Phillip could tell Joe was a bit put out. As a matter of fact, in his 26 years there were few weeks that went by where Joe wasn’t pissed, angry, annoyed, insulted, livid, irate or one of many, many more versions of not being happy with his dad. Phillip took it in stride. Part of a father’s burden to bare, he supposed.
“Really Father. I think you have gone over the edge this time. Horseback riding lessons? As a job requirement? How can you possibly expect me to take that seriously? Any idiot can ride a horse. Just hop on and don’t fall off. It’s not hard. Couldn’t we just skip the lessons and just go on the trip? I’m sure I’m smart enough to figure it out on the way.
“I do have two PhD’s and a third in the making and an I.Q. of over 145. I think that qualifies me for the over-achiever’s award. What’s so hard about riding a horse that I couldn’t figure it out?”
Phillip chuckled. Joe was about the smartest person he knew. Probably smarter than Joe even knew but some things he just didn’t get. He loved his son but drastic measures were sometimes called for and this was one of those times. Joe was 26 and had never had a serious girl friend. All the girls Phillip and his wife Amy would bring home for Joe to meet would either turn out to be his next lab partner or a new friend. Joe never took women seriously and, darn it all, Phillip wanted to be a grandfather!
Hence the forced horseback riding lessons and the trip to the outback that would follow. Phillip planned to have so many beautiful, attractive, smart and utterly amazing women on this safari Joe would have to find someone. Guaranteed.
At this point, Phillip would have been happy with just about anyone. But heaven forbid if Joe found out that was Phillip’s purpose. Despite the scientific achievements that will be learned on this trip, Joe would flat refuse to go and once Joe made up his mind, dynamite wouldn’t change it.
“Sorry Joe. This is non-negotiable. We are going to have some of the most renowned scientists and professors in the world on this expedition and I am not going to have my son fumbling around trying to figure out how to ride a horse while talking eight syllable words to fellow doctorates. You’d come off looking like an idiot.
“You take care of the science and let me take care of the social. I insist. Here’s the name and phone number of the stables. They are expecting you. Lessons are all paid for. You will have six weeks to figure out which end of the horse you feed and which you avoid. Don’t disappoint me. I will know if you aren’t attending or putting forth an effort and I will pull your last grant.
“Cheer up. At least you can learn what sunshine feels like. Oh and just to warn you … part of the lesson is learning to take care of the horse so don’t wear a suit. Now get out of my office and get to work. You have a scientific review in front of the committee due in three days if I’m not mistaken. Scoot.”
Phillip frowned. Was he asking too much? The expedition for which Joe was learning to ride would take them well into the Australian outback following a rumor of an unexplored valley where there might be preserved artifacts proving the existence of fish-eating dinosaurs.
Madison Scientific currently jointly owned by Phillip and Amy Rice was one of the most renowned research and development facilities of the world. Phillip’s father, Keith, started the
business during the First World War to provide alternative energy sources. Thanks to his research, gasoline was refined and made a much more viable fuel source and in the process made the Rice family one of the wealthiest families in the world.
Now, Phillip was doing more research into pharmaceuticals then pursing his love of archeology. When he was approached by the people heading the expedition because of his expertise in the Cretaceous period he happily agreed to head the scientific portion of the expedition and quickly started assembling his team, including his son, Joe. Now they were seven weeks from start and Phillip was just beginning to finalize plans …. starting with his son learning to ride.
Joe fumed all afternoon. Seriously? Horseback riding? He wasn’t worried about taking the lessons or looking like a fool as his dad seemed to think he would. He just hated wasting time. His mind worked several conversations past most of the people he knew and ninety percent of the population couldn’t keep up with him and he absolutely had no tolerance for idiots.
He closed down his station early because he couldn’t focus anyway. Before he left, he called the stables to find out the particulars and found his first lesson was pre-scheduled for tomorrow morning at eight am. That would have been nice to know, Dad. Thanks.
