The story of the 4-legged hero from The Last She.
Part 1, Two-leg
I often wonder what sort of mixture of pity and curiosity influenced the first horse to adopt the first Two-leg. Was it the odd way they wobbled about like addled chickens? Or maybe the unfortunate manner by which they had lost almost all of their hair? Whatever it was, I too was afflicted with that mix of exasperation and hopeless affection for a Two-leg. My story begins with this Two-leg, on the day we left my home forever. As far as I could see, there were only two differences in that day.
One: a strange smell clung to my two-leg. It was the scent of an animal gone stiff and cold, when the black birds circled lower and lower.
Two: He set free the dancing, orange wind that two legs gathered around on the coldest, darkest nights. It devoured the stable the Two-legs lived in, roaring louder and louder, as if angry about the way the ranch had become silent, all the young Two-legs now tucked beneath the earth.
“C’mon boy,” he whispered to me as he pushed me forward into a run, “Let’s go find Sam.” I snorted, then eagerly stretched out, letting my legs lengthen and warm as we charged together down the empty road.
It might have been just another day, but then something extraordinary happened. My Two-leg turned me off the main road. My ears perked forward as we turned down the dirt path to Timber Ranch. I picked up the pace, lifting my feet a bit higher and jutting out my chest as I raced down the road.
Felicity lived at Timber Ranch.
Part 2, Felicity
I’d met Felicity on our last cattle drive: long legs, a silky paint coat, and the purdeist flanks West of the Mississippi. I tossed my mane out behind me.
“Ya’ll right boy?” My Two-leg asked, a bit of concern in his voice at my changed gate. I ignored him, lifting my feet even higher. I remembered when he’d first put the saddle on my back, and the bit in my mouth. I’d sent him soaring through the air more than once. But he didn’t give up. He spoke to me in low, soft murmurs, and fed me cubes of sugar, a treat I’d never tasted before. And somehow I’d stopped dreaming of joining the wild horses that ran free across the hills. Somehow I’d started to like the Two-leg with hair like curled straw and eyes like spring grass.
But if he made me look bad in front of Felicity, I was gonna run out of affection real fast.
We came to the front of the ranch, and again I scented that awful sour smell. My Two-leg didn’t even go inside the main stable, but instead ripped a square leaf off the door, cursed and then strode back to me.
I scented the wind, then froze when I smelled something even worse than that sour smell.
The dumbest, ugliest, stupidest, saddest excuse for a horse ever sired. He’d have been my horse rival, if he hadn’t been so far below me. I lifted my head. I wouldn’t even acknowledge his scent. Then I had a better idea. I lifted my tail and pooped right on the stop.
Take that Oakley.
My Two-leg spent some time in the other stables, then finally swung back into the saddle. He was heavier this time, with useless items he’d found in the stables clearly only meant to try and make me look weak in front of Felicity.
I didn’t waver.
“C’mon boy, let’s go round up the herd. Or what’s left of it.” My Two-leg kicked me into action, and I sprung forward, tearing up the ground as I thought of Felicity’s face when she saw me charging across the hills.
Part 3, Oakley
“Red!” Felicity nickered as I came into view. I pranced up to her, head high as my Two-leg tossed a rope around her neck. He needn’t have. She touched her nose to mine, and I was suddenly thankful my coat was already a blazing red.
“Red, our Two-legs are all gone. I think something happened to them.” She seemed concerned, and I puffed out my chest.
“It’s going to be alright,” I nickered back. “They’re probably fine. Knowing Two-legs, they prolly just wandered off and got lost somewhere.”
“I don’t think they’re coming back. We haven’t had any oats for days, and the water trough is almost dry. If they don’t open the fence to the higher pasture we’ll run out of grass soon.”
I gave her my most confident whinny. “Well you don’t have to worry anymore. I brought my Two-leg here and we can share him. He’s not that stupid, for a Two-leg, at least. I can get him to feed us some grain back at the stables, he’s fairly well trained.”
She nickered in happiness and together we made our way back. I’d never felt happier in my life. My Two-leg had spent the whole trip talking about how we were going on a journey to find Sam, how cars and gas were gone so he’d have to ride the whole time, how he was going to bring other horses for Sam, and it was just going to be Felicity, me and-
I ground to a halt when I saw the ugly silver dapple Morgan horse standing casually in front of the barn.
No! Oakley couldn’t come with us! It would ruin everything!
My Two-leg swung off in front of the stables and I turned to him, focusing all my energy on him, praying that for once something would get through to his grass green, yet rather unintelligent, eyes.
