Red Crisis: Chapter One
May 26, 1967
Lisa sat on the fence, swinging her legs back and forth as she watched her friend canter the flashy brown paint mare around the arena.
“A little less rein there, Cecelia!” the instructor called out.
“Got it!” Cecelia loosened the reins and used her legs to urge the mare, Topeka, towards a two foot jump. Topeka lengthened her stride, gathered her legs beneath her and leapt into the air. In unison her rider leaned forward and they cleared the jump in perfect form.
“Excellent! Wonderful job, Cecelia!” Miss Trudy praised.
Lisa clapped. “Wow! That was cool!” she exclaimed.
The grin on Cecelia’s face proved she was pleased. She pulled Topeka to a stop and patted the mare on the neck. “Good girl, Topeka! What a good girl!”
Miss Trudy wiped her brow and checked her watch. “I think that’s a good place to stop our lesson for today.”
“Okay,” Cecelia agreed.
“Why don’t you cool your horse down and then go and put her away.”
A grin crossed the thirteen-year-old blond girl’s face. She glanced Lisa’s way. “Actually, would it be alright if Lisa got to ride Topeka? She’s been sitting on the fence for the last two hours doing nothing!”
“Oh, it’s alright Cecelia.” Lisa giggled and brushed a strand of light brown hair out of her face. “You gotta remember, I’m a western rider. No doubt I’d ride that fancy English horse of yours like a backwoods cowgirl!”
Cecelia and Miss Trudy laughed. Cecelia slid off of the paint and walked towards where Lisa sat on the fence. “Oh come on, you’ll be fine. I promise I won’t laugh at you!”
“Go right ahead Lisa, just take her around at walks and trots to cool her off,” Miss Trudy told her.
Lisa pretended that this was a hard decision to make, then faked a sigh. “Okay, if you insist.”
Cecelia snorted. “Ha! Very funny. I bet you’ve been dying to ride this entire time!”
“Not too far off from the truth,” Lisa agreed. She jumped off the fence and walked towards the mare. Topeka turned her head to gaze at this newcomer. Lisa let her sniff her hand. “What a beautiful horse, Cecelia. I can see why you’re in love with her.”
“Yeah, isn’t she great?” Cecelia paused to wipe her brow. “She’s a great mover. Too bad it’s too hot to show you some of her real big jumps. Oh well, perhaps sometime later this week.” She held Topeka’s reins.
Lisa stuck her foot in the stirrup. With a swing of her leg she settled into the hunt seat saddle and shot her friend a grin. “Well, here we go.”
It didn’t take long for Lisa to get a feel for the paint. She practiced some posting in the saddle and trotted Topeka around the arena. Though the saddle was different than what she was used to, she was experienced enough in horsemanship not to be too bothered by it.
“This is a really great moving horse! Boy howdy, I’ll bet she’s got a great gallop under her, huh?”
“You bet she does. I can run her for one miles and she doesn’t even breathe hard!”
“Yes, well, let’s not do that today.” Miss Trudy smiled and the girls giggled.
Lisa trotted Topeka over to where they were standing and slowed the mare to a stop. “Thanks for letting me ride her, Miss Trudy, this is one cool horse.”
“You’re welcome Lisa, I’m so glad you’ve come to visit us. How long are you staying?”
Lisa glanced at Cecelia and mentally calculated the days. “I’ve already been here two days and I don’t have to fly back to Oregon until the first week in June. So…”
“A little under two weeks,” Cecelia offered.
“Well next time you come, we’ll make sure you get on a horse to ride with Cecelia. Perhaps you two can go for a trail ride.”
“Really? Far out!” Cecelia squealed.
“That would be great.” Lisa dismounted and handed the reins to Cecelia, then the two headed towards the barn. “Oh, I’m so glad I’m here,” she sighed. “Florida’s a beautiful place. I bet you like living here.”
“It’s nice,” Cecelia agreed, “but sometimes a little too hot. I wish it would snow here once in a while.”
“I’m glad it doesn’t. Then I wouldn’t get any oranges in the middle of the winter at my place!”
They laughed and led Topeka to the grooming station.
Two weeks is a short amount of time, Lisa decided, when you’re spending it getting to know your pen pal.
Lisa Irving and Cecelia Crane had been pen pals for over three years. They’d met through a pen pal program in a horse magazine, and their friendship had blossomed from the numerous letters they sent back and forth. They found that, even though they were over two thousand miles away from each other, they had a lot in common. Both girls loved their families, horses, reading and numerous other activities. They were the same age, too.
“It’s kinda like having another sister, even though she’s a long ways away,” Cecelia told her parents once. “I feel like we’ve known each other forever.”
The only setback-- they’d never met. They’d asked their parents several times if they could get together, but dreams were big and money was not.
It was by sheer luck that Cecelia’s school had decided to do a statewide exchange student program. Instead of going to another country to be an exchange student, the school board discussed making it more economical for young students to participate. The minute school let out, Cecelia had raced home and told her parents about the program.
