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Rated: E · Assignment · Drama · #2062106
Description of Setting for Novel, not a story itself.
Old Cowboy Setting

         Gabe leaves his small family farm. It’s not much of a farm really. He’s retired, but tends the vegetable garden and helps mow the grass. His son-in-law, a workaholic insurance executive, tends to the animals. His daughter has her herb garden and chickens. She works a full-time job. His teenage grandson has no choice but to get up hay in the growing season, and tend to the yard. Aside from chores and sleeping, they’re hardly ever there.

         So Gabe leaves every day when possible to visit his retired friends. Driving down the divided highway in the hills of western Virginia, he loves viewing the woods, the fields, the dilapidated barns, the modern homes, the old churches, and the cemeteries dotting the hillsides. Interstate 81 runs parallel to the road, so huge beacons for gas and food rise above the hills. A bank branch seems out of place in the rural setting. Pastures of black angus graze on the hillsides above a winding creek.

         He turns at the gas station/rustic truck stop onto another state road. It winds around until he comes to the big rock work posts with the name of the home. It’s an old farm, a very big farm, that was converted decades ago to a modern retirement community. He drives past the first row of condos, where the independent retirees live. He’s impressed by the style and class of the vehicles parked in front of them. He wonders if his old pick up is out of place.

         He finds his appointed place behind one of the apartment buildings. His friend Doug comes out to greet him. It’s a late winter morning, but they can still see their breath in the air. They head across the parking lot to a rock and wood building, entering on the ground level. It’s a community room, with a big unused fireplace, nice paintings on the wall. The furniture is sturdy and comfortable. There are tables and stackable chairs lined up for activities, the kind of furniture that’s easy to move. The chairs have arms to make rising easier for old people. The big screen TV is playing old Westerns, and old men are gathering around the round table. Cards are being shuffled. Smoking is not allowed, but they all have drinks, if only coffee.

         The sounds of laughter and tall tales fill the room, along with TV sounds. It smells of Brut, Polo, and Ben Gay. Gabe and Doug venture out into the sunlight which has warmed up the air. They go to the main building to visit Doug’s friend, a former neighbor who had a stroke. The administration, cafeteria and infirmary are all housed in the same building. They take the elevator with wide doors up to the main floor. In the day room, there are a few wheel chairs. Before going in Gabe notices the sounds of birds. Doug takes him into the main lobby.

         There they find a built-in bird cage. It’s all glass to protect the birds, the ventilation system out of sight. The birds fill up the case from floor to ceiling. Three sides are glass. Gabe looked for a window or opening, but couldn’t find one. Yet they were listening to the chirping of dozens of colorful birds. Doug explains it’s soothing to the patients, and a point of fascination for guests. The birds are well cared for and protected. It’s a cheerful addition to the well-decorated lobby. Even Gabe finds some joy looking at them.

         The two old men go back to the day room, where the old westerns play on the ceiling hung TV. The nurse fills out forms at the standing desk. One old lady works on a jigsaw puzzle alone. Visitors visit with a grandfather who’s all smiles, but wearing a bathrobe and holding a cane. Doug and Gabe are here to see a man sitting in an arm chair who’s had a stroke. He can walk, and hears okay. But he doesn’t focus his eyes or talk. He’s still a little handsome for his 80’s, good posture and bone structure. This room smells of cleaners and medicine. A young nurse walks by smelling of a fragrance by Fergie.
Despite the chirping, and the TV, this room is sort of quiet. There is no loud laughter or joking around. Even the uniformed housekeeper moves quietly around. There’s a buzz of activity in this room and the hallway. They visit and leave again.

         Once outside, they decide to walk to the stables. It’s a pretty good walk, but they need the exercise. They watch the horses in the field, and the groomsmen tending to the ones at the stable. The smell of hay and manure stirs in the air. They lean on a fence and call over a horse which obeys. They stroke his head and rub his neck. The sight, sound, smell, and feel of animals makes them feel invigorated. A cat creeps out of the stable like it just woke up.

         They walk back, enjoying the sun. They part at the cars, and promise to do it again next week.

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