My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, Part 2 of 6

Read part one of this story.

He was tall “ over six feet “ slim and looked real good in his jeans. His stance was the hip-shot one that is typical of cowboys. His hair was dark and his shirt was blue; that’s all I could make out from where I stood. He didn’t say much to the others around him. Not that he seemed unfriendly “ he smiled or said a word here and there “ he just seemed focused on his task. He finished with this gear and looked around “ straight at me. That man’s awareness of me was uncanny. I found myself staring into brown eyes that warmed me to my toes.

“Hey! A nudge from Nancy broke the spell. “Who’s the hunk?

Taking a sip of my Coke, I asked, “What hunk?

Nancy rolled her eyes. “The one you’ve been mentally humping for the last few minutes. She gave him a long appraising once-over. “Not that I blame you.

“Oh. That hunk. I couldn’t deny that I’d been ˜mentally humping’ the cowboy because I couldn’t remember having any thoughts at all while I stared at him. I’d had plenty of feelings, some I hadn’t felt for a long time, but no coherent thoughts.

Nancy said something else, but I tuned her out. He was getting ready for his first ride and all my attention was on him. Once settled in, he gave the signal and the gate swung open. Approximately 1200 pounds of fury in the form of a horse burst from the gate. The hunk was perched on top, giving every indication that he was there to stay for the full eight-second ride. I don’t think I drew a breath until I heard the buzzer and watched him jump to safety.

He was good. I didn’t know how good because I didn’t know enough about the sport, but I could tell that he did well compared to the others. The crowd must have thought so, too, the way they cheered for him. For all I knew, he was a local celebrity. I watched the rest of the saddle bronc riders, trying to determine if they were as good. He watched, too, though every now and then I could feel his eyes on me. At first I though it was my imagination, but every time I felt a certain heat I’d look up to find his eyes on me.

His next few rides went well. As his competition hit the dirt more and more often, I realized that he was better than the others “ maybe the best one there. Finally, though, it happened “ one ride went bad. I didn’t know exactly what was wrong, but I could tell from the beginning that it wasn’t right. He hit the dirt after five seconds. He came up waving, though, so I knew he hadn’t been hurt. I was so relieved that I nearly cried. His rides got worse, though, as the evening went on. When he hit the dirt hard on one, I knew he wouldn’t be riding anymore that night. I heard the announcer say something about an old injury and then ask the crowd to give him a big hand.

“Get a ride home, I said to Nancy as I pushed my way through the crowd. I heard her calling out to me to wait, but I ignored her. I needed to be by the side of this man whose name I didn’t even know. I found him headed toward the corral. He was moving slowly, but not limping or bleeding.

When I got close to him he stopped and watched me approach. I closed the distance between us and then just stood there like a dummy. I couldn’t explain why I’d come after him and I couldn’t think of a thing to say that wouldn’t sound insane or stupid or both. We both stood there looking at each other.

Finally he spoke. “What are you staring at?

I heard myself say, “A man who looks like he needs something cold to drink. I handed him what was left of my Coke. “What are you staring at?

“A pretty, dark-haired woman whose eyes are like blue flame. Those eyes have burned right into me, you know.

“Yours are the ones that burn. I’ve felt their heat off and on all night.

He finished off my Coke. “Thanks. That was good.

“You’re welcome. Are you okay?

“I’m fine, just a little dusty. He brushed ineffectively at his jeans.

I was puzzled. “You don’t seem too upset about having lost tonight.

He smiled “ and it was a killer; I went weak in the knees. “It’s not the first time I’ve hit the dirt and it won’t be the last. The point is to pick myself up and keep going.

I liked the way he put that. I could probably have used a little of his philosophy in my own life.

He seemed at a loss for words, too. Finally, he settled on, “Are you here alone?

Looking straight at him, I replied, “Not anymore.

We stood there and did that staring thing again. I had to have been at least four feet from him, but I could have sworn I felt the heat of him up against me from breasts to knees. I was pretty sure it would be a bad idea for me jump him right there in the dirt, so I wracked my brain for something to say. I came up with, “You were headed toward the corral?

“Oh, yeah. I need to check on my horse. Would you like to meet her?

Meet his horse? Well, it beat standing there like a moron. “Sure. Is she the one who tossed you into the dirt?

He laughed softly. “Don’t know much about rodeo, do you City Girl? No, riders draw their broncs for every round. Missy is my horse, the one I ride for calf roping and that I travel with. He headed away from the grandstand. “Come on. I’ll introduce you.

I turned to walk with him. “No, Cowboy, I don’t know much about rodeo. And even less about cowboys. I gave him a sidelong glance. “But I’m willing to learn.

to be continued …

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