Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Christian Women’s Fiction

Yesterday, I shared part of Make Me Howl. Today, I’m going to share the beginning of my first Christian Women’s Fiction. It’s nearly finished. I hope. 🙂

For now, I’m calling it TEXAS HEARTS, but I’m always open to a better idea. 🙂

Do they still hang horse thieves in Texas?

Buck tensed his muscles in his ready-to-run dance. Jessie stroked his neck and murmured, “Hang on, boy. It’s nearly time.”

Focusing on the ride, she walked Buck into position. The excitement built, adrenalin shot through her muscles like lightning strikes. Tugging her Stetson low so there was no chance of losing it, she leaned into the saddle, took a firm grip on Buck’s reins, inhaled, blew it out long and slow and booted him in the ribs.

He took off in an explosion of energy; she leaned into the run. She concentrated on the first barrel, the cheers of the crowd dimming to near silence. Spectator faces blurred past as they rounded second. Yes! It felt good. This is where she belonged.

Buck ran flat out as they charged the third turn. Heading into the pocket, he dug in, and the world shifted. Dipped. She snatched a breath and held tight to the saddle horn, her heart pounding as he fought for footing. He slid in the loose earth. She gave him his head, praying, by some miracle, he could stay on his feet.

Buck’s back left leg disappeared from under them. Fear tore through her as they dropped, then slammed into the ground. The saddle horn jerked from her grip.

He floundered, trying to get up. She kicked her foot free and tried to shove away from the panicked animal, but she couldn’t move. Her other leg was under him. Stories of riders being killed from similar falls flashed through her mind.

Buck fought his way to his feet, yanking her leg high in the air with her foot through the stirrup and leaving her head on the ground. His shod hooves cut so close, he kicked dirt in her face as he danced with anxiety.

If she could catch her breath, make him hear her, he might calm. But she couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t find words to ease him.

He threw his head back, gathering himself as he looked for a way to escape the nightmare.

Slamming shut her eyes, she wrapped her arms around her head. God! Help me.

“Whoa! It’s all right, fella.”

The man’s soothing voice calmed her. Removing her arms, she was able to see a cowboy with dark red hair take his life in his hands. No! Getting in front of a panicked horse is suicide. She struggled to form the words, but he stepped in front of Buck and grabbed the bridle. “You’re all right, boy. Shhhh.”

Buck quivered all over, but the stranger in the black hat released one hand to stroke his neck.

Cowboys who’d been watching from the nearby arena fence surrounded her, released her foot from the stirrup and helped her to her stand. Weak as water, she stiffened her knees so she could walk.

She had to see about Buck. What would she do if she’d seriously injured him? Had she stolen him just to have to put him down?

Quelling the sobs gathering inside her, she dragged in a rough breath and stumbled to the man at Buck’s head. “Is he okay?”

He kept stroking Buck’s neck, the fabric of his crisply starched shirt sleeve pleating rather than wrinkling like hers. “He’s skittish as a green-broke colt. Can you take his head?”

With a nod, she threaded her fingers through the bridle. The man moved to Buck’s side, the fringe on his chaps swinging with each step. He ran his hands down each of Buck’s legs. “I think he’s all right.”

Her frozen insides started to melt at his words. As she blew out her pent up breath, a knife jabbed her in the ribs. The fall must have been harder than she realized. She slid her fingers over the hurt. No blood. That was a good thing.

The man took his gaze from Buck for the first time to glance at her with eyes as green as tree leaves. “You all right?”

The inspiration came when G-Man and I went to the Jim Shoulders Rodeo in Tulsa a few years ago. They had cameras and a big screen showing closeups of all the action in the arena.

Even when one girl’s horse went down with her on the third barrel, we saw it all. Almost as soon as they were down, they were surrounded by fence sitting cowboys, who quickly got her and her horse on their feet.

So that’s the beginning of my first nearly finished Christian Women’s Fiction. Thoughts?



After the sadness of the blog on Saturday, I wanted to talk about something happier. Hope you enjoy.

I grew up around horses. We had horses named Chi Chi, Susie-Q and Black Diamond. To be honest, I don’t know much about them except don’t walk behind one (so you don’t get kicked) and how to put on a saddle. But there’s one horse that’s a legend in the Spess family.

When my dad was about twelve, which would have been in 1942, he heard about a Welsh pony for sale in the town of Keystone. He took the money he’d been saving and got his dad to drive him.

This isn’t Sparky, but he was the darker color of the horse on the left.

When Dad got to the house where the horse was for sale, the girl selling him told Dad his name was Sparky and asked if he wanted to ride him. Of course he did. They saddled Sparky and Dad got onboard.

First thing the horse did was run through the family’s garden and try to scrape Dad off with the clothesline. But it wasn’t Dad’s first time on horseback, so he was okay. They paid for the horse (saddle and bridle were part of the deal) and Dad rode the horse home.

Dad said Sparky was one of the smartest horses he ever ran across. Although he wasn’t very tall (taller than a Shetland, though) he could jump any fence on the farm. He loved hanging out with the mares, even though he was a gelding. (No longer a daddy.)

Sparky was the best horse ever! At least on the Spess Farm. Most of my memories are of the cousins all riding him. I remember him at the ‘Ford rodeo at least one year. They took turns riding him in the Rodeo Parade.

When I was small, I got on him with dad and we rode a bucking bronco. (Dad was making him buck on purpose.)

One of my girl cousins liked to take a double handful of oats out and feed him when she was no taller than his hip. (As I said, Welshes aren’t very tall horses.) There’s even a story about him running away when one of my aunts was riding him, but Dad says Sparky was just teasing. 🙂

Sparky was gentle when a small child was on his back, but not above a buck or two when the older guys were there.

I remember Dad saying once that Gene Autry retired his horse, Champion, on ten acres of prime alfalfa. Sparky was retired on 160 of prime alfalfa. (There was no keeping him off because he loved to jump.)

Dad owned Sparky for over twenty-five years before the gelding died. They found him where he’d tried one last time to jump a fence.

I like to think there were mares on the other side.

Did your family have horses when you were growing up? Are your memories of them as happy as mine?