By Linda Porter Carlyle
MacKenzie Isabelle Evans heard the telephone ring, but she paid no attention to it. That is, until she heard Grandma say to somebody on the other end of the line, “I’m sure she’d love to go horseback riding this morning.”
Mac bounced in her chair. “Is Grandma talking about me?” she asked.
Grandpa grinned at her across the table. “That’s probably cousin Angie calling,” he said. “But don’t even think about going anywhere until you finish this game!” he said firmly. “I’m beating you!”
“No, you’re not!” Mac exclaimed. She connected a double-five domino to the end of the long domino chain. “That’s 35 points for me!”
“And I’m out!” Grandpa said, setting his last domino down in place. “Count the points you have left.” He picked up his pencil and began to add the two long columns of scores. “You may congratulate me,” he said. “I won.”
“Well, I was just getting warmed up,” Mac declared. “I haven’t played dominoes very often! I’ll beat you tonight!”
Grandpa looked at her with a twinkle in his eye. “I don’t know.” he said. “I’m pretty hard to beat!”
Mac twirled into the kitchen. “Do I really get to go horseback riding?” she asked. “I love horses! I want to have a horse, but Dad won’t let us keep one in the backyard! He says we don’t have enough room.”
Grandma laughed. “You poor child!” she said. “Open the freezer and get some horse treats to take with us.”
“Horse treats?” Mac asked, puzzled. “In the freezer?”
“On the left side. In plastic bags,” Grandma said. “There are horse bran muffins and horse cookies. Get five or six to take along.”
“Do you really make muffins and cookies for horses?” Mac asked, astonished.
“Sure,” Grandma said. “I like to take them when I visit cousin Angie. The horses love them. You can taste them if you want to,” she added. “They’re full of good stuff. Grated carrots, and apple-sauce, and oats, and molasses.”
Mac took three little muffins and three cookies out of the bags in the freezer. She still could hardly believe that Grandma made muffins for horses! She sniffed them and then cautiously nibbled a tiny, frozen bite. “They’re pretty good!” she admitted.
“I can’t believe it’s so hot!” Mac exclaimed as she, and Mom, and Grandma walked across the yard to Grandma’s car.
“It’s summertime. It’s Kansas!” Grandma reminded her.
Mac stared out the window at more flat land as Grandma drove down the highway. She was pleasantly surprised, though, to discover that cousin Angie lived on a little hill.
Grandma stopped the car in front of a large barn, and Mac jumped out.
A short woman with a welcoming smile stepped into the sunshine.
“Do you remember your cousin Angie?” Grandma asked.
Mac shook her head.
“I remember you,” Angie said. “Especially those beautiful red curls!” She gave Mac a quick hug. “Come on. Meet the horses.”
Horse heads stuck curiously out of several stalls on both sides of a long, wide breezeway. “Oh!” Mac gasped. “They’re so beautiful! Can I pet them?”
“Of course!” Angie answered, leading the way to the third stall on the left. “This is Shammy,” she said. “I thought you might like to ride her.”
Shammy’s brown head bobbed up and down over the bottom half of the stall door. She nickered softly. “I think she smells horse treats!” Angie said with a laugh. “Did you bring something special for her by any chance?”
Mac nodded. “Can I give her one now?” she asked. She opened the plastic bag and pulled out a fat cookie. She held it out to Shammy on her open palm, and Shammy’s soft lips gently picked it up. The horse chewed happily and then plainly asked for another treat.
Mac laughed. “I think I should have brought lots more!” she said. “Can I give her another one now?”
“Sure,” Angie said. “And then we’ll save the rest for later.”
When Shammy finished her second cookie, she stretched out her neck and sniffed Mac’s hair. Mac giggled as warm horse breath tickled her cheek.
Angie opened a drawer. She found two flat rubber brushes with poky, knoblike things on one side. She gave one to Mac and then slid the stall door open. “You can help me brush Shammy and get her ready to ride,” she said. She attached the left side of Shammy’s halter to a long chain fastened to one side of the stall and then hooked another chain from the opposite side of the stall to the right side of the halter. “This will help Shammy stand quietly in one place while we brush her and pick out her feet,” Angie explained.
Mac shivered with excitement. She watched Angie firmly rub Shammy’s shiny brown coat with circular motions. Shammy’s coat looked perfectly clean already, and the rubbing brought dust to the surface. Shammy looked worse where Angie had rubbed her. “We’ll brush the dust off with a big, bristled brush,” Angie explained.
Mac blew away a fly that hovered around her nose and tried to copy the way Angie groomed the horse. She stepped carefully over something she definitely didn’t want to step in!
Angie grinned. “You can help clean out the stalls later,” she said.
Mac sighed. “I’m going to have a horse in heaven,” she said. “And I’m going to ride every day! Maybe I’ll have a whole herd of horses and ride a different one every day. But I’m sure I’ll have a favorite one that I like to ride the best. Is Shammy your favorite horse?”
“Shammy’s a very old friend,” Angie answered.
“Oops! Ugh!” Mac exclaimed. She looked down at her shoe. “Do you think horse manure will be cleaner in heaven?” she asked.
Angie laughed. “I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe in heaven, horses will digest their food perfectly and completely and there won’t be any waste products left over.”
Mac scraped her shoe back and forth in clean sawdust. “I sure hope so!” she exclaimed.
Recipe for Horse Cookies
Mix these dry ingredients together in a bowl:
½ cup white flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup rolled oats (uncooked)
¼ cup oil
¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup molasses
1 ½ cup grated carrots
Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes. Be sure to let the cookies cool completely before feeding them to your horse.