Jun 272018
 

By Patty Wilber

To get every chapter as soon as they post, you can subscribe to the site!  If you missed any of the past Chapters, the links are all here. Thanks for reading!

CALLIE’S STAR by Patty Wilber

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapters 5 and 6
Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11

CHAPTER TWELVE–CHANGE IN PLANS

Callie didn’t know how long she lay there with visions of herself lying low over Cloud’s neck as they pounded after the shiny black shadow that danced ahead of them. The two of them were about to capture the elusive stallion for the first time in history. Callie could see Jeff and Luis standing near the corral trap with their mouths drooping in the dust, and she could hear the amazed comments of the other ranchers. “A girl,” they were saying, “That learned to ride just this summer, and she caught him all alone!”

Callie hugged her pillow tightly until she could feel the goose down feather shafts poking her cheek. “If only I could GO!” she said to the pillow, punching it once. She mashed her eyelids together, wishing she would fall asleep, so everything would fade away. Then when she awoke, perhaps she would find that it had all been a bad dream.

“Or not,” she muttered.

There was a tap on the door, and Callie tried to ignore it, but it came again, louder. “It’s me, Jeff,” said a low voice. “Can I come in?”

Callie rolled over and sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Yeah,” she said, with out much enthusiasm.

The door eased open and Jeff stepped in. His blue eyes were sparkling, and a grin hovered around the edges of his mouth, but his voice was solemn. “Dad wants you downstairs.”

“What for?”

Jeff shrugged and looked at the floor. The shadow of a grin threatened to break into reality.

Callie didn’t notice. Her thoughts were whirling like a dust devil, throwing ideas against the inside of her skull. “Do I get to go??? Don’t be stupid… But what does he want???”

Her thoughts tumbled over each other all the way to the kitchen door. She paused there and ordered her brain to be quiet. When she walked in, she wanted to at least appear calm.

Aunt Martha, sounding quite pleased with herself, said, “Have a seat.”

Nervousness made her legs feel like overcooked noodles and they could barely hold her up. Callie got to the nearest chair and sank onto its hard surface. Jeff stood in the doorway.

Nobody said a word for a full minute, and Callie nearly died right there, waiting. Finally, Uncle Bob spoke, and Callie heard his voice as if from a distance. “I know you really want to go on the round-up, Callie.” Callie swallowed and blinked hard, determined not to cry. “So I’ve talked it over with Jeff and Martha, and changed my mind. You can go.”

Callie looked back at Jeff. His smile was so wide that he looked like the Cheshire Cat. Then Callie looked at Aunt Martha, still unable to believe her ears. When Aunt Martha nodded ever so slightly, Callie sprang from the straight-backed chair, and hugged her uncle with the grip of a grizzly bear. “Thank-you! Thank-you! Thank-you!” she cried.

“Whoa, young lady,” said Uncle Bob, peeling her arms from around him. “There’s still a catch.”

Callie barely heard his words. She was floating on happiness.

“I meant what I said about lack of experience, Callie,” Uncle Bob continued, and the serious note in his voice made Callie come down to earth and listen. “You have to be ground crew, which means feeding and watering the horses, and maybe even helping the cook a little. You’ll ride there and back, but that is all.”

“That’s it?” said Callie, beginning to float again. So she didn’t get to actually round-up. She’d be there, part of the dust, the sweat, and the excitement. “Fine. Great. SUPERB!” she said, engulfing Uncle Bob in another tremendous squeeze.

Then she turned to her aunt and said, “Thank-you.” Their eyes met for a moment, and Aunt Martha reached across the table to touch Callie’s arm. Aunt Martha squeezed gently.

Inside Callie an ember of warmth she’d left untended ever since her last day in Chicago, rekindled itself.

Callie jumped up and looked for Jeff and his grin. He was leaning against the doorway smiling at the tips of his boots, and Callie started toward him.

“One more thing, Callie.” Uncle Bob’s voice halted her, and she turned to face him. “You won’t be able to take Cloud.”

Callie looked back at him, frozen in place. “He did make it to the ridge and back,” she said.

“We may need a spare horse, and Cloud just doesn’t have the speed of younger animal.”

Callie had to agree with Uncle Bob, remembering how quickly Jeff and Punkin had caught Cloud the day they raced from the pond, so, she gathered her disappointment into a knot, and held it in her clenched fist. She willed her voice to be even, and asked, “Which horse will I ride, then?” There were only two to choose from.

