I hitched my hat lower over my eyes and pulled the tied bandana over my mouth and nose. The dust swirled around us in a cloud. I leaned on the fence as the horses milled around the corral. My grandson climbed up and sat on the top rail. A sneeze nearly toppled him into the pen and under the shuffling hooves. I resisted the urge to hang onto his belt. He was nearly sixteen, after all.
I waited quietly, watching the horses, noticing their movements, quirks, and personalities. Chad glanced down at me and busted out laughing. “Gramps... I thought those were just for show… or to be ready to hold up a stagecoach or something.”
Smark aleck kid. “Notice who’s got the runny nose, kid. It ain’t me.” He sneezed again and wiped his nose on his shirt sleeve. Disgusting. “Don’t s’pose you got a hanky in yer pocket, boy.”
“And what... wipe my nose and stick it back in my pocket? Gross.” The corner of his lip raised in a sneer.
“And havin’ a slimy sleeve is better?” That got a hint of a grin. Maybe I’d get through to this rebel city kid after all.
“How bought that one, Gramps.” He nodded at a shiny black.
“He might be purty to look at but he ain’t sound, boy. He’s got a clubfoot. See how he walks?”
“Well, how about that palomino?”
“Ain’t a palomino... it’s a buckskin. An’ notice how long her back is… won’t hold up well. She’ll be swayback in no time.” At least the kid was taking an interest. It was a good sign.
“Gramps… you sure are picky. They’re all just rescues. You aren’t going to find another Justin Time here.” I noticed he hadn’t used his usual cuss words in spite of the attitude.
I grinned and hitched my hat back on my head so I could squint at him. “Take a gander at that mare there, boy… no, the one with the scar on her shoulder. And that gelding... the sorrel with the roman nose. And that stallion with the snotty nose and eyes.”
“You mean the fat mare, the ugly gelding, and the sick stallion. Yeah, I see them, Gramps.” Another sneer. I pulled out my wallet and handed him a picture with worn and curled edges.
“Yup... this horse looks about as attractive as those.” He handed me the picture back but I waved it away.
“Take a closer look, kid.”
He studied it for a minute and I saw the moment he recognized my ranch stallion. I rubbed my hand over my mouth to hide the grin that was busting out. Chad turned those big brown eyes on me and stuttered… “That’s Justin, Gramps! What happened to him?”
“Same as what happened to these critters. He had a hard luck life until I found him. Justin Time was a gangly, undernourished, uncared-for stallion. That was the beginning. It took a lot of healing, a lot of patience, and a lot of years to get him healthy and trained.”
“And a whole lot of food from the looks of him.” Chad chimed in and we shared a chuckle.
“Yessiree... he could put away the food… still can, as a matter of fact.”
“But Gramps… he’s amazing… I mean… you do reining demos on him without bit or bridle. He’s won championships…” His eyes shifted back down to the photo.
“It took work, boy… like these are gonna need. l look at this herd and see the potential. That mare with the scar has common sense and intelligence. The gelding is butt ugly but he’s built for the long haul and ain’t a bit flighty. That stallion… now he’s the best of the bunch. Some medicine and rest and he’ll be my replacement for old Justin.” I could feel excitement building up as I watched Chad turn back to the herd with a thoughtful expression.
“Reckon that’s why I asked ya here, Chad. I see good stuff in ya but you’re like these horses. Yer life’s been rough from the get-go but I see a kid that needs rescuin’, carin’, healin’, an’ time. In the end… you could be a real cowboy with a purpose in life. That’s God’s goal for us, boy. A bond with our Rescuer so’s we can serve Him with abilities He’s given us.”
Chad shifted in an attempt to hide tears. “So I’d kinda be God’s Justin Time?”
I fumbled for my hanky. Dern dust.
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