Barnyard Bullies & Biting Mustangs: Behind-the-Scene Feature with Author T.J. Akers

I’m part of T.J. Akers blog tour celebrating his release, The Final Paladin with a great behind-the-scene feature.

Get ready for a fun story about bullies and life lessons with a mustang named Weeja!


I was eleven when something really big happened. Of course, it was a good thing now that I look back on it, but at the time, things didn’t look very rosy. I had this crazy horse named Weeja, and he did his level best to make my life interesting. I was a bullied kid and my dad was an alcoholic, so I wasn’t all that interested in making things more interesting, but something happened one day that changed how I viewed bullies and Weeja.

Weeja was an official mustang.

weeja1

We boarded our horses at a stable not far from where we lived in Portland, Oregon, also not far from where I went to school.

There is one thing I learned about bullies: they’re everywhere.

We all have our quirks, and like any other person, Weeja had quite a few. There was one in particular that was annoying. He hated anyone standing around his head while he ate. If you stood at Weeja’s one o’clock position (next to his head) at the manger, or at his eleven o’clock on the other side while he ate, he would bare his teeth and lunge at you with an open mouth. He never bit us, or anyone, but it was his way of wanting you to leave him alone while he ate. We respected that and gave him his space. I could leave the stall door open and clean it, brush him, and play the tuba if I wanted. While he ate, he didn’t budge from the manger unless you entered his safe zones.

This was Weeja after I’d had him for a while.

weeja2

We didn’t tell a lot of people because we didn’t want Weeja labeled as dangerous or have to board him at another place. Besides, a horse bite makes a grievous wound.

Enter mean girl Sasha (not going to use her real name). Sasha was the youngest of five sisters who were often called The Skinny *itches behind their backs, and they were essentially barnyard bullies. I couldn’t call them by that name, and I got in trouble if Mom caught me using it. Mom, my sister, and my sister’s friend, Carol, used that term all the time if they thought I wasn’t paying attention.

One Saturday afternoon, Weeja and I were down at the barn. Sasha had been left to her own devices, which meant her roaming the barns and tormenting the people she could. Her older sisters often mistreated her, and that probably made Sasha the Omega of her pack.

The stall door was open, Weeja was eating, and I was brushing him and cleaning out the stall. Sasha came to join in the fun.

Without notice, the mean girl loosed an ocean tide of insults about Weeja, me, my mom, my sister, and a lot of other people. While Sasha annoyed me, she moved in and out of Weeja’s trouble positions just outside the stall and in front of his manger.

“Sasha?” I asked. “Please don’t stand there. Would you mind stepping back a few paces?”

An outpouring of nasty expletives poured out of her mouth.

“I guess that means no?”

Sasha’s monologue of meanness flooded out of her mouth and filled the air.

My sister’s friend, Carol, joined us. She knew all about Weeja’s quirks.

weeja3

“Hey, Sasha,” Carol said, winking at me. “I dare you to stand next to that horse’s head and not move for ten minutes.”

I shook my head at Carol, but she just winked and grinned. Then Carol loosed her own storm of insults on Sasha. All this time, Weeja stood there swishing his tail and eating with his anger on a slow boil.

Munch, munch, munch. His ears flattened as he shook his nose at Sasha.

Sasha held her position, chin out, eyes blazing with fire and cursing back at Carol.

I turned to try to get Sasha out of the way, but Carol gave me a look that could freeze water. With Carol encouraging Sasha’s bad behavior, I resigned myself to this thing ending badly. Out of desperation to get Sasha to move, I launched a dried horse turd at her, and it bounced off her shoulder.

“Hey! How dare you!” she declared. “You short, fat, piece of—”

She didn’t get to finish. Weeja let out a bellow and darted out the stall door. I stepped back against the stall wall as the odd little farce shifted into slow motion before my eyes.

Weeja flattened his ears and lunged at Sasha, like some great cobra striking its prey. Horrified, I watched Weeja’s teeth head straight for Sasha as she sprinted for the doorway and out the barn. All the time, his teeth aimed for the soft places of her backside. Always, he just missed her, but barely.

Once out the door, Sasha headed for her own area, and Weeja set out after her. He could have easily outrun her, but with his head and neck outstretched, he kept an alarmingly close and consistent distance between his teeth and her butt. Carol practically rolled on the ground laughing.

I remember thinking, no wonder people laugh at me down here, as I watched Weeja and his teeth follow Sasha out of the barn door. A minute or two later, he trotted back into our barn area and into his stall, where he resumed his meal. I didn’t see blood around Cujo’s (the rabid St. Bernard from a Stephen King novel) mouth, so I figured Sasha was okay.

weeja4

I shut the stall door and latched it. Then asked Carol, “What were you thinking? She’s going to tell her sisters, they’ll go to their mom, and Weej’ll get kicked out!”

“No,” waived Carol as tears rolled from her eyes. “It’s our word against hers. Go back to work.”

I always knew Weeja was a sociopath, but at least he was my sociopath. We didn’t really do to well in the teamwork area, and he could be a major pain.

