No copyright infringement intended.

Now, this is going to be mainly a love story with a bit of light drama, angst to get Bella to the ranch. This is modern day (2020) & it will be a kind of slow burn to a full inferno.

As everyone knows I don't do a lot of dialogue, & I'm still learning to point out the POV's. So bear with me & let me know what ya'll think. Personally, I'm loving it so far. I will have a group page for it with lots of pics, so go check it out.

CULLEN RANCH

THE WILD MID-WEST

Chapter One

EPOV

The beginning of another busy day on Cullen Ranch. I could only wish for another eight hours sleep, but not going to happen. I just need to get my sorry ass up, and get ready. I do have a lot of things to get done today, and not going to happen laying on my ass.

I manage to get up making it into the bathroom getting my shower going as I turn to brush my teeth, and climb into the wonderful feel of hot water falling over me. Damn, I wish I had time for a soak in the hot tub with the jets. I feel like I done the major work yesterday of wrangling those cattle. I mean we only had about two hundred cattle to brand. Not like we had a lot to do.

I'm so going to have to do some evaluating of keeping more help during the summer months. I may buck it up to seventy five employees during these months, as we got a lot to do. We have an early cattle drive, and then trying to round up the horses. But not right now. I need coffee, and some breakfast before taking on this mess.

After slipping on some jeans, a shirt, my boots, and slapping on my belt I head into the kitchen in the hunt for some caffeine. I know Renee will have a generous pot waiting for me, along with a wonderful breakfast. I have no idea what I would do without her. She is my saving grace around here.

She takes wonderful care of my house, making sure everything is clean, and a magnificient cook.

I also got Mrs. Webber working the kitchen for the cowboys. She has an additional six people that help her cook breakfast, lunch when possible, and their dinner. Sometimes Renee comes down to help cook dinner, and everyone eats in the bunkhouse dining room. When there is a lot going on at the ranch that is usually what they do.

I don't mind, as it get's me a chance to enjoy the company of my friends, and the hands working here. I find out a lot of things about them. Most of the men are not married, but a few have girlfriends. Nothing long distance, as a few of them have found that does not work.

Me personally, I'm not involved with anyone. I have no interest in trying to find someone to have a real relationship with at present. I am only thirty three years old, and I got plenty of time to find my one. There is plenty to keep me busy nowdays.

After a pot of coffee, and a wonderful breakfast I grab my hat heading out to the barn. I walk into the office sitting down as Emmett, and Jasper begin telling me about moving three hundred head of cattle to the west field to graze. They are also telling me about trying to round up some of the horses from down south, and bringing them in for us to use.

We also have someone wanting to buy some of the quarter horses for use on their ranches. There is about fifteen of them heading out towards Washington state. I had heard of someone building a sizable ranch in Alaska. I've not heard much else. That is going to really be a challenge in their weather. Anyway, I got calves to round up, and a bunch to move to another pasture.

I also need to see if they have managed to harvest that field of hay. If so, I need to get them to bring it in, and load it into the hay storage shed. I need to find Emmett, and Jasper to see if they are rounding up the calves. At present it's looking that we are selling about twenty bull calves, and thirty cross breds' at feedlot. That's not going to bring in a lot of money, but I have no use of them.

Now, in early April we took about five hundred head of cattle to market, and made $375,000 at seventy five hundred per head. I'd say we done good. I'm even thinking of increasing our load to about fifteen thousand head of cattle. I think we can handle it, but I may need to keep sixty employees year round instead of cutting in winter months. I may even think about seventy five during the summer months. Guess we'll see.

I need to talk to the guys later this evening over dinner. I call Renee, and ask her to just arrange dinner in the bunkhouse as I need to discuss some things with everyone. She said they had a big cookout of steaks, and baked potatoes planned for dinner. Sounds good to me.

I then walk out to the horse barn walking down through all the stalls checking things out. I have a lot of people working on cleaning them out at present, and putting down some fresh hay plus some feed for their evening meals. I've got a good bunch of people working for me righ now. I just hope it stays that way, especially when and if I buy more cattle.

Right now we got ten thousand head of cattle, and five hundred quarter horses on two hundred twenty five thousand acres. We're also doing good at growing our own hay using about a hundred acres for that venture. It's doing pretty good, and I've not had to buy any for a few years. I've had to buy alfalfa, and their feed but it's not been to bad.

It's also supplying hay for the cattle, and definitely during the winter months. It get's kind of rough around her during the harsh cold snowy months, and we've been lucky to have not lost any cattle to the weather. I got one of the men to get my horse out, and saddle him up. I walked into my office picking up the phone calling to see where Emmett, and Jasper were working.

