A short story by Sadie Eidson
I feel the horse churning beneath me, flinging himself to and fro as he tries to rid himself of the pesky cowboy straddling his back. He throws his head and heaves against the stiff leather bridle, attempting to wrestle his head back under his own control. My feet swing like a grandfather clock’s pendulum, running up and down his shoulders in a rhythmic pattern as my new silver spurs rake against his toned muscle. He bucks and rears, tossing me around on his back like a sack of turnips. My grip on the surcingle’s handle has me seeing red, but I push the pain away and focus on the movement of my boots. Up, down, up, down, LEAN BACK, up, down, up, do-LEAN BACK! The wild mustang screams in frustration and launches himself into a new frenzy, kicking and leaping and rearing like a rabid dog jumping at a barn door. My right arm begins to shake, betraying the extreme exhaustion I’m already feeling. My head whips backwards, inciting a wave of pain that floods through my neck and down to my stomach. I want to throw up. But as the horse’s rolls and pitches begin to worsen, threatening my body’s ability to keep up with this uncontrollable mustang, I hear the blessed sound of brass on brass as the eight-second bell is rung. The crown circled around the crude corral erupts into cheers when the announcer shouts out my name, confirming my victory. The mustang hears the bell, too, and shows a considerable drop in his efforts to unseat me and slows his movements to a more manageable speed. I cease raking my spurs up and down his shoulders as I prepare to dismount from the still-bucking horse and claim my prize. But as I’m untangling my hand from the worn leather of the handle, I feel an energy change in the beast beneath me. Suddenly, the horse jerks up, all four limbs elevating off the sandy ground and into the dust-ridden air, catching me off guard. I scramble for purchase on his slick-with-sweat back, attempting to keep my hold on the surcingle, but the horse lands on the ground with a jolt and takes off, effectively throwing me off of his back and into the dirt. I immediately try to pull my hand and wrist free from the tight leather, but as I’m being dragged alongside him, I realize that it’s impossible. I hear the snap of bones breaking as I’m pulled through the dirt by my arm, and all I can feel is pain. I can hear the crowd screaming again, but this time it’s not joyful. Through the faint haze that the pain is causing, I see the pickup men galloping towards my horse, swinging their lassos wildly, their loud, rough voices cutting through the faint hum of sound my ears are picking up. I feel the horse halt, slamming me into the back of his legs like a rag doll. He cries in shock and rears up in what I assume is an attempt to escape from me. How ironic. The last thing I see is a hoof above my head, a sharp, dark weapon, irradiated by the moon’s luminescence, before my entire world goes dark.
A Cowboy’s Dream
by Susanna Harpold
My dream is one of grand adventure
Of sunsets vivid, and boys now men.
My mother cries as this risky venture
Steals her young son off into the frontier’s bend.
The days turn into weeks
and weeks turn into years.
Familiar faces lose their color,
And life’s purpose has only to do with costly steers.
My memories flow back to me,
With the force of strongest streams:
The clattering of the chuck wagon’s bell
Survives in the most peaceful dreams.
The galloping hooves and fenceless fields,
Will be a thing of legend.
My children beg for stories of old,
But I fear I make no impression.
They dream of Grand Adventure
Of road trips long, and flights abroad.
The world is theirs and all that’s in it
From the Galapagos to Cape Cod.
No longer can the cattle roam free,
Or children leave their homes for years.
But stories of greatness, love, and growth
still ring true in our ears.
The grass waves strong, and roosters crow,
The day today is new.
My story’s shared to all I love
The next great story belongs to you.
By Mark Millhouse
Fredericksburg, Texas, 1874
It was just an average day in Fredericksburg, Texas. The townspeople were going about their errands, the farmers were working their crops and livestock, and the ranchers were working their cattle. But out on one particular ranch outside of town, aviation enthusiast-turned-rancher Frank von Dieter was working on a plan that would change his way of life..
Dieter was working in his shop when he heard hoofbeats approaching. He went outside to see who it was. A figure was riding toward his nearby house, signaling that he had a message. Frank signaled back, and the rider turned his horse in the direction of the shop. Andrew Billings, a tall, lanky teenager of eighteen years, was one of the telegraphist’s helpers, and usually worked during the summer when school let out.
Andrew reined his ride in, and gave Frank a warm greeting.
“Afternoon, Mr. Dieter. Quite nice weather we’re having.”
“I agree. Now young man, what did you want to see me for?”
“I have a telegram for you, sir”
Billings pulled out a relatively small envelope from his saddle bag and handed it to Dieter, who took it and shook Andrew’s hand.
“ Thank you, Andrew. You should probably get back to your workplace now.”
“That I should, Mr. Dieter.”
“Well, I’ll see you around, Andrew.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Dieter.”
