September. Hot, dry September.
Skye had made up her mind. She wanted a regalia. But not just for herself. She wanted a horse regalia. That is to say she wanted to embrace her indigenous heritage and her passion - horses - and she was willing to do the work, both of learning how to make that regalia and the physical work of doing it. There were some inherent problems, however...namely, her lack of relatives. To be part of a culture, you need first of all to know who your relatives are and be taught the traditions of that culture. You need your people.
Skye decided to persevere, creatively. She would ask for help, and meanwhile, she would help herself.
On September 5, Skye went out looking for wood. It was everywhere, there was no shortage, especially along the fire break. She was looking, specifically, for two plank-like pieces and four gently curved round pieces (or two pieces with a perfect curved fork). She had a saddle tree to fashion. Old school. She was going to try to make her own saddle for a native regalia. Because she may not have a lot of details about her heritage, but if she made the saddle herself, no one could say too much about that. And no wonder the Nez Perce loved their appaloosas so much. Her gelding blended more or less perfectly into the surroundings. (Grace bought Skye a bareback pad from Anne Field's recent sale. Skye balked at the idea at first...she had been riding bareback her whole life...but it sure was comfy).
It was hot, and nothing she found would do. The wood was old, brittle, the right shape but not suitable, or the wrong shape entirely. This was not going to be easy.
On September 11, Skye returned to the fire break just after dawn to look for proper pieces of saddle making wood. Someone well versed in wood working could no doubt see this place as a pile of opportunity. Skye saw a fantastic supply of winter firewood. But nothing she believed she could fashion into a saddle tree.
Grace wanted to help Skye, but there was only so much she could do. She could offer moral support. And she could shop. She and Skye had seen some pictures of lovely cloth dresses, most of them in colors and patterns more suited for a mature woman. Grace imagined something slightly different for Skye. And it just so happened that she passed by a fabric store fairly regularly. So while Skye was out hunting for the perfect piece of wood, Grace pushed the lovely bolts of pink and blue fabric between her mattress and sheets. There was so much fabric. And had there been a bolt in sky blue she would have gotten that too, but there wasn't anything just quite right.
Spot and Precious spun around to face north. They heard something. Could it be Petrichor again? Skye took hold of her horses. At first it looked like it might be coyote pups. A little small fo September...coyote pups should be nearly grown by now. As they came closer, she was able to discern that they were definitely not coyote pups. A pair of German Shepherd pups tumbled toward Skye across the rocky landscape. Their ears were not yet upright and they lacked the coordination to navigate the landscape.
They were not alone. Wary of Skye and the horses, a white dog kept his distance from atop a rock outcropping. A dalmation cross of some kind, perhaps a terrier mix, small in stature, opinionated and none too friendly.
The pups seemed unafraid and continued to make their way toward Skye. Then the white dog began to bark. Short, abrupt warning barks.
White Dog had moved as far up the rock face as he could, watching with great concern. Hearing the warning barks, the pups retreated as fast as their awkward young legs could carry them. Back into the shadows and cool crevices of the rocks. When Skye glanced up to see White Dog, he was gone.
Skye told Grace about the German Shepherd puppies and White Dog. How the dogs did not appear to have collars or an owner. How adorable the puppies were. And how she intended to find them, or at the very least, bring them some food and water.
"Let me come with you" Grace said. "There's a horse I've been meaning to take out. Give me a few minutes to get him tacked up."
Between Grace tacking up and Skye making water vessels out of dried gourds, it was the middle of the afternoon before they were ready to head out. And Grace had made some interesting choices regarding her ride.
"Remind me why I thought this was a good idea" Grace called out as her fiery mount danced.
"Happily" Skye responded. "You said a Spanish horse comes from roughly the same latitude and mediterranean biome that we have in California, genetically predisposed to be adapted to our climate, and so this horse would be a good choice for a warm day."
Grace put a brand new saddle and the only bridle she could find that would fit on the champagne colored Andalusian. The saddle squeaked with every slightest move.
"I am going to call this one The Lion King, or maybe Simba" Grace said. "His mane reminds me of a lion."
The cantle of the saddle was stiff with newness - over time it would be fine, but for now it was tight on his withers. And squeaking.
But when they made their way toward the rocks where Skye had lost seen the puppies, Simba's high action found purpose on the rocky ground. Unfortunately, in the mid-day sun, there was little shade around the base of the rocks, and the terrain was proving more challenging with every step.
Grace and Simba carefully picked their way around the rock outcropping, looking for anywhere that the dogs might be taking shelter in the heat of the day.
Gradually both Grace and Simba came to ignore the constant squeak of the saddle and relax into their relationship, and into the moment.
Skye busied herself with the nuts and bolts of the rescue plan. Dog food was easy enough to disburse, but the metal water bucket had gotten quite hot in the sun, and Skye could only hold it in the place where it had been tied to the saddle to prevent from burning her hands.
