How do we decide what paths in life we take? What straw breaks the camels back?
Eldon was tired! At twenty one years of age and driving the semi truck of his dreams, the reality was another matter. As a farm boy with his first long haul, and with new country to see, he was still wore out. Loading up the bull rack with Holstein Heifers to go to Yakima Washington, at the owners request, he had driven straight through. It was 1973 and a young man could do it, if he fudged the logbook. He had slept for twelve hours without interruption but he was still tired. Now, even though it was Sunday, he was heading out of Thermopolis, Wyoming for a Tuesday morning pickup of young 350 lb. calves. The dispatcher had said, 'If it rained you'll never get in there without waiting for a day for the road to dry up.' He was driving because it was lightning to the west and he wanted to beat the weather. Having turned off the gravel road heading south, the road was turning into a trail alongside a creek with another eight miles to go.|
Buddy Weddem sat on his porch watching the sun go down and the day turning into night. Having moved the cattle out of the mountain pastures and into the winter pasture had about done him in. Even with the girls and Shorty's help, along with a couple of drifters from town, it had been tough. Finding all the cattle up in the hills was no picnic, and all but a few head had been found. Bears, mountain lions, and coyotes were all in abundance, so the chances of them being alive were slim. If what ever was left up there didn't come down before winter, the chance of them being alive was none. Bears and mountain lions were protected by the Feds and now the Government was talking about bring the timber wolf back into the Rockies.
It had been a real struggle for Buddy's parents coming out into Wyoming to homestead in the '20's. One of the reasons they had made it, was because they had bought cattle and sent the herd up into the mountain meadows in the summer. In the '50's we were able to acquire a ninety-nine year grazing lease of ten thousand acres from the Federal Government. Now we did legally what we had been doing illegally in the past. Now we owned sixteen hundred acres of old homestead ground around us, that we used for winter pasture, calving pasture and hay land. With all this land we were still lucky if we kept two hundred and fifty stock cattle on our ground.
Buddy was sitting there thinking, "I was the youngest of my siblings and by the time I was fifteen, my older brother and sisters were all gone. When I was sixteen Dad brought home from town a native lady named Elsa. Dad knew her from years past when she had worked as a waitress at a cafe in Worland, among other jobs. He felt she was getting in a bad way because the addiction to strong drink was getting her and she had an eleven year old girl named June. Elsa made no bones about who the father of June was. Seems Elsa's husband had become a complete drunk while Elsa was working at the restaurant. One fall two hunters came from Chicago hunting elk.They were the Jackson brothers that owned an Insurance Company and had more money than they knew what to do with! One of the brothers offered Elsa a year's worth of wages to be a hunting guide, cook, and what ever else for a month. That was the end of her marriage. The following Summer, Elsa had June."
June was one wild tomboy. She'd follow Buddy around and tried to do every thing he did. By the time she was sixteen years old she was a beautiful girl. She must have gotten that from old Mr Jackson. When Dad found out June was pregnant he wasn't too happy. As he put it, "The native people for the most part are good people. But their downfall is alcohol. Once it gets into their system, their bodies want more. Always more! You know Elsa's been fighting this for years and it's a loosing battle. I'm afraid. I don't know what this is going to do to her."
When Elsa found out about June, she blamed us all and left. By the time June was twenty one, we had our three girls. Couple years later, I was wanting a boy and she was wanting to leave. She left! My mom became their mother. In '68' mom died. Dad was already gone and it was just us four. Two weeks later Shorty pulled into the yard. He was driving an old beat up car that looked about as old as his fifty some years.
Buddy could still remember the time like it was yesterday, "I hear you need a cook." he said as he stepped onto the porch.
"I don't know how much I can pay. I've still got siblings I've got to pay off for their share of the ranch, plus I don't know what inheritance tax is going to be yet." replied Buddy, always trying for a better deal.
"Tell you what. You pay me seventy dollars a month and if I live here the rest of my life, you got yourself a man. Nobody want's a wore out old cowboy anymore." Shorty almost sounded desperate.
"Lets give it a year on that retirement plan of yours and you're on." Buddy agreed.
"It's a deal!" exclaimed Shorty, "You got yourself a man."
And that's how my little girls grew up. Twelve, ten and nine. That's how old they were when mom died. And I had no idea where June was!
