Once Miss Last Chance – Part 1

Here’s Part 1 of Once Miss Last Chance, a free read romantic short story as a way of saying thank you.  Hope you enjoy. It will appear in four parts…
“Mommy, were you ever a rodeo queen?” my daughter Mindy asks. She stares in awe as the opening rodeo performers, the Helena Bits & Spurs Mounted Drill Team, ride into the arena. Each of the riders carries the state flag of one of the college contestants, and the colors flutter, a rainbow in motion. Our seats in the stands of the Central Montana College Field House could only be better if we were kin to one of the contestants.
“I was Miss Last Chance Gulch, for a day. Does that count?”
“Are you serious?”
Mindy and I and fifteen hundred other people stand for the national anthem.
All those years ago, I wasn’t elected to wear the Miss Last Chance Gulch banner. The switch happened at the request of the Historic Helena Junior Chamber of Commerce. Charlene Hunnabacher, the real queen, turned up good and pregnant. Five months, by July Fourth. That morning, one of the Jaycee-ettes phoned me, a woman whose children I baby-sat, before I turned a sophisticated 18. She suspected I’d fit into the costume, what with my being so tall. No one else knew anyone who could wear the size nine boots. This was an emergency. The parade float was at stake.
I would never have entered the Miss Last Chance Gulch competition. I was a loner, didn’t hang out with a crowd. But the woman begged, said I’d do them proud, and I just thought why not?
The chute gate opens. The senior from Texas A&M bolts out on a saddle bronc. His chaps fly, slap his face. He holds his free hand out like a pro. The crowd roars. He loses his grip, soars high in the air, lands on the back of his neck. The eight-second buzzer sounds. There’s silence. He shakes his head, stands up, dusts himself off.
“When you lead with your head like that, partner,” the announcer’s familiar voice echoes over the public address system, “You’ll never have to worry about spraining an ankle. Folks, let’s give that sorry cowboy a hand!”
The costume slipped on with no trouble, except for the trouble I got from Ketchum Wydell. He’d been a half-hearted boyfriend. Making plans. Breaking plans. Then he stopped by when I was getting dressed for the Independence Day Parade, saw me in that get-up, and acted as if I’d agreed to wear it just to make him mad.
“You’re kidding, right? You are not planning to wear that, are you?” He asked, but it didn’t sound like a question. His stare inched up from the blue sequined cowboy boots to the fishnet stockings, to the blue bikini-cut half-leotard, the red-and-white striped bare midriff cotton tube top and red ten gallon hat.
I’d never worn anything so skimpy in my life. I kind of liked it, especially since it was just for a day. And there was something about his mocking tone that just frosted me.
“Yes,” I told him. “I promised I would.”
“No girlfriend of mine is going out dressed like that.”

To be continued…