on the top board of the corral fence, eyes anxiously focused on the horse
and rider within. Scott is perched to her right, boot heels notched over
the second rail, his attention on the ride. On her left, Murdoch leans
against the boards; arms perched on the blistered wood.
"Stay with him, Johnny!"
Scott's admonishment isn't necessary. Johnny is firmly ensconced in the saddle, knees bent, back arched. He rides the horse with the skill of an experienced horseman. Or is it talent? Teresa isn't sure, but makes a mental note to ask Scott about that later. For now, she just enjoys watching her "brother" ride the wild horse. It is a sight she doesn't want to miss.
The bay is moving. Up and back, turning, twisting, the animal continues his fight for freedom. Breath held tight, Teresa's hands are clenching the fence as she watches the horse buck. She loves watching the men at their work. A sense of fear and excitement fills her, the two emotions warring with each other.
Johnny holds tight, watching the animal, in tune with his actions. . . vigilant, waiting for that one twist that might throw him off balance. Back and forth, the stallion works the corral, legs straight as he hops and bumps. Still the dark haired man holds his seat.
Long minutes pass, the audience entranced by the show. The horse is tiring, his last burst of energy taking him through a series of twists that would intimidate any bronc buster.
And then it is over. As quickly as it started, the horse is through. Its energy spent. The ride is over, the horse slowing to a rough trot and then a walk.
Whoops of joy echo around the corral. Murdoch reaches out to slap Scott on the back. Teresa looks heavenward; giving thanks that Johnny remains safe.
Two riders move forward, flanking the heaving stallion, ready to grab hold so Johnny can dismount. With hands on the reins, he retains control of the horse. Yet he is ready for the end, watching for his chance to stop the stallion and slide from the saddle. The riders are there, hands at the ready.
And then it
happens. The wild animal is not done after all . . still fighting for his
independence. Back arching, body twisting, the stallion executes another
twist, one last burst of fury.
Johnny's foot is out of the stirrup, his leg coming across the animal's back. Emilio is closest, Will on the far side with a hand on the stallion's headstall. All are unsettled when the horse moves between them.
Two men still in their saddles, fighting for control of their mounts, the wild horse and rider between them. In an instant they are chasing the stallion towards the fence line. Left in their wake is the rider, sprawled unmoving in the dirt,
Teresa's scream reverberates through the corral, but the men are already gone. Scott is off the fence and headed toward his brother, Murdoch running for the gate, his eyes never leaving his son lying motionless on the ground.
The horse has been caught, removed from the enclosure. Scott is kneeling next to his brother. With shaking hands, he feels for broken bones, murmuring reassurances to a man who can't hear.
"We're gonna need a doctor."
"Cipriano! Send someone for Sam-"
"Emilio has already gone."
They move him then, slowly . . . carefully. Arms and legs limp, head lolling. The men carry him from the corral to the hacienda, Teresa following close behind, tears gathering in her eyes. This is the thing she has feared. Will she lose one of her family today?
In his room, Johnny is placed upon his bed, while the women hurry around. But it is Murdoch and Scott who wait on either side. Anxious minutes have passed with no sign of awareness.
Chairs have been brought, wounds cleaned. Ribs are broken, a head wound discovered. Yet Johnny remains still, unresponsive.
gone to the kitchen for coffee, trying to find a way to be helpful, to keep
busy while Murdoch paces, and Scott watches.
There. A movement.
Murdoch returns to the bed, his hand resting gently on his son's arm.
There again, the eyelids. A fluttering. They blink, then open. The gaze is drowsy, moving slowly from face to face. One hand moves slowly to massage his temple. A thin smile grows as Johnny's soft voice questions:
"Guess he'll need a second round, huh?"
Laughter greets Teresa as she returns. Her own happy voice soon joins the others. He'll need time, but Johnny will heal. Her brother will ride again. That's how it is with these men. They're fighters, just like that stallion.
And she loves
them, just the way they are.