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The horse and rider paused at the crest of the hill.

“Should we take the wagon trail home or cut through the coulee, Mari-bell?” Sarah asked unsure of her own mind.  If they took the wagon trail, it would take her another 5 miles to reach the ranch, an easy ride in good weather like it had been that morning but potentially deadly in the inclement weather which had suddenly appeared.  She wasn’t prepared for this.

It had been unusually mild weather for January, like a spring day – they called these warm winds Chinooks she’d been told. They were “snow eaters,” that lasted from hours to days.  Water had been dripping from the barn roof forming streamlets and pockets of water on her path to the barn.  She side-stepped numerous puddles on the way to retrieve her little golden mare with creamy mane and tail.  Mari-bell had nickered her usual soft greeting when Sarah opened the barn door.

She had loved Mari-bell from the first moment she’d laid eyes on her.   Her father had threatened to sell her at first.  “Too small for any of the ranch hands,” he’d said but Sarah rallied for the little palomino.  “The horse has a huge heart,” he’d admitted after seeing the girl and horse work cattle.  “She won’t quit until the job’s done and did everything and more that you asked of her Sarah!”  The girl and horse had an unnatural bond he figured after seeing how the two responded to one another. In the end, he relented and gave the mare to his daughter. It was a rarity not to see the horse and girl together now-a-days.

Mari-bell perked her ears forward and arched her neck over the edge of the stall as Sarah approached.  “Too warm for this thick woolen sweater Mother knit for me at Christmas that’s for sure Mari-bell,” Sarah crooned to the horse as she shed her jacket then removed the heavy sweater and hung it on the peg by the stall.  “A long sleeved shirt and jacket are all I’ll need today.”  She grinned as she pat the horse on the side of the neck, led her to the door of the barn, mounted and trotted away from the ranch toward the school.

How she wished she still had that sweater now! (more…)

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Man Eater – Chapter 3

By: J.V. Andrus

 

It was summer now and all was calm.  I was outside playing one evening when I spotted my run away pony, Judy.  With her head down, she stood quietly in the corral by the barn, stamping her small hooves and flicking her thick white tail back and forth in an attempt to fight off the hoards of black flies that bit at her small golden body.  Slowly, I walked towards the barn and nonchalantly swung the gate closed to trap Judy.  I turned to find myself cornered.

I was frozen to the spot.  Man Eater dove at me, white rimmed eyes full of hate and black ears flattened to the back of his head.  Grabbing me with his teeth, he flung me into the air.  The world exploded as I hit the ground and in half a daze, I crawled under the corral to safety.

Luckily for me, the jacket I had been wearing was my brother’s and being four sizes too big, I had slipped out the bottom.  I sat and watched in mute silence as Man Eater tore the jacket to shreds, then turned heel and headed for the hills.  I was soon to learn that this would only be the first of many attacks by the insane stallion. (more…)

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Man Eater – Chapter 2

By: J.V. Andrus

I was only a small girl but I’ll never forget the first time I saw that wild horse.  He was crazy-mad and full of hate.

We stood still as Daddy and Frank brought him through the yard, fighting and screaming.  His nostrils were flared wide and red and his white rimmed eyes were full of hate.  His head and short mane were caked with blood and lather covered his huge black body.

The angry stallion fought the ropes that circled his neck and held him between the two other horses.  He dived at Daddy’s horse only to be brought up tight by Frank’s rope.  He turned and charged at Frank but was thrown backwards when Daddy’s rope pulled tight.  He was a mass of flying feet and catching one of the ropes in his teeth bit down on it with such fury that the rope snapped but, Frank was too fast and another rope whistled through the air and landed over his head.

I was sick.  I thought the poor horse would kill himself before he would stop fighting.  It took the men an hour to corral the crazy, mad fighting horse. (more…)

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Gone But Not Forgotten

I have always been fascinated by the power of words to convey a message.  When I was young, my mother used to read us stories some of which were her own.  I loved those stories.

J.V. Andrus
Dec. 2, 1934 – Oct. 10, 1989

Sometimes, however, an artist’s work isn’t fully recognized or appreciated until after they are gone – the following story has never been published but, it needs to be. It is a story I have never been able to get out of my mind.

Written by my mother, J.V. Andrus, Man Eater is about a wild mustang captured in the Alberta Foothills before the majority of wild horses disappeared from the range.

Many people like to romanticize the good old days – truth is, times were hard back then and the bitter reality of that truth can be harsh. The story of this wild mustang is raw.  It’s real. It is a battle between a wild animal fighting for a territory being encroached upon by man. So, let’s take a step back into our not so distant history and enjoy my mother’s story of a wild stallion who roamed free in the foothills of Alberta in the 1939’s or 1940’s.

Proudly, I present:  Man Eater by J.V. Andrus.

The following is Chapter 1 of 3.

Man Eater

By: J.V. Andrus

When I was a little girl, my family lived on the CC Ranch southwest of Nanton.  The Ranch, situated on Willow Creek was silhouetted by the wild and beautiful Rocky Mountains.

The land was filled with bush and farther in towards the mountain was thick timber.  I remember that it was not uncommon to see bear, moose and deer on this land.  We knew that many wild horses made their home in the mountains although they were rarely seen.

My story is about a black stallion who gained the band of wild horses and who was snared in the mountains by my Dad and his best friend Frank.

I had only seen the wild horses a few times.  My Dad, who was foreman of the CC Ranch, said the wild horses were inbred.  They had large over-sized heads, crooked legs and big pie feet.  Some were very small.  The wild horses usually had long unshed hair and the older mares had matted manes and tails that hung to the ground.

They stayed high up in the mountains most of the year and grazed on the tender grass that grew along the timber line.  Their bands were very small.  The cold harsh winters and deep snow found the colts and weaker mares starving.  Some were pulled down by Timber wolves, some by another hungry predator. During these times, wild horses usually descended from the mountains into the foothills.

The ranchers hated the wild horses. (more…)

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Vultures

Vultures – Chapter 2

Vultures – Chapter 3

Vultures – Chapter 4

Vultures – Chapter 5

Whispering Leaves

 

Vesta sat cross-legged near a grove of red willow and weaved a basket from their flexible stripped branches.  In this basket, she would carry any collected red bark back to the settlement.  The medicinal properties of the bark were much needed to subdue fevers, aches and pains during the outbreak of the springtime influenza which the colonies residents were now suffering. (more…)

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Peace on earth, a gift from the Christmas Star…
May you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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