True to my worst fears, within thirty minutes, Sasha had organized a lynching party. It consisted of the barn manager, the stable owner, her sisters, and a few Looky-Loos bringing up the end.

“Tim? Is your mom around?” asked the barn owner.

“No,” I responded, “She’ll be picking me up later.”

“Sasha has some disturbing information, is it true?”

“What information?” I asked, playing dumb.

“She said your horse attacked her. Did he?”

“No,” I lied as I fought the urge to fall to my knees and beg for his life. All I could see were scenes of Weeja being labeled dangerous and having to find another stable, maybe even getting put down for being vicious.

“Well, Sasha seems very emphatic.”

“I don’t know what to say.” That wasn’t a lie.

Carol spoke up, “Are there any marks? Usually if someone is attacked, there are marks.”

I watched the owner turn and look at Sasha. The girl looked down at the ground and patted herself.

“Well—no,” Sasha replied. “I was too fast.”

“Come on,” Carol chided. “Besides, if a horse gets out of its stall, it runs away, especially this one.”

“Tim, would you open the stall door, please?” the owner asked.

I felt trapped—Weeja was still eating.

“O-Okay,” I replied.

Going to the door, I opened it. A terrible heaviness nagged me. Twinges that felt strangely like worry, and concern, and—caring. The thought of losing Weeja bothered me.

weeja5

The owner walked into Weeja’s one o’clock. I knew he was going to lunge at the old woman. He stopped eating and looked up at her with his big, chocolate-brown eyes.

“I don’t know what the fuss is,” the owner stated.

Weeja took a bite and gazed into the owner’s eyes as he chewed. He nickered softly, set his head level to the owner’s short stature, swallowed, and put his nose against her cheek. Then he nuzzled her cheek with his lips and some serous muzzle action.

My respect for the insidious nature of this animal grew to new heights. The owner patted him on the cheek, as he turned those chocolate eyes on the mob and had them oohing and aahing.

Had I not seen the assault on Sasha, I would have doubted this horse was guilty of anything.

“Sasha,” said the owner. “I think I need to have a conversation with your folks. Apparently, you don’t get enough supervision from your sisters. You should probably stay in your own area from now on and not bother Tim and Weeja.”

“Tim should get an apology, shouldn’t he?” asked Carol.

“I agree,” said the owner.

The lynch mob nodded too.

“Sasha? Please make it a good one,” the owner said.

For the next minute, one of the Barnyard Bullies apologized to me. Weeja had bested one of the worst people I’d ever known, and he did it without bloodshed. My relationship with Weeja felt Born Again, as the possibilities of further irritating Sasha and company brought a smile to my face and a new resolve to work with this very smart horse.

Sasha mumbled an apology, but the owner didn’t let her get away with it. Sasha did it better the second time. After the act of atonement was complete, the mob moved on. When I looked at Carol, she was smiling. Once the last of the Looky-Loos disappeared, she burst out laughing. Not just a giggle, but a laugh hard and long, until she had to sit down on a hay bale.

“Oh My God,” she cried, holding her sides as tears ran down her cheeks. “I have never seen anything like him. He’s a demon! I have to pee; I can’t stand it anymore. My sides hurt.”

I found myself at his eleven o’clock. He snaked his ears back at me. “All right, I’m moving.”

He snorted and shifted his weight to block my path. His ears went up, and he pushed his nose toward my cheek and brushed my face with his nose.

“All right,” I said. “Let’s not get all mushy.”

weeja6


T.J. Akers desires to be a multimillionaire when he grows up and give his wealth to his
favorite causes: churches, schools, and animal shelters. Since the millions have been slow in coming, he’s settled for working as a computer technician for a state university and volunteering at his church and local animal shelter. Whenever possible, he indulges his love of writing stories to entertain people, especially younger readers. Akers holds a Masters of English from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and can often be found roaming the university’s library, especially the children’s and young adult sections. Librarians have always been his heroes. He lives with his beloved wife of thirty years, his dog, and two cats. The dog is an excellent writing companion, but the cats have proven to be rather critical.

Learn more at

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Goodreads | Pinterest


Life for Peg Bowman is rough in the infamous slums of Five Points, New York, but her
brother’s murder changes everything.

Thrust into incredible worlds beyond any story she’s ever heard, Peg meets Sir Godfrey, an eleven-hundred-year-old knight from Charlemagne’s court, trainer of Paladins. He reveals to Peg her family’s ancient obligation to protect the Key of Apollyon, a relic of immense power. She is the last descendant of the Paladins and his only hope for keeping it safe.

When Godfrey confides her brother was murdered because of the Key, Peg rejects her
calling and demands revenge, a luxury she can ill afford as otherworldly creatures seek her death to claim the Key’s power for themselves.

Can Godfrey and his faithful retinue—Chim the Hobgoblin, Rebecca the Jewish Maven and healer, and Jack the sometimes human and sometimes seven-foot Black Dog—keep her safe and convince her that her calling is worth pursuing? Or will she succumb to the Key’s lure and wield it for revenge?

Purchase it now!

And don’t forget the Facebook Party. There will be heaps of giveaways and a chance to chat with the author!

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Follow the blog tour!

 


Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

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