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January 2021 Story and Poem Contest Rules: Winning stories and poems will be published in our Magazine. All entries must be original, meaning that the member who enters them must have written the text. To be eligible the story or poem must have a horse or pony in it someplace. Stories should be suitable for all ages, including younger members. All entries published in the Magazine will earn 500 WBucks, the best stories and poems will earn 3000 Wbucks and trophy for the writer. Pony writer quills are awarded every day.

My Best Friend

My best friend is pretty,
My best friend is sweet,
My best friend likes carrots and apples to eat.
She wears silver shoes upon her feet.
She has a saddle that is pink,
It goes well with her hair, I think.
How many legs has she?
Four of course!
In case you haven't guessed, my best friend is a horse!

ILoveLydia & Molly
2021-05-29 20:11:01
By Nat2

By the time they reached Near Heaven, Dolf had managed to clear out the feed room and assess the damage. Trudy’s first clue that it was substantial was the love light in his eyes upon seeing the rat poison in Jack’s arms when the new hire hopped from the Dodge.
“High time you got back,” he announced from somewhere beneath the sheen of sweat and horse barn grime that coated him from scuffed-up boots to disheveled black hair. It wasn’t until he’d snatched up the rat poison and scrutinized it like it was the Holy Grail that he seemed to notice Jack for the first time. “Who’s this?”
“Dolf, meet Jack,” Trudy said hurriedly, scrambling from the driver’s seat and making her way around the nose of the pickup before the conversation could go any further. Randolf Bates was easy-going enough even at his dirtiest and most worn out, but when other alpha males began lurking on his territory he got suspicious, and when he got suspicious he got snarky. Hoping to fend off the scorching, subtle sarcasm before it could begin and scare off his potential help, Trudy inserted herself between the two young men to take over the introductions. “He’s here to give you a hand around the place for a while. Jack, this is Randolf Bates, our foreman.”
She felt more than saw the look Dolf gave her upon granting him such a prestigious title, but she didn’t turn to meet his eyes lest her bluff be exposed. Jack, for his part, didn’t notice this infinitesimal exchange between the two of them, and his face lit up with his best, most crooked smile.
“I hear you’ve got a rat problem,” he said amiably. One of Dolf’s eyes narrowed in a squint.
“Among other things,” he answered. “You know anything about runnin’ a ridin’ school?”
“I can learn.”
“You like the idea of haulin’ your own body weight around all day for a pathetic and inadequate compensation?”
“Hey!” protested Trudy, but Jack only shrugged.
“Mister, I don’t care what I have to haul around. If it’s not bolted to the ground, I’ll carry it.”
“And if it is?”
“I’ll unbolt it.”
With that, Dolf unfurled a crooked smile of his own, and Trudy knew the danger of snarking was past. Shifting the rat poison to one hip he stuck out a hand. It was filthy, scraped and streaked with the unimaginable substances of a grimy horse stall, and Trudy amusedly noted the subtlety of Dolf’s suspicions, feeling out the squeamishness of this plaid-wearing foreigner. Jack took the proffered hand in a firm grip and gave it a shake. He passed the test without batting an eye. “Well, there’s a heap of unbolted hay in the barn needs movin’ from one place to another,” Dolf announced, looking pleased. “You’d better get at it.”
“Sure,” said Jack, and he flashed Trudy a grin. “Permission to go check out the place and get my bearings?”
“Granted,” she replied, and he sauntered off. Still cradling Victor, Dolf slid in beside Trudy and gave the retreating figure an appraising glance.
“Looks like a lumberjack,” he commented. “You sure he didn’t take a wrong turn on the way to Oregon?”
“Sure,” Trudy said, hoping to get a rise out of him. “Portland.”
“Lord, I hope not.” He snorted, half out of disdain and half out of feed dust coating his sinuses. “What's with this *foreman* business, anyhow? You know that ain’t true.”
“Sure,” she allowed graciously. “But Jack doesn’t.”
Dolf chortled. “Bless you, Miss Trudy, you do like to give your people an edge, don’t you?”
She jabbed him in the ribs with an elbow. “I’m not a total idiot, you know. Just because he’s tall and nice looking and Hoot likes him doesn’t mean I’m going to trust him with the keys to the city.”
“I'm tall and nice lookin’,” Dolf pointed out.