She then called Lisa up and exclaimed, “Guess what? My school’s doing an exchange student program, and if I talk to the school board I may get them to let me come to Oregon for my two weeks of studies, and then you could come to Florida for two weeks!”
It wasn’t that hard to convince the school board to send Cecelia to Oregon for her two weeks. Even though Lisa was educated at home, most of the teachers thought it might be a good idea for a student to discover what it was like to live in the Siskiyou wilderness and have to be responsible for your own studies. Likewise, it would be a good experience for Lisa to attend a public school for a while to get a feel for that.
The dates were set, the plane tickets purchased and the two girls were bouncing off the walls.
It was hard for Cecelia to believe that had all been a month ago. She’d flown to Oregon and participated in Lisa’s studies, as well as the chores. Lisa lived in the middle of nowhere at the base of Mt. Ashland. On the twenty-five acres they had fenced, there were a lot of animals to attend to. Chickens, cattle, goats, horses. It was like living on a ranch in Cecelia’s eyes.
The only thing Cecelia hadn’t enjoyed was how cold it was. She’d thought Florida was chilly in April, well, she was wrong. It was cold where Lisa lived!
Even with that factor, the girls had a blast. At the end of her two weeks in Oregon, Cecelia was sad to leave.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be coming to see you in four weeks!” Lisa had reminded her.
And indeed she had. Three days ago she’d flown into the airport at Tampa, ready to share in Cecilia’s daily experiences and learn what it was like to go to school.
Though at the moment, she didn’t look all that eager.
Cecelia and Lisa sat in Cecelia’s bedroom. Horse posters covered the wall. Ribbons and trophies sat on her desk as solemn witnesses of Cecelia’s success in the show ring. Lisa was lying on the green carpet and staring at the ceiling fan, her brow wet with drops of sweat from the late spring heat. It was obvious Lisa was not used to the temperature, much to Cecelia’s amusement. And she thought I looked miserable in the cold!
“What if I don’t do well at school?” Lisa mumbled under her breath. “What if the teachers don’t like me? I’ve never been to school before, I’ve always done school at home.”
Cecelia waved it off. “Oh Lisa, you worry too much!” She slid off the bed and sat down next to her friend. A mischievous grin crossed her face. She glanced Lisa over again. “You nice and comfortable in our breezy Florida temperatures?” A pillow hit her in the face and she laughed. “Just checking.”
“I’m serious, Cecelia, I don’t know how well I’ll do at your school. I’m not afraid of people, I like to make new friends. I’m not afraid of adults, either. I’m just afraid I won’t do well in my grades. Didn’t you say there was a big test at the end of this week?”
“Well I don’t think they’ll be making you do that. We’ve been studying for that test for three weeks! Mrs. Hattie, the math teacher, would never make you do it. That wouldn’t be fair.”
“Is there anyone at your school who might be against…well, who might be against me being home educated?”
Cecelia furrowed her brow. She hadn’t thought about that. She remembered being nervous that Lisa’s family of eight kids might look down at her because she went to public school. It turned out to be fine, though, they treated her like one of their own and didn’t mind at all that she was schooled a different way than they were.
“Everyone’s different,” Mrs. Irving, Lisa’s mom, told Cecelia. “We’ve chosen to teach our children at home because we’re so far away from the closest town and because we feel our children will get a better education if we teach them. That’s our choice. Your parents chose to have you educated at school. That’s their choice. We must make the best decision for our own children, not for other people’s children!”
Now she understood why Lisa was anxious. She was afraid of not being accepted by Cecelia’s classmates. “Oh Lisa, I don’t think anyone will care about that.” She shot a look at the light brown haired girl and continued. “Like your mom told me, it’s no one’s business to tell your family how to bring you up. You’ve got to do what’s right for you. Not what’s right for everyone else!”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Lisa brightened and sat up from the floor. “You really think everyone will be fine with it?”
“Oh, you bet! Mrs. Hattie is real nice, and so is Mr. Gerald, our science teacher. I think Mr. Gerald's grand kids might be home educated.”
“Yeah, so you’re good to go. Besides, the school board voted that it would be alright to accept a home educated exchange student. Do you think they’d go back on their word?”
Lisa sighed. “No, you’re right. What was I so worried about?”
“Exactly. Now let’s go get some ice cream and play with Jake. I’m sure he’s just itching to play a good game of fetch!”
They raced to the kitchen and raided the refrigerator, to which Mrs. Crane called, “Don’t eat too much ice cream, we’re having an early dinner tonight!”
“We won’t!” they said in unison, and giggled again.
Cecelia smiled and brushed a strand of hair away from her face. Glad she’s not gloomy anymore, she’s going to have a blast at school. It was then that another thought popped in her head and she stopped dead in her tracks. Uh oh.
She’d forgotten one teacher who’d very adamantly objected to Lisa’s inclusion in the exchange program.