My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, Part 1 of 6

It was just getting dark and I was stuck in Houston traffic. While I wondered how long it would take me to get home, a half-forgotten old song came on the radio “ a song that time-warped me back to 1976. It’s a classic now, and as I listened to Waylon sing My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, my thoughts ranged back to the sweet memory of how that song had come true for me.

I lived in Austin back then, having graduated from UT the previous spring. Like practically everyone else, I decided to stick around after graduation. We all were overeducated and underpaid, but we were young and having fun “ that was enough for a while. It was April, but the temperature had spiked early and it was hot and airless, even well after dark. My boyfriend was away on one of his many “business trips, or so he’d said. I’d been suspicious about those trips, but had not had the nerve to confront him. Maybe I was imagining that his feelings towards me had cooled.

Since I was alone for the weekend, my girlfriends had decided that I was going to accompany them to a small rodeo just outside of town. Even though I owned the requisite boots and jeans that were, and still are, everyday dress for Texans, I was more Neiman-Marcus (when I could get to Dallas) than I was Tony Lama. Nevertheless, they were determined to get me to go with them. They finally blackmailed me into going by telling me that I needed to drive; being that there were too many people and not enough vehicles for this outing. As it turned out, only a couple of the girls rode in my car, but that was okay. It was good to get out on my own – something I had done infrequently since my boyfriend had moved in.

Once we were on the road, I got curious. “So, what’s up with you two? Since when are you interested in rodeos?

They both laughed and Lauren, who had been dumped by her boyfriend just after New Year’s, explained, “It’s not so much the rodeos as the cowboys. Ali said there are some great looking guys around rodeos. Besides, it’s pretty cheap entertainment and it’s something different to do.

Nancy chimed in, “Yeah, you never know when or where you’ll meet a cute guy. Big-hearted and gorgeous, men trailed after Nancy with their tongues hanging out. She good-naturedly loved them all, and then left them when she moved on to the next good time.

I laughed. “Okay, but I’m just going along for the entertainment. I’m not on the lookout for a new guy, you know.

The two of them were too quiet after that remark. I had the feeling that they knew something about my love life that I didn’t. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to get into it right then.

I changed the subject. “Somebody watch for signs. I have no idea where we’re going and since I’m driving the lead car, I don’t want to get us all lost.

We found the rodeo arena without too much trouble. My friends had been right; the entry fee for the grandstand wasn’t expensive. I was thankful that the sun had gone down. I understand that the days of outdoor rodeos are long-gone but back then almost all rodeos “ the smaller ones, anyway “ were held outside. It was dusty, hot and smelled of horses. The rodeo was a welcome change from my usual office-then-home routine and I was happy that I had joined the group.

We walked around a bit, and then settled in the grandstand to watch the various events. There was no breeze and even my sleeveless shirt felt too hot. We quickly discovered that when women went to the beer stands, the male bartenders gave us free beer. I ended up making several trips back and forth, though I drank more Coke than beer “ I was mindful of the fact that I had to drive home later that night. Still, making the beer runs gave me chance to carry something cold as well as to look around. While I did some looking, I discovered that I was being looked at “ but always in that polite way Texas men have of checking out a woman.

My boyfriend hadn’t been too attentive toward me lately. He’d been finding fault with everything from my long hair to my cooking. From the amount of attention I was getting, I decided that I must have looked pretty good that night. Those were the days when I wore a size six jeans, skin-tight of course, and I didn’t need a bra to keep my breasts high. My shirt was knotted at my slim waist and the heels on my boots accented both bust and derriere. I decided that I didn’t at all mind being looked at “ my ego needed the boost.

On my fourth beer run, I realized there one particular cowboy who had been watching me every time I went back and forth. I had vaguely noticed him helping others get ready for their events, but had not yet seen him ride. While he was talking with another cowboy, I checked him out. As soon as I focused on him, his head came up and his eyes met mine. A jolt of something I could not identify ran through me and culminated in a heat between my legs that I had not felt for some time. I could not look away; neither could he. We both stood there, staring, until another cowboy clapped him on the shoulder and drew his attention elsewhere.

I was shaken by my reaction to this total stranger. I made my way to the beer stand and got myself a Coke, along with a couple of longnecks for the girls. On my way back, I watched for that cowboy and noticed that a few of my friends had come down to the ring to get a better look at the contestants who were getting ready for the saddle bronc riding, which was coming up next. I handed off their beer and looked around. He was there, talking with the other contestants and checking gear. Since he was focused on his upcoming ride, I felt brave enough to study him, hoping that his attention would stay off me.

to be continued …


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