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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

Cutting Horse (9 page)

BOOK: Cutting Horse
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“Guilty as charged,” Kate said happily. “Christine’s bunking with us tonight.”

“We’re glad you could make it,” Lisa said. She scooted closer to Carole to make room for Christine. Christine plunked down on the floor.

“Actually, your showing up is the best thing that’s happened all day,” Carole said.

Taking turns, the girls filled Christine in on the events of the past few days.

“Boy, I heard Hollywood was ruthless, but it sounds like the director has really gone too far, telling Skye he can’t ride,” Christine remarked. “What are you going to do to stop him?”

“We don’t know,” Lisa admitted. “That’s the problem.”

“We
didn’t
know, you mean,” Stevie corrected her.

“If you don’t tell us your idea within five minutes …” Carole threatened.

“Okay, okay. But it’s not really
my
idea,” Stevie said.

“Then whose is it?” Kate asked.

“The stuntman’s! Skye’s double,” Stevie replied. “You saw him watching today, right?”

“Did I ever! As soon as Skye noticed him, he forgot
how to ride,” said Carole. As she had predicted, Skye had been very unsettled by the stuntman’s presence. He had tried to act confident, but he hadn’t been able to remember a thing.

“Before you all get more annoyed at him, allow me to relay a comment he made this afternoon,” Stevie said. “I told him how awful Prize is and I asked him why he wasn’t more worried about having to ride him. He said, ‘If Skye Ransom can have a double, I think it’s safe to assume that Skye Ransom’s horse can, too’!”

Stevie should have been used to the long silences that always seemed to greet her amazing news. But she wasn’t expecting The Saddle Club’s reaction to be quite so listless. Nobody said a word. “Did you hear what I said? A
double
for Skye’s
horse
?”

A little timidly, Lisa spoke up. “I know what you’re getting at, Stevie, but the thing is, even if Prize could have a double, Stewball could never be it. I hate to say it, but even at a distance, a pinto looks totally different from a chestnut.”

“Yes, I think even Blake Pratt, Director, would notice that difference,” Carole added.

The group murmured their assent. Stevie rolled her eyes in exasperation. “I
know
that, but how hard can it be to disguise Stewball? This is Hollywood, remember? Anything
goes. All we have to do is figure out a way to dye his white patches. How hard can that be? Then we have Skye demand to ride tomorrow afternoon with the promise that he can be subbed out the minute he messes up. It’ll go like clockwork!”

Lisa clapped her hands and looked sharply at Stevie. “You know, I think you’ve got something,” she said. “It could work, if we can find a way to get rid of those white spots.…”

Lisa’s enthusiasm was all that was needed to convince everyone else that Stevie’s plan was worth pursuing. Christine, Kate, and finally Carole chimed in, and they began to brainstorm wildly.

“How about Easter-egg dye?” Kate threw out.

“We’d have to buy about five thousand decorating kits,” Lisa pointed out. “And it might not be safe.”

“What about tomato juice?” asked Stevie.

“Gross!” everyone yelled.

“Magic Marker?” Lisa joked.

The suggestions got sillier and sillier until Christine suddenly got a faraway look in her eye.

“Uh, Christine?” Carole said.

Christine refocused her attention on the group. “A long time ago, the members of my tribe were experts at
making paints and dyes from natural materials—plants, flowers, bark, clay. They used the dyes to color all kinds of fabrics, and the men used to paint their faces and bodies for celebrations and war. I read about it in a library book, too. Dyeing was common in many tribes. It was part of the artistic culture, too. I wonder if they ever dyed horses.…”

“How did people learn how to make the dyes?” Lisa asked breathlessly.

“The skill was passed on from generation to generation so that it would never be lost.”

“Really? That sounds perfect!” Stevie said. “It’s at least worth a try. You’ll teach us, right?”

Christine looked startled. “Oh, no, I’m sorry. I don’t know the first thing about that stuff.”

“What about your parents? Do they know?” Lisa asked hopefully.

