Roll Out the Barrel

This cowgirl has a need... a need for speed (but not too fast)

Of course, most barrel racers would laugh at my idea of a "brisk pace," since they tear around the barrels at around 30 mph, finishing a run in anywhere from 14 to 18 seconds. Me? I do best at a slow trot.

"Next week, we'll get you in a real barrel race, how about that?" Stacy asked me as I dismounted. She assured me I could take all the time I wanted ooching around the barrels. Especially if I want to get shown up by some 8-year-olds from Burleson, which is pretty much what happened at the twice-weekly exhibition barrel races at the Rendon Indoor Arena.

My mom, wearing her Birkenstocks, and my dad, clad in his usual boat shoes, sat in the stands to watch my very first public barrel race. I felt like a kindergartner at her first ballet recital. I even had my special outfit: a $4 little boys' Wrangler shirt from Thrift Town and the brown cowboy boots I pair more frequently with denim miniskirts than with saddles.

Stacy rode with me into the alley, the starting chute for the horses, and when they called my name, Splash and I were off and walking. Most times, winning times will be just hundredths of a second ahead of losing times. I was only an eensy-weensy 45 seconds behind the best time.

On my last run, I imagined I was in a teen movie about barrel racing, starring me as the city girl who moved to the country after her parents' troubled divorce. There would be an inspirational--yet face-rocking--Southern Rock-tinged number by Nickelback in the background as I rounded the third barrel. This time, I whittled my time down to 43 seconds.

I met Stacy back in the warm-up pen. Whenever I wanted, she said, I could come by and learn how to do it with real speed.

I've just got to get my daddy to buy me a pony for Christmas.

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