Monday, July 25, 2011

The Painted Pony

A new story I'm starting today. Here is the first chapter.
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Painted Pony
Jamie Lynn watched as a pale cloud of dust signaled the early morning arrival of a visitor who showed up at 6 a.m. every morning for the past week. The thunder of her hooves shook the ground. Jamie felt it in the souls of her bare feet. Her breath caught in her throat as the painted pony glided over the top of the hill. She stopped abruptly and stared at Jamie.

The two of them stood frozen like two moments in time. Jamie didn't dare blink for fear Ember would disappear again. Jamie could feel the heat of Ember's aliveness, she was real, what did she want?  Where did she come from? Why here, why now?

Jamie Lynn's grief was so profound she came to Nimberbrook to regain her equilibrium. She came to figure out if she could go on, which direction she should take. What was the significance of this delightful creature who wouldn't be approached?

As if on cue, Ember reared up, marked the air with her signature, three pawing motions in the air, before she spun and disappeared the way she had come. Today, Jamie was prepared. She hurriedly mounted Daisy and coaxed the horse forward, toward the hill where the painted pony had stood. Ember seemed such an appropriate name. It had appeared in Jamie's mind just as the horse appeared. Ember glowed like a ghostly apparition, but Jamie was sure she was real; at least, until she found no footprints where Ember had stood, she believed she was real. Her image was too distinct not to be real, wasn't it?

The ground shaking thunder of her approach was real. Jamie felt it; it was enough to make her think a herd stampeded toward her, not just one magnificent creature. 

Jamie slid down from Daisy's saddle to examine the ground more closely where Ember made her showing. She ran her hand over the undisturbed ground. The feeling of heat warmed the palm of Jamie's hand. She paused and went back over the area—heat, but no tracks. Was she losing her mind? Her gaze followed the dust that puffed like clouds toward the horizon. No sign of the horse except for those fading puffs of dust raised by her hooves. Distance is hard to judge in open country fenced in by the LaPlata Mountain range, a very familiar sight to Jamie. But, always mysterious, always offering new visions, inner as well as outer. Distance was one she hadn't managed to conquer just yet.

Who did the painted pony belong to? Why did she get the distinct feeling she should follow her?  Daisy seemed totally disinterested in the other horse as she grazed on the tufts of sedge grass poking up centaur-like from the dry earth. No rain in over a month gave the once lush mountain valley a desert tawny hue.

Pursuing the elusive creature who seemed to be luring Jamie out of her comfort zone into untraveled territory seemed her only option. A very strong pull made her move toward the painted pony's path. It wasn't the old west where savage Indians roamed and lurked for unsuspecting travelers. The term "savage Indian", shuddered the nerves of her spine. What a legacy she had inherited. Do people still think savage when they see her? Sometimes she thought they did even with her rise up from nothing to owner of the chain of holistic health and beauty stores across the Iron Range back home in Michigan.  Colorado always held her heart though, her father's land called her back here regularly. She always followed that call. This time Ember stood at the end of that call, or so it seemed she was part of that call.

Slowly, Jamie urged Daisy forward. The horse seemed reluctant to travel in a straight line toward what Jamie saw as her goal—the distant, shrinking dust ruffles Ember kicked up as her bread crumbs in the forest. The Hansel and Gretel fairy tale spirited across her mind as did the word 'lost'. She could never get lost. Daisy would always know her way home, wouldn't she?

Jamie reined the horse in, twisted in the saddle to gaze behind her for a landmark, something to call her home if Daisy should somehow forget. Daisy's fur twitched. Jamie saw why. Coyotes streaked across the path behind her. During the day? Unusual but it was very early. She hoped they weren't after the painted pony, though the pony seemed healthy enough, alone it could be the target for that marauding pack. She nudged Daisy forward. "Come on girl, we need to find Ember."

