I rode my horse, Palleo, through the big metal gate, then waited while my friend Roxy closed it behind her. She mounted up on Babe and rode over to me.
"Our neighbors who own this ranch said I could ride here whenever I want to," she said. "So which way do you want to go?"
"You choose," I replied.
Roxy turned left and headed toward a hill in the distance. I nudged Palleo with my heel, and we followed them.
It was early summer, and the grass was long and green. Wildflowers bloomed in patches of red, white, and yellow. The sky was bright blue, spotted here and there with a few fluffy white clouds. It was so beautiful, I felt as if I were in a dream. I could hardly believe that I was really out here with my horse, riding in the country. I said a silent prayer of thanks to God for making such a wonderful world.
Roxy used to live in the town of Glendora near me until her dad got a job here in the country as a forest ranger. My dad had trailered my horse out the previous day so that I could spend a week with my friend. Now I was riding across a gorgeous meadow with a gentle wind keeping us cool.
As we rode across the field, we chatted about our friends and caught up on what was happening. When we reached the base of the hill, I noticed something moving up at the top. "What's that?" I asked, pointing up the hill.
Roxy shaded her eyes as she scanned the top of the hill. "Probably a couple of steers. They shouldn't bother us."
As we paused and looked up the hill, several more steers strolled into view. Then they started coming down the hill toward us.
Palleo spotted them. Her ears pricked up, and her muscles tensed. "Roxy, Palleo's never been around cows before. Maybe we should go back."
"That's a good idea," she answered as several more meandered over the hill.
We turned and began the ride back. I hadn't realized how far we'd come. The gate seemed to be a long way off.
I turned and looked back. More and more cows were coming up over the hill. They began loping toward us.
Roxy and I both kicked our horses into a trot. I didn't like trotting across the field, because Palleo could be a real klutz sometimes. If there was a gopher hole anywhere near, she'd be the one to trip in it. I kept a sharp lookout for rocks, too.
I heard something behind us and glanced back. The cattle were now galloping after us'fast. And it seemed as though there were hundreds of them.
"Roxy!" I yelled. "Look! A stampede!"
My friend took a quick look back and shouted, "Come on, Karen!" She smacked Babe with the ends of her reins, and Babe shot off across the meadow like a racehorse. Babe loved to run, and she was as surefooted as a mule. In a few seconds they were far ahead of me.
I kicked Palleo, and she began to gallop across the field. She stumbled, and I grabbed on to the saddle horn. If she tripped and I fell off, I'd be trampled by the stampeding cattle behind us. "Lord, please help us make it to the gate," I prayed. "Guide Palleo's feet, and keep us safe!"
I could see Roxy up ahead in the distance. She had jumped off of Babe and was opening the gate. Palleo stumbled again. The cattle's hooves pounded the ground behind us. Their breath came in short, heavy gasps. Palleo broke into a sweat. I could tell that she was as frightened as I was. "Please help us, Lord!" I prayed. "We need You!"
Palleo regained her footing, and she ran faster than she'd ever run before. We ran through the gate, and Roxy quickly latched it shut before the first steers reached it. The cattle stopped at the gate and stared at us over the fence.
Palleo shook like a dry leaf on a windy day. I dismounted and then petted her, trying to calm her down. Babe had her head lowered and was nibbling at the grass as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Roxy looked over at me and laughed, "That was a close one!"
I didn't think it was funny.
I closed my eyes and thanked the Lord for being by my side.
Just then Roxy's neighbor pulled up alongside of us in an old beat-up pickup truck. "Hi, girls!" he said. "Out for a little ride?"
Roxy told him what had happened and asked why the cattle had come after us.
"Well, I don't rightly know," he said, scratching his head. "Maybe it's because every time I go out there to check on them, I bring them grain to eat. They love grain. They probably thought you were going to give them some too."
He got back inside his truck and drove away. Roxy and I led our horses back to the barn. We'd had enough riding for one day. As we walked, I said another prayer, asking God to please continue keeping Roxy and me safe. Knowing Roxy, I figured that this was probably only the first of our adventures together that week.