Solider Come Home
My story began back in June, 2000, when I got a mysterious letter from a stranger. The stranger turned out to be my lost brother, who had gone to war without telling anyone. My brother, Joshua, had gone MIA in war. Now that he was home, and had come and got me, I had gone to live on a ranch. I had had to trade my suburban city life for the life on a ranch, one choice I would never forget.
It was now March, 2001. The March and April months were wonderful times of the year on our little ranch. The yearling foals running around, the chicks following their mothers, and little kittens playing with the dandelions. There were animals all over the place. Big and small, thick and thin, young and old. Ducks, ducklings, chicks, chickens, foals, calves, and my favorite of all the animals we have, puppies. Watching the little ones was great, until a curious kitten chased the chicks, then a puppy got in on the fun, and chased the kitten.
Unfortunately, there was more work to do these months. Fences had to be mended, buildings to be built, horses to train, and the round up. Our favorite thing to do in these months was the rodeo. I would barrel, and Josh would do most everything else. We team roped together, and that was about all we saw of each other at the rodeos. He would heel the calf, and I would head the calf. Josh calf roped, bronc rode, saddle bronc rode, and bull rode. That's just what he did, and we both had fun doing it.
My favorite two jobs on the ranch where to help in the round up, and train my show horses. I had three horses of my own: Rebel Pride, Sugar Splashed, and the newest, Phantom Nautica. Rebel Pride was given to me as a year old colt by my boyfriend several years ago. He was a large Arabian gelding, and the best racing horse I had. (I used to Horse race in small derbies around my old town.) Sugar Splashed was my oldest horse, at sixteen years old. She was given to me when we were both two years old. She was a palomino dapple Arabian Pinto cross. The last, Phantom Nautica, was a foal from this past year. He was a grayish white color, with a wave like pattern along his sides. With him being a purebred Arabian, as wild as he was, he was going to make a great horse, if someone could break him.
Phantom Nautica was going to be a great barrel racing horse. My job was to see that he was broke, able to ride and race by the upcoming winter. Most horses are smart, but not Phantom. He was crazy. He wouldn't listen at all, and would jump eight foot high barbwire fences. We had to build a special pen for him. It stood sixteen feet high, with electric high tinsel wire running around it. He stall also had to be modified. We had had to replace the bars over the door, and add reinforced metal to the wood along the walls.
Going to the barn to get Phantom, I stopped to check on my dogs. Fresca, a young, hyper, blue heeler collie mix, and Solider, a young Black lab Border collie mix. Fresca was black with white paws, a white tail, and a white spot over her right eye. Solider was solid black, and had a long coat. Both dogs where great creatures and I hated having to keep them both cooped up in an old stall we had. They were allowed to come out and run every now and again, but since they were both herding dogs, it wasn't very often.
I grabbed an old bridle and went to the tack room. I grabbed the old saddle off the third stand to the right, and headed towards Phantom's stall. When I got there, I wasn't surprised to find that he had kicked a board down. Leading him out of the stall, I looked him over then tied him to the stable door. Putting the bridle on over his halter, he shook his head up and down several times. Once he was settled down, I took the old saddle and blanket and put it on him. Shortly after I untied him and started walking, he started to buck. It was a good thing the bronc shoot was close by. I turned him loose into the walkway, and walked up to the shoot. My friend, Macy, was waiting to help me out if I got hurt.
Phantom walked up into the shoot, and I dropped the gate behind him. I turned around and watched him for a minute. "You're going to ride him? Like that? Like a wild bronc?" Macy asked. I nodded. "I never said I wasn't as crazy as he was." I answered. She shook her head then said "I don't know who's crazier. You, the horse, or me." I just shrugged, and then walked up to the chute. Macy placed her hand onto my back as I swung my leg onto a bar of the far side of the chute. She held me steady as I sat in the saddle, and leaned back.
Macy took her hand off my back, and shortly after, I nodded. She pulled the rope that opened the gate, and Phantom jumped out. Expecting him to start bucking, I held on. He did just that, started bucking. After about a minute or so, he stopped. He then started running around the pen, in wild circles. When I finally got him to stop, and calm down, he started walking around the edge of the pen. I pulled back on the reigns, saying "Whoa", he stopped. I pated his neck, then gave him a swift kick, telling him to go.
We worked in the pen for about an hour, and then I put him up. After I fixed the board, Macy and I went inside. Neither Macy nor I talked very much, so we just sat down on the couch, and stared at each other. Later that night, after dinner, we heard a commotion coming from the barn.
Josh went and checked it out, grabbing his gun before he walked past the door. When he came back, he said: "Kate, Solider got into a fight with a bob cat. I don't know what happened. I shot the bobcat, but Soldier's gone. He'll show up in a day or two, like he always does." I just nodded, and then went into my room.
The next morning, Macy and I each saddled our horses. I saddled up Dancer, a horse with more stamina than the rest. Macy saddled up Acorn, her large chestnut mare. We quickly found the blood trail, and followed it. Neither one of us talked. We both were scared of what we would find on the other end of the trail, of what had happened to Solider. We stayed out till after dark looking for him, but never finding him. We all assumed that the worst had happened, and went to bed.
The next day, I ended up working with Phantom. That's about all I did that day. Everybody moped around. Even though Solider was my dog, everybody liked him. He always cheered them up, no matter what. Without him, nothing would be the same.
For weeks afterwards, nothing felt the same, we eventually got used to him being gone. One sunny day, in the middle of July, we heard whining. Everybody stopped sometime that day to try and find what was making the noise. The next morning, my birthday, July 22, we found out what was whining. I had walked out onto the porch that morning, but what I found surprised me. Lying in front of the steps was a skinny black dog, with a dark green camouflage collar that had an army logo on it. I reached down to pat the dog, scared that it wouldn't be alive.
The dog's skinny tail thumped on the porch. "Josh! Macy! Soldier's back!" I yelled, waking them up. Once they all came to the porch, there was a happy reunion. Everyone hugged and pat him, and talked in soothing tones, Everyone was happy to have Solider back, this time for good.