“Riding in the Grand Entry”
As the two girls turned the corner toward the corral, sure enough, the announcer called for the final line up.
“If you own a horse, and you plan on riding that animal on this property, get in the entry!” Bill, the announcer, yelled over the microphone.
“If we had gotten a better start this morning, we would not be running this far behind.” Lily said, “Don’t look at me in that tone of voice!” Jan sarcastically sneered at her best friend.
“I didn’t say a word! You know you should have ironed your shirt and cleaned that saddle before this morning. I do not need to tell you anything. You will not listen to me anyway.” Lily snapped.
The Grand Entry was the place Cowboys and Cowgirls were seen before the Horse Show or Rodeo. Every contestant riding in the barrel race, pole-bending, saddle bronc or bareback bronc rode in the Entry. Usually the Queen of the Rodeo rode in with the US Flag, but today they asked Jan to bring in the flag. Everyone in the bleachers stood, with their hats off, and hands over their hearts, until she went around the enclosed arena as many times as necessary for the National Anthem to play. Then the local preacher would say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and an opening prayer. Each year the preacher from each church took a turn saying the pledge and prayer. Afterward each rider came in on horses, single file, waving to the ones in the stands to cheer them on to a blue ribbon or silver buckle.
As usual, Jan and Lily always came in together. This day would not be any different. However, something became different between them, and Lily could not put her finger on the problem. She just knew Jan. Lily would find out later, after the Grand Entry, what was her problem.
The cloud of dust from each horse hoof kicked up a real problem. Mothers in the crowd walked their babies away from the corral because of the grit. Doug, the Rodeo contractor had tried to get his water truck started. He knew the crowd would make it ‘one of those nights’ unless he ran the water truck over the inside of the arena to settle the dust. Everyone would leave.
When Lily came around the arena, she spotted the man she wanted to see. The cowboy made it to the rodeo! She wondered how she would find someone who knew him. Lily saw him at the last rodeo; too embarrassed to ask anyone his name. Lily would find out tonight, all by herself, who he belonged with and where he stayed in town.
LILY & JAN-AT ODDS
Jan made eyes at him all the time. Lily had told Jan to snap out of it. Lily could not understand why Jan could not see what a complete mistake it would be if she got mixed up with that ‘old man’. The last time the two friends talked about Jan’s infatuation with this fellow turned into an all out fight of screaming and yelling. This became only half of what went on between two best friends.
“You don’t know one thing about him,” Jan scolded. “He treats me like a lady.”
“I know he’s almost old enough to call him father.” Lily said at the top of her voice. “What do you mean; he treats you like a lady? How well do you know him? Have you been seeing him? If your mama and daddy was still alive…” Lily knew it was hopeless.
Lily did not know the man Jan thought so much of, or the fact he was so much older than Lily expected. Jan, not holding for this questioning by her best friend, started this gulf of separation. The gulf had gotten deeper between them since.
Lily climbing down off her horse, after she rode in the Grand Entry, heard someone calling her name. Doug, trying to get her attention by yelling at her, did not know she did not want to work today. She was going to ride in the barrel race, and the western class, and she wanted to win. Lily did acknowledge him because Doug kept calling her name, loudly.
“What can I do for you Doug?” she finally said softly.
“Will you be a dear and run the water truck around the inside of the arena? Thanks.” Doug waved as he walked off. He had not even waited to let her answer. “Take me for granted!” Lily yelled, as he smiled looking back over his shoulder.
Lily got in the water truck, realizing it has been a long time since she drove a straight shift vehicle. She came pulling out on the arena when she saw the cowboy again. He would work the Rodeo, with his brothers, as Judges. She knew she would be nervous when she ran the barrels, but she had faith in her horse, Dixie, a master at running the clover leaf pattern. Lily came around the arena when she saw Jan run across the field toward their horse trailer. She stopped the water truck and watched to see Jan, not running toward something, but running from ‘that’ Johns guy. Lily pumped the clutch and the truck died on the spot.
