The boy came in the house at breakfast time from feeding the horses. He was young but just learning to strut when he walked to show how big he was getting.
“That damn mare is getting fat.”
He was twelve and some of the boys at school explained how you weren’t allowed to swear until you were thirteen or even older. But it was just another way of proving to everyone that he was no longer a pussycat.
“There won’t be any breakfast for you if you keep using that language. You ever hear your father swear?” She was cross and tired. She had stayed up late last night waiting for the father to come in from the shed. It was close to shearing time and the weather looked like there was a bit of wet on the way. He had to get the roof on the shed fixed so he could get the sheep under cover. She was up early when she heard a dingo howl out near where the young lambs were.
“Sorry mum. But that mare is getting very big.”
“Yep,” said the father. “I think she’ll foal in a week or a bit, if I’m any judge.”
The boy’s sister jumped. “Can I have the foal, Dad? You promised.”
“No!” cried the boy. “I’ll be thirteen next week and I should get it. I need a horse to help Dad with the sheep, and all.”
That started a day of arguments which were only put to rest the next night at the tea-table.
“Who ever gets the foal has to earn it,” said the father. “I’ll think up something and let you know. But Jim, you have to keep feeding the horses every day without fail and not miss like you did last week. And Beth, you’d better keep Currie combing that mare ’til she shines like a chocolate bar.”
They did. She combed and he fed and they both snapped and squabbled. And the boy kept strutting and swearing and earned a couple of clips on the ear.
“I’m thirteen and I deserve to have a horse.” he said. “You’re only eleven and you never come out of the house to help around the place.”
“Do so. Anyway I’m not as stupid as those girls at school you think so pretty.”
And on and on.
After school next Friday the boy came in in a rush.
“That damn mare’s gone missing. Where’s she gone, Dad?”
“I reckon she’s gone up into the scrub behind the shearing shed. She might have the foal tonight. And whoever sees the foal first, it’s theirs. That’s how you get to earn it, like I said.”
The two children jumped for the door but were stopped by the mother.
“You two sit right down and finish your dinner. Nobody’s going out tonight. I heard that dingo again and I don’t want you near it. You heard what your father said. She might have it tonight and if she does she won’t want to be upset by you two fighting.”
Next morning was Saturday and the boy was nowhere to be seen.
“Where’s that boy of yours James? I hope he hasn’t gone off looking for that foal without finishing his jobs.”
But the boy had gone off looking and suddenly, yelling and laughing, he burst through the door.
“I found it. I found it and it’s mine.”
“Well you better have a wash and then sit down and eat. That foal isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. And you, Bethany, sit still and wait. And take that silly grin off your face. If the wind changes you’ll look silly for the rest of your life.”
“Yes Mother. I will be quiet and dignified in the presence of my half mad brother.”
So the boy sat down.
“You finish eating and then you can talk.” He was so excited he choked and spluttered his way through breakfast and just as he finished Beth said, “Daddy, I think I’d like to call my pony Goldie.”
“Didn’t you hear what Dad said? The first one to see it gets it and I saw it. So there.”
“O.K. you two settle down. Beth I think your brother should tell us what the pony looks like, before you get carried away with names, and he should be able to name it whatever he wants.”
“Well,” said the boy, “I didn’t get up too close because it was lying down but it’s a very light bay colour. Not nearly as dark as it’s mother.”
“Her mother. Not nearly as dark as her mother,” interrupted Bethany.
“Its mother!” said the boy.
“Anyway,” said the boy, “it is a light brown colour – all over.
“She isn’t light bay all over,’ continued Bethany. “She’s a golden colour and she has a white blaze down her nose and she has a white stocking on her right front leg and I’m calling her Goldie.”
The boy spluttered and looked at his little sister, “Wh.., wh.., when?”
“This morning just as the sun came up. That’s when. While you were snoring and dreaming. Somebody in this house has to get up early if things need doing.”
She called her new pony Goldie, and she Currie-combed her every morning before she went to school.