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User:FelixSagittarius/At the Ranch Pt 6/9

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At the Ranch
Preceded by: At the Ranch Pt 5/9
Succeeded by: At the Ranch Pt 7/9
Separator r left.png  At the Ranch Pt 6/9 'Hurtin' Friends/'Tappin' it out'  Separator r right.png
Tales from the Blind Pig story universe

By Felix Sagittarius


Mr. Jakes helped Bryce into the stable, guiding him and pointing out a clean empty box for him to enter. Bryce staggered in with a three footed limp, dripping blood. He groaned to a stop, head down, in obvious pain from his many injuries.

Ted filled a bucket with water and went flying down the aisle, to help Mr. Jakes check Bryce over and clean him off. Once Bryce was in and being cared for, Mr. Jakes came back out and headed for his office at a dead run. Shortly thereafter, the station Vet's van screeched to a halt outside the door, and he raced in with his bag.

I stayed where I was, watching and listening to Bryce's groans of pain, and the swearing of the men as they worked to help him. Wideload and Tommy came in from their training, and I told them what I'd seen. Their trainer heard the noise and went down to see what was happening, and came back swearing a blue streak. He got the harness's off them, and started to wash Wideload down.

"That Goddamned white stallion! I've told them he needs to be kept separate from the rest, that he's plumb crazy, but they just won't listen," he snarled. "He usually beats up on the new stallions, but this time, this time he's gone too far. That new guy will be in the barn for a month, getting over those cracked ribs, and I think that piece of mane is gone forever. And those bites will leave scars, bet on that. They ought to simply shoot that white one. Nobody can ride him, the last one who tried almost died from the injuries. He's useless, and dangerous."

Wideload, Tommy, and I looked at each other.

"That's the one. Lucifer, the white stallion," Tommy said. "I was worried something like this might happen. Poor Bryce. We'll all have to comfort him."

Since the Vet was now here, Mr. Jakes came up to help finish brushing me down, and the trainer asked him how 'the new brown one' was. Mr. Jakes face was as dark as a Kansas thundercloud.

He said, "He's hurt pretty bad, but he should recover. Thank God, the limp is a stone bruise, he hit something pretty hard getting away, but the ribs - they'll take a good bit of time to heal, and he'll need close watching. The Vet's sewing up the bites now, then he'll see about wrapping him to support the ribs. Poor fella's very lucky they didn't break and puncture a lung. And I don't know what we can do about the missing piece of mane. That goddamn White Devil, if he wasn't a SCAB, I'd shoot him out of hand."

Mr. Jakes was being very hard with the brush, but I knew why, and put up with it. I did turn my head and nicker in protest, though. He realized what he was doing, and apologized. He finished gently, and I walked down to see Bryce while Wideload and Tommy were being done.

"Lady Epona," I prayed as I walked, "is there anything I can do? Any way to help him?"

She replied, whispering to me. "I am constrained on your side of the Veil, but I can do a little. Touch him, and I will do what I can."

The vet was finishing up when I got to Bryce's box, giving him an injection.

"There, that's as much as I can do for the moment," he said to Ted. "That's a wide spectrum antibiotic, and should take care of any infection from the bites. Please keep an eye on him, and call me if there's any further problems. I'll check back later to see how he's doing. Thank God the ribs were only cracked! I'm getting tired of patching up stallions who have met that White Devil. I'm going to speak to the Director, and see if we can isolate him again."

Ted replied, "It's been tried, but he always finds some way out and back. Only way I can think of is to send him to the ranches in South Carolina or Washington, and they've refused him after reading the reports."

"Well, something has to be done," the Vet said, stroking Bryce's neck, "or we'll have someone killed, and then what'll we do?"

The Vet picked up the debris from the efforts to help Bryce and put it in a red sack, then picked up his bag and headed for his van.

Ted stayed for a minute, stroking Bryce, then came out.

"James," he said, "maybe you should stay with him. Horses enjoy company, and he needs a friend right now."

I nodded, and walked into the stall. "Do you want to talk about it, or just pass for the moment?" I said, and rubbed his neck with my head. I felt a small shock, as did Bryce, but he ignored it amid all his pain.

