The continuing saga of three generations of ranching family. Below the story you’ll find links to flash fictions.
Darrin leaned against the corral and studied the group of bulls inside. Their information had been correct, these were outstanding animals. If they had any more muscle rippling through them, they would resemble top competing body builders. They also moved well, they wouldn’t have problems traveling over the distances they’d need to cover on the ranch. Just perfect. Well, there was one issue.
“What do you think?” Mitch asked.
Darrin watched as a bull lowered his head and snorted when one of the numerous dogs got too close. The mounted cowboy on the far side of the bull whistled, and the dogs moved away. Darrin cut his eyes toward Mitch.
“Do the dogs come with the bulls? Because I don’t see any way to deal with them other than using these heelers. I’m not sure the dogs are enough either.”
One dog slipped closer, and the same bull took a run at the group with the pair of dogs splitting apart while the third dog drew the bull’s attention. The bull slid to a stop and snorted again. Darrin turned back. “You remember that bull that almost nailed us during grad school. If it hadn’t been for those Catahoula hounds the guy was using, we would have been in bad shape. I don’t know, Mitch. They’re outstanding bulls, no doubt about it. But do we want a bull you can’t be on foot in its pen?”
Mitch considered and Darrin recognized the beginning of one of their conversations. The intense conversations that usually involved fireworks and gunfire. The sound of a ton of animal with an attitude hitting metal fence sent Darrin jumping for cover and stopped the impending argument. Once the sound stopped reverberating through him, he found the bull that had targeted him. It was easy to identify because it stood a few yards away and gave him the look that Darrin didn’t want to see on an animal he dealt with regularly. The bull snored again, but this time he ran at the cowboy.
The young man on horseback shifted from relaxed to primed for action. The bull bellowed and dropped its head as it built speed. The man’s mount had worked these bulls before, because with a step and a last minute pivot he avoided the bull’s charge. It spun and snorted again, but the cowboy gave the combative bulls more space. The dogs also spread in a semicircle flanking the cowboy.
Darrin turned away shaking his head. “Sorry, but we can’t deal with bulls that are this rank. We have teenagers who don’t pay as much attention to the animals as they should sometimes. We’d be begging for trouble, hell we might as well put huge red targets on each of us. These bulls are exactly what we need. But we can’t risk their temperaments.”
The ranch manager considered before speaking. “Our bulls aren’t for every ranch. In these parts we put two or three of them with seventy or eighty cows and we check them every week or so. To survive they have to fight off some nasty predators. Hell, a few years back a grizzly came through and killed one of our momma cows. So I can see how they might not fit your operation.”
He’d just finished speaking when the bull charged again, and this time hit the fence hard enough that Darrin knew Mitch felt it too. Confirming his suspicions, Mitch shook his head as he gazed at the bulls.
“He’s right. These bulls are just what we need. But they are too aggressive for our operation.” He turned to the manager and held out his hand. “Jim, we appreciate your time. Wish things worked out better, for both of us.”
Jim pulled a small notepad from his pocket and wrote frantically before ripping off the page and handing it to Mitch. “Our neighbors have been building a herd for several years and used a lot of our breeding stock. They’ve been picking the most docile animals from our herd, and some calm animals from other herds. Give them a call, or you should be able to find them using the map I drew for you. They’re only a few miles away. You might as well see what they have while you’re close.”
Mitch and Darrin said their goodbyes and piled into the truck. Mitch called the new ranch, but there was no answer. But following Jim’s scribbled map, they pulled into the driveway a short time later. They rolled to a stop in time for a woman with her hair twisted into a bun, wearing jeans and a flannel shirt to burst through the door.
“That’s fine! I don’t fuckin’ care. You can damn well argue with yourself because I have to keep this ranch running.”
Darrin and Mitch watched the drama unfold as a second woman, a darker version of the first, appeared at the door.
“Go pout, Charlotte. You signal me when you’re ready to play adult long enough to talk about the ranch budget.”
Mitch was putting the truck into reverse when both women turned toward them, having just realized they had guests. One woman, and Darrin never knew which one, yelled at them.
“Hey! What the fuck are you doin’ here?”
If you’d like to see a snippet from the other Wednesday Briefs authors you can go to the groups website. Or click on the name listed below to go directly to the story.