Scott Lancer slid from his saddle and turned his mount over to Isidro. As the vaquero led the animal towards the barn, Scott stretched, arching his back and twisting his torso to work out the kinks. He hadn’t spent this much time on horseback since his cavalry days and his body was letting him know it.
Frustrated after another day of feeling like a fish out of water, he dropped down into a chaise on the veranda. Head back and eyes closed, he heaved a deep sigh. He was tired, bruised and dirty and to be quite blunt, he stank. It felt good to sit on something that wasn’t moving. Good enough to maybe take a quick nap.
Just as he was about to nod off, an amused voice pulled him back to wakefulness. “You look like you could use this.”
Popping one eye open, he saw his father smiling down at him, glass of whiskey in his hand. Scott reached out, took the proffered glass and downed its contents in one swallow.
“That bad?” Murdoch chuckled as he lowered himself onto the end of the chaise, next to Scott’s feet.
“Yes…. No…. I don’t know.”
The amusement on Murdoch’s face was quickly replaced with concern. “What’s the matter, son?”
“I can’t seem to get the hang of this.”
“You know…” Scott waved his hands in an all encompassing gesture. “Ranching stuff.”
“Ranching stuff?” Murdoch bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. Scott’s frustration was genuine and he didn’t want to hurt the younger man’s feelings.
“Roping, branding, moving the herd, stringing barbed wire. I just don’t feel like I’m acclimating as quickly as I should be.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve only been at it for a little over a month.” Murdoch patted Scott’s leg. “I’ve been doing this since before you were born and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that the only easy day is yesterday.”
Scott pondered that for a bit and grinned. “Then I guess it’s a good thing I’m stubborn.”
“A very good thing. And you come by it naturally, too,” Murdoch agreed with a chuckle. “Now why don’t you go get cleaned up? Dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes.”
“An excellent idea, sir.”
Murdoch stood and reached out a hand to pull Scott to his feet but before the younger man could head into the house, he was stopped by that same hand on his shoulder. Puzzled, he stared up at his father who regarded him with a mixture of pride and tenderness.
“You’re doing fine, Scott, and I’m glad you’re here,” Murdoch husked. “Don’t ever doubt that.”
Touched by the words, Scott blushed and ducked his head, whispering ‘me too’ before vanishing through the French doors. Murdoch was about to follow him when he was distracted by the sound of his younger son trotting into the yard. Johnny dismounted and handed Barranca’s reins to Frank. Spotting his father he trudged over to the veranda where he plopped into the chaise that Scott had just vacated.
“Dios mio, what a day,” he groaned. “I don’t think I’m ever going to get the hang of this ranching stuff.”