Chapter One


by cheri sabraw


She buries her nose deep into the burlap feedbag, her velvety lips scooping up sweet molasses-dipped oats. All I can hear at this moment is the rhythmic grinding of her teeth as she satiates herself with sugar and grain after a long dusty day on the trail. I secure her halter to the tie line and while she eats, I unpack her red blanket.The night will be cold.

Throwing it over her broad honey-colored back, still damp from the vertical climb back to this old camp, I arrange it as I would a cumbersome tablecloth on an oak dining table. She is unconcerned. I pull the cotton straps under her belly and cinch them up, leaving a 4-inch space between the strap and her body. I test the measurement with my fist, still protected in my glove.

Then, still  in my boots, I spear one sheaf of alfalfa hay from the back of her trailer, and drop it in front of her on the pine needle floor of the campsite I have selected for this week, an opportunity to be  away from the many people in my life.

Dusk in the Sierra Nevada Mountains—and especially the Yosemite high country—offers a peace unknown to the modern city-dweller. My horse fed and watered, the tack cleaned with saddle soap and stored securely away from a nosy raccoon and frenetic chipmunks, the rope tethers tied in soft but secure knots—only now I can tend to my own needs, which at 7000 feet in a pine forest without electrical outlets, are few but significant.

What does one need in this life? I ask aloud, as I pull some old oak out of the trailer and a fire-starter cube.

No one answers.  Content to be alone, I survey the way I have set my camp up, a physical task that took me all afternoon yesterday.

Now is my time to burn a fire.

*                   *                 *                 *                      *







About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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16 Responses to Chapter One

  1. Richard says:

    You drew the attention of this reader, although he began to feel an intruder upon your meditations. Maybe he should eavesdrop no longer……and then you addressed him direct, and all other readers, of course.

  2. wkkortas says:

    So it would be wrong to ask if Mr. Ed is providing the foreword?

  3. shoreacres says:

    Split oak and a firestarter cube in a trailer? Hmmmm….. Methinks (or at least mewonders) just how far from civilization we actually are. I do hope a nice Pinot Grigio doesn’t appear from an ice chest…

  4. Cheri says:

    Horse camping is not like back-packer camping. This woman pulled her horse-trailer with a week’s worth of food, horse and human, and supplies up to Bridleveil Campground, or thereabouts. There is no wood-gathering in Yosemite, at least legally. I suspect there might be a bottle of Butter Chardonnay and some olive oil in her truck…..

    Thanks for reading, Linda.

  5. potsoc says:

    The pleasure of camping in the wild. The horse is a very good idea and is better than a magnetic compass to find one’s way back, especially in areas with small iron ore deposits, too small to be mined. It happened to me, without the horse.
    Looking forward to the sequel.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Paul,
      I have never heard that places with low iron ore deposits do not work well for compass use! It makes perfect sense. And yes, a horse always knows where his last meal of the day will be…I remember as a youngster having a horse run away with me…as fast as he could back to the barn. I held on for dear life.

  6. Christopher says:

    This first chapter I found compelling. It pulled me right in and made me look forward to what will follow.

    Perhaps this was because you wrote it in the present tense (very au courant, this), and that an animal (the horse) is, apart from the narrator, the main character.

    As to “negativity”, the examples of it you gave in your commentary (rapist, psychopath, usw) are unfortunately almost de rigueur in contemporary fiction (and film) This sort of thing is usually contrived, leaves nothing to the imagination, is inserted just for affect, so to leave the appropriate nasty taste in the contemporary reader’s imaginatively-challenged mind.

    But, “negativity” has of course many expressions, and isn’t all bad because “negativity” is simply the other side of “positivity”. As Jung said in so very many, many words, the two should be integrated and reconciled to create the fully rounded life.

    I noted this: ” “…..I have selected…… opportunity to be away from the many people in my life………”. Mmmm. Does this bespeak problems the narrator is having with the aforesaid people in her (his) life?

    If so, this might be, in your view, “negative”. But, isn’t this worth exploring further?

    • Cheri says:

      I am pleased that you were drawn in to the story. Like you, I also enjoy the presence of an animal in any narrative. We could cite a number of terrific books with either an animal as the main character, often narrated in first person from the animal’s point of view, or narratives where the animal was the focal point…Old Yeller, Black Beauty, Timbuctu, etc.

      You picked up on my use of the stereotypical–in fact, I used to tell a very scary joke about the escapee with a hook for a hand..

      And yes, you are correct (again) in that the main character’s delight in being away from people (some in her life) does indicate tension.

  7. Brighid says:

    A repast from the busy mind/world of the everyday. Please continue, though I do hope with a wee glass of scotch to smooth the ruffles of mother nature…

  8. Cyberquill says:

    Methinks the narrator and her little starter cubes have just set off a massive wildfire by accident. Can’t wait to read on!

  9. Cheri says:

    I’ve been evacuated from a horse camp up in Yosemite because of a fast-approaching fire. You are not that far from the truth. I know you can wait a long time to read on but I love your acerbic with, so stay with me.

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