Second Chance Ride

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
May/June 2005

“You’re fired!!!” Mr. Douglas said to Paul Greenhorn, a nineteen-year-old boy, after his barn had caught fire and burned to ashes. “I never want to see you on my ranch ever again!!!” he said as he walked off towards the house.

“But Mr. Douglas,” Paul said as he ran after Mr. Douglas, “please give me another chance.”

“No!” Mr. Douglas said, as he kept walking towards the house.

“But it was an accident,” Paul said.

“No!”

“But I need this job,” Paul mumbled.

Mr. Douglas turned around real quick and said, “No! Now get off my ranch before I have you arrested for trespassing!” He then walked into the house.

Paul had no car or horse, so he just began to walk down the road. When he worked for Mr. Douglas he used one of his horses, but now he had nothing. Paul had light brown hair and stood six feet tall. His skin was tan and he wore blue jeans and a white shirt. His parents were killed in a plane crash, so Paul lived by himself. When he worked for Mr. Douglas, he always slept in the barn. He didn’t like sleeping in a house. He liked to be by himself.

Paul walked alongside the road a ways until he stumbled upon a ranch, with a sign on a fence that read, “In Need of Ranch Hands.” He walked up to the house and knocked on the door. A man answered the door and asked, “Can I help you?”

“Yeah, I’m looking for a job and I heard you were hiring,” Paul said.

“Oh, that’s true. What’s your name, son?” the man asked.

“Paul, Paul Greenhorn,” Paul said.

“Paul Greenhorn! Sorry, son, I don’t hire barn burners,” he said as he slammed the door in Paul’s face.

Paul then went on to more ranches but it was the same thing; they didn’t trust Paul. Paul went to one more ranch and saw another sign that read, “Need Ranch Hands, Talk to Mr. Wade Sullivan.” He walked up the driveway, walked inside the barn, and saw a man stacking hay Paul walked up to the man and asked, “Mr. Sullivan?”

The man turned around and replied, “Why, yes. What can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for a job,” Paul said.

“Well, you’ve come to the right place. Have you had any experience in this line of work?” Wade asked.

“Yes sir. I worked down the road for Mr. Douglas,” Paul said.

“Didn’t his barn just recently burn down?”

“Yeah, so I guess you heard. And guess you also heard that people said I caused it.

“Maybe.”

“Well I’ll be leaving now. With all you’ve heard you probably think I did it too,” Paul said as he turned around.

“You’re hired,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Paul quickly turned around and said, “But Mr. Sullivan, don’t you care I burned down a whole barn?”

“So?”

“So, that same thing might happen to you.”

“Son, let me tell you something. I don’t care what you’ve done. As long as you can put in a good day’s work. It doesn’t matter to me at all.”

“Thanks, Mr. Sullivan.”

“Please call me Wade.”

“Thanks, Wade,” Paul said as he turned around and started to walk away.

“Wait a minute. I don’t even know your name.” Paul quickly turned around.

“Oh, Paul, Paul Greenhorn.”

“Say, do you have a horse?”

“No sir.”

“Well I’ll have to get you one from the pasture. Come on,” Wade said as he walked out of the barn. Paul quickly ran after him. As they were walking out to the pasture, Paul noticed all of the trees and fields. He noticed how big the ranch was. And there weren’t just horses at the ranch. Paul saw little chickens running around. He heard the cattle mooing from the field. He saw goats and sheep. In addition, he even saw a couple of pigs slopping around in the mud. When they reached the pasture Paul saw many horses running around. Two of the geldings were fighting lead rope, and brought her to Paul.

“Paul, this is Jackie, one of our most trusted riding horses,” Wade said. Paul walked to Jackie and petted her on the neck. Jackie was a bay with black hoofs and black socks. She had a little white star on her head. Her mane and tail were long. When she walked, she walked gracefully.

“She’s beautiful,” Paul said.

Second Chance Ride meeting a horse

“Paul, this is Jackie, one of our most trusted riding horses”

“Come on, I’ll show you where the saddles are,” Wade said as he led Jackie into the barn. Paul couldn’t believe how nice Wade was. Wade had it all; a nice farm, sweet horses and many animals. What more could a guy want? Wade took Jackie into the barn and tied her up to the stall.

“The saddles are in the little room over there,” Wade said, pointing towards a little room next to the hay. “When you’ve saddled her up follow that trail over there. It will lead you to some broken fences. You’ll find some new poles and wire there too. Good luck,” Wade said as he walked out of the barn.

