Terri Farley
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August 1

We've had lots of summer storms and the horses have been kicking up their heels and splashing around every time the rain stops.

But Dad hasn't enjoyed the weather quite as much. He's been spending more time inside than he likes, and he started talking about getting ready to go back to school. On the first day of August!

That's why I was kind of irritated with him until he came up with an amazing idea. He got a crow bar and started tearing out the cabinet under the stairs (did I mention Brynna wasn't home?) and built me a triangular study area under the stairs!

That's not even the cool part.

This is: it's a horse homework area!

Dad and I searched the house, the barn and tack shed and wow, it turned out to be a treasure hunt.

We found a stool -- painted blue and a little faded -- that wasn't being used for anything and Dad attached an old saddle to the top so that I can "ride" while I work!

Then he remembered storing away an old-fashioned wooden school desk with a place for an ink well that used to be in the old bunkhouse before the fire. It smells a little smokey, but it's not scorched and fits just perfectly in that little space.

I got into Brynna's sewing stuff, looking for the cloth that she's been meaning to stitch into pillows for my bed. The background is all shades of yellow and green grass and there are wild horses running across it.

"I can't sew, " I told Dad," but I wish I could think of something to do with this."

Dad was in total nesting mode, because he flapped the cloth out, put it on the living room floor, did some measuring, then got some big shears and cut it up the middle. Then, he used a hammer and nails and made a curtain, so that my private office has kind of a door.

I hummed as I put books -- my thesaurus, which I love, is in a place of honor -- on the shelves Dad made. But I wasn't humming so loudly that I didn't hear Dad clomping around up in the attic.

He wasn't there for long, but when he came down, he stood outside my curtain. Just stood there, and I could hear the rain showering down outside, and Blaze's toenails clicking on the kitchen floor as he paced.

Finally, he pushed the curtain aside and handed me a metal box (about the size of a big loaf of bread).

"Your mom would want you to have everything in there," he said and though he'd given it to me himself, he kept a hand resting gently on top of it. "But here's the deal, honey, you can't lose any of it, so it's not allowed to leave this room."

Any other time, I might've joked that this teeny space under the stairs didn't qualify as a room. Instead, because Dad turned and left me, I sat on my saddle stool.

I hear Dad's slicker crinkle and the door opened and closed. Alone with something that had been my mom's, I opened the box carefully.

Inside, there was a glass mug with a hand-painted portrait of Sweetheart. She'd been my mom's pinto horse when she and Dad married. There was a ruler stenciled with Alkali Feed Store and on the back someone had written Wyatt, my dad's name, and pressed hard with a black pen to engrave little hearts.

And there was an amazing calendar with a beautiful mare and foal for each month, and though it was out-dated, of course, I was thinking I could get a new calendar and paste those photos on, then enter the due dates for assignments, tests and projects.

Last of all, there was a box with a rearing with stallion decal on the top. Inside there were paper clips, pencils, pens and markers, I guess, but I only looked for a second.

That rearing stallion on the top was white, and he looked so much like the Phantom, that tears filled my eyes.

I'm not saying I can't wait to start doing homework, but having a wild horse hideout will make those autumn nights a lot less lonely, no matter how it looks from the other side of the curtain.