“Two-leg: DO NOT TAKE OAKLEY WITH US. I REPEAT, NO OAKLEY. BAAAAAD HORSE.”
He petted my head, and said, “Don’t worry, boy.” My heart soared, and then- “I’ll go get you some oats.”
NO! Why hadn’t I trained him better?!
I spent the rest of the night sulking, as I had to listen to Oakley talk about how he had once jumped over a 8 foot fence (as if). In the morning my Two-leg, (who I did not intend to share with Oakley) prepared us all with saddles and bags and again we were back out on the road, this time Felicity and Oakley trailing behind.
Even if Oakley was with us, my heart lifted a little at the sight of the open round before and the sound of Felicity’s footsteps following my lead.
Part 4, Romantic Plans
The next few days we followed dirt roads, my Two-leg staying in abandoned Two-leg stables as we moved further and further West. I didn’t get much chance to talk with Felicity because I always took the lead, with stupid Oakley behind me and Felicity last.
But tonight I had great plans.
The sun began to dip lower to the horizon. Though normally we wouldn’t stop till nearly dusk, an hour before we normally stopped I began to favor my front left leg. After only a few minutes my Two-leg swung off my back, murmuring as he lifted my leg and checked my hoof.
“Ya’ll right boy? Do you have a rock stuck in there?”
I nickered as if in pain, but actually was trying to hide my humor. Two-legs are soooo gullible.
He sighed, “Guess we’ll set up camp here for the night.”
I bobbed my head in encouragement, giving him the go ahead, and he began his strange Two-leg habits, making the little contained wind in a circle of rocks, rolling out his winter fur, and pouring some Two-leg food into a metal pot. I rolled my eyes. Two-legs were like frantic bees. I’d sworn when I’d adopted this one I would teach him better, how to each grass and not bother with all his strangeities, but they were nearly impossible to train. And, if I were being honest, I’d grown rather fond of my Two-leg. He’d had a hard couple of days. Let him have his strange habits. Maybe they comforted him.
My Two-leg tied up Felicity and Oakly, but left me untied, as I always stayed close to protect my Two-leg. He was basically defenseless.
Tonight however, I snuck away when he wasn’t watching.
It didn’t take long for me to find the huckleberries, I had smelled them earlier when we’d passed by the thicket. Finding a particularly full branch and pulling it free was more difficult.
“Horse crap!” I snorted, wishing for my Two-leg’s two hands. Finally I managed to get one and I proudly carried it back to the camp.
But when I did, something smelled wrong.
A faint, but foul scent hung in the air. The scent of other Two-legs!
I dropped the branch, charging back towards camp, cursing myself for leaving my Two-leg alone and defenseless. Soon I heard Two-legs shouts, and a horse snort in fear. I pushed myself even faster. Finally I burst through the bushes, letting out my most terrifying scream and rearing back on my hind legs, front legs lashing through the air.
There were five of the ugliest Two-legs I’d ever seen. Two of them were circling my Two-leg, who held up his pointy bit of metal, while the other three were on horseback and trying to steal Felicity.
I charged forward, ready to trample the two who dared touch Felicity, when I felt a rope around my neck. I turned to the owner of the rope, enraged, ready to trample him, when I saw he was one of the ones on horseback. I reared up.
So they thought they could capture me?!
A second rope was flung forward, catching my back leg. I jerked forward, bucking and kicking, when I heard my Two-leg yell out, and turned my head as I fought the ropes. He needed me! No-one would hurt my Two-leg! In the split second I was distracted another rope snaked out to grab me, and then the ropes went taunt. My feet went out from under me and I smashed into the ground.
Part 5, A New Promise
It took all three horses to drag me away from my Two-leg. They’d left him alive, but bleeding and strung upside down. What is it with Two-legs and their bizarre ways; were they trying to turn him into a bat? I reared up, throwing my head and trying to escape, but each time I did, one on the Two-legs struck a whip against my back, the sharp crack followed by pain. I’d tried to trample the bearer of the whip, but with the three ropes I couldn’t reach him.
“Red, stop, please!” Felicity nickered, and I resentfully stopped my attempts to bite, kick or otherwise main the new Two-legs. I dragged my feet, baring my teeth every time one of them tried to approach me…. They were not my Two-leg….
But the further we walked the more I looked over my shoulder and worried for my Two-leg. Would he stay there until I came back for him? I loved him, but he never had been the smartest Two-leg, and heavens knows I’d never had much success in training him.
