Within Your Crowd
Chapter 5

Copyright© 2010 by Jake Rivers

It was a quick drive to deliver the horses, and I was back home in a week. Dad and I sat down and talked it over. Dad was going to do the hunting stuff, and I would do everything else, the cattle and horse breeding. I hired a kid that had graduated in the spring from Abilene Christian with a degree in Animal Science. I'd still manage the overall effort, but I hoped he could, over time, do most of the work on the Black Angus breeding.

My knee healed quickly, once I quit abusing it. Things soon settled into a routine. I was seeing Maddie two or three days a week and we were becoming close. I wanted to spend my life with her, but I wasn't sure how I'd fit into her world. I didn't know any of her friends, her dad hated me, and I'd met her mom only the one time. I finally decided to talk to her. We were at her place after a night of dinner and dancing, shortly after Thanksgiving.

We were sitting on her sofa, with her next to me, leaning on my shoulder. I put my arm around her, and said, "When we've gone out, I've introduced you to a number of my friends, and we've gone out to dinner with a couple of them."

She yawned, stretched, and in a half sleepy tone, said, "Yeah, they are nice. It's was a lot of fun."

In a quiet voice, I replied, "Maddie, why haven't you introduced me to your friends?"

Without thinking, she answered, "Well, I didn't really feel like you would fit in with them." She pulled back, and looked at me, "Damn, that's not what I meant."

"Yeah, I think you did. Maddie, I don't think I'd fit within your crowd. I'm not poor, but I'm certainly not rich. My friends are down to earth—some of the places I go with them might even be seen as 'low places' by someone like your dad. You know I love you, but I think you should find someone from your crowd to love ... I just don't belong with your crowd."

"Billy, you're wrong! You are a much better man than any of them. When I said you wouldn't fit in, what I meant was that you wouldn't like them. To be honest, I mostly don't like them much either. I've really liked spending time with you these last few months, just being together and doing simple things.

"I love you Billy Ray, you are right about that. And I know you love me, you are sure about that, right?"

"Pulling her close, I wrapped my arms around her and said, "Yes, Maddie, I love you very much. I will always love you." After much kissing she took my hand and stood up, looked at me for a long thirty seconds.

"Come with me," she said, pulling my hand. I walked with her to her bedroom, where she stood next to the bed. She started unbuttoning her blouse, and said, in a teasing voice, "Hey, I could use some help here."

With some alacrity, I complied. She was as beautiful as she had been in my imagination, even more so. We tumbled into bed and lost ourselves to the moment. It was sweet, intense, and something I would remember the rest of my life. We fell asleep for a couple of hours and made love afterward in a slower and more relaxed manner. We learned what we liked, what gave each other pleasure.

As I was leaving, she held me tight, and whispered in my ear, "Billy, you are my crowd. You are all I need, and I do need you."

My life changed from one day to the next. Mom and Maddie started planning a wedding, and I faced my work on the ranch with more commitment and interest. I gave a lot of thought of how we could work both ranches and told Maddie my initial thoughts, "Let's focus on using your place to grow hay for the larger ranch. I want to do something for fun and my idea is to pick the horses I think will work from what I raise and move them to your place. There I'll train them for rodeos—my friend Rick in Wyoming does that and he both makes money and has fun.

"I'm not interested in selling horses for the bucking events, but all the other events, including women's events such as barrel racing. I'd also like to work with the local high schools, training the kids how to rope and ride. We could get the kids to do some of the work in caring for the horses. You ride a horse, you take care of it. It also teaches them responsibility."

We liked the idea and we started planning for it. I called Rick to have him send down a couple of stallions and some mares to use for breeding stock. It worked out well—both ranches made good money and Maddie, and I had a lot of fun. Her brother, Bobby helped us during the rodeo off-season, and through his contacts helped sell a lot of horses. We enjoyed having the high school kids around all the time and I think we helped a lot of them improve and to learn to love horses the way we did.

The wedding and reception took place on her ranch early the next June. Her family was all there; her dad, thoroughly chastened, was even half-way pleasant. Maddie's "crowd" showed up and most of them really weren't too bad. Thomas Martin Kendall was not invited and thankfully had not shown up.

I looked very sharp in my white Tuxedo with a new pair of Lucchese Shoe Boots. (Maddie bought them for me, and I wasn't too happy when I found they were almost five-hundred dollars. Then she told me that she thought about buying Lucchese's Limited Edition 125th Anniversary belly alligator boots for over twelve thousand. That was a bit too much—I didn't care how much money she had.) The shoe boots were three-quarter's the height of regular western boots and looked very nice.

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