugged her dog tighter.

  A little dog like that, and the shelter wouldn’t take it. It was little enough, you’d think the old lady could have hid it in her purse. Not like a horse. What would you do with a horse?

  Lysette leaned back and looked out the window. There was King, his golden head leaning over the fence, trying to reach the long grass on the other side. What did he care about a big whirl of wind and rain? It was almost feeding time, and like any horse, he was thinking about his belly. Lysette turned back at the TV to get the weather report.

  What if the hurricane came here after Florida? What if it hit near Riverton? It could. That’s what the weatherman said. They weren’t right on the shore, but the land was low. Those winds were over a hundred miles an hour. King’s shed was just a lean-to. It would never stand up against a bad storm.

  King nickered when she got to the barn to feed him. She scooped up his grain and patted him.

  “You don’t really love me,” she said. “You just love your corn.”

  He nickered again, as if he agreed. She felt his eager, scratchy lips on the back of her hand as she dumped the grain in his bucket. She stroked his velvety nostrils and straightened his white mane. He was a palomino, fourteen years old–the same as she was. She could not remember a time when he was not her horse. She shivered when she thought what it might be like to do without him.

  She looked over the shed. It was pretty solid, but a bad storm could knock it down. Even if King was out in the pasture, the place was full of trees. King would never survive a hurricane. And Momma would never let her stay with him, if they had to evacuate. They’d just have to leave him there. Leave him behind.

  Lysette suddenly wanted to hear the news again. Even though there probably wasn’t anything new, she had to keep track of where the storm was coming. She hugged King and ran inside. She turned on the radio and the TV both.

  * * *

  WHEN MOMMA GOT home, she had lots of groceries with her. Lysette started to help her bring them in, but Momma stopped her.

  “We’ll need those in the car,” she said. “In case we have to evacuate.”

  “You think we’ll have to?”

  “Maybe.” Momma led the way into the house. Lysette followed her closely.

  “What will happen if it hits here?”

  “We’ll lose our house,” said Momma, taking a can of beans out of her sack and putting them on the counter with a thump. “And our clothes, and our things, and we won’t be able to buy more, because I’ll lose my job. There won’t be any Bob’s Rib Shack if it hits here.”

  “And what about King?” said Lysette angrily. Momma hadn’t even thought about him. “What will happen to him?”

  “If it hits here, King’ll just….” Momma bit her lip, and suddenly she started crying. Big heavy sobs. That was when Lysette remembered that King had been Momma’s horse first. She put her arms around her mother.

  “We can’t let him die,” she whispered, knowing that they would. Even if they stayed, they’d just die with him. Momma just hugged her back and held her closer.

  After a minute, Momma let go, and they both started getting dinner.

  “We’ll just have to hope that it doesn’t hit here,” said Momma.

  “And a horse will die someplace else.” Lysette was sorry she said that. Sometimes her mouth was just too big. Momma didn’t get mad, though.

  “It’s too bad we don’t live on higher ground, like Uncle Jim.”

  Uncle Jim lived farther away from the shore, too. Up on the other side of the highway. He even had a stone stable, half set in the hillside.

  “If we had a barn like his, we wouldn’t have to worry,” said Lysette. Suddenly her mother looked up from the potatoes. Lysette only then realized what she had said. Momma leaped for the phone.

  “Jim!” she said into the receiver. “Jim, do you have room for King in your barn?…You do?…Oh.” Momma had sounded excited, but now she looked disappointed. She talked for a few minutes more, and hung up.

  “What?” said Lysette.

  “He’d be glad to take him, but the horse trailer broke its axle. There’s no way we can get him there.”

  “We could rent a trailer!” Momma looked so sad, Lysette felt rotten. “I’m sorry. I know we can’t afford it.”

  “Well, heck, we can’t afford anything,” said Momma. “Get me the phone book.”

  Momma called stables all night long, it seemed. Most of them were using their trailer to get their own horses out. Others wanted so much money, that Momma would never come up with it.

  “People can be so awful!” said Momma, slamming down the phone for the sixth time. “They want four hundred dollars because they think they can get it from fancy rich people with purebred horses.”

  She started crying again. Lysette pointed at the news.

  “Momma, I think it will miss us,” she said. “It looks on the weather map like it’s going straight west.” She knew, though, that hurricanes can always change direction.

  They watched the news together until two in the morning, when they both fell asleep. The hurricane was heading straight into the south of Florida. Lysette wondered about the horses there. Would they live? Would the lady with the little dog live? Even though it now looked like King would have a chance, Lysette was crying when she went to sleep.

  * * *

  back to Table of Contents

  Chapter 2 – 7 AM Monday

  * * *

  WHEN LYSETTE WOKE up, she just knew the storm had changed direction. She knew it before she turned the TV on, and watched the satellite photos tracking it as it curled around and changed direction over Florida. It was like a huge, unstoppable freight train, headed straight for King.

  “I could ride him there, if I started now,” said Lysette.