Lily could not imagine what would make Jan cry hysterically. What could he have said to her that would make her like this? Lily would find out as soon as she got the truck back to Doug.
“Jan, what is wrong with you? Can you tell me? Please! Talk to me!” Lily begged. Jan would not pick up her head. She seemed like a doll that had no bones. They had to ride in a few minutes. Jan, not in any condition to sit up, much less ride, worried Lily.
Lily decided to find Tim Johns and the underlying cause of what could be wrong. Jan begged Lily to leave it alone. Jan got up, found an opened bottle of water, washed her face and got ready to ride. Lily would wait a few hours before she found answers. She knew Jan would tell her the problem.
When the announcer called for all contestants to line up for the barrel race, Jan and Lily lined up. Jan went out first, as she posted a fast time of 14.373 seconds. This would probably be her best time yet.
Lily rode last. Dixie, prancing and high-strung, did not feel right under her legs. Lily turned her toward the first barrel running flat out. Dixie made the turn for the second barrel. Lily made this run so many times. The run felt like breathing. She did not think about it. The barrel caught Lily square on the right knee as Dixie went down against the barrel. Lily flew over the grey horses head. The pain in her knee could not feel as bad as the cry coming from her beloved horse.
The cowboy holding her in his arms, telling her to be still, the ambulance would be there in a few minutes. Lily tried to sit up but the pain became so excruciating she could not stand to look down at her knee. She started reaching for her horse when she heard the pop of the gun. They had put her beloved Dixie down, right then, because Dixie’s two front legs broke.
Lily could not imagine who she heard screaming so loud. Then she realized that sound was coming out of her own throat. Her Dixie was gone. She had been riding her for ten years. What could have happened? The cowboy, holding her and rocking her in his arms, began trying to calm her screams.
“What is your name?” Lily managed to ask him through sobs and tears. “My name is Lewis,” he said in a small quiet voice. “Now just lay still. The ambulance is going to take you to the hospital.”
Lily would not turn loosen her grip on his hand. “Will you go with me? Please?” He could not tell her no. When the medics got her leg wrapped, in an air cast, Lewis said a few words to his brother as he handed him his set of keys. Lewis was with Lily in the ambulance as the medics gave her something for pain. She snubbed softly.
Lewis thought back as they were on the way to the hospital. He had wondered where Jan had gone. He noticed that as soon as Dixie went down, Jan flew out of the arena. He saw her leave in the truck as soon as she loaded her horse. That seemed too odd, but some people cannot handle a painful situation. He knew how close Lily and Jan had been over the past few years. It seemed amazing that he is with the woman who had kept him awake for over three years. He kept telling himself she was a child. Three years ago, she ‘was’ a child. The woman who had her knee split open like a ripe pomegranate was not a child any longer. She had lost her horse. She may never be able to walk again. Where could her best friend and her family possibly be now?
KEEP THE FAMILY OUT OF THE ARENA
Doug would not let Lily’s family onto the arena floor. Doug said all the family needed to go to the hospital. They were all there, except for Jan. The hospital emergency room became full of family, when the ambulance got to the city.
After being in surgery all night, Lily had plates and screws in her right knee. She would never be able to ride the barrels again, for sure, but without Dixie, she did not want to think of riding anyway. She woke up; hoping all of it had been a bad dream. Sitting in the corner, with a pillow under his head, she saw Lewis sound asleep. Had he been there all night?
She did not want to wake anyone up, but she had to move. When she tried to move her leg, the pain hit in waves. She could not help but cry out. That sound brought everyone on their feet.
“It’s about time you came around, “Lewis said in a hushed tone. “Does it hurt much?”
“Yes! I feel like I ran into a barrel,” Lily said. “Did you stay here all night?”
Lewis looked down, back up into her blue eyes, and quietly said a soft, “Yes.”
