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Thirteen-year-old Crissy Crosby chases a dream to live up to her parents’ rodeo legacy. But the rodeo championship is two months away and problems beyond her ability to solve stack and teeter like a game of Tumbling-Towers. Meanwhile rival Jodie Lea and her father, Ed Fairgate, contrive to swipe the silver buckles from Crissy’s grasp any way they can.
Prejudice, anger, and dark secrets simmer in a pot of family feuds destined to boil over in a tragic nightmare at the rodeo. Will Crissy develop courage and faith to overcome the consequences of her temper? Will her dreams of buckles and titles become reality? Or will the character-building adversities of her life quash her dreams forever?
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Copyright 2015 DiAne Mills
I wiped slick palms on my jeans and shuffled the reins from one hand to the other. I’d done this a hundred times before. But tonight. Tonight was different. Tonight ended my last season in the junior rodeo division, and if I couldn’t win here, I’d have no chance with the seniors next year.
“Buckle’s mine tonight, Crissy.” Jimmy Henry’s comment sounded more like a question than trash talk, but a cocky grin wrinkled his freckles and I wondered who he was trying to convince.
All I needed was a catch, a hold, and a flip and I’d show ‘em all. Four quick twists of my rope and that goat would be on the ground. And the buckle would be all mine.
“Crissy Crosby, you’re on deck.”
The announcer’s voice caused a flutter to skip through my stomach. I patted Lollipop’s soft chestnut neck and whispered in her ear, “That’s us, girl. We’re up. Three more minutes.”
Papa wore a rodeo championship buckle. Mama had stacks of barrel racing buckles. The buckles Daddy wore for bull riding were gynormous—bunches of ‘em.
And me? I’d won nothing. Nada. Thirteen years old and no championship, not one single silver buckle.
I sighed and my shoulders sneaked up to my ears. Next year I’d be a teensy tadpole in a terrifying pond of competition. My heart pounded like a stampede of spooked steers. And I could feel the tension in the arena rising thick as a rib-eye—rarin’ to go.
The rodeo was a barn-blazing sellout tonight. Folks packed into the Terrell arena like the stinky fish my papa ate in the peel-back tin. All the cowboys and cowgirls stomped, whooped, and hollered, anxious for the competition to begin. The aroma of fried everything hovered in the night air.
Lollipop pawed the ground. Somewhere behind me a bull kicked the hollow iron pipes of his stall. The clanging sent a ripple of restlessness through the stock. Talk about luck of the draw. Sure hoped that wasn’t my bull.
Glitzy costumes of the other competitors scattered rainbows of light around the dusty arena. While my third-generation, blue-checkered shirt and grungy jeans left me feeling like leftovers. No glittery stuff for me. No sequins. No rhinestones. Just boring. Dull and boring me.
I tugged my old black hat down to my ears and hunched over the saddle horn so Lollipop could hear me. “Look at that Jodie Lea Fairgate in her Miss Me jeans and Reba blouse. Thinks she’s hot stuff. Well, it’s gonna take more‘n powder and paint to beat us.”
Lollipop shivered and tossed her mane.
Why the sequins and fringe on that gal’s shirt woulda made three outfits. All the clothes in my closet don’t cost halfa what she’s wearing tonight.
The buzzer squawked.
Prickles raced from my scalp to my toes, then took a lap up my legs, and around again.
“Crissy Crosby and her horse, Lollipop.” The man’s voice blared over the PA system and the spotlight swept down the alley and focused on me and my giant sorrel.
The crowd roared again. Louder this time.
“Time to get that buckle, Lollipop.” I waved to the fans, squared my hat, and shot my thumb toward heaven. Smooching to Lollipop and with a flick of the reins and a kick to the stirrups, I yelled, “Get the goat!” My chestnut mare and I exploded out of the alley and the swirling spotlights followed us into the arena.
Lollipop’s hoofs pounded the Texas turf and closed the distance to the little brown goat determined to outmaneuver us. She overtook the four-legged target, paced herself alongside, and waited for my command.
Another flick of the reins, and Lollipop slowed.
I swung the rope once over my head and let it fly. The loop hung for a second and then dropped—right on target. My body poured from the saddle like liquid steel and tempered the instant my feet hit the dirt. I grabbed the goat and seconds squeezed into freeze-framed time.
The contentious critter swerved to a slow-mo turn and tried to hook me with his wanna-be horns.
Jumping back, I twisted sideways, grabbed Billy Goat Gruff around the belly, and flipped him over. Seemed like it took a zillion twists of my rope before all four legs were tied tight.
I leaped to my feet, threw my arms in the air, and let a Miss-Hollywood grin take my face captive.
The clock flashed 4.537 seconds. A winning time.
The crowd stood and chanted, again and again, “Cris-sy, Cris-sy, Cris-sy!”
I snatched my old Stetson out of the dirt, slapped it against my leg, and squared the rim on my head. And waited. Waited for the buzzer to sound and qualify my time. Time dripped like tree sap.
And my heart dropped to my boots.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Texas writer, DiAne Gates, illustrates and writes fiction for children, YA, and serious non-fiction for the folks. Her passion is calling the Church’s attention to how far we’ve catapulted from God’s order as evidenced by her blog Moving the Ancient Boundaries,http://dianegates.wordpress.com
Under contract with Prism Book Group for her YA novel Roped, DiAne reported and worked as a photographer for the East Texas Youth Rodeo Association. She had the opportunity to be in the rodeo arena, feel the sting of Texas turf in her face and across her camera lens, which gave birth to this western rodeo adventure and it’s sequel Twisted.
DiAne leads two edit groups for North Texas Christian Writers, LifeSavers for adults, and PageMasters for teens. She is a GriefShare facilitator, an international support ministry for those who’ve lost loved ones.
Wife, mother, and grandmother, her passion to share those hard life lessons God has taught her will hopefully leap from the page into your heart.