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Lovedust and Trailblazers by Davee Jones

Lovedust and Trailblazers
by Davee Jones

Secret Cravings Publishing

eBook ISBN: 9781618854315

Marine, Josiah Samuels, was sent home from the Korean Conflict honored with a Purple Heart. Although he proudly served his country, he lived daily haunted by the war. Fortunately, he meets veterinarian, Minnie Mitchell. Hopefully, they find a way to keep Minnie close to the family ranch…and Josiah’s loving arms.

Note: Prologue omitted.

Buy Now:
Secret Cravings PublishingAReKindleNook

Chapter One

Josiah gathered materials together for a day of mending fence. The cows had been finding the weak spots in an effort to rejoin their recently weaned offspring. “Darn cows, dumb as rocks, but can find every hole in a fence to escape,” he muttered looking towards the pasture.
Now in his late twenties, Josiah looked every bit the part of cattle wrangler. His dusty, worn felt hat jammed down against his military haircut almost hid his deep eyes. Although he had not worn Marine fatigues or a uniform in a few years, he kept the same sharp buzz cut. Josiah preferred spending more hours outside in a day than inside, so sunspots dotted his muscular forearms and almost blended in with his year round farmer’s tan.
Josiah’s brother, Ezekiel—Zeke for short—assisted him at the barn loading up the bois d’arc wood posts, barbed wire, fence stretchers, post hole diggers, and various hand tools. With the pickup bed as full as possible, they headed to the house to pick up water jugs and some beef jerky to snack on. “It’s gonna be a hot one today, Zeke. I hope this doesn’t take all day.”
“I reckon we will hit ninety degrees by noon.” Zeke pondered as he expertly fished a pinch of Copenhagen snuff out of the can and wedged it between his cheek and bottom gums.
“You are never gonna get a girl to kiss you while you keep chewin’ that mess.” Josiah shook his head at his younger brother’s nasty habit.
“What makes you think I want to be kissin’ any girls? They ain’t nothin’ but trouble, and for right now, I’m content with my Copenhagen in my back pocket and all girls at arm’s length.”
“You might have a point about the ‘trouble’ part, Zeke.” Josiah uttered under his breath.
“C’mon, let’s get this day started and quit talking about it.” Josiah opened the driver’s side door and hopped in. “Make sure you bring a spit-can, I don’t want tobacco juice all down the side of my truck!” He yelled before Zeke loaded into the passenger side.
Settled into the truck, they began down the long driveway. The summer left the pasture slightly wilted and the weeds strained for water and relief from the heat. The odor of bitter sneezeweed, identified by deceptively pretty yellow flowers, filled the air. “Can you taste that?” Josiah asked as the familiar odor penetrated his throat, making him taste the pungent fumes wafting from the innocent looking plants.
“Yes, sir, even with this snuff in my mouth. We need to spray this field again and try to get rid of as much as we can before it takes over the place. Cows don’t generally eat it, but if they do, it sure does make them sick. I heard at the feed store about this new kind of poison that takes care of most pasture weed problems.” Zeke looked out his window towards the expansive field.
“I heard a little about it too, Zeke, but something makes me uneasy about it. You know, we drink the water coming up from the ground. How much of this stuff seeps down through the soil into our well?”
Zeke thought for a moment before he replied. Josiah always seemed to think ahead. Anytime something new came along, he studied it extensively before he experimented with it. “Shoot, brother, you are still using those bois d’arc posts for the fence instead of those new steel ones. It isn’t often you change your method of doing things.” Zeke smiled toward his older brother, indicating both respect and amusement for his traditional ways of thinking.
Josiah opened his mouth in rebuttal when, about halfway down, they noticed another truck approaching them, coming up their drive. “Who the heck is coming to see us?” Zeke asked Josiah, frustration evident in his voice.
“I have no idea, but it looks like a woman driving that truck.” Josiah strained to get a better view of the driver.
Josiah pulled over to the right side of the narrow dirt road and continued driving to meet the other truck. Indeed a woman, driving very fast, barreled toward them. The closer she became, the more frantic her expression appeared. Finally, they both stopped, driver’s windows aligned. “I need some help, please! I have a stuck cow in your pond.” As soon as the words tumbled forth, her breathing quickened again erratically.
