Coming Up Roses
Deadwood, Kansas, March, 1887
William F., “Buffalo Bill”, Cody stared at
Rose Ellen Gilhooley as if he’d never seen anything even remotely
as wonderful as she in his life. Rose hoped she wasn’t
misinterpreting his interest because she really needed him to like
“ Whoo-eee!” the
former-scout-become-entertainer hollered when Rose performed one of
the more lethal tricks her Sioux pal, Little Elk, had taught her
several years earlier. Cody even waved his hat in his excitement.
“Little gal, you are really something!”
After she’d successfully maneuvered her body
underneath her horse’s belly and had emerged safely on the other
side—without benefit of a saddle or reins—Rose steadied herself,
sucked in a deep breath, said a silent prayer, and leaped, landing
with her bare feet on Gingerbread’s back. She balanced perfectly
without, she hoped, looking as if she’d had to struggle to do so,
and threw her arms up in the air in a gesture of triumph. Her
brother Freddie had told her she looked like an angel ascending
when she did that. Freddie used a lot of high-flown language, since
he read a lot. Rose’s education wasn’t as grand as Freddie’s, and
all she really hoped for today was that she looked like somebody
Buffalo Bill Cody could use in the Wild West.
She knew her mother was nervous. Rose could
see her from the corner of her eye: gaunt, thin, weathered, looking
much older than her forty-three years, thanks to poverty and
grinding hardship. But Rose’s mother, for all the discomforts of
her life, loved her children beyond anything. Rose’s one wish, the
reason she was performing her heart out for Cody today, was that
she could earn some money by doing so, thereby helping her family
and easing the burdens of her mother’s life.
Sliding down until she rode the big bay
gelding astride, Rose kneed him, giving the signal to end the show
with a flourish. Obeying her command, Gingerbread raced twice
around the meadow and then stopped abruptly in front of Cody,
rearing and pawing the air, as Rose had seen wild stallions do on
Buffalo Bill applauded extravagantly when
Gingerbread took a classy bow, as Rose had also taught him to do.
She executed a grand bow from horseback herself, sweeping her
battered hat from her head. Of course, if she got the job, she’d no
longer have to use battered hats.
“ By golly, gal, you are really
something! I thought your brother was exaggerating when he begged
me to come out here and see you, but he wasn’t. By God, he
He probably was, actually. Freddie was always
praising her to the skies. This time, his zealotry might have paid
off. Rose slid from Gingerbread’s back and clicked for the horse to
follow her up to Cody, who stood at the door of the three-room sod
hut in which the Gilhooley family had lived since they moved to the
territory. The move had taken place years before Rose’s birth.
Because she’d learned early that a
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