Tom Leghorn makes a life or death decision to ride a bronc or not. Which will he choose?
The Bronco Riding Rooster
wd ct. 10,050
Our story begins on a horse ranch in Montana located in the Bitterroot Mountains.
It is mid-June, and the air is cool here and the skies are big and bluer than anywhere you've ever seen. The Double ~ A ranch is waking up to the sound of the roosters' call. All the ranch animals come out to feed and greet each other in the yard.
The ranch owners; Mr. and Mrs. O’ Riley's are nice people. Originally from Ireland, they own a large stock of rodeo horses along with lots of farm animals like chicken's, pigs, rabbits, and a nice lazy old hound dog named Patsy, but Patsy is a male dog and hates his name.
On this ranch lives, a Bronco Riding Rooster named Tom Leghorn. He nests in the highest roost inside the barn. Tom is the most famous Bronco Riding Rooster in the land. He is very proud of his bronco belt buckle collection and the thrill of the rides. He is the most handsome rooster from his black cowboy hat, light blue button-down shirt, blue jeans, and his fringed leather chaps and snake skinned boots.
When Tom struts around the ranch you can hear the spurs spinning from his boots as he walks. The hens and young chicks go crazy and act giddy. Tom loves the attention, but his greatest love will always be bronco riding.
Tomorrow is a big day for Tom Leghorn; he is riding a horse named Diablo. It seems like he always gets the worst pick of the draw in these rodeos, but that never stops him from riding.
‘‘He's a real mean horse, Tom." warned, Ol' Will. "I've heard some rumors of things he's done to some riders and how hard he is to hold on to."
"You know I don’t listen to rumors and I ain't planning on hiding my head in the sand like some scared ostrich. Plus, I'm not about to mess up my crest,'' he replied; as he removed his hat to rub his wing over his perfectly red-crested head.
"I'm gonna get Buck ready for some practice riding,” Tom said as they walked into the stables. Ol' Will kept rambling on about how dangerous Diablo might be as Tom continued to saddle Buck. Finally, Tom had to ask Ol' Will to stop talking about it, it's just rumored.
“Okay, okay I just thought I'd be able to talk some sense into you, and I hope you might change your mind and pass this ride up.”
Ol’ Will replied in a grumbling way.
"I can take on Diablo," Tom said in a strong voice, as though he was as tall as the mountains around him. "Once I look him in the eyes, he'll understand who's the boss!
''I just wanted you to know what folks are saying about him." Mumbled Ol' Will. "Silly young rooster, he thinks every ride is going to be easier than the last."
Tom quietly slipped away into the arena while he was still talking.
''Why, in my younger days I was just like Tom, never afraid, not a worry in the world and the ladies...Well, they couldn't get enough of me!'' (Ol' Will said to himself aloud while he hobbles away.)
Ol’ Will is the famous Will Dodger. He was one of Greatest Bronco Riding Roosters of his time. He was tougher than any bronco rider alive, until that fateful day he rode Tornado.
Many years ago, Will was riding his best, but Tornado was just too much for him. Just as the eight-second buzzer went off, Will's foot got tangled in the stirrup when he tried to jump off, he could not get it loose.
Tornado crashed Will into the gates repeatedly, until his leg finally came loose from the stirrup. He hit the ground hard enough it knocked him out for a few seconds.
Nevertheless, he raised himself up until his pickup men arrived to get him out of the arena.
They carried Will out and sat him down on a haystack until the doctor got there. Will looked at his right leg and foot. He could see the damage to his leg was bad.
The Doctor that came along with the other ranch animals arrived. It was Dr. Poss. This is short for Possum, but it was too late to save Will's leg and foot. That's when the doc had to replace it with a wooden one.
It looked like a piece of an old broken chair. Ever since then, Will has grown old, grey and grumpy in a good way. And he's done his best to raise Tom since his parents were taken by coyotes when he was still very young.
Over in the arena sat Miss. Tina. She is the prettiest young hen on the ranch, she has long legs and beautiful Red Tri-Colored feathers and large green eyes. She is crazy in love with Tom Leghorn and likes being around him in the arena when he rides his favorite horse, Buck.
Some of the other young hens also like Tom, but Miss. Tina's had her eyes on Tom ever since they were little chicks.
They grew up in the same hen house and their families are very close.
She remembers the day she fell in love with Tom. They were playing, just chasing each other around the nests in and out of the hen-houses when he finally caught up with her.
He dropped her gently to the ground, his face in her face, he said, "your mine now Miss.Tina.” That's when she felt that first spark of love between them.
So she puckered up to be kissed when Tom jumped away, too embarrassed to kiss a girl. Yet! She knew... She would be his wife... someday!
''Hello Tom!'' Said, Miss.Tina in her soft voice.
''Howdy Miss.Tina ma'am. How are you this fine summer morning?'' Tom asked politely.
''Why, I am just fine Tom. I hear you are going to ride Diablo tomorrow evening. It’s all the talk on the ranch you know.”
''I sure am and there's a big silver and gemstone buckle in it for me and my picture on the front page of the Ranch Examiner when I win!'' (He said so sure of himself.)
''I was hoping you wouldn't mind if I tagged along with you to the show?”
She asked, (batting her eyes at him.)
''Of course, I wouldn't mind Miss. Tina. It's always my pleasure to have you at the rodeos cheering me on!’’ (Tom replied.)
When all of a sudden, Miss. Tina's face turned fiery red.
''Cheering you on?" She questioned him in an angry tone. "Cheering you on?
You only think of me as a cheerleader!...
I am much more than just some cheerleader!... How could you Tom? She said, very upset and disappointed. She jumped off the railing... stomping her feet and bumping Ol' Will in the shoulder as she passed him on her way back to her nest.
''Now what'd you say to the poor girl Tom"? Asked Ol' Will.
"I have... No idea?’’ (Tom replied) Shocked and confused. “ I just told her it would be a pleasure to have her cheering me on tomorrow night, that's all !''
