Caleb: Pleased to be here, ma’am. But what’s this all about?
DiDi: It’s our special Spring celebration, Love in Bloom. Barbara said you’d fill in for her until she gets here. You’re in the hot seat, cowboy!
Caleb: After ridin’ bulls most of my life, that doesn’t scare me. (shakes head) But it never fails to amaze me, the things that woman put me through.
DiDi: So I read. You’ve had a rough time lately, haven’t you?
Caleb: You might say. But we’re not here to talk about that. If it’s my views on love you want, I can wrap those up in one sentence. Love is caring so much about someone, you’ll hang around until they finally have sense enough to love you back—no matter how long it takes.
DiDi: It sounds like you speak from experience.
Caleb: (smiles) I do. Only I wasn’t the one doing the waiting. My Tess had to wait on me. For ten long years. Now, that’s love, don’t you think?
DiDi: Above and beyond, I’d say. She sounds like a special woman. Why didn’t you bring her along?
Caleb: She took our daughter shopping. I still can’t believe Nate actually wanted to go pick out a dress. My little tomboy’s growing up.
DiDi: They do that, Caleb. Then they become big girls.
Caleb: I reckon you’re right.
DiDi: What are you going to do when the boys start chasing her?
Caleb: They already are. And she outruns them all. (laughs)
DiDi: I know you’re loving being a daddy. But it wasn’t so long ago that… Do you mind if I share something of your past with our readers?
Caleb: (suddenly serious) No, ma’am, I don’t mind at all. I’ve had some bad thing happen in my life and done some things I’m not proud of. If one of your readers can learn something from it all, I’m more than happy to have you tell them. Just so long as I don’t have to sit and listen. Be seein’ you. (tips his hat and leaves the room)
DiDi: Readers, here’s the background and the opening of THE RODEO MAN’S DAUGHTER, the story Caleb is so reluctant to tell.
His Rodeo Career Is Over…
When Caleb Cantrell left home as a dirt-poor teenager, he never thought he’d return as a wealthy rodeo star. As a matter of fact, he didn’t think he’d return at all. The accident changed all that. It ended his career, nearly ended his life and rekindled a bitterness he thought he’d left in the dust long ago.
But A New Life Begins
To rebuild, Caleb has to go back to where it all began—back to Flagman’s Folly, New Mexico, and back to his high-school sweetheart, Tess LaSalle. But a ten-year-old secret stands between them, one that could hurt everyone Tess loves, especially her daughter…their daughter…the one Caleb never knew existed.
No rodeo ever required the courage Caleb needs now—to forgive, to forget and to start over again…if it’s not already too late.
A long memory made for bad company when a man had too much time on his hands. Especially when those hands held a sizable number of grudges.
Caleb Cantrell eased up on the gas pedal of the pickup truck he’d rented earlier that morning at the airport. He cut the engine and stepped down from the cab, his worn boots hitting the ground and raising a cloud of dust. First time in ten years he’d set foot in Flagman’s Folly, New Mexico, and the layer of dirt that now marked him made it seem as if he’d never left.
Yet he’d come a hell of a long way since then.
Here on the outskirts of town, he stood and stared across the unpaved road at the place he’d once had to call home. After he’d left there, he’d slept in no-tell motels, lived out of tour buses and trucks and, eventually, spent time in luxury hotels. Didn’t matter where you went, you could always tell the folks who took pride in ownership from the ones who didn’t give a damn.
Even here, you could spot the evidence. Not a ritzy neighborhood, not a small community, just a collection of ramshackle houses and tar-paper shacks. A few had shiny windows and spindly flowers in terra-cotta pots. Some had no windowpanes at all. Here and there, he noted a metal-sided prefab home with too many coats of paint on it and weeds poking through the cinder blocks holding it up.
And somewhere, beyond all that, he knew he’d find a handful of sun-bleached trailers, their only decoration the cheap curtains hanging inside. The fabric blocked the view into the units through the rusty holes eaten into their sides.
Sometimes, the curtains blocked sights no kid should see, of mamas doing things no mama should do.
Swallowing hard, he retreated a pace, as if he’d felt the pull of one rust-corroded hulk in particular. It wouldn’t still be there. It couldn’t. But he had no intention of going over there to make sure.
Across the way, a gang of kids hung out near a sagging wire fence and a pile of cast-off truck tires. Still quiet, but soon their laughter and loud conversations would start, followed by the shouts from inside the houses. Some of the houses, anyway.
The rough edges of his ignition key bit into his palm.
In all the years he’d been gone from this town and with all the miles he’d logged, he should have shoved away everything that bothered him about this place.
He hadn’t forgotten a single one of them.
The gang of kids had moved out of sight behind one of the shacks. A lone boy, eight or nine years old, stayed behind and stood watching him. Dark hair, a dirty face. Torn T-shirt and skinned knees. Could have been Caleb, twenty years ago.
The kid made his way across the road. “Hey,” he said, “whatcha doing?”
“Just looking around.”
“What’s wrong with your leg?”
The boy must have noticed his awkward gait, the stiffness that always hit him after he sat in one position for a while. “I hurt my knee. Getting off a bull.”
“Thought you were supposed to stay on ‘em.”
He shrugged. “That one had other ideas.” Not too bad—in those three quick sentences, he’d managed to bypass two years’ worth of rehab and pain.
The kid looked away and then quickly back again, shuffled his feet and jerked his chin up high. Caleb recognized the mix of pride and false bravado.
“Hey, mister…got a dollar?”
“Sure.” How many times had he asked that question himself? How many times had he sworn he’d never ask it again? He reached into his pocket for his wallet, thumbed it open and plucked out a bill without looking at it. “Here you go.”
“Wow. Gee, thanks. Thanks a lot.”
Caleb grinned. The boy’s grubby fingers clutched a hundred-dollar bill. He turned and raced across the road as if fearing Caleb would change his mind. He wouldn’t. He had plenty of money now.
Folks in town would sure be surprised to see him again, especially when he started spending that cash. When he started showing them just how far he’d come. Maybe then they’d look at him differently than they had years ago.
His grin fading, he shoved the wallet into his pocket and nodded.
Yeah. He’d show them, all right.
Originally from the East Coast, award-winning author Barbara White Daille now lives with her husband in the warm, sunny Southwest, where they love the lizards in the front yard but could do without the scorpions in the bathroom.
From the time she was a toddler, Barbara found herself fascinated by those things her mom called “books.” Once she learned the words between the covers held the magic of storytelling, she wanted to see her words in print so she could weave that spell for others.
Barbara hopes you will enjoy reading her stories and will find your own storytelling magic in them!
She would love to have you stop by her website: http://www.barbarawhitedaille.com and to visit her at Facebook and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/barbarawhitedaille and https://twitter.com/BarbaraWDaille
For a chance to win an autographed copy of Barbara’s previous book, A RANCHER’S PRIDE, leave a comment or question for her here. Winner will be selected 4/18, using random.org.