Authors: Kimberly Lewis
Ha ha, yes I’m
up,” she replied with the same joking manner. Misty glanced from her father to the horse and reached out her hand to stroke its neck. “She’s beautiful,” she told him.
She sure is,” Jack said with a sense of pride in his voice. “I plan on breeding her with the Palomino stallion. The combination should throw a nice foal. I’m going to walk her over to the corral on the north side. Want to come?”
Misty nodded her acceptance and walked next to her father to the corral. The walk was a quiet one. Her father was never much for conversation. The strong silent type is how she would describe him. She glanced at him and noticed the specks of gray that were starting to peek through his whiskers and around his hairline. She tried to remember if they were there the last time she had seen him. Then she tried to remember the last time she had actually seen him. Had it really been a year? The thought saddened her. Everything her parents had done and still did for her and how does she repay them? By visiting once a year? Never again, she swore. She made a promise to herself then and there that she would never let anything, or
, ever keep her from her parents again.
Jack opened the gate and unhooked the lead rope from the mare’s halter. She trotted into the open circle and whinnied to the horses in the next corral. They watched her as she danced along the fence. Jack tipped his cowboy hat up from his forehead and rested his arms on the railing. He kept his eyes on the horse as he spoke.
Your Momma told me everything. Don’t worry I’m not going to ask you to talk about it. I just want to assure you that your life will get better. You can be yourself now, and not what he wanted you to be.”
Thanks Dad, I really appreciate that,” Misty said, smiling at him.
He turned to look at her, smiled, and adjusted his hat. Then he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and walked with her back toward the house.
It’s a good thing you showed up when you did,” he told her, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze. “I’m short a few ranch hands and now that you’re here that’s one less person I’ll need to hire.” He chuckled.
Misty laughed in reply and gave Jack a playful smack on his arm. She felt right where she belonged. And somehow she knew that things were going to be better from now on.
That’ll be four dollars and forty nine cents,” the clerk said.
Dylan pulled five ones out of his worn leather wallet and handed them over to the clerk. He slid the wallet in his back pocket and put the change in a jar on the counter. After the store clerk handed him his soda and sandwich, Dylan walked out to the gas pump where his truck was parked. He got in, took a sip of his soda, placed it in the cup holder and started his truck. It came to life with a rumble and the man at the next pump gave him a startled expression. Dylan shifted into gear and slowly pulled out onto the main road.
This would be the last lined road he would see on the way to his family’s home. From here it would go to unlined pavement and then just a plain dirt road. It was a beautiful seventy five degree spring day so he rode with the windows down. The long drive from Oklahoma had left him tired and worn out. But the cool air coming through the windows brushed across his face and arms leaving him feeling refreshed.
He had told his mother the last time they spoke on the phone that he would be in town by Friday. It had been quite some time since he had been in his hometown of Stockford, Texas. The last time he was here was for his sister’s wedding and that was almost two years ago. He had a different reason for his return now.
He’d never forget the way his mother’s voice shook on the phone while she tried to explain to him that his father had been in an auto accident and hadn’t survived. Dylan had been in Oklahoma helping out on a friend’s ranch when he received the news. Somehow, he felt as though his father’s death was his fault. If he hadn’t been away he might have been there with him that day and could have prevented the accident somehow. Although he wasn’t to blame, he was pretty sure he would never be able to forgive himself. But now it was his mother who needed him, and he would make sure he was there for her in every way he could possibly be. Dylan pulled off of the main road and headed onto the first road that would lead him to the country.
He reached the old dirt road that lead to his family’s ranch, and as he drove down it a trail of dust followed in a cloud behind him. Lining both sides of the road were rustic wood fences. On one side is where they kept the herd of cattle and on the other was where the horses grazed.
The drive down the road brought back memories of him and his sister, Beth, riding their bikes down this dirt lane. They would race from where the black top ended to the gate entrance, and the loser would have to do the winner’s chores for that day. He smiled at the memory and thought of his sister now. She had been in a state of shock the last time he attempted to talk to her. He remembered listening to her sob on the phone and wishing he could be there to comfort her. They had always been the closest of friends growing up, and it killed him that he was so far away when his family needed him.
He pulled up to the gate and drove under the old wooden
Willow Creek Ranch
sign that hung over the entrance. His father had decided to name the ranch after the place where he and his mother had been married. Wesley McCoy had purchased the land a few months before meeting Katherine, and when he met her it was love at first site. When they decided to get married
,they chose the old willow tree that sits down by the creek as their location for the blessed event. His mother always described that day as the most romantic day of her life.
As he drove up the driveway he took in his surroundings. The house was a dark brown Cape Cod style with a wraparound porch. Wesley had built it himself with the help of his father and brother. It was surrounded with a beautiful flower garden that his mother took pride in maintaining. The variety of blue, purple, pink, and yellow buds made the house look cheerful. The barn, which sat to the left behind the house, had the same dark brown wood siding. The tin roof was starting to show its age by rusting in spots. There was a lean-to addition added onto the barn where the tractor was kept. The yard itself was surrounded by the same rustic wood fence that lined the horse pasture, and to the right of the barn was a small corral.
He pulled his truck up to the house and parked it next to his sister’s car. Her husband, Alan, was out on the porch smoking a cigarette when Dylan walked up the steps.
