I’m continuing to do mostly security work, riding the perimeters of the fences and keeping an eye out for trouble. The things I look for are:
• No-fault problems, like broken fences
• Wild animals that might harm our foals, such as packs of feral dogs
• Vandalism from kids on a dare or local rivals
• Suspicious characters of all kinds
• Horse thieves and raiders
This last surprised me when Lee came to walk his horse beside me one afternoon.
“I thought you had police and military in these parts,” I said. “How could you have problems with raiders?”
“There ain’t enough government to watch everything,” he said. “They mainly try to keep the roads clear and the trains moving, so people can get food, medicine and other goods. They can’t spare men to chase down every gang of three or four teenagers who think it would be fun to steal a metal gate for scrap or kidnap a prize horse for ransom. When it comes to that kind of stuff, we’re on our own.”
I considered this, looking at the peaceful fields and paddocks. “I haven’t seen any trouble in the time I’ve been here.”
“That’s because we’re in the watch program. Every farm up and down this road is under obligation to monitor their property lines and report findings to the local council that meets once a month. We haven’t had much trouble since we set up the watch.”
I had to admit it was a good plan. I had seen the occasional town or valley back home do the same thing. If everyone has visible patrols on their property, pretty soon word gets around the criminal community that one should look elsewhere for easy marks.
“Kind of makes you wonder what we need state and federal governments for, doesn’t it?” he said.
I straightened up in my saddle. “I had a talk with my Aunt Amalia about that once. She said it’s so no one group will monopolize important resources. You know—like block the rail line and not let the trains pass unless they pay a fee or something.”
“Now there’s a good way to make money!” Lee screwed up his face and pretended to consider the matter seriously, but then gave me a sly smile and wink from under his hat brim. “Speaking of money, when is Eli going to start paying you?”
“When someone quits or dies, I guess.” When Lee frowned, I added, “But it’s okay. As long as me and Flecha have food and shelter, we can go a long time without much money.”
Lee didn’t seem too happy with my answer, but he didn’t argue. It was a pretty day and we chatted about inconsequential things before he rode off to resume his real work overseeing the maintenance of barns and equipment.
In the evening after supper, Patrick came to the barn and we settled in with the math book. I’m supposed to be studying fractions, but instead, I mainly just copy the problems out of the book and stare at them.
Poor Patrick! He’s so patient with me. He makes circles and cuts lines across them so they look like pies and cakes ready for serving. And then he ruins it all by trying to convince me that it’s just as good to have three pieces out of a pie cut into five pieces, as to have six pieces of a pie cut into ten.
“I’d rather have six. They would last longer.”
“But they’re still the same amount.” He pointed to his drawings in exasperation. “Don’t you see? It’s all about finding the lowest common denominator.”
“I thought this was about which was better—three or six pieces of pie.”
“It’s not about what’s better. It’s about what’s equal to what.”
“Three can’t ever be equal to six. That's stupid math.”
I think he got mad at me, because he put the book away and we talked about how plants grow, instead.
We’ll see how smart Patrick thinks he is tomorrow at his riding lesson. He’s gotten better, but he still can’t handle more than baby jumps. He won’t lean his body over the withers and raise the reins high. Consequently, he doesn’t get the right kind of balance, which makes jumping dangerous.
It seems Patrick doesn’t understand anything that’s not in a book. And since his books are full of such crazy things as adding letters to numbers and pretending three can be six, it’s no wonder he’s all confused about how things work in the real world. Poor kid.
But somehow I’m going to learn everything that’s in these books, even if I have to memorize it just long enough to pass the entrance exam. I’m not going to let something as dumb as a few numbers keep me from my goals.
I even wrote to Auntie what I’m doing. I know it will hurt a little, because she’ll think of her sister Carina, who died the day of the raid in Valle Redondo. But Carina thought I had great potential to become a veterinarian, so I hope Auntie remembers this and is proud of me.