By C.E. Pereira
HEY, steady mate. Where’s the fire?” Jack smiled as his ever-serious friend rammed into him.
“Sorry! Wasn’t paying attention to where I was heading. Nice party.” Byron mumbled.
“Haven’t seen you for a while? Jess said you were in New York on business.” Jack eyed Byron and noticed that his eyes were glued towards the barbecue pit.
“Just got back yesterday. Wanted to have a nice lazy Sunday afternoon but you had to go and have your annual big do. Was nagged non-stop by Mum to come over today?”
“You sound just like Tamara.”
“Is that Tamara over there? She looks different.” Byron asked.
“You should drop by more often Byron. Then we wouldn’t start looking like strangers to you. Jess is worried about you. When you’re not out riding fences, you’re buried in paper work. You need to slow down or you’ll burnout.” Jack said.
“I’m fine, just a bit tired, that’s all. With all that’s happened, I’m still trying to find my feet.” Byron straightened his shoulders and dared Jack to say something. He should have known his friend wouldn’t back down.
“You’ve got good neighbours who are also your friends, or have you forgotten. If you need a hand, we’ll be there. You know that, don’t you Byron? Since you came back three months ago, I’ve only seen you a few times.”
“Yes, Jack. I know. Thanks!”
Before Jack could answer, Byron said, “There’s so much to do. Sometimes I think it’s all too much and I just want to pack my bags and go back to my practice in Melbourne.”
For a moment both men were lost in their own thoughts, as they sat on the deck chairs drinking their beers and listening to the activities around them. Their grandfathers were best friends who went into business together way back before they bought their ranches next to each other. It was also them who started the tradition of having the annual barbecue party at the Double Creek Ranch. Jack’s grandfather had lost the toss.
When Jack and Byron were kids, they had so much fun. They were ten when Tamara was born. They both thought that she was a very ugly baby, all red with wrinkles. But by the age of two, Tamara had wrapped them around her little finger. From then on Tamara was their constant shadow till they both went off to college.
Jack went off to college to study agriculture, he wanted to be as good a rancher as his father was. Jack didn’t get to finish his education; he was in his second month at college when his parents were killed in an accident. He came back to run the ranch and raise his sister.
Byron went off to Melbourne to study to become a veterinarian and was always back home for the holidays. Jack remembered that Tamara usually found reasons to go over to the Valley Creek Ranch whenever Byron was home for the holidays. But she stopped going over when she turned sixteen always saying she was too busy studying.
Byron stayed on in Melbourne after graduating, starting his veterinary practice over there. That was ten years ago.
Three months ago he came back to take over the running of the ranch when his father had a stroke. His father was much better, he was able to move his left limbs more each day but his speech was still slurred. He was happy knowing that Byron was staying on and running the ranch. But Byron wasn’t a rancher and Jack knew his friend wasn’t happy.
“Byron?” Jack tried to gather his thoughts before voicing it out.
“Yaw, Jack. What’s on your mind? I can see the cogs turning in there.”
“Well, I’ve got this idea that I’ve been playing around. Just hear me out first before you shoot down the idea.” Getting a nod from his friend Jack continued with his plan, “What about getting a manager to run Valley Creek? Then you’d be free to do what you love best, be a veterinarian. You can open the clinic on the ranch and at the same time keep abreast with what’s happening if you have a manager.”
Byron went very still and he looked annoyed. He was annoyed with Jack for springing the idea because he was thinking along the same line. Sighing he said, “You sure know how to spoil my day. I was just going to ask you if you knew who I should choose as manager.”
“Ha..ha…ha.. You were always slow, Byron.”
“What do you mean slow? I’m not slow. I’m cautious.”
“O.K.! Don’t get your feathers ruffled.” Jack was still grinning at his friend. “You can’t go wrong if you ask Colin Avery to be manager. He’s been with the ranch for twenty years which speaks of his loyalty.”
“Ya, I was thinking of him but being away for years, things change so do people. I’ll have a talk with him tomorrow and see what happens.”
“Do your parents know about this idea?”
Nodding his head, Byron said, “They’re just happy I’m staying on. This is home Jack, I don’t think I could go back to Melbourne. But like you said, I’m not happy unless I’m doing what I love best.”
“It’ll work out Byron. You can still run the ranch from behind the scenes.” Jack then changed the subject lowering his tone, “So, how’s your love life?”
“Very funny Jack.” Byron was shaking his head trying to look insulted but not succeeding. “So, where’s your date hiding?”
Jack tried for a dignified answer but instead bust out laughing. Byron joined him shaking with laughter. From across the courtyard Jess heard the sound of her son’s laughter. It had been a long time since she’d heard him laugh, she’d missed his laughter. Hearing him laugh gladden her heart that things were slowly becoming normal again. Now if only … matchmaker, matchmaker….
Go to Chapter 4