Done! Skye put the water bowl in the exact spot that she had last seen the puppies...because she could not think of anything better to do. The water gourds had made it without cracking...but they were so heavy. She moved one several feet, set it down, rested. The gourds held just enough water to fill the bucket to the very brim. Skye sat down for a moment. Water is heavy.
Despite their quick response, they saw no sign of the dogs. They would go looking again. Perhaps lay a kibble trail toward the ranch. Perhaps go out early in the morning with Baron and Hobo.
Grace could only hope they would be more successful in the morning. Her bed was extra firm with the fabric for Skye hidden underneath the covers, but she decided tonight was not the night for surprises. It could wait.
They set out again on September 12. The sun was just about over the ridge. The air was deliciously cool. So cool Skye was sort of wishing she'd brought a jacket. But soon enough it would be warm, and with any luck, they would find the dogs.
Sunrise burst forth in all its glory. Grace stood back with the horses. Baron and Hobo immediately sensed a presence. Skye settled herself among the rocks, near the water bucket, but just out of sight. The dogs headed up into the rocks. There was silence...and then Skye began to notice all the birds. The kibble and water had not gone un-noticed.
Baron found the pups. Perhaps because he was a familiar color, or perhaps because they'd had enough of the great outdoors, they were more than happy to approach Baron. Hobo found White Dog. And White Dog wasn't having it.
Grace waited. All but for the sound of birds, it was silent. And then they emerged from the rocks. The pups were unafraid now, coming out into the open, following Baron and the horses. Grace began heading back toward the ranch.
"What about White Dog?" Skye asked, trying not to trip over the pups.
"If he's still around chances are he'll be able to figure out which way the pups went. Maybe he'll follow. He's got water for now. We can come back and try again, but let's get these pups home."
The following mornign it was time to get back to work. Dawn's light began to spread across a cool landscape. The day would be warm, but right now, the air was invigorating. One of the new horses Grace yet to ride was the Arabian stallion. More properly, a half-arab, or Pintabian. The bridle Rachel Mitchell of Trails End Studio gifted Grace fit the stallion perfectly. But there was no saddle small enough for him, so Grace borrowed Skye's bareback pad. Skye came down to the big pen on Deer Medicine to watch.
"He's really responsive" Grace said. "I turned him out to let him blow off some steam and see if he'd stay on the ground better, but he just has a lot of action."
As they came to know each other, horse and rider began to develop a mutual rhythm. "I bet I could teach him the Spanish walk. He's a natural."
Grace wasn't entirely sure she was doing it properly, but it was working for the colorful stallion, who still did not have a stable name.
"What about Rembrandt?" Skye asked. "Or is that the wrong palette for his color?"
It did sort of fit him...
Skye saw movement along the edge of the arena. White Dog. "Hey! Look who came to visit!" Skye started riding toward him, then decided to ignore him. Just in case too much attention might send him off again. He remained aloof, and when the girls headed back to the barn, he vanished.
Back at home, the shepherd pups were enjoying their new domain with reckless abandon. There were no shortage of toys, but their favorite plaything was the roll of paper towels they had liberated. Skye sat on the floor and was more or less immediately puppy-mauled. It was delightful. The older dogs watched the rambunctious pups form the safety of Grace's bed.
From her vantage point on the floor, Skye noticed something odd.
"How come your bed is so high?" Skye said. "Don't your feet usually touch the floor?"
"I'm hiding things under my mattress" Grace said as if she might be joking.
Might as well go ahead and pull out the fabric she'd bought for Skye to make some dresses from. Dresses to be part of her native regalia.
She got the blue bolt past Skye without her noticing. But the pink caught her eye.
"It's for you. I'm not sure what you were intending to make for your first regalia, but you can do a cloth dress in such a way that it's appropriate without appropriating anyone's personal...medicine." Grace was prepared for Skye to be less than thrilled about hot pink polkadots. Skye, whom she had never seen anywhere close to pink or a dress. That was not the case. In a few moments, Skye had more or less wrapped herself in the generous bolt of vibrant pink.
About half an hour of excited chatter followed. Neither one of them could sew cloth. What ribbon colors would they need. Who would make the dresses. How to make them so Skye could actually ride in them. And moccasins...
Hi, my name is Corina, the official story teller for Grace and Skye. Grace owes her beauty, style and charm to Anne Field, Field of Dolls Studio. Skye does too, for that matter, as Anne fostered her for a while, giving Skye a complete makeover in the process. The horses, dogs, cats, saddles, bridles, furniture and so forth are the work of many artists. I'll do my best to acknowledge them as we go from day to day.
This is the ongoing, unfolding story of grace little, manager of redbird ranch, and her little sister, skye