Trudy spared him a look. “Don’t cloud the issue.” She shoved the truck keys in her pocket and went around to lower the gate on the cargo bed. “There’s a lot to haul in,” she informed her hired hand. “You’d better get started.”
“Golly, thanks, Miss Trudy.” He made his way to the rear of the Dodge with a languorous saunter, taking in the Everest of horse feed piled to the sky with a certain resignation to his features. “I’m sure glad you went into town and got it,” he commented earnestly. “Why, it’s an eternal load off my shoulders not havin’ to drive all that way only to come back and haul it the twenty-nine miles from here to the barn.”
Trudy resisted the urge to roll her eyes at his sarcasm. With a new employee around, she had to at least make some effort at maturity—until Harriet came back, at least. “Oh, shut up and haul, Mr. Bates. It’s something else for you to complain about, and with Jack here to help there’ll be precious little reason for you to gripe so you had better do it while you can.” She started toward the house by way of the barn. “Now if you’re finished monologging, I’ll go scare up some lunch.”
“Make it quick, would you Miss Trudy?” he asked, pausing to look moderately pathetic. “It’s been an age and a half since breakfast, and with that city boy around we’re eatin’ for three.”
Knowing Dolf liked to get the last word in every once in a while, she acknowledged this with a mere wave of her hand and kept walking.
The big doors were open as she passed by the barn, and she decided to peek in and check on Jack’s status before heading to the house. It was dark enough inside after the harsh sun of the afternoon that she had to stop in the doorway and squint through the vivid blue sparks dancing before her adjusting eyes. As she was waiting for her vision to clear, she heard a horse nickering somewhere ahead. Her ears were fine-tuned enough for her to recognize the author of such a sound and why it was being made: Bob Lee, the Tennessee Walker, was extremely displeased, and he had no qualms about letting the world know it. With the last of the sparks winking out, she turned her sights on the big gelding’s stall, and saw the reason for his annoyance.
“I don’t think this horse likes me much,” commented Jack, leaning on the stall door with his arms hooked over its edge. “He’s giving me dirty looks.”
“He’s particular about who he tolerates,” Trudy replied, coming over to join him. The gelding was holed up in one corner of his stall with his broad rump aimed towards his visitors, twisting his sloping head around to give them periodic glares from beneath his silky forelock. She held out her hand enticingly, but he ignored it and she let it drop.
“Fancy-looking fellow, isn’t he?” murmured Jack, his blue-green eyes taking in the animal’s rippling muscles beneath the smooth champagne-tinted hide. “He looks like he knows it, too. Anything special about him?”
“He’s a Tennessee Walker,” Trudy explained proudly, happy to show off the finest creature in Near Heaven’s collection. Upon Jack’s blank look, she elaborated. “A gaited horse.”
Her new hire merely blinked. “Is. . .that like a gated community?”
Trudy sighed. *He’s here to haul feed,* she comforted herself, half-amused by this foreigner’s ignorance, *not be a fount of equine knowledge.* “Never mind. The hay Dolf wants moved is over by the tack room. Don’t knock over any of the saddles, or my sister will have the both of us for lunch when she gets back.”
“Your sister?” asked Jack, heading over with his long-legged saunter to where stacks of bales stood among a row of wooden saddle racks. Dolf had apparently strung out the contents of the tack room to check the edges for rat damage. Trudy hoped he’d come up empty. “She work here too?”
“She runs the place.” Trudy again held her hand out to Bob Lee, and after arduous consideration he deigned to come over and bump her knuckles with his velvety nose. Upon finding that her hand was empty and the entire ordeal had been a mere ruse to tempt him from his corner, he lipped her fingers and presented his neck for scratching. She obliged. “Well, the money part anyway. I take care of the horses, and Dolf takes care of everything else.”
Jack considered this, pausing amongst the racks to run his hand lightly over the slick leather curves of one of the saddles. “Nice setup you’ve got here. Almost makes me want to run off into the country and start my own ranch.”
“It’s not a ranch,” Trudy corrected him. Harriet got touchy about such things, and if Jack was going go make a good impression on her when she showed he needed to get his definitions in the right order. “It’s a riding school.” *We aren’t* hicks, *Trudy,* she could hear her sister saying. *We’re an institution of higher learning. It gives us class.*
