( Intermediate Level )
Jeff was a troubled youth, who lived with his father and a younger brother in the small town of Dubois near the Wind River. Life as a young teen, was difficult being a son of a rancher. At age 16, he had a tremendous amount of responsibilities.
His mom had passed, a year and a half ago, after a long battle with breast cancer. Beau, his dad, was doing the best he could raising two boys, alone. He had lost his high school sweetheart and now faced life, with their sons, without her.
His brother, Samuel, was still too young to help with the cattle, in fear he may get hurt. His father didn’t want to suffer another loss. Samuel, instead, remained close to the homestead tending to the smaller animals.
With the burden of a two thousand acre ranch and six hundred head of cattle to tend to daily was a lot for Jeff and Beau to do alone. They could not afford to have hired hands. The medical expenses that occurred during his wife’s illness and the funeral had wiped out everything they had saved.
Jeff would attend school when he could. Often, his father needed his help so Jeff would stay home to help him. His teachers never understood why Beau would allow this. After all, they would tell him, “Education is important.”
Beau’s response was always the same, “Look, it is just me and my two boys. I cannot lose my ranch. My ranch will be theirs, one day. It is all I can give them, as my father passed it down to me. So, if Jeff misses a few days of school here and there, what harm does it cause? “
The teachers were empathetic of Beau’s plight but it was their responsibility to report this habitual absenteeism to the head of education. From there the truancy officer would follow up with the local courts.
Under the pressure of the education and juvenile court system, Beau, reluctantly, agreed that Jeff would not miss any more school for the rest of the year.
As the school year continued, Jeff’s attitude towards school and his classmates became hostile. All Jeff could think about was his father, his brother, and the ranch.
He knew his father spent many extra hours tending to the ranch, alone. Working himself to where he couldn’t move anymore and would fall asleep early. He barely ate dinner or spent time with the boys.
The worry on his father’s face was evident. All Jeff knew was he didn’t want to lose his father too. He didn’t want his father to succumb to an illness as his mother had. Then it would just be Samuel and himself.
Jeff was falling behind in – class assignments and never turned in any homework. He didn’t want to be bothered. He would wake up early to help his dad for a few hours, before school and do the same when he got home from school. The school was the furthest from his mind.
Beau took the opportunity to speak with his eldest son, on a late afternoon, after school. They were herding the cattle to a different grazing area. “Son, I have decided to sell off all but fifty head of cattle and sell off all but 3 horses. I think as long as you are in school, I need to make things more manageable. We will take a huge loss since the cattle prices are down but I cannot think of a better option.”
Jeff thought, after he heard his father’s words, his grandfather sacrificed for his father and now he will sacrifice for his brother and himself. This ranch is his family’s legacy. A legacy that would be his and his brother’s one day.
His father continued, ” I’ve talked to old man Blake in the next valley. He said he could offer fifty dollars per head for bulls and twenty – five dollars per head for any steers, heifers, and calves. He said he had plenty of horses but was willing to pay forty dollars per head for our horses. As much as I hate to take such a loss, I agreed. He will come this weekend with his men and herd the bunch to his land. Unfortunately, mom’s horse, Abigail, is part of the deal. We don’t need an extra mouth to feed if the horse is not being used.”
Jeff couldn’t believe what his father had just said about his mom’s horse. Abigail was her pride and joy. She was the last thing they had of their mom’s memory. He didn’t want her to be sold.
Jeff’s anger at his father whelmed. How dare he think it would be okay to sell Abigail. He kicked his horse and rode off in a canter towards the field where Abigail had been turned out. The tears were streaming down his face.
He saw Abigail out in the field and began to whistle. She raised her head and looked. His mom had taught her to come to a whistle which his father always thought was silly. “She is not a dog “, he would tell her.
Abigail let out a whinny and galloped towards Jeff. He jumped off his horse and threw his arms around Abigail’s neck. He buried his face in the sorrel– colored neck and began to cry uncontrollably. He hadn’t cried since his mother’s death. His grandfather used to tell him when he was much younger, “Real cowboys don’t cry.”
