A Good Deal? Or Crazy?

A Good Deal? Or Crazy?

Cleric blushed deep redCleric blushed deep red. “I most certainly am not kidding!”

Blue roan ponyAnna snorted as she continued to gape at the three-quarter sized blue roan pony standing there with his ears pinned back, and his foot cocked and ready to kick out at the slightest provocation. “Clara, there is no way that pony would make a suitable mount for Colton.”

“That is the one.” Cleric insisted vehemently.

While Anna looked as if she thought Cleric, whom she knew as Clara, had taken leave of her senses, I knew Cleric believed this pony would make the perfect mount for Colton because Colton’s deceased pony, Peaches (AKA Mystery), had told Cleric this in a dream. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/a-new-mystery/

Blue with ears pinned backAs if he knew we were talking about him, the pony gave us a baleful look. He neighed loudly, then walked over to the fence and stared at us sullenly.

Anna frowned. “How can you possibly believe a pony with such a sour disposition could work with Colton?”

Petting Old BlueA nearby man walked over to us. “Old Blue there isn’t all that bad.” He reached over the fence and patted the pony. The animal’s demeanor didn’t change much, but he tolerated the man rubbing his head and scratching behind his ears.

My Gypsy walked over and stood next to the man. “You sound as if you have had experience with the animal. Is he yours?”

The man nodded. “Well, actually, he’s my daughter’s pony. Or he was.”

I gave him an appraising look. “What can you tell us about him, Mister . . .?”

“Denver. John Denver. No relation to the singer.” The man smiled ruefully as he held out his hand.

I shook his hand and made the introductions, then repeated. “So, what can you tell us about the pony?”Introductions

“Well, I can’t tell you too much, really. He was being sold with no prior history at auction about five years ago and I bought him. I don’t know why. He certainly wasn’t a looker or a charmer. But my daughter begged me to get him, so I did. I just couldn’t say no to her.”

I smiled, and John continued. “He was the best thing that ever happened to my daughter. She was handicapped, you see. She couldn’t walk, but Old Blue didn’t care. He was always so gentle and patient with her.”

Anna raised her eyebrows. “Your daughter is handicapped?”

John hung his head, and when he spoke, his words caught in his throat. “She was. Casey passed away six months ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry for your loss!” Anna and I murmured our condolences.

“Thanks.” John swallowed hard. “I’ve kept Blue around since Casey’s death. I just couldn’t bear to get rid of him. But lately I’ve been seeing a change in him. He’s growing more and more sullen. He doesn’t eat, not even treats I try to give him. He doesn’t run around the field with my gelding. He just stands by the gate, as if waiting for Casey to come and ride him.”

John, Casey, and Old BlueThe man sighed, and his voice cracked again when he spoke. “He always took such good care of my little girl, and he always seemed so happy to be around her. I can’t stand to see him so depressed. I figured it was time for him to have another child to take care of. I put an ad in the paper to sell him, but only a few people responded, and Blue really didn’t impress them. So, I figured I’d try my luck here at the auction. But that might have been a mistake. The way he’s been acting, I can’t see anyone bidding on him.”

Cleric stepped forward. “We must have that pony.”

Anna frowned, but before she could say anything, Cleric grabbed her arm. “Anna, this pony has already worked with a handicapped rider. I’m sure he could be trained for Colton.”

John looked at Anna. “You have a handicapped child?”

Peaches and ColtonAnna nodded. “My son, Colton, is blind. His pony, one that had been specially trained to work with a blind rider, passed away from age-related ailments a few months ago.”

“And you need to find another pony for Colton.” John nodded his understanding.

“It’s not that easy.” Anna pursed her lips and scowled. “It can’t be just any pony, not even a pony that’s trained to work with riders suffering other types of handicaps. It has to be one specifically trained to work with a blind rider.”

John continued to nod. “I understand. It’s a shame Old Blue here isn’t what you’re looking for. I think it’s pretty obvious he won’t be finding a good home here tonight.”

Cleric wrinkled her brow and tugged on Anna’s sleeve. “He can be trained. I know he will be the perfect mount for Colton. You need to take this pony home with you.”

Anna shook her head. “I think you’re wrong, Clara. A pony that sour does not have the proper disposition to work with a blind rider. Besides, Colton isn’t ready to think about a new pony.”

John, Casey, and Old Blue 2John cleared his throat and ducked his head. “If it’s Blue’s disposition that scares you, ma’am, all I can tell you is he was a different animal with my Casey. He was a happy pony, always eager to see her come to the barn to ride. He’d whinny and run to the gate as soon as I wheeled her out of the house.”

Anna sighed. “Well, maybe he has a better disposition than he’s showing here tonight, but as I stated, Colton isn’t ready to think about a new pony.”

Cowboy 2Blue with ears pinned back“Maybe not right away, but if he got to know Blue, that might change.” John looked at Anna and then at the rest of us, silent pleading in his eyes. “I really want to make sure Blue gets a good home. He deserves that for all he did for my little girl. If you’d be willing to take him, I’ll withdraw him from the bidding tonight. You can have him, free and clear, just as long as you promise to return him to me if it doesn’t work out with your boy.”

