Fiction story first published in Equine Market April 1992 & again in December 1992

"We're not going to get much for this colt," Jess Parker ranted, stalking around the room. "I figure we'll be lucky if we get two hundred bucks for him. He sure didn't take after his ma or pa. They're both beautifully proportioned and that colt’s neck and legs are twice as long as they should be. That fuzzy black body of his reminds me of a mule."

"Baby Long Legs can't help it that his neck and legs are too long," Hattie, his wife answered, brushing a wisp of gray hair from her face. "I'll have to admit he's not very pretty but raving about it isn't going to change a thing."

"Someone's at the door," Jess grumbled, shoving his chair back from the table. "Probably someone wanting to sell something."

"How's things going Jess?” Todd asked, his tall lanky body almost covering the doorway. "I heard you have a new colt for sale."

"That colt's not worth a plug nickel," Jess said, running his fingers through what little hair he had. "You'll have to see him to believe just how ugly he is."

"If that's all he's worth sell him to me," Todd answered excited, shuffling his feet back and forth. "I've save two hundred dollars from what I made putting up hay last spring."

"Wait a minute boy," Jess grinned, his gold tooth showing. "I know I was complaining, but the colts really worth a lot more than that. You want me to give him to you. Besides you haven't even seen him yet."

"Well, let's go look at him then," Todd said, a frown appearing on his freckled face. "I'm not buying a pig in a poke."

"Wait until you see him," Jess bragged, heading toward the barn. "You'll see he's worth a pretty penny."

"I'll give you the two hundred I have," Todd said, looking the colt over and scratching his carrot colored hair. "Not a penny more."

"Four hundred," Jess grinned, cramming his hands in the back pockets of his jeans. "Not a penny less. You're talking about some expensive horse flesh here."

"I'll give you two hundred now," Todd muttered, his sea blue eyes staring straight into Jess's beady little greenish brown eyes. "I'll work out another hundred cleaning stalls for you."

"Not in your lifetime boy," Jess roared with laughter, strutting around the barnyard like a bantam rooster.

"I'll let you have the colt if you work out the other two hundred dollars doing any chore I need done."

"I'll work out one hundred and fifty dollars," Todd said, shuffling his worn scuffed up boots in the dust.

"You're trying to take advantage of me Jess. This is my final offer."

"Take advantage of you. That's a laugh boy," Jess smiled sheepishly. "You're the one taking advantage but I'll let you get away with it this time."

"I tell you Hattie," Jess said, coming through the door, laughing and slapping his knees. "I pulled a good one over on that kid. That colt wasn't worth the two hundred he first offered for him."

"I thought Todd was your friend Jess," Hattie said, her lips pressed tightly together. "Now you're telling me that you cheated him. He worked hard all spring for you to earn that money."

"I don't have any friends when it comes to horse trading," Jess laughed, plopping his short stocky body down in the over stuffed easy chair. "I'm in this business to make money."

"I can see there's no point in talking to you," Hattie mumbled, drying her hands on her apron. "You wouldn't listen anyway."

"What kind of name is that?” Todd's father asked, as Todd unloaded the colt. "Baby Long Legs sounds like a spider's name not a horse."

"I'm sure that's not his real name," Todd answered. "Jess will have his papers ready tomorrow. I'll know what his name is then."

"Let's put the poor little thing in the barn and feed him," his mother said sympathetically staring at the colt. "It's getting late and we still have chores to do."

"I don't know why Jess thought the colt was ugly," Todd said, turning out the lights to go to bed. "I think he's going to make a fine horse."

"I'm sure he will son," his father answered. "Better get to bed. You've got to get up early in the morning."

"I guess I better get over to Jess's place," Todd said, getting up from the breakfast table. "I've got a lot of work to do there today and I'm anxious to get the colt's papers."

"Jess must be in a powerful big hurry about something, Todd said to himself. "To be running down the driveway waving a paper."

