I don’t own any part of Lancer or the characters from the show. However, I do sometimes take the boys out for a run around the ranch. All characters of my making, cannot be used without permission. There is no real rating or warning for this story, other than a box of Kleenex.
Word count: 6,422
The dark haired man was leaning on his arms on top of the corral, watching his golden Palomino. The animal was favoring his left rear leg big time, and seemed to be in pain.
He felt a large hand come down on his shoulder and a deep voice rumbled across his body.
“Is he getting any better Son?”
Johnny, watching his beloved horse, softly said, ” No, he seems to be getting worse. I don’t know what else to do to help him. Jelly has given him two injections of morphine, and it seemed to work. But now he’s worse than before.”
Murdoch heard the distress in his youngest son’s voice, and he felt equally stumped on what to do.
Sighing softly, Murdoch watched the golden horse, and how hard it was for him to move. He knew he had to make the suggestion he knew would destroy his son, but was it fair to Barranca. The horse was suffering. Johnny had done everything he could think of to help his Pal. Now, he knew his son had to be strong and make the hardest decision he’s ever gonna have to make.
“John, you know I would never tell you how or what to do for Barranca. But is it fair to him right now? You’ve done all you can for him. Maybe it’s time to let him go.”
Johnny felt the tears coming to his eyes and he gently wiped them away. The knot in his throat was cutting off his breath and he felt like he couldn’t think.
“I know Murdoch. I just keep wondering if there isn’t some magic somewhere to help him. I want him to get better Murdoch to be able to run like he used to. Never thought a rock slide would take my best friend away from me. I don’t know if I can do what I know I have to.”
“Johnny, his hip is shattered. He can barely stand on it. I know this is hard for you. If you want, I can do it for you, if you want.
He lifted his head up and he said, “No, I need to do it Murdoch. He would never understand why I wasn’t there at the end.”
Johnny moved from the fence and his father and said, ” I’m gonna take him up to the meadow, should be a nice sunset and I know he likes it there. I’ll take a shovel and a rope with us, and I’ll bury him under that big shade tree. He can see Lancer from that spot.”
He turned and walked to the barn and retrieved a shovel and one of his ropes from the saddle, that sat on the wall of Barranca stall.
Johnny ran his fingers gently over the saddle that he had hand tooled for Barranca last Christmas. It was red and looked good against his golden hide.
Murdoch watched as Johnny opened the gate and walked in. He went to his Pal and snapped a lead rope to his halter.
“We’re gonna go for a walk Barranca. We’ll walk as slow as you want Amigo. Just you and me.”
Before they moved out of the small corral, Barranca head butted Johnny in the chest. The laugh that came from Johnny’s lips was soft and fleeting. He patted the horse’s neck and then started to walk. Barranca following at an unhurried pace. Content to walk with Johnny anywhere.
Murdoch watched his son walk slowly with his beloved horse. He knew it was breaking Johnny’s heart to do this, but his words to his son were true …. It wasn’t fair to Barranca. Murdoch thought that maybe the horse knew.
His eyes were glassy with unshed tears and Scott came up to him.
Together they watched Johnny leading Barranca away. Scott felt a lump in his throat,and he tried to swallow it away.
“He’s gonna be inconsolable after this Murdoch. He loves that horse, with something almost mystical. “
” I know Scott. We can only be there for him. We can’t take his pain away, we can just be there.”
Up in the meadow, Johnny took Barranca off the lead rope, and threw it on the ground where he put the shovel.
He knew the horse wanted to run, chase all the tiny yellow butterflies up from the long grasses.
“Go ahead Pal. We can go to the pond together for a long cool drink.”
Johnny started to walk to the pond and the tired golden horse followed. Once at the pond, Barranca put his nose in the cool water and drank deeply.
After he was done, he lifted his huge head up, water still dripping from his muzzle. The sun was beginning to set and the oranges, reds and yellows bounced off Barranca and he looked so majestic to Johnny’s sad sapphire eyes.
They went back over to the tree with the shade, where Johnny would leave his best friend to rest.
He sat down against the tree trunk and Barranca ate the long sweet grass near Johnny’s leg. His sad sapphire eyes etched every line of his best friend into his mind, burning the beautiful proud stallion into his mind.
“Look at that sunset Barranca, it’s so beautiful, isn’t it?”