  “Honey, it’s forty miles,” said Momma.

  They watched TV while they ate breakfast. There wasn’t much news coming out of Florida yet. The weather man said there were still wind gusts well over 150 miles and hour. He also said that the water was unusually warm and that would give it more strength as it moved on. The map showed the possible tracks of the storm, based on history and conditions. Even as it changed direction, their house was still in the area of possible danger.

  “While I’m at work, you need to get ready, just in case,” said Momma. She stood up and put her dishes in the sink. “Pack a suitcase, and fill all those milk jugs in the shed with water, and put all the canned and boxed food you can find into a box.”

  “Okay,” said Lysette quietly.

  “And this afternoon, if you’ve done all that, watch TV and see if it’s coming this way, and if it is, start moving bales of straw into the house.
Put them in the living room, up against the outside wall….”

  “Why?” Lysette stared at her mother. What difference would straw make?

  “Because if we have to leave here, King is coming in the house. It’s more solid than that shed, and….”

  Lysette nearly knocked her mother over with a flying hug.

  “Thank you, Momma!”

  Momma waited a minute before going on. “It may not save him,” she said. “If it hits here, this house may go too.”

  “I know, but it’s better than nothing.”

  “Yeah. Better than nothing.”

  Momma left for work and Lysette ran out to feed King. He went after his grain like there was nothing else in the world as important. She picked up his curry comb and groomed him while he ate. She did not have much time, but maybe she would never have another chance. She brushed his neck, and knocked flies away from his ears. Then she finally forced herself away, and went to work.

  She left both the TV and the radio on all day, hoping to hear good news. There wasn’t much yet at all. The storm was still blowing over Florida. Even so, the local news people were saying that anybody should evacuate if they could, just in case.

  By noon she had her suitcase packed, two full boxes of food, and a kitchen full of jugs of water. She sat down to watch the noon news.

  The first thing they showed was a smashed house. At least, Lysette thought it was a house. It looked like a pile of litter. Then the camera swung around, and all she saw was litter. No houses. Just litter. People were crying and hugging each other. The reporter said that the place was once a subdivision, where there were hundreds of houses. Then they showed a helicopter shot. The camera skimmed over what seemed like miles and miles of flat trash. You could see some roads, but hardly anything at all left. Trees, telephone poles, even a steel lamp post was twisted right off at the bottom.

  No horse could live through that.

  “It will probably gain strength over the water…,” said the weather announcer.

  Lysette’s heart seemed to stop in her chest. How many horses were dead? How many people? She could hardly hear what the announcer was saying. She shook her head.

  “….probably headed for this area here, around Riverton.”

  The phone rang. Lysette grabbed the receiver, her attention still on the TV. As she put the phone to her ear, she heard her mother’s voice, speaking quietly, almost as though she were mad.

  “Get ready,” she said. “You are riding him to Uncle Jim’s.”

  Momma had been watching the same pictures on the TV at work. Her boss had decided to let everyone go home early.

  “Make sure the gear is all ready, but don’t saddle him until I get there,” she ordered. “You find yourself some clothes to protect you from the sun, because it won’t get cloudy until at least tonight….”

  Momma rattled off a few more orders, and then hung up. Lysette hardly heard. They were going to save King. That’s all that mattered.

  * * *

  MOMMA HAD IT all worked out by the time she got home. She had a map and everything. They’d stick to the back roads as far as they could, Lysette riding, and Momma following along in the car with feed, water, and anything else she could fit in the tiny blue car.

  “We shouldn’t have a problem until that stretch of highway just before we get there,” said Momma, pointing things out on the map. “We’ll get as far as we can today, so we can take it slow and easy on the highway tomorrow.”

  “Where are we going to sleep?”

  “There are farms along in here. We should be able to find a place to camp.”

  Lysette was nervous about that. King had never been tied all night before, except in a stall.

  “Do you think it’ll get stormy tonight?”

  “It’s not supposed to.” Momma looked like she was starting to have doubts. She shook herself and started checking over the tack. “Now don’t ride him too fast in this heat. We’ve got plenty of time, and you watch for traffic. You’d better ride on the left side of the road, so you can see it coming….”

  “I know, Momma. This isn’t the first time I’ve ridden him on the road.”

  “Well, I know, but I’m nervous, and a mother has got to nag her children when she’s nervous.”

  They grinned at each other for a minute, then they looked at the map one more time.

  “If you get to this crossroad here before I catch up with you, wait for me there. In the shade.”

  “What if there isn’t any shade?”

  “Wait in the nearest shade where I can see you. Come back this way a little, I guess. I’ll be watching for you the whole way. Just don’t go past that crossroad until I catch up with you, because one of us could get lost.”

  “Both of us, maybe.”

  “Don’t even think that.”

  That would be awful, both of them lost on the back roads, with no shelter in a hurricane.

  “I won’t,” said Lysette, with a shudder. Momma gave her a hug, and she swung up in the saddle. “I’ll meet you at the crossroads!”

