Frank Hazelton is an ex-con who has managed to create a nice life for himself on a Tampa thoroughbred rescue farm. He has his horses that he heals and boys that he teaches to do the same. Until one day, a rap star with an attitude creates havoc on the farm. Frank went into prison because of his violent side; can he control it at a time that's so important to the operation?
I know horse manure about the music business and rap stars and them kinda people so when I had the chance to throw Big Swinging Dick right the hell out of my barn, it wasn’t hard.
The day started out hustle-bustle. I’m usually the first one at the barn -- I hardly sleep past five o’clock any more after all them years inside, plus I got a trailer on-site that the Department of Corrections pretends ain’t there because of liability issues. Dr. Ripley calls it a storage trailer on the paperwork -- I do have horse pellets, meds, bridle parts and such in one bedroom. Nice to have a place of my own that’s bigger than an eight by ten cell.
That day, Miguel was already leading horses out to pasture when I strolled up just before six.
“Hola, Mr. Hazelton,” Miguel said. Annie was on the other end of his purple lead rope. She was a gray, leggy in that sleek Thoroughbred way, even being twenty years old. Lots of mares get butt-sprung and round, especially if they’ve been bred, but old Annie was still slim with that curve up under her back legs showin’ her waist. When we did tours for the Girl Scouts or Kiwanis or whoever, Annie liked getting her mane and tail all braided up, and she flashed them ribbons around like a girl wearing bangle bracelets.
“Where’d you get that fancy shirt?” I tugged at one of Miguel’s baggy sleeves -- he was a skinny kid, weighed maybe a buck twenty, even after three runs at the buffet. He wore one of them golf-type shirts, with a floppy collar and the polo player on it, some peach shade. Girly-looking, if you asked me.
“I got it at the rehab center store,” Miguel said. “They give us first dibs on donations if we help with the sorting and I found this.” He blushed a little, rubbing Annie’s neck.
“Well, it looks nice,” I managed to say.
Poor kid. I wasn’t about to tell him that the women who was coming today, hanging onto the rap star with his famous face and big cars and loud music, those women wouldn’t look twice at Miguel. Him with his GED part finished and his shared room at the halfway house and four years of hard time.
“Thanks, Mr. Hazelton.” Annie butted her head into Miguel’s hip, bored with the conversation and wanting to get out to the field with her friends.
“Meeting at seven o’clock, my office,” I said.
“Yes, sir.” They clopped away, Annie’s hooves on the concrete walkway a steady beat of comfort. Nothing as soothing to my ears.
Just after seven, the whole team crowded into my little office at the south end of Barn Three. Most of my boys were duded up in one way or another, even if it only meant they was wearing ironed jeans and clean shirts. Petey showed up in fancy cowboy boots, red, yellow and turquoise all swirly on the leather and bright silver toe taps. None of ‘em wore our brown uniform shirt, had that little DOC logo and a horse and our motto, “saving horses, building lives,” on it. I know Dr. Ripley finagled them shirts for us somehow -- not much budget -- but man, those shirts are ugly.