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The Cowboy’s Son

Copyright © 2018, Patrick Mangan

Published by Painted Hearts Publishing

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The Cowboy’s Son

Copyright © 2018 Patrick Mangan

ISBN 10: 1-946379-78-6

ISBN 13: 978-1-946379-78-8

Author: Patrick Mangan

Editor: Ashley Kain

Publication Date: January 2018

All cover art and logo copyright © 2018 by Painted Hearts Publishing

Cover design by E Keith

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.

All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.


“The ranch covers all the way to the tree line, back there.” Charles pointed. “To the road that way, and over to those big cottonwood trees, with some hay fields on the other side as well.”

Ben followed Charles’ directions as he referred to each area. The Denton Ranch wasn’t immeasurably huge, but did cover quite a bit of the ground seen from the barnyard, where they were standing.

“We have a couple of streams that flow through the place, but we don’t own any land bordering the river. The floodplains and riverfront belong to our neighbors,” Charles continued. “As you saw when you were in the house interviewing, we have a great view of the river because the house is perched on the edge of the bluff that drops down to the floodplain.”

“It’s an amazing place, sir,” Ben said.

“Thank you,” Charles responded. “It’s been in the family for two generations now. We were lucky to get some really good ground, right up against the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area.

“Ah, there’s my son, Justin. You’ll spend most of your time working with him this summer. He’s just getting home from school.”

Charles and Ben watched an old Ford pickup make the journey down the driveway and stop next to the ranch house. A young man got out of the truck, throwing a book bag over his shoulder, and walked toward the front door.

“Hey Justin!” Charles yelled across the barnyard. “Come over here for a minute. Got someone I want you to meet.”

Justin changed directions at his father’s summons and crossed the barnyard to where the two men were standing. The kid was tall and had some well-developed muscles. The legs of his jeans bulged as he walked over to his dad. He pushed up the brim of his ball cap as he got close, revealing his sky blue eyes.

“Justin,” Charles said as he reached them. “This is Ben. He’s the guy I’m hiring to help out for the summer. He came up for an interview and tour. We sealed the deal, and he’s taking the job.”

“Howdy, Ben,” Justin said, extending a hand.

Ben shook the outstretched hand and said hello back.

“He won’t start for a couple more weeks,” Charles continued. “Plan is the Monday after your graduation as the first official day on the job. He’ll have use of the old bunkhouse by the creek as part of his salary. He can stay with us during the workweek, so he doesn’t have to drive back to Missoula every night.”

“Smart choice,” Justin agreed. “Nice to meet you. If you don’t need me for anything else, can I go inside?”

“Sure, son.”

Justin said his goodbyes as he shook Ben’s hand before spinning on the heels of his worn leather boots and heading back toward the house.

“He’s a senior in high school, turned eighteen a couple months ago,” Charles told Ben, watching Justin walk away. “He’ll finish up school in a couple of weeks, then be ready to work fulltime over the summer with you. He has a good handle on things, and can help you out as much as you need. He’s a good worker. It used to be just him and me doing it, but I’ll be out of commission this summer as they fix up my shoulder, so I won’t be able to help much. Hence your job.”

“When’s your surgery?” Ben asked.

“A couple days after graduation,” Charles answered. “I’ll be absolutely useless for half the summer. They’re planning to have me in a brace for weeks!”

“I hope it feels better in the end, after it heals all up,” Ben offered.

“Me too!” Charles chuckled. “Hurts like hell when I do most things right now. And they tell me if I try to do stuff, I run the risk of tearing it up worse, and making it a tougher, longer recovery. I have a sling to wear for the time being, but that thing’s a fool’s contraption, so I can’t be bothered.”

“Your son and I will have things under control for the summer, so you can relax,” Ben said.

“I know you’ll both do fine,” Charles responded. “We’ll expect you up here the Monday after graduation, ready to go for the summer.”

“Yes sir!”

Ben walked back to his car after he said goodbye to Charles Denton. What a relief! He’d found a job and a place to stay for the summer. His kid, Justin, seemed nice enough, and if he’d grown up here, Ben was sure he knew all the ins and outs of things and would probably do most of it all by himself.