''That's all..? Boy, you sure need a lot of learning about women. That sounds like you called her a cheerleader! ''
''I didn't say that...did I ?'' Tom (questioning himself curiously.)
''You sure did, and it seems you made her plenty mad too.''
"Maybe I should go over and apologize to her?''
''Are you a crazy Rooster?" (Ol’ Will said loudly), he grabbed Tom from going any further.
“Don’t you know, you never try to talk to a lady when she's mad at you, she'll bite your head off and you'll never get a word in anyhow. Believe me, I've been around enough hens in my day to know what’s in their crazy minds. It's just better to leave her alone for now and let her cool down a bit!"
"I'd say you’re right about that. I don't need any girl biting my head off. (He said jokingly putting his wings around his neck, as though he was being choked.)
They chuckled a few minutes after thinking about it. Tom said. “It's been a crazy morning so far and I have an important ride to get ready for.''
''Good thinking Tom, you'll be thankful later." Well, I best be getting the rest of my chores done before it gets too hot. Maybe you outta take Buck out fer a ride in the hills and stay away from the line of fire for a while if'n you know what I mean?"
''I think I'm beginning to see what you mean! I'll see you after a while."
(He replied) Then he jumped up into the saddle. He tugged on the reins and headed Buck in the northern direction away from the ranch.
Just as Tom rode off, little Kody came running, and shouting out!
''Wait... Mr. Leghorn... please... wait up... I have something important to... tell… you...!” (Kody paused, then stopped.)
“Ah, shucks... I missed him.” Kody looked down and kicked some rocks on the ground, upset that he did not get to talk to Tom before he rode away. Standing there he sighed up at Ol' Will.
Kody is a young little rooster who wants to be just like Tom Leghorn when he grows up. He wears a black hat, blue jeans and a pair of chaps Tom gave him. And hanging from his waist side is an old rusty six-shooter he found.
''What's going on Kody?'' Asked Ol' Will.
''I wanted to show Mr. Leghorn the picture on the front of the rodeo flier, where it says he'll be riding White Lightning tomorrow night instead of," (Kody pauses)...and says in a low deep voice..."D..i..a..b..l..o!"
''What are you talking about boy? Let me see that flier!'' (Ol' Will said in disbelief.)
He grabbed the flier from Kody’s wings. '' There must be some mistake... this can't be right!''
''But, it is Sir,... it says right down there on the bottom. Diablo is being replaced due to a stone bruise, and White Lightning is taking his place." (Explained Kody)
This was bad news for Tom. White Lightning is a 'killer horse'. He has a bad reputation for permanently disabling riders or worse. Sometimes the rider would die from injuries endured by the bronc White Lightning.
''Well, we can't tell Tom the news now, he will be gone for a few hours." (Ol' Will replied.)
"I’ll find a way to tell him when he returns from his ride."
"Thanks for bringing this to my attention Kody. You're a good boy." Ol' Will said and patted him on his head. "We better get back to the ranch."
Tom and Buck road out over several hills and through some running creeks far away from the ranch. When Tom noticed up ahead he had ridden to close to the ghostly forest. A forest that got its name many years ago from the town when some folks didn't return from going through the forest. It was a short-cut to the next town. And those that did return were frightened and very scared, they told the town folk of the trolls they had seen and warned everyone not to go through there.
The trolls are evil creatures that live in hidden caves throughout the forest. Their heads are as big as they're body's and their teeth are blacken~green and their breath can put you to sleep so it's easier to eat you so you don't put up a fight.
Tom heard a weird sound coming from the winds blowing through the trees and the unseen critters running through the thick brush. It's been known for many years that mountain trolls hunt for food all throughout the forest and that they don't like being bothered by passers-by, but Tom wasn't scared.
He walked Buck through the forest as quiet as possible.
"See Buck, there ain't nothing in here to be afraid of," Tom said, with his eyes wide open looking around and behind as they walked into the forest. When suddenly a large bush up ahead began to rattle and shake as they approached it. Buck got scared and reared up taking a few steps backward, he didn't want to go any further.
Tom stopped Buck several feet from the bush. Both of them became frightened and not sure what to do in case it was a troll. Then out from the shaking bush, crawled a very big and ugly possum. He hissed at them, then asked in a macabre voice, "what are you doing in this forest?"
Tom replied, "we were just passing through, we didn't mean to disturb you!"
"Well, you did, now get out of this forest before you disturb the mountain trolls and they eat you both!"
Tom apologized to the ugly possum and said, "Well, we'll be on our way out right now." Frightened and scared, Tom took the reins and turned Buck around and backed out of the forest as fast as he could to get away never looking back.
They were lucky this time. A couple of trolls were already planning to jump on them for a late morning snack. But they got away and rode south back the way they came.
Tom spotted a big shade tree next to a wide creek in an open meadow.
''Hey Buck, I think we'll make a stop here for a bit...ay boy? I think we're far enough away from the ghostly forest."
The horse neighed and nodded his head in agreement. Tom stopped Buck, then jumped off and removed the saddle straps and blanket. He laid them under the shade tree to rest on the cool grass.
He watched as Buck grazed the land, his tail swishing back and forth at the flies that tried to get water from the sweat off the horses back. Then, Tom began thinking about what he had said to Miss. Tina, and why it made her so mad?
''Women, huh...I’ll never understand them!’’ (He said aloud.)
''I know you'd tell me, O'l boy if you could," Tom said to Buck.
He laid his head down on one of the horse blankets.
"Maybe I'll just sleep on it a while.''
The blanket was still warm from Buck's body heat. Tom yawned and placed his hat off over his face and laid back to rest. His first thought was their encounter with that ugly possum. He decided never to go there again. Then his mind filling with thoughts of everything that's happened this morning with Miss. Tina and her misunderstanding of what he said. Feeling so sleepy now he quickly fell into a deep sleep.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch all the hen's, chick's, roosters, pigs, rabbits, and the others including Patsy went to see Ol' Will to talk about Tom's possible outcome if he decides to ride that killer horse. Everyone agreed it would be best to be extra nice to him when he gets back because it might be the end for him if he rides White Lightning.
