The sky darkened rather suddenly and a flurry of snowflakes began to fall.
Skye scrambled around for her shoes and coat. Where was her coat? She saw Grace's coat laying at the end of her bed, and put it on...and then as she made her way outside, the sun broke through.
Hobo and Skye and White Dog went on a walkabout. It was quiet, cold, the world their own. The clouds gathered again, and a light snow resumed. So peaceful, and beautiful. They wandered along the edge of the tree line. Then up into the rocks. The light changed constantly and flurries of snow came and went, melting as soon as they touched the ground, or a dog, or a girl.
Or a horse. As they stood at the base of the steep rock ravine, It took Skye a moment to notice that White Dog was focused on something behind her.
She spun around to see Petrichor. For a moment he seemed tense, and also spun around. Skye stood up tall as she could. Her silhouette was something like that of a very furry animal...perhaps a bear...dark head and round, silver-black body.
For a tense moment, Petrichor used all of his senses to determine the true nature of this approaching creature. And then he let out a long snort...not an aggressive sound, but almost like releasing...as if a perceived threat had passed and danger was over. No wonder Grace was so in love with him. Something about him was just...magnificent.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the first new horses had arrived, and whether Grace was keen on indoor arenas or not, it was proving mighty handy to have one today.
Just another stallion, Grace told herself. But he was pretty spectacular, really. A deep red bay Akhal Teke. Possessed of a ground-eating way of going, a fine head, a kind temperament, and a lot of training. All of it in english disciplines, but still. Okay. Maybe she was a little excited about the new horse. Maybe.
Grace marveled at the clouds...real clouds, every one of them...as she lead the new stallion back to the ranch. By the time she had him settled in, another flurry of snow began. The wild birds seemed to enjoy it.
March 6. The morning began clear and relatively warm, and noisy. A pair of coyotes defiantly announced their presence at dawn. They positioned themselves by the garage of the fire station, where the sound of their calls was not only amplified, but reverberated off the bluff to the south. The result was magnificently loud.
The day seemed like it would be one of endless sunshine, but by the time the second new horse arrived, it was cold and cloudy. Grace brought him to the indoor arena. A big, easy going chestnut Morgan with a strong, almost floating trot.
Skye took a liking to him right away. She ran next to him as he worked his way up and down the arena.
"He reminds me of Moose!"
The clouds lingered for most of the afternoon. After spending some time at the arena, Skye tried to figure out how she would display some of her art in The Barn Art Show. It would be a part of this years' Models in the Mountains show. High on the walls of the arena were hooks for hanging flat pieces...but some of her work was big, and not flat.
Not so long ago the studio seemed empty, but now, in addition to Skye's art, other horses moved back and forth from the studio to their room. Grace especially loved the deer that Skye transformed. She could sell those for sure, Grace thought. Maybe not at MIM, but somewhere, if she tried.
"I want to sell Padronis, too" Skye said.
"Are you sure? She's pretty nice Skye." I think we can list both of our NaMo horses in a certain place in the NaMoPaiMo group. But we have to put a price on them. And I want to do a little touch up on the face on Puddle Jumper."
Skye was silent for a moment. "I have no idea what the price should be."
The girls went back to their room. Somehow, all at once it seemed like a little bit of a crowded house. Grace looked around.
"We could take down the posters and put up shelves" Grace mused.
"Oh, no, I don't think we should do that" Skye said.
The cloud cover parted in the late afternoon, but enough clouds lingered to make a trip out to see the sunset seem like a good idea. It was a bit cold to be out without jackets on. The sun broke below the cloud line just as they turned for home. They watched for a moment longer before retreating to the shelter of their somewhat crowded room.
Grace found some reasonably priced frames for Skye's two watercolors. Of everything she'd done so far, Skye was still insecure about her watercolors on paper. The frames helped them look more pleasing somehow.
March 13. The forecast called for the wind to resume, but dawn came still and warm. So Grace and Skye rode out in style, on the long legged sport horses, Gunner the pearl Akhal Teke, and Dani Girl, the young appaloosa-colored warmblood mare. And wherever Skye went, the birds followed, hopeful.
The recent burn had left the landscape open. They could see all around. New grass was growing. The soil still retained a touch of moisture. It was a glorious day.
Grace's goal was a head count. They would look for all the wild horses they knew of. Where there was water, there was wildlife, but the seasonal streams were already dry, so they had to do a bit of searching. Highlander and the dun mare were the first wild horses they found.
Highlander had probably seen the girls approaching long before they had seen him. He began to retreat. Then he spun around. He was a lot of horse. There was no need to get closer. Just something nearly irresistible about being close to wild horses. Grace drew Gunner in. They were close enough to see that both horses were fine and there were still just two of them. Highlander and his mare moved off.
Crazy and his band had moved north. The smallest of the stallions, he was a fireball. He scrambled down the granite boulders to join his mares below. You always knew where you stood with Crazy. He did not like company.
The nanny mare, Lady Godiva Skye called her, was keen on keeping the single foal of the herd safe.
The girls watched from a respectful distance. These were some beautiful horses, and they were always active. Finally, Crazy had had enough, and charged toward Grace and Skye. The girls backed off, leaving the colorful herd to their wild ways.
Further north still, Skye spotted the pale mare of Petrichor's band. It was nearly noon, and the still air grew warm. The pale mare and her jet black foal were in the stream bed, but it was dry, grass replacing water.
