Authors: Bonnie Bryant
Something caught Stevie’s eye over Phil’s shoulder. On a sale table near the cash register was a display of trip journals—little red plaid books of blank pages to write on. “Hey!” she cried. “I’ve got a great idea! Let’s each get one of these and keep a diary of our trip. Then, when we get back home, we can share them with each other. It’ll be like writing one long letter full of all the interesting stuff we might forget.”
“That is a great idea.” Phil turned around and grabbed two journals off the shelf. He handed one to her. “One for you and one for me. That way I’ll learn all about the Oregon Trail and you’ll learn all about white-water rafting. It’s almost like going on two vacations.”
“Well, almost, but not quite.” Stevie laughed. “Look, I’ve got to go. I hope you have a wonderful trip, Phil.”
Phil gave her a gentle smile. “Same here, Stevie. I’ll call you as soon as I get back to town.” He waved to Lisa and Carole. “Have a great vacation! I’m sure the Oregon Trail will never be the same!”
RL 5, 009–012
A Bantam Skylark Book/August 1998
Skylark Books is a registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and elsewhere.
“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.
Copyright © 1998 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.
Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada.
Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.
I would like to express my special thanks
to Sallie Bissell for her help
in the writing of this book.
Thanks also to Ellen Levine,
who helped me find the trail.
unbuckled her riding helmet and wiped the sweat from her forehead. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone over so many cavalletti in one hour. I was beginning to feel like a Mexican jumping bean.”
Carole Hanson smiled as she clipped her horse, Starlight, to a set of cross-ties. “I know what you mean, Stevie. But just think. If you feel like a Mexican jumping bean, then these horses must feel like kangaroos!”
“I vote that we rub them down and then cool ourselves off over at TD’s with an ice cream,” suggested Lisa Atwood, running a dandy brush over Prancer’s damp withers.
“That’s a great idea!” Stevie said. “I’m amazed I didn’t think of it first.”
“Actually, Stevie, we’re amazed you didn’t think of it first, too,” Carole laughed.
The girls continued to groom their horses. Stevie loosened Belle’s leg wraps while Carole and Lisa gave Starlight and Prancer a good brushing.
“You know, it’s too bad Max doesn’t have one of those electronic horse groomers,” Stevie said as she brushed Belle’s thick mane.
“An electronic horse groomer?” Lisa frowned.
“Yeah. Remember that thing Judy used on Danny? It looked like a little vacuum cleaner,” explained Stevie.
“Oh, right,” said Carole. “But I can’t help wondering how the horse feels about being treated like a piece of carpet.”
“I don’t know,” Stevie said, chuckling. “But Judy loved it! And Danny didn’t seem to mind.”
“There you three are!” A woman’s excited voice rang out from the far end of the stable.
The girls turned. Deborah Hale, Max Regnery’s wife, hurried toward them, their baby girl, Maxi, in her arms. “Max said you had just finished the advanced jumps class and were probably on your way to TD’s. I’m so glad I caught you!”
“What’s up, Deborah?” Lisa shot a puzzled glance at Stevie and Carole.
Deborah spoke in a rush. “I just got a call from Bart Charles, an editor down at the paper. He wants me to write a feature article, but first I need to go into the city to meet with him this afternoon. I can’t take Maxi with me, and Max has three private lessons this afternoon, so I was wondering if you girls could help me out and sit with Maxi.” She looked at The Saddle Club pleadingly.
“Sure.” Carole answered for all of them without hesitation. “We’d be glad to.”
“After all, that’s what The Saddle Club is for—to help each other out whenever we need it.” Stevie grinned. “And, Deborah, you and Maxi and Max are all honorary Saddle Club members.”
“Wonderful,” Deborah said with relief. “I’ll go home and get ready. You guys come on over when you finish with your horses. Maxi and I will be waiting.” Smiling happily, she hurried with Maxi out of the cool, dark stable and into the bright summer day.
After the girls finished grooming their horses, they put them back in their stalls with an extra armload of hay and walked over to the white clapboard farmhouse where Max and Deborah lived. It was up a slight hill just behind the stable. Deborah and Maxi were sitting in the wide porch swing, waiting for them.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.” Deborah smiled. She’d changed out of her jeans and was wearing a blue business suit that matched her eyes.
