The sun was a yellow ball in the sky, dipping its toe in the purple lake that was the mountain range. Below, a green ocean of grass that ran for miles. Samuel stood in line to get branded by his new employer. The Circle Bar X was the ranch that Samuel had just begun working for. He did not agree with them branding their employees, but the money was good. Samuel looked out across the green ocean of grass in the pastures of the ranch. He took a deep breath, imagining what it would be like to be free. He watched as the other men screamed in pain, as the brand was put in their place of choice. He was next. He cringed as the guy next to him howled like a dog because he had chosen to put the brand on his chest. The man started to cry, but Samuel knew it wasn’t from pain. The man made eye contact with him, and Samuel knew it was his way of being tough.
“Next,” the brander yelled.
Samuel stepped up to the stump and sat down. He proceeded to take his shirt off and showed the man where he wanted the brand. He pointed to just over his shoulder blade. The man took the brand out of the fire and stuck it on his back. The pain was so intense he almost passed out. Samuel had never felt a pain so vividly. He did not cry, and he did not scream because he knew that taking it like a man meant he wasn’t weak. The brand came off of his flesh with a sizzle. He stood up, stumbled a little, and walked toward the living quarters. At the end of the line was the daughter of the owner of the ranch. She held up a cold towel to Samuel, and he turned around so that she could put it on his back. She was a dainty woman, no bigger than 110 pounds. She wore her dark brown hair in pigtails and a black Stetson on her head. Her jeans were a little too tight, making her curves pronounced. Her hands were small, and she had a very delicate touch. She rubbed ointment on the burn.
“Miss, why are you helping me?”
“I liked what I saw when you took your shirt off. By the way, my name is Faith.”
“I told you I liked what I saw. Plus, that burn looks nasty.”
Samuel dropped his head and allowed her to finish bandaging up the burn. He stood up and put his shirt back on and smiled and tipped his hat at the young lady. Samuel knew better than to even look at this girl sideways. She was barely twenty, and he was a bit older at twenty-five. He knew that she was off limits, but she kept flirting with him. She was nice to look at with her beautiful aqua colored eyes and curvy figure. Samuel had a hard time not staring at her. He started to walk off toward the living quarters. Faith stopped him by touching him on the shoulder.
“What is your name cowboy?”
“I just wanted to know the name of the man that I want.”
“What do you mean by that? I’m not sure that is a good idea. What would your dad say?”
Faith leaned close to him and smiled. Samuel got the feeling that this was trouble. She grabbed his hand and pulled him along to the barn. Once inside, she hops up on the table and pulls him with her. He put his hand out and pushed her away.
“Miss, what are you doing?”
“I told you I wanted you.”
“Wait, what do you think we are going to do?
“Well, have sex, of course, silly.”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“Well, Daddy told me I could have any of the cowhands that I wanted.”
“So, you chose me?”
“I told you before I liked what I saw when you took your shirt off.”
“Okay, but I don’t think I should sleep with you.”
“Why are you being so difficult?”
“Faith, I can’t do this with you. At least not right now. I like to get to know someone before I take that step, ya know?”
Faith pulled him in for a kiss. Samuel gave in at first and started kissing her back. To tell the truth, it felt great to kiss a woman again. It had been way too long.
“Samuel, why don’t you want to sleep with me?”
“Because you are the boss’ daughter and you are barely twenty.”
“Why does my age matter if you want to be with me?”
She reached for him again, and the door busted open and in walked Mr. Hamilton. He stared at his daughter, and grabbed Samuel by this shirt and got in his face.
“What do you think you are doing with my daughter?” he yelled.
“I wasn’t doing anything, sir.”
“Yes, he was Daddy. He was kissing me.”
Samuel looked back at Faith angry. He turned back to her father with dismay.
“I really wasn’t doing anything with your daughter, sir. She kissed me, and I didn’t stop her.”
“You expect me to believe that my sweet, innocent, Faith, would do that? You aren’t going to get away with this. Shorty, take him out to the block and beat his ass.”
Shorty took Samuel around the back of the barn and took out a long leather whip. It had several leather strips hanging from it. He pushed Samuel to the block and made him take off his shirt. He then made him lean over the block. He locked his hands in place and exposed his back. Shorty raised his arm high and let the whip come down hard on Samuel’s back. He did this at least twenty times. Samuel took every one like it didn’t hurt. Shorty unlocked Samuel’s hands and let him get up. Samuel stumbled around and almost fell when he tried to stand up. Faith was standing near her father, watching in horror as this happened to Samuel. She couldn’t look away.
“Daddy, you didn’t have to do that to him. He wasn’t hurting me. Plus, you told me I could.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. I meant you could date one of the men on the ranch. I didn’t want you sleeping with all of them. He needs to know that you aren’t a cheap girl.”
As Samuel was listening to Faith and her father, he passed out. The other ranch hands took him to the living quarters and laid him on the bed.
Samuel is laying on his bed five years later, thinking about how he ended up here. Over this time, Faith has become a close friend and confidant. Samuel didn’t even look in her direction for a few years. He is starting to fall in love with her now that they spend all their time together. After her dad had passed, Samuel is the one to get her back on track and take care of the ranch. When Samuel is out making his rounds of the barns, he sees that one of the horses is missing. He makes his way to the farmhouse and knocks on the door.
“Hello, is anyone there?”
He looks into the dining room window and sees Faith with her back facing him. He knocks on the window and makes her jump. She turns around, and he motions for her to come outside. She smiles and walks towards the door. She opens the door and sticks her head out.
