Night of the Ebony Jewel
Note: I jotted down the idea for this story after trying to think of something to draw for my book covers. I wanted to do something with James West's horse; so while doing a rough sketch of his horse, the idea came to me for a short story. Have you ever wondered just how James West came into possession of his horse? And have you ever wondered what goes through the stallion's mind? Here is my version of how Jim got the black stallion. I tried to make the story as factual as possible but there are bound to be mistakes, since I never really studied the Civil War like my older sister does. (I mostly study the Old West).
Present. April 7th, 1867. Aboard a train, riding the rails through Texas.
My name is Superstar. My master is called James West; much more personally, he is called my partner, my friend, my compadre. He is the most wonderful friend a horse could have and his hands are gentle on the bit; he understands me like no other. It was not always so though. There was once a time when…maybe it is best if I begin…from the beginning.
April 1860. Somewhere in Mexico.
"Señorita! Señorita Rosa!" A stable hand ran toward the girl, who had gotten up from her chair on the porch of the hacienda upon hearing the commotion. "It is Maria! The foal it is here!" He panted, his floppy, worn sombrero hanging on its stampede string. The teenager leaned forward and put his hands down on his knees, still panting. "She is in the foaling barn. You told me to tell you when it would happen."
The raven-haired girl grinned widely and clasped her hands. "Oh, thank you for telling me, Lopez! Help yourself to the lemonade on the table." Rosa lifted her skirts and ran toward the pasture gate as fast as the heavy dress would allow her.
A few seconds later, 11-year-old Rosa slowed her pace and peered around the corner of the barn door. Seeing a small light coming from one of the stalls near the end, she quietly made her way down the aisle. The barn was quiet except for the soft swishing of her skirts, the rustling of straw, and an occasional snort from one of the mares. A nicker came from the dimly lit stall and Rosa peeked over the door.
"Maria's colt. He is a beauty, no?" A whisper came from behind her.
Rosa turned and smiled up at the old man. "Just like his dam, Uncle Julios." The white-headed old man was no blood relation of young Rosa, but all of the children called him this out of respect.
A small, indignant whinny came from inside the stall, making both Uncle Julios and Rosa look over the stall door again. Inside stood a regal white mare. She snorted and lowered her head to a black shape lying beside her and nuzzled it. She was answered with a snort and another whinny. The jet black colt lifted his head tried to stand. He fell down into the deep straw and tossed his head, snorting again.
"I think he is frustrated." Rosa smiled. Uncle Julios just nodded and watched the mare and foal.
After five more tries, the foal was on his feet; he was unsteady, but he had made it. A whinny of triumph came from his small muzzle, making Rosa and Uncle Julios laugh. "I believe I will call him Ebony Jewel. Ebony, because of his beautiful coat; and Jewel, because he is his mother's Jewel."
And so, I came into the world that day. My dam, Maria, was the most beautiful mare in all of Mexico and she was prized for her strong colts. My sire, I was never introduced to properly, but I saw him once when his master came to visit. Ah! Such a magnificent proud creature he was! I remember him studying me from the hitching rail when his master came to buy cattle. I was a year old then and the fastest in the fields. My sire nickered his approval and neighed at me before he left.
I had started in the early stages of my training after my first birthday; of course, I had not been started under saddle but I couldn't wait! Maria, my dam, told me of all the great adventures she had had after she had gotten used to the saddle and a rider. She and her rider, whoever it be, would sometimes go into town or on a trip; and she would see many new things. Most of the time it was Uncle Julios who worked with me, but sometimes Lopez would come help him, as would my mistress, Rosa. I learned from my mother that I had been promised to Rosa before I had been born.
My training went by very fast, for I was eager to learn and to see the places my mother had spoke of; soon when I turned 3, Rosa took me out of the corral for the first time and we went on a trip all by ourselves into town. She was an expert rider. My young life, up until one dreadful day, was pleasant and peaceful. That one terrible day came in the year of 1864; a year which I would never forget.
February 1864. Somewhere in Mexico.
"Come, my jewel. Today we will ride to the south pasture." Rosa said softly to the black stallion as she slipped the bit into his mouth and guided the headstall over his ears. "Lopez says there are some new calves from that new bull father bought who are worth looking at. Shall we go?" She reached up and rubbed under the stallion's forelock. He nickered and playfully nudged her shoulder, bringing a giggle from the now 15-year-old girl.
Rosa led the ebony stallion outside into the warmth of the afternoon sun. "You will learn how to work the cattle soon, Ebony. But, no, I think you were destined to be…" The young girl thought for a moment, the her eyes lit up as she mounted. "…a dancer!" The stallion bobbed his head in agreement and the pair struck off at a trot due south. The stallion pranced, eager to be off; but still mindful of his precious load.
