In 1882, fifteen-year-old Isabelle “Belle” Morgan moved with her parents and brother from New York City to the Nevada territory of Silverfield because her father was tired of practicing law and heard about lots of land being purchased by every-day run-of-the-mill people. This was quite a change from the big city to a small, but growing town. Belle was excited to start a new life on the new ranch her father had purchased before they had come to town.
Belle’s parents, Joseph and Alice, were more than generous when they said that Belle and her brother, Andrew, who was thirteen, could both have a horse of their own. So, their parents took them to a ranch on the other side of town which was owned by the Parker family. They were holding a sale on the property of their newly one-year-old colts.
The Parker’s son, Casey who was Belle’s age, showed her personally around the ranch and introduced her to the young horses that were to be sold. There were a total of only five horses to be sold, and Belle loved all of them. She knew she could get only one though, so she chose a female who had been given the name of Sally.
Belle intended on keeping the name for the young painted filly. The story went that Sally’s mother had been a gift from a local Paiute Indian friend who once had been saved by Casey’s father. It was a dear mare to the Parkers, but in order to keep their ranch they had to sacrifice selling the colts so they wouldn’t lose their ranch due to Mr. Parker’s money problems.
The sale, which attracted quite a few people from town, went off without a hitch. Everyone was happy with their purchases, including Andrew who had bought a young, dark brown male named Errol.
Finally, the sale came down to Sally who was a black-and-white beauty. All of them were great-looking, but Sally was considered the most beautiful.
Joseph did the bidding on Belle’s behalf. He was having a hard time keeping up with a high-bidder named Robert Wells.
A tall and naturally tanned man, Mr. Wells owned the property next to the Parkers’ which was left to him by his wealthy parents. Robert wasn’t known for being too friendly and was considered a wild drunk. He had caused a lot of trouble with his drinking and poker games and had been locked-up in the Silverfield jailhouse by Sheriff Burnley and his deputies a number of times.
Charlie Smith, Silverfield’s mayor, who had been officiating the auction, grew tired of the bicker bidding between Wells and Morgan. It was getting late in the evening, almost 6 p.m., so Smith decided to end the sale for the day and would continue tomorrow. Everyone who had wanted to see the auction until its very end were now also very tired and hungry.
In spite of the Parkers’ invitation to the Morgans to stay for dinner, the Morgans declined and headed back home with their new beef steaks given to them from the Bradley’s farm. After dinner, they spent the rest of the evening reading and knitting and said their prayers before turning in for the night. They possibly had another long day ahead of them.
The next morning, the Morgans were woken up by Mr. Bradley who had some terrible news. Wells had gotten drunk and stole the filly, Sally, from the Parkers’ ranch during the night.
Sheriff Burnley, and his deputies, Eric Gardner and Adam Collins, were already at the Wells ranch when the Morgans, the Parkers, and the Bradleys all arrived on their wagons to see the situation played out.
As it turned out, Wells, who spoke from his front door, didn’t care to solve anything the easy way. This was his tradition which was handed down from his father who had also been a trouble-making drunk.
Wells told everyone that he had wanted the filly because it was a rare thing to have and was worth more than they were bidding for her. A painted horse was indeed a rare thing to own. Everyone in town was very friendly with the local Paiute tribe and vice versa. They lived and shopped among the common white folk in town. It was no rarity to see them around, but for now it was a rarity to own a painted horse. Mr. Parker was the only white man to own one so far and Wells wanted to be the second.
Sheriff Burnley told Wells that he would have to come out of his house, and bring the filly which was being held inside the house. Wells refused.
It just so happened at that moment Wells had his sixteen-year-old ranch hand, Philip, take Sally out of the house through the back door and into the nearby mountains.
Sensing a potentially bad situation about to happen, Sheriff Burnley told everyone to leave the area while he and his deputies dealt with Wells. They did.
