Word count 2,615
Synopsis: How Barranca came to be at Lancer.
ON THE LAND KNOWN AS LANCER. . . .
. . .roamed a beautiful animal, with a golden coat that shone like the sun.
He was strong and proud.
But most of all, he was free.
He was the leader of a stand of 40 or so wild horses that roamed the lush, green valley with an energy and beauty that would make even a novice of horses stand up and take notice.
He stood majestically on the top of the hill keeping guard over his ‘family:’ the black stallions, the grays, the spotted, the colts and mares, and the foals. All so beautiful, yet fearful. . . fearful of the two-legged ones that had taken their Special One away so violently.
The beautiful white stallion, so rare.
The Special One had taken a young, golden colt “under his wing” and allowed him to join his family of care-free horses, and had taught the Young One, as he became known, the ways of the wild. And the youngster easily learned those ways.
The Young One enjoyed the freedom of running with the wind in his face, feeling as though he could go on forever, never growing tired.
But the Special One warned his protégé’ of the two-legged ones that liked to invade their home and take one or more of them away. Violently. For selfish reasons that could only be understood by. . . Man.
And that is what happened, one winter day, to the Special One. And as he fought the burning rope being squeezed around his neck, he called out to his Young One to take care of his family. . .our family. . . .
And that is how the Young One became the Leader.
He wasn’t sure how long ago that was, but the former Young One was now a mature, intelligent leader who led his stand of horses from one site to the next, until they came upon this place—a place full of lush, green mountains, tranquil pools and lakes, and safety. Or so it seemed. . .
But the two-legged ones always seemed to find them, and finally, the Leader felt the same terror and frustration as the Special One had. The rope burned and choked him and he could not breathe. He was tugged and pulled, but he fought until his energy was gone.
The Leader was led away by the two-legged ones, on their four-legged prisoners, to meet his fate, and he heard his ‘family’ cry and call out for him.
He would never be free again. . . .
AT THE LANCER RANCH. . . .
. . . Murdoch Lancer sat in the rocking chair on the porch of his mammoth estancia and enjoyed the warmth of the beautiful spring day. His ward, Teresa O’Brien, had brought him a hot cup of tea and freshly baked cookies. He sighed as he drank the now lukewarm liquid, and thought to himself he would die if he ever had to drink another cup of tea again.
Since he was seriously wounded the November before, the head of the Lancer ranch had been under the watchful eye of his ward, who herself was grieving the murder of her father by the same group of land pirates who had wounded Murdoch. The young woman’s watchful eye included so much broth, tea, and cookies, that poor Murdoch was ready to scream. But he understood, and bore Teresa’s TLC with patience.
The past few months had been extremely hard on the strong-willed rancher. His recovery from the bullet in his lower back inflicted by Day Pardee that gray November day had been slow, and he had been faced with a decision: whether to live the remainder of his life in constant physical pain, or have the bullet removed—and risk permanent paralysis. He chose the former, and the thought of living his life forever with the sharp, burning pain throughout his lower back and legs depressed him.
But that depression was lifted when, a month earlier, he learned that his older son, Scott, had answered his call and would be coming out west to a long-awaited meeting with his father. Murdoch’s strength and reason to live slowly returned, and was heightened when he learned that his lost son, Johnny, would be coming as well.
And there was no way Murdoch Lancer would meet his sons confined to a wheelchair.
His elder son was expected early next week, although the arrival time of his younger son was unknown. The Pinkerton agent informed Murdoch that Johnny told him he would arrive in his own time. Which could be a week. . .or a month.
“Whenever Johnny felt like it,” the Pinkerton agent advised.
Murdoch wasn’t real happy with that bit of information; he was a man who didn’t like surprises. But a wry thought crossed his mind that it would be, ‘beneficial,’ if both of his sons arrived at the same time.
But he figured that was too much of a coincidence to happen. . . .
As he dismally read the Pinkerton report on his youngest son, Murdoch noticed a commotion coming from the area of the corral. He looked up and saw some of the hands leading a golden horse, a Palomino, to the fenced in area.
