Lassoing the Virgin Mail-Order Bride

By: Alexa Riley

I feel a pang of disappointment hit my chest as I think about her going back home. We didn’t talk much beforehand, just a few short emails, but Clare sounded like a nice lady, and I’m surprised at how sad I feel at not getting to meet her. It would have been for convenience and she would have just been like another hired hand on the farm, but something inside me feels regret at the decision.

Shaking it off, I try not to think about it. It was the right decision, and I’m sure I’ll be over it soon enough. There are far too many chores that need to be done for me to sit and think about my choice and how wrong it might have been.

It’s the heat of the afternoon, and this is when we do the work in the barn and try to keep out of the sun as much as we can. This ranch was handed down in my family and after my mom and dad passed, it went to me. I’ve been helping run it since I was old enough to walk, so I know every inch of this place. My parents had been young when they took over from my grandparents. I think they had plans to have a mess of kids to help out, but after my mom had me they weren’t able to have any more. I’d had dreams of having a big family, too, but I never got around to finding time to get a wife. Somewhere inside me I’d always wanted what my parents had, but I thought what they had was rare. People don’t find that kind of love every day, but I dreamed that if I ever did, I’d want as many kids as possible to love and play with and teach them all about our land.

We go into one of the barns, and I check on the chickens as the guys give them grain and gather eggs. We’ve got another barn for the cows and pigs, and then we’ve got horses and cattle, too. There’s not much we don’t grow or raise on our own out here, and I like it that way. We make money off the big cattle. Raising them and then selling them for their beef. It’s good money, and even though it’s a lot of work, it’s worth it.

We use a section of the farm for growing crops, but that’s just for us. It’s not for making money. I like knowing we are self-sustaining out here for the most part, and we don’t have to run into town for every little thing we need.

There are about fifteen guys who work for me full time out here, and they all live on the farm as well. The big house is for eating meals and holding meetings, but I’m the only one who lives in it. There are two other big buildings on the farm where the men stay. They’re fixed up really nice. Everybody has their own space, and they keep to themselves when they’re not working. One of the foremen on the farm even has a couple of goats that he keeps as pets, and another has a couple of sheep. The sheep should be having lambs soon, and it will be nice to have some new babies around the farm.

I stop on my way to my horse and think about babies for a second. What it would mean if I didn’t have any of my own to take over the farm if something happened to me. And how it would feel not being able to have a family of my own. I shake the thought off as I climb onto my horse and ride to the west side of the land. I want to ride the fence line and recheck after the fiasco we had this morning. The thing about this much land is, you’re alone a lot, and I’m not sure I should be alone with my thoughts right now. I’ve already been contemplating too much today on the fact that I sent Clare away and what that means. Hell, I should be kicking my own ass right about now, but it’s getting late, and I’ve got to figure out getting a cook or something to feed everyone. We’ve been taking turns doing the cooking, and tonight’s Earl’s night. He’s the best foreman I’ve got, but damn if that man can’t cook for shit.

Riding towards the barn, I catch a couple of guys bedding down the horses for the night, and I help out with that. We lay out new hay and feed for them and close up the barn. It’s almost six, and as everyone has been up since four in the morning, it makes for a long day. A normal workday on a farm is tiring, but throw in a broken fence at the crack of dawn and you’ve got a big group of tired, hungry workers on your hands. All I can do is pray Earl made something semi-edible tonight.

“Damn, something sure does smell good,” Travis, one of the farmhands, says beside me as we near the big house.

I raise my nose and take a whiff. My stomach grumbles. “Mmm, sure does. Maybe Earl finally made something we don’t have to choke down.”

The guys laugh as we make our way over to the big water fountain next to the house and wash up for supper. It’s one of those big old farm sinks with a handle you pump and water pours out. A few of us stand around and I wash my bandana out, using it to wash my face and neck. Afterwards, I knock the dirt off my boots and go into the house. It’s the same routine I’ve been doing since I was a kid, and I make all the guys do it, too. My mom always made us wash up and clean our boots before we came in to eat, and it’s a habit I just can’t break. Even though it’s nothing special and it’s just us guys, I still make them act like civilized people when we sit down to eat.

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