Christine shook her head. “They don’t know any more than I do. My mom makes glaze for her pots, but it’s not the same thing. No—the only person who might know how to make the dyes is John. His grandmother taught him when he was little.”

As one, the girls all turned and looked at Lisa. “But I can’t ask him!” Lisa protested. “I can’t! He’s just gotten to
the point where he doesn’t hate Skye and he’ll talk to me again, and now I’m supposed to ask him to dye a horse for Hollywood so that Skye gets good reviews?”

“But Skye’s whole career could be on the line,” said Carole.

Stevie sat forward a little and murmured, “Just picture it: Skye rides in on Stewball, disguised as Sir Prize. The scene goes perfectly. The director stands up: ‘It’s a take!’ ”

Lisa let out a long breath. She looked from Stevie to Carole to Kate and then to Christine, who looked puzzled. Briefly she told Christine about John’s general dislike of the movie people, his run-ins with the director, and his suspicion that Skye was like all the rest of them.

“I can’t say I blame him,” Christine said. After a minute she added, “You know, up until a few years ago, most Westerns were very unfair to American Indians. Things have changed now, but it took a long time for Hollywood to come around and realize that there’s more to our tribes than scalping, raiding, and pillaging. We were always portrayed as the bad guys. John may have that in his mind, too.

“And don’t forget, he’s also an animal lover,” Christine continued. “Many of the so-called classic Westerns were abusive to horses. They used running wires to trip the horses as they were galloping so that their falls would look
realistic. They jumped down from second-story porches onto the horses’ backs, and they rode very roughly. I don’t know if John has thought about all this stuff, but it wouldn’t surprise me.”

Christine’s points were important, and the girls considered them seriously. Whether or not the history of Westerns had upset John, they were glad that Christine had brought up the subject. It had made them think.

“Would it be wrong of us to ask John to dye Stewball?” Lisa asked. Beside her, Stevie giggled. Somehow Lisa’s putting the question into words made it sound comical. In a minute they were all chuckling. After the seriousness of what Christine had said, it was a relief to laugh.

“No, of course not,” Christine said kindly. “You can ask him, and he can always say no. It’s not as if he’d be selling out by helping you. You’re his friends, and
Cowboy, Come Home
sounds like a harmless movie.”

Lisa felt reassured by Christine’s words. Maybe John would be happy to be in the thick of things, to be a crucial member of the team. Besides, John knew his own mind. He wouldn’t agree to do something that went against his conscience. Or would he? If she were the one to ask him? But the whole point was that she
had
to be the one to ask him because she had the best chance of getting him to say yes. It was too late to wonder about it now.

Stevie had taken Lisa’s silence for a yes. She had gotten Lisa’s bathrobe down off its hook in preparation for a repeat of her evening stable conference with John the night before. “Remember, Lis’, there’s no time like the present,” Stevie said.

“I can’t promise anything,” Lisa warned them, sticking her arms through the sleeves.

L
ISA HAD AN
odd sense of déjà vu as she headed out to the barn. Once again she had to talk to John. And once again the subject wasn’t one that she was eager to bring up. She had been so pleased that John was beginning to be his old self again. She didn’t want to wreck it by asking him for too much too soon. For all Lisa knew, she could set off another angry tirade about Hollywood. But she couldn’t let her friends down, especially not Skye. She had been involved from the beginning: She was the one who had suggested the Bar None in the first place. It wouldn’t be her fault if it didn’t work out—if Skye didn’t get to ride—but she still owed it to him to try to help.

After nosing around the barn for a few minutes, Lisa found John in Tex’s stall. He was putting the chestnut gelding away after grooming him. “We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” John said kiddingly when he saw her.

“I know,” said Lisa. “I’m beginning to feel as if we’re in cahoots and we’re planning some dangerous scheme.”
Actually
, Lisa thought,
that’s not so far from the truth!
“Wow, Tex looks great,” she added. “How was your ride this afternoon?”

