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Excerpts

Acid & Bribery

Kelsey strained to hear more, but the voices faded. She couldn’t place them and she could hardly believe what she had heard. It sounded as if someone was trying to fix a race. By the time she scrambled over the peak of the roof and carefully moved down to peek over the far edge, the conspirators were gone.

Kelsey strained to keep her eyes on Tomar through Janice’s binoculars. A crowd of people pushed in around her. It looked as if he came out of gate four in the lead, but he wasn’t leading now. A tight line of nose to nose horses had formed ahead of the sorrel stallion. Gradually five horses pulled ahead of the line, plunging straight down the track. Tomar was not among them.

Following like a puppy, Kelsey really wanted to go find out why Tomar El Oro did so badly in his race. The closed-circuit screen showed a tall gray Quarter Horse trained by Maribelle Rand win by a nose over a small brown horse trained by Ed Anthony. Kelsey noticed that Eustacio Rios didn’t whip the gray the way he did Tomar.

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From Homeless to Heaven

Fifty-five below zero was COLD! The cattle still must be fed and Calvin Cody Cambres must make sure there was liquid water for the cattle and horses to drink. If the tank heaters were working, the water would be liquid. Even with block heater plugged in, the diesel tractor used to take big round bales from the hay pen to the cattle on the snowy meadow wouldn’t start. Using the backup plan, Cody used a bucket with some oats in it to catch the team of workhorses, a 2000-pound sorrel draft horse and his 1800-pound brown sister. Their hooves were bare, letting the frog keep the horses from slipping and falling. The Clydesdale fetlock hairs had icicles handing from them. Longhaired winter coats trapped air that kept the horses warm and comfortable. Cody was dressed as warmly as he could, even though so many layers of clothing made moving difficult. The lined mittens were especially bothersome, but he dare not remove them. Winter underwear, lined jeans, and the insulated coveralls were below two warm winter coats. A wool winter cap with earflaps was covering his ears. He felt bulky because he was. The team was harnessed and hitched to the hay sled. Cody got on the sled, then urged the horses forward. As they arrived at the haystack 500 longhaired pregnant Galabieh and Black Baldie mother cows greeted him with bawls that said, “Feed me.”

March continued like this seven days a week, except that in February Cody switched to feeding the bulls and horses in the morning, then the heifers and cows in the afternoon in hopes more calves would be born in the daytime rather than at night. Sunday mornings Cody would have preferred to be in church with Sadie and Samuel, but feeding livestock took all day. He went to evening and midweek church even though he was tired and wore work clothes. He was ashamed as he woke from dozing a few minutes rather than praying. Nevertheless, he was thankful there was a midweek service to attend.

Cody had an order standing at the labor office on skid row in the big city a hundred miles away for a man to work on his ranch during the winter. Usually it went unfilled, but one winter day his wife received a call that a man would be on the bus arriving that evening. Cody liked working alone when he fed cattle and horses on a nice winter day with the sun shining and the wind not blowing even though it was cold and snow covered the ground. It was on windy blizzard days that he wanted help. In the evening, he was at the bus stop when the bus arrived. A man about forty years old stepped off the bus and out into the cold with his few belongings in a small tattered hand carried bag the size of a shopping bag. The first thing Cody did was taking Alan to the General Store where he bought winter underwear, two warm shirts, two pair of lined denim pants, insulated coveralls, a warm winter hat with ear flaps, warm mittens, a bigger coat than the one Alan wore, and five buckle overshoes. The labor office fee and cost of clothing would be deducted from Alan’s first paycheck along with Social Security taxes. That paycheck would be too small for Alan to buy a bus ticket back to skid row.

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