“Doggone men,” Roselle Fountain muttered under her breath. “By the time they get done with breakfast the cattle will have strayed all over the place.” Not in the mood for a heavy meal, she pushed away her empty plate.
No one at the table paid her any attention.
She’d awakened extra early to assure that the men didn’t leave without her. They were moving cattle to a new pasture today, branding some new arrivals, and she aimed to be part of the work team. Roselle refused to allow Tyler Bishop, the ranch foreman, to outshine her in her father’s eyes any longer.
He draped an arm over the back of his chair and said something that brought a chuckle from the men…including her pa.
Ellie’s jaw tensed.
The way Pa idolized Ty galled her, and she was bent on doing something to change it. But what?
She fidgeted in her chair, feeling invisible. Smoke hazed the air over the hired hands who puffed on rolled tobacco. She wrinkled her nose at the smell and glared down the long kitchen table at the men hunched over their coffee cups. She rolled her eyes in disbelief. They hung onto Ty’s every word. Some boss he was. Shouldn’t he be ordering everyone to work?
“Are ya’ll almost done?” She raised her voice to be heard.
“What’s your rush?” Ty drawled, not even turning to acknowledge her. “Keep yer britches on. We’ve got plenty of time.”
Ellie stewed at his dismissive attitude and grew tired of listening to the endless prattle. She grabbed the last piece of bacon and a biscuit from the nearest serving plate and left unnoticed through the back door.
On the porch, she paused to lick away the oily sheen left on her lips by the crispy piece of pork. Her disdain with Ty still rumbling in her belly, she finished the last bite of bread and gazed to the east.
For a moment, she forgot her anger. A brilliant variegation of oranges and reds stretched across the horizon and mirrored matching hues in the pond adjacent to the house.
She walked down the steps while eyeing the glassy pool, and feeling child-like, bent to pick up a small flat rock. With perfect pitch, she skimmed it across the water. The resulting ripples disturbed the sky’s reflected image and sent a flock of ducks scurrying up the far bank. Within seconds, the pond’s surface calmed, and the downy birds slipped back into their morning bath, as if nothing happened.
The sun peeked over the distant mountains and highlighted all the shades of green in the landscape. At that moment, Ellie held her breath and wondered what the rest of the world looked like. Certainly, Tennessee had to be the most beautiful place, even amidst all the rumblings of a possible war and the call for volunteers to form Confederate regiments.
What was it about men that made them want to fight?
She didn’t know much about government issues, but she’d listened to the men talk over supper about some
fellow called, Abe Lincoln—who vied for the presidential nomination. She wasn’t quite sure what they meant about his “rail-splitting” attitude, but some felt it contributed to the growing unrest in the south. A recent article in Pa’s weekly paper, written by a Mr. Horace Greeley, strongly suggested Mr. Lincoln would be a much better leader for the country than his rivals, Seward and Douglas.
Of course, she had no idea who they were or why they wouldn’t be suitable, but it didn’t matter what she thought anyhow. Such boring matters were better left to the men folk.
Pa usually picked up a newspaper each week, but Ellie steered clear of reading the depressing stories and bad news that filled it. She wondered why a person couldn’t find something good in the world to write about. Who wanted to read the graphic details about John Brown’s hanging for raiding a federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry and giving the weapons to Negroes? She only knew about it because Pa choose to read that story aloud at the breakfast table, saying it was just one more thing made public to fuel the growing discontent about owning black folks.
When first hearing about the story, a horrid image seized her mind. That same mental picture returned and made her shiver again. Her hand flew to her throat, and she swallowed hard. What a horrid way to meet one’s end.
She walked to the water’s edge, pondering why one person should be allowed to own another. She thanked God that Pa, like most in the area, didn’t believe in slavery.
Plucking a cattail, Ellie shook it, and watched the compacted brown flowers come apart and sail away. It made her mindful that people should be just as free to drift wherever the wind blew them. Her gaze followed the last fluffy piece as it wafted to earth before she walked back toward the compound. Patience with nature came easy, but not with malingering ranch hands.
If you'd like to continue Ellie's story, you can find the book available on Amazon in both download and print.