June 4, 2022
Grace's guess was accurate. The boss had brought the shepherd pups to the Children of Many Colors Powwow, and they needed more or less constant attention. Skye took them for walks on the smooth, green grass, such a luxury, damp with moisture in the cool of dawn. They were in Oxnard, just a few blocks from the ocean. The air was laden with delicious moisture.
It was early Saturday morning, and still quiet. Many of the vendors had come in on Friday. Still more would set up this morning.
"Are you at least going to take your chaps off?" Skye teased.
""Maybe a little later. There's still chairs and trash cans to move."
Grace never did get a chance to take off her chaps and relax. The powwow demanded her full attention. It seemed there were endless tasks essential to the smooth flow of the gathering. But on Sunday, chaps still on, she joined Skye at the arena for several hours.
Throughout the weekend they'd seen a lot. Before Grand Entry on Saturday, while all the dancers watched and waited, three young grass dancers went out before them to prepare the dance arena. Skye was struck by how the adults were respectful of those youngsters, and waited while they did their job.
Once the powwow began it was often a riot of sound and color. Skye listened to the master of ceremonies as best as she could. There were many young people in the arena and everyone seemed friendly and relaxed. Eventually Skye mustered the courage to go out into the arena. There were a lot of women in the arena too. A large group of Chumash dancers...local native people...took part in the powwow.
Skye watched a thing called a Switch Dance...it was a fun dance, where women and girls danced in the regalia and the style of men, and vice versa...Skye watched a powwow princess become a chicken dancer, and she was good!
At the end of the day on Sunday, the boss took Skye around for the last few intertribal songs. They stopped for one song at a drum called Blue Star, and danced in place in front of Bear Springs, while other dancers interacted with the drum as they sang in a way that seemed personal and meaningful.
The drums and the singing and the dancing lingered inside of Skye. The powwow ended Suday evening, but Skye stretched it out a little, putting her dress back on and practicing her steps, drum beats etched into her head. In the tack room she found, Grace surrounded by new saddles and tack. Fiona Covert had donated western, english and saddle seat saddle and bridle sets, as well as other supplies. Grace was a bit overwhelmed by the generosity. Skye was a bit distracted by the sound of drums still in her head.
Skye went out before the sun was up, walking about, saying hello to the horses, and to the little iron pony. It was cute, even if it ws missing some things and needing some things.
She loved her dress. She didn't want to take it off. But she couldn't quite work out how she would ride in it. Mista Spot stood patiently, waiting for her to figure it out.
In the indoor arena, with La Barilla in a halter and a bareback pad, Grace was eager to see if the english saddle and bridle would work the way she had hoped.
Skye was busy trying to make her blanket double as a shawl, but it was bulky.
The bridle had a lot of moving parts. La Barilla looked a bit suspicious of it.
The saddle was less concerning. He was comfortable with the bareback pad now, and the saddle was small, light, and didn't squeak. He'd already had a western saddle on his back. Grace expected this to go smoothly.
The saddle fit neatly atop the bareback pad and the stirrups were run up high so as not to flap around. La Barilla took the addition of the saddle in stride. Grace asked him to move in a slow circle.
Skye walked around with La Barilla, admiring his beauty, admiring Grace's work with him.
Grace would need to do some improvising with Fiona's saddle. It needed a girth, and the one from Trail's End Studio would do nicely. She would also need long reins for the bridle, once she'd put it on him and made sure it would fit. For today, she decided to let the saddle be enough. She would put a bit in his mouth another time.
At home, Grace searched pictures of snaffle bridles and proper bitting.
"Are you wanting to make sure you put it on him right?"
"Yes I am" Grace replied. I've seen real simple snaffles used for training, but this is a full english bridle and cavasson, or at least I think that's what it's called. I'm not exactly sure how to adjust all of it. And I need to find a blanket too".
"Oh, I can help with that." Skye hurried off. She returned quickly, donning her home made riding hood.
"Remember this? I made it to go for a ride with you and Elecktra when I didn't have a jacket. There's plenty of material and it's real soft. I guess I could wear it now with my dress, huh? But it's okay. You can have it. I can make another one next winter if I need to."
Skye clambered slowly up the ladder to her bunk.
"Are you ever going to take that dress off?"
"Yes" Skye said. " I just wanted to see if I could climb the ladder in it."
The saddle portion of making the long rein rig was coming along fine. But as it turned out, the snaffle bridle did not fit La Barilla's big head. Grace briefly contemplated dismantling it, but it was such a nice bridle, and she fairly quickly abandoned that idea.
