PRINCE ALI – WONDER HORSE BOOK ONE, SECOND EDITION
By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Authors of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
Ali’s first night at the mountain camp was cold and lonely. He spent the entire night at the north end of the corral staring up at the stars, occasionally glancing at the lights twinkling in the plateau off to the East and West of his location. He was freezing cold. He’d never spent a night outside of a warm barn in his life. A few lights were on the plateau in front of him, but they were few and far between. He was heartsick. He had no idea where he was, and he worried about Becky constantly. His attempt at conversation with Max failed. Max would answer his questions with a single word and sometimes not even that.
Ali went over and over the previous day in his mind. He and Becky had a wonderful time in the parade. People all along the parade route seemed to enjoy seeing the two of them. But those two men at the trailer were different. He remembered the look on that one man’s face as he shoved Becky. He wanted to hurt that man. He was scared for Becky. The last thing he remembered seeing was her lying on the ground with blood in her hair. She didn’t move. Was he to blame? Should he have stomped that man who stuck a needle in his neck? Why couldn’t he protect Becky? How did he get here? He had no recollection of leaving San Juan Capistrano. He didn’t recall much until the terrain along the highway was rocky with little vegetation. The stink in that trailer would haunt him forever. It was the stink of fear. This place was terrible. It was surrounded by creepy and scary sounds he’d never heard before. He had no idea where he was or how to get back to his Becky.
Ali heard his first owl that night as the giant bird flew between the trees hunting for mice or rabbits. Far off in the distance, he heard the snarl of a large cat. That snarl gave him the shivers. He didn’t know what made that sound, but he instinctively knew it was something to be avoided.
Far down in the desert below, he heard the songs of the coyotes. He listened as the breeze sloughed through the needles of the pine trees near the corral. There were few other sounds at night. It was still, dark, and very cold.
As dawn broke, turning the sky pink and coral in the East, he finally went for a drink. The water was chilly but fresh. He nosed around looking for a tidbit to chew on but found little to his liking. Hunger set his stomach growling and did nothing to improve his mood. He was scared and depressed and very unhappy.
He missed his barn stall, his blanket, his siblings, and his mother, but he missed his Becky most of all. His world had been turned upside down, and he didn’t know why.
A few hours after dawn, with the sun climbing toward its zenith, the old man came out of the cabin and brought fresh hay to the horses. Ali could smell him before he saw him. The old man’s odor didn’t particularly put him off; he just thought it was interesting. The old man filled up the water barrel with more fresh spring water.
He unlatched the gate and walked to where Ali stood. He patted and stroked his neck and found the itchy place at his withers again. “You’re sure a pretty boy,” he said to Ali. “I got the best end of that bargain!”
Carl Nixon spent a few more minutes admiring his new purchase, petting him and speaking to him in low soothing tones. Then he spent a few minutes with Max before heading back to the cabin.
Carl Nixon was a reader. There was not much in this world he liked better than getting lost in the pages of an old classic. His favorite was Dickens. The life he made for himself on the mountain gave him plenty of time to read.
He once had a life down below, as he referred to the towns and cities at either end of the high desert plateau. The old man spent his best reading time working for a living, getting to or from work, or taking care of his property and his family. Sometimes he felt like a hamster on a wheel, running as hard as possible but never getting anywhere.
The one really bright spot in that old life was his little girl. He was completely hooked the minute he laid eyes on her. He’d do anything for her. He loved his wife, but his daughter was the center of his universe. The day after his bright, beautiful and delightful little girl turned twelve, she and her mother were both killed instantly in a head-on automobile collision.
During the black days that followed the accident, he lost touch with reality. He drove the old pick-up truck he’d spent years restoring up into the mountains for the solitude.
One day he packed his truck with a few things he thought he might need, cleaned out the last few thousand from his bank account, and disappeared off the face of the planet. He walked away from his home, job, and everything he’d worked for. He no longer felt tethered to the world as most people see it.
It was quite by accident he discovered this little valley in the pines. And another accident that he found his secret stream held real gold that was easy to get. The first afternoon he’d panned for gold in that stream, he put the gold he collected in a small leather pouch like the one he handed Calvin. He took it down the mountain to a friend who owned a pawn shop in Palmdale. His buddy measured it and gave him three hundred eighty-five dollars for that one afternoon’s work.
He was astonished, and he was very pleased with himself. He’d found a way to live the life he wanted. He could work two afternoons a month and have all the money he needed. He had no rent to pay. He used very little gasoline. He was surrounded by all the wood he needed to keep warm in the winter. And he was only feeding himself.
He rarely spent all of the money he dredged up out of that stream every month. In fact, he had sacks of the stuff sitting under his bed in the cabin. Some of the sacks were so heavy he had a hard time moving them. And he had bags of unspent bills sitting under the bed next to the gold. It does tend to accumulate over twenty years.
Carl Nixon didn’t know that the owner of the pawnshop had been cheating him for years. He paid him cash for his gold at prices established twenty or more years ago. The actual cost of gold escalated a lot over that time. What Carl Nixon received for his gold was less than a quarter of the gold’s real value. Carl didn’t know he had almost enough to buy Ali at his actual value sitting under his bed in that ratty old cabin.
The only thing Carl Nixon bought in the last twenty years just because it was pretty was Ali. He was struck by the horse’s beauty when he first came out of the trailer. There was nothing in or around his cabin except nature that was especially pretty. He thought it was odd he could be attracted to an animal in that way. He just knew he wanted him when he saw him, and he would have worked any deal necessary to keep him.
After feeding the horses their morning hay, Nixon brought a cheap plastic patio chair out behind his cabin. He turned over an old broken bucket for a footstool and settled down with his current book. He wanted to be outside in the fresh air, but he also wanted to look at Ali.
As he read, he glanced up every few paragraphs just to admire the horse. Ali stood quietly in the north end of the corral, staring out at the vista below. He ate little and seldom drank.
Carl fed the horses that evening as the sun was sinking below the horizon. He gave them fresh water and went into the corral to pet and scratch them both, talking to each in his soft, comforting voice. Then he went inside for the night, stoked up the wood stove, had his evening meal, and took his book to bed, reading until he fell asleep with the book opened on his chest.
Ali faced a second night like the first one on this mountain. The only difference was he was sinking deeper into depression.