It’s a boy! (Nowhere Ranch is out to the betas)
Somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good, because after all the screaming and wailing and not being able to finish TTT or get anywhere with anything, Monroe Davis decided to visit me and give me his story. I hinted at this the other day in the Cheating Bastard entry, but now it’s offical. Nowhere Ranch is a novel. The betas have it, and gods bless them all.
This was weird, because it was first person. In the end I liked it, but I was apprehensive for a long time. As a craft exercise, it was very educational. Man, the form stuff you can pull with FP. Just let the story go as it wants, and if you miss something, you just say, "Oh, and about X" and back you go. Of course, this is thanks to Roe. Pretty much I just sat down, said, "Hi, hon," and he told me the story. We struggled at first, because I wasn’t sure about this direct address of the audience, but this was the way he wanted it, so there we went. Every now and again our wires would cross too, and Roe, the high school dropout, used words like "ostensibly." Not so much. I also learned more about sheep husbandry than I really needed to know. Also soil. Sometimes these guys creep me out. I write something down, and I think, "I didn’t KNOW that. How did I write that?" Oh well.
And this is another smutty one, folks. Smutty, smutty, smutty. Except I get it. Roe is very about making you see him all the way to the core, and you have to see the raw guts too.
I need to check one thing though, so maybe somebody knows. How big is a "big spread" in ranching? How small is a small one?
Anyway. Monroe Davis lives. Now the trick is to quick go finish TTT, because Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite snuck over to me early (I’m sure it’s all Sam’s doing) and now Sam is bouncing up and down and shaking me, saying, "Come ON!!! We have to DO THIS!!!!!" Which is fine. We just have to do Ed and Laurie first. Because I am stubborn.
Teaser below. I’m still not sure about the opening scene, so I’m skipping and going to the second. I love the third scene, but it’s a brutal tease. If I end there, you’ll kill me. Though it’s the end of chapter one, so when it’s up for sale, that WILL be the scene to tease with.
I met Travis Loving two years after I got out of prison, when I went out to work at Nowhere Ranch in northwestern Nebraska. I had been working my way around the Midwest, doing time in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, but Nowhere was the furthest west I’d yet gone. I will admit I answered the ad because of the name. That and because if I went through one more fucking North Dakota winter I was going to hang myself. I had heard it wasn’t quite as bad in western Nebraska. So after a good few days of fucking in Omaha, I sent an email, the ranch manager said he’d give me a try, and off I went.
The other thing I liked about Nowhere Ranch was that it was a hobby ranch, almost as small as a larger farm. This again is why my story would make a crap movie. I know everybody’s all about the sexy cowboys and ranches and tumbleweeds blowing by you, but I grew up on a farm, and it’s what I know. Ranches usually feel too big, and it’s like it’s the wrong culture or something. The ones in Kansas were the worst, and from what I gathered it was only going to get worse down south, which was how I ended up in the Dakotas. I liked the idea of Nowhere being middle of the road geographically, but it was going to feel more like the work I knew best too.
It really was out in nowhere, though. Apparently it had gotten its name because the owner had kept talking about how he was moving out to the middle of nowhere, and the name stuck. But it was a good, solid operation, especially considering Loving was still pretty greeen. The feed was all organic, and he had just about as many sheep as he did cattle. The ad said hands would be expected to shear, which was what they were having a harder time finding. We only had sheep six years, but I knew enough about them to know what I was getting into, and I could legitimately claim experience with them. So I had an edge there. And best of all, from the way the manager talked, nobody else lived on site. At first that had worried me, because that’s just weird as hell, no hands at all on the ranch, but the manager said it really was that small, that they rotate through a set of local guys when they need him. But he said he liked the idea of me living on side, and if I wasn’t fussy there was an apartment above the stable I was welcome to. It wouldn’t cost me anything if I was willing to be on standby to do work off the clock, like help round up steers that got out or help with somebody sick. Which was why I was kind of wondering about nobody being on site. But okay. So it would just be me and the hippie at the ranch with the manager down the road. As long as Loving didn’t want to talk politics, that’d be fine.
Plus, as soon as I heard about having my own apartment, not a bunk, I was ready to do about anything to get there. I was careful about anybody finding out I was queer, but I still can’t shake the feeling that, like it was with my mom, something I didn’t expect would trip me up. I was pretty sure handing sheep and calves wasn’t going to give me away, but in my own place I could jack off porn without watching to make sure nobody noticed there was nothing but dick in what I watched. That was a big plus.
