Story 2: Rodeo
Word Count 7,752
Disclaimer: I don’t own them, I just play with them. Truman and some minor characters (you know who they are) belong to me and are in my control.
Muchas Gracias, Mamacita Lacy! My awesome beta.
Story 2: Rodeo, Part A
The Lancer family was on its way to Green River to celebrate the Fourth of July with their friends and the townspeople. Murdoch was driving the wagon with Teresa by his side. His three sons were riding their horses behind the wagon with Jelly.
A big barbeque picnic was slated along with performances from the town’s adult and children’s choirs. All of this was going to take place in the town square, with the gazebo as the center of entertainment.
When the Lancers finished stabling their horses and leaving the wagon at the livery, they walked to the town square and found seats on the benches. Truman, dressed in blue jeans and a white shirt with a red bandana around his neck and his hat on his head, joined the rest of the children’s choir. The boys were dressed similarly and the girls had red, white, or blue dresses with white aprons and white bonnets.
After a benediction, the music began. True stepped forward and began singing. When he was finished, the townspeople applauded.
Truman sang the “Star Spangled Banner” because the adult choir member who was supposed to sing it lost his voice. True was the only other person who remembered all the lyrics. When Mr. Peabody asked the boy to sing it, just moments before the performance, True was honored by the request.
A re-enactment of the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the boys of the Green River Secondary School, followed. Then, the children of the Green River Primary School recited Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
After a few more short performances of famous historical events and speeches about the country’s leaders, the band began to play patriotic tunes while the townspeople filled their plates and began to eat.
After the barbecue, several of the children ran to the school yard to play while their parents socialized.
After an hour of free play, the children were gathered by Mr. Peabody. It was time to wrap up the town’s Independence Day celebration with a few more songs and announcements of upcoming events.
They climbed the steps to the gazebo and sang “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.”
The children rejoined their families to listen to the announcements.
Mayor Higgs came to the front and addressed the crowd.
“First, I’d like to thank all the people who helped make this event possible. The Lancers, Lanes, and McHenry’s. Thank you very much. Thank you Claire, for the use of your tables, chairs, and ovens. Thank you, Sheriff Crawford, for keeping order in town, and thank you to the choirs, musicians, Mr. Peabody, and the children of the Green River Primary and Secondary schools.”
“Now, we have a stock auction coming up August first through the third, but before that, we have a grand rodeo later this month. It will be held July twenty-third through the twenty-seventh. Opening Ceremonies will begin at four in the afternoon on the twenty-third and closing ceremonies will be at seven in the evening of the twenty-seventh.”
Several whoops and ’yee-haws’ were heard after the rodeo announcement.
“The events are roping, barrel racing, bronc busting, bull riding, and trick riding. Anyone aged six and over can enter to participate. However, nobody under the age of eighteen will be permitted to participate in the bronc busting or bull-riding events.”
“Boooooooooooo” was heard from the crowd.
“Now, now, boys. These rules are in place for the safety of our community members. I’m sure you can find an event to your liking. The sign-up sheet is at the Green River Community Center. The entry fee for each event for participants eighteen and over is three dollars. The fee for those under eighteen is a dollar fifty and they must have a parent’s signature, granting permission to participate. The deadline for entries is July sixteenth. I hope you had a wonderful day here. Be safe on your way home. Good night and God bless.”
“Papa? Could I do the rodeo?” Truman asked.
“You want to try an event?” Murdoch asked.
“Yeah! Maybe more than one.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“Roping, barrel racing, and trick riding. I need to practice, though.”
“Well, you have time to practice. You have nearly three weeks to improve your skills,” Murdoch said.
“Johnny and I will help you, True. Right, Johnny?” Scott asked.
“You bet, lil cowboy,” Johnny agreed. “We’ll work on your skills every day, okay?”
“Thanks! I’m gonna use my song writing prize money to pay my own entry fees,” True announced proudly.
“Well, listen, son. I don’t want you to get upset if you don’t win in the rodeo. You’re still learning skills,” Murdoch advised his youngest.
“Okay, Papa. I know.”
Murdoch ruffled the boy’s hair and the family made their way back to the livery to get their horses, wagon, and team.
When the family reached the hacienda, Johnny, Scott, Jelly, and True took care of their horses, then did their chores while Murdoch and Cipriano unhitched the wagon. Teresa had gone inside to help Maria fix a simple supper and finish the laundry.
The family convened for supper and talked about the rodeo.
“Scott, Johnny, are you thinking of entering any events?” Murdoch asked.
“I’d like to try my skills at roping and barrel racing,” Scott replied.
“Ropin’, barrel racin’, and Bronc bustin‘,” was Johnny’s brief answer, just before he put a forkful of mashed potatoes in his mouth.
“You’re not gonna ride the bull?” True asked, thinking his big brothers were fearless.
