A Sacrifice for Freedom
by Brianna B.
Andrea Carter, or better known as Andi, lowered her fishing pole into the water. She already had two fish in her bucket, but hoped to catch at least one more. Sourpuss Jeffrey Sullivan had been back at the house making eyes at Melinda, and after lunch, Andi had escaped to save herself from listening to Jeffrey’s droning. Just then, Andi’s mare, Taffy, who had been grazing nearby, pricked her ears forward, head up.
Andi looked up from the water. “What’s wrong, Taffy?”
She glanced from her horse to where the mare’s ears were pointed. Noticing a loud rustle in some nearby bushes, Andi wondered what creature was heading towards her. She put down her fishing pole and moved toward Taffy as the noise grew louder.
While Andi held Taffy’s reins and shrank back, horrible thoughts filled her mind. Was it a cougar? A bear? She hadn’t seen many bears, but it was possible. All of a sudden, out if the bushes sprung a tawny brown animal. Andi gave a slight shriek which startled both Taffy and the intruder, but she covered her mouth and stared at a long legged buckskin foal. The foal stared back at her with large brown eyes. Relieved, Andi put a hand over her chest and let out a breath. Worry for the foal grew. Who could this beautiful little guy belong to?
Andi started talking gently to comfort the foal. He, or she, stepped closer and neighed to Taffy. I can’t leave this baby alone in the wild! So, with that thought in mind, Andi reached for her lasso. She backed a few steps away, and then twirled her rope. It fell neatly over the foal’s neck, and the foal stared at the rope as if trying to figure out if it was friend or foe. Then he reared up on his hind legs.
“Shh, its okay, I got you.” Still holding the rope, Andi packed up her fishing gear and mounted Taffy.
Walk, trot, walk, trot. They held these paces all the way to the barnyard. It’s almost dark, Andi thought. Chad should be here somewhere.
“Chad!” Andi said as she looked around and spotted her big brother. “Is the coast clear?”
He turned to her “If you’re asking if Jeffery left, then yes, he’s gone. Did you catch any fish?”
“Yes, but look what I found.”
“Where’d you get him?” Chad asked suspiciously as he examined the foal.
“At my special spot. Is the foal ours?”
Chad shook his head. “No. He was just wandering around all alone?”
“I’ll ask around at church tomorrow. There must be someone out there missing him. We can keep him until we find his owner.”
Andi opened her mouth to ask a question but Chad beat her to it with a grin. “Yes, he’s a boy.”
The next day after church, people broke up into groups to talk. Andi watched Chad make his way toward a group of other ranchers. As much as she wanted to keep the foal, she wanted him to be happy.
As she made her way towards the buggy, Cory came running from a group of young men.
“Hey, Andi!” Cory greeted her, a cloud of dust lingering in the air behind him.
“Hi, Cory. What’s up?”
Cory jerked his finger back to where he came from. “They saw a herd of wild horses pretty near your place. Some cowboys want to try to rope ‘em. Thought you’d want to know.”
“Cory!” Jack yelled from a few yards away.
“Sorry, Andi, but I’ve got to go.” Her friend turned to leave, but Andi stopped him.
“What are you and Jack planning?”
“A few tricks for school tomorrow.”
“Mr. Foster won’t be happy,” Andi groaned. Cory shrugged and joined Jack.
Hmm, Andi thought, the wheels in her head turning.
“So, Chad,” Andi said the minute he climbed into the wagon. “Is anyone missing a foal?”
“No,” Chad frowned. “But a few ranchers are missing several mares left out on the range. There has been a herd of wild horses around, so maybe that’s where the mares went. For now, we’ll feed the foal and wait a few days.”
“Thanks, Chad.” Andi flashed a smile. “Maybe it’s the Hollister family’s horse.”
“Maybe,” Chad answered.
Andi changed clothes and was riding Taffy the next day.
“Come on, Taffy,” Andi leaned forward in the saddle. “Let’s go.” She looked over her shoulder where the foal was, a rope around his neck. She held the other end. When she got to her special spot, she made large circles around it. Once again, her horse pricked up her ears and Andi gave Taffy her head. Maybe she’ll lead me to the wild herd of horses!
