A gentle breeze came over the ridge, cooling off the air as the sky darkened and bringing the scent of the desert plants with it.
“That your horse?”
Hunter jumped, causing Sally to snort and back up a step. Hunter turned around. Craig was standing directly behind him, looking up with his head cocked to one side. A black t-shirt covered his large chest and belly, nearly camouflaging him in the gathering darkness.
“You startled me. I didn’t hear you come up,” responded Hunter.
“I said is that your horse?” said Craig, sounding more irritated than interested.
“Well, she belongs to the ranch but Smokey is letting me learn how to train her. He said she picked me.”
Craig blew out a breath of air. “Horses can’t pick people. They ain’t that smart. You just have to show ‘em who’s boss.”
“Well, that’s not how Smokey does it. He says we train horses not break horses.”
“Smokey’s a fool then.”
“No he’s not. He’s a great horseman. He really knows what he’s doing.”
“Don’t sound like it to me,” responded Craig. The boy turned and walked off, disappearing into the darkness.
The next morning at breakfast, Craig came up to the table where Hunter and Julius were eating. He pulled out the bench and sat his large body down.
“No breakfast?” asked Julius, noticing Craig’s empty hands.
“My boy’s bringing it to me,” he said with a smirk.
“Your boy? What do you mean?” asked Julius.
“You know, that little pipsqueak they make me bunk with.”
At that moment, Shorty approached the table carrying a tray over-flowing with food. He set it down in front of Craig. “Hey! I told you I wanted ketchup on my eggs, you idiot. Now go get me some!”
Shorty cowered and stepped back a step. “Sorry, Craig. I’ll go get some right now.”
Julius stood up. “Just a minute, Shorty. You don’t have to get ketchup for him. Craig can get his own ketchup if he wants it.”
Craig glared at Julius. “Butt out o’ this, black boy.”
Julius ignored the racial slur and calmly addressed Shorty again. “Go get yourself some breakfast, Shorty, before it gets cold.”
“I-I-I don’t mind, Julius. Really I don’t,” Shorty stammered, taking another step back before turning and running back to get some ketchup.
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