Member Monday: Home Alone by Jim Barrett

Welcome to Member Monday!  It’s a pleasure to feature Writers Forum member Jim Barrett.

Jim Barrett

Author’s Biography:  Jim is a retired captain with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in California after nearly 31 years of service. During that time, Jim spent years in detectives, investigating all matter of crime from burglaries to murder. Jim is the author of three other published books, one optioned screen play and a collection of short stories which is soon to be published. He makes his home in Northern California and Idaho. Jim’s website is

Home Alone

by Jim Barrett

I rode saddle broncs for about eight years. Almost made it to the National Finals – that is til I met a horse called Buck-for-Luck in Red Bluff, California. That som-bitch planted me bad – broke me up so’s the doctor told me my riding days were done. Said I could climb back on, but expect to spend the rest of my life shittin’ in a diaper. Man got my attention, so I went lookin’ for other work. That’s entirely how I ended up working on the dude string. I mean, I wanted to work in the horse biz, sorta have a love of them big animals and there are just not that many opportunities out there.

Running Q Ranch hired me on. It’s up out of Ojai, in the Las Padres Forest. Nice country – but not the big tree country like Northern California but Chaparral brush, with some pines and of course the Sespe River. “The Q” as we called it was a different sorta dude ranch. Because the people who rode up there were actual deeded owners, we sent them out by themselves. Most were out of Los Angeles, and didn’t know squat about horses. But, I gotta admit, they were game to try. Of course, we gave them a short test before we put ‘em aboard. I mean real short—like if you’re lookin’ over their ears you’re probably sittin’ facin’ the right direction.

The ranch had a string of nice horses. Most were cooperative, suffered quietly through the indignities of gunsels on their back jerkin’ on their faces. But not all.

I met Bully on the second day I worked there. He was a big red half-thorough bred Gelding, stood near seventeen hands. Like I said, a big boy. Had a nice kind eye, just wanted to get along in the world best way he knew how. Now most of the folks who come out to ride are just as nice as can be. But ever so often, you get a jerk. I mean, ain’t that sorta like life. Assholes are out there. On this day, a guy shows up in a cloud of dust, driving too fast and jumps out of his BMW and wants to ride, like right now. I look him over real quick, smile to myself as I check out his shoe—penny loafers. He’s real obnoxious like, pushy—can’t wait for others who’ve been waiting before him to ride. Like I said, just being a jerk.  Pete, the other wrangler who has worked at The Q forever, nods at the man and heads into the barn. Out comes Bully, walking quietly on the lead line. Pete saddles the big horse, and says, “Have a nice ride,” as he hands him the reins.

When the man rides away, all quiet like at the walk, Pete just shakes his head and smiles to himself.  We both go back to saddling more of the string horses.

About an hour later, ole Bully comes meandering into the barn which is no big deal ‘cept there’s no rider. Pete catches him up and takes him into the barn and unsaddles him, brushes him quickly and puts the horse away in his stall. Since it’s only my second day, I’m a little concerned about this horse showing up without its passenger, so I walk in to talk to Pete.

“Ah, Pete—do we have to do something here?” I ask, all nervous like.

“Whatcha mean?”

“With Bully or the guy riding him.”

“I all ready took care of the horse,” he leaned against Bully’s stall door.

“What about…”

“The dude. Well if he don’t show up we’ll go take a look.”

I sighed, decided that if Pete, who’d worked at The Q forever, or did I already say that—wasn’t worried then I guess I shouldn’t. Still…

“Bully do that before?” I asked, now just making conversation.

“Bully? I don’t call this horse Bully. He’s known, sorta unofficially around here as Home Alone. We save him for certain folks. You’ll figure out who they are after you’ve worked here awhile.”

“Ah, I got it,” I said, turning and walking out of the barn to help a lady mount a horse.

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