He and Sammy both worked on their father’s property for years, Dean going over to full work hours once he finished high school, Sammy going off to study but returning when he finished.
Now though, things had changed. Their father had played them against each other one time too often and both boys had had enough of it. He had set each of them a competition to work better than their brother to prove how badly they wanted to take over. Sam and Dean had worked feverously against each other, both checking out what the other was doing and nearly breaking their backs from all the work they did. Dean desperately wanted to impress their father, but Sam had gone behind everyone’s back and bought himself his own farm in an act of defiance, just to get away from John and his little contest.
He had told Dean after a long, hard day where they had cleaned out an entire silo and filled sacks of corn, armed with nothing but two shovels.
“Dean, I think this is stupid,” Sam had said when they were both completely exhausted and nursing a beer at the end of the day. “And I refuse to fight you on this. And soon, I won’t have to anymore.”
“What do you mean, Sammy?”
“I mean, I got my own place.”
“Yeah, I bought Cedar Ridge. At a real bargain price too.”
“Yeah, I can imagine,” Dean nodded. Cedar Ridge shared a boundary with Winchester’s, but it had been disused for very long. The previous owner had been a hopeless drunk who hadn’t maintained the land in longer than Dean was alive and had recently finally kicked the bucket. Obviously the farm was now up for grabs because the old drunk would be the last person on earth to have any relatives popping up to lay claim on the property.
Dean thought about this for a while as the brothers watched the sun go down with the cows in the yard mooing sadly. Bobby and the other hands had separated the grown calves from their mothers, while they had been busy with the silo. Weaning time was always difficult because the animals had to be kept close to the homestead, even when they loudly longed for their young.
Dean didn’t feel much different from the cows, but he had to admit that Sam would have more peace to do his thing away from their father.
“Well, I wish you luck with it, Sammy. But you know, don’t be a stranger.”
“I won’t, Dean. But I am gonna move at the end of the week.”
“Do you need help to pack your stuff?”
“That’d be great.”
Dean felt like a really great brother because he let Sammy go like this but promised to be there for him no matter what. Everyone, except for their father, wished Sammy all the best with his new property. John though was far from pleased that Sam was going. At first, he tried to strike a bargain with Sam and add Cedar Ridge to his empire, promising to help the place get back up on it’s feet. When it turned out that that was the very last thing that Sam wanted, John started to ridicule him for buying a run down place with little to no reserve funds and predicted an early ruin for Sam’s endeavor. He said that he wasn’t sure he’d take Sam back in when he crawled back in defeat. When Sam only laughed about that, John started to threaten that he would never make the grade if he still had something to say about it and that he’d discourage his contacts from working with Sam.
For a while, Dean had tried to keep the peace between his father and brother, even when Sam was already gone; trying as he might to get the two who were at odds with each other to see eye to eye again.
Sam had decided that he wanted to get into organic farming with the new place. The soil had been left untreated by chemicals for so long that he could start sowing his first load of organic corn almost immediately.
Dean had laughed about Sam when they met for a beer in the local pub.
“My brother, a cropper. I can’t believe it.”
“If you know a better way to bring money to the place, you let me know, ok? Before I can even think of going back into cattle, that is. If you do, then raise your hand,” Sam gave him a bitch face as he lifted his beer up.
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Dean admitted, not wanting to provoke Sam, whose nerves had to be strained by the constant feud with their father already. “But what about adjusting businesses for other farmers? That might get you on your feet sooner.”
“Can’t do that. If the cattle leave their un-organic crap all over Cedar, I can kiss that first level license I applied to goodbye before I even get it.”
“You’re going full state organic? Not just a few harvests?” Dean spluttered into his beer.
“Yeah, I am,” Sammy said assertive. “It’s better for the land, better for the products and human health. Not to mention, organic products sell for more.”
