Unbridled dreams, p.1
Unbridled Dreams, page 1
Stephanie Grace Whitson
A Garden in Paris
A Hilltop in Tuscany
PINE RIDGE PORTRAITS
Secrets on the Wind
Watchers on the Hill
Footprints on the Horizon
Walks the Fire
Karyn’s Memory Box
Nora’s Ribbon of Memories
Valley of the Shadow
Edge of the Wilderness
Heart of the Sandhills
How to Help a Grieving Friend
Copyright © 2008
Stephanie Grace Whitson
Cover design and photography by John Hamilton Design
Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
Scripture quotations identified NASB are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE,® Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America
* * *
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Whitson, Stephanie Grace.
Unbridled dreams / Stephanie Grace Whitson.
ISBN 978-0-7642-0327-5 (pbk.)
1. Women rodeo performers—Fiction. 2. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show—Fiction.
* * *
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF
GOD’S EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN
IN EVERY PLACE
IN EVERY TIME
THANKS TO. . .
. . . MY EDITOR ANN PARRISH,
for working the magic that makes the stories better.
. . . COPY EDITOR KAREN SCHURRER,
and her amazing “eagle eye” for the details.
. . . BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS,
for the great privilege of working for them.
. . . LINDA HEIN OF THE NEBR ASKA STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY,
for introducing me to the real woman
who inspired Liberty Belle.
. . . MARY ROBINSON, LIBRARIAN, MCCRACKEN RESEARCH
LIBRARY, BUFFALO BILL HISTORICAL CENTER; AND LYNN
HOUZE, CURATORIAL ASSISTANT, BUFFALO BILL MUSEUM,
for sharing their knowledge of the Wild West.
. . . DR. LINDA ERMISCH,
for sharing her expertise in the field of horse behavior.
. . . MY WRITING FRIENDS,
for challenging me to be faithful to the call.
. . . MY DANIEL,
for being willing to make the sacrifices that unbridle my
AND AS ALWAYS, THANK YOU, DEAR READER,
for honoring me by giving of your time
to go back in time with me. It is my prayer that God
will use the story of Liberty Belle to bless you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A native of southern Illinois, Stephanie Grace Whitson has resided in Nebraska since 1975. She began what she calls “playing with imaginary friends” (writing fiction) when, as a result of teaching her four homeschooled children Nebraska history, she was personally encouraged and challenged by the lives of pioneer women in the West. Since her first book, Walks the Fire, was published in 1995, Stephanie’s fiction titles have appeared on the ECPA bestseller list and have been finalists for the Christy Award and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. Her first nonfiction work, How to Help a Grieving Friend, was released in 2005. In addition to serving her local church and keeping up with two married children and three college students, Stephanie enjoys volunteering for the International Quilt Study Center and riding motorcycles with her blended family and church friends. Widowed in 2001, Stephanie remarried in 2003 and now pursues full-time writing and a speaking ministry from her studio in Lincoln, Nebraska. Learn more at www.stephaniewhitson.com or write [email protected] stephaniewhitson.com. U.S. mail can be directed to Stephanie Grace Whitson at 3800 Old Cheney Road, #101–178, Lincoln, Nebraska 68516.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord,
she shall be praised.
PROVERBS 31:30 NASB
YOU are in SO MUCH TROUBLE.
Seventeen-year-old Irma Friedrich sighed. If only Momma hadn’t shrieked a moment ago, Diamond wouldn’t have startled. And if Diamond hadn’t startled, Irma would have landed the dismount that involved a handspring off the dapple-gray gelding’s withers and a high arc through the air. She would have been standing in the middle of the arena—uh, corral—taking her bow as Liberty Belle, the star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. She would have been waving to the imaginary crowd of thousands and then going over to pat Diamond on the neck and reward him with a few cubes of sugar. But Momma had shrieked—at the worst possible moment, when Irma had just put the reins in her teeth and started her handstand on Diamond’s back—and Diamond had broken his stride, and so here Irma was, sitting in the dirt trying to catch her breath and wondering why in the world Momma and Daddy had come out to the ranch at this time of day. They weren’t supposed to drive out from town until suppertime, and it was barely past dinner.
As Irma got up and dusted herself off, Daddy stepped down off the back porch and hurried toward the corral. “Are you all right?” he hollered. When Irma nodded and bent down to pick up the hat she’d borrowed from her cousin Monte’s room, Daddy stopped in midstride, put his hands on his hips, and sputtered, “Then get yourself up on the porch and apologize to your mother. You’ve frightened her half to death.” Spinning around, Daddy stomped back across the patch of dirt that served for a backyard and up the unpainted stairs onto the porch of Aunt Laura and Uncle Charlie Mason’s two-story ranch house.
