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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

Hard Hat

BOOK: Hard Hat
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“Quick! Get down here!” a voice whispered from the darkness.

Regina didn’t waste any time. She slid through the door and Stevie followed right after her.

It wasn’t completely dark. A dim light shone from a single bulb in the middle of the basement ceiling. Peter, Liza, Ann, and Gordon were all huddled under it.

Peter had a silencing finger at his lips. Stevie couldn’t imagine why, but the look of terror on Gordon’s face told her that there was a reason.

“Someone’s upstairs,” Ann whispered, barely audible.

Stevie sat down on the box next to Liza and listened.

upstairs. They could hear footsteps on the front steps leading up to the house’s main entrance on the parlor floor. There was the click of a key turning in the lock.…

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RL 3.6, ages 008–012

A Bantam Skylark Book / March 2001

“The Saddle Club” is a registered trademark of Bonnie Bryant Hiller
The Saddle Club design/logo, which consists of a riding crop and a riding hat, is a trademark of Bantam Books

“USPC” and “Pony Club” are registered trademarks of The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., at The Kentucky Horse Park, 4071 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY 40511-8462

All rights reserved
Text copyright © 2001 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher
For information address Bantam Books

eISBN: 978-0-307-82602-2

Visit us on the Web!
Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at

Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada

Bantam Skylark is an imprint of Random House Children’
Books, a division of Random House, Inc. SKYLARK BOOK and colophon and BANTAM BOOKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc
Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036


Special thanks to Sir “B” Farms and Laura Roper

For my cousins, Peter and Michael—

with love,



! We’ve got to hurry up!” Stevie Lake said, glancing at her watch. She was walking with her two best friends, Lisa Atwood and Carole Hanson, toward their favorite place in the world to do their favorite thing: to Pine Hollow Stables to ride horses.

“What time is it?” Carole asked, picking up her pace.

“It’s already ten minutes to eight!” Stevie said, walking even faster.

That made Lisa walk faster still. If there was one thing Max Regnery hated, it was lateness from his students. In fact, he hated it so much, he referred to it as
tardiness, which meant the same thing as being late but sounded much more serious.

“How did it get to be sooo—” Lisa asked, trying to look at her own watch, which was hard to do at the pace she was walking.

She stopped. Her watch said 7:30. “Stevie time,” she announced. Carole stopped, too. The two girls began laughing.

“I told you you’d get into trouble setting your watch twenty minutes fast,” Lisa said.

“Well, I wasn’t going to be late,” Stevie said sheepishly. The girls continued their walk at a normal pace.

“I don’t mind
getting into trouble,” Carole said.

“It’s when you get
into trouble along with you that bothers me.”

“So what else is new?” Lisa asked. The girls laughed again. Reluctantly, Stevie reset her watch to the correct time. They were about five minutes from the stable, and that would give them plenty of time to check on their horses before Max called their Pony Club meeting to order at 8:00
. sharp.

Carole breathed in the clean, fresh air, almost certain she could detect the sweet smell of horses and fresh hay from where she stood. Although the three
girls could hardly have been more different from one another, their bond of friendship was sealed by a common love of horses. In fact, they loved horses so much that soon after they’d first met, they had formed their own club: The Saddle Club. It had only two rules, and the first one was easy: All members had to be horse-crazy. That was a test all three of them passed with flying colors. The other rule was more difficult, though they were generally willing to follow it: Members had to be willing to help each other out, no matter what. That was a rule that had gotten them into trouble almost as many times as it had been exercised to get them out of it.

As they walked along the country lane that led to Pine Hollow, Lisa glanced at Stevie and smiled, thinking about her watch. It was typical of her to try to fix a problem (chronic lateness) and thus create another (panic). Stevie was more creative about ways to get into trouble than anybody else Lisa had ever known. When you asked Stevie how her school day was, the answer was invariably peppered with explanations about what she’d had to say to Miss Fenton—her school’s headmistress—when she’d been sent to her office

Stevie wasn’t bad. She wasn’t even naughty or a troublemaker. She thought of herself as being creative—in ways teachers were inclined to think unnecessary. Lisa remembered hearing about the time Stevie had managed to get food coloring into the vat of mashed potatoes. Green potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day had seemed like a great idea to Stevie. Somehow, the cafeteria workers at Fenton Hall had not been amused, just as her biology teacher hadn’t been impressed by Stevie’s claim that one of her brothers had substituted a disappearing ink pen for the one that Stevie had thought she was using for her homework, now a sheaf of blank pages.

