In HOME TO HAWK RIDGE, Steve Rider is a teamster. He's a logger and uses a team of horses to harvest trees. This is big business in some parts of the country. It's a low impact alternative to clear cutting. We used a team when we just wanted a few big trees removed from our property, but didn't want someone to come in and chew up the forest with a big machine.
In my story, Steve's favorite mare is a Percheron. Beautiful Beth is a shining black beauty. Percherons are a draft breed, like the more familiar Clydesdales and Belgians. They are also called plow horses, but that term conjures up an unfair clumsy image. Does the horse in the photo look clumsy to you? But they certainly are work horses. I'm amazed by their strength and willingness to cooperate with insignificant fleas like us.
Steve handles his team with the ease of an eight-year-old girl handling her bicycle. He's done it all his life. He knows horses and he knows trees. In my story, he's about to get to know a bit of magic.
Here's an excerpt:
Steve fried up a logger’s breakfast, with eggs and sausage and pancakes from a mix. Just add water and fry them up. He’d spend the day at the farm with Beth. Beautiful Beth. The first Percheron his dad ever bought and she remained the only one. She was moody and cross, with a slick black coat that glistened when she sweated. But Beautiful Beth could snake a log out of thick woods like no horse Steve or Ben Rider had ever seen. She was worth the trouble.
She wouldn’t stand for a shoeing worth a darn. A leaner. She’d lift her massive hoof just fine and balance her eighteen hundred pounds on three legs. But within a few minutes, as Steve scraped and carved the hoof, she’d start to lean into him. Stooped over, with a fifty-pound hoof in his hands, her mass pushing against him just about did him in.
Still, she was an awesome horse and he was damn fond of her. He just knew it would be nightfall before he’d be done with her feet. He looked out the kitchen window at the dreary morning and sighed. A familiar sadness dribbled in rivers down the glass and over his heart. He missed his dad.
On his drive out of town, he thought about Kat. Her long blonde hair caught every ray of light as she stood up on the wall. When he lifted her down, her feather-light frame seemed to drift to the earth. When he kissed her he felt a spark. Not metaphorically, but a real damn electric zing. She invited him back to her place. Why the hell didn’t he go? His social calendar wasn’t exactly jam-packed with mystical god-desses rappelling from the clouds. It wasn’t jam-packed with anything but horses. Have you ever danced naked with the moon-light warming your skin? Her words echoed…
Wait a minute. Dancing.
Sure. Kat had invited him to dance in the moonlight. That detail had eluded him, and there it was. He tittered to himself and reached to the dash for his can of Copenhagen. Last night he must have had one foot in a dream, one foot in a memory—and the image of those seductive blonde curls swirling around her naked body.
Whew. He was still a healthy American twenty six-year-old with horny fantasies about beautiful girls. Not some ballroom dancing candy ass. Mmm. Dancing naked with Kat… Just the thought brought his unit to attention. That’s better.
So, why did he leave her? He couldn’t explain it, and hoped he’d be invited again. Maybe he could ask her out on a date. He suddenly realized he had no way of contacting her. Hadn’t even bothered to get her last name. He knew a nice pair of tits when he saw them but was pretty sure those weren’t listed in the phone book.
When he arrived at the farm, he huffed open the large panel door of the barn and caught the pungent smell of horse pee. His herd presently numbered four. Two muscular Bel-gians, a good-natured Clydesdale, and Beth. A smart-ass tom-cat supervised the crew.
“Good morning, Sweetness.” Steve reached into the cob-web-covered cubicle where laying hens were supposed to roost. The burly orange cat stretched and accepted the plea-suring behind his ears. “Did you lay me an egg?”
True to his name, Sweetness bit his thumb. Steve moved on to bigger things. The horses poked their noses from the stalls to welcome him. He gave each one a caress along the blaze. Except Beautiful Beth. She had no blaze, but accepted the affection with dignified haughtiness along her sleek, black snout.
“You in a good mood today, Beth? Huh?” Steve pulled a treat from his pocket and slipped it into her mouth. Keep her happy.
He opened the back door of the barn and let the other thundering hooves out to kick off steam in the pasture. To Beth, he offered another treat. He grabbed her halter and slipped it over her head, noticing the fleecy covering on the rub spots. His dad had taken special care with Beth’s equip-ment in an effort to placate her grumpy moods. Steve laughed. It might take more than fleece. He slung the nylon lead rope under her chin and through the ring to fasten it. Then, with the obvious clippity-clop of three horse shoes and one bare hoof on cement, he escorted her down the alleyway and out into the yard. The slate gray October morning snuffed any chance the sun had to warm the air. He cross-tied Beth and began to curry her coat. More shameless buttering up.
As a light mist moistened his face, he pulled his farrier stool into position and examined the horseshoe he’d selected for Beth. Damn that was a big hoof, even for a draft horse. With a heavy sigh, Steve went to work. Beth’s good will could wear off at any moment.