Lily noticed, for the first time, he had blue eyes. His skin smooth as silk and his hair a dark brown with a hint of grey at the temples, made him look like an Indian. She loved the fact he held her hands so tenderly and even reached over kissing the inside of her hand. She knew he had more to tell her. She had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. What more could be wrong? Dixie gone, Jan not there, her family had gone home, except for Anne, her sister, left Lewis to handle the fallout of whatever is to come.
“Lewis, what is it? Just tell me! I can take it!” she steeled herself to hear what he tried to say.
“Tim Johns drugged Dixie. Jan caught him. He said he would threaten her if she did not let you go ahead and run the horse. That was after the Grand Entry.” Lewis tried to explain.
“Why did Jan not come to me and tell me? Why did she let me go ahead and run Dixie? Why? I didn’t care if I got hurt, but they put Dixie down. They put her down!” Lily began screaming.
Lewis did not know how to tell her the rest. He called the nurse into the room before he told her the rest of the horror story. He felt sure they would have to sedate Lily. How could he tell her this?
“Lily, I know that you and Jan have been friends for a long time. I know that when you see one of you, the other can’t be far behind. However, you are not going to be able to see her for a while.” Lewis tried to take his time explaining this to the woman he found himself getting lost in.
“What else are you not telling me? Just say it,” she finally screamed.
“Jan and Tim were on their way out-of-town last night. She was going to run away with him instead of facing you. She felt so bad about what happened to Dixie and to you.” He explained.
“How do you know this, if you were with me all night?” questioned Lily.
“My brother, Aubrey came by the hospital last night. He saw Jan and talked with her. He told me what happened.” Lewis started reaching for the right words.
“Where is Jan?” Lily face showed her feelings. “Where is she Lewis?”
“Their car was T-boned when they stopped at the bank to withdraw money. She had taken out as much as she could from her account, and when they were pulling out in the road, an eighteen-wheeler ran into the car on his side. He died instantly. Jan was still alive when she got here to the hospital, but she died right after Aubrey talked with her.” Lewis had tears running down his cheeks as he tried to find the right words to take some of the pain away.
Lily just lay there looking up at the ceiling. She had no feelings for a moment. Then the events of the night before rushed into her mind, and she started crying uncontrollably. The nurse slides a needle into the butterfly in her arm. She cried herself to sleep. Lewis did not have the heart to tell her the rest.
The next day, Lewis’ brothers came by to bring him some clean clothes. Aubrey barely said three words. “Sorry you’re hurt!” Lewis said he was shy! Lewis took a bath in the restroom down the hall. When he walked back into the room he took her breath. He had on a blue western shirt and dark jeans. He had his hair combed off his dark forehead and she thought how gorgeous he looked. He had been kind to stay with her.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?
“You know you don’t have to stay here. I know you probably have much to do before you go to work Monday. Sunday is your day of rest,” Lily said.
“Do you go to church on Sunday?” Lewis asked.
“When I can walk, I do,” Lily said, trying to smile.
“Tell me what Jesus means to you.” Lewis pulled up a chair. He wanted to know her heart.
Lily looked directly into his eyes and told him she believed in the ABC’s: ‘Acknowledge, Believe and Confess that Jesus is the only Begotten Son of The One True God. I believe that Jesus died on the third day but He arose and is on the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf. Confess that all people are sinners and must have Jesus as their savior if they want to get to heaven. Simple!’
A broad smile broke across Lewis’ face. That was a pleasant surprise. Lily was a Christian. He was too.
“Now, will you tell me what else is bothering you?” asked Lily.
Lewis got up, walking across the room, looking out the window. He could not be too sure he would tell her the rest of this story. He did not think he should tell Lily about her best friend. He felt sure she would not believe him.
When he came back to her bedside she took his hands into hers. “Tell me, please. I want to know whatever it is, and I want you to tell me.”
He did not want to be the one to say the hurtful things that would break her heart. However, Lewis knew she needed to know the entire story.
“Lily, Jan was six months pregnant.” Lewis said slowly.