The job at Denton Land and Cattle Ranch had been a good find. He needed both a good salary and a place he could live for the summer. It was a bit rustic, and way the hell out of Missoula. But he’d have his weekends to get off the ranch, go to town, download movies on his computer, and stop by the library to get some books he could read at night. This place was just what he needed so he could unwind all summer long. After the semester he’d had at school, he could use a break from reality, and all the drama of college life.


How the hell did this attach? The kid took it off like it was a pair of socks. Can’t be that hard to put back on. Ben stood there, holding the turn-on valve for the irrigation line, trying to figure out how to latch it back onto the mainline that carried the water from the creek through the field. He’d been trying, unsuccessfully, to put the contraption onto the mainline after Justin set it in his hands, pointing to the riser it would hook onto.

Ben sighed and tried to put it on once more.

“Come on man,” Justin said, holding the first piece of pipe in his hands, waiting for Ben to hook it up and clear out of the way. “Hook in on the riser and let’s get this line set up so we can turn in on.”

“Sorry,” Ben shouted over his shoulder. “I’m having some problems with it. Not like the stuff I’m used to working with.”

He heard Justin set the pipe down and walk up behind him.

“Just slide it on the riser there,” Justin said, pointing, “then lock the collar around that lip. It’s easy. Pretty much like any other kind of pipe imaginable. It doesn’t change.”

“Okay, thanks,” Ben said, curtly. Like any kind imaginable. Fuck! Not like what I was imagining at all. Wasn’t ranching all about checking cows on horseback and fixing fence? Justin spun on his heels and headed to grab the second piece of pipe off the long pipe trailer hooked behind his truck.

“Ow! Fuck!” Ben shouted, backing away from the mainline and riser. He was holding his hands on top of his head. “Fuck! Hurts like damn hell!”

“What happened?” Justin asked. He continued to pull a piece of pipe off the trailer instead of going over to check to see if Ben was okay. Asshole kid!

“I leaned into the damn fence as I was hooking up the riser and hit the crown of my head on the wire,” Ben yelled. “The damn fence shocked me!”

“Well, yeah!” Justin laughed. “It’s a hot wire. It’s supposed to do that. That’s what keeps the cows in. Of course it hurts. Don’t touch it anymore!”

“Thanks for the sage advice!” Ben snarled out.

“It’ll sting for a minute, but you’ll be fine,” Justin offered. “I mean, come on, we all touch the electric fence from time to time. It just hurts worse because it was on your head.” He moved toward the turn on valve with the first piece of pipe, ready to hook it up and get the line turned on.

Ben stomped over to the trailer to get a piece of pipe and lay it down behind the other ones Justin had laid out, that looked like an easy job. All of this was a pain in the ass, and the head, much harder than it was supposed to be.

He was busy wrestling his first piece of pipe off the trailer, also unsuccessfully, when Justin called out again. “You didn’t get the turn on valve latched right. You can’t leave it like this. It’ll blow off the riser, might clock one of us in the nose and spray water everywhere if it’s like this when the line hits full pressure. And it’s a real pain in the ass to turn off once it’s open and shooting water all over the place. Also, grab that pipe in the center, at the balance point. It’s easier than doing what you’re doing, going from the end. I thought you’d done irrigation pipe at your place?”

“Damn it!” Ben yelled, dropping the end of the pipe he was holding, listening to it clatter, half on the ground, half still on the trailer. “None of this is fucking easy. And I don’t need some little high school brat telling me what to do every second!”

“Well you’re zero for three on the knowing what the hell you’re doing at the moment,” Justin said, letting his voice rise in volume. “I mean, it’s an electric fence and fucking pipe, how hard can it be? You’re struggling with the first thing we’ve done all summer, and this will be the easiest thing we do. And I’m not a little high school brat! Turns out I’m the owner’s son and have been doing this my whole life. I’ve been out here every day in the summer since I was ten years old. It doesn’t make me a know-it-all, it makes me someone who doesn’t want to wait around all day for you to figure this shit out!”

Damnit! Justin’s right. He’s going to wait around on me until I can figure it out. Or until he figures out my incompetence. “Fuck!” Ben sighed, letting his anger dissipate. He was mad at himself, not Justin.

“What was that?” Justin yelled. Yeah, he was still pissed. He was bent over the first pipe junction, latching it to the second one.