“No, little buddy. It’s too dangerous,” Scott replied.
“So is bronc bustin’,” the little guy said.
“Yes, but Johnny has excellent skills in that,” Scott answered.
Johnny ducked his head and smiled.
“Johnny? You gonna ride the bull?” True asked.
Johnny looked at Murdoch and received a paternal look complete with a raised eyebrow.
“Um, no, lil cowboy. I’ll probably be too busy bustin’ a bronc to worry about a silly ol’ bull,” Johnny replied.
In his peripheral vision, Johnny saw Murdoch’s small smile. Johnny’s lips twitched into a rueful grin and he continued to eat.
“What events did you say you wanted to do, Truman?” Teresa asked.
“Ropin’, Barrel racin’, and trick ridin’,” True answered.
“Do you know any tricks?” Teresa asked.
“A few I learned at the circus,” the boy replied quietly.
“You have a few good memories of the circus, right?” Johnny asked as he patted his brother’s back.
“Yeah, I guess. Jimmy was my best people friend, other than mum and dad. He taught me some tricks. Mr. Willis didn’t like it, though. He said if I got hurt, Jimmy would get fired cause it was a libilty.”
“A liability, you mean?” Scott asked.
True cocked his head to the side to think and said, “yeah, that’s it. What is it?”
“What is what, sweetheart?” Teresa asked.
“Oh, it means that Mr. Willis would have been responsible if you had been hurt,” Murdoch answered.
“Oh. Like he was responsible for mum and dad and Andy dying?”
“Yes, Truman,” Murdoch said gently.
“Papa, may I be excused, please?”
“Are you okay? Are you finished?” Murdoch asked.
“I’m fine, and yes, I’m finished. “
“Where are you going?”
“To my toy box. Why?”
“Carry your plate into the kitchen and put it in the sink,” Murdoch instructed his youngest kindly.
“Okay, Papa,” True said as he climbed down from his chair. The boy stood next to the chair quietly, gazing at the booster seat his brothers had made for him.
“Papa, I think I’m getting too big for this booster seat.”
“We can take it off for you. You have grown this past year.”
True grabbed his plate and took it to the kitchen. While he was gone, the rest of the family talked about the boy.
“He really has grown this past year. We’ll have to get some new clothes for him to start the school year,” Teresa said.
“Good point, Teresa. When he first came to us, he was so small. He’s filled out a bit, too,” Scott observed.
“I remember when he first moved into his bedroom, he had to use that little stool to get into bed if one of us didn’t lift him,” Johnny recalled.
“I wonder how much he’s grown,” Scott said.
“We made a mark on the kitchen doorframe when he was first able to join us downstairs, remember?” Teresa asked.
“Yeah. I bet Sam has his height written down, too,” Johnny said.
“We can ask him next time we see him. I think I hear True coming back. I want you, Scott and Johnny, to help him with his skills. I want him to do his best and enjoy the rodeo. Even if he doesn’t win, it will be a good experience for him,” Murdoch stated.
Johnny and Scott nodded their agreement and understanding.
True came in and smiled at his family as he passed them on his way to the toy box. He pulled out his soldiers and blocks and played on the floor while the rest of the family finished their supper. When the others joined True in the living room, the boy turned to Murdoch and asked him a question. “Papa? Are there any cannons that go with the soldiers?”
“I think so, why?”
“I want to get some, of course. How much are they?”
“I don’t know. We can look when we go for supplies next week, okay?”
“If you enter three events, how much will you have to pay for the entry fee?” Murdoch asked the boy, helping him keep up with his math skills.
“That’s right. Very good. How did you figure that out?” Murdoch asked.
“Well, when we were learning decimals, I thought of them as money. Like two point five would be two dollars and fifty cents. So I figured out that I can think of money as decimals, too. It can go back and forth. So, one point five plus one point five equals three point zero. Then I add another one point five and I get four point five. So four point five equals four dollars and fifty cents. But there is another way to do it,” True said.
During the boy’s lengthy explanation, smiles and raised eyebrows were exchanged among the adult Lancers.
“Which way is that, True?” Scott asked.
“Oh, just multiply a dollar-fifty by three,” the boy replied.
The family chuckled as True returned to his “battle.”
“Truman, if you have ten dollars and you have to pay four-fifty for the entry fee, how much will you have left?” Scott asked.
“Five-fifty,” the boy answered succinctly as he wiped out one of his “regiments.”
“Good job, True,” Scott praised the boy.
“You’re welcome, little buddy,” Scott said as he sat on the floor next to his younger brother.
Scott showed True how to set up a regiment for a right flank surprise attack. While they were on the floor discussing tactical maneuvers, Johnny challenged Murdoch to a game of chess. Teresa watched her brothers and father figure with love and amusement while she sewed a button on Johnny’s shirt cuff.
