The Quicken Tree
by Agtant


Chapter 4

Eric walked back down to where the truck and trailer were parked and unloaded Rebel. The big horse scrambled down off the ramp and raised his head, staring intently around at his strange surroundings. He let out another ear shattering bellow.

Eric walked down the ramp after him. "Hush," he crooned, threading the lead chain through his halter, over his nose, and hooking it to the opposite side. He walked the prancing horse across the gravel parking area toward the arena.

Morgan had left an all purpose saddle with a couple of pads and a loose ring snaffle bridle hanging on the arena gate. Eric led Rebel inside and started tacking him up, glancing around the arena. A couple of low, cross rail jumps were set up along the rail. Morgan, no doubt, wanted to see how Rebel handled himself over a couple of fences.

He tightened the girth, let his stirrups down and got on. Rebel bounced around a little to begin with in the strange arena but eventually he got down to business. He had a nice ground covering trot like his brother. After coveting an arena like this one for so long, he regretted that now that he had the opportunity to ride in one, it was on Rebel and not Max.

He'd been warming him up for about twenty minutes when he saw Morgan cutting across the grass on his way over to him. His son trailed behind him holding his comic book. The boy went up to sit in the gazebo at the end of the arena and Morgan came over to stand by the rail. Eric walked the horse over to him.

"I've been watching from the barn," Morgan told him. "He looks pretty good."

"He's not bad." Eric looked down at him, noticing that a gold chain had slipped out from the collar of his shirt. There was a small gold medallion hanging from it. He was pretty sure it was a St. Christopher medal. A nice Irish Catholic boy, he thought amusedly. "You want to get on?"

"Yeah, I do." Morgan climbed over the arena fence and he slipped off the horse. Morgan let the stirrups down a little. He was a couple of inches taller than him, around six foot. Eric watched the play of the muscles in his back beneath the thin cotton shirt as Morgan tightened the girth another notch. The rust breeches did nothing to hide his ass like his sweat pants had the day before. He was as hard and smooth as polished stone.

Eric held Rebel's head as Morgan got on. When he rode him away from him, Eric walked over to stand by the rail and watch him.

He looked good on a horse, not too tall. And he was lean and athletic so he moved cleanly with him.

He started trotting Rebel in a large circle at the other end of the arena. He was too green to do much else with him. Morgan just wanted to get a feel of how he moved.

About the time he had completed two circles with him and was returning to the rail, a couple of broodmares with foals came galloping up the hill in a nearby pasture. Rebel exploded, getting in four huge leaps before Morgan got him under control again.

"Dad?" Eric heard the soft, questioning voice behind him. The boy must have heard the commotion when Rebel took off and had looked up to see his father literally flying across the arena. It was the first word he had heard from him since he had climbed into the gazebo.

"He's okay," Eric told him, still watching Morgan as he made another circle at the end of the arena and then finally trotted the horse down the long side toward them again. Morgan had a big grin on his face. Eric had always thought that eventers were a little bit crazy. Now he knew for sure.

Morgan trotted Rebel by him, still grinning. "That was nice."

He watched him trot up the other long side, away from them this time. "Mad as a hatter."

Morgan rode around a few more minutes without any major blowups and then got off. He ran his stirrups up, and unbuckled the reins, passing them through the throat latch of the bridle before buckling them again around the horse's neck.

Eric went over to the gate and picked up a whip he had seen there earlier, then walked out into the middle of the ring to help Morgan.

Together, they blocked Rebel on the rail so that he would have to go over the two jumps that Morgan had set up. He jumped them easily, even after they raised them a couple of times. His knees were tucked up tight against his chest and his hocks almost touched his rear. He was a natural jumper.

Morgan watched Rebel, smiling. He was around twenty-eight or twenty-nine, but he was a big kid out there. And this was his playground. It was easy to see why he was so good at his sport. He was in love with it. Completely. Head over heels.

Finished, they walked a slightly quieter Rebel up to the barn. The boy walked along with them, holding his father's hand. They walked the horse onto the rubber matted floor of the barn aisle and this time Eric held his head while Morgan unsaddled him. The boy walked over and sat down on a bag of shavings and promptly started reading his comic again.

A lab tech from the hospital came and led Rebel away to get him x-rayed. They settled down for the wait. He sat down on another bag of shavings and Morgan leaned against the wall next to his son. The kid had barely taken his nose out of the comic since he had gotten it out of the truck.

"Big Superman fan?" Eric commented.

Morgan looked down at the top of his son's head and smiled. "You don't want to get him started."

"I guess you have to watch that he doesn't put on a cape and dive off the barn roof."

"No," Morgan said, looking over at him. "He doesn't want to be Superman. He's more interested in being Perry White." He looked back down at his son. "Isn't that right, Chief?"

The boy looked up from his comic, putting on a convincing scowl. "Don't call me Chief."

Eric laughed.

Morgan smiled down at the boy indulgently. "See what I mean. He wants to be a newspaperman."

"You mean he doesn't want to be an eventer like his old man?"

"No," Morgan said quietly, somewhere else for a minute. "He takes after his mother's side of the family. His uncle is a writer." Something about the mother bugged him. Maybe he and his wife weren't getting along. Then he came out of his reverie as suddenly as he had gone into it. "Hey, I'm sorry. I haven't even introduced you," he said. "Eric this is Carl. Carl say hello to Eric Whelan."

"We already met," Carl said honestly.

"Don't be rude," his father prodded him.

The boy let out a dramatic sigh, putting his comic down and got up off the shavings, walking over to him. He put his small hand out. "I'm happy to meet you, Mr. Whelan," he said seriously, glancing back over his shoulder at his father for approval.

He took his hand, shaking it. "I'm glad to meet you too, Carl. But just call me Eric."

Carl looked back at his father. Morgan nodded.

"Okay, Eric. You can call me Carl."

Morgan put his hand over his face, suppressing his laughter behind it.

Eric watched the boy go back to his comic, thinking about his two brothers and what rough young animals they were in comparison. "He's a nice kid," he told Morgan.

He smiled at him. "Thanks."


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