Several hours passed and Tom awoke from his nap. He could tell it was getting late under the direction of the sun. Buck was down at the creek getting a long cool drink of fresh mountain stream water.
''I reckon we'd better get back to the ranch old boy before it gets too dark."
Tom said to Buck in a long yawning voice.
Tom picked up his gear and saddled Buck. He grabbed the reins, then hopped up into the saddle, and gave Buck a few kicks on his side and said, '' Let’s get back home."
While Tom and Buck rode upon the ranch, it appeared to him that something was going on. He noticed everyone whispering to one another like they were spreading more rumors, but they had weird looking smiles on their faces.
He thought for a moment,...hmm,.."Maybe they're planning to have a party or a dance tonight. Could it be for me?”
He thought about dancing with Miss. Tina in hopes she would not be mad at him anymore. He slowly trotted Buck up towards the stalls. Tom tipped his hat and smiled as he passed Mrs. Fowler and her baby chicks. He grinned with a wink to the teenage triplet hens Brandy, Mandy and Candy, then they began to faint the closer Tom got as he passed them.
Then he saw Mr. and Mrs. Hare clutching their family of fifteen little bunny’s close by their sides. The smiles on their faces also looked weird like the others…Tom, is a little confused now? Hoping nothing bad happened to anyone on the ranch.
''I'll act like I'm surprised and go along with it.'' (He thinks to himself.)
''Howdy Tom,'' said Mrs. Peck as he passed by her.
''Good afternoon Mr. Leghorn.'' Mrs. Quail said as she scurried by.
Tom rode on through the ranch. Everyone was being overly nice and saying "Hello" to him as though he had been away for a long time.
''Snort…snort...snort...How are you today Tom? '' Asked Porky and his little sister, Peggy Piggy. "You look nice today Mr. Leghorn."
"Thank you, Peggy," Tom replied.
''Good to see you back Tom.’’ Said Patsy, the old hound dog. "It's good to be back Patsy, is everything okay?" Patsy just put his head down and walked away quickly as if he didn't hear what Tom asked.
''I know it has to be a party! ...Or! ... A celebration maybe...?" (Tom did not know what to think?) Excitement was setting in is head. He had to know the truth now!
When he and Buck made it up to the stables, Ol' Will and Kody were waiting for him.
''How was your ride, Mr. Leghorn?" Kody asked?
''Fine, it was really fine,'' Tom replied.
He jumped off and patted Kody on top of his head when he began stretching his body from the long ride. He held one wing way up high, flexing his body looking around the ranch to see if he notices anyone hurrying about. He still thinks there is going to be a big party tonight, that he forgot to tell Ol' Will about the Ghostly Forest today.
''Here, let me put Buck in the stall fer ya." Ol' Will said to Tom.
''So, uh,..is anything special being planned for tonight while I was gone?'' Tom asked.
''No! Ur… ah... what makes you say that?'' (Ol' Will replied looking away from Tom.)
''Well,…as I was riding back, everyone was being extra nice to me, more than usual, and I thought maybe... well you know... that you might let me in on the secret?" Tom said, giving Ol' Will a nudge on his shoulder,( letting him know he could keep a secret.)
''I... I... don't know what you’re talking about Tom." (Ol' Will replied nervously.)
He knew he would have to tell him what happened to Diablo and about the horse that was chosen to replace him.
''Oh, Come on, Ol' Will you can tell me, I'll act surprised!'' (Tom said smiling with a huge grin!) Ol' Will tried holding back from telling him about Diablo.
''Well,... it's like this Tom,..!” (Ol' Will started to say;) just then something caught Tom's eye as he turned away from Ol' Will.
(It was Miss.Tina.) "Sorry old timer, Tom says quickly, but I have to go see a lady right now, I’ll talk to you later."
Tom darted away. Leaving Ol' Will standing there just when he got the nerve to tell him about the change of horses. So he decided to sit down to rest his weary body awhile.
Tom approached Miss. Tina. She looked like she had been crying, she kept wiping her eyes and looking down at the ground.
''Hello Tom,'' she said. ''I just came by to tell you that I am not mad at you anymore. I could never stay mad at you."
''I am really sorry Miss. Tina, for saying what I said this morning. I never meant to hurt your feelings.
I want you to know that.'' (He pleaded with her.)
''Why, thank you." She said looking away from him. '' So,.. do... you... want to talk about tomorrow night? I still want to be there, if you want me?''
(Tom paused for a moment), he had to think about how to answer that question correctly?
"If you want Me?" hmmm....!
He wondered what she really meant by the tone of her soft voice. He wanted her to look at him, but she kept turning away.
''I'll make sure you have the best seat for the show Miss. Tina, you can count on that." (He said in a very apologetic way.)
''I'll get extra seats for your folk’s right upfront with you too.''
"That sounds good to me. Thank you, Tom." She answered back.
Ol' Will couldn't take it anymore, they were losing daylight so he hobbled over to Tom and Miss. Tina and said.
''Tom, I gotta tell ya something! ''
"Okay...Okay! Just give me and the lady a couple more minutes."
Ol' Will waited and waited again for Tom to finish talking to Miss. Tina and his patients got shorter and shorter.
"Tom, we have to talk...Now!" (Ol' Will said, somewhat angrily).
''Okay...Okay...! Excuse me, ma’am." Tom took Miss. Tina’s wing and gave it a gentle kiss. Looking at her in the eyes, he was taken in by her beauty.
"What is so important old man that you had to interrupt this fine lady and me?''
Ol' Will took a deep breath, puffed his up his chest filling his lungs with air, then said in one long breath…"Diablo has been replaced because of an injury and it’s just the bad luck of the draw you always get, so now you’ll be riding White Lightning in the rodeo tomorrow night if you choose to accept the ride! Whew! There I said it.!"
He waited patiently for a reply...!
''Boy, did you hear what I just said?''