Aunt Martha said, “I am going to stay home this year and write. In peace and quiet, for once.”

Callie looked open-mouthed at her aunt who said, “Well, I would have been here if you’d stayed, anyway. So, you can ride Flower.”

“I thought she was spooky!” Callie blurted and her voice held a trembling note.  She kicked herself mentally. “But, I think I can manage,” she said quickly.

“Well, O.K., then!” said Uncle Bob. ”Now why don’t you two go down and check on your tired horses.”

“And drop off the lettuce scraps with the rabbits, O.K.?”, added Aunt Martha.

Chapter 13

Jun 212018
 

By Patty Wilber

To get every chapter as soon as they post, you can subscribe to the site!  If you missed any of the past Chapters, the links are all here. Thanks for reading!

CALLIE’S STAR by Patty Wilber

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapters 5 and 6
Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10

CHAPTER ELEVEN – NO WATER

They were climbing up an east facing slope.  The sun had burned away any tiny droplets of dew that had condensed overnight.  The rays, bouncing back and forth among the red cliffs and boulders created a still heat that was oven-like. The dust kicked up by the horses hung in the air and climbed thickly into Callie’s nose. The plants gave off dry aromatic scents, as if offering their last precious oils in return for the sun’s mercy.

Callie was thankful she had grabbed a baseball cap off the hat rack before they’d left. She had taken the liner out of her helmet and put in the cap. The wide brim, pulled low onto her forehead, kept the sharpest rays out of her eyes, and shaded her nose. She touched the jug that hung on the saddle and wondered how long it would be until the water it contained boiled over like the radiator of an overheated car.

Ahead of her, Callie saw Jeff half hidden in the hot dust rising from the ground. He turned in his saddle. “The creek should be just around the comer,” he said. “We ought to stop there and let the horses rest and drink.”

Jake’s tongue lolled at the comer of his mouth and when he heard the word drink, he wagged his tail and ran it ran once around his silvery muzzle. He was a young dog and the heat didn’t seem to bother him much.

“I need a drink, too,” said Callie. Her sweat was evaporating as soon as it hit the air and the skin on her face felt like thin paper stretched across her cheekbones. “And look at Cloud.” She pointed to the sweat darkened patches on his hide. “It is like a desert out here.”

“It IS a desert out here,” Jeff pointed out. “High desert, but still.”

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Jun 182018
 

By Patty Wilber

To get every chapter as soon as they post, you can subscribe to the site!  If you missed any of the past Chapters, the links are all here. Thanks for reading!

CALLIE’S STAR by Patty Wilber

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapters 5 and 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9

CHAPTER TEN-ON THE WAY TO THE RIDGE

Callie shivered with excitement. Today was the ride to the ridge, and only one week until her birthday, AND then the round-up.  The round-up had come up, but her going had not, and she hadn’t summoned enough courage to ask. Maybe tonight, but first, the Ride to The Ridge, capitalized, in her mind.

She felt like an explorer at the start of an important expedition. Perhaps they would discover the Outlaw in a secret valley!

Callie pulled a blue plaid shirt out of the closet and went to the old oak dresser to get a pair of jeans. She paused to study the picture of the mare and colt on the dresser and then the one on the wall. Hers was a little more worn. She used to run her finger over the horses, as if she were grooming them. Her mother saw her one evening and Callie had said, “I wish they were mine!”

Her mother had said, “There is no place to keep them, and horse pictures are much safer.”

“One day,“ Callie had declared, “I will have my own!”

“Just be careful.”  Her mother had replied.

“I will,” said Callie, out loud, back to the present. “I have been.” She reached out and touched picture then snapped the white pearled buttons on her blue plaid shirt and stepped into her jeans.

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Jun 082018
 

By Patty Wilber

To get every chapter as soon as they post, you can subscribe to the site! Chapter 8 was published earlier this week.  If you missed any of the Chapters, the links are all here. Thanks for reading!

CALLIE’S STAR by Patty Wilber

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapters 5 and 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8

CHAPTER NINE-MUSTANG ROUND UP

They’d been at the pond for over two hours, and Callie was lying on her back, looking up at the ridge that formed the backdrop of Ridge Pasture and the Rocking W Ranch. “I’d like to ride up there,” she said.

“It’s a great ride,” said Luis, looking at Jeff. “We went up there once last summer.”

Jeff nodded in agreement and his eyes lit up. “Let’s see if we can go a week from tomorrow,” he said. “It’d take all day, but it’d be fun.”