Story 2: Rodeo, Part B
When Murdoch and his sons went to town to get supplies, they also took the time to sign up for the rodeo events and pay the entry fees. Murdoch picked up the list of events and the rules for each event. He had to accompany Truman and sign the permission form so the boy could participate. True did pay his own fees, though.
The next day was a Saturday, so after work had been completed, Johnny and Scott helped Truman with his roping skills. They brought a sturdy calf into the large corral and drilled True’s basic skills. Once he had mastered the actual roping of the calf, the little cowboy was taught how to dismount safely while holding the rope.
Johnny and Scott helped their brother master the event in small steps. After practicing each step and becoming proficient, Truman would be instructed in how to perform the next step. This training lasted all week, every afternoon until the boy felt confident.
The older Lancer sons had learned the previous summer that lots of encouragement and reassurances were needed to teach their younger brother essential skills. Since True was cooperative and wanting to learn, the lessons were successful.
Murdoch came out as often as he could to watch his sons train together. He was very proud of how well the three of them worked together to reach a common goal. Murdoch sometimes called Truman over and gave the child some advice or tips to help him improve. The boy listened and put the advice to work when the opportunities to do so presented themselves.
The following week the brothers worked on barrel racing. The event for children was simpler than for the adults. Johnny and Scott set up big water barrels and placed buckets of sand on top. A small pennant was stuck in one of the buckets. True had to ride to the barrel, take the pennant out of the bucket and place it into the bucket on the other barrel without tipping either bucket, then ride out of the enclosure where the barrels were set up. Any time under a minute qualified, but the best time would win.
True practiced for an hour a day and shaved seconds off his time. His first try had been just over a minute, which was actually encouraging because it showed that with practice, the boy would be able to qualify. His time improved to near thirty seconds.
The time had come for True to show what he could do on his own, without training from his brothers.
He led Mickey out of his stall and into the corral. The horse was bareback, but wore a harness. True talked to his horse and told Mickey what was going to happen. He asked Scott to put him the horse’s back. Before Scott did so, True took his boots and socks off and handed them to Scott. The boy started riding Mickey at a medium trot in a circle. Once they were in a good rhythm, True stood up on Mickey’s back and let go of the horse’s mane. True had his arms spread out to maintain balance.
As Mickey continued to trot, True was regaining his confidence. Truman did a back flip and landed squarely on Mickey’s back.
Johnny and Scott stood inside the corral to spot their younger brother. Murdoch had come out to watch his youngest boy practice for the rodeo. He was both terrified for the child’s safety and in awe of his acrobatic skills, on the bare back of a moving horse, no less.
The vaqueros and ranch hands who had gathered to watch the youngest Lancer show his stuff clapped for him. True acknowledged the praise with a small wave and nod.
For his next trick, True bent over, placed his hands on Mickey’s back and lifted his legs straight in the air. After riding around he corral a couple of times in that position, the boy returned to his standing position gracefully.
After more applause, True waved again, then prepared for his dismount.
“Whoa, Mickey. I haven’t done this for quite some time,” True whispered.
Mickey did, indeed, slow down.
Mickey whinnied as he kept his pace. True took a deep breath, took a couple of steps towards Mickey‘s tail, then did a back flip dismount off the rear of the horse and landed on his feet. Mickey trotted to the fence, then turned and approached his young rider. True scratched Mickey between his ears and whispered his thanks for following directions.
The vaqueros, ranch hands, and other spectators clapped and cheered wildly. True ducked his head and smiled. Johnny and Scott approached the boy with big grins on their faces.
“True, that was incredible! Did Jimmy teach you all that?” Scott asked.
“Yeah. I know some other tricks, too.”
“That was some wild ridin’, lil cowboy!” Johnny praised excitedly.
Johnny squeezed the boy’s shoulder.
Murdoch joined his sons in the corral and patted his youngest on the back.
“That was fancy horsemanship, son.”
“You’re welcome. Are you ready for supper? Have you finished all of your chores?”
“I just need to feed my animals and put Mickey to bed,” the boy replied.
“Okay. Get your chores done. You need a bath tonight, big boy.”
True sighed dramatically. “Okay, Papa.”
“And put your socks and boots on before going into the barn,” Murdoch instructed as he gave the boy a playful swat on his backside.
True did as he was told and took Mickey back to the barn. After True put his horse away and groomed and fed him, the boy saw to the other animals in his care.
Once his chores were finished, the boy hustled to the kitchen to wash up for supper. He was sweaty and dirty from head to toe.
“Chico! You will take a bath right now! You will not sit at the table in that condition,” Mamacita fussed.
“But Mamacita, I’m hungry!”
Maria turned the boy around, gave him two firm swats on his backside and sent him to get clean clothes.
“Owwwwwww!” the boy protested as he rubbed his bottom.
