Out to Pasture
This story is my first attempt at Lancer Fic, so bear with me, please.
I fell in love with Johnny Madrid Lancer all those years ago as a young girl. I vowed that one day I would own a horse ranch (buckskins and palominos) and marry a man just like Johnny Lancer.
Now, many years later, I only dream of owning even one horse and my “Johnny” looks more like Scott, with the same analytical mind. I wrote this story in the “future” because it has been so long since I have seen an episode of Lancer, though I check Amazon often, hoping to see that it will be released soon. (Hey, if “Big Valley” and “Rawhide” can be released on DVD…)
Anyway, I hope you all like my little story. I was something I “wrote” in my head while working out in my yard. Constructive criticism is welcome at: email@example.com
Out To Pasture
The old stallion grazed lazily in the thick grass of the north pasture. He usually spent some of his day grazing and some of it dosing in the warmth of the sun. However, most of his day was spent sending wistful glances southward.
Nibbling on the sweet grass that surrounded him, some of the seed stalks actually brushing against his withers from a soft breeze that sighed over the land, the stallion raised his head with a jerk as something in the light wind got his attention. His dark brown eyes didn’t see as far as they used to, so he relied on his keen sense of smell to detect whatever it was that had gained his attention. Flaring his nostrils, the stallion shifted his golden head slightly and suddenly his body quivered in excitement.
A stiffer wind wafted over him, setting his snow-white forelock and mane to fluttering. The old horse caught a deeper whiff of “the smell” and he knew it was his human.
With a shrill whinny, the palomino stallion voiced his excitement as he stood stock still, his aged eyes watching a small speck emerging from a copse of trees on the other side of the wide expanse of windswept and softly undulating grass.
Age meant nothing to the stallion as he suddenly gave a loud, trumpeting call before rearing up on his hind legs, his front hooves slashing out before him. His hooves returned to earth with a jarring thud and he was off like a shot across the pasture as if he was once again that two-year old stallion from years ago.
The gelding the human was riding skidded to a sudden stop upon hearing the almost angry trumpeting call from the stallion and very nearly unseated his rider, who was watching the majestic palomino thundering toward them through the tall grass.
Jumping lithely from the gelding’s back, the human dropped the reins to the ground and, though the buckskin was nervous about the stallion running full out toward him, the well-trained gelding stood his ground, and if the horse looked a bit wall-eyed, the human didn’t notice.
Striding a few feet away from the anxious gelding, the human stopped and waited for the stallion, a broad grin shining brightly on his tanned face as he watched the stallion’s white mane and tail whip in the wind as the horse raced straight toward him.
Only ten feet away from the man, the stallion skidded to a sudden halt and stood practically prancing in place as he breathed hard from his run and his excitement. A nervous nicker and a low whinny let the human know that the stallion was well aware of the game the man was playing.
Placing his thumb and forefinger in his mouth, the man gave a sharp whistle and the palomino high-stepped to a prancing stop in front of him. Lowering his golden head, the horse leaned forward slightly and rested the big head gently against the man’s chest. A noise issued from the stallion that sounded so much like a contented sigh that the human laughed even as he raised his hands to tenderly glide his fingers over the soft hair on the horse’s pale cheeks.
“Ola, compadre,” the man whispered into the nearest ear as the stallion crowded a bit closer. The man’s fingers crept beneath the horse’s jaw line and started scratching in the thicker hair of the long chin and the horse was so ecstatic that his big body shivered at the remembered touch.
Several long minutes passed, the horse just as attuned to the man as he’d been all those years ago when the two had ridden the range together.
Taking a step back, the stallion raised his head and easily nosed the man’s cowboy hat from his head, making it fall down his back, the stampede strap the only thing keeping the hat from tumbling to the ground behind the man. The horse then raised his golden muzzle, that was quickly turning white with age, and started nuzzling the man’s black hair. His lips giving the soft strands a gentle tug. Soft, nickering sounds came from deep within the horse’s chest and the man’s hands slipped around the palomino’s neck, his fingers delving into the white mane there as they both leaned contentedly against the other for a moment.
Laying the side of his face against the stallion’s thickly muscled neck, the man drew in a deep breath and sighed happily.
Suddenly the man felt a tug against the back of his head and he grinned broadly as the palomino took an evasive step backward, the man’s black hat held firmly between his big teeth.
“Hey, you bandito, give my hat back!” The man chided laughingly as he made a half-hearted attempt to snatch the hat out of the stallion’s mouth. Of course, the palomino had other ideas and easily evaded the attempt. Then the horse stopped a few feet away before bobbing his head up and down, the hat flopping with each nod of the golden head. The man could have sworn he saw laughter in those brown eyes before the horse sidestepped until his left shoulder and foreleg was brushing against the man’s chest and abdomen.
Throwing his head back in a full belly-laugh, the man then shook his head even as he gathered a double handful of the horse’s white mane and easily swung his body up onto the palomino’s broad back. Settling himself comfortably on the animal’s bare back, the man lifted the toe of his left foot as the stallion turned to look at him, the hat still hanging firmly from his mouth.
“Well? Come on. I’m up here. Give me back my hat!”