Cleric almost jumped for joy. “You cannot ask for a better deal than that, Anna! And you will see I am right about Blue. He is the pony Colton needs.”

Anna stared at the pony, then looked at me and the rest of our companions. We all nodded our encouragement. Anna sighed and shook her head. “I must be crazy to even consider this sour animal.”

“But you will take him, will you not?” Cleric smiled.

“I suppose it won’t hurt.” Anna turned toward John. “Okay, I’ll give him a month’s trial. If he and Colton don’t get along by the end of that period, you’ll be getting him back.”

Agreeing to take Blue

Will Colton and Blue get along? Will Blue be able to be trained to work with Colton’s handicap? Be sure to come back again next week and see what is happening. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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What Will We Find at the Auction?

What Will We Find at the Auction?

On phone with Anna“Oh, no, that will never work.”

I had called Anna to discuss the idea of going to the auction to look at ponies for Colton. She was less than enthusiastic.

“I’m surprised you would suggest it. With your experience with horses, Marge, you must realize a pony for a blind rider isn’t something you can just pick up at an auction. A mount like that needs extraordinary training. Peaches came from a facility that specializes in training horses and ponies for the handicapped. With over thirty animals in their training program at the time we purchased Peaches, she was the only one they had with the proper temperament and extensive training to work with a blind rider.”

Elf“I realize you won’t be able to pick up a finished therapy horse at auction, Anna, but Cler . . . er, I mean Clara thought you might find an inexpensive animal that would be a good candidate for training to work with Colton. It might be cheaper to find a pony at auction and then send it to that facility for training, rather than purchasing a fully trained animal from them.”

“Hmmm. Well, it might be worth a look, but I’m not getting my hopes up.”

“Of course. But it might just be a fun night out for us. I haven’t been to a horse auction in more than 15 years, not since I moved here from New Jersey. And I know that Clara and the others would love to go.”

Pony from dreamshaggy pony facing the other wayWhat I didn’t tell Anna was that Cleric, or Clara as Anna and Colton knew her, was adamant we attend the auction. Cleric knew without a doubt there would be a pony at the auction that would make the perfect mount for Colton. Cleric knew, because Colton’s deceased pony, Peaches (AKA Mystery), had told Cleric this in a dream. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/a-new-mystery/

* * *

Wednesday afternoon, on the way to Anna’s farm, I reminded my characters to address each other by the names they had chosen when we first met Colton and Anna. Sitting in the front passenger seat, Cleric nodded. “I am to be Clara, Dragon is Drey.”

From the back seat, my Gypsy chimed in. “I am Rocky, your Foreman is Tor, and your Young Hero is Cab, correct?”  https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/an-old-mystery-revisited/

“Yup. It’s very important you remember that. And also remember to act as if you didn’t just fall out of a manuscript of a novel set in a medieval world. There will be things here tonight you may not have seen before but try not to gape. You need to fit in, to act as if this isn’t your first rodeo.”

Rodeo?” Cleric tilted her head and furrowed her brow. “I thought it was an auction.”

I sighed. “It is, it is. It’s not my first rodeo is just an expression, meaning that the person saying so has experience in whatever situation they are discussing.”

“You mean we are to act as if we regularly attend horse auctions in this modern world.” Dragon, or Drey, nodded sagely. “Do not worry. We will not forget.”

When we arrived at Anna’s farm, she was already behind the wheel of her shiny pickup, with a sturdy stock trailer in tow. I beeped and waved, and she put her truck in gear and moved slowly down the driveway. “Anna knows where we’re going, and we wouldn’t all fit in her truck, so we’ll just follow her.”

Truck and trailer

“Is Colton coming?” Cleric craned her neck to try to see the passenger’s seat of Anna’s truck.

I shook my head. “No, he’s staying home tonight with his aunt and uncle. He isn’t ready to think about a new pony.”

parkingAt the auction, Anna was directed to the parking area reserved for vehicles with trailers, and we were pointed toward a large dirt field filled with trailer-less cars and trucks.

“Wow!” When we caught up with Anna, I was the one looking around as if I had never seen a horse auction before. “This is a lot bigger than I had expected.”

“You did say you’ve been to horse auctions before, right?” Anna led the way toward the office, where she and I would register and get our numbers, allowing us to bid on any animal we fancied.

My characters and I followed along. “Oh, yes, many, many years ago. I used to go to New Holland and Doylestown in Pennsylvania a few times a year, as well as Bunchy Grant’s, the Roosevelt Sale, in northern New Jersey. I even attended the pricy auctions at Front Royal in Virginia a few times. But most of the auctions I attended were little rinky-dink local affairs, where you could find the twenty-five-dollar-ponies. I don’t know how many of those auctions are still in existence.”

“Twenty-five dollars for a pony?” Anna’s jaw dropped. “You must be a lot older than you look! Ponies have never been that cheap in my lifetime!”

