That evening after the rodeo in Plumpbucket, the real festivities were just beginning. They had music to dance to and lots of food and the libation was flowing. Most all the cowboys there could hardly wait to see their little rodeo sweetheart Norny.
"Iím gonna get that pretty little lady to dance with me no matter what it takes." " You big oaf, youíll crush her little feet and spoil her for the rest of us. " They all laughed. Another cowboy says " Any woman that can ride like that deserves to dance with me." But you donít deserve to dance with her." someone said.
"Hey, were is that little lady? someone said out loud. "Yeah, someone go find her and get her over here."
The whole room shouts " yeah" at the same time. "Where is she staying?" someone asks aloud? "I heard the livery stable." "The stable? Go find her." they said.
Just then Tom walks in carrying little Jason with his wife Angie on his arm. Sheís already gone Tom tells them. The place went quit. What do you mean sheís gone someone asks? She stopped by my place to say good bye a couple of hours after the rodeo. "Why Tom?" One of the other rodeo riders asked. "Why!" Tom says loudly as he hands little Jason over to Angie.
"Has anyone here had one kind word for her since she got here? Have any of you bothered to smile or just say hello. What in the hell would she want to stay here for? Someone different than you comes along and you go out of your way to make them feel like an outsider. You oughta to be ashamed of yourselves. I didnít know much about that little lady, but I got a feeling there was something good about her, now weíll never get a chance to know. I was out there today, and I heard some of the things being yelled at her. You know who you are. They were hurtful things, but they all had the same meaning. You as much as told her that you donít like her and you donít want her here. She felt she had to get up on that bull for only one reason. Not to be a part of our rodeo, or to share in the fun and festivities with the rest of us. No! To prove herself to all of you. Well she didnít have to prove anything to me. The fact that she went into that arena alone, stood up to your insults and ridicule and rode the biggest meanest bull weíve ever had, proves she is more of a man then most of you here and she proved it with all the integrity of a lady. You all thought you were going to get a good laugh out of her ride today, but instead she made you cowboys look like amateurs. Well Angie and I would like to have known who she was and where she came from, and how come this woman Norny is the best damn bull rider I ever saw. Did any of you boys ask yourself that? Well its too late to ask her now.
I know that right now Iím ashamed to say Iím a part of this town Come on Angie, Somehow I donít feel like celebrating with these people tonight."
And Tom and his family turned and walked out.
But Norny did have a friend in this town though. She would carry the memory of little Erinís wide eyed face along with her forever.
After Tom left the Dance Hall, the place was quite. Everyone knew that Tom was right and they all felt plenty bad about it. Pete looks at Rosco and says. " You gotta sick feeling in your chest like I got?" " Yeah!" Rosco says.
"I think we oughta go find that lady and set things right, whatta ya say Pete?" "Iím with you." So Pete and Rosco ran out to catch Tom. Tom and Angie were just at the edge of town as they ran to catch up with them. "Hey Tom, wait up!" Pete yells. They catch up with Tom and ask, " Which way was she headed?" "Oh, why donít you boys just leave that lady be." Tom says. "We canít Tom. We feel powerful bad after what you just told us. We owe that lady an apology, and we mean to see that she gets it."
"Well I donít know were she was going , but she was headed south. Thanks Tom. As the two men start to walk away, Tom says. " Hey boys wait a minute. She asked which way to the railroad tracks, and I told her three miles south." "Thanks Tom."
Pete and Rosco decide to head out at the first crack of dawn, so they head back to the hall to have a couple of beers and to map out a strategy.
While they downed a couple, Rosco says, "You know that new silver buckle you just had made." "Yeah?" "Well lets give it to her and tell her it was for winning the bull riding event." "My belt buckle? My pants will fall down." "Hell you couldnít pull those pants down around that fat butt of yours. "Hey watch it!...... OK, Iíll give it to her. Hereís to the little lady." Pete says. "Right hereís to Miss Norny." And they hoisted their mugs and drank a toast to their new unlikely hero. Well lets get an early start and hopefully we can pick up her trail right away. And with that they turned in for the night.
When day broke all was quit except for the sound of two galloping horses heading south out of town. They were going to find the railroad tracks and try and pick up her trail from there.