Barranca lifted his head from the lush green grasses he was eating. He turned his head to look at the bright colors in the sky and Johnny smiled. He always seemed to know what Johnny was saying.
As Johnny sat and looked at the sunset, he thought of all the years he had been blessed with a fine horse like Barranca.
Never wanted to put him out to stud, but it would have been nice to have an offspring from his line.
As it started to get dark, Johnny talked to his horse, softly, words being choked out by the lump in his throat.
Johnny stood up and went to Barranca head. He gently caressed his cheeks, feeling the warmth from his friend. He slowly laid his head against Barranca’s head.
He seemed to know that Johnny needed this special time, so he held still. Johnny was sure that he could feel the wet tears falling on his golden hide.
“I wish there was something I could do Pal, but I don’t know what else to do Barranca. This is breaking my heart, but I know it’s not fair to you to be in such pain, just so I can keep you with me.”
Again, his Pal headbutted him and then laid his head on Johnny’s shoulder and pulled his towards his golden body.
Oh, that did it! The tears began to fall faster and harder, and Johnny didn’t seem to care. All he knew was he was losing the best horse he’d ever had.
Johnny used to tell Barranca all his secrets and all his fears being back at Lancer. He knew the horse held all his hopes and everything Johnny thought. He’d never tell these secrets.
“I have to do this, I hope you do understand and don’t hate me. I picked this spot, so you can watch over Lancer. Wish you could stay with me Barranca. But this is what’s best Barranca. I will miss you so much. I’ll come visit you here every chance I get. I hope you understand why I have to do this Boy.”
He bobbed his head up and down and then shook his white mane into his eyes and neighed loudly. Johnny laughed softly and patted his neck, feeling the strength in that neck.
Softly, in so soft a whisper, he wasn’t sure he said anything, Johnny said, “I love you Barranca. You have your wings Pal, so run like the wind. Goodbye Amigo.”
Johnny lifted his Colt and with a deep sigh, he pulled the trigger. The golden horse fell onto the ground, and didn’t move anymore.
With tears sliding down his cheeks, he squatted down and touched the golden neck. Feeling no pulse, he sobbed huge wracking sobs. The cry of lost souls is what it sounded like.
Johnny sat on the ground and lifted Barranca’s huge head into his lap. He gently caressed the soft hide, untangled the white mane and layed it softly along his neck. Softly talking in Spanish, his words were filled with sadness, but also with a strength as he helped his Pal on his journey.
He sat like that for an hour, until the warmth began to leave his best friend’s body. Johnny gently picked Barranca’s head up off his lap and placed it carefully onto the ground. He stood up and with a last long look at his friend, Johnny walked to where he left the shovel. Slowly, he started to dig the earth away, making the best resting place he could for his loyal horse.
Slowly, and with the greatest concentration he could find, Johnny dug the last home Barranca would have.
Efficient, that’s what Johnny’s mind said. Murdoch would call what he was doing as efficient. Actually, Johnny thought of it as a last act of love.
Johnny had dug the huge hole as close to Barranca’s body as he could. He knew it was going to take a lot of energy and strength for him to slide his body into the grave.
When the grave was wide enough and deep enough, Johnny came out of the hole. He stood for a few minutes and caught his breath. He reached down and picked up the lead rope and hooked it to his halter. He was leaving the halter on Barranca, it had been his for almost ten years, it could remain his forever.
It took Johnny a bit over an hour to get the huge body into the grave. He stood on the edge of the hole, and looked down at his horse, the tears flowing down his dirt covered cheeks.
” Vaya Con Dios Amigo. Run free Barranca.”
He stood and looked down on his Pal a few more minutes, and then sighing softly, he picked up the shovel and began to cover Barranca’s body.
Johnny moved as if on automatic control. His eyes, swollen from his tears, softly breathing, even now and then a soft sigh slipping from between his lips.
He took his time, making it perfect. When he was done, he looked at it and reached his hand to the mound of dirt. Picking a handful up, he then slowly released it back onto the mound of dirt before him.
Johnny’s legs suddenly buckled and he collapsed to the ground. He layed his body across the dirt and just stayed like that until dawn began to come up. He had stayed up there all night.
His tears all spent, Johnny stood up and looked one time more at the place his horse rested. He slowly moved away and began the long walk back to Lancer.
