Chapter 1

The day was quiet, for snow had fallen over night. Falling slowly, quietly, ever drifting to the ground. The whole valley was covered in snow. The mountains in the south were covered with snow all the way to the top. Clumps of snow fell from the evergreen's branches and icicles hung from their needles.

I sat upon my mount in this quiet wilderness. I sat at the top of a hill, just at the edge of a wide valley. I kept an eye on the herd of cattle below. My name is James. James Edward. I am nineteen (19) years old and live and work on a huge cattle and horse ranch just northeast of Billings, Montana. I had been here since I was seventeen (17). I was kicked out of the house for causing trouble. The only secure thing in my life was Jesus, my Lord and Savior. My mother didn't believe in him. My father said he did, but was at a bar every night.

I had loved horses since I was young. I loved to read the horse stories and draw them in my free time. The other boys always called me 'girly', but I didn't care. Then when my dreams came true, they all got jealous. Because in the sixth grade, training a horse kind of gets you a lot of attention. In the sixth grade, mom bought me Doc, with dad's permission, of course. He was a weanling when she got him, an orphan as well. She told me he needed a best friend and that's why she got him. She also said she knew it was me since he had an abusive past as well. Mom's right again. I raised him myself and I'm proud of it.

Enough of my past, you can have more of that as we go. I searched the herd of cattle for a calf that I wanted. Doc, my mount, looked upon the valley with an alert, perked up expression. That was the look he always had on his face. I loved it. He's a 15.6 hand Chestnut Overo Paint gelding. I had broke him myself and have been riding him ever since, for the past 8 years. He hadn't always been a ranch horse, but we learned how to live and work on a ranch together. Now he was qualified as a true ranch horse and what was even better was he loved his work.

I looked at Mike, also nineteen (19), who sat upon his mount on my right. His short black hair was just barely visible under his hat. He watched the cattle with his strong brown eyes. His mount was a twelve (12) year-old Quarter Horse mare. She was the oldest ranch horse on the place, but one of the smartest and strongest. Mike came from a quiet past. His parents got along, his father didn't get drunk, and his mother didn't hit him. I was happy for him. He has had a secure life ever since his birth. The kind of life I wanted, but couldn't have it, until now. I rejoiced for him. I also knew the he didn't believe in Christ either. That was the only problem with his life.

"I want the Sabino one," I told Mike quietly. He nodded in understanding. I gathered my reins in my right hand and my lasso in my left. We nudged our horses into a walk and advanced toward the herd. The cows closest to us looked up, but stay put. Mike rode out wide, around the herd. I steered Doc through the herd. We came up behind the bull-calf and his mother. I gave Mike the signal and spurred Doc straight into a gallop. I spun my lasso in the air as we ran after the calf. I threw it and nearly choked when it looked like it would miss, but got one ankle.

Doc slipped on an ice patch just as I was going to pull the slack tight, setting the lasso free of my grip. Once Doc had recollected himself, we charged after the calf. Mike loped behind us, cursing. Neither a lasso nor a calf was this important to him. He always said 'get another one'. I grabbed a goat-tying string and raced up beside the calf.

"What are you doing?!" I heard Mike shout behind me. I pretended not to hear him as Doc and I raced beside the calf.

"Help me, Jesus. Please, Father," I prayed quietly. With snow hitting my face, I leaped from Doc's back and wrapped my arms around its neck. I wrestled it to the ground and goat-tied three of its legs together. It squealed for its mother as I stood. I looked at the terrified look on its face. Sorry, little guy, but you're only going to live for another couple days, I thought to myself. It was true. Every cowboy that lived on the ranch had their own little cabin and didn't have to pay to live in it. The deal was if we kept the cow herds safe and in check and watched the wild horses, we could have one (1) calf every two weeks. Why, to provide us with food.

"What do you call that?!" Mike said, astonished. I whistled softly and Doc trotted back over to me. I reached up and tied the end of the lasso to the saddle horn. I swung back into the saddle. Mike and Rosy, his mare, just stood there.

"It's called Steer-wrestling my friend," I said and nudged Doc into a walk. We walked along, dragging the calf, as Mike searched the herd for one he wanted.

"I wouldn't do it," He said. "I found the one I want," he exclaimed softly and trotted off ahead of us, getting his lasso ready. I stopped Doc at the bottom of the hill and dismounted. I put a single rein on the ground, his cue to ground-tie. I went back to the calf and kneeled beside it. I untied all its legs, picked it up, and carried it back toward Doc. I set the calf over Doc's withers, in front of the saddle and mounted up again. I put the goat-tying rope back in the saddle pack and wound up my lasso, tying it back to the saddle. I put a firm right hand on the calf and reined with my left. I turned doc around to watch mike.

The calf Mike wanted had to be cut from the herd. Rosy was spinning and blocking and getting low in the snow. I found it hard to watch her face, but I knew her ears were pinned, meaning she meant all business. Finally the calf ran away from the herd and mike spun his lasso. A few gallop strides later he threw his lasso and got the calf around the neck. Rosy planted her feet for a sliding stop and held her ground firmly, bringing the calf to an abrupt halt. He tied the end of his lasso around the saddle horn of his saddle and jumped off Rosy's back. He made his way quickly through the knee-deep snow and picked up the calf, bringing it back to Rosy. The mare relaxed and Mike laid the calf across her withers, like I had done with mine.

He collected his loose lasso, tied it back to the saddle and mounted again. He trotted toward me, holding his calf down and reining Rosy around with his left. It was natural. All cowboys reined with their left hand. It was easier to move the horse with your left and rope with your right. Unless you were a left hand person, then you would rein with your right and rope with your left. But all the cowboys I knew were right-handed, so it all works. I wished to see a left-handed cowboy one day. When Mike reached me, I reined Doc around and we loped off up the hill we had gone down and back down the path we had came.