The Big Race
by Naomi F.
On one Saturday afternoon, Andi Carter went to go to her special spot. When she arrived, she noticed Sadie was already there.
“Hi! I’ve been waiting for you a long time now. What took you so long?” Sadie jumped from the tree limb she was resting on.
“I had to clean my room.” Andi took Taffy by the bridal and led her to the creak. Taffy delightedly drank from the cool water.
“You ready to fish?”
“Sure, let me get my pole.” Andi untied her fishing rod from Taffy’s saddle. Snap. Andi froze. Was one of the boys playing a trick on the girls?
Suddenly a horse appeared, galloping as fast as the wind.
Sadie laughed. “Why Andi, what a beautiful horse.”
Andi stood in awe as she watched the white horse spotted with brown splotches disappear.
“I wonder who she belongs to?” Sadie thought out loud. “It was going too fast to see any brand.”
“Such speed in a young horse is uncommon. I’m going to find it and if there isn’t a brand, I’m going to train it.”
“You best tell your brother Chad. After all, the horse may be wild,” Sadie advised.
“No! Chad would ruin all the fun. I want to find it first and then I’ll tell everyone.”
“What if you got hurt, Andi?” Sadie looked concerned.
Andi crossed her arms. “Alright, I’ll tell.” She put her foot in Taffy’s stirrup. “Come on, I'll race you to the ranch.” It wasn’t hard for Andi and Sadie to find Chad.
“Hi girls, you two came home early.”
Sadie poked Andi in the side. Andi took her clue.
“Chad, we saw a horse today that I’m sure no one owns her. She’s white with bro—
“Brown spots and about two years old.” Chad interrupted.
Andi put her hands on her hips.
“She trotted in while you were gone. We’ll brand her with the other colts.”
Andi’s eyes grew big. “How wild is she?”
“She’s wild but we can handle her. After all you were very spirited yourself and we’ve tamed you.” Chad ruffled Andi’s braid.
Sadie chuckled but Andi didn’t. She did not like to be teased. She gave Chad a cross look and then took off.
A big crash and the thundering of hooves awoke Andi from a deep sleep. Was someone stealing the horses? The thought of Taffy being taken away drew Andi from her bed. She slipped her arms through her robe as she ran down the wooden steps.
As she flung the screened door open, she was met by her mother and Melinda standing on the porch. Andi quickly observed the problem. The new horse had broken through the fence. Chad, Mitch, and Justin each held a lasso ready to swing it over the colt’s head. Andi giggled as Justin tried to lasso the horses. Though an important lawyer, poor Justin couldn’t even tie a simple lariat knot.
After a long struggle the colt finally let Mitch lead him back to the paddock.
Elizabeth hugged Andi, “Alright girls, back to bed. The boys can fix the fence.”
Andi eyelids dropped as she reached her room. She slid into her bed and was soon asleep again.
Andi quickly dressed and painfully tied a white ribbon in her dark thick hair. Eyeing the banister wishfully, she calmly descended the stairs and silently slipped into her chair. With a sweet good morning to her family, she poured syrup on her golden flapjack smothered in butter.
“You look pretty in your new dress, Andi,” Justin winked.
“Thanks.” Andi scratched her leg where the itchy red fabric lay. The remembrance of last night hit Andi as she noticed how tired Chad looked. “Chad, may I name the new horse, please?”
Chad yawned turned into a smile as he turned to Andi. “I think the owner should name the animal.”
Andi searched Chad’s face to see if he was serious. “You mean…”
“After all, you saw the horse first. I think it would be good experience for you. If it doesn’t interfere with your chores.”
Andi jumped from her seat and ran to her brother. She threw her arms around his neck. “Thank you, Chad, oh thank you! I’m going to name her Gallup.”
Elizabeth smiled as she looked at her timepiece pinned to her bodice. “Chad, will you please hitch up the buggy.”
Chad nodded and walked out the door.
“Are you through eating, Andrea?” Mother asked in a soft voice.
Andi wiped her mouth with her napkin. “Yes, ma'am. May I go outside and help Chad?”
“No, dear. I don’t want you to wrinkle your dress before the service.”
Andi noticed Melinda fussing with her hair. She rolled her eyes. “If you can pull yourself away from the mirror, we’re all ready to leave.”
Melinda gave a little huff but just replied, “Just you wait until you’re expected to be a lady.”
Andi softly tapped her feet together. She knew she should be listening to the reverend, but her mind was elsewhere. She couldn’t bring her thoughts away from the new horse. Her horse. The church bell rang symbolizing the end of the service.
Andi wanted to go straight home. She looked around to find her family. Justin was talking to Matthew Powers. Mitch and Chad seemed to be having a good time with Peter Wilson. Mother and Melinda were politely in a conversation with a group of women.
“Howdy, Andi!” Cory waved.
“Hey, Cory,” Andi walk over to Cory.
Cory gave Andi a big grin as he pulled something from his back pocket.
Andi gave Cory a puzzled look, “Another dime novel?”
“Better!” Cory’s eyes sparkled with mystery as he unrolled the yellowish parchment. “The fair is in two months,” he exclaimed.
Andi’s forehead wrinkled, “It’s always at the same time each year.”
Cory looked at Andi as if he knew something she didn’t. “It’s going to be different this year. There’s going to be a bunch of new games and contests. Instead of a hog catching contest they’re having a horse race. I’m entering Flash. That is if Pa will let me. There’s also going to be—”
Andi mind flew to her new horse. Could she enter her in the contest? She imagined herself crossing the finishing line and the judge handing her a bright blue ribbon.
“Andi, are you listening to me?”
Hearing her name, Andi was awoken from her daydreaming. She blushed. “Sorry Cory, what are the new contest going to be?”