Norny had been traveling along lazily all day. She couldnít quit get the sight of little Erinís teary eyes out of her mind. It was a sorrowful burden she carried with her. Though she knew that Erin and Beth would not want for anything for a while, it didnít help that there last sight of each other was one of tears, sadness and disappointment. She felt a special kinship to Erin and always would.
Norny followed the tracks for miles. The sun was setting and it would be a good time to make camp. Her and Poco were just coming upon a tight bend in the tracks. It curved like a horseshoe. At the top of the bend was a clearing that went from the track to about twenty five feet out where it met a six foot high embankment. On the inside of the track was a stream.
" This is a good place boy," Norny sayís. She dismounted and was about to unsaddle Poco. She tossed her bed roll and bag about fifteen feet from the track. As she started to undo the cinch she heard something. It was a faint ghostly high pitched whining sound like that of a violin. The sound or knowledge of which she had never experienced before. She stopped for a moment to listen. How sweet the sound was. Like nothing she had ever heard. The sound was quit distant, but very intriguing to her. She said to Poco. " You know boy, I think we should investigate." So Norny gathered her bedding and climbed back up in the saddle and headed in the direction of the alluring tune. She traveled for about three hundred yards and up a small rise. When she got to the top she could see way off in the distance the flicker of a faint campfire. It looked as if the sound emanated from there.
Pete and Rosco had traveled pretty fast and they picked up Nornyís trail almost right away. They were only about four miles behind her now and getting ready to make camp for themselves.
As she headed in that direction the sound got louder. As it did it sounded more like music. Not like any kind of music she had ever heard before. This was totally different. It was soft and sweet and continuous. It was a kind of melodious poetry without the words. She was captivated by it. She drew slowly closer to the sound and she could just make out a man sitting on a log.
At about fifty yards out she climbed down and walked Poco in for a closer look. The old mans camp was in the midst of trees. All the surrounding trees and the old man glowed in the firelight. She curiously but cautiously walked into his camp holding the reins and leading Poco. He was an old gray bearded man who had a kindly appearance about him. While the old man played she tied Poco to the tree and then she walked out to the other side of the fire and across from the old gent.
Norny stood looking at him as he went on playing. The old man saw her and smiled but he never stopped playing. The fire crackled and popped in a kind of synchronized accompaniment to the music. The sweet flowing sound and the flickering fire gave her an almost mystical affect. She says to the old man. "That music is so beautiful, it makes me feel relaxed. It makes my mind soar over the trees like a bird. The old man smiled and nodded with acknowledgment, but he kept on playing. May I share your camp she asked. The old man nodded "Yes my dear." he says. So Norny started to relieve Poco of his saddle and set out her bed roll, all the while listening carefully to the music. She never heard anything even remotely like it before, it made her feel good.
Norny watched the old man as he played. She asked him, " Are you from around here?" The old man said " No Miss," as he kept on playing. " Do you have a name?" she asked. He nodded yes as he played. Then Norny looks around and sees that he is on foot. She realizes that she isnít going to get any conversation from the old man so she just listens to him. She sits on the ground with her knees up in front of her and wraps her arms around her knees. She gazes into the fire and is consumed by its brilliant warmth. The tune was hauntingly beautiful and it totally engulfed her body and soul. Her subconscience is transformed to a metaphysical state. After a while her thoughts became intoxicated by the fluid tonal vibration irradiating from the old mans playing. Eventually her thoughts turned to Daniel.
In the fire Norny can see Daniel standing in the stream with his shirt off fishing and smiling up at her. She sees him cradling her in his arms as he carries her to his bed with her injured ankles. She remembers the gentle touch of his iron hands on her while he pampers a total stranger to whom was in need.
While she lay there captivated by the song from his strings someone steps up and stands over her. The face is in the dark and he kind of silhouetted by the stars in the night sky. She asks "who is it. " Thank God your safe he says, its me Daniel." "Daniel? No it canít be!" she said."But it is." he said. "Iíve thought about you every day since we last saw each other. Iíve feared what could become of you. I just had to see you again." "No it canít be you!" she said. "I couldnít stop thinking about you." he says. "Iíve thought of you too Daniel. Every day. I followed the railroad tracks so that I could think about you." " I know ."he said. "But how do you know?" she asked. "I know." he said again. Then he knelt down in front of her so that he could put his arms around her neck. "Iím so happy to see you again." "Me to Daniel."
