A young man is a hard thing to be, eighteen years old, one foot still in childhood, one in adulthood. You could live at home but still you’d have to live by your father’s rules, or you could go off on your own try to make your way in the world.
Eighteen year old Chris Larabee decided to that. His eldest brother had just passed away from a disease that had eaten away at him. His youngest brother was clearly the favorite not even out of grade 11 and already his father was talking about what amazing things he was going to do.
Chris had passed school too, while he was not the top of the class like Eric, he was nowhere near the bottom. He was average right in the middle, neither a shining star nor a classroom disturber who need to stay for extra help.
Chris and his family got along well enough they loved each other, his father John was a ranch owner who could out bake his wife (Chris’s mother) Myriam but was hopeless as a cook.
Chris’s mother stayed home and tended the house, and later cared for her eldest son as he got sick.
But after Michael’s death the house just didn’t seem right, Chris just felt out of place. So he packed up and headed west. He made his living as a hired ranch hand (NOT a cowboy) sometimes he’d enter rail splitting contests, a few times he entered horses into shows for money and if the horse won he’d get a cut of the prize money. He’d tried his hand a few times as being a paid pugilist fighting prearranged matches for a bit of pay, but he found the further West he went the more fixed the matches were.
It was just west of Oklahoma in the New Mexico Territory where Chris discovered horse racing. It was perfect for him just a man his horse and the open desert. Chris and his horse Cutler made a lot of money. They would enter sprints and distance racing, they also entered quite a few obstacle races too as those were ones that pain the big money.
He started to make a name for himself over the years on the racing circuit. Racing took him from Texas to California and he had earned himself a reputation as one of the best.
And so he was invited to a special race from Independence Missouri to Topeka Kansas, and 103 Mile race. Racers started in Independence and made their way to checkpoints along the way. You would have food and rest your horse. You would have the station agent sign your sheet with the time and at the end who every made the best time over all won.
There were 90 competitors that started on that street near the town hall. Only 30 made it to Topeka. Poor time and energy management did about half of them in. More were lost in a freak rainstorm and flooding near the Missouri/Kansas boarder. And one, well one more didn’t finish because of Chris’s temper.
There were six racers who were bunked down in Leavenworth waiting out the last of the rain and awaiting news if the trail was still ridable.
Chris was in the bunk house sharing the room with two older riders who had made long distance.. or as they called it endurance racing a major part of their lives. They were nice enough abet very set in their ways about the way of the world.
Two of the other riders in the second room were around the same age as Chris; the other was a young upstart from the Nevada Territory. Called himself Silver City Sam, how he had made it this far was a miracle he was ill prepared and his horse was not a fit horse.
Some had suspected him of cheating. No one had seen him at all on the first leg and wondered if he’d hitched a wagon and rode ahead. Chris pegged it down to sheer dumb luck.
Most had been able to ignore him but now with the numbers dwindling it was getting harder. Tonight he was telling tales of racing his horse in a desert in a race called the Ocean of Fire and how the sultan treated all the racers like kings.
The older riders just scoffed and said no such race existed and even if it did why would you go. Prize money or no it was silly to travel that long just for a race, your travel expenses a lone would negate any money won.
Sam just brushed saying they were crotchety old men. Chris wasn’t tired so he thought maybe listening to the hot air coming out of the kids mouth would lull him to sleep.
Well with the stories came drinking and with the drinking came the anger. It was around one am when Chris finally shoved Sam and told him to go to bed.
The next morning the riders headed out. Sam took off at a great sprint while Chris and the two his age made a more even pace, the older men didn’t like the look of the ground and so they decided to take a slower pace till the sun dried up the ground, figuring they could catch up on time after the others tired out their rides.
Cutler was good in the mud he loved to run in the mud, Chris suspected the hose loved kicking the mud up as those he passed.
They did however take it slow up the hills…. That was the downfall of one of the riders, his horse slid tossing him off. Chris stopped long enough to make sure the guy was alive, arm was broken and he was going to turn and head back to Leavenworth.
He lost track of the other one his age just after the mountain path.
But with the sun out in full force the older riders were catching up.
Chris pulled ahead and was determined to get there first. His times were slightly better than the older men and he had a real shot at winning.
He was 20 miles outside of Topeka when he saw Silver City Sam. Off his horse and beating him with a riding crop, hollering about being such a slow beast.
Chris stopped and grabbed the riding crop out of Sam’s hand. Chris didn’t like people treating their horses so horribly.
That when the fight broke out.
Sam hit first, Chris retaliated, finally Chris ended it by knocking Sam out and leaving him on the trail for others to find.
Chris took Sam’s horse and slowly rode into town.
Old guy number two beat him into town by two minutes, and an overall time of four minutes.
Chris didn’t really care, he took the young horse, who was still quite young, now that Chris got a good look at the horse he could tell that this horse was almost too young to be ridden.
Chris used his second place winnings to care for the horse and ease it into health. He named him Pony as he was just a pony when he took him.
After Topeka Chris went off and met a wild woman named Ella, then after that was over he made friends with a guy named Buck and with Buck’s help Chris set up a horse ranch settled and married a wonderful woman, he lost that woman and the child they had together.
And though all that Chris still had his faithful horse Pony. He never did see Pony’s original owner again after Topeka. Well not for a long time anyway.