Good to see you, Dylan,” Alan said, shaking his brother in law’s hand. “I’m sorry about your father. It’s such a tragedy,” Alan said sympathetically.
Thanks Alan, it’s good to see you too.” Dylan appreciated his kindness. He had always liked Alan and was thankful that his sister ended up with him instead of one of the many jerks she dated before him. “Are the ladies inside?”
Alan nodded and took a puff of his cigarette. Dylan walked through the back door and saw his mother and sister sitting at the kitchen table. They looked up when they saw him standing in the doorway. Katherine’s face broke free of its blank stare and she started to cry. Dylan was by her side in an instant. He knelt down on one knee beside her and took her in his arms. Katherine’s shoulders shook from the sobs that were taking over her. He could feel the lump in his own throat start to rise but he held back. Men didn’t cry. He looked past his mother to Beth and saw that she too was crying, though she wasn’t uncontrollably sobbing like his mother was. Her one arm was resting on the table while the other held a tissue to her cheek.
Dylan gave his mother a tight hug and gently let her go. He walked over to Beth and gave her a hug as well, and then took the seat next to her. She took a ragged breath and told him that all of the arrangements had been made. His father was to be buried two days from now. It would be a small ceremony, just the family. They had chosen the willow tree as the place for his burial as it had always been a special place for him and Katherine.
Why don’t you go to your room Mom, and take a nap? I’ll make us some dinner and Dylan and Alan can take care of the animals,” Beth suggested as she rose from the table.
Katherine took a deep breath and nodded. She rose from the table, kissed each one of her children, and headed off to her room. At Beth’s request, Dylan walked outside and joined Alan. The two men walked to the barn in silence and proceeded with the chores that needed to be done. Dinner was eaten in silence that night as well. Funny how cheery the house had seemed when he had pulled into the drive late this afternoon. Now there was this gloomy presence that seemed to hover. Dylan could tell that it was going to be a long time before anyone would be back to normal.
The next few days seemed to drag by. His father had been buried and it was a beautiful ceremony. The Pastor spoke of how strong willed his father was and how he put his family first above all else. His speech was the most truthful thing he had ever heard anyone say. His mother spent most of her days lying in bed. It was all he and Beth could do to coax her to eat something. Beth seemed to be handling things better. She had taken on the role of head of house for the time being till her mother felt better. The added responsibility seemed to help heal her emotional wounds.
After dinner that night Dylan found Beth sitting on the porch rocking in one of the old chairs her father had built. Alan had had to return back to their home as he was only given a few days off from work for the funeral. Beth sat staring into the darkness of the night sky. It was quiet except for the crickets chirping. She turned her head at the sound of Dylan’s boots on the wooden boards. A forced smile spread across her face and she looked back into the night.
Mind if I join you?” Dylan asked cautiously.
Not at all,” Beth replied looking to the chair next to her.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, their chairs rocking in sync with one another. He was just about to speak when she started before him.
Dylan…do you still believe in God?” she whispered.
He looked at her with confusion. When he didn’t respond to her she continued.
I’m starting to think that I don’t anymore. I’m just so confused. I look at all of this,” she said, waving her hand out in front of her. “And I think that He must exist.” She paused for a moment, taking in a deep breath. When she looked at him again there were tears in her eyes. “But when I think of how He took Dad away from us, it just makes me wonder how He could do such a thing. Like if He really did exist than why couldn’t He do something to prevent the accident from happening?” A tear rolled down her cheek and Dylan wiped it away with a gentle swipe of his thumb. He cradled her face in his hand and then wrapped his arms around her. She buried her face in his shoulder and wept quietly.
It’s ok to feel the way you feel, Beth,” Dylan assured her. He pulled away from her and she wiped the tears from her cheeks with her fingertips. “You blame God for what happened to Dad and I can’t help but blame myself.”
She looked at him with a confused look. “How can you blame yourself, Dylan? You weren’t even here.”
Exactly,” he whispered. “If I hadn’t gone to Oklahoma I would have been here. Maybe, just maybe, I could have done something to prevent it. I don’t know what exactly, but I can’t help but think that.” His voice shook a little as he spoke. The lump in his throat was making it hard for him to talk.
Dylan, don’t. You can’t put the blame on yourself like that when there really was nothing you could have done. I’m sorry I brought the subject up. I guess we just have to learn to accept that it was his time. I do still believe in God, but I guess I’m just angry and sad because my child will never get to know his grandpa.”
Dylan’s eyes met hers with a surprised expression. “Did you just say
child?” he asked in disbelief.
Beth smiled and a tear fell down her cheek. “That’s right big brother. You’re going to be an uncle.”
Beth! How come you…how long have you…” he stuttered. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” he finally blurted out.
She let out a tiny giggle and pulled her sweater around her chest crossing her arms. A slight breeze had picked up, making the already cool night air more brisk. “I just found out a few days ago. Alan and I were planning on telling everyone soon, but then…” She trailed off not trying to bring the subject of the accident up again.
Aw Beth, I’m so happy for you! You and Alan are going to make great parents,” Dylan told her enthusiastically. He noticed her shudder and he stood up from his rocking chair holding his hand out for hers. “Come on mommy to be, you best be getting to bed. It’s been a long day and you need your rest.”