Chapter 1Montana. Spring 1934
'This feels wrong', Danny thought as he shifted slightly from one foot to the other and adjusted the old pair of jeans he was wearing. He was not used to this type of clothing,
'Hell,' he thought, 'I'm not used to this type of life'!
He began to walk down the long muddy track that lay ahead of him and towards the large wooden ranch he could see in the distance. The train from New York had gotten in a bit early and he had been fortunate to hitch a lift to the outskirts of town quite quickly so he had a bit of time before he was expected. He took the opportunity to have a look around.
The Monroe Ranch was a sizable estate snuggled in the valley between two mountains in the background. It was very picturesque and exactly how he imagined Montana to look.
'I shouldn't really grumble' he ruminated, 'at least I have a job'.
Danny arrived at the front door and hesitated only for a moment before knocking. The door was opened by a slim, mature looking woman, with vaguely familiar features, who greeted him with a warm smile,
"You must be Daniel Messer", she exclaimed with a smile.
"Yes Ma'am", replied Danny lifting his grey cap.
"Well I'm Anna Monroe. Come on in. I've been waiting for you. Oh, sorry I can't shake your hand." Her hands were covered in Flour to the elbows, and she turned and led him into the house.
Danny followed closely behind, through a dark hallway and into a warm and inviting country kitchen. Mrs Monroe returned to kneading the bread she had half done on the long wooden table and told him to pull up a chair and chat to her whilst they waited for her husband and the other hands to come home for lunch.
"Journey okay?" she started whilst pummelling the loaf.
"Yes, thank you ma'am" he replied nervously, "I've never been this far out West before though. I really appreciate the Job offer".
"You have any experience on a farm?" she gave him a once over. He was not particularly tall or well built unlike most of the field hands they employed.
"Ah…Not really. But I'm a real fast learner and always had a knack with fixing things", he added. " Used to help my Pa haul coal as well so I ain't afraid of hard work".
"Well that good then. We should be able to start you this afternoon with any luck." She paused as they both heard chatting voices and the scrunch of boots on the gravel outside. "Here they come in now" she added and began to set the table for lunch.
The group entered from outside kicking mud from their boots, and sitting down for their long awaited meal. The oldest man among them approached Danny who stood quickly to meet his new employer.
"Fergus Monroe" he said holding out a hand which Danny readily shook. "Glad you made it, we're really struggling with a man down out here".
"I really appreciate the work Mr Monroe. Mac sends his love to you all from New York," Danny added.
"Oh how is he, that brother of mine?" Mrs Monroe asked, "We haven't heard much from him and Stella since the baby was born."
"He's well", Danny answered taking the seat indicated to him and helping himself to lunch as the others were, "they both are, and little Lucy. But the depression has hit the company quite hard they had to lay a lot of people off."
"Is that how you ended up all the way out here?" one of the other men around the table asked. He was around Danny's age although much sturdier in build. He looked like he had been doing hard labour his whole life.
"Yeah", said Danny wearily. "Mac couldn't afford to continue to train me at the moment, and when Mrs Monroe here was telling her brother about you losing one of your hands in that accident, Mac recommended me for the job until work picks up back in the city. Mac's a really good guy. Always looking out for me like a father."
They chatted for the rest of lunch, with Danny being introduced to all the men around the table including the one who had asked him about getting the job who it turned out was Mr and Mrs Monroe's son Jeremy.
"And where has that girl gotten to", Anna Monroe huffed as they finished up their meal. "Always away with her head up in the clouds that one, or down in a book".
"I sent her to the dairy to check on the cows," Mr Monroe cut her off. "She shouldn't be too long. Right lets get going", he said turning to the men and they all sluggishly got up and headed out of the door with Danny joining them this time.
As he walked with the other men towards the fields Danny turned and for a moment caught sight of the back of a young woman heading from the barn toward the house and disappearing through the door.