Tom looked like he turned to stone there for a moment. He had that deer in the headlight look. Ol' Will waved his wing in front of Tom's face to get his attention. Tom turned his head slowly, his eyes were glossy, like a flood of rain was about to start any second now. He looked at Ol' Will with a blank expression...
Then Tom asked, in a pleading voice for a better answer.
"You’re kidding me right?"
Ol' Will looked him square in the face and put his wings on his cheeks shaking his head back and forth, meaning No! He wasn't kidding at all.
Suddenly, Tom got weak in the knees. Ol' Will and Miss. Tina grabbed him up by his wings just before he fell to the ground. They helped him walk into the barn and set him down on a stack of hay, (giving him a moment to think about what Ol' Will just said.)
"Tom I wouldn't kid you about something this important. But you don't have to ride if you don't want to. You know the reputation White Lightning has as a killer horse! One of the meanest you’ll ever come across."
Tom looked at Miss. Tina, then back at Ol' Will, and frowned. (Then asked like a child?) "So there isn’t going to be any party tonight?"
He looked dizzy and confused. His mind racing with images of past riders who rode White Lightning, knowing some of them who did not make it out alive, and those who did. Now, needing assistance because of how broken up their body's got from riding White Lightning.
Tom threw his wings up around Ol' Will and let out a cry; or more like a wailing that seemed to echo for miles around. Even the owner, Mr. O' Riley stepped out from the back door of the house to see what that howling sound was. However, he did not see anything out of the ordinary. "I don't see anything honey."
He said to Mrs. O' Riley and went back into the house.
In the barn, Miss. Tina started to cry, then Ol' Will started up, then Tom started crying and Kody joined in the cry too, he must have snuck back into the barn a few minutes ago. There they were, all standing in a group hug, crying.
After a few moments, they wiped their eyes, stood back and began laughing and pointing at each other.
They're laughter got louder until their sides ached. Tom took off his hat, walked over to the water trough, and dunked his head into the cool water... He took a long time before he finally emerged from the trough. Finally, he thrust his head up out of the water, wiping his face with an old rag hanging on a barn pole.
Ol' Will, Miss. Tina and Kody went from laughing to crying all over again. Tom walked over to them, put his wings around everyone for a moment... Then shouts out!
''What are we doing crying like babies? What has gotten into us?
We can't let this get us down, right?
That horse is getting on in his years, he can't be very tough anymore. Is he?"
Tom stared into Ol' Will's eyes, (he said sadly,) ''I'm gonna die...aren't I?" He dropped to his knees in despair, Ol' Will reached down to pick him up, then slapped Tom right across the face, and told him to, "snap out of it."
Tom's blue eyes now have a shade of red in them stood up and said to Ol' Will.
''Your right, old man. I shouldn't have let it get to me so bad, but I started thinking of all the others who rode White Lightning and I had a bad feeling run through my mind wondering what might happen to me?"
Then, Miss. Tina took Kody by his wing and walked him out of the barn. All the animals on the ranch were outside waiting for someone to come out. And as soon as she and Kody stepped out from the barn, she was bombarded by questions regarding the news, everyone asking her about Tom’s fate if he rides White Lightning?.
Miss. Tina turned to them and said, " she didn't know anything yet". And begged them to keep the noise down so they don't attract too much attention from the owners again.
"I really don’t know what Tom will do, so please don’t ask me."
She just tucked her head down and walked Kody quickly to his nest.
"You shouldn’t be in there listening to all that talk and getting upset, you’re just a little rooster, and little roosters need their sleep." She tucked Kody into his nest and said to him.
"There you go little fella, you just lay down and let us figure out what is best to do about the rodeo ride tomorrow, okay! I’m sure everything will be fine, you'll see."
Kody's eyes were swollen and tired from all the crying.
He said, "Goodnight Miss. Tina"
And with a mother's touch, she kissed him on the cheek. And replied. "Goodnight Kody."
She laid there with him until he dozed off to sleep then got up and slipped out of the hen house as gently and quietly as possible. Trying not to wake him.
Everyone surrounded her again as she walked back toward the barn. "We just want to know what's happening. Please tell us something!" They all asked in sequence, but in different tones.
''Is Tom going to ride that horrible horse tomorrow?’’ Mrs. Peck questioned with fear in her voice.
''He'd be a crazy rooster if he rides that horse in the rodeo, he'll get himself hurt or worse for sure.'' Said Porky concerned for his friend.
''You have to stop him. You have to change his mind, Miss. Tina. It's not worth dying over.''
The old hound dog Patsy shouted aloud in his deep hound dog voice.
Tom was resting on a haystack and Ol' Will was holding the barn door shut when Miss. Tina returned.
"Everybody outside is very concerned about you Tom," Miss. Tina said.
"What are you going to do?"
"I’m thinking… and I’m thinking about how important my reputation is to me.
Tom paused in silence…then said the words none of us wanted to hear.
He stood up onto an old crate that was lying on the barn floor and said,
"I’m gonna ride White Lightning, by gosh! I’m going to accept the ride."
"Oh no, please don't Tom, your reputation isn't worth it!" Miss. Tina gasped.
Ol' Will shouted. "Are you crazy? You think you can peck yourself out of this shell! Well, you can’t! This ain't no easy ride. And you know it!"
“I know, I know, but I really think I can do this, if not, then I’ll know I gave it my best shot,” replied Tom.
Just then, the barn door flew open and the whole farm rushed in knocking poor Ol' Will on his butt. They poured in screaming and shouting, surrounding Tom pleading him not to ride White Lightning.
“It's not worth the ride.” Mr. Hare shouted. "And who would crow in the mornings?"
“We don’t want you to die!” Another yelled out.”
"We love you, Tom.” The triplets Brandy, Mandy, and Candy cried out in sequence. Tears flooding from there eyes, creating a sobbing puddle.
When someone from the back of the barn began chirping loudly, it kept getting louder than all the chattering going on. They all looked through the crowd to see who wanted to speak out. And there was Kody, looking up at Tom with big sad puffy eyes.