As he got into the courtyard, Scott saw his little brother. He walked slowly towards Johnny. As he got closer, he saw the sad dirt streaked face of his heartbroken brother.
Johnny stopped in front of his brother, and Scott pulled him in close and Johnny laid his head on Scott’s shoulder. Scott rubbed small circles on Johnny’s back in some sort of comfort and said quietly, ” I’m sorry Brother. If I can do anything, let me know.”
Johnny said nothing. He slowly moved from Scott’s embrace and headed to the house.
” Need to wash.”
Scott watched his brother walking towards the house. He walked like an old man would, as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Johnny went slowly up the stairs and didn’t even hear or answer his father as he called to him. Murdoch got up from his desk and walked to the doorway of the Great Room, and watched his youngest son walk up the steps.
Scott came in and together father and son stood and watched Johnny. Soon, they heard his door quietly shut. That was not typical of Johnny, who usually slammed it shut.
In his room, Johnny took his gun belt off and let it fall where it did. Then his clothes and boots were next. He did wash the dirt from his face and hands. Then he turned to his bed and practically fell into it. As he turned on his left side, he saw the statue on his night stand. It was a galloping Palomino with long white mane and tail. Johnny pulled the statue to his body and held it tight. His eyes slowly closed.
Johnny was sleeping so hard, he never even woke up when Scott and then Murdoch checked on him during the day.
Scott found his father behind his desk, going over the books, and he stood by the desk waiting for him to look up.
When Murdoch finally noticed Scott there, he took his glasses off and said, ” Anything wrong Son?”
” Yes, I think Johnny is in trouble. He’s been sleeping like the dead all day, and that’s not like him at all. He’s still holding that statue and he hasn’t moved at all. I’m worried about him.”
Murdoch rubbed his eyes and said, “He loved that horse Scott. They had a bond that was spiritual. It’s gonna take some time for him to get over this. Scott, all we can do is be there for him, when he needs us.”
” I guess you’re right Sir. Guess I’ll go wash for dinner. Maybe see if he’s ready to come downstairs.”
Scott turned and headed to the stairs. As he passed by Johnny’s room, he slowly opened the door. His brother was sitting on the edge of the bed, still naked, but had the sheet pulled over his legs.
” Johnny, you okay Brother? Do you need anything, or can I do anything for you?”
Johnny slowly turned to his brother and his sapphire eyes held such sadness it caused Scott to softly gasp.
” No Scott, not really. I don’t think anyone can do anything for me. I just feel so cold and so numb inside.”
Scott came and sat down next to his little brother, and said, “You will for a long time Johnny. Barranca was special, you told me that many times. You and he were partners for ten years Brother. It won’t be easy to go on, without him. But Johnny, he really isn’t gone, he’s inside of you.”
Johnny lowered his head and softly said, “Yea, I know he is. I do have to move on. But it’s gonna be so hard to do Scott. It’s gonna be so hard to do.”
” I know, but you can do it. I can help, so can Murdoch and even Jelly. You take some time Johnny, just get your mind clear again, and we’ll go back to working together. Just like always little Brother.”
” Just need a little time Scott, okay? I’m not gonna run. But I just need some time.”
“Okay Johnny, you take your time, just not too much, we have fences down from that last rain. Okay?”
” Sure Scott, just a few days and I’ll be there by your side.”
Smiling, he patted Johnny’s forearm and stood up.
” Wanna come down for dinner? You haven’t eaten since breakfast yesterday.”
He sat and thought for a few minutes.
” Sure, give me a few to get dressed okay Scott?”
” Sure. I’ll tell Murdoch you’re gonna be down for dinner. Ya know, little Brother, he’s mighty worried too.”
Johnny looked up and a small sad smile graced his face.
” Kinda figured Scott. I’ll be down in a couple.”
Scott got up and left Johnny’s room. He shut the door, and heard Johnny moving in the room. He smiled sadly and went downstairs.
His father was still in the Great Room, still working on the books. As Scott walked in, he said softly, ” Is he coming down for dinner? “
” Yes, he’s getting dressed.”
Scott walked to the corner where the booze was, and poured a glass of whiskey for himself and his father. He was just turning towards Murdoch, and Johnny came quietly into the Great Room.
” Wanna pour me a glass Scott?”
Scott poured Johnny a glass of his favorite tequila and handed it to his little brother.
As Johnny took a deep swallow, Murdoch stood and walked to where Johnny stood. He put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder and said, “You okay John?”
