I woke up to the smell of fresh coffee brewing in the kitchen and the sound of horse hooves stomping on the ground waiting to be fed. I turned over and shut the alarm off. It was one of those days where all I wanted to do was stay in bed, but I knew it was time to wake up. There was so much to do; there was always so much to do. I opened the blinds and smiled to myself as the sun began to rise, a wave of satisfaction bubbled inside my soul. I put on my overalls and headed down the stairs, I poured myself a mug of coffee with three spoonfuls of sugar and took a seat next to my father.
“Good morning,” he kissed me on the forehead, “I heard you pacing around last night.”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“Is everything okay?”
I nodded, “Just nightmares that’s all.”
He sighed and went to fix himself something to eat, “Can I get you a bagel?”
I nodded and stayed silent wishing more than anything that the nightmare was in fact a nightmare, only it wasn’t. It was the same nightmare I had every once in a while that woke me up in the middle of the night and left me yearning for what I’ve been missing the last ten years of my life.
My father, Joe, looked out the kitchen window and like myself, smiled. Living on a ranch was hard work, it involved long hours and physical labour but the rewards made it worth it.
I was brought back to reality when my father cleared his throat, “You have a few people to interview today. I was looking at the board outside, hopefully we find someone soon; we’re getting behind on everything.”
I nodded. Even with two stable hands including myself and my father, there were never enough hours in the day to finish all that needed to be done.
I rinsed my mug and went to put on my boots, “I know, hopefully I will hire someone today.”
I’ve lived on the Bailey’s Ranch my whole life, it was named after my family, it was a legacy passed down to us, and it’s been passed down for five generations. I’ve lived and breathed ranching since I could remember. My summer jobs were always on the ranch, only I never got paid. It never felt right. The ranch is my life, it’s my dream, it’s my passion, and it’s everything I could ever imagine.
When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually say I am a trainer because that is what my dream job is. I love working with different horses that have different talents and skills. That is what the Bailey Ranch is all about, people bring us their horses to be trained for specific purposes and we have a talented team to do it.
When I was sixteen I dropped out of school to help run the ranch, I was young and many people criticized my father for allowing me to act foolishly but I didn’t see it that way. All I ever thought about when I was at school was getting home so I could ride Snowflake, my horse. I got Snowflake when I was fifteen, he’s a black Appaloosa with a white star on his forehead, but to me it always looked more like a snowflake rather than a star, hence where I got his name.
I’ve ridden horses for as long as I can remember; my first memories from my childhood are of me on horses. I’ve been in jumping competitions and won gold medals every year with the exception of last year due to an accident I had. I broke a few ribs when training Snappers, a chestnut Palomino with a high temper. It was my own fault, I knew he wasn’t ready for trail rides but I took him out on one only to have him buck at the sound of a bird call. He wasn’t ready but being the go getter than I am, I wanted to test him out. I flew off him and landed on top of broken branches from a fallen tree. It was three hours later that I came to and had the energy to phone the barn for help. I was in the hospital for two days after that, hospitals out in the country I have discovered are very different from those in the city. Then again I have never really been to a big city.
My father was angry with me; he didn’t speak to me for two days once I got back from the hospital. When he gave in, he told me he was only mad at me because he was afraid that he might have lost me. I couldn’t blame him for being angry. I would have been too. So it’s been a year since I’ve been in jumping competitions or training horses. I’m not afraid of what happened but I’m afraid of it happening again and this time, my dad’s nightmare might just come true.
Working with horses is a risk I take every day. I miss training them, I miss going out for runs with them but I don’t miss the look of fear in my father’s eyes. So that’s why I am stuck holding interviews to hire someone instead of training Blackjack myself.
Our two stable hands, Mary and Luca, are in charge of training the horses and my father and I handle working in the barn. I know my father knows I miss working with the horses but he hasn’t tried to encourage me at all; I’ve accepted it.
So that’s what we do here at Bailey’s Ranch. We train horses to be the best horses they can be, whether for competition or pleasure, whatever the client wants. We also hold horseback riding lessons and trail rides on the weekends to make extra money.
As I made my way into the first barn that fits eight horses, I fixed the feeds and went over to each stall placing a pail of food for each of the horses. I closed my eyes to the last memory I had with my mother, we both walked in the barn, hand and hand, and she was singing my favourite song as we did on our night checks on all the horses.
When I was ten, my mother died of cancer, she died in her sleep. No one saw it coming; well I know I never saw it coming. I knew she was sick, but I never thought cancer would take my mother’s life. She used to brush my hair every morning before taking me to school; she would tell me that one day I would run this ranch with my family. She told me how I was her special girl and that I would always be. I miss her every day. I miss the way she would hug me, or the way she would tuck me in at night. I’m twenty one years old and I wish more than anything that my mother was still around to tuck me in at night.