“Ma’am, how is it one of your cows is in my pond?” Josiah’s analytical mind took precedence over emotional thinking.
“Look, there is a hole in the fence connecting our properties. She must have went through in the night. I counted the cattle when I fed this morning. We have a few missing and she was one of them. I took a walk and noticed the hole. As soon as I crossed over the fence, I heard a loud mooing sound and followed it to one of your ponds.”
Tears filled this distraught woman’s eyes as she reiterated her desperation. “Please help me. I’ll pay for the fence, I don’t care, but I can’t do this alone.”
Zeke verbally prodded his brother. “Josiah, let’s go see what we can do for her. It’s gonna be hot no matter when we get to the fencing.”
“Fencing?” The woman shrieked toward the brothers. “You knew there were holes in the fence?”
“Okay, calm down, ma’am, we are gonna come help you out. Lead the way.” Josiah exhaled, indicating his frustration that his plans for the day changed so easily.
The woman aggressively backed her truck away from Josiah’s. She kicked up dust as she fishtailed into a spin to turn toward the exit gate of their property. Josiah followed along, watching as her truck almost careened off the cattle guard protecting the entrance to the main road. “She is certainly in a hurry.”
“What the heck is she so worked up over one cow, anyway?” Zeke shook his head before he spit snuff into his straw lined can.
“I reckon we’re about to find out, like it or not.”
After a few miles, she eventually turned into the entrance for the neighboring ranch. As Josiah followed, he observed he had not been onto this property in years. “I don’t believe I’ve been up here since these new folks took this place over. Have you ever met them, Zeke?”
“Briefly at the feed store a few weeks back. The man who owns it, name’s Mitchell, I think. He really didn’t look in that good of shape, if you ask me. Looked kinda sickly, but real nice.”
“Hmm, interesting.” Josiah pondered for a moment how he rarely thought of life outside his own family ranch and responsibilities. He always took it as a positive sign that he had little interaction with his neighbors. It meant few problems or dissension existed. After Korea, he needed peace on a daily basis.
They followed her up past the main house and drove the narrow path behind a big red barn. She stopped her truck in front of a gate connecting the barn cattle pens to the pasture fence. She jumped out quickly, opened the gate, rushed back to her truck and drove through. She left enough room behind her for Josiah to pull in.
Zeke automatically got out to close the gate as she exited her vehicle, anticipating the need to shut it herself. “Thank you,” she yelled from her position by her truck, as she held onto the door. Zeke settled back into the truck and they quickly followed her to another stretch of fence. They immediately noticed the gap in the barbed wire.
She practically jumped out of her truck still moving and scurried to the bed to retrieve a couple of sturdy ranch ropes. “I hope you boys have muscles.”
She threw the dusty, worn ropes over the damaged fence. She maneuvered her body through the gap in the barbed wire, careful not to catch her clothing or tear her skin on the barbs. Josiah watched her every move with unusual curiosity. Her feminine curves revealed themselves suggestively in her bent over position. He turned away, blushing at his reaction to her unintended provocative stance.
Zeke paid no attention to his brother, instead intent on getting this snag in their day taken care of. “C’mon Josiah, get through that fence, we have more work to do than we imagined.” He gestured toward the gaping escape route in the fence.
Josiah grabbed the fence and pulled it down and rather than maneuver through it, he simply tip-toed over it one leg at a time. She noticed how easily he went over. “I wish I was six feet tall, then I could manage like you.” She finally offered a smile.
“Look, ma’am, I don’t mind helping you, but can I have your name, or should I keep callin you ma’am?” Josiah offered his own warm smile.
“Oh, fiddlesticks, I forgot my manners in all this mess. I’m Minnie Ellen Mitchell. Please call me Minnie.”
They continued walking in the direction Minnie led. Not too many paces away from the fence, they heard a cow’s distressed mooing. “Oh, it sounds softer than before. I hope we aren’t too late!” Minnie again sounded on the verge of tears.
The brothers looked at each other in utter confusion. The bewilderment in their eyes indicated they had no idea how to deal with female emotions. They may as well have attempted a conversation with the immovable cow. “We just need to get the cow out, then everything will be fine.” Zeke tried to sound positive.