Lifting his head, deep sapphire eyes locked on his father’s eyes and he very softly said, “Yea, I’m doing okay Murdoch. I’ll need to find another horse.”
” I know Son. You don’t have to do it so fast. Take a few days. Maybe take a ride to Black Mesa and see if you see any you like.”
” Yea, I think I will, in a day or so. I just need a bit of time, okay Murdoch.”
” No problem Son. Now, let’s go in to eat, I imagine you are a bit hungry.”
” Don’t know how much I’ll eat, if at all, but I’ll try Murdoch.”
He put his arm around Johnny’s shoulders, and was a little surprised that he moved ever so slightly away from the contact. They sat at the big table and not a word was said about his moving away from his father’s touch.
When the food came out by Maria and her kitchen girls, Maria placed a small kiss to Johnny’s head and then fled to her kitchen. All three Lancers knew she would be in tears for her Juanito and his heart breaking loss.
Johnny ate a bit of the food and then he suddenly stood up and softly said, ” I’m sorry, I can’t do this!” He turned and practically ran to the front door.
Scott stood up and made to take off after his brother, and Murdoch stopped him.
” Leave him be Scott. It’s still too raw for him.” Scott knew where his brother went.
Johnny practically ran to the barn. He stopped in front of the stall that belonged to his friend. He gently ran his fingers across the name plate on the stall gate.
He felt the sting of tears again and he willed them away. He took a deep breath and looked at the blood red saddle on the side of the stall. Still sitting there, not used, for the two weeks after the accident.
He slowly slid his fingers over the tooled images he’d put on the saddle. He just looked into the stall, his mind imagining his golden horse standing there. He knew he wasn’t, but try telling his heart. He knew it was in a million pieces, and he didn’t think it would ever be whole again.
Johnny walked to a pile of hay bales across from Barranca’s stall, and he sat down, leaned his back against the wall and pulled his legs up. He layed his head on his knees and just sat and pictured Barranca in his mind. His mind’s eye was seeing Barranca running in the sunlight, as free as the day Johnny caught him.
Johnny’s eyes closed and he stayed like that on the hay bales for a while. He had no idea for how long, but soon his brother came looking for him.
Softly, so not to spook his brother into drawing his Colt, he said, ” Johnny, it’s me. Just checking to see if you are okay.”
Johnny lifted his head and Scott saw that his normally bright sapphire eyes were now dull with the light gone out.
” Yes and no Scott. It hurts so much inside, I don’t ever think it will go away Brother.”
” It will Johnny. One day, you will be free of the pain of losing him. But you need to move on Johnny. That will be the best medicine for you. Barranca will always be in your heart Johnny, but now you have to move forward. “
Scott left after a while and Johnny leaned against the wall of the barn. His eyes looking at the now empty stall.
As he usually did every night, Jelly came into the barn to check on all the horses, before he went to sleep.
He saw the sad figure of his friend just sitting and staring at the empty stall. He slowly walked toward the silent man and then quietly said, “Johnny, you okay? Do you need anything?”
Johnny slowly turned his head to look at Jelly. His sad eyes told Jelly all he needed to know.
” No, just thinking Jelly. I still see him, everywhere. I just want to feel normal again.”
Jelly softly chuckled and said, ” Oh, that’s gonna take a bit longer Johnny. But you take all the time you need.”
Johnny got off the bale of hay and started to walk to the barn door. Turning slightly, Johnny softly said, ” Can you take Barranca’s name plate off the gate in the morning and maybe put his red saddle some place no one else will use it for me.”
” Sure Johnny. I’ll put it in my room for you.”
” Thanks Jelly. Night.”
As Johnny walked out the door, Jelly thought to himself that he was one sad young man.
When Johnny got to the front door, he laid his hand on the doorknob, and a heavy sigh slipped from his lips. Then he went into the house.
As he started up the stairs, he heard his father and brother saying good night and he quietly said, ” Night.”
Johnny slowly walked up the stairs to his room. He laid his gun belt on the headboard and kicked off his boots. They landed in a corner across the room.
He slowly unbuttoned his shirt and slid it off his shoulders. He threw it onto the chair by his little writing table. Johnny then stood up and unbuckled his pants, and slid them down his legs. They ended up on the chair with his shirt.
He sat on his bed and his left hand snaked out and ran over the statue on his night stand.