By the time my twelve year old, Jo, was fifteen, the girls could do about anything. Mow, rake, buck hay, rope, brand, break a horse, they could do it. AND CHEW! Shorty taught them how to chew, with them insisting I buy them Skoal Chewing Tobacco,cherry flavored. What could I say. They work harder than I do. Now with Jo (Jolene) being eighteen, Lu (Luisa) being seventeen and Sue (Suzanna) being fifteen, I have my hands full. They're just as beautiful as their mother ever was and they'd just as soon spit in your eye with a chew as to take any guff from anyone.
They've gotten independent and don't tell me all that they do. Like last June at the rodeo. When we met up to go to the hotel for the night, I smelled alcohol and right away demanded, "Who's been drinking?"
"Lu!" Jo pipped up. "Huey was feeding her booze tonight."
"Lu! How many times do I have to tell you girls? Don't do alcohol. Ever! That Huey is one rotten, spoiled shit head. My sister hasn't taught that last kid of hers anything except how to get by with anything he can. I don't want you girls to have anything to do with that cousin of yours. He's more worthless than a piece of dog turd in Central Park, where you need a clean up committee, and you can take that all the way to the bank, You got that Lu? Girls?"
"Yes Dad!" they said, appeasing their Dad with lip service.
Time has been passing way too fast for me and now I'm starting to worry. How many more years will it be before it will be just Shorty and me left here? And the girls gone to goodness knows where.
Shoot! That looks like lights coming this way. It's already almost nine on a Sunday night. Who would be coming at this time?
"Jo! Are you girls decent yet? Bring my rifle and grab your pistol. We got company." Bud exclaimed, jumping up and yelling into the screen door.
Jo stepped out of the house with Buddy rifle and squinted down the road, "That looks like lights on a trailer. I bet one of our bull rakes is here a day early."
"Ya. You're probably right. The weathers got him scared. Wonder who they're sending this time? We've never shipped cattle to Nebraska before. Hope they know what they're doing."
As Jo watched the semi and bull rack come rolling down the trail, she wondered what it was like to see different country every day of the year and thought it might be all right, but you would have to just sit there, every day as the world flew by. And you'd never know how people thought of you. Thinking back to the rodeo this past summer was a good example. One of our cousins on the bull riding night decided Lu should drink with his friends and they all got carried away. Dad had tried to explain to us girls about how we had some genes in our make up that couldn't handle alcohol. He explained how we were hooked on chewing tobacco and alcohol would be much worse because alcohol would make us vulnerable and someone could take advantage of us. We never went anywhere unless we went with Shorty to get groceries in Thermopolis or to Worland with Dad when he would go to sell open cows or buy us another horse. With Dad we would make a day of it.
Anyway Lu got falling down drunk and Huey didn't even think about not sharing. When I saw them through a crack in the door of the horse trailer, I went back to our pickup and got my pistol. When I cocked the gun our cousin and his friends started spouting excuses.
"She wanted us!"
"We used protection!"
"She loved all we did!"
"She asked us!"
That night Lu felt terrible, both physically and emotionally. We never did tell Dad because he would have killed someone. But us girls decided we would never, ever, drink. Period! Lu said she couldn't trust herself. She said, "It was like jumping off of a cliff and into a free fall. You missed the rocks and hit the water so you wanted to try it again. Mostly to see how long you could miss the rocks.
"You're crazy!" Jo told her, "You don't need the boys, and you darned sure don't need the alcohol. We'll carry pistols around everywhere if we have to."
Lu didn't tell Jo the complete truth because she didn't know the complete truth herself. The truth was she had been so out of it, that it was almost an out of body experience at first, sheltering her from the initial assault and pain. As she became more coherent, she experienced the weight and being covered, almost like being cocooned. The truth was she wanted and needed the human touch, and although she was loved, she was also lonely. She did not understand it but the boys had taken advantage of her need for affection.
Carrying pistols had gotten to be a joke for us, but it was also serious business. Dad had bought us twenty two caliber revolvers and holsters for us when Sue had turned thirteen. We carried the pistols when we worked cattle or put up hay, mostly to kill rattle snakes. Lu even dropped a bull once when the old longhorn tried to gouge her horse! Dad just said, "I'm glad you shot him. He was getting down right cantankerous and needed to go down the road. But I didn't know if I'd be able to get him into the horse trailor."
With living on the ranch, we knew what the dangers were. But going out into the world? Now that was scary! Anything could happen and Dad and Shorty weren't getting any younger.
