Truckers have a reputation for doing more than driving on the road. Rough work, rough rides, and rough trade are often the game. But when Robert meets Sean, a walker looking for a way down to Florida, something shifts. Sean had been knocked around by more than someone's fists, and it touches Robert's heart.
Sometimes horsing around is just fun and games. And sometimes it's something else entirely ...
That Wednesday morning, I had a load-up at Rockstar Farms, one of those “boutique” horse operations that’s so fancy you’re nervous to spit on the ground. There were orange traffic cones set up a half mile from the loading area. A groom ran out, waving his arms and made me park way out from the barn.
“What the hell is going on?” I asked Mitch, the head groom, after a damn long hike up the drive.
“Mrs. Pelland has decided she wants a Goddamned burgundy and yellow color scheme,” he answered in between chews on his toothpick. “So, guess what? She’s getting a Goddamned burgundy and yellow color scheme.”
“In a horse barn?” I said.
“And we get to move all the horses out, repaint every stall on the property, then move the horses back in.”
“Maybe she’ll want you to dye the horses burgundy, too.”
Mitch smiled. “Maybe I’d dye them yeller. It’d be a helluva surprise to see palomino horses show up to run the Kentucky Derby.”
Horse operations have a weird mix of people in them. You got your owners who are so rich I swear they have someone else wipe their butts. You got your barn managers who are frazzled as shit trying to keep the owners, the staff and the horses happy. There’s the grooms and barn help who actually do the scutwork and there’s the occasional walker. Walkers are what we call those guys -- they’re almost always guys -- who hitchhike the circuit, picking up cash at one barn or another and crashing in a spare horse stall.
We watched the grooms do a final brush-out of the two mares I was picking up. The one mare’s little foal jittered around, tugging at its purple halter, antsy.
“You got the big rig today. More pick-ups to do on the way back?” Mitch asked.
“Naw, just these two. I dropped off eight horses over to Aiken.”
“Cold front coming down.”
“I think I’ll outrun it. Stay on 65 all the way.”
The horses and their -- no shit -- bottled water got loaded and we said our good-byes.
I’d let the mares load after checking their lip tattoos. I learned that lesson early. Once, I grabbed a bay stallion that a farm groom led out to me -- and shoot, what a pisser he was to load and unload, twelve hundred pounds of hormone-addled fuckheadedness -- drove him eight hundred miles back home and then Marcus told me I’d brought the wrong damn horse. Felt like an idiot. Thoroughbreds look an awful lot alike, especially the bays, so now instead of trusting the grooms to bring me the right horse, I always check their lips before I let ‘em load.