Dance of the Bull Rider by Gary Clark by Gary Clark - Read Online

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Summary

Dance of the Bull Rider is the story of a young cowboy’s determination to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and realize his dream of being a champion bull rider through hard work, doing the right thing, and learning that you can still love someone even when you don’t like them very much. When his uncle is killed in a bull riding accident, sixteen-year-old Colt Murray’s father forbids him to ride for the Texas Championship Buckle. But a wise old fisherman teaches Colt to win his father’s approval through respect and honor instead of confrontation. Colt rides for the buckle, but an accident during the qualifying rounds puts Colt in the hospital and his dreams of the Championship Buckle in jeopardy. Publisher’s Weekly Review (ABNA - 2012) said: “…The emotional core and pulse-pounding flashes of action will have even non-rodeo fans cheering for Colt all the way through to his championship ride.”
Published: Whiskey Creek Press on
ISBN: 9781611606096
List price: $3.99
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19

DANCE OF THE BULL RIDER

by

GARY CLARK

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Published by

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

Whiskey Creek Press

PO Box 51052

Casper, WY 82605-1052

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Copyright Ó 2013 by Gary Clark

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-61160-609-6

Cover Artist: Harris Channing

Editor: Dave Field

Printed in the United States of America

Dedication

To my grandchildren, Kinze, Gavin, Miss Ellie, Tristan, Bayden and Camden. You inspire me.

Chapter 1

Uncle Charlie straddled the chute and looked down at the one-ton monster he’d drawn for the first go round. He stepped down to the lower rails and settled on the bull’s back. The bull snorted and bucked inside the chute tryin’ to bust Uncle Charlie up, but Dad grabbed his riding vest and jerked him up off the bull to keep him from getting hurt.

The bull finally calmed down some and Uncle Charlie settled on his back again, blowin’ a whole breath out his nostrils real hard. Dad put all his weight behind pulling the bull rope tight and then he handed the tail to Uncle Charlie. He took his wrap, hammered his gloved fingers tight on the rope with the heel of his left fist and scooted himself up to his hand. He called to the gate man. "Let’s go!"

That big ol’ bull blasted out of the chute like a train off the track, bucking and twisting, giving him one heck of a ride. I jumped up and hollered, Stick with him, Uncle Charlie, but I don’t know if he heard me or not ’cause everybody else in the stands was yellin’ too.

The bull took a jump, faked a twist to the left and then twisted hard to the right. Uncle Charlie lost his seat and tried his best to get back to the center but he flew off over the bull’s rear end, catchin’ his spur in the tail of the tangled-up bull rope. The monster bucked and twisted, dragging, jerking and bouncing him through the dirt in front of the chute. We all watched Uncle Charlie fighting to grab his boot and get it untangled, but the bull kept slingin’ him all over the place. Finally the bull rope worked loose and he hit the ground hard.

Scrambling on all fours and kickin’ up a thick cloud of dust, Uncle Charlie raced to get back to the gate so he could climb out of the ring. Looking back one more time to find the bull, he tripped up on his bull rope and fell flat in the dirt. Then he crawled as fast as he could, reaching out with his hand, grabbing for the gate, but the bull took one last leap and stomped his big front hoof right in the middle of Uncle Charlie’s back. Everyone in the stands sucked in a deep breath like they were trying to give their air to Uncle Charlie.

After that, the whole place went dead quiet. I had never heard so much quiet at a rodeo.

After the shock kinda wore off, Aunt Jean jumped straight up and let out a scream that could’ve been heard all the way to San Angelo. She turned kinda pale and covered her mouth with her hand, went limp and fainted right on top of me.

Get off of me, I hollered, trying to push her away. When I finally managed to pull my head out from under her, I saw Dad running across the ring toward Uncle Charlie. I jumped up so I could see over everybody’s head and saw the bull charge at him. Dad ducked to the right just in time to avoid being that beast’s second victim. Dad fell on top of Uncle Charlie to protect him from the monster while the bullfighters got the bull out of the ring.

The paramedics loaded Uncle Charlie in the ambulance and prob’ly set a new land speed record getting him to the hospital in San Angelo, but he died before they got him there.

That all happened back in the spring of 2004 at the Sterling County Rodeo, but I remember it so well that it seems like it was just a few days ago. I was sixteen, almost seventeen years old back then, and never dreamed that accident would throw my life into such a tailspin.

