Maria Sebastian couldn’t get the horse to stop kicking and stomping long enough to see if the man was still alive.
The day had started normally for a real estate agent.
Standing gnarly and tall, newly budding red Japanese Maples overhung the driveway to the barn, a hopeful smattering of sunlight dappling its packed surface. Crisp air pled to be breathed, so Maria opened the Cherokee’s windows and sacrificed her freshly cut blonde hair to the great Georgian outdoors. She thought for the fiftieth time of having, Maria Sebastian, Garrison Realty, Your Forsyth County Agent, painted on the side of her truck. With the economy still screwed, she needed all the help she could get.
Black four-rail fence lined the carpet of rolling pastures dotted with clumps of tree bones in gully areas. The more Maria thought about Silver Strutter, a glistening black Tennessee Walking Horse with a silver mane and tail, the more she wanted to see him in person. She’d dreamt about him ever since the listing broker gave her show ring pictures. Silver Strutter...son of Colorado Strutter, both had taken championships at the annual Shelbyville, Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration. Mr. Ambling Man, son of Amber Ambler, a slick liver chestnut with gold highlights whose pictures she’d also seen, wasn’t bad either. These magnificent animals, born with an extra gait, making them look like photoshopped one-thousand pound ice skaters, excited the show ring. When she finally saw the horses, however, they would not be in flashy show condition. It was impossible to keep horses spruced up twenty-four-seven; even if they did live on grass. For the big shows they’re trained to strike out with their front feet as if doing a German Goose Step, lifting front hooves high to strut around a show ring. They are born with a natural running walk, making for a delightful ride, but that gait has proven not fancy enough for the Celebration. Maria, a lowly realtor, didn’t need to know more than the condition of the rails, the feeders and water tanks of the horse farms she sold.
Three hundred acres of perfect permanent pasture, a five thousand square foot neo-classical style home, a complete commercial barn and several outbuildings made a tight little package for a breeder. She looked around for her client. Donna Kelly, said she’d meet Maria at the barn to talk with Dixon Whitmire, the farm’s owner.
Maria’s bad fairy accused her of jealousy. She would love to have owned this farm at one time which resembled Kentucky’s miles of bluegrass horse parks. Lexington reached a hallowed place in her mind fifteen years ago when she’d driven north in awe of free rolling hills, now deep pastureland, now mini rainforests. Brought up in Phoenix, where farm owners hoarded precious, waterless pasturelands, paddocks of decomposed granite looked neat, but lush had been only a word until Maria saw what the south provided; sixty five inches of rain each year.
Crepe Myrtles lined up at attention from the barn to the house. She took the left fork to the barn and drove slowly hoping to get a good look at a horse. The top half of doors trimmed in white paint lay open against the red barn. It looked like the typical barns you see in pictures; fifty feet long, huge doors at each end, a peaked roof which was probably a hayloft. Washracks peeked out from the back, twenty feet to her left. A hotwalker opposite her right. A showplace.
She stepped out of the Jeep into nostalgia when her nose hit the mesh of clean straw, horse manure, fly spray and horseflesh. Heaven.
With a sigh and flick of her hand across her cheek, she headed toward the open barn doors that always stand open just like her heart felt when she anticipated horseflesh. She stepped out of her Jeep Cherokee and strode just inside. Stalls stood on both sides of a runway shot-gunned through the middle. The top half of the stall doors were open, the solid bottoms remained closed. Some farm owners didn’t want people entering their barns, to quell possible disease from shoes that had been in other barns. “Hello!” she called.
A small head she took for a pony appeared from the first stall on her right. The little animal reached out as far as its top-half open door would allow. It wore an oversize horse blanket. She stroked its neck. The filly, as it turned out, shoved her nose against Maria’s hand, jacket, neck, on a search for goodies. Maria regretted not loading pockets with carrots or apple pieces for these babies. She saw no sign of a snack nearby--no hay or feeder with crumbs lurking at its bottom. No answering hello to her calls. The further into the barn she went, the more agitated the horses seemed. They paced and whinnied, shaking their heads, pawing the ground.
Wrong. Something seemed very wrong.
To read more, please visit my blog: http://melodyscott.blogspot.com/
Melody D. Scott | www.MelodyScott.com