said. “Lisa, hop back in the baby carriage and we’ll exit stage left.”
Lisa sprawled comically in the buggy just as the ring announcer’s voice rang out. “Ladies and gentlemen, today’s champion junior barrel racer is our little Southern belle, Ms. Stevie Lake from Willow Creek, Virginia!”
Lisa started to clap but caught herself. “One down,” she whispered happily to Carole as they rolled toward the exit. “Four to go!”
The next event was goat wrestling. It worked much like bulldogging, with the riders tackling goats, instead of calves, from horseback and pinning them to the ground. Though goats weighed less than calves, they were faster and a lot nimbler. Sal reminded the girls what their jobs were as they hurried over to their horses.
“Now, remember. Carole will act just like a hazer in calf roping and make sure the goat keeps running straight. Lisa, you’ll make sure the rider’s okay at all times, and I’ll worry about making everything seem funny for the crowd.”
“Where do we herd the goats after they’ve been pinned?” Carole asked as she made sure Pogo’s cinch was tight.
Sal mounted Sadie and peered into the arena. “Head ’em over to that stock pen by the speaker’s stand. The pickup boys want to save that big pen beside the racetrack for some of the nastier bulls the adults will ride.”
“Okay,” the girls said as they mounted up. They rode to the gate and waited as the grounds crew removed the barrels and set up the goat chute. Then they loped outonto the field, doing Sal’s famous chase routine. By the time they had the crowd howling with laughter, the goat wrestling was ready to begin. Carole took her place on one side of the goat chute while Lisa rode over next to the riders’ gate. Sal trotted down to the far end of the arena and began pulling balloons out of Sadie’s left ear.
The first contestant was Mary Corona, the girl who had competed in barrel racing. She settled her horse down inside the gate, then gave a quick nod. The chute opened and a big white billy goat came charging out. Carole urged Pogo into a lope to keep up with him while Mary Corona burst out of her gate on a beautiful pinto mare. Lisa and Ghost followed slightly behind Mary as she chased the goat down one side of the arena. Mary leaned low over the goat’s body, then grabbed his neck and slid off her horse. Though she pulled backward with all her strength, the goat managed to wiggle away from her. She chased him for a few steps, then lunged at his hind leg. He gave a small kick, then scurried away again as Mary Corona fell facedown in the dust. The buzzer sounded.
“Sorry, Mary, your time is up,” the rodeo announcer said. “But give her a nice hand, anyway, folks. That was a good try.”
Carole and Pogo herded the bleating goat over to the stock pen while Lisa reached down from Ghost and offered Mary a hand.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” the girl replied, dusting off her lacywhite cowboy shirt. “Just disappointed. This goat stuff is harder than it looks.”
“Well, good luck in the next event,” Lisa called as Mary walked back to the starting gate.
Carole returned, and they took their places again. The next three contestants had no luck at all. Carole and Lisa were beginning to wonder if anybody could successfully wrestle a goat when Gabriel’s name was announced.
“Here’s our young cowpoke from Montana again,” the announcer said as Gabriel rode Napoleon into the starting gate. Carole and Lisa watched for the nod of his black cowboy hat. Then the chutes opened and his goat was off and running. Almost before Carole and Lisa could blink, Gabriel was off Napoleon and had the goat on his back, three of his legs tied with a bow. The crowd cheered.
“What a ride!” the announcer cried. “Tip your hat to the audience, young man! You’re one heck of a goat-buster!”
Smiling, Gabriel took off his hat and waved to the audience. The girls watched as he