As Andrew turned to leave, Frank excitedly ran to his house and got his letter opener. He opened the envelope and read the message. It read:
Dear Mr. Dieter:
I am greatly pleased to tell you that the request you sent for the materials that you need are being shipped out to the town in which you currently live.
Signed, Mr. John Hawsey, San Antonio
Those words brought a smile to his face. Elated, he quickly ran back to the shop and pinned the telegram onto his wall of papers. Then, he went back to his project.
When the clock turned to half-past-five, frank went out to saddle up and supervise the bringing of fifty-head of cattle to the summer pasture. When he was ready, he set his horse on a quick canter for the pasture, where the hired hands were getting ready to count and move the herd to the summer pasture.
After counting all fifty and closing the gate to the pasture, Frank thanked the hands and rode back to his home, where he ate dinner and went to bed.
The next morning, Frank woke up, ate breakfast, and eagerly dressed to go into town. The wagon with his supplies would be there any minute now, he thought.
Frank quickly saddled up and rode at a steady trot to Fredericksburg, where he greeted the drivers of the wagon, and inspected the materials inside. He smiled, knowing that he had everything he needed, and accompanied the wagon back to his ranch, where he paid them and got his materials.
Now, he was ready to start his project.
For the next three weeks, Frank worked vigorously over his project, and then, finally, he was finished. What he had was a hot air balloon capable of carrying two people. It had always been Frank Dieter’s dream to be able to fly, and now he was able to do that.
Ever since Frank had heard about the invention of the hot air balloon in a book, he had wanted to become a balloonist. He had requested books about the great flying machines, and had read all about them until he knew all he needed to know about how to fly one. He had requested the materials he needed for one from different places all around San Antonio, only seventy miles away from his residence, and finally, he had his vehicle.
Frank decided to let the town know about his feat, and so he went to the local newspaper and set an advertisement in the paper for the 4th of July.
A week later, at Frank’s ranch, he had set up a clearing for people to come and lay their blankets on the ground to watch the flight.
At midafternoon, people started to come in. There was excited chatter among the crowd as people started settling in and getting ready for the show. Frank smiled as he put on his aviator helmet and goggles, along with his leather jacket and khaki pants. He had dreamed of putting those on ever since he got them. Next, he met up with the team of people that were going to help him inflate the balloon. This consisted of his hired hands, to whom he had already explained the procedure.
Heads turned as the balloon was about to be inflated. The light from the burner looked awe-inspiring, and the hulking shape of the fully inflated balloon lifted Frank’s spirits, but at the same time made him nervous. What will happen when he lifted off?
All thought of that disappeared when the balloon was fully inflated and he was ready to go.
He climbed into the gondola, checked that all the gauges and controls were working properly, and called for the ropes holding him down to be released.
The sudden lifting of the balloon stirred something in Frank, and he felt a certain happiness to be in the air.
While he was up in the air, he took the opportunity to draw an accurate sketch of his ranch to be used as a map. He also shot off fireworks to be seen from miles away, and then descended back down.
He was greeted with cheers from the crowd, and as soon as he stepped out of the gondola, he shook a myriad of hands and saw a whole crowd of smiling faces. He waved to the crowd, and received a fanfare of applause and cheers.
Five years later, after getting all the chores done, Frank returned to that same place and thought deeply about his first flight. After coming upon a decision, he got up and rode to the shop to get the balloon and his hired hands.
Carlos Ashley Memorial Award
Youth Writing Competition
Sponsored by the Fredericksburg Standard Radio Post
The contest is open to all students residing in Gillespie County in two divisions: Grades 6-8 and 9-12. Deadline for entries is Monday, October 22nd.
A primary mission of The Gathering is to inspire young people to reflect on the rich and colorful history of the Hill Country... to express themselves through poetry, storytelling and songwriting.
Writing categories are Poetry/Song Lyrics and Short Story. Acceptable themes include: Cowboy/Cowgirl Folklore, Western Culture and Farm & Ranch Lifestyle.
1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will receive cash prizes, certificates of achievement and a signed copy of Carlos Ashley’s “That Spotted Sow and Other Hill Country Ballads” All contest entrants will receive a professional critique of their work from the judges.
Winners will be announced prior to the “Letters of Charlie Russell” program presented by Montana cowboy poet, Randy Rieman at the Fredericksburg High School Auditorium on Thursday, November 8th. The program is free to middle and high school students. Adults by donation.
Their works will be published in The Standard and read aloud on KNAF AM Radio during the Thanksgiving holiday season.
The memorial awards are named for Texas Poet Laureate, Carlos Clinton Ashley-- teacher, rancher, and statesman—born and raised in the Texas Hill Country.
For complete information and contest rules, contact Lindy Segall at 512.293-6949 or email@example.com.
Photo courtesy: The Ashley Family