” Good night Amigo.”
Johnny laid down on the bed, his hand resting on the head of the statue. In his mind, he saw Barranca running like the wind. He could feel the wind on his face and he smiled softly.
Soon, Johnny’s eyes slid shut and he dreamed of his golden horse, running across the meadow of long swaying sweet grass. In his dream, he whistled loudly, and watched as Barranca came to a stand still and turn his head towards the sound. He ran towards his Master and stopped a few feet in front of Johnny and reared up, his front hooves pawing the air.
In his dream, Johnny smiled as he watched his horse. All to soon, it seemed his dream ended, and his eyes popped open. He saw the sun peeking under his curtains, and he slowly sat up. He rubbed his eyes and slowly started to stand up. He padded to his wash stand, and slapped water onto his face. He felt a little better, but not much.
He got dressed and as he was buckling his gun belt, Scott knocked and came into his room.
” Morning Johnny. You look a bit better, you must have slept good.”
He smiled at his brother and quietly said, ” Guess I did. Guess everything is gonna be okay.”
Even tho Johnny smiled and was happy on the outside, Scott knew his little brother was still hurting on the inside. He would take his brother smiling, even if it was only a mask.
The brothers left Johnny’s room and they went down the back stairs to the kitchen, where Murdoch was just having his coffee. As soon as the boys sat down, Maria came over with huge platters of eggs, bacon and biscuits.
Both Murdoch and Scott were silently pleased that Johnny was eating, a bit more than last night’s dinner. He even talked a bit with his father and joked once with Scott. It was almost like it used to be.
As the three Lancers ate their meals, Johnny softly asked Scott a question.
” Hey Boston, can I borrow Charlie for a few days? I need to go up to Black Mesa.”
Scott quickly looked at his father and then he said, ” You want some company Brother?”
Johnny’s eyes locked on his brother and he softly said, ” Sure Boston. Can always use the company.”
Behind his coffee cup, Murdoch softly smiled. Good, Johnny was trying to move on. As much as it hurt to think of it, he was silently pleased.
After the last of the coffee was drank, the brothers got up and moved to the front door. They both reached for their hats and Scott strapped his gun belt on. They headed to the barn, and as Murdoch came onto the porch, he noticed a slight bounce in Johnny’s step.
As they moved to saddle their horses, Johnny glanced to the stall that had been Barranca’s. He saw that the name plate was gone as was the saddle. Silently, he thanked Jelly.
After the horses were saddled, they led them from the barn. They easily mounted up and turned their mounts towards the direction to Black Mesa.
On the ride up there, Scott noticed his brother was a little bit happier. Not that Johnny would ever be totally happy ever again. Barranca and Johnny were a team for ten years, kinda hard to just ignore that fact.
They held the horses to a decent gait and when they got to an overlook on the flat land that was Black Mesa, Johnny looked down at a running herd.
He stood up in the stirrups and looked even more intently. Scott saw a smile suddenly come to his brother’s lips.
” See something interesting Brother?”
Johnny, who didn’t take his eyes from the herd, quietly said, “Yeah. See that blood red horse out front? He moves just like Barranca. “
Scott watched the herd, and saw what Johnny saw. ” Yeah, he does, doesn’t he Brother.”
Johnny slowly removed the rope from the saddle horn and urged Charlie down the incline. Scott followed, but a bit behind Johnny.
Johnny urged Charlie into a gallop and he zeroed in on that horse, and gave chase. As Johnny got Charlie up to his back legs, he thought, ‘ Man, he runs like the wind!’
He unwound the rope and swung it over his head. A few minutes later, he let it sail. Right around the horse’s neck. He pulled Charlie to a stop, but kept the rope taut.
Up close the horse was beautiful. Rising on his hind legs, pawing at the rope holding him captive. His lines were absolutely perfect. To Johnny’s discerning eye, he was the image of Barranca.
Scott rode up and assessed the blood red stallion, sharply announcing his distaste at being captured.
” He’s even more beautiful up close Johnny. And if I didn’t know better, I’d say that was Barranca. “
Johnny looked at his brother very fast, and Scott saw the sparkles in his little brother’s eyes. Scott smiled as he watched his brother.
Johnny got off Charlie and walked slowly to the stallion, keeping the rope taut and out of the way of those dangerous hooves. Johnny held the rope that was on his neck. Walking slowly, he got to the horse.
