October 2021. Hard to believe so much could happen in a single month. Skye was on a roll with her artwork, exploring whatever mediums she could find. Her second piece was a large acrylic on canvas. She had fanciful ideas for it, but decided to leave the piece rather simple and expansive. Grace had begun painting a life-sized sculpture by Kitty Cantrell, the Bremen Town Singers...an ambitious leap for her third ever art project.
The world outside though...it was really alive, and full of surprises. Hunters, coming to Chilao for deer, were leaving empty-handed, but telling tales of encountering herds of wild horses. Grace and Skye set out to find them.
It wasn't difficult. Under skies still smokey fro distant fires they left on foot before dawn. There was squealing and stomping and the clatter of hooves on granite to guide them in te right direction.
There was such noise and commotion that other forest dwellers were distracted!
Highlander had been around for several years. Alone and rarely seen, he was a draft influence mustang without brands of any kind. Grace had a picture of him made into a poster. The feisty little bay roan was the closest thing to a "real" Spanish style mustang among them. He was a recent arrival, also without a herd. And then Petrichor showed up, also displaying draft influence, and an endless curiosity about ranch life and young ladies.
Now, here were two more stallions...big, well put together horses, nicer than any wild horses Grace had ever seen, in person or in pictures, in California.
Highander and Crazy, the bay roan, seemed to form a loose alliance against the two newcomers. Petrichor, aligned with no one, sought to keep the higher ground on the steep rock escarpments.
It was not war, but it was an endless struggle, sure to exhaust the horses in a season where water was hard to come by and forage was equally bleak.
It was not war because there were no mares. And that was another part of the mystery.
Grace and Skye made their way home amidst a little ocean of birds and rodents, eagerly consuming the seed Skye had left, like a trail of breadcrumbs, on their way out.
A bit of time passed. The days were beautiful, and in between chores Grace and Skye rode because they could...because it was too beautiful not to. Skye was concerned about her old donkey. The jenny was very quiet, although her appetite was just fine, and Grace was concerned about getting some new pasture fence erected. You couldn't really call it pasture fence, as the high desert was hardly a pasture...but they needed something.
Grace found some natural timbers that would do nicely along the fire break, and Skye went along one fine, warm morning to help her go through them. The dogs - Baron, Hobo and White Dog, came along. It wasn't long before the dogs were alert to something. In a few moments that something became clear.
It was Petrichor, by himself. And he was limping, favoring his front right leg.
"He can barely walk."
Grace nodded. She was silent for several minutes. Then she focused her attention on Skye.
"Go back to the ranch, and get...get Precious, and get the longest piece of light rope you can find."
There was no shade on the firebreak, and the sun was warm particularly for the dogs. Skye's quick return was welcome.
Hurt leg or no, Petrichor was interested in Precious.
Precious turned just enough to always face the stallion, but never lost her composure. She wore one of Skye's rope leads. The long lead was trailing on the ground. Grace, meanwhile, held a long, lighter rope, tying a loop in one ending moving slowly with the other end.
Slowly she moved behind the stallion. The wind helped carry the rope over Petrichor's rump. And then in the next moment the wind pulled the rope clean out of Grace's hand. Grace managed to slowly reach down and pick up both ends of the rope.
She picked up the lead for Precious. Skye slipped up quietly and took it from her. And so the very, very slow walk home began.
Grace let the rope around his neck fall to the ground once they had maneuvered him into a turn-out arena. It was nowhere close to a stallion pen. It would only keep him for as long as he chose to be there. But there wasn't anything else. Skye filled a tub with fresh water. Petrichor was clearly interested. He would need to figure out how to reach down and drink it with his gimpy leg. Sedate though she might be, Skye's donkey came to get a better look at the new arrival.
There was little more they could do at the moment but let the stallion settle. They went inside, covered in dust from head to toe. Grace examined the life-size burro sculpture and tried to focus on it. Why she had decided to do an incredibly complex life-size piece with four animals was a bit of a mystery. Maybe she could pull it off. Maybe Skye could help. The girls tried not to think too much about Petrichor.
Petrichor was still there when the girls went at dusk to feed and check on him. Alpine glow lit the surrounding mountains as the golden hour unfolded. He had no visible injuries. No obvious swelling. Nothing they could see in his hoof. And it might be hard to get a vet to agree to an examination. They would leave him be, and see what the morning brought.