  She urged King on. He caught her excitement and broke into a lope.

  “Not so fast!” called Momma.

  Lysette reined him back to a fast jog. She would let him trot a bit, just to warm up and calm down.

  The road was familiar. Lysette rode down it nearly every day. There were some great trails on state land a little further on, and the road itself did not get much traffic. Great for riding. Lysette looked up and scanned the sky. It was blue and only a few high clouds seemed to ride along the wind. There was not much wind. Would the storm miss them? Weather forecasts were always wrong. Lysette began to feel less worried. This might just turn out to be a fun overnight trail ride.

  * * *

  back to Table of Contents

  Chapter 3 – 1 PM Monday

  * * *

  MOMMA PULLED UP beside her after an hour.

  “How’s it going?”

  “Fine,” said Lysette. “It’s hot, but we’re okay.”

  “I’ll go scout ahead for a good place to rest.”

  Momma’s little blue car pulled away, and King took advantage of the distraction to snatch a bit of grass from the roadside. Then she pulled his head back up, and they rode on.

  After another hour, her shirt was like an electric blanket in the hot sun. It was a good thing her mother made her wear her straw garden hat. Her head would have been baked done by now, with her dark hair. She’d probably be loopy from the heat.

  King was great. He must have been miserable with that big hot saddle on his back, but he kept going. Every now and then, as if he could tell her attention was wandering, he’d pull the reins out of her hands, and drop his nose to graze a quick few more bits of grass. She let him chomp a little, but she didn’t want to stay in the sun. They had a long way to go.

  Up ahead she saw Momma coming back.

  “There’s a stream up ahead, in the shade,” she said, shading her eyes as she leaned out the window of the car. “We should stop there and let him cool off.”

  The stream was down in the ditch, but there was a place for them to sit, while King could nibble weeds in the shade. She dismounted and led King the last dozen yards, leading him down the ditch to the spring. It probably was not always a stream, but there had been a lot of rain lately. Just now, it was flowing fast enough to have clean water. King dipped his lips and started sucking up a drink.

  Lysette wondered what the stream would be like when the rain from the storm hit it. Would it rise up and flood over the road? She could hardly imagine that much water, but she knew that could happen during a bad storm.

  Momma had a huge sponge in her hand, and was soaking it in the stream. She slapped the water onto King’s neck, and he did not even flinch. Of course, it was not that cold, but it must have seemed that way compared to how hot he was.

  “Get the saddle off him,” said Momma. Lysette jumped to get the gear off. She should have thought of that, but her brain was p
robably addled by the sun. The saddle pad was sticky with sweat.

  “It’s too bad we don’t have a washer and dryer,” said Lysette. “This pad’ll be all scratchy by the time it dries out.”

  “Got that covered,” said Momma, in triumph. She handed the sponge to Lysette, and dashed up to the car. Lysette stroked water across his hot back. The fur had caked with sweat, and she had to squeeze a flood of water out of the sponge to get through it. Momma came back with a big plush bath rug, and an armload of velour towels.

  “I didn’t know if this would fit under the saddle, so I brought the towels, just in case.”

  “Momma, I feel so dumb,” said Lysette. “I didn’t even think of him needing a change of blanket. I didn’t think of anything.”

  “Well, of course you didn’t, honey. You’ve got your hands full just riding him. I was the one doing all the packing.” She paused and gave Lysette a shy grin. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t think of it either. I kinda got in a panic when I was packing, and I started grabbing everything in sight. I felt so stupid when I noticed I’d saved a silly bath rug!”

  “Well, I’m glad you did.”

  “And so is King.”

  The two of them poured water over the horse and used the sweat scraper to squeegee it off again. King let his head droop, and rested one back foot at a time. They gave him a little hay and ate barbeque sandwiches. Momma made her eat a lot of celery too, because digesting the sandwiches would heat her up.

  “I remember in Iowa,” said Momma, munching on a piece of celery, “we could let the livestock out to pasture when there was a tornado. We didn’t have to worry about flying trees or buildings so much.”

  “I thought you had a bunch of cows killed by lightning under a tree once.”

  “Oh, yeah. After that, Dad built a fence around the three big trees in the pasture, and whenever there was a weather watch, we had to go out and shoo the cows out, and close the gates.” Momma sat back and picked out pieces of barbeque from the sandwich. She smiled mischievously. “I remember one time the storm came up fast, and Mom didn’t want any of us to go out. But King’s dam, Sweet Cherry, was out there, and I ran out anyway. It turned out that she was way out, under the farthest tree, of course.”

  “Where else would a horse be when you want it?” said Lysette.

  “So I ran out there, soaking wet, rain and the wind whipping all around. Just as I got there, I saw a huge bolt of lightning, and the thunder was so loud, I could feel it against my chest. It made me stop for a second, but it also scared Cherry right out from under that tree. She came tearing out, and I was able to shut the gate behind her. Mom was so mad, I was grounded for a week.”

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