But as the Morgans were leaving, Belle jumped out of the moving wagon and ran after Philip and Sally because she saw them run up the mountain. Mrs. Morgan screamed after her. Mr. Morgan stopped the wagon, and Andrew ran after her. He was able to catch with Belle, and together they caught up with Philip and Sally.
While this was happening, Wells had also slipped out the back door and ran into the mountains. He knew where they were going.
Burnley, Gardener, and Collins realized they were yelling back to no one. It just got too quiet after about ten minutes.
They checked the house and realized their were a lot of bootprints in the dirt leading from the back door into the mountains.
They got their horses and headed up the mountain and into a clearing where Wells kept a small shed. A single shot ran out. It didn’t hit anybody. It seemed to be just a warning shot. Wells was coming from inside the shed and aiming a rifle at them. Wells and Philip had tied up Belle, Andrew, and Sally to posts on the outside of the shed.
Sally, who didn’t know anybody except for the Parkers, was having a hard time and stomping on the ground. Belle, who was tied up next to her, was doing her best at comforting the young horse who couldn’t seem to stop worrying about the situation she was in.
“So this is what it comes down to? You wanna play like that?” Sheriff Burnley asked Wells.
“Yeah,” Wells responded. “I’ve had enough, and don’t want to bid for this horse anymore either. It’s a beautiful horse. I hope to have a long line of these painted horses. It’s just too good to pass up.”
“Look, just hand over the horse and the kids and Philip. He’s just a kid. He should just go back in school and not work for you all day anymore.” Sheriff Burnley told Wells.
“We’ll try to figure this all out. I know you’ve had some problems. You just need to cut down on your drinking and to always be fair about your poker games. You haven’t killed anybody. We can do this together,” Sheriff Burnley added.
“Yeah. Okay. But what about the horse? We’re still bidding on her.” Wells wanted to know.
“For now, I guess, I’ll just take her back to the Parker’s. She’s still theirs ya know.” Burnley told Wells.
Wells stood there and thought about it. It was true. He had never killed anybody, but now he had kidnapped a couple of kids and stole a horse.
Wells thought about it some more and finally untied the filly and led her to the sheriff who took the reins from him.
With the help of Philip who untied Andrew, Wells untied Belle who by now had calmed down Sally.
Gardener and Collins dismounted from their horses and handcuffed Wells and put him on Gardener’s horse. Collins took Philip, the sheriff took Andrew, and Belle got to ride Sally. This was to be the only time she would ride her, or so she thought.
Gardener and Collins locked up Wells in the Silverfield jail and sent Philip back home. The sheriff rode with Belle and Andrew to take Sally back to the Parkers.
The Parkers were so grateful to have Sally back and so appreciative of Belle being the one who calmed down Sally that they gifted the filly to her.
Belle was ecstatic. Young Casey accompanied them back to the Morgans’ on his horse and was courageous enough to ask Mr. Morgan’s permission to ask Belle to the upcoming Saturday picnic for the town’s young people by the riverside. Permission was granted.
Wells ended up staying thirty days in the Silverfiled jailhouse for crimes of kidnapping the children and stealing the horse. In the future, he ended up meeting a nice lady who was new in town and ended up marrying her.
Philip went back to school and worked weekends at the general store. The sheriff let him go free since Philip was only doing his job. The job a horrible boss told him to do.
The Parkers were able to keep their ranch after all and oversaw the Wells property which also included some cows whose beef they sold to the local store.
The Morgans were doing just fine in their new life. They loved their adopted home and even went panning for silver and gold.
Andrew became an expert with his new colt, Errol, and was interested in the breeding of horses as a possible career.
Belle was happy with her new and beautiful young horse.
She rode the horse to see the Paiute settlement just outside of town and met the friendly chief who had been saved by Mr. Parker.
The chief had Sally and Belle blessed in a traditional ceremony and said because of the comforting and calming down Belle had bestowed on Sally when they were kidnapped, that Sally would always be with her even after leaving the physical world.
Sally would always be Belle’s horse.