WONDER HORSE BOOK ONE
By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
Parade week finally arrived. A troop of prominent citizens dressed as cowboys stormed the Mayor’s office on Monday morning. Some of them had their six-shooters loaded with blanks strapped in their gunbelts. The last man to burst through the door was very tall and wore a black hood to obscure his identity, even though everyone knew it was Charlie “Slim” Baker. He had a long rope ending in a hangman’s noose draped over one shoulder. The group demanded the mayor immediately announce the opening of the Swallows Day celebration, or else! Anticipating the confrontation, the poor mayor feigned surprise but allowed the “gang” to hustle him out onto the steps in front of the city office building. There he declared the celebration officially open.
The “gang” encouraged the celebration by shooting off their six-shooters and making a horrible racket on the steps of City Hall. The local newspaper photographer was there to immortalize the event in pictures. Everyone there overacted their parts for the fun of it. They promptly left with the mayor for the Swallows Inn for something “to wet their whistles.”
City crews constructed iron cages in several areas on downtown sidewalks. Anyone walking on the streets without wearing an article of “Western” clothing was immediately arrested and put in one of the cages. They were allowed to use their cell phones to call for bail money from their friends or family. All bail money went to charity. No one stayed in the cages very long, but visitors and citizens of the community had a lot of fun with the “inmates” during their brief stay in City Jail, chiding and teasing them.
The “beard growing” contest began on New Year’s Day. That was the last time men in the community wasted time shaving. By March, their beards had grown to some degree. One of the City Council members told the rest of the Council they all looked like hippies in shirts and ties at the February meeting. Some men stopped by the local barber and had their beards trimmed a bit, so they didn’t look so scraggly. Once the contest was over and the best and worst beard declared, nearly every man who grew one dashed home to shave their’s off.
The President’s Ball on Wednesday was a formal event. Ladies dressed in long dresses in Western, old Spanish, or Native American styles. They added feathers, wide-brimmed hats, and fancy jewelry to their ensemble. The men dressed formally in string or bolo ties, Western-style jackets, polished cowboy boots, and hats. The dinner spread from the lower level banquet room into the patio area behind the restaurant.
Becky usually missed this event. She had a friend over for the night or went to a friend’s house. This year, she wouldn’t miss the event for any reason. The Grand Marshall of the parade was honored at the President’s Ball. This year, the Grand Marshall was her best friend, Prince Ali.
Caroline took Becky shopping and found just the right outfit for her. They discussed what to do with Prince Ali and decided he would go Western as well. Caroline borrowed some expensive Western Show tack from another friend of hers. She and Becky spent hours polishing the silver on the bridle, reins, and saddle the day before the Ball.
The night of the Ball, Caroline drove her car to the restaurant early. With the help of the restaurant staff, they cordoned off part of the parking lot for the truck and horse trailer for Prince Ali. Becky, Walter, and Fernando brought Prince Ali in the trailer so Ali would be there on time. As soon as Fernando parked the trailer, Becky and her parents took him outside and tacked him up in the silver-trimmed saddle and bridle. Becky applied a little baby oil on his face while Caroline and Walter gave Ali a good brushing. Becky bathed Ali that afternoon. She put hoof polish on his hooves before they left home. When they finished, Ali looked stunning.
“Since you’re going to ride him in the parade, you should be the one to walk him into the patio area,” Walter said to Becky. “We probably need to do that now before it gets too crowded.”
Becky took the reins and walked beside Ali to the gate. Walter opened the gate and stepped aside so Becky and Prince Ali could enter first. As soon as they walked into the patio area, the mayor noticed them and picked up the microphone. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to present the Grand Marshall of this year’s Swallows Day Parade. Please join me in welcoming Prince Ali and his rider, Becky Howard.” Everyone in the restaurant that night turned to look, then stood and clapped.
Becky curtseyed, then stood beside Prince Ali, smiling. Those at the party later recanted the horse smiled too. The head chef heard the announcement and grabbed a tray of his special treats for Prince Ali. He marched through the crowd holding the tray over his head with one hand. When he reached the patio, he used the other hand to pull a small folding table out to set the tray down. “Do you mind if I pet your horse?” he asked Becky.
“Oh, Ali likes it. Would you like me to show you where he likes to be scratched?”
“Perfect,” the man said. He pointed to the tray. “These are a special recipe just for horses. I used a recipe with carrots for the round ones and apples for the flat ones. I hope he likes them.”
Becky offered one of the carrot treats to Ali. He took it from her hand and began to crunch on it while Becky showed the chef where to scratch Ali’s withers. Ali groaned with delight. He had someone scratching that itchy place he could never reach himself, and the cookie was absolutely delicious.
“I think he likes this,” the chef said.
“I think he’s enjoying your cookies,” Becky answered.
“I watched that football game on TV,” the man said. “We heard a horse from our hometown would be taking Lightning’s place, so lots of us tuned in to see him. I wish they showed more of him. It was just a few seconds here and there, but he was spectacular to watch. He’s even more handsome in person.”
Becky laughed. “My dad always says Ali is a ham with a capital H. He likes to show off, especially when he thinks someone is watching him. He’s never had so many people watching him at one time before.”
“Well, I need to get back to my kitchen. Thanks for letting me meet him. If you run out of cookies, I have another couple of trays waiting for him. Just let me know,” the chef said, smiling as he hurried back to his duties.
Other guests began to approach Prince Ali and Becky. Many wanted their pictures taken with the horse. Ali knew just when to prick his ears forward and open his eyes for the camera. Everyone who stopped by to see Prince Ali fed him treats, so the first tray emptied quickly. A waiter rushed another tray out.
An hour later, waiters hauled trays of food to the banquet table from the kitchen. Hungry diners filled their plates and looked for spots at the tables to sit. Walter and Caroline were on the patio with Becky and Ali. “It’s time for Ali to leave for home,” Walter said. “Let’s take him back to the trailer. Fernando will drive him home for us.”
Becky led Ali through the gate to the parking lot. “I’ll go home with Ali, Mom. I’d rather stay with him if you don’t mind. This is kind of a grown-up party. You brought your car over, so you and Dad can stay as late as you want to. I’ll see you at home.”
In step behind their daughter and her horse, Caroline and Walter looked at each other and smiled.