The Choice

I have often been asked who inspires the heroes I write about. After all, they’re just about perfect. Is there a man who can be tough and tender, smart and funny, sexy and sweet? A man who can look beyond a woman’s faults and see her potential? A man who would sacrifice something of himself to make another person happy? Yea, there is such a man.
I met Cheyenne when I was just a young girl. He was ten years older than me and I thought he hung the moon. He was already grown, or at least out of high school when I first noticed him. Even in my innocent childish observations, I knew he was special. Cheyenne wasn’t like the other boys. He was focused and dependable. His family owned a ranch near us and at the time his father had to take a step back because of health problems, Cheyenne stepped up and became responsible when other young men were trying to find themselves, sowing their wild oats and testing their limits. He wasn’t like that, Cheyenne seemed to know who he was and didn’t care if anyone else approved or not.
Now, that wasn’t to say that Cheyenne didn’t have a wild side. He did. Over the years I became aware of how many women fell under his spell. He was the quiet one. The strong one. The man who could meet the eyes of a girl and make her shiver in her boots. Yea, I saw how the girls all swooned over him. And I hated every last one of them! If I could have sent all of those women to the back of Siberia with only a dog sled for transportation, I would have.
I never saw Cheyenne wear anything but cowboy clothes. Even at his father’s funeral, he wore a western cut suit. But his normal dress was cowboy boots – he had a taste for the exotic – he didn’t splurge on many things in this world, but the man does love nice boots – ostrich, alligator, shark, snake, elephant….ha! See, women aren’t the only ones who can get excited about shoes. Anyway, he wore boots, skin tight jeans – and lord, the man was one of those cowboys who built the reputation of jeans as a sexy piece of clothing. God, he has a good-looking butt. Many times, after I became of acceptable age, I would just follow him around to gaze at one of his best assets – his ass. Sigh.
You also never caught Cheyenne in anything but a western shirt – long sleeved, never short sleeved – the kind which had snaps. Believe me – later, I fulfilled a fantasy and it went like this. After deep, hungry kisses – the kind that can curl your toes and make you tremble – tug on his shirt, tug it out of his jeans. After all, you can’t wait to touch skin – run your fingers over hard abs and a lightly furred chest. LORD HAVE MERCY! I need to write another sex scene! Anyway, close your eyes and imagine with me. You grab that man’s shirt – right at the collar – one hand on each side and you look him right in the eye – bend over and kiss him hard, nipping his lower lip as you leave. And then you pull…jerk that shirt open and those snaps will come undone – one after another – pop pop pop – right on down the line like falling dominoes. But the reward – fine, kissable, lickable, male flesh – perfectly sculpted from honest hard work not the manipulation of curls and barbells. Oh, yeah. Whew, I got off topic.
But yeah, I never saw Cheyenne without those boots, jeans, a western shirt and that ever-present Stetson. It was hard to get him to take off that hat. Oh, I saw him remove it in church a couple of times but in everyday circumstances, it was always there. A necessary part of my fantasies, I tell you. Because I always dreamed of being the reason he removed that hat…
Cheyenne loves animals which is a huge plus in my book. He and his family raised horses, cattle and even some sheep. At the time, my folks had some cattle but we didn’t have horses and I loved horses. I don’t know what it is about young girls and horses, but we get crushes on those magnificent beasts long before we become enamored of the male of our species. I can still remember reading every book about horses I could get my hands on – Black Beauty, National Velvet, King of the Wind, The Black Stallion – those were the first novels I fell in love with – predating Harlequin romances by a few years.
And I wanted a horse. Above all things, I dreamed of having a horse of my own. I even had him named. Comanche. One of the books I’d read had told of the lone American survivor of Custer’s Last Stand – it hadn’t been a soldier, unfortunately, it had been a Calvary horse. A faithful, brave steed by the name of Comanche, who was wounded during the battle but survived to be honored, protected and remembered forever. If you want to meet him, he still lives at the museum of the University of Kansas in Laurence. I have met him…
Oh well, I digress. I dreamed of having my own horse. I talked about it and I made anyone around me listen to my dreams. Cheyenne was not immune. More than once he had endured a young girl’s ramblings about the desire of her heart. Little did I know that one day he would be that main desire… But he was kind and compassionate, generous to a fault and never, ever made me feel foolish or in the way. I tell you, the man has always been just about perfect.
I had another love in my life at the time and that was music. I suppose you could say that I have ‘the gift’. Music came easily to me. I could sing and I was as attracted to a piano then as I am to a cowboy now. Anytime I went visiting – whether it was to the old Methodist church, the Masonic Lodge or Cheyenne’s mother’s house….if there was a piano, I was sitting at the bench and lightly stroking the keys. I had an aunt who taught me a few of the notes and I was blessed with a bit of natural ability, so I could listen to a song on the radio and pick out the tune. So, I began a campaign.
There were two things I wanted in life at this particular juncture. I wanted a piano and I wanted a horse. My poor father was the recipient of my massive mission to acquire those two would-be prized possessions. The only problem was – neither was cheap and he wasn’t made of money. So, my birthday was coming up and he – cruel man that he was – told me that I would have one or the other – I could have the horse of my dreams or the piano of my dreams. Wow. What to do… What to do… Now, I will tell you honestly, there was really no contest. As much as I love music, I wanted that horse a thousand times more.
But as fate would have it – a complication arose. We were church going people. My parents thought attending services regularly was a necessity. And we like to sing. Music was as much a part of the service as the hell fire and brimstone preaching. And I was always part of the children’s choir, sometimes I sang a special and I even banged out my imperfect renditions of a couple of hymns on the piano for a couple of other youngsters to sing. But the choir director said he saw potential in me. I like that and I wanted to learn how to play, but I wanted to learn how to ride more.