I then got my hat walking out getting on my horse, and headed out to the west pasture. They were taking the three hundred head out to a new pasture to graze. The weather was nice, and not to hot for the time of year. I got close, and ran into a couple stragglers. I worked them back into the pack, and noticed they were making good time.

I rode up next to Jasper to see how things were going, and just trying to get a feel as to how things really were going. I needed the truth, and I don't think I'm going to get it really until dinner. But I figured I'd ride out, and see how things were going, and do a bit of work with the men. Jasper could be truthful to a fault, and I was hoping he'd give me some inside information as to the need of hiring more people.

I wasn't even biased about hiring women if they could pull their weight. I've had quite a few women come working the cattle, the horses, or in the barn. They have shown me they could work right along with the men, if not better.

Jasper said they could use more people, and would be glad to help train them in what we need. I told him I was trying to do this to help take some of the load off the men I got working. I even gave him an inside look at my buying more cattle, and possibly more of everything. We were doing good, and I felt we could push it a bit. If not, then I'd just sell them.

I rode on up towards Emmett, and we were just about to the pasture we were going to put them in. As long as they kept moving along like they were, we would make it to dinner in time. I asked him how things were going, and I noticed a kind of conversation going on between the two of them. I just asked him the plain truth about hiring more people. I told him I was going to buy more cattle, because we were doing so good with what we got. I just wanted to take some of the load off them if needed.

Once we got all the cattle in the pasture we headed back to the barn to dismount, and see that our horses were taken care of. Then we headed to different areas to clean up for dinner. It was going on six o'clock at night, and didn't feel that late. I went in the house to my bathroom, and proceeded to clean up for dinner. I had managed to get pretty dirty from the trail dust the few hours I was out there working.

I had beat a lot of the dust off in the mud room before heading back here. Renee would so kick my ass for being so careless. I could only grin thinking she was worse than my mother ever was.

I wish she was still alive, as I know she would love this place. I miss her so damn much. My father, not so much. He was never happy with what I wanted to do with my life. He pushed Carlisle, and me to go to school to be lawyers like him. I went, and got my degree, but I wanted this ranch, and to make it work. I have surpassed any expectations I ever had, and I would like to think my father would have been proud. My mother would have been enough for them both.

I loved my life just fine, and I would be happy until I drew my last breath. I just hoped to find that one to make it complete. Only time will tell. Now...dinner.

I walked out to the bunkhouse, and it was smelling like they had cooked a wonderful dinner. I was dang hungry. I walked in, and everyone was getting their plates. I stood back just looking at what I had going on. I had almost a hundred people working for me making a living, and depending on me to provide them a place to continue working.

I walked up to get me a plate, and Renee came out handing me one. It was piled high with a huge steak, and baked potato. They had bowls of corn on the cob, and some rolls. There were pitchers of sweet tea, ice water, or other things in the kitchen they could have. Some of them drank coffee it seemed all day. I would never be able to sleep.

I walked over to my place amongst everyone, greeting them, and we all commenced to enjoy our dinner. There were a lot of the men moaning, and complimenting the ladies. The ladies working in this kitchen managed to keep something always available to eat, and desserts piled up.

There was coffee brewing, and sweet tea always ready. I was thoroughly enjoying my steak, and let the ladies know it was wonderful. I didn't expect differential treatment, but I know Renee took great care to cook my dinner. Charlie was sitting beside her, and I was asking him how things were going. I then told him I was going to be asking everyone about the work load, and possibly hiring more people.

I also let him know we were probably getting more cattle since we were doing so good. I was also thinking of getting more horses. This I was really thinking about, as the horses were a lot more work than the cattle.

I called everyone for their attention, and proceeded to tell them how well we done on the sell of the five hundred head of cattle. I told them I had been giving it a lengthy thought of increasing the amount of cattle on the ranch to fifteen thousand head. I also mentioned I was still giving it some more thought of increasing the horses to possibly seven hundred fifty, but was still debating on this venture.

I then asked them to give me their honest opinion about increasing the number of employees to seventy five year round with the increase in animals. I was wanting to know if there had been times when they felt they had been short handed, and would really welcome the extra help. A couple of my employees, Joe Mangie, and Sean O'Keefe were letting me know there had been times when they, and some of the other men had spoken about needing extra help.

