Lost in thought, Jed took the hedge trimmers from the back of the truck.  It had been far too long since he’d tended the fence along the ridgeline; his lack of attention made evident by the fact that the brush had grown around and twisted the fence.  If Jed wasn’t careful, a curious cow would push its way through the mangled mess and he’d be out some livestock.

Jed put the hedge trimmers down and pulled a pair of worn leather gloves from his coat pocket.  He looked to the sky as he put his gloves on.  Taking note of how the blue was turning gray as the day wound down, Jed wished he had headed to the job at hand sooner.  There was little chance that he’d be able to finish before dark.

Jed bent to pick up the hedge trimmers and exhaled, his breath hit the crisp air like a cigarette’s afterthought.  The smoky effect caused Jed to think on his dad, a pack a day smoker, and how the two of them had laid the fence some twenty years prior.  Four generations of Jed’s family had run cattle on his land, and now it was on Jed’s shoulders to keep the ranch going.

Jed started to cut away the brush as he remembered the argument that the seventeen-year-old version of himself and his dad had gotten into when they were laying the fence.

“Why aren’t you going to that school in Denver?”  Jed’s dad had asked after a morning of not saying anything to Jed.

“Because I’m gonna work here, running cattle, same as you.”

His dad had sighed.

“Seems foolish, with the way you can write, to want to run cattle.”

“Guess I’m a fool then.” Jed answered, stabbing the Earth with the posthole digger.

“Now you look here,” Jed’s dad said, grabbing Jed’s shoulder and turning him toward him, “and listen to what I’m saying.  Cattle business isn’t what it used to be.  It’s hard and there’s no guarantee that all that hard work will amount to anything worthwhile, come time to pay the mortgage.  I want you to think on that.”

Jed had looked his dad in the eye. “You just described what life in the writing business would be like.  Out here in this field, I know the lay of things.  I know what needs doin’ and when.  Daydreaming up stories, writing all day, I wouldn’t know which end was up.”

“That’s what school is for, to teach you things like that.”

Jed had turned back to his posthole digger.  “I’m fine here.”

“You’re scared is all.”

“I guess so.  Either way, come fall, I’ll be here.  Same as you were when you were my age; same as your daddy before you and his daddy before still.”

Jed’s dad went to the truck bed, cussing under his breath, “Damn mule-headed…”

Jed, knowing that he was his father’s son, just smiled that day.  He wore that remembered smile as he finished hacking away the brush from around the fence.  He eyed the barbed wire in the last, lingering light of the day and took note that he’d have to come back up in the morning to stretch a length or two, but that the harm wasn’t bad overall.

Jed stood in the bed of his truck before heading back to the house and took in the view of his property.  Four generations and cattle still ran on that land.

Jed hopped out of the bed and climbed into the cab as he thought to himself, “Four generations.  No story, nor book, nor movie script written nowadays can say it will last so long.”

Jed fired up his truck and headed back home with no regrets.

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