Lights! Camera! Action! Chris is delirious with excitement when she learns that a movie is going to be filmed at the Double Diamond Dude Ranch--starring Chance Richmond! But the most exciting news is that the director needs someone to "double" for lead actress Vanessa Vance. Chris is going to be in a movie! Well, not exactly. The director explains that no one will actually see Chris's face. The audience will think she's Vanessa. But Chris has a couple of tricks up her sleeve to make sure it's not Vanessa Vance the audience will see up on the screen. It'll be Chris Bradley...Movie Star!
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About the Author
Louise Ladd is the author of many popular books for children, including A Whole Summer of Weird Susan, The Double Fudge Dare, The Anywhere Ring series, and all eight books in the Double Diamond Dude Ranch series. She lives in Fairfield, Connecticut.
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Me, My Mare, and the Movie
The Double Diamond Dude Ranch #5
By Louise Ladd
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1998 Louise Ladd
All rights reserved.
"What did you say, Andy?" My jaw dropped so low it almost hit my boots. "They want Belle and me to be in the movie?"
Andy grinned. "That's what Herb Gould told me, Chris. Of course, we'll all appear in it, one way or another, since he's going to film part of the fall round-up." He glanced around the lounge where the entire Double Diamond crew was gathered.
The cowhands, horse wranglers, and house staff broke out in little bursts of chatter.
Andy went on, "But he especially asked if you'd be willing to double for Vanessa Vance — be her stunt girl. You look something like her, at least from a distance, and you can ride well enough to handle the scenes he needs. He said Vanessa is only a beginner and he needs a real expert."
Trying not to blush, I said, "When the Goulds stayed here last summer, I thought he was just kidding when he said he'd like to make a movie on our ranch."
"He planned to shoot this film in California," Andy explained. "But a wildfire burned most of his planned location last week. He had to find a new spot in a hurry, and that's why he called us."
Anna Diamond, Andy's wife and co-owner with her husband of the dude ranch, bubbled with excitement. "Sarah Gould told me her husband was a Hollywood producer, but they were such quiet, down-to-earth people, I thought maybe he made documentaries for TV, or something simple like that. He hardly ever talked about his work."
"I just looked him up in the film guide," Drew Diamond said, waving a thick paperback book. Drew's twelve, a year older than me, and both of us grew up together here on the Double Diamond. "He's made lots of big movies, like Sunset in Tahiti, and Cry Danger."
"And now he's going to make Call of the High Country, or at least part of it, right here on our land." Anna shook her head like she wondered if she was dreaming.
"And Belle and I are going to be in it!" I remembered Mr. Gould admiring my mare more than once, commenting on her pretty copper colored coat, and her nice manners. And to be honest, he did mention once or twice he thought I was a pretty good rider, even if I was only in sixth grade.
I glanced over at Dad. He hadn't said a word since Andy collected us all in the lounge and dropped his news on us like a firecracker. It was Saturday night, and we didn't have any guests staying over the weekend. They'd all left that day, and the new group wouldn't begin to arrive until morning.
"What do you think, Dad?" I asked.
"Should be different," he said in his laid-back cowboy way. Dad was foreman of the ranch. "Rounding up the cattle each fall is a big enough job, without adding movie cameras and actors to complicate matters."
"Herb says he knows we have work to do," Andy told him. "He promised he'd try to stay out of the way as much as he can, and just film the round-up the way it usually happens."
"And you believed him?" Dad asked, cracking a grin.
Andy shook his head, raising one eyebrow to show he didn't. "Guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens."
"I wonder what Vanessa Vance is like in real life," I said. "I read that she's only thirteen, and already she's made so many movies and TV shows ... I guess she's probably pretty stuck up, being so famous."
"Don't judge a cake till it's out of the oven," Red Wing, our ranch cook, said. She's half-Cheyenne, but looks one hundred percent, with her hawk nose and high cheekbones, and her thick dark braid that hangs down her back.
"Who are the other actors?" Drew asked his dad.
"It's a big cast, but only a few of them are coming to film the scenes set here," Andy said. "Vanessa's 'mother' is played by Marsha Turner —"
"Marsha Turner!" Anna said. "She's a wonderful actress. I loved her in A Basket of Lilies."
"Who plays your part, Dad?" Drew asked. "There has to be a ranch owner, right?"
"Yup, but he's a bit prettier than I am. Any of you ever hear of Chance Richmond?"
"Chance Richmond!" This time my jaw threatened to hit the floor. "Chance Richmond is coming to our ranch?" I jumped up. "Oh wow! Oh wow! I've got to call Serena and tell her! She'll totally die!"
"Hold on, Chris!" Andy stopped me as I started out of the room. "We need to talk a bit first, figure out how we're going to handle this. Once the movie company gets here, the news will be all over the county before you can say spit, but until then, I think we'd better keep it under our hats. If we don't, we'll be pestered to distraction by the curious."
"You mean I can't tell Serena?" I said.
Andy thought a moment. "Maybe we should inform her and her family, since the Changs are our neighbors and good friends, but let's keep the news between those of us up here on the mountain for now."