I wanted to be a champion bull rider just like Dad and Uncle Charlie and their dad and his dad before him. I wanted it so bad that it was all I thought about. It filled my dreams and my awake time and all the in-between time. Sometimes I just couldn’t eat or pay attention at school for thinking about bulls and ridin’ ’em.

I started rodeoing when I was six years old, ridin’ sheep. I know now that all the cheering and noise from the crowd after my first ride was what kept me from hearing the bull-ridin’ bug that buzzed around me that night. It buzzed all around me until it found a spot to bite. And it must have bit me ’til I bled because from that minute ’til this, I’m still infected with bull ridin’ fever, and there’s no treatment or cure for it. It just stays in your blood and in your mind and festers and grows until you feel like your head could just bust open from the pressure of wanting the adrenalin rush from that next ride.

It was my destiny. But I knew Uncle Charlie getting killed was going to make Dad have second thoughts about letting me move up and start riding bulls. I had to think of a way to keep him from trying to stop me from being the fourth generation Murray family champion. The plan was out there somewhere. I just had to find it.

For Uncle Charlie’s funeral, someone brought bales of hay and his saddle and wagon wheels and a bunch of flowers into the church and decorated it cowboy style. His hand-carved pine casket sat right up front in the middle of all the hay and flowers and the sun shining through the stained glass windows made a rainbow over all of it. His hat and bull rope lay on top of the casket, and on a little table at the head of the casket they put the picture of him from when he won his Texas Rodeo Championship Bull Rider buckle. He stood tall and proud in that picture, grinning from ear to ear like he always did, holding that big gold and silver buckle he’d just won. I’d never noticed before how much he and Dad looked alike. Both of ’em real handsome cowboys.

What if it was Dad in that casket?

My throat knotted up so I shook the thought out of my head.

After the church service, some of Uncle Charlie’s rodeo buddies carried his casket out to a hay wagon decorated like the inside of the church—hay, flowers, a saddle, and a couple of wagon wheels. They even decorated the team of horses that pulled the wagon.

Colt, you and Jake get up on the wagon, Dad told us. I tried to help my little brother Jake climb up, but he kicked back at me hittin’ me right in the belly with the heel of his boot. I waited for him to get up there and get settled, and I climbed up and sat down on the other side of him. I turned and frowned at Jake.

I’ll wait ’til me and you are alone and then I’ll deal with you for kicking me in the belly.

Dad climbed up and sat down between us. He picked up the reins and snapped them on the team’s back, clicked his cheek twice and called, Get up. The wagon creaked and wheezed down Main Street toward the cemetery. Aunt Jean and my cousin rode in a horse-drawn carriage behind us.

Jake looked up at Dad and said, Can I drive ’em? I reached behind Dad and nudged Jake to be quiet. Dad stared straight ahead and didn’t say anything. About half-way to the cemetery, Dad leaned his head over and wiped his cheek on his shoulder.

Now, in our little town of White Rock, Texas, population nine hundred and fifty or so, you can walk from one end of town to the other without breaking a sweat so everyone left their cars and trucks at the church and walked behind the wagon all the way to the cemetery. The women zipped up their kids’ coats, pulled their own coats around themselves and held on to their hats against the cool March wind. The men kinda ambled along behind their families. Half way to the cemetery I looked over my shoulder, and the line of people stretched all the way back to the church.

Pastor Bill offered a few more words and prayed at the cemetery. Aunt Jean broke down and cried some more when Pastor Bill took Uncle Charlie’s hat off the top of his casket and handed it to her. She held it against her chest so tight that she crushed it flat.

Guys that worked for Dad down at the County Agent’s Office kept coming up to him saying things like, Sorry, Wade. Charlie was a good man. Dad stood there with his hands in his pockets, lookin’ down at the ground. He didn’t talk, he just nodded. And every once in a while he’d take a deep breath and kick at a dirt clod or a rock.

Pastor Bill came over and talked to Dad. Dad didn’t say anything to him either. He just kept lookin’ down at his boots, shakin’ his head.

Then Pastor Bill looked at me and said, So, how’s your riding coming along, Colt? When are you going to start riding bulls?

No! Don’t ask about that now. This is the worst time to bring that up.

Suddenly my brain scrambled like a basket full of eggs spilled on a cement floor. Pastor Bill was lookin’ at me, waiting for me to say something, but couldn’t scrape together any words that made sense so I just kinda nodded at him. Why did he have to bring that up then? I knew it just put Dad to thinkin’ real serious how he wasn’t going to let me ride anymore and how he’d sidestep all my arguments to let me move up. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Dad shakin’ his head real slow, back and forth. He prob’ly didn’t even know he was doin’ it. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to change his mind, but I would. I had to.