Then he cradled her head with both hands and gently pressed his face into hers, as she slipped her arms around him. They kissed and embraced for a few moments. Then she says. "I canít believe Iím seeing you here." "Iím so glad I found you." he said. Then she says to him. "You donít know how many times Iíve thought about going back to you. I thought I would never see you again." Then Daniel says to her, " That beautiful face has haunted me from the very moment I noticed it. Your smile is etched into my heart."
Oh Daniel she says, Iíve lost one of the earrings you gave me. Thatís OK he says. They only have meaning now because of you. You are all that matters. She throws her arms around his neck and kisses him again. They slowly lay down together facing each other and looking deep into each others eyes. As they lay there looking at each other Danielís hand strokes the side of her face and brushes her hair back. They donít say a word. They just look at each other. Then he says to her. " My little prairie flower." Then their faces came together again and they begin a long passionate night of love making to make up for all those nights apart. Norny never felt so good as she felt right then in the warmth and security of Danielís arms.
This was a night Norny had wanted for so long and thought she would never have again. When the morning came around, Norny could smell the freshness of the day and feel the heart beat of man she had longed for. With her eyes still closed she says. "Daniel, I still canít believe you found me." Then he whispers to her. "No matter who you are with or where you may be, you are forever and always only my Thorny Norny." " Always Daniel," she replied.
Norny feels Daniel gently kiss her forehead, her nose, her neck, her lips and all over. and as he did, with her left hand she clutched the earring around her neck. "Oh Daniel," she says. Slowly she opens her eyes to look up at him. But it wasPoco standing over her and licking her face. She was surprised.
"I know you love me boy, but. Whereís Daniel?" She sat upright and yells. "Daniel, Daniel?" But there is no Daniel., Then she looks for the old man whom she had forgotten about, but he is not there either. "Whatís going on here?" she asks. She gets up and looks around, but nothing. Then she notices that there isnít even remnants of the campfire from last night. Then why would she come to this spot in the trees? she thought. Why wouldnít she have camped elsewhere? Slowly she gets up and gathers her things together. Thereís the log she thought, but where is the old man? And that music, she can still hear it in her mind. She looks for any evidence that someone else was here with her last night, but there was nothing.
This was too real to be a dream, she thought. I donít understand what happened here. Her head was in a fog. If it were a dream, then she was suffering the residual effects from it. All the sorrow she felt over Daniel was coming back on her again, only stronger than ever.
Sluggishly and sadly she gathers her things together and saddles Poco. This was a very strange experience. There was an ache in her heart and that was real. It all seemed like it happened, but maybe it didnít. She may never know the answer. In the air she can smell a faint burning of wood but doesnít give much thought to it. She climbs a top Poco and heads off to the southwest. She figures sheíll meet up with the railroad tracks somewhere up ahead.
Meanwhile Pete and Rosco are saddling up themselves and readying to continue the journey to catch Norny. They plan to make good time today, but there best hope to find her is to stay with the tracks.
Norny travels through the trees for about thirty minutes before she comes to a clearing. There she can get her bearings and head in a westerly direction. Calculating the angle of the sun, her and Poco head directly southwest. They cross the meadow and it isnít too long before they spot the railroad tracks. They follow the tracks for some time. All the while she is thinking about Daniel and how real it all seemed to her last night. And how she wished that it had been.
A little ways up ahead Norny sees a man standing along side of a pond fishing. He has a dog with him and the dog appears to be chasing birds around the pond. It took Norny back to Wyola where Jim Purdy had a dog he named Scooter. One afternoon Norny went wading out into the pond and Scooter dove into the water and started chasing after the ducks. When Scooter had chased all the ducks out of the water, he went up on shore and went after them up there. He caused quite a commotion around the pond. That is until he met his match in a goose. The goose stood up and started flapping its wings, making a loud honking noise then charged over and bit Scooter on the nose. Scooter yelped as the goose took off after him. That goose honked and chased the dog all the way around the pond. The dog soon learned there was a price to pay for his mischif, and which birds to leave alone.
Poco and Norny are traveling between the rails of the tracks elevated above the level of the lake. The man sees Norny and says a friendly " Hello." Norny replies by saying, "catching anything." "Not yet." the man says. " Well Good luck!" she says. "Thanks." Norny stays on the tracks and follows its lead.
