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User:FelixSagittarius/At the Ranch Pt 3/9

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At the Ranch
Preceded by: At the Ranch Pt 2/9
Succeeded by: At the Ranch Pt 4/9
Separator r left.png  At The Ranch Pt 3/9 "On the Road Again/ Wideload's Tale"  Separator r right.png
Tales from the Blind Pig story universe

By Felix Sagittarius

I looked out the window of the trailer, watching the scenery swiftly roll past, and hummed "On the Road Again' softly to myself. "Willy got it right," I thought, "a road trip with a friend was much easier than all alone."

"Are you humming?" asked my new friend, Wideload. "That's, uhh, Willy Nelson, isn't it? Not my kind of music, but my dad loved him."

"You can hear me hum?" I replied. "I thought I was imagining it, or just doing it in memory!"

" Nope," he replied. "The sound's not human, but its soft and clear. Hah! I'd do some of my fav's, but you just can't hum rap."

"Ecch, rap. I grew up with real music, not shouting over a drum track!" I snorted.

Wideload laughed, then said, "Ah, you old farts, just can't get with the times! The world changed, and you can't get the new ways!"

"Boy, did it ever change! The last possible thing I could have imagined is living as a four hoofed animal! Who would ever have thought something from Mars could turn a life upside down and inside out!" I replied. We were speaking in the quiet, subtle language we horses use among ourselves.

"Certainly killed my groove!" Wideload chuckled. "There I was, waiting for my girl friend to drop by, all ready to have some fun, then, BAM! suddenly I'm a horse! In a small apartment on the third floor yet! Luckily, I'd left the door unlocked so Sheri could get in. Boy, did she shriek when she saw a horse instead of me!"

"And speaking of which, we have hours to go, and you do have a story to tell." I prompted.

"I do, don't I," he replied. He stood quietly for a few moments, gathering his thoughts, and snacking on the hay.

"I was born in the Ozarks," he began. "Down in southern Missouri. Dad has a farm, some good acreage for wheat or soybeans, and ran a small herd of cattle for slaughter. It was an interesting life, doing chores as soon as I was big enough too, along with my two older brothers and my sister. When I didn't have chores, schoolwork or practice for one sport or another, I roamed the woods, hunting in season, or just out being a part of them. Always loved it down there, the woods aren't quiet if you know what you're listening to and looking for."

"But, my great love was for playing sports. I was always big for my age, and strong. The townies just never had the workload I did on the farm, and were weaker because of that. I played baseball, both Little League and in school, soccer, did track and field, but football, now that was my favorite! I started with Pop Warner leagues, then in high school the coach introduced me to weight training and eating right, and I grew even bigger and stronger. Wasn't smart enough to be a quarterback, or fast enough to be a receiver, but as a center or linebacker, I was dangerous!" he said proudly.

"Never was all that good at school work, got C's and occasional D's - seemed my mind just didn't work that way, no matter how I tried. Math was my worst enemy - strange, because my oldest brother loved it and did real well in it. He used to tutor me, which is why I got through the classes as well as I did. My sister was a writer. She'd even had stories published in some of the big time magazines! She helped me with English, and Spanish. Other brother, well, I guess every family has a black sheep. He hung out with the bad kids in school, then joined the Marines. We were proud of him for that, and he did well in the Corps. But, when he got out, he fell in with a motorcycle gang. Last I heard of him, he'd died of the Martian Flu." He sighed, "We all did pretty well out of our lives, except for him."

"The high school football team I played on did real well - we took local and state titles the last three years I was there! We'd been scouted for several years, and after the last two, most of the team were offered scholarships. The quarterback and the receivers went off to some big name schools, and I got offers from both KU over in Lawrence, and MU in Columbia. The family came together and we thought about it. The scholarships were both good ones, but didn't cover everything. My math head bro' had gotten a professor job at a college down south, he'd gotten married but no kids then, so he offered a little help. My sister had just sold a novel, so she chipped in some. My other brother offered help as well, but we knew he was dealing drugs, and so I thanked him but declined it. He wasn't happy, but said he understood and was proud of me. My folks wanted to help, but after getting my brother through school, they were pretty strapped, so what they did was give me one of their cars. We went over the scholarships carefully, and decided MU was the better, so that's where I went. An MU Tiger, great at the time, now its kinda funny." he said.

"I was red shirted the first year, since they had a really good team of seniors in the positions they wanted me for. I spent the first year learning the playbook, helping the coaching staff, and in getting used to going to college classes, which was sure different than High School! I'd decided on a business degree, since I didn't want to be a coach or to just waste my time on basketweaving classes or other 'dumb jock' stuff. It wasn't easy, I'll tell you! My previous schooling hadn't really prepared me for what I was learning, and I had to get help from the tutors to keep my grades up. But, I did well enough to keep the scholarship, and started playing the second year," he continued.

