one hundred years in the future
|These two Ghost Horse mares were sleeping in the morning light.|
Readers will meet Titrimia's Starshield on the left in this installment!
Black Bottom watched the three men climb the gentle slope to the front porch of the MacKennon home. The rooster was royally perched atop the weather vane above the largest barn. There were three structures in the Hollow devoted to horses, creatures that Black Bottom found tiresome at best. One barn sheltered the mares and their newborn foals. It stood relatively close to the two-story farmhouse. A second facility held the farm’s three stallions, Ellevar’s Ivory Steed, Achelon’s Bay Moon, and a high-stepping three-year-old named Ravenwood.
The MacKennons had constructed a larger building, suitable for hay storage, between the mare barn and the stallion barn. The hay barn also contained a tack room for saddles, halters, bridles, blankets, and grooming supplies. The ladies of the farm used fairy creams and shampoos on the horses, which accounted for the animals’ extremely lengthy tails and healthy manes. Several jars on the grooming shelves were marked Sparkle Spritz. This mysterious supply had been a gift from the Frost Fairy, who had intended the spritz to be used for decorating hooves. The MacKennons, rather unexpectedly, discovered that the fairy product had a tendency to float a horse a few inches off the ground, which made riding a bit difficult.
The dairy goat barn and the old tobacco barn were located slightly downhill from the farmhouse. The goats had pleaded for privacy. They weren’t overly fond of the horses, either. They preferred to huddle in one large group, rub their horns against their sides, and chew their cuds. The horses, for the most part, found the goats intolerable, although once in a great while, a billy goat and a lonely stallion could be seen grazing together.
|Goats are an important part of the MacKennon homestead. |
This little billy goat is only three months old.
Black Bottom loved his high vantage point, even if the wind did occasionally twirl the weather vane around and around. The metal decoration was in the shape of a galloping horse. Black Bottom was most displeased when Lady MacKennon had selected a horse silhouette to preside over the Hollow instead of that of a rooster. He felt that perching on the horse’s copper head made his opinion well-known.
Directly below the weather vane, the farm’s buff-colored doves gathered for their evening breadcrumbs. The small birds cooed, pecked, and strutted about in amorous circles. They took to flight when a black cat with one white paw slinked out of the barn. The doves instinctively formed a flying diamond and swerved back and forth over the nearby corn fields. They landed once more beside their crumbly dinner just as the tomcat disappeared into the greenhouse. With trembling whiskers, Minky Mitten hungrily watched the doves from behind the lemon-glass windowpanes.
|The character of Minky Mitten was based on a real cat with that same name.|
Notice his white toes!
Black Bottom noted that the Ghost Horse mares were waiting impatiently at the Meadow Gate. It was time for their evening grain. Eleven elegant noses were pointing in the same direction. The lead mare, Gwydia’s Stardust Serenade, stood first in line. She was responsible for the safety and well-being of all the other mares and their foals. She dominated the other herd members, much as the rooster presided over his hens. Black Bottom admired her leadership, but avoided Gwydia’s large hooves whenever possible.
The stallions ate separately in their own paddocks. The MacKennons fed every horse quite well, for the family’s survival was dependent upon the strength and health of their equine friends. Mountain Horses were highly sought-after for their ability to negotiate rough trails, drag heavy logs out of the woods, and pull iron plows through tough, stony fields. Besides, the Mountain Horses could rock a rider gently in the saddle for hours on end. They moved smoothly over the land with a flowing action that was instinctive from birth. The result was a comfortable traveling motion that enabled a rider to hold a cup of fairy brew in one hand without spilling a precious drop. The MacKennons went the extra mile by taking the horses’ natural ability to a state of well-trained perfection. As Jake always said, a good Mountain Horse should cross a field like a swan gliding over the water.
Black Bottom thought the horses were spoiled. There they waited, accustomed to receiving oats, field corn, and high-quality hay at sunset. The mares tossed their heads, snorted, and nipped at each other’s flanks. Gwydia’s Stardust Serenade voiced her usual deep, demanding neigh.
|Gwydia's Stardust Serenade in the Cherokee Mountains|
“Disgusting,” the rooster clucked into the restless wind. The breeze responded by spinning the weather vane in rapid circles. Black Bottom attempted to crow in defiance, but was altogether too dizzy. He puffed out his breast feathers to regain his balance, fell off the roof, and landed on a horse’s rump.
Jake’s graceful mount, Titrimia’s Starshield, reared and blew angrily through her nose. She gave Black Bottom one big buck, which sent the rooster sailing through the air. The blue-eyed mare pranced over toward the farmer with her tail set high, just as MacKennon and his two companions approached the meadow’s split-rail fence. Black Bottom let out a confused cluck-cluck and crashed head-first into the duck pond. The water fowl quacked in protest and splashed over to their rocky island. Was it not shameful? How many times had that ridiculous rooster flown into their territory by mistake? Black Bottom emerged, looking thin and wet, and made his way grumpily over to the hen house. For once, he did not stop to see if anyone was admiring his tail feathers.
Jake laughed aloud and reached out lovingly to stroke Starshield’s silky neck. She was a cremello, like most of the horses in the Hollow. Their creamy-white coats and light blue eyes had inspired MacKennon to choose a name for his herd. One awesome night, while standing in a starlit pasture, the farmer whistled softly, and the cremello mares had come galloping toward him. As the low-lying mist drifted and tumbled over their thundering hooves, the horses set in motion a spellbinding memory that could not easily be forgotten. The imagery of that moment sparked the magic that played throughout the Hollow. It was a magic brought on by friendship and love, loyalty and beauty, lost in a fragment of time, but eternal in the mind of the soul. The Ghost Horse name was born in that instant.
Titrimia’s Starshield breathed deeply into Jake’s own nostrils as the farmer bent toward his favorite mare. Their ritual, horsey greeting established trust. A sense of warm familiarity passed between man and animal, offering both reassurance and peace. An intelligent conversation had occurred without words. MacKennon knew that true communication was an emotional process as well an exchange of words. He never needed to explain this to a horse, but found that most humans had forgotten that tidbit of wisdom.
“We ride tonight, my friend. Tell the others to be ready,” the farmer said quietly.
The mare flipped her tail and stamped. She and Jake understood one another. The farmer had raised Titrimia’s Starshield on bottles of fresh goat’s milk when the filly’s mother could not produce enough nourishment for her foal. The farmer always claimed that the sweet milk had made the long-legged mare as sure-footed as any goat when it came to climbing up and down the country hills.
|Cade's Cove in the Appalachian Mountains is similar to Ghost Horse Hollow|
“I’ll take the milking tonight, Jake,” Aaron Ray interrupted. “You’ll be needing to talk with Hannah. Tell her … I’ll be in directly.”
“I’ll see to the horses,” White Hand broke in.
MacKennon’s friends turned willingly to their chores. Jake realized that they did not want to confront his wife. Hannah Rose MacKennon had a powerful way about her that was charming, but formidable. She was also one of the most beautiful women that Jake had ever known. With her cascading, golden hair and dazzling, cornflower-blue eyes, Hannah made it difficult for a man to concentrate on what he was saying. He was just bound to lose any argument with her. The fact that she was part-mermaid, part-fairy, and part-human did not make things any easier. Hannah could read a man’s thoughts like another woman could read a recipe book. Jake nodded to the men and slowly turned up the stone pathway toward home.
Lady Hannah MacKennon,