“How is that going to help us?” Aunt Cathy sat down in the lazy boy and focused all her attention on Skyler. “That horse is nearly skin and bones.”
“He’s not as bad as the other horses. We could nurture him back to health.” Skyler held the laptop on her lap, still sitting on the couch.
“The vet bills and the time and training that would go into it. I don’t know sis, it’s a long shot.” Ty slid his hands in his pockets and shifted his feet.
“But we could do it. Four years ago, he was the best at his game. He won every race, except for one: his last one.”
Someone honked a horn outside and all three of them looked out the window. A red dodge diesel drove onto the yard; obviously in a big hurry. Ty stood up straight and said, “I have to go. We’ll talk about this later.”
“He says, “We’ll talk about this later” but when is that,” Skyler said after Ty walked out the door. She placed the laptop on the coffee table and leaned back against the couch. She lifted her head to the ceiling, while twiddling her thumbs.
“Find out why this owner would want to abandon a prize race horse. Get all your research, then talk to your brother again.” Aunt Cathy sat up in the lazy boy and placed her hand on Skyler’s knee. “Always have all the information before a presentation.” Aunt Cathy winked at Skyler and walked into the kitchen.
Skyler smiled to herself, then stood up, ready to do her chores. After that, she would find out everything she could about this mysterious race horse.
Skyler knocked twice, then stepped back, waiting for the door to open. Three trash bags sat beside the door, and from what Skyler could see, they were half filled with beer boxes. The man loves Budweiser. Every football season people gathered around their TV and supported their team, while drinking their favorite beer. She suspected that’s where all the alcohol came from. She was not a fan of football or beer—of course, she wasn’t legally allowed to like beer. But even if she was legally allowed, she knew she wouldn’t like it.
Still no one opened the door, so Skyler knocked again. An old sofa stood in front of the window by the door. The thought of sitting on the sofa disgusted Skyler. Mice were most likely living in it and kittens had most likely been born on it. Out of curiosity, Skyler leaned sideways to smell the couch, but quickly drew back. Judging by the smell, a skunk had sprayed on it, or a dozen mice had died in it.
Skyler folded her arms across her stomach, hugging herself. Five crushed pickups were parked around the run-down garage; cats napped on the side walk, while a gentle breeze rustled through the leaves. Skyler stepped forward and pounded on the door. When no one answered, she peaked inside the storm door. She placed her hand on the nob and felt it turn. She glanced down at her hand, removing her hand from the nap, still the nob turned. Skyler backed up, thinking about running. Then the door swung open and a middle-aged man stepped outside. From the looks of it, he’d been sleeping.
“What do you want?” The man stood underneath the doorway, holding the storm door open.
Skyler slid her hands in her sweater pockets and asked, “Are you Joe Wilson?”
“Yeah. So?” Even from a distance Skyler could smell the awful scent coming from his breath.
“Were you the owner of a horse named Yellowstone?”
“That horse meant more to me than those other horses ever did.” The man let go of the storm door and waved in the air, nearly losing his balance.
“Okay, did you race it?”
“We could have won. But that horse couldn’t have beat a swamp rabbit. I’m glad I left him. Glad! He wasn’t good for anything.” The man eyed Skyler, then he closed his eyes and nearly fell again, but the doorway held him up.
“Okay. Thank you. Bye.” Skyler turned around and jogged to her car. Once in the car, she slammed the transmission in reverse and backed onto the dirt road. Then she put it in drive and headed toward town. It would take three laundry cycles to wash the stink out of her clothes and ten mints to get rid of the terrible taste in her mouth. Just being around that man made everything disgusting.
“Joe Wilson. He’s the youngest and worst drunk around. That man wouldn’t know a good thing if it slapped in the face,” one of the women said as she washed the wall.