Diamond ambled over and snuffled her pocket. Irma glanced toward the ranch house, where Momma was sprawled on the porch swing, Aunt Laura standing over
With another sigh, Irma looked down at Monte’s hat. The smooth felt yielded as she tried—and failed—to reshape the crown. Monte was usually understanding about Irma’s borrowing his old clothes and hats, but he was going to be mad about his mangled hat. She hadn’t exactly asked his permission to borrow his recent purchase, and she knew he’d had it all shaped and ready for tonight’s barn dance over at the Double Bar J. She should have left it in his room, but it had looked so right when she tried it on and peered at herself in that little mirror Monte had on the back of his bedroom door.
By the time Irma caught her breath enough to duck between the corral poles and head for the house, Aunt Laura had stopped fanning and gone back inside. Movement at the kitchen window indicated her cousins had gone back to their chores—probably at their mother’s insistence. Daddy was sitting beside Momma now, patting her arm and murmuring something that must have been reassuring because Momma was nodding. Irma very much doubted Momma had really fainted. How many women could faint in such a way as to land perfectly draped on a porch swing? Momma could rival any actress ever to appear on the stage at Lloyd’s Opera House in town.
Halfway to the house, Irma felt a twinge in her left ankle. Now that she thought about it, her shoulders hurt, too. And her backside would probably bruise where she’d landed. The closer she got to the porch, the more she hurt. Everywhere. But Momma was crying again, and Daddy was obviously in no mood to be wound around his only daughter’s little finger. Ignoring her aches and pains, Irma swiped a strand of red hair away from her face. Tucked it behind her ear. Lifted her chin and took a deep breath. YOU, she thought again, are in SO MUCH TROUBLE.
“Sit,” Daddy said, and indicated one of the two battered chairs opposite the porch swing.
The chair creaked when Irma obeyed. She folded her hands in her lap, newly aware of how dirty Monte’s jeans were, how her hair was falling out of the scarf she’d used to tie it back, and worst of all, how she must look to Momma, a woman who believed in multiple petticoats, corseted waists, and bustles almost as sincerely as she believed in Jesus. And that was saying something about a woman who never missed church, ran the Ladies Aid Society with an iron hand, and could quote scripture as well as Reverend Coe.
“Apologize to your mother,” Daddy said.
For what felt like the millionth time in her life, Irma read bewilderment and an expression she had come to label What hath God wrought? in her mother’s hazel eyes. It was no secret that, if Momma had any say about it at all, Irma would never have been allowed to spend summers on her aunt and uncle’s ranch, reveling in what Momma considered “unladylike pursuits.” But Momma knew better than to try and come between Daddy and Aunt Laura Mason—his baby sister and only living relative. No one had expected the only boy among her five Mason cousins to end up being Irma’s favorite and best friend. And no one would have predicted that Irma would end up spending more time tagging along with Monte riding and roping than she did gardening and cooking with the Mason women. But no one minded. No one, that is, but Momma.
When, only three years earlier, Uncle Charlie and Aunt Laura invited Irma to go with the Masons on a holiday to Omaha, Momma waxed poetic about all the wondrous things Irma would experience in the city. She even helped Irma pack. Unfortunately—for Momma— Irma cared nothing for the bustling streets and well-stocked shops of Omaha. What impressed Irma was seeing the first performance of the Honorable W. F. Cody and Dr. W. F. Carver’s Wild West, Rocky Mountain, and Prairie Exhibition.
From the moment of the Grand Introductory March to the firing of the last rifle during the closing act, fourteen-year-old Irma had been entranced. She returned home from that trip knowing what she wanted to be, and to Momma’s horror, it had nothing to do with domesticity and everything to do with the Wild West.
In the ensuing years Irma fell off more horses than she could honestly count. She hid bruises and denied sore muscles and did everything in her power to make sure Momma never guessed that summers on the ranch were now about a lot more than playing cowgirl. Oh, no. Irma wasn’t playing. Not one bit. She was working toward the dream of becoming Liberty Belle, headliner for the Wild West Show. Something Momma would never understand and never approve. Something that had been kept secret. Until just a few minutes ago, on this Friday in April of 1886.
Daddy knew about his daughter’s dream, of course. He even encouraged it a little when Momma wasn’t around. Oh, he didn’t really believe Irma was going to leave home and be a Wild West star. Irma knew that. But he didn’t seem outraged or, what would be even worse, laugh at her the way Momma had the one and only time Irma mentioned Buffalo Bill’s adding cowgirls to his troupe. But the daddy who was proud of his daughter’s riding and roping skills was nowhere in sight today. Right now, Daddy was holding Momma’s hand as if it might shatter into a thousand pieces, and as he stared at Irma, his gray eyes showed no willingness to smooth things over for her.
