As the sun's pale light crept over the top of the distant mountain range, its golden rays charge down the rocky slopes revealing the beauty of the Arizona desert. The backlit shrubs, large solitary rocks, and saguaro cactus all cast their long morning shadows over the uneven terrain, as the bright yellow ball lifts higher into the sky. The previous night's dark blanket retreats backward to its home of origin and waits until later in the day, when the afternoon sun surrenders and darkness unfolds swelling across the landscape in the opposite direction. The morning air hints that it will be another hot day in the valley with no possibility of rain, but it did not bother him. Unaffected by the heat, young 10-year-old Rory with tattered blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and worn Tony Lama cowboy boots swung open the screen door. Leaving the house, he walked across the sandy front yard kicking up small dust clouds as he headed towards the old wooden barn, which stood a hundred feet away. Off to the right of the worn structure, was an equally old corral where his horse, El Paso stood. Rory gave the horse his name. He narrowed his choices down to either Las Cruces the City in New Mexico, or El Paso the City by the Rio Grande in Texas. Two years ago, he and his family drove several hundred miles and retrieved the horse from his uncle who lived in between both desert cities. Since then both boy and horse have been inseparable. El Paso, a large Pinto, with brown and white coloring stood comfortably as usual in the middle of the corral, and slowly chewed on strands of hay he had bitten off from a bale resting in the corner. With his eyes closed and his jaw moving leisurely in a circular motion, the horse stood contently and paid little attention to Rory. When Rory reached the barn, he whistled loudly, and El Paso’s ears alertly perked up. The horse opened his eyes and turned his head in the direction of the high-pitched sound then whinnied in response, while lightly stomping the ground with his front hoof. Fixing his gaze, El Paso attentively watched as his young friend swung open the large barn door and quickly disappeared into the old unpainted wooden building. Alone again and unfazed, El Paso lazily closed his eyes and began chewing. Once inside the barn, an assortment of smells permeated the air from various corners of the weathered structure. To strangers, some of the aromas would have driven them back outside, but they had no effect on the young boy. Rory knew what he wanted and walked directly over to the wall where his lasso hung neatly. He reached up and pulled it off its hook made from an old bent horseshoe. Turning, he strode over to the opposite wall, retrieved an old Stetson, which was his father's when he was a boy and placed it on his head. As usual, the hat fit perfectly. He exited the barn and walked over to the corral, slipping in between the first and second horizontal wooden rails and deposited himself inside the large enclosure with El Paso. “Hey you, how are you doing today,” asked Rory? The horse just stood still, chewing on his hay, with his eyes closed. He never bothered giving a headshake, or even a tail swish. In fact, El Paso did not even acknowledge his young friend's presence, and as usual, El Paso was being El Paso. "Well, good morning to you too." Rory's horse opened his eyes and snorted after hearing his young friend's voice for the second time. The boy just smiled and looked down at his lasso and massaged the rope in his hand. Adjusting the loop, he turned his back on the Pinto and began twirling the rope over his head. When the time was right, Rory released the twirling rope and tried to capture one of the vertical posts, which held up the corral. His attempt failed, so he gathered back the rope in his hands and planted his feet before spinning his arm again in a circular motion. Rotating his wrist at his side, he increased the speed slowly while together he let out the rope until the loop was large enough. However, before he could raise the lasso above his head, El Paso's large head bumped his friend from behind causing Rory to stagger. "Hey what are you doing," said Rory, turning around to face the horse. The Pinto quickly nuzzled his head into Rory's face and snorted. "Stop it," laughed Rory, and then in one swift motion, El Paso grabbed Rory’s Stetson and dropped it to the ground. “I’ve told you before don’t do that, why do you have to act so crazy?” However, all Rory was talking to was the horse’s rump as El Paso sauntered back to the center of the corral. He returned to his normal position, stood still and began chewing the remainder of his hay. “Okay, I see what you're doing, let me get into position.” Rory moved around in the corral and stood about thirty feet away from El Paso. The boy faced his horse and asked, "You ready," but the horse’s eyes remained closed and he never moved. "I don't know why I even ask, of course, you're ready." Rory looked down at the rope and adjusted the loop to make sure it would slide easily through the Honda knot. He began twirling the lasso above his head until the loop was the proper size, and when the moment was perfect Rory released his hold on the twirling lariat. Flawlessly the loop sailed through the air and landed on El Paso’s large head, where it hung loosely around the horse's neck. "Yeah," Rory said with a fist pump, smiling to himself. He walked over to his horse that towered over him and stopped. Standing a foot away from El Paso's nose Rory looked up. "All right, let me have it back." The horse snorted then lowered his head allowing his small friend to reach up and grab the end of the lasso. Of course, Rory always had to jump up at least once to pull the rope completely off El Paso's head. It had taken the boy and his horse nearly six months to perfect their rope trick, but they weren't interested in showing off to anybody. It was their little secret and Rory wanted to keep it that way. Sometimes other