Skyler drove to the church after her visit with Joe, knowing the ladies were deep cleaning it this week. And no one knew more about their town than these women did. It was wrong to gossip and a sin to spread lies about someone else, but nonetheless, these ladies knew everything about their town from the newest shoe sales, to the youngest drunk in town. It was the curious female mind; some would say that’s why they’re so smart, others would say that’s why they get in trouble. Even so, the pastor always reminded them—and everyone in church—to do their absolute best to follow the Lord’s way. And Skyler knew his reminders were necessary, otherwise who knew how far these women would go; Aunt Cathy included.
“You should have never gone down there yourself. You could have gotten in serious trouble,” Mrs. Thomas said, while wringing out a wash cloth.
“I know. What can you tell me about him? Why did he abandon his horse?”
Mrs. Thomas sat aside her rag and leaned against the wall. Then she began telling Skyler the story: “About four years ago he started drinking. No one knows why, but it took control of him.” Mrs. Thomas paused from the story to say, “And that’s why you never start drinking sweetheart.” She pointed a finger toward Skyler, then continued her story. “Anyways, he became the town’s newest drunk. When he promised to quit over and over but never did, his wife grew tired and left him. She moved to Kansas—we think—we haven’t heard from her since. They never had any children and with his wife gone, he only had his racing business. Well you know money will fail you, and that’s what it did to him. He lost the most important race of the year due to improper feeding. Some think he poisoned his horse; others think that someone else poisoned it; a few people think he hired someone to do it. But he lost the race and he grew so angry no one wanted to be around him. Money will do that to you, you know. A few days after the race, he got drunk, loaded his horses and drove them to the mountains. How he didn’t crash that night was a miracle. Anyways, he unloaded all his horses in the mountains, where everyone else unloads their horses. And later that night, driving home, he got pulled over for drinking and driving—but that’s beside the story. After he dumped all his horses, he had no income, so he lost his business. The bank took everything. And he was left living at an old farm house that the town gave him.”
“I know we’re supposed to do the kind thing, but that man didn’t even deserve that house,” one lady said, shaking her head, and clicking her tongue.
Skyler smiled and asked, “And no one ever went looking for those horses?”
“Well sweetheart, once those horses move to the mountains, they’re nearly impossible to track down.”
Skyler nodded. “I know.” She folder her hands, waiting for more ladies to speak. When no one did, Skyler slapped her hands against her hips and said, “Oh, well, thank you. Aunt Cathy and I would be happy to help clean the church, if you need the help?”
At this the ladies smiled, obviously proud of her for offering. “Well it’s nice of you to offer, but I think we’ll be done in the next two days.
“Okay, well, you all have a nice day.”
“He’s a six-year-old gelding, his registered name is Yellowstone, his first year racing he raced in every race possible and won nearly all of them.”
Ty looked up from the record books and asked, “Okay what about his second year?”
“That was his only year. That year his owner got drunk and dumped all his horses in the mountains, including his best race horse, Yellowstone.”
“So, you’re asking me to risk everything I have on a race horse who hasn’t raced in four years?” Ty leaned back in his chair and rolled his pen between his teeth.
“I know you could train him. I know we could get him back on his feet.”
“And what do we do for money until he can race—or if he can race?”
“We can figure that out together.” Skyler stared at Ty, reading his every move.
“Together huh? Tell me what you would do for an income—if we don’t sell those horses to the meat market.”
Skyler stared at Ty. Then she looked at the desk, and twiddled her thumbs.
“You didn’t have your full presentation ready. You have to be prepared for anything.”
Skyler looked up at Ty.
“Sis, this is what we’ll do. With the horses I sold last week, we have a few open stalls. We’ll rent out the stalls to boarders. I know people need stables to board their horses at; with the money we’ll make from that and the money we have saved, we’ll manage.”
I could have thought of that. But I didn’t. Skyler swallowed her embarrassment and stood up straight. “So, we’re in the racing business?”
Ty nodded. “We’re in the racing business.”
To be continued . . .
In a Day’s Time (Part Four) will be available nest Tuesday,
we’ll see you then.