The times when we were on a cattle drive, even into another field, or to market the need for more help. Quite a few cattle strolling off, and only being found when they were headed back to the barn. Things were kind of hectic, and they even mentioned when we were branding cattle. With the increase in help they felt things wouldn't tend to get out of hand. They didn't want to lose their jobs because they were stretched to thin. Then with the thoughts of more cattle, and horses, yes they were all for more help.

I thanked them for their honesty, and their opinions about being short handed. I asked them to give me a couple days to give it more thought, and I'd let them know about the steps we would be taking for more help.

I walked over to my house, and once I removed my boots in the mud room I headed towards my bedroom. I pulled out some sleep pants, and headed for the bathroom. I took a short shower, brushed my teeth, and headed to bed.

It was kind of hard at first to go to sleep as I had a lot I was thinking about. I'm pretty much already decided to hire more people on a permanent basis. Also going to look into the extra cattle. I'm still going to hold off on the horses for a bit, and give it more thought. Now, with those decisions made I crawled further down in the bed, and went to sleep.

The morning came entirely to early for me. I should quit this lazy attitude I got going, and get my ass up and ready for the day. I get up walking into the bathroom taking a long hot shower, getting out and doing the rest of my morning ablutions. I then walk into my closet pulling out some jeans, a t-shirt, and finally my boots.

I walk into the kitchen greeting Renee, and getting myself some coffee. I go sit down at the kitchen counter, and renee brings me over a wonderful plate of pancakes, eggs, bacon, and hash browns. Absolutely wonderful. I told her if she were not married to Charlie I'd try to woe her for myself. She just laughed, and shook her head at me.

After breakfast I got some more coffee, and told Renee I was going to my office here to do some work if anyone came looking for me.

I walked inside sitting down at my desk just continuing to enjoy my coffee, and I felt the calm before the storm. After a bit I called down to the barn to see what was going on. Everything was running smoothly down there, and they said Emmett along with some o the guys were riding down to the pasture where we took the cattle to yesterday.

Emmett was going to ride checking the fencing, and the cattle. Alistair Wells, and Adam Walsh were going over some of the horses in need of new shoes. Jasper had a few men with him rounding some of the horses, and bringing them in so they could be worked on.

So far, so good. I told them where I was working today, and if they needed me to just call. I then called the agent I used through the Montana Livestock Auction to see what was coming up to bid on. I told him what I was in the market for, and he asked to give him about an hour to do some research. He would then call me back with what was available, and the price.

Within an hour Aaron Greene called back to tell me of the company selling the five thousand head of cattle, and the price asked. I told him to fax me some information on what I was buying, any health checks, veterinarian checks, and any records of weight, sex, of the cattle. Also, to send me the agreement of buying, and I would see to them being paid, along with shipping the cattle to me. He was sending me the documents as we spoke.

I told him to give me an hour, and I would return the documents with the necessary information. I then called down to get Rosalie to come to the office to go over the papers for me. She was one of my best vets on the ranch, and had saved me plenty of cattle. She came walking in, sitting down across from me, and proceeded to go over the papers. Rose said that was a good price for the yearlings, and she thought I got a good deal on the cattle. I told her I wanted them to be ready to check them out when they arrived. She agreed, and would let everyone know.

Rose left heading back to their clinic on the ranch, and I sat going over everything, signing it, and faxing it back to Aaron requesting information as to when to expect them to arrive. I then took out some more papers I needed to go over, and was just about to go to the kitchen for some more coffee when Renee, and Charlie walked into my office.

From the expression on their faces I had a feeling this was not good news. "Renee, Charlie have a seat, and tell me what's going on." They both sat down, Renee having not stopped crying I walked around kneeling down, taking her hands. I asked Charlie again what was going on, and he proceeded to tell me his brother, Maxwell Swan, and wife Elizabeth were killed in a head on collision.

They said their niece, Isabella, but preferred Bella, was falling to pieces. They wondered if it was possible to go help her with settling everything. I told them to hold on, and I made some calls. I arranged for them to use my private plane to take them wherever they needed to go. Charlie said they had to go to Port Angeles, Washington, and then try to get a car to go into Forks. I arranged everything so they could handle the funeral arrangements.

I told them not to worry about a thing. I had arranged everything for them, and I told them to call letting me know if there was anything else I could do to help. Renee just grabbed me crying, and I held her telling her I was so sorry. I told them both to take what time they needed, and to call me if they needed help. They both headed out to get ready to leave.

THIS was the cause of the bad feeling I had this morning. For Charlie and Renee I would do anything. They have come to mean so much to me, almost to the point of being a mother, and father figure to me. We lost our parents so early in our lives, and the turmoil we were thrust into. When they came into my life I felt...more calm, more governed, more cared for...more at peace. They hold a very important place in my life, and I would do anything for them.