A little ways back Pete and Rosco decide to get off the track and head up a hill not too far away. They figured if they went up there they might be able to see whatís out in front of them for some distance. They make their way up the hill and dismount at the top. They could see for miles. Carefully they scan along the railroad tracks to see if they could spot Norny.
Suddenly Rosco says " There!" and points out in a westerly direction. " Sheís only about two miles in front of us if we follow the tracks." Pete says 'Well lets donít follow the tracks." Rosco says.
So Pete and Rosco mount up and head straight down the side of the mountain in Nornyís direction. The ride down the side of the mountain was treacherous. It was almost straight down and covered with brush. Their horses tried to keep their footing but they would slide if they try and stop. These boys were skilled horsemen, they were rodeo riders after all, so they could handle it. When they got to the bottom they rode swiftly along side the tracks because the rail ties would be too hazardous for their horses to run on.
When Pete and Rosco got within about forty yards of Norny, she heard them and turned to see who was coming. She stopped and turned Poco around to meet them face to face.
"Miss Norny?" Rosco says. "Yes." she answers. "Iím Rosco and this is Pete. We followed you from Plumpbucket."
"Whatís the problem?" Norny asks?
"Oh no problem maíam. We just came to make our apologies for the way you were treated by the citizens of our little town."
"You rode all this way just for that?"she asked. "See maíam, after the rodeo we were having a celebration and dance, and since you won we kinda expected you to join us in the celebrating. Well when we didnít see you there, Tom Mc Kinner told us that you had left town and about how badly you had been treated back there. Weíre powerful sorry maíam, and weíre ashamed at how the town acted towards you. If there were anything we could do to make it up to you we would. Please believe that."
"Well thank you." Norny says. "But really that wasnít necessary."
"Hey Pete, donít you got something for her?" "What do ya mean?" "You know what I mean, the buckle."
"Oh yeah!" Pete says. "See Miss Norny, because you won the rodeo you get the silver buckle." "The silver buckle she asks?" "Yes maíam. Who ever wins the bull riding event get a silver buckle, so we brought yours with us to make sure you got it. Ainít that right Pete?" "Oh yeah, thatís right." "Well?" "Well what? Well give it to her!" "Oh yeah." Pete grudgingly takes it out of his saddle bag. He reluctantly hands it to her. Norny takes it from him and says. "Thanks."
"If you donít mind Miss Norny , weíd like to ride along with you a ways before we head back." "Sure." she said. "But please call me Norny." "OK Miss Norny, er a I mean Norny."
Norny and Poco came down off the tracks so they could all ride along together and talk.
"Sure is a pretty day for a ride." Rosco says. "Too bad about that train wreck back there." "Train wreck?" Norny s asks. "
Yeah, you had to have seen it when you rode past it back at horseshoe bend. The train tried to take the bend too fast and derailed. It came off the track and plowed right into the embankment. Killed the engineer, and started a fire." Suddenly Norny stops in her tracks. "When did this happen?" she asks. "Sometime last night I guess."
It hit Norny like a sledge hammer. Thatís were Poco and I were going to spend the night, she says to herself.
"You say the engineer got killed?" "Yes maíam. He was about to retire. Fiddler they called him. He used to play a fiddle in the most extraordinary way. A sweeter sound you never heard." Then Norny recalls the smell of smoke in the air this morning and realizes it was true. The old man saved my life she thought. He lured me away from danger before he even dyed. But how, she thought? Were does Daniel fit into all of this, she asked herself. This was a mystery that would remain with Norny for the rest of her life.
They rode on, and Pete and Rosco did most or all of the talking for a while. Nornyís brain was perplexed over what had happened last night. She couldnít tell these guys about it , who would believe it anyway.
The trio rode on for a couple of hours when they came upon some small slow rolling hills. After they ascended the first hill they found themselves looking down upon a ranch. There was a house and a barn and a coral where there were about a dozen men around a fence watching each other take turns riding a big black stallion.
They stayed at the top of the hill watching each man one by one trying to stay on the horse. None of the riders would last more than a few seconds. As for Pete and Rosco, well saddle broncs was one of their specialties. The three of them stayed and watched as man after man was thrown from the saddle. Then two men throw ropes around the neck of the horse and start pulling on him to keep him from raising up. A third man jumps in and starts whipping on the horse from the back. That threw fear for the horse into Norny!
