“The zebras will kill you!!!”
His words froze us on the spot.
My mind began to spin.
Zebras?….. Kill me?!?…..
These thoughts repeated themselves and swam around inside my head, trying to latch onto something coherent.
It had never crossed my waking mind that zebras could be dangerous.
Or that walking up to them in their pen was anything but a good idea.
After all, the ranch owner had blithely smiled us on our way without so much as a backward glance.
Nothing had occurred to make us think zebras were any more dangerous than the occasional skittish, spitting llama with a penchant for kicking that we knew we could easily handle.
It wasn’t long before the man, who was still racing toward us, reached the gate we had recently entered.
He hastily climbed up on the fence and urged us to come back.
“Get out, senoritas! Get out!” he called repeatedly with great urgency as he tried to catch his breath.
Without a word, the three of us retraced our steps and slowly exited through the gate he held open.
As I followed my Mom through the gate, I looked over my shoulder at the empty pasture we were leaving with an arched eyebrow.
Is he telling the truth?….. It sure doesn’t look like we’re in danger…..
But there was no denying the sincerity of his evident concern for us, so I had no choice but to believe him.
“We’re sorry,” my Mother finally broke our collective silence, “We just wanted to see the zebras and were told they were down here somewhere.”
Now that we were safely out of the zebra pasture, the man (whom I assumed was a ranch hand), collapsed against the fence, removed his straw hat and began to fan his bronzed, sweaty face with it.
He nodded his head, but didn’t speak until his breathing had finally steadied.
“Yes,” he said quickly as he pushed away from the fence, “You want to see zebras. Come, senoritas, I will take you. I will put you up high safe.”
Then he motioned for us to follow him.
I gave my Mom a confused look as we walked behind the man.
“Up high safe?” I whispered, “What does that mean?”
My Mom shrugged and quietly answered, “I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out soon.”
Eventually, we came upon a backhoe and the man halted.
Pulling a key out of his pocket, he began climbing into the driver’s seat.
As he climbed, he pointed to the shovel at the front of the backhoe.
“Sit, sit!” he instructed us.
The three of us stared at the huge shovel in front of us.
“Sit in there?!” I exclaimed as I pointed at the muddy shovel that laid on the ground.
“Yes!” the man declared, now seated in the driver’s seat and starting the engine, “I will put you up high safe. Then you will see zebras.”
I looked at my Mom with a gaping mouth.
She had a little grin on her face and a fun sense of adventure in her eyes.
Briefly meeting my eye, she shrugged and said, “Here goes!”
Then she bent down and sat in the shovel.
My sister said, “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” and followed my Mother’s example.
Hesitating, I looked from the man I didn’t know sitting up in the backhoe, to the muddy shovel in front of me, to the apparently empty pasture we’d just left.
This is just too weird, I thought as I finally settled into the shovel.
We held on tight as he slowly raised the shovel up off the ground, causing our feet to dangle over the sharp edge.
Then he kicked it in gear and we bumped along over the dirt and sagebrush back to the forbidden pasture.
It was too noisy to talk much, so my Mom, my sister and I just sat in our backhoe shovel and kept our eyes peeled for anything that resembled a zebra among the sagebrush and trees.
Then suddenly we all stiffened.
There they were.
Way off in the approaching distance, we saw them…..
To be continued…..