Trying to catch up from the weekend … funny how fun can cost so much – here’s the next book / chapter … maybe you’ve already read it but take a look, it’s my favorite;
The countryside through which they were now driving was heavy with green fields of tall cane, but occasionally there would be open pasture land with lush grass upon which cattle, goats and horses were grazing. Steve had thought it best to wait awhile before mentioning his desire to visit Azul Island, but the sight of the horses caused him to consider bringing up the subject at once. What’s the sense of putting it off? he thought. I like Antago all right, but only as a place from which to get to Azul Island. I’ve only a little over two weeks, and I might as well find out now if Pitch knows how I can get there.
Pitch had been quiet for a while but now he turned to Steve. “Steve,” he asked, “are you still interested in horses? I remember that as a youngster you sold me about ten subscriptions to a magazine I never wanted just because you were going to win a pony.” Pitch’s tone was hopeful again, as though he was still striving to find something of real interest to Steve.
“Yes,” Steve replied, “very much so. I’ve ridden a lot during the past year.”
“Good,” said Pitch. “I was hoping you would be.” He paused a moment and Steve noticed an intentness in his pale blue eyes that hadn’t been there before. “I’d like to tell you something,” Pitch went on, “that’s been of great interest to me of late.” He paused again, and Steve waited impatiently for him to continue.
“Yes, Pitch,” Steve had to say finally. “What is it?”
“Do you recall the picture I sent your father several weeks ago? The one of our rounding up the horses on Azul Island?”
Did he remember it! “Yes, Pitch, I do. That’s why I …”
But Pitch interrupted with evident eagerness to tell his story. “It was the only time I’ve been to Azul Island,” he began. “Oh, I’d heard about it, of course; Tom spoke of it occasionally. And before I arrived here he had written me once or twice about wrangling horses on a small island not far from Antago. But,” and Pitch smiled, “you know I’m pretty much of a greenhorn about things like that, and I never really understood any of it. That is, not until I went to Azul Island with Tom and the others.”
Pitch paused and glanced at Steve. Then, as though pleased with the boy’s obvious interest, he went on: “I remember that we all looked upon our visit to Azul Island as very much like a day’s outing. And we spent the time there imagining ourselves as cowboys. I couldn’t help thinking, as we ran after the horses, how strange we’d look to any people from our western states. All of us, of course, were wearing our shorts and had on our sun hats because the day was extremely hot. We had no trouble chasing the horses into the canyon, because the island is very narrow at that point; and twenty of us, walking about thirty yards apart, I would say, easily forced the horses into the canyon. Tom was in charge because he was the only one who knew anything about horses. The rest of us were plantation men, laborers, fishermen and the like with no experience whatsoever in this business of wrangling horses. However, as I’ve said, there was little to it, because Tom told us what to do, and it was he who selected thirty of the most likely looking animals to take back with us to Antago.”
Pitch stopped, thought a moment, then said in an apologetic tone, “I must tell you, Steve, that the horses are small, scrawny beasts and not very much to look at, really. But if you’d seen the desolateness of that small bit of the island, with the sparse grass and only the few, meager fresh-water holes, you’d wonder that they’d survived at all.”
Pitch paused again before adding with renewed enthusiasm, “But they have, Steve! Their breed has survived for centuries on Azul Island!” His words came faster now. “It was on the way back from the island, with the animals crowded into the barge we towed behind our launch, that I first learned of it. I was sitting next to the photographer of our weekly newspaper, and I mentioned that I had been surprised to find so many horses on Azul Island. He mentioned, very casually, that these horses were believed to be descended from the ones that the Spanish Conquistadores rode centuries ago! I tried to learn more, but that was all he knew. His editor had told him, he said. It was just an assignment to him. He wasn’t really interested. It shocked me, actually, because I’ve always been so very much interested in Spanish colonial history that I suppose I assumed everyone else would be. To think that here was a breed of horse the Conquistadores rode, and which had survived all these hundreds of years, and no one—not even Tom, who knew of my interest—had thought it important enough to tell me!
the rest of the story – 12th book chapter
ride on! — tim