“I couldn’t sleep Mr. Leghorn, everyone here talking about how you shouldn't ride White Lightning, but you’re the bravest Rooster in the world and if you feel like you can win, then I’m with you. And I'll help take care of you if you get hurt real bad."
Tom picked Kody up and he hugged him tightly.
“I love you, Mr. Leghorn.”
“I love you too little guy.”
Tom looks around and sees all his friends around him in the barn. When Miss. Tina and Tom lock eyes; ( it's as though time had stopped ) but it was only a moment in real-time.
He opens his wings and gently wraps them around her, slowly he pulled her colorful body closer to his. They gazed into each other's eyes, it was unmistakably loving. His shyness drifted from his mind for a second. Then he gave her a ‘quick' kiss on her cheek.
Everyone inside the barn stared at them with smiles, except for the triplets, they started crying and bawling again.
“Sorry I... uh... didn’t mean to do that. I hope I didn't offend you, Miss.Tina." (She stood quiet, and surprised, wishing he had kissed her much longer.)
Tom said out loud to everyone. " Can I have your attention please, you all know my answer about the ride tomorrow, so we need to get to our homes for the night."
There is no changing Tom's mind. So everyone started walking out of the barn and back to their homes. Some kept mumbling and sobbing along the way.
Miss. Tina turned to look back at Tom before she left his sight, she held her wing up to her mouth and blew a kiss to him as she walked out of the barn. “Goodnight Tom.” She whispered as she slipped out of sight.
He held out his wing to grab the kiss and he placed it to his mouth. Grinning like a schoolboy falling in love. He tripped his right foot into a bucket of water as he turned to go up to his nest. Embarrassment set in as he tried to kick the bucket off his foot.
The next morning Tom got up extra early to get ready for the day. He jumped out his open window, and flew to the top of the barn and stepped out on the ledge to bellow out his early morning wake~up crow call. "Uukkkk, uukkk, uukkkkkrrrrrooo."
He crowed much louder than ever that the ranch owners, the O’ Riley’s got annoyed at him because it wasn't even sun up yet.
When he finished crowing he returned to the roost to get ready for a day he thought he'd never have before.
Tom began pacing the floor; he couldn't stop thinking about what might happen when he rides White Lightning. He had to stay focused and think of this ride as any other ride.
He said to himself repeatedly. “Bear down, hold on tight to the rigging and don’t get bucked off!"
"Bear down, hold on tight to the rigging and don't get bucked off!"
He came down from his roost and walked over to the trough again and stuck his head deep down into the cold water. He wanted the coolness of the water to help clear his mind before he came back up, then he shook off most of the water, he looked funny all wet and raggedy feathers, but he felt much better and clear-headed.
Ol’ Will was patiently watching and waiting for Tom to get his head out of the water trough, then he let out a big laugh pointing at Tom.
“I think that was the best thing you could ‘a done this morning Tom.”
Ol' Will said in a laughing voice.
“You’re right about that old man. I needed it." He replied as he dried himself off with an old towel hanging on a nail in the barn.
Tom jumped back up to his nest and picked out his favorite red plaid-riding shirt, his jeans, then put on his belt and buckle he won from last year's rodeo. On the front of it in gold and silver, it said, ‘Best Bronco Rider of the Year’ in the shape of a horseshoe. Tom gave it a quick spit shine wiping it off with his sleeve.
Then reached for his snake skinned boots with the shiny sharp spurs, and finishing up, he put on his leather chaps and gloves. Before leaving his roost, he reached out for his lucky black riding hat that was on a nail next to where he sleeps. It held two special feathers in the hatband.
One belonged to his Mother; It was long and had beautiful colors of Autumn reds, browns and yellows that made it shine. The other one belonged to his Father; It was solid black as the night sky. He stroked his wing over them and let out a long sigh...( wishing his parents were still alive) But, together, their feathers give him the confidence and strength he needs before each ride, and today he needed that confidence more than ever.
As he walks out of the barn all the ranch animals were up early too, they were outside the barn waiting for him to come out. Tom smiled at everyone as he walked passed and they shouted out.
"Good luck on the ride today Tom." Some even hugged him and shook his wings as he walked towards the owner’s horse trailers.
They were getting ready to pull out. "Tom you need to hurry before the owners leave.” Said, Ol’ Will.
Miss. Tina was already inside the trailer with her parents and little Kody. The pick-up men and other animals from the ranch that always dress up like clowns were also inside the trailer, and the newest doctor on the ranch, Dr. Crow. (He was a tall heavy-looking black crow.) And he brought extra supplies in his black doctors' bag, like cloth wraps and some kind of liquid pain medicine marked 'whiskey' just in case he needed it.
He's a bit chubby for a crow, that's because Mrs.Crow loves making him cherry pies. Also, his feathers were graying all over the front of his balding head.
While the owners began to warm up the trucks before pulling out, everyone paused for a few moments of silence to honor those lost in passed rodeos. You could hear the sound of sniffling. Soon they all started getting the sniffles and watery eyes.
Miss. Tina’s mom handed out handkerchiefs from her bag. Some of the animals just used their shirts to wipe away their sniffling noses. Ol’ Will was getting impatient because the sniffling turned into whines and outcries. He yells out.
“Y’all are gonna draw attention from the owners making all this noise, now keep it quiet!” Then he continued.
“I know today is gonna be one of the most important rodeos of Tom's life. We’re all here for each other, now it’s gonna be a long trip to the rodeo grounds so rest up, and when we get there I need everyone to focus.” He pointed directly at Tom.
“I want to keep Tom safe and make sure everything goes right until that eight-second buzzer goes off. This has got to run like clockwork”. He said firmly.
The reassuring look on Ol’ Will’s face was ‘not’ very reassuring to Tom or anyone else.
With the extra ranch animals that came along on the trip made the space in the trailer quite overcrowded. The horses got restless and nearly kicked Patsy, the yard dog in the head and some were just crammed in together tighter than a can of sardines. Kody kept a lookout for the rodeo grounds while he and Ol’ Will played checkers most of the way.
