A Novel of New Mexico Ranch Life

            The colt was standing with its mother on the far side of the pasture. Parker Smith slowly walked up, hardly able to contain himself because he was so anxious to find out whether it was a filly or a horse colt. The New Mexico sun had just come up in the east on his parents’ ranch, the Box S, and caused the mountains in the west to glow purple and red.
            The mare turned her head, gave him an unconcerned look, and returned to eating the grass at her feet. Parker walked to her right side to look at the colt, and when he was close enough, knelt down and peered underneath. He had told his dad he didn’t care what it turned out to be, but to himself, he hoped it would be a horse colt.
            A smile came to his face when he saw that it was. He could hardly keep from running up to it and rubbing its neck, but knew that he would just scare it. Instead, he did the next best thing and took off at a high lope to go tell his mother and father.
            He found his mother, Ann, in the kitchen cooking breakfast. He ran and hugged her, sputtering that he had a horse colt. She smiled and told him to go tell his dad who was down at the barn. Parker broke from his mother’s arms and sprinted out the backdoor.
            He ran so fast that he almost smashed into the corral gate. As he gathered himself up he saw his dad coming from the saddle house door. Tom Smith was dressed as usual in a white shirt, black boots, and a black hat. His black mustache showed a few tints of grey.
            “Dad, I got a horse colt!” he cried as he ran to hug his dad.
            “That’s great son, I’m glad for you. I knew that’s what you really wanted,” his dad said as he hugged the boy.
            “What are you going to name him?”
            “Well, I don’t know. I haven’t even thought about it,” Parker replied.
            “All I can say is pick a name that’ll fit him because you’re going to have him for a long time.”
            “You bet,” said Parker. “Let’s go look at him. He’s a sorrel just like I wanted and has a bald face and a left hind stocking like his mother. I bet he’s going to be plenty cowy.”
            “That might be, but you know that color doesn’t really mean much,” his dad said as they walked out the corral gate.
            It took them a while to walk through the pasture to get to the mare and colt. When they were about fifty feet away, Parker looked at his Dad to see his reaction.
            “Well, there’s nothing wrong with how he’s made,” his Dad said. “Go get a halter and catch Penny and lead ’em into the big pen. You might as well start working with him.”
            Within an hour, Parker had the mare and colt at the corrals. He gave Penny some grain in a feed bag, and she stood in the middle of the pen while she ate.
            The colt explored the new place but made sure he stayed closer to his mother than the boy. Parker stood by the fence with his arms folded and admired the little horse. He felt lucky and proud at the same time and couldn’t wait to start working with him. But he knew he’d have to bide his time and not do anything too quick that might scare the colt.
            After Penny finished her oats, she walked up to Parker to let him pull off the feed bag. Parker stroked her neck and scratched her behind the ears. She cocked her head to help guide him to get the greatest benefit from his fingers.
            While Parker was standing by the mare, the colt walked up on the offside and started nudging his mother’s udder in order to get a drink. Parker stroked down the mare’s withers and back, and as he did, he bent down to watch the colt suck. He moved his right hand down the mare’s flank as close to the colt’s head as he dared, hoping that the colt would get a whiff of his smell mixed with his mother’s. He knew that getting the colt used to his smell would help gentle him.
            He stood a while longer and after a final pat on the mare’s neck, he walked to the corral gate. The mare followed him with the colt behind. He pushed the gate open and stepped aside so the horses could go back to the pasture.
            The colt kicked up his heels as he followed his mother who broke into a trot toward her favorite spot by the river. Parker smiled as he watched and admired the colt’s rust colored coat as it glistened in the morning sun.
            Then, the colt’s name came to him. “I’m going to call him, Rusty,” he exclaimed.
            The next morning Parker opened his eyes when the sun’s first rays came into his east window. He quickly pulled on his shirt and stuck his pants’ legs into his red topped boots. He walked to the kitchen that was filled with his favorite smell, frying bacon. His mother smiled at him as she cut out biscuits on the kitchen counter. Without stopping to talk as he usually did, he ran out the back door to go look at his colt.
            When he opened the yard gate, he looked up and saw Penny walking toward the water tank for her morning drink without the colt at her side. In a panic, Parker started to call his mother, but in the next second, he saw a reddish blur coming out of the brush by the river. It was Rusty. He had gotten separated from his mother and was doing his best to catch up with her as fast as he could.
            “Boy, that little horse’s got some jets,” Parker said to himself.
            Like the morning before, he had to resist the urge to run up to the colt and pet him. While he watched the colt nurse, his mother called out to him to come eat breakfast. He said he’d be just a second and then opened the corral gate to let in the mare and colt.
            At breakfast he ate as slowly and politely as he could. At the same time he avoided his parent’s eyes, knowing that they would comment on his table manners if he ate too quickly. His parents exchanged smiles several times as they saw how badly their son wanted to get with the colt.
            Parker took his last bite of scrambled egg and washed it down with milk. In spite of himself, he squirmed in his seat as he watched his parents finish their breakfast. He thought he was about to be able to go when his Dad reached for another biscuit. It seemed like it took forever for his dad to get the biscuit buttered and to smear on some strawberry jam.
      Right before his Dad took a bite though, he said to Parker, “Son, don’t you think you ought to get that mare fed?”
            Although his dad’s question caught him by surprise, Parker grinned and said, “Yes sir! Come out and look at Rusty when you can.”
            After he grained the mare, he stroked her back on the side where the colt had begun to nurse. The colt was less wary than he’d been the day before and after about thirty minutes, he began to investigate the boy’s hand with his nose.
            Parker let the colt smell his hand. Rusty wrinkled his nose at the scent, but sniffed again and decided it wasn’t so bad. It was as if he said to himself that if his mom didn’t mind the two-legged boy touching her, it couldn’t be so bad for him either.
            When Parker turned the mare and colt out of the gate and they headed for the pasture, he admitted to himself that it was a pretty darn good colt.