"Since I was so big and muscular, I was put in the offensive line as a right guard. Since I had so much time in baseball, the Coach decided to try me as a center, which was the position I'd played in high school. It took a lot of boning up, since the colleges play differently than high school, but I had the first year to learn in addition to schoolwork, and did pretty well. Enough so that coach put me there permanently! I was so proud, that position is so critical. We did very well that year, we even beat our hated rivals from KU! I was really looking forward to the next season, but then this happened," he said.

He paused for a few more mouthfuls of hay, and a long pull from nipple drinker. I joined him, more from of companionship than need.

He continued, after a moment, "I'd come home after practice, and taken a shower - it had been a hot day, and all the running and other training had left me tired and sweaty , even after the shower in the locker room. I knew that Sheri was coming over after she got off work, so I left the door unlocked, and was dressed in a tee shirt and light shorts. I'd felt a bit strange at practice, and coach put it down to the heat and sent me home early. I had a couple of spells of...not faintness, a strangeness that's hard to describe, as I climbed the stairs to my apartment, and wondered if I was coming down with something. I lay down on the couch for a bit, then got up to turn on the stereo. I never got there."

He sighed, took another mouthful of hay, then continued, chewing, "My feet suddenly cramped, and my legs felt strange. I grabbed the bookshelf to stay upright, then carefully lay down as my hands started cramping too. The middle of the room was clear of obstacles; I've never liked coffee tables and had the landlord remove the one there when I moved in. As you, of all people, should know, the process was fairly quick, and very painful! I lay on the rug, and felt my bones and muscles shifting and twisting, and my body growing in size and mass. The floor creaked and groaned under the rapidly increasing load, and I tried to keep from screaming with the pain, only groaning when it got bad - I was a jock, after all, and pain is something a jock lives with. I felt the tee shirt tear and the shorts burst too. I left my eyes closed and waited for the process to end. I guessed what was happening, that I was Changing. There'd been a number of kids on campus it had happened to, and two of the professors.

"I had no idea what I was becoming, just that I was huge, stiff and had a long nose. Oh, man, the smells! I hadn't had Sheri over in a week, but the - inexpensive - perfume she liked reeked. I could smell the guy two doors down was cooking cabbage, and someone on the ground floor was smoking pot. My ears were moving around too, and I could hear a number of different kinds of music being played, everything from rap to classical, and one geek who was playing jazz. I could even tell who was playing which computer game!"

"I moved one leg out in front of me, and opened my eyes to see what had happened to me. You know what these eyes are like, primarily shades of grey with faint colors. I saw that I had a very large hoof, and in only one piece. As a farm boy, I knew immediately: I'm a horse, and a big one. I rolled to my stomach from my side, that caused another set of groans and shrieks from the building structure. Once I got settled, I just laid there. First thing I thought was, "Coach ain't gonna be happy about this" followed by "well, there goes the scholarship!" Then I heard Sheri's sandals tap, tapping up the stairs and down the walkway."

"She walked up to the door and knocked. She knew it was open, but she was polite that way. Getting no answer, she knocked again, and I nickered. She opened the door, and the light illuminated me. God, it was so funny! She started in, then did a double take, then shrieked like a steam whistle! I nickered again, laughing. She said, "Mike? Mike, is that you?" and I nodded. She scrabbled in her purse for her cell phone, then called 911 and reported another case of SCABS. She came in then, reached out carefully, and petted my nose. I pressed gently against her hand. "Oh, Mike, I'm so sorry." she said. We waited for a few minutes, then a cop car raced into the lot, followed by a fire truck. She went out to the rail, waved and called to get their attention and show where I was," he said.

"The cops and the firefighters came trotting up the stairs. The landlord, attracted by all the noise, tagged along behind. The emergency people came up to the apartment, and looked in. I nodded to them, and Sheri explained who I was and what had happened. One of the firefighters walked in, but the groaning and ominous creaking sent him right back out to talk with his boss. The landlord peered in, and I snorted at him. He'd always been a jerk, and he wasn't going to change now."

"Oh, shit! What kind of a prank are you jerks playing now? A horse, up here? What are you trying to do, collapse the place? I'm calling the owner, and we're going to sue the shit outta you, Allen! You get out here, right now, and bring your stuff, you're history and I'll see you blacklisted at every apartment in town! Now what do you want, you cheap bimbo!" The last was directed at Sheri, who turned red but told the fool that I'd gotten SCABS, and the horse was no prank, but me. He finally listened, then turned to me and said, "That is you, Allen?" I nodded. He said "Oh, shit!" again.

"One of the firemen came up and talked to the Captain again, saying he'd checked the apartment below and the ceiling was heavily bowed, with a lot of broken plaster, just as the floor here was dished under me. He'd had to wake the resident to get in, and she wasn't happy when she saw the mess, and even more when the fireman said she had to leave for a bit. The Captain talked with the landlord, and found that most of the place was on a slab, with a small basement at the end for a laundry room."