Taffy went through trees and brush before halting to stare at a huge cloud of dust in the distance. By the looks of it, it could have been cattle…or a huge herd of horses! Andi kicked Taffy into a trot to get out of the way of the stampeding horses. The foal faithfully followed, though he turned his head toward the herd. Through the dust, Andi could make out a few men, trying to rope a horse. She prodded Taffy into a walk so she could see better.
It doesn’t look like they’re going to catch anything…oh, wait, there’s golden horse that’s delaying…I think they’ll get it!
And sure enough, the cowboys caught the lingering horse.
“Come on Taffy, let’s go see what the men will do with that mare.”
When the men saw Andi, they scowled, raised eyebrows, and mounted to leave.
“Wait!” Andi called out. They paused.
“What are you going to do with the mare?” Andi wanted to know.
One of the men answered, “If we get a good enough offer, we’ll sell her. If not, we’ll break her.”
“Is that all you wanted?” Another cowboy asked. But Andi wasn’t paying attention. She was looking at the mare and the foal. They were both straining toward each other and the foal let out little squeals. They both had a look in their eyes…a look of longing. They belonged together.
The cowboy repeated his question.
“Uh, yes.” Andi turned Taffy around and cantered home.
That wild mare must be the foal’s mother! Andi thought
On Monday morning, Andi was rummaging in her nightstand for a piece of paper.
“Where did I put it? Oh! Here it is!” Andi pulled out a rumpled paper. She smoothed it out, grabbed a pencil, and slid down the banister. This morning seemed promising. The night before, Andi had been filled with doubts. Half of her wanted to keep the beautiful colt for herself, but part of her knew he belonged in the wild with his mother. Finally, she made the decision to let the colt free, and she had a plan to save his mother too.
After breakfast, Andi and Justin walked to the wagon.
“Justin,” she began carefully. “Could you please sign this for me?”
Justin scanned the paper as he picked up the reins. “You want to withdraw money from your account? How much?” her brother asked, forehead creased.
“Fifty dollars! Are you sure, Andi? That’s a lot of money.”
“Yes, Justin, I’m sure.”
“Andi, are you in trouble? With Mr. Foster, maybe?”
“Justin,” Andi sighed. “I’m not in trouble. Please don’t make me tell. It’s…it’s a…surprise!” she said brightly. “Please?”
“If you’re not in trouble and it’s a surprise…well, I’ll sign it. It’s your account.” Justin agreed.
“Thanks! I appreciate it. Can we stop at the bank on the way out of town?”
Her favorite brother smiled. “Sure we can.”
As Andi walked into the school yard, Cory came up to meet her.
“Did ‘ya hear?” Cory gave his friend no chance to answer. “The men from yesterday caught a wild mare!”
Andi nodded. “Do you know where they’re keeping the mare?”
“Yeah, it’s on the outskirts of town. I’ll show you after school.”
Andi grinned. “Ok!”
Justin had been working later then usual this past week, so Andi would have time to see the mare, and go to the bank.
After school, which was thankfully uneventful, except for Cory and Jack’s tricks, Andi followed her friend to the edge of town. And there, in a large coral, was the golden mare with a light mane and tail, a white blaze and two stockings. She was pacing around the coral and craning her head toward some trees.
“She’s beautiful!” Andi whispered. “She looks like she could have been Taffy’s mother!”
Cory nodded. “I’d like to stay, but Pa would get to me for not doing my chores yet. Do you know the way back?”
Andi tore herself away from watching the graceful mare to Cory. “Well, I best be going, too. Justin should be done work soon.”
At the bank, Andi successfully drew out 50 dollars. When she got back at the ranch, she saddled up Taffy and told Chad she was going riding. But she wasn’t going to her special spot as Chad probably thought. Instead, she was going to try to go to the coral where the mare was kept. She would have to circle around the long way by heading at first in the direction of her special spot so no one would know where she was really going.
After a long time, Andi stopped Taffy. A sad whinny filled the silence. Andi prodded Taffy forward in the direction of the noise. Through the brush, Andi could see the coral. Yippee! I found the coral! Now, for the hard part.
Andi dismounted Taffy and looked around. There was a shack she hadn’t noticed before. She nervously walked up and knocked on the door. A single man opened the door. There must be more men inside, Andi thought.
“Hey, you’re the girl from yesterday, aren’t you?” the man asked.
“Yes,” Andi answered. “Is your mare for sale?”
“Why do you wanna know?” he asked.
