Hello. I’m Tara…Tara Cummings. I’m 13 and will be starting high school in the fall. I used to be afraid to go to high school. I just knew I would be miserable. I didn’t have any friends and it seemed all the kids wanted to do was to pick on me. Now, after meeting Trouble, I think I can handle it. I’ve made some friends and feel confident I can do it. I don’t know how I could live without him. He’s taught me so much.
If you can’t tell, Trouble is my very best friend. He’s the main horse character from C.K. Volnek’s novel, A Horse Called Trouble. He is so beautiful. He’s what they call a bay—red with a black mane and tail and a white blaze down his face. At first I was scared of him. He was wild and crazy the first time I saw him, ready to kill anyone in his path. Then I realized he was just like me—picked on and abused—by Alissa.
I met Trouble when I was forced into this horse therapy program at Freedom Farms. I’ve always loved horses, though until I was sent to the program I’d never been around one in real life. No, I lived in the city, stuck in the smelly, dirty, concrete city. I had hardly ever seen live grass even, let alone horses. If something did try to grow there, it was choked out by car exhausts and people tramping it.
I used to wish I lived somewhere beautiful and green, like some place out of a travel magazine. Once, I found a bunch of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ videos in the dumpster out behind our apartment and I watched them over and over at Grandma Kay’s. (She wasn’t my real Grandmother, but I loved her as if she was. She took care of me when Mom was gone or drunk.) Anyway, I used to dream about running in the tall grass like Laura Ingalls does in the show. I never thought I would ever see that much grass. Going out to Freedom Farm was like a dream come true. It’s the most beautiful place in the world.
The farm is just outside the city, though it feels like it’s light-years away. It’s fresh and green, with tons of open spaces. Wide open pastures and white rail fences. Horses of all colors and sizes. Peaceful. And quiet. You can even see a million stars from there. I’d never smelled lilacs before I went there. Oh my gosh, I loved it!
My first day at the farm, all the kids were gagging because of the smells. I guess it was pretty bad. A guy was cleaning out some really raunchy stalls. But once I got past that, the smells grew on me. I’ve even found myself getting used to the smell of horse sweat.
At first I didn’t want to be at the farm. I was sent there because I’d been set up. I didn’t take Alissa’s purse…and she knew it. But it was just like her to get me kicked out of our school for it. I learned a long time ago to just keep my mouth shut and try to stay as low as possible to keep off everyone’s radar. Everyone expects me to be trouble. Partly because Mom was a drunk and partly because she dumped me, leaving me to fend for myself in foster care. I quit trying to prove to everyone I wasn’t bad. I couldn’t win.
After getting kicked out of school, I was sent to alternative school and they made me go to this horse therapy program at the farm. It’s a really neat program were they bring troubled kids and horses together. The horses are our teachers. I thought the instructor was so stupid the first day when she said that. How was I going to learn anything from a horse? But they do teach us—a lot. Horses could walk all over us if they wanted to, but instead they choose to work with us…if we work with them. They teach us about teamwork, respect and trust. I’ll never forget the first day Clancy tried riding. Clancy is one of the other kids in our program. He was not working with Homer and Homer let him know it. I couldn’t help but laugh. Yeah, that didn’t go over so well with Clancy. I thought he was going to kill me.
See, you have to understand, Clancy ruled Marvel’s alternative school. Or so he thought. I accidently kicked him where no guy likes to get kicked the first day I got to Marvel’s. I didn’t mean to. He dumped me out of ‘his’ chair and my leg just kicked him there. Anyway, ever since, he’s been after me. I tried to stay out of his way and hoped he’d forget. Except Alissa won’t let that happen. Alissa hates me. And I don’t know why. And she is so mean to Trouble, too. I had to do something to stop her from hurting him.
That’s when I found we had so much in common, we were both just misunderstood. And I guess because we were both tortured by Alissa, we could understand each other. We could see what she is—the problem is, no one else can. If I hadn’t met Trouble when I did, there’s no telling what would have happened to him…or me for that fact. He saved me as much as I saved him. I just hope we can keep Alissa from destroying us both.
Well, I need to go. Feeding time will be here soon and Trouble likes his oats. Thanks for visiting with me. I hope you like, A Horse Called Trouble.