Soon, they heard the lowing of the cattle and saw the large field in which they were kept. The stallion snorted at the creatures and started forward, trotting along the edge of the herd. "You will do well in your work, but I still think you should be something more, my jewel." Rosa tapped the stallion's foreleg lightly with her riding crop. He responded by bowing down and lowering his head. "Thank you." Rosa thanked the stallion as she slipped out of saddle. Ebony pawed the ground after returning to a standing position. "You may go run now, Ebony. I'll whistle for you when it is time to go." Rosa tied the long reins to the saddle horn and gently slapped the horse's rump. The stallion neighed loudly and cantered off to find his favorite watering hole.
I never found out what exactly had happened that day. All I remember is Rosa's terrified screams and her whistle to me. I remember hearing the new bull bellowing and feeling the ground thunder from his hooves pounding it; and Lopez and some of the other hands herding the bull off somewhere else. I galloped as fast as I could back to the spot where I had left Rosa standing, but when I got there…it was too late. If only I had stayed with her! I might have been able to help in some way. Rosa's father, the Don, sold me that very day; he would have killed me, thinking I had thrown Rosa in order to save myself, but Lopez told him of someone who would like to buy me. There was a man from the United States, from a state called Georgia, who was looking for good breeding stock for his plantation horses. And so, I had a new master in the States. I would have given my own life's blood for Rosa, she was my mistress and we were devoted to one another. I made a vow that day. I made a vow that I would never let the same thing happen again.
My new master was kind to me and he rode me nearly every morning to survey his plantation. Then one day on one of our morning rides, a sound like bees buzzed past my ears and he fell from the saddle with a groan. I was shocked, to say the least, but before I had time to gather my wits about me, soldiers clad in blue uniforms thundered by me on their lathered horses. One of them grabbed my reins and led me into the woods. I reared, trying to free myself from his grasp and the hard, cold look in his eyes. I managed to get away from him, and then seeing my master lying on the ground, I knew it would do no good to go back. So I left the plantation.
It wasn't long before I was captured again. I had come up to a small stream deep in the woods that night and was thoroughly exhausted. I wanted my warm stable and someone to remove the heavy saddle from my aching back and the bit from my sore mouth. My ears pricked at a sound nearby…
September, 1864. Atlanta, Georgia.
The stallion's head came up, water dripping from his muzzle. "Easy there, fella. I'm not gonna hurt you." A soldier came out of the shadows of the woods. The stallion snorted and his eyes rolled in fear. His ears pinned back and he backed away from the stranger slowly. "You look like you could use a rest, huh, boy? Lemme take a look at you." The soldier slowly came closer, his eyes not meeting the stallion's directly.
The stallion knew he should run, run from this stranger wearing the blue uniform; but something held him there and he stood statue still, listening to the words of the officer. "Thatta boy. Good horse." The officer came up beside the horse. His hand reached up, ever so slowly, and rested on the horse's sweat-drenched neck. The stallion's skin twitched and he shivered at the touch. The officer stroked the horse's neck softly and he murmured reassuringly to the frightened animal. A few minutes later, the soldier was leading the horse through a clearing into a crude camp with several rows of tents and a campfire burning near the center of the camp.
"Hey, Captain! What'd ya pick up there?" A question was yelled from the one of the men around campfire.
The captain ignored the yell and continued leading the horse to a picket line. He knew if he answered the man at the fire he would have to raise his voice, which could startle the horse into bolting.
The captain tied the horse's reins to the picket line and proceeded in removing the horse's tack. The black stallion heaved a great sigh and lowered his head. The soldier's touch was calming and gentle.
The horse flicked his ears in the direction of a new voice; he was too tired to lift his head or make an attempt to escape. Besides, he liked this soldier. He liked the man's voice and the way he carried himself; proud and firm yet gentle and reassuring.
"'Evening, Captain West, sir. Who's this?" The new voice asked curiously.
Captain West continued rubbing the stallion down with a blanket. "Found him in the woods. What do you think of him, Grisby?" West stepped back and allowed the private to study the stallion.
Private Grisby let out a low whistle. "He's a beaut, Captain. Good form and intelligent eyes. You got yourself a winner there, sir. Looks a mite tired though."
Captain West nodded. "I think he may be from one of the plantations that were raided near here. Looks like he comes from good stock. I'll know more about him once he's rested in the morning. He's alert alright, but he was skittish when I found him. Still is, but that might be from all the excitement."
"You will let me watch you with him in the morning, won't you, Captain? Sir?" Private Grisby couldn't disguise the eagerness in his voice.
Captain West smiled and chuckled softly. The stallion nickered upon hearing the laugh. "Sure, Grisby. I'll let you know."
