By Zelle M. in MI
It was a warm summer morning in Hatch Valley, Virginia. A peaceful breeze floated down from the Mountains brushing gently the small town of Tucker that lay quietly between two great hills that formed the valley. It was a lovely day, as the sun shone on the pretty little 1950s town. The church bells rang signaling weekday Mass. In a small brick house on Main Street my brother Cody and I sat quietly saying the Rosary as we always did after meals. As the beads slipped through our fingers we prayed anxiously for the safety of each other knowing this would be the first time since our parents had died that we would be separated. I was going away to the state capital.
“Oh Mary conceived without sin pray for us in our recourse to thee,” we finished the prayer. Cody looked at his wrist watch and announced, “Better go get Belle, Nancy. It’s almost nine o’clock.”
I nodded, jumped up and ran outside to the family barns. I would miss Cody, but I knew I was going for his and my own sake. There was a State Fair, where a race for all children ages 10-18 could attend. As an 11 year-old, I knew I hadn’t much of a chance, but it was worth at least trying for the 1,000 dollar prize. I entered the barns and walked into Belle’s stall. She was a beautiful brown horse with a white crease on her forehead. I would be racing her, for Cody had to work at home. I smiled at her as I entered. It was a shaky kind of smile, the kind you give when you are trying to be cheerful while nervous. I was just now the most nervous girl in Tucker.
“Hey, girl, how are you?” I asked. Cody and I had found her two months before in an old shack and had brought her home. And was she fast! I had spent so many days riding her through the mountains rushing through the wind never afraid of going even to the highest peak. As the memories came back, I heard a car stop in our driveway. I peeked out and saw Mr. Simmons’ jalopy. I gave a faint smile and said,“OK Belle time for me and you to go places!”
A few days later I sat astride Belle at the start line in Richmond waiting for the race to begin. I quivered and shook surveying the scene before me. We had only to go around the track twice and I kept telling myself it would be all right, but still I doubted it. Finally we were brought to attention by the starter who went through a long and boring list of rules. But at last he was saying,“On your mark…set…” Crack! The gun went off and with it went Belle. A herd of horses thundered down the track. Dust flew everywhere. Belle was in third place while I pushed her harder than ever before in my life.
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I leaned forward on her begging, “Oh please, Blessed Mother, help me win! I need your help!”
Mary heard. Slowly Belle edged up on the second place horse. I whispered in her ear,"That’s it, girl! Come on, Belle, you can do it. That’s it!”
Belle shot past the Black horse just as we began the second-and last-lap. I began urging her to run faster suddenly realizing this might be our last chance to catch the first-placer. Belle understood what my body’s pressings meant now. She began to advance on the white horse ahead of us. Every second seemed like an hour to me now. Belle was now neck and neck with the horse. I leaned further forward pushing Belle with all my strength. She charged past and seconds later crossed the finish-first! The crowds gathered in the stands erupted into cheers. I wearily slipped off Belle’s back. Streaks of sweat lined my face but I was happy. Now Cody and I could live a better life than the poor one we had once lived. I looked up at Belle’s face and stroked her neck lovingly and hugged her.
“I knew you could do it,” I whispered.
Now I stand on another dusty track, this one in New York City. Enthusiastic crowds celebrate with me my fifteenth victory. Standing silent at my side is Belle, Four-year-old Champion of Two years. Looking around I hope that more days like this will come, days of victory, days of joy, days of excitement. And all of these days with the one horse I would give my life for--Belle.