Horses, like their Cowboys, aren’t all the same. They come in all shapes, sizes and personalities.
When I lived on a small ranch in Texas, we had two very different horses. Topper was a big bay horse with a dark red coat and black mane and tale. To get him out of the barnyard, you had to nudge him sharply with your heels and keep him aimed away from the barn. Even then, he’d be slow to start, calm and unconcerned. After a fifteen-minute ride, he’d barely have worked up a sweat. Topper also had a trot that could jar teeth loose.
Then there was Sassy. A small sorrel (all red coat, mane and tail). I’d saddled her and she’d be dancing to the sides before I ever left the barnyard. She’d be in full sweat within two minutes of riding. When Sassy trotted, her feet moved so quickly and close together, it was smooth and easy on the butt and the teeth.
Each horse looked different and had opposite personalities. When my cowboys have a real connection with their horses, I like to show the horse’s personality.
In my novella SECOND WIND in the WILD WILD WOMEN OF THE WEST II anthology, my cowboy is very close to his horse and trusts his opinion.
by Myla Jackson
He unfolded the single sheet of paper. As he read the letter, he sighed. Millie Peabody, spinster, had made the decision to remain in Boston. After learning of her decision to become a mail-order bride, the butcher asked her to stay and marry him. As she was much more suited to life in a city, she’d accepted his kind offer.
Crushing the letter in his fist, Seth swore. Was this God’s plan for him? Was he to live out his days without a wife? Without a way to spawn the children he craved? “What is it you want me to do? Beg?” He shook his fist at the sky.
Seth swung his leg over the saddle and dropped to the ground. He’d had it with being nice. A man didn’t acquire a 5000-acre spread and a herd of over 1000 head by the age of 30 by being nice.
He’d had his share of struggles, shot his share of horse and cattle thieves, and handled just about every problem imaginable. This particular challenge had him stumped. He couldn’t argue, fistfight, or shoot his way into a marriage.
Seth paced several yards.
Ranger, his prized black stallion, followed.
When Seth ground to a halt, Ranger bumped into him.
“Why can’t a woman apply for the job like a regular ranch hand? A short notice in the newspaper listing my requirements should have them lined up. All a woman has to do is show up with two legs, two breasts, and the ability to bear children. I don’t care if she’s as ugly as a stump or as wide as a barn. All I want is a woman to give me children.
“Why can’t women be more like horses? All you have to do is go out into a pasture and pick one. Why can’t people do that?” Grabbing the horse’s bridle, Seth glared into soft brown eyes. “Now what? Now where can I turn to find a woman?”
Ranger tossed his head skyward shaking Seth’s grip.
“What, even you can’t give a cowboy some advice? Tell me, whom should I turn to?”
Again, the horse lifted his head toward the heavens, whickering softly.
Seth’s eyes narrowed, and he looked toward the darkening sky where clouds had built a solid wall to the west. “You mean pray?” Seth ran a hand through his hair and considered the option. “You think He’ll help me?”
Nodding, Ranger stomped the ground with his right front hoof.
“Now?” Seth glanced around at the fields of prairie grass littered with cows. “Shouldn’t I do something like that in a church?” The nearest church was fifteen miles away. He could go there on Sunday.
Ranger shook his mane.
“You mean here?”
A snort and a nod were his answer.
With a sigh, Seth scraped his hat from his head and dropped to one knee. “I feel stupid.”
A nicker sounding suspiciously like laughter erupted from Ranger’s full equine lips.
“Can’t get no respect. Even from my damned horse.” He glared at Ranger. “I’m a desperate man. If praying will help, by God, I’ll do it. Despite your snickering.”
He dropped his chin and searched his memory for the fancy words he remembered from when he’d attended church as a child. Hell, the last time he was in a church was when he went with his mamma at least twenty-five years ago.
Twenty-five years and none of the words came to him. Nope. Nothing.
Ranger nudged him with his soft muzzle.
“Okay, okay. I’m gettin’ to it.” Seth cleared his throat. “Dear Lord—” Lightning flashed, the glow penetrating Seth’s eyelids. “I know it’s been a while—” Thunder rumbled. “Okay, it’s been a long time. Nothin’ gets by you, does it?”
Another rumble shook the earth beneath Seth’s knee.
Ranger pawed the earth.
“If you could see it in your heart to send me a woman, I’d be much obliged.” His words ended in a rush. “There, I prayed.” Seth straightened and plunked his hat on his head.
A brilliant flash of lightning ripped through the clouds, skimming across the ground.
Seth jumped back as if the bolt aimed at him.
Ranger pushed Seth with his nose.
“Oh yeah, I forgot.” Seth dropped back down to one knee, tipped his hat and said, “Amen.”