So I didn’t blame my father for not wanting to lose the only family member he had left. I didn’t want that to happen either. My father is my best friend; I tell him everything, almost everything. We’ve always been close especially after my mother died. He tried to do everything my mom used to do. He tried so hard to be exactly what I needed. I respect my father and I love him with all my heart but sometimes I wish he could see that I am not a little girl anymore.
I can make my own decisions. I wish he could understand that all I’ve wanted to do the past few months is to start working with the horses again. I wish he could understand that working with the horses makes me feel closer to my mom. Not only have I not trained a horse since my accident but I haven’t ridden a horse since my accident. I knew my father was happy that I wasn’t but I was beginning to feel a grudge growing towards him as he was the only reason I wasn’t riding a horse right now.
I waved to Luca as he pulled his car up the drive, “Good morning.”
“Good morning lovely lady.”
Luca always had a way of making me smile. He was fifty years old with a lovely family and not to mention he loves horses just as much as I do.
“We got a new horse yesterday,” I started, “His name is Jasper, I put his notes on the board for you to read over, he’s for pleasure riding.”
He nodded, “I’ll start with him as soon as I can, and maybe you could give me a hand.”
I sighed, “I have a lot of work today, I have interviews to get through but I am sure you will be fine, you always are.”
I watched the older man as he frowned; he came over and put his arm around me as we walked towards the barn. Luca asks for my help every morning. He often sees me staring out into the paddock as he trains the horses, at times I’ll shout over what I think he should try doing.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
I frowned, “Yes.”
“Well if you change your mind, you know where I will be.”
“I do, but I won’t change my mind,” I sighed.
I went into the second barn and began to fill up the water buckets when Mary popped her head in around the corner, “Hey Jen, let me help you with those.”
I smiled, “Thank you. So how was your date last night? Did he pop the question?”
Mary held out her hand and there was a beautiful engagement ring, “That is really something!”
Mary, thirty two years old had been dating Sam for five years just waiting for him to pop the question and he finally did. Mary stood up against the stall, her tall legs showing how slim she was. Her blonde hair was tied up and when the sunlight hit her brown eyes it made them look green.
“We are so happy, I can hardly wait.”
I gave her a hug, “I am really happy for you.”
She smiled, “Well I better get to work. I’ll catch you later.”
I nodded and watched as she headed into Flappers stall leading him out and into the training ring.
The day flew by as the sun beat down. I had to go into the house and change before my first interviewee showed up. I needed to look presentable.
At twelve o’clock my first interviewee was seated in my office, “John, you live an hour away?”
He nodded, “Yes, but I can assure you that will not be a problem.”
I didn’t believe it but I went on with the questions, “Does this schedule suit you?”
He nodded, “Yes, I just need to know how much you are willing to pay?”
I was thrown back by how blunt he was, “Well I would start you off with minimum wage.”
John immediately stood up, “I am sorry to have wasted your time, I must be going.”
I couldn’t even say anything; he was already out the door. I scratched his name off the list. The next interview went much the same way only they complained about the long hours.
“Honey, your two o’clock is here,” my father shouted as he passed the barn door.
I exited Blackjack’s stall and headed to the office where a tall woman stood wearing stiletto’s and a dress, although it looked more like a shirt to me.
I smiled politely as I headed over and shook her hand, “Hi, I’m Jennifer. You must be Morgan.”
The woman nodded, “Yes, it’s nice to meet you.”
I lead her into the office and told her to take a seat, “So how did you find out about this job?”
“I saw the posting in town, I just moved here with my boyfriend so we’re both looking for work.”
“Have you ever had any experience working with horses?”
“Not really, I’ve ridden them a few times but I’ve never really worked with them. The job just said it would be ground work.”
“That’s true but we usually look for someone with a little bit of experience. I guess we could always train you for a couple days.”
“I learn quickly.”
I looked at her resume which seemed like gibberish to me. She had a lot of experience in sales and telemarketing; I didn’t know how a city girl could ever work in the country shoveling horse poop.
“Okay well, you would be working Monday to Saturday, you would get Sunday off and two days would be half days, you would be able to choose those days.”
“Oh, well, I can only put in four days a week.”
“Four days? The job posting says five.”
“I know but I have priorities.”
I tried not to laugh. Growing up on a ranch my whole life was not easy, ranch work is not easy. I was always taught that work was a priority, second to family of course.
“Okay, well I will look over your resume some more and get back to you,” I stood up and shook her hand.
“Hope to hear from you soon.”
When she left I let out a sigh of relief, Morgan had been my fifth interview this week and none of them were what I thought was required for a job like this. It seemed like no one wanted to work. Who goes to a ranch dressed in stilettos? Not anyone who actually wants to get the job, that’s for sure.
I scratched her name off the list.
