“Being sexy is over rated. It’s what counts in here.” He said pointing to my chest.
“So, attraction has nothing to do with it?”
“You’re missing the point, Kaylee.”
“Missing what point, Jake?”
“You know what, forget it. You are so wrapped up in looks that you can’t see what’s in front of you then it’s not worth fighting for…good luck, Kaylee.”
Just like that my best friend, Jake walked out on me. Was I that clueless? I didn’t think so? I thought attraction is part of the equation. Then the other part is that mind blowing one feels after a kiss or when they first see that special someone. Jake thinks I have my head still in the clouds. ‘You watch way too many movies. Love doesn’t work like that in real life.’
He doesn’t want to hangout before I leave that’s fine. I can pack up my stuff and leave. No goodbyes. No messy tears. No mascara running down my face. But the hugs…and seeing Jake one last time was what I will miss. He was always there. No, I’m leaving to go live the summer with a father I never met. He lives on ranch. Apparently, on Google that’s an upgrade from farm living. As a ranch life is a bit better or according to the pictures I could find it looked better.
“Kaylee, did you pack your jeans, boots, and all?” Mom asked kissing my forehead. Plumping down on my bed, mom grabs me in for a tight hug.
“Look, I know this is going to be tough. But you’re Dad needs to see you. Things between him and me went by too long…and well, we’re better suited where we are. But I can promise you, he’s a good man. He lives differently than us…but it’ll be good for you.”
“I hope so. I’m just nervous. After 15 years, and now, I get to meet him. Scary.”
Laughing, my mom kissed me again. “We’re waking up at six. Be ready.”
“You heard me.”
OMG! No way! Ugh. First an argument with Jake and now, this…
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEEEEEEEEEEEP…
OMG! Way too early. UGH!
“Rise and shine, beauty.”
I don’t know how I did it. But I managed to shower, brush my teeth, get dressed and my stuff in the car within an hour.
Jake would have been surprised. I almost wanted to text him to tell him…but then, I remembered. He thinks, I’m an airhead. No texting him. No thinking about him. Hello, summer. Hello, to ranch life.
There were miles upon miles that stretched to the heavens of endless fields. Flowers in all arrays. I took photos as we drove by…maybe Dad would like to see them. Or maybe there’s dozens of these by him. Either way, I was sweating. What if he thought…
“Hey, everything is going to be fine. He’s going to love you.”
“Are you sure? What if…”
“No what ifs. You’re as much as his daughter as mine. I love you and he does too.”
Looking back out the window, I continued snapping photos. Soon a long gravel road to nowhere popped up and mom was on it.
“Are you sure this is the way? Or are we lost? I don’t see the…”
“Look to there, to you’re left.”
I looked where mom suggested. Squinting my eyes, I finally saw it. The sun was super bright. The ranch was…then there was a man. A man who looked similar to the one in the photo mom kept of him. Swallowing, I fidgeted. Breathe…he’s your dad, Kaylee.
Pulling up to the ranch, mom put the car to a halt.
Opening the door, I stepped out. Dad looked me over then, said, “Hi.”
I thought maybe mom was right. I mean he could be just as nervous as me. Okay time to take a breathe and take charge. Walking over to dad, I put my arms up around his waist and said, “Hi.”
Looking up, dad’s eyes twinkled with emotion. He swallowed before hugging me tighter. “You look amazing, Kaylee. Your mom has done amazing job.”
Smiling, I hug him back a bit harder then we both released.
It felt awkward after that. He and mom weren’t sure whether to hug or just to wave hi to one another. I rolled my eyes. They both saw it and laughed. My shoulders relaxed. All tension gone. They hugged briefly then mom said she had to go.
“Love you, Kaylee.” Then she hugged me one more time and left.
Dad and I waved bye to her. Dust collecting after her. This was it. What happens now?
“Let’s get you settled, shall we?” Dad opened the door grabbed my one luggage and held the door open for me.
I nodded and walked inside. It wasn’t luxurious but it had a warmth feeling to it. I liked it.
Glancing around as I followed dad to my room, I felt at ease.
Dad dropped my luggage into a room. Closing my eyes, I stepped in…then opened them slowly.
“What do you think?”
The walls were painted an eggshell blue. The bed has a colorful quit. Looked handmade. There was a desk and a bookcase. By the bed was a night table with a lamp.
“I like it. Blue is my…”
“Your favorite color.” Dad said finishing my sentence. I nodded.
