John knew what he was doing. He knew the Palomino did not like riders.
His father alone could ride him with strong working of rein and bit but
no one else ever did. Except the fat kid. Earlier they’d been fighters,
rolling in the dirt. John had Fatso in a headlock but the kid stood up
and ran straight into the side of the barn with John hanging on, until
the third time when John hit his head and nearly tore the kid’s ear off.
That was before the horses came in from the pasture, down the hill
into the field and the kid asked to ride. John looked at his big soft
body and laughed. “Sure, I can arrange a ride. Let me get your tack.
That’s rider talk for blanket, saddle, bridle and reins. You’ll learn. “
The fat kid did what he was told. When the big horse reared back
the kid hung on like snot. He stayed there through buck and turn,
kick and spin. He held on and pulled down on the reins until the damn
beast stopped and stood like a statue. “I was pretty scared for a while,”
the fat kid said. He sat up straight in the saddle. His swollen ear had
turned purple. John hated how it all came out. Hated the fat boy’s smile.
They rode for an hour and when they came back John’s dad was there.
“See you boys been riding,” he said. “It’s my first time,” Fatso said.
John’s father laughed. “You must learn fast,” he said. “John, take care
of the horses, while us men clean up for supper.” The sky turned red.