From where I'm from, one decision can change everything; whether or not you take your usual route to go home, where you want your cattle to graze, how many people you assign to nightwatch, what is worth investigating... Sometimes, it seems meaningless. Like it didn't really matter. And while making the wrong decision might not be very costly at most times, it could change the outcome, often in unexpected ways due to one unexpected thing or another.
I have one good example of such a situation. Two, actually.
The first one happened when I was only 12. There were a few bandits on the loose. They called themselves the Twister Gang. They had been roaming the country on the wrong side of the law for a few years, never staying in the same place for months at a time to avoid detection and inevitable capture. Our Sheriff, a smart old-timer named Dan Bylsma, kept track of the gang and predicted their next target; our very own Winslow Town.
In anticipation of their arrival, Mr. Bylsma rounded up a posse to help him intercept the bandits at Sunset Valley, a twisted labyrinth of a canyon system that is the only entrance to our town. Of course, my father had to go along with the posse; he, along with the rest of the group, were one of the few excellent marksmen and gunslinger in town. And he had always been heroic like that. It was a trait of him that he often exhibited (but would always deny of). And so, one morning, they went on their mission...
...and never came back. None of the 10 or so men returned. Not my father. Not the sheriff nor his deputy. Not the mayor's son. Not Mr. Thomas, the father of my best friend, Corey and his twin brother, Carey.
None of them came back.
Me and my older brother, Pascal, were taken by surprise. With our father MIA, we suddenly found ourselves the owners of the Whittaker Ranch. We struggled during the first few months, coping with the loss of our father and having such a huge responsibility thrust into our hands all of a sudden like that. But we managed to wing it...somewhat. I had to admit that Pascal did most of the work; I had no idea what I had to do. Besides, he was already considered an adult, and prior to his disappearance, our father had taught Pascal how to handle the ranch. Pascal only grasped the basics, but that was just enough.
The years passed by. Ranch hands came and went. Slowly, but surely, Pascal and I got good at our jobs. Sure, there were good drives and bad drives, and there was also that one time we nearly lost the ranch to a bad fire. But we held on through it all.
About 8 years after our father went missing, something unexpected happened. You could say it's a life-changing event. It certainly was for Pascal.
It was just supposed to be a routine. Fresh horses came by one clear summer morning. They were still wild and unbroken. Being the most experienced guys in the ranch, Pascal and I, along with Corey and Carey, took the task upon ourselves to "civilize" those horses. The first few horses responded well enough to being ridden for the first time. But it was Pascal's third horse that changed everything.
Pascal was on the saddle of that wild horse when a snake came into the corral. The horse was spooked and reared back in fear. Unfortunately, Pascal was not prepared for the sudden maneuver.
And he fell.
Even from a few hundred feet away, I could tell how awkward the fall was. We wasted no time to take Pascal to the nearest doctor. But the damage was already done. The doctor said that Pascal struck a rock on his way down. It hit him in the back and caused spinal damage. He was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
I would be lying if I say that Pascal took it well. He was crushed. He could no longer lead the ranch like he used to, which meant I had to take on the role of foreman by myself. In reality, I had no problem with it. Years of working with Pascal allowed me to have just a little less level of experience than he had. Actually, I was more worried about Pascal. Ranch life was everything that he knew. He was also someone who liked to work a lot; sitting in a chair for hours at a time (like when he was forced to rest after breaking his ankle) was torture for him. You could imagine how hard it was for him to learn that he had to sit for the rest of his life.
The rest of the ranch didn't take it really well, either. Pascal was a big part of us all. He was our leader. And while he didn't necessarily go away for good in the usual meaning, it almost felt like he had. No more yelling at the twins for either one of them to go to town. No more berating Tazer for teasing Dylan endlessly. No more joking at dinners. Pascal just...well, he didn't act like the Pascal we knew anymore. Corey became more uptight than usual, knowing that he had to keep his head for all our sake. Carey wasn't as cheerful, even though he obviously tried to be. Even Liz, a cousin of Pascal and I who came to the ranch a few years back, wasn't as high-spirited as she'd normally be.
Things went like that for several weeks until two new cowboys came in to join on the drive; Patrick O'Donnell and Andrew Jones. It didn't take long for us to call them the "Trouble Duo," and they had earned the nickname righteously. It was an apt name. They somehow transformed the entire drive into a trip to the Land of Mischief. There were traps everywhere. Literally no one escaped the pranks, not even Pascal (who insisted against all our protests' to tag along). From the way I saw it, I figured that they must've woken up early before dawn to set up those pranks, but I had never seen them done it. Corey and I reprimanded them time and time again, but they didn't stop. In fact, the pranks just got worse. It went on until the end of the drive and continued for a good month after. But then, Pascal, under the strain of everything and all, went completely ballistic. Even though I wasn't the one being targeted, I felt as if his yells scorched my ears. God knows how those two felt. It wasn't that surprising to see them act almost normal after that. And by acting almost normal, I meant that they didn't try to pull off any crazy pranks. Or any prank at all, actually.
With the two of them out of action, things became quiet. Eerily quiet, actually. Life seemed a bit dull when you didn't have to constantly be on the lookout for any new pranks. Without any of us realizing it, the pranks had grown on us. It probably acted as some sort of a way to have fun. It really mattered to have something constant in life we could treat as a joke. We missed it badly. But unfortunately, Hell would freeze over before Pascal admitted that he was wrong and that the pranks were not, as he put it, "a bullshit through and through and a fucking waste of time and resources."
To all our relief, the pranks started again not long after. How, you asked? I have one word. Carey. The younger Thomas twin saw this in all of us and did the most Thomas thing he could ever do; he played a prank on the Trouble Duo. Big time. I couldn't really remember what he exactly did, but I knew he used smoke bombs and colored flour. The next thing all of us knew, a prank war was started, with everyone joining in on the fun. It went on for a full week, with everyone on the Trouble Duo's side being declared the winner. I, unfortunately, was not on their side.
But that was besides the point. The point was, everything returned to normal. Well, as normal as the Whittaker Ranch could ever be, at the very least. Despite his earlier troubles, Pascal began to cope with his disability and adapted with his new life. He took up medicine so he could watch over the others and probably prevent what happened to him from happening to anyone else. It was enough to make him content with the fact that he couldn't be with them 24/7 like he used to. Just like we'd all done in the past, we coped. We adapted. We helped each other through every up and down. In the end, we survived. This ranch is a family... A family any one of us would die to defend. With a family that stuck together like this (as dysfunctional as it was), what could possibly go wrong?
A/N: So that's it, the first chapter of my very first story :) What do you think? Is it good? Bad? So-so? Tell me in the reviews! Updates might be long (monthly, but I'll try to do weekly or bi-weekly), so I guess see you next month?
Bye-bye and have a good day :)