“Yeah,” said Callie, looking first at Luis, and then at Jose. They both nodded. “We’d have to start at daybreak,” said Jeff, “And bring lunches.”

“And agua,” added Luis. “There is only one stream that crosses the trail.”

“Sometimes when it’s hot like it’s been this summer, that creek dries up,” Jose said. “Almost like a desert, it’s so dry….and hot.” He dragged his hand across his forehead, smearing off imaginary sweat. He fell to his knees. “Aqua,” he said. “Necesito aqua.” He was on his stomach now, stretching for the fictitious liquid that was just out of reach.

“Oh cut it out, Jose,” said Luis, prodding his dark-haired little brother with his bare toe.

“Oww!” said Jose. “O.K., O.K., already.” He got to his feet and brushed the dust off his chest, and jumped into the pond. Callie and Jeff sailed in after him.

“You know,” said Luis from the bank, “After the ridge ride, if we get to go, there’s only a few weeks until we have to bring in a few mustangs! The Forest Service called Dad last night.  The herd is getting too big again, and we need to bring some in for adoption.”

“That was a blast last year! I can’t wait to see the new foals,” said Jeff, climbing up onto Cloud’s ready-made, diving platform rump. He cannonballed in, making a water crater and sending water spraying like rain. He came up shaking his sun-streaked hair, so that it flipped off his forehead and out of his eyes. “This’ll be my second round-up!” he said proudly.

“Mine too,” said Luis from the bank.

“My zero,” said twelve-year-old Jose, with such a forlorn air that they all began to laugh. Even Cloud turned his head toward them and flicked his ears back and forth. Jake barked, ran along the bank, and then jumped in the water. He swam straight for Jose, licked him once in the face and headed for shore.

“Federal Mustang Service rules.  You have to be thirteen,” said Luis, trying to stop laughing at Jake long enough to use his best big brotherly voice, “Then you’ll get to go.”

“Thirteen,” thought Callie. “I’ll be thirteen in two weeks! That means…” She could hardly let herself think the words. I’ll be able to GO!”

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Jun 052018
 

CALLIE’S STAR By Patty Wilber

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapters 5 and 6
Chapter 7

CHAPTER EIGHT-MOVING THE CATTLE

Callie awoke while the sky was still streaked with pale pink and yellow streamers. She hoped to enjoy the quiet solitude of the dawn alone. Mornings were her favorite time, and she wanted to ride to the overlook where she had first spotted the Outlaw. Callie always felt strangely happy when she was up there, looking into the little valley. One morning she caught a glimpse of the stallion, black and shining silk in the soft early light. Her breath had knotted in her throat, and his beauty and freedom filled her mind until there was room for nothing else.

“Callie?”

She turned toward the voice.  It was Uncle Bob.

“I was just coming to wake you, but you’re already dressed!”He reached out to touch Callie’s horse picture that matched the picture on the wall.

“This picture was a favorite of your mother’s,” he said.

“Was that hers on the wall?” Callie asked.

Uncle Bob looked up at that one with surprise, and back to the one on the dresser and said, “Yes. Is this one yours?’

Callie nodded.  “I found it in…in a… store we used to go to.” She didn’t want to say, “the Goodwill we used to go to.”  Aunt Martha and Uncle Bob donated to Goodwill.  They didn’t shop there. “Mom didn’t tell me she used to have one just like it.”

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May 312018
 

By Patty Wilber

CALLIE’S STAR by Patty Wilber

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapters 5 and 6

CHAPTER SEVEN–GREEN SPRINGS RUN

In a few weeks, Callie had become proficient at saddling and bridling. Her horsemanship improved tremendously, too, but her relationship with Jeff had not made much progress. They spent many hours together doing ranch chores, and a few times they had spent the afternoon with their only neighbors, Luis and Jose Romero.

“I want you two to go down to Green Springs Run,” said Uncle Bob over breakfast, “Check the water troughs and salt licks. It should be a nice ride for the two of you.”

Callie nodded. Uncle Bob and Callie had driven the pickup down there once before in the golden light just before dusk, and he’d showed her a bald eagle’s nest. It sat way up in a dead and gnarled cottonwood snag that stood above a small stream lined with tall green grass. The eagles weren’t there, but the green grass stood out in Callie’s mind like emeralds. New Mexico had an achingly blue sky, with muted greens and tawny brown land like the coat of a cougar, and it smelled dry in a sharp way that got into the back of her nose. The only places that were bright green were the few places where there was water.