He spent the evening as he did all others. He still lived with his parents. Had never found a reason to get his own place. He had his own wing of the massive house just outside of Portland so rarely saw his parents except when they or he sought each other out. Tonight, he grabbed some to-go food, ate at his desk while answering emails from his friends all over the world. He was writing an article for one of the scientific journals on some work he completed a few years ago so continued working on that.
He rarely watched television except to catch the news, which he did just before turning in at about eleven.
The next morning he stood in front of his wardrobe considering what he should wear. He didn’t own a pair of jeans nor any really casual pants so he settled for a pair of Dockers, his loafers and a button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Weather in Oregon was mild in the morning and hot in the afternoons this time of year. His lesson was scheduled for a couple of hours then he could head back to the lab and air conditioning.
Jennifer Rose always got up before sunrise to feed chickens, cows and the horses. Her whole life, all 23 years of it, had been spent at her family’s ranch just outside of North Plains, Oregon. They had over twenty acres now, down from the hundred and fifty that was the original homestead. Over the years, her family had sold the acreage to raise money for additional ventures, including the automated milking machine installed last year.
They had a few beef cows they kept mostly for themselves and a few locals but most of their income now came from the milk cows to which her grandpa catered. Hence the new milking machine he paid way too much for, in her opinion. He was always out in the barns talking to them and spoiling them, trying out new grains, etc, to boost their milk production. The rest of their farm was used now for growing mostly grains, which was something she hoped to change.
She was getting used to her grandpa changing things up. For an old geezer he sure loved the modern contraptions. JR, as she was known by family and friends, was a country girl from head to foot. If she didn’t see anything metal for the rest of her life, she was good. Her ma had runoff with the traveling salesman when she was three so she didn’t really remember her. She was raised by her grandpa and her dad while he was around. He died a couple years ago in a mower accident trying to bring in the last of the hay harvest.
But she’d been used to fending for herself for many years now. After high school, she went to the community college for a while and got her associates degree in agriculture and that’s all she needed to keep the farm working. She got a few of her own ideas through grandpa’s approval process and the farm was rewarded with a better than average harvest for the last three years. She was hoping to modernize the irrigation system this year but was having a hard time convincing grandpa to not get an automated feeding machine for the calves instead.
By far her favorite part of farming was the horses. She lived, breathed, and died horses. Every spare second she could she was out in the horse barn cleaning stalls, washing or combing down the four horses her grandpa allowed her to keep. Not many horses yet, but she loved every one and each had their own personality which she more than catered to.
She thought about training Trixie and entering her in barrel racing competitions especially since she was a fast little quarter horse but JR knew she couldn’t take the time away from the farm to train her properly.
Last year JR decided to try to make the horses pay for themselves so grandpa would stop harping on her to get rid of them. She put an ad in the local paper and the Oregonian offering riding lessons and horses for rent. During the summer, she was inundated with people wanting to book her horses for riding and she had a full schedule for lessons. She only allowed herself afternoon lessons so as not to interfere with her feeding the livestock first thing in the mornings. She made enough this year to almost buy another horse. At least she got to show grandpa that the horses could pay for themselves to which he replied, “humph.”
Her summer sessions were done now as it was coming on fall so a week ago when she got a call from Phillip Rice wanting to book lessons for his son in the mornings she wasn’t as hesitant as she probably should have been. The extra money would put her over the top and allow her to buy the mare she’d been thinking about. Because it was so late in the season, she had refused at first but he offered to pay double. He said he needed the lessons to be in the morning so as not to interrupt his son’s work schedule. She gave in. That was a lot of money for only six weeks of inconvenience on her part and he was her only lesson now. She would just have to get up earlier to feed the livestock before the lessons.
She forgot to ask Phillip how old his son was, in fact she forgot to ask his name, too. Not that it mattered anyway. She was a patient teacher and was able to rein in the most rowdy child. She was sure she could handle a spoiled little rich kid that probably wouldn’t take horseback riding serious anyway. As long as he didn’t mistreat her horses, she didn’t care what kind of temper tantrum he had.