From her point of view, all Norny could see was three men ganging up on one innocent animal. She couldn't stand to see that; she didn't understand the white-man's logic in their treatment of animals. Norny and Poco charged down the hill at full speed straight for the men. "Come on Pete, we canít let her go down there by herself."
So Pete and Rosco charge down after her. Norny stopped Poco right at the fence, she jumped straight off Pocoís back to the other side of the fence. Norny walked out to one of the men pulling on the rope and yells "Don't, not like that." He let go of the rope and grabbed her shoulders and pushed her back towards the fence and says, "Get back over there." as he shoves her.
Norny grabbed his right arm with both hands, then swiftly bend over and flipped this guy into the fence like a rag doll. The other two guys go on with what they are doing while they look at Norny and wonder what the hell she was doing. She then went to the other man on the rope and tried to get him to turn it loose, but he pushed her away. Norny ( in one smooth motion ) grabbed the man with both her hands by the front of his shirt, then rolled straight back down on to the ground arching her back ( in a rocking chair motion ) as she went and pulling the man with her. She then put both her feet into his chest and catapulted him over the top of her and flat on his back.
While this was happening, the men on the other side of the fence were about to climb over and help their friends against what they thought was a little bully. But as they were about to Pete and Roscoe ( who were standing behind them ) put their hands on their gun handles and said " Hold on there boys, you donít want what their gettin."
Norny walks towards the last man and he raises a leather strap to strike at Norny. So Norny ducts the mans strap and while she is low , she puts her hand on the ground for balance then swings her leg around and hit the man standing at the back of his ankles and drops him on his back right on the spot. It was over and Norny and the big black horse were the only ones left standing. The whole thing took no more than thirty seconds.
Pete and Rosco look at each other with their mouths open. They didnít know what to say. They had never seen a woman so able to protect herself let alone take on three men at once.
All three men slowly get up grownin, and as they do, the foreman comes running from the barn wondering what was happening. "What the hell is going on here?" he asked.
"Your men donít seem to have any respect for horses."
"Theyíre trying to break this horse like they were told!" the foreman said.
"Well theyíre doing it all wrong." she says. "I suppose you have a better way?" "Let me teach you something about getting horses to do what you want." she tells him.
Norny remembered what she was taught as a young girl, that made her successful at getting horses to do what she wanted.
"First of all you canít get an animal to do anything by teaching them to fear you. There has to be trust, and he wonít ever trust what he fears. If you show him you are his friend and he has nothing to fear, he will do what ever you want."
"Based on that, I suppose you can ride this horse?" he asked. "What do you call him she asks. " Evil " he says.
Norny walks up and pets the horse on the nose and talks to him. The horse is calm, but he isnít sure. Norny puts both hands on the saddle horn. In one quick motion, she swings herself up onto the saddle without using the stirrup. Immediately Evil springs into action. The men start yelling for the horse to throw her off. They make small wagers between themselves that she canít hang on. Evil bucks all the way around the arena with Norny stuck to the saddle. After a little while he isnít bucking quit as much and then eventually not at all.
Norny rides the horse around the inside of the ring then goes out to the middle and turns the horse on a dime. First to the right , then to the left. The men start cheering. Sheís the first to stay in the saddle with this horse. She rides over to the foremen and says " See what I mean." "Yeah, I do." he says.
"Howíd you like to work here Miss?" "Thanks, but I have to keep going." Norny says. She dismounts and walks over to the foreman. Then she says. "You misnamed him." "You should call him Night Sky " she said. "Well Norny, from now on thatís going to be his name. You rode him, so its only fitting you name him.
While all this is going on Pete and Rosco are talking amongst themselves. " Do ya think we outta tell her about Sedona " Pete asks. "Ya know we wonít stand a snowballs chance in hell riding against her down there." Then Rosco says " I know but we canít try to keep her out because she may beat us. Besides, we can make out better without winning, and I wanna see this little lady again. Sheís a cactus angel if there ever was one." Yeah your right Rosco, there ain't many women out there like her. And frankly I donít mind loosing to her. And if we canít beat her, neither can anyone else." "Yeah, your right."
