Kivi trudged through the mud carrying two pails filled to the brim with aromatic silage. She stacked them in the Gator. They were the last two to cart out to the back 40.
“Hup” she shouted and 3 sleek Australian Shepherds jumped into the passenger side; two on the floor, one on the seat.
“Let’s go kids, we have work to do” tongues lolled and eyes watched. “Yeah, I know, but at least the rain stopped” Sure, it stopped but after three days of rain and drizzle it was like walking on snot. At least it wasn’t cold.
She drove out of the compound and down the dirt track that went back to the paddock where the cattle waited, noisily, for breakfast. No doubt they were unhappy at being down in the paddock but they were all heifers and she wasn’t taking a chance.
After she parked, she climbed up to stand on the door ledge for a quick head count, before she hopped down and started to dump the feed into the troughs. There were only 25 head in the pen. The bull was still up in the barn, living the cush life while the ladies slogged. The pasture that sat behind the paddock was about 50 acres of meadow and small copses of trees dotted it along the meandering stream that watered the herd when they lived there.
In the “BFN” there were another 500 head, but they were old hands at birth and watched closely by herself and her daughter . She really needed to hire a foreman. She felt the familiar press behind her eyes as the memory of Jack’s grizzled face sprang to mind.
She hopped back in the gator and drove the fence. This was her wind down for her busy morning and as the little green machine bumped along the rutted trail she sipped her tippy cup of coffee and mused about life.
An hour or so later she found herself in the Kitchen with clean clothes,a full belly and a cup of coffee. Cattle handled, she looked at the planner that held her life. She was looking forward to riding out to check the cows in BFN.
“Mom! You about ready?” Ivy asked. At 12 she was rail thin and had Kivi’s sleek Blonde hair with her absent father’s blue eyes. He wasn’t an ass, he was absent by design. To be fair, Kivi thought little of Tadgh unless Noodle brought him up.Otherwise, the gangley pre-teen looked just like her Mom.
“Yup” was the laconic reply as she grabbed her riding gloves, a light plaid and headed to the mudroom. “Just gotta get boots on. Don’t forget your gloves and hat!” after shoving her feet in well worn cowboy boots she slammed her hat on her head and jogged out to the barn. A few moments later, Ivy came pelting after her.
A quick whistle and the three dogs materialized and fell into position behind the two. In the barn were a dozen horses, all well trained cow ponies. Roman the bars, Zeus, her stallion, poked his head over the door and blew softly out of his nose. He knew it was work time. Mac, Ivy’s Gelding, whickered a greeting.
“Ride Mags today willya Noodle? She needs the stretch and I’ve got two client Zooms this afternoon so I won’t have time.” she asked before she could haul tack out.
“Yup” she said, in the same laconic tone and pattern as her mom. Kivi chuckled as she went to get Z’s gear. He was a short horse, with a good back and a big ole booty. Quarter HOrses were Kivi’s favorite breed, with most any other stock horse high on her list. There were a couple of intriguing breeds that bounced in her mind but they had no place on a ranch.
Work saddle and lariat in place, she walked out to the tack room to finish up with a set of saddlebags, pre-packed with a bare first aid kit, a length of rope, a small tarp and other items that might be needed on the trail. Always be prepared.
“Hurry up pokey” Ivy called as she headed out of the barn.
It’d been a good call, putting Ivy in charge of feeding and grooming. While born of necessity when Jack had passed, it had turned into a very good thing.
“I’m coming. Hey, the horses look great!” she gave credit where due but wasn’t one to mince words if things were not right.
“How many calves ya think?” she asked
“As many as 5 since we rode up last weekend.” Kivi answered. “Listen, I told ya bout the zooms. It’s possible a hoity toity rider from out east will be coming to relax. So keep it to a dull roar”
“You said two.” She inquired
“Yea, the other two are College friends from Davis” came the smooth reply. She hoped it didn’t quiver like her stomach did at the thought. She’d dropped out of Davis to come home and never went back. Vet school with a kid had been hard, but not as hard as running the ranch had been. “Gods we need a foreman and a good hand.” she thought to herself.
“Took a message from a man who wants to interview,” Ivy said, “I nearly forgot”
Kivi just shot her daughter a glance and they rode on in silence for a while, this was a familiar ride and it relaxed them both. Companionable silences were a commodity in today’s world.
Kivi looked back down the hill as they headed up and took in the view of the valley and their home. At one time the house held her parents, her aunt, her cousins and herself. Jack lived in a house near the cattle yard with his son, and their two hands in the loft apartments over the big utility garage. Her grandmother had her own special suite just across the drive and she had lived into her 90’s.
Kivi’s dad was gone, early and taken by an accident on an icy road 5 years previously. Her mom had set out to travel to all the places they’d wished about but never got to see. Kivi let her go because grief was hard and Jack had been there. Now Jack was gone and her mom had decided she was done with rancher life. She hadn’t been born a Locke, but Kivi had, So Kivi stayed and her Mom lived in Cheyenne.
She looked down at the main house. It had happened in parts so It was a very interesting shape, but it’s broad timber and local stone made it snug against the trees and the view from the living room was fantastic.
The last bit of trail up to the pasture led though Kivi’s favorite area, because no matter how fast and lovely the house vista was, the clearing and view of the Rockies was breathtaking. It didn’t matter how many times her family and friends hit this view, they always stopped to take it in. She did so now. The air was fresh and filled with the flora of the area, the rain had bruised the leaves and the air was pungent. Thick conifers lined one side of the meadow hid pockets of snow and a small valley spread out to the left and before her. This view was why she’d die here and she hoped, this view would have Ivy carry on the legacy. Locke ranch was over 100 years old and she hoped it would be 100 more years.