“I said I’m sorry,” Ben offered up. “Or well, I should be saying I am sorry.”

That brought Justin up from what he was doing. “It’s okay,” he mumbled, “let’s just knock this line out, get it up and running.”

“No, it’s more than that,” Ben said. “I lied. I lied to your dad in the interview. I don’t know how to do this stuff. Never seen it before.”

“Oh fuck,” Justin said, his turn to sigh. “You’ve never been on a ranch before?”

“I’ve technically been on a ranch before,” Ben answered. “My grandma has one. Just never did these kinds of things. We got to run around the fields, water the goats, and play in the creek, not divert the creek with a pump and pipes to sprinkle water all over the place. Or work on fence. Or hell, even really touch the fence, other than to get through it. I’m in over my head, and it’ll show up soon. I thought I could pull it off.”

“I’ll go tell your dad I lied to him.”

“Dude, you’re fired,” Justin shook his head. “He’s not one you lie to. I should know. You’re out of here.”

“Sorry I fucked up,” Ben said, turning away. “I just needed a job. This job, and the bunkhouse to live in. I thought it would be easy, and when I asked my friend at the university about working on a ranch, he said it was all easy work, and would go just fine. But I can’t do this to you. I’ll drag you down. I’ll go tell your dad, and get my stuff out of the bunkhouse. Have a good summer, and congrats on graduation.”

Justin watched him walk over to the truck, reach inside to grab his water bottle off the seat, and start walking across the field. He’d have a good walk, they were about two miles from the main house. Serves him right, lying to get the job.

He turned around and got back to the task at hand, now something he was going to have to do all by himself. Jackass! Who lies about experience to get onto a ranch? Who would WANT to come out here and do this if they didn’t know anything about it? Justin fumed about the revelation as he laid out the next several pieces of pipe. Then, as if one of his favorite teachers was in the back of the truck ready to give him instruction on this life lesson he had just witnessed, he heard that teacher’s time-honored saying echo in his mind; ‘this is the danger of a single story.’

Justin sat down on the tailgate for a minute, thinking through what just happened with Ben. Justin could only hear the single story, that Ben lied to his dad, and wouldn’t hack it on the ranch because he didn’t have the experience. Once he wrapped his mind around the idea that he was judging the situation from only one narrative, he searched for the other perspectives on this situation.

What is the counter-story here? What did Ben say? He needs this job, and the bunkhouse. Why would he say that? And he said it was easy work. Well, Justin pondered what they needed to do for the summer. It was mostly easy, at least on the mental side of things. It’s just moving pipe, picking up hay bales, building fence, other small things. Fuck! Justin had said it himself. He’d been doing since he was ten. If a ten-year-old could do it, a college student could do it. Ben would learn quickly enough. He needed to go find Ben and talk to him, find out the rest of the story.

He closed the tailgate of the truck, then pulled the hitch pin for the trailer, letting it slide off and hit the ground. Then Justin got behind the wheel, started it up, and drove the truck across the field, toward where Ben was, walking down the access road.

He pulled up beside Ben and killed the engine. “Let’s talk this through.” Justin reached into the small cooler sitting on the floor in front of the passenger seat, and grabbed two Cokes. He got out of the truck, passed one to Ben, then went to the back of the truck, popped the tailgate, and sat on it, indicating Ben should join him.

“Don’t go tell my dad,” Justin said, taking a big drink of his Coke. “Let’s talk this out.”

“First,” Ben said, sitting down next to Justin,” let me say that I am sorry I called you a brat. I was just being mean. I was stressed about the fact I’d lied about my experience, and was watching it all fall apart in front of me, and you were there, showing me how easy it all is. Then I touched the hot wire, and it hurt, and pissed me off.”

“Thank you. Apology accepted.”

“I have to go tell your dad that I’m not cut out for this,” Ben said. “It’s what’s fair to all of you at this point.”

“Hear me out,” Justin said. “When you tell my dad you lied, he’ll get really mad and will fire you and throw you off the place, that much is a given. He hates being lied to and reacts badly to it. I lied to him last year when I wrecked one of our motorbikes, because I was ashamed of how it happened. When he found the truth out later, he drug me out to the barn, bent me over the bike, and whipped my ass with his belt until I cried. I was seventeen, too old to get a spanking.”