*How is it higher learning when people have been riding horses for centuries?* she had countered. *If the Indians and the Nomads could figure it out without an entire institute to hold their hand, why can’t we?*
The response had been something about Nomads not paying the bills and let people who know what they’re doing handle the business end of things, and Trudy had effectively lost. The moral victory of Harriet’s irritation, however, had been sweet indeed.
“So what did you do before?” Trudy asked Jack now, rubbing beneath Bob Lee’s loose gold mane.
“Before you busted your car and had to coast into town for repairs.”
“Well—” He made a face. “Between you and me? Retail. Day in, day out, stuck inside rethinking my life choices and wondering where I went wrong.”
“Exciting. Where at?”
Trudy eyed his shirt. Oregon wasn’t far off, after all. “That’s not exactly next door. Kind of a long way to drive just to find yourself, isn’t it?”
He gave a one-shouldered shrug. “Better than going nuts in a polo shirt and khakis. Is this stuff valuable?”
The subject changed so fast she almost didn’t catch it. As it was her reaction was delayed a good few seconds until she turned to see him eyeing the saddles and grooming supplies strewn in the walkway of the barn. “Yeah,” she said, tipping her head at him curiously. “Why?”
Jack gave a hanging stirrup a knock with the toe of one boot and watched it swing. “I’d hate to see the rats get it. Any other place to put it besides out here in front of God and everybody?”
“Nope. Not anywhere there aren’t rats, anyway.” She gave Bob Lee a parting kiss on the forehead and moseyed over to stand by Jack. “Consider it your motivation to get the rodent problem under control in a hurry.”
“Considered. So I just haul all the hay from Point A to Point B?”
“Yep,” she said. She watched him roll up his sleeves and unlatch his watch from his wrist. “I’ll take that so you don’t bust it,” she offered upon seeing him start to shove it in his pocket. He glanced from her to it and back again.
“Well—” He gave her a grin. “Long as you don’t steal it.”
Coolly she snatched it from his hand. “We’re not *that* poor. What would it get on the black market, anyway? Two or three hundred?” She cocked her head thoughtfully. “On second thought—”
Laughing, she danced back away from his swiping grasp. “Relax, the pawn shop in town lets you reclaim stuff within thirty days if you still have the receipt. It’ll be there if you’re fast enough.”
“I bought it years ago!” he protested.
“Goes to show you, always save everything.” She waved in the general direction of the hay. “You’ve got barges to tote and bales to lift, remember?”
“Right, Captain.” He ran a hand through his hair and the dark curls went every which way. “Come back for me in a week or so. I’ll be here a while.”
“Don’t complain, soldier,” she admonished him. “If you don’t use those muscles they wither up and blow away.”
He gave her a quick grin, half-laughing himself now. “Not *that* fast, they don’t.”
“Mere details.” She tapped the face of his watch before sticking it in her pocket and heading past him to the open darn doors. “Lunch is in an hour. Dolf or I will come get you if you forget.”
“That's something you haven’t learned about me yet, Trudy,” he told her. “I don’t forget food.”
“Noted.” She paused in the doorway, hesitating before turning back to him. *Might as well know now,* she thought. He was going to work for her, after all. “Say, Jack—I know it’s a bit highfalutin, but since my sister runs the place all the employees around here—” a grand total of one, being Dolf “—call me *Miss* Trudy. It’s kind of a Southern thing.”
“Good manners are a Southern thing?” His dark brows arched above a pair of sparkling eyes. “Well, all right. You got it, Captain.”
She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “That works, too. See you in an hour.”
The smile was still turning her lips as she loped out of the barn and up the path. Adding Jack to the well-oiled machine that was Near Heaven had made her a little nervous at first, but he’d fit right in without scarcely a ripple. Dolf seemed to like him. *She* certainly liked him. Bob Lee was reserving judgment, but he was a horse. His opinion had never impacted the workings of the world before, and they certainly wouldn’t now. Things were going to go just fine.
Checking the time on Jack’s merrily-ticking watch, she hurried up to the house to fix lunch.

Nat2 & The Price of Valor
2021-10-28 07:12:48
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