In the winter months, the rodeos are inside huge coliseums and the associations host their finals rodeos and the lucky few make the trip to Las Vegas for the National Finals. This had looked like it would be Travis’ year and a week shy of leaving for Las Vegas he sat in a parking lot listening to the phone ring in his ear.
I saw his cell phone number flash on the caller i.d. and I hollered to the barn for Drew to come up before I answered.
“Drew’s coming up from the barn, he’ll be here in a minute,” I hadn’t said hello.
“I’m leaving for Vegas in a few days and I thought my son would like to go with,” he said. Your son, I thought. I had stopped really thinking of Travis as Drew’s father several years ago.
“That’s what you were thinking,” I stammered. “That you want to take a little boy to Las Vegas?”
“Yeah, my girlfriend is going and she can watch him when I can’t,” he said. “I want him to see his dad at the big show.” Drew burst through the back door, kicking off his boots and reaching for the phone. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and listened to his father on the other end of the line.
“I’ll have to talk to mom and Grady, Dad,” he said and I exhaled. “All right…yep…that’s pretty cool, Dad… I’ll ask…okay…bye.”
I stood at the sink scrubbing an already clean crockpot, listening to Grady’s low voice reading a story to Drew. When the light in the bedroom turned off and Grady returned to the kitchen I was standing with my hands in the cooling water.
“What did Travis know?,” Grady was peeling his socks off and throwing them into the hamper.
“Drew didn’t say anything to you?”
“Nope, he’s worn out,” he said.
“Well,” I dried my hands on a towel. “He made it to Vegas and he and his girlfriend want to take Drew.” Grady chuckled.
“They do, huh,” he rubbed his eyes and skinned out of his shirt, throwing it into the laundry room with his socks. “What does Drew want to do?”
“He told Travis he would have to ask us but he didn’t say what he wanted,”
In his room, Drew lay awake listening to his parents’ voices, unable to make out the words and unable to decide what he wanted to do about Vegas.
“Vegas is 10 rounds plus they will have to go out a few days early,” I said. “That’s a long time for anyone to be out there much less a little boy who hasn’t seen his dad in a few years.”
Driving back from the ranch, Taylor felt relief and found herself dreaming about when she and her boyfriend would register at Northern Junior College. She would watch all of his football games, she thought to herself, and they could grow up.
That Monday morning, an attorney in a matronly gray suit began drawing up an adoption agreement.
By the time Drew and I reached the ranch after school, darkness had begun to cover the pastures. Drew ran into the house to change his shoes and grab his ball cap and chore jacket and he jogged to the barn, his boots throwing up little puffs of snow and dirt.
Grady had the show cattle in the barn and Drew began his chores, measuring feed according to Grady’s directions printed in all caps on a dry erase board. When they had fed and watered the cattle, they shut the light off in the barn and walked toward the house.
“Grady,” Drew said and they slowed their pace a bit, their breath clouding before them. “I think I would like to see one or two performances but I don’t want to be with them the whole time. I don’t even know his girlfriend. She might not even be nice.” Grady chuckled at the boy’s reasoning.
“I haven’t talked to mom about it much,” Grady said. “We were waiting to see what you wanted to do.”
“Maybe I can call him tonight and see when he’s leaving,” the pair came in the door, shaking the cold from their shoulders and Drew picked up the phone and listened to a cell phone somewhere ring in his ear.
At dinner, Drew reported that his dad was sending his truck and trailer and horses to Vegas with a driver and he would be flying into Vegas from Oklahoma with a few other steer wrestlers on a private plane. He didn’t say anything about how the girlfriend would be getting there. I assumed she would be the one making the drive.
“He said he would get me a ticket out of the Denver airport and I could be there for the ninth and tenth rounds and then fly back to Denver,” Drew looked at us.
“I suppose that would be fine,” I said, hoping the tickets would actually be purchased and that I wouldn’t be left comforting a disappointed little boy, again.
The days leading up to Christmas vacation are a crazy time at a school and this year was no different. My email inbox held a flight itinerary for Drew and I printed it out. Travis was due to fly early the next morning and arrive in Vegas a few days before the first performance. Drew would fly out of Denver several days later. Drew and I drove down to the ranch that afternoon and I was making mental list of the jeans and shirts to iron for him.
“Is the weather supposed to get nasty tonight, Mom?” Drew was looking out the window to the west and the sky was darkening. Snowflakes clicked a little when they hit the windshield.