He frowned. Didn’t these men understand that Lancer was at stake? That their livelihood, and their lives, were in danger? Day Pardee had been hanging around for months, starting fires and killing at random, and Murdoch knew that soon Pardee and his ruffians would attack his home. And that the only protection Lancer had, at least for now, were the loyal hands who had promised Murdoch they would stay and fight.
And here they were. . .those same hands wasting their time chasing and catching a wild horse. The animal would be of no use to him or his ranch, and although he knew a few of them had the ability to ‘break’ the animal, he couldn’t risk one of them injuring themselves, thus losing the services he knew he would need when Pardee finally attacked.
With cane in hand, he painfully, and angrily, limped over to the corral, and was surprised that his Segundo, Jose Cipriano, was instrumental in encouraging the younger hands in the capture of the beautiful golden horse. He took his Segundo aside, and harsh words were spoken by the gruff rancher.
But the Mexican Segundo would not be intimidated. He had known Murdoch Lancer too long, and knew the frustration and fear his friend was facing. He helped Murdoch understand that the men needed a diversion; that they did indeed understand what was happening, and that they were ready to die for the land known as Lancer.
Murdoch softened, and agreed the Palomino could stay. But he warned that only the best of the best would even be considered to tame the animal, and if the animal were to flee, he was not to be chased.
When this was agreed upon by Cipriano, the Mexican suggested to Murdoch that maybe ‘one of the boys’ might want the horse.
“You mean Johnny, don’t you?” Murdoch questioned. When Cipriano shook his head yes, Murdoch bellowed that Johnny was just a baby when he lived here and his fondness for horses was evident. “But I have no idea what his likes and dislikes are now. For all we know, he might not give a damn about horses. And Scott, well, he was raised in Boston. He may know something of domesticated horses, but I doubt he would know how to handle one like. . .that,” Murdoch curtly explained, nodding to the wild Palomino.
As Murdoch turned around and slowly made his way back to the hacienda, Cipriano didn’t see the proud smile on the rancher’s face as he thought of one of his sons riding the beautiful, spirited horse.
The Leader spent his first night away from his family in a confined area with several other four-legged ones. He was confused; he wanted so much to flee, to run in the wind with no barriers, to find his own. But at the same time, a feeling of security overwhelmed him. Despite the fear he felt in his capture, he did not fear these two-legged ones. In fact, they had treated him with kindness and gentleness. And from what he could hear from the other four-legged ones, they seemed perfectly content to be here.
He realized that something seemed—right—about him being here. . about being in a place like this. Distant memories of a young colt came to his mind; a memory of living in such a place amongst two-legged ones that took care of him. And loved him.
Then he made sense of the nightmare that had plagued him for so long. A nightmare of something hot and smoky. He remembered he couldn’t breathe, and he remembered the two-legged ones opening the door, hollering at him to run to safety.
The fire had killed his two-legged ones and destroyed their home. But they had ensured the young colt had escaped the fire, and he understood now how he came to be in the wild—to be found, protected, and taught, by the Special One.
Was this his destiny? Was he born to live in a place such as this, amongst the two-legged ones? To be loved by them? Was the fact he had been free most of his life a twist of fate? He wasn’t sure. But as he nestled in the warmth of this room he was placed in, he decided he would give this place a try.
To see what would happen. . . .
The Leader soon learned he was no longer a leader of anything. The past several days had been spent being led to the corral, where a heavy object was placed on his back and was very uncomfortable. To make it worse, the two-legged ones would sit on him, some heavier than others, some stabbing his sides with sharp things on their boots, bringing pain and fear to the confused animal. He retaliated by throwing them off of him. . .hard. . .bringing a whelp of pain from the two-legged ones who dared to touch him.
Afterwards, he would be gently led to the pasture and let to feed. Several of the two-legged ones would come and stare at him. But they seemed innocent enough, and one of them, with long black hair and a tiny hand, fed him a carrot and spoke kindly to him.
