“What do you think you’re doing?” the Foreman asked. “You’re not thinking of going in there, are you?”
“I was going to look at The Writer’s old portfolio, things she had published before she became involved with us,” the Young Hero replied sheepishly.
The Foreman frowned. “Didn’t The Writer tell us to stay out of her office?” he demanded.
“Well, yes – – ”
“Then I suggest you pay attention and stay out of there!” the Foreman ordered, glowering.
“The Writer once told me she used to write a lot about horses.” The Young Hero gave the Foreman a sidelong glance.
“She did? Horses? I never knew that.” The Foreman was intrigued.
“Well, if we’re going to enter her office, we better do it now, before she returns from her errands,” the Gypsy exclaimed. The other two jumped at his sudden appearance next to them.
“Now I know how The Writer feels when we do that to her,” the Foreman commented.
The Gypsy grinned. He pulled out his silver stiletto and had the office door unlocked before either of the others could object.
The three friends looked around the messy room.
“How does she find anything in here?” asked the Foreman. He looked around, slack-jawed.
“I don’t know. What’s more, I don’t know how we’re going to find anything before she gets back,” replied the bewildered Gypsy.
“Here it is,” the Young Hero called, removing a large binder from the bookshelf.
He placed it on the desk and opened it, and the three companions started leafing through the clippings of published articles, short stories and poems.
“Margaret Mead Cutter? That’s not The Writer!” exclaimed the Foreman.
“No, that is her. That is the name she used to use.” The Young Hero explained. “She told me about that.”
“Wow, she did write a lot about horses,” the Foreman commented. “I’d love to read some of this.”
“Let’s start with this one,” the Gypsy suggested, and started reading aloud:
Hello, do we have a date? By Margaret Mead Cutter, published February 1985 in Horseman Magazine
The Foreman interrupted. “She was writing in 1985? Wow, she is old!”
The Young Hero giggled. The Gypsy frowned, cleared his throat, and continued:
When I was paging through the latest issue of an equestrian magazine, an ad caught my eye. It named a horse, unfamiliar to me, and stated: “AT STUD – Q.H. STALLION – A REAL BEAUTY! THE NONE BAR RANCHERO AND QUARTER HORSE BREEDING FARM.” The ad included an address and phone number to contact for further information.
I was surprised to note that the town listed in the address was not too far from my own farm. Since I had an Appaloosa mare I wanted to breed, I had been checking out all the area studs, whether Appaloosa, Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse. How had I missed this one, practically in my own backyard? Judging from the name of the farm, it seemed to be a large enough operation not to be easily overlooked. I figured I better call fast, while they were still booking outside mares.
After dialing the number in the ad, I was somewhat taken aback when a honey-toned voice answered, “Betty’s Disco and Luncheonette.”
“Is this 123-0000?” I asked, certain I had reached a wrong number.
“Sure is, honey,” the voice on the other end of the line replied, with an air of bored indifference.
“I was trying to reach the None Bar,” I explained. “The phone number in the ad must be a misprint. I’m sorry,” I apologized, about to hang up.
“Wait! What ad’s that, honey?” the woman asked, sounding more interested.
“It’s an ad for a stallion,” I started to explain.
“Oh, yeah,” she interrupted, sounding bored again. “Wait a minute, honey. I know who you want now.”
A few minutes later, a gravelly masculine voice greeted me: “Uh, yeah?”
“I have a mare I’d like to breed this year and I saw your ad for a Quarter Horse stud. I’d like to know more about him, if you have the time.”
“Yeah, I got plenny a time. Uh, like, wadda ya wanna know?” the voice questioned.
“First of all, is his book still open for the season?”
“His, uh, what?”
“His book,” I repeated. “Is he still being offered to outside mares this year?”
“Uh, ‘outside mares’?” the voice questioned, obviously confused. “Lady, I never knew one ta be a housepet!”
I sighed and tried once more. “No, what I mean is, are you still accepting mares other than your own for breeding this season?”
“Oh, yeah!” the man replied, as the meaning caught up with him. “Sure I am! Ain’t got no mares a my own, and I just started advertising, so I ain’t got too many a them ‘outside mares’ yet, either. Guess you could say his book’s still open!” he proudly tried out his new vocabulary.
“Well, then,” I said, relieved to have established that fact, “perhaps you could tell me about your stallion’s bloodlines.” I thought quickly to avoid any further misunderstandings and added, “What horses does he trace back to in his pedigree?”
“Man O’ War, top and bottom!” he shot back, with an obvious note of pride in his voice.