“Go, chico, now! You do not argue with Mamacita.”
True stomped to his room, sulking, to get his clothes as instructed.
Just as True went upstairs, Murdoch came in to see what the fussing was about.
“What’s going on, Maria? Everything alright?” he asked.
“Si, Patron. Truman was only washing his hands for supper, but he needs a bath before. I told him to go get clean clothes for a bath and he argued about being hungry. I give him two swats and sent him up.”
“Okay. He’s probably overtired from working and training and I already told him it was bath night. I guess I didn’t realize just how dirty he was. Thank you for sending him.”
“Si, Patron. De nada.”
True returned with a clean towel and an armful of clean clothes. He looked at Maria sadly. He was sorry for the way he had acted and wanted to hug her, but he was filthy.
“Lo siento, Mamacita.”
“I know, chico. Te amo.”
“Te amo. I’ll hug you after my bath, okay?”
“Muy bien, nino.”
Truman went to the bath house and Murdoch followed him in and closed the door behind them. After he put water on to heat, Murdoch sat on the bench and took his son’s hand in his and pulled the boy to him.
“It was good of you to apologize on your own, Truman.”
“Thanks, Papa. I really am sorry I fussed. Are you going to spank me, too?”
“I know. No, I think you got what you deserved and you apologized. It’s over, now. I think you’re tired. You are, aren’t you?”
“What did you bring to change into after your bath?”
“My nightshirt, slippers, and robe.”
“Good idea. Let’s get you into the bath and scrub a few layers of grime off you.”
“Okay….you can stay if you want, Papa.”
“Okay. You get undressed, empty your pockets and put the clothes in the soaking tub while I get the water ready.”
Pretty soon, there was a little boy in the tub, being lovingly scrubbed clean by his Papa. Once his hair had been washed and rinsed, True washed himself below the water while Murdoch scrubbed the boy’s back, neck, and behind his ears. When he was clean, True climbed out of the large, deep tub with Murdoch’s hand on his arm, holding him steady so he wouldn’t slip.
They made quick work of getting the boy dried and dressed, then cleaned the bath house. Murdoch took his boy’s hand and they walked to the dining room via the kitchen. True stopped and hugged Maria. Maria hugged the boy tight and kissed his forehead.
“Te amo, nino.”
”Si, Mamacita. Te amo.”
”Go eat your supper. I will see you in the morning. Don’t work so hard tomorrow, okay? You get tired and grumpy. My nino is not grumpy,” Maria instructed with a smile and another kiss to the top of the boy’s head.
“Gracias, Maria,” Murdoch said as he took his son’s hand and escorted him to the dining room.
“De nada, Patron.”
Murdoch nodded and smiled as they left the kitchen.
The family enjoyed a simple supper of soup and sandwiches. True found it hard to stay awake long enough to finish his milk, so Johnny stood up and lifted the little cowboy from his seat.
“Let me say good night to True,” Murdoch requested as he stood up.
Johnny handed the boy to Murdoch, who took True and hugged him close, whispered into his ear, then kissed the boy’s forehead. Murdoch handed True back to Johnny who took him over to Teresa and Scott so they could wish the sleepy boy good night. Scott patted his back and spoke softly to his young brother and Teresa rubbed the child’s back and said good night to him.
Johnny took True up to his room, took the robe off of him and placed him in the bed. After lighting the lamp and lowering the wick, Johnny tucked the boy and Mr. Bear in, said good night, and rubbed True’s head before leaving.
Story 2: Rodeo, Part C
The next afternoon, True was working on his tricks. Mickey was saddled and True was practicing a particularly difficult trick where he leans down to pick up a cowboy hat, then sits up in the saddle and puts the hat on his head.
True had practiced this trick a few times and had just thrown the hat down for another try when Mickey was suddenly spooked by a gunshot heard from a distance. He reared up, throwing True off his back. True landed in the dirt, but hopped up and brushed himself off.
Johnny, Scott, and Walt had been spotting the boy as he practiced, but no one could have anticipated the minor incident. Johnny and Scott ran to their brother as Walt calmed and secured Mickey.
Murdoch was standing a few feet from the corral and saw the incident happen. He joined Scott and Johnny in the corral to see if True was hurt.
“Are you alright, lil cowboy?” Johnny asked.
“Sure, I’m fine. Let me try again,” True said as he approached Mickey.
“Oh, no, son. That’s the end of your trick riding,” Murdoch stated as he reached out and pulled his son back by his arm.
“But Papa, I was getting good! I have to practice for the rodeo!”
“No. Mickey is NOT a circus pony, he hasn’t been trained and you are NOT going to risk breaking your neck by doing tricks. Trick riding isn’t even part of a real rodeo. You are withdrawing from the event tomorrow morning,” Murdoch commanded.
