Prince Ali – Chapter 16

By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses


On Saturday before the Swallows Day celebration began, an old blue truck bounced down a rutted road on worn shocks and tires at one-thirty in the afternoon. The driver turned into the long, almost invisible driveway toward a falling-down cabin. A plume of dust followed, settling slowly into the countryside. Calvin and Danny Hix spent the morning working on a ranch 10 miles away. They’d mucked stalls and repaired several hundred feet of pasture fencing for the property owner who bred horses for the race track.

Calvin threw the truck in parking gear and set the brake before climbing out when they got to the cabin. He reached into the cooler in the truck bed for two cold drinks and tossed one across the bed to his brother. Danny caught it with one hand.

The two men sat down in creaking lawn chairs beside the cabin and stretched out their legs in the sunshine. They twisted the caps off their bottles and tossed them in nearby weeds. Each took a long pull of the cold liquid. The old truck engine ticked as heat dissipated. An occasional splat of oil dripped onto the gravel below. Neither of them said anything for a while. They just looked out across the hillsides surrounding the cabin.

Located in northern San Diego County, the hills were a vibrant green this time of year. February rains brought fresh grasses and wildflowers out among the scrub oaks and mesquite. The twenty-acre property was miles from the nearest town, Ramona, and the nearest neighbor as well. Calvin and Danny preferred to live “off the grid,” so finding this abandoned place was a lucky accident.

The two brothers resembled each other with sandy hair and tall, lean frames. Calvin was the oldest, nearing thirty. Danny was the better looking of the two but had the mental capacity of a child in his twenty-five-year-old body. He could not survive without Calvin. They did anything to earn a living. Calvin had enough social skills to get them honest work on local horse ranches in the area. They cleaned horse stalls, painted barns, or mended fences. They could change the oil in a tractor. They knew how to fix a leaky faucet or toilet, build a new gate, clean up a yard or paint a room or a house. They were pretty good hands with horses too.

Danny closed his eyes under the mid-day sun and almost fell asleep until Calvin spoke.

“Ya know, Danny, we’re goin’ to have to scrounge up a few bucks pretty quick if we want to have your birthday party in two weeks. Our jobs‘ll only pay a coupla hundred, so we have to come up with an idea.”

Danny kept his eyes closed but nodded his agreement and cackled out loud. He would be twenty-five in precisely two weeks, and Calvin wanted to throw him a big birthday party. He’d never had a birthday party in his life. He didn’t understand why it was such a big deal, but he always went along with Calvin.

“Been thinkin’ about it,” Calvin said. “How ‘bout we do like last time.”

“Got any ideas where we can find a couple with nobody watchin’? We get work from lots of these ranches around here,” Danny said thoughtfully.

“That Swallows Day Parade is next weekend in Capistrano. There’ll be hundreds of them there,” Calvin suggested. “You wanna go to a parade?” Calvin grinned and scratched, swatting a fly away with his other hand. “If we can put somethin’ together in the next couple days, I can borrow gas money from someone at the bar. You know, the Drop Inn? We just have to promise them a real good time in exchange for the loan. Hey, we can invite them to your party!” Calvin chuckled.

“Well, we got nothin’ better to do, and we’re gettin’ low on drinks and coffee,” grinned Danny. “Let’s take a drive up to Capistrano and check it out.”

And that’s precisely what they did. Calvin and Danny spent enough time in San Juan Capistrano to find the parade route, the staging area for livestock, and the on and off-ramps for the freeway. They confirmed the times for the parade, the awards ceremony in the park, and the Street Faire. They talked to a few locals at the Swallows Inn for good measure. Calvin thought about the timing carefully. They were going to try pulling this one off in broad daylight with many potential witnesses. He knew he had to get it just right.

Victoria Hardesty has owned, bred and shown Arabian Horses for more than 30 years. She and her husband operated their own training facility serving many young people that loved and showed their own horses. She is the author of numerous articles in horse magazines, was the editor of two Arabian Horse Club newsletters, one of which was given the Communications Award of the Year by the Arabian Horse Association at their national convention. An avid reader from childhood, she read every horse story she could get her hands on.