“Hi,Solomon!”Jim called to the horse that was eying him from the other side of the fence.
Jim and his mother had recently come to live on the Circle F ranch, and Solomon belonged on the next ranch, the Double V. Why he stood alone in the pasture day after day, Jim didn’t know. But the horse looked wise, and so the boy called him Solomon.
Jim who was wearing a new cowboy hat, thought,”If I had a horse, I could be a cowboy.”
There was a good reason for Jim’s wish. Every fall for years the men of the Circle F ranch had been the most daring riders in the rodeo held at Ellensville. And that rodeo, open to boy riders also, was now only a week away.
When Jim had first seen Solomon, the horse had eyed him in a very unfriendly way.But since then Jim had given him carrots and lumps of sugar.The horse no longer looked crossly at him as he passed. They were now friends.And so when Jim called,”Hi, Solomon!” the horse came toward the fence with a friendly whinny.The boy was glad to see that. He got up on the fence and flung himself on the horse’s back, as he had done many times before.
Solomon tossed his head and galloped off with a joyful squeal, as Jim grasped the mane of the animal and hung on fiercely.Hearing the clatter of hoofs beneath him gave Jim a thrill.”I can ride a horse, anyway,” he said to himself,”even if I don’t have one of my own. And it’s better to know how to ride a horse and not have one than to have one and not know how to ride it!”
Just then Solomon stopped so suddenly thathe almost sent Jim headlong. For a moment the boy hung halfway between the horse’s mane and the ground.When he let himself down,Solomon began nuzzling him for a carrot. Jim gave him one, rubbed his nose, and went back to the Circle F.
fter supper, when the cowboys were sitting on the porchof the ranch house, Jim went over to listen to their talk about the rodeo.Long John, the foreman, said, “Grimsonof the Double V is making the same offer he has made for the past three years. He says anyone who can ride that Red Flame of his can have him.”
The cowboys had all tried their luck with Red Flame, for he was a challenge to their fame as riders. Before coming here they have dared to boast they could ride anything on four hoofs, but that was before they met Grimson’s red horse. When the men went to the bunk house, Jim did not join them. He sat looking off toward the hills and thinking that if he had a horse, he might ride in the parade at the rodeo.
The week slipped by. Finally the first day of the great yearly celebration came. Jim knew the day without looking at a calendar, for many cowboys had been riding by the Circle F since dawn, in their best outfits. Long John hailed Jim. “ Come on, cowboy, if you’re going to Ellensville with me!” he said. Jim needed no second invitation. Calling goodby to his mother, he shot from the house like a streak. He had been afraid the foreman wouldn’t take him to the rodeo.
When Jim and Long John arrived in Ellensville, they found the streets crowded with riders – the best in the country. How Jim admired them! When he grew up, he was going to be a cowboy, too, he told himself. “There will be some greenhorns here this year who will try to ride Red Flame,” chuckled Long John. “Want to see them take a tumble?” ”Oh, yes!” answered Jim eagerly. He had never been at the rodeo before and so had never seen the dangerous animal, Red Flame, that everybody talked so much about. “Come over this way,” Long John said.”We’ll get a good place along the fence. Finding a place was not easy. There were many others besides Long John and Jim who wanted to see if anyone could ride Red Flame this year. One after another the events of the rodeo took place. And then it was time for the event whichwas the most exciting one of all. The man who made the announcement raised his megaphone and called out that Red Flame would be given to any rider who could stay on his back for five minutes. As the cattlemen pressed closer to the fence, Jim suddenly heard a yell from the cowboy who was mounting the horse. Then out of the corral gate shot Red Flame with a rider on his back. Sixty seconds later Jim saw a hat sailing to the ground,followed by its owner. The cowboy picked himself up, slapped the dust off his hat and limped away. “One minute on the streak of lightning is long enough for me!” he said.
Eagerly Jim watched Red Flame burst out of the gate again and again with a rider on his back. For a minute or so each one clung to him and then went sprawling headlong, while the animal tossed his mane and galloped away. At last the gate burst open for the ninth time, and Red Flame came bounding out. The horse’s neck was gleaming in the sun as he reared and bucked under the unwelcome load on his back. “That fellow’s going to ride him!” cried a boy in a high-pitched voice. “Ride him, cowboy!” But this man did no better than the ones before him. Off he went like all the rest.
This time Red Flame, instead of letting himself be caught, galloped across the enclosure to the fence where Jim and Long John were watching. Before anyone realized what Jim was doing, he had reached out for the horse’s mane, and in a flash was over the fence and on Red Flame’s back.”Stop!” yelled the owner of the animal. “Why didn’t somebody stop that boy?” A frightened hush fell on the watchers. Everybody expected to see Jim tossed over Red Flame’s head or trampled under his flying heels.
Instead, the horse flung his tail to the wind and galloped to the end of the fence with the boy. Then he went galloping gaily about the grounds as though he was proud of his new rider. When Jim finally got off the horse, a burst of loud applause came from the crowd. “ They’re cheering for you!” Long John said to the boy. “They’re cheering because you stayed on Red Flame’s back for more than five minutes. But what in the world made you do anything so wild? You might have been killed. That horse hasn’t ever been ridden before.” Then the owner of Red Flame stepped up to Jim. “I don’t know how you rode him, lad,” he said. “But you did, and the horse is yours.” He shook Jim by the hand. “If you’re not afraid of him, step around to the entrance and get Red Flame.” “You mean-!” Jim began, and then he made an excited dash for the entrance.
It was late in the evening when a boy wearing a wide hat came riding up the ranch road to the Circle F. His horse was red, and the saddle and trappings which went with it were so new that they squeaked. The boy reined in and then gave a whistle that brought his mother to the door. She stared when she saw the boy and gasped out in surprise,”Jim, where did you get that horse and outfit?” “I got the horse by riding it,” answered the boy. “The outfit- well, it went with the horse.”
Then Jim held out a dollar to his mother. “It is for you,” he said. “I earned it by being the best rider in the boys’ parade.” “What a beautiful animal!” his mother said, as she stepped down from the porch to take a better look at the horse. “What’s his name?” Jim grinned.”His old owner called him Red Flame,” he said,”but I always call him Solomon.”
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