“NO! I WON’T! I PAID for the entry fee and I’m GONNA do it!” True yelled as he stomped his feet.
Murdoch was very angry and embarrassed. Johnny and Scott were flabbergasted. Truman had not had a whopper of a temper tantrum for a long time, and here he was, stomping his feet, yelling, and refusing to do as he was told.
Murdoch spun the tyke around and gave him four firm swats on his bottom. Truman screamed, reached down and picked up dirt, which he threw at no one in particular, but the wind caught it and sent it flying. The spectators had to turn their heads to avoid getting dirt in their eyes.
“Madre de dios,” Johnny muttered.
Murdoch had had enough. He picked the child up and carried the boy, who was still kicking and screaming about fairness and his money, and took him to his room, where the boy was given a firm spanking.
After Murdoch finished, he let Truman up. The boy walked to the corner of his room and sulked while he sniffled and dried his tears.
“I’ll be back in thirty minutes. We will discuss the matter calmly then, is that understood?” Murdoch asked in a controlled tone.
“Good. Get yourself together.”
Murdoch left Truman and went downstairs where he fielded questions from the family.
“Who was that child and where is our Truman?” Scott asked.
“That was our Truman,” Murdoch replied.
“You’re kidding, right?” Teresa asked.
“Nope. You need to remember that your little brother is little. He is seven years old, not a miniature adult. Just because he is usually almost an angel doesn’t mean he can’t have a tantrum once in a while,” Murdoch said.
“Are you going to make him drop out of the rodeo?” Scott asked.
“Right now, no. Just the trick riding part. However, if he doesn’t mind me, he will drop out of the whole thing and forfeit his entry fee.”
“That’s fair, I guess,” Johnny said.
“I’m just trying to keep him from breaking his neck, Johnny.”
“Just don’t break his spirit,” Johnny muttered.
“I won’t. I’m going up in a few minutes to check on him. You guys go on and get your chores done. Is Mickey okay?”
“Yeah, he’s fine.”
The guys left and went back to work. Teresa went back to the kitchen and related the tale to Maria, who was worried about True. She had heard him screaming and yelling and wanted to be sure he was okay.
After a while, Murdoch went upstairs and entered Truman’s room. The boy was laying on his bed, on his stomach, and staring out the window with red-rimmed eyes.
Murdoch sat on the bed next to him and rubbed the boy’s back as he gathered his thoughts.
“Truman, listen to me, son. I know you learned a lot of neat tricks in the circus and that’s great. But son, you learned those tricks on a circus pony, not a cowpony. Mickey is very smart, but deep inside, he knows what his job is and it’s not to do tricks. Trick riding isn’t even a real part of a rodeo. I don’t even know why it’s an event. I just don’t want you to get hurt, son. I love you so much and it would break my heart if you were seriously injured. You can stay in the other events, if you still want to, but we’re going to town tomorrow to withdraw your name from the trick riding, and maybe we can get your entry fee back. I shouldn’t have let you enter that event any way.”
The entire time Murdoch spoke, he was rubbing his boy’s head and back. True had listened to every word and understood what his papa was saying. He knew all along that Papa was trying to keep him safe and that was the reason Papa had told him no more trick riding. He had spent his time reflecting on the events of the day. If he were honest with himself, he was happy that Murdoch was pulling him out of the event, because when Mickey reared up, True was genuinely scared. He was trying to act tough to save face, but he couldn’t lie to himself and pretend that he was really okay. He had thrown the tantrum to hide his fear.
Truman rolled onto his back and looked up at Murdoch with sad eyes.
“I’m sorry, Papa.”
“I know you are, son. You’re a very good boy, and you know the difference between right and wrong.”
Murdoch lifted Truman into his arms and held the precious child close.
“I was really scared when Mickey got scared,” the boy confessed.
“I was scared, too, son.”
They stayed like that for a few minutes. Murdoch cuddled his youngest and relished the contact.
“Truman, I want you to wash your face and put your boots on and go do your chores.”
The boy started weeping.
“Johnny and Scott won’t like me anymore cause I was bad,” True wailed.
“That’s not true, son. They love you and like you very much. They were surprised that you threw a tantrum, but they understand you were upset about my decision. They don’t want you to get hurt either because they love you so much,” Murdoch said, calming the boy.
“Come on, big boy. It’s time to face the world again,” Murdoch urged kindly.
“Okay,” True replied shakily.
True put his boots on and waited patiently as Murdoch cleaned the boy’s face and brushed his hair. Murdoch took True by the hand and they went downstairs together. True had his head bowed in shame as they walked out to the barn.
Johnny saw them coming and walked over. Scott followed. Johnny gave Murdoch a questioning glance. When Murdoch nodded, Johnny knelt in front of the boy and took him by the hands.
“Look at me, True.”
The boy raised his eyes to his brother’s and his face colored in embarrassment.
