Are you ready to take a trip to the wide open spaces of North Dakota with Paisley Noon, her faithful dog Prairie, her beloved horses Journey and Boss Girl, and a one-eyed crimp-eared three-legged stowaway barn cat? Are you ready to become a part of an eclectic, quirky family with a can-do attitude and a vision of perpetual hope? If so … Forever Fields Farm awaits your arrival with open arms!
Here are a few tidbits from the first chapter of Nokota Voices.
Hike up your big girl panties and quit the waterworks, said my dead grandma as I fiddled with a tattered photo of her daughter. My mother’s black hair swirled in the wind; she sat bareback on a wild-eyed buckskin colt in front of a house I didn’t recognize. A carved sign next to her showed a diamond shape with a large letter F in the center and two smaller Fs on either side. I wondered if she heard the voices too, wherever she was. Did they tug at her until she finally followed?
It’s time, Gram nudged.
Though Gram had been dead for five years, her voice prodded me from the edge of my bed. I reached for my suitcase and stuffed the picture of Mother into my pocket. I took a deep breath and stepped toward the door. My heart thumped in my throat as the wheels ricketed across the warped wood floor. I stopped to look one last time at the snapshots taped on my wall. Friends. Smiles. Boys. Group hugs. Cheeky kisses.
Lies. All of it.
I wasn’t like them. I never had been.
* * *
Ernie meowed from the tops of the stalls and walked along. A carefree, three-legged daredevil. I followed beneath him next door to Boss Girl. She stood dozing in a corner, one hind leg bent, head hung low.
“Hey, BG,” I whispered. The last thing she needed was getting jolted out of a perfectly good dream of the old days when she and Mom ran barrels or raced the wind in the clover field.
As my eyes adjusted, I began to make out the vague contours of her bony hips and swayed back. Age left its mark.
My defiant voice from earlier that day echoed in my head. Over my dead body!
Then Cindy’s sticky voice, It’s the humane thing to do. This coming from someone who’d never touched, much less owned, a horse in her life.
I reminded myself again, I’m not like her.
Then Dad, “I don’t see any other options. Unless you want to start paying the vet bills.”
And me, “She’s only twenty-five! What kind of idiot puts down a horse that’s paid for herself ten times over in winnings just because she’s retired?”
“Paisley Alberta Noon, that’s enough.” Dad had pulled out the middle name weapon.
“Mom would never allow it.” I had no problem pulling out the Mom weapon.
I blinked out of the memory. None of that mattered anymore. In fact, I was glad it happened. It was just the catalyst I needed to finally listen to the voices tugging at me to leave for the last year. Their whispers became clearer, yet I still couldn’t understand their words. And Gram’s had become unbearable. My choice was made.
* * *
Experience has convinced me Oscar’s got a
split personality. I never knew what kind of mood that
Then I saw Gram. On top of my duffle bag. The portrait, that is. Her eyes still as stone just watched me, waiting. She had been like that — always watching and waiting for me to make a decision for my obstinate little self. Prodding me on with some quip remark. In the picture the little curve at one corner of her mouth told me she was with me as I sat behind Oscar’s steering wheel all sweaty-palmed.
That woman was my hero. I wanted so much to be like her.
Prairie sat in the truck with a determined look she could only have gotten from being around me way too much. Glancing past her to the porch light, I wondered what kind of decision I was making this time.
Then it came to me. Gram, though she’d been dead five years, would be with me. She would swish away any mess I got myself into. From behind the glass, the crinkle in her left eye winked. She got me. No matter how big of a brat I was. She knew I had to learn things my own way.
I leaned forward and turned the key. Vvvrrrum hummmm.
Prairie pant-smiled and let out a “whuff.” The ratty rope dangled over her canines.
“I guess that means we are on our way.” Ghostly butterflies fluttered in my rib cage.
As we inched down the driveway, gravel crunched beneath Oscar’s tires, and I said my silent goodbyes to the only home I’d ever known. I slowed to a stop at the mailbox that read “The Noon Family: 445 Aurora Way.” A sadness tensed my shoulders because I honestly could not remember the last time it had felt like a family lived at this address.
It was time.
Enough with the mush. Get on with it! Gram said.
“See ya ‘round, suckers,” I sneered to my past.
Oscar’s grimy headlights lit the way as I began my cruise north and west toward the plains of North Dakota.
See you all soon!