A Girl in the Night


"You're on. What's the bet?"

"Well, I'll do dishes for a week if she says no and if she says yes you have to take Rae Dawn and me to the All American Cowgirl Chicks Rodeo over at Gonzales the following weekend. It's their Christmas Parade and Championship Rodeo. And you might want to invite Kathy to that also. She loves rodeo. Did you know she used to be a champion barrel racer?"

Well, no, I didn't know that. And how did Davy find out? Hmmm, I smell a conspiracy.

"That's in Weatherford, west of Fort Worth? Okay, I'll call her now."

I dialed her number, half hoping for a message. It rang three times, and then she answered with a breathless, "Hello?"

"Ummm, hi, Kathy, it's Tom. I was, uh, wondering if you would like to go to dinner Friday or Saturday and then maybe dancing."

"Oh, that sounds like fun. Why don't we go dancing on Friday and Saturday I'll fix you dinner."

Surprised, I answered, "Sure. Great. Uh, is the dinner just for me or should I bring Davy?"

"Just for you, silly."

What happened to that witch/bitch that was at the barbeque?

"Okay, great." Damn, I was sure turning into a fine conversationalist. "Oh, and while I have you on the phone, the following Saturday I'm taking Davy and his girlfriend to Weatherford for the rodeo. I guess you wouldn't be interested in that though, would you?"

"Tom, you don't know me at all, do you? I love the rodeo. I used to ... a long time ago, do some riding myself. That would be the All American Cowgirl Chicks, right? Actually I was thinking about going up anyway. I used to compete with the woman that is in charge of training for them – we became good friends."

As a friend of mine from Liverpool was wont to say, "I'll be gobsmacked."

So I found myself Friday night standing in front of Kathy's door all dressed up for dancing and with flowers in hand. She seemed pleased with the flowers and didn't say anything about my new shirt. I thought the mother-of-pearl buttons were a bit much but the saleslady said it was the fashion. Shows how much I knew. But I knew the Stetson hat and the Justin boots were top quality, only slightly worn, and even fairly clean for a drugstore cowboy.

We went over to Jake's place and were pleased that one of the better bands was down from Austin for the weekend. We had a lot of fun ... a lot of laughs. Kathy kissed me goodbye at the door – for the first time on the lips. No tongue, but what the hell – progress is progress. I could see that the way she behaved the first couple of times I met her was mostly because I was a man and she was pretty well pissed at men at the time. Well, she still was, I guessed. I didn't think it was me personally ... just men. At least that's what I thought.

She did seem to like me and I have to say she appeared to enjoy my company. But then I didn't know she would go out with me nor was I aware that she liked rodeos and used to be a performer. Being honest with myself – which I seldom tried to do (it made life way too complicated) – I was starting to like Kathy ... a lot! She was smart, pretty, and available and she liked me. Well, maybe she did. It's hard to tell where ego and commonsense fall when the topic is women.

The dinner was more personal. I grilled steaks on her barbeque, she did the salad thing and the wine was good. It was a pleasant day – mid-seventies and no wind – and the neighborhood was quiet. She talked for the first time about catching her husband and his secretary together.

"He was at the restaurant, Moxie's here in town. He was supposed to be doing inventory and I was home fat, dumb and happy. His brother-in-law called from Dallas – his sister just had a baby. I tried to call the restaurant but no one answered. I tried a couple more times and became worried when there was still no answer. Finally, getting scared a little, I grabbed the key he kept on the key rack in case of emergencies and drove over there.

"In my worry I forgot to reset the alarm and just as I got to his office the alarm went off. He'd just opened the door with one hand while he was struggling to get his pants on with the other. Behind him I could see Marsha, a new girl he'd just hired a week ago. I started yelling, the alarm was still going off and no one heard the security company's callback.

"We'd got to the point where I'd redefined his ancestry, he had his pants and shoes on and little miss muffett had grabbed an apron, and the police showed up. I could see the smirks developing as they figured out what had happened and to this day I get these looks all over town. It wasn't really a quiet affair at the finish. I seem to remember lots of flashes going off. God, I hope they don't show up on the Internet!