“It’s okay, lil cowboy. Everything is going to be fine. Papa just wants you to be safe. We all do cause we love ya, understand?”
“Even if I was bad?” True asked.
“Even when you lose your temper. You’re not a bad boy, True. You don’t go out to hurt people or animals. That’s bad. Losing your temper is part of life. Part of growing up is learning how to control your temper. Got it?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry.”
Johnny hugged the little guy and patted the boy on his back.
“There’s no question about it, True. You are definitely a Lancer with the temper to match,” Scott said.
Johnny and Murdoch chuckled while True smirked and looked away.
“Come on, son. Let’s go check on your animals,” Murdoch said.
Scott reached out and ruffled True’s hair as the boy passed him.
“Here’s your hat, True,” Walt said as he approached the boy.
“Thanks, Walt. Thanks for taking care of Mickey for me, too.”
“You’re welcome, kiddo.”
Walt walked back to his job as True settled his hat on his head and entered the barn with Murdoch. As True fed and cared for his animals, Murdoch checked on his own horse and inspected his tack.
Nothing more was said about the boy’s outburst for the rest of the day and True was grateful. He wanted to put the incident behind him (figuratively speaking, of course).
Story 2: Rodeo, Part D
Truman didn’t have much to say for the rest of the evening. After supper, he climbed into Murdoch’s lap and snuggled as Murdoch read to him. Johnny and Scott played chess as Teresa knitted baby booties for her friend Lizzie’s baby boy, who had been born the week before.
While Murdoch read, True would reach up and hold the page so he could see the details of the pictures. Murdoch didn’t mind this and continued to read as the boy examined the artwork.
Eventually, there were longer pauses between the incidences of the little boy reaching up to peruse a picture. This indicated that he was getting sleepy. Murdoch looked at the boy, whose eyelids were halfway closed. He glanced at the clock and noticed it was eight-twelve.
Truman heaved a big sigh and closed his eyes completely. Murdoch and the others looked at the sleeping child and smiled.
“I guess it’s bedtime for your little brother,” Murdoch said softly. “I’ll be back soon.”
Johnny, Scott, and Teresa nodded and smiled as Murdoch put the book down and rose from his chair, holding his youngest boy close as he ascended the stairs.
When they disappeared up the stairwell, Johnny turned to Scott and remarked, “I sure hope lil cowboy has a better day tomorrow. He had a heck of a tantrum today.”
“Yes, but that’s what little boys do. Murdoch said we need to remember that, as smart and well-behaved ashe usually is, True is still a little boy,” Scott reminded his brother.
“Yeah, but it’s kinda hard to remember when he does all that great singin’ and playin’ the piano.”
“He was blessed with some natural talents. You have natural talents,” Scott reminded Johnny.
Teresa smiled as she listened to her brothers’ conversation.
“Well, like ranching and riding, accuracy with a firearm, drawing, exasperating the doctor, and attracting trouble,” Scott concluded.
“I don’t go lookin’ for trouble, Boston,” Johnny protested.
“I didn’t say you did, brother, but it sure finds you,” Scott said with a grin at the end.
Johnny pounced on Scott and they wrestled in front of the fireplace, knocking over the chess game and making a racket.
“You guys better settle down before…,” Teresa started warning them. Murdoch came down to finish the job.
“Johnny! Scott!” Murdoch whispered harshly. “Knock that off before one of you breaks something or someone gets hurt.”
Johnny and Scott sat up after disentangling themselves. They grinned sheepishly at each other, then cleaned up the overturned chess game.
“How’s Truman, Murdoch? Did he stay asleep?” Teresa asked.
“He’s fine. He woke up long enough to change clothes and clean his teeth. I’m taking him to town tomorrow to see what we can do about dropping out of the trick event.”
“Okay. Will you be having lunch in town?”
“Probably. I need you, Johnny and Scott, to clear the creek bed in the north pasture. The lower watering hole is getting low and the lower part of that creek is bone dry.”
Johnny and Scott nodded their heads, then rose to their feet.
“I’m gonna turn in. G’night,” Johnny announced.
“Good night, son. Goodnight, Johnny,” Murdoch and Teresa said simultaneously.
“Hold up, Johnny, I’m coming, too,” Scott said.
“Good night Scott,” Teresa said.
“Good night, Son.”
Just as they were about to go upstairs, there was a knock at the door. Johnny answered and found Val on their front step.
“Hey, Val. Whatcha doing here at this time of night?” Johnny asked. “Come in.”
“Well, I got some bad news for True,” Val started as he entered the estancia.
“Oh, no. Was one of his friends hurt or killed?” Scott asked.
