by Laura Hesse
The golden palomino standing before her with soft brown eyes and a silver mane and tail was drop dead gorgeous… and much too young to be that pregnant! What was a filly like her doing at a slaughter house auction? Would her father let Linda take her home? Times were hard. Could they afford the vet bills for the filly and her unborn foal? There were bound to be many. Find the answer to these questions in this amazing Hallmark style story about love at first sight and the girl who just wouldn’t give up on the filly called Easter, especially when Mother Nature enters into the fray. Inspired by a true story.
“Dad,” Linda McCloud asked casually from across the kitchen table, a spoonful of Cheerios in one hand, the bowl on the table in front of her more cereal than milk.
“Yes, Sweet Pea,” Tom McCloud replied. He sighed heavily and put down the Financial Post, a dispirited look on his face. Beef prices were still low and showed no sign of getting any better. He folded the paper an extra two times and tossed it in the recycle box by the door: out of sight, out of mind!
“Can I come to the auction with you and Ross today?” his daughter beamed sweetly.
Tom looked up and grinned, his spirits lifting at the sight of the sparkling blue eyes and the earnest face that greeted him. Linda was the image of her mother: blue-grey eyes, shoulder length dirty blond hair and a full moon face. She was the picture of innocence, however cheeky her motive. His heart swelled with pride whenever he looked at her. His daughter never ceased to amaze him and he wasn’t surprised by her question. Tom tried to keep his face stern and sober. He already knew why she wanted to come today, but didn’t let on.
“You don’t think that you’d be bored? Cattle auctions, these days, aren’t much fun,” he said, lifting a mug to his lips. He gulped down the last of the strong coffee and placed the “World’s Greatest Dad” mug down on the table. It had been a Christmas present from his son and daughter a couple of years ago; it was his favorite cup.
“I won’t get in your way. I promise. I’d just like to go, that’s all,” she finished. “You’ve never taken me before and I want to see the bulls. I think it’d be neat!”
“Well, I guess we can spare the seat-space. What do you think, Ross?”
Ross looked up from his bacon and eggs. He stuffed a piece of toast into an egg yolk and squished it all around. “S’okay with me,” he said, then stuffed the dripping toast into his mouth.
Linda grinned. She knew she could rely on her big brother for support. He was four years older than she was and always looked after her. They didn’t fight much because Ross was either too busy or not at home. When he wasn’t doing his own farm chores, he was helping his girlfriend, Jenny Weatherspoon, at the Running L Riding Academy with hers.
Tom pushed his chair away from the table and stood up. “Well, you kids finish your breakfast while I hook up the stock trailer. I don’t know if we’ll come home with anything. This isn’t the best time to be looking at buying a new bull, but you never know, do you, Sweet Pea?”
“Nope, you never know,” Linda agreed.
Her father chuckled, grabbed his coat from the coat hook by the kitchen door and headed outside. A cold blast of air swept through the kitchen in his wake, ruffling Linda’s hair.
“That was smooth, Lindy,” Ross mouthed through a mouthful of eggs. “Does this have anything to do with Albert’s telling you that there’s going to be a horse sale too?”
Linda shrugged and gobbled down the last of her Cheerios.
Ross laughed. He shook his head and pushed away from the table. “I suppose it’s time that we retired old Sally. You’re getting too big for her anyway.” He added amiably, “That mare’s got to be 35 by now.” “You won’t tell Dad, will you?” Linda looked up.
Ross chuckled. “No. If you see anything that you like, come get me and I’ll have a quick look. If I like what I see, I’ll go and fetch Dad,” Ross nodded. “If there’s nothin’ at the auction, then I’ll talk to Jenny. There might be some horses for sale at the Running L.”
“Thanks, bro,” she said.
Ross slipped on his jacket and threw Linda’s cardigan at her. She dived across the table and snatched it out of the air before it landed across Ross’ dirty plate.
“Rossss,” she moaned.
Ross burst out laughing as he pulled open the door. He looked outside, and then turned to Linda.
“Come on. Dad’s waiting,” he said, leaving the door ajar behind him.
Linda quickly tugged on the sweater and her gumboots. She could feel the cold and clammy rubber right through her woolen socks. Linda skipped through the doorway and let the wind slam the door shut behind her. Her mother and Waffles, the new family dog, were shopping in town so there was no one to yell or to bark at her for it. Waffles couldn’t be left alone yet or he would eat his way through furniture, doors, socks, pillows; basically, whatever was of interest at the time.
Linda jumped into the truck and sat sandwiched between her father and her brother on the front seat of her father’s Ford F350. They turned left on the highway and headed for Cold River. From there, they would go north on County Road No. Ten until they reached Knob Hill. The largest auction house in the district was in Knob Hill as well as three slaughterhouses. Linda didn’t like to think about the slaughterhouses. She knew many of her favorite cows ended up there. Her family was ranchers; that was just the way it was.
She stared vacantly out of the truck’s windows watching the myriad of farms roll by. The rumbling hum of the Ford’s big diesel engine filled her ears. The men didn’t talk much so she contented herself by playing ‘eye-spy’ inside her head. Eye-spy something that is blue, she thought to herself.
A blue sign appeared in the distance. It said a campsite and a boat launch were coming up: Take Exit 53.
Linda watched Exit 53 pass them by.
She sighed, giving up on the game. It wasn’t much fun to play alone anyway so she turned her thoughts to the auction and prayed that she would find a horse that she liked there. She loved Sal, her Norwegian Fjord mare, but Sal was just a pony...and a fat pony, to boot! Linda was eleven now and really wanted a chance at winning the barrel races at the next Harvest Feast. That gave her almost eight months to find a new horse and to train it.
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