“I’d like to buy her. I have 50 dollars,” Andi replied, producing the bills.
The cowboy opened the door wider and called to a man inside. Another man appeared in the door way. Too late, Andi realized she was in a dangerous situation. She didn’t know these men. Who would stop them from hurting her, taking the money, and stealing Taffy?
“50 dollars, huh? How about that necklace you’re wearing?”
“My… necklace?” Andi gasped. “Then the mare will be mine?” she asked bravely.
Andi looked down, considering it. Father had given her this necklace. Father would understand, wouldn’t he? Andi thought as she sacrificed her necklace along with the bills. One of the men roped the mare and gave the rope to the new owner. Andi smiled when she realized she owned not one, but two horses and a foal. She galloped away.
Before she reached home, she tied the mare a little ways off from the ranch and retrieved the foal, then brought him to his mother. He immediately ran to the mare. They exchanged happy whinnies and Andi smiled as she tugged the mare and her foal into a trot. When the foursome arrived at the fishing spot, Andi once again led the horses into circles around the creek. Then the mare started pulling on the rope. No, she was dragging Andi deep into some woods. At first she resisted, but then cut the rope off the mare and followed her. You better not make me regret this, Andi thought.
Down a gulch, across the creek, and into a ravine is where the wild mare led the foursome. Andi was tempted to turn back but decided that they had gone too far to turn back now. Maybe she smells the herd and is leading me to them.
Finally, the mare stumbled into a valley. Andi covered her mouth with her hand. A huge herd of horses were grazing there. They were so peaceful, a big difference from when Andi first saw the herd.
The mare ran to meet her friends, whinnying all the way. Andi turned to the foal to see him rear up and join his mother. Andi pressed the picture of the foal rearing up into her mind.
“I’ll never forget, Spirit. Spirit of the West.” Andi turned Taffy around and said, “Let’s go home Taffy.”
Andi rode in the barn yard. Chad met her as she rubbed Taffy down.
“Andi, where’s the foal?” Chad said, raising an eyebrow.
She took one look at her brother’s face and knew she better explain. “The mare the cowboys caught was the foal’s mama, and the mare was wild, so the foal is also wild. I,” Andi swallowed, “let them go.”
“You didn’t kidnap the mare from those cowboys, did you?” Chad asked as he scrutinized his sister.
“No, of course not! I… I bought her, fair and square.”
Chad frowned. “I suppose that’s why you drew 50 dollars out of your account. You should have told me or Justin or Mitch. That could have been dangerous.”
“Sorry,” Andi said as she lowered her head.
“Come on,” Chad said as he put an arm around her shoulder. “Let’s go get ready for dinner.”
When Andi sat down to eat dinner, her mother glanced at her. “Where’s the necklace you were wearing, dear?”
Andi was speechless, then said, “It’s in a safe place.” She was sure the cowboys wasted no time to pawn her special necklace to a jewelry store.
3 Years Later…
Andi splashed her feet in the water under the hot Californian sun. “Ah, it was so refreshing.”
Silence. Across the creek, a cow was grazing.
Then, a loud rumbling sound. Andi turned to see a bull charging straight for her! He must not have wanted Andi too near to his cow. Time seemed to freeze. Thoughts raced through her mind. Taffy’s too far away, and she’s tied up. I can’t run. What can I do?
From out of no where, a beautiful, buckskinned stallion flew between the bull and Andi. The bull skidded to a stop. The horse snorted and stamped its foot. The bull just snorted back. The magnificent stallion rose on its hind legs, his hooves barely missing the bull. Turning away, the bull ran across the creek and toward his cow. The horse snorted after it. Then he turned to Andi, who held out a hand. Breathing heavily, the horse pressed his forehead against it.
“Spirit,” Andi said, fondling his ears, “you came back!”
She hugged the horse. The stallion was startled, but didn’t pull away. When Andi stepped back, they stood there, staring at one another. It was like Spirit was saying, “I had to pay you back.”
Once again, Spirit reared up and began running into the hills. He neighed, and from the hills came a herd of horses. Two mares began running next to the Spirit in front of the herd. One, Spirit’s mother, and the other a beautiful brown appaloosa. They galloped together, stride for stride. It must be the same herd I saw in the valley! Spirit must be the lead stallion now.
Andi watched the horses follow their leader, Spirit, mouth agape, until they disappeared out of view.