"That'll make bracing the area easier, to prevent a collapse, but we'll need to brace the walkway as well, and we'll need a crane to get him down." the Captain said. Another couple of trucks had showed up, one bringing beams for bracing, hydraulic jacks, and other rescue stuff. The firemen rousted out the first floor occupant - the cops were interested in the smell of pot smoke, but gave him a warning and a pass, because of the circumstances. The firemen set up bracing beams, then moved to the second floor to lift and brace the floor under me. another group was reinforcing the walkway, and I could hear the landlord howling when they took out a section of the railing," he said.

He continued, "These guys really knew their stuff. I listened and there was little wasted time or material in the setups. The Captain came to the door and told me they were going to reinforce the floor under me, and not to move if possible. I nodded to him, and he shouted to the downstairs crew to begin They'd placed a steel plate on four hydraulic jacks directly under me, and I felt the floor begin to rise as they labored at pumping the jacks up. The creaking and groaning of the floor as it came up was almost as bad as when it went down. Finally, the floor was almost level, and they braced it with more beams. The Captain told me to get up, and, slowly, I did."

"As I rose, my size became even more apparent. "God, what is he? A Percheron?" one of the firefighters said. "Hell, how are we going to get him through the door?" said another. I heard a clatter and clanging in the parking lot, then the throbbing of a diesel engine and the boom of a crane rose into view. A fireman appeared with a circular saw; he started the engine and cut the door jam away and a fair bit of the surrounding area. I could here the landlord cursing in the background, and snickered. The captain asked me to slowly walk out the door. I nodded and, one hoof at a time, I did. They'd reinforced the walkway, but it still groaned under me. The firemen carefully positioned me by the missing rail, then rigged slings under my stomach and chest, then hooked them to a brace bar on the cranes hook," he said.

""Here we go!" someone shouted, and the engine on the crane roared. I was lifted off my feet, then carefully swung out away from the building. I thought, "I'm flying! I'm flying!" then they gently set me down. People undid the slings, and I stood unsupported on my own without worry for the first time. Sheri came over, and stroked my neck. I turned my huge head and nuzzled her, I tried to talk, to thank her, but all that came out were horse noises. She cried. I hadn't known she'd liked me that much. Another man came over and introduced himself as a large animal vet. He did a careful looking over, and proclaimed me unharmed by the experience," he said.

"While I'd been getting rescued from the room, Sheri had been talking to the police helping them fill out the forms. One of the cops came over and asked if I wanted anyone called. I thought for a minute, then nodded. I tapped out Coach's number, then that of my family, and the cop wrote them down and read them back. I nodded, and he headed off. The landlord was back with the property owner, and they weren't happy. They said they had contacted their lawyer, and were suing me for damages. I shrugged. I didn't have much, and now, what could I do about it? The fireman were busy undoing all they'd done to get me down, so I couldn't thank them. The Vet came back, and pointed to the trailer behind his truck, and said he was taking me to his farm to recover. Sheri got the address, and said she'd be by when she could. I nodded, then nuzzled her again. Then I went over and got in the trailer. Off to the farm I went, and that's pretty much the story," he concluded.

"Well, you had as interesting a time as I did!" I said. "Did it take you long to get used to this?"

"Well, as a country boy, I knew a lot more about horses than you probably did. Yes it took a while, but no I knew a lot of what this new body wanted and needed from the start, and didn't have to read up on it, like you did," he replied

"What did your family think?" I asked.

"They were horrified, not because of what had happened and what I'd become, but that my future, which had looked so bright, was suddenly cut off. They offered to take me home to the farm, but HHS had already sent in the paperwork and had priority, damn them," he cursed. "The folks told me up front they couldn't afford to fight somebody that big, but they'd contacted the ACLU and the local SCABS organization for help, which may be why HHS had me picked up so quickly."

After a minute spent looking out the window at the endless cornfields, he said, "What do you think of what Stoney showed us? Is there any hope there?"

I replied, "I don't know. I asked a friend who has experience in these matters to come visit me at the ranch, but I have no idea if he will, or can. He's a polymorph, although he doesn't use it much. I helped him get back to himself, so he owes me big time, but he's also a busy, creative person, and somewhat forgetful. We'll just have to see."

"Hey, we're slowing again!" he said. "Another gas stop?" We'd stopped for fuel several times, and Jerry had let us out for a few moments at each stop to stretch and change sides. Freaked out some farmers, when we didn't act like real horses!

"No," I said, "Another town, it looks like. Ah, Dodge City, the sign says!"

"So, we're almost to our new home," he replied. "Wonder what's going to happen there?"

"I don't know," I replied. But it ought to be interesting!"

We watched out the windows, waiting to see the famous cow town, and wondered if it would live up to its reputation. And beyond it, for the Ranch, and our future.

To be continued...

Preceded by:
At the Ranch Pt 2/9
At the Ranch Succeeded by:
At the Ranch Pt 4/9