Preacher: part 8

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CAROL DUERKSEN & MAYNARD KNEPP
?Why?s Merv so interested in Preacher and Patsy?? Fred wondered.



?He saw him when he stopped at our place last month,? Jonas said. ?And

now that he knows who the sire is?well, I think Merv?s hoping to get a

race horse out of the deal.?



?What are you going to do??



?I don?t know. What would you do??



Fred grunted as he tightened a nut on the drill. ?Put a pretty price

on ?em. If Merv?s willing to pay it, sell ?em.?



?I?m not sure Merv will pay a lot, and I?m not sure I want to sell

them. Especially Preacher. The kids are really attached to him.?



?The kids?? Fred laughed. ?But not you??



?Yeah, I like him. I think he could become a good buggy horse.

Lightning?s getting older, and I need to be thinking about a

replacement sometime down the road.?



?He?s a thoroughbred, Jonas. They don?t make buggy horses. They don?t

pace, and they?re high-strung. Best thing you can hope for out of him

is a fast riding horse.?



?Maybe you?re right. But? I?d still like to try.?



?How old is he?? Fred asked.



?A year.?



?It?s time you get him cut.?



?I know.?



?Well, it?s up to you, what you do. Me, I like horses, but they have

to earn their keep.? Fred stood up and wiped the back of his greasy

hand across his forehead. ?Let?s go in and have some tea. And I need

to see those grandkids of mine.?



Later that night, after the girls were in bed, Jonas and Sue Ann sat

in the dark on the front porch. Sue Ann was nursing and rocking E.J.

to sleep, and Jonas sat in the porch swing he?d made for Sue Ann for

their fifth anniversary.



?I?m sorry if I hurt your feelings when I said you make everything

complicated,? Sue Ann said quietly from the rocking chair. ?I know

this horse thing is a big deal for you. Did you get any advice from

your dad??



?You didn?t hurt my feelings,? Jonas responded. ?I know I do that. Dad

had a simple answer?put a high price on the horses and sell them if

Merv?s willing to pay.?



?But that isn?t a good solution,? Sue Ann?s voice reflected a

statement rather than a question. She knew Jonas well.



?If we sell Preacher, we have to start all over with a colt,? Jonas

said. ?He?s a good horse. Why should I sell him? And Patsy, she?s a

good brood mare. We?ll want more colts in the future. Why sell her??



?Then keep them.?



?I will,? Jonas said firmly. ?But I think I?ll send them to Indiana.

Can?t hurt to breed Patsy to the same stallion?we can always sell that

colt. And if Merv wants to break Preacher for us, that?s fine. We?ll

get him back, and hopefully we?ll have a great riding and driving

horse.?



?Have fun telling the kids.?



?I?ve thought about that. I think we should get them a pony they can

ride. It?ll help take their minds off Preacher, and give them

something more their size to learn on. Marie and Ben and Becca are

just the right ages to start with a Shetland pony.?



* * *



Jonas left by 5:00 a.m. the next morning, like he always did, to go to

work at the Schmidt dairy. He?d been employed there for 12 years?ever

since he turned 16. Working for the Schmidts had its perks. For one

thing, Jonas really enjoyed his job, and Harlan had put him in charge

of the whole dairy herd. Being able to drive their pickup to and from

work was another advantage. And having access to a phone came in real

handy sometimes.



Like this morning. As soon as the milking was done, Jonas used his

credit card to call Merv in Indiana. He told Merv he wasn?t ready to

sell either of the horses, but he?d be willing to let Merv borrow

Preacher until he was well broke, and he could also take Patsy back to

be bred to Legacy. Merv said he?d leave later that day and be at

Jonas?s place the next morning.



The next morning, a Saturday, was Jonas?s weekend off, so he didn?t

have to worry about missing work to meet Merv. He was concerned about

one thing, though, and that was loading Preacher in a horse trailer.

He?d never been in a trailer before, and Jonas knew from experience

how difficult it could be to get a horse in a trailer for the first

time. The only factor that might help a little bit was that Patsy

would be in there too.



Jonas had explained to Becca at the breakfast table that he?d decided

to let Preacher go to Indiana, but that he wasn?t selling him. He?d

also promised her a Shetland pony ?real soon? that she could ride, and

she seemed appeased. She insisted on watching them load the horses,

however, and saying good-bye to Preacher.



Jonas caught Patsy, attached a lead rope to her halter, and led her

into the trailer with barely a change in her stride. She?d done this

many times before.



