If you have not read Part 1 yet GO HERE
She opened the door to the chicken house and stood back. As usual, they came rushing out in a flurry of feathers and a lot of clucking. It always put a smile on Jesse Lee’s face to see those silly chickens hurrying outside. They bustled around the big pen to survey their domain. Some were already taking a morning dust bath. She poked her head inside to make sure all was well. A few hens were still sitting but she would not gather eggs. It was something her mother always did. Jesse knew her mom enjoyed collecting the eggs and having a short visit with the girls every morning.
It was spring and school was out. Yesterday had been Jesse Lee’s last day and her last year. It had ended on a sour note. Again she wished she had not heard Louann and Becky whispering their sordid remarks.
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She reached the barn and slid inside. It was quiet. Not much going on in here since the weather had warmed up. She turned the milk cow out the back door into the pasture. Dad had done the milking before breakfast. She thought it was something he liked to do since he rarely told anyone else to do it.
The pasture was also quiet since the guys had saddled up and left. Jesse’s horse, the goat and now the milk cow. She went back inside and got the pitchfork and the wheelbarrow. It did not take long to muck the stall and throw in some fresh straw. “There,” she said. “Daisy’s motel room is as fresh as a ….. daisy.” She giggled.
She knew her Mom was at the Chicken coop by now so she dashed back over there to let her know she was going riding. “Are you going to meet Dee?” her mother asked. “Yes, we are going to be riding over around the Dawn Coulee.” Jesse answered. ” I will be back before dinner.” she added.
Back at the barn she grabbed a halter and a handful of pellets. Out back she could see the gelding grazing. She remembered when they had brought him home. A friend of her fathers had traded Dad for a couple of yearling heifers. Said he had no time to train him anyway. Dad figured he would make a nice saddle horse for Jesse Lee. A replacement for old Mack whom she had grown up on. The gelding was 7 now. It sure didn’t seem like 5 years had went by.
Dad believed everyone should have a good, reliable saddle horse. Even Mom. While she rarely rode, she was an exceptional rider and had a natural touch with a horse.
She whistled and Easy raised his head. She had been in a quandary about what to name him when they brought him home. And it took awhile. He had been started but, was green as grass in the beginning. However, he picked things up fast and gave her no trouble. She remembered Mom was the one to help out with him at first. She had such a calm and soothing manner that helped him to relax and take it easy. Thus, the name. Not to mention he was as smooth a ride as you could ask for. Yes, she thought. The name fit well.
Easy knew she had the pellets and she soon had him haltered and back in the barn. As she brushed him down she admired the shimmer to his deep red coat. Just a bay to many but a beauty to Jesse Lee.
She saddled him up and slid the snaffle into his mouth with ease. Back out in front of the barn she mounted and headed towards the foothills where she would meet Dee.
Jesse Lee had kept the thoughts and questions at bay for awhile but now they surfaced again. She ran things thru her mind over and over as they rambled along the old cow trail. It would be about 20 minutes before she met up with Dee. Should she tell her what she had heard? Of course she should. Dee was her best friend and she trusted her to keep it a secret. Besides, she had to talk to someone about it.
She gave Easy a gentle squeeze of her legs and he moved into a smooth trot. Not 5 minutes later, his ears perked up and she could see Dee coming across the field. A little earlier than expected but it would give them more time to talk.
Dee rode a palomino mare and her hair was the same color as her horse. She rode up in a flurry and came to a stop squealing with laughter. “What is so funny?” Jesse asked. “Oh my gosh, I passed your dad and brothers awhile back and Thomas had a little explosion. I won’t say he was bucked off, but he was off…” she giggled ” his horse got away and I caught it for him.” She laughed out loud. “I think he was embarrassed.”
Jesse Lee laughed now. “I bet he was,” she said choking back a giggle. “He was alright thou?”.. “Yes, yes,” Dee replied. “He was fine, a little bruised ego was all.” and they both were laughing again. “Did they have the cattle?” Jesse asked. “Yeah and they were on their way to the summer pasture.”
Jesse kind of wished she could be along with them. She loved moving cattle and it gave Easy something more to do. Maybe she would get to do some of the summer checking. Someone rode up every couple of weeks to see how things were going. And to make sure they were all still where they needed to be.