Shorty was filled with worry and concerns. When he had arrived at the ranch, five and a half years ago, the girls were a mess, having lost two mothers in their very short lives. Their father was no help for being a mother and Shorty was more than happy to take over the role. While the the two younger girls needed hugs and reassurance, Jo was never that way. Jo seemed to have a shell or shield around her and no one was let in. She acted out her affections by being the Boss to her younger sisters.
When the younger two would crawl in and cuddle at night, if they were upset about something, or just fearful of a storm, Jo would put on a brave front. But all that ceased as they got older. Now Lu was wanting hugs and cuddles again. Something was wrong. Seventeen year old girls should be grown up enough where they shouldn't need cuddles from a mother figure. There were four bedrooms upstairs in the old ranch house, with the girls and Shorty each having a room of their own. Shorty saw there were mornings in which Lu's bed had not been slept in, and looking into Jo's room, there would be two girls in Jo's twin bed. Shorty didn't know that this was a fix, similar to a bright light to offset depression for people that needed more light in the dreary months of winter. Shorty didn't tell Buddy about the girls sleeping together because Buddy wouldn't have been sympathetic or understanding. Some would say he raised them to be boys.
I was glad when I saw the farm house lights coming into view. I should say ranch house. I'm a long way from the old farm house back in eastern South Dakota. Maybe the house is a little bigger as well. I hope this is the place. I slowed to a halt, throw the air brakes on and jump out. "Is this the Weddem place?"
"This is it." Bud replied. "Think it's going to rain? You're a day early."
"It looks like it. The dispatcher was told to worry about getting in and out." As I was talking, I was sizing up the place. The place looked old, but kept up with very little clutter in the yard. "Where can I park this rig?"
"Swing around the house. There's a tractor back there you can park by. If it rains tonight, don't try to move that semi. You got food for tomorrow?" Bud asked.
"I got a little and I can go without a meal or two if I have to." Eldon replied, putting on a brave face.
"Hell boy, you still look like a teenager. I bet your hollow leg is still there and needs filling. Breakfast at six a.m. Where you from?" Bud was thawing out.
"East South Dakota, close to the Iowa border. And I'm twenty one if you want to know. Grew up on a farm and milked cows and all that other good stuff." About then I noticed his rifle leaning against the door frame on the porch and was glad I had my forty five under the truck seat. About then I also noticed a young cowgirl standing on the porch.
Wow! Was she beautiful or what? Long dark hair with a snap on shirt, tucked into cowboy boots. Standing almost as tall as my five foot ten inches, she was the real McCoy. Then I noticed a pistol in her right hand and all I could think of was, "I'm in love."
"Oh, yes." Bud said, noticing my mouth was hanging open. "This is my daughter Jo."
"Hello." Eldon was suddenly feeling shy and looked down.
"Hi. What's your name?" Jo inquired, thinking he was cute.
"Eldon." I replied.
"Eldon? That's a different name." Jo exclaimed.
"It was my grandfather's name." I replied, halfway defensively. "Elton Gutterson."
"Wow, are you a Viking?" Jo asked, sounding like she was ribbing me.
"No! I'm biracial. Half German and half Norwegian." Feeling more offended all the time.
"That sounds like a paleface to me." Now I knew she was ribbing me.
"Whatever." I replied. "I can see you're of the new breed they call cowboy."
There was dead silence for a moment and then Bud injected, "You should probably park your semi and get some sleep. We'll see you in the morning."
Before I turned back to the truck I saw Jo walking back to the house and I wondered what I had said. I heard Bud yell at Jo, "Hold up Jo, lets not get your tail in a twist!" That really confused me.
For a moment there all I could see was red! I was past livid. No one had ever said that word to my face. He had called me a BREED! That cocky little shit! How dare he! He didn't know the first thing about being biracial. That shithead! I came so close to wiping that white paste off the face of the earth. I looked down at my pistol and my hand was white from squeezing the butt.
Dad was talking as we went into the house, "I think that's the most impartial non racial person I've ever met."
"How can you say that? You heard him. He! Called ME A breed!
"Not in a bad way Jo. I think he was paying you a complement. He meant new, different, better.
"I'm going to ask him in the morning if he can ride a horse. You can ask him tomorrow what he meant. If you never ask, you will never know. I'm going to bed. You girls go to bed too. You need to be ready for some riding tomorrow. Good night."
The next morning Jo was setting the table for Shorty when Eldon knocked at the door. Lu went to get it with a scowl on her face. She opened it and turned around with the door still open.
"Am I late?" Eldon asked, feeling a chill in the room.