Finally we stopped for the night, and I hung my head in sorrow, not even excited when Felicity was tied right next to me.
“Are you alright, Red? What’s wrong?”
I held my head low in shame. “It’s my Two-leg…. I failed him. I wasn’t there for him when he needed me. And now he’s all alone, probably still hanging upside-down.”
Her soft nuzzle brushed my neck. “I’m sorry Red… but he was just a Two-leg.”
I froze at her dismissal and then raised my eyes to meet her. I could see she was taken aback by my sudden fire. “He wasn’t just a Two-leg. He was my Two-leg. I adopted him when he was just a foal. I promised to protect and carry him. And he had a name….. It was….Karen.” I’d never said the name before, but I was sure it was his. I’d heard the other cowboys use it when they called to him….. Or something like that.
“Well, I’m sorry that… that you lost your Two-leg. But we have new Two-legs now. Maybe you could adopt one of these new ones? The one that only has one eye seems kind of nice? I wouldn’t choose the one missing fingers though.”
I bared my teeth at the suggestion. Just let one of them try to climb on my back- I’d send him flying over the next mountain! “Never! It’s my Two-leg or no one. I’d rather become a mule!”
She laughed and then nuzzled me again. This time I let her. “Aww Red, you worry too much over your Two-leg. I worry it’ll get you in trouble someday.”
I shrugged, but I was secretly pleased by her words. Red the Hero Horse, Protector of all Two-legs, Majestic of Stature, Fast as the Seven Winds….I’d never be able to train Karen to say all that, but even so, right them and there I made a new promise to my Two-leg.
I would find him again. And whether it took my strength of my body, or the speed of my hooves, I would never fail him again.
Part 6, KAREN!
I spent the night side by side with Felicity, something I’d wanted to do for ages. Oakley was tethered on the other side of the meadow, and it served him right for not even trying to fight the Two-legs.
I drifted asleep when I suddenly woke to a low hooting noise.
Just an owl, I thought drowsily….. An owl I’d heard before…. An owl that sounded suspiciously like… Karen!
I jerked awake, surprising Felicity, as my ears swiveling, trying to pick up the noise in the darkness.
“Red, what is it?”
I ignored her, listening for the noise again, when I caught a movement from the darkness. The hoot came again, and I nickered softly in return.
Then I saw him- my Two-leg! I mean- Karen!
He slunk up to me, sliding across the ground, and I risked a glance sideways to see Felicity’s reaction. Geez, Karen, at least use your already limited limbs. And right after I’d talked him up so much in front of Felicity!
I pretended this was a trick I’d trained him to do until he made it up to me, and untied me. I could smell blood on him, but he seemed whole. Thank goodness for that, I wasn’t sure I could stand the shame of owning a One-Leg.
“Come on Red, quiet now, boy.”
I rolled my eyes. He was the one being nosy. Silly Two-leg.
He untied me, and then began to pull me away, when I stopped, and looked back at Felicity.
“Felicity!” I nickered, suddenly torn. My Two-leg wasn’t going to bring her… which meant, it was either Karen or Felicity…
“Red, come on boy!” He tugged on my rope, but then Felicity nickered to me.
“Go Red, he needs you.”
“It’s alright, Red. Go, he needs you more than I do.” She stretched out her neck, and kissed my cheek.
“I’ll never forget you,” I swore, taking in her long legs and beautiful mane one last time. There were shouts from the camp, and Karen swung onto my back, and we took off into the distance. I heard them yelling and trying to pursue us, but even if my heart ached a bit for Felicity, another part of me leapt with joy.
No one could catch Red.
We ran until my neck was lathered in sweat and Karen pulled me back to a walk.
“Good boy, Red,” He patted my neck. “Guess it’s just me and you now.”
I sighed. Guess so. But even if he was a bit dull, Felicity was right. He needed me. I puffed out a chest a bit, feeling just a tiny bit galant.
He needed me, and so I would be there for him, because that’s what a horse does.
So I continued on, carrying us both down the trail.
(Did you enjoy Red’s story? Please let me know below! 😀
Also, did you know I have another story I wrote for GE, The Silver Falcon? : The year 2099, and The Silver Falcon, the world’s fastest, most efficient form of transportation races through the countryside of India. A story about remembering and forgetting, follow one man’s journey through the past and to the end of the line. The only question is: will he make it in time?
Finally, I am trying to build my Twitter and Instagram profiles, so please don’t forget to follow me their for new updates…. and a few hints about my next big project coming soon… ;D
Thanks for reading!