So blow you ol' blue northern
Blow my love to me


She was older now and it didn't seem like such a big deal any more. But it still hurt. You can fantasize about love and you can dream about love and folks can tell you about love, but it ain't never even close to what happens inside you.

Roy was the one who got his picture on the handbill they stapled up all over town a couple of weeks before the rodeo came to town. She was fifteen and couldn't quit looking at those handbills. One was on the utility pole right outside her house down at the end of Laredo Drive. That sounds romantic, but Laredo Drive in Palestine, Texas, was just the dusty end of a cul de sac so far out in the middle of nowhere that when she stood outside at night and looked at the stars, they seemed closer than the next town over.

The playbill advertising the rodeo had Roy at the apex of a bull ride. He had the familiar pose of one hand on the rope and the other hand holding his feathered cowboy hat over his head. But it was the look on his face that made this normally clichéd pose stick an arrow right in her chest. He wasn't free of fear and full of himself like the typical cowboy. He was scared to death.

So was she. No one around her had a clue, but her insides were in a constant tremble with terror about so many different things that it would have been hard to sort them. She saw a kindred spirit on that playbill and she made up her mind right then and there to go to that rodeo and meet this nameless boy who just might understand.

She told her mom and dad that she was going to spend the night with Claire. She got Claire to go along with it, and went to the Thursday opening night show. She left the stands after the first calf roping event and went down the back way to the bull pens. There the boy was, squatting on top on a gate looking down at the huge animal beneath him. And there was that look on his face. She was right. It was pure fear.


There's a young man that I know, whose age is twenty one
Comes from down in southern Colorado


She'd heard that song somewhere on the radio once while riding in the family car on a trip. She remembered that her mom hummed along while her dad seemed totally unaware. Hard to say why it'd crop up in her mind right now. Surely this boy wasn't from Colorado. He looked more like an Oklahoma boy.

He caught her looking at him and quickly threw his eyes to the ground. She decided now was not a good time and walked back the way she came. She went back to her seat and watched the entire show. Her favorite cowboy in the show didn't fare so well. He came in dead last in the calf roping, and his ride on that white bull lasted one hard buck.

She stood around the entrance gate long after most of the folks had left, and got her wish. He was limping pretty badly.

Young eyes locked. Heat waves intensified into visible patterns of desire. The ever-present dust began to be expelled with violent breathing at a rate so intense that it resembled large reptilian forms resigned to return to their brown flatlands. And in congruence with the time of the creation of the universe, it was over in an instant.

There were two things changed by the encounter. The boy who was supposedly afraid of cattle turned out to have secretly been afraid of a much larger yet more ephemeral beast. He no longer was, and any future poster with his photo on it would forever be that much more of a cliché. He would never again have anyone like this come looking for him, and the regret would ferment in his gut as unexpelled toxins until the day he died.

The more important change was on the cellular level. This change was happening inside the girl, but it was not happening anywhere near the place inside her where she felt the love. This was deeper and much closer to her gut. This was the feel of a change that could kill you.


My parents can not stand him, cause he rides the rodeo
My father says that he will leave me crying


Now she lives on the same planet and in the same place where it happened, but she's not a Texan anymore. She's hardly an American, and she's barely human. She's eaten out by daytime TV and remorse and the curse of her parents and the haunting of memory. She'd drink if she was thirsty. She'd drown if it would help.


He loves his damned old rodeo as much as he loves me
Some day soon, goin' with him some day soon

The truth? He was from Colorado. That, and the way his cheeks blushed from attention made him a shoe-in for celebrity, even if no one knew it yet. It surely wasn't his ability to hold a ride or rope a steer, both of which screamed fledgling. Who can say for sure what makes a man dream, or why this young one chose the rodeo? Some say it's the excitement, or the travel, or the visceral lure of man vs. beast. For Roy, it was about conquering the impossible, becoming a man. The other fellas on the circuit called him "slick" and "sissy" and snickered at him as he fed bales of hay to the stock, hanging around waiting for another chance. He'd hoped it wouldn't take forever.

