Just a few weeks until Christmas and I’d done no shopping at all. On top of that, it would appear, I have a new brother spending all his off time at my place to boot. Half Pint really seemed to be smitten with Jake.

I walked into the barn, “Angus, you in the office?” I turned to close the barn doors to keep the warmth inside.

“Yeah Mac, in the office.” I could hear that he was on the phone.

I stopped at the door and waited for him to hang up, “Thanks for the advice, Randy. Sure, are you going tonight? Yeah. See ya’ then. Sure, bye man.” He hung up and looked up at me, “Um… maybe you should sit down before you fall down big brother.”

I tried to smile as I took a seat across from the desk where he sat, “You look good behind that desk. I hope you keep the job after you graduate in the fall.”

“Yeah sure, but don’t try to change the subject. Mac, you look like hell.” He stood and came to sit on the front of his desk, “Is there something about the ranch you want to share with me?”

I sighed, “No, the ranch is fine. Thanks to the investments I have going we should never have money problems.” I took off my hat and ran my fingers through my hair, “I’m not sleeping and when I do….” I looked up at Angus, “…well it’s not good sleep.”

He leaned down, “Is it Allie?”

I slumped my shoulders, “Maybe.” I met his eyes, “Damn when did you get so wise. Yes, it’s Allie. I just can’t get her off my mind.” Again, with the hand through my hair, maybe I needed a haircut. “I see her raven black blue hair everywhere. My need to see her keeps me awake at night.” I sighed, “When I do fall off to sleep she’s right there in my dreams.”

“So, what’s keeping you from driving to the Flying J and talking to her?”

“Angus, I can’t just show up over there. She left me 9 years ago and the reason she left hasn’t changed.” I stood up to leave. With my back to him, I asked, “Do you need me to do anything today?”

I heard him as he sat back behind the desk, “Yeah. Bob and some of the boys are on the south fence line cutting back some of the trees. If you could ride out ‘n just make sure they’re doing okay it would save me the trip.”

“Sure, Big Red needs a good ride. Maybe the open space and fresh air will clear my head.” I put my hat on my head and opened the office door.

“Mac,” I turned back to him, “one more thing. Randy and I are going to the Rusty Nail tonight. I thought you might like to come along.”

“Business or pleasure?”

“A little of both.” Angus held my eyes, “I’m thinking about a partnership with the Flying J, in the rodeo bull business.”

I leaned on the door frame and thought for a minute, then nodded my head, “That night be a real good partnership. Good thinkin’,” I turned to leave, “I’ll leave this to you. Just let me know what paperwork the lawyers need to draw up.” I walked out the door.

“Will you at least think about coming to the Rusty Nail. You really need to get out.”

“I’ll think about it.” I walked to the ranch intercom, “Matilda will you make me a lunch and grab a few bottles of water. I’ll be by to get them in about 10 minutes.

“Sure Mac. I’ll have it ready.” I smiled, Matilda had been working for me for just over 7 years. Without her I doubt that I would still have my siblings or my ranch.

 

 

The sun was shining, and the air was cool and crisp. Texas at her best on a December day. Big Red was having a good time out in the open air, too. Maybe he knew soon he would be turned out with his mares for breeding. “Okay boy, lets ride.”

I gave him his head and let him go. I cleared my head and enjoyed the ride.

It only took an hour to get to the south fence. Sure, I could have done it in 15 minutes in the truck but that wouldn’t have been as much fun. The south fence is shared with the Flying J, so I wasn’t surprised to see some of Randy’s men helping. I saw Bob and 4 others from our ranch and about the same from Randy’s group.

I noticed that Jake was working with them. I watched as he worked. He was a hard worker; seemed to pull his share of the work without any complaining.

As I rode up, Bob came to meet me, “Morning boss. It’s a good day for fence work.”

I smiled, “Yeah any day below 100 degrees is a good day, Bob.”

I dismounted Big Red and let him graze. He wouldn’t go far. “Do you need anything?”