Grace watched La Barilla move at liberty. He would be beautiful under saddle. She wanted to make sure he had the best possible start. They would find another way to do a long rein rig. There had to be a simpler snaffle bridle around somewhere. Or perhaps a different headstall altogether.
Grace and Skye went for a ride as the day cooled. It was the first time Grace had let anyone ride Loch'sha, the appaloosa mare, whom she had started over a year ago. Skye sat her comfortably, and Loch'sha looked relaxed.
The dogs were alerted to something while the girls talked bridles. Soon the what would become evident as the loud yipping call of a coyote tore the warm forest silence apart. They collectively stopped and listened. Another call from another coyote. Then briefly, a chorus. Three coyotes...the third one with a gruff voice that sounded more like a dog trying to become a coyote. They were able to get an accurate conception of the location of the coyotes from the sound and it was in fact coming from where they suspected the coyotes had denned; not very far at all from the ranch and more or less right behind the fire station. And the sound of at least three coyotes meant one of two things...more coyotes than they really wanted, or at least one pup.
"I really really really want to see puppies" Skye said.
The commotion ceased and the forest fell silent again, except for the sound of campers in the meadow below.
"Me too" Grace said. "Let's go look for them tomorrow morning. Without the dogs."
They put the dogs inside, and in the last light of evening rode for a little while longer inside an arena. Grace was cooking up plans. Skye could tell. She had that far away look.
"See if she will respond to shifts in your body weight" Grace said. And so Skye released the bosal reins. Loch'sha thoughtfully worked with Skye's direction. Grace studied the bosal. It would work.
"Skye, can you make me a bosal to fit La Barilla? It will need to hold two sets of reins."
By the time Grace and Skye set out to find the coyote den, at least one of the coyotes was already in the campgrounds, making a lot of noise. They decided to follow the sound as the sun rose.
As they walked, it seemed like the coyote's call grew more distant, but it was a beautiful morning, so they kept on.
They went past the group camp, back into the cool shadows. They came to the creek crossing, and as they did, the coyote calls ceased. They were greeted by another territorial resident, the hummingbrid.
They walked the recently dry creek bed, cool and still surrounded by green grass. They walked until the came to water. And Crazy's band, having a morning drink.
The watering hole was popular with all forms of life. The girls ducked down, moving quietly toward a rock outcropping, seeking visual shelter.
Crazy seemed to have caught wind of something, or perhaps they had simply drank their fill, but he moved his band away shortly after the girls had arrived.
There was time enough for Grace and Skye to be certain that there was still only one foal in the herd. All the whie the hummingbird was busy. Chasing finches, chasing horses, posturing to show the girls whose homeland they were trespassing on.
The sun's rays were already warming the cool creek air.
Grace and Skye walked to the water's edge. The pool disappeared into the ground, but the water looked clean and smelled fresh. As long as there was water here, survival was possible for the wild thigs.
The walk back was long as the air warmed, but it had been worth it. Skye thought she saw something move as they neared the ranch.
Sure enough. The male coyote was there, in plain sight and daylight, perusing the land between the fire station and the ranch. He was alone. Completely distracted by insects. Blending seamlessly into the landscape at all times. They would have to go out again to look for the den. But not now. Perhaps they would try again in the evening.
The afternoon was warm, but in the dappled shade of the trees, Grace and Skye turned out some of the pony mares, foals and geldings. The only thing cuter than a pony is a baby pony.
Dinky was a little bit shy and stayed close to mom.
The little black pony was very flashy and fun to watch. As the afternoon progressed, the shade thinned. Grace brought out some stallions one at a time to let them stretch their legs.
Grace hadn't spent much time at all with the Arab that Skye nicknmaed Big Blue. For an Arabian he was very large, and she was entirely uncertain that they owned a headstall which would fit him.
This was the pup Yeller's first encounter with horses. He wasn't sure he needed many more of them.
They turned out the silver-grey Andalusian stallion, River. Gifted the the ranch by Laurel Dedes and as splendid as ever.
It seemed a long day. At last the cooling shadows began to engulf the land. Skye and Grace went back out, on foot and without dogs, in search of the coyote den. They were in the right place, and it was the right time.
They waited, and listened. Nothing.
The shadows deepened. The insects emerged.
Skye pointed her camera at rock formations in the failing light. They were in here somewhere. She examined her pictures, then went along the horizon and took more. She saw something that looked like perhaps a ground squirrel standing on top of a rock, acting as a sentinel.
And then she took a closer look at her picture. There it was. One lone coyote pup. Waiting for its parents to return with the evening meal. Already aware of Grace and Skye's presence. Already old enough to know its place in the world. The girls watched for a while, until shadows consumed the land and the pup hid itself among the boulders. A long day came to a wonderful close.