In days like that one grows venturesome and ignores difficulties and limitations with a fine disregard for probable consequences, a mental snapping of fingers. On a day like that, the Happy Family, riding together out of Dry Lake with the latest news in mind and speech, urged Andy Green, tamer of wild ones, to enter the rough-riding contest exploited as one of the features of the Northern Montana Fair, to be held at Great Falls in two weeks. Pink could not enter, because a horse had fallen with him and hurt his leg, so that he was picking the gentlest in his string for daily riding. Weary would not, because he had promised his Little Schoolma’am to take care of himself and not take any useless risks; even the temptation of a two-hundred-dollar purse could not persuade him that a rough-riding contest is perfectly safe and without the ban. But Andy, impelled by the leaping blood of him and urged by the loyal Family, consented and said he’d try it a whirl, anyway.
They had only ridden four or five miles when the decision was reached, and they straightway turned back and raced into Dry Lake again, so that Andy might write the letter that clinched matters. Then, whooping with the sheer exhilaration of living, and the exultation of being able to ride and whoop unhindered, they galloped back to camp and let the news spread as it would. In a week all Chouteau County knew that Andy Green would ride for the purse, and nearly all Chouteau County backed him with all the money it could command; certainly, all of it that knew Andy Green and had seen him ride, made haste to find someone who did not know him and whose faith in another contestant was strong, and to bet all the money it could lay hands upon.
For Andy was one of those mild-mannered men whose genius runs to riding horses which object violently to being ridden; one of those lucky fellows who never seems to get his neck broken, however much he may jeopardize it; and, moreover, he was that rare genius, who can make a “pretty” ride where other broncho-fighters resemble nothing so much as a scarecrow in a cyclone. Andy not only could ride—he could ride gracefully. And the reason for that, not many knew: Andy, in the years before he wandered to the range, had danced, in spangled tights, upon the broad rump of a big gray horse which galloped around a saw-dust ring with the regularity of movement that suggested a machine, while a sober-clothed man in the center cracked a whip and yelped commands. Andy had jumped through blazing hoops and over sagging bunting while he rode—and he was just a trifle ashamed of the fact. Also—though it does not particularly matter—he had, later in the performance, gone hurtling around the big tent dressed in the garb of an ancient Roman and driving four deep-chested bays abreast. As has been explained, he never boasted of his circus experience; though his days in spangled tights probably had much to do with the inimitable grace of him in the saddle. The Happy Family felt to a man that Andy would win the purse and add honor to the Flying U in the winning. They were enthusiastic over the prospect and willing to bet all they had on the outcome.