Horseback riding was a sport that requires much skill, even for the small things like putting on the saddle.
Li Du conscientiously placed the saddle on the horse, but it still made Austin uncomfortable. The horse kept pacing around restlessly.
Jones removed the saddle, and, after what seemed like a mindless fling, the saddle landed on Austin perfectly and steadily.
Austin was happily swinging his tail back-and-forth at a constant beat as Jones strapped up the saddle on him.
Li Du was impressed. "Youre goodthis is very cool."
"Practice makes perfect," Jones laughed. "If you had been dealing with them for 30 years, you might be better than me. Okay young man, get on!"
As Li Du stepped on the stirrups, he felt a mixture of feelings: he was anxious, scared, and worried. What if the horse suddenly jumps or gallops away? he thought.
Li was just overthinking things. Besides the swinging tail, Austin stayed still as Li Du climbed onto the saddle.
Austin snorted a long, drawn-out sigh; he was relaxed and ready to be compliant.
"Okay pal," Jones said, "keep your back straight, be confident, eyes forward, dont look down. Very goodnow shake the reins to tell him to start walking"
Li Du did as he was told, and Austin started walking. Clip Clop Clip Clop! Although it was a bumpy horse ride, Li Du found it to be endurable.
Jones mounted a horse and said, "Austins a good, tame horseyou dont need to worry. Just relax and enjoy riding on horseback."
Li Du smiled. "Thanks. Its my first time riding on a horseI cant help feeling nervous."
Hans rode over to Li and teased, "In the future, when you and Sophie do it for the first time and youre still nervous, youre going to be a fast shooter,"
Jones continued sharing his wisdom with Li Du: "Even if its your first time, you still need to relax. Horses are able to feel the riders emotions if youre nervous, theyll get nervous too.
"And your backs too stiff palrelax. Let your body sway with the horses rhythm."
Li Du took two deep breaths and followed Joness instructions. True enough, he felt more comfortable sitting on the saddle as he allowed himself to bounce along with Austin. Soon enough, both Li and Austin were enjoying themselves, cantering along the path.
Jones urged Li Du to try galloping with Austin, but Mr. Li decided to take it one step at a time as he was only a beginner. The cantering with Austin was good enough for him.
Hans rode over to Li once again, the two horses trotting side by side.
"Why not invite Sophie for horseback riding when youre free? You might bring the relationship to the next level," Hans encouraged.
Li Du concurred by nodding his head. "Youre right, but does she know how to ride a horse?"
Li recalled those beautiful scenes he had watched on television programs, where a couple rode on their horses, trotting along side by side, smiling at each other.
"It would be best if she didnt know how to ride one," Hans replied. "Then you could both ride on one horse, and as you each swayed along with the horses rhythm, your little buddy could sway with its pleasure too!"
"Thats not something to be rushed," Jones laughed. "Big Fox, dont teach the kid things like that."
Li Du shook his head at what the two men had said. But, he had to admit: the thought of that was sure exciting.
As it was summer, after 30 minutes of horseback riding on the pasture, the horses started to sweat profusely under the hot sun.
The three of them dismounted from the horses and gave them a good washing.
After cleaning up the horses, Jones brought the duo to the pen where the young horses were held. They saw ten or so healthy-looking young horses cooling themselves in the summer shade.
"Two thousand dollars for a colt and two thousand five hundred dollars for a filly," Jones said. "Take your pick."
Hans suggested, "Maybe we should pick a colt"
"Lets go with a filly," Li Du said, shaking his head. "The Amish family might prefer a filly."
"Of course, but its more expensive."
With an earnest look, Li Du explained his decision: "Big Fox, the lady placed her trust in us, and we made a gentleman's agreement."
Hans shrugged his shoulders. "Youre the boss; you decide."
They chose a filly with a pure brown coat, and decided to leave her with Jones until they managed to get the foot-treadle loom.
The foot-treadle loom was proving difficult to find. Li Du had scoured the internet for the traditional loom; he searched everywhere from Amazon to Alibaba, but had found nothing.
In the end, he had to rely on Hans to help with the search.
Hans spent hours making lots of calls. Finally, he heaved a sigh of relief and laughed, "Bud, were in luck! Theres an old foot-treadle loom that will be put on auction at Hoffmans Old Goods Market this weekend."
"What a coincidence!" an overjoyed Li Du exclaimed.
Hans nodded, "Exactly! Looks like God wants you to have the bird skeleton too. Oh yeah, while were at it, have you figured out the species of the specimen?"
Li Du shrugged and replied, "Not yet. Weve been so busy finding all the items that I havent tried to find anyone to appraise it."
It was not important if the specimen was valuable or notLi Du simply wanted to do some research on the little bugs "Relive the Past" ability, as it seemed that the ability did not work well on the specimen.
After the old house auction, and the past two days of legwork, the weekend had arrived.
That was why Hans said they were lucky, as the auction would be held the next day. If they had missed this opportunity, who knew when they would be able to find another foot-treadle loom?
Li Du had wanted to purchase the loom directly from the owner, but the owner told them the loom had already been printed on the promotional brochures. According to the regulations of the market, no private transactions were allowed for any item that had been printed on their brochure.
On the last day of the week, when it was evening, they drove to the Hoffmans Old Goods Market to attend the auction.
Blacktooth was talking loudly with a rowdy group of men. Their boisterous laughter could be heard every now and then. He seemed to be chewing on something.
Blacktooth saw the duo and waved to them. "Hey Big Fox, we meet again. Are you planning to snatch away our business?"
Hans took out a dozen cans of cold beer and tossed one over to Blacktooth. "I came here to support your businesswere here to bid for an old loom."
Blacktooth spat out the thing he had been chewing. Li Du recognized it as a betel nut. No wonder his teeth were reddish black and his cheeks had looked so big.
The orange-red sun slowly set in the horizon and soon the lights of the market were lit up; the auctioneer appeared on stage.
"Hello my dear brothers and sisters. Welcome to the weekly auction of Hoffmans Old Goods Market. Im your old friend, Sayder..."
Li Du had heard these lines before, and just like the previous time he was here, the lively crowd made a commotion: some held out their middle fingers while some bantered with the auctioneer.
The first item on auction was a slot machine. A middle-aged black man won the item with a bidding price of 2,000 dollars.
Blacktooth yelled, "Stewartyoure preparing to become a casino tycoon?"
Stewart laughed in response. "Yeah, and Im going to win all of your money, you rascals. Come to my place tomorrow to play slotsIve prepared a bunch of sausages and sandwiches."
"As you wish, pal!"
One by one, the items on auction found their new owners.
Finally, a huge triangular-like foot-treadle floor loom that looked like a grand piano appeared.
The auctioneer gestured for the lights to be turned on the huge loom and spoke loudly. "This traditional foot-treadle loom is much older than me or you. It might have been made the same year our grandparents were born.
"It has been very well-maintained and is still in good working condition. This loom is definitely a valuable item to have.
"The starting price is 1,200 dollars, my friends, bid for it if you want this great item!"
Li Du bid for it. "Me!"
"One thousand three hundred dollars."
"One thousand four hundred."
"One thousand six hundred!"
"Two thousand dollars!" Li Du placed his bid again, increasing the bid by 400 dollars.