boys that Rory knew would come by and make fun of El Paso because the horse never seemed to care or even move from the center of the corral. El Paso would just ignore everyone except his young friend. Rory walked back and took up his original position with El Paso thirty feet away, once again standing quietly. The lasso sailed effortlessly, settled around the horse's neck, and as before, Rory walked up and with large animal's help retrieved the rope. For twenty minutes, they practiced together when unexpectedly Rory heard familiar laughter behind him. He turned, and coming down a small sandy hill towards the corral were Billy Turner, George Brumin, and Hal Edson. “Hey Rory, what are you and your horse up too? Has he moved yet? Every time we see him he stands there and does nothing,” said Billy Turner sarcastically. The other two boys laughed, but Rory and El Paso paid no attention to any of them. Hal Edson, next to chime in said, “Hey Rory, why do you even have a horse? Your horse never goes anywhere. Did you ever ride him at all? I'll bet that he’s never even left the corral." Rory stood his ground, slowly spinning his lasso and El Paso, eyes closed, kept slowly chewing his hay, neither responding to the three young hecklers. George Brumin was the last one to blurt out his insult. “You know Rory, you, and your family could probably get money for that horse over at the packing house. Don’t know how much he’s worth up there, but it’s got to be more than he’s worth just standing here in the middle of your corral.” All three boys glanced at one another then began laughing uncontrollably. "That was a good one George," laughed Hal. Rory stopped spinning his lariat, slowly turned his head, and looked over his shoulder towards the loud mouths. His eyes narrowed as he looked at Billy, George, and Hal, but the three boys were unable to see his stare because Rory's eyes hid undetected under the brim of the Stetson. The young cowboy looked up and could tell his horse's eyes were squinting, also. Now, the horse's ears folded straight back along with short deep whinnies and a few quick snorts. As though calling the final play in the big football game Rory said in a determined and deliberate voice, “Plan A Paso.” The horse, still looking at the three young intruders responded with a head nod and another snort. Rory then backed up and began twirling his lasso slowly at his side. Round and round, he spun the rope until the young cowboy calculated that the loop was the correct size. Moving his arm upwards, he twirled the lariat above his head, and at the precise moment, he let go of the spinning circle. The end of the rope sailed smoothly through the air towards the head, of the large Pinto. Downwards it fell towards El Paso, but as it was about to fall over the horse's large head, he suddenly moved to his right. The rope lightly hit against his large body and fell empty to the ground. "Wow, did you see that," laughed George, along with Billy and Hal. "What happened, what do you think Rory?" The three boys stood outside the corral joking and mimicking Rory's failed attempt, while the young cowboy stared at his horse with a puzzled look. In recent weeks, he had never missed. El Paso closed his eyes ignoring his surroundings and slowly began chewing again. "Look at that the horse is sleeping," laughed Hal. Rory annoyed, pulled the rope back until he held the Honda knot in his hand. He again re-adjusted the loop and quickly began twirling the lasso at his side. When it felt right to Rory, he raised the spinning loop over his head and let it go. Sailing across towards El Paso everything was in perfect position. This time, however, as the rope began to drop on its intended target El Paso moved his head the other way. Just like before the rope, again, fell empty to the ground. Hal, Billy, and George were beside themselves with laughter. The three boys pointed and mocked Rory's roping technique and El Paso's lack of movement. With his shoulders slumped young Rory stood silently, in the middle of the corral, holding the limp rope at his side. "Look at me, I want to be the horse, and you George are the rope, Hal you're Rory," insisted Billy. Hal began twirling his hand above his head, with George standing next to him, while Billy stood several feet away. Hal pretended to release the lasso and George, in slow motion, advanced on Billy. George moved to within several inches of Billy who tilted his head slightly as George continued past his friend and fell to the ground. Instead of lying there, George rolled around in the dirt to the hysterical delight of Hal and Billy. "I want to be the rope," shouted Billy, laughing along with his two friends. Rory stared down at the ground and listened to the ongoing heckling from the three boys. Never raising his head, he slowly gathered the lariat back. When it was all curled and again in his hand, Rory adjusted the size of the loop, and before he began twirling, he looked into El Paso's eyes. "Okay, Paso?"
Even from several feet away Rory felt the burst of air when El Paso snorted back, shaking his head up and down. He shook the rope, making sure it was resting comfortably in his hand then slowly and deliberately began twirling the lasso at his side. When the loop grew large enough that it almost touched the ground, Rory lifted his arm above his head. Spinning the loop, the young cowboy let out more rope causing it to double in size. It seemed as though Rory was twirling the lasso forever, as he spun it above his head. Billy Turner yelled, “That’s right Rory if I were you I'd keep twirling the rope and nothing more.” Hal and George laughed in agreement. Rory let go of the large circle and effortlessly it went sailing through the air towards El Paso's head. Hal, George, and Billy watched the lasso descend and fall over the Pinto's neck. Yanking as hard as Rory could the rope quickly tightened and El Paso reacted. Suddenly, the horse began shaking his head back and forth, pulling and