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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

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BOOK: Cutting Horse
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“That’s not hard to believe,” Kate said. “I can sympathize. Ever since Dad signed the deal with the studio, we’ve all been working twice as hard as we usually do. The people from Hollywood don’t know anything about horses or ranch life. We practically have to hold their hands. And they keep getting in the way, and that makes it more difficult to get all the rest of our work done. John’s probably so tired he can’t see straight. We all are. Once we get a breather, John will snap back to normal.”

“I guess you’re right,” Lisa said. “I just hope he snaps back in the next week.”

Soon the horses were tacked up and ready to go. When the girls had first visited the ranch, it had been a challenge for them to get used to Western tack and the different riding style. But now they were confident in the horned saddles, and they really enjoyed the change from English riding.

One by one they led the horses from the barn into the beautiful, sunny day. Stevie inhaled loudly. “Even the air here is different,” she said.

“Yeah,” Kate said with a grin, “I hear it’s better for barbecuing.”

“Don’t tempt me like that!” Stevie wailed. “I’d give my right arm for an old-fashioned Western barbecue!”

“Well, you just might be able to keep the arm and still have a barbecue,” Kate said. “Dad’s planning to have a huge cookout for the staff one night this week to boost morale.”

“So I guess that means Stevie can have her barbecue and eat it too?” Lisa said.

Astride Berry, Carole spoke up. “Would you guys mind getting on your horses one of these days? Berry and I are raring to go.”

As if in agreement, Berry raised her head and neighed loudly. Close by, another horse answered. The girls turned and saw Kate’s old Appaloosa, Spot. Spot’s rider raised his hand and waved. It was Skye! “Got room on your ride for a real dude?” he called.

“W
OW, AM
I
GLAD
to see you guys,” Skye said. “I don’t think I’ve spoken with anyone other than the director, the people in makeup, and the camera crew for forty-eight hours.”

“So they’re keeping you pretty busy, huh?” Stevie said. Everyone knew that when Skye was shooting a movie, fifteen- and twenty-hour days were not uncommon.

“I’ll say! But I managed to get a couple of hours off this afternoon to practice on Spot here, so I figured I’d sneak over to the stables in case you all had arrived,” Skye replied.

“You mean you actually guessed that you’d find The Saddle Club with the horses?” Kate asked.

“I did have a hunch,” Skye said, flashing one of the grins that had made him a coast-to-coast heartthrob.

“It must be ESP,” Lisa said.

The girls couldn’t wait to hear what was new with Skye. But first they had to escape the distracting hubbub. They trotted to the trailhead and then slowed to a walk so that they could all hear one another.

“First of all, tell us about the movie,” Lisa urged. “As your official technical advisers, we should know the plot and all the details.”

Skye agreed happily. “Well, I guess you know by now that it’s a Western. The name of it is
Cowboy Come Home
. It’s a romance, too—about a young cowboy who rides a championship cutting horse. He falls in love with a city girl. I, um, play the cowboy.”

“Sounds like a great part,” Lisa responded. It was typical of Skye to downplay his success—like putting in an
um
before saying that he had the lead role.

“Yeah, I was really psyched when Frank found the part for me,” Skye agreed. Frank Nelson was Skye’s manager. He handled every part of Skye’s career, from contracts to salary negotiations to publicity.

“Ever since
City Cowboy
,” Skye continued, “I’ve been
trying to find another riding movie, but they don’t come along too often. I loved watching Westerns as a kid, so that makes this part even better.”

“I love Westerns, too,” said Stevie. “Nothing beats a good John Wayne double feature.”

“You’re right about that. I’ve been rewatching some of my old favorites to get in the right frame of mind for
Cowboy Come Home
, and man, is he a master,” Skye said reverently.

“So it sounds like everything is going well for you, Skye,” Carole said. “That’s great.” She steadied Berry so that she could listen to Skye’s response.

“Not so fast,” Skye replied. “I’m actually having my share of problems.”

“Even with the role of your dreams?” Stevie asked.