“OK, Jackie. Let’s saddle you up,” Paul said. Paul went into the tack room and came back out with a brush. He took the brush and brushed all the dirt off Jackie’s back. He then went back into the tack room and brought out a saddle, a saddle blanket, a bridle and bit, and a pair of reins. He took the saddle blanket and placed it on Jackie’s back, he then took the saddle and put it on top of the saddle blanket. He grabbed the bridle, put the bit in her mouth, and then slid the bridle up her head. He then took the reins and hooked them onto the end of the bit. He tightened the saddle, untied her, and started down the trail. Along the trail, he saw many birds chirping away. The trail was full of trees. There were also little creatures, like rabbits and chipmunks. Paul was surprised when a snake slithered by and Jackie did nothing. He thought Jackie would be scared or something.

Paul rode down the trail a ways and then found the fences that Wade was talking about. Paul dismounted and tied Jackie to a tree. He walked over to the fence and found all the materials. He started by taking off some of the wire and then taking out the posts. He picked up a new one, put it in the hole, and tamped it in. He took the new wire and put it in the place of the old one. He then went on to the next broken pole, replaced that one, and then started stringing the wire again.

It took him the whole day, but he got all the fences fixed. After Paul had finished he untied Jackie and was about to mount up when he saw Wade riding in the distance. Wade rode up to him and said, “Hey, you want to come back to the house with me for supper? My wife can’t wait to meet you.”

“Sure,” Paul said.

“Great. See you at the house,” Wade said as he rode off. Paul mounted up and rode off. As Paul was riding along, he looked up and could see the sun starting to set. When he reached the house the sun was much lower. He rode up to the house, took Jackie into the barn, and unsaddled her. He put her in her stall and then put the tack away. He walked up to and rearing up. It was neat. There were blacks, bays, and pinto-colored horses. He had Arabians, quarter horses, retired racehorses, and big draft horses on his ranch. Paul thought the ranch was amazing. Wade opened the gate and walked up to one of the Arabians, put on a halter and the house and knocked on the door. Paul was expecting Wade to answer, but instead a beautiful lady came to the door and opened it, and asked, “What can I do for you?”

Paul removed his hat that he was wearing and said, “I’m looking for Wade Sullivan.”

“Oh, you must be Paul. I’m Heather, Wade’s wife. Come in,” Heather said as she opened the door for Paul.

“Thank you,” Paul said as he put his hat back on. Paul couldn’t believe how big the house was. There were two cats lying on the stairs. The stairs led up to a big upstairs. Paul then walked into a large room with a big-screen TV and furniture. The last room he was in was the dining room; there he saw Wade sitting in a chair at the head of the table. The dining room wasn’t very big, but it was bigger than what Paul had ever seen. The tablecloth was pretty and there were pots of flowers everywhere. Wade was dressed very nice. It made Paul feel a little uncomfortable.

Wade got up from his chair and said, “Well, Paul, sit down.”

Paul sat down and said, “Thank you.”

“So did you fix all of the fences?” Wade asked.

“Yeah, I did,” Paul said. While they were talking Heather walked in and put some food on the table.

“You see, honey, that’s what I like about him,” Wade said to Heather as she sat down at the table.

“Well, shall we begin?” Wade asked.

“Honey, would you like to say grace?” Heather asked.

“Sure,” Wade said as he folded his hands and closed his eyes. “Dear God, we thank you for this food and we thank you for Paul Greenhorn, our new ranch hand. Please bless this food to our body. Amen.” After Wade prayed Heather began to pass the food. That night for supper, they had fried chicken and mashed potatoes. They had a wonderful meal. For dessert they had homemade apple pie. After the meal Paul helped out in the kitchen with the dishes.

Second Chance Ride eating dinner

“You see, honey, that’s what I like about him,” Wade said to Heather as she sat down at the table

“You know, Mrs. Sullivan, I don’t know when I’ve had such a wonderful meal,” Paul said.

“Oh, please call me Heather,” Heather said.

“All right, Heather, that was a wonderful meal. But I really must be going now,” Paul said.

“OK, thank you for helping me,” Heather said.

“You’re welcome,” Paul said as he walked out of the kitchen. After Paul left the house, he really wasn’t sure where to go. He decided the best place was to go sleep in the barn. Paul never did have a home. At Mr. Douglas’s ranch he just always slept in the barn because he felt most comfortable there.