“Damn!” Ben winced.

“He’ll be so pissed off at you that he won’t even consider hiring someone new as a replacement, because he’ll still be frustrated at the situation. With his shoulder surgery, he won’t be able to do anything, so I’ll get to do all the work by myself. That’s no fun for me. And in a certain sense, you’re right about the work we’ll do. It’s going to be easy work. Its hard physical labor, but repetitive, and most of it’s simple. Now that I know you need some instruction and guidance on new tasks, I can show you how to do it. Then it’s just a bunch of repeat, repeat, repeat. The work gets done, and I don’t have to do all of it by myself.”

“You would do that for me?”

“You’ve been a nice guy thus far today, up until you hit the hot wire and called me a brat,” Justin said. “So, let’s start again. And you said you needed the job, and the bunkhouse, so it makes me think there is something more to the story than what you’re saying. You don’t need to tell me what’s going on, but if you need it, then hold onto it, at least until you leave for some bigger reason.”

“Are you sure you’re only eighteen? You’re pretty worldly and empathetic.”

“I have good parents,” Justin smiled. “And some good teachers, who taught me some real life lessons.”

“But I lied to you,” Ben said.

“Lies come in a lot of different forms,” Justin shrugged. “Sounds like you needed to, at the moment. I’ve lied and covered up things often enough to know it is something everyone does. If it makes you feel better, walk up to the house, knock on the door, and try to tell my dad. He’s not there, he and my mom already left to go to Helena for his surgery tomorrow. He sent me a text as they left about two hours ago. They’ll be gone for the next several days. If you still feel like you can’t hack it, tell him when he gets back. He’ll be so drugged up after the surgery, he’ll probably just fire you, and not have the energy to yell at you.”

“You were going to let me walk all the way up to the house to disclose my lying, head slung low in shame the whole way, and your dad isn’t even there?”

“I did meet you halfway,” Justin pointed out. “And if you’re done with your self-penance, that pipe out in the back field isn’t going to set itself up, so get in the truck and we’ll go do it. If you still feel guilty, come over to the ranch house and cook me dinner tonight. My parents left me here alone for the next couple of days, until my dad feels good enough after the surgery to travel back home.”

“Deal!” Ben said, jumping up off the tailgate. “Show me what to do with that pipe, then let me at them!”


“Medium rare, I hope?” Ben asked, walking over to the picnic table on the back porch of the ranch house. He set the plate of burgers, just off the grill, alongside the buns and condiments.

“Sounds good to me!” Justin said, grabbing the pitcher of iced tea and pouring Ben a glass. “Thanks for grilling them.”

“Thank you for inviting me to dinner,” Ben responded. “I hadn’t planned anything out for myself this first night in the bunkhouse, figured I would go in to get something in town.”

“Roxie’s is the standard place to go to,” Justin said. “Really the only place. Otherwise, the market has a few things. But really you need to go to Missoula to stock up on groceries.”

“My mom left me enough food to survive on my own for the rest of the summer, and she’s only going to be gone three or four days, so we can make meals and eat here for the next couple of days. You can make a run to Missoula to stock up your fridge this weekend.”

“Sounds great to me!” Ben exclaimed. “But I can be self-sufficient too, you know.”

“Lunch is already included in the work day,” Justin said. “We’ll come in mid-day, and my mom will make us lunch. That’s part of the job and pay. They’ll be fine to throw in some extra food these first few days. Like I said, she left me enough to feed the football team for a week! It’ll help her if we eat through things, clean up the fridge the next couple of days.”

“Speaking of the football team,” Ben said, “congratulations on finishing high school!”

“Thanks!” Justin smiled. “It feels good.”

“What’s your plan for the future?”

“Not really set in stone at the moment,” Justin sighed. “I’m still not sure what I really want to do. I enrolled at the community college in Missoula. I’ll take some gen-ed classes, do some exploring of the other course offerings, try to find a career focus. Probably transfer to a bigger university in a year or two.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” Ben said. “You didn’t want to go straight to the University of Montana?”

“I can take the same classes for less money at the community college, so seemed like an easy way to start,” Justin said.

“I probably should have done that myself,” Ben said. “I jumped into school at UM, and paid the out of state price last year. Sometimes I wonder if I chose the right field of study.”

