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Three Fillies -- a chapter from Killer Buyer

It was late August 1992. The rains had failed. It was normally a time of gramma grass, daisies and verbena. This year, our valley was brown under a pale sky. It would be a bad winter for anything that depended on the range lands.

At about 10:00 AM, the phone rang . It was Dorothy Stender. "Have you seen these ads for orphan foals? I want to buy one for Diana."

The Stenders lived half a mile north of us on twenty acres. Their herd of dairy goats gave them more milk than they knew what to do with. "Sounds great. A foal would love all that milk."

"Will you help me pick one out?"

Of course I would. Not that I knew much, but what the heck.

I figured one reason Dorothy wanted my help was her fear of horses. Two years before, a rental horse had thrown her. She took months to recover from the concussion.

Diana, however, adored our Coquetta. Now she wanted her own horse. Maybe if they started with a foal, her mom could get over her fear by stages.

"There's an ad for a $150 filly," Dorothy continued. "I called the number and we can come out now to see her."

My daughters Valerie and Virginia, their friend Andi Wulfekuhle (who was as usual hanging out at our place), and I dropped everything and ran outside to meet Dorothy. She pulled up in her battered black Ford Escort. With her were sister Mildred, Diana, and Dorothy's new baby. We all crammed in like clowns in a circus stunt.

The Escort rattled over an assortment of washboard dirt roads and pavement toward the south end of the Estancia Valley. People in passing cars stared at our sardine-tight arrangement. We giggled and waved. On rural roads in our valley, people usually waved, but it's normally a really restrained wave, just a slight raising of one hand. Today, however, people were making broad happy waves at us.

After some 30 miles we turned off the highway south of the town of Estancia. Andi pointed out Al Miller's old place, where he used to train and sell horses. She recognized it by the rusted farm machinery lying askew in a weedy field.

Miller's old place was pretty typical of this valley. It's almost a fetish for people to keep decades of, ahem, artifacts, lying about their property. However, ten minutes later, as Dorothy drove us down a rutted driveway, we discovered a new high, or low, in Estancia Valley landscaping. A decaying mobile home sagged next to a barn. Through the barn's cobwebbed windows we could see a cryptic mass of junk. On the front porch of the mobile home, a skunk in a cage smelled frightened. This odor masked what could have been an aroma from the pigs running loose and rooting among garbage. A Rottweiler bellowed and lunged at us from the end of a chain. Dung-caked goats with twisted hooves hobbled here and there.

Dorothy parked on the far side of the mobile home from the skunk. We gradually unpacked our jammed bodies from the Escort. Dorothy hoisted Danielle onto her hip and strode toward the back door - the one without the skunk. We followed her, weaving between broken bottles.

No one had come out yet to investigate the baying of the Rottweiler. Was anyone home? We could hear a TV blaring from inside.

Dorothy knocked. Knocked again. Finally a pasty-faced, obese woman emerged.
"I'm looking for Christine McCoy," Dorothy shouted.

"I'm her mother." A small girl peeked out from behind the woman.

"She said we could see the foals."

The woman waved toward the north. "They're in the pasture. Go ahead and take a look."

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© 2004 Carolyn M. Bertin. All rights reserved.