With all the commotion of the preceding twenty minutes, Josiah did not stop to think about why the cow made it to the mud in the first place. “Cows seek out relief from a fever or feeling sick by wading into a pond, Minnie. Did she appear sick recently?”
Minnie continued walking, not slowing her pace as she answered. “She seemed fine the past few days. I last saw her yesterday morning when I made the usual feeding rounds. I administered wormer to the whole herd last week, and did not notice anything wrong then.”
She administered wormer to the cattle?
“Shoot, our girls looked so healthy lately, I haven’t even had to doctor any of them for pinkeye, dust pneumonia, or anything.”
She doctors their cattle?
Josiah stopped without realizing it as he ruminated her role on her ranch. He watched her briskly continue toward the small pond and the noisy cow. How could that little lady be taking care of the medical needs of their herd?
“Hey, you, oh, doggone it! I gave you my name and didn’t even ask for yours. I’m sorry, terrible manners again.” Minnie briefly stopped and turned toward Josiah, waving him forward.
“I’m Josiah and this is my brother, Zeke. Nice to meet you, sorry it’s such a lousy circumstance.”
Zeke piped in his own greeting. “Yes, I think I met your Pa at the feed store the other day.”
“Glad to make your acquaintance.” She started walking again, not breaking her stride or looking back in their direction.
They arrived at the pond and immediately quieted. Among the thick stands of cattails, a few lily pads and moss patches sitting stagnantly around the murky water, the poor cow had sunk down to her ribs in the heavy, sticky, clay mired mud of the farm pond. Even her subdued mooing indicated she had given up hope.
“Oh, no, Guernsey, we’re gonna get you out of there.” Minnie attempted to reassure the cow, as if the cow would understand.
The brothers looked at each other in defeat before they looked toward Minnie. Minnie’s eyes filled once again with tears as she waded through the muck toward the cow. She gently caressed the cow’s nuzzle and spoke soft, muffled words to her animal friend. She then directed her attention to Josiah and Zeke. “Guys, c’mon, help me get this rope around her mid-section. If we get it just right, we can pull her out from behind.”
They knew they could not pull that cow out of the quicksand like mud. It trapped the cow with the suction action comparable to a vice grip. However, they also knew they had to try. Minnie obviously was not giving up on her bovine pet.
“If we get her out, she is very sick, Minnie, you know that, right?” Josiah looked at the cow’s watering eyes and observed the persistent low cough and knew her sickness drove her to the comfort of the cool mud and water.
“I’ve got antibiotics, I can treat this, let’s just get her out first.” Minnie searched Josiah’s eyes for some indication he understood how important this was to her. “Please.”
Life in Korea taught Josiah the only way to make it through a futile situation was two-fold. The first was absolute belief you would make it out of whatever tough spot you found yourself. The second was belief in divine intervention. He had to give this his full effort and pray for a good outcome, and his conscience would be clear—no matter the result. “Minnie, we will give it our best try.”
The boys and Minnie worked for the next hour situating ropes around the animal. During the arduous process, getting covered in mud—their sweat mingling with the pond water, drenched their clothes. Josiah noticed Minnie even had mud splattered on her face. He had never known a woman to work as hard as a man before. Her perseverance impressed him.
At least when she intently worked, the sadness left her eyes, replaced with tenacious determination. This girl has true grit if I’ve ever seen it. He also noticed how her waterlogged clothes clung to her feminine curves. He allowed himself a longer look this time as they worked together tying the ropes into secure knots. She had curves in the right places and he admired a genuinely womanly figure.
When they moved to the bank to pull, they formed a three-man tug-of-war line, pulling against their enemy—the stubborn, sticky mud. Their red faces indicated their full bodily exertion in an attempt to at least move the cow toward the bank. They dug their heels into the deep, dried hoof prints for traction and heaved willfully on the rough rope. If the cow could position herself successfully, she could fight against the mud and possibly pull herself the rest of the way. Yet, the cow remained stubbornly stuck, unwilling to fight for her freedom.
After another hour of unsuccessfully pulling, Guernsey the cow turned her head dejectedly toward Minnie as if to say, “It’s okay, just let me go.” Minnie dropped her part of the rope, walked away from Josiah and Zeke, and plopped down on the opposite bank, sobbing heavily as her head lolled between her knees.
