chapter five

chapter six

chapter twelve

chapter one

chapter seven

chapter thirteen

chapter two

chapter eight

chapter fourteen

chapter three

chapter nine

chapter fifteen

chapter four

chapter ten

chapter sixteen

chapter five

chapter eleven

chapter seventeen

chapter six
plumpbucket ride

She was about five miles out of Plumpbucket, riding through orchards.

There were ranches and orchards through out the area. The name of the town came from an old term that the growers of that time used when they meant that they had a good harvest. It was a scenic ride for her. After another forty five minutes she could see the town.

Norny rode in hoping to find a watch maker or some sort of a craftsman of jewelry. She saw a woman walking along the wooden sidewalk and politely asked. "Pardon maíam, but do you have a jeweler in this town?"
The woman pointed up the way and said. " Thereís a clock repair shop just over there."
"Thank you" Norny said.
She rode over to it, tied Poco to the hitching post and went inside to talk to the old gent who worked the business.

"I have this earring," she said. "Can you put it on a chain for me?"
"Let me see it" He looks at it and says "Sure itíll cost you fifty cents."
Norny had a few dollars left that Daniel gave her, so she said "OK."
"Iíll just cut the hook off and..."
"NO! Donít cut anything, leave it as is." She said.
"All right then just give me a minute and Iíll fix it for you."

While she waited, Norny looked around at the clocks and trinkets he had. Then she noticed a poster in the window. It read.

Plumpbucktet Rodeo
Main event bull riding
All contestants welcome
First prize $500

The event was just two days away. Norny thought maybe Iíll try this, it might be fun.

"Here you go maíam."
Norny took the earring , now on a chain and put it around her neck.
"Here let me help you with that" the old man said.
Norny turned around and he fastened the necklace together for her.
"Thatíll be fifty cents" he said.
She paid the man then asked him " where do you sign up for the rodeo?"
"Well you can go down to the clerks office that way" as he pointed, "and they sign contestants there."
"Thank you" she said.

Norny unhitched Poco and they walked down to the office, and went inside.
There were some cowhands in there jawing with each other. When Norny came in they all shut up.
The man behind the counter says. "What can I do for you Miss?"
"Is this were I sign up to ride the bulls?" Norny asked.
They all just looked at her. "Well this is were you would sign up if you were a man."
"Your sign said all contestants welcome, it didnít say men only."
"Miss, women donít ride bulls; you could get killed."
"Couldn't anybody? Besides,that Ďs my choice to make" she said.
"Sorry Miss, men only."
Norny thought for a second, then turned and walked out. As the door closed behind her she heard the men break into laughter.

For now she needed to find the stable and work out a place to feed Poco and bed for the night.

When she found the stable, she talked the man into letting her stay there and agreed she would feed the horses for him.

After getting Poco all settled in, she took a walk through town to see what they had there. The white mans villages were always a curiosity for her. She strolled casually along, but as she was walking past the saloon there were some men standing around outside drinking and joking. One of them said "You a bull rider Miss?" then they all laughed.

She realized word must have traveled fast around town.

Norny tried to ignore them and to walk around. But they needed to have a little fun with her first. "We have a cow we can walk you around the arena on if you like. You can put on a pretty little dress, put your hair into pig tails and weíll put you on top of Bossy the cow and parade you around so you can get all the attention you want." They all roared with laughter.

Norny could smell the alcohol and it flashed her back to Ashby and her experience with Leon. "Excuse me" she said, and as she tried to walk by, one of them stepped in front of her and blocked her path. His name was Willard.

He looks at the earring hanging around her neck and reaches for it. This made Nornyís blood rush.

Without thinking she took one step forward swinging her right arm in low and grabbing a sack full of soprano oysters. Norny had a grip like a vise and so she squeezed hard.

Willard broke into acappella for everyone there. Now they werenít laughing anymore.

Norny turned loose and walked away without saying a word. What she didnt know was, she had just made some dangerous enemies in this town.

After Willard recovered, he proclaimed "We gotta get that one."
They marched over to the clerks office and said to Sy behind the signup desk. "We want her to ride the day after tomorrow. Only when they draw the bulls, she gets Cricket."
"Now Willard you know about Cricket."
"Donít hand me any of that crap," Willard said, "just do what I tell you."
"OK, sure Willard."

Obviously they all knew Willardís reputation. So it was just easier to go along with him.

Norny got up early the next morning and started pitching hay and cleaning the stables. She brushed down Poco and made sure they had water. After that Norny headed over to get something for breakfast.

When she went into the dining room, she is approached by a man who says, "Theyíre going to let you ride in the rodeo tomorrow. You need to get over there and sign up when they open."
"Thanks," Norny says.

I wonder what changed thier minds, she thought?

Norny has her breakfast then heads over to the clerks office. She walks in and you could tell that the few men that were in there knew something from the way they looked at her.

