Next is the blurb and a short excerpt to kind of whet your appetite. Later I will post some of the background and history behind this story. Yes, it has been published before but is out of pint now and I wanted it to be available when a brand new spin-off comes out in July, A Mule for a Princess
Blurb: Orr Loveless is exactly where he knows he belongs, rescuing and training mules. Despite their reputation, which he feels is undeserved, he knows they are smart, sure footed and great mounts for trail riding and outdoor adventures. He has no tolerance for anyone who mistreats them or any other animals but he can’t always give such folks the “what for” they deserve. The only thing he lacks is a human partner to share the work and the fun and he knows his lifestyle is not likely to attract one.
Jase Keller has been drawn back to
where his forgotten roots have remained. His high finance job is about to
destroy him and he desperately needs a big change of pace for this vacation. Once he gets a taste of adventure, it’s the opposite of the farm boy seeing the
city for the first time. Jase has now
seen another life and it’s the one he wants. But how do you persuade a stubborn mule
man? Perhaps by showing him that he need be “loveless” no longer! New Mexico
Orr glanced back now and then to see how his guest fared. The four pack mules trundled along behind him, well used to the routine. He knew Horatio was offended to be carrying a mere pack instead of leading the way with Orr on his back. That was necessary because the big mule was the strongest one in Orr’s string and ideal for carrying the heavy load of feed. Behind him came Rojo, a stocky red john mule. Dull and steady, he was not one of Orr’s favorite mounts and usually ended up in the pack string.
Next came gray Lulu, who still had a few rough edges. He didn’t know much about her background, but figured she’d had more than her share of harsh treatment. In time he felt she’d get over being so spooky. Penny was last, carrying the lightest load. He knew she was still too young to have to bear very much weight. She was not ready yet to carry a rider in rough country all day, either. Still, she seemed to be holding up well, and her sweet disposition, despite the abuse she’d received, had already won her a favored place with him.
Katie kept up a steady pace at the rear. Jase, however, slumped in the saddle. Orr could see the pain and weariness on his face as well as his posture. Oh-oh. Maybe I got a little too ambitious for him. Being gym-athletic isn’t the same as being a regular saddle- wise cowboy or mule man. He’s going to be one hurting puppy tonight.
If he could, Orr would have stopped right there and made camp. That wasn’t possible. Both the mules and their riders would need water, and it was still several miles to the spring in a pleasant little valley that was one of Orr’s favorite campsites. The place had some trees edging the meadow that were just right for picketing the mules, a nice level place to pitch the tent, and a good stone fire pit he’d used many times. Another hour would see them there. Jase would just have to tough it out. Still, he edged off the trail and beckoned the other man to come up alongside.
“How you doing? Is ole Katie giving you a good ride?”
Jase made an obvious effort to straighten his back and pull his shoulders out of a slump as he reined in beside Orr. “Oh, I’m doing fine, and she’s a great mule for sure. Never stumbled once. You were right about her taking everything in stride on that trail. Even when there were a few kinda nervy spots, she never missed a step. I did like you said and just left it to her.”
Orr looked the other man over, noted how he shifted in the saddle, taking first one cheek and then the other off the leather and stretching one leg at a time. “You’re gonna be kinda stiff, I reckon. I probably should’ve made the first day a little shorter. Could have, if I’d taken a different trail, but this is one of my favorites. In hunting season, there’s a lot of game up this way, too. Can you make it about an hour more?”
Jase nodded. “Oh yeah, I’m okay.”
Orr knew the other man was lying through his teeth. Still, he had to admire the stubborn gumption he showed.
“Okay, it’s not that far, really. The mules will smell the water in another mile or two and pick up their pace. They know the area pretty well, except Penny. This is her first trip. Bet she’ll remember next time. Mules are smart that way.”
They reached the campsite about an hour later. Just as Orr knew they would, the mules had picked up their pace to their fastest walk about a mile out. A glance back told him Jase clung grimly to the saddle horn and alternated between bouncing a few steps on his ass to trying to stand in the stirrups. Even if Orr had adjusted them carefully so he could, Jase was clearly not that familiar with the easiest way to sit a saddle. Orr smiled with a grim twist. He’ll learn.
Orr allowed the mules just a few sips of water from the stream because they were still too warm to drink a lot. Then they walked directly to the cable strung between two big pine trees that served as a picket line. They lined up from left to right without any direction in the order they were traveling. Katie took the last place, stopped and stood quietly. Orr got down and began to tie each mule in its place as he watched Jase out of the corner of his eye.
The other man grimaced, shifted experimentally and finally swung his right leg up and over Katie’s rump. Before his right foot quite hit the ground, his left slipped from the stirrup. Both feet hit, and his knees buckled. Although he made a frantic grab for the saddle horn, missed and then tried for the stirrup, he could not catch himself in time. He sprawled to the ground, falling more than halfway under Katie’s belly.