It hadn't. When Chuck Horton broke three ribs on that midnight black bull, they'd needed someone else to fill the show. "This rodeo ain't no carnival, kid. Christ, don't kill yourself." Even though he had the cash to enter, Roy could never muster the qualifying ride. They'd put him out there on the meanest sonofabitch they had every time. He'd fly off at the first buck like clockwork. But tonight they needed another rider to up the purse, and the cash was bigger than their pride. They gave him another shot.

There's a young man that I know, whose age is twenty one
Comes from down in southern Colorado

His hands were shaky and his mind was on an old folk song when they mounted him on the bull that was going to win him that evening's gold buckle. The gate opened, his mouth opened wider, and the two of them bucked and humped to the cheers of a clueless audience. Roy's expression of pure terror made them hoot louder, hoping to give him some cock to his strides as he dug his spurs into the sides of the bull almost accidentally. Nine seconds. Over.

Nobody razzed Roy that night to his face, except for the sorest losers of all. They hinted the stock judge was sweet on him, or that somehow the ride had been less than fair. The kicker of it all was that Roy knew it was a fluke, and that he wasn't any good at bull riding. He could close his eyes to recount the ride and he knew, without a doubt, that he hadn't had any idea what was going on. Hell, he was just trying to keep his hat. It was luck. A fluke. A mistake.

That night he'd dreamed of buckle bunnies baring their chests at him as he dug into each buck, riding the violence with an easy smile. In the dream he was God's gift to women, and they all wanted a piece of Roy the Rider. They waved and writhed and blew kisses in the dusty Texas air at him. Grinning, licking his lips like a wolf as he went ten, eleven, twelve seconds on that bull, he turned. His mother, eyes decayed from time underground, had managed to keep that pursed expression of complete disgust. "Fluuuuuuke," she hissed. Roy woke up screaming and sweating.

The other riders thought it would be funny to use Roy's picture in the promotionals, but the boss had taken a shine to Roy, and figured he could play the fear angle. "Get some new blood up in here, make more green on amateur night we get this here picture up 'front of enough locals." By sunset, Roy's macabre expression was on every utility pole in a 50 mile radius.

While the other riders laid local girls or called home or had huge dinners that stuck to their ribs, Roy paced and dreaded his next go round. He was still replaying the end of his dream as he clambered to the top of the gate, squatting above his beastly fate. What they say about fear is true: it plays funny tricks on time. The hours leading up to the rodeo had flown by, and now the moments before his ride were barely creeping. He looked up for a clock but found her staring at him, eyes wide like a china doll's. He'd seen her before. In his dream, a girl just like her had been dancing to the sound of the bull riding, her nipples punctuating each grind of her hips. He shuddered, shook his head, and looked away. She was gone.

Minutes lurched on and it was Roy's turn. He cleared his mind of the girl and the dream and the gate opened and just as the bull came crashing out of it, he saw her in the stands. The china doll. The siren. A second later the white bull whose name must have been Justice bucked him hard to the ground. He was still shaking as he hobbled back to safety. One second.

On some intuitive level, the kind aligned by cosmos and weird coincidence, he realized he had to beat his fears if he was going to make it big as a cowboy. Like a sacrifice from an understanding God, she stood at the gate. The air turned from humid to determined as he met her gaze. He tried to stride to her, but his limp got in the way. For a second he thought this would defeat him, but in her eyes it was just the right touch. This is about where we left off.

My parents can not stand him, cause he rides the rodeo
My father says that he will leave me crying

Just a few more seconds and it's all over. He bites her neck and grins to himself and lies that he'll call to see how she's doing. His mind is on the prize--tomorrow night's finals--and if he can talk the boss into giving him another shot, he knows he'll best that bull the way he conquered his nightmare. He finds his jeans and hat, strokes her cheek, and whistles a tune all the way back.

He loves his damned old rodeo as much as he loves me
Some day soon, goin' with him some day soon

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