Norny says " Were do I sign?"
"Right here maíam. Are you sure you want to do this? There are bull riders from all over the country showing up for this event, and some were previous champions."
"Yes, I want to do it."
"OK then, thatíll be two dollars entry fee." Norny just had the two dollars with some pocket change left over. She paid the man, signed her name then left.

When she left the man said, "I hope nothing happens to that little lady."

 

The reason Norny felt qualified to ride in the bull riding event goes back to her early days of being trained as a warrior.

Part of the training that the prospective warriors had to go through was a kind of game they would play. It was a special event of the tribe, and all the members would turn out to participate or watch. Everyone in the tribe the men, the women, and the children would come out to the valley where the buffalo herd was grazing. The tribe would sit up on the side of the hill so that they could get a good view of the action. What they would do is stamped the buffalo, then one at a time, the soon to be warriors would show their courage by leaping from the back of their horse to the back of the buffalo and ride them as long as they could. This was to be Nornyís first time at something like this. And the first time any female had ever tried it. She was fairly young and new at anything that had to do with buffalo. She was waiting her turn and taking some coaching from her elders. Running Fox was there to show his skill and to guide Norny through this event. It took the courage a real warrior to do this.

See how Little Bear rides up along side of his buffalo. Then he gets both feet up on the back of his horse and in a crouched position, and when the moment is right he leaps to the back of the buffalo. And he is off on the ride of his life. To dismount he has one of two choices. He can either drop off to the ground and roll to a stop, running the risk of breaking something or being trampled by the other buffalo, or he can remount his own horse. Proving that both the horse and rider were skilled and worked together as a team. Either way was dangerous. One by one they went out to challenge the buffalo until they sent out the one they called Black Fist. As he had made his leap, the buffalo had suddenly turned in to him and hung him on its horn. As they watched in horror, the tribe made a fearful sound and stood to their feet to see how badly he was injured. Two of the other warriors rode out to him to grab him up before he could be trampled to death. Each had one of his arms and carried him while they rode out of harms way. He was hurt pretty bad. From where Norny sat on top of Poco she could see the blood. Norny now feared the same fate. It was getting to be Nornyís turn. Running Fox said "donít think of the fear Smiling Eyes. Think only of riding the buffalo." Well, Norny only had Poco for a couple of years, but they were a natural together. Poco could almost read Nornyís thoughts, so she had that in her favor.

"When I tell you Smiling Eyes, ride out to the herd and choose your buffalo, then get right up along side and do as you have seen the other do and leap on the back. When you get on his back grab onto the thick nap around his neck and lean forward. Do you understand?" Yes, she said. Fear was gripping Norny as she waited for the signal. Suddenly he said "GO!" Norny and Poco charged down to the herd. As she got in close her senses came alive with the smell and the sound of the buffalo. The ground was vibrating hard from the pounding of the herd, and the heavy chuging sound of the hard breath of the buffalo was almost deafening. She had never been this close to such a large and powerful animal before. She felt small along side these creatures. Now she understood why this was a good test of courage. Only a fool wouldnít have fear of this. Norny saw her animal and headed up along side. The fact that she was the first female ever picked to become a warrior made it only that much harder on her. She had to go through with this. She rode along with the buffalo for what must have seemed like an eternity to her. Then her bare feet came up onto Pocoís back, she waited for a moment then went for it. She landed straight onto the back of the beast, but as she came down the buffalo came up and the hump of the buffalo hit Norny square in the face. This knocked her off guard and she lost her balance and fell to the ground. The fall knocked the wind out of her. Hooves were pounding the ground all around her, and coming up from behind was another buffalo. The buffalo saw her as an object and tried to jump her, but its hind hoof caught Norny on the inside of her thigh. She was in pain. Quickly Running Fox and Crow Feathers charged down to get her before she could be crushed in the oncoming stampede. Norny wanted to cry just the way a child would who had been hurt, but she knew that she would never be able to live with the ridicule if they saw her cry. After all she was being trained as a warrior and they were expecting a female to fail. They grabbed her up off the ground and brought her back to the others. Her leg was badly bruised and there was a break in the skin in the shape of a half moon. They put some special herbal mixture on it to keep infection away. Then they wrapped it tightly.

When the games were over for the day, they all went back to camp to praise the victors and to thank the spirits for protecting them. Norny knew she had disappointed them and lost face with her peers. None of the other warriors included her in the camaraderie like they did with each other. They were all talking about their ride and how brave they were. They would look over at Norny and whisper something to each other and get a chuckle or two. You can only guess at what they could be saying, but you can bet it had something to do with her being a girl, and that she didnít belong with the warriors.

Norny lay out by the fire listening to the celebrating and the chanting and the fun knowing that she had no right to be a part of it. She had no idea what would come next for her now that she had failed.

The next day Norny was up at sunrise. She walked around to see how her injuryís were healing. She was very sore, but she could walk. She noticed the rest of the tribe was going about their business, but Crow Feathers was walking Poco over to her. "Climb on Norny," he told her. Why ? Where are we going she asked? Then Running Fox rode over with Crow feathers horse. Crow Feathers climbed on and the three of them rode off together. After a few minutes Norny realized that they were taking her back to the buffalo herd. They were going to get Norny back onto the buffalo.