*          *          *

When morning came, Wade went out to the barn and found that all the horses had already been put out and all the other animals were outside too. The stalls were cleaned and the barn had been swept out. Wade couldn’t believe his eyes. He looked around and couldn’t find Paul anywhere. So he saddled up a horse and rode out on one of the trails. He rode awhile and then saw Paul helping a little calf out of the mud. After Paul was done he was a big mess. Wade rode up to him and said, “I can see you’ve been busy.”

“Yes, sir, I have,” Paul said.

“I knew you were just what this ranch needed. You’ll be receiving a raise at the end of the week,” Wade said.

“Well, thank you, sir.”

“No, thank you. Now I need to get back to the house. Keep up the good work,” Wade said as he rode off. Weeks went by and even though the ranch was perfect already, somehow it looked a lot better than perfect.

*          *          *

One day when Paul was unloading a wagon of hay, Mr. Douglas drove up in his fancy car. He stepped out of the car, took one look at Paul, and asked, “What in the world are you doing here?”

“I work here,” Paul said.

“Oh you do, do you. Well, we’ll just have to see about that,” Mr. Douglas said as he walked up to the house and knocked on the door. Wade answered the door and Mr. Douglas walked in. They walked into the family room and sat down.

“What can I do for you?” Wade asked.

“I’m going to be straight with you; why is Paul Greenhorn working for you?” Mr. Douglas asked.

“He asked for a job and I gave it to him.”

“Did he tell you why I fired him?”

“Yeah, something about a fire.”

“Exactly”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Douglas, I don’t understand.”

“He’s set my barn on fire and he shouldn’t be given the chance to do it again.”

“That was just one time. Besides, it was an accident.”

“Oh, one time? After my barn burned to ashes, I did a little research on your hired hand and it seems he’s done it before.”

“Was there any proof?”

“Except for the fact that he worked there, but isn’t that enough?”

“I’m sorry, but all you’ve got is nothing. Now I suggest you leave.”

“You can throw me out, but I won’t rest until I’ve caught him. You’ll be sorry,” Mr. Douglas said as he left. After Mr. Douglas left, Wade went out to talk to Paul.

“Hey, Paul, could you come here for a sec, I need to talk to you,” Wade said.

Paul jumped off the wagon and asked, “Yeah?”

“Mr. Douglas was just here to see me,” Wade said.

“Yeah, I saw,” Paul said.

“He said his barn wasn’t the first barn you burned. Is that true?”

“No, it is all a lie. I can prove it. And his barn was an accident.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re not lying?”

“No.”

“OK, get back to work, we’ll talk about this later,” Wade said as he walked back in the house.

“Thank you,” Paul said as he jumped back on the wagon. Paul felt a little worried. He might have to leave and he didn’t want to leave such a nice ranch. Paul finished unloading the hay and then brought the animals in and fed them. All except the goats, which he left outside for the night. After all the animals were bedded down for the night, Paul went to sleep also. But while he was sleeping a small man dressed in black snuck into the barn. He looked around for Paul and found him sleeping on some hay.

He walked over to the hay and tripped over a bucket. Paul was quickly awakened, but didn’t see anything. He looked around the barn, but then was hit over the head by the man in black. The man in black spread oil everywhere and then lit a match. In seconds the hay became a big flame of fire. Paul, who lying right next to the fire, jumped up. He got the horses and tried to put the fire out. The fire got bigger and bigger. Paul saw a telephone on the wall, ran over there, and called 9 -1-1. While Paul was waiting for the fire truck he opened the stalls and some of the horses ran out but others he had to blindfold and lead them out. He almost had all the horses out except for Jackie. Jackie wouldn’t come out. He finally got behind her and smacked her on the rear and out she ran. Just as Paul was about to leave the barn, because the barn was full of flames, boards of fire came down in front of the door. Paul looked for another way out but he couldn’t find anything. Just when Paul gave up all hope, he heard sirens and firemen ran out of their trucks and started spraying water everywhere. Boards were falling all around them, but they quickly got Paul out. When Paul walked out he saw all of the horses, including Jackie, standing around like nothing was happening. By that time Wade and Heather were outside the house looking around. They began asking the firemen about Paul. But Heather quickly spotted him. They ran over to him and asked, “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Paul said.

“How did this start?” Wade asked.

“I don’t know,” Paul said. Just then Mr. Douglas sped into the driveway.

“Oh no, here comes trouble,” Wade said.

Mr. Douglas walked over to them and said, “I told you so. I knew that boy was trouble.”

