Authors: Jenny Oldfield
© 2009 by Jenny Oldfield
Cover and internal design © 2009 Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover photo © Kimball Stock
Internal illustrations © Paul Hunt
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, an imprint of
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410
Fax: (630) 961-2168
Originally published in Great Britain in 1999 by Hodder Children’s Books.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Crazy Horse / Jenny Oldfield.
p. cm. — (Horses of Half-Moon Ranch ; bk. 3)
Summary: When Crazy Horse and Cadillac, two very different but inseparable horses, go missing from the Half-Moon Ranch in Colorado, thirteen-year-old Kirstie tries to recover the stolen animals.
[1. Horses—Fiction. 2. Ranch life—Colorado—Fiction. 3. Stealing—Fiction. 4. Colorado—Fiction.] I. Title.
Printed and bound in the United States of America.
RRD 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
“This is a game called Hide the Flag!” Matt Scott announced to the group of breathless riders who had followed him and Crazy Horse up the steep mountain slope to Hummingbird Rock.
Close to the edge of the sheer drop into the valley below, Kirstie reined in her horse, Lucky, and turned to grin at her best friend, Lisa Goodman on the gray. “Ready to play?”
“Sure.” Lisa drew level on Cadillac, the big gelding she was riding for the day; his creamy white coat shone in the afternoon light. “What do we have to do?”
“See the red bandana in Matt’s hand? That’s the flag. One team hides it and tries to defend it while the other team tracks it down.”
“Hide and seek on horseback.” Lisa’s shrug showed that she understood. “No problem.”
“Don’t be too sure.” Kirstie’s grin broadened.
Before Kirstie could answer, her brother, Matt, had begun to split the group of a dozen horses and their riders into two groups. “Charlie, you and Rodeo Rocky head up one team. Crazy Horse and me, we’ll take the others.” Quickly, he split the dude-ranch guests between himself and the young, dark-haired wrangler.
“How about me?” Lisa called across the bare, granite rock. The cold wind blew her bright auburn curls in a halo around her face.
“You’re with me and Crazy Horse!” Matt yelled back, fixing his gray Stetson more firmly on his forehead.
“OK, Lucky, that means you and me end up with Charlie,” Kirstie told her palomino, who was only too happy to team up with Rocky, his favorite companion.
“We hide, you seek!” Matt went on organizing the group of bemused visitors. This was the last day of their vacation riding the rugged mountain trails winding out of the green valley slopes of Half Moon Ranch. Tomorrow they would go back home to their closed-in, fume-choked city jobs, and Kirstie’s brother was keen to give them a final open-air experience to remember.
So he rode Crazy Horse from the ledge of Hummingbird Rock onto the softer ground where ponderosa pines grew tall and straight and aspen trees shook their flame-red autumn leaves in the breeze. He called his team to follow.
“So how come you think I’ve got a problem?” Lisa insisted on an answer from Kirstie. She held Cadillac on a tight rein so that his handsome white face was raised high, nostrils flared, ears flicking impatiently.
“Did I say that?” Kirstie opened her gray eyes wide.
“Ye-ah!” Lisa’s arms jerked forward as Cadillac suddenly ducked his head. She shot out of her saddle and fell against his strong neck.
“Hmm.” Kirstie’s lips quivered. “Don’t let Cadillac see the bandana!” she warned.
Lisa regained her balance and squirmed back into the saddle. Immediately, Cadillac began to prance sideways, swishing his tail and shaking his head. “Why not?”
Another grin broke out on Kirstie’s tanned face. “Let’s just say Hide the Flag is not exactly Cadillac’s favorite game!”
“Git on!” Lisa urged her pedigree horse to join the rough-and-tumble fun.
Her team raced across a hundred feet of open ground toward a stand of pine trees along a ridge. Charlie’s team followed as he led the charge on Rodeo Rocky. The sorrel shot up the slope, his black mane and tail streaming in the wind.
Cadillac stood stock-still, watching them go.
“C’mon, Cadillac, let’s move!” Lisa gave him a kick.
The gray horse turned his head and snorted. He didn’t move a muscle.
“Y’all spread out!” Charlie yelled instructions to his team.
The bunched riders fanned out as they reached the trees where Matt’s team waited, ready to defend the hidden red flag.
Alert in her saddle, ready to head off a visitor called June Halverson, who was riding Yukon, a brown and white, six-year-old paint, Kirstie sympathized with Lisa’s predicament. When Cadillac took it into his head not to join in…well, wild horses wouldn’t drag him!
“Hey, git on!” Lisa flicked her switch against the big gelding’s round, solid rump. Not a flicker of movement from the bored horse. He stood eyes half-closed, a disdainful look on his aristocratic face.
