Once Miss Last Chance – Part 4

Here is Part 4 of your read free romantic short story…

“Then come on. I’ll give you a lift home.”
A half-dozen cowboys grip the steel gate, ready to swing it open for the next rider. One of the bulls batters the chute, his head and hooves a solid match for any six men. The cowboys tug and shove to get him back down. The rider signals. The buzzer sounds. The gate opens. The bull rider hangs for a whirling few seconds, then loses his balance, falls to one side. The pick-up men on horseback in the ring can’t rescue him until the clowns steer the bull away. The rider drops to the ground. The bull turns and, in a spinning frenzy, pounds a hoof into the boy’s thigh. Our acrobatic clown races to the fallen rider and lifts him onto the rail just as the bull circles back. One of the pick-up men ropes the bull, catching him by the snout. The cowboy on the rail is saved. The crowd cheers.
The announcer quips, “Catch a bull by the nose and you’ll need a bath towel.”
There’s a collective, “Ooh, ick.”
Mindy says, “That’s disgusting. Then, as an afterthought she asks, “Mom, when you were Miss Last Chance Gulch, what did you wear?”
“I’ll tell you in a minute. Here comes another bull rider.”
Ketchum’s truck was parked in front of my house when we got there. Ketchum fidgeted in the cab, stewing.
Bill opened the door for me and took my arm, as if it didn’t bother him at all that Ketchum was sitting there. Ketchum jumped down and stormed over to me and Bill.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Ketchum asked me.
Bill gave my arm the softest squeeze, as if to say he’d let me handle Ketchum any way I wanted, but he wouldn’t leave me to do it alone. No one had ever touched me that way before.
“I’m going to change for the fireworks.”
“Well, hurry up,” Ketchum said.
“I’m not going with you.”
Ketchum glared at Bill, then at me. His nostrils sort of flared like a bull. His cheeks got red. He cleared his throat.
“Then I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” he said. “Maybe.”
When the bull riding is finished, Mindy turns to me and asks, “Did you wear anything fancy?”
I describe the get-up. It’s easy. It’s not the sort of thing I’d ever forget.
“Was it strapless?”
“Yes. Push-up bra and all.”
“Mom!”
“Oh, and did I mention the red ten gallon hat with the stars and stripes hat band?”
“Oh, brother,” she says, turning her attention back to the arena below.
“Tonight,” the announcer says as the spotlight searches through the crowd, then centers on one man near the bucking events gate, “We’d like to present a special award to a man who’s helped make this rodeo the grand show it is, a man who’s made a name for Central Montana State on a national level, a man who gives his all, Coach Ketchum Wydell.”
Mindy and I applaud. Ketchum bows. Success sits well on his shoulders. He still looks great.
 I’d never seen fireworks so pretty before. Bill kind of draped his arm around me and explained they were a new kind from mainland China. They looked like sparkling silver and gold waterfalls in the sky. He and his friends were as kind as they could be to me, but I kept thinking about Ketchum.
The next morning, early, while my parents slept, Ketchum came by. We sat on the porch swing. He was calm. That surprised me.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said. He took off his hat. “I was wrong. You can wear anything you want. I just don’t like anyone else looking at you. And, I should have asked you to the fireworks. I got no right assuming you’d go with me. I’m gonna treat you right from now on.”
He rocked back and forth for a minute. Then he looked at me with those huge eyes.
“I’m serious,” he said. “I’m asking if you’ll marry me.”
My head swam. I couldn’t think straight.
“Well, Ketchum,” I said, “You’d do well to have a wife like me.”
The crowd is filtering out of the Field House. Rows of seats stand empty now.
“Mom, everybody loves Daddy, don’t they?” Mindy’s questions never stop.
“You bet. Especially you and me.”
I see my husband jump over the arena fence and climb toward us.
“Did Daddy know it was strapless?”
“What?” I ask.
“The tube top,” Mindy says. “Did Daddy ever know you wore that in a parade?”
Bill ascends the stadium seats two at a time. His big blue coveralls billow with every hop. Mindy pinches his red ball of a nose. He squeezes my shoulder gently and gives her a wink.
“You bet, Mindy, Honey. He knew.”

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