General Fiction posted July 14, 2009

This work has reached the exceptional level
A foal is born on Christmas Morn.

Christmas Rescue

by Aussie

Something was wrong. The sound of our head stockman's boots pounding up the back stairs to the house brought me to my senses. I had been baking for Christmas and was covered in flour.

"What's wrong Jimmy?" The look on his face was enough to tell me there was big trouble with our horses.
"Big mare stuck in mud missus." Jimmy had cared for our brood mares since he was a boy.

I tore off my apron, wiped off my flour covered hands and reached for the telephone.

"Lakeview Clinic, how may I help...?" I cut Sheila off mid-sentence with my plea to speak to Tom; my husband and I ran a small veterinary clinic in Gundy, ten miles from our homestead called 'Crystal Springs.' We bred Arab horses for endurance riders and shipped our best stock overseas.

"listen carefully Sheila, we have a mare down, stuck in the river mud; I need Tom, a tow truck and some strong men." I felt like I was screaming at the poor girl. Sheila had been our receptionist for ten years now.
"Oh, Mrs. Cole, Mr. Cole is over at the Wilson's they have trouble with their herd." Sheila sounded panicky and at the same time wanting to help me.

"Can you reach him on the mobile?"
"I don't know Mrs. Cole he's way out in the north paddock, I can try."
"Well, Sheila I can't get a signal here and you are my best chance. I need some men and a couple of slings to haul the mare out and she is almost ready to drop her foal. On second thought, I'll send Jimmy over on horseback. That way Tom will come home quickly. In the meantime can you organise the men and the tow truck?"
"You can rely on me, right on to it Mrs. Cole." An audible click and the line went dead.

I hung up the phone and grabbed my medical bag. Jimmy in the meantime had saddled my horse and was fidgeting with reins as he anxiously waited for me to mount up.

"Let's go Jimmy." I swung up into the saddle and pulled my horse's head around at the same time Jimmy booted his horse towards Crystal Springs. The river had been dry for months until we had had recent storms and short sharp showers. Not enough to make the river run, enough to make it a bog hole.

As we galloped towards the river bed my thoughts ran to our best brood mare - Honey was near her time and we couldn't afford to lose another foal. The drought had taken it's toll on our stock. Many of our horses had to be auctioned off because we couldn't afford to hand feed them.

"There she is missus!" Jimmy turned his horse around to face mine, he was riding bareback and he was the best aboriginal stockman and horse whisperer on our property.

"Jimmy go back to the Wilson's, find Mr. Tom and bring him back quick, OK?" He didn't reply; he took off like a bat out of hell.

I slid down my horse's side and found that my legs were shaking, I was alone and Honey was in big trouble.
As I walked unsteadily towards her she snickered a greeting; she knew I was there to help her.

"Easy girl, take it easy," she was up to her belly in red sticky mud; slowly and quietly I opened my medical bag, took out a hypodermic syringe and filled it with a light sedative; she was starting to struggle against the restraints of the mud. I always carried a few lumps of sugar for my horses and so I slid down the bank into the mud with her. She could smell the sugar and took it greedily, as she did I searched for a vein , slipped the needle in and injected the sedative into her neck. As it started to take effect, she calmed down. I used my stethoscope to search for the heartbeats; both heartbeats were strong.
"Thank you Lord," I spoke out loud as tears coursed down my cheeks.

There was nothing else I could do for her until the men arrived; both Honey and I were up to our bellies in mud. I couldn't, wouldn't leave my precious mare and her unborn foal.

The sun rose higher in the azure skies, my face was sunburnt and stupidly I had left home without taking water with me; never in the outback country do you go anywhere without water.
Black cockatoo's circle lazily above us and the small 'paddy melon' wallabies sat in the shade of the ghost gum trees. I knew it would take at least three hours for Tom and the men to reach us.

I leaned against Honey's neck and drifted in and out watching the heat haze dance across the horizon. The drought had killed most vegetation and the native animals were suffering badly. Storm clouds gathered most days and nothing came of it except short, sharp showers. My throat was parched and I wondered how thirsty Honey was; she had come to this place smelling water.

A dust cloud covered the face of the burning sun and I knew there was a truck coming towards us, we had stood in the mud for what seemed like hours.
Our old model T Ford bucked and bounced over the rough terrain and came skidding to a halt. Tom flew to my side.

"This is a nice way to spend a day, old girl." Tom grabbed me tightly and Jimmy grinned at the both of us covered in mud.

Another huge truck had arrived behind Tom's old Ford. Three burly men jumped out and started to raise the towing arm on the back of the truck.

"Did you bring the slings Tom?" I was exhausted and suffering heat stroke.
"Of course I did Jill I knew you were in strife, we'll get you out first though." Tom's strong arms lifted me out of the mud and into the waiting arms of the men who carried me to the truck. I took a long swig of sweet water and watched the flocks of Galahs gathering overhead; generally Galahs mean rain. Large thunder heads were forming and the air was now oppressive with heat and humidity; it was going to be a humdinger of a storm.

Honey's eyes were still slightly dull from the sedative and that was just how I wanted her to be. The smell of the men, loud noise from the truck's engine and heavy chains clanking could spook her into thrashing around and hurting herself and anyone within striking distance.

After another thirty minutes, three men slid down the bank to stand by Honey. As Tom held her halter and whispered sweet nothings in her ear, the men began to dig the mud away from the mare's belly. She was starting to wake up now.

She started to throw her head and whinny; struggling against the drying mud an her eyes were wide with fear as the men tried to free her.