“Man O’ War?” I asked, perplexed. “He’s a Thoroughbred. The ad stated your stallion is a Quarter Horse.”
“Uh, yeah, um, he’s one a them running type Quarter Horses,” he explained.
“Oh,” I replied flatly. “Well what Quarter Horses,” I emphasized the breed, “appear in his pedigree?”
“Uh, well, I don’t got his papers right here, and, um, I don’t remember all them names. But they were all good ones,” he assured me. “Fast,” he added.
“I see,” I said, although I really didn’t. “Well, what about your stallion’s performance record?”
“He ain’t never been bred before,” came the reply.
I paused a minute to puzzle over that statement and tried to find a way to carefully rephrase the question. “No, not his breeding record, his performance record.”
I tried again. “I mean, has he ever been in a horse show?”
“Aw, gee, no, he’s just a youngster! Ain’t done much a nothin yet!”
“Just how young is he?” I asked, cringing from a mental image of a foal still on its dam.
“I don’t remember exactly. I’ve only had him a few months.”
I suppose I should have terminated the conversation at that point, but the idea that there might be something worthwhile at the Ranchero kept nagging at me. So, I continued.
“Well, what does this stallion look like?” I asked, figuring the man must have noticed at least that much about a horse he’d owned a few months.
“Well, let’s see. He’s kinda brownish. Dark brown, not tan – more reddish than tan, ya know? And, uh, he’s got these real dark black legs and a real long, wavy, black mane and tail. And he’s got this big white star on his forehead that trails clear down to his nose. He’s pretty enough to be one a them Hollywood movie horses,” he enthused.
“That’s nice.” I remained unimpressed. “How big is he?”
“Oh, heck, he’s a big un! Must stand at least 15, 16 hands or so. Fat, too! Why just yesterday, a mare owner come ta see em told me she didn’t see how I could expect ta make money with em in that condition.” He chuckled. “Guess she figured I’d be spending all my profits on feed!”
“Uh, right!” I replied flatly, not at all sure that was what the mare owner had meant. But I figured I could see for myself when I went to inspect the stallion and the facility.
“Okay, I guess that tells me everything you know about your stallion. Now what about your breeding contract?”
“Breed-ing con-tract,” I repeated, losing patience. “You know, that nice little legal piece of paper that stipulates the responsibilities of the parties, covers areas such as accidental injury to one of the horses, how and where the mare is to be kept and cared for, live foal guarantee.” I paused, but got no response from the other end.
“You do offer a live foal guarantee, don’t you?” I queried.
“I dunno,” he admitted, sounding first dazed, then defensive. “Whatta ya want all that for, anyhow? Are our horses breedin or gettin married?” By now, the voice had become angered and strained.
“You just bring your mare over to my place, pay me the money, and we put em together!” he bullied. “Nature takes care a the rest. You don’t need any a that legal hassle! Not unless,” he added in a slightly calmer tone, “you wanna pay extra ta have my lawyer make one up!”
“Right!” I rejoined, impatience giving way to sarcasm. “And I bet you even charge extra for the breeder’s certificate!”
“Oh, brother!” I was totally disenchanted with the None Bar Ranchero and Quarter Horse Breeding Farm.
“Well, thanks a lot, you’ve been a real help,” I said, still sarcastic, as I was about to hang up.
“Hey, wait,” the man stopped me. “You never asked about the stud fee, or said when you’d be bringin your mare ta get bred.”
“I . . . uh . . .” I couldn’t believe my ears! “I don’t think I’m really ready to have her bred just yet,” I evaded. “But when I’m ready, I’ll call you!”
“You do that,” the man said, obviously pleased.
I hope he doesn’t hang around the phone waiting too long!
The three companions were all doubled over with laughter as the Gypsy finished reading. As he put the binder back down on the desk, he mused, “So, The Writer used to write comedy?”
“She still does,” the Young Hero stated, smirking. “She writes about you, does she not?”
“Funny,” the Gypsy replied dryly. “She may have included some humorous adventures in her tales of us, but she also wrote about some very heroic adventures and heart-breaking incidents.”
“Maybe some of her other articles show the more serious side of her writing,” the Foreman suggested, reaching for the binder.
“Perhaps, but we’ll have to wait until later to find out,” the Gypsy warned. I hear The Writer’s car pulling in the garage now.”
The trio quickly replaced the binder on the bookshelf, and left the office.
“Let’s leave the porch light on for any of her readers who may desire to join us again,” the Foreman suggested, and the others nodded.