Read an Excerpt
On my eleventh birthday, I got the coolest gift in the whole world...a horse! The horse was a scrawny, brown colt with a black mane. His tail was so long it nearly brushed the ground. Each of his legs had a black mark that looked like a sock. A white star on his forehead peeked out from under his long forelock.
I climbed up onto the pasture fence. “Hey, little guy!” I called. “Come here!”
His ears swiveled toward me, and he gave me a quick look, but he didn’t stop nibbling on the grass. He acted like I was just a beetle crawling by! If only he would raise his head to look at me, I was sure he would come over to say hello. But he just turned away, nibbling on juicy grass the whole time.
I wanted a horse more than anything in the world! I also wanted a friend. A best friend. If this horse wouldn’t be my friend, he wasn’t much of a gift. I was so upset I went back inside the house.
“Hey, Pip,” said Dad. “How’s the horse?”
When I shrugged, he put his arm around me. “What’s wrong?” asked Dad.
“The horse doesn’t like me!” I said. “He won’t even look at me.”
“Well,” said Dad, “if you want a friend, you have to build a friendship.”
“I just thought he’d like me right away,” I sighed.
“Friendships always take work,” said Dad.
Later that day I filled my pockets with peppermint candy and headed to the pasture. The scrawny colt looked up and walked toward me. As soon as he got close enough, he
nosed my jacket. He frisked my pockets and found the candy. I was so happy!
I took a few peppermints out of my pocket and opened my hand. He sniffed them, then scooped them up with his lips. He ate them and looked for more. Each peppermint I gave him he gently took from my hand. I was delighted! He liked me! Now we could be friends. After he crunched up the last peppermint, he walked away. Not just a few steps, either. He walked almost to the fence on the far side of the pasture. That’s when I got angry. He wouldn’t even hang around! I went back inside.
“That horse,” I told Dad, “ate all the peppermint candy, then walked away. He doesn’t care about me!”
Dad gave me a funny look, the one he got before he told me something he thought I should already know. He said, “You can’t buy friendship, Pip.”
Then a high-pitched noise cut across the peaceful pasture. A tall, skinny girl with a black mane was standing on the fence. She was hollering and making such a ruckus I couldn’t enjoy that sweet, tender grass. So I walked down the hill to a quiet spot. But the girl kept yelling in that awful high voice. She made so much noise that I moved even further away. Only after she left could I munch in peace.
After my breakfast, I explored a little more. Maybe some of my friends had arrived but the girl’s shrieks had kept them away. I walked up one hill and down another. I trotted through the trees and galloped all the way around the pond. I looked everywhere, but I was the only horse in the pasture. Being alone made me sad. I wanted a herd to play with. I wanted to kick up my hooves and nip my young friends.
There was another reason I didn’t like being alone. Having other horses around would keep me safe. Being all by myself was hard and scary because I couldn’t watch out for all the dangers. Dogs or coyotes might wander into the pasture and chase me. Snakes might hide in the grass or under rocks. And mountain lions like to eat horses! Since I was alone, I had to be alert all the time. I couldn’t lie down to sleep because no one would stand guard over me. I’d have to sleep standing up!
Later the girl with the black mane returned. As she stepped into the pasture, the wind carried a sweetness to my nose. Was she the sweetness? I flared my nostrils to catch more of the wind. The closer I got to the girl, the stronger the sweetness grew. I walked as close as I dared and sniffed all around her. Finally, I sniffed her.
The sweetness drifted up out of a flappy thing that hung on her body. I sniffed the flappy thing until I found hard little treats hiding in there. They were white and smelled much better than the grass I’d had for breakfast! She put a treat in her hand and offered it to me. I sniffed it, then I ate it out of her hand. Her hand was warm and soft. I crunched each treat slowly to enjoy the way they melted in my mouth. They were delicious! The girl smiled. It was nice of her to share such wonderful sweetness.
When her pocket was empty, I walked over to a nice grazing spot at the edge of the trees. The girl stopped smiling. She stomped away like she was really angry. I wondered why she was so upset. She had been happy just a moment before. The day was beautiful, the sun was warm, and the breeze danced in a playful way. How could anyone be upset?