“But the workload is much higher,” Dean rebutted. He may have done mostly farmhand jobs in his time, but it wasn’t as if he was stupid. He knew that organic farming meant a lot of more stress on the farmer, rigid quality controls of products and the whole property. Despite the things Dean sometimes said about all organic farmers being laid back hippies, he secretly admired their perseverance and passion to go a different route.
Sam would need new organic gear, couldn’t use trucks which could be sullied by inorganic cattle or sheep and Dean didn’t want to even start to think about the things that vets had to do if they couldn’t just give animals antibiotics.
“Well, if you’re sure about this, Sammy,” he sighed, as he once again conceded to his brother’s plans. “I’ll back your play.”
“Thanks, Dean. I know we didn’t part on the best of terms but-”
“I know. You’re still my brother,” he clapped Sam’s shoulder and they left all rivalry behind them now. “Are you able to afford any hands?”
“Then don’t hesitate to drop a call when you need me. I want you to succeed, even as an organic cropper douchenozzle.”
They had drained their beers in silence then and Dean had gone back home to mother and father afterwards.
Things had been good, even though Dean had to work overtime now. He had his work on his home farm and he helped out Sammy whenever he called, which wasn’t nearly as often as Dean knew he needed him. Additionally, Dean had a quarter horse to train. His father had finally conceded to let him start his horse training business in order not to lose another son who couldn’t fulfill his dreams under his roof.
John had only agreed to Dean taking on one horse at a time, because there was now an empty box where Sam’s horse had always stood and he had no other use for it.
Dean knew that with one horse box, he could hardly start a business of his own and had asked Jess for help. He had felt that it was very manly of him to swallow his pride and get over their little rivalry when he went over to Devereaux’s and asked if she wanted to be partners on this. Frank had come in from his early morning trough run while Dean and Jess hashed out their deal and had immediately said he would fund their business without them asking him to. Dean felt a huge lump in his throat at seeing the differences between Frank and John once more like this.
Now though, Dean had to work three hard jobs, training the first horse whenever he could, Jess agreeing that he should finish it so it got used to one trainer and not be confused by two. Additionally, he had his usual farm work to do and whenever he could, or rather couldn’t, he drove over to help Sam with whatever he needed.
He fell into his bed completely exhausted every night and snapped out of sleep after only four hours every morning when the sun wasn't even up yet, beginning his exhausting routine all over. Cleaning the troughs, checking the boundary fences for any damage. Then it was yard-work and horse-training unless something else came up.
One day started just like any other with the slight difference that After lunch, he’d have to move cattle, and during it, he needed book shearers because the big sheering of the year needed organizing as well.
He cobbled down a sandwich all the while calling up sheering teams if they’d be free then and then.
While he still called and took down the different work rates, his father came in, nodding at him curtly and grabbing a sandwich of his own.
“Hey, dad.” Dean greeted once he had hung up the phone. “How’s your day going so far?”
“Good,” John swallowed. “All about finished spraying the boundary paddocks.”
“I didn’t know you would bring insecticide over it today. I would have helped otherwise.”
“I doubt you would‘ve, unless you learned how to fly a chopper and got over that damn phobia of yours.”
“Wait? You’re letting the boundary be sprayed over the air?”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“The one we share with your brother,” John confirmed Dean’s dread.
“You do know how the wind stands, right? The pesticide will be drawn over onto Cedar Ridge like this!”
John only nodded, fully aware of what he was doing and Dean thought the earth would open underneath him and swallow him up.
“You’re purposefully sabotaging Sam’s organic status? Your son‘s?”
“It’s not my problem if he wants to go all 'organic garbage' with the place.”
“You’re being a very inconsiderate neighbor, dad. Would you do that to anyone else too, or is it just because it’s Sam?”
John frowned at him, obviously not having counted on a reaction like this. “What’s the issue, son? You seem whacked out today.”
“Yeah, you could say that,” Dean said and got up. He grabbed the notepad with the shearer‘s rates per sheep on it. “Here is the info I collected for the shear. If anything’s changing until then, that’s where you can call.”