Josiah watched helplessly, unsure of how to console Minnie over what he thought to be some dumb cow. Josiah, you wouldn’t know how to interact with any emotional woman, period. He looked over toward Zeke and whispered. “Brother, I’ve been in combat and this scene tops the list of uncomfortable situations.”
“You ain’t kiddin’, Josiah. It’s a dadburn cow, for Pete’s sake!” Zeke spoke a little more loudly than he intended.
“She is a cow, I know this. But, I don’t think I could explain myself well enough for either of you knuckleheads to understand.” Minnie almost shouted across the pond bank. She stood up and looked down at her mud-covered hands. “Ahh, dammit! Son of a bitch! I can’t even wipe the tears out of my eyes!”
The brothers exchanged surprised looks at Minnie’s expletives. Women did not normally cuss in their presence. It was not lady like. Josiah started to offer some type of condolence. “Ma’am…” Minnie quickly interrupted him.
“Look, it’s either Minnie or Doctor Mitchell, but quit calling me ma’am!”
Zeke began to squirm in the presence of these two adults, even though he himself was over eighteen. He preferred the solitude of digging postholes to women and their reactions. “Josiah, I’ll be right back, I’m gonna fetch the water jug for us.” He quickly took off toward the truck, away from their conversation, almost stumbling on the irregular terrain and scattered rocks of the pond bank.
“Minnie, we didn’t mean to upset you. I can tell this is very important to you. I just honestly don’t know what to say right now to help you feel better.” The only tactic Josiah had involved the blunt truth. He hoped she understood.
“Will you please help me untie these ropes from Guernsey?” Minnie walked once again toward her beloved pet. “I’ve got some tranquilizer in the truck. I’ll give her an injection to at least help her finally sleep in peace.” She began choking back sobs again.
“I’ll do whatever you need, Minnie.” Something in Minnie’s heartfelt openness touched Josiah’s heart. Rarely did the human condition move him, but he felt tenderness toward this moment.
* * * *
They moved quickly to untie the knotted rope from the cow. Minnie winced at the raw patches of hide from where the ropes rubbed against her normally fur covered skin. She patted the cow and spoke in soft unintelligible words again toward Guernsey’s large floppy ears. As Minnie touched the rough hide, memories flooded her mind, like this silly buckskin colored calf bawling and awkwardly galloping toward her when she brought the big milk bottle with the huge nipple. Then Guernsey grew older, lightly nudging Minnie in the back in a show of affection toward the only “momma” she ever knew. Guernsey taking cow cake out of Minnie’s hand and that big sloppy tongue leaving sticky slobber on her palm. Guernsey so loving and gentle with her own babies while they nursed and then bucked and ran around her in carefree circles. Shit, how would these stupid knucklehead cowboys understand how much she loved her pet cow? Guernsey loved her more than any human ever seemed to.
* * * *
Josiah watched respectfully as Minnie sincerely showed her love toward what he always believed to be dumb, simple-minded creatures. If anything, she is the perfect business woman for a ranch. She is invested quite personally in their welfare.
Minnie made her way through the hole in the fence back to her truck. She opened the passenger side door and pulled out a large black doctor’s bag, once again puzzling Josiah. She walked slowly the same path to return to the pond bank.
From the black bag, Minnie pulled out a large bottle of liquid and an animal syringe, complete with large needle. He watched her draw a large syringe full of liquid, sighing woefully as she prepared the hefty dose of medication. Josiah thought of several questions, but knew this was not the time. How did she get animal medications? What did she mean by “doctor”? Why do I want to wrap my arms around this woman? Only the last question troubled Josiah.
“You don’t have to stay and watch this, if you don’t want to. I’ll be fine, I promise.”
“Look, we’ve been here this long; I intend to stick it out the rest of the way with you, Minnie. Do you need me to do anything else?”
“No, just don’t make any sudden moves. I want Guernsey to feel as peaceful as possible. She deserves that.”
Josiah watched Minnie inject Guernsey with the large syringe of medication. In her weakened state, the cow did not even moo in protest. She almost seemed relieved, if animals could feel such an emotion. Minnie stayed and softly rubbed her muzzle and patted along her back, closing her eyes at times, even smiling on occasion. Guernsey’s breathing continued to slow as her eyes grew heavy. Fat tears rolled down Minnie’s dirty cheeks as Guernsey’s head fell against her long neck. It was then Minnie once again burst into heaving sobs as she climbed out of the muck.
