As the rooster crowed at the first sign of dawn, Marlowe rolled over in bed with a sigh. Another early morning, another day of work. She couldn't remember the last time she slept in.
That was a lie. She remembered the exact day she slept in last. It was four years ago on a late summer day like today. The day they had lost mom. Back when the ranch was full of happiness and life. Now that it was just her and pop, it wasn't the same.
Marlowe dragged herself out of bed, pulling on her jeans and cowboy boots. She braided her long brown hair and splashed some water on her face before heading out to do her chores. She walked to the door, pulling on her coat to ward off the early morning chill.
Every morning was the same. Feed the horses, feed the chickens, feed the pigs, collect the eggs, bring in the laundry on the line; and that was all before breakfast.
Marlowe worked hard, harder than most girls her age. In 1875, most girls at her age spent their days in town, dressed in their best and flaunting everything they had in the pursuit of a suitor.
The only thing Marlowe was currently pursuing was the hot cup of coffee waiting for her inside.
"Morning, peanut," her dad, Tucker, called out as he walked into the barn, grabbing a shovel to start mucking out stalls.
"Morning, pop," she smiled as she scooped another rake-full of hay into a stall.
"This morning I'm thinking we should move the herd back down here to the south pasture," he said as he worked.
"Sounds good," Marlowe replied, walking to the door of the barn to go feed the chickens. "See you at breakfast." Her father waved her off as he continued shoveling.
She finished her chores and walked up to the house. It was a large ranch house, single story with a full wrap-around porch. With its white-painted siding and large windows, it let in all of the sunlight during the day, acting as a refuge from the heat. Marlowe hopped up the steps and in through the front door, stomping her boots on the mat. She hung her jacket and hat on the hook before calling out, "Abigail?"
Marlowe chuckled when she heard the clattering of pots falling in the kitchen. She walked through the dining room and into the kitchen, picking up pots as she entered.
"Oh! Good morning sweetheart," Abigail said, frustrated from her fumble.
"Good morning Abigail, do you need help with breakfast?" Marlowe offered, squeezing the old woman's shoulders. Abigail had been the cook here since before Marlowe was born and the sweetest little woman in the world.
Abigail laughed, "No, dear. It's all finished, I was just putting these pots away and I bumped the counter. Here.." she said, handing Marlowe a platter of eggs, "Take these out to the table."
"Yes, ma'am," she replied, walking back out to the dining room. Marlowe sat down at the table as her father walked in, clapping his hands together.
"Okay, where's the coffee.." he muttered as he sat down. Marlowe grabbed the pot of coffee off the table and reached over, pouring him a steaming cup.
"Thank you peanut," he said with a wink as he took a sip.
"Pop, how long do you think it'll take today to move the herd to the south pasture?" Marlowe asked as she scooped some eggs onto her plate.
"Probably a good chunk of the day, why?" he asked curiously as he took a piece of toast from the plate Abigail had just set down on the table.
"We need a few things, I was thinking of riding into town but it's not urgent, I can do it tomorrow," she replied.
Tucker nodded his head, "I think tomorrow would be best. It's a light day. The only thing we have going is branding a few of the late calves."
They finished their breakfast, Marlowe kissed Abigail on the cheek as she handed them their lunches before they headed back out for the day. Marlowe and Tucker walked to the barn and saddled their horses before climbing on and heading toward the south pasture with their two cattle dogs, Scooter and Barley, in tow.
"Look at that sky!" Tucker hollered as they rode through the open plains of their land. The crisp morning had opened up to a never-ending blue sky, clear and bright. Marlowe smiled, there was nothing she loved more than her home. Tall Grass was a smaller ranch, only stretching over a few thousand acres, but the herd was a good size and always left them with everything they needed.
They rode for miles before reaching the herd. Marlowe took a deep breath, ready for the real work to begin. Working the cattle was what she loved to do. It wasn't very ladylike and Abigail always teased that she'd never find a husband dressed in her favorite Levi jeans and riding a horse. Marlowe didn't care though. She was perfectly happy working the ranch for the rest of her life.
She sat on her horse with a smile until she was broken from her thought at the crack of her father's whip and the yipping of the dogs. Marlowe pushed her horse Clementine forward and they broke into a gallop, moving the cows south.
At noon they stopped by the creek to let the cows and horses and dogs take a drink and a rest. Tucker and Marlowe sat on a blanket eating their sandwiches, watching the herd.
Marlowe looked over to her father, his face full of contentment. He was a cowboy through and through.
"Yeah pop?" she replied.
He lowered his face, "I think you should go to town more."
Marlowe looked at her father sideways, "Why would I do that? When would I even have the time?”
Tucker shrugged, "It's just that... you'll never meet a nice man working out here. You should be wearing pretty dresses and courted. You should have six men on each arm vying for your attention. You deserve that."
She shook her head, "Pop, I'm where I want to be. I don't need a man to live my life."
Tucker rolled his eyes, "You know what I mean, peanut. I just don't want to see you alone."
Marlowe nodded silently. She knew he had wanted a son. After Marlowe was born her mother couldn't have any more children, leaving her as the only child. He never made her feel like she wasn't good enough but she knew it worried him as he got older, leaving the ranch to his unmarried daughter. Tucker leaned back on his elbows and let out a sigh, "Well peanut, you ready to press on? We can't be late to dinner or Abigail will have a fit."
Marlow laughed, patting her thighs with her hands, "Yep, let's go."
They rode for the rest of the day, arriving home in the late afternoon. Marlowe and Tucker walked into the house to clean up before dinner, tired and dirty from their day of herding.