Finally, the former Leader figured out what the two-legged ones were trying to do. They were trying to ride him. He remembered back to the time when he lived with his two-legged ones, and the small one that would sit on his back, so lightly, so gently. And the happiness he would feel as he rode her around the small yard, and the pride he felt carrying his special two-legged one around.
He decided then that maybe, just maybe, he would let someone have the pleasure of riding him again. He wanted to feel the pride of having a two-legged one that was his, and his alone. He wanted to be able to love, and in return, be loved. He had it once before. . .and he didn’t know how much he missed it until now.
But it sure as heck wouldn’t be any of these two-legged ones. No. It had to be a special someone. Someone who was just like him. Wild and free. Proud and strong. Someone who wanted to be loved. . . .
His mind made up, Golden Boy, as he was now known, decided he would bide his time. . .and wait for His Special Someone to come.
A few more days had passed pretty much like the rest. But today, a feeling of uneasiness came over the four-legged ones. Something was not right. The smell of fire and smoke was evident, and the familiar scent unnerved the horse. Things calmed down though, and the other four-legged ones advised the newcomer that the two-legged ones had taken care of things. At least for now.
Golden Boy watched as the two-legged ones walked toward the corral. He recognized the ones who had tried to tame him; they did not seem like the spirited, excited bunch of days earlier. He recognized the two-legged leader, the tall one who was hard and gruff, but who had secretly visited him in the barn with treats and a kind word.
He did not recognize the one walking with the two-legged leader, though. He had never seen him before. He looked different from the rest. He was golden, just like himself. And he had funny clothes on. But he possessed a sense of confidence and maturity as he walked, and Golden Boy wondered just who he was.
Someone important. He just knew it.
Then he noticed. . .him. This two-legged one that walked alone, behind the others. Golden Boy carefully studied this one. His walk displayed a sense of cockiness. And attitude.
His walk also displayed vulnerability.
Something about this two-legged one intrigued Golden Boy and he wondered who he was.
Someone important. He just knew it.
He wanted to gain this one’s attention. Noticing that he was walking past him, Golden Boy whinnied.
But the two-legged one kept walking.
So Golden Boy whinnied again. Louder. And this time, the two-legged one looked up at the horse. And smiled.
He walked toward the beautiful animal, slowly, cautiously, as not to startle him. He held out his hand and Golden Boy sniffed, then licked it. The two-legged one began to talk, and the sound was like soft, gentle music to the horse. His hands gently rubbed the horse’s nose, then tickled the horse’s ears.
Golden Boy snorted and nodded his delight.
The two-legged one chuckled as well.
Then, the strong but gentle hands found a special place under Golden Boy’s neck, and the horse felt a shiver go through him and a tickle in his stomach that he hadn’t felt since he was a colt, when he was petted there by the special two-legged ones that were his. A long time ago.
The special moment lasted for a few more minutes. Golden Boy finally looked into the eyes of the two-legged one, and thought they looked like two clear, blue pools of water. Or the bluest sky.
As the two-legged one slowly walked away, Golden Boy knew he had finally found His Special Someone. The one that would be his. And his alone.
So, Golden Boy decided that tomorrow, he and this two-legged one would become one. But he wouldn’t make it easy for him, oh no. He would test him. And fight him. Just a little.
But in the end, he would feel pride as His Special Someone rode around the corral in triumph.
But he also knew that the next few days would be the major test for both horse and rider. Because Golden Boy knew that this two-legged one would be embarking on a journey where he needed the strength, the trust, and the courage of a special four-legged one.
And he was ready for his part of the test.
Golden Boy finally understood why he had been brought here. For he had found what he had unknowingly yearned for all these years. He had found His Special Someone. And he knew this was the beginning of a special relationship between Horse. . .and Man.
A horse that would earn the name of Barranca.
And a man that would earn the name of Johnny. . . . . . Lancer.
The Beginning. . .
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