When I arrived at Nowhere, though, I found out that the manager hadn’t been kidding. The apartment was a real fucking dive. It was about twelve by twelve, and I think the carpet had been there since 1972 without once making the acquaintance of a vaccuum. It was furnished, with a bed and a table and a recliner and a bedstand, but I took one look at the bedding and headed into town to hit WalMart, and while I was there I picked up a bottle of bleach too. Jesus, but that place could have given you the clap, I swear. And that was the main room. I won’t even talk about the bathroom. Eventually I went back to WalMart and got a new shower curtain and even a new toilet seat. I also hauled the recliner out to the garbage, because it had a mouse nest in it. By some miracle the bed wasn’t gnawed, but I’d be getting a new mattress shortly too.
I was still overall pleased with the place; a little cleaning and replacement parts and it was a palace to me. The only problem was that there really wasn’t a kitchen to speak of, just a dorm-sized fridge and a hot plate. It’s not like I’m any kind of a gourmand, but eating out all the time gets expensive, and I get tired of sandwiches. It was enough of a hitch in my getalong that I thought about asking my new boss-man about it, but I couldn’t figure out if I should ask Tory, the manager, or if I should go straight to Loving. In the end I decided I could limp along at least to start. I’d ask about getting a moderate kitchen upgrade once I had a better lay of the land.
The first two weeks I only saw Loving the one time, and even that took four days. Tory Parrish ran the ranch, that was clear. He took orders from Loving, that I knew because every morning they stood at the fence rail, Tory nodding while the owner spoke quietly, his tan cowboy hat bobbing as he turned this way and that, gesturing to fields and barns and equipment. I saw Loving head out on his horse a couple hours after the last of the hands had gone home and he’d had his evening meeting with Tory. Sometimes I would watch him ride out, because it was a nice vista, man on horse, silhouetted against the sunset. And yeah, the hat helped.
I was not crushing on him or anything. To be honest, it wasn’t until later that I got a good look at him, and even then I didn’t exactly feel like my heart skipped a beat at the sight of him. He was tall and broad, but actually he’s a few inches shorter than my six-two. I have always run a little to skinny, though, and the years of drug use didn’t help that any. So he was shorter than me, but he felt bigger.
Older, though. By this time I was almost twenty-five, but Loving had to be pushing forty, I figured. Later I found out that actually he was forty-two. So, yeah. I’m not ageist or anything, but he seemed more like my dad than somebody to ogle. Also, he’s the boss. I knew he used to be a professor in Omaha and that he was divorced with no kids, and I knew he’d only owned this ranch for about three years. I figure even that little was more than I needed to know, except that he signed the paychecks. But I did note that he wasn’t bad looking, though more clean-cut and fussy than I cared for. I seem to look scruffy even right after a haircut, but Loving looked like the guys you saw at the bank. The old farmers who paid cash for brand-new trucks. Well, again, like my dad. So mostly I didn’t pay him much attention outside noting when he was around so I could work harder at not being a dick. Because I did like the job, and outside of the kitchen, now that I’d put things to rights, I enjoyed the apartment.
One Saturday night, though, there was a knock on my door, and when I opened it, by God if it wasn’t Loving standing there. I didn’t even have time to worry that I was in trouble, because he just gave me a curt nod as a greeting before coming right out with, "We got trouble on the north ridge. Tory said you’d agreed to help after hours?"
I nodded, but from the grim look on his face, I wanted to add that I would have lent a hand regardless for anything serious, just because that was what you did. But he didn’t look like he was much up for conversation, so I just hustled into my boots, grabbed my hat, and followed him down the stairs.
Tory, who only lived a few miles down the road with his wife and two kids, was already on a four wheeler, and I knew this wasn’t gonna be fun when I saw he had a rifle stowed in the back. Loving had his own ride waiting beside Tory’s, but I noticed there wasn’t a third, so I climbed on behind Tory and reached back to hold onto the rack as we rode.
Loving keeps his sheep pretty close to the ranch, and he uses some kind of custom fence to keep wolves and coyotes out. So I was pretty sure that wasn’t what was going on. But when I saw the ewe bobbing around, bumping into the other ones and acting like she was drunk. I knew what we were in for even before I was told. Except it turns out I was the only one who did know.