"Tom, you better give her another injection before she gets herself too agitated or we'll never lift her out."
"How long since you gave her the last shot, Jill?" Tom hated sedating our mares unless it was really necessary, she could go into premature labour, worse still she could abort the foal. Our future earnings was riding on the sale of her foal.

"She's wide awake Tom; must have worn off, I gave it when I arrived on the scene. Probably pushing three hours by now." My knuckles were white from grabbing the steering wheel of the Ford, nausea hit me in waves.

"OK, load a small sedative and we'll try again." Tom smiled at me, he knew how much this mare meant, and she was my favourite girl.

Another fifteen minutes went by after Tom had sedated her. He gave his orders to the men and they worked in silence.
Two canvas slings were slid under Honey and fastened to the heavy chain hanging from the swing arm on the back of the truck. The silence was deafening; we all stood still waiting for Tom to give his orders, this rescue had to be done right the first time.

"OK. Johnny, start her up." The big truck fired first time and started to purr like a big cat.

Johnny revved the motor hard and his mate Bluey worked the winch; we were trying to lift a ton of horse. Just like pulling a cork out of a bottle, Johnny had remarked earlier.

"Slowly does it, take your time," Tom watched like a concerned father as Honey started to feel the tightening of the straps and her hooves leave the mud. She had always travelled well in horse trailers; this was a very different mode of travel for her.

The sedative was doing its job; she was struggling feebly and not lashing out with her hooves. Pop! Honey was free of the mud. Just like a cork out of a bottle.

Johnny was a horse breeder himself; gentle and kind and he knew what was at stake with our mare. He swung her around and slowly let her down until she felt her hooves touch the ground.

Jimmy was elated. He started towards Honey and he, like Tom, whispered sweet nothings in her twitching ear. She was shaky and blurry eyed, we needed to get her out of the slings and Jimmy offered to walk her back to the homestead.

Tom checked her over and she seemed none the worse for her ordeal so we agreed that Jimmy could lead her back home. It was only a mile or so and I totally trusted Jimmy as Honey was his favourite mare too.
After thanking the men Tom tied my horse to the back of the Ford and we started for home.

Thunder was bellowing across the ranges now; big splatters of rain drops hit the windscreen of the Ford. Maybe, just maybe this time the drought would break.
I cuddled close to Tom and he put his arm around my shoulders. I felt safe and loved.
"Well, that could have been a lot worse, Jill; I guess you are totally exhausted from standing in the mud." Tom tickled my ear and hugged me tight. I was too tired to say anything - what a day.

By the time we unloaded our gear from the truck and poured a couple of ice-cold beers Jimmy was once again clomping up the back stairs.

"Mr. Tom, come quick!" We both rose at the same time in answer to Jimmy's plea; the lightening was dancing along the ranges and you could smell the rain coming closer.
Honey had gone into an early labour; she was so tired that she could hardly stand up. Dusk was not far away and neither was the storm.

"I'm afraid she is going to need our help, Jill," Tom slipped on his shoulder high glove to examine Honey's uterus and found that the foal needed to be turned.
"What do you want me to do, darling?" The wind was whipping the ghost gums around like toothpicks and suddenly a lightening bolt split an old tree straight down the middle, the noise was horrific; Honey was trembling and so was I, both fearful of the wild storm. Trying to deliver a foal with the howling wind and rain the size of golf balls was not my idea of an easy delivery.

"First thing we have to do is keep her on her feet, need to put the slings under her and then if I can't turn the foal...damn it, let's take one step at a time." Tom was frustrated and the storm was worrying him too.
Jimmy knew the drill; he brought hot water, towels and a strong rope into the barn. He had been there for every foal born on the property. Easy births were out in the paddocks, Honey was different.

"She can't deliver by herself, so I'm going to induce her," Tom whispered to himself and us at the same time.
After thirty minutes of manual turning, the foal's legs were visible; the mare was fully dilated now. Tom fastened the rope around the foal's legs that were sticking out of Honey's rear end.
Jimmy threw the rope over a beam and scrambled up into the hay loft, he was about to thread the rope through a block and tackle.

"Strike me pink, anyone would think we were about to deliver an elephant!" Tom laughed despite the seriousness of the situation. Jimmy always did more than he was asked to.

Tom was ready to deliver Honey's foal; I prayed silently "please let it be alive."
"OK, Jimmy, all set? When I say pull, you bloody- well- pull, we don't have much time."
"Yes, Boss."

I looked at my watch; it was near to midnight on Christmas Eve. Only the Lord knew what I was going to feed the family on Christmas Day. My parents had been looking after our twin girls over the school holidays and were arriving around lunch time tomorrow.

I held Honey's head and it was my turn to whisper sweet nothings in her ear. Jimmy took up the slack on the rope. Honey wanted to lie down and knew she couldn't because of the slings helping her to stand.

"Pull, Jimmy, pull!" Both men strained on the rope for Honey and her foal.

After twenty minutes of battling with the rope the foal plopped on to the hay-strewn floor. It was a colt! Tom and I cleared it's nostrils and massaged it's belly. He was perfect and he was so beautiful.

A strawberry roan colt lay at our feet. Honey turned her head to gaze on her first born son. The fierce storm had passed on by now and steady life-giving rain was filling dams and Crystal Springs would be running clear by morning.

Morning...It was morning. Christmas Day morning.

"Christ, what a beautiful colt." Tom exclaimed.

"Christ is right, Tom - Honey's first born son - just like when Christ was born in a stable; Happy Christmas Darling."

"I think we should call him Storm King."

This Sentence Starts The Story contest entry


Australian and English grammar is used.
Approximately 3,000 words. Battling the elements in outback Australia two vets deliver a colt and along with the newborn came the rains to save the land.
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