Buck Smith’s Option
Part Seventeen

 By Tom Word
Though they’d paid the entry fees for the Kentucky Quail Classic and Derby, Kyle and Buck decided to scratch and drive home—the weather was just too brutal.  Hardy Dillard flew out in his Gulfstream Monday afternoon.  He asked Kyle and Buck to bring their strings to Mossy Swamp Plantation to be shot over by his guests over the coming weekend.  Kyle and Buck knew this would infuriate Hardy’s manager, but they accepted the offer.  Both had come to like and admire Hardy as a genuine good guy, despite the hat on the bed.
The handlers lit out for Georgia at 4 a.m. with their strings of dogs and the six horses.  With luck they should make it home by dark.  Kyle took the first shift behind the wheel.  As Buck reflected on the three days just passed, he recalled finding Redman on point after time in the finals.  He’d almost left the dog pointing and ridden on.  But in all his years in trialing, he had never failed to call point for an opponent’s dog.  Not calling a point was as much a bad luck omen as a hat on the bed.  Sure, he had done many other unsportsmanlike things—ridden off opponents’ derbies, for example.  But he’d never failed to call a point, and it had cost him many wins.  This time it saved the victory for Strongman, asleep now on the back seat of the dually.  And the lesson he’d taught Kyle as his apprentice about always calling point had saved the National for him and Naomi last season.  Ours is a strange game, Buck reflected as he dozed off.
At 10:00 a.m. Kyle pulled off to let the dogs empty and to switch drivers.  They were making good time.  After finishing with the dogs, they checked the trailer’s wheel bearings—all were cool.  After getting behind the wheel, Buck tested the brakes and turn signals as Kyle stood behind the rig to watch the lights.  “All OK,” Kyle announced as he climbed in the dually’s shotgun door, first checking the safety chains on the fifth wheel.  They rolled on.
To be continued in Part Eighteen.