“No boss, we’ll be done mid-morning. We should have some good firewood for us and the Flying J.”

I patted his shoulder and started walking to the fence, “Hi Peter, how ya’ doin’?” Peter was one of the foremen at the Flying J and I was surprised to see him working the fence.

“Hey, good to see you Mac.” He handed me his hand over the fence and we shook.

“Randy got you out working fences now?” I smiled.

He laughed, “No, came on my own.” He was watching Jake, “needed to see if my new boy could do more than whisper to horses.”

“Well he seems to be doing a good job.” I looked to Jake who was cutting up a limb with a chainsaw. “You know he’s been dating my Half Pint for a few weeks now.”

Peter looked to the kid, “Well now that explains a lot of things.” He looked at me, “Mostly the permanent smile on his face.”

I just nodded, “Yeah, I remember when I had one of those on my face too.”

“Don’t we all. Don’t we all.” Peter smiled.

“So, how is he with the others?”

“Well,” Peter tugged on his beard, “He’s quiet. Works hard. Doesn’t complain.”

“Is he willing to learn?”

Peter turned to me, “Yeah, he takes instruction well. Why?”

I was watching Jake work, “I don’t know. He’s had a hard life.”

Peter nodded, “He seems to be a good kid.”

I nodded back. “Well it looks like y’all have this all under control. It’ll be good to have this done before we get a freeze and some limbs take the fence down.” I turned to Bob, “If you don’t need anything then I’ll leave you and Peter to finish.”

“Thanks boss, for coming to check. We got this.” Bob looked to Peter and he nodded as well.

“Okay, well I’m going to ride to Cave Springs and have lunch. See y’all back at the ranch.” I walked back to Big Red and rode to the southwest.

 

 

I sat on the big boulder. Ate my roast beef sandwich and drank a bottle of water. The sun was just warm enough to keep me from being cold. I let my mind wander to Allie.

She had been two years behind me in school. We’d been inseparable before my parents died in the plane crash. Her brother and I had been best friends, all our lives.

When Allie graduated, she broke my heart when she said that we shouldn’t see each other anymore. I was one year from graduating with my degree in Ranching Management from Midwestern State University.

I’d saved the ranch; kept my siblings together and was going to graduate from college, but I wasn’t going to have the love of my life at my side. Sure, I knew she needed to go to college and I was glad she was, but I wanted her to stay mine.

I closed my eyes. She couldn’t except that I had 5 siblings I was responsible for; the oldest 14 the youngest 9.

“Why did you leave me Allie? I needed you so much.” I opened my eyes and looked at the steam coming up off the water, “I still need you baby. Do you ever think about me?” Tears were falling down my face. Yeah, I know crying isn’t a manly thing to do but I missed that girl. Half of my soul was missing.

I heard Big Red whinny. I wiped my face and turned to see what was wrong.

I smiled to myself when I saw Half Pint and Paint coming to us. I put my trash in the saddle bag and waited.

“Half Pint, what’re you doing out here?” I held Paint while she got down.

“Angus said you were out to check on the fence work, but Bob said you were here. So, I came to find you,” I let go of Paint and he and Big Red grazed.

“Come sit with me and let’s talk.” I walked to the boulder and sat; patted the rock for her to sit next to me.

“So, what were you thinking about out here all alone?” She asked as she sat and took my hand.

I sighed, “Regrets, lost loves, our parents, my family.”

She nodded, “I just have a few real memories of Mom and Dad. I regret that they died so soon.” She looked up at me, “Mac, you’ve been the best Dad to me I could’ve ever wished for. I know you sacrificed so much to keep us together.” She was looking out over the water now, “I know why Allie left, we all do. Sam overheard the two of you talking that night.”

She stopped and laughed, “He was so mad. He and Anna were ready to give her a piece of their minds.”

I wrapped her in my arms, “I love you. I love all of you; no regrets with any of you.” I kissed her head, “My regret is that I didn’t go after her. I just let her go.”

 

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