Meanwhile, Kirstie rode Lucky across Yukon’s path to pull June Halverson away from the nook in the pine tree where the flag was hidden.
“Yee-hah!” Matt cried, racing Crazy Horse around the back of the trees and galloping from the side to scatter Charlie’s team. His horse tore through low, spiky bushes and brushed the bottom branches of the frail aspens, showering leaves and churning up the soft ground. He slid to a halt in a cloud of dust.
“Over there!” Charlie took a guess and pointed to where he thought the bandana might be hidden. He and Rocky set off at a lope, weaving through the tall, scaly trunks of the pine trees.
“Warm!” Kirstie said to herself, kicking Lucky into action and following Charlie. Matt, too, spun Crazy Horse around on the spot and charged after the wrangler.
, Cadillac!” a thin voice wailed from down below.
The beautiful pedigree horse kept all four feet firmly planted. He looked down his long nose at the antics of the rest.
On the ridge, Matt ducked low in the saddle to avoid a branch as Crazy Horse swerved between trees. He cut off Charlie and Rocky just in time. Another few feet and they would have spotted the bandana. Crazy Horse skidded to another spectacular halt, turned, and charged back into the fray.
“That horse sure lives up to his name!” June Halverson gasped at Matt’s pale tan mount. Crazy Horse was throwing himself about, spinning, backing up, and racing again as if his life depended on defending the flag.
Kirstie grinned and nodded. She caught her breath, then urged Lucky on again. “Warm!” she whispered as another guest began to circle the right tree. “Hot!” Galloping to intercept, she cut across Matt’s path, feeling the shudder from Crazy Horse’s thundering hooves as they hit the soft ground.
Too late! Pat Baker, the guest who was riding Jitterbug, had spotted the red kerchief. He stood in his saddle to reach it, yelling to Charlie and the gang. Every rider reined in his horse and closed in on the spot. Not even Crazy Horse, who came flying to the front, was quick enough to stop the dentist from Denver from seizing the flag to win the game.
“Poor Lisa!” Kirstie sat close to the fire, watching flames lick around the logs and shoot orange sparks into the black sky. Saturday night, late October. Winter was on its way.
“Poor Lisa, nothing!” Her friend had sulked her way through supper, turning her back on the bonfire and staring into the fast-running water of Five Mile Creek.
“I mean it.”
“You knew that no way was Cadillac gonna play the stupid game!”
“So what was I supposed to do?” Kirstie tried to bring Lisa around. “That’s the way Cadillac is. He’s three parts Thoroughbred and one part mustang, which accounts for him being moody and stubborn, I guess.”
“Moody!” Lisa was still disgruntled at being made to look like a fool. “I thought he was an ex–mounted police horse. Didn’t the army train him to do as he was told?”
–mounted police horse!” Kirstie emphasized the first syllable, raised her eyebrows, and shrugged. “Mom bought him for Matt when we first came to the ranch five years back. The army couldn’t use him because he didn’t like joining in marches and stuff with the other horses. They said he was too much of an individual to make a good team player.”
“Now you tell me!”
“So anyhow, Matt saw him at the sale barn and, zap, love at first sight!” Kirstie remembered the occasion with a warm glow. Her brother had been fifteen years old—two years older than she was now. Their family had just split up. Their father had left their Denver home, and a few months later, she and her brother had come with their mom to Half Moon Ranch to start a new life with their grandparents. Matt, never one to talk much, had spent most of the first weeks in gloomy silence. He had grudgingly gone along to the horse sale, but the moment he saw Cadillac, his eyes lit up. And that was it: the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Even now, when he was away at college during the week, Matt would regularly call home to check up on his favorite horse.
She glanced across at him now, deep in conversation with Charlie Miller, firelight flickering across their serious faces. “That’s where we bought Crazy Horse, too; at the same sale barn. Mom said if we were taking a risk and buying a real beauty with a possible temperament problem, like Cadillac, what we needed to go along with him was a horse we could rely on. He didn’t have to be good-looking, just dependable.”
She smiled as she pictured Crazy Horse. Where Cadillac’s head was long and fine, Crazy Horse’s was solid and round. His eyes and ears were large, almost mule-like. With a pale tan coat and sturdy legs, no one in their wildest dreams would call him a handsome horse…
“Dependable?” Lisa echoed with a note of disbelief. In this mood, she seemed to want to disagree with everything Kirstie said. “You think those sliding stops and spins of his make him a safe ride?”
Kirstie frowned and stood up. “Have another hamburger?”
“No…thanks. I mean, no way could anyone except Matt have handled Crazy Horse, the nutty way he acted today.”