Crow Feathers told her, "You canít wait to ride the beast, or your fear will only grow. You must do it now. " So with that they gave Norny some instruction. They told her "As you ride out to challenge the buffalo, visualize yourself on its back and in complete control." Then they stampeded the herd. Norny was scared to death, but she did what she was told and this time she was successful.

When they went back to the camp neither of them said a word about Nornyís ride, they all just went about their business. The other young warriors still wouldnít associate with her, nor did they know of her lesson.

During the next week that past, Norny did a foolish thing. She would sneak out early in the morning and go to the buffalo herd by herself. Her and Poco would stampede the herd and Norny would practice buffalo jumping. If she had been hurt , there would have been no one there to help her. But the way Norny looked at it , she would rather be dead as to go through life being humiliated by her peers. Or being laughed at and teased for being a failure. During that week she would still be back in time for the rest of her learning. Some of the young warriors were made to learn the white mans written word. They knew that it would soon be a white mans world and to survive they must learn the reading skills. Standing Elk of the Umitilla tribe had mastered those skills and must now pass it on. To Norny especially. She also had to continue with hand to hand combat. Her fellow warriors were especially hard on her. They smelled the fear in her and they would make her break if they could. There was nothing they would have rather seen then Norny cry or break down like a child. She was a smart girl and she knew exactly what they were doing. Norny as always, felt alone in her world. I guess this is the sort of thing that made Norny into a loner.

Well in another day they would all be going back out to the buffalo herd for more games, but this time they would bring one back for food and celebration. Norny knew she was going to have to ride the buffalo again, but this time she was ready and she would think only of the ride.

Norny sat on Poco watching the others and waiting her turn. I canít say that she didnít have fear because she did , but this time she would use the fear in a positive way and concentrate on only the ride. Then it was Nornyís turn. She and Poco took off like they were shot from a cannon. Poco had quickly caught up with the herd. Pocoís physique was almost sculpturesque as his powerful muscles raced Norny towards her ride. Norny stayed low on Pocoís back. There was no doubt she knew how to ride. Pocoís stride was long and delierate, about a length and a half of the buffalo. The pounding roar of the hooves and the heavy breathing of the herd sounded like a locomotive at full throttle. She could feel the heat from body warmth of the herd. There was a lot of dust being generated in all directions. Norny stayed low to keep up the speed. She was moving fast along side of the herd to find her buffalo.

When she picked him out, she focused on him. She studied him as she approached him, and by the time she got to him she knew him well. Like an old friend who's habits were totally predictable.

The others were thinking *Where is she going?* Suddenly it was obvious; she had passed the herd and was heading for their leader. Everyone knew that the leader of the herd was the wildest and most unpredictable of them all. In Nornyís mind she knew she couldnít just do as good as everyone else, or she would never get the respect she earned as a maiden warrior. No, she now had to do better. As she rode up along side of the leader, he would make sudden sharp turns in who knows what direction, so it would take a strong, powerful, alert horse like Poco to stay with him. Then Nornyís feet came up onto Pocoís back, and she remained croutched their as they watched for her moment. Suddenly there it was, she leaped to the back of the beast and she was on. They all laughed with approval, but then she did something they didnít expect. Her feet came up onto the back of the buffalo, but Poco wasnít close enough to make her dismount. *What is she doing?* they wondered. Then Norny stood straight up on the buffaloís back while it was running at full speed. You could see Nornyís knees flexing up and down with the movement of the buffalo. Then she puts her arms straight out to her sides. This was unbelievable!

The tribe came to their feet, and awed in astonishment. No one had ever done anything like this before, until Norny. She stood for what must have been about six seconds and then she signaled for Poco. Then she just jumped onto Pocoís back from a standing position. When Norny headed back, there was Crow Feathers and Running Fox charging as fast as they could down to meet her. Crow Feathers came to a stop along side Norny then reached over and pulled Norny off of Poco and on to the back of his horse. Then he raised his clench fisted arm up in the air and let out several loud and long glorious yelps of victory, then rode Norny back to the rest of the tribe. They were all over her with praise. They hugged her and patted her back and treated her like the proud young warrior she had just become. There was know doubt she was there champion. That night when they danced and chanted around the fire, they would be celebrating Norny's unbelievable ride.

The other young warriors were envious and not happy about being shown up by a female even if she was a warrior. They felt the equivalent of wimps next to her now. They preferred her as a sniveling female. They didnít realize that they were forcing her to out do them at everything she did by trying to make her give up or fail. Norny was a stubborn breed. If you laughed at her and mocked her, she would eventually make you eat it one way or the other. This is what made Norny a tough competitor and a winner.

As time went on and the buffalo riding event would come around again, many young warriors would try and duplicate Nornyís ride, but they never did. None of them had the balance or agility that Norny naturally possessed. They didnít like being beaten by Norny, but they learned to have respect for her ability. And in the end they were all proud to know that the only maiden warrior ever, was their own little sister Norny.