Abigail stood there quietly as if she knew Jeff needed her. She stood completely still while Jeff let out the tears of sadness he had bottled up for almost two years now.
The sun was setting by the time Jeff contained his tears. He gave Abigail a forehead – to -nose nuzzle and said, “Let us go home girl”. He threw his leg up and over the saddle of his horse and grabbed the reins. He gave a short whistle and Abigail trotted behind Jeff and his horse, towards home.
Beau was standing outside waiting for Jeff to return home. He had finished moving the cattle and headed towards home when Jeff took off on his horse.
Beau was relieved when he saw Jeff crest the hill to the north and saw Abigail gingerly following. “What was his son up to?“, he thought.
Jeff, on his steed, and Abigail came to a halt at the porch steps where Beau was standing. Jeff looked into his father’s eyes. He was gathering the right words to say to him.
” Poppa, I know momma is gone and nothing will ever bring her back. Abigail is the only thing we have left of hers. Having Abigail, somehow in my mind, makes me feel as if she is still here with us. I am not willing to have her sold to old man Blake’s ranch. We can always get more cattle, in the future, but not another Abigail. Let my horse go and I will use Abigail to do my work on the ranch.”
Beau stared out into the distance after hearing his son’s words. Jeff sat, anxiously, in the saddle unsure what his father would say. Jeff’s horse was a great cutting horse whereas Abigail was never trained in cowboying. His mom had pampered her and she was more of an oversized dog.
Beau cleared his throat and began to speak quietly and calmly to his son,” When your mom was sick I promised her I would do my best to raise you boys the best that I could. I told her I wasn’t perfect and I would make mistakes. I would make sure you had a roof over your head and food in your stomach. As for all that the rest of life would bring I would take it day by day.”
He continued to stare into his son’s eyes and, ” I guess this is a time that I’ve made a huge mistake. I hadn’t realized how important Abigail was to you. I will let old man Blake know he will have one less horse to take. I am sure he will understand once I explain to him.”
Jeff, immediately, relaxed in the saddle and looked at Abigail who was standing, ever so patiently, by his side. He quickly gave her a brush on the neck. He then looked up at his father and gave a slight nod and a tip of his hat. This is the first time Jeff had spoken his mind to his father. He was on his way to becoming a man.
As Jeff and his horse headed to the barn with Abigail close behind, he thought to himself, his mother would be very proud of him. There are some things, in life, more important than money and sometimes we need to sacrifice to keep the things we love and cherish, including memories, close to us.
Written by: Angel
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tremendous – adjective: great amount
homestead – noun: the home or land occupied by a family
hired hands – noun, plural: a person hired to do short-term manual work
empathetic – adjective: ability to understand
plight – noun: unfortunate situation
habitual – adjective: done or doing constantly
absenteeism – noun, plural: required to be present at a place or event but is not
truancy – noun: the action of staying away from school without good reason
juvenile – adjective: young people
hostile – adjective: unfriendly or aggressive
succumb – verb: the effect of a disease or injury
herding – verb: practice of caring for livestock over a large area.
sacrificed – verb: give up something important or valued
legacy – noun: an amount of money or property left to someone in a will
steers – noun, plural: castrated male calf
heifers – noun, plural: a young female cow that has not borne a calf
pride and joy – idiom: someone or something that makes someone very proud and happy
whelmed – verb: engulf
canter – verb: to ride a horse at a speed between a trot and a gallop
whinny – noun: high–pitched neigh or sound a horse makes
galloped – verb: ride a horse at full speed
sorrel – adjective: reddish color coat or fur
trotted – verb: a pace faster than a walk
to crest – verb: to reach the top of a mountain or hill
gingerly – adverb: with extreme care regarding movement
steed – noun: a horse being ridden
cowboying – verb: work as a cowboy or horse on a ranch
pampered – verb: to treat with extreme or excessive care
cherish – verb: hold something dear or close
Do you feel crying is a sign of weakness?
Have you kept something (item) to hold onto a memory?