Storms Never Last Ch. 02


I gave him an update on where I was at and showed him the outline for where I was going. He was the one that set up my trip to Wyoming, so we chatted about that for awhile.

"He's a great guy, Terry. I've known him for years, and you never find a friendlier man. He's fairly well off, but he runs that ranch for real. He's got over six thousand acres in one of the most beautiful spots in the world."

"Great, I'm looking forward to the trip." I went on to give him a brief outline for my next two books. One was a sequel to a previous book and the other would be another western, placed in the area of Arizona under the Mogollon Rim

When we finished, he asked, "Are you okay for money? I can probably get you another advance from the publisher?"

"No, I'm fine. Just let it ride for now."

After that the four of us had a great lunch at Scoma's. It was good to get to know Eddie better and fun to talk to Sophie. I had a feeling she was going to be a great writer—and give Jerry a lot of heartaches.


The memorial service was both a sad and somewhat happy occasion. We all remembered why we were there, but at the same time it was great to hear the things people had to say about Annie. I hadn't realized how many people considered her to be that special person, friend.

The service did help me come to closure with my feelings. I'd felt somewhat cheated that she just kind of disappeared on me. I never got that last talk with her, or gave her that last kiss. I kept busy, working on the story and coming up with a detailed list for future work. Knowing what I was going to do down the line helped when I wanted to take a break from "Death Rides the Range." I could do research, make some notes, outline characters, etc.

I went fishing with dad a couple of times—he really enjoyed spending time together. Then before I knew it, I was ready to head off to Wyoming. I had no idea of the changes this trip would bring to my life.

Chapter Two—Acey

My name is Acey Rose Jones. Mom hadn't filled out my name for the hospital, which was supposed to have been Millie Rose Jones. Unfortunately when dad gave them my name it was after a couple hours of boozy celebrating. Millie just went out of his head and Acey flew in. She was a girl dad knew well in his rodeo days—she was popular at the time.

My friends and everyone at school called me Ace. My dad called me Acey. My mom, never having forgiven dad and making sure he knew it, always called me Millie, or when I was in trouble, Millie Rose. When I started competing in rodeo after high school, dad convinced me that calling myself Ace might not sit well with the other competitors, so I started using Acey. Somehow I never got confused, and was comfortable with it.

I was the only girl with three older brothers, so mom wanted me to be her little girl. Much to her disgust and dad's delight, I turned out to be a hard-core tomboy. We lived on a ranch outside Amarillo, and from the time I was six I had my own horse. I worked on the ranch right along with dad, my brothers and the different hands that worked there over the years. In high-school, I couldn't care less about being a cheerleader, or going to the prom, but becoming one of the top school rodeo competitors in the state really excited me.

I was planning on going to college locally at West Texas A&M, but I was bummed 'cause they don't have a rodeo team. My folks did okay, but not enough to send me away to school. Then one day I came home from school, and mom was waiting for me with a grin, and something held behind her back.''

"Momma, whatcha hidin' there?" I said as I tried to reach around and grab it.

She smiled, and replied, "Nuthin', Girl, only this scholarship from University of Wyoming, in Laramie."

I opened the flap and pulled the papers out. I looked them over, and then glanced back at mom. "This is real nice, Momma, but this is for tuition and books. You know we can't afford this.

"Millie, honey, your uncle Gene is paying for everything else. You knew he made all that money on somethin' to do with computers and automation or some such. He says he'll pay any of it not paid by the school. He even said you can stay with him weekends or whatever, and he'll pay you any work you do. Summer too, he says."

I looked at the papers and saw I'd be competing in barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying. It was exciting and I gave my mom a big hug.

"There'll be a bit more," my mom said," My brother, Gene, says you can come up and work this summer, so you'll have some spending money. You think on it some, and we'll all talk it over."

Wow! This was neat. My specialty was barrel racing. I done a lot of the other two but in that I knew I was as good as anyone. I had several horses I used, and always competed with the one that seemed the sharpest at the time. Gene said he would send one of his hands to bring them up to Wyoming. The women's team just had these three events and only four team members, so it should be a great experience. They competed both fall and spring, but the season was short so competing in Rodeo shouldn't hurt my studies.

I had no idea what I wanted to do so I figured I'd take general courses the first year and get as much required stuff out of the way as I could. I was excited as I packed, looking forward to a new life but not really having any idea of what to expect. Mom took me to the airport, where my excitement level dropped fast. I was flying from Amarillo to Houston, to Oklahoma City, to Denver, and finally on to Laramie. It's just a bit over seven hundred miles to Casper, so I'd take a full day to travel what should be about two hours.