Even though Stevie was a practical joker, she had a big heart. Nobody came to other people’s rescue faster than Stevie did, and nobody cared more about others. It was as if her own troubles made her understand how much other people could need her. But if someone annoyed her, Stevie’s hot temper could flare.

Carole and Lisa loved her with all their hearts. Sometimes Lisa thought it was because Stevie was everything she could never be. For all of Stevie’s flamboyance and unpredictability, Lisa was calm, organized, logical, and coolheaded. Lisa was a straight-A student, and she never missed homework deadlines.

Her clothes were always clean and neatly pressed, her hair always smooth and combed.

Lisa’s older brother, Peter, didn’t live at home anymore, so Lisa felt like an only child. Lisa often wondered what it was like for Stevie to live with three brothers. Chad was older, Alex was Stevie’s twin, and Michael was the youngest. Sometimes it seemed like Stevie was at war with all three of them. Lisa’s mother had wanted the best for her daughter and saw to it that Lisa had all the opportunities she and Lisa’s father could reasonably give her. Her mother’s idea of giving Lisa the best was to have Lisa take lessons in everything she considered proper for a young girl. Lisa had studied dance, violin, piano, voice, ballet, painting, even needlepoint. But all those activities lost their appeal the day Mrs. Atwood had decided Lisa should learn a little bit about horses—as every young lady should. Lisa didn’t want to learn a little bit about horses. She’d found that after her first lessons, she’d wanted to learn everything in the world there was to know about the horses!

Carole and Stevie had been there to help her learn, and Carole especially was the perfect person for that. Of the three horse-crazy girls, there was no doubt that
Carole was the horse-craziest. From the time she was four, she’d known that all she ever wanted to do in her life was to work with horses. She knew she had a lot of options. She could ride, train, breed, race, compete, care for, or heal them. Or she could do all of those. She hadn’t decided which career with horses would be just right for her, but she knew it would be one of them.

As the threesome walked up Pine Hollow’s driveway, the whole place seemed in disarray. There was more confusion than usual, and the first hint of it was that Max was dashing across the driveway, knees bent, arms extended, trying to catch his daughter, a rambunctious toddler named Maxi, short for Maxine.

“Stop that child!” he declared in time for Lisa to pick up the little girl. Maxi had a delighted grin on her face. She clearly thought this was a game and she’d won. Lisa gave her a little hug before handing her back to her father.

“Meeting starts in ten minutes sharp!” Max announced as if he were ready for it to begin, which he obviously wasn’t.

“Right,” Carole said, snapping him a smart salute.

“Has anyone seen Red?” Max asked. Red was Pine Hollow’s head stable hand.

“No, we just got here,” Stevie reminded him.

“Right, well, somebody’s going to have to look after Maxi.”

“Don’t you mean
after Maxi?” Lisa suggested.

“That, too,” Max said. He left, apparently in search of a temporary baby-sitter.

Twenty minutes later Max called the meeting to order. Horse Wise, which was the Pine Hollow chapter of the U.S. Pony Clubs, met every Saturday morning. Max usually alternated weeks of mounted and un-mounted meetings, meaning that one week their meeting would be on horseback, working on riding skills, and the next week they’d meet in Max’s office and have a presentation or discussion of stable management, veterinary care, shoeing, or some other important aspect of horse care and ownership. Today’s discussion was on the general subject of safety.

Max stood in front of the group, holding Maxi on his left hip.

“All right, then,” Max said, frowning at the clock on the back wall. “Who can tell me some of the things we have here to protect riders?”

BOOK: Hard Hat
9.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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