By: Adrienne Vaught

Pure hate!

One great eye staring me down through a graying splintered corral sent the message loud and clear to my mind. A great black beast, stomping and tearing the dirt from the ground creating a fine mist of dust that never lands, but chokes the back of my throat. Boards of wood seem inadequate protection, a small separation between your greatness of size and power as compared to mine. I feel the difference so deeply. I know I am small for my age, even so I am four and it is hard to show this fact on your fingers because holding your thumb across your palm is quite a bit harder than you might otherwise think.

I have been told I am a big girl now.

Big, compared to what, you?

I doubt that. I wrinkle my freckled nose because the smell of animal sweat and urine makes breathing deep burn. I hold my hands in front of me. They tremble. I know my little hands could be just strong enough to release the gate to set you free. I suspect you know it too. I stuff them into the back pockets of my jeans to stop myself. A feeling of sadness sweeps over me to think of the life you must lead. Every day a combination of chutes, corrals, trucks and straps. Your freedom comes in an eight second wild frenzy. You can fly in those eight seconds and fall. A man upon your back digging his spurs to your flesh a strap upon your belly. Flies buzz your eye and nose. Great streams flow from your nose and mouth that hang and never fall. You know what they want. Don’t you? You know your name. Raven. You give them the danger they seek and more.

Cowboys would prove themselves upon your back to the cheers of a crowd and the sound of the buzzer, faceless gamblers every one. What you do not know is this. When the cowboy, who draws your name, then climbs into the chute there is silence, hats are held over hearts silent prayers said.

Did you know great bull?

When I hear your name announced a silent scream fills my heart. I squeeze my eyes tight. Hold myself motionless. I know somewhere deep inside my smallness that one day it will be the rider or you that will fall never to rise from the dirt of the arena. I do not know which thought makes me sadder. The sun burns the top of my head where the braids split my hair down the middle. I look down at my tiny hands that can barely show I am four. The dust finally settles on my pink cowboy boots so lovely and fine. I look up to meet your great hate filled eye. I whisper a plea. Please have mercy on the next boy who draws your name. You tilt your head in consideration; throw your great body against the boards.

I jump back!

Heart hammering in my ears and I know the answer…