Where Hearts Run Wild

Glen Olson

 

Chapter 1

The sun bathed the tall brownish grass that rolled gently with the wind, creating waves that caressed the green oak trees that dotted the wide-open Colorado prairie. The foothills at the edge of the prairie continued this ensemble, eventually sweeping higher and higher into the horizon-filled mountains, hooded by a deep blue endless sky.

The day seemed calm enough, and all appeared right with nature. For out here, primarily only the sounds of wind, rain, and thunder were heard along with the nightly cries of distant coyotes. Except for this summer day as unexpected horse hooves were heard pounding the earth.

A wild horse appeared in the distance, running at a good clip. Its hooves created a cloud of sun-lit dust that trailed behind the animal as it wound its way down a foothill and onto the prairie flats.

The horse came to a dusty, kicking halt. The animal was large in statureóa specimen of good health. A stallion; lean, shiny with sweat, and muscular. He was reddish brown in color and wild as the prairie wind. The horse breathed heavily, steam blowing from dilated nostrils. He scanned the horizon with fire in his eyes. Fire that told us something had rattled his peace of mind, had shaken his world. The horse was somewhat of a legend and had inherited the name Rebel by his human adversaries. A name that well suited him.

Before Rebel could settle, the sound of running horse hooves was heard in the distance. Rebel turned his head quickly and saw two wild, multi-colored horses approaching fast. The two ran on the same trail Rebel had taken down to the prairie floor. Rebel whinnied loudly, obviously upset upon seeing the animals.

The two horses approached Rebel, slowed their run and began to circle him. They too were sweat-covered, and it was obvious a chase had taken place with Rebel being the target of their pursuit. Rebel snorted with a growl. The two horses neighed back as they continued to circle their prey.

The three animals eyed one another with caution and suspicion. Their nervousness seemed to fill the air, and for a few moments, no other sound could be heard except the steam bursting from the nostrils of these warriors and the clicking of their hooves of bone. Hostility was peaking to a boiling point.

Suddenly, and without provocation, one of the spotted horses reared up onto its hind legs and began to thrash his front legs with a deafening whinny.

Walking on his hind legs, the horse approached Rebel. Using his front legs as if he were a boxer throwing haymakers, the multi-colored horse began to strike Rebel with a series of blows to his neck and body.

Rebel reared on his hind legs and with his powerful hooves, he began to fight back.

The two animals wailed out primal screams as they continued to slam their hooves into each other. Each horse began to bleed as their sharp hooves ripped into their hides, creating deep gashes.

The multi-colored horse began to falter. The animal lowered itself to the ground and stood on all legs. Rebel seized the opportunity, with his fighting instinct telling him to go for the kill. Go for it now before his opponentís partner joined in the battle. Still standing on his back legs, Rebel lunged at the standing horse and began to thrash it in a series of powerful hits. The spotted animal fell to the ground and screeched out in pain.

With that, the second horse reared and made an attack on Rebel, striking him in the same violent manner. But Rebel was in the heat of the battering scuffle. His temper was flaming to the point he felt nothing. No blood, no pain. His only quest was to conquer the two horses or be conquered. And the latter was not part of Rebelís nature, not an option under any circumstances.

Rebel struck back with another round of pounding blows that hit the second horse hard and fast. The horse began to suffer several cuts, and blood streamed down his perspiring coat. Rebel continued to attack which forced the second horse to back into a tree.

The impact caused a branch to break from the tree and fall to the ground.

At the same time, a frightened prairie gopher attempted to scramble from its hole in the ground to escape the horse hooves that danced around him as though they were jackhammers. However, before he could flee the scene, the tree branch fell squarely on his back and pinned him to the ground. The little animal squealed in pain and struggled to free himself, but it was to no avail.

The first horse that attacked Rebel stood, shook himself off, neighed out a cry and ran toward the foothills. The second horse managed to step away from Rebel, and it too galloped off after the first fleeing animal.

Rebel lowered to all four legs. He held his head high in victory as his angry eyes watched his defeated enemies trail off into the distance. His nostrils flared as his heavy breathing pushed steam into the air. He was cut up, but the wounds were mostly superficial, and the bleeding had either slowed or stopped.

Nearby, a small creek wound its way gently through the prairie floor. Rebel crossed to the water and stepped in. He moved to the middle of the creek and lay on his side. He rolled over a time or two as the cool blue waters washed away the blood and cleaned his cuts natureís way.

Back near the tree, the gopher continued to struggle, unable to free himself from under the fallen branch.

The rodent was doomed for it would be nightfall in a few hours, and the coyotes would surely be coming to the creek for a drink of water. They would, of course, take great delight in finding a dinner they did not have to hunt for or fight for. The gopher screamed out in frustration and pain. Rebel heard the cry for help. He looked in the direction of the tree and spotted the squirming gopher. Rebel stood and walked out of the stream and crossed to the trapped animal.

Panic-stricken, the gopher peeked up at Rebel, sure he was a goner. Rebelís hooves appeared to be giant pillars compared to the tiny creature. Rebel paused and studied the animal a curious moment. The gopher whimpered for mercy. Rebel lowered his head, and with one firm nudge of his nose, he pushed the branch off the gopherís back, setting him free.

The little rodent scurried away as fast as his legs could carry him. Rebel watched after the departing animal. Only now, his eyes were calm, his breathing mild. Noble would be the most appropriate word to describe this mysterious horse. Could he be an animal with a clear sense of right and wrong? A pioneer among the horse family who maybe, just maybe, had reached a higher plane of understanding as to the order of things? A primitive, yet clear understanding as to who gets punished, and who goes free.