"I'm very sleepy from the painkillers," he said, "but I deeply appreciate the company. Please, stay."

I moved up beside him, nose to tail, as buddies do when dozing, and watched over him as he slept. I thought about what my turn to meet Lucifer would be like. Wideload relieved me for a bit so I could eat, then all three of us spent the night with Bryce. The vet checked on him twice, but everything seemed to be going well.

In the morning Bryce was feeling much better. He was still hurting, but his movements were much easier. The stone bruise to his off hind foot had almost ceased to pain him, and he walked out of the box with me so it could be mucked out. He was somewhat embarrassed, but I pointed out he was injured and, if human, would be using a bedpan. He laughed, flinched at the pain, and agreed.

Tommy, Wideload and I had gone watch and watch through the night, so we all had gotten a good nights sleep. We were wondering about what to do while we were at school or work when Terri walked in. We all greeted her happily, and she went over to Bryce and rubbed her head against his.

"How are you Bryce? That was a spectacular fight - I was terrified he'd kill you," she said. "You jumped the gate just in time, from what Bella said. Lucifer's been getting steadily worse over the past month, and you were the first new stallion in that time."

"Just my luck," Bryce answered, then reached over and gave Terri a grooming nibble down the back. "I feel a lot better - I guess that horses heal a lot faster than humans. I still hurt a good bit, though, and breathing is a pain."

"I would have come earlier, but Bella insisted that I meet the other mares," Terri said. "A number of them have foals by Lucifer - the instincts of these bodies are very powerful, apparently. But, I told Bella you were my friend, that I was worried about you, so she allowed me to come up and nurse you if you need it."

"I'd take her up on it, Bryce. I've got school, and I think I'll be going on my graduation ride in a day or two." I said. "Wideload and Tommy are going to be working from now on with that wagon, moving feed and such. And I heard Mr. Jakes saying that they're going to be training some volunteers to pull buggies. The price of gas seems to have jumped again, and the Director says he's got all these horses around, so why not?"

"All right, Terri, if you can, I'd most deeply appreciate it." Bryce said.

Mr. Jakes walked in and saw us standing together, then noticed Terri. "Well, holding a conference, are you? Hello, Terri, come to see Bryce?" he laughed. Terri nodded, then rubbed her head on Bryce's neck again.

"Ah, you're going to be his nurse, are you?" he said, and Terri nodded again. "Good, everyone else is going to be busy, and he'll need watching. Thank you for your concern. Come get me if you think he needs me, and the vet will be checking him from time to time."

Terri nodded again, then came over and nuzzled Mr. Jakes, who laughed and stroked her nose.

"I have some news for all of you," he said. "James, you've done so well, you're going on your grad ride tomorrow, and the way you've done so far shouldn't have any trouble passing. Wideload, Tommy, normally we'd send you to the herd now and call you at need, but I want you to be with James when he goes. We're going to work you here until he returns from his ride. As to you Bryce, the Vet will be by to check on you shortly. For now you have no duties other than to heal. If you want, there's an isolated little pasture on the other side of the main buildings. I can lead you and Terri there and leave you for the day. It's quiet and peaceful, I think you'll like it."

Both Bryce and Terri nodded at that. "Good," Mr. Jakes said. "As soon as the Vet is done, I'll take you there."

Ted walked in, saw us all after his eyes adjusted, and came over. "Morning, Mr. Jakes. Have you called a meeting? How's Bryce doing, anyway?"

"Seems to be better, from the way I've seen him move. That right, Bryce?" Mr. Jakes asked. Bryce nodded. "Good. Damn, I wish we could talk with them - they're humans after all. Nodding yes and no is better than nothing, but there ought to be some way for them to reply!"

Ted said, "James, that reminds me. Nancy won't be here today, something about a meeting. She did say she'd talked to the kid in Communications. He is a ham, but he said something about being a 'no-coder.' He does know a number of older ones in town who use it though, and gave her names, so we can get someone to translate at need."

"What's that about?' Mr. Jakes asked.

"James showed us he knows and can use Morse code yesterday" Ted said. "But, nobody here knows it. The kid was the only hope, aside from outsiders, and you know what the Director thinks of them."