“That’s just it,” said Skye. “It
should
be the role of my dreams—especially in this setting. I love the idea of playing a real Western cowboy. Unfortunately, it’s the cowboy stuff that’s tripping me up.”

“What do you mean? Your riding has improved so much,” Carole said. She meant it, too. From the out-of-control beginner The Saddle Club had met, Skye had turned into a competent intermediate-level rider. He sat comfortably in the saddle, controlling Spot easily with his legs, seat, and hands.

“Thanks. I’ve worked on it out in L. A., and I feel more confident now,” said Skye. “But the thing is, in the movie I’m supposed to be an amazing rider—a champion. There are only a few scenes where I actually have to show my skills, but so far I haven’t been able to pull them off. There are a couple of herding and cutting scenes that aren’t working at all. I can’t keep control of the herd of cattle and my horse at the same time.”

The Saddle Club knew that cutting cattle was a specialized skill. The horse and rider had to isolate a cow in a very short time. Then they had to keep the cow from rejoining the herd. Successful cutting was an elegant exercise. In rodeo competitions, it was considered one of the most intellectual tests because the horse and the rider had to anticipate the cow’s moves.

“Could they use a stuntman?” Kate asked tentatively.

“They could,” Skye answered. “Actually, that’s just what the director wants to do. He keeps threatening me and saying he’s going to call in a double, and I keep pleading with him not to. I just can’t resign myself to the idea of having someone else do my riding scenes. It would be one thing if I had to leap from a burning building, but I
know
how to ride. I don’t want my fans to find out that Skye Ransom was too pathetic to do his own scenes on horseback.” Skye hesitated before he went on, more quietly,
“The truth is, my last movie was a flop. I can’t afford to have another. And doing my own riding might make the difference between a hit and a box-office failure.”

“So the director just thinks you’re not good enough yet?” Carole asked. She didn’t want Skye to start worrying about his career. First they had to find out whether they could help him.

“Yes, but only because I told him. Boy, was that ever stupid,” Skye said disgustedly. “That guy doesn’t know the first thing about horses. In fact, he’s half the problem. He keeps asking me to do all these things that are impossible—like making my horse stand absolutely still for five minutes so that they can get a good shot of a sunset.”

“If he can’t tell the difference, why don’t you tell him you
are
ready?” Stevie asked. She was never above a few white lies to get something she was after.

Skye let out a troubled sigh. “I can’t do that, either. The only thing more embarrassing to me than my fans’ finding out that I didn’t do my own riding would be for me to ride and look stupid. Some people won’t know, but the ones who do will think, ‘What a joke! That guy couldn’t pass for a cowboy in a million years.’ ”

“Right. Like those perfume commercials where you see models galloping along a beach. They’re always wearing the silliest dresses and practically falling off,” Carole commerited.
“I mean—not that you’re practically falling off—”

Skye put up a hand to stop Carole from explaining. “That’s exactly what I mean. This director wanted me to get my horse to rear up and paw the air every time I mounted.”

“Just like the Lone Ranger and Silver,” Stevie said, giggling.

“Tell me about it! And the only reason I wanted to do this movie was to get a chance to play a real cowboy. I never even thought about having a stuntman.…” Skye’s voice drifted off unhappily.

“Don’t worry, Skye. That’s why we’re here—to help you,” Lisa said.

“Right. And I’m sure we’ll be able to get your riding into shape for the movie in a week,” Carole predicted.

“That’s just it, though. We don’t
have
a week. We’re already behind schedule. The director wants to do the cutting scene on Wednesday in order to have time to do the other long shots before we fly back to L. A. on Saturday. That means I only have about three days to prepare,” Skye explained.

“One week, three days—no matter what, we’re going to get you ready,” Carole promised. “Just as fast as we can. We’ll start this afternoon, the minute you’re free.” She
didn’t believe Skye’s problems were as bad as he was making them sound. The movie that had flopped was probably unnerving him, that was all. It was like falling off at a horse show: Until a rider had proved herself again, at another show, she was haunted by the memory.

