[ new stetson ]

by pfc kory

"Come on! Let's go explore!" Danny implored.

"Aw," Kevin whined, "Ain't nothing here we haven't seen before, Danny,"

"Come on, Kevin. Nothing better to do and we're just in the way if we hang around here," Patty argued.

Kevin shrugged his shoulders, and Danny and Patty took off running. Kevin hustled after them, and the three children weaved and bobbed through the milling crowd as they made their way towards the less active grandstands. Danny thought this was the best time of the whole rodeo. When the competition began, the throngs of people would make it too hard to find a place to play. But, today, all the grown-ups were too busy to pay attention to a few kids and the grounds were still empty enough to find all sorts of mischief.

"Hey!" Danny yelled, "Let's go play in the grandstands!"

The grandstands were always fun to play in when they were empty. There always seemed to be innumerable nooks and crannies to hide in and crawl through. The press box was especially fun, and Danny led the trio of intrepid explorers up the stairs and into the empty little room.

"Neat!" Patty marveled as she crawled on top of the announcer's table, "Ya can see the whole track!"

"Yeah," Kevin responded, "and its even neater from on top. You can see the whole fairground from up there!"

"Nah-uh," Danny challenged, "it's not that tall, Kevin. Don't be stupid!"

"Uh-huuuh!" Kevin responded.

"Nah-uh!" Danny came-back.

"Climb up there with me and I'll prove it," Kevin dared his friend.

Danny hesitated. He didn't think the press box was high enough to get a view of the whole fairground, but he knew it was high enough to get hurt if they fell. His dad would be steamed if he had to miss the rodeo because Danny got hurt goofing around.

"Chicken!" Kevin taunted.

"Am not!" Danny cried.

"Danny's a chicken! Danny's a chicken!" Kevin sang as he danced around the room flapping his arms like a chicken.

"Come on, Kevin. Knock it off!" Patty piped up, "You two could get hurt real bad. And then we'd get in a LOT of trouble!"

"We're not gonna get hurt! Don't be dumb!" Kevin retorted, "Besides, Danny's too chicken to climb up there anyway!"

"Am not!" Danny repeated, "I'll prove it!!"

The youngster promptly ran out the door and grabbed hold of the narrow wooden ladder that led to the top of the little room. He was so determined to make his way to the top that he didn't even bother to make sure Kevin was behind him.

"Stupid Kevin! I'll show him, " Danny muttered to himself as he climbed.

Reaching the top, Danny slid to the center of the flat roof and rested his chin on his hand. Hah! Kevin was sooooo dumb. The squat little press box wasn't nearly tall enough to see the whole fairground. He could see....Neat!! He could just make out his mom and dad standing behind the empty Poultry Building. Danny giggled as he realized that they were smooching.

"What you looking at?" Kevin asked, sliding up beside his friend just in time to hear him giggle. Peering in the direction that Danny was looking, Kevin tried to figure out what was so amusing. "Hey isn't that your dad? And who's that he's drooling all over?"

"You're so stupid!" Danny rolled his eyes in Kevin's direction. Kevin was just teasing him, of course it was his mom. Who else would his dad be smooching with?

Kevin peered more intently, ignoring his friend's response. He knew that lady, she rode barrels. What was her name....Jesse...Jesse Turner. Kevin began giggling.

"That's Jesse Turner!" Kevin managed to sputter in between fits of laughter. "Your dad's making out with Jesse Turner!'

"You creep! You take that back!" Danny jumped to his feet, fists up, ready to pummel the laughter right out of Kevin.

"No way!" Kevin responded more seriously, as he quickly got to his feet to meet Danny's challenge, "That IS Jesse."


"Is so!" Kevin retorted, giving Danny a little shove for emphasis.

"You stupid creep!" Danny hollered, shoving back a little rougher.

Kevin responded with a right hook, knocking his friend backwards. It wasn't until Danny threw his arms up in a vain attempt to catch his balance that Kevin realized how close to the edge Danny'd been standing. He leapt forward to grab his friend at the same instant that Danny toppled over the side. Hearing the sickening thud as his friend hit the ground, Kevin scrambled to the ladder. Climbing as quickly as he could without falling, he climbed back down to the booth.

"Danny fell!" He shouted to Patty, and the two ran out the door and down the grandstand steps.

"You go get help!" Patti instructed Kevin as they rounded the back of the grandstands and caught sight of Danny lying in heap, completely motionless.

Kevin sprinted towards the Poultry Building to find Danny's dad as Patti crept up beside her fallen friend.

"Hey, kiddo." Danny heard through a fog.

He eyes focused slowly as he struggled to sit up. His brain was so fuzzy that he didn't realize at first that one arm was bandaged tightly to his chest. Danny hadn't risen far, however, before the resounding ache in his head made him reconsider the movement He collapsed back onto the bed sending a stab of pain through his shoulder which provoked a loud moan.

"Take it easy there, Danny," Jack Percell instructed his son. "You banged yourself up pretty good."

Danny closed his eyes and waited for the wave of pain to pass. As he rested, he slowly remembered the events of the afternoon. Oh, man - he hoped his dad hadn't missed the competition.

"The rodeo," Danny mumbled groggily.

"Don't you worry about that now, son," Jack soothed, seeing the tears welling up in the sensitive child's eyes, "it's not important. Hey! Look what I got for you!" Jack pulled out a child-sized, cream-colored Stetson.

"Oooh, neat!" Danny responded as enthusiastically as he could. "It's mine? Really?"

"Well, you rest now," Jack instructed, handing the hat over to his son, "I'm gonna round up your mom."

"Sure, dad," Danny responded distractedly as Jack went out the door. Any remaining urge to remember his fall, and the events surrounding it, vanished as he played with soft leather of his new hat.

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