Cory rolled his eyes. “You haven’t heard anything I’ve said.”
“I’m listening now,” Andi smiled.
“I was trying to tell you—”
“Andi, time to go.” Melinda interrupted.
Andi giggled slightly and waved at Cory as she was helped in the buggy.
When they reached home, Andi went to her room to slip on something more comfortable. At the supper table she announced her curiosity. “Chad, how long will it take to tame the new colt?”
Chad rubbed his chin. “It all depends, honey.”
“Could she be ready for the horse race at the fair?”
He thought a minute. “Judging from my experience with colts, it’s quite possible.
Andi clapped her hands in excitement. Gallup was going to the fair.
Andi tried to focus on her school lesson, but it was hard when her brothers were at home working with Gallup. The fair was quickly approaching, and Gallup was almost ready for the big day. Chad would be the one to race her. Though Andi had put up a good fight, one look from her mother told Andi that no young lady was going to ride in a horse race with a bunch of men and boys. Andi took the disappointed well. She helped Chad all she could. She wanted him to go home with a blue ribbon.
On the morning of the big race, Andi polished Gallup’s saddled until it shined. She softly brushed and braided Gallup’s white tail and mane. “Now you look like me,” she laughed looking down at her braids.
As they approached the fairgrounds Cory was waiting for them. “Hello Mrs. Carter.”
“Good evening, Cory,” Elizabeth greeted.
Chad helped Andi down from the buggy. “You and Cory go have a good time. I’ll take care of Gallup.”
“Just a minute, you two.” Justin stood in front of them. He slipped 20 cents in each of their hands.
Andi smiled her appreciation. Cory’s eyes grew big. “Thanks Mr. Carter.”
“Come on Cory let’s go get some popcorn.” In a flash Andi and Cory were gone.
“I better find the preserves section.” Elizabeth took a wrapped jar of homemade marmalade out of her basket. Melinda admired her patchwork quilt. “It took me two years to finish it, but it’s finally ready to be entered.”
“Don’t worry sis. It’s pretty enough to win two blue ribbons,” Mitch encouraged.
“The horse race will begin shortly,” a loud voice boomed.
“We better find Andrea,” Elizabeth turned to Justin.
Andi peered over her seat next to her mother. She shoved a piece of buttered popcorn between her chattering teeth. With a wave, Chad mounted Gallup. A short stocky man held up a pistol.
Bang! The gun shot off, as did the horses. Chad was in the lead. Riders whipped their horses with sticks to make them run faster.
“Come on Chad!” Cheered Mitch.
Suddenly, Melinda shrieked. Andi turned to see a rider who had just been thrown from his horse. Other contestants tried to stop but their horses were running too fast. Children screamed. The man was going to be trampled. Andi noticed that Cory was a few feet behind the man. She knew what he was going to do. If the timing wasn’t right, Cory would be in danger too. Closing her eyes, she squeezed her popcorn bag.
“Please God, help Cory,” Andi prayed.
Cory leaned over the side of his horse with his arm outstretched. The feeble man grasped Cory’s hand as Cory yanked with all his might. The man landed safely on Flash’s back behind Cory. A sigh of relief exploded throughout the audience.
Andi looked at her friend with pride. She knew he had forgone the race to save a stranger’s life. Andi turned to Chad, who was oblivious of what just happened. He and another rider were in the lead. They were so close to each other that their horses almost touched.
“Go Gallup! Run girl!” Andi jumped up and down. Melinda waved her handkerchief. The wind wisped across Chad’s face. The two horses ran faster. As fast as lighting. Gradually the other horse sped ahead until he was near 2 feet ahead of Gallup. Andi crossed her fingers as she watched hopefully. Her blue eyes twinkled as Chad started catching up with the rider. The finish line was near. Andi hoped that Chad would make it.
Suddenly, Gallup let out a burst a speed, which caught Chad off guard. Mother gasped.
“He’s going too fast,” Mitch declared worriedly.
Andi’s heart stopped. Chad was struggling to hold on. Melinda started crying. Chad had lost all balance on the saddle. His hands were wrapped tightly around the saddle horn as his feet hung slightly above the ground. Andi feared Chad would lose his grip. She could tell her mother was frightened also. Andi looked at Chad’s, his muscles tense. She couldn't tell if he was scared or not.
If only Gallup would slow down.
As if reading Andi’s thoughts, Gallup slowed slightly, but enough for Chad to lift himself back on the saddle.
“Thank you, God.” Andi heard her mother whispered. Andi smiled big. The other rider was still ahead but Chad was safe. Andi looked down at her crushed popcorn as she unknowingly shoved a handful of crumbs in her mouth. Chad kicked Gallup’s sides.
“Come on big brother,” Mitch exclaimed.
Andi tried to cheer but her mouth was too full of popcorn. Gallup and the other horse were nose to nose, with the finish line in sight. Andi stared at the tracks without blinking.
“Go Chad go!” Screamed Melinda twisting her hankie. The pistol was shot again symbolizing the end of the race. Chad had won. The crowd stood cheering.
Andi jumped up and down clapping her hands. The family joined Chad as he received the blue ribbon. Chad turned to Andi and pinned to ribbon to her dress.
“It belongs to you,” he winked.
Everyone was so happy. Mother sold a dozen jars of marmalade, Chad had won the race, and just as Mitch predicted, Melinda won a prize for her quilt.
Though Andi didn’t win anything herself, she went away proud that her best friend showed courage to risk his life for another. She was grateful that God chose to keep her brother safe, and she had felt loved when Chad gave up the ribbon he earnt as a gift to her.
Yes, everyone went home happy, but Andi was the happiest one of them all.