“Okay, Carole,” Skye said, but he didn’t sound convinced.

Lisa didn’t like the worried edge to his voice. The Saddle Club could at least try to cheer him up temporarily. “What do you say we have a nice canter up this hill before we turn around and go back?” she suggested.

“I don’t know about a canter,” Skye said, his smile slowly returning, “but I’d love a nice lope!”

Lisa laughed. She had forgotten for a minute that in Western riding the gaits were called walk, jog, and lope instead of walk, trot, and canter. Happy that Skye had been the one to correct her, she nudged Chocolate into the faster pace.

The horses covered ground quickly, and soon they were at the top of the gently rising hill. Even from the slight elevation, the Western scenery was breathtaking. The prairie rolled on for miles, fading into the desert greens and browns—with the Rockies beyond. After silently taking in the beauty of the landscape, the five riders reluctantly turned around and headed back.

At the Bar None, the girls volunteered to untack Spot and put him away so that Skye wouldn’t be late for the filming.

“Thanks a bunch, you guys,” Skye said, dismounting neatly. “The last thing I need is for the director to think I’m slacking off.” He handed his reins to Carole and turned to go, but Stevie’s voice stopped him.

“Hey, wait!” she called. “You never told us how the movie ends!”

Skye winced. “I was afraid you’d ask me that. Okay: The cowboy gives up riding the range for the girl he loves.”

All four girls groaned in unison. “Oh, no—really, Skye?” Carole asked.

Skye nodded. “I’m afraid so.”

“But that’s terrible!” Stevie protested.

“I know, I know—but hey, that’s Hollywood!” Skye said.

A
FTER PUTTING THE
horses away and fixing themselves a late-afternoon snack in Kate’s kitchen, the girls decided to walk over and check out the filming. Kate led them to a large roped-off area near one of the outer corrals. It was very crowded close to the set. Dozens of people were milling
around. Kate threaded through the rows of onlookers until she reached the barrier rope.

“I don’t know where the break in this rope is, but I see some chairs that look like they were set up for viewing,” Kate said, pointing.

“Let’s just duck under the rope, then,” Stevie suggested, slipping underneath it as she spoke. Kate and Carole followed. Lisa was about to join them when a harsh voice coming over a bullhorn commanded, “Stop right where you are!”

Lisa had barely straightened up before a uniformed security guard was breathing down her neck. “What do you girls think you’re doing?” he demanded. “This is a private filming session. Can’t you read?” He pointed to the
NO TRESPASSING
signs hung at intervals all along the rope.

Shocked, Lisa looked to Kate for help.

Her blue eyes flashing, Kate drew herself up to her full height. “I am Kate Devine,” she said.

“Kate who?” the guard asked.

“Kate Devine. The daughter of Frank and Phyllis Devine. We
own
the ranch.”

The guard eyed her suspiciously. “All right,” he said. “I guess you can watch. But I don’t know about your friends.”

“These aren’t simply my friends,” Kate informed him icily. “These are three personal friends of Skye Ransom, not to mention his technical advisers for the movie.”

By now the guard looked a little nervous. “Really?”

“Really,” Kate said flatly.

“Well, how come you weren’t here an hour ago?” the guard asked.

“Because we were looking after Mr. Ransom’s practice mount, of course,” Stevie said in the coldest tone she could muster.

The guard shook his head. “All right, I give up. Go ahead in.”

On their way to the seating area, Lisa, Stevie, and Carole laughed the incident off. But Kate was still upset.

“We did look like we were sneaking in,” Stevie pointed out. “In fact, this may be the most wrong I’ve ever looked when I was right.”

“I guess so,” Kate said, “but I’m sick of being ordered around on my own property.”

The seating area was a platform raised on scaffolding at one side of the set. A number of older people were watching. The girls climbed the steps and found a group of empty folding chairs near the back. As soon as they were seated, someone yelled, “Quiet on the set!” and then,
“Roll film!” The Saddle Club leaned forward in their seats to watch the action begin.

BOOK: Cutting Horse
10.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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