Where: Lubbock, Texas
When: August, 1985
Alias: Elaine Brown
I was standing by the trailer, brushing down Falling Water, when a child squealed happily. I looked over my shoulder to watch as a man swung a little girl up from the ground and almost over his head in one swift move. The girl, probably no older than four, shrieked with glee.
"Again, Daddy!" she demanded.
I smiled to myself as I went back to grooming the buckskin. Falling Water and I had been together almost a year and a half. He'd been named for a Cheyenne friend from long ago, and I knew he would be honored to have his name passed to such a beautiful animal.
Falling Water's last owner and I hadn't quite seen eye-to-eye. John Clark's original intention was to turn the buckskin into a saddle bronc. Anyone with eyes could see the horse didn't have a mean bone in his body, and that made training him all the easier. It had taken a few months, but Falling Water went from a skittish, abused, ex-bronc to a much happier cutting horse; once he got over his fear of saddles, of course.
I looked down to see a small boy, probably not much older than two and a half standing close to the horse's left front leg. My back went stiff as a board. Falling Water hadn't been around kids at all and I didn't know how he'd react to the youngling.
With my heart in my mouth, I watched as he swung his head down to inspect the boy, whose shirt was covered with sno-cone syrup. The buckskin lipped at the material, but didn't bite him. The boy laughed and tried to cover up his belly.
I couldn't help smiling as Falling Water gently blew into the tyke's face before turning away. I breathed a sigh of relief and looked around for the child's parents. Luckily, I didn't have to look too far.
"Scotty!" I heard a man call out.
I turned to see the father and daughter I'd spotted a few minutes before. The little girl was now on his shoulders as he hurried over to his son.
I had to admit, he was kinda cute. He wasn't really all that tall, most bullriders weren't, and judging from the belt buckle, he'd won a few go-rounds. He was wiry, another characteristic of a good bullrider, with bright blue eyes and a chiseled face. Yeah, he was definitely cute.
"Scotty!" he scolded the young boy, as he set down his daughter. "You know better than to wander off like that!"
Immediately, the boy's face fell. "Just wanted to say hi to horsey."
"I know, but not all horseys like little boys," his father replied, then turned to me. "Sorry if he's been any trouble."
"Don't worry about it," I replied, tossing Falling Water's brush into a bucket that I used for all his currying things.
"By the way, I'm Wade Jameson, and this here's Erin," he said, patting the little girl on the head, "and you've already met Scotty."
"Elaine Brown," I replied, shaking the hand he'd offered.
"Nice to meet you," he said smiling.
It was a nice smile that lit up his face under the dark brim of his cowboy hat, and I found myself smiling back.
"You from around here?" he asked.
"Nah, Colorado," my mouth lied easily. "Manitou Springs."
Well, it was partially true. I'd lived near there under the alias Kate Darcy for awhile, but that was over a century ago.
"So, what brings you out on the circuit?"
"Woman's gotta make a living," another lie. "Trained Falling Water and if I can make a name for myself as a trainer, I'd like to start up some kind of ranch. Maybe do a bit of stock contracting."
Sometimes, I just don't know where my mouth comes up with things like that, but as my head thought about it, I realized it wasn't such a half-bad idea after all. Wade, in the meanwhile, looked impressed.
"What about you?" I returned the question.
"Got these two to feed," he answered, looking down at his kids.
"Where's their mama?" I asked impulsively.
"Gone," Wade answered simply, looking back up at me.
I could tell by the look in his blue eyes that she wasn't "dead gone" but definitely wasn't around anymore. I felt an upsurge in anger that anyone could throw away not one, but two, kids she'd given birth to. For someone who couldn't have any kids, it just pissed me off, but I quickly got my temper back under control.
"Sorry to hear that," I replied.
"Not your fault," Wade answered. "You gonna be in town long?"
I shook my head. "Heading up to Pueblo after tomorrow."
Wade smiled, and I could see a bit of mischief behind it. "Alright, we'll probably see you there."
Just then, the loud speakers blared with an announcement for all the cutting entries to make their way over to the arena.
"That's me," I said, picking up Falling Water's saddle from nearby. Wade nodded.
"C'mon, let's go find some seats," he said to the kids, then plopping Scotty down on his shoulders, he took Erin by the hand.
"Bye, horsey!" Scotty called, waving.