With a snort, the horse gave one more nod of his big head before nickering again. He then turned his head to the left. With a flip, the horse released the hat, which sailed into the air before settling neatly atop the man’s outstretched left boot.
Chuckling at the horse’s antics, the man leaned down and grabbed the brim of his hat from his boot. He inspected the teeth marks and grass-laden moisture on the brim of the beaver skin felt hat and shook his head.
“Barranca, you ain’t supposed to slobber all over it, ya know,” the man growled good-naturedly as he set the hat atop his head again. Then, with a light tap of his heels and a tight grip of his knees, man and horse raced across the pasture, moving as one, much as they had done all those years ago.
“Papa! Papa! Wait up, por favor!”
Johnny slowed Barranca’s ground eating race across the pastureland with the slightest bit of pressure. He then leaned his body to the left and Barranca made a wide turn to lope smoothly toward the little girl sitting easily atop her small mare. Behind the little girl sat an older boy of about twelve. Sitting astride a golden palomino strikingly similar to Barranca, the boy watched Johnny as the older man easily guided Barranca to a prancing stop before them.
“What are you two doing out here?” Johnny questioned both, though his eyes were on the older child. “You know it’s dangerous for you to be out here with the horses put out to pasture.”
“Barranca ain’t dangerous, are you boy?” The little girl fearlessly reached out a hand to pat the stallion’s gold and white muzzle. When Barranca blew his nose against her hand, the little girl giggled, making Johnny smile tenderly at her.
“Isn’t, querida, Barranca isn’t dangerous, but he isn’t the only horse we’ve got pastured up here, either, now is he?” Leaning his arms across Barranca’s withers, Johnny again looked at the boy. “Did you two get your chores done?”
“Yes, Papa,” the boy answered a bit shortly. “I cleaned the stalls and the pest here gathered the eggs. Then she kept at me until I gave in and brought her out here where I knew you’d be.” At Johnny’s censoring look, the boy dropped his eyes. “Lo siento.”
“Angelina? Did you pester your brother to bring you to the north pasture?” Johnny queried as his blue eyes turned from the boy to the little girl who was suddenly looking everywhere, but at her father. “Angel?”
“Si, Papa,” she practically whispered, dropping her eyes to the reins held loosely in her hands as her mare grazed on the sweet grass at their feet.
“Hold Belle’s head up when you’re on her back, Angel, you know that,” Johnny reminded the child sternly. “You know how dangerous it is to hold the reins so loosely in your hands.”
“Yes, sir, Papa. I know. She’ll get the bit between her teeth and I could fall off and get trampled, right?”
“Oh, sweet baby, yes,” Johnny exclaimed as he quickly slid from Barranca’s back and hurried over to sweep his daughter out of the saddle and into his arms. Just the thought of something happening to his sweet little girl made him sick to his stomach. “And your Papa would be very, very sad if you were hurt.”
“I’m sorry, father,” Angel apologized, sounding so formal that Johnny almost laughed as Angel’s little arms wrapped tightly around her father’s neck. Once again Johnny’s hat fell down his back to hang the stampede strap as Angel squirmed in her father’s arms until she was comfortable. Leaning her dark curly head on his shoulder, she sent a gap-toothed smile at her brother as the boy glowered at her for taking all of their father’s attention.
“Thank you for the apology, Angel, but you owe one to your hermano, as well,” Johnny chastised as he looked up at his son with a gentle smile on his lips at the boy’s mulish expression. His son was looking and acting more and more like his grandfather Murdoch every year.
“I’m sorry for pesting you, Roberto,” Angel said politely, then grinned when her father and brother both laughed aloud. She didn’t know what they had found funny, but she was glad they weren’t still mad at her. Leaning closer against her father, she yawned broadly and settled her little curly head into the crook of Johnny’s neck and closed her eyes.
“Oh no you don’t, chica. You are not going to nap while your brother and I bring your horse back to the barn for you. You rode her out here and you’ll be the one to take her back and care for her.” Johnny shifted his daughter in his arms and gently settled her back onto the saddle. Handing the mare’s reins to Angel, he smiled at the expression on the little girl’s tanned face, a twin to the mulish expression that had crossed Roberto’s face only moments before. Johnny’s wife lovingly called it the “Lancer Look”.
Turning back to his old equine friend, Johnny took a step closer and Barranca leaned his head against Johnny’s chest once more as if to say goodbye. Laying a cheek against the stallion’s forelock, Johnny smoothed his hands down the muscled neck one last time before whispering something quietly in Spanish into Barranca’s ear. With one last scratch beneath the horse’s chin, Johnny turned to the gelding and vaulted into the saddle without even touching the stirrup.
“I wish you’d show me how to do that,” Roberto muttered wistfully as he turned his horse’s head to fall in beside his sister, who was riding to the right of their father.
“I will, chico. As soon as you grow another few inches. Otherwise you’ll just end up frustrating yourself and your mount!”
As the trio rode away, Johnny’s laughter drifted across the pasture to the old stallion standing atop a small hillock. The horse’s golden ears swiveled as he locked onto the sound that assured him his human was happy. Giving one last, long whinny, Barranca dropped his head down to the sweet grass and continued to graze contentedly, secure in the knowledge that his friend was well.