Dream Catcher, 2008 First Place Senior Youth

By Caitlin R. Halone

“There is no more discussion Callie, you are going!”

“But Dad I don’t think-“ He cut me off again.

“Don’t you talk to me like that, young lady.” Dad’s voice was sharper than a knife blade. He turned and started walking to the house

I took a deep breath and tried to state my view in a logical voice. “Isn’t this my life, so I decide what I want to do?”

Dad turned around, his lips hardening into a firm line. “You have the opportunities I never did. You are not going to struggle to make ends meet. There is no money in being,” Dad spat it out like a dirty word. “a writer. You are going to college. I don’t want to hear another word about this again.”

When he stalked away, I turned and ran towards the barn, half blinded by angry tears. Why couldn’t he see it my way? Shouldn’t I be able to do what I loved? I flung open the heavy oak door and slammed it behind me, stumbling over a saddle blanket. Reaching over to the hooks on the wall I grabbed a bridle. “Urgh.” I gritted my teeth as I stamped into the barn. “So what if college gets you better jobs. I don’t want to go.” I muttered as I opened the stall door and clucked to my black mare, Magic. She tossed her head, pricking her ears at me as I tripped over my own feet and muttered under my breath.

“Come on Magic.” She backed away, still staring at me. I walked up and patted her. She swished her tail, nudging me. When I gave her a grumpy push, she shoved me back harder. “Knock it off.” I snapped. “Stand still so we can get out of here.” I bridled her and led her out of the stall to a hay bale. “Now stand still.” I stepped on the bale and leaned for her back. “Don’t even think about moving.” At the sharp tone in my voice, Magic sidled away from the bale, eyes rolling as if she had seen a rattlesnake.

I decided to give myself a nice pep talk. “Ok Callie, you know that she’ll behave if you just calm down.” I told myself in a syrupy sweet voice. “And if you don’t, you’ll get dumped on your face.” Magic snorted as I petted her, trying to calm myself. This time she stood still and I swung onto her back. Eager to go she fidgeted while I gathered my reins.

“Ok girl.” I said when we were out of the barn, facing the Sawtooth Mountains. “Let’s go.” We trotted out of the barn. Eager to run, Magic pulled at the bit as we cantered along through the tall green grass of the meadow. Mountain blue birds flew past us and a pheasant startled up from the grass. With the sun playing peek-a-boo behind a few white cotton clouds, I dropped my bad mood. Magic was enjoying this too, and pretended to shy at the blowing grass. She bobbed her head, giving a light push against the bit. I let her have her run, nudging her with my heels and we were speeding though the Idaho spring day.

By the time we reached the stream across the meadow, I was feeling happy and alive. “Go to college and leave this?” I said aloud. “All I need is right here.”

After crossing the stream, we loped along the winding trail up to the top of a small butte that stood half a mile on the other side of the stream. It was my place to sit and think. Magic slowed to a smooth trot, but she was huffing and a wave of sweat darkened her black coat. I let her rest a minute before continuing.

“We’re almost there girl.” I said. The last fifty feet of the trail was steep, soft dirt that gave way under hooves. I kicked her hard and she charged up the slope. Dirt rained down below us as I clung to her mane. With one last grunt of effort, she heaved herself over the top. I slid off and let her take a few nibbles of grass, knotting the reins around her neck.

The butte was like a table on top, flat and covered in swaying grass. I picked a clump of lupine that grew in between some rocks and flopped on my stomach in the knee-high grass. A ladybug scurried down a grass blade by my wrist and the sound of Magic’s rhythmic chomping made me restless, when it usually soothed me. The butte always calmed me, but today my thoughts were swirling around like a tornado.

“Why can’t he understand.” I said to a passing bluebird. “College isn’t what I want to do, and I don’t need to do it. He’s just worried I’ll never make any money as a writer.” I tore a grass blade to tiny pieces and tossed them into the wind. “I know I’ll have to work a lot harder, but I’d rather be a broke writer then a wealthy college student.” I slammed my fist into the dirt. I didn’t want to go against Dad, but nothing else but following my dreams would make me happy, and that was more important to me than anything.

I stood up. I wasn’t eager to face Dad, but my decision was made. Magic was still eating as I made a running leap onto her back. Surprised she threw up her head and I grabbed the reins. “See what I would be missing.” I told her, smiling. “Your orneriness.” She bobbed her head and I turned and started down the butte.

