Authors: Sharon Flesch
|Sharon Flesch (2012)|
Life on the Kilbourne Cattle Ranch will never be the same.
Nestled in a remote Montana mountain valley, this has always been a peaceful place. Jack, his dad, Will, and Andy have always kept it simple - hard work and a feeling of contentment at the end of the day. They like it that way.
When Jack finds his long lost daughter, his life seems complete until tragedy strikes leaving him to raise an injured grandson he has never met. The men are definately going to need help.
Jack thinks he's found just what the doctor ordered. What he doesn't realize is the 'sweet little lady' is going to turn their lives upside down and inside out. Determined to turn the old ranch house into a home and this bunch of contankerous men into a family, Adrianna Banks, armed with her faith in God and a quiet sense of humor, sets out to just that.
A third generation Montanan, Sharon Flesch was born in Havre and raised in western Montana, in the heart of cattle country. The granddaughter of horsemen and homesteaders, she has an abiding respect for the land and the people who make their living off the land. "Quilting bees, Grange hall dances, hard work and faith in God were a part of my childhood. My dad’s father was a horse trainer and trader in southwestern Montana, and my dad spent a part of his childhood living in ‘Robber’s Roost’. His mother cooked in mining and sheep camps. My mom’s parents homesteaded in Whitepine, just west of Thompson Falls. Her mother was the church pianist and they were of active in the local Grange. I learned to dance at the Grange by riding around the floor on Gramp’s toes while my dad played in the band. It is this rich heritage that I bring to my writing." Sharon graduated from Thompson Falls High School. She lives in Hot Springs with her husband, Ray, on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Over the years she has worn many hats: wife, mother, Nana, substitute teacher, Girl Scout and 4-H leader, choir director and Sunday school teacher, grant writer and business owner. She is now returning to her first love, writing, and several new books are in the works.
A golden glow surrounded the billowing clouds above Pineridge
Mountain, as Adrianna curled up on the wicker settee in the breakfast
nook. Sipping hot chocolate, she scanned the headlines of the morning
paper, turned back to the window and gazed at the snow-covered fields in the
distance. The sun peeked out through the clouds for the first time since
It seemed like an eternity, but in truth had only been
two weeks since her children had been home for the holidays. Her sister-in-law,
Maggie, had known how empty this first Christmas without Jed would seem to
Adrianna, Chad and Amy, and had done everything in her power to make it a
carefree time for her brother’s family. Adrianna had decided just last
night to invite her to dinner this evening; with Maggie and Red’s divorce
looming on the horizon, she was sure that Maggie could use a bit of tender
times had she sat in the nook watching the sun coming up over the mountains in
the east, planning for the coming day and dreaming of days past. She had come
to this cozy house on the edge of town as a bride, spent over twenty years
here, raising her children, and building a life with Jed. Four years ago, life
had suddenly changed with a single word, “Alzheimer’s.”
At first they had
gone on as normally as possible, but slowly there were changes; the business
was sold and Adrianna began to manage the parts of their life Jed had always
handled. Decisions had to be made and she made them . . . good, bad or
indifferent . . . she made them and went on living. Jed lost contact with
this world, his memories, his sense of self, and she lost him. Long
before the night last February, when he had died in his sleep, she had lost
Chad came back
from the air base in Germany, Amy drove home from college, they laid Jed to
rest, and life went on. She still played the organ at church every Sunday
and attended to all her civic and volunteer obligations, but something was
missing. The kitchen was spotless, as always, the living room was
cluttered with just enough projects to look homey, but Adrianna no longer felt
alive and at home here.
stirred at her feet, and yipped to be let outside. “What a sweetie you are,”
she murmured, bending down to pet the little dog softly. “I honestly
don’t know what I’d do without you.” It felt good to be needed,
even if it was only by a little white, fluffy mop of a dog.
chocolate was no longer hot, and the paper was unread. How long she had
spent with the memories of the recent past, she didn’t know. One thing
was for sure - sitting here feeling sorry for herself wasn’t going to do any
good. As a matter of fact, keeping so busy she didn’t have time to think
didn’t work either; she had tried that too.
‘If I can just get through
playing the organ for Max Watson’s funeral service this morning,’
‘then I’m going to sit down and figure out what to do with the rest
of my life.’
sorted through the closet a dozen times seeking something appropriate to wear;
not many things fit her slender figure except her sweaters and jeans.
Cooking for one was definitely not any fun, and she was much thinner now.