“Do you want to hear a story?” Minnie looked toward Josiah, and now Zeke, who joined them once again, though curiously missing the water jug.
Josiah wore no watch, but by the direction of the sun and the heat coming from it, he knew it was late and fencing would have to wait until the next day. “Yes, Minnie, please tell us.” Josiah motioned for a now exasperated Zeke to sit down by him on the crusted pond bank.
Minnie recalled the day she first met Guernsey the cow. “Out of the large herd of dairy cows, one momma cow in particular had trouble calving. When she eventually succeeded in birthing, it was not one calf, but two she carried.” Minnie held up two fingers to reiterate her point. “As you probably know, twin calves sometimes present a problem in that the momma cow will many times reject one of the babies. I adopted the rejected heifer and named her Guernsey. She followed me around everywhere, like a baby duck imprinted on me.”
Zeke had no idea what “imprinted” meant and interrupted her story. “Miss Minnie, not trying to be rude, but what on earth are you talking about ducks for?”
Minnie tenderly smiled, and it warmed Josiah’s chest once again. “Research has proven that baby hatchling ducks will follow around the first thing it sees. If it is a human, it thinks the human is its momma.”
“How do you know so much about animals, Miss Minnie?” Zeke appeared fascinated this woman had so much information.
“I’m a veterinarian.” Minnie said both simply and proudly.
Zeke promptly put his foot in his mouth. “You ain’t no vet…you’re a woman.”
Josiah attempted to defuse the growing red heat rising up Minnie’s neck toward her face. “Now, now, Zeke, that’s flat rude, apologize to Minnie, right now.” He smacked Zeke on the back of the head to emphasize his point.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to be rude, I just never met a woman vet before.” Zeke stammered, obviously embarrassed by his older brother’s reprimand. “I didn’t even know a woman could be a vet. I’m sorry, Miss Minnie.”
“I must not be as good as I thought, or Guernsey would be out in the pasture munching on Bermuda grass right now.” Her face once again darkened in sadness.
Josiah found himself more and more fascinated with this woman. Most men he knew would be intimidated that she did not know “her place”. Not Josiah. He felt a sense of pride for this woman he barely knew. “Hey, you did what you could do. Sometimes, the good Lord has intentions that we simple humans can’t change.”
“I suppose.” Minnie’s face registered resigned acceptance as she finally looked Josiah in the eyes.
* * * *
Oh my goodness, what a handsome man he is! For the first time since meeting Josiah, she inventoried her hesitant assistant. I must look a fright, covered in mud, cow poop, and sweat. She absentmindedly swiped a hand toward her wild hair to smooth it down.
“I don’t believe you are gonna tame that hairdo of yours with a mud-caked fist.” Josiah teased Minnie, attempting to bring another smile.
He probably thinks I’m some silly farm girl crying over my 4-H project. I need a better reputation than that if I’m going to be successful with my own practice in this chauvinistic town. “I apologize for such a traumatic first meeting. I’m normally quite professional and sedate.”
Wow, he has gorgeous eyes. I wonder how he looks from behind in those jeans? If Momma was alive, she would switch the tar out of me if she knew I had thoughts like this—even at almost thirty years old.
“It’s okay, Minnie, I appreciate your fire. You certainly aren’t the typical woman, and I mean that as a compliment.”
Zeke once again fidgeted, indicating his impatience. “Is there anything I need to do right now?”
“We are just about finished here, brother.” Josiah then redirected his attention back to Minnie. “Look, we will head up to that patch of bad fence and do a quick mend to keep our cows separated. We will come back tomorrow for a proper repair. Is that a deal?”
Minnie exhaled and nodded her head in agreement. “That’ll be fine. I’ll check my cows to see if any others show signs of sickness. Guernsey had some kind of infection, I’m sure of it now. I just hope it isn’t contagious.”
Josiah looked over at Guernsey, no longer breathing, firmly rooted in the mud. “Do you mind if I come over here with my tractor shortly before dark and get her out of there? As you know, you don’t want to leave her in there, it might contaminate the pond.”
“I know, she can’t stay there. I also know it may sound silly, but I really can’t watch when you drag her out. I know you will need to be rough to do it, and well…I loved that old milk cow.”
