CHAPTER ONE: Do It Yourself
After entering data for the last ninety minutes, Kaitlynn Sansone momentarily closed her eyes to relieve the strain. Through the open window beside her, came the sound of running horses. She turned to see a band of yearlings playfully romping toward the back of the barn and her attention suddenly went from the horses to the two men smoking behind the barn– something they’d been repeatedly warned not to do.
Practically flying down the stairs, across her porch and out through the barn, Kait decided it was time to lose her composure. As she brushed past the truck still half loaded with hay, the slightly overweight man saw her coming, and dropped his beer, spilling onto the dirt. His companion, a skinny, scraggly man with his back turned, laughed about something while a cigarette dangled from his left hand.
Kaitlynn grabbed the cigarette, threw it down, and ground it out with the toe of her cowboy boot. The beer holder backed away with his hands raised in an I’m-not-looking-for-trouble stance. The cigarette-holding culprit wasn’t smart enough to know when to back off. “Hey, it’s no big deal,” he said. “We’re just taking a break behind the barn.” Kaitlynn’s right hand went into her jeans pocket; she then tossed some cash onto the ground and said, “You’ve been warned repeatedly not to smoke on these premises. You won’t endanger everything I’ve worked so hard to accomplish. That’s your severance pay. Get your things. You’ve got one hour to get out.” The man picked up the cash. “You can’t fire us, who’ll take care of things for you?”
“I’ll do what I’ve always done and take care of things myself. Now hit the road!” Walking briskly to the truck she began unloading.
That afternoon a school bus stopped at the end of her driveway and let off a tall gangly seventeen-year-old kid. Seeing Kait unloading hay alone, Bart Baxter ran to help. Kaitlynn looked up and brushed hair back from her face. “Great to see you today, Bart.”
The young man Bart, slinging down a bale of hay in each hand, smiled. “I’m here every day that I can.”
“Well one day Bart, we’ll find the perfect horse for you. We’ve always got room for one more.”
“I pray for that day, when I have one to train all by myself. Sometimes I dream about it.” His biceps strained as he headed toward the barn bearing two bales.
Kait was aware he’d become quite the responsible and helpful young man. He began hanging around her farm when he was thirteen, because anything to do with horses was where he wanted to be. His home-life back then had been fairly tumultuous. In the years since, his father left and his mother Lorraine Baxter raised him. As a single working Mom, she was grateful that Bart had a place to go after school, where Kait kept him out of trouble.
He’d grown fairly tall but his muscles hadn’t quite caught up. He had sandy brown hair and faded green eyes. It was his grin that Kait loved; it was always quick in coming and teased slight dimples to attention.
Her Internet business was very intense, leaving Kaitlynn strapped for time. As a marketer of preventative education materials, she never had enough hours in a day. Her wealth had allowed her to delve into a lifelong love of horses. When Kait first acquired the ranch, she bought a few for riding. Then she heard of a sick horse that was about to be destroyed, she intervened and brought him home to give him sanctuary for the rest of his life. Saving a few horses here or there began to seem like it wasn’t enough. So she bought a large, old horse ranch in disrepair and began the arduous journey of bringing it back to life.
Running an equine rescue shelter, she worked toward her goal to save as many horses as possible from slaughter-houses. Every year in the fall, she saved five PMU foals, castoffs from the Premarin, pregnant mare urine industry. While actively involved in changing that business, she tried to bring the horses’ plight to public attention. She gentled, trained, and gave health care to the five foals each year, then in the fall, awarded the five from the previous year to deserving 4-H or Future Farmers of America students.
She had reached the point where she needed full-time help on the ranch. So far, she hadn’t been very successful in finding local, experienced, or dedicated employees. Bart was great help, but still in school, and both Kaitlynn and Lorraine demanded that his studies come first.
This time she decided to use a broader approach than in the past. Advertising in horse magazines, trade papers, and through the internet, she quickly received many responses; however it was a man living in Wyoming that intrigued her most. The initial telephone interview with Monty Teller went well. He had extensive experience on a horse ranch along with training young horses, both qualities she wanted. He e-mailed her references with phone numbers, and she replied, adding she’d check his references and get back to him.
The responses she received from his former employers were impressive. Some called him a modern version of the horse whisperer. She also checked some private-eye websites to see if Monty had a criminal or police record. The next step was a face-to-face meeting. Kait had business in Arizona, so she took a side trip to meet Monty. She arranged with a friend to help Bart with chores while she was away.
Kait went to meet Monty in Laramie, Wyoming. Monty extended his hand and said, “A pleasure to meet you Mrs. Sansone.”
“Please, call me Kaitlynn. Better yet, Kait. There’s absolutely no need for formalities. And for the record, I’m an Mz.” She shook his hand firmly.
He liked her down-to-earth reaction. From the airport, they drove to a nearby restaurant for an interview. Kaitlynn was impressed with Monty’s mild, laid back manner. She questioned him point-blank in many areas and soon determined he wasn’t heavy-handed or impatient with horses.
After a moment to contemplate what she’d been asking, Monty had even replied, “Kait, I’m more impatient with people. That’s why I spend all my time with horses!” His warm, relaxed laugh set her mind at ease.
Kaitlynn didn’t care what he looked like as long as he was dependable and thought her way concerning horse training. “I don’t want to have to worry that when my back is turned someone will mistreat or risk the lives of the horses I’ve fought to save. I recently let two men go when I caught them smoking behind the barn. I warned them repeatedly not to do that.”
He looked her square in the eye. “I’m impressed by the fact that you care so much about lost-soul horses that you’d invest your time and money to provide them a wonderful home. PS—I don’t smoke.” Monty wasn’t a tall man, but with his big, black Stetson hat and stacked-heel Western boots, his was a bit taller than Kait. He had a wiry build, a deep tan, and many character lines on his face. Framing that face was blue-black hair that he wore combed straight back with a hint of slight greying, along with a thick dark mustache. Kaitlynn thought he looked like the poster child for a cowboy.
They made a few contractual agreements which assured that Monty’s horse would be shipped to her ranch, through a friend of his, and Kaitlynn would pay for that.
“There’s a furnished apartment over the three-car detached garage,” she explained. “I’m sure you’ll find that satisfactory. There’s an older jeep parked in the garage that yours to use.” She studied him across the booth tabletop, with sunglasses pushed atop of her head.
Her look, along with a generous salary, made him smile. He reached slowly across to shake hands on the deal, knowing this new position would make him more affluent than he could ever remember. The working ranches he called home in the past usually offered only three meals a day with a bed in the nearby bunkhouse. The measly salary beyond that was never much. The current offer was the best he’d ever had. Her voice broke into his consciousness, “I’ll send airline tickets to you and flight confirmation to your ranch address,” Kaitlynn smiles. “I look forward to your arrival.”
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