"Here's the colt's papers," Jess said, all out of breath. "I've got to go into town. Make sure you clean that barn good. Do you hear boy?”

"Thanks," Todd said, taking the papers. "I'll see you later Jess. You know I always do a good job for you."

"His name's Duke," Todd muttered as he read the registration slip. "I'm surprised old Jess came up with a name that good."

Todd unwrapped his egg salad sandwich at lunchtime. He sat down on an old tree stump and took a huge bite. He crumpled up the wax paper when he finished then headed toward the trashcan to dispose of it.

"Would you like some ice cold lemonade?” Hattie asked as she opened the kitchen door. "You look as if you could use something cold to drink."

"Thanks," Todd grinned, taking the glass of lemonade and gulping it down. "I better get back to cleaning the barn. Jess will say he isn't paying me to drink lemonade."

"Pooh," Hattie answered. "That old man's barking doesn’t mean a thing."

"Thanks again," Todd laughed. "You know how I am. I earn every dime Jess pays me."

"It's quitting time," Jess shouted from the back porch that evening. "You better get on home boy. I'm not paying any overtime."

"I know Jess," Todd said, wiping sweat from his forehead. "I'll see you around six in the morning."

"He's really smart," Todd said to his father as he worked with Duke that evening. "He's well behaved too."

"I'm sure he'll make you a fine horse," his father smiled. "He's looking some better already."

"Why don't you come by to see Duke Jess?” Todd asked about a month later. "I think you're going to be surprised at how good he looks."

"I can't believe my eyes," Jess said when he came to see the colt that evening. "You wouldn't want to sell him back to me would you boy?”

"No," Todd said. "He's not for sale Jess. You were the one who said he wasn't worth a plug nickel."

"I told you I was letting you take advantage of me when you bought that colt boy," Jess stalked off toward his truck. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, taking advantage of an old man."

"No one's ever took advantage of you in your whole lifetime," Todd mumbled, watching Jess gun his old rusty red truck out of the driveway. "You're not that old anyway."

"You wouldn't believe how that boy took me on that colt Hattie," Jess raved, stomping into the house. "Some friend he is after all the work I've given him to do."

"You didn't think the colt was even worth what Todd paid for him," Hattie snapped, gripping the broom handle tighter with her short pudgy fingers as she swept the kitchen floor. "Now you're wanting to say he cheated you. He's earned every penny he's made working for you."

"There's no need trying to talk to you," Jess mumbled, pouring himself a cup of coffee. "You don't care if I did lose money on the colt."

"You sure you don't want to sell Duke?” Jess asked Todd a few days later. "He sure turned out looking good. I'll give you six hundred for him."

"He's not for sale," Todd answered, setting down the manure fork, propping up on it. "I plan to show him this weekend. Why don't you come and watch Jess?”

"I don't know if I will or not," Jess said, stomping off toward the house. "You're sure hard to deal with boy."

"Do you think he'll win"? Todd's mother asked, watching Todd groom Duke getting him ready to go into the show ring. "He really looks good, doesn't he?”

"He'll do fine in the halter class," Todd grinned. "I'm just a little bit worried about him not winning."

"I hope he wins," his mother said. "You've worked hard to pay for him not to mention all the work you've put into training him."

"He's just got to win, Todd muttered as he waited anxiously for the judge's decision to be announced. "He sure has got some tough competition though. Especially that little bay colt standing next to us."

"The winner is number twenty-six," came over the PA system. "Shown by Todd Mills."

"I knew you could do it baby," Todd said to Duke petting him gently on the shoulder. "You're going to be a real pro."

"I see you won," Jess sauntered over, a piece of straw dangling from his mouth. "Don't guess you want to sell him yet do you boy?"

"No," Todd grinned. "But anytime you've got another colt that isn't worth a plug nickel. Just let me know and I'll be glad to take him off your hands."

Copyright © 1992  Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.