Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Painted Pony Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine

While Jamie is in the kitchen getting more coffee together for their guests, she listens to the retelling of some funny details of life before modern technology. Jamie enjoyed the congenial banter, but her mind tried to sort through Courtney’s off the wall behavior. It seemed she always went against the grain.

Sheriff Hale’s appearance drew her back to the present. “Thought you might need a hand,” he said loud enough for the others to assume that was his mission. He pulled Jamie to the far corner of the room, effectively, out of the earshot of the others.

“Be careful of Courtney. Watch your back where she is concerned. I know she’s connected to those we suspect are involved with the marijuana grow. They’ve all been on our radar for a while. Getting evidence –rock solid evidence is the hard part. You could be in a lot of danger, just because of Courtney’s involvement.”

A chill surrounded Jamie and then faded. “She’s my sister. Courtney wouldn’t…” That lie refused see the light of day. Jamie remembered other times when that wasn’t true, not even slightly. When it interfered with what Courtney wanted, no one and nothing was off limits. “I’ll be careful. Do you really think these men or people are dangerous? I mean it’s just marijuana. “

Sheriff Hale’s look turned incredulous, and his shoulders slumped ever so slightly. “It’s illegal.”

“I didn’t mean—I mean-- I know it’s illegal, and sometimes leads to the need for stronger drugs. I really only wondered how important this was to whoever is growing it.”

"Money always speaks loudest. Louder, even, than family or clan connections."

Deep inside Jamie knew what Sheriff Hale meant with everything else in a slump economically—always quick and easy money makers hedged the bets for those who could make it work. "Thank, I'll be careful."

"Well I better get back to doing my job before somebody thinks I'm asleep at the wheel."

Sheriff Hale said his goodbyes—the gaiety of a few minutes before seemed to follow him out the door.

"I better go tend to cattle business and see if there's anything else these guys need from me." BJ plucked his black cowboy hat off the hook by the door.

I thought the good guys wore white hats.

"Glad to see you're back home Jamie, really." BJ flashed her that infectious smile that threatened to make her like him.

She smiled back. Would liking him be a bad thing?

"I'll help you unload your trailer when you're ready."

BJ was turning into quite the gentleman. Maybe his arrogance was all in her perception. "Appreciate that. It can wait until tomorrow." Besides with all the commotion over the grow BJ had more pressing things to attend to.

Jamie picked up empty coffee cups and dessert plates to take to the kitchen. Ben followed with creamer and sugar containers. Soon, they had the kitchen and dining area back to normal order.

"I think I'll grab a few minutes of a catnap a 'fore I begin supper."

Ben looked so tired. Jamie wasn't at all surprised. The tranquil ranch atmosphere had been shattered of late. Not just the marijuana grow, the cut fences, missing cattle, life had taken on an edge Ben wasn't used to and Jamie didn't like.

"I think I'll do the same. It was a long drive and now this." Jamie brushed perplexion and angst away with fluttering fingers toward the outside.

"I'm sure sorry missy." Ben's face furrowed with age old concern.

"It's not a reflection on you Ben. It's just a sign of the troubled times we live in." She gave Ben a hug. "You go rest. Ther4e's nothing you could have done differently."

"Hell, missy, I wouldn't a knowed it was anything but a new kind of weed, if I had seen it."

Jamie kissed Ben's cheek. "I know, go rest."

Ben's referring to the grow as weeds nearly made her laugh. How our language has changed. Words morph into whole new meanings before we can say…

Jamie made her way down the hall to her room. It was more than a room, more like a suite in a grand motel, she mused as she opened the door. It had signatures of her from an earlier time. The shelf with her American Girl collection gathered dust, she would remedy that in short order. It was only now she remembered the painted pony. He was part of her collection of American Girl props, and now—how odd. Is that why she saw the vision of—no, she had led Jamie to the Elder's council fire. She was real. She had followed Jamie back to the ranch.

The ribbon shirt that waited for her at the council fire with the elders hung in her closet now when she opened the door. The ribbon shirt form her youth, revived and looking brand new. Hers had long since been relegated to the storage room in the attic, she thought and then remembered. The shirt, faded, the ribbons ready to come free from the cloth. She had kept the shirt boxed, but with her in college. Then it disappeared in one of her many hasty moves.

The ribbon shirt, this ribbon shirt, was brand new, an exact replica of the old. Jamie brushed a hand lovingly over the shirt. Memories stirred in her. She took the shirt from the hanger and hugged it to her. She could hear the heartbeat of the drum and the singers as if they were in the room with her. She walked ot the window where the view of the LaPlata Mountains rose in an ever changing panorama as shadows from the clouds raced from west to east. The mountains held mystery and intrigue for Jamie. As you can never step in the same river twice, you never see the same mountains twice.

They represented both protection and isolation, comfort in their strength, but danger as well. Mountains, obstacles, or barrier to the onslaught of the uncivilized trouble filled world. As Jamie stood admiring and contemplating all the ways those mountains had influenced her, the painted pony trotted into her line of vision.

Jamie startled, mesmerized by the pony's grace and beauty. Protector or bearer of a summons from her ancestors? Did the elders call, wanting her to follow the painted pony again?

What would the elders say about the illegal grow? What would her father say? Jamie slipped into the ribbon shirt and quietly slipped out of the house so as not to disturb Ben. As she walked to the barn Daisy darted to the paddock where Jamie usually saddled her. Do horses have their own silent language? She never heard a whinny or a snort, no vocalization from either horse, but here was Daisy. Perhaps, Daisy saw her coming and with all the commotion wanted to run to dispel her agitation. Jamie looked up as she saddled Daisy and led her out through the corral gate. Daisy waited impatiently while Jamie closed the gate. No one else appeared. She reasoned the hands were with BJ and or the FBI agents securing the grow field.

Jamie searched the landscape for the Painted Pony. She reared, catching Jamie's attention and Daisy's too, as Daisy danced impatiently, waiting to be nudged into flight. Jamie gently, nudged her heels into Daisy's sides and tipped the reins touching Daisy's left side of her neck. Her response was immediate and spirited. Daisy took a couple steps to the right and then broke into a gallop. Jamie saw the Painted Pony strike out ahead of them.

Daisy seemed to know her target and Jamie was a passenger to a phenomenal experience. She never doubted for a minute where her journey would conclude. She could already smell the council fire and hear the drums. The hills blurred into a mist shrouded valley. Suddenly, as quickly as she started Daisy bounced to a straight-legged stop. Jamie saw the elders around the drum and the council fire.

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