Archive for the ‘04 Free to Follow – Part 2’ Category

While the black mare stood back watching, Della jammed the file between the top horizontal board and the post, wrapped the rag over the end and pulled.  She grunted and groaned with exertion.  Sweat beaded on her faced.  Her arms ached with the strain then suddenly a squeak of the board pulling the nail from the post startled her and she stumbled back.  She grabbed the hammer and wedged the pointed end into the opening.  She leaned all her weight into the handle.  The second nail began moving with its own protesting squeak. A moment later the board pulled free and she fell to her butt gasping for breath.

More of the infected now pressed against the fencing protecting the barn yard.  Della scrambled to her feet and grabbed the end of the board and pull until the nails on the opposite end pulled free. It fell to the ground.

Without really taking time to catch her breath, she repeated the process with the top end of the front cross board. She pulled and jerked at the end of the board with the hammer.  Suddenly the handle snapped and the board pulled free.  Della stumbled back to her feet and stepped behind the board to pry the opposite end free.

She heard the snap of wood breaking but instead of the wood in her hands falling to the ground the tension remained.  Still confused, she pushed again and the wood fell away.  The black mare screamed in terror.

Della turned around in time to see infected spilling over the broken fencing into the barn yard.  She got to her feet and grabbed the hammer.  She darted back to pick up the medical bag and satchel.

“This way!”  She shouted.

The black mare and other horses startled and raced toward away from the downed fencing.  When the infected stumbled toward Della the mare galloped between Della and the infected. The infected turned from Della and stumbled after the terrified thorough-bred.

Dell picked up her bags and stepped over the last cross board on the fencing.  She stuck two fingers between her lips and blew. A sharp shrill whistle drew the attention of infected and horses alike.

“Best I can do!” She shouted then turned and ran along the paddock fence back to the ATV.

Ten minutes later Della climbed on the ATV and cranked the engine.  She backed the machine out of the brush and steered the four-wheeler through the brush to the edge of the blacktop. She accelerated and the heavy tires climbed from the ditch to the blacktop.  She clutched, shifted and accelerated.  Once on the open road, she clutched and slipped the machine into the top gear anxious to leave the ranch behind.

She glanced over her shoulder hoping to see at least a couple of the horses had escaped but the road was empty except for the wreckage at the front of the ranch gate. A little sad, Della turn back to face the road ahead.  She settled in for the long ride home and suddenly the engine began to sputter and cough.

“Crap.”  Della whispered.  “Please, let it be just the gas.”

She down shifted and stopped the machine.  She turned off the engine and sat still for a moment listing to the ticking of the cooling engine.  She tapped on the gas tank and frowned.

She stepped off and walked to the back of the ATV.  She unhooked the bungee from the gas can and carried it to the tank. She poured gas and realized the tank was barely half empty.  She recapped can and put it back on the back bumper and secured it.

Della stepped back on the machine and turned the key.  The starter coughed then died.

“Shit!”  She cursed.

She climbed back off the machine and walked around the machine looking at the motor.  Who was she kidding?  She knew nothing about motors. She looked at the wires and tubing…tubing.  That was it! She forgot to open the valve on the gas line.

“Idiot!”

Della turned the red valve then climbed on the machine just as the sound of heavy clomping steps came up behind her.  Afraid to even look back, she turned the key and the engine cough twice then cranked.  She popped the clutch and the ATV took off.  When she was headed away from the sound she glanced over her should and laughed.

The terror melted as she saw the black mare leading four more horses toward her.  Della eased off on the gas.  The thoroughbreds followed at a steady trot.

“What in the hell do I do now?” She whispered.

Della pondered the problem with her entourage as she cruised down the highway and before she knew it she was turning on the gravel road up toward the corral and cabin. That’s it. The corral. There’s a shed with hay and a windmill keeping the water trough full.  At least for the time being.

Della pulled the ATV to the shed and turned off the engine.  The quiet was heavy and almost frightening after the ride on the growling machine. She stepped to the gate and held it open as she watched the black mare lead the other through the opening.  The black stopped and whinnied.

“I know. It’s not home but it’s as good as it’s gonna get for a while.” Della chuckled.

“What are you doing with horses?”  A deep male voice asked from behind Della. She jumped and spun around grabbing for the gun in her bag. “Easy.  It’s just me.” Zack continued.

Della slowly closed the gate. “It’s a long story.  I think we need to give them some hay and try to wipe them down.  They’ve had a long trip.”

Zack looked puzzled. “Where did you go on the ATV?”

“The horse ranch. Steve needs antibiotics.” She answered as she pulled a square bale of hay from the barn toward the fence.  She pulled off the string on one side then the other.  She dropped half the cakes of hay over the fence. Della picked up a handful of hay and stepped inside the pen. The black horse came to her for a nuzzled nudging at her arm.  Della slid her hand with the hay down the strong sleek neck. The mare shivered and straightened her neck.

“Oh, you like that, huh?” Della chuckled.  “Come on Zack, you could help.”

“No.  Not me.  I’m a city boy.” He answered with a grin.

Della quickly wiped down the sweat-covered animal.  When she was finished, she grabbed a fresh handful of hay and walked toward another horse, but the animal shied away. Della barely got close enough to touch a flank or brush a shoulder of the other four animals.  Finally, she sighed and dropped the hay to the ground.

“Let’s get to the cabin. Steve needs the medicine.”