The three of them mount up, say good bye, turn and head back up the hill. All eyes were on the three of them. As they watch them ride back up the hill, one of the cowboys asked, " What the hell just happened here Clayton?" " Iím not sure boys, but I feel like weíve just been struck by his terrible swift sword."
Norny and her companions head back towards the tracks. Rosco says " Norny, how about coming down to the rodeo in Sedona next month and giving it a try."
"Sedona?" Norny asks. "Yeah, down in the Arizona territory he says. You ever been there Norny?" Iíve never even heard of it she says." "Never heard of it?"
They didnít realize that Norny had never been off the plains until now. To her the world was flat and she had no idea where it began or where it would end. "Well you just head south from here and you canít miss it. Besides its getting too late into the season for you to cross the mountains now. Youíll have to wait until the spring thaw to get over the pass. You wonít believe the Grand Canyon when you see it. Or the monuments of the valley. Its mighty pretty country down there."
"It sounds inviting." she says. "Look Norny, you wonít be treated like you were in Plumpbucket when you get to Sedona, we promise you that. Youíll get the kind of greeting you deserve and youíll have a couple of old friends down there. Pete and I. Come on Norny, weíll have a great time, wait and see."
"Well I just might, you paint a pretty picture and it could be worth the ride." "Just keep the sun setting to your right and youíll get there. You might want to be careful of the Apaches though. Sometimes their not real friendly." She took note of what thye said about the Apaches.
"You know when you do cross the Sierras, I wonder if you could deliver something for me?" "If I can , she says.
"Thereís a little settlement they call Mountain Valley, high up in the mountains and if you go through there, the trip might be worth your while. But Iíll tell you about that when we see you in Sedona. Or should I say " if" we see you."
They rode for about another hour and decided they would make camp for the night and then head back in the morning. So they found a nice little spot and set up camp. Norny got a chance to try some of Rosco cooking. Then they all sat around the fire and swapped stories into the evening hours. Pete and Rosco didnít have anything derogatory to say about the Indians, so she thought they were alright.
At day break they were up and getting ready to ride. "Hey Pete,
Rosco," Norny calls out.
"Yeah Norny," they reply.
"You could do me one favor if you would."
"Anything" Rosco says.
Then Norny takes out the silver buckle they gave her. She says " When you get back to Plumpbucket, there is a little house on this end of town. It has a picket fence around it. There is a little girl there, Erin is her name. She lives with her mother. She does the laundry and sewing there in town.
"Oh yeah," Rosco says, "we know who you mean."
"Well, would you please give this buckle to Erin for me. Tell her that I said she will always be my special friend, and I want her to have it."
"Sure Norny, weíll do that for you."
"Oh great!" Pete utters beneath his breath, now sheís giving my buckle away.
"Good idea Rosco," Pete says.
"Well its time to say good bye." She says.
"You know, Norny, if you follow these tracks youíll be heading towards Colterville, so when you see em, give our best to JoJo."
"JoJo" Norny asks?
"Youíll know what we mean when the time comes. You have a safe journey Norny, and weíll be looking for you in Sedona."
"You too, Rosco, Pete. Maybe our paths will cross again. And give my best to Erin and her mom Beth."
And with that Norny gives them a big smile and her eyes twinkled in the sunlight. Then she pulled the reins to the right and her and Poco were off.
As Pete and Roscoe sat there watching Norny ride away one of
them says "Did you see that smile?"
"Are you kidding a blind man could see that smile. I think it shot clean through me."
Then they turn their horses around and slowly start riding back in the other direction. As they move away you can hear theyíre conversation fade in the distance.
"I think my hearts in trouble."
"Donít tell me about it, I got my own problem."
"You know Rosco I think she likes me. She was looking right at me when she smiled "
"No woman likes you Pete, its your imagination again. Besides your cross eyed remember? She was really looking at me? And I can tell she really likes me."
"Yeah, Iím sure she does in a motherly sort a way."
"Hell Pete, you like anything that looks at you."
"Oh yeah, well even animals can appreciate a good lookin man like me. Just look at the way your horse looks at me."
"Thatís because he knows a jackass when he sees one. "Says Roscoe!
"Do you think that little girl will let me have my buckle back?"
"Oh Pete, give it up. Weíll get you another one."
"Yeah well, you can pay for this one.... "