“Hey everyone, I see the rodeo grounds up ahead!” Kody shouted out.
The owners pulled the horse trailer into the driveway and over to the back edge of the grounds. This worked out perfect for the Bronco Riding Roosters and their crews to have their rodeos in private. Because humans are annoying and they don't understand anything the animals say.
As soon as they stopped and parked the trailers, the animals creeped out the trap door under the trailer so the humans don't see them going to the small riding arena in the back lot. The helpers got ready fast and the other animals went to find their seating before the rodeo begins. Tom waved and smiled at Miss. Tina, she waved back with a wink, and Tom spun around like a youngster in love.
“Could this be what loves feels like?” He questions himself.
His mind was clouded with thoughts of having his own family of baby chicks with Miss. Tina as their Mommy and him as a Daddy. During those few moments his thoughts drifted off, he was not focusing on the rodeo, it's as if everything disappeared and he was somewhere else. He shook his head, rubbed his eyes, then realized where he ‘really’ is!
He walked slowly towards the stalls. He wanted to get a good look at the meanest horse alive, and just as he looked up, there he was. He stepped back a little stunned at how tall the horse was. He sneaked into the stall slowly and carefully to get a better peek at White Lightning. He was looking for anything that might give him an edge.
“He’s quite a big horse, Tom, what’s on your mind about this?” Still thinking you can take him on?” Ol’ Will questioned as he snuck up on Tom. But he did not reply, his eyes were fixed on the size of the horse.
Tom didn't see anything but a black mark in the shape of a lightning bolt on the horse's left shoulder. Tom started feeling a tingle inside as he walked around the stall.
“Focus, focus!” He repeated to himself. Horses can smell fear, (so Tom smelled under his armpits to see if he could smell himself or not.)
“Nope, I don't smell a thing!" He walked around the horse. "That means you can’t smell me either because you don’t scare me, White Lightning!”
Tom began flapping his wings and jumping toward the horse kicking his spurred boots at him to get his attention...
“Who’s scared now, you overgrown pony?" Tom yelled aloud.
They stared at each other for several seconds, both noticing that they had the same deep blue eyes... Tom saw his 'parents’ reflection looking back at him from within the eyes of the horse.
White Lightning reared upward, neighing loudly, and stomping his hooves at Tom. When Ol’ Will pulled him out of the way by his belt just in time.
“What are you doing Tom, trying to get yourself hurt before you even ride him?”
“Of course not, I was just looking for something on his body I’d heard rumors about.”
“You said you never listened to rumors!” Replied Ol’ Will. What are you looking for that makes you think this rumor might be true?”
“I heard that White Lightning has an enlarged bump under his back right leg at his flank. I also heard that it is the worse tickle spot ever on a horse. It may be the reason he is so violent.
“I think it causes him pain so badly when the flank strap is pulled tight on that bump that it makes him go crazy,” Tom answered assuredly.
“Well, did ya see any kind of bump on him?’’ Asked Ol' Will?
“Yes, I think I did, when he reared up there was defiantly something there like an over-sized wart. Kind of ugly if you ask me.” Tom replied with a funny smirk on his face.
“I’m thinking if we could find something soft to place between his hide and the flank strap while it’s around him, it might give the bump some kind of padding. Maybe, just maybe it will help him to be calmer so I can at least have a chance.”
Tom rushed out to the stadium. Hoping he could possibly find something before the ride begins. Which is in less than a half-hour from now!
Ol’ Will hobbled around the stalls looking for something soft nearby while he stayed back with the rodeo helpers.
Miss. Tina, her parents, and Kody were sitting in the front row. Everyone waited patiently until it was Tom's turn to ride White Lightning. They were whistling and, cheering for the other riders. Even though each ride is only eight seconds long, it feels like an eternity.
Tom slipped in next to Miss. Tina. "What are you doing here Tom?" She asked. "Aren't you supposed to be getting ready?"
"I came here to tell you I have a plan to place something soft into the strap to help pad a spot on White Lightning in hopes to calm him down. I really don't have time to explain right now I have to find something soft or kinda fluffy!
He asked her and her mother if they might have anything soft in their bags that might work.
Miss. Tina’s mom said.
“Sorry, Tom dear," said Lilly. "I handed all of my tissues out on the way here. I have nothing left in my bag except for some feed to snack on.
She had long legs too like her daughter, but she is plump and round and she loves wearing little hats with multi-colored flowers that make her beautiful brown feathers stand out.
Then Miss. Tina said, “I didn’t bring a bag or anything Tom, I'm sorry.”
"Don't be sorry Miss. Tina, but you can help me look for something soft to use." He replied.
He asked the others if they had something, anything he could use, but they all shrugged their shoulders up and said they didn't have anything to offer. The only things Tom could find were pop cans and some trash. Then Kody approached him. He was tugging on Tom's chaps trying to get his attention. Tom got a little frustrated at Kody because he wouldn't stop tugging on him.
“Not now Kody, I haven’t got time to visit, I have to find something, and quick!”
Kody continued tugging at Tom and he was being very insistent. Finally, Tom picked Kody up by his shoulders and in an angry tone of voice, he asked!
“What do you want Kody? I have to find something soft quick, I'm running out of time. Please leave me alone for now.”
But when Tom put him down, he noticed Kody was holding something in his wing.
“What do you have their little guy? He looked at it again. What is this?” Tom asked!
He was holding up a stuffed kitty toy. Tom plucked it out of his wing.
“What do you want me to do with this?" He asked.
“Can this help you, Mr. Leghorn?” Kody replied.
Tom looked at it…(he thought for a second)... “I get it!”
“This will work perfect Kody, thank you so much.” Tom picked him up again, more gently this time. He hugged him tightly and gave him a big kiss on his forehead.
“Thank you, Kody, you’re my new best friend.” Tom took his black scarf off from around his neck and gave it to Kody and said, "this is for luck."