resisting, kicking his back legs into the air. Deafening whinnies sounded in the wind, and clouds of desert dust grew as the wild horse bucked up and down. El Paso leaped and bounced several times, as though some poor cowboy were on his back attempting to break him in, and as the Pinto soared into the air, his nostrils flared. Noisily he snorted, and the ground shook each time he landed, startling the three young onlookers. El Paso began galloping around the enclosed corral as fast as his legs would move, and when he returned he skidded to a halt, kicking sand all over the three boys, who froze in fear. The three boys stood petrified and wide-eyed. The horse was fiercely excited and made sounds the three boys had never heard before. "Don't look in his eyes," yelled Rory, holding onto the rope as best he could. It was too late El Paso's eyes grew wide with anger as he again began bucking high into the air. He ran to the far side of the corral, then turned, and ran back towards Hal, George, and Billy. In front of the three small boys, the devil horse stood on his rear legs and neighed loudly. When he returned to all fours, he spun around and kicked the corral posts, which sent a vibration throughout the whole enclosure. The noise sent Billy, Hal, and George backward in fear, as Hal stumbled and fell. They had never before seen a horse as dangerous as Rory's. El Paso turned, and George yelled, "Look out Rory!" El Paso ran towards Rory, who simply sidestepped the charging beast as the horse raced by. When he reached the far end of the corral, El Paso skidded to a stop and shook his head from side to side. Turning around the horse stood again on his hind legs stretching as tall as he possibly could. He let out with a loud whinny and again charged straight at Rory. "Behind you, Rory, look out he's a killer," yelled Hal. However, El Paso ran right past Rory and towards Billy, Hal, and George, skidding once again to a halt just feet from the three terrified boys. His eyes were full of fury El Paso stared at the three boys while heavily breathing through his nostrils. Then the horse rose onto his hind legs, whinnied loudly, and descended with a terrible crash within inches of the corral’s barrier. "No, he's going to break through, stop him," yelled George, as he and his two companions scooted back several feet. This time, all three fell over each other in their feeble effort to escape. "We're going to die," screamed Hal. As the three boys lay on the ground their eyes fixed on this crazy horse, each was hoping El Paso would not break through the fence. If he did Billy, George, and Hal, knew they were doomed. Finally, Rory yanked on the rope, and El Paso’s neck pulled back as the horse twisted and fought. The boy, not one to give up kept pulling, but El Paso still resisted. Suddenly there was enough slack in the rope, and the young cowboy quickly threw a loop over the nearest post tying the lariat, which inhibited his horse from running freely. Rory planted his feet and grabbed the tightly stretched rope. He held on to the taut rope, as El Paso attempted to free himself. Moving his head from side-to-side the horse continued snorting and neighing, as the boy pulled on the rope. Carefully, Rory inched his way closer until finally, he stood only a few feet away from El Paso's head. "Careful Rory he's dangerous," yelled George. "He needs to be in the rodeo I've never seen a horse that angry," said Hal. "No one could break that wild horse he's too mean spirited. My father would say, leave him alone he's not meant to be saddled," screamed a frightened Billy. Panting heavily, eyes full of fury, El Paso stood still and slowly began to calm down. Staring down at an approaching Rory, the horse's snorting sounds had finally ceased. The boy held his large Pinto's head in his small hands, as all of the commotions had ended. Rory and El Paso looked over at the Billy, Hal, and George, who were all standing several feet from the corral. Breathing heavily from fear and unable to speak there was a look of disbelief on the faces of the three boys at what they had just witnessed. "Let's get out of here that horse almost killed us," cried George Brumin, turning and running away. "I'm going to tell my dad," said Hal Edson, as he and Billy Turner also turned and ran. Running over the small hill, the three boys disappeared, from sight. Rory and his horse stared until they were sure the Billy, Hal, and George were gone, "Okay Paso, give me your head," said Rory reaching high up to take the rope. El Paso gently lowered his head so his small friend could jump up and remove the lasso. Once the rope was off the horse's head, Rory started walking towards the other end of the rope he had tied around the post, and El Paso followed closely behind. Walking casually across the corral, the boy, and his horse reached the post, and Rory began unraveling the rope. As he untied the rope, El Paso reached over, grabbed Rory's Stetson off his head, and dropped it to the ground. “Hey, what did I tell you why did you do that? I didn’t think I was that rough with the rope. You do know Paso you were crazy out there and sure scared the heck out of those three. Wait till they get home, they’re going to tell everybody you are one crazy horse," said Rory, smiling and rubbing his horse's chin. "Paso you and I know different, don't we boy.” Rory reached up, put his hands on his horse's nose, and rubbed it as El Paso snorted. Suddenly El Paso showed his teeth as though smiling and gently he pushed Rory backward. "Okay you don't have to push, I've got one," said Rory smiling back at his horse. The boy reached into his pocket and pulled out an apple, and held it in his open hand. Gently El Paso lifted it into his mouth, slowly turned around, and walked away. As Rory headed back to the barn, he turned and looked at his horse that again was standing in the middle of the corral. With his eyes closed, El Paso slowly began chewing the apple, which his small friend gave him.