“What? Oh, no. Nothing that drastic. The trick riding event’s been axed from the rodeo. Otis Burns’ boy, Ricky, broke his arm while practicing today. His father came in ta town raising heck and demanding his money back. Then Mitchell Harris got thrown off his horse while trying a new trick and had a concussion and his wife came to town demanding his entry fee back. So, the organizers had a last minute meeting and scrapped the event.”
“Well, that’ll make things easier on you, Murdoch,” Johnny stated.
“Yes. Too bad those people were injured. Are they going to be okay?” Murdoch asked.
“Oh, yeah. Doc checked them out and you know how hard Mitchell’s head is-he’s gonna be right as rain in a day or two. Anyway, I have the list of all the people in the trick riding event and I volunteered to come out and let you know. Oh, and here’s True’s money back for the event’s entry fee,” Val said as he handed the dollar and fifty cents to Murdoch.
“Thanks, Val. We appreciate you coming out. You just saved me and my boy a trip to town,” Murdoch said.
“Murdoch is making True pull out of the trick event. They were going to town tomorrow,” Scott explained.
Did he get hurt?” Val asked, concerned.
“No, but he could have,” Murdoch answered.
“His pride and his backside got hurt,” Johnny muttered.
“What?” Val asked.
“Mickey reared up today when he was spooked and True fell off. He got up, but when Murdoch told him he couldn’t stay in the event, True had a tantrum and he got his backside warmed by Murdoch’s hand,” Scott explained.
“Oh. Does he get to stay in the other events of the rodeo?” Val asked.
“Yes, as long as he minds me and doesn’t do anything foolish,” Murdoch replied.
“That’s good. Wish the tyke good luck for me. I better head back to town. G’night.”
“Good night, Val. Thanks for coming,” Murdoch said.
“Night, Val. See ya around,” Johnny added.
Val left and Johnny and Scott went to bed, checking on True before going to their rooms. The boy was sleeping on his stomach, as usual, and his right thumb was halfway in his mouth. He held Mr. Bear under his left arm.
Johnny leaned over and pushed some hair away from the boy’s face and kissed him on the head as Scott straightened the covers and pulled them up to cover the child’s shoulders. He, too, gave his little brother a gentle kiss on the head and left quietly with Johnny.
The next morning, True came down and joined his family for breakfast. Murdoch was outlining the chores for the day. When Murdoch stated that Truman would be joining his brothers to help clear the stream, True’s head popped up and he grinned.
“Does that mean we’re not going to town and I can stay in the trick riding event?” the boy asked hopefully.
“No.” Murdoch replied firmly.
The boy’s shoulders slumped and he pouted, stabbing at his sausage and eggs vehemently.
“Stop that and eat correctly, young man,” Murdoch warned.
Truman glared at Murdoch for a moment, then resumed eating normally when Murdoch glared back.
Johnny, Scott, and Teresa were observing the interaction with trepidation, and hoped Truman didn’t push too far.
“Val came by after you went to bed. Two people have been hurt trying to do tricks on their cowponies for the event,” Murdoch began to explain.
“They didn’t grow up in a circus. They didn’t know what they were doing,” Truman muttered.
“Truman Oliver, that is enough. It just proves my point that cowponies are born and bred and trained to work with cattle, NOT doing tricks with acrobats. If you continue acting like this, I WILL make you withdraw from the rodeo and you will forfeit your money. Is that clear?” Murdoch warned.
True didn’t want to withdraw and lose more money. He didn’t know Murdoch had his entry fee from the cancelled event. The boy decided he better straighten up to avoid the undesired consequence.
After breakfast, the Lancer sons saddled up and rode out with a team to clear the stream to ensure that the water supply wasconstant.
True was quiet but cooperative and worked hard to help. He knew that Papa expected a good behavior report about him from his brothers.
During the lunch break, Scott took the boy aside to have a chat with him. Scott settled on a log and pulled Truman onto his lap.
“True, Papa knows best. He doesn’t want you to get hurt and you need to respect his judgment, even if you are not afraid. You need to listen to Papa and follow his directions. It’s not that he doesn’t want you to have fun, he just doesn’t want anything terrible to happen to you. Do you understand?” Scott asked.
“Yeah, I get it.”
“Good. Now, I don’t want you to ask Papa about it anymore, is that clear?”
“Excellent. You’re going to accept the decision, move on, and practice for the roping and barrel racing events, right?”
“Good.” Scott gave the youngster a quick hug and they went back to work.
After the work was finished and their chores were finished, Scott and Johnny helped True practice his roping skills. They had a few days left to practice before the children’s events started, but the rodeo would begin in just two days.
Story 2: Rodeo, Part E
The big day had finally arrived. The Lancers rode into town Tuesday afternoon and found seats in the specially made bleachers. Johnny and Scott were both in the roping contest and they would be in the first competition. The first round was an elimination round. All who qualified would be in rounds two and three, until there were only three contestants left.