After standing around the cemetery and visiting for a while, everyone met back at the church for dinner. We walked in the dining room and Dad put his hand on my back, moving me into the serving line in front of him. Standing there beside him, I was bustin’ with pride because he was my hero and before that I’d always had to eat at the kids’ table.

I looked down the serving table, and there she was. Susan.

I sighed.

The long blond hair, sky-blue eyes, and face-of-an-angel girl that I’d grown up with. But for some reason, for the past few months, every time I saw her, my stomach felt like it would jump out of my mouth. My hands would get all sweaty and I couldn’t talk or make any sense when she looked at me because my brain refused to shift into any standard gear that would keep me from making a complete fool of myself. I just stood there and kinda grinned at her for a minute and looked down at my boots, blowing out a whole breath.

Step by agonizing step, I moved down the serving line until I was facing her. I held out my plate.

Potatoes? she asked with that smile that sent cold shivers down my spine.

Yeah… Six, I stammered.

Six? Why did I say that? They’re mashed potatoes, not biscuits. Dang it!

Susan smiled and put two big spoons of mashed potatoes right between my fried chicken breast and corn on the cob. I looked down at my boots and took in a deep breath and exhaled hard through my nose. Then I raised my head just enough so I could see Dad. He winked and almost smiled.

After dinner, some of the people started cleaning up the mess, the men sat around and talked, and Jake and the rest of the kids went outside to play. I walked over to where the men had gathered and grabbed a chair from the table, turned it around backward, threw my leg across the seat and sat down. I crossed my arms on top of the seat back and leaned forward, listening to every word they said. I needed to learn their language.

When everything was cleaned up, and the men had solved all the problems of the world, it was hugs all around and everyone left for home.

Me and Dad and Jake climbed in Dad’s pickup truck and headed home too. We had the windows rolled down to let the fresh air blow through the truck.

Dad didn’t talk the whole trip home. He drove the truck, but his eyes focused somewhere out in space. I wondered if he was thinkin’ about Uncle Charlie or maybe he even thought back to Mama’s funeral. I don’t remember much about her funeral though. I was only four when she died giving birth to Jake.

In the back seat of the truck, Jake had his arm stuck out the window. His hand climbed and dove in the wind, and I think he prob’ly saw a big jet fighter attached to the end of his arm instead of his hand. Maybe flying somewhere over the Middle East bombing the Taliban or Al Qaida I guess. He had a real big imagination.

I sat in the front seat thinking about rodeo stuff. Heck, that’s all I ever thought about. I remembered back when I was just a little kid and rode sheep and I got real good at it. After I got older, I moved up to riding calves and then moved up to steers. After every ride, whether I got bucked off or won, Dad always said, Good ride, Colt. I’m proud of you. I think he was my biggest fan. You’re tall and thin and got broad shoulders like your Uncle Charlie and me, he would tell me. Good body for bull riding.

Now the difference between a steer and a bull is that a steer is just a bull that’s had its…uh…it’s been neutered. Anyway, after being cut, they’re calmer than bulls, and they don’t buck and twist as hard as bulls. They just buck a little and run across the arena. Not much of a challenge for me anymore.

I looked over at Dad and took a deep breath. I wanted to talk to him right there on the way home from the funeral about his promise, but I stopped myself.

This isn’t the right time.

But when it was time to talk, I’d be ready. Everything I wanted rode on that talk, because if it went wrong, I could lose everything. But I wanted it so bad I’d risk it all.

Back at our ranch, Dad parked the truck in the garage and said, Colt, you and Jake go in the house. I’ll be in there in a minute. I gotta check something out in the barn. He turned and walked away.

Jake went in the house, but I stood real quiet on the porch and watched Dad walk, head down and his hands in his pockets, all the way to the corral. He leaned against the fence, folded his arms across the top rail and lifted one boot up to the bottom rail. He looked up at the sky, adjusted his hat, and said something, but I couldn’t hear it. Then he looked down and rested his forehead on his folded arms. His shoulders heaved up and down.

Dad’s a big tough guy, and I’d never seen him cry before. That bothered me because it made him look so weak and beat up. But I figured out that he’d just lost his best friend and brother, and he didn’t know how to deal with those powerful feelings. I knew him as a person who showed his toughness to the outside world but kept his real sensitive feelings locked up tight inside. But those feelings were so powerful that they busted that lock and he just let it all out right there at the corral.

My horse Shadow walked to the door of the barn and stood there for a few minutes.