As the plane was floating down to land at the Denver airport, Ben was so excited, anticipating three weeks at the Wyoming dude ranch. His girlfriend and her dad invited Ben to join them on their annual 4th of July vacation.
Since kindergarten, Ben and Sara grew up together in Lubbock, Texas, and fondly became boyfriend and girlfriend during junior high. They graduated from high school as co-valedictorians. Unfortunately, the fork in the road started after graduation. Sara’s dad groomed her to become an educated self-supporting woman, and per her dad’s wishes, she’ll be starting college in the fall at Texas A&M University. Sadly, Ben, in the eleventh hour, decided not to attend any college and rather become a rich salesperson.
Ben grabbed his overhead bag and rushed out of the plane, eagerly wanting to see Sara again. Her family drove out to Wyoming the week before from Lubbock, Texas, and well, a week was more than Ben could handle without Sara. It was predetermined that she and Sara’s dad would be waiting at the return terminal to pick Ben up and drive him to the dude ranch.
Walking out the return terminal doors and approaching the car, Ben notices that Sara isn’t sitting in the passenger seat and asks her dad, “Where’s Sara?”
“I don’t know how to tell you this, son, but she doesn’t want to see you anymore.”
“You can’t be for real. We’re in love. I don’t believe you!” declares Ben.
“Maybe so, but she believes her college education is more important than some puppy love thing you two had going. Because you chose not to attend college and don’t have a clue what you’re going to do with your life, Sara believes it best you guys split now. Ben, don’t bother calling her. We don’t have cell phone service or Wi-Fi at the dude ranch. Here’s a hundred bucks to help you out, have a good life, Ben.” Sara’s dad states as he quickly drives off.
After several hours of sitting and crying in a terminal corner, Ben discovered he composed himself as best he knew how. After daydreaming for a while, a flash thought came to Ben’s mind.
“That’s what I’ll do. I’ll call Sara in three weeks once she’s on campus.”
In the meantime, Ben didn’t want to return home and live with his parents again, so he decided to find a part-time job in Denver until he spoke with Sara. Walking around the airport and catching a hot dog for a quick lunch, Ben noticed rodeo signs plastered on the airport walls everywhere he walked.
Ben checked his wallet and noticed he had one hundred and ninety dollars left. One hundred he brought from home and the hundred Sara’s dad gave him, minus the ten dollars for the airport dog and drink.
“I’m going to end up sleeping at the airport if I don’t find a job today,” crossed Ben’s mind as he continued strolling the floors and glancing at all the rodeo signs.
“Why not? I’ll call the number on the poster and see if they need help,” Ben conjectured.
After a few rings, the voice answering was a woman, “Good morning, Sterling Mustang Ranch. How can I help you?”
Ben replied, “I was wondering if you need any help, any kind of help. I see your rodeo sings all over the airport and could really use some extra cash.”
“We get this type of call often; son, are you stranded?” asks the woman.
“I’d prefer to say stuck.”
“Okay then, how long are you planning on being stuck?”
“At least three weeks,” replies Ben.
“If you can promise me that you’ll help us for a minimum of three weeks, especially on the 4th of July, my husband and I will provide you with a part-time job,” states the woman.
“Oh my gosh, that would be great! Praise the Lord,” shouts Ben.
“I’m going to guess you’re a Christian without transportation, Ben. Is that right?”
“Yes. I just flew in to meet my girlfriend, and her dad was supposed to pick me up and drive me to their Wyoming dude ranch, but instead, he told me she didn’t want to see me anymore. He gave me a hundred dollars and drove off, leaving me at the airport.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. By the way, my name is Betsy. What’s yours?”
“Okay, Ben, nice to meet you. Grab a cab and tell the driver to take you to the Denver Rodeo Stadium. My husband, Roy, will pay for the ride and show you the ropes of your part-time job. Is that okay with you, Ben?”
Once in the cab, Ben was musing to himself. Roy is the same name as Sara’s dad.
“Keep the change, driver,” he states to the cabbie. While walking toward the paddock, Roy places his arm across Ben’s shoulder and says, “I understand you’re in a bit of a pickle.”
“Yeah, I guess you can say that,” Ben softly replies.
