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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Bark is Worse than His/Her Bite (10/17/13)

TITLE: Who Knew
By Virgil Youngblood


Cory reined Diego Don to a halt atop the post oak covered ridge, surveying the fence. The barbed wire appeared banjo-string taut. Down the slope it disappeared into a gulley in an overgrazed pasture. Just past there, near a clump of trees in the adjoining native growth sanctuary of Conrad Blue, it sagged, about where a rifle barrel poked from behind a tree.

“Hello, the rifle. I’m coming down.” It was probably cantankerous old man Blue, or his foreman. Cattle were nibbling sparse tuffs of grass near the sagging fence. He pointed Diego Don off the hill.

When Cory arrived, Conrad stood beside a gap in the wire, waiting for him. “This is your last warning. Your cows get on my place again; I’m gut shooting ‘em.”

“I’m sorry about the fence, Mr. Blue. I’ll fix it. Please, don’t shoot Dad’s prize Beefmasters. He will pay you for the grass they ate. Just tell me how …”

“I ain’t interested in money. You heard what I said -- keep ‘em off my place.”

“Dad’s going through a tough time. We buried Momma last week. I’m …”

“I heard about Sarah. She was a good woman. It don’t matter though.”

“I know. Dad’s got his problems. He’s overgrazing with the drought, trying to raise enough cattle to get me graduated. I’m majoring in ranch management. I’ll drop out if he doesn’t start looking after things.”

Conrad Blue spat a stream of tobacco juice, his rheumy eyes studying Cory. “Your problems ain’t mine. Keep ‘em out.” He turned and stalked away. A four wheeler, it sounded like, started up, and growled off unseen.

“Well, Diego. I guess we better fix that fence. What’cha think?”

Old Conrad and his twin brother Alvin, both bachelors, were polar opposites. Conrad aggravated everybody with his obnoxious ways. He dressed shabbily and acted worse. He could squeeze an Indian head nickel until the Chief rode the buffalo.

Alvin lived on an adjoining ranch. It was rumored he made a fortune playing the stock market and maybe it was true. He came and went by helicopter and was seldom seen locally. Both Conrad’s had offered to buy the Double S, but his father was adamant – “I’ll die ‘fore that happens.”

It was nearing sundown when Cory returned to the ranch house. He had mended the fence and hazed the livestock onto a distant pasture, then returned and finished riding out the fence line. His dad was slumped in a rocking chair on the porch, swirling ice cubes in a half-full quart jar of sweet tea. Cory reported on his day, how the cattle were faring, and made several suggestions about their care. His dad was non committal until he told him about Conrad.

“That scoundrel, him and his brother want this place.” He rubbed tears from his leathery old face with a soiled red bandana. “Cory, you may have to drop out of college. I promised your mother I’d see you through, but I don’t see …”

“It’s okay, Pop. If I have to, I can go back later. With your experience and what I’ve learned so far about ranch management, we can make the Double S ...”

“Still, I promised …”

“Hang on, Pop. I’ll finish this semester in six weeks. How about I fry some ham and eggs for supper? Can you still eat six cackle-berries?” he asked, teasing.

Three weeks later Cory called his dad. “Pop, I don’t know what to think. The registrar called me into the office. Someone paid for the rest of my schooling. You got any idea who did it? They won’t tell me.”

Sam didn’t know, but the more they talked Cory realized a burden had been lifted from his father’s shoulders. He began to sound like his old self.

When the semester ended, he went home. His father was sitting on the porch, an obituary from the local newspaper in his hand. “This is the dang’dest thing I ever read.

“’Alvin Conrad Blue died …’” He handed the lengthy article to Cory.

“Huh? Which one died?”

“They wuz one and the same. Old Conrad gave everybody a hard time to check out their mettle and true feelings. Alvin was the generous side, giving anonymously to people and places all over the world he thought deserved it. That’s what it says.”

“Do you think…?”

“Yup. And that little valley between the hills your mama loved --- a surveyor is …”

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This article has been read 442 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 10/27/13
Wow - this was like a read from a novel or a showtime movie. Nicely told with a powerful conclusion! Great job. Thanks.

God bless~
Joanne Sher 10/28/13
Your descriptions are amazingly vivid and creative, and I was absolutely drawn into this tale. Excellent.
Danielle King 10/31/13
Amazing story. Loved your characters and all the little details. A well deserved win. Congratulations!
Noel Mitaxa 10/31/13
Congratulations on your win, as the descriptions hooked me and held me all the way through.
This is surely a synopsis of a page-turner, is it not?
Well done.
C D Swanson 10/31/13
Congratulations! No surprise to see your name again on the list! God Bless~
Nancy Bucca10/31/13
I loved this story, and the ending was a marvelous surprise. Alvin's bite sure was nicer than his bark. Incredible. Congratulations on your well deserved 1st place win.
Leola Ogle 10/31/13
Good writing, good story, good job! Congrats, Virgil!
Amelia Brown 10/31/13
Very intriguing indeed. This reminds me of a story I read in High school; "Of Mice & Men." A very nice western-setting read. Also very descriptive and fresh. Congratulations.
Bonnie Bowden 11/02/13
Congratulations on your well deserved win, Virgil. I sure didn't expect that ending. Your characters came to life with your vivid descriptions.
Bea Edwards 11/07/13
Colorful and entertaining read and a perfect fit to topic. Well done! Congratulations on your well deserved 1st place ribbon.