Daisy snorted and immediately obeyed, albeit, reluctantly. Jamie could tell she was in no hurry to obey her master's orders. Urgency fueled Jamie's insistence that the horse follow her command. Normally, she wouldn't force the issue. Daisy was a seasoned horse and seemed to sense the presence of danger, the avalanche, the rattle snake, the bear, Daisy had balked, and Jamie had listened. And luckily so, yet, this time, not this time, something pulled her toward the distant mountain range and Ember. The coyotes she had spotted earlier crossed her mind, but they were headed due north not west as Jamie and Daisy were. Of course the animals could circle west, nothing except Daisy's nervous twitching told her anything was amiss. Jamie watched the ground for signs, signs of Ember's flight, signs of the coyotes, signs of the mountain lion that had been spotted in the valley lately harassing cattle—she didn't see anything. So why were the hairs at the nap of her neck bristling like a bug crawled among the roots. 

Daisy's ears moved independently of one another like a cats, or a rabbits listening for sound a human ear could never pick up. Jamie knew enough to watch the horses' body language for subtle hints hidden from her human self about her environment. Clearly, Daisy sensed or heard something, but Jamie's insides told her to press on. Whatever Ember's message was she needed to follow her, now. Daisy wasn't stubbornly refusing like she did before the avalanche. Jamie took this as a sign she should be cautious but not to abort her mission of following Ember.

She nearly lost her balance and fell off Daisy's back as she was leaning way over to try to 'read' the signs the ground might give up. The sound of a child crying caught Jamie off guard. A child, here, deep in these woods in the foothills of the LaPlata's? From the sounds of it, a very young child and the hurried mission of the coyotes suddenly spurred her own mission. Daisy snorted in protest, but moved toward the sound as Jamie guided her.

 "Always carry a rifle when you ride these hills." Her father's words echoed in her mind now. Jamie was of a mentality that there was nothing to fear in the settled west anymore. It was silly to borrow trouble. When James Two-Cloud saddled Daisy for Jamie the rifle scabbard was always present and loaded.
"If you ever get thrown from your horse, or run into trouble, you can summon help. You don't have to shoot any creature or human, just shoot the air."

Sage advice Jamie thought now as she urged Daisy forward toward the child's distress call. But, what possible dan—g—er—Jamie swallowed the lump in her throat that felt like her heart had leapt there. 
to be continued...

9 comments:

Sylvia Kaye Hamilton said...

Billie, this first chapter is compelling to say the least. As a child I have always loved horses. The imagery is indelible on my mind already. I'm coughing in the midst of that cloud of dust and I see Ember proud and beautiful but I'm not sure if she is balck and white or brown and white.

I particularrly like the way you introduced the character has being an Indian without coming out and saying. Excellent exapmple of showing versus telling.

(The term "savage Indian", shuddered the nerves of her spine. What a legacy she had inherited. Do people still think savage when they see her? )Great showing.

The story starts with a mysterious undertone yet it is not far fetched. It makes me want to know what is going on. Of course, I love Ember, the paint, and as with other animal stories, I fear something bad happening to them. I will have to read the book to make sure Ember fairs well.

Great job so far.

Pee Wee

Karen Cioffi said...

Wonderful first chapter. I love the imagery and mystery!

Word Crafter said...

Thanks to Sylvia for your kind comments I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks also to you Karen - I appreciate your kind words.
Billie

unwriter said...

I am not a fan of horses but I respect their 'nose' for danger. This is good, as always. I want more.

Word Crafter said...

Thanks Ron. Yes, horses can be scary and a bit treacherous at times I've seen them take some numbers off our roster of humans right here as a matter of fact. But they are uncanny danger predictors. Thanks for your kind comments.
Billie

Joyce Anthony said...

You aren't going to make me wait forever to find out what happens, are youy???? Excellent start, Billie--you introduced main characters, left no major points uncovered and made me already feel an investment in the safety of everyone--great job!

Word Crafter said...

tee hee Thanks for your enthusiasm Joyce - I plan to get a chapter a day done - so tomorrow? I work but I'll try... Thanks for your interest and your kind words.
Billie

Rhobin said...

Great start. Love the pony Ember.

Word Crafter said...

Glad you like her Rhobin - thanks for stopping by.
Billie