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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
PART III: The Arena
Red brings Tom to his cabin on the range and tells him to make himself at home. He explains that his lessons will begin the next morning. Red also introduces him to Meo, a Mexican who works as the cook. He used to be a wild bronco rider until he was injured.
The next day, when Tom is thrown off his bronco after only four jumps, Red begins his coaching, and Meo assists. Each day the lessons continue, and Tom gets better with every ride. Red and Meo hope to prepare him to ride in the Aztec show, which is to occur next month.
Besides coaching him in bronco riding, Red gives Tom lots of other advice. He teaches him not to trust anyone with his saddle and his gear. He also tells him that when he is frustrated, he should he should learn to take it out on the wild bronco. Finally, he tells Tom that he must intentionally lose the final round at the competition, for he plans to bet against him. At first Tom refuses to throw the competition, but when Red shouts at him, he agrees to do whatever Red tells him.
This new section of the novel marks a new phase in Tomís life. His next years will be spent riding wild broncos in the arena, as the title suggests.
When Red takes him to his cabin on the range, he immediately begins to give Tom lessons in bronco riding. The training is rigorous, but Tom makes remarkable progress. In addition, both Red and Meo, the Mexican cook who used to be a rider, teach him many techniques to enhance his performance.
Red wants Tom to enter the competition in Aztec, which will take place in the next month. He feels certain that Tom will be able to win the bronco riding. However, he tells him that he must intentionally lose the final round, for Red plans to bet against him and wants to win. Although Tom does not like the plan, he agrees to it.
Once again, Tom is under someone elseís control. He feels he must do whatever Red tells him to do. Although he has a burning desire to win, the fire in him must be subdued to please his boss. As Red has advised, he takes out his frustrations on the wild broncos, which further improves his performance. It is ironic that he learns to subdue the will of the horses in response to his own will being subdued.
Red and Tom travel to Aztec for the competition, which will be difficult. If a rider is eliminated from one round, he cannot continue in the competition. Tom is determined to stay in the competition.
On the first day, Tom fares well. He does equally well on the second day and becomes the favorite of the crowd, which delights Tom. On the third day, Red, with a threatening look in his eyes, reminds Tom that he must lose in the final round so that he can win his bets.
Tom intentionally loses the last round, but it makes him feel ashamed and miserable. Publicly Red sympathizes with Tom, but he is delighted that he has won a lot of money from betting against him.
After the competition is over, Red cons a man into betting with him again. This time he bets that Tom can stay on a wild bronco. When the private competition takes place, the crowd roars for Tom. He takes out his frustrations on the bronco and rides long past the ten second horn, riding the horse to death. The man who bet against Tom senses he has been set up and confronts Red. He is told that Tom can never ride at Aztec again.
Although Tom is clearly the best rider at Aztec and the favorite of the crowd, he cannot win the competition due to the underhanded greediness of Red. Tom knows he must lose the final round of the competition or lose his chance to work with Red. When he allows himself to be thrown by the bronco as directed by his boss, he feels miserable and ashamed; it is not the last time he will feel used and manipulated. Red, however, is delighted, for he wins lot of money from his bets against Tom. Still, his greediness is not satisfied. He arranges another competition after the end of the official rodeo. This time he bets in favor of Tom. Of course, Tom easily wins the competition; he stays on the wild bronco long after the final bell has sounded, literally riding it to its death. Red is delighted to win even more money.
The organizers of the rodeo and the people betting against Red sense that there has been a set up; therefore, they tell Red that he can never bring Tom to the competition in Aztec again. As they depart, Tom feels miserable, unable to enjoy a sense a victory.