“You are wrong! You are wrong! Who told you that lie? Who would say those awful things about Jan? It cannot be true! She would have told me! She would not have kept that from me!” Lily grasped at the last bit of light she could before the darkness took over.
SHE’S BACK, BUT FOR HOW LONG?
When she came to, Lewis was not in the room. Lily saw the nurse in the room, her Mother sitting where Lewis had been earlier and Lily looked around. They jumped when she spoke.
“Why are you looking so strange? I just fainted. Where is Lewis?” Lily could not understand when mother and the nurse looked at each other. The room seemed different, not the one she had been in earlier this morning.
“Where is Lewis?” Lily said, louder. “He had to go home honey. I will call him and he will come back tonight,” mother said.
“I guess when he told me about Jan being pregnant, I fainted. I am sorry he had to leave. I wanted to thank him for being with me in the ambulance, and then telling me about Jan’s death. It could not have been easy for him.” Lily tried to explain to her mother.
Lily’s mom did not tell her for at least an hour that she had been in a coma for over two weeks. The doctors had said she could not handle any more bad news. Lewis had been there every minute he was not working. He would sit and read the Bible aloud to her. She would cry out and he would talk to her until she settled down.
The hospital visiting hours posted 2 pm until 8 pm. Lewis did come back the day Lily came around. He was so happy to see her blue eyes. She had so much she wanted to say to him. However, she would have to find another time, because the doctor came in as soon as Lewis walked in the room. He would let Lily go home the next day. She had physical therapy every day since she fell into the coma. Her leg would need more physical therapy when they removed the cast in a few weeks.
Lewis surprised Lily by saying he would be at the hospital the following morning to make sure she got home. She could not help but be glad he would be taking time with her. She could not stand for him to leave. Thinking about it, she had not seen Lewis leave her, since the night of the… What do you call it, the accident? No, it was not an accident. Tim Johns had tried to cover up what; the fact he had raped Jan and gotten her pregnant? The fact he hated Lily because she did not like him and Jan in the same zip code? Why did he have to kill Dixie? What did he give Dixie that made her legs buckle that night? Maybe Lily would never know. Lily did know Johns took away her horse, her best friend, and Jan’s unborn baby.
Lily did make it home. She had to stay in a wheelchair for two months. Lewis came by every day, on his way to his house, to see Lily. She had no idea where Lewis lived. It would be another two months, after she got out of the wheelchair, before Lewis asked her to go to his home.
IS THIS A DREAM?
She never thought she’d make it to Lewis’ home but by Christmas, it became a great season for these two. Lily, sitting on the hearth by a roaring fire, Lewis walked through the dining room. He had a couple of large mugs of chocolate with marshmallows floating on top. This was their drink of choice. It really warmed her to see him so relaxed, with the smile that made her heart race. She knew she loved him.
He sat the chocolate down on the hearth asking her to stand. He took her hand pulling her to her feet. He told her how much she meant to him. He admitted he had waited for her to grow up for three years. She could do little else but stand with her mouth wide open. Lily told him how she felt about him. She told him how she was going to find out, the night she lost Dixie and Jan, if he was single.
Lewis kissed her lightly on the mouth and, pushing her back away from him, looked deep into her eyes. “I have wanted to say these words to you for years, but now is the right time.”
She felt her head spinning, and afraid to wish on the dream, Lewis dropped down on one knee. “Will you make me the happiest man in the world and marry me?”
Tears started running down her cheeks, and with a small quiet voice whispered, “Yes, I will marry you.”
Lewis, afraid he had not heard correctly, asked her to say it again. This time he wanted her to scream it.
“YES I WILL MARRY YOU!” Lily screamed through all the tears.
Lewis covered her face with kisses, dancing around the living room. As he sang, telling her repeatedly how much he loved her, she looked at him and whispered, “I love you too.”
After fourteen years of marriage, they now have their children riding in their first Grand Entry.