I snorted at the 'no-coder' designation. It was an old sore point between those who'd had to learn code to get on the air, and the newer hams. Well, at least there were people I could talk to at need. A memory tickled at the back of my mind, something about another code. I chased it down. Hmm, yes, this might work. And be quicker and easier than Morse to learn!

I nickered to get everyone's attention, then walked out the barns back door and over to a dusty stretch of ground. Puzzled, everyone, including Bryce, followed. I started by scraping seven lines in the dirt, then walked to the side and scraped seven more, making a crosshatch. I placed one hoofprint in the second box, two in the third, and so fourth until I had five in last box in the row. I repeated it down the column, then started trying to scrape letters - A in the first open box, then B, then C. Ted saw what I was doing and took over, going far more quickly. I stopped him at 'K' and erased it, then made a crude 'J' in its place. I stepped back, then nodded to him to continue. He rapidly filled in the rest, giving a five by five square, and stepped back.

"Well, James, what do we have here?" he asked.

I started with a letter relatively easy for me to make, 'V', then started tapping: five, then one, and looked at them.

"Ahh, column then row, to get a letter, right?" Ted asked.

I nodded, then started tapping slowly. four, four - one, one - three, five - two, three - three, four - one, four - one, five.

Ted, following along, said, "T, a, p, c, o, d, e. Tap code! He's got a way to talk!"

I tapped out, *Hello Ted Mr. Jakes X Please write this code down so it doesn't get erased.*

Mr. Jakes said, wonderingly, "It works! It really does! I was able to follow the taps and get the sense of what he said! Incredible!" He turned to Wideload and asked, "Can you use this? Do you see how?"

Wideload tap/replied, *sure I can x This is going to make life one whole lot easier around here*

Mr. Jakes turned and ran for his office, then came back with a notebook, in which he copied the table I'd scratched on the ground. "I need to show this to the Director, right now!" he exclaimed excitedly. "Ted, can you wait on giving James his lesson until I get back?"

"Sure," Ted replied.

Mr. Jakes ran down through the barn and headed for the main office.

The teamster showed up and collected Wideload and Tommy for wagon duty. Ted went over and helped him get them harnessed. They got the two of them hooked to the wagon, and the teamster was leaving with a jingle of harness and a quiet rumble from the rubber tires as the Director arrived.

The Director's little electric golf cart hissed up, and he and Mr. Jakes got out. The Director walked over and looked at the code table I'd scraped out on the ground, then he turned to me. "Good morning, James. I've been hearing good things about the way you've been doing at your lessons, both from Ted here and from Nancy. But I didn't realize we had a cryptologist among us!" he chuckled. "Please show me how this thing works."

I replied, *Good morning sir x I'm not a coder just someone who used to read a lot x This Tap Code was used in Nam and in jails x Its simple and quick to learn x Mr. Jakes was saying he wished for some way for us to speak and I remembered this.*

"Good God! I understood what he was tapping, just picking the letters up as he sent them! Incredible!" the Director said. "James, can you teach this to the herd members?"

I replied, *Wideload used it as soon as Mr. Jakes asked him.The other people here should be able to use it too.*

"You're right! I hadn't even thought of that!" The Director grinned. "This is going to take a little time to get set up. I'm going to have it painted on large sheets of plywood and located by the gates to all the major pastures, and have laminated cards made up for all the employees. And email this to the Directors of the other Ranches - this is really going to change things for the better for the patients! Thank you, James, thank you!"

I replied, *You're entirely welcome sir x Glad to be of service both to you and to the other SCABs patients who are isolated in their heads unable to talk to their human friends.*

"You're scheduled for your graduation ride tomorrow," he mused. "I should have the boards painted, postholes dug, and the posts installed by the time you get back. That'll be Thursday, so there'll be time to get every set up on Friday, and have you go around and show the others how it works then. I can release you to the herd as well, along with Wideload and Tommy. Is that all right with you?"

I replied, *Fine sir x With them to aid me there shouldn't be any trouble*.

"Well, then, I'll let Ted take you on to your lesson, and get busy on my end. This will make my job a lot easier, and, again, I thank you!" he said.

To be continued...

Preceded by:
At the Ranch Pt 5/9
At the Ranch Succeeded by:
At the Ranch Pt 7/9