“Now just hold on, we don’t know who or what started it,” Wade said.

“Well, maybe you don’t, but I do! It was him and you know it! I say we turn him over to the sheriff,” Mr. Douglas said, pointing to Paul. Paul had just about had enough; he jumped up onto Jackie and rode off as fast as Jackie would run.

“Paul! Come back!” Wade yelled.

“What did I tell you, that boy’s trouble,” Mr. Douglas said.

“You know, why don’t you just leave. You’ve caused enough trouble!” Wade yelled at Mr. Douglas. Mr. Douglas got mad and drove off. Later, Wade went looking for Paul. He searched the only trail Paul knew, but saw nothing. He looked on other trails, but still found nothing.

Second Chance Ride riding a horse

Paul had just about had enough; he jumped up onto Jackie and rode off as fast as Jackie would run

Meanwhile, Mr. Douglas was out riding around Wade’s fields when he saw Paul riding around from a distance. Mr. Douglas took out his lasso and kicked his horse real hard, and off they went. Paul heard him, but not soon enough, for Mr. Douglas had already swung his lasso around him and pulled him off his horse. Paul quickly stood up and tried to take the rope off, but Mr. Douglas pulled it real tight and pulled him closer to him and said, “Well, now look what I’ve got here.”

“Let me go!” Paul yelled.

Mr. Douglas got off his horse and said, “Now you’ve got two choices. I can either take this rope off you and you can mount up and we’ll ride to the sheriff together, or I can tie you to that horse and take you to the sheriff. Now what’s it going to be?”

“I’ll go with you,” Paul said.

“Now that’s better,” Mr. Douglas said. He removed the rope and Paul mounted up, but before Mr. Douglas could get on his horse Paul kicked Jackie real hard and rode off. “Hey boy! Come back!” But it was too late. Paul was long gone.

*          *          *

Meanwhile, back at Wade’s place, Wade had just returned and decided to look around what was left of his barn. When he walked over to the barn he saw that most of the barn was still there. It still had a roof and walls.

He walked inside it and saw all the stalls still standing, except for Jackie’s stall, which was burned to a crisp. That puzzled Wade. He looked around for any clues. He found a cigarette lighter with the name Kent Craig on it. He thought maybe it belonged to whoever burned the barn. He went inside to his computer and looked up all the barns that Paul supposedly burned and found that the one man that always worked at the barns was Kent Craig. He knew it must have been him and ran outside, mounted up on his horse and rode out to the Douglas ranch. But on his way he saw Paul, who galloped by with Mr. Douglas galloping behind. Wade galloped after them. Paul turned into the Douglas ranch and Mr. Douglas and Wade followed behind. He dismounted and ran into Mr. Douglas’s other barn, up the loft, and hid in the loft. Mr. Douglas and Wade ran into the barn.

“Paul! Paul, come down! We want to talk to you,” Wade said. Paul was hiding in the corner on the loft. He heard something at the other end and walked over there. But little did he know that it was Kent Craig, the same guy who was in the barn when Wade’s barn caught fire. Kent walked up to him and punched Paul in the jaw, making him fall on the loft floor. Kent walked to the end of the loft and yelled, “I found him, Mr. Douglas!”

“Good. Now send him down,” Mr. Douglas said. Kent was going to take him to Mr. Douglas, but Paul quickly got up and pushed Kent onto a big hay pile that was just below the loft. Paul quickly ran down the ladder and said, “That’s him! He’s the one who keeps setting the barns on fire. That’s Kent Craig.”

Second Chance Ride boy and horse

“I know, he works for me,” Mr. Douglas said, “but he didn’t set any fires.”

“Well, I looked it up and it seems that both Paul and Kent were at all of the barns that burnt,” Wade said.

“Well . . .” Mr. Douglas said.

“Why don’t we just have the law handle this?” Wade said.

“Yeah,” Mr. Douglas said.

*          *          *

So the sheriff launched an investigation, and in the end it was indeed Kent that set the fires, except for the fire at the Douglas ranch, where it was proven that it was an accident that set the fire. Because it was an accident, Paul was free to go. Free from all those people who never believed him. After it was over, all the ranchers who turned Paul down for a job, came by and offered him a job. But he just said, “No thanks. I’ve got a job. A job working for a man who gave me a second chance ride.”

Second Chance Ride Elyse Nicholson

Elyse Nicholson, 13
Metamora, Illinois

Second Chance Ride Courtney Lam

Courtney Lam, 13
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada

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