“What are you pursuing?”

“Wildlife management and fisheries,” Ben said. “It sounded cool at the time. But there are a ton of people enrolled in the program, and I’m starting to learn that there aren’t many jobs in that field. Everybody wants to work outdoors as a fisheries biologist.”

“Yeah,” Justin agreed. “Good luck getting your foot in the door.”

“That’s part of the reason why I said I needed this job and the bunkhouse,” Ben said. “I need to be here in Montana and have proof of residency for the full year so I can switch to become an official resident of the state, and pay the in-state tuition rate. Otherwise I’ll run out of money.”

“Makes sense,” Justin said. “But you couldn’t just hold onto your apartment for the summer, keep the address?”

“That’s complicated.”

“Want to talk about it?” Justin asked.


“Okay then,” Justin switched the topic. “Your parents didn’t want to see you this summer? Couldn’t get a job around your hometown?”

“Also a topic that’s off limits,” Ben said with a smile.

“Doesn’t leave us much to talk about.”

“How about we turn the tables on you,” Ben said. “Any young cheerleader types going to show up some day after we get off work and whisk you away to dinner, or to go sit on a log by the creek?”

“Ha ha!” Justin chuckled. “My school was so small that there weren’t enough cheerleaders. And, I wasn’t the quarterback, or leading receiver on the football team, so didn’t get chosen by the ones we did have.”

“I’m afraid the only person who’ll probably show up around here is my friend, Dan. He’s a good guy. He’s also a freshman in college, went up to school in Havre. We were good friends when he was still in high school. He’ll come around every so often, stir up trouble, shoot the shit about everything. His dad has him working on the tractor at their place a lot this summer, so he’ll be busy most of the time. But we will see him from time to time.”

“Nice to have good friends around,” Ben commented. “Think you want to stay here?”

“I don’t know,” Justin sighed. “I love to hunt, fish, be outside all the time, and do whatever I want. I can ride a motorbike, four-wheeler, or drive my truck to anywhere around here without thought, or worrying about permission. I want to take over the farm someday, when my dad is ready to turn it over. But I also feel like I’ll be stuck here if I never leave, like I’ve left something undone if I stay. I think about going to school up in Havre every so often, just so I can get out of here and see something different. Dan says it’s a good place to go to school, but really not any different from here, it’s also a small place.”

“Well, you got your whole life ahead of you,” Ben said.

“Yuck, don’t say that,” Justin commented. “Every adult says that, and it makes me want to vomit! You’re only one year older than me. Do you feel like the world is your oyster?”

“I think a lot of things can happen with time,” Ben laughed. “I don’t have it all figured out. All I know is a shit-ton of things have happened this last year, and I’m ready for it all to slow down. If the world is my oyster, then I feel like the harvesting boat dropped its whole load in my lap earlier this year, just hoping I was looking for oysters.”

“Wow,” Justin said. “Sounds like you have a lot going on, any topics that aren’t off-limits for conversation?”

“You seem to like me, so I won’t break the façade and reveal the truth just yet.”

“Impressive vocabulary,” Justin chucked, standing up to take the finished plates into the kitchen. “You learn all those fancy words and shit in your freshman psychology class?”

“Whatever, bumpkin,” Ben smiled, helping to clear the table. “You have just as much eloquent bullshit as I have.”

“Okay,” Justin capitulated, “now that we’ve established all that, I am going to put stuff away, then go to the den and watch some TV. Care to join?”

“Sounds good to me!”



Both Ben and Justin looked up from their perch, sitting on the picnic table in the shade, to see the guy who shouted walk around the corner of the house.

“Hey Dan!” Justin called out. He stood up to wrap his friend in a bug hug. “This is Ben, he works for my dad.”

“Nice to meet you,” Dan said, shaking Ben’s hand.

“Likewise,” Ben said, then raised his eye brows quizzically. “Detonator?”

“It’s my nickname from the high school football team,” Justin answered. “Our last name is Denton, so it became Detonator over time.”

“It’s also because he played linebacker for our team,” Dan chuckled, “and used to blow the fuck out of the opposing team’s offensive line ’cause he’d hit them so hard. He can hit like the brick shithouse they’re always talking about.”

