There was about to be a lot of work to do. Grace would be in charge of choosing and presenting over two dozen horses for Breyerfest Online, and Skye had talked Grace into participating in the MEPSA (Model Equine Photo Showers' Association's) Mini Makeover.
So the girls did the smart thing. They got in some riding time while they could.
Grace chose a Paint stallion that she nicknamed Ono for the day's ride. He got the name because when he arrived he wasn't having any part of anything. He didn't want to come out of the trailer. He didn't want to move around much in the turn-out pen. And then once he did get moving, he didn't want to stop. He didn't feel like greeting anyone...his response when taken to his stall...oh no. No no no. It took him several days to get acclimated. Once he did, Grace found him to be highly alert and a bit cautious, but willing.
They rode out at dawn under a cloudless sky that would quickly warm. Grace had found a thing. The high desert is full of things that point to a once thriving past. Whole towns. Mining operations. Ranching outfits. Caverns, tunnels, hideaways. Grand theaters and outdoor amphitheaters. And those are just the things still visible.
An older past lay erased by wind and fire and time. Covered by a thin layer of soil, indigenous settlements and bandit's hideaways are forever under foot in this harsh paradise. Tiburcio Vasquez lived in Chilao for the better part of 18 years, holding out against a changing world. Before the colonization of California, five different tribes - maybe more - made the resource-rich region their summer home.
The structures that remain are from a much more recent but equally vacated past. A time when Albert Einstein had a favorite chair at Mount Wilson Observatory and the Mount Lowe Railway catered to a constant stream of tourists. (Late at night, or sometimes just before dawn, you can still hear the train whistle blowing, crisp and clear). A time when whole communities resided in the forest; when the asphalt ribbon of Angeles Crest Highway was brand new, when there was a community here.
The girls rode toward the thing. Ono stopped at some distance from it, looked long and thoroughly, finally continued forward. Baron and Hobo were the first to enter. It was a massive sort of vault, made of huge slabs of local stone, concrete and iron. It was cool inside. Dark. Deep. Empty. Skye and Precious went in next. There was not enough room for two horses to turn around if anything went sideways inside. Grace and Ono went next. Ono was brave. Grace had him go about a third of the way in. That was enough. That was exceptional, really, for what Grace was pretty sure was a green-broke horse.
Back at home it was time to get the MEPSA horses ready. The mini contest is a benefit for MEPSA. The horses entered become the property of MEPSA and are used as prizes or fund raisers for the club. Skye was donating her first ever custom model, a resin draft foal that was gifted to her by Deb and Randy Buckler of Resins by Randy. She told Grace it was somewhat traditional to give away your first piece of artwork. Now, she couldn't recall if that was a Native American tradition or an artist tradition or even where she'd learned about it being customary, but she was convinced it was the right thing to do.
Grace was conflicted about donating her horse, her own second ever piece, a bay roan mustang sculpt by Summer Prosser that Grace named A Little Crazy. But it was hard to argue with Skye's benevolence. The third horse was being donated by the owner of Redbird Ranch. Soon as the photo shoot was over, the horses would be packed up and shipped off, and there would be other things...many other things...to take up space, talent and time.