“You two be back by lunch, so we can make a run into town,” said Aunt Martha, bringing Callie back to her half-finished Cheerios.  “I have to drop off a few things we don’t need any more at the Goodwill.”  She checked a list she’d written on the back of an envelope.  “I also need to get another flash drive, some food from the Farmer’s Market, and I thought you two could go to the library for a while.  So,” she finished.  “Don’t be home late!”

“No problem,” said Jeff, glancing at Callie so that she knew he was thinking she would be the slow poke.  She wolfed down the rest of her cereal, and got up from the table. “Meet you at the barn, Jeff.”

He nodded slightly, and took another leisurely bite of toast. HE didn’t need to hurry.

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May 202018
 

Callie’s Star

By Patty Wilber

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

CHAPTER FIVE. THE ACCIDENT

“Well,” said Uncle Bob, as he washed the last dish and set it in the drainer. “How’d Callie do today?”

“Pretty well, I think,” replied Aunt Martha. “She rode most of the morning with Jeff and spent the afternoon unpacking and reading.” Martha gave the table one last wipe, and straightened up. “She fell asleep about four-thirty, and I just let her sleep. She’s probably exhausted.”

Uncle Bob paused and wiped a hand across his eyes. “You know how her mother disliked everything associated with this ranch. Did she pass that on to Callie?”

Aunt Martha put her hands on Uncle Bob’s shoulders. “Bob,” She said. “Don’t be too hard on Ellen. The accident changed her. It could have changed any one.”

“You’re right,” Uncle Bob sighed. “She always was the quiet one, even before that. Dad used to say she took after Mom, until that day.” His work roughened hands reached up and covered hers. “Is Callie like that? Can she be happy here?”

“She was raised in Chicago, but you heard her yesterday, when she saw those wild horses. And Jeff told me today that she couldn’t saddle ‘worth a bean’, but could ‘sorta’ ride.” Aunt Martha gave Uncle Bob’s hands a squeeze and they walked into the living room.  Uncle Bob looked at the ranch paperwork on his desk for a moment, but sat instead on the couch with Aunt Martha.

“This whole thing is going to be a big change for Jeff, too,” Uncle Bob said.

“I know,” Aunt Martha agreed. “But I think it’ll all work out. All Callie could talk about this afternoon was the Outlaw and his band of mares, and you know how Jeff loves the horses. They’ll have that in common at least.”

Uncle Bob rubbed his chin, thinking, and nodded. “I don’t think she was ever told about the accident.” Martha leaned forward, reaching for the newspaper on the coffee table.

“What accident?” asked Callie. Her voice was scratchy with sleep and her face was lined with pillow case wrinkles.

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May 162018
 

By Patty Wilber

Callie’s Star

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

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.”

 

Chapters 5 and 6

May 102018
 

Callie’s Star

By Patty Wilber

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

CHAPTER THREE: THE OUTLAW

They rode by the front of the house. Aunt Martha was on the porch, typing on her laptop computer.  She said, “Don’t forget to come back for lunch sometime before dinner!”

Jeff rolled his eyes.  “Corny, Mom!” he said.

Callie forced a smile, but in her mind she heard her mother’s voice saying, “Be careful, dear. Please be careful.” Her legs gripped Cloud tightly, but she remembered not to do that from her five riding lessons.  She felt a little awkward on Cloud, but also really excited!

They turned the horses and began down the graveled drive, followed by a lonesome howl. “Jake!” said Jeff. He turned Punkin on his haunches and trotted to the dog run. He shot a sideways glance over his shoulder at Callie as he leaned off the side of Punkin to fumbled with the latch. “C’mon boy. You’re going with us,” he said, more to Callie than to the dog.

Callie looked away and concentrated on the rocky hills in the distance as Jeff and Jake trotted past her. They went through an open wire gate onto a trail leading along an irrigated meadow toward the hills. Callie took a deep breath and followed, silently jouncing along behind Jeff, not yet finding the rhythm of the trot. She did remember to hold her elbows near her sides, to keep them from flapping like the wings of a bird. Jake ran back forth between them, smiling, but Callie, never having had a dog, did not recognize this expression, and thought he looked rather like a toothy wolf that hadn’t eaten in several days. His tongue was dripping.

All at once, Cloud stepped a little to the right just as Callie was jouncing left, and she had to grab the saddle horn to regain her balance. Jake was watching her carefully. Then Cloud took a funny step. And another.

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