“I didn’t get to go,” John said. “I came back to saddle up Tex, and instead I had to saddle up twelve other horses for the Hollywood spouses’ trail ride.”

“Oh, no! I’m sorry, John. That’s disappointing,” said Lisa.

“It’s okay,” John replied. “They’ll all be gone soon and then I can get back to working with this guy.” He gave Tex a pat on his glossy neck. “Actually, it was kind of funny.
They
were kind of funny, I should say—the spouses, I mean. We had seven wives, four husbands, and one mother, and not one of them had been near a horse before. It took an hour just to get them mounted. Thankfully, one of the other hands led the trail ride.”

Lisa and John chatted for a while longer, and Lisa found herself avoiding the subject she’d come to discuss. But it was getting late, and the others would be dying to know the outcome of her mission. She
had
to say something. Finally, in a long, roundabout manner, after talking about everything else under the sun, she mentioned
Stevie’s plan to disguise Stewball. Offhandedly she added, “I hear that many of the American Indian tribes used to have experts who knew about dyeing.”

“That’s true. My grandmother used to make dyes for blankets, pots—lots of things,” John said.

“John,” Lisa said in a rush, “do you think they ever dyed horses? Would
you
know how to dye a horse? Or at least dye his white parts?” With her request out in the open, Lisa could only wait for John’s reaction.

He thought for a minute. “In answer to your questions: I don’t know if they dyed horses, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had; and yes, I know how I’d dye a horse. It’s easy. You just—”

“No! Don’t tell me! I don’t want to know. You don’t have to give any kind of tribal secrets away. That would be wrong,” Lisa insisted.

“But it’s no big se—”

“You might not mind telling now, but you’d regret it later. What I was hoping was that you could do the dyeing yourself,” Lisa said, her fingers crossed.

“Sure,” said John. “I could do that, but it’s not a—”

“You could? I mean, you will! I mean, would you?” Lisa cried, getting flustered.

“Why not? I’m on the technical team, aren’t I? Although
I guess this would come under makeup, wouldn’t it?” John joked.

Without stopping to think, Lisa gave him a huge hug. “Thank you so much, John! You’ve saved the day!”

John hugged her back. When they separated, he reminded her, “Hey, I haven’t done anything yet. When do you want him dyed?”

Lisa thought fast. “Let’s see … the shoot is at three o’clock in the afternoon, so I guess tomorrow morning. Unless you need more time to collect the plants and berries and things.”

“No, I don’t need more time. Tomorrow morning’s fine. How about nine o’clock?” John said.

“Great! We’ll meet you here?”

“I’ll see you at nine o’clock,” John promised.

T
HE NEXT MORNING
Stevie, Carole, and Lisa raced through breakfast at lightning speed. All three of them had the jitters. They had been so excited when Lisa told them the good news about John that none of them had been able to get to sleep until the middle of the night.

“If Christine hadn’t come and told us about John, what would we have done?” Carole asked, gulping her orange juice.

“And what if Kate hadn’t called Christine? We never would have come up with the plan,” Lisa said.

“What if the stuntman hadn’t come to watch Skye ride?” Stevie asked.

“And what if we’d never met Skye in Central Park? And what if I’d never decided to take riding lessons and never met you?” Lisa asked, cracking up.

The whole morning they’d been having silly conversations like this one, out of sheer nerves. None of them could quite believe that everything was going to go according to schedule—that John was really going to dye Stewball, that the director would be fooled, and that Stewball was going to perform as perfectly as he had in the lessons.

After breakfast, Lisa went to Skye’s trailer and told him the plan. “It’s brilliant!” Skye exclaimed. “You guys are amazing! So all I have to do is show up to ride?” he asked.

“And convince the director to
let
you ride,” Stevie answered.

“No problem—he won’t deny me one final chance. Not even Blake Pratt would do that!”

A
T NINE O

CLOCK
sharp the girls reported to the stable. “I thought a couple of us could take a nice little trail ride,” John said meaningfully.

BOOK: Cutting Horse
2.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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