Endless Trails(9)

By: Bonnie R. Paulson

They got ready and fed Cody, and Ryland got them some breakfast. Back in the truck, they rode out towards Bess Ranch with directions from the motel manager.

Beautiful trees lined the drive, shading off the already rising sun.

Parked along the fence by the southern part of a large barn were a line of trucks and horses. Tucked into the hillside, the house was hidden in part by over-cropping rocks and other trees.

Ryland bypassed the tryouts for ranch hand positions and went straight to the main house.

Amy tagged along. Cody would be about ready to come out and go for a walk while Ryland asked his questions.

Climbing from the truck, Ryland came around and helped Amy out after she pulled Cody from his chair. The small boy snuggled into her arms and she put the pacifier into his mouth. He was awake for a little while, watching as the sun blinked overhead through the leaves.

Amy followed Ryland up to the front porch. He knocked the heavy-metal knocker over the metal ornate B on the large thick wood door.

A kindly older couple answered. “The tryouts for ranch hands are down at the stables. I don’t hire women for ranch hands.” The man was gruff but kindly as he took in Ryland and Amy’s appearance.

Ryland held out his hand. “Ryland Johnson, Sir. I’m not here for the ranch hand position. I’m looking for Nate Rourke. Rumor has it he’s been working here at the ranch for a couple days?”

The elderly man took Ryland’s hand and shook it, a new light in his eyes. “You know Nathan?” He looked back over his shoulder and motioned the older woman up to stand beside him. “Mother, they know that nice young man we just hired. His last name is Rourke. I didn’t know that. All he said was his name was Nathan.”

The woman came closer, her hands folded at her waist. She glanced from Ryland to Amy’s face and then her gaze traveled naturally down to the small bundle in Amy’s arms. The woman of the house widened her eyes and she reached out to softly touched Cody’s small back. “My, what a sweetheart. I’m Mary. This is Dean, my uncouth husband. We sure like that Nathan. He’s one sweet boy. He doesn’t talk much. But that can be fixed.” She smiled again at them. Her blonde and white hair fell down her back in a loose braid with curls around her face.

Dean motioned toward town. “I asked Nathan to run into town and grab me some more supplies. He should be at The Hardware Shop about now. I’m surprised you missed him, although he was riding that horse of his. I keep telling him horses are more of a help than he realizes. I couldn’t even get my truck out because of all the other guys parked there. Nathan, sure as heck, oh sorry, dear, just took his horse and walked right through the mess like it wasn’t even there.” He nodded his head and pulled up on the strap of his red suspender.

“Thank you for the offer. We’ll go back into town and see if we can find Nate – Nathan. I have some family business to discuss with him.” Ryland had taken off his hat and he turned it over in his hands while conversing with Dean.

“Oh, you’re family?” Dean narrowed his eyes at Ryland, his white eyebrows craggy and drawn together like a tight line.

“Yes, sir. I’m Nate’s younger cousin. We’re a pretty tight family. We can tell Nate’s missing. He’s a pretty big part of the family.” Ryland added in good-naturedly, “I’m not sure that I miss being wrestled around by that big guy, but other than that, he’s missed.”

Dean chuckled. “No, I don’t imagine you do.” He looked again from Amy to Ryland and then at Mary. “Well, my offer stands. Family of Nate is good enough reference for me. If you’re still looking for something to do after talking to Nate and you want a job, you’re welcome here.”

Pointing a gnarly knuckled finger at Cody, Dean tilted his head. “I’m sure we could find something to do for the little one, too. How about that, Mother? Maybe you could talk this nice young lady into helping you out around the house while you watch her little one.” Mary’s eyes widened once more as she considered her husband’s words.

She looked hesitantly at Amy. “Only if it’s something you’re interested in, dear. Don’t feel pressured to do anything. You guys run into town and the offer stands. If not, no hard feelings.” She smiled, and then again reached out and softly patted Amy’s shoulder.

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