“I fully understand. Is there a certain place you would like me to put her?”
Minnie shrugged, unsure what to do with a thousand pound cattle carcass she held a sentimental attachment to. “Normally, we drag them out to a remote corner of the property for the buzzards, coyotes, and other scavengers to take care of them. That just seems so cruel for Guernsey.”
“I have some old railroad ties and diesel. If you like, I can cremate her for you, so to speak. I’ll take her to where our properties meet in the back corner.” Josiah tentatively proposed.
“That’s an awful lot of trouble, Josiah.”
“Miss Minnie, after the day we shared—and I was glad to try to help you—this won’t be any more trouble for me, I promise.”
Minnie felt her heart beating fast in the presence of this fellow rancher—whom, even if he did not understand her emotions, respected them. Most men in the cattle industry shunned women and considered them a nuisance, and certainly not as an expert with animals. “I’ve never met a man so willing to help with something that would seem silly to the rest of the world. Thank you.”
“It’s my pleasure.” He directed his attention toward his brother. “C’mon Zeke, let’s get that hole patched and get back to the Cattle Company. We need to get our rounds of feeding done before it gets too late.” Josiah stood up and offered his hand to Minnie to assist her to standing. As soon as their dirty, calloused hands touched, an electricity jolted through Minnie as she had never felt before. Rather than pull away, she relished the sensation. It soothed her grieving heart.
Zeke jumped up promptly. “Yes, sir, Josiah.” He turned toward Minnie and smiled. “Ma’am, it’s a pleasure to meet you, I’m just sorry we couldn’t help, uh, Guernsey, your, uh, pet cow.” It obviously took all Zeke had to compose himself and not laugh about the oddity of a pet cow. Minnie appreciated his compassion.
“Thank you, Zeke. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon. I really appreciate everything you tried to do for me today.”
Josiah tipped his hat and walked away from Minnie. She finally took in his lean frame, his muscular arms underneath his thin button down shirt, and how his jeans curved against his masculine legs. She almost blushed as she looked squarely at the back pockets of his jeans and appreciated the gluteus maximus underneath. Maybe I should have been a people doctor after all.
* * * *
Josiah walked away on shaky legs. Other than a few of the pin-up posters he had seen in the military, he never paid that much attention to women. Living on a remote Oklahoma ranch, not too many girls crossed his path. Of course, he went to school with some girls, but no one he really wanted to settle down with.
When he went to Korea, it really put thoughts of a girlfriend or marriage out of his mind. That afternoon reminded Josiah just how lonely life on a ranch could be. Minnie’s beauty and spunk inspired him to feel like a man and not shy away from the intensity the female gender triggered in most men.
“Well, Zeke, what do you think about our neighbor?”
“Josiah, I’ve never met a woman that confused me more in my cotton pickin’ life. What in the world do you do with a pet cow?”
“Zeke…brother…we see our farm animals as things, not living creatures. She sees it the other way around. Do you understand that?”
“Honestly, I see them as how we make a livin’. They’re dumb as dirt and good for human consumption. That’s about it. You know, raisin’ rodeo stock is not exactly a tender way to treat animals. What about those rough-housin’ inmates at the prison in McAlester? During the prison rodeo they tend to want to let out a few aggressions during the events. “
“She sees life in a different way, she is a veterinarian. She probably cares more about animals than people. By the way, just because we raise livestock for the rodeo circuit, doesn’t mean we don’t care about how they’re treated. From what I understand these high profile rodeos might start having a vet oversee the show, including the prison rodeo. That’ll help the bad reputation rodeos have for mistreating the stock.” Returning his thought process to Minnie, his eyes shifted dreamily. “Wow, Zeke, she is the only woman vet I know. That’s something, I tell you.”
Suddenly, Zeke had a rare epiphany. “Aww shucks, Josiah, you like this girl!”
“Maybe I do, Zeke, what of it?” Josiah almost became defensive, but was too happy.
“Nothing, brother, I won’t say another word.” Zeke grinned from ear to ear.

Buy Now:
Secret Cravings PublishingAReKindleNook

One Response to Lovedust and Trailblazers by Davee Jones

  1. Davee Jones says:

    Thank you for the spotlight!

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