“No,” John shook his head and slurped a sip of coffee to wash his sandwich down. “That’s your job.”
“No, it’s not,” Dean said firmly, already on the way to get his own horse and the quarter horse he was training on a trailer and hook it to his truck. “I won’t be here next week.”
His thoughts were with his clothes and other familiar stuff, but he decided he had the couple of dollars to go into the nearest shop and buy himself new three dollar shirts.
“Why won’t you be? Where are you going?”
Dean couldn’t answer for a second, thinking about his most priced possession, and how he would most likely have to leave his car, a ‘67 Chevy Impala in the garage for a long while.
He focused back on his father. “I’m going to Sammy. And unless you come up with a very good reason why I should get back, I won’t. Bye, dad.”
He had driven himself to Sammy then, even though midday as the best change to find someone home, was long over and he was pretty sure Sam was already out on the property again. He sat with the horses a while, calming them in the unfamiliar surrounding and thinking about how he had just brought himself right out of the home he had fought and worked so hard for.
He looked around, seeing nothing of the grandeur that was the 200 year old farm house of Winchester’s Grange. All he saw were some old barracks that were Cedar Ridge’s excuse for stables, a carport and shearer’s quarters. There was also a cottage, which already looked decrepit from here and the main house, which was nothing more than a shabby bungalow.
Sooner than he expected, he heard the sound of hooves coming up the driveway to the homestead. His brother was thoroughly confused as to why Dean was here, relaxing in the back of his truck, his hat drawn low and waiting with his feet crossed in his usual work boots.
“Hiya, Sammy. Fancy a leading farm hand in exchange for bed and board? And maybe a place where I can put my horses?”
“Sure Dean,” his brother answered, thoroughly surprised and his brow creased in a questioning manner, but they untied the horses and let them over to the horse yard behind the house in companionable silence before he spoke again.
“They can stay here so we can keep an eye on them. So, what brings you?” Sam asked, kicking the dirt awkwardly as he led Dean’s horse. He wouldn’t let his brother handle the only half-trained quarter horse, but lead it himself.
“You know that Dad’s had the boundary paddocks flown over with pesticides today?” Dean asked as means of an answer.
“What? Really?” Sam was completely stunned. “Shit, Dean. I gotta go back out there, I gotta test the soil.”
“With the old chemistry set?” Dean asked, without the bantering sting his words usually had.
“Yeah sorta,” Sam said absentmindedly, his mind already the over one thousand acres away to where his father had probably just ruined one or more paddocks for his organic plans.
“So that’s what I’m getting for wanting to stay close and buying a neighboring farm?”
“Yeah, it seems so,” Dean quipped as Sam drove them to the paddock in question in his own truck.
“He did it on purpose, did he?”
Dean said nothing but Sam took it the right way.
“Terrific,” he slammed his fist on the wheel.
“Why don’t you chill there, bro? We don’t know anything yet.”
“When was I ever lucky when I was up against him, Dean? I left for college and we still butted heads. I left for my own property and he’s ruining it for me.”
Dean had nothing to say again, but quietly, he agreed with his brother.
“So, it looks as if there’s not too much damage done,” Sam said, a strip of paper in a solution of soil and water, turning green.
“Green’s good?” Dean asked.
“Not as good as if nothing had happened, but better than blue or red. If I had already had an organic license beyond level 1, I would be demoted to that, but since I don’t have one yet, it’s still within limits.”
“That’s good, Sammy.”
“But if this happens again, I can write the entire area off.”
“Maybe we should go over there and negotiate with him. It’s not ok what he does.”
Sam sighed heavily, already foreseeing an argument breaking out. “Yeah, we’ll have to.” He looked at his brother again.
“So you’re staying for a bit then?”
“Yeah, for a while. Can’t have my kid brother starving here all alone.”
“Not a kid anymore, Dean.”
“I know that, Sammy.”