Kody was elated with happiness just then. Tom set him down next to Miss. Tina and they took a quick loving stare at each other.
“I Love you, Miss.Tina." Tom said, just before he ran off to get ready.
Miss. Tina smiled and paused, then said.
“I Love you too." She said softly. But he did not hear her. He rushed quickly back to the stall.
“What took you so long boy? Ya barely have time to get your rigging set up! Did you find anything?” Ol' Will asked.
Tom held out a raggedy stuffed kitty toy and said. “Kody gave me his stuffed toy to use in the strap for padding, plus it was the only thing I could find anywhere."
Ol’ Will stood there shaking his head back and forth in despair. Tom hands the stuffed toy over to Jake, one of his helpers. (he is a fast-running rabbit) and asked him to gently tuck the stuffed kitty toy between the strap around White Lightning's right flank where the bump is on his underbelly. Tom pointed towards where he had seen the bump earlier. Jake took it and did as Tom asked. And with the speed of like a fast wind, Jake snuck into the stall and tucked the toy into place.
“I think I got it in there good for ya Tom,” Jake said.
They gave each other a thumbs up. Tom checked his spurs, tightened his belt, and gave the two feathers in his lucky black hat a slow stroke across them once more. He took a few deep breathes for confidence and carefully climbed up into the chute and mounted White Lightning. The horse rustled around as Tom placed his heavily rosined glove around the rigging handle and tied the rope uptight. Which gives Tom a tighter grip on the saddle horn to keep the glove from sliding off.
White Lightning was getting anxious, bucking and hitting the rails of the chute. (He knows what's about to happen as soon as the gate opens) Ol’ Will checked Tom's glove to make sure it was super tight and he said to him.
"Bear down, hold on tight to the rigging and don’t get bucked off!” Remember that and it'll be alright Tom...Good luck boy and I'll be right here fer ya."
Tom looked around at all his rodeo men as they nodded back in agreement. Tom said. “It’s time to get this rodeo started boys."
With his left-wing, he gave his lucky black hat a good push down on his head so it was on tight then he tilted his head down to give the okay.
As the announcer spoke aloud, the crowd turned quite so he could be heard... White Lightning was getting more restless in the chute and ready to jump out.
“Next, folks, we have Tom Leghorn, one of the best bronco riders in the surrounding states. He was last year’s winning rider with Thunderbolt from Wyoming. Tom Leghorn has a good career going so far and today he is riding White Lightning! Good luck young man!”
Then the bell went off and the chute gate flung open, when all of a sudden the horse exploded out, bucking and jumping so high it was like they were flying. Tom pulled up tight on the rigging; his left-wing is swinging high in the air back and forth with every bucking of the horse. Everyone in the stands was cheering for Tom. Many of them were shouting; “Hold On! Be careful Tom! Don’t fall off!” "You're doing great Tom!"
In the distance,... Tom heard the cheers coming from the stadium when suddenly, his life flashed before him, but it was not a real-life he's lived.
For just a moment he seen himself standing airless in a beautiful cascade of white clouds all around him, and he was wearing an embossed white wedding suit and white leather shoes waiting at an altar for Miss. Tina. She was so beautiful, she was wearing a long white wedding gown walking towards him about to be married.
Their friends were all there, even Tom’s parents, but how could they?
They all smiled and waved at him excitedly as they went floating by in the clouds as his thoughts were spinning, he was confused by this vision of paranoia, every thought was in slow motion, probably brought on by the anxiety of the ride.
“What… what’s going on?" The crazy thought disappeared from his mind as quickly as it came. Tom shook his head to clear it. He lost his focus, but only for a moment.
White Lightning kept bucking harder and higher. He was thrashing Tom against the rails in the arena. Tom dug his spur's deeper into the horse’s sides, he kept his legs held tightly to hold himself down at the break of the horse’s shoulders.
When suddenly, the kitty toy loosened itself from the flank strap. Tom noticed the toy when it hit the ground and he realized the horse might start going crazy. "Oh no!" He had to think quickly...! Then an idea popped into his mind! …(he hoped!)
He grabbed the two feathers from his lucky black hat just as White Lightning’s head went down, and his back legs went kicking back straight high in the air. Tom positioned himself to lay flat on the horses back close enough to tuck the feathers into the flank strap replacing the kitty toy.
Three seconds before the bell! White Lightning felt the tips of the feathers poking his underbelly. The more he jumped around the deeper and deeper the feathers dug in his skin causing the horse to make an awful screeching sound as he jumped around the arena. It was like the sound of tires coming to a screeching stop.
Tom heard the eight-second bell go off and his first thought was; “I’m still alive!” Then he saw his wing covered in blood from the tightness of the rope.
White Lightning reared up so high he was standing on his back legs which then caused him to begin falling backward. Tom was still in the saddle. He hurried to loosen the rigging from his wing, but it was tangled. Tom kept struggling, pulling on his tied wing, with only a moment left. The horse fell over and hit the ground. "Boom." It felt like an earthquake. Tom, barely got out from underneath the horse before it crushed him.
Tom was covered in mud, he could barely see. The impact caused him to hit the ground hard. It felt like he was hit by an arrow in his back. The horse rolled over Tom in a frantic from the fall.
The pick-up men raced out to Tom, they quickly picked his lifeless body up and drug him out of the arena.
Jake said. “At least he’s still breathing”.
Roger,(Jake's brother) one of the clowns said, "Grab his hat, he doesn’t look too good. We better hurry!"
Tom barely survived a ride no one thought he would live through. Ol’ Will came hobbling towards Tom, his wings stretched out to hug him with a smile so big it was scary.
“Come here my boy, (as he patted his already sore back) that was some ride! I can’t believe I’m talking to ya!” He was squeezing Tom so hard he was running out of breath.
The Rodeo announcer said loudly into the microphone; "Tom Leghorn is the winner of this year's rodeo. Congratulations Tom, that was an outstanding ride and you're very lucky to be alive."
