When I pulled into Winterlight for the very first time, I saw a loose cow coming straight at me down a long drive. I turned off my tired truck and got out, thinking I could show how helpful I am right off the bat. My dog, Noire, hopped down from the truck seat as well.
Mr. Malcolm, a short, bow-legged guy swathed in denim, shook a stick at the cow to keep it moving, and Mrs. Malcolm, who was a freaking Amazon in a plaid skirt, shouted something I couldn’t hear. Jesus. Was I in the Midwest, or what? Noire barked at the cow, who considered, head lowered. I shouted my dog back and stepped toward the beast. She grunted, I lobbed a clod of dried horse manure at her, and she tossed her head up, thought better of whatever was passing through her pathetic little brain, then shuffled through the opening to join her herd mates. I shut the gate.
“Hope that’s where you wanted her,” I said as the Malcolms came up. On closer inspection, I saw the person I thought was Mrs. Malcolm was a man in a plaid skirt.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he yelled at me.
This was a bad start. I swallowed my sarcastic tone and said, “Helping?”
The little guy looked away quick to hide a smile. He had a face like a tattered linen shirt left too long balled up in the bottom of a drawer, but the grin ironed the wrinkles from his cheeks. The big guy’s skin tightened like my old trainer’s face used to when I didn’t ride the way he liked. His light-brown hair picked up the last traces of sunlight in golden sparks.
“Do all Easterners think they walk on water, or do you know something about bulls we don’t?”