 

The word had spread all over town that a woman was going to be riding in this event. No one had ever heard of a woman riding bulls before. They all pretty much scoffed at the idea. The other women in the town were looking down their noses at Norny, saying "this isnít the kind of thing a lady does." Then of course they would compare their looks with hers and say. " She looks too much like a man. Maybe she really is, and thatís why she riding, ha, ha." they all laughed.
Rosie said, "A man wants to look at a woman, not one that looks and smells like a cowhand."
"Ha, Ha," they all laughed again.
"My Mac wants a woman that looks like one, and would never go for something that looked like her," she said. They all agreed.
Norny might have heard part of the conversation, but she didnít really understand what they were cackling about. So she chose to just not listen.

Norny was heading back towards the stable to check on Poco, when this little girl says, " Are you the girl riding in the rodeo tomorrow?"
"Yes I am."
"Whatís your name?" the little girl asked.
"Norny," she said. "And whatís yours little Miss?"
"Erin " she said. "My mom and I live over there." Pointing to this little run down house with a worn out picket fence at the end of town. "My dad left on a trail drive and never came back."
"Iím sorry little one," Norny says, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
"No there is just me and my mom."

Norny noticed that when this little girl smiled, and that seemed like all the time, she had smiling eyes just like her. Norny could see the magic in her smile. She realized this was a special child.

Her cloths were well worn, and had a few patches. She had no shoes, and her face, hands and feet were a little dirty. But this little girl had the biggest, softest brown eyes. And she seemed to be a happy child. "Iím going to watch you tomorrow "Erin said. "I hope you win,"
"Thank you, I'll do my best." Norny replied.
"Do you want to come over to my house and meet my mother?" Erin asked.
"Not now" she said, "I have some things to do before tomorrow."
"OK, Iíll see you tomorrow Norny."
"OK! Bye Erin."

Norny returned to the stable to turn in early, and spend some time with her best friend Poco. She curried Poco and talked to him about tomorrow. "They donít seem to like us here Poco. I donít know if its because we are strangers or that I am a woman riding in the rodeo tomorrow. But as long as we have each other it doesnít matter, does it boy?"
"I did meet this sweet little girl. She was very friendly. She said she would be there for me tomorrow. Well at least Iíll have you and her behind me. I guess I don't need anyone else." And with that Norny hugged Poco and kissed him on the nose.

The next morning came early, and Norny wanted to be completely ready for her ride. She would block out the fear and think of herself being victorious. There was a lot of commotion going on in the street as people were getting ready for the rodeo.

Norny walked out and the first person she saw was a woman. Norny said " Good Morning " and smiled at her.

The woman says " Your going to break your fool neck."

Wow! What a way to start the day. Maybe I should mind my own business. Norny went over to the dining house for a bite to eat. She remembered she didnít have much money, so she bought a couple apples. One for Poco and one for her.

Norny didnít care for the feeling she was getting from the people of this town , and her new little friend was nowhere around, so she decided to stay out of site until the event.

As the time was drawing closer, Norny headed out towards the arena.

She walked in between the seating area to get a better look. Most of the bull riders had done their turn.
Some cowboy says to her. "Your going to get your ass stomped lady." The hostility of these people against Norny was frightening. She realized she was in enemy territory. She looked over at the bull chute, and there was Willard. He was looking straight at her and grinning. She knew something was up.
Then she heard a wonderful sound. A cheerfully pleasant voice greeting her. " Hi Norny." It was little Erin. "Your gonna win today I can feel it."
"Thank you little one, I can use your confidence." Norny was so happy to finally see a friendly face, it was just the up lift she needed. Norny took her hat off and placed it on Erinís head as she started to put her hair in a braid for her ride.

From the aggressive attitude this town had towards Norny, she knew they didnít like her. Other than little Erin, she didnít have a friend here. But Norny did have a friend that she didnít know about.

Tom McKinner heard about Norny and her getting Cricket as the luck of the draw. He thought that was too much of a coincidence. No man other than Tom had ever ridden Cricket for the full eight seconds. And Tom got his back broke and his leg broke in two places for it. Now the first lady bull rider they ever heard of comes to town, and she gets the meanest, toughest ton of nasty on the hoof in the whole rodeo. Something wasnít right to Tom.

Angie, Tom's wife said she heard that this female rider wasnít liked and she feared she had been set up. Well Iím going to find out Tom thought.

