|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Series:||Walter Farley's Black Stallion Series , #6|
|Product dimensions:||5.13(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.66(d)|
|Lexile:||870L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Although the early June morning was unusually cool and the sky overcast, the boy's body perspired freely beneath his thin sweater. For this morning, as on every Saturday morning, he had walked the five miles from his home to the training track just outside the town limits of Coronet, Pennsylvania. And now he stood beneath a tall elm tree, his eyes upon the drab gray sheds before him. Grim-faced, he walked toward them, his gaze never leaving the shedsnot even for the horses, who trotted about the half-mile track to his left. He heard neither the rhythmic beat of hoofs over hard-packed clay nor the clucking of the drivers to their colts as they sat in their two-wheeled training carts. And this was very unusual for Tom Messenger.
He walked down the road until he came to the last shed in the row, and there he hesitated, his long, thin face grave with concern, his arms hanging loosely beside his big-boned but gaunt frame. It was many moments before he moved to the closed door of the shed, his steps noticeably shorter and slower.
Looking through the window, he saw the two old men working over Symbol. Jimmy Creech stood before the horse's big black head. As always, Jimmy's muffler was wrapped snugly about his scrawny neck, and his cap was pulled far down over his ears. The tip of Jimmy's prominent nose held the only color in his pale face. George Snedecker stooped to the other side of the horse, his hands feeling about Symbol's hoofs.
Slowly the boy slid the door open, and he heard George Snedecker say, "Pains in my legs again this morning, Jimmy. Makes a man wish he were dead, that's what it does."
"We ain't so young any more," Jimmy Creech grumbled; then he saw the boy standing in the doorway. He nodded to him but said nothing, and turned back to Symbol.
With great effort George rose to a standing position. " 'Morning, Tom," he said. The chaw of tobacco in his mouth was passed from one side to the other as his gaze shifted uneasily between the boy and Jimmy Creech; then he took a cloth from the pocket of his overalls and brushed it over Symbol's neck. He said with attempted lightness, "No need to work over Symbol, heh, Jimmy? He'll stir up enough wind to wipe him clean."
Jimmy Creech looked sullenly into George's grinning, tobacco-stained mouth. "Sure" he said. "Let's get the stuff on him now."
The boy stood there while they slid the light racing harness on Symbol and tightened the leather about the shafts of the training cart. Jimmy Creech had taken hold of the long reins when the boy said, "You're really going to sell her, Jimmy? You haven't changed your mind since last Saturday?" His voice was low and heavy with concern.
Jimmy Creech turned to George, motioning him to open the shed doors. "I'm selling her," he said quickly, without looking at the boy. "This morning . . . the guy's coming this morning, just as I told you last Saturday."
"But Jimmy" The boy was close beside Jimmy Creech now, his hands on the man's arm, his words coming fast. "Her colt may be everything you ever hoped to own. You figured it that way. You said"
Jimmy Creech had slid into the cart seat. "I know what I said, what I figured," he interrupted, turning away. "You don't have to tell me, Tom."
"Then why do you want to sell the Queen at this late stage of the game?" the boy asked with sudden anger. "She'll have her foal in another three weeks. Why don't you do as we planned?"
Jimmy Creech drew his muffler tighter about his neck, and his eyes were upon Symbol's black haunches as he said bitterly, "I figured out one night that it was a pretty late stage in the game for me, too. I figured up how old I was and I got sixty-two. I figured that it's no time for me to be looking ahead a couple of years, and I'd have to wait that long before I could race this colt of the Queen's. So I figured two years is much too long for me to wait. That's the score, Tom. I'm sorry."
"But, Jimmy. You're being silly. You're not old. You're"
But Jimmy Creech was taking Symbol from the shed.
The boy watched Jimmy until he had driven Symbol around the corner of the shed; then he turned to George, now seated heavily in his chair beside the door. "What's gotten into Jimmy?" the boy asked. "Why's he talking like that?"
"He ain't been feeling good again," George said. "And sixty-two's not so young any more, like Jimmy says. Age is like that, Tom. For years you go along thinking you're a young bunny, then one morning you wake up and it's hit you right smack in every bone and muscle in your body. Like it did with me some years ago. And like it's doing to Jimmy now. And when that happens you find you don't start figuring too far ahead any longer." George leaned back in his chair. "Yep, I know what Jimmy means when he says he don't want to wait two years for the Queen's colt to come along."
Shaking his head, the boy said, "But all winter long Jimmy felt good. I know he did. He'd talk about this foal of the Queen's for hours at a time, telling me the colt was going to be the one he'd always wanted. You heard him, George. And you know our plans. He was going to send the Queen up to my uncle's farm, where she was going to have her foal. And I was going to take care of them both this summer while you and Jimmy were at the fair tracks racing Symbol. It was just the setup he wanted for them. Uncle Wilmer has plenty of pasture; everything the Queen and her foal could want during the summer. I don't understand why"