"Come on Junie. We're waiting!" shouted Stanley impatiently.
"Hold your horses a minute, Stan," responded Junie. He turned and ran into the kitchen where his mother and grandmother were busy bottling Himalaya berry jam.
"I'm goin' to ride Sugar. Grandpa help me bridle her. Stanley and I are going to ride down the lane." exclaimed Junie.
"Do be careful," pointed out Shirley tightening the lids on the hot bottles.
"Don't gallop. You might fall off the horse!" replied Gladys, dipping the ladle into the hot cauldron of bubbling berries.
"I'll be careful. You know Sugar won't let anything happen to me. So don't worry." Junie replied excitedly as he ran out the kitchen door. BANG! slammed the door. He was off the porch and around the side of the house where Grandpa and Stanley were waiting.
"I'm ready now," he stated. "Please help us up, Gramps."
Andy got hold of the little fellow around his waist and lifted him up onto the horse's bare back. He helped Stanley the same way but placed him behind the first boy. They were now ready.
Handing Junie the reins, Grandpa said, "Off you go boys," as he hit Sugar softly on the rump.
The horse slowly moved forward. Junie had hold of the reins and guided Sugar with a gentle pull and tug of the worn leather straps. Sugar pranced out the gate. They rode across the irrigation ditch bridge, down the slight incline of the ditch bank, and onto the gravel road. It was rough in spots but Sugar was used to walking on that kind of road. All the roads around the farm were in very rough shape.
Junie had always trusted his horse. Sugar had been his friend for a long time, but he hadn't been able to ride her much. The family moved away from the farm last spring when the house caught on fire and burned. The family had relocated in Cedar City. Housing was scarce and very difficult to find. Finally, his dad rented a vacant trailer at the college trailer park. Now there was no place to keep Sugar. So the horse was taken to Andy and Gladys's place in Toquerville.
Grandpa Jack was full of suprises. One morning when Junie went outside, he saw Grandpa had come over to the trailer court and put a swing in the Russian Olive tree that was growing by the trailer. This gave him something to do besides playing in the dirt and watching the college students play tennis.
Junie had gone to kindergarten the first six weeks of summer, so it had been a while since he had ridden Sugar.
He was so excited to learn that Shirley and Aunt Joy were going to spend a few days over the 24th of July in Toquerville. He loved going to Grandma and Grandpa Olds' and he wanted to ride Sugar. He really missed riding her. When it was time to return to Cedar City, Shirley decided to stay a few extra days. Brent would be coming back from Los Angeles in the Mack truck after delivering lumber from Grandpa Bauer's sawmill and would stop and pick them up Friday evening.
The warm summer sun felt good to Junie. It was wonderful to be able to ride Sugar again. Slowly they made their way down the road.
They saw Clark and Mona's kids playing in their front yard. They waved.
"Where ya goin, Junie and Stan?" asked Bonnie.
"Oh, we're just goin' down to the creek to fight Indians," replied Stanley.
"There ain't no Injuns down by the creek." put in Lynn, Bonnie's younger brother.
"There is too! My Grandpa Andy says so. So there!" added Junie.
"Ah! Your Grandpa don't know everything."
"Yes, he does. He said that when he was a kid he used to see Injuns all over the place around here. Besides he gave me this arrowhead that Chief Toquer gave him to prove it." Junie quickly pulled the arrow point from his pocket and waved it high above the boy's head. "See!"
"Ah! Your Grandpa probably just found it in his field." noted Lynn. "I've found lots of them up in our field down by the creek."
"Did not!" With that Junie nudged his horse and said, "Giddy up Sugar." He pulled the reins toward the road and Sugar obeyed. He was getting pretty upset by what the kids were saying.
Shaking their heads and waving their arms in disgust, the kids went back playing with their old red ball.
"Don't worry about them kids, Junie. They don't know nothin'," replied Stanley.
"I know. They think they know everything." agreed Junie.
"Yea! Lets go down by the school and see if George and Leon are there," replied Stanley.
"Giddy up, Sugar," commanded Junie. The horse responded by quickening her pace to a near trot. As the went on down the dusty dirt road toward the bottom of the school lot Junie was soothed by the gentle rhythmic pace of the horse's gait. He started thinking about the fun times he and Grandpa Andy had shared. He had to believe what Grandpa Andy told him. After all, Gramps and Uncle Merrill had taken him up to the old curve on the red hill to get buckets of red sand for his sand pile. Grandpa pulled him around the yard in his new red Radio Flyer wagon he got for his birthday and up to the chicken coop and even up the church lane to the post office to get the mail. And when he was through talking to the people in the Post Office he'd pull him across the street to the We-ask-U-Inn gas station where they would get an orange Nehi pop and a bag of pink peppermint candies that he would put in his shirt pocket. Why he even let him climb on his back and sang "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" to him. No! Grandpa Andy wouldn't tell him a fib. Not him.
Junie was in such a dream that he didn't see the pickup truck barreling down the side lane. The truck turned north in a sharp cloud of dust and headed straight toward them. As the truck wizzed by, Sugar reared in the air knocking the two boys off her back and onto the dirt road. When the dust settled Junie was sitting on the road holding his bleeding nose with one hand and wiping his eyes with the other. Stanley had been thrown the other direction into the briers and cockle burrs that grew along the ditch bank.
"You OK, Stan?"
Junie slowly got up, took the big red bandanna out of his back pocket and wiped his nose until it stopped dripping. He dusted the rocks and dirt from his overalls and ran to the horse. "Are you all right Sugar?" Junie asked the startled horse as he took hold of the reigns. "That's a girl." He patted her gently on the neck.
The boys started walking back toward Grandma's. They had no way of getting back up on Sugar's back without some help. The sun was getting hotter by the minute. Sweat started dripping down the boys' faces. Mixed with the dust from their fall they looked like they had been in a fight with a whole tribe of Indians.
When they came past Clark and Mona's the kids were still playing ball. Pointing to the boys Lynn yelled, "I see you guys found the Indians and the Indians won!" With that remark all the kids started laughing. Junie and Stanley started running up the street as fast as they could. Sugar calmly followed the boys.
"I'm going home to get washed. See you later. Maybe we can play in the ditch later this afternoon," yelled Stanley as he hurried across the street toward his house.
Junie led Sugar back across the bridge and through the gate to the back of the house. "Junie! Is that you?" yelled Grandma out the kitchen door.
"Yes, Grandma," replied the bedraggled boy as he took in the smell of the freshly made jam. "I'm taking Sugar back to the coral."
Junie led Sugar by the house and on up the lot past the privy, chicken coop, and the pig pens to the stable. He unlatched the gate and led the light brown horse into the darkened enclosure. Holding her head carefully he unbuckled the bridle, slipped it off and she swung free. Placing the long leather strips on a nail by the gate he put some fresh hay in the manger. Patting Sugar softly on the neck he slipped a sugar cube he had taken from his pocket. Then he said, "Thanks for the ride, old friend." Sugar rubbed her face up against his then continued licking his hand.
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Copyright ©2000 by Brenton Bauer
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