Excerpt from Gray Horse at Oak Lane Stable (Book 2)
Updated: 18 hours ago
The main character, Cassie, has just won a Children's Hunt Seat Equitation Championship at a 1976 Milwaukee Horse Show. She and her two best friends, Allison and Ingrid, are helping to load up their stable's show gear along with the stable manager, Stan, and the show groom, Keith, and the riding teacher, Claire. Lisa, Cassie's riding rival and classmate since 5th grade, has ducked out of work again. Cassie is in for a surprise . . .
Snowdrops and I had won the two hunt seat equitation classes over fences, plus the flat class, making me the Children’s
Equitation Show Champion. Allison rode well, but didn’t place high enough in the two classes over fences to earn the reserve champion spot—that ribbon went to Pointy Nose Brenda, who didn’t congratulate me or anything after we left the ring. Lisa didn’t place in either one of the classes over fences. She left with her parents shortly after we had finished riding, leaving Keith to take care of her horse again.
Allison, Ingrid, and I helped Stan, Claire, and Keith pack up our gear at the end of the Milwaukee horse show. Stan and Keith had already taken the show horses back to Oak Lane Stable. Now all we had to do was take down the canvas show stuff and put it away for next time.
I stood on my tack trunk in the Milwaukee showgrounds’ barn aisle and took down the row of the colorful displayed ribbons we had all won. Ingrid and Allison folded up Oak Lane Stable’s pale gray canvas sheets that had been stapled onto an end stall. The canvas material made a private room at shows where we could change into our riding clothes, it was where Keith slept at night, and it would also let people know which stable owned the horses in the stalls. I tucked my three blue ribbons and the one tri-colored champion ribbon under my left arm. Some of the ribbons won by the others fell at my feet when my hands got too full.
“We have so many ribbons!” I bent down to pick them up.
“You won all of the blue ones.” Allison blew a pink bubble. She and Ingrid had the first heavy canvas sheet nearly folded up. “And the show champion.”
“Not all of the blue ones.” I jumped down from the trunk to put the ribbons away. “Night Hawk won his jumper classes, and Mrs. Goldman won her Amateur Adult Division.”
“Well, between us anyway.” Allison plopped down the folded sheet on top of the next show trunk in the aisle. She helped Ingrid fold up the next light gray canvas panel.
I put all of the ribbons, except mine, into a duffel bag used to carry extra stuff. I put the duffel bag on top of the growing pile of show equipment stacked in the center of the aisle, ready for Keith and Stan to load up. I smoothed my three blue ribbons and champion ribbon before I opened my tack trunk lid to put them neatly inside. I lifted out one of the two wooden trays at the top of the trunk and put it on the floor. My saddle, saddle pad, bridle, and other horse equipment was stored on the bottom.
“Hey, Cassie!” Gayle practically pranced toward us on his toes. He waved something around in his right hand. “I almost forgot to give back your safety pin.”
“Hi, Gayle,” Allison and Ingrid said when he stopped by my trunk.
“You didn’t have to give it back,” I said. “It’s only a pin.”
“Yeah, but you might need it at the next show. Then you wouldn’t have one because you gave it to me, then you’d be mad at me—”
“I wouldn’t have been mad at you,” I said. “I have more pins.”
“I’ve also got some in my trunk.” Allison and Ingrid had finished folding the canvas sheets. They sat buddy-buddy style on Allison’s tack trunk and thumped their heels against the navy wooden front.
“Oh,” Gayle said. “Where’s your next show? Mine’s in Minneapolis next month at their State Fairgrounds.”
“So is ours!” Allison said. “Then we go to Des Moines, Iowa for the special Bicentennial 4th of July weekend.” She blew and popped a pink bubble.
I put the safety pin back into its plastic bag inside the top tray of my tack box, which was still on the floor.
“I only get to go along to help,” Ingrid said. “I don’t have a horse yet.”
“Oh, … well … they have horses for sale by my barn,” Gayle said. He lifted up onto his toes. “I could ask—”
“Thanks,” Ingrid held up her right hand, “but my mom and dad are working on it.”
“Since when?” Allison asked.
“Since I asked them to buy me one.” Ingrid’s cheeks turned pink.
“They are not,” Allison teased.
“They are, too!” Ingrid said super-loud.
“When?” Allison asked.
I stopped smoothing out my ribbons.
Gayle glanced at all of us. He tippy-toed closer to me.
“You’re so mean to me!” Ingrid frowned. She punched her fist down on her right thigh and beat her heels against the trunk front.
“I’m not mean—”
“Hey, guys, chill pill?” I stood up, rigid and straight.
“Everything ready to go?” Thankfully, Stan walked into the barn followed by Keith and Claire. They grabbed a few items from the center of the aisle to load up.
“We folded up the panels.” Allison hopped off the trunk to help them.
Ingrid followed Allison, but stayed behind her.
“Well, gotta go!” Gayle backed up a few steps and pointed both hands at us. “See you on the flipside.”
“Right backatcha, kid.” Keith pointed his fingers at Gayle.
Gayle smiled, whirled around, and practically skipped away toward his barn aisle.
“What did he say?” Allison asked.
“I don’t know what it means,” I said. “Something from a movie—”
“He’s kinda girly.” Ingrid scrunched up her still-pinkish face.
“It’s a good thing he doesn’t go to our school,” Allison said. “Imagine what Scott and Robert and Harvey would do to him EVERYDAY!”
“They’d pick on him A LOT, that’s for sure,” Ingrid said.
“I know he’s kinda girly, but I like him,” I said. “He’s friendly.”
“He’s not too bad.” Allison shrugged her shoulders. She blew and popped a bubble.
“Girls, will you help me pack up the panels please?” Claire asked when she walked back into the barn after carrying some of the black rubber buckets out to the horse van.
Allison and Ingrid walked over to give Claire a hand.
As I placed the champion and blue ribbons I still had in my hands inside my open trunk, a torn, folded piece of thin white cardboard with part of a black number printed on it caught my eye. It was someone’s show number. I knew it wasn't mine. I also knew it wasn’t in there when I put away my riding gear yesterday when I had finished my hunt seat equitation classes. I slowly unfolded the creased cardboard. Scribbled in dark letters on the back of the show number was a warning:
Better watch yourself
PEEE UUU TROWSKI!!!
If you know what’s good for you
and your dumb horse!!!
At first, I gasped. My mouth dropped open. I stared at and clenched the note.
Who would do this? When did they … ? Why would they … ?
Then, I narrowed my eyes. I clenched my teeth and pressed my lips together. My face felt all warm.
“Cassie?” Keith walked back into the barn. “Will you carry the pile of show coolers to the van?”
“Oh … um … sure.” I buried the note under my saddle and by the extra leather girth I always kept in my trunk, replaced the wooden trays, and closed the lid with a thump. I was pretty sure I knew who'd snuck the warning into my trunk . . .
---from Gray Horse at Oak Lane Stable