Squatch attached Austen’s bag and camping gear on the rear of the saddle and handed her the reins. The other men had already made their way to the open yard and were waiting for her. To Austen’s relief the horse followed her without a fight, and when Austen pulled around to join the semi-circle of men the horse fell right into place. Squatch walked up beside her with his butterscotch palomino, its platinum tail twitching in excitement.
When the other men mounted their horses, Squatch offered his hand to Austen. “Up you go.” He flicked his eyebrows up and winked at her.
Austen stuck her boot into the stirrup, and, hand on the pommel, hoisted herself, not without grace, into the saddle and took the reins. The other cowboys stopped tending to their belongings and sat still to watch the dapple’s reaction to the new rider. At first, the horse stood steady, without concern for the rider on her back. But as the other horses began to snort, uncomfortable with the stillness of their own masters, the mare started to shift about in place. Her breathing became shallow, her eyes widened, and her head bobbed up and down.
From behind them someone snapped a twig underfoot, which was all the edgy beast needed. The horse reared up onto her hind legs and hopped up and down. Austen held onto the pommel and squeezed her knees into the saddle, her instincts taking over. As the animal jumped upward Austen leaned into the horse, coming close to the neck, but always keeping enough distance so she wouldn’t be caught in the face with such a powerful force.
The cowboys cheered, compounding an already bad situation. It was dark and the horse was scared. Austen petted her neck and tried to coo her into a calmer state, but to no avail. Just as Austen was about to lean forward in anticipation of another hop, the horse pitched with her and kicked its hind legs into the air. Austen’s bag sprung up and struck her from behind. The additional force knocked Austen off balance, and over the top of the horse she went.
The hard compacted dirt met her back and the breath was stolen straight out of her chest. Her eyes clouded over into darkness with bright white sparking through them and a low humming burned in her ears closing in like the black vignette of photographs. She wasn’t sure if she had passed out, but all was suddenly quiet. The jeering stopped, the horses faded away, and the soft sunrise fell into darkness.
When her eyes opened again she found herself lying in Squatch’s lap, his eyes looking on furiously at the other men, who were still laughing.
Thwaite was nowhere she could see, but his booming voice carried far. “You told me that horse was ready!” The laughter died away when Thwaite singled out and scolded those responsible for her fall.
Author: Beaux Cooper
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Some people seek marriage counseling; others find wisdom in horse manure. Austen St. Johns has taken up a shovel.
When her marriage transitions from blushing newlyweds to people who merely co-exist, Austen realizes perhaps she’s responsible for her misery.
Desiring change, she leaves Oregon for the open plains of a Wyoming ranch where she discovers through love of self how she can save her marriage.
Beaux Cooper is a writer, explorer, and wife. Much of her writing is pulled directly from life experiences, revelations, and lessons which seem to come in spurts if given enough time to formulate. As a fresh transplant to the bluffs region of Wyoming from her home state of Oregon, Beaux has grown to appreciate just how small she really is compared to the rest of the earth.
Wyoming skies can do that to a person.
Beaux craves adventure, travel, and fish tacos. She hoards knowledge like a magpie after carnival and watches entirely too much British television. Surprisingly, Beaux’s weekends are filled with all things quintessentially Wyoming: national parks, cattle brandings, rodeos, and the Oregon Trail. But only because she seeks them out.
Beaux shares a household with her husband, two dogs, and two cats – in no particular order.
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