Irma glanced down at her gloved hands. Momma would hate the old pair of stained leather gauntlets, but she would hate seeing the grime beneath Irma’s fingernails even more. Momma already said Irma’s hands were “masculine” and battled that perception by providing a silver-handled manicure set and an ever-expanding array of dress gloves, neither of which Irma appreciated. She sighed. Curling her fingers against her palms, she decided to leave the work gloves on.
“We’re waiting,” Daddy said.
Irma cleared her throat. “You drove out early. You weren’t supposed to get to the ranch until suppertime, and I didn’t think—”
Daddy interrupted. “ ‘You drove out early’ and ‘I didn’t think’ do not qualify as an apology, Irmagard.”
Irma bit her lip. Irmagard. It was a bad sign when Daddy called her that. She looked at him and stifled a little shiver. Did he want her to lie so Momma would feel better? She wasn’t sorry she’d saddled Diamond and practiced her trick riding. It had taken some serious finagling to arrange the last few days of practice sessions. First she’d had to convince Daddy and Momma to let her help Uncle Charlie drive a string of horses over to Buffalo Bill’s ranch, Scout’s Rest, in preparation for the daylong “doings,” when most of Lincoln County would be in attendance to watch cowboys from all over audition for the Wild West. Then, once at Uncle Charlie’s ranch, she’d had to convince Uncle Charlie to do without her so she could perfect the act she was determined to show Buffalo Bill. And she nearly had perfected it. Until Momma screamed and ruined everything.
Why couldn’t Daddy admit to being proud of what he’d just seen? And if Momma couldn’t be proud, why couldn’t she at least acknowledge that her daughter had accomplished something that had taken a lot of hard work and perseverance? But all Momma could see was the borrowed outfit and the fall, and all Daddy seemed to care about right now was Momma’s reaction. It made Irma want to cry.
“Are you going to answer me, Irmagard?”
What had Momma been saying? Oh, brother. Nothing upset Momma more than when Irma daydreamed instead of paying attention. She looked up. “I’m sorry, Momma. What did you say?”
Momma sat up straighter. “You said that we weren’t supposed to get here until suppertime and that you thought— But then you didn’t finish what you thought. So, I’m asking . . . what exactly were you thinking when you expressly disobeyed my wishes and returned to your cowgirl fantasy? What exactly were you thinking when you stole your cousin’s clothing? What exactly were you thinking when you saddled poor old Diamond and ran him ragged? And, pray tell, what exactly were you thinking when you were sailing through the air risking life and limb for some ridiculous stunt?”
As Momma talked the
“Did you give one tiny little thought”—Momma held her hand up and indicated an imaginary inch between her thumb and forefinger to illustrate—“to how we would all feel if we came outside and found you . . . there”—she waved her lace-edged hankie toward the corral—“crumpled . . . dead . . . gone from us forever.” She hiccupped, lifted her hankie to her mouth, and closing her eyes, began to cry. Again.
“Now, Momma,” Daddy said, and patted the hand he still clutched in his.
Momma wrested her hand free. She glared at Daddy, and the two pink spots on her cheeks grew bright red. “Don’t you ‘now Momma’ me, Otto Friedrich,” she said. “This is your fault. You’re the one who’s let this . . . this”—she gestured toward the corral—“ridiculous . . . phase go on and on.” She looked away. “If I had known this was going to happen, I never would have let her come out here. And I certainly would not have agreed to attend that . . . that hullabaloo at Bill Cody’s ranch tomorrow.” Her voice wobbled. She cleared her throat and said to Daddy, “The child has done nothing but try my patience ever since your family took her to Omaha. Wild West indeed!”
“Now, Momma,” Daddy said. “Half the county will be there tomorrow. You love socializing with the ladies. And you know we couldn’t refuse an invitation from Bill Cody. He’s been good to the bank. Good for the bank. And to have declined—”
“Tut-tut,” Momma said, and waved her hankie again. She sniffed. Her voice dropped a notch. “I suppose, if I’m honest, I have to take my share of the responsibility.” She gestured toward the corral again. “This started long before Charlie and Laura took her to Omaha.” She paused. “I’m the one who arranged for her to go on that camping trip with the Codys.” She sighed. “But I sincerely thought a friendship with Arta Cody would help matters.” She shook her head. “If only I’d known back then that it would fuel this . . . this . . . horse nonsense.”
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