Scott sat still on Remmie, and didn’t even breathe, and watched as his brother slowly reached out his hand. He briefly touched the stallions soft muzzle. Scott was amazed how still that animal was as johnny gently touched him.
When Johnny slowly moved away from the horse, the spell was broken. It seemed to Scott, that the mighty red stallion was already trusting of Johnny.
It was Johnny’s magic with horses that mesmerized Scott. For Johnny to hold a wild animal like this stallion, in his spell, he knew his brother was what the ranch hands keep calling him…..a horse whisperer.
When Johnny mounted up on Charlie, Scott finally spoke.
” You had him in your spell Brother. It won’t be hard for you to break him. I think you should make him your’s. There is something about that animal Johnny.”
He turned around to look at his brother as he slowly wound the end of the rope around his saddle horn. A sly grin suddenly appeared on Johnny’s lips.
Johnny moved out and the stallion moved when Charlie began to head to the ranch. Scott came up along side Johnny and said, ” You thinking of breaking him for your use Brother?”
” Yea. There’s just something about him that reminds me of Barranca. I don’t know what it is Scott. His lines are identical to Barranca. It’s just strange. I already feel a connection with this stallion.”
Scott looked at the stallion and he sensed a calmness coming from the animal, who ten minutes before, was a raging wild animal.
As the brothers rode into Lancer, Murdoch was talking with a couple of the ranch hands. He looked up and saw the blood red stallion behind his youngest son and his heart stopped beating.
He shook his head and then smiled to himself. He couldn’t believe he found the horse.
As Johnny led the stallion to the small corral, he dismounted from Charlie. He walked carefully towards the blood red stallion, and carefully lifted the rope from around his neck.
Murdoch saw the way the stallion was with Johnny and he slowly walked to the corral. Johnny gently caressed his neck and ran his hand softly against his body.
Johnny held the stallions attention, as he gently ran his hand down the side of his body. Johnny could imagine the power in that body.
Johnny slowly walked to the gate of the corral, and as he shut the gate, the spell between the horse and himself was once again broken. The stallion turned and trotted around the corral. To Murdoch, it looked as if he was showing off for Johnny.
Johnny walked up to Murdoch, and put his arms on top of the corral, and just watched his prize as he moved around the corral.
” Isn’t he majestic Murdoch? He reminds me of the way Barranca moved. Hell, he even looks like Barranca a little bit. “
Murdoch smiled as together they watched the stallion move. He knew he had to tell Johnny why that was.
” John, I have something to tell you. There is a reason why he moves and looks like Barranca. “
Johnny turned to look at his father. He saw a glint of devilment in those pale blue eyes, and he became very suspicious.
” And why would that be old man?”
” The reason he reminds you of Barranca, is because he’s Barranca’s colt. I’d meant to tell you so many times after you caught Barranca. That was one of the reasons I told you to go to Black Mesa. I’d seen him up there about three months before Barranca fell with that collapse. I was pleased he’d survived and had grown to be like his Sire.”
Johnny stared at his father and he then turned to the blood red stallion in the corral.
” He’s Barranca’s colt? He moves just like Barranca. His lines are exactly like his.”
Suddenly, Johnny got very pale and he swayed against the fence. Murdoch put his arm around his shoulders.
” Whoa John! You okay? It’s okay. I somehow knew you’d find him. Now, when you so much needed to. If you can or even want to break him, he’d make a good cow pony, just like Barranca. He’s got the speed and his muscle structure is exactly like Barranca. “
Johnny was breathing deeply and his sapphire eyes never left his prize. The sparks in his eyes lit his whole body up, and Murdoch was silently pleased his son could show this much delight in this animal. Especially when not so long ago, his son was so low it was positively heartbreaking.
Johnny walked to the gate, and without another word spoken, went into the corral. He squatted down and studied the animal before him. Johnny didn’t touch him and he didn’t make any demands of the horse. Murdoch listened closely and his son was softly talking to him in Spanish.
Soft, lilting, almost musical sounds. The horse was held in Johnny’s spell, his ears moving back and forth, searching for these soft words.
For three hours, Johnny stayed in the corral. The blood red stallion kept moving closer and closer to the young man. Johnny still had not made any move to touch him. He had lowered his head and was looking upwards at the stallion. Neither of them moved. It was as tho they both were statues.