"Dad, that means I can't tell any of the guys at school!" Drew said. His big black puppy, Monster, looked up from his snooze when he heard the protest in Drew's voice.
"Just for a short while," Andy said. "It's only a couple of weeks before Herb and his company arrive, and we have a business to run. We don't need half of Colorado calling us on the phone, or driving up here to ask questions."
My mind drifted ... Chance Richmond was coming to our ranch! I'd meet him in person ...
"How many people is Herb bringing?" Anna asked.
"About thirty-five, including the crew," Andy told her.
"Oh no!" Anna said. "Where are we going to put them all? Half the cabins are already booked. I can't turn away people with reservations!"
During the summer, our dude ranch is always full up, but in the fall people can't get away as much because of jobs and school. Next week we were expecting only a dozen guests.
"I talked to Herb about it," Andy answered. "He said most of the crew could stay in town, even if it's an hour's drive away, but he asked if he, the stars and the director could stay here."
... and Belle and I will be in all the important scenes, starring in a real movie ...
"How many people is that?" Anna began counting on her fingers. "Will any of them be bringing families along?"
"Vanessa's mother will come with her, and Herb wants to bring his wife. The others will be on their own."
... maybe Chance Richmond will even act in a scene with Belle and me ...
Anna went to the office and came back with the reservation book. After checking, she said, "We can manage, if we use all the cabins. That means we have to fix the leaky pipes in The Willows, repair the sag in Aspen's porch, and find out why the fireplace in Pine Grove smokes. Spruce needs —"
"I know, I know," Andy glanced around at the wranglers and hands. "I realize this is a busy time with the cattle drive, but ..."
They began to groan a bit at the thought of the extra work, then I spoke out loud, without meaning to. "But Chance Richmond is coming! And Belle and I get to be in a movie!"
The groans turned to laughs and happy chatter about appearing in a real Hollywood film.
Andy kept us in the lounge a while longer, going over more details, but finally I ran to the office to call my best friend, Serena.
"Are you sitting down?" I asked when she answered the phone. "If you're not, you'd better, because this is about the biggest news you'll ever hear in your life."
"What's up, Chris?" Serena asked.
"This is news big enough to sink an ocean liner, Serena," I said. "Are you sitting down?"
"You're just saying that. You're not, are you?"
"Sure I am. So what's the big news?"
"Belle and I are going to star in a movie with Chance Richmond."
She laughed. "Right. No, seriously, what did you want to tell me?"
"Belle and I are going to star in a movie with Chance Richmond."
"Come on, Chris, quit putting me on."
"I'm not! It's the truth. I swear it on — on — on ... Belle's mane and tail. You can come over here and trim off both if I'm not telling you the exact facts as Andy Diamond told them to me just a few minutes ago."
Silence. She was beginning to get an idea of how serious I was. She knew I'd never, ever let anyone cut Belle's beautiful mane and tail.
Finally she muttered, "Say it one more time ..."
"Belle and I are going to star in a movie with Chance Richmond."
Thunk! She must have dropped the phone.
"Serena, are you there? Can you hear me?"
"Chris, if this is a joke ..."
"It's the truth! Remember Mr. Gould, the movie producer who stayed with us last July?"
"Not really," she said slowly.
So I told her the whole story, then waited to hear her reaction. After all, it's not every day you find out your best friend is about to be a movie star.
She was quiet a moment, then said, "I'll bet Mr. Gould will want to use Dandy in all the scenes, since he's such a perfect looking horse."
"Dandy!" I said. "Is that all you can think of?"
"Well, he is the most beautiful horse in the world, next to your Belle, of course." Serena loved that palomino, even if she'd recently had to sell him to Dad.
"I'm sure Dad or Andy will ride him in some of the scenes." Then, I couldn't help asking, "So what do you think about me and Belle starring in the movie?"
"It's fabulous," she said. "You're such a good rider, it won't matter if they never show your face."
Never show my face! I hadn't thought of it that way. But now that she mentioned it, I knew she was right. If I was only a double — a stunt girl — how could they show me, if people thought they were watching Vanessa Vance?
"And Chance Richmond!" Serena went on. "I'm not as crazy about him as you are, but he's sure a big star, all right. Do you think I'll be able to meet him?"
"Sure, I'll set it up for you," I said, real casual-like, though the idea of even speaking to him made my stomach jump.
"And do you think ..." Serena's voice went whisper-soft, "... maybe I could ride a little bit in the round-up, maybe way off in the distance or something ...?"
"Hey, why not?" I said. "I'll ask Dad and I'm sure he'll say okay. Maybe he could even use your whole family. There's a lot of work to be done bringing in several hundred head of cattle from the range."
We talked a while longer, then I headed for the cabin I share with my father, set off by itself in a grove of trees. It was a cool night and I breathed in deep, enjoying the crisp Rocky Mountain air.
Dad was reading by the fire and I asked him about letting Serena, or all of the Changs, join the roundup. He liked the idea and said he'd speak to Andy about it.
I got into bed, quivering with excitement, thinking of all that was to come. But as I began to drop into sleep, Serena's words popped back into my mind ... never show your face ...