"After that I'd go out to Jake's or Willy's places just to get out. I was going totally nuts being at home by myself. I was still lonely when I was at the dance halls but at least I wasn't watching old movies by myself and feeling pathetic. I didn't really want to dance but I figured that was the price I had to pay to get some privacy.

"Then I finally met a nice man but I couldn't keep my big mouth shut. I thought you were like the rest of the jerks ... just trying to get me into bed. That night at Jake's I was feeling particularly bad about my life and how I had treated you and I wound up drinking too much. I hope you don't think I'm like that all the time.

"I was feeling woozy and when I went back to the rest room the waitress told me I should stop drinking those doubles. That asshole had been trying to get me drunk by switching over to gin and tonics and making them strong. I tried to slip out but he saw me. Thank God you were there."

She came over and sat on my lap. "This is for being such a nice guy." She kissed me like our tongues were listening to Dueling Banjos. I should have felt great but I felt like shit. That first night at Willy's Tavern I hadn't been thinking about anything else but getting her into bed. It was a good thing that my daddy had made sure I understood that honesty is not always the best policy.

Now I'm not saying that I didn't still want to get into her pants but it was kind of in the background. I think I was really falling in love with her and was thinking about a long-term relationship.

Later when I got ready to go she came into my arms and I kissed her again. It was extra steamy this time and I put my hands around the globes of her well-formed derrière and pulled her close. I knew I could lead her into her bedroom but I realized it would be the wrong thing to do. She clearly hadn't been with a man for the last year and was vulnerable, but damn it, I cared for her and knew the next morning she would feel hurt and probably somewhat disappointed.

I kissed her ear and whispered, "Kathy, I want to stay ... I really do. But I think it best if I leave now. I hope you understand."

She stepped back and looked at me, her eyes big and showing conflicting emotions. Foremost was some expectation of being hurt again, followed closely by confusion. There was a shading of want, of passion. There was something else that wasn't clear to me ... maybe a kind of smoky dreaminess. I had the sudden image of a jigsaw puzzle: the pieces were all there but meaningless without their being put together just right. And here I was with no clue that I even had all the pieces, let alone how to fit them together.

I pulled her close trying to somehow communicate my want, my desire and my respect for her. I silently turned and walked out to my truck and drove away wishing I had stayed. Yeah, I knew the old saw that nice guys finished last ... but at some point a man has to be true to himself. I knew who I was and if that didn't get the job done then I was just heading for heartache. What was that song by Billy Ray Cyrus? "Achy, Breaky Heart?" Well, I'd had my heart broken before and I'd rather be hurt again than not be a man my dad could be proud of.

We made our plans for the next weekend. We would drive up late on a Friday and see the Christmas Parade during the day and the rodeo at night. There was a dance we could all go to after the rodeo. Kathy and Rae Dawn would stay in one room and Davy and I in another for the two nights. We would drive back Sunday after breakfast.

We were able to leave earlier that I had planned so we made the six-hour drive and arrived at the motel at ten. I drove Kathy's station wagon for the extra space. Dawn had made sandwiches for the drive so we were able to get right to bed. During the drive I looked back and saw them holding hands. I caught Kathy's eye and nodded my head back at the kids. She turned and looked and gave me a big smile. After that she held my hand most of the way.

When it got dark I did see some kissing from the back seat but it looked like I didn't have too much to worry about. I decided then that they really liked each other and it wasn't just out-of-control hormones. I hardly could claim to be an expert on love but it seemed this young couple had a very mature caring for each other. For sure it appeared to me that the look of love was more visible on Dawn's face than on Kathy's.

We had a leisurely breakfast the next morning at a nice family place a few doors down from where we were staying. Think chicken-fried steak and three eggs and hash browns perfectly crisp on both sides and you would know the kind of place. I thought about not leaving a tip 'cause I was sure mom was in the kitchen!

After that we walked around town for a while and, after a light lunch, watched the parade. It was much nicer than I had expected. The crowds were fairly large but seemed more polite than I would have thought. Everyone seemed to be laid back with big smiles on their faces. Must be the whole crowd was from Texas.

The rodeo was great. The club – the All American Cowgirl Chicks – trained girls in the various rodeo events and each was expected to eventually perform at the "Olympic level". Dawn was really excited by the skills shown by girls at the various ages.

