The Barrel Race

by Eric Ode
Jessie was the master of the western rodeo.
Her name was known from Texas to the state of Idaho.
She rode her horse from town to town, and everywhere she went,
she proved herself the master of each rodeo event.

She rode the bucking broncos, and she wrestled down the steers.
She roped the calves in record time to whistles, shouts, and cheers.
But one day Jess heard hollering, and following the roar,
she watched a competition she had never seen before.

They called it barrel racing, an event of speed and skill.
And Jessie said, “I’ve never tried, but I believe I will.”
The challenge of this new event was plain enough to see.
The barrels marked the racing track, and there were only three.

So Jessie checked the stirrups as she saddled up her horse,
and soon the two were speeding through that barrel racing course.
The crowd was up and cheering as they rounded barrel one,
and Jessie whooped and gave a shout, “Now this is heaps of fun!”

They rounded barrels two and three. The cheers were loud and steady.
But Jessie thought, “It seems a shame to end this race already.
If I’ve had this much fun before, I can’t remember when.”
She spurred her horse and gave a shout, “Let’s go around again!”

The crowd was quite bewildered when they saw she wasn’t through.
They watched her turn her horse again from barrel one to two.
At barrel three, the people thought she surely must be done,
but once again she circled and went back to barrel one.

The people stared in wonder. They could not believe their eyes.
The minutes turned to hours, and the moon began to rise.
So one by one, they headed home, and soon the crowd was gone.
But through it all, that girl and horse kept racing on and on.

The crowd returned next afternoon to see if Jess was done,
and there she was, still riding hard as if she’d just begun.
But all that time upon the track and racing ’round and ’round
had left a valley six or seven inches in the ground.

By supper time the horse had dug that valley all the deeper.
The floor was nearly eight feet down. The walls were growing steeper.
And still she smiled and still she traveled fast and fancy-free,
but Jessie’s dusty cowboy hat was all the folks could see.

Now years have come and years have gone since Jess began that ride.
And no one’s seen her since those days, although some folks have tried.
But somewhere near a canyon, if you listen now and then,
perhaps you will hear Jessie shout, “Let’s go around again!”

Text © Eric Ode, reprinted from Tall Tales of the Wild West (And a Few Short Ones), published by Meadowbrook Press. Illustration © Ben Crane. Any copying or use of this poem or illustration without consent is unlawful.

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