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BraveStarr and the Rodeo


( I )

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Marshal Brave Starr and Tex Hex didn't have much in common. That was not exactly surprising. BraveStarr was the lawman for New Texas, while Tex was the leader of the planet's outlaws. But there was one thing they both enjoyed and that was a Rodeo.

A Rodeo is a kind of Wild West circus. In a normal circus, you just sit around the ring and watch. In a Rodeo, you can leap in there. You can try your hand at any of the dust-raisin' sports of cowboy country. And they both just loved that ! So when Tex Hex left the Hexagon and rode into town to suggest a Rodeo, the Marshal was quick to agree.

It wasn't just that BraveStarr enjoyed taking part. He reckoned a Rodeo would keep the bandits busy. That way, they would have no time to make trouble.

What he didn't know was that the Rodeo was part of a cunning scheme to keep him busy. The plot was to get him out of Fort Kerium.

With that in mind, Tex put up the idea of holding the noisy Rodeo out in the desert. He figured this would get round the problem of disturbing housebound old folks. That made sense tot he Marshal who hate to upset anybody.

Soon the townsfolk and the outlaws were hard at work side by side. Before sundown they had hammered together a big corral and a bank of makeshift grandstands.

Handle Bar set up a big eats-and-drinks tent. In this he would run Sweet Water Fountains and a Hot-Dawg Emporium.

Everybody was looking forward to the Rodeo. Well, nearly everybody. Sandstorm was not. Unlike the townsfolk and outlaws, he was not a recent settle on the planet. He was one of the mighty sand walrus family. His kind had lived on New Texas for millions of years. He did not like it when the newcomers disturbed the peace of his desert. Watching from the top of a nearby rock, he got more and more angry about the row the builders were making.

Sandstorm made up his mind to deal with it in his own special way. suddenly he slid down off his rock and lolloped into the center of the new arena. He shook his great tusks in rage. Then he spun around and spewed a jet of Sleep Dust from his mouth. Instantly, it put all the workers into a deep sleep.

When Brave Starr came out from Fort Kerium to see how the work was going. Sandstorm was long gone. as the Marshal rode up on Thirty/Thirty, he heard only the sound of snores. when he reached the arena, he found everybody snoozing in hairy heaps ... He and deputy Fuzz had to bring out a ten ton Turbo-Tanker of black coffee from town to bring them all round.

They certainly couldn't have Sandstorm knocking out the good citizens with his Sleep Dust whenever he got heated up. But there was so much still to do that the Marshal didn't have time to track him down and arrest him.

So BraveStarr got Fuzz to help. He told him to ride Thirty/Thirty into the desert and get him to write a message in the sand with his hoofprints. The message was that Sandstorm was welcome to join in the fun at the Rodeo. But first, he had to promise not to use his Sleep Dust.

They saw his bulky figure on the skyline, watching them. The only snag was that nobody knew whether sand walruses could read. That made everybody a bit twitchy but, even so, they got the arena finished by dusk.

Next morning, the townsfolk came streaming out from Fort Kerium. The homemade grandstands groaned under the weight of the crowd. It was agreed that there should be eight events and that the Marshal's AllStarrs should take on the Tex Hexers.

Event One was Lassoin'. BraveStarr and Tex Hex opened the show. After some pretty fancy ropework, the referee, Judge J.B., awarded the Marshal top points for style. The score was AllStarrs 1; Hexers 0.

This got the AllStarrs off to a good start. The Marshal figured things wouldn't be so easy from then on -- and he was right.

Event Two was Brahmasaur Bull Riding. Tex Hex had smuggled in a small piece of cactus. It was a special kind with needle-sharp prickles which he grew around the Hexagon to keep good folks away. He gave this to his snake-eyed friend Vipra. Then he went over to glad hand BraveStarr for winning the lassoing. The sight of Tex being a sporting loser was such a surprise that nobody noticed what Vipra was up to. She had no trouble slipping the cactus under the Bull's saddle. When Deputy Fuzz climbed into the saddle, the Bull bucked so hard that Fuzz was tossed right out of the corral. He landed plumb on top of Handle Bar's tent ! Of course, the cactus was long gone by the time it was Tex's rider's turn ... AllStarrs 1, Hexers 1.

Event Three was Dogie Rasslin'. In this, you have to chase a robot calf, grab it and wrestle it to the ground. After a ding-dong struggle, Tex's Dingoman finally managed to floor the beast. But Fuzz's cousin, for the AllStarrs, never stood a chance. Before his turn came, the Hexers sneakily shortened the metal legs on one side of the Dogie. This made it run around in smaller and smaller circles, going faster and faster. It lapped the tubby Prairie Person easily, and butted him from behind. He ate standing up for a week afterwards ! AllStarrs 1; Hexers 2.

Next came Tossin' in a Barrel, and Fuzz was matched against Outlaw Scuzz (the only Prairie Person who ever joined the Outlaws). In this game, you have to dress up as a clown. Then you fool about until you annoy a Longhornosaurus into chasing after you. There's a big barrel set in the middle of the arena. When you leap into the barrel, the beast is so riled that it tosses it skywards with its great horns. The crowd love it. You get points for bravery -- or maybe it's just for foolishness !

Despite being tossed onto the tent, Fuzz had made up his mind to beat Scuzz, who was an old rival. It was the deputy's turn first. Still wobbly from his fall, he only just made it into the barrel. When the Longhornosaurus boosted it into the deep blue desert sky, the barrel went east, and Fuzz went west ... Yet again, he landed on the tent ! The crowd went wild. They were sure it was all part of the act. But Fuzz knew better. He decided not to enter any more events in case his luck ran out. People say, 'Third time lucky ...' but he wasn't so sure about that !

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