My next interview was at four, “Jamie, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Finally a man with jeans and a shirt came into the office with a smile on his face. He looked like he was in his thirties, looked like he lived in the country and looked like he wanted the job.
“So have you had any experience working with horses?”
“I’ve worked with horses my whole life; my family owns a ranch.”
“Your family owns a ranch?”
He nodded, “Yes, and you must be wondering why I would be applying for a job here but sometimes working with family isn’t the best thing.”
I could agree with him to a certain degree, “Alright and you will be okay with working for minimum wage?”
He nodded, “Yes of course.”
“You are okay with the hours?” I asked.
Again he nodded, “I am not afraid of a little hard work.”
I smiled, “Well then, this makes me very happy.”
“I just have one tiny favor to ask.”
“I would need to bring my daughter to work with me.”
I nearly started choking when the words came out. He wanted to bring his daughter to work with him. He wanted to bring a little girl to a place where he would be cleaning out stalls. Where exactly would he put his daughter? It was too dangerous and although he seemed like the perfect candidate, the only candidate at this point, it wouldn’t be a smart move.
He understood when I said it wasn’t possible. As he left I banged my head on my desk. I never thought it would have been this difficult to find a little help. Just then there was a knock on the door. I immediately looked up and smiled as a man stood in the doorway. He must have thought I was crazy with the way I was banging my head.
He was about a head taller than me, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, very appropriate for a ranch interview.
“I’m Jesse, I called yesterday…”
“Yes, come in, I am the one who you spoke with, I’m Jennifer but you can call me Jen.”
He shook my hand without a smile on his face, “I am here for an interview.”
I nodded, “Yes, I will be interviewing you.”
“You? Are you sure about that?”
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t look over eighteen.”
I blinked my eyes already having a bad feeling about this guy even though he was the last one, “I am twenty one and for your information I pretty much run this place, I have since I was sixteen.”
He looked taken back, “Sorry, I was just expecting…”
“Yeah, I get what you were expecting. Look, I have had a really long day so is there any point in continuing with this interview?”
He nodded, “Yes, please, I really need to find a job.”
“Jesse, have you had any experience with horses?” I was getting tired of asking the same questions.
He shook his head as he handed me his resume, “No but the add said you basically needed mucking out stalls, feeding, grooming and I am sure I can learn quickly.”
I nodded, “Where are you from? I can tell you are not from around here.”
“I’ve travelled a lot,” he simply said.
“I would need you to work five days a week,” I explained the schedule, “You would have to be reachable at all times. Working with horses can be challenging and there will be emergencies where we will need an extra pair of hands, and of course we will pay you for extra time.”
“And it’s minimum wage to start,” I added.
“Is your travelling going to get in the way of working?” I asked.
He shook his head, “I will make sure to give you plenty of notice if I decide to leave.”
“How old are you?” I asked.
“Why do you want to work here?”
“I didn’t know these were the types of questions required in an interview,” he replied.
“It’s my assumption that the interviewer gets to ask all the questions she wants and if someone really wants the job, I’m pretty sure they answer them.”
He looked into my eyes, “I take it back”
I was confused, “You take what back?”
“You’re too feisty to be eighteen,” he commented then answered my earlier question, “I want this job because it’s something new, it will be challenging like you said and I believe it will be an interesting experience.”
“So just to clarify, you won’t just quit in a couple weeks because you want to travel to some place new?”
“Honestly? I don’t know what is going to happen but I do not see myself leaving for a while.”
“What’s a while?”
“A few months.”
“That doesn’t seem like very long.”
“For you maybe, but for me I am sure it will feel like a lifetime.”
I tried to think of other questions that I could ask him so that I would not have to hire him but so far the only problem he had was his attitude. That could potentially be a problem but I was desperate to hire someone.
“When would you be able to start?”
“I could start now if you like?”
Again he surprised me, but I couldn’t help but wonder why he was so cold, “You can start tomorrow morning, seven a.m. sharp. Don’t be late or don’t show up.”
He stood up and nodded, “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet.”
“I will because I won’t be late. I really needed a job so I am very grateful right now,” finally he showed a little appreciation.
I smiled, “You’re welcome. Just come in a better mood tomorrow.”
“A better mood?”
“I am not feisty.”
At that he laughed, “Okay! I probably shouldn’t have talked to my boss that way.”
“You’re right, you’re lucky I’m desperate.”
“Like I said, I already had five interviews before you.”
“Well I am not sorry that you had to endure it all, otherwise I would be out of a job right now.”
I nodded, “Don’t make me regret this.”
He nodded as he headed out the door. I exhaled wondering if I made a big mistake or a good decision, hopefully one that would not turn out a disaster.
The last thing I wanted was someone to cause problems and cause more work rather than lessen the work. I would take no more than two days to train him and show him the ropes then I would leave him to do the work without a chaperon and evaluate him.