Entry for "Flash Fiction" contest
Dave Barkley hunched his shoulders; bent his body into the cold Montana wind and made his way through the snow. His crappy mood mimicked the dark gray clouds rolling in from the northwest. More snow and high winds were predicted for the entire region. If the cattle in the far meadow were going to survive through a storm, getting hay to them was once again; his responsibility.
“Thank you,” he said, as his old Ford truck turned over with the first try. With any luck he figured he could get to the meadow, drop the hay and get back before dark. He had put it off far too long; the “showdown” with his younger brothers was going to happen tonight. The load of hay tipped precariously as he gunned the motor and headed north.
Like so many times before the conversation earlier in the day had ended in another heated argument. Before Chris and Sam left the ranch to do chores at the “Double J”, Dave had cornered them.
“Are the two of you about done chasing after Molly?” Dave asked in frustration.
“What the hell does that mean, Dave?” Sam barked back. “Molly has nothing to do with this.”
Dave stood silent for a moment, choosing his words carefully. “It appears like you … you both spend more time on the “Double J” then you do here … working the Barkley Ranch.”
“You damn well know we made a promise, Dave, and we ain’t going to let Jake down. Didn’t we tell him we would look after things while he was gone?” Sam screamed.
“Sam is right, Dave, besides that ain’t what’s got you bent sideways anyway, your days on the rodeo circuit are over and you just can’t swallow the fact,” Chris said as he walked out of the house followed by Sam.
As the two cowboys climbed into their pickup truck and sped away, Dave continued to holler.
“We ain’t selling the ranch.”
Left alone with his thoughts, Dave regretted some of the things he had said. The boys were right; they had made a promise to their neighbor Jake Johnson. He also knew Molly and her father Pete couldn’t look after the livestock without help. When they made the commitment, nobody knew Jake would be gone so long. Giving your word and keeping it was important to a man, and he knew his brothers well enough to know they would never break their word.
Forced into giving up bull riding because of injuries, Dave had returned to the ranch. For seven years on the circuit; he had sent his winnings home to help keep and build the ranch his grandfather had settled on in the late 19th century. Lately, Sam and Chris had expressed thoughts of putting the ranch up for sale. Greed, not common sense was doing the thinking for them. They'd been listening to the fast talking realtors and not listening to their hearts. Dave was sure his brothers could never walk away from this land any more then he could.
The sun had set hours ago. Snow drifts taller than a man had formed around the ranch house and all the out buildings. The wind whistled a warning in the pines, “Men caught in the open never return from the blizzards grip.”
Sam and Chris paced the kitchen floor; looking out the window with each trip across the room. Their worried faces disclosed what both were thinking. Dave was lost in the blizzard.
“We gotta do something, Sam … he might be hurt … maybe that old truck finally died.”
“What do you suggest we do, Chris? Look for yourself … a man can’t see his own hand at arm’s length in this whiteout. Throw another log on the fire and get some coffee going.”
Sam hid his worry as he gave his little brother something to do. Once again he stared out the window, assuring himself that all the outside lights were lit. “Where you at, Dave?” he asked out loud.
An hour later a muffled knock at the back door brought both brothers running. Their brother stood frozen in place unable to make the last few steps into the warmth of the house. They carried him to the living room and sat him down facing the fire.
Several minutes later, Dave spoke. “We ain’t sellin’ this land.”
“You’re right, Dave, we can’t leave our land.” Sam said as he threw his arms around his older brother.
“Can you forgive us for even thinking about it, Dave?” Chris asked, as he joined in the group hug.
“Hey … hey, get off me now, you both are acting like a couple of tenderfoots. Is that coffee I smell ?”
Prompt: “Sam, Chris and Dave, Montana, winter, greed and forgiveness” 800 words or less.