Preacher followed Jonas dutifully until Jonas stepped into the

trailer and expected Preacher to go in as well. He?d never seen

anything like that contraption before, much less been asked to go into

it. No way. Huh-uh. He tried to back up while Jonas, equally

determined, held on tightly to the lead rope. Jonas quickly looped the

rope around part of the trailer for leverage and to help him hold the

strong yearling. Preacher?s neck was stretched tight, his halter and

rope taut. His agonized breathing came in shallow gasps, and his eyes

rolled back in fear.



?Daddy!? Becca cried from where she stood, watching. ?You?re hurting

Preacher!?



?Stay back, Becca!? Jonas ordered from inside the trailer. ?Maybe you

should go back to the house.?



Becca didn?t leave, but neither did she say anything more. She knew

she?d better keep quiet if she wanted to stay and watch. And she did,

as much as it hurt to see what was happening.



?Come on, Preacher, it?s okay,? Jonas encouraged. ?Come on, big guy.

Patsy?s in here. You can do it.?



Preacher leaned forward just enough to ease the tension on his

halter. He stood at the trailer entrance, breathing hard, regarding

Jonas.



?Here?s some grain, Preacher. Come on,? Jonas continued in a low

soothing voice. He shook a can of grain just out of Preacher?s reach.



Preacher knew grain, and he loved it. He stretched his neck into the

trailer, his lips begging for the treat. But his feet remained firmly

on the ground.



?Merv!? Jonas called. ?Come try lifting his front feet in.?



Under normal conditions, Jonas could do anything with Preacher?s feet.

He?d been lifting them since the day he was born. But these weren?t

normal conditions, at least not as far as Preacher was concerned.



Merv slipped beside Preacher, keeping an eye on the horse?s ears and

body language. A horse in this position could throw himself down, lash

out with his feet, kick?anything. A person couldn?t be too careful.



?Let?s go, Preacher,? Merv said, reaching down to pick up the right

front leg standing in front of the trailer. He lifted it the 12 inches

up to the trailer floor and set it down.



Now Preacher felt very unbalanced, and he didn?t like it. Just as he

started to pull back again, Jonas tightened the rope a little more.

Once again, Preacher pulled back with 800 pounds of determination.

Suddenly, without warning, the rope shredded, and Preacher crashed on

his back legs with a thud. He recovered in an instant and whirled

around, wild-eyed and ready to run.



Jonas was out of the trailer in a second?talking, calling, assuring

the frightened horse. He worked his way up to Preacher and reached for

his halter.



?Get two more lead ropes out of the shed,? he told Merv. ?Strong

ones!?



Jonas hooked one of the ropes to Preacher?s halter again, the other

one he tied to the end gate of the trailer.



?We?ll encourage him from the back,? he said, and Merv nodded

knowingly. He?d been through this before too.



It took a lot of time and patience to get Preacher to the position

he?d been in before the rope tore, but finally he was standing with

one front foot in the trailer. Merv slipped around to the other side.

Leaning heavily on the horse, he lifted the other unwilling foot up,

then backed away quickly and grabbed the rope tied to the end gate. He

slowly pulled the gate toward him until it bumped Preacher?s

hindquarters. Preacher jumped. Jonas pulled quickly. Merv pulled the

gate closer. With one lunge, Preacher stood in the trailer, trembling.

Merv latched the door while Jonas quickly tied Preacher, then he

escaped through a small side door.



Jonas wiped the sweat from his brow and grinned at Merv. ?Maybe part

of his training at your place can include trailer loading.?



?Yeah, there?ll be an extra charge for that,? he chuckled. ?But we

sure can do it.?



?Speaking of extra charges, I was wondering if you?d want to get a vet

out and have him gelded while he?s there,? Jonas said. ?I was going to

do that this summer, and I don?t really want to wait till he gets

back.?



?Sure you don?t want to keep him a stallion?? Merv wondered.



?I don?t know why. I don?t need a stallion. And I sure don?t need a

horse acting studly around here?they?re too dangerous.?



?OK, we?ll see what we can do,? Merv answered. He didn?t sound very

convinced, Jonas thought. But maybe it was just his imagination.



?I?ll bring Patsy back when we know she?s bred,? Merv said. ?I?d

better hit the road now. We?ve got a long trip ahead.?



Becca walked slowly up to the trailer and stared at what she could

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