The Horse Rescuers #1
The Penny Pony
Piper Jones has always loved horses, but little did she know what would happen when she and her best friend, Addie tried to help a neglected pony. When all the adults in her life can't or won't help, Piper and Addie take matters into their own hands. They must find a safe haven for the pony and protect it from its cruel owner. A little old lady from Piper's past steps up to help and a suspected liar proves he's not a bad guy at all. But as the girls try to solve a mystery involving the suspicious owner, will they be forced into crime themselves in order to save their new-found pony friend?
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|Middle Grade / Teens|
~ We Find Rosie ~
The trouble started on a hot afternoon the week after I turned fifteen. I was doing surgery in my bedroom, trying to glue or tape the leg back on an old Breyer horse, when I heard a rock hit the screen on my window. I looked out and saw my best friend, Addie Davis, getting ready to throw another one.
“Hey!” I yelled out the window. “Stop! You’re going to break something.”
“Hi, Piper,” she said. “You still sick? I haven’t seen you since your birthday party when you started throwing up. You don’t answer your phone.”
“I’m okay now, but I broke my phone. Mom says I have to buy the new one with my own money,” I said. “What’s up?”
“I want to show you something. Come out.”
“Just a minute,” I said. My mother was mad at me. Would she let me go? I decided that yes, she would let me go out. Since I almost always guessed wrong about things like this, I tiptoed down the hall and out the back door to be sure she didn’t have a chance to mind. My mother had been very unreasonable lately. I had her straight brown hair and skinny body, but not her temper.
Motioning for Addie to be quiet, I led her through the trees at the edge of our yard and into a small cluster of lilac bushes owned by our neighbors. When they bloomed, they had the best smell in the world, but they were done now and it was hot summer. Out of sight of my house, I turned to her.
“Are you in trouble?” Addie asked. Stupid question. I was usually in trouble.
“Not really,” I said. “I think I should lay low for a while.”
“You are, too, in trouble,” said Addie. “What did you do?”
“Nothing,” I said. “Okay, I broke some good plates, but I didn’t mean to. I was trying to juggle them. What did you want to show me?”
“It’s over by the drugstore.” Addie started walking toward Main Street. Serendipity Springs, Kentucky, was a very small town. The good thing about small towns: everyone knew you, so you could walk anywhere. People said “Hi,” and might give you treats. The bad thing about small towns: Everyone knew you; they kept an eye on what you were doing and asked about your parents. See, I was getting used to Mom and Dad being divorced, but I wished everyone else would get over it and quit asking me about it. I mean, it had been a year now and all the arguing and fighting was over. If I was able to move on, why couldn’t the rest of the town? They picked at it like a scab that was still sore, and I guessed it was.
We walked two blocks, past old houses and old trees dreaming in the hot summer sun. The bare ground had cracks in it from the heat, and even the weeds at the side of the road were drying up. Addie’s brown hair had gone crazy curly with the humidity, and we were both sweaty. Pretty soon, we saw the vacant lot across from the drugstore with its large yellow sign: PONY RIDES- $2.00.
We crossed over to the sign and the low rail fence enclosing part of the vacant lot. At a corner of the fence was a hitching post with a small spotted horse dozing under a heavy western saddle. About ten sacks of feed leaned upright against the fence, next to an old rusty aqua and white trailer. There were no people in sight. We stared for a few minutes at the scrawny animal sweating in the sun.
“She looks exactly like Dotty,” I murmured.
“Who’s Dotty?” Addie wanted to know.
“A pony I used to ride out at Miss Julie’s. Miss Julie Applegate? The pony died years ago, and she looked just like that, only not so skinny.” I touched the horsehair worry bracelet I always wore. It was brown and white and made from Dotty’s mane. I twisted it when I was nervous. We walked over close to the hitching post, and I shook my head sadly as I looked at the thin little horse. Her bony shoulders, ribs and hips stuck out; her matted mane and tail needed brushing.
“When Dad sees horses like this one,” I told Addie, “he explains to the owners that they should worm their animals and feed them better. We both think people should have to pass a test to own animals.”
“So, is it a pony or a horse?” Addie asked.
“Well, it goes by the breeds. You can have a large pony and a small horse that are about the same size. And cow ponies are really horses: they’re only called ponies. Dotty was a POA pony, a Pony of the Americas, but she was pretty good-sized.”
My dad was a veterinarian, and sometimes when there was no school, I got to go on farm calls with him. I helped out by holding things and handing stuff to him when he needed it. He explained to me as he worked, so I knew a lot about horses and medicine. I had made it my business to learn as much as I can for when I have my own horse. I’d been saving my baby sitting money, but now I had to use the little I’d saved to buy a new cell phone.
“Oh, you poor thing,” I said as I ran my hand down the pony’s bony shoulder and shooed away some flies that her tail couldn’t reach. I bent over and checked under her belly. I knew how to tell a mare from a gelding, and this was a mare. She had patches of brown on her creamy body, just like Dotty, and even had the same white tips on her ears, making them look like feathers. My eyes prickled with tears when I saw the raw sores on her legs, probably from being hobbled with ropes.
“She looks terrible,” said Addie. In answer, the pony yawned and licked her lips as though asking for water. She looked at me with huge, sad eyes, whuffed at me, then closed her eyes again.
“You girls want a ride? You got two bucks, you can ride her,” a loud, rough voice said. A fat, oily man walked toward us. He smelled sweaty and wore a lime-green Hawaiian shirt.
“She needs some water, mister,” I stated, staring up at him. “It’s hot today and she’s thirsty.” Even if I had any money in my shorts pocket, I wouldn’t give it to him.
“And she’s hungry, too,” added Addie.
The smelly man lost his grin for a moment, and I saw something mean in his beady blue eyes. Then he put his fake smile back on for us. “Oh, you don’t need to worry about Rosie. She’s fine. Just came back to feed and water her, in fact. Why don’t you girlies run home and get some money and tell your friends about the pony ride? We’ll be here till five o’clock.”
“Okay, mister,” I said, needing to get away and think about this.
“Name’s Jake,” he said, mopping sweat from his face. “See you later.”
“Piper,” said Addie, as we walked away. “What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “But we have to help her. We can’t wait. We have to do something!” I glanced back over my shoulder and saw Jake’s enormous bulk settling itself in a folding chair in the shade. He was talking on his cell phone and ignoring the pony. As we watched from behind a car, some creep in a dirty tank top crouched down by Jake’s chair and started talking to him quietly. Jake got up and went into the small beat-up trailer. The skinny, creepy guy followed him.
“Look,” I said. “He lied about feeding and watering her. He’s another grown-up that can’t be trusted. What a jerk!”
“Can we take her some food and water later when he’s gone?”
“Yes, I think we should, but we should also turn Jake in for animal neglect. We have to protect that pony from him.”
“Who do we tell about him?” Addie asked. “How about your dad? He’s the only vet in town.”
“I don’t think he can help. He’s pretty busy, but let’s go try,” I said. Maybe Dad was at the clinic and not out on a farm call. We could only hope. We headed down Main Street, wondering aloud to each other how long a horse could live without food and water.