“Okay, well the bathroom is to the right of you. I’ll you get settled and then, I can make dinner for us. Are you hungry?”
It was then that my stomach answered for him.
Smiling, he left the room.
Once he disappeared, I let out a sigh. Okay, so far, not bad. It’s actually really nice. I can definitely enjoy myself her.
“Kaylee, I know it’s your first day here. But you need to wake up and do chores. I left a list of them on the fridge in the kitchen. I have to run into town to get a few supplies. I left you some breakfast and coffee is made.”
“What time is it?”
“ Seven. Get up.”
“Seven at night?”
Laughing, dad said, “No, silly. Seven in the morning.”
Ugh! “Why so early?”
Laughing, dad looked at me then said he had to go.
Getting up, I touched my hair. OMG! It was sticking out everywhere! No can do. It’s no wonder dad was laughing at me. Smart man he left before I figured it out. Showering, then dressed. I went into the kitchen. Mm…food smells good. Scramble eyes and ham.
I noticed a piece of paper on the fridge. The list of chores. Should be easy, right? I mean what could he possible be done at this time of day…the list was to collect eggs, feed the chickens, muck out stalls, and milk the cows. Then, I had to clean out stalls. Put new hay inside the stalls. Okay, long list but manageable.
Or so I thought.
The moment I put the feed out just like dad described on said chore list…the chickens attacked me. Apparently, I had gotten some seeds on my clothes…and well, the chickens went where ever their was seed. Then, I collected the eggs. Except, I accidentally squeezed one too hard. The yolk running all over my hands. Wiping them on my jeans. I went to the next egg. I gently placed it into my hands and then into the basket. Okay, I go the hang of this.
Dad forget to warn me about the mean old rooster. I had just finished collecting all the eggs when out of nowhere, the rooster starts to cry. I jumped tumbled backwards…and landed…right onto the eggs!
Next, chore. Mucking out stalls. They were empty. I checked. Okay operation’s a go. Going in, I slipped and fell onto a pile of what appeared to be cow dung. Shit! I meanly really, it was shit. Getting up, I tried brushing it off. Ewwwww! This was so gross, I felt like barfing…oh wait, I…turning over to the nearest thing, I barfed right into a pile of fresh hay. The fresh hay that I was suppose to put in once I finished mucking out the stalls. I finally got to mucking them out, but not without slipping a few more times. Bruises were going to be everywhere. I will not be able to wear shorts this summer. So much for tanning. I felt like crying.
Next, item was tossing the barfed up hay into the garbage can and putting the unaffected hay into the cleaned stalls. I also, washed the stalls out using the enormous hose. It had the force to knock someone out. I heard a noise. But when I looked and stopped. Nothing. Okay, just my nerves, Kaylee. Breathe. I wanted to impress dad. It was bad enough I smashed all the eggs. Tomorrow, morning, I’ll know, there’s a mad rooster and he’s not going to scare me off again. I’ll show him who’s boss.
Milking the cows…
I bet you can already predict my disaster. I sat on the stool, and used my hands to milk like the picture dad had posted to my list of chores. Easy? Nope. Apparently, it was just as difficult as the other chores. I squeezed too hard and the cows wanted to run me over. I was frightened they were going to kick me. I had to run for cover. Dad gave me this chore. I couldn’t go into the house without the milk.
Waiting until they settled down…I went back to the first cow. First, I spoke to her or it nicely. Then, slowly and still talking to her, I sat on the stool. She eyed me like I was a thief. I was only trying to do my job! I put my hands gently on her again. Moving my hands gently and slightly squeezing I got nothing…I gently applied a bit more pressure but not overkill. It worked. I got some drops then a stream of milk. I had to do this with six cows. I got the milk placed where dad said. Put it in the pasteurizer and waited.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
I opened my eyes, and found it was done. I clicked a button and placed the milk jars right. The milk filled the bottles. Then, I did a happy dance. Stopped. Looked around then, danced and shouted. Yes!
After the chores were done. I headed into the kitchen put the milk away. Walked back out and waited for dad in the rocker. It was nice and cool out still. I soon fell asleep. Next, thing, I know. I heard laughter. Waking up, I looked. There was dad and another man. Both laughing so hard. I got up and walked over. The stranger pointed at me and then took off.
“Who was that? Was he laughing at me?”
“Hey, sweetie. That was my hired help. He said he saw you smash all the eggs…fall into the cows’ poo and had chickens attacking you. Plus, let’s not forget the cows wanting to run you over…” Laughing he tried to bit his lip. But he lost.