"No, you're fine. Come in and have a seat. I hope you like pancakes, eggs and sausage. It's what we're having." Jo stated.
Eldon sat down and looked around and then exclaimed, "Oh no! Jo, when you called me paleface, I didn't realize you and your sisters were part oriental. Is that what makes you so pretty?"
"Oriental! We're half Native American you jerk!" erupted Jo.
"Mom was half native." Sue exclaimed. "Dad said so."
"Her dad didn't claim her so that makes her all native." chimed in Lu.
"Let's settle down here girls. We're all human." Their Dad injected. "Eldon, don't mind my daughters. You've met Jo, this is Lu, and that one over there is Sue. And that's Grandpa Shorty. You ever ride a horse Eldon?"
"Yes." Eldon answered, not thinking about what Buddy was asking. He was looking at the girls instead. Jo might be a little taller but all three looked alike. Sue had gray eyes while the other two had brown eyes. All three were so alive and vibrant, they gave off an aura of the grace of feline cats, They all wore checkered shirts with blue jeans tucked into boots.
"I'll pay you if you'll ride with us today. Our winter pasture is about nine hundred some acres and we need to push everything with calves through the calving pasture and into the corrals. That's where they need to be in the morning so we can sort the calves real quick, and get the calves into the bull racks. We only had a half inch of rain last night so later this afternoon, Eldon, you can get your trailer backed up to the corrals and be the first one out and down the road in the morning. Our corrals are about two miles away beside one of our windmills and watertanks. Can you hall a hundred and twenty head of calves?"
"I can hall fifty thousand pounds." Eldon stated.
"Mm, that's over four hundred pounds per calf. They won't weigh that much." said Bud, putting down his pencil and picking up his coffee cup again. "Girls are you ready to get saddled up? Jo, give Blaze to Eldon. We'll see how he does with him. Let's strap our pistols on and let's head out. We're burning daylight sitting here."
Eldon put his coat back on and watched as the girls strapped on their holsters, caps, coats and gloves.
Jo caught Eldon being mesmerized watching and had to ask, "What? We're working girls. Did you think we'd be wearing Stetson hats, fringed jackets with spurs on our boots? Today all we want to do is stay warm. These stocking caps are warm. And we all have long johns under our jeans. I doubt if it will reach fifty five degrees today!"
"So, you think I should run to my truck and grab my coveralls?" Eldon rhetorically said.
"For sure." Jo nodded. "See you in the barn."
Fifteen minutes later having donned his cold weather gear, he could see Jo had a horse saddled and ready.
"Get acquainted with Blaze and I'll get another saddled." Jo said as she ran back behind the barn.
Ten minutes later Jo reappeared, out of breath, leading another horse already saddled. "How many times have you ridden a horse?"
"We used a horse to bring the milk cows in from the pasture in the summer time. This should be fun." Eldon said half heartily.
"And how big was your pasture where you lived?" Jo asked, being polite.
"About sixty acres."
"Wow! That's small! Why didn't you just run out there and get em. Jo couldn't comprehend a pasture so small.
"Oh, a lot of times we did. Only you don't run milk cows if you want to milk them. It's bad for production." Eldon hoped he was sounding smart.
"Well our job," Jo commenced saying, "is to go to the far end of the pasture and start herding cattle to the calving pasture and from there into the corrals. Any bull or dry cow we'll leave behind if we can. This is a good time for a chew. Have you ever chewed Skoal? This is the cherry flavored stuff.
"No!" retorted Eldon, not believing a girl would, especially this beautiful girl. "I tried it once and it made me sick. Of course that might be because I was drinking beer at the time. I don't think I want to try it again."
"Have you ever kissed a girl that chewed?" Jo asked half teasing.
"I've never kissed a girl ------------ that chewed." Stammered Eldon.
"Oh, my gosh! You've never kissed? You've never, --- slept? How old are you? Really!"
"I'm twenty one like I told you." Eldon said quietly, but defensively.