As we trotted down the winding trail, I heard the rumble of distant thunder. “Whoa girl.” I stopped Magic and looked over to west. A curtain of rain had descended over the Sawtooth Mountains and was heading our way. “Ok Magic, let’s get out of here.” With the breeze turning into a wind and the smell of rain in the air, she was happy to oblige. Once we splashed through the stream and hit the meadow I let her run as fast as she could. Then I realized how beautiful this valley was and how lucky I was to be riding my mischievous mare and be a part of it all. A few drops of rain began to spot Magic’s dusty hide.

“Let’s go girl.” I shouted, louder than the rain and the wind. College could never have the snow-capped peaks I saw every morning, the wild creatures scampered and scurried, the temperamental weather that alternately pounded down rain and blew warm, gentle winds. I felt euphoric, joyful and wild and all kinds of things mixed with the mountain thunderstorm and my horse running underneath me. “Yeeee HAH!” I shouted, throwing my arms up. Magic bobbed her head and gave a playful kick and I was jolted forward onto her neck.

“Knock it off you goof.” I scolded her, laughing. I felt nothing but happiness.

Until we reached the barn, that was. Dad was leaning against the door to the tack room and by the way he was looking at me I was in trouble. My happiness in my new found decision was forgotten. I slowed Magic to a walk and hopped off, my soaked boots making a squishy sound. Dad stepped forward, looking me over. I was soaked.

“Your mother was a bit worried, but I told her you’d be fine.” Dad looked me up and down, satisfied I wasn’t hurt or mangled, just wet.

I nodded and walked past him, bringing Magic to her stall. I slipped the bridle off her head and she trotted into the muddy paddock. I didn’t know what to say to Dad. So I went about my evening chores, letting him lean against the door. Usually I complained to him about the injustice of it all. This time I had to remain calm and mature and not get emotional. So I cleaned stalls and fed the horses.

“What colleges are you going to apply for?” That was Dad’s way of reminding me of what he was telling me to do.

“I think you know my decision.” I kept my voice respectful, but firm.

Dad threw a few flakes of hay to the horses. I could see his jaw tighten.

“It’s what I want to be Dad.” That set him off.

“That’s what you want to be, live and die broke.” Dad turned towards me. “Callie, your mother and I don’t want you to have to worry about money as much as we do. We want you to have a good life!”

I couldn’t remember the last time Dad had been this upset about something. He was always calm and firm and all my arguing never changed anything.

“You can’t stop me.” I crossed my arms and lifted my chin. “I’ll be 18 in two months.”

Dad just shook his head. “You’re stubborn and it won’t get you anywhere.”

“I’ll be happy.” I offered. “I can’t leave you and Mom and Magic and this valley and the mountains I see every day. I’ve no reason to go- I found what I want to do. I love to write.”

Dad turned and walked out of the barn, his boots hitting the concrete with soft thuds.

“At least I’ll be happy.” I raised my voice so he could hear me.

He stopped and half turned towards me. Rain sluiced off his cowboy hat and pounded his jacket.

“I’d rather live poor and happy then rich.” I said.

For a moment he stared and then he walked out of the barn.

I finished up my chores then went to the house. Mom didn’t say anything to me. I climbed the stairs to my room. I took out my notebook and sitting down at my desk that faced the Sawtooth Mountains, I began to write. I wrote about my wanting to be a writer, about Dad wanting me to go to college. I wrote about my escaping on Magic to the butte and my conclusion and about the wildness of the meadows and mountains I couldn’t leave. I wrote about our argument in the barn. Then I typed it up onto my computer and printed it. I hoped that Dad would understand.

As I crept to the top of the stairs, I could hear Mom and Dad talking in low voices. They were sitting at the dining room table, so I tiptoed to their room. I folded up the sheets of paper and put it on Dad’s pillow.

The next morning while I was mucking stalls, I heard Dad come into the barn. Oh no. He was coming tell me that I wasn’t worth anything and I would be handcuffed and dragged to college. A lump in my throat threatened to choke me as he stopped outside the stall.

“Hi Dad.”

“Callie, come here.” Dad pulled me into a hug that smelled of hay and horses. I squeezed him tight. “So that’s why you want to stay.”

“Yeah, it’s all there.” I said.

His eyes were a little moist. “That story made me understand why you need to be what you want. You can write, honey and I’m proud of you.”

“Dad thanks.” I hugged him again.

“Well,” he said, his voice gruff. “Don’t you have some writing to do?”

My grin almost cracked my face. He took the rake and nudged me towards the house.

“Bye Dad.” I ran to the house and to my notebook.


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