Several photographers surrounded Tom to get pictures for their papers. Shouting and cheering his big win.
The crowds out in the stands looked down into the arena at White Lightning. They couldn't believe what they were seeing. Someone shouted. "What's happening to that horse?" The photographers turned their attention to White Lightning and began snapping pictures of the nutty horse.
He kept rolling around on the ground. The sounds of laughter began coming from the crowd. They can clearly see now what the horse was doing to cause him to make that awful sound.
When he breathed in it caused a screeching sound to come from his deep inhale, but the sound turned out to be laughter. Then everyone started laughing along with the horse.
“Look!” Kody said to Miss. Tina. “Mr. Leghorn is alright and he’s coming this way.”
Tom was being hailed as a hero by everyone that came and helped. He was on the shoulders of the pick-up men holding him, bouncing him up and down and cheering all down the back entryway out to the stadium. He was holding a large gold and silver buckle with colorful gemstones on the front. It sparkling even more when the lights came on in the arena as darkness slowly began creeping in the distant horizon. It's been a long day. The smiles on everyone’s faces were priceless. Tom jumped from their shoulders and ran toward Kody, who was running towards him.
Tom picked him up and spun him around in excited happiness. Miss. Tina and her parents Charlie and Lilly were right behind Kody; waiting to give him congratulations hugs and kisses too.
“Tom! You are definitely the toughest Bronco Riding Rooster I've ever met.
I see why my little girl likes you so much.” Charlie said aloud.
He gave Tom a firm handshake and hugs patting him on his back then whispered in Tom’s ear.
“I’d be proud to have you as part of this family young man, mighty proud.”
Charlie is a plump older rooster with a mix of auburn, brown and black feathers and wears a satin grey vest and a ten-gallon white hat.
Tom felt that he made a good impression with Miss. Tina's father, who then looked back with a little wink. As to say, he wouldn't mind having Tom as a son-in-law. (In hopes he got the hint.)
Tom winked back at him then turned his attention to Miss. Tina standing there waiting, her wings held out open wide. Tom put his wings around her and pulled her gently closer to him. They stared into each other's eyes, you could see the sparkle of love they had for each other.
“I’m so happy that the ride went as well as it did for you Tom, I was truly scared for you." Then she said, "Oh, no, your wing is bleeding."
He replied. " I'm okay, it doesn't hurt much, I'm used to it because I love riding... more than",... he paused,… he started to say (more than anything)... but instead he said, holding Miss. Tina's wings making sure she was looking into his eyes. He said.
“I love 'you' more."
He leaned in close for a big kiss and bent her gently backward for a long meaningful kiss.
Miss. Tina felt a little faint when he brought her back up.
Her feathers were a bit messy from the long kiss. However, she didn't care, she was in love with the best rooster around, and it was obvious he was in love with her too.
Kody stood aside watching them, his eyes big, bright, and tearful. He was so happy that they finally showed their feelings for each other, but most of all because Tom Leghorn said, "he was his best friend."
The ride back to the ranch went much faster than it did going. Everyone was still chatting about White Lightning's crazy antics and how happy that Tom didn't get too hurt. Miss. Tina's mom and dad started planning a party for Tom at their roost when they get home.
The animals who stayed back were anticipating the show of headlights as they pulled up the long driveway anxious to hear the news about Tom.
Ol 'Will made an announcement as soon as he stepped out of the trailer when a giant “hooray” of cheers came from all for a ride well done. "Party at Charlie and Lilly's roost!" Everyone shouted as they got out.
Kody said full of excitement. “Mr. Leghorn, you’ll be on the front page of the ranch examiner now for sure. I knew you'd do it...! He was grinning from ear to ear.
Tom could not express how happy he felt. He survived a ride against a very tough bronc. He strutted toward the hen house with Miss. Tina by his side. Kody racing passed them to be in the front. Tom picked him up and asked. "Are you still afraid of White Lightning?”
Kody made silly moves with his wings like a fighter, swinging really fast like he’s as fast as lightning. It was so cute to see the look on his face.
Kody said, “You’re my ‘Hero Mr. Leghorn.’’
His words made Tom blush, then he told Kody, " that He was 'his' Hero.”
"If it hadn't been for you bringing that kitty toy, I would not have lasted as long as I did. You saved me Kody.” Tom gave him a big hug. Then he said, “just call me Tom from now on, okay?”
Kody was ecstatic; he puffed up his little chest and raised it as high as he could for a little rooster and then crowed as loud as he could. Well, he tried anyway!
Everyone chuckled and went on with their chitter-chatter, it was getting late, Tom and Miss. Tina casually slipped away up to his roost to get away from the crowd, to be alone, if only for tonight. They felt good holding each other after a day like today.
The noises around them disappeared and silence took its place. The only thing they could hear was the beating of each other's hearts beating together.
Setting in the sky was a beautiful moonlit night. Tom held Miss. Tina closer to him. It did not take them long to fall fast asleep.
The hours faded into the early morning. Soon the owners already started feeding the animals in the pens outside his roost.
Tom woke up and realized he missed the crowing at sunrise. He looked down and seen he was still holding Miss. Tina at his side.
He gently nudged her awake. They smiled at each other and they're eyes got caught in the moment, then he gave her a long morning kiss.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes. You can stay here if you like.”
He jumped up to the open window above and blew a kiss to her before he flew out to do his daily duty on the ranch. She watched Tom jump from the rooftop to the edge of the barn as he let-out his loud morning crows.
Miss. Tina laid back down on the loose hay spreading her wings and legs out up and down making a hay angel, her heart was filled with joy. A new life awaits them now.
A month later they were married. Miss. Tina now lives with Tom in the highest roost in the barn. Together they went to more rodeos, but when the seasons changed they stayed at the ranch because they were now expecting their own baby chicks soon.
Tom was so happy to be a full-time father and now a Bronco Riding Rooster 'Trainer.'
I dedicate this story to my first grandson Kody. You inspired me to keep going until it was finished. Enjoy!