She decided not to fret about how she looked. She would be sitting behind
the organ and no one would notice the frumpy dress.
services had been short and Mark’s sermon uplifting, focusing on new life and
renewed courage. If she hadn’t known better, she would have believed it
was aimed directly at her. “Max Watson lived each day of his life as if
it were the first day of the rest of his life. He was the first to admit
he’d made plenty of mistakes but Max never looked back, only ahead,” Mark had
help but notice all the smiling faces she saw along the street on the drive
home; perhaps, it was because she was truly smiling for the first time in a
very long time.
The sun was shining on the new-fallen snow, and
the ugly slush of the previous week was now lying under a carpet of
‘What a perfect day for a new beginning!’
the dull ache in the back of her head was feeling much better.
Pausing in the
living room only long enough to phone Maggie, she went down the hall to the
bedroom, braided her hair and threw on her old sweats. Adrianna rinsed
off the make-up she disliked, but had always felt compelled to wear in public,
pulled on her coat and boots and headed for the park. Chester romped
beside her as she walked, and at times only his little black nose and brown
eyes were visible. The wind was all but gone and in its place, the fresh
clean scent of winter. The snow crunched beneath her feet, and the sun
shone like diamonds on the fields as she passed.
softly to herself as she hung up the phone. Adrianna always seemed to
know when she needed a pick-me-up and this was going to be a particularly rough
day. She was not looking forward to seeing the first client at her
employment agency this morning. Jack Kilbourne had called her office
several weeks ago, asking that she find a housekeeper/ tutor/ nurse for his
grandson. Even under ordinary circumstances this would be a tough bill to
fill, but these were extraordinary circumstances. Kilbourne Ranch was on
the eastern side of Pineridge Mountain, forty-five miles from town on a
mountain road. Finding a woman with the qualifications for the job would
have been tough enough, but finding one willing to sign a year’s contract in
such a remote location had turned out to be impossible. She dreaded
telling Mr. Kilbourne she had been unsuccessful. She had a feeling this
man was not used to taking no for an answer.
Jack looked around
as he brushed the snowflakes from his jacket. The office was neat, well
organized and professional looking.
Maggie offered her hand while rounding the big desk, piled high with folders.
“Mrs. Banks.” The
man standing before her had a strong handshake, was all of six feet tall and
muscular. His skin was dark with weathering common to men who worked
outdoors. He removed the black western hat, revealing the curly salt and
pepper hair that matched his beard.
“Most folks call
me Jack,” he said, as he settled into the high-backed chair opposite her desk.
Maggie Banks sat down at her desk, leaned forward with her hands folded in
front of her, and looked him right in the eye. She struck him at once as
an honest and caring woman.
“Most folks call
me Maggie,” she replied, feeling him study her from across the desk. “I
wished I had better news for you. I have searched high and low for a
suitable employee for you, but haven’t found anyone I would recommend.”
She paused for a moment, shaking her head in regret. “I found
several qualified applicants who were unwilling or unable to work in such a
remote location. I also found several unqualified persons who were
willing to move to the ‘country’, but I doubt that they would work. I
think they looked at this as a glorious vacation opportunity.”
with a knowing half-smile and looked down at the floor. How was he going
to convince a judge to give him custody of his grandson, if he couldn’t find
someone to care for him? “Damnation,” he swore softly under his
breath. “Mrs. Banks . . . Maggie, the California courts and Montana Child
Protective Services say I can have custody of my grandson, providing I can make
arrangements for home schooling and physical therapy. Do you have any
suggestions at all?” he asked, settling back further into the chair.
“Well now,” Maggie
said, offering him a grin with a grimace. “The position you wish to fill requires
either a wife or an angel, both somewhat hard to come by on short notice.
In fact, the only woman I know who comes close to fitting the bill is my
sister-in-law, Adrianna, and she’s definitely not in the market for a job.”
“I suppose she has
a family to care for or a full time job already.”
she is a widow with two grown children, but I’m quite sure she wouldn’t want to
apply.” Maggie had to suppress a grin at the strange twist this
conversation had taken.
Jack studied the
woman across from him. He sensed she was beginning to wish she had
not mentioned this Adrianna, whoever she was.
“Did you ask her?”
“No, of course
not, I’m sorry. I never should have brought her up. I was kidding .
. . trying to take some of the tension out of the air, I guess.” Maggie sighed,
realizing again just how serious this man’s situation was. “Look,
Adrianna is a lovely lady and I’ve always said there was nothing she couldn’t
handle, but it’s out of the question.” Maggie tried to sound very firm and
regain control of the situation. ‘
Me and my big