Crying, and not looking amused. I left him out there on the porch.
“Kaylee, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. I meant that you tried doing chores you never did before and didn’t give up until they were finished. That says you’re a strong woman and a good helper. I appreciate it.”
Dad wasn’t looking at me.
“You, uh, need to shower. And uh, get those clothes off and washed.” Then, he left.
Taking a good hot shower. Dad made an amazing beef stew that could make anyone’s mouth water. Mm….
“So, I’m sorry, I left you earlier to do it all.”
“It’s okay. You had to get stuff…”
“I had to get stuff incase my heifer’s calf came earlier and there wasn’t any milk for the calf. She’s due pretty soon. I’ll be sleeping in the barn tonight.”
“Really? On the hay? How soon?”
“Do the dishes and I will show you.”
Eating faster. I did the dishes and followed dad outside to the barn. It was dark out now. Dad had a lantern with him and a back up battery light as well. Going into the barn. He took me to the heifer.
“Wow, she’s really big.”
“Yes, she is…she might be having twins.”
Looking at dad, “Can I stay with you, tonight? Just incase. You know. I never saw a cow give birth. Is it gross or pretty cool?”
Dad laughed. “You watch and then tell me.”
We sat down on the hay. Dad let me lean against him. He told me stories about him growing up and how he and mom met. I was soon nodding off. When Dad nudged me.
“Kaylee, wake up. She’s about to give birth.”
I got up an watched. Dad went to her. He stuck his hands into her ass end…and then pulled out two bony legs and a tail. Then slowly he pulled out a calf. It fell on top of the hay. Then, dad went back in…and there behold was another one. It was like magic. Of course the cow’s bulging eyes said otherwise. But it was pretty cool to see it live and to see dad doing it.
Next, morning dad and I were in the kitchen. A truck pulled up and dad went outside to greet the men. They followed dad into the barn. There they came out with the mother cow and her two babies. Then the men loaded up the other cattle. Dad and the oldest man shook hands. Dad was handed an envelope.
After the truck disappeared, I ran out to dad. “What was that all about?”
“I sold the cows and the babies. I’m selling the ranch in a few months. It too hard for me now…it was easy when I was your age. He said messing my hair.
“I love you, Kaylee. I know, I don’t know you that well, but what I have heard and seen, I am proud of you. Your photos were beautiful. The color of the flowers were great. You’re going to be an awesome photographer. Oh wait, you already are.”
Blushing with pride, I didn’t know what to say. So, I hugged him tightly. Then tears appeared. But I wasn’t the only one crying and hugging tightly. Dad was too.
New day. Time to show roaster whose boss. I got up at six. I walked out slowly trying not to wake dad. He was still sleeping. Perfect!
Walking out the door, I carefully shut it so as to not wake him. I ran to the barn. The roaster was there. Almost daring me…I bent down and gave him some seed from my hand. The roaster cocked his head looking at me sternly. I was about to give up, when he slowly came up and ate out of my hand. After that he and I became best friends. He followed me everywhere as I worked. Got the eggs. Mucked the stalls. Fresh hay. Collected milk. The sun was starting to beat down heavier than before. My forehead dripping with sweet. My hair matted to my skull. I knew I looked bad. I looked up and there was dad. Smiling.
“You beat me to the chores?”
“I see you listened to my story of feeding the roaster.”
“Yes. It worked.”
Going in, dad made lunch. While I showered and got dressed again. Heading downstairs, I got there just in time to see dad going down…Dad!
Grabbing the phone, I dialed 911. It took them 15 minutes. I rode in the front with the driver. Once at the hospital…I called mom. She came over as soon as possible. I ran over to her. We hugged and waited.
Soon, after hours. The doctor came out, saying dad was dying from cancer.
Mom hugged me tighter. We both were crying. It took two weeks before they cancer took over and dad lost the battle. His funeral was small but everyone from around came to pay their respects. The ranch was sold. Dad’s money was given to mom. I asked if we could keep the roaster. Mom said, yes.
When we got home. I let the roaster into the house. Then ran up stairs to my bedroom. Crying.
I just met my dad and then he died two weeks later.
Happy sixteen! Tapping on my window alerted me. I went over…there was Jake.
“Look, I’m sorry about what I said before you left. And I’m sorry about your dad…and if…”
I hugged Jake. I couldn’t talk. Jake seemed to understand. He just hugged me back. Knowing that silence and him being there was all that I needed. In that moment, I knew dad was watching me. That he was smiling at me just like he was in the barn.