Tom looked around to see who might have the answers he wanted. He spots Bob one of Willardís friends.
Tom walks on over and says " Hey Bob, what's with the woman getting Cricket as the luck of the draw?"
Bob says, " That's it , sheís mighty unlucky to get Cricket, but if you want to play a mans game."
Then Tom asks " So it was just her bad luck? "
"Yep," Bob said.
"Come here a second Bob, "and walks around the corner out of sight. Bob follows him. Tom turns around and grabs Bob by the shirt and throws him against the wall.
"I want the straight of it," Tom Yells.
"OK Tom," Bob says, "It was Willardís idea."
"Tell me what happened," Tom says.
"Well we were out in front of Corkyís having a few and just horsing around when she came up. We were just having a little fun, not doing any harm. Then she grabs Willard in his privates and brings him to his knees." Bob says.
"And Iíll bet Willard didnít do nothing, he was just standing there, Right?"
"Well he kinda took hold of her little trinket around her neck." Bob told him.
"So she made you idiots look like fools, and now she's going to pay the price for it, right?" Tom asks.
"I guess so," Bob says. "You know how Willard is."
"Well we gotta stop this," Tom says.
"You canít its too late, sheís the last contestant and sheís up now. They saved her for the last, sort of a punch line to the rodeo you might say."
"Well Bob, I appreciate your being honest with me and telling me the truth. Now I got one truth for you. If she gets hurt in any way at all, Iím gonna take you boys apart one at a time or all at once it doesnít matter to me."
"Iím sorry Tom, I didnít mean this to happen!" Bob shouts as Tom walks away.

Norny crouches down to get to Erinís eye level. She says, " I need you to do me a real important favor, will you?"
"Sure Norny," Erin says,"What is it?
"I want you to hold this for me," and Norny took the earring from around her neck, and handed it to Erin. "Donít let anything happen to it will you?"
"I promise!" Erin said.
"Listen Iíll be right back," Norny says.

Norny then goes back to the stable and gets out her grease paint. She felt she was their enemy, and she should be wearing her warrior colors. She didnít care what these people would say to her now, since they have no respect for her anyway.

When Norny gets back to Erin, Erin asks, " What's that on your eye Norny? It makes you look like an Indian."
"Donít worry about it , its a long story," she said.

Then the announcer called Nornyís name, there was a chuckle that came over the crowd.

She knew it was time, so she took her hat back off Erin's head and put it on her own.
"Come on, where are you Norny?" The announcer said.
There was an open path through the crowd, so Norny made her way through it.
And with her big soft brown excited eyes and enthusiastic voice Erin shouts out, "Your going to win Norny, I just know it."

As people saw her, thiogs were being yelled from the crowd. Phrases like, "What the hellís that on her face? She some kinda damn Indian or something?" and "Wereís your dress?" and everybody laughed. Then someone said "This ainít no tea social." Everyone laughed again.

Norny didnít pay any attention to what the crowd had to say, the words just bounced off her. But when someone shouted "You should be ashamed, your parents wanted a girl." Those words pierced Nornyís heart. She didn't understand why they said that. She was being the only kind of woman she knew how to be. But it was hurtful never the less, and she felt the pain of its stinger.

When Norny emerged from the crowed into the opposite side of the arena, Angie said, "there she is Tom go stop her"

Tom ran over and headed off Norny. He stood in front of her and said. "Look you donít have to go through with this, no one is going to think your a coward for it I promise you."
Norny didnít say a word or even change her facial expression. She looked Tom straight in the eyes and didnít even blink.

For about five seconds Tom and Norny looked into each others eyes, and not a word was said. Then Tom stepped back out of her way and Norny walked on. The denim gladiator walked out into the arena, and knew she stood alone once again. Norny had been hurt and insulted by the people of this town, and there was nothing that could stop her now. In her mind she would rather be dead as to take their humiliation. As she approached the middle of the arena, Norny could see in her minds eye, Crow Feather and Running Fox sitting on the bull chute gate smiling at her and waving her over.

When she got to the center, Norny ran the rest of the distance. She hit the middle of the fence on the fly and went over the top to lower herself onto the bull. There were four cowboys up there to try and control Cricket and get her situated. One of them says, "Oh my, what did you put on your face?" She says to him. " The window in which I see you through."

When Tom got back over to Angie, she said to him. " Tom, you didnít stop her."
Tom looked at her and said. " Take my word for it Angie. That bull and this town is about to get their ass kicked."

Norny hovered over the bull with her feet on the rails, wrapping her hand to the bulls back. The bull was snorting and bouncing around inside the chute. "Donít drop down onto the bull until I tell you," one of the cowboys told her.
"Listen little missy, none of the bull riders here want to see you get hurt, but if nothing will stop you, and it looks like nothing could, then let me tell you a couple of things about this animal. They call him Cricket because he fires straight up into the air from a stand still position. This bull rarely touches the ground. Heíll swing to the left a couple of turns, then heíll immediately reverse on you. In between all that he will try to throw his rear end at the sky. That cowboy you were talking to over there is the only one to ever ride this bull, and he got the shit stomped out of him."

Norny heard him but she was busy looking at the bull and thinking only of the ride.

"We wonít turn him lose until you give us the word Miss," the cowboy said. "Now you can lower yourself down when your ready."

Norny lowered herself to the back of the bull. She could feel a full two thousand pounds of angry beef pulsating beneath her. Then she took a deep breath, held a firm grip and put her right hand up in the air like she saw the other riders do. The cowboys waited for Nornyís signal. Then Norny focuses her thoughts, gives a nod of her head, and the two men down below start to open the chute.