Uncle Gene was there to pick me up. He'd been to Amarillo around Thanksgiving last year for a quick visit. He'd been in Dallas on business and stopped by on his way home, so I recognized him right away. He was there with his twin daughters, Terry Ann and Merry May. They were identical twins, but they each had always wanted their own look, so they went by Ann and May. Their dress was completely different, and Ann wore her hair long and May had it cut fairly short. They were one year older than me, and had just finished their first year at the University.

In the car, Ann told me, "We drive back and forth with no problem. They keep the roads clear of snow—or if they don't the school closes anyway. We really like the school."

"That sounds great! It looks like fun."

We chatted about the school, their boyfriends ... and generally got caught up since we hadn't seen each other for almost four years. Before I knew it we pulled into the ranch. There were a lot of buildings, barns, sheds, corrals, and a pretty log cabin on a small hill that turned out to be much bigger than it looked.

"Wow, Uncle Gene, This is huge. How big is your ranch?"

"Oh, about several thousand acres. I keep adding to it once in a while, especially if I can pick up additional water rights."

"Wow, that's big."

He laughed, "Well, not so big. Its small compared to some of ranches in Wyoming. Our neighbor to the north has over seven thousand acres."

I settled in quicker than I thought. Gene didn't exactly rent out any of the four cabins he had in a shaded grove of large cottonwoods, but it seemed like he always had company. My job was to be a wrangler for them, keep the horses they would ride, and go with them whenever needed, especially if they had kids.

I'd always hunted with my dad and my uncle wanted me to help out on that also. Sometimes he would go and other times I'd take them by myself. Most of this was in the fall—I didn't have classes on Fridays, so I could always be available on weekends; I'd drive home in the two-year-old F-150 that Gene had given me to use. Mostly we hunted on the property, but sometimes went elsewhere depending on what game was in season.

During the rodeo season we competed in the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. The teams in our region were from schools such as Chadron State, Gillette College, Lamar Community College and Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

There was both a fall and spring schedule that essentially cycled around with each of the eleven schools hosting a competition. Sometimes all schools would show up, but it was common for several to miss any one weekend. I was doing performing at a higher level than they expected of me, and I knew I was better than most I would encounter in college. Mostly I'd win in barrel racing and at least show in my other events.

There were five weekends in the fall, in September and October, and five in the spring, in late March and in April, so it wasn't a major burden on either my class work or helping my uncle out at the ranch. It was during the fourth weekend of competition, this at Lamar CC, that I slept with my first man. I wish! He turned out to be a fumbling nineteen year old from Lamar who invited me over because his folks were out of town.

It started out kinda fun. I couldn't drink anything because we had bed check at midnight and if the coach smelled alcohol you were off the team. The boy's name was Jeremy, and he had the petting part down cold. But it turned out it was his first time too, and after he got me so hot and literally bothered, the rest was just a fumbling let down. I guess he technically did the job, but it was nothing I would look forward to doing for a long time. All in all I was majorly disappointed. Maybe I needed a man ... not a boy.

In mid-September, Uncle Gene had a guy come visit. He was some writer and wanted to look the ranch over and see what Wyoming was like. He was cute for an older man ... he must have been all of thirty. I overheard my cousins, Ann and May, saying what a cute tush he had. I agreed, and gave him a close look. He was in good shape, tall, dark hair and eyes, kind of rugged good looks. His name was Terry Fisher and he was to have a major role in my life—I just didn't realize it at the time.

Dad introduced his girls and me at the same time, but it evolved to me to do most of the stuff to take him for rides and show him the ranch. Gene would take him to other ranchers and to several historians. I had to give him credit—he was at home on a horse. He had a nice easy style, and seemed completely at home.

The next morning after we met, I took him out for the first time. It was fairly early on a Saturday morning, ground still wet with dew. His hair was tousled; I guess he figured why brush it out when he was putting on a new Stetson he'd bought. He still had bedroom eyes on when I met him for coffee early on Saturday. He was kind of cute ... I guess.

I packed a brunch to eat on the ride. It was a warm morning after the sun had been out a bit. I took him to the high point on the ranch, a twisty mile through a heavy growth of pines. The top of the hill was clear with a great view. I had a thermos of coffee and some bacon and egg sandwiches.

"I envy you, living here."

"Well, I'm not sure if I live here or in Amarillo, but I agree this is beautiful country. Where do you live?"

"Oh, in the wine country, out in Northern California. It's a lovely area, but doesn't have the sheer majesty that Wyoming has."