“I understand. I’ve been in a pickle myself often more times than I care to remember, especially when I was your age. So, here’s the deal, Ben. I’ll pay you a hundred dollars daily for all the odd jobs you’ll be doing here. The rodeo starts in one week, and if you stay on through the end of the rodeo, I’ll give you a bonus of a thousand dollars.”
“Wow! That would be great! I promise to work the full three weeks.”
“Good, I know you’ll keep your word. My wife tells me you believe in God,” states Roy.
“I do as long as I can remember, but sometimes I slip, and life gets difficult, as in now,” Ben shares.
“I understand. We all sometimes slip, but God forgives us when we confess our sins,” Roy encourages Ben.
“Thank you for those words. I appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome, and Incidentally, Ben, you’ll probably be working ten-hour days straight through for 21 days, and you’ll be sleeping in one of the horse stalls in a sleeping bag.”
“Isn’t that risky? Suppose the horse steps on me?”
“No horse while you’re sleeping, probably a few mice, but you’ll be in your bag safe and snug.”
“Oh boy! Guess I better get used to this,” shouts Ben.
“In your first week, you’ll be mucking out the stalls, giving the horses fresh straw, feeding and watering them. Let’s walk over to this stall, and I’ll show you how.”
“How many horses do you have here?” Ben tepidly asks.
“Twenty!” shouts Roy.
It took Ben thirteen hours to complete his tasks in the first two days. Fortunately, by the fifth day, Ben was able to do them in only nine hours. On the eighteen day of the rodeo, Roy put Ben on a horse and walked him around the arena.
“I think you’re a natural, Ben, and with a lot of practice, you could become a skilled horseman. Are you interested,” inquires Roy?
“I don’t know, maybe,” replies Ben.
“Tell you what, son, the rodeo finishes in three days. I’ll take you up to our Mustang ranch. You’ll have your own room, decent home-cooked meals, a long-awaited shower, and you can call your girlfriend-we do have cell phone service.”
“Yeah! I’m all for it-you bet!”
On the twenty-second day, Roy’s crew hitches up the horse trailers, and the caravan drives up to Sterling, Colorado. Ben couldn’t believe his eyes when first gazing at the twelve-hundred-acre ranch.
“Boy, this is some spread you have here, Roy. Fantastic!”
“Glad you like it, but first, let’s get you squared away with a shower, some clean clothes, and a ranch-type lunch,”
Ben replies, “Yeah, good idea.”
After lunch, Roy settles up with Ben. Here you go, Three-thousand and one hundred dollars, as promised.”
“Thank you. Wow, this is really nice. Thank you again.”
“You’ve earned every dime, Ben. You otter be proud of yourself. Say, have you called your girlfriend yet?”
“No, not yet; sort of afraid, I guess.”
“After what you’ve accomplished for the last three weeks, including riding a horse at full gallop, you shouldn’t be afraid of anything. If I may suggest, you go into your room and make that call,” Roy strongly urges Ben.
“You know he’s right, Ben,” Betsy encourages.
Ben walks into his room and dials Sara’s number.
“Hello, is that you, Ben?” questions the voice.
“Yes, Sara, it’s Ben. I can’t believe you broke up with me. What happen?” Ben quizzes sharply.
“Not me, my dad. He doesn’t want us to get married. Don’t misunderstand me. I love you, Ben, but I love and respect my dad’s wishes more than running off with you into some never-never land. I’m going to complete my four or more years of college. You’re a great guy Ben, and someday you’ll meet Mrs. Right. I wanted to speak with you one more time and explain things. I figured you’d call eventually. But after this conversation, I’m canceling my phone number. Don’t bother calling again. I won’t be here. Have a great life, Ben!”
Ben quickly recalled those words her dad said to Ben after he left him stranded at the airport.
Walking back into the kitchen, Ben asked Roy, “Would it be all right if I groomed a horse or two for a few hours to clean the cobwebs from my head?”
“I take it the call didn’t go well.”
“Yeah,” is all Ben could muster.
Strolling into the kitchen in time for dinner and after four hours of grooming eight horses, Ben asks Roy and Betsy if their hearts were ever broken.
“Yeah, before I met Betsy, I was engaged to Elizabeth. But after a few months, she left me for another cowboy,” Roy states.
