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“Could you turn the radio down, Gar?” she said.
“Sure thing chicken wing,” I said. She’d been quiet this whole time, very unusual for her. I tried to cheer her up with every cheesy cliché I could come up with. “Are you feeling alright?”
“Yep, just fine darlin’.” I loved her thick southern accent. I could hear it in my dreams. She didn’t look at me when she spoke.
“Garrett…”she said. This time she looked at me. I don’t know why but she’d always say my name then stop. I don’t know what she was trying to get at but it sure kept me thinking. I felt a little better. We turned left onto Manson Boulevard.
“Where do you wanna go?” I asked
“Just keep driving. Don’t stop anywhere,” she said while she closed her eyes. I gave her an awkward stare. She looked at me after a long pause, and then nodded to insist that I had heard her right.
“Okie dokie artichokie,” I said. She put the heels of her grey cowboy boots on top of the rear-view mirror of my old blue Chevy and pulled my cowboy hat off my head. She was quiet a moment.
“I wanna ride the bull at the rodeo darlin’ just like my daddy used to,” She gazed out the window at the passing scene. “He was the greatest bull rider this side of Texas,” she laughed as she remembered him.
“You really think you could last longer than 2 seconds up there?” I asked
“Well I could last a whole heck of a lot longer than you,” she joked. “Oh I ain’t ever gonna do it Gar, I just wanna make my daddy smile, ya know, make him proud,” she fiddled with the fray of her shorts as she spoke.
“You’ve been thinking about him a lot lately, haven’t you?” I asked.
“Usually. What’s it been, like 3 years? Boy howdy… seems like yesterday,” she said.
“My father left me and my mom when I was 5 so I never really had a dad,” I confessed. She looked at me with sadness in her eyes.
“Oh my gosh. That’s just awful darlin’ I could never imagine that,” she said.
“Your dad was great, Lana. I’ve always wanted to be like him. I wish I would’ve gotten to meet him. He’ll always be remembered…‘John Manson; Bull Riding Extraordinaire’ No worries,” I looked at her from the corner of my eye. Her mom had always told me Lana looked just like her father. She smiled.
“He took me to every rodeo he was ever in. He met momma at a rodeo in Panola. That is the tiniest town I’ll tell ya. Anyway, Daddy and I would walk in the arena and he’d sit me down in the front row and tell me to watch close. We’d sit there and watch all those wanna-be cowboys try and ride those bulls. It was great. Daddy’d go out and they’d open the gates, out would come this huge bull and Daddy’d hang on through it all, he made it look easy,” she said. She turned to look at me. “He woulda loved you,” We turned again onto a brick road lined with huge oak trees. We always drove down this road right before dusk because she said it reminded her of something out of an old movie she once saw. We drove about a mile out of town then turned right onto a dirt road.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“Shh, you’ll ruin it,” I replied.
“What are ya’ll talkin’ about?”
At that time I had pulled into a small cemetery and parked right next to her dad’s grave. I turned on the radio and hopped out. She slowly pulled the door handle and got out too.
“Garrett, where…” she smiled mid-sentence. “I swear you can read minds sometimes,” she went over to the truck and rolled down the window so she could hear what song was playing; something by Patsy Cline. Lana took my hand and walked over to her father’s grave then sat down facing it.
“Hi Daddy,” she said. “This is Garrett. The one I’ve been tellin’ you about.”