Soon, the ranch hands, Jelly and Scott were around the corral, just watching Johnny and this wild animal. No one spoke, it was not known if they were breathing. They were all held in the spell Johnny was weaving. All the time Johnny was on his knees in front of this huge animal, the soft words never stopped coming from his lips.
Softly, Johnny said to Jelly, ” Bring that saddle in Jelly and leave it by the gate.”
Jelly backed away from the fence and came back a few minutes later, carrying that red saddle. He gently laid it inside the corral and shut the gate.
By this time, Johnny had stood up. He moved slowly and carefully towards the stallion. As Johnny’s hand softly caressed his neck, he could feel the energy in the animal, just waiting to explode like a stick of dynamite.
He moved slowly to the gate and picked up the saddle. He carried it to the middle of the corral and laid it on the ground. The stallion watched Johnny’s every move.
Johnny moved away from the saddle, and again squatted down and again started that soft sing song Spanish.
Johnny watched as the blood red stallion slowly moved towards the saddle. He lowered his head and inhaled the scent. By this time, Johnny walked slowly towards him, a saddle blanket in his hands.
He gently slid the blanket onto the back of the horse and waited. He seemed to have no problem with the blanket. He wasn’t so sure with the saddle.
As Johnny lifted the saddle to his back, the muscles twitched at the weight on his back, but he remained still. Even as Johnny slid a halter over his head and he pulled the cinch tight. Johnny readied himself, and as he lifted his foot to the stirrup, he was ready to move fast if the horse decided he’d had enough.
Johnny slowly lowered his body into the saddle and gathered the ropes attached to the sides of the halter, waiting for the explosion he knew would happen.
The horse did not disappoint Johnny. The explosion was massive. Johnny held on with resolve. He was not going to end up in a heap on the ground. He was determined to remain seated.
It seemed like hours to Johnny. His arms ached, his back ached and he was sure his teeth were rattled loose. But his will was going to win over this massive horse.
Finally, about the time Johnny thought he’d never stop bucking, this blood red mobster ceased his violent moving. He lifted his head and Johnny tiredly moved him around the corral and then stopped him by his father, Scott and Jelly.
He tiredly slid from his back and patted the exhausted animal. His sides were heaving like Johnny’s were.
Before Johnny turned to leave the corral, the horse gently head butted him in the chest. Johnny’s sapphire eyes filled slowly with shiny tears and he put his hands on either side of the horse’s huge red head.
Softly, and on the cusp of tears, Johnny said, ” Your Sire used to do that. ” He made to turn and the liquid brown eyes of the horse locked on Johnny’s sapphire eyes.
Quietly, Johnny softly said in a whisper like voice, ” Fuego. That’s what I will call you.”
The blood red stallion bobbed his head up and down, as if he was pleased with his new name.
ohnny patted his neck and went to the gate.
” Jelly, brush him down and give him some oats and water, when he cools down.”
Jelly knew he had to ask his friend. ” What stall you want him in Johnny?”
Without breaking his stride, he said, very quietly, ” He can have his Sire’s stall.”
Slowly, Johnny left the corral and he began to walk towards the hill behind the barns. Murdoch knew where he was going, and he stood and watched his youngest walk slowly to the place in the meadow he was drawn to.
The walk took a while. Every muscle in Johnny’s body just ached. But he knew he had to do this.
He got to the place under the huge shade tree and sat against the tree trunk. His hand felt the pile of dirt there and he began to talk to his beloved Palomino.
” The one thing I thought I’d never have was one of your offsprings Amigo. I have him. Your blood red colt, and I’ve named him Fuego. I felt a connection with him, like I had with you. He’s perfect and beautiful like you were Barranca.”
As he talked the lump in Johnny’s throat, began to grow bigger. Johnny felt he needed to say something to his beloved horse, for the last time.
” I’ll miss you forever Barranca. You have your wings my Pal, run with the wind. Fuego and I will be as you and I were, true Amigos forever.”
As he stood to leave, Johnny lifted his eyes to the sky, seeing his golden horse running like the wind, tail and mane streaming behind him.
Softly, his words lifted on the winds suddenly blowing.
” Vaya Con Dios Amigo.”
Johnny turned from the spot his horse now rested, a smile on his face, his heart some how lighter and his step with the familiar bounce.
His heart was healing, slowly.
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