“8 seconds! He rode him for 8 seconds!” She leapt and screamed the joyful news!
“Mom, he jumped off the horse! Why did he jump off the horse, Mom?”
“If that there horse can’t buck him off in eight seconds, Mikey, then he’s beaten the horse. Your dad beat the horse, Mikey, so he jumped off. Thet darn horse couldn’t buck him off in eight seconds no more.” Today Mikey’s Mum was so excited and proud.
“Not much of a horse, Mum.”
“Oh, Memory’s a great horse – always was the greatest buckin’ bronco in the rodeo. But Joe’s ridden him a few times, so he just knows what to expect. Ole Memory always plays the same tricks, so Joe knows what to expect and he’s ready for it. Those bucks ain’t half so bad if yer knows what ter expect”
“Hey Gran’paw, Paw rode Memory for eight seconds, and then he jumped off”.
“He, he. It’s a case of who’s bin around the longest, ole Memory or your Paw. They’s old mates Mikey. They knows each other like they knows the back of their hands – or hooves. He he he!” Mikey was fascinated at the convulsing musculature of his grandpaw’s great belly as he rendered his mighty chuckle.
The beam on Joe’s face said more than a thousand words as he came sauntering over to the family stake-out.
“Hey Paw, you didn’t fall off Memory. You jumped off after eight seconds. You beat him Paw.”
“Yeah, young Mikey. I finally beat him. It’s taken me five years and about eight rides, but I finally beat him. He ain’t beatin’ me no more. I got him now.”
Joe Beatty looked into the shining eyes of his younger son and a shift took place in his affections.
Not so long ago another son had been looking into his eyes with that same wide-eyed excitement. This had been the swarthy boy who was at his side all day, every day, walking through the wheatfields, hammering in the forge, learning to drive the huge tractor, lumping bales of hay, and riding around the cattle, listening, listening to the talk around the ranch and learning, growing, adolescing, falling in love with the girl in red pigtails. They had been so close, father and son.
Then it had happened. The boy had driven the tractor too far along the hillside, and it had rolled right over on top of him. Joe had seen it, but by the time he raced over to it the boy was dying. Frantically he tried to extricate him, but it was too late, and help was too far away. He could do nothing. If only he hadn’t …..
For months Joe was contorted in his grief. He’d wanted to sell the miserable ranch that had cost him his son, and go …………… where? His first hand man took over the ranch while Joe paced furiously over the horrid hillsides, until finally one day he screamed out loud. The screams echoed insanely during the long, hot afternoon, until finally it was enough. He sauntered home, red-eyed and weary, to hug the mother of his beloved son, and to behold, to view with staggered eyes, the piercing, blue eagerness of the younger Mikey.
He began to take over the ranch again, to re-engage modestly in the community life, with the little blond shadow on his heels. When the rodeo came around he faced the great challenge. He’d always starred. Could he now do it - one last time?
“Father, Father in Heaven,” Joe tilted his Stetson back and looked upwards, “I really, really_ need_ a win_ today.”
This was the day and he’d drawn that most brilliantly cunning of all bucking horses, Memory. The mighty spirit within him rose up to do battle as the gates flew open for his ride. Everything else left his mind as he engaged with that wild, spotted bronco, front feet flying, back legs highkicking, dodging left and then the double twister, rearing and spinning. The bell rang time and he had won! He slipped off, triumphant, to the roaring din of an ecstatic crowd.
But when, finally, Joe allowed himself to gaze upon the pure adoration in the brilliant blue eyes of his second son, he knew how he’d muster the courage, and win the real battle with Memory.
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