Now this, at such a point in their lives. Everything was going along so smoothly, and after the slight scare with Charlie's health last year it was so not needed, or wanted, but life throws things at you when least expected. I just pray they make it through this without anything else hurting them.

I called down to the bunkhouse kitchen to speak with Angela about sending some one to the main house. I wanted them to check the kitchen to see if it was cleaned up, and nothing cooking. I told her about the Swan's having to leave to tend to a family emergency, and I wasn't sure if she had been doing anything in the kitchen. I just wanted some one to check everything out, and shut it down. I would be eating at the bunkhouse until they returned.

Angela was going to send Alice to tend to things for me, which was fine. I liked Alice, and she was more welcome than Victoria. Victoria tried to turn on charms she definitely needed to refine, but was not going to work on me in any case. She was a good worker, just needs to keep her attention on her job and not on obtaining a prize she would never get.

Alice came in to let me know she was here, and going to check everything out. I asked her if she could make me some more coffee, and then I'd leave her to it. She came back in a little bit with a carafe of coffee, and told me there wasn't much to take care of. That Renee had left it all shut down except for some dishes in the washer. I told her to just make sure everything was cleaned, and put up. Then she could go back to the bunkhouse.

After dinner with everyone I came home, took a shower, and retired for the night. Charlie had called just after dinner telling me they had arrived, and thanking me for everything I done. I reiterated that they call me if there was anything else I could help them with. I did ask about Bella, and they said she had been sedated. They found her in a mess, and started taking care of everything. I told them again how sorry I was, and to let me know when they funeral was.

I didn't tell them, but I would be making a trip to Forks for the funeral.

After a restless night I got up doing my morning ritual, and going to the kitchen for some coffee. I walked in to find Alice making me some breakfast, and already made me coffee. I gave her a side hug thanking her for coming. I sat down at the bar with my coffee, and in a matter of minutes she sat a big plate of breakfast down for me. Now, I'm not knocking her cooking, but I sure do miss Renee's. It was wonderful just the same.

Once breakffast was over, I grabbed some more coffee sitting down trying to decide what I'd do today. I guess I needed to go talk to Emmett, and Jasper about the additional cattle coming in. We needed to decide where we were going to put them, and make sure the pasture was all set up for them. I would also get some people out riding the fence to make sure it was in good condition.

There is no down time when running a profitable ranch. You work from morning to night, and sometimes into the night. I have done it all, and don't expect none of my people to do anything I wouldn't, or have not done in the past. I do love my life, and don't regret one minute of it. Not to please my father, and certainly no one but myself.

I ride out to the far pasture to get Emmett, and Jasper to put some people checking out things. I let them know we got five thousand more cattle coming in by the end of next week. I need them to also check out the northwest pasture for them. It is closer to the ranch, but far enough away until Rosalie, and the other veterinarians can go through checking them all out. I knew they would do a cursory exam as they were unloaded, but would do a more thorough one on all of them within a couple weeks.

I walk back into the ranch, and into my office. I called the employment agencies in Missoula, and the main government one in Billings telling them I was looking for permanent ranch hands to handle cattle, and quarter horses. I also told them if they had some looking for temporary jobs to go ahead, and send them. Hell, I might get lucky, and find some good help in them, and talk them into staying longer. I was looking for more help all over the ranch; kitchen help, housekeeping, working in horse barn, working in vets offices, and with cattle. I wanted them to be able to ride horses at the drop of a hat.

I was then sitting thinking about the housing situation, and know we got three bedrooms in the loft of the horse barn. There were also a couple cabins with two bedrooms in them. I was still going to have to look into more housing possibly. I needed to see how quick they could get one constructed with a big multiple shower, bathroom in the end. I guess my next thing is to call around to see what can be done.

Just more to think about. To just be thirty three years old I feel so damn much older. So much to worry about every day. I got to keep this going as there are a lot of people depending on me for their livelihood. I get that, and I'm not really bitching about all the things to take care of. I love this ranch, and will keep it going until I draw my last breath.

I turn my desk chair looking out over my ranch, and there is so much going on. It is absolutely wonderful. Yes, I love my life. Now a couple more years, and we'll see about adding some one special to share this with. Yes, I like that idea immensely.

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Alright everyone, here is my new story. Well, one of my new ones. I got three of them in the works. Now, give this a read, and let me know what ya'll thought. I do love writing my stories, and I hope you enjoy the journey I'm going to take you on.

There will also be a group page with lots of beautiful pics, so go check it out.

Thanks muches...