By Patty Wilber
CHAPTER FOUR–BACK AT THE BARN
Back at the barn, Callie made a careful study of Cloud’s equipment and managed to unbridle and then halter Cloud correctly. She patted him in relief, and looked quickly over her shoulder at Jeff. He seemed busy with Punkin, and she hoped he hadn’t seen her hesitation.
She uncinched the saddle and then pulled it and the saddle pad until they slid off the horse and into her arms in an awkward, leaden lump. She set the saddle down and put the pad away. Then she heaved the heavy saddle up, tightened her jaw, and began to haul it to the tack room. She was halfway there, and a little out of breath, when Jeff said, “Hey! Wait a minute.”
Callie froze as he strode over and flipped the dragging latigo and cinch off the floor and over the saddle. “You’ve got to tie these up so they don’t drag through the dirt.” He buckled the cinch through a keeper. “Either that or you trip on them and fall on your face.” He sighed and wiped his forehead on his shoulder. “You can barely ride and act like you’ve never seen tack.” Jeff shook his head and Callie saw the impatience on his face.
She shrugged. “I took five lessons last year,” she said. “But the horses were already saddled.”
“Oh,” sniffed Jeff. He took the saddle from her, turned it around, and gave it back. Then he wrapped the latigo up and secured it. “Well, not here.” His voice sounded rough, and Callie’s lips thinned.
As she walked to the tack room, she could feel the anger running up into her face, and she composed a few hot retorts she could have flung at him, if only she had thought them up in time.
She slid the saddle on the lowest saddle rack and walked out to get Cloud.
The barn was empty. Callie felt her stomach hit the floor. He must be loose. Just as she was about to dash outside, Jeff sauntered in swinging two halters.
“Here,” he said, looking past her as he shoved a halter in her direction, “I let Cloud out for you.”