"Thank you, sir!" Private Grisby smiled and lifted his hand in a salute. Captain West returned the salute and waited until Grisby was gone before continuing to rub the horse down. "You're a fine horse, boy. After we see how you do with a new rider tomorrow, how bout we pick a name for you? How's that sound?" He laid a blanket on the black horse's sleek back. Captain West stroked the stallion under the forelock before leaving to his tent.
And that is how I met James West. That night when he stroked me just under me forelock, he may never know just how much that meant to me. Memories of my beloved Rosa swarmed around me as I slept, and I knew she would have been happy for me. The next morning, he put me through my paces and I behaved like the perfect gentleman Rosa would have wanted me to be. We were partners from then on; leading the life of danger, but always there for each other. I was dubbed Superstar, a name which I am very proud and I wear it with honor and dignity. For the name of my sire was Superstar. I am now 7 years of age and have spent three years with Jim West; through these 3 short years we have both learned a lot from each other. And I'm sure, in the years to come, we will learn even more…
April 7th, 1867. A little town on the Mexican-Texas border.
Light flooded into the car of the train as the ramp was lowered. A welcoming whinny greeted James West as he stepped into the stable car and waited for his eyes to adjust. The smell of straw, horses, and manure met his nostrils, while he walked toward the stall. Superstar stuck his head over the rope which blocked him from leaving the stall and he eagerly nudged Jim's pocket. Jim laughed. "Sorry, Superstar. No treats. C'mon, boy. We've got an appointment."
Twenty minutes later, both horse and rider were cantering along a trail in the desert. Jim was to meet Artie in a small border town on the Texas side. Artemus Gordon had sent his partner a note telling him that the case was wrapped up on his end and that they would need the train to transport their prisoners. So after telling engineer Orrin Cobb to hold down the fort, Jim had saddled up Superstar to meet Artie and help him with the prisoners.
Dust churned underneath the great stallion's hooves as they slowed to a trot and made their way into town. The town was small, though Jim was sure it had once thrived. A young girl playing with her friends, pointed at the stranger and his horse and waved. Jim smiled and tipped his hat, which prompted the girl and her friends into fits of giggles. Jim felt Superstar tense and he felt the nervousness in his mount. Superstar tended to be a high-spirited and sometimes mischievous horse but Jim sensed something different in the stallion's antics. He slowed Superstar and dismounted at the hitching rack in front of the sheriff's office. Jim patted Superstar's neck and wrapped the reins loosely around the pole.
Jim mounted the creaking steps and went inside the sheriff's office. "Jim! What took you so long? I'm starving for that nice clean train and all of its luxuries, my boy!" Artie said jokingly. He was sitting in a wooden chair in front of the sheriff's desk, fanning himself with his hat. The sheriff was a young man about 21 with tanned skin and short, black hair. He wore a bolero jacket and a small, flat-brimmed sombrero of a matching light brown color. He appeared amused at Artie's behavior about the heat.
"Well, I'm sorry, Artie, but I was held up." Jim explained.
"Yeah, the colonel wanted me to meet his new secretary and…" Jim smiled mischievously.
Artemus put his hat down and threw up his hands, shaking his head. "Oh, you meet a pretty damsel and leave me to melt in a sheriff's office. Nice, Jim. Nice."
Jim laughed. "I'm joking. I'm late because Orrin had to have a little bit of maintenance done on the train before we came here."
Artemus got up from his chair and the sheriff followed suit. "Jim, this is Sheriff Perry Lopez. Sheriff, this is Jim West, my associate."
After exchanging greetings, Sheriff Lopez led Jim, followed by Artemus, to the back of the building where the cells were. Artemus had given Jim the rundown on their new prisoner and they were to transport him to the state of Arizona where he would stand trial for murder.
They were just about to thank the sheriff for his cooperation and leave with the prisoner, when a commotion came from outside. Jim raced to the door to see the girl who had waved at him earlier, screaming and running down the narrow street. Superstar shuddered and pulled the reins free from the post. He reared and took off after the girl. "Superstar, no!" What is he doing? Jim thought, his mind racing. Then he saw it. Thundering toward the running girl and Superstar was a bull. A maverick. Jim watched the scene before unfold as if it were in slow-motion, his body unable to respond to the messages his mind was sending it. The girl tripped on her long skirts and Superstar spun around to face the bull with a ferocity in his eyes that Jim had never seen before in the stallion. The black stallion reared and charged at the bull, his very neigh filled with hate. The horse twisted easily out of the bull's path and raced toward him again. If the situation hadn't been so grave, any bystander would have thought the two creatures were dancing. But it was a dance! A dance of death. The bull was becoming angrier at this new opponent and was beginning to swing his horns blindly, not caring what he hit. Superstar spun around and came up behind the bull. The bull twisted, trying to reach the horse but he lost his footing and fell on his side.
