Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GREEN (01/19/17)
TITLE: Big Steve
By LeslieJean Anderson
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Rick stared at the small dark-haired woman standing in front of him, with her hands on her hips.
“Well, Ma’am, I’m mighty sorry about your pa’s passing. Big Steve was a good man and a good boss. But don’t you live in San Francisco?”
“Yes. But we’re leaving the city - me and my son. He’s eleven. We need a place to stay. We’ll be making our home here in Montana.”
Oh no, thought Rick to himself. A woman city slicker with a greenhorn for a son! This is my new employer?
He took off his Stetson and smacked it against his thigh. “How much ranching experience have you had, Mrs. Martinez?”
“None,” she said flatly, maintaining steady eye contact. “So I’ll need a coach and a mentor. I only vacationed here when I was little. But I know that you practically grew up on this ranch. Papa told me he taught you everything he knew. I will pay you double what my father paid you as his top ranch hand.”
Rick groaned inside. He loved everything about ranching, but he didn’t like this bold, in-your-face woman. And he hadn’t even met the son yet.
“I need to think about this, Ma’am. And you might want to, as well. Ranching is not only hard and dirty, it is also risky. This ranch would sell for top dollar. Why would you want to try to make a go of it way out here?”
Sophia stared at him for a long moment. “God told me to. Please meet me in my father’s office at 8:00 sharp tomorrow morning, so we can work out the details. Good day.”
The next morning Rick arrived at the Ranch office early, with his resignation in hand. He just could not see himself as Sophia’s “coach and mentor.”
As he rounded the corner of the building he heard voices coming from the window. Sophia’s father had deliberately placed his desk chair against the partially open window so he could hear what was going on in the barn area. Rick stopped to listen.
He heard a boy’s voice. "...we know that You have Grandpa safely in Your care, God. We know that he is free from pain and suffering now, and in Heaven with You. We miss him but we still want him to be proud of us. Please help us do good so we can join him someday. Help me to be strong and protect Mama.”
Then he heard Sophia’s voice. “Father, we are grateful that we can share in the legacy that Papa created in this beautiful valley. With this gift he has provided us with a safe place and set us free from the terror of the prison gangs in the city. Please help us be brave as we face new challenges every day, and help us to meet the needs of the people who have depended on this ranch for their livelihood. Amen.”
Rick began tiptoeing backwards to a spot where he was sure they couldn’t see him through the window. He pushed back his hat, rubbed his forehead, and sighed. He stood there, thinking. Then, he slowly folded the resignation letter and stuffed it into his back pocket.
His watch said 8:00. He took a deep breath, and began walking forward with a determined stride as he approached the building from a different angle. Jumping up the two steps to the porch, he knocked smartly on the door of his former boss’s rustic office.
“Let me introduce my son Stevie Martinez,” said Sophia when Rick entered the room. “Stevie, this is Rick Strong, the ranch manager who helped your Grandpa with everything.”
“Hello, Mr. Strong,” said Stevie, shaking hands with an exaggerated motion.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Martinez,” said Rick with a pleasant grin.
Sophia sat down at her father’s desk. “Now, Mr. Strong...”
“Rick is fine, Ma’am,”
“All right, Rick. Did you consider my proposal?”
“Yes, I did. But I can propose something even better. My younger brother also worked this ranch until he was twenty-two. He’s been studying agribusiness at MSU, and he’s due to come home soon. For the salary you mentioned, you could employ both of us for a couple of years. That way ranch management can continue uninterrupted while we mentor and coach you. Big Steve would want us to do this. Would that be acceptable to you, Mrs. Martinez?”
This is a work of fiction. 749 words
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