I laughed. “It was rare to actually get one for that price, but we still called them that, the twenty-five-dollar-ponies. They were the ponies nobody really wanted. Some were half-starved, some hadn’t seen a farrier’s rasp or a curry comb in years. Some had serious conformation or health issues, some were just too nasty to make a good child’s mount, and some looked like they were old enough to have been the colt that carried Jesus into Jerusalem.” I tilted my head, remembering. “Occasionally a real diamond in the rough could be found among them. But not often.”

Twenty-five-dollar-ponies

Anna nodded. “Oh, I agree that you can pick up real bargains at auctions. But I still don’t understand the name for the ponies. Why that amount? Why twenty-five dollars?”

“That was the usual cost back then to adopt a dog or cat through the local shelters. Calling them the twenty-five-dollar-ponies indicated that the only good place for these unfortunate animals was a shelter or rescue facility.”

bidder's numbersOnce Anna and I had our numbers allowing us to place bids, we beckoned my characters to follow as we headed to the stalls and pens to inspect the ponies. We had arrived early enough to allow plenty of time to look before the bidding started.

Stepping into the first barn, myriad odors tickled my nose. The sweet fragrance of fresh hay and molasses feed mingled with the rich smell of well-oiled leather and saddle soap, masking the faint stench of animal urine, manure, and sweat.

first barnThe ponies stalled in this barn were well groomed animals, with excellent confirmation. They looked fit and healthy, and they stood calmly as their handlers snapped lead lines onto expensive leather halters bearing brass name-plates.

“These ponies are the cream of the crop. They have good pedigrees and impeccable show records.” Anna held up one hand and rubbed her thumb over the tips of her index and middle fingers. “You better have a lot of cash on you if you plan to bid on any of these.”

My characters were impressed. My Foreman and the lads walked over to several stalls to give the ponies a closer look. I gave Cleric a surreptitious glance, but she pursed her lips and gave a slight shake of her head. I guessed her dream pony was not among this group.

Flashy all-around ponyAfter examining all these ponies, we filed out of the barn and walked by some paddocks where ponies were being presented to potential buyers. Cleric studied them carefully, paying particular attention to a flashy pinto that was touted by her owner as “. . . an all-around pony. She rides and drives. She can go all day on the trail or bring home a slew of ribbons from the show ring. She’s gentle enough for any child, but when under the hand of an experienced rider, she has spirit.”

Cleric watched the pinto for several minutes before giving me another almost imperceptible shake of her head.

Behind the paddocks, we entered a second barn. This barn had less of the fragrant odor of fresh hay and sweet feed, and none of the rich leather smell. The stench of animal sweat and waste was heavier.

ponies sharing a stallshared stallsThe stalls in this barn were larger, and each held a number of ponies. None had the flawless confirmation or impeccable grooming obvious in the occupants of the first barn, but as I looked them over, no red flags went up in my mind.

Anna confirmed my evaluation. “Most of these ponies would make good family pets or first ponies for a new rider. Some are a bit long of tooth, some haven’t seen enough groceries recently, but they all seem sound and quiet and should go for a decent price.”

We spent about an hour inspecting these ponies, but Cleric’s disappointment showed clearly in her face. The pony of her dream wasn’t in this group either.

“Are there any others?” My Gypsy also looked disappointed.

Anna frowned. “There might be a few in the pens out back. The auction management usually keeps any studs back there, away from the mares. They sometimes put problem animals there as well. I doubt there would be any ponies there that would be suitable for Colton.”

“May we take a quick look anyway? Mayhap we will discover something unexpected.” Cleric was already heading for the back door of the barn.

penned poniesTwenty-five-dollar-poniesThe pens were a shock. In contrast to the high-end animals in the first barn and the perfectly acceptable animals in the second barn, the ponies in these pens were not going to garner many bids. I heard several ponies coughing, and a quick look in the first two pens revealed two ponies with ringbone, another with a huge knot on its knee, several with splayed feet, four that were cow-hocked, and two with ewe necks. Not one of these ponies was groomed, few had seen a farrier recently, and many were far underweight. Several dirt pens were occupied by a single stud pony, not one of which should ever have been considered breeding material. The twenty-five-dollar-ponies still existed, I realized sadly.

Blue roan ponyFurther back, in a grassy pen, a group of ponies huddled tightly together, some rolling their eyes in fear at the large pony standing at the other end of the small enclosure. In that far corner of the pen, a shaggy blue roan gelding had his back to the others, his ears pinned back, and one hind foot cocked and ready to kick out at anything or anybody getting too close. He stood, head hanging, lower lip protruding in an almost human sulk.

Pony from dream

We approached the fence and I was about to comment on the sour-dispositioned animal when Cleric broke into a huge smile. “That is him! He is the one!”

 

We all gaped, first at Cleric, then at the pony. Anna snorted. “You have got to be kidding!”

 

What is Cleric thinking? Could this sorry creature possibly be the pony that Peaches (AKA Mystery) told Cleric to find for Colton? Be sure to come back next week and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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