They got the chute open a good three feet and no more.

Cricket launched himself out of the chute and didnít touch down over the first twelve feet of ground. As he did he knocked down the two men opening the gate. That bull was wrenching and twisting from left to right and hardly touching the ground at all, but when he did it was explosive and Cricket and Norny would be airborne again. When Cricket hit down, he would impact the ground with such tremendous force that it could jar the teeth out of your head.

Norny had strong arms and could hold tight no matter what. She looked in control and she remained vertical at all times. It was like she knew what he was going to do next. When the bullís hind end came straight up behind her, Nornyís back would sometimes touch the hind quarters. The bulls tail and Nornyís braid looked as if they were going to inner twine.

Erin ran to the fence and her little hands gripped the rail. Her big brown eyes were peeking through. She could see the bull was slinging four foot streamers of snot and slobber in every direction trying to toss Norny off. As the bull worked its way over to the fence were Erin was standing, he hit into the fence post. The crash was loud and the whole fence rattled and swayed and almost threw Erin to the ground. It was only a few feet away from Erin, and it scared her so bad that she almost wet her pants. Dust was getting kicked through the rails and the grunting and snorting sounds from the bull were terrifing to little Erin. She looked back through the fence and the bull and Norny were right in front of her. The smell of the bull and the pistoning sound of his breathing made it more real for her than she ever knew it could be. It was an awesome sight for her to behold. She had never been this close to the action before. The bull looked so big to Erin that it was beyond her comprehension. She looked up at Norny who was way up in the air silhouetted against the bright blue sky. But Norny was hanging tight, the bull couldnít throw Norny off.

Erin yells out, " Ride em Norny Ride em." Erin was so excited to see her new friend riding the bull and was winning, she could hardly believe that Norny was really her friend. This was the most exciting day of Erin's young life. To Erin it looked odd to see that Norny was strataling the equivalent of an out of control freight train, and better than anyone she had ever seen in this town before.

After the first four seconds of the ride had gone by, the spectators knew this woman was a rider. And it wasnít a joke anymore. Not just a rider, but one of the best they had ever seen. People were wondering, who is this woman, where did she come from, how did she get here.

As she approached the eight second mark , she had already won over the attention and affection of every bull rider there.

The clank, clank sound of the cow bell was heard marking the end of the eight seconds. But no one was riding out to collect Norny off the bull.
Angie says, " Tom no one is riding out to help her off. "
Tom looks over towards the man on the horse and says to Angie. " Thatís because Willard has one of his Jackasses on horseback."

By now ten seconds go by. Tom climbs the fence and runs up behind the horse. He reaches up and grabs the mans arm and yanks him to the ground. Tom hits the stirrup on takeoff and heads out to the center of the arena. Its very difficult to get next to Cricket because of the way he twists and turns in the air.

By now twelve seconds have gone by and Tom canít get in close enough to grab her. At fourteen seconds, The heart of every rodeo contestant there that day was up on that bull riding with Norny. And by now they had all surrendered their hearts to their new bull riding queen. One of the cowboys said " Hell, I donít know about you boys, but that little ladyís my hero."

Tom kept on trying but he couldnít get to her. Then at exactly sixteen seconds into the ride, Norny releases her grip, swings her leg over and dismounts on her own. Her timing was perfect. Norny looks back as she moves towards the fence to see that the clowns had the bulls attention. Norny had rode that bull twice the required time. No one knows whether she did it deliberately to prove a point or if it was by accident. All the cowboys looked at Cricket and saw something different. They could see that the bull wasnít the same anymore. It was as if he knew he had been ridden.

Most of the crowd was on its feet yelling and cheering, some were dumbfounded and stood there with their mouths open as she exited the arena. Norny didnít even hear them. All she could see and hear was little Erin in front of her saying, " I knew you would do it Norny, I knew you would." Erin had a wide smile on her face and her big brown eyes were sparkling with excitement for her new found friend. And Norny had a big smile and a sparkle in her eye just for Erin. They were two of a kind and they had a mutual admiration for each other. Norny knew that only Erin really believed in her, and Norny didnít want to disappoint the faith she had in her.

When Norny got to Erin she reached down and picked her up. "Here Norny I saved it for you like you asked me to!" And Erin held out her hand with the earring in it.
"Thank you," Norny told her.

Norny put Erin down and then started to put the earring back around her neck. People were rushing at Norny from all sides wanting to congratulate her and talk to her.

Meanwhile Tom was heading up to the judges booth to see who they were going to award the prize money to. He knew this whole thing smelled from the beginning, but he wasnít going to let anybody cheat out the real winner.

As he gets to the booth, he over hears them talking about disqualifying Norny. He bursts in and says. " Like hell your going to disqualify her. Even a blind man could see who won this event. She paid her entry fee just like everyone else and your going to pay her."
After a couple of minutes a cheery voice announces. "Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the annual Plumpbucket bull riding event, and obviously the sweetheart of the rodeo, Norny!"
In the background of the announcers booth you could hear someone saying, "No thatís it just Norny."