“It’ll be fun,” said Lisa.
“Well, just remember, Maxi’s crawling now, and anything she can pick up goes immediately into her mouth. She ought to be ready for her nap in a little while, so this should be pretty easy baby-sitting. If you have any problems, though, just run down to the stable. Max and Mrs. Reg are both there and can help in an emergency.” Deborah handed Maxi to Carole and checked her watch. “I’ve got to go! Thanks so much, girls. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
“Good luck!” Stevie called as Deborah ran to her car. “Don’t worry about a thing.”
“Ouch, Maxi! Let go!” Carole yelped. Maxi had grabbed one of Carole’s small stirrup-shaped earrings and was trying to put it into her mouth. “I need that ear for the rest of summer vacation!”
“Come to Aunt Stevie, Maxi.” Stevie held out her arms and tried to distract the baby from Carole’s ear. Maxi gurgled, let go of the earring, and allowed Stevie to take her. Stevie began walking her up and down the porch, but stopped when Maxi grabbed a fistful of her long honey blond hair.
“Ow, Maxi!” Stevie cried. “That hair was attached to my head!” Maxi giggled and pulled even harder.
“Why don’t we put her in her playpen?” Lisa suggested. “Deborah said it was almost time for her nap.”
“Good idea,” said Stevie, wincing with pain as Maxi yanked another handful of hair. “Otherwise I might wind up bald.”
Lisa held the door open while Stevie carried Maxi into the house. Her playpen was set up in the living room. After Carole cleared it of a stuffed Big Bird and a plastic ball, Stevie laid Maxi down on her stomach. Immediately the baby rolled over and sat up, but Stevie and Lisa and Carole had already begun to tiptoe toward the kitchen.
“It’s time for you to take a nap now, Maxi,” Carole whispered as Maxi blinked. “Don’t worry. We’ll be right in here.”
The girls gently closed the door and sat down at the kitchen table.
“How can we tell what’s she doing in there if we’re sitting in here?” Stevie frowned with concern.
“Haven’t you ever seen one of these?” Lisa switched on a white plastic box that looked like a small radio.
“No,” replied Stevie. “I don’t baby-sit all that much. My last job was feeding Mrs. Perkins’s parakeets.”
Lisa smiled. “Well, this is even better than an electronic horse groomer. This is a baby monitor.” She turned the dial. “Listen.”
The girls bent over and listened to the monitor. They heard a slight rustling noise.
“Sounds like she might be getting comfortable to go to sleep,” said Carole. “I wish my CD player sounded that clear.”
“I wish my CD-ROM sounded like anything at all,” complained Stevie. “I was up to the final level of that game Squelch when stupid Chad crashed the hard drive. Now the only thing the computer can say is ‘You have performed an illegal operation.…’ ”
“Shhh!” Lisa said suddenly. “Listen.”
The girls leaned over the monitor again. The gentle rustling noise had stopped. They heard a little chirp, then a louder whimper, and then a full-fledged cry.
“Come on,” Lisa said as she got up from her chair. “Let’s go calm her down and maybe we can get her to go to sleep.”
The girls trooped back into the living room. Maxi was sitting up in her playpen, huge tears rolling down her cheeks. She lifted her arms to be picked up.
“Poor baby Maxi,” Lisa said as she scooped up the child. “Let’s put you in your chair swing and see if that makes you sleepy.”
Lisa buckled Maxi into her swing while Stevie wound the motor.
“You know about chair swings, Stevie?” Carole asked with a laugh.
“Sure I do,” replied Stevie. “My mom just sold my old one at a garage sale.”
The girls sat and watched as the swing rocked Maxi back and forth. Slowly her eyelids began to droop, but then, as soon as she realized she was falling asleep, she jerked her head up and began to cry all over again.
“I don’t think the swing is working,” said Stevie as Maxi’s sobs grew louder.
“Maybe some music would help,” Carole suggested. She jumped up and began thumbing through some CDs that were stacked on a bookcase. She pulled one from the pile. “Here’s a good one.
Beethoven, Bach, and the Glorious Sounds of Nature.
Carole put the CD into the player and turned up the volume. Suddenly the room was filled with a pipe organ blaring through the sounds of a summer storm. Maxi jumped straight up at the first clap of thunder and then started yowling more loudly than ever.