Riding Shotgun

Free Riding Shotgun by Rita Mae Brown

Book: Riding Shotgun by Rita Mae Brown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rita Mae Brown
hard as brick and was just as red. A pouring rain would eventually soften it up, but they’d had no rain in nearly four weeks.
    “Hunter, go help Harleyetta unload. She never can back out Gypsy.” Cig cut the engine.
    “Mom, I don’t mind helping her unload but do I really, truly have to ride in front of her?”
    “Yes. Come on, honey, a lot of our business comes from the club so when people hunt we need to keep everyone happy.”
    “All right,” he grumbled and slid out as soon as Grace vacated her seat.
    Foxhunting clubs, being nonprofit, could charge dues and day rates, known’ as capping fees, to offset the costs of the sport. Jefferson Hunt kept those costs low through efficiency, but many clubs had elegant clubhouses, huge kennels filled with hungry hounds, a paid huntsman, and even paid whippers-in—those special outriders selected for skill, sense of direction, and obedience to the Huntsman. Some clubs had annual operating budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars, even providing mounts for the staff.
    People in the club came to Cig for lessons, often bought horses from her, and referred other people, so in a sense the club augmented her business. She scrupulously followed the regulations of the national association, The Master of Foxhounds Association of America, to make certain she didn’t step over the line from nonprofit to profit.
    As Hunter performed his good deed, Laura and Grace deftly unloaded the horses, which they had tacked up before loading back at the barn.
    Cig walked over to Roger. “Hey, Rog.”
    “If we can start at seven thirty on the dot, might be a good day.”
    This October had been unusually warm. Cig and Roger liked to start early because when the temperatures rose so did the scent until it wafted over the hounds’ heads. They could no longer smell it, hence no more hunting. Once frosts came, the departure time could be pushed to nine oreven ten in the morning as the frost held the odor close to the ground.
    One by one the horse trailers and fancy Imperatore horse boxes rumbled down the farm road. Roberta chugged along in her sturdy Subaru, pulling in next to Cig’s trailer. Dr. Bill Dominquez, hopping a ride with David Wheeler, soon arrived, too. Binky drove up in his brand new tricked-out Dodge Ram half-ton truck, parked next to his wife’s trailer and was bitching before he shut the truck door. Harleyetta ignored him.
    The start of a hunt was full of promise and forgotten stock pins; happy greetings between people madly rushing from trailer to trailer to see if anyone had an extra pair of stirrup leathers, pins, gloves,
, hunt caps. Each beginning was different yet somehow the same. All the scurrying and shouting eventually settled into everyone being tacked up, jackets on, boots clean, tails brushed out, flasks filled, and girths checked and double-checked. Finally the last, the slowest, would be mounted—usually Florence Moeser, two years older than God—then the group would gather around the Master.
    Today the heel came off Roberta’s right boot. Boarders can be a pain in the ass, and Roberta, a nice enough lady, was no exception. She never could quite pull herself together without assistance.
    “I’ll never be able to keep my foot from going through the stirrup. What’ll I do?” she wailed.
    “Don’t worry, Miss Ericson, I can fix it.” Hunter reached into the trailer tackroom, yanked out the toolbox, found a hammer and nailed the heel back on. “There. Guess you’ll have to get them resoled.”
    “I’m sure not going to buy a new pair.” Roberta gratefully took her boot from Hunter’s outstretched hand. “Binky gets a new pair every two years. Can you imagine being that rich?”
    “No, ma’am,” Hunter truthfully replied.
    “Helps to be born to the right person, I guess,” Roberta wiggled her foot into the boot.
    “I was,” Hunter stated matter-of-factly.
    Roberta stopped a moment. “Well, of course you were, Hunter. I didn’t mean that,

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