Jo broke her horse into a slow gallop and Eldon followed suit. After a quarter of a mile Jo slowed down to a walk and Eldon tried to explain. "I grew up going to church every Sunday and our pastor must have had sex on his mind, because he talked about it quite a lot. Because we all were farmers and went to our rural church, he knew that even children knew about animals. He said God made humans with souls and we shouldn't look to the barnyard animals and think that's what humans did. He said Man wasn't a bull stabbing a cow or a stallion topping a mare. In the Bible, Deuteronomy Chapter 22 to be exact, a whole chapter is dedicated to how a man shouldn't act. God wanted man and woman to marry and share a deep bond that is enjoyed by everyone in a marriage. In 1st Peter Chapter 7 Paul said treat your wife like a precious vessel. I always thought, 'Would I want to wake up and talk to that girl in the morning?' I've never met someone that I would want to ask to marry until now!" Eldon didn't know how he could explain how he felt any better, and was half way expecting Jo to start laughing and poking fun at him.
She didn't. All she said was, "Wow!" She then kicked her horse into a trot with Eldon trailing along behind. They trotted till the end of the pasture came in sight, then slowed down again. "You're right!" she stated. There's got to be more. I lost my cherry when I was sixteen and felt like something was missing. We'll chase the cows with calves south and east. Dad, Lu, and Sue will be on the other end of the pasture, bringing the cows north and east. We'll check every draw and push them east onto the flat land and then into the corrals."
Three hours later, all the cows and calves were together and Eldon saw Jo and Buddy on the other side of the herd talking.
"Dad!" Jo spouted, "I want Eldon to stay."
"He's got a job to do. He's got to get our calves to our buyer." Buddy looked at his child and saw fear and pain written all over her face.
"I mean to come back. Get him to stay Dad." Jo was tearing up and wiping her eyes.
"What if Eldon likes one of your sisters better and didn't want you? Could you live with that?" Buddy's mind was racing, trying to understand where this new Jo was coming from and how she was thinking.
Jo stared off in the distance, looking at a mountain top for a minute and then said with a sigh, "I could live with that. I wouldn't like it but I could live with it." Anything at the moment was better than thinking she would never see him again. She had put Eldon on the same level as her Dad and Shorty, as being the only good guys she had ever known.
"I'll talk to him." Bud stated, and turned after a cow that was trying to escape with her calf.
After he had the cow turned back into the herd, he rode on till he pulled up alongside Eldon. "Well son, what do you think of this country? What do you think of this ranch? This is only a small part of it. See that range of mountains. I've got ten thousand acres leased up there. Only about twenty five hundred is grazable but it's still a lot of land to cover when you check on the cattle. There's a line shack up there that we use as a home base in the summer time. We keep horses up there and drive a jeep back and forth. Think you could like it? This country and all?" Bud wanted Eldon to understand this wasn't a piece of cake. "Winter time we get snowed in for weeks at a time if we have a bad winter."
"Oh, I understand bad winters." Eldon said, trying to get his two cents in. "Four years ago, while I was still in high school, we poured the milk out on the ground because we couldn't get the milk truck in. Fifty inches of snow and it kept blowing every day. First one direction one day and then another direction the next day. Roads were all plugged and we couldn't get in or out for two weeks. Not to change the subject, but couldn't this land run more cattle if there wasn't so much sage brush around here? You know, save some of the moisture for grass."
"I know what you're saying Elton, but it was tried in the '20's during the Homestead days and we had dust storms because there was nothing to hold the soil when the wind blew." Buddy was surprised Eldon had been thinking about this. "I've wondered if there is something that could be used that could kill strips of sagebrush without disturbing the soil. I've never heard of anything that would work except for fire and we don't want to do that. While we're talking ranch, I want to throw something at you that you might find interesting. You're a likeable young man that has grown up around livestock and has a whole life time ahead of you. You can still shape your life into anyway you want. How would you like to someday own this ranch? Now that's something you don't have to answer today, but give it some thought. I got three girls and you can spark any of them you want to. This is a deal that could save you a lifetime of struggling. It's here waiting for you! For your son! And for your sons son! I'll give you my phone number and I want you to call me with a yes or a no in the next couple of weeks. That's all I ask."
"Wow! Buddy I don't know what to say. My Dad helped me buy my semi and I would want to talk to him about this. I guess I should say thank you for asking me. I'll think about this and call you."
For the next hour of herding the cows into the corrals, Eldon could think of nothing else but the offer. This place could someday be his? One of those gorgeous girls could be his wife? Then reality started setting in. He would be working as a hired man for the next twenty five years. Could those girls give up chewing? Would the wife wear the pants in the family? Would she think it was her ranch and want to rule the roost? All he knew was a person could put up with a lot for a ranch like this.