Superstar screamed with rage, his every movement filled with hate and intent on destroying the bull. The stallion reared up and brought his powerful hooves down on the fallen beast again, again, and again! The bull lay still on the dusty street. Superstar stood over him, his legs shuddering and his nostrils flaring. Jim finally shook himself free of the invisible force that had seemed to hold him back and walked slowly out onto the street.
Artemus dashed out into the street past him and went to check on the girl who sat sobbing with tears of thankfulness and relief streaming down her cheeks. Sheriff Lopez stood in the doorway of the office, his eyes wide as he watched Jim's stallion. Jim murmured something to the stallion and the horse willingly followed him back to the hitching rail. "Señor, please tell me something. Where did you get this horse?" Sheriff Lopez nodded at Superstar as he spoke to Jim.
Jim looked up at Lopez. "I found him when I was a soldier during the war. Why?"
"What state?" Lopez questioned.
Jim was puzzled. Why was sheriff asking such questions? "Georgia."
Lopez sucked in a breath. "Could it be?" He stepped down off the porch of the building and came up beside Superstar. "Jewel? Ebony Jewel?" He whispered the almost inaudible words in Spanish. Jim watched Superstar's ears prick toward the sheriff and nicker softly. "Señor West, if you will please allow me to try something with your stallion. I won't hurt him." Lopez asked Jim, almost pleadingly.
Jim hesitated, then nodded. He almost shouted for Lopez to stop when he saw the sheriff pull a riding crop out from his boot; but he stopped himself when he saw Lopez lightly touch the stallion's foreleg with the crop. Superstar immediately and willingly dropped one knee and bowed. "It is you! Ebony! Señorita Rosa's Jewel!" Lopez rattled something off in rapid Spanish and threw his arms around the stallion's neck, before Jim could stop him. Jim was shocked that Superstar allowed it. The fiery stallion normally only let Jim around him.
"You called him Ebony and Jewel…a Señorita Rosa's Jewel." Jim said slowly.
Artie came up beside them. "The girl's okay. Just a little shaken up. I told her friends to taker ho-" Artie stopped when he saw Lopez hugging the stallion and Jim watching. "What's going on?" Jim's eyes gave away his mixed feelings. As a rule, he could keep himself from showing any emotion at all, but Artie saw something in his friend's eyes that scared him. Was that fear he saw in those usually piercing green eyes?
Lopez spoke up, "I helped raise this stallion. Let me explain." And so, he explained. He told them of the night when Superstar was born, how he had been promised to an 11-year-old girl, and how he and the girl had helped raise the colt. He told them how in 1864 an accident had happened with a bull getting loose and Rosa had been killed. Then the stallion had been sold; blamed for the death of Rosa.
Jim and Artemus listened intently to the sheriff's story; and Jim was still in shock and amazement when they were back at the train. It was then Artemus understood why his friend had had fear in his eyes. Jim was afraid he might lose his beloved stallion. Both Superstar and Jim would amaze each other as long as they lived and as long as they were partners. They were partners. Partners for life.
I had fun doing this story, even though it is rather short. This is my first time writing a horse's view of the things that happen around them. And also, it's my first time working with a story in which I incorporated the Civil War into. So, please tell me what you thought of it! (And PLEASE tell me if it was possible for James West to be with the Union troops in Georgia when Atlanta was taken! I've looked and looked but I can't find if it was ever mentioned what state or regiment he was from.) Thanks for reading!
Facts: Robert Conrad owned the horse he rode in the TV series and the horse was treated just like another actor. The stallion even had his own stand-in and got fan mail! There was once a time when the horse was getting 800 letters a day from kids asking for a picture with James West sitting atop his horse.
Bob would often take his horse to rodeos, where he would have his own choreographed stunt show and afterwards he would sing, when he wasn't filming. Even though not one stunt man from the show walked away without some sort of injury, none of the animals on the set of "The Wild Wild West" were ever injured. (Not even Ross Martin who was not a stunt man walked away without injury) The people who worked on the set took every necessary precaution, and more, to ensure the safety of the animals.
In this story, Superstar is 7 years old, when in truth, Robert Conrad bought the horse on the set when it was 4 years old.
NOTE (6/13/12) : I've emailed Robert Conrad asking about his horse on the show, so the stallion's name in this story (and in any other WWW stories I may write) may change when I get a response.
NOTE (6/16/12) : I got a response on Bob's show on the 14th and he said his horse's name was Superstar. He also said, "We had a relationship - we had a love relationship between the animal and me. I just loved that horse. I mean, I can just go out there say loved it." Bob gave the horse to his daughter, Joan, on her 16th birthday.
NOTE (6/28/12) : I decided to change Jim's stallion's name from Blackjack to Superstar in honor of Mr. Conrad's horse.