We went on to the dance and that was even more fun than the rodeo. It was more or less a family affair so there were no drunks or rowdy cowboys.

At breakfast Sunday morning, Dawn looked at Kathy and asked, "Do you ever do any coaching? Travis dad, Bobby, has been helping me with my riding but of course, he never competed in the girl's events. I know you were so great and was one of the best." Shyly, she added, "I don't mean to be too forward but it's so important to me."

Kathy laughed, "I don't know if I was that good, but, sure, I can work with you. Are you going out for your school team?"

Rae Dawn nodded and they talked about it some more. Soon after that we left for home and everyone but me fell asleep and stayed that way until I stopped to let Dawn off. Davy never woke up and was chagrined he didn't get a chance to kiss her goodnight. Oh, the perils of youth!


Winter 1987, 1988

It seems that there is a law of nature that as soon as a person is too happy that something has to happen to change that. I finally accepted that Kathy did indeed love me and Davy was in seventh heaven with Rae Dawn's attentions. Life was good ... too good.

The call came a little before three on a windy, chilly Saturday afternoon. Davy had gone over to Bobby's ranch to meet with Kathy and Dawn for Dawn's first training session. They were using one of Bobby's rodeo horses that Dawn was talking about buying.

Have you ever noticed that the phone rings differently for bad news? A certain harshness in the ring tone sends a chill of premonition down the spine and a sense that catastrophe could be averted by not answering. But we do answer because that's why we always grab the phone as quickly as possible with maybe a hint of trepidation. At least that was how I felt as the vibration of the ring tingled my hand as I picked the phone up.

"Tom? This is Annie. I'm at Memorial Hospital in Uvalde. Davy has been hurt."

I was never one to ask a lot of questions when action was what was needed. I just told Annie I'd be right there. I knew it had to be serious or he wouldn't be in the hospital and I knew Annie well enough that the tightness in her voice, a slight trembling hinting of tears spoke of a certain degree of seriousness.

I jumped in my truck and drove over to the hospital. I found Bobby waiting for me in the lobby. He looked pretty upset but I waited for him to talk.

"Damn, Tom. This is hard. Davy is in critical care upstairs. He has a head injury and is in a coma. It's too early for any real prognosis. He had some swelling inside his head and they had to drill a hole in his skull and drain the blood that was causing the pressure. I understand they induced the coma to give some stability."

"What happened?"

"Tom, I wasn't there and don't really know the details. Rae Dawn had that bay mare she's looking at in the corral. There was some kind of fight between Davy and Travis. Davy fell down and the mare clipped his skull with her hoof. Luckily it wasn't a straight on hit. You can talk to Travis and Dawn and they can tell you more. They are both pretty upset about it."

"Was the fight about the girl?" I asked this knowing the answer. I had been expecting something like this.

With some disgust he replied, "Yeah, both of the boys have had their testosterone up over the girl. I don't think it was a bad fight, just some pushin' and shovin'. But both of them damn well know not to horse around in the corral."

Later when I talked to the doctor he told me about the same as Bobby had except I didn't understand it as well. The bottom line was we were just going to have to wait for a week or ten days and then they would try to take him out of the coma.

He continued, "We've done everything we can and I think he's going to be okay. But there is always risk in this sort of thing. He is strong and young and in the best of health so I am somewhat optimistic."

Kathy showed up and slipped into my arms, not saying anything, just holding me. Asked her if she had been there.

"Yeah, Dawn was practicing with the barrels. The first try she did well and when she came over to us Davy put his arms out to help her down and she somehow slipped into his arms and gave him a kiss. The next time Travis slipped in front of him and said, "My turn." Davy grabbed his arm and yanked him and Travis threw him over his leg and he fell under the horse. The mare tried to get out of the way and her front, left hoof nicked Davy in the temple.

"It really was an accident but Travis feels really bad about it." She paused, looking into my eyes. "Are you going to call his mom?"

Damn! Cindy! I hadn't even thought of her. "I'll call her first thing in the morning."

"Tom, from some things you and Davy have said I know you have a lot of hard feelings about her. For Davy can you put those on the shelf until this is over? She's a mom and I know she will insist on coming up." She hesitated. "And, Tom, dear, can you do it for me also? It's going to be hard for me to meet and spend time with her. This probably isn't the best time to tell you but, Tom, I ... well, I've fallen in love with you. I hope and pray we can find some kind of lasting relationship."

