San Luis Valley, Colorado
Bishop Henry Lapp ordered two hot dogs, two bags of chips, and one large drink. He waited for his purchases somewhat impatiently, having received his change and hoping he wouldn't miss the last of the local amateur events. Local boys were competing—even Amish boys—and he wanted to be in the stands to cheer them on.
He was thinking of that, of how the Amish and the Englisch so often stood together as one community, when the unmistakable crack of a rifle rang out.
"Rodeo clown?" the woman behind him asked.
"Sounded like the real thing." This from the teen working the hot dog counter at the Ski Hi Stampede, Colorado's oldest pro rodeo.
Then the screaming started.
Henry dropped the napkins he was holding, turned toward the stands, and took off at a sprint toward his seat. In the back of his mind, he needed to reach Emma, but that was ridiculous. Who would shoot Emma? Who would shoot anyone at a rodeo?
A river of people poured from the arena stands. "Someone has a rifle!"
"Get out of my way!"
"Call the cops! Has anyone called the cops?"
Henry pushed against the crowd, dodging to the left and right, fully realizing he was headed the wrong direction but knowing he had no choice. He had the sensation that everything was moving too fast. At the same time he seemed to be stuck in slow motion. He turned the corner into the arena, his heart pounding and sweat trickling down his back. Emma was still in the stands where he'd left her, surrounded by her family, who had huddled up like a high school football team. The bleachers were more than half empty now, though they'd been packed to capacity five minutes before.
Henry rushed up the stands, pausing only long enough to make eye contact with Emma, to assure himself she was uninjured.
Once he reached their row, he turned to stare at the tragedy before them. Around the arena stood cowboys and cowgirls, young and old, Englisch and Amish. Henry allowed his gaze to slide past them, toward the middle of the arena, where a young man lay motionless in the dirt as medical personnel rushed toward him.
"Who is it?" Henry asked, breathless from his dash up the stands.
"Jeremiah Schwartz." Clyde scowled at the ever-growing crowd gathering in the center of the arena.
Jeremiah had been competing in rodeos since he was a lad of sixteen. Now he was nineteen. Technically, he was visiting from Goshen to help his widowed grandmother with her farm chores for the summer, but everyone knew his passion was steer wrestling. The real reason he came was the chance to compete in the 97th Annual Ski Hi Stampede.
He was Plain, but he hadn't yet joined the church. It was past time that he made that decision, and Henry had spoken about it on more than one occasion. Jeremiah was enjoying his rumspringa, or at least he had been up until a few minutes ago.
Emma's family looked on in alarm as the medical personnel attended to the young man.
Stephen and Thomas, Emma's youngest grandsons, pressed in close to their father. They were only eleven and twelve, and their expressions revealed shock mixed with a little fear.
Rachel grasped Clyde's hand and reached out to touch Emma. She was a good woman, and Emma had shared on several occasions that she thought of her as both a daughter-in-law and a friend.
Katie Ann stood frozen, eyes wide, both hands clasped over her mouth. At eighteen, she'd already seen too much death.
Silas, the oldest of Emma's grandchildren, bounded up the steps. "Sheriff Grayson is setting up a perimeter. No one's to leave the arena."
"Half of the people have already fled," Henry pointed out.
"Unless they're walking home, they won't get far. Monte Vista PD posted officers at the parking lot gates. No one in and no one out."
"Even buggies?" Clyde asked.
"Ya. Even buggies."