I laughed, and replied, "Well, you're probably right, but I'd trade the weather there for either that of Texas or Wyoming. "You married, Terry?"

He looked startled, then sad ... and finally shook his head and answered, "No, I guess not."

I thought that was a strange answer, but I didn't pursue it. It was funny, 'cause when I asked him he was nervously twisting what looked like a marriage ring around on his finger. Oh, well. Not my problem.

We ate the sandwiches and then I led him on a roundabout course back to the ranch house. That night I sat next to him at dinner and got to know him a bit.

The next weekend I had my first rodeo competition, so I didn't see him again for several weeks. I was swamped with the competitions and school, and it wasn't until the fall rodeo season ended just before Thanksgiving that Terry came out to visit. May told me about his wife dying, so I could understand he was having a hard time. On the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving my job would be to take him around to look at ranches. It seemed he was interested in moving to Wyoming. It sounded to me like he was running away or trying to hide from life. I tried to imagine having something like that happen to me, but I guess I was too young to really understand.

We saw a couple of good properties on Friday. The first was a ways north of our place, and the second was about southeast of town. After looking it over, he invited me to dinner so he could see what Laramie was like. The town had several good steak houses, but our family liked Calvaryman the best. It is located on the old site of Fort Sanders.

He had to try the Bison Ribeye, and loved it. He had given them explicit instructions as to his expectations, he was happy with the way they cooked it. He had brought a bottle of wine with him, which most likely had a lot to do with his being happy. I tried a little, but it was what he called "a big wine" and it was too much for me. Since I was driving I stuck with iced tea.

I asked him about his wife on the drive home. He was mellow from the meat and wine, so he talked about it. He sounded okay, just a bit sad.

"You know what was really weird? Last week I got an email from a woman whose sister was killed at the same time. Someone had taken a picture of her sister, my Annie and another woman doctor, and from the time on the email, it was sent about fifteen minutes before the earthquake, which caused the avalanche. It took the woman a while to find me—her sister had identified the people in the picture. But she didn't know who I was until a friend loaned her one of my books to read. When she finished she read the part on the back flap about the author. Then it took her another two weeks to get hold of my agent and she sent the picture to him.

"It was just the weirdest feeling knowing I was looking at a picture of her taken a few minutes before her death. She had a big smile on her face and just looked so damn happy. We'd had some problems, and this was right after we felt we had fixed things." He looked out the window. I knew he had tears in his eyes so I looked straight ahead and gave him time.

It was about ten minutes later that he put his hand on my shoulder. "Thanks, you're a good listener. My mom keeps telling me to talk about it, but it's been hard for me to do. You don't mind, do you?"

I really didn't. He was a nice guy and I liked him. He was very personable. The kind of man you just want to spend time with ... not for any overt sexual reasons, but just because he was a nice guy with an engaging manner. I seemed to have a connection with him ... and he was cute. And I was interested in what had happened.

I don't think he meant to tell me everything, but I've always been a good listener. He showed me the picture, and then showed me one he had taken when he visited the site. Both showed the three palm trees, though from opposite sides. It was really sad to see them, realizing what had happened. He appeared more relaxed later, so his mom must have been right about him needing to talk. I was glad I had been in the right time at the right place at the right time. I had to go back to school Sunday night, and didn't see him again for some time. Uncle Gene told me later that Terry had decided on a place to buy.

It was a bit west of Laramie on Highway 130, just past Centennial. It was about eight hundred acres bordering on the Medicine Bow National Forest, not far off the highway. It was fairly rough land with about two hundred acres on the eastern part leased to a neighbor to grow alfalfa. He was going to close on it the day before Thanksgiving, then stay another week with us.

School went on and we took a break in the rodeo until the spring season was to start. I kept thinking how worried I was about being pregnant after my little escapade in Lamar, and how relieved I was when I had my period. I decided I'd better do something before I even thought about having sex with anyone else. Since I wasn't dating anyone I didn't rush out to the health center at the school. Then when I had my period mid-November, I thought I'd better get it taken care of, so I made an appointment for the next week.

The instructions from the doctor was pretty straight forward, "Take one the first day of your next period and daily thereafter." Well, that means I would start on the eleventh of December—one thing for sure, I was regular as a clock. I picked up the prescription and put it with my pads, so I wouldn't forget.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Gene asked me to pick up Terry Fisher on my way home from school. The timing worked out perfectly and he was waiting at the curb when I drove up. He threw his bag in the back of the truck and I drove off.

He gave me a big smile, and said, "Thanks for picking me up. I do appreciate