Suicide Plunge, p.1Philip Arnold / Romance & Love / Western
Philip W. Arnold
Copyright © 2012 by Philip W. Arnold
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This story could never have been completed without the gift of imagination that the good Lord has blessed me with, and that my mother Maureen never let me lose. Many thanks go out to my daughters Carolyn and Angie who worked countless hours typing my manuscript and changed it from a muddled mess of written words into an organized final copy. I give thanks to every middle school student whom I have ever taught. They are the ones who helped me see this story through the eyes of a young adult. Especially helpful were my 2012 8th grade Language Arts class; Isaac, Grace, Emma, Angelica, Shylo, Ashlee, Shyenne, Zach, Bryce, Robey, Jesse T., Jesse W., Garnett, Ally, Mikel, Anthony, and last, but certainly not least, Maicel.
Finally, to you the reader, I genuinely hope that you have as much fun reading this book as I did writing it.
Philip W. Arnold
Garden Valley, Idaho
Send comments to: Parnold@gvsd.net
Table of Contents
“The Suicide Hill Race is run every summer in Omak Washington. Brave young men, some out for a thrill, some just out to prove themselves, enter the race. They race their horses over a 100 yard flat piece of ground that abruptly drops off to an impossibly long and steep slope which ends at the edge of the Okanogan River. If the horse and rider manage to negotiate the “Suicide Plunge” then they must swim across the river and race into an arena on the opposite side. The first horse and rider to make it into the arena are declared the winner.”
Although all of the bedlam seemed to assault his senses at the same time, it was always the sounds that affected him the most. The thunderclap of the starter’s gun came first. This would be followed almost instantaneously by pandemonium; shrieks and yelps of Indian boys and men as they goaded their horses to maximum speed. As the horses and riders charged over Suicide Hill, the noise level would increase so loudly that picking out individual sounds was impossible. At that point vision became difficult too. The dust would become so churned up that individual horses would appear only as a blur.
As the bedlam reached its highest level, the riders in a boiling cloud of dust would appear. The horses would literally fly over the cliff’s edge in a mad dash towards the river. Sand and small rocks tossed up by flailing hooves would pelt the top of his head. The smell of leather, sweat and dust all intermingled and formed a musky aroma that stung his nostrils. This craziness nearly always caused his senses to spin into overload.
In today’s race, a horse right in front of him stumbled and the young rider quit the saddle, narrowly avoiding the slashing hooves of the oncoming horses. Both rider and horse careened down the hill like a tumble weed caught in a hurricane.
Towards the bottom of the hill a pileup of horses and riders began. The faster horses that had raced here before saw the river and bolted towards its cool safety. The less experienced horses balked. They whistled and snorted with fear due to the steepness of the incline, but in the end they were forced to surrender to gravity.
The young man grimaced as he watched slower animals pile into the logjam of horseflesh. The last horse literally pushed the shrieking mass into the Okanogan River. He stood on his tiptoes now to watch the horses swim the river. The lead horses crow hopped through the shallows to the other side. The slower horses, some riderless, swam towards the far bank. He heard the shouts of excitement from below as the first rider entered the arena and crossed the finish line.
Billy, an 18 year old native of Washington State’s Colville Indian Tribe, had always dreamed of being one of those riders. This race was one of the few things left that could bring a young man honor and glory in the tribe. Honor and glory however were two traits that had been lacking in his family for many years.
Billy’s excitement about the race was short lived. “Hey Apple,” a drunken voice slurred, “Remember how your dad cost Stew Coley the race in ‘88?” Billy turned to face the crowd of spectators. His tormentor could have been any one of a dozen leering faces. A chorus of laughter greeted his cold stare. Billy clenched his fists and advanced menacingly towards the sounds of their mockery. He didn’t care if there were a half dozen of them and he was alone. He had a fierce pride and allegiance towards those he loved. Although his father had failed miserably at his job of being a dad, nobody could get away with disrespecting the man.
Fortified with liquid courage, a crowd of drunks shouted vulgarities that were meant to hurt his absent father, but in his place, Billy became the target. Too late to think, time only to react, Billy swung a chopping right hook at the first hate filled face he could reach. His large hands, callused from hard labor, did not miss. The closest nose exploded in a spray of crimson mist. The ugly circle of sneering faces involuntarily oozed back at the sight of their fallen comrade. With his eyes glaring daggers into the crowd, Billy bulled his way through the drunks and out into the street.
Shaking his right hand, and sucking on the knuckles, Billy tried to ease the pain of his throbbing hand. “Apple Indian, red on the outside and white in the middle is it?” Billy spun around at the sound, but his dower expression immediately turned into an enthusiastic grin. “Uncle Blake, where have you been?”
Blake, a mountain of a man, wrapped Billy up in his arms and gave him a bear hug that would send most men to the chiropractor. “I’ve been up in the hills minding my own business when I decided to come down here and see how you flat landers race horses. I heard the commotion and figured my infamous nephew must be right in the middle of it.” The remaining crowd quickly melted away at the sight of Blake. No sane man would dare challenge him.
“Have those vultures been riding you about your dad again?”
Billy nodded. “It’s been the same for the past ten years.” Billy said. He spat out the words in disgust. “It’s the same old broken record. Your dad cost Stew Coley his title. Your dad was bought and paid for by the rich white man.”
“You think in ten years, they’d come up with something new.” Uncle Blake chuckled softly.
Billy became serious and asked, “Blake, you know my dad better than any other man, and you were at the race of ‘88. Do you think dad purposely knocked Stew and his horse over just so another horse could win?”
Blake stared into space for a long while. The announcer’s voice droning on in the background startled him out of his brooding. “Come on Billy, The Longhorn is still open, let’s get some grub and I’ll tell you what I can remember.” As the tinny sounds of the PA system faded away Blake kicked the old stock truck into gear and they headed out to the restaurant.