“Thank you for uncovering all my hidden talents,” Justin said.

“I suppose that’s an easy nickname to live with,” Ben smiled.

“Oh, we’ve got others for him too,” Dan said. “We called him John Deere, or Green, or Greenie all the time, because of his JD initials.”

“John Deere Green is an old country song they used to sing to me when they wanted to annoy me,” Justin offered.

“But my favorite has always been Buckshot!” Dan said, cracking up.

“Oh, fuck right off about that, Fence Post!” Justin answered.

Both the boys busted into fits of laughter while reminiscing about some past events, leaving Ben out of the loop and bewildered.

“It’s a good story, Ben. I’ll tell you all about Fence Post here and his conquests,” Justin said, busting up into laughter once again.

“Wow,” Ben said, “I don’t have friends and nicknames like this from my high school days.”

“We’ve spent too much time together,” Dan affirmed. “Speaking of which, we need to go to the back forty and spend the rest of the afternoon together. I got the contraband; it’s already in the back of your truck. Let’s get the hell out of here and get into it.”

“Deal!” Justin said, standing up. “Let me go tell my mom and dad we’re heading out there. Ben, you want to join us?”

“Ah, maybe?”

“Dan scored us some beers,” Justin answered. “We’re going to drive my truck out to the back edge of the property and sit on the tailgate drinking them down and shooting the shit. My dad is happy to have us safe, here on the place drinking beers without driving, instead trying to sneak off and do it behind his back. He lets us go out in the field to drink, away from any risks.”

“Sounds like he’s a practical man,” Ben said. “Yeah, I am in.”

Dan and Ben headed around to the front of the house while Justin cut through the inside, telling his folks that Dan was visiting and they were all headed out to the back pasture. They loaded up into Justin’s truck, drove out into the fields, and made their way to the back edge of the property. They pulled along the edge of the bluff above the river, where the Denton’s fence line divided their property from the neighbors. Justin backed the truck around near the fence, so the boys could sit on the tailgate, drinking their beers while staring out off the edge of the bluff to the river below.

“This is awesome!” Ben said, jumping up into the bed of the truck, taking the first offered beer from Dan.

“Yeah,” Justin agreed, catching the beer Dan tossed his way. “This is one of my favorite places on the ranch. I love to come sit here, watch the river, and see the deer move in as the sun sets.”

“And the river makes for great swimming on hot days!” Dan chimed in.

“Yeah,” Justin agreed. “Our neighbors, the Stanley’s, don’t mind if we walk through their fields and go swim in the river. So when we want to go, we’ll park the truck up here, walk down to the river, and swim and splash and have a good time in our own little swimming hole.”

“Sounds idyllic,” Ben mused. “A lot nicer than sharing the city pool with five hundred other people.”

“True, true,” Dan answered. “You know what else is nice to have all to ourselves? This!” He reached behind the seat of the truck, producing a small bottle of whiskey.

“You’re feeling saucy tonight!” Justin laughed. “Remember what happened last time you got yourself into some whiskey, Fence Post?”

“Fuck off!” Dan smiled. “It was my graduation. I was entitled. We haven’t done anything for your graduation yet, so this is my present to you. Congratulations!” Dan unscrewed the lid and took a shot before tossing it to Justin, who followed suit.

Ben looked at Dan and asked, “So what’s with this Fence Post thing?”

Dan and Justin looked at each other and laughed. Finally Dan said, “Do you want to tell him, or should I?”

“Oh me, absolutely!” Justin said. “I doubt you remember the whole thing.”

“Do your best.”

“So, there we all were,” Justin began, “celebrating graduation last year for Dan and his classmates, out in one of our friend’s fields. Almost exactly a year ago from today.”

“So far so good,” Dan interjected. “Keep going.”

“Don’t interrupt,” Justin smiled. “We’ve always been beer drinking buddies, nothing stronger. But someone brought some bottles of whiskey to this gathering, so everybody could celebrate graduation with a big bang. We had a nice bonfire going on out in the field, enjoying our time, and pretty much everyone was enjoying the whiskey, probably a little too much. At some point, the firewood supply started to run out, so we scouted for additional logs and branches to throw on the fire.” He nodded his head. “Genius, here, finds an old fence post no longer holding up wires or anything, just abandoned out in its old location, sticking up out of the ground. A couple people pulled on it and kicked at it, leaving it because it wouldn’t budge. But as a bull in the China shop, Dan decides to charge it and see if he can knock it down with a strong hit from his shoulder.”