With that she put her head in my chest and started crying. Women. At the best of times I didn't understand them and this certainly wasn't the best of times. But, damn, it felt good to hold her tight while she got my shirt all wet. The dreaded word marriage came to mind and I flinched, but, yeah, I did want some kind of permanent togetherness with her.

The next morning I called Cindy and told and her what I knew. She called me back a half hour later. "Rod and I will be in San Antonio at ten tomorrow morning. We will rent a car so no one needs to pick us up. He's at the hospital in Uvalde, right? We will go straight there. If he comes to, tell him I'm coming."

Rod was Rodrigo Urchubi, her husband. I'd never met him so I wasn't sure what to expect. I went on to the hospital and was able to visit Davy a couple times for a few minutes. I wasn't comfortable with all the machines and tubes so I ceded my visits to Dawn. Travis showed up looking forlorn. Before the troubles over Rae Dawn they had been the best of friends since they were kids. I took him outside on a clear, cool but sunny morning to talk to him.

He acted like he expected me to be mad at him but I really wasn't. Hell, it was just the kind of thing I did at his age. We walked a couple of blocks to a breakfast place and got a pot of coffee.

"Trav, it was an accident, I understand that. Two boys fighting over a girl has been going on since the first cavemen. Both of you know better than doing something like that in a corral but, hell, boys your age are like a couple of bulls fighting over a prime cow. Being rational is not part of that."

"I know, Sir ... Tom. I knew that Dawn liked him more than me. I liked to call her my girlfriend but I guess she never really was. I wanted her to be so bad that I didn't always act right. I talked to Dawn yesterday and apologized for everything. I do want her ... and Davy, to be my friends. If I can't have her I'm glad she likes Davy. I kinda forgot he was my best pard."

Dawn was there when we got back and she ran into my arms and cried. She kept visiting my boy but I guess the tubes and bandages bothered her as much as me.

Cindy and Rod showed up around noon the next day – that was Monday – and met with the doctor. After they had a brief look into Davy's room I took them to lunch. Dawn insisted on going to lunch with us. She felt somewhat possessive of Davy and she didn't care who knew it. I'd already explained to Cindy about her but she still gave Dawn a careful looking over.

There was no question what Rod thought. He was a male Latin and breathing and Dawn was as close to being beautiful as she could be. She only needed a couple years of maturity and filling out to be a real beauty.

Rod seemed to be a very nice person. He presented himself well in his light gray Armani suit. He was a bit stout – though it looked all muscle. He was a big man and wore the suit well. He exuded self-confidence and seemed a man that would always be in control of the situation.

And Cindy. Damned if she didn't look hot as hell. She had a black knit dress that clung to her curves like it was knitted around her. Pearl earrings, necklace and bracelet were her only accouterments. She was self-possessed and more focused than I remembered her. It was hard to read how they felt about each other except at some level they gave off the aura of a partnership.

Cindy didn't seem embarrassed at all in meeting me again. She was practical and showed a common sense I'd never seen before. I had to wonder if I had matured as much as she did. I was pleased to see her take to Dawn. I don't know if this was her new practicality and she could read the writing on the wall that this was her daughter-in-law and she might as well accept it. I think Cindy was expecting some kind of ogre (actually I was too) but they hit it off right away.

Cindy asked me if I'd ever found anyone new and Rae Dawn jumped in and answered. "Yes, he has a beautiful woman named Kathy. She used to be a rodeo star and she's coaching me so I can go out for the rodeo team at Uvalde this fall. They are very much in love."

I sat there a bit speechless while Cindy smirked at me. After that we went back to the hospital where I introduced Kathy to them.

Cindy said, "Yes, we heard how beautiful you were."

Kathy looked askance at me but I just shrugged. What did I know?

The next Saturday – a week after his injury – they brought Davy carefully out of the coma. He woke as expected and improved rapidly. He was moved to a regular room and could have visitors as he wanted. There was lots of coming and going and once I saw Dawn with her parents and her younger sister, Connie, who was two years younger than her.

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