Norny heard it but she didnít really care, she proved herself again as she seems to always have to do. The women that were criticizing Norny earlier for the way she looked was starting to sing a new tune. One of them said "Rosie, isnít that your Mac down there smiling and trying to get that cowgirls attention?"
"That son of a ---------!!! Wait till I get my hands on him!"

Tom had collected the prize money and he was going to give it to her personally. But first he had a little other business to tend to.

He spotted Willard walking towards the exit, so Tom says. " Hey Willard, wait up."
Willard says, "what do you want Tom?"
Tom walks up and Wham!! Tom hits him straight in the gut. Willard folds over and falls to the ground. "You bother that little lady again, and this wonít even be an appetizer for the main event." replies Tom.

Tom catches up with Norny. He sees that people are smothering her, so he takes her by the arm and says, " Follow me Norny."
Norny tells Erin, " Iíll catch up with you later." as Erin becomes lost in the crowd.
Tom gets Norny off to the side and tells her, "This is yours ."
Norny looks at the money and she says " Wow! That looks like a lot just for riding a bull."
"Well it doesnít matter," Tom says, "you won it fair and square." Then puts it into her hand and closes her hand over it with his.
"Thank you... "
"Tom"
"Thank you ,Tom." she says.
Then Tom says "My hats off to you Norny, your one of the most natural born bull riders Iíve ever seen. Where did you ever learn to ride bulls?" he asked.
"My big brothers." she said.
"Your brothers? Where do they ride out of?" he asked.
"They donít anymore." she says. "Now I have to go." Norny tells him.
"Listen, Norny, Iíd sure like you to meet my family while your here."
"Weíll see," she says. And with that Norny walks towards the stables to share her good fortune with her pal Poco.

When she gets to the stable, she first cleans the paint off her eye. Next she takes the braid out of her hair. Then she goes over to Poco and gently pats his neck and face and says, " Well we showed em big boy" Poco kind of gives a little nod like he understood her.

"And they gave me so much money just for having fun."

Norny saddles up Poco. She thought it would be nice to go for a little ride and be by themselves for a while. Especially since all the celebrating was still going on in town and they wanted to get away from the noise and the attention. She still didn't know how to take the people in this town. First they don't like me, so I ride the bull, now they do like me. I don't understand? She thought.

Norny is walking Poco towards the end of town.

She sees Erin running up to her. "My mom can sew your vest for you Norny." Norny looks down and notices the seam was coming open.
"Come home with me and let her meet you , OK? ... Norny? OK?"
Erin seemed so excited so Norny said "OK" and holds out her hand for Erin to take hold of.

When they got to Erinís home, She ties Poco to the rail.

Erin burst in and shouted "Mommy, Mommy! Norny won the bull riding contest!"
Mom came rushing in from the other room , "Oh my Lord " she said. "Your a woman."
"Please come in, let me fix you some tea," she said.
"Thank you." Norny walked into the kitchen took her hat off and set it on the table. She sat down in the chair facing the stove were Erin's mom was preparing the tea.
"Norny where on earth did you learn to ride bulls?"
"Well I never actually rode a bull before today, but my big brothers taught me to ride the buffalo."
"I thought only Indians rode the buffalo. Well I guess I was wrong about that. By the way please call me Beth."
"Ok, Beth,." said Norny.
"Take off your vest so that I can mend it." So Norny did. Little Erin took out the cups and saucers from the china cabinet, and set a place for two. Erin didnít drink tea.
"Can we have some of your little tea biscuits mama?" Tea biscuits were a poor mans version of tea cakes.
"Sure, you know where they are. Offer some to our guest."
So Erin went to the cupboard and got them. While Beth worked on Nornyís vest they chatted about all kinds of things.

Norny was sipping her tea from the little cup just the way Daniel had taught her. Her little pinky was up in the air just the way she had learned. While she was talking to Beth, out of the corner of her eye Norny was watching Erin playing with the biscuits.

Erin was in her own world, not paying any attention to what her mom and Norny were talking about. Adult talk was always boring. Norny noticed that Erin had poked a hole through the biscuit with her little finger and was wearing it like a ring. Then it had suddenly dawned on Norny, thatís what the little finger up in the air is for. Now it makes sense she thought. So Norny picks up the biscuit and pokes it over the little finger of the hand holding the tea cup. Bethís eyes opened wide and so did Erin's. All of a sudden they burst into laughter.
Norny says " What?" confused, "Why are you laughing?"
"Nothing, Norny, donít pay any attention to us." Beth and Erin both didnít know what to make of this. Norny was serious so they didnít understand what Norny was doing. They chose to just ignore it and go on with the conversation. So they talked some more, but it looked ridicules with that biscuit hanging on Nornyís pinky finger.

During the course of conversation Norny learned that Beth earned a very small living by hand washing peoples laundry and mending their clothes when they needed it. "I keep my money in the cookie jar because we donít make enough to bother with the bank. But some how we get by," she said.

