Poor Charlie, a 21 year old gelded pinto. This was looking like his last winter. Not necessarily lame, and not truly blind, he was just old.
Charley was nine and she was six when the pinto was given to her.
The Richeys bought him for their daughter, unaware he had one trick. He came to a whistle. Otherwise, he could run like Hell for a quarter mile and stop dead, switching ends and kicking with both feet, like a mule. A pretty penny they paid for a small horse that damn near killed their only child with his one trick.
They asked, warning her of the trick first, but for Missy it was love at first sight ... Charley seemed to like her in return. 12 years later, the pinto was old ... and still loved.
With the price of horse meat it was looking like he was cannery bound. But she loved him; short, halt, fat and slightly swaybacked, Charley had been HER horse. She'd had her first tingler up on Charley, bareback. Now, she was heading off to college and Charley was stuck in the barn.
A barn horse still eats ... feed is expensive and her money, saved from babysitting from ten until she was 16 and then tips and wages from carhopping at the Freeze-O, was paying for University worthy clothing.
Daddy had enough money to pay tuition and dorm for one year. She needed to find a Senior, Engineering preferably, to cajole into marriage. 18 and looking to graduate with an Mrs. degree.
Like I said, a horse eats ... a barn horse is a liability. When she was growing up, she fixed the old Ford 8N, a chore that took the whole of one winter. She rebuilt the sickle bar mower, rolling rake, and wire bailer and cut, raked and bailed hay on some mighty steep and dangerous slopes, land her dad refused to graze his money crop on. Black Angus paid well, but they had to get to auction and they wouldn't grazing those slopes.
When she got pretty, and an impressive bosom, she never had to load and stack by herself. One summer, half the football team helped. But only one summer. The rest of the time it was the neighbor boys who traded 'like for like.' They helped her get the hay in, and she helped them with theirs.
Two cuttings a year produced a haymow that usually had 10 bales left by new spring grass.
She had her home chores besides. The old saying "Man works from sun to sun, but a woman's' work was never done," was never more true. If she had been male, they'd have worked his balls off.
She wanted a better life than her mother. Tricked by passion, and an uncaring drunken father, her 16 year old mother had married her 'up and coming' thirty three year old farmer father already pregnant and showing. Daddy was cold as ice, stern and unyielding ... until mom, now 22, presented him with the apple of his eye. The second child could do no wrong.
"No, Daddy. I want a horse of my own," her 12 year old sister complained. Charley shuffled his hooves. "I want to barrel race. Charley won't do!" And that was that.
Christine, Sissy, was a wanted baby, unlike her older sister. Missy was a guilt baby. Sissy got the best clothes, the fewest chores, the latest bedtime.
Along with everything else, Missy, not the brightest bulb in the fixture, had to study like crazy to keep a grade point that would insure college. To fail to maintain a decent grade point meant a life of misery married to an irrigator or, worse, a cropper.