After the cattle were in the corrals Buddy yelled, "Let's head for the house and grab a meal. I'm sure Shorty has something cooking. We'll put the horses away and bring Eldon's semi and the loader tractor down here and feed the cows hay. Tomorrow morning when the sun's coming up we'll be sorting the calves off and loading them into the bull racks. Eldon, you'll be parking your bull rack against the loading chute and you'll be the first one out. We've had a good day for this and I think the weather will be fine for tomorrow as well. I think I see another semi pulling into the yard. We're all set.
After supper that night Bud spoke up, "Eldon, since your semi is two miles away, why don't you sleep in the old bunkhouse tonight?
Sue piped up, "Could we play cards tonight? Do you know how to play Rummy, Eldon?"
"Rummy! I grew up playing Rummy. Are jokers wild?"
"Oh, yes!" Jo spoke up, "And we play to five hundred per game. That way it's more skill than luck if you win. Ace high."
"Leave me out." Bud stated,"I'm going to bed early tonight. You guys don't stay up to late either."
"Yes Dad!" chorused the girls.
"OK, goodnight. Till six tomorrow morning." reiterated Buddy.
Shuffling the cards, Elton started making conversation and finding some connection with the three girls, "Back home in the winter time we played a lot of cards. Once us boys were in high school our Dad would even share his beer with us." Looking around he knew he had said something by the expressions the three girls were giving him, "What!"
"We don't drink alcohol in any shape or form." Lu spoke up, "If we have a little, we just want more. We have some control, but it's still too big of a temptation for us to flirt with. Up in the Crow Country, those people joke about falling off the wagon. They try not to drink because they know they shouldn't. But, they hit a disappointment in their lives, or as they would say, a bump in the road and temptation takes hold, and they've fallen off the wagon."
"Wow! You can't ever risk the addiction. That's got to be tough. When I was in high school we all had beer on Saturday night. After a couple or three, we'd go home and not think about drinking until the next Saturday night. Sure we all got shit faced at least once, but after suffering a hangover we usually decided we didn't need to do that."
Jo spoke up, "It's getting too late to play. Eldon, why don't I show you the bunkhouse and where you will be sleeping."
"OK, I guess I'm getting kind of tired. OK, lead the way Jo." Eldon was befuddled a bit, having not even started playing cards, but thought Jo wanted to talk alone in private and was just being devious. His thoughts were interrupted when Sue pipped up, "I'm coming too!"
Jo gave Sue a look and said, "You don't need to!"
"But I want to!"
And then Lu pipped up, "I think I'll come too!"
And Jo rolled her eyes! Eldon said, "What's this all about?"
Jo tried to explain, "I know Dad talked to you Eldon. And I know he would like you to come back! I want you to come back too! For me!"
"What do you mean, for me. We like Eldon. We've always have done every thing together. Can't we share?" Sue asked in a huff.
"I don't think Eldon would like that. Jo said, tying to pacify Sue.
"We should ask him?" Lu stated, thinking Eldon was nice and would never hurt her.
"Why don't I give each of you a hug and we'll call it a night. I don't need a bunch of girls fighting over me. Tomorrow morning is going to come early and I've got a long drive ahead of me tomorrow. Jo, why don't you take me back to my truck and I'll sleep in it tonight. Knock on my door in the morning when you're ready to load." At this point Eldon was feeling overwhelmed. These girls were intimidating!
After the hugs and after Jo took Eldon back to his truck, Jo looked at him and said, "You're not coming back are you?"
"No, I don't think so. We're just too different in who we are and how we were raised." Eldon was trying to explain what he was thinking to himself, as well as how to get Jo to understand.
"I don't think that's it at all! We're more alike than you realize!" persisted Jo.
"We'll see. Eldon replied, and then to himself he thought, "I could never give up my beer."
The next morning Eldon went without breakfast and didn't mind at all. After loading the calves Eldon headed out and thought of all the things that had transpired in the last two days. He verbalized it out loud, "If I were to go back next week, in ten years, I don't think I would recognize myself. I think I'll stay a truck driver."
Watching Eldon going down the road, Jo turned to her Dad and said, "I'm never leaving! I'm going to grow old and die here. If no one will stay for me, I don't want them."
"Well, I guess you'll end up with the ranch then." Buddy said, trying to make her feel better and neutralizing her melodramatic mood.
"That's not why I'll grow old here." Jo was feeling the disparity of a loveless future.
"I know." Buddy replied, feeling her pain. "Once we get this next semi loaded, let's spend the day up in the high county and see how much snow is up there. It'll do us good. We'll take the jeep and see how far we get."
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