Chapter 20

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Gary grabs the red handled Channellock pliers that lay on the ground. Expertly he places the pliers on either side of the water hose end and tightens it. After turning it one more time he slips the pliers in his back pocket and bends to turn the faucet on. Intently he watches where the hose connects to the faucet to be sure the new hose end holds. A smile takes place on his lips when he is sure it will.

The old hose busted from the water freezing inside of it the night before. Gary is sure this isn't the only place that it had happened, so he set to work early in the morning. Now, just having finished his third one he is slightly irritated with the cold weather. The busted hoses and pipes aren't the only thing it has been affecting; his finger tips are feeling it too.

As he turns out of the well house he is met with twenty head of weanling heifers. "Move out girls, I already fed y'all." They scatter, all of ten feet, when he flings the old piece of hose in their direction.

Once he is back in the comfort of his pickup cab he slightly unzips his jacket and removes his gloves. He holds his fingers up to the vents and wiggles them around. "Be sure to stay indoors as the temperatures are due to dip down in the teens tonight," the radio blares.

Gary cracks an amused grin and shakes his head. "If they aren't smart enough to wear polar bear clothes or not go in it telling them won't help." 

As he drives with one hand the other rests on the console and he hums along to the old country song that plays through the beat up speakers. He smiles when a little calf cranks his tail up and zooms across the dirt road to his momma. Just down the road he pulls off on a side road and flips the switch to the siren to call them up.

While the siren blares he jumps in the bed of the pickup to fill the feeder with the appropriate amount of cattle cake. As soon as he has that done he begins to count the cows and then the calves. This specific pasture calves in the fall, winter time so it is not uncommon for a couple to be out calving and not come in.

A sigh escapes him when for the third time he comes up short ten cows. One, two, even three missing isn't a big deal, but ten? That spikes concern. Is there a hole in the fence? Have they gone to the neighbors? What am I going to tell Mrs. Carol? He shakes his head. No, that's not how I'm going to think like that. These things happen and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. I could ride this pasture all day everyday and it would still happen.

With a heavy heart he jumps in the cab and clicks the button for the feeder to begin to put the cake out. He mentally counts it out while guarding the feed truck down the make shift road. Just as he cuts it off his phone starts to ring. He grins and laughs when he sees his dad's name. "You reading my mind or something?" He answers.

His dad's deep rumbling laugh comes across the line. "Not that I know of, why?"

"I was just about to call you." He can almost see his dad's grin grow.

"God had me one step ahead of you. What've you been up to?"

Gary turns the pickup back onto the main dirt road. "Ah, just feeding." Then in a low and burdened tone he adds, "And trying to figure where I start."

Benjamin's voice instantly softens. "It's your first time to fully run a ranch; you can't expect it to all fall into place the first week."

A slight irritation comes over him. His dad has never been one to pry if you want to know what he thinks about it you just have to come out and ask. "Dad, what did you do when you had cattle missing during the calving season?"

"Ole, it depended on a lot of things. How long have they been missing?"

Gary cracks a grin. Of course, now that he got him started Benjamin is going to get all the details. "This is the first feeding that I've had ten missing. My calf numbers have been coming up, so I haven't been real worried about two or three."

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