"It looks neurological," Loving said, sounding uncertain though, and Tory just shrugged. He had hired me, he said, because none of them knew Jack Shit about sheep, and I was just now realizing how little.
"It’s neurological all right," I said. "That ewe has rabies."
They both turned to me, looking like I’d just come out.
"How can you tell?" Tory asked.
I motioned to her. "She’s acting all crazed. It’s eating her brain right now. We got to put her down and get her the hell out of here. And we need to isolate the rest of this herd right quick. Groups as small as you can get. You don’t know how many she’s bit."
"I’ll call the vet," Loving said, reaching for his phone.
"Ain’t no point," I said. "Well, I guess you could get a vaccine into each of them and hope for the best. Though that would probably ruin your organic certification."
"But there’s a treatment," Loving pressed. "They give it to people."
"Yeah. And it’s several thousand dollars a pop. This is thirty head of sheep. You’d do better to slaughter them and buy new before you did that." I gestured to the huddled herd. "Just partition them off as best you can and wait it out is my advice. Either they been bit or they ain’t, and you just wait and see." I grimaced and tugged on the brim of my hat. "What you need to do is call all the hands and make sure none of them’s been bit. I think that’s the only way we could catch it. But you only got so many hours between exposure and death."
Loving, likely imagining the wrongful death lawsuit, reached for his phone again. But Tony already had his out and waved him off.
"I’ll call the boys. You two get her put down and figure out how the fuck we’re going to isolate them."
Loving nodded and reached for the rifle, but he glanced at me as he loaded the cartridges. "You’re sure about this?"
Hell, yes, I was sure. "They get it from skunks, see. Anyway, it’s the sort of thing you don’t mess around with, sir. She could infect half the herd tonight. Better to kill her and I’m wrong than wait and lose them all. Anyway, the only positive test is to examine her brain. Which kind of requires her to be dead."
Loving grimaced and nudged his hat higher on his head with his knuckle. "And here I thought footrot was hell."
"Oh, everything about sheep is hell," I said. "We never cussed more than the six years we raised them."
"I was thinking more in the lines of a Scotch neat, but yes." Loving sighed and raised the rifle, only to lower it again and glance at me. "Would you mind trying to separate her a little? But don’t expose yourself to her."
"Hell, I already had the shots," I said, heading for the main body of the herd. I clapped my hands and said, "Hee-yah!" until they started to bleat and stumble over each other trying to get away. The rabid ewe followed them for a second, then fell. She got up pretty quickly, and when she did, she came for me.
I wasn’t too worried, because sheep don’t exactly set land-speed records, but I was interested in not catching any stray gunshot. Turns out I needn’t have worried, because Loving could shoot a single hair off your head at a half a mile, I swear to God. He put the bullet right between her eyes, and she went down like a ton of bricks.
"I got hold of everybody," Tory said. "And they’re all coming in too to help sort them out. I thought probably in the stalls in the horse barn. Chaucer and the boys won’t hurt to be out in the pasture a few days. And we can whip up temporary pens in the south field."
And that was that. Loving stayed through to help. We ended up only losing two more sheep total, which was good. But I didn’t talk to Loving again that night, and not again through the next week. And after that, he took off. Tory said he’d be gone through the weekend.
Which, I thought, maybe this would be a good time to get away myself. I was starting to get itchy, and an online search for nearby gay bars informed me I would be going three hours north to Rapid City to get laid. I worried Tory would say I couldn’t leave the ranch unattended, but he said not to bother about it. He was already coming over extra with Loving gone, and he’d said have a nice time.
The drive was okay, better than I-80 from Iowa, anyway. Mostly I didn’t notice, too busy thinking about how I could spend the next forty-eight hours fucking and getting fucked. I was so horny that I wasn’t really particular. There was only the one bar, and I had no delusions that there would exactly be a prime selection of candidates. Still, I checked into my hotel, showered, and fussed with my clothes before heading over at nine.
It was small, really small. It was dingy and sad and hard to take after the flashy stuff I had gotten used to in Omaha and Kansas City. Even in North Dakota I had gone to Fargo, which hadn’t been bad. This place was a different story. There was hardly anybody in there, either, and most of them looked like they’d already hooked up. But I saw one lone cowboy sitting at the bar, and I beelined to him, determined to spread my legs for him even if he looked like Ethel Merman.
You probably saw this coming, but I have to tell you, you could have knocked me over with a feather when the cowboy turned around and I realized I was staring at Travis Loving.