The horses were spread out. They saw the bay mare and her spotted foal on the knoll above the stream bed. Further away still, Grace spotted Petrichor. The mares and their foals turned away, back towards Petrichor. There would be no friendly greeting today. He seemed nervous, distant...wild.
Except for the two big stallions that had no mares, Rain Man and Storm, they had found them all. It had taken three hours and a good piece of riding, but their horses were still fresh as they turned for home. And as they did, they heard the wind in the pines, a whisper to a roar in just minutes.
Another new arrival greeted the girls when they returned to the ranch. A spotted drafter was Grace's guess. He was lovely with a kind eye and a gentle demeanor.
"We have a matched team, actually" Grace said. ""But I guess they'll be arriving separately."
"He's gorgeous" Skye replied. "What is he? Are we keeping him?"
"I'm going to take a guess at North American Spotted Draft, and I'm not sure if they will be staying or not."
"How many draft stallions does Redbird Ranch have?"
Grace thought for a moment. "About 23. Or maybe 25. Enough, for sure. You know, let's get some of them out."
One by one they took the draft horses down to the arena. Not all twenty-however-many there were, but a few.
Gypsy Gold. "Are we keeping this one?" Skye asked. "He's fun!"
Grace shrugged, uncertain.
Jake. "This one I hope we can sell" Grace said. We aren't doing much with him."
"Now this is a great horse" Grace explained. Paddy Wagon, an Irish Drought. This one is a keeper."
"Silver Moon, a shire, also a keeper."
Brownie, an old style Belgian.
"Keeper" the girls agreed.
"And this is the sweetest horse you will ever meet in your life. This is Shy Thunder. Also a keeper."
Then the horses got put away and the dogs got to come down to the arena...ten dogs and one cat, to be exact. There were decisions to be made...lots of them. It was time to address the bare white sponsorship wall of the arena, thus far adorned only with a Highway 2 decal.
"Do you think this NaMoPaiMo decal could be bigger?"
"Not too much bigger" Grace answered, "or it won't fit."
Grace was rather fond of the Protectibles decals herself.
But before all those decisions were made, Grace wanted to make sure the arena would function as intended for The Barn Art Show. So they took one of Skye's two framed watercolors...one of the heaviest pieces they hoped to include in the show...and tried it out.
Once on the wall, Skye kind of liked it...
They made it back home before the sun went down, with ten dogs and...Mojo. Grace and Skye watched apprehensively as Mojo and Ginger Cat shared the table top with fine art. There was a collective sigh of relief when the cats got off the table. Another lovely evening unfolding. Spring in the air.
March 20. Skye and the dogs made their way across the rocky ravine they had seen Petrichor move through effortlessly so many times. It was steeper and more rugged than Skye remembered. The trek was proving tough for Little Spot.
Skye hadn't really intended to wind up here. The wind had blown all day long and she decided to go for a walk, and then perhaps to see if she could find Petrichor and his band, as he had seemed so nervous last time they saw him. They started out in the grassy meadows, but found no horses there. So into the ravine they went. But everyone seemed uneasy there. The dogs were on high alert...and poor Little Spot. Skye decided to head for home.
Finally, they were out of the rocks and back on relatively flat ground. But the dogs kept looking back behind them, even the pups.
For a girl who didn't like indoor arenas, Grace was spending a lot of cold and windy days inside of one. The walk from the stables to the indoor arena was fairly long, and the wind didn't make it any easier. Grace took the golden stallion, La Barilla, in the last hour of sunlight. He sure could move.
Grace used very few aids. No stud chain. No lunging whip. He knew how to lunge. But he needed more. It was time to focus on him.
She imagined what he would be like to ride. As lovely as the finest Spanish horse she'd ever seen. And gleaming gold.
It had been a good session. Time to head back, before dark.
The sky was clean and clear, the night cool, the wind laying down as the sun was setting.
March 26. Grace snuck out for an early morning ride on Jesse. It would be a busy day, and this would likely be her only chance to get some time in the saddle. The rest of the day would be spent somewhere pretty special.
Both Grace and Skye were a little young to recall The Singing Cowboy, but he'd left behind a wonderful legacy...The Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum. There was a particular show the boss had recommended. It was the 25th Masters of the American West show.
The first piece their eyes fell upon was a masterpiece of workmanship - The Maverick by Kyle Polzin.
"I guess there's a couple artists in the show that the boss knows" Grace commented as they looked at a painting called Garden Light, "and this is one of them...Jeremy Lipking."
The show was wonderful. The girls could have spent all day there. Skye photographed her favorite pieces. Somehow they managed to leave the museum with a magazine, but not the show program. Skye had been moved nonetheless. They had witnessed many styles of fine art, and oen is always left richer for that experience.
Back at home, Skye was excited to show off her own work, the logo design for Models in the Mountains. Grace was visibly stunned - or perhaps startled - by it.
"Is it too vague?" Skye asked.
"It's totally not what I expected" Grace replied. "It's not vague. It's...it's very insider. I was expecting horses."
"I can do something with horses..."
"No, this is awesome. I think you should add a little length to the bottom of the first tree so it sits flat. Then let's get's a good picture of it."
Slowly, a storm system began rolling up the mountain on Sunday afternoon. At last. A bit of rain to go with the incessant wind. Skye spent the soggy morning inside, playing around with her design. Adding a little grass, which in the end she wasn't sure she liked. And adding her new signature...SL, for Skye Little.