Our pianist at church was an elderly lady, Mrs. Key, who had tickled the ivories for decades. She was sweet, reliable as the day was long and had been a fixture of the church for as long as anyone could remember. But the day she pulled out in front of a truck and was killed in front of the church was the day the music stopped. Or so we thought. But, Mr. Monroe, our choir director came to me and my parents and told me that I was the answer. I had an aptitude – with a few formal lessons, a lot of practice and a good dose of courage, I could become the new church pianist! But wait…. I wasn’t even in Junior High! Wasn’t this a bit much responsibility for one so young? And besides, this wouldn’t be possible. I didn’t even have a piano!
As my birthday neared, my Dad came to me and told me that he would stand by his promise. I could have one of the things I wanted. He would buy me a horse or he would buy me a piano. But I couldn’t have both. My heart was torn. I struggled. I worried. I made deals with myself in the dark depths of the night. If I asked for a horse, maybe I could take piano lessons at the church and go down there to practice. People were counting on me. I had already filled in at one of the Sunday night services but the congregation could only sing Amazing Grace and Away in a Manger for so long – – – the only two songs I knew how to play well enough for them to sing.
My parents were good friends to Cheyenne’s folks. And many times we would go over there for supper. Now, Cheyenne, being older – didn’t always hang around. He had things to do, places to go and women to satisfy. But for some reason, he still always made time for me. I have fond memories of walks, ghost stories on the porch and the special times when he would saddle up one of his horses and allow me to trail after him around the pasture as he checked fence or looked for a lost calf. Now, let me assure you – the man was, is, and always will be a consummate gentleman. At that time, the only feelings he had for me were ones of an older brother or an indulgent friend. Now that designation changed… earlier on my part – but at the time of the telling of this story – Cheyenne was my hero, my perfect hero. I poured my heart out to him and bless his heart, he listened. Just listened. He made me feel important in a world that didn’t often heed the outpouring of a little girls’ heart.
The time of my birthday drew nearer and my Dad set me down and told me he needed to know. If he were going to buy me a horse OR a piano, he needed to make preparations – after all, one didn’t buy either of those things at the corner drug store. Now, to give my Dad credit, he didn’t push. He didn’t demand. He didn’t lay on a guilt trip. But I knew that more depended on my decision than just satisfying my own wants and desires. Even at this early age, I felt the weight of being responsible. People were depending on me – to give you a glimpse into the future – I became the pianist at that church and I served as the pianist of that church or one very like it up until a few months ago. But all I could think about was Comanche and how much I wanted a horse.
But when push came to shove and my father took my hand, I looked up into his face and told him I wanted a piano. And to this day, I can’t say I have any regrets. He bought me a piano and I took lessons from a sweet old lady who taught me everything she knew and then I took more. I learned how to play – anything. I played in bands. I made recordings. I taught music, once I had as many as 40 students at a time. I wrote songs. I taught children’s choir. I proved the old theory that one who could make music was never friendless – there is always a place and a need for someone who can touch an instrument and make it sing. God had given me a talent and I can admit that I stepped up and used it. Still do.
But that didn’t erase the longing I had for an animal whom I could have loved and petted and spoiled and rode and kissed and spent many joyful hours at his side. As much as I love a piano, it wasn’t going to love me back. So my birthday came and a big, solid, beautiful piece of furniture was rolled into our house and claimed a prime honored spot that it would hold for eternity. It still sits in that same honored spot and I have played those ivory keys until, I swear, you can almost see my fingerprints indelibly embedded in the white smooth surface.
My dad probably knew of my consternation. He knew I loved the piano, but he also knew that if Mrs. Key had lived, the piano would not have been my first choice. So, he had me play and he bragged on me. My mother made me a big chocolate cake and I was grateful, because I knew any sacrifice they made for me was out of love. I was happy. I was sad, but I was happy.
And then there was a knock on the door….
My mother went to the door and called my name. “Cheyenne’s here to tell you Happy Birthday!” Cheyenne! My heart leapt. He remembered! I ran to grab his hand to pull him in so we could share cake and ice cream, but he told me there was something out in the yard that I needed to see. What? He said that he had gotten me a birthday present. I couldn’t imagine. Like I’d said, our families were fairly close – but not exchanging presents kind of close. What could he have gotten me? Had he left it in his truck? A book? A charm for my bracelet? He had noticed that the other day and commented on it. Or perhaps he had brought me one of the barn kittens. He knew I loved cats. My imagination was running wild. But I’ll have to be honest – nothing – nothing – nothing – prepared me for the moment when I walked out and a beautiful quarter horse was standing in front of my porch, tethered to the rail. He was dark red with a white blaze face. His eyes were big and kind and looking straight at me.
“Cheyenne? What did you do?” I was about to cry.
“Birthday girl, meet Comanche.”
Well, I’ll tell you this now. I fell in love that day. I fell in love with a horse who would be mine for many, many years. And I fell in love with a man who gave a gift to a young girl who he owed absolutely nothing to – he gave it from a spirit of kindness, compassion and love. Men like that aren’t the run of the mill. Men like Cheyenne are few and far between. He is one of my heroes. And lately – I have been reminded of that fact. He is my inspiration. If the McCoys were real, they would be just like him. Sexy, sweet, strong, giving and kind.

Thanks for reading – Sable

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