“What do you need, cowboy?”
“I was walking by the barn, and I realized your paint mare is missing.”
“Oh crap, she has been getting out lately. She is pregnant and probably looking for a place to have her baby.”
“Ya know what? I bet you are right.” Samuel stated.
Faith and Samuel start walking towards the pasture to find the paint mare. Samuel uses his flashlight to go over the land to search for the horse. Faith calls out to her best friend, Annabelle. Annabelle is one of the prized paint mares that lives at the Circle Bar X ranch. Faith starts to cry. Samuel gets a look of concern on his perfect face.
“Faith, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know if we will find her in time. I’m scared, Samuel.”
“We will find her Faith, and she will wait until we are there to have her baby.”
“You really think so?”
Faith reaches over and hugs Samuel. He hugs her back with a pat on the back. He knew better than to touch her in any way.
“It’s okay Sam, you can touch me. My dad has been dead for years.”
“I will never forget what he had done to me, Faith.”
“Sam, I wish that that hadn’t happened. He was a horrible man.”
“I know, but I still don’t feel right about it.”
They hear a noise not far from where they were standing. It is faint, but they hear it just the same. Faith goes running towards the sound, and all of the sudden disappears. Samuel is not far behind her. He sees that the horse and Faith have fallen down into a mud pit. The pit is not visible in the dark. Faith is working her way towards Annabelle, but it is no use, the mare is stuck deep in the mud. Samuel goes around the ravine to find a way to get close to the horse because she is going into labor. When Samuel finally gets around to the mare, he sees that she has broken two of her legs. She isn’t going anywhere. He looks over at Faith with tears in his eyes. She starts to cry harder.
“We can’t leave her here, Sam. We can’t let the baby die. We just can’t.”
“I wasn’t planning on letting the baby die, Faith.”
“We don’t have much time.”
“I know, how are we going to get the baby out of the mud?”
“I’m not sure, but I will not stop until we do.”
It isn’t long until Annabelle starts groaning. Faith gets as close to her as possible. Samuel reaches down and tries to pull her backside closer to the edge so that he could get to the baby. It takes about two hours before the little foal makes its appearance. The colt is beautiful, his hair the color of ebony, and his mane and tail are white as snow. He has little pure white socks on each foot. Samuel pulls the foal up out of the pit and carries him up to the pasture. Faith hugs Annabelle and tries to comfort her. Faith looks up at Samuel, her mascara running down her cheeks and sighs.
“I can’t leave her here like this.”
“I know. Do you want me to go and get the rifle?”
“Yes, but please don’t take too long.”
“Let me get the foal settled, and I will be back with the gun.”
“Okay,” Faith sobbed.
Samuel carries the baby to the barn to be warm. He opens one of the stalls and lays the colt on the soft bed of hay. Samuel finds a blanket and covers up the colt. He leans down and kisses the baby on the head.
“Don’t worry about anything little one, we will take care of you. Just rest.”
Samuel gets up and makes sure the stall was locked. He heads to the house to get the gun. He knows this has to be done, but he worries about what it would do to Faith. As he walks across the pasture to the mud pit, he starts to cry. He can’t let Faith see him like this, but he needs to let it out. When he reaches, the mud pit Faith is laying across the horse. He could hear her sobs from far away.
“We don’t have to shoot her, she just passed on her own about ten minutes ago.”
Samuel looks to the sky and silently thanks God for not making him shoot Annabelle. Faith is crying uncontrollably. Samuel makes his way down to the pit and helps Faith crawl out of the hole. He hugs her without even thinking, and she holds him tight.
“It will be okay, Faith. We saved the colt.”
“I know, but Annabelle has been my horse for several years.”
“I know, but we have the little one to think about now.”
“Okay, but I want him to be your horse. You saved him, so you should be the one that trains him and takes care of him.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
Faith faintly smiles, and they walk back to the barn to check on the colt. When they reach the barn, they hear a crash. They run to the stall with the colt. They see him trying to stand up, and he is really wobbly. He has fallen a couple of times but is determined to stand. After a few hours, he finally stands on his own.
“We better get him some milk. I bet the little sweetheart is hungry.”
“I’ll stay with him, Faith. Can you please go and get the milk?”
“Sure I will take care of it, plus I need to clean up anyways.”
“Thank you. I just really wanted to bond with the colt.”
“Are you going to give him a name, Sam?”
“Yes, of course, I just need to think about it.”
Sam lays down on the hay next to the colt. The colt wobbles over and nudges him in the side. Samuel laughs a little bit. He knows the colt is looking for milk. Samuel secretly hopes that Faith will take a little longer to get the milk. He really loved this colt, even though he just met the little fella. Samuel reaches over and finishes cleaning the colt off, making sure that his coat is clean, and his hair is dry. He doesn’t want the colt to freeze. He makes the colt lay down, and he covers him with a blanket. He scoots close to the colt to give him warmth. Faith walks up just about the time that Samuel was finished taking care of the colt.
“Here’s the milk.”
“I didn’t think you were going to come back.”
“It took longer to get that mud off than I thought.”
“I am so sorry that you lost your best friend today, Faith.”
“It’s okay, Sam. We got this little beauty out of it. He got a name yet?”
“Yep, his name is going to be West.”
Samuel looks at the colt and smiles. This is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship.
This is a story of mine that got published in the Penman Review. I hope you like it.