Carrie Willis stood at the wooden fence surrounding the pasture, and brushed the flowing blonde mane of her palomino mare, Lady. Her large eyes filled with tears as she said good bye to the horse she had raised from a colt. "Oh, Lady, I'm going to miss you so much. Any minute someone will come and take you away and I may never see you again."
Carrie still remembered the pain she felt when her father first told her they had to sell Lady. "Winter will be coming soon," he had said, "and we cannot afford to buy hay and grain this year. I wish there was some other way, Carrie. But I am afraid we must sell her."
She tried talking her father out of it. She even offered to get a job after school to help buy Lady's feed. But her father would not hear of it. So the next week, Lady was sold to the Lion's Club. They were going to give her away as a prize at the annual Labor Day horse show.
So, engrossed in her thoughts, Carrie did not hear the truck and trailer pull into the driveway. Only when the doors of the truck slammed shut did she awaken to see two men walking toward her.
"Hello there, miss," said the tallest man. "Is this the horse that is going to the fair grounds?"
"She sure is a beauty," said the other man, busily tying a rope into a lasso. "I would like to win her myself."
When the lasso was finished, it was stretched around Lady's neck and used to lead her through the pasture. Carrie watched as the golden mare tossed her white-blazed face and reared on her front legs to escape the trailer's imprisonment. But the two men were experts with horses. And in only minutes, they had Lady inside. While Carrie watched the truck and trailer drive away, she was left feeling an emptiness she had never known before.
"I must do something," Carrie said as time for the horse show to begin grew nearer. "I can't sit by and let Lady be given away to some stranger. She could be mistreated, even beaten."
Then an idea struck her. She ran into her bedroom and emptied the jar where her babysitting earnings were kept. She counted the money and stuffed the twelve dollars into her pocket. Then she walked the short distance to the horse show.
The fair grounds were surrounded by hundreds of cars, trucks and trailers. And the strong odor of horses hung heavily in the warm summer air. Rushing through the crowd, Carrie ran straight to the ticket booth where she bought as many tickets as she could with the twelve dollars. On her way to the stands, she passed the refreshment stand where her father had volunteered to work. She stopped only for a moment to tell him hello. Then she went to the stands and found herself a front row seat.
All during the first half of the horse show, Carrie held the tickets tightly in her hand. She silently prayed that one of them would win Lady back. Maybe then, her father would change his mind about Carrie taking the job after school. But even if he did not, and they still had to sell Lady, at least they would know who was buying her. And they would be sure that Lady would be taken care of.
When it was time for the drawing, Lady was brought to the center of the arena. The ooh s and aah s from the crowd made it clear that everyone hoped to be the winner. But no one more than Carrie. She crossed her fingers and waited for the winning number to be called.
"And the number is ..." came the voice over the loud speaker, pausing for the winning ticket to be pulled from a cardboard box. "The number is 7657. Will the winner please come to the judges' stand in the center of the arena."
Repeating the number over and over, Carrie thumbed through all the tickets in her hand. Her heart sank when she saw the winning ticket was not there. Sadly, her eyes roamed through the stands in search of Lady's new owner. She saw many sad, disappointed faces. But she saw no one who looked happy that they had won a prize like Lady. Carrie's mind began to race. Maybe that ticket would not be claimed. Then they would have to draw another ticket. She was so excited she was sitting on the edge of her seat. She would have another chance to win Lady. But when she looked toward the arena, her excitement vanished. One of the judges was handing Lady's reins over to a small man wearing glasses. He then shook the winner's hand to congratulate him. It was all over. Carrie had lost Lady forever.
It was almost an hour before Carrie moved from her seat. She had stared into space, pretending to watch the second half of the horse show. She was trying to be brave but the tears she was holding back burned her eyes. And she did not know how much longer she could fight them. She wanted to go home where she could be alone. When she walked behind the stands, she noticed a trash can. She ripped up the tickets and threw the torn pieces away. When she turned around, she was surprised to find herself face to face with Lady's new owner.
"Hello, Carrie," he said warmly. "My name is Michael Davis. I am the lucky person who won the drawing. Your father pointed you out to me. He and I are old school friends. We saw each other today for the first time in twenty years."
Carrie swallowed hard. He must be from out of town, she thought. She must find out where he will be taking Lady to live.
"Then you do not live in Boynton?"
"I have been living in California, but I just moved back here. Carrie, I have a problem that I think you can help me with. You see, I am a salesman and I am away from home a lot. I also live in an apartment. Therefore, I have no place to keep Lady. I just learned from your father that Lady used to belong to you. And I asked him about boarding her in your stables. I would pay a monthly rental fee of course, and take care of all expenses. I would even pay you something extra if you would teach my children to ride. They have always wanted to learn. Your father said that since you would be doing most of the work involved, it would have to be your decision. What do you say, Carrie? Will you take care of Lady for me?"
Carrie was speechless. A few minutes ago she thought she would never see Lady again. And now she learns that she could see her every day, as if nothing ever happened. What a day this had been!
"I would love to, Mr. Davis," Carrie said ecstatically. "I love Lady and I will treat her as if she still belonged to me."
"Wonderful!" exclaimed Mr. Davis. "Your father was sure what your answer would be. So he had me load Lady into a trailer that belongs to a friend of mine. Whenever you are ready we can take her home."
Carrie was bubbling over with happiness. "I am ready right now, Mr. Davis. Let's take Lady home."
(by Patsy Vaughan, illustrated by Keith Kresge, ‘Child’s Way Magazine, January-February 1983)