Johnny went second and qualified. Scott was fourth on the list and he, too, qualified for the next round. By round three, only three contestants were left-Billy Myler, Johnny, and Scott. In the end, Johnny won first place, Scott won second place, and Billy earned third.
Johnny won the bronc busting contest, hooves down. All the other contestants landed on their backsides. It was tough for the judges to decide who came in second and third.
The next evening was the bull riding event. Since none of the Lancers had entered the contest, they enjoyed watching others make fools of themselves. They ate barbecue sandwiches and had either beer or sarsaparilla to drink while they enjoyed the festivities.
Billy Myler won the bull-riding contest. Zeke Lawson (not the barber-another Zeke) won second place, and Tyler Copeland won third.
Scott, Johnny, Billy, Zeke, Tyler, Joshua Copeland, and Mike Myler were in the barrel racing contest. Scott placed first in this contest, with Mike Myler in second and Johnny won third place.
The next evening was designated for the children’s events. Simon, Paul, David McClean, and Jimmy Harris competed with True in the calf roping contest. The children were required to ride in and rope a calf, then dismount their horses while holding the rope and stand next to the calf. They had a minute to perform the task. The children were permitted to wear gloves to prevent rope burns.
All of the boys qualified in the first round, so the judges knocked ten seconds off the time for round two. Paul and Jimmy were eliminated in the second round. In the third round, another ten seconds were taken away. Truman was eliminated in this round because the calf he had roped stood up and ran off, with the boy still holding on. After being dragged a few feet, True let go of the rope and stood up. He was angry at the calf and stomped his foot. He brushed his shirt off, picked up his hat, gathered Mickey’s reins and walked to the gate, where he was greeted by Murdoch.
“Are you okay, son?” he asked.
“I’m okay. That stupid calf ran off!”
“I know, son. I’m sorry. Calves do that sometimes. You need to let go of the rope sooner so you don’t get dragged, okay?”
“Okay. I didn’t win, Papa,” Truman said sorrowfully.
“I know, son, but you made it to the third round during your first ever rodeo and that’s great. You can’t win all the time, you know, but I am very proud of you for trying and doing your best. Maybe the barrels will be more cooperative and not run off.”
“Papa, barrels can’t run. They don’t have legs.”
Murdoch chuckled and hugged his boy. When they joined the rest of the family, Johnny and Scott encouraged Truman and praised his efforts.
Simon ended up winning the event. There were no second or third places. David lost because of timing.
Truman clapped for his friend. He was disappointed that he was eliminated, but True was consoled by the fact that his good buddy won the event. Simon had more experience roping so it was good that he won.
Friday evening was the final event for the children. The same boys that had entered the roping contest also entered the barrel racing contest. David knocked a bucket of sand over, and Jimmy Harris’ horse ran into the barrel and knocked it down. Truman, Simon, and Paul qualified for the next round. Truman came in third with forty-nine seconds, Simon came in second with thirty-five seconds, and Paul came in first with twenty-nine seconds.
The boys’ families cheered for them. True was happier with the results of this contest than the roping contest. He didn’t place first or second, but he did place third, and for his first rodeo, he was okay with that. When True met up with his family, they praised him and told him how proud they were of him.
“Thanks. I’ve been thinking,” True said.
“About what, son?” Murdoch asked.
“Well, even though I didn’t win, it was okay because it’s my first rodeo and I’m still learning stuff. Maybe next year, I’ll do better.”
“That’s right, little buddy. You know, while you practiced and trained, you improved your skills,” Scott pointed out.
“Yeah, I did, didn’t I?” the boy asked.
“Ya sure did, lil cowboy. Ya did great!” Johnny praised him.
“Thanks, Scott and Johnny. Papa, I’ll have ten more dollars to put in the bank.”
The older Lancer sons patted their little brother’s back.
“Good for you, son. We’ll do that Monday morning,” Murdoch replied. “We best head on home to get some sleep. We need to get up early to finish our work so we can come back for the closing ceremonies.”
The family agreed, so they went home and off to bed.
The next morning, everyone was up and raring to go. The family and ranch hands finished all of their jobs and morning chores before one in the afternoon. After washing up and changing clothes, the Lancers and a few ranch hands went to town. All of the contestants who had placed in an event rode their horses in the parade from the town square to the rodeo pens.
As each event and age group was called, the participants who placed or won entered the big ring and received a small medal and a bank draft.
There was a picnic after the ceremonies, and a fireworks display followed the meal. Simon and his family joined the Lancers, congratulating each other on their triumphs and offering condolences for the tribulations they endured.
True was perched on Murdoch’s shoulders to watch the fireworks display. He felt happy and on top of the world. He didn’t win the events, but he wasn’t a loser, either. The boy had done the best he could and vowed to himself that he wouldn’t give up, that he would keep practicing and improve his skills for the next rodeo.
The End of Story 2
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