For two more weeks Andi put up with Midas’ spoiled attitude. She tried every old trick she could think of---she tried sweet-talking and she tried yelling at him like Chad would do. Sometimes she gave him all the time her needed, and sometimes she tried to use her own enthusiasm to spur him on. It didn’t matter what she did. Nothing melted the beastly creature’s indifference. Three weeks, and she had not once been able to get on his back. And soon Chad would be coming home.
The day before her brothers were due to arrive back, Andi pushed Midas harder than ever before. What would Chad say when he returned and found the horse no better off than when he left? What would he think of her?
Andi got a surprise when she got out to the training corral. Cory Blake, a friend from town whom she had been on many adventures with, was leaning up against the rails.
“Howdy, Andi.” he said, “I had to come. I wanted to see you do your stuff with this problem horse. That is if it’s all right.” Cory seemed genuinely excited.
Andi’s heart sank. She didn’t exactly feel like having an audience right now. But she said, “Of course it’s fine.”
Cory whistled when he saw Andi lead Midas from the barn.
“That is some horse.” he said. “Shiniest one I’ve ever seen. You weren’t lying when you said he looked just like gold.”
“If he’s gold, he’s fool’s gold,” Andi muttered under her breath.
Midas stood there quietly as Andi placed the saddle on his back. She heard him give a little snort that seemed to say, come any closer and you’ll wish you hadn’t. She was worried. She looked at Cory’s eager face. She could not fail in front of both him and Jenny.
Andi approached Midas to try to mount. The horse, with reflexes as fast as a rattlesnake, made good on his threat and reached out to give Andi a sharp bite on the arm. Andi held back the yelp she wanted to let out and hoped that Cory hadn’t seen. She knew that she was going to have a nice bruise from the spiteful horse’s teeth.
More determined than ever not to fail in front of the eager faces watching her, Andi suddenly felt herself filled with determination. Without giving the surprised horse any time to react, she swung herself up into the saddle in one bold motion.
It must have been that Midas was too stunned to do a thing at first, because for few fleeting moments, Andi sat atop her mount as she had so wanted to.
It was short lived.
Without warning the livid animal shot into a furious gallop. Andi made a desperate grab at the saddle horn, but only got a handful of black mane. One leg slid out of the stirrup. She held on for dear life while Midas continued to leg it like he had a cougar on his back. His undulating flank slapped into her at fast-paced intervals. She heard Jenny and Cory shouting in excitement and fear corral-side.
Andi knew that letting go would be dangerous. She might be trampled. When she thought she couldn’t hang on another second, the horse came to a sliding stop at the fence. Andi tumbled into the fence boards. She looked up and saw what had stopped him. Cory had grabbed a handful of grass, and at that moment, Midas was happily chomping away as if nothing had happened. The sight was too much for nerves that were wearing thin.
No, you’re not going to cry, she told herself.
It was useless. Angry tears were starting to slide down her face. A rather white-faced Jenny appeared at her side.
“No, I’m not hurt.” Andi said. The tears began to come faster. “But Jenny, that horse had me out there flapping around like a city girl. Cory had to feed him to get him to stop. He got the best of me, and that has never happened to me before. It’s useless. I don’t have any fight left in me. I guess I’m not gifted at horsemanship after all.”
“But…” Jenny said. She couldn’t seem to think of anything else to say.
Cory hopped down from the fence and squatted down beside them.
“Wow, Andi.” he said. “That is one mean horse.” She could read in his face the shock over the fact that Andrea Carter had been tricked by a horse. She decided she didn’t care.
“I’m going to tell Chad that I give up.” she said.
Andi was not excited about Chad’s return. He had finally given her a chance, and she had failed miserably. She could guess what he would say: “You’re giving up too easily, Andi. I’m ashamed of you.”
The words would sting worse than usual. She was not usually one to give in, but she knew that she didn’t want to face any more training sessions with a horse that embarrassed her and made her look foolish. No amount of encouragement from anyone was going to make her spend another hour with Midas.
When Chad and Mitch rode back into Circle C Ranch, she wondered if they noticed that she was less exuberant than usual. It was at dinner that she finally decided to tell Chad about her decision. At least, she thought, coming home had put her brother in a good mood. Maybe he wouldn’t have time to think so much about his sister being a quitter.
“Chad,” Andi began slowly, “About the horse…”
Chad looked up from his supper. He looked confused. “What horse?”
“You know. Mr. Goodwin’s wild horse.”
“Oh! That horse! You know Andi, I…”
“Yes, Mr. Goodwin’s horse. There’s something I need to confess to you about him, and you’re not going to like it.”
Andi saw Jenny give her a sympathetic look from across the table.
“Oh, yes,” Melinda piped in. “It was really dreadful. That horse practically dragged Andi all around the arena.”
Poor Melinda. She didn’t know how her words hurt. Now Andi had to tell Chad everything.
“I’m sorry, Chad. It’s what I was going to tell you. I’m giving up.”
Now that telling the worst was over with, the rest of the story poured out at galloping speed.
“…and so you see,” Andi reiterated at the end, “I’ve decided to give up. I don’t care what you think of me. I don’t care if you think I have no determination. I…”
Chad finally got her to stop talking.
“That’s what I wanted to explain to you, Andi. Mr. Goodwin told me more about that horse. He told me that it’s never been good for anything. He’s been spoiled all its life and can’t even do so much as pull a cart. When he got away, Mr. Goodwin figured it was good riddance.”
Andi could see that Chad was coming very close to laughing. Did he actually think this was funny?
“So….he’s not wild? Just lazy?”
“’ fraid so. That horse is just a plain bad apple, Andi. A lifetime of training couldn’t fix him.”
At this point, Chad did begin to laugh.
Fury gathered in Andi’s mind like storm clouds.
“So this was all a joke?”
“I tell you what, Chad Carter. I don’t think it’s funny one bit! I…”
Then she noticed that Mitch was laughing too.
“You, too, Mitch? I just can’t believe you would do such a rotten thing!”
“Aw, Andi.” Mitch said, “We just wanted to see how long it would take you to figure it out.”
“You made me a quitter! And I never quit!”
When Chad saw just how mad Andi was, he stopped laughing.
“I’m sorry, Andi. Maybe we went a little too far for a joke. But it ended all right. I don’t call you a quitter. Determination is a mighty good quality, but I think humility is too. Part of that might be admitting our defeat sometimes. We all have limits, and it’s a good thing to remember that. You did the right thing, and I’m just as proud of you as if you had trained a mustang.”
“You really are?”
“Sure,” said Chad, smiling at her. “And I have a feeling that horse is going to be a good-for-nothing drifter the rest of its life.”
Andi nodded, but before she took her next bite of mashed potatoes, she muttered, “I still think it was a low-down trick.”
All the same, thinking about what she must have looked like hanging onto Midas’ mane for dear life, she felt a strange urge to laugh along with her brothers.