Not show my face? Well, I could understand why. But I didn't like it.
I made up my mind right then and there. I'd have to find a way to fix that little problem.CHAPTER 2
Time is weird. Sometimes you think it will never pass, and sometimes it melts like a snowball in the oven. In the next two weeks it did both in turns.
School was the slow time. It went on, as usual, with my teacher, "Homework" Brown, piling on the work. She was dead serious about learning — and expected the rest of the world to agree.
Maybe the best part about making the movie was that Dad had talked her into letting me study at home while the filming went on. But when I saw the mountain of books and assignments she gave me, I began to think it would be easier to stay in school.
At least Serena had given up being a quiet little mouse and joined the group of girls I hung out with. She wore her black eye like a merit badge and came to enjoy the attention it drew — especially from the blond, hunky Hatcher twins. The bruise, which she earned when she parted company with the saddle, had faded to a nice shade of purplish-green by now.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as they say in the old-time cowboy movies Dad loves to watch, we were getting ready for Hollywood.
It began with a huge truck that roared up our drive, loaded with generators and cables, followed by deliveries of tons of other equipment, and a trillion phone calls from Mr. Gould and his assistants. Each day, I came home to rising excitement and that's when time melted away.
Dad was sent to rent extra horses, including a lookalike for my mare, Belle. Mr. Gould wanted a chestnut so calm there'd be no way he'd dump Vanessa off. Belle, while perfect for me, was too sparky for a beginning rider. Dad found a gelding named Butternut who was so lazy he considered it a big chore just to walk over to the feed bin. Old Butternut was long past even thinking of acting up.
In the movies, they usually make it look like a roundup takes a day or two. In real life, it could be a month before every stray heifer is chased out of the gullies, brush and woods on our range.
Everyone worried about the weather. If a big storm hit before the Hollywood people arrived, the cattle would head down to the ranch on their own. They'd know winter was on the way and it was time to come home. If that happened, we'd have to drive them back up the mountain, so we could round them up again for the cameras. No one cared for the idea of the extra work involved, on top of what we already had.
And naturally, we still had the dude ranch to run. Even with fewer guests, there were still trail rides, cookouts, pack trips, singalongs and all the rest of the fun.
People began to do odd things. Maggie, our head wrangler, experimented with makeup, which she'd never worn before. Anna went on a diet, even though she had two pounds — at most — to lose. Jamie worked like a devil on his reading lessons, in case Mr. Gould needed him to do a scene with words in it. I even caught Andy Diamond studying himself in the mirror one day, trying to decide which was his "good" side for the cameras.
At last The Day came, the Sunday when the actors and Mr. Gould arrived. Hank drove all the way to the airport to collect them. That afternoon, the Changs showed up and joined the Diamonds, Dad and myself on the front porch.
We waited and waited, then finally Drew said, "I hear them."
"Here they come!" Serena shouted as the van appeared from behind the trees. It was followed by several rented cars and a bus jammed with people.
Mr. Gould waved from the front seat as Hank pulled up in front of us. "Hi everyone, it's good to be back!"
He hopped out as soon as Hank came to halt, then turned to give his wife, Sarah, a hand.
They greeted each other like long-lost friends.
Dad slid open the side door and Marsha Turner stepped out. Her kindly mother-type face was so familiar from TV and movies, it was almost like meeting someone you've known before. She was plumpish, and dressed in a spiffy pants suit, with a scarf pinned just-right over her shoulder.
"Welcome to the Double Diamond, Miss Turner," Andy said.
"Thanks, it's good to be here." She tried to brush a few wrinkles from her jacket. "You sure do live a long way from civilization."
"Well, ma'am," Dad said. "Our cows prefer it that way."
She smiled. "I can't blame them."
Next out was Vanessa Vance. She looked like an ordinary girl, with a bony face and boring-brown hair like mine. She wore jeans and a sweater, and no makeup. I'd been expecting someone with "Star" written all over her, but she could have fit right in at school.
I peered into the van behind her, looking for Chance Richmond, but couldn't see him.
"Hello, Miss Vance," Andy Diamond said. "I hope the trip wasn't too long for you."
"Call me Vanessa, please." When she smiled, a dimple flashed in each cheek. "I enjoyed the ride," she said. "There's so much to see. I've never been to Colorado before. The mountains are beautiful."
With those first words, I warmed to her right away. In spite of Red Wing's advice, I'd been expecting her to be a snob, but anyone who had the sense to appreciate my mountains couldn't be all bad.
"This is my son, Drew," Andy said. "And this is Bart Bradley, our foreman, and his daughter, Crystal, who will be riding your stunts for you, Vanessa."
"Call me just plain Chris." I waited to hear the old stale joke, "Hi, just-plain-Chris."
Instead, she said, "You're doing my stunts? But you're only...."
Her voice trailed away and I knew she was thinking I was too young to fill in for her. I shrugged. "I was raised in the saddle."
Excerpted from Me, My Mare, and the Movie by Louise Ladd. Copyright © 1998 Louise Ladd. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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