Betsy shares, “I was attending junior college right here in Sterling, and during the first semester, I also became engaged to a guy named Ralph. During our courtship, it became obvious Ralph wanted to move to New York after the wedding, and I wanted to stay in horse country. I answered an ad for office work at the Mustang Ranch, got hired, met Roy, and the rest is history.”
“Wow, it appears you two have a perfect marriage. I’m envious,” states Ben.
“Oh, we have our speed bumps along the way, but it always works out,” shares Betsy.
“Sometimes, Ben, we’ll get a broken heart, but it will mend over time. Sometimes, Ben, we’ll experience a lot of pain, so the next chapter of our life will be picture perfect,” Roy shares.
“Yeah, I get it. Thank you both. I suppose I should return to Lubbock in a few days and seek what to do with my life,” Ben slurs slowly.
“Would you be interested in staying and working at our ranch?” Betsy inquires.
“I guess, but what would I do? The rodeo isn’t until next year.”
“How about learning to be a rodeo star? A bronco-busting rodeo star,” Roy shouts.
THIRTEEN YEARS LATER
It only took Ben one year to learn the needed skills of riding a bronco. He became the winningest bronco rider in the Central Mountain Region, winning eight gold buckles and millions of dollars in awards and endorsements.
Roy and Betsy gave Ben half of their ranch as a wedding present when he married Denise in his sixth year of riding the rodeo circuit. They had a daughter, Rhonda, the following year, but after three years, Denise got tired of following Ben all over with the rodeos and divorced him, giving him full custody of Rhonda.
Betsy helped as much as she could with Rhonda after the divorce. Ben’s mom would fly in from Lubbock occasionally to help while he was riding at a rodeo. When no one was available, Ben took Rhonda with him to the rodeos. That was actually a blessing. Rhonda became the youngest female stunt horse rider in the region at the age of eight.
In his thirteen-year, Ben thought of maybe hanging up his spurs after two more years of riding the circuit. On this particular day, it was time for him and his crew to take the horses to the vet for their annual checkup and shots. Ben heard that if you take the horses to the large new animal vet in town, the charges would be a hundred less per horse than if the vet came out to the ranch. Twenty horses would be a big savings.
As the crew drove and walked each horse to the back of the vet building, Ben noticed it was a lady vet attending to his horses. Wanting a closer look, Ben walked up and stared at the lady vet. Not knowing for certain until he heard her voice.
“Is that you, Sara.”
“Oh my gosh! Is that you, Ben?’ Sara shouts.
“When did you become a vet? I thought you were going for a zoo degree or something like that.”
“After my dad died, I changed my major in my first year and fell in love with horses.”
“Why didn’t you call me?” Ben inquires.
“During the third semester of my first year, I got engaged to a guy named Brent. He was majoring in being a vet, which got me interested. We married the following year and made it through two years of vet school when he divorced me and took a job in London at a prestigious research vet university. I had no intentions of moving to London. Besides, my son loves it in this horse country.”
“When did you open your vet business here? I only heard about it a few months ago?”
“I got tired of living in Lubbock, TX, and felt my son, Kurt, needed a change of scenery. I checked out real estate opportunities and saw a great need for a horse vet in the Sterling, Colorado, area. So here we are.”
About this time, Rhonda gets bored sitting in her dad’s truck and comes waltzing into the conversation.
“My, my, and who’s this beautiful girl?” Sara asks.
“My daughter, Rhonda. My ex-wife, Denise, divorced me six years ago, and it’s been Rhonda and I from that point forward.”
“I would be a miss if I didn’t share that I know you’ve become a legend in bronco riding. Your name and picture are everywhere one walks. Congratulations, Ben, you’ve earned and deserve it,” Sara heartfully shares.
“I wonder, Sara if you didn’t intentionally open this vet practice so you’d maybe bump into me?”
“I’ll never tell you rodeo star,” Sara giggles.
“Tell you what, I’d like to invite you and Kurt to a genuine 4th of July cowboy BBQ this Saturday. Would you be able to make it?”
“On one condition, if we all go horse riding after the BBQ.”
Roy and Betsy joined Ben, Sara, and their kids on the horse ride. Three months later, Ben and Sara got married at his ranch. Ben hung up his bronco spurs and helped his wife at the vet clinic. After all, he knew a thing or two about horses.