They turned their horses north and headed over towards Dawn Coulee. They rode in silence for awhile. Jesse Lee fidgeted a bit trying to figure out how to start the conversation with Dee. “Just spit it out,” Dee said. “It’s obvious something is bothering you.” “You know me too well.” Jesse answered.
She let it all out, in what seemed like one big breath. She told Dee about what she heard at school, how she had compared herself with the rest of the family that morning, and — all the questions she now had. She became a little anxious as the minutes passed and Dee said nothing. It was not like her to be quiet for long.
Dee was twisting her hair and Jesse Lee knew that was a habit she had when she was nervous. “WELL?” Jesse said. “Well,” Dee started. “I can’t say that I haven’t wondered myself.” Jesse’s eyes widened. “Why have you never said anything?” Dee pulled her mare to a stop, stepped down, removed her jacket and tied it on the back of the saddle. Jesse Lee did the same. It was warming up.
“I don’t know Jesse. I guess it didn’t seem important and probably me making something out of nothing.” They mounted again and turned down into the wash, better known as Dawn Coulee. “So, what do you want to do Jesse?” “I have to know Dee. You know I do.” “Ok.” Dee replied. “Where are we going start? You know I am with you all the way on this, right?”
They talked as they rode. Jesse told her about some ideas she had. One, to look thru Dads office. Maybe she should talk to Gram, or do some poking around at the café in Trotting. “I don’t know where to start.” Jesse said. “Dad would kill me if he caught me rummaging around in the office, and it would be near impossible to get in there without Mom catching me.” she added. “I do not want either of them to know a thing about this until I know something for sure.”
The coulee was getting wider and the sun was getting higher in the sky. It must be close to noon. Just then Jesse noticed movement further down the coulee. She could not make it out as the sun was in her eyes. Easy noticed it as well and his ears perked. She shaded her eyes trying to get a clearer view. Could be a mountain lion. Her and her brothers were taught to always be aware of their surroundings when out riding. She usually had one or both dogs along on her rides but they were with the guys moving cattle today.
There had always been bears and mountain lions in the area. Jesse remembered a couple years back they had a bear come thru the farm one night. The dogs had raised hell and everyone came alive. Dad had grabbed his rifle and went outside. A few minutes later he came back in. “Didn’t see anything but I could smell bear.” Dad had said. Thankfully he had passed thru without bothering anything.
Dee started to speak and Jesse “hushed” her. “Something down the coulee.” she whispered. They reined in their horses and now Dee was shading her eyes and trying to see. “Probably just deer. ” Dee whispered back. They started forward again. “No,” Jesse said. “Looks like horse and rider but I cannot see clearly.”
A cloud rolled across the sun and they were able to a clear view for a moment, but whatever or whoever it was – was gone.
They stopped at a little thicket of old junipers, tied their horses, loosened the saddles and sat down for lunch. “I can’t believe I left without fixing a sandwich.” “Oh Jesse, no worries, I brought lots.” Dee answered as she opened her saddle bag and hauled out sandwiches, a couple of apples and bottled water.
Dawn coulee was a favorite spot for both girls. It seemed to go on forever and they liked to explore the area. The sand stones that rose up out of, seemingly, nowhere were dotted around the area. It was a beautiful place. No one seemed to know how it got it’s name.
As they ate, Jesse was uneasy. She had a feeling they were being watched. She looked over at the horses and seen no sign of alarm so she doubted it was a mountain lion.
“So here is my idea.” Dee started. “I say we poke around Trotting. We can start at Della’s. Most of the old gossips are in there every morning. They would not think anything odd to see us pop in for a late breakfast.” Jesse Lee mulled that over a minute. She washed her sandwich down with a drink of water and replied. “Your right Dee. They wouldn’t think a thing since we do pop in there every now and then. Who knows what we might hear if we do a little prodding.”
“It’s a plan then. Meet you there – Monday morning.” Dee grinned.
to be continued……………..
Will Jesse Lee find out anything in the town of Trotting? Drop your guess in the comment section below.
Author: Linda Carlson copywrite 2019