As Norny looked around she could see that these two were barely getting by if at all. They were such kind and caring people, they didnít have one bad thing to say about anybody or anything. Lif was an obvious struggle and these two would be needing things that they would never be able to afford. Not like living off the land like the Indians did. Erin was such a pretty little girl with big soft eyes, Norny could see that she would be a heart breaker some day. In fact, she was very much like Norny was as a little girl.

Beth looks over at Erin and says "Erin I want you to pick up the bedroom."
"Do I have to do it now momma?"
"Yes, you do. Come on Iíll show you what I want done." turning to Norny, "Excuse me a minute Norny, Iíll be right back." So they left the room.

While Norny sits there she is thinking I just won all this money, more than Iíll need. They could use some help, so somehow I have to leave them some. Norny looks over at the cookie jar and thinks, Iíll just put some in there so they will find it later after Iím gone. Norny reaches into her pocket and took out the wad of bills. She counts out two hundred dollars. In those days a hundred dollars would feed the two of them for a year. Then she goes over to the jar, take it down from the shelf and removes the lid. She reaches into it to put in the money.

As she is removing her hand from the cookie jar Beth and Erin come into the room. This doesnít look good. Not knowing what to says, Norny looks at them and starts to speak. "I just.."
"GET OUT" Beth shouts at her.
Norny removes her hand from the cookie jar. Beth throws her vest at her. " Here its fixed, no charge" she says.
Norny looks down at Erin and her little face is in white shock. Norny picks up her hat and walks over to Erin. She puts her hand out to touch her face, but Erin steps back. She didnít want to be touched by Norny.

Slowly tears start to come to Erinís eyes. Norny was Erinís first hero, and as luck would have it, her hero was a woman. This could have only been a good thing. But now little Erinís heart was broken. She had just seen her hero fall.

Beth says to Erin, " Iím sorry honey, but like I told you before, you just canít trust everyone."

Little Erin felt empty and alone, and Norny knew this feeling well. Norny could have explained what she did, but she knew that they were proud and they would never except her charity. She realized that it was far more important that they have the money, then what they were thinking about Norny right now. Besides, it was only for a couple of days.

Norny was Erinís hero, and it was tearing Norny up inside to let Erin think that she was a thief, capable of stealing what little they had. For Erin this was the most exciting day and the worst day of her life all in one. How could life turn on her all at once like that. In a matter of seconds?

Norny put her hat on and walked through the front room and out of the house. Beth and Erin followed her to the front door. Norny walked out to Poco and stepped into her saddle. Now Erin was bawling out loud. Erin loved and idolized Norny, but their friendship only lasted a few hours. Norny was probably the most influential and memorable person in Erin's life other than her mother. Her little face was soaking wet and her little heart had never ached so bed in her young life.

Norny had never seen Erin without a smile on her face. Now to think that Norny was the source of her heartache. She would have never guessed that this would be the out come of her meeting these two wonderful people. Norny looked at them for a moment, and there were sad and disappointed eyes all around. Then she pulled back on the reins and to the left and rode away. The only thing that Norny had to go on was the thought that soon they would realize the truth of what happened.

While Norny rides towards the edge of town she can still hear Erin crying in the background. Tears are forming in Nornyís eyes. She must get this town behind her. So she nudges Poco and they pick up the pace. Erin runs out to the gate of their picket fence, and holds on to the pickets. Life had dealt her a major disappointment, and she didn't expect it. Her salty wet eyes are glued to Nornyís back, as she rounds the bend in the road and forever out of sight.

A little ways out of town, they see her coming so Tom and his family step out from the house to wave at Norny. She stops to say good bye.
"Norny I didnít get a chance to introduce my wife Angie, and this is our eight month old son Jason."
" Hello Norny." Angie says.
"Hello Angie," Norny says.
"Canít you stick around awhile Norny? I think most of us in this town would like to know you better," Tom asks.
"No, I think it would be better if I went now. But I would like to thank you for the kindness youíve shown me."

Tom's face shows his puzzeled expression and disappointment at her leaving.

She turns to ride away, then stops for a moment and looks back at Tom. "By the way, how far to the railroad tracks," she asks.
"About three miles south. Good luck Norny" Tom said.
That was it, she headed off.

Two days later, Beth tells Erin " I need you to run over to the store."
"OK momma."
Both were still sad from the losing of what they thought would be a friend. Beth reaches for the cookie jar and brings it down to the table. She takes the lid off the jar and looks inside hoping there would still be enough money in there for a sack of flour. Beth froze looking into the jar.

Erin was watching her mother and wondering what was taking so long. Then Erin noticed that her mothers facial expression was deteriorating and she was starting to cry. "Whatís wrong mama. Is all our money gone?" Erin asks.

"Oh honey, we made a terrible mistake."

But it was too late, Norny was a two day ride away now. But thatís OK, because Norny knew they had discovered the truth about her by now. And all was good. She knew she was Erinís friend once again.


chapter

7

silver buckle

(click on Norny's face to see sketch detail)