“No,” Ben said, looking wide-eyed at Dan.

“Oh yes,” Justin continued. “He set up in a three point stance, then charged the post, intent on hitting it with his shoulder to loosen it out of the soil. Let’s just say the post hit back, it knocked him flat on his ass, almost knocking him out cold. We got him up, dusted off, and watched as he refueled himself with additional whiskey, for more strength and courage. Then he tried again. This time he managed to tilt the post over a bit. But he also separated his shoulder in the process.”

“It was bad,” Dan said. “My dad was pissed. I was on light duty the whole summer because my arm was in a sling, and we continuously had to find people to help do things.”

“We all came over to help out when there was something to do,” Justin offered. “We all felt guilty, so came to buck bales, or do whatever else you and your dad needed to do. Every time we came over we would call him Fence Post, and the name stuck.”

“That damn post is still out there, too,” Dan laughed. “I’ve got half a mind to take my truck out there, wrap a chain around it, and pull it out, so I can drag it through town as the eventual victor!”

“Not that your name is any better, Buckshot!”

“Do your best, Dan-o!” Justin laughed.

“Our little sharp shooter here was out with several of us friends popping gophers a couple of years ago,” Dan started. “We’re using twenty-two’s, standard issue weaponry for gophers. Long story short, Detonator here is not the best shot. He’s missing gophers left and right, not a single hit to his name. It pissed him off.

“So, unbeknownst to the rest of us, Justin had stashed his dad’s twelve gauge shotgun behind the seat of the truck. He pulls that cannon out, and decides to use that to kill gophers. You ever shot a twelve gauge?” Ben shook his head no.

“Well,” Dan continued, “let’s just say when you shoot a gopher with a twelve gauge at close range, it turns the whole thing into a red mist, vaporizing them, not a lot left to find afterward. Rambo here blasted away at gophers continuously. A twelve gauge packs quite a punch and kicks back something fierce, especially when you’re a scrawny kid. By the end of the day, he had a huge bruise on his shoulder and arm, and felt like his whole arm was about to fall off. He whined for a week. We started calling him Buckshot.”

“Poor gophers,” Ben said.

“It’s a part of life out here,” Justin said. “The holes tear up the machinery if we don’t employ some kind of control. We do leave the carcasses out for raptors, coyotes, and such, keep the cycle of life going.”

Dan jumped down out of the bed of the truck, wobbling slightly on the landing. “Suppose I should swear the whiskey stuff off, it goes right to my head, and bladder. Nature calls! I’ll be back.” He spun on his heels and walked out into the grass, unbuckling his belt and pants on the way.

“He is a force of nature,” Ben said, watching Dan head out into the pasture.

“He sure is,” Justin chuckled. “He is full blast, all the time. He has a heart of gold and is always happy and chipper. And, he’s my best friend. I spent a long time as a young boy wishing I’d had a brother. Then one day I woke up and realized I already had one in my friendship with Dan.”

They both looked over to Dan, who was weaving back and forth slightly as he took a piss, his pants and underwear down to his knees, exposing his bare ass. He was enjoying the whiskey quite a bit today.

“He going to be okay?” Ben asked.

“Yeah,” Justin said. “I’ll have him stay with me tonight, so he doesn’t drive.”

“Good of you to take care of him,” Ben said. “And thanks for taking care of me this week. I really appreciate everything you taught me to do, or showed me how to fix. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d been fired. I appreciate everything you did to help me these first couple of days.”

“You’re welcome,” Justin said. “You’re catching on just fine. Like I said, none of the work is really complicated, you just have to know how to do it once, and then repeat it a whole bunch of times.”

“I’m sure there’ll be other times you’ll save my bacon this summer, and thank you for those as well,” Ben said.

“Happy to save your bacon,” Justin said. “Happy you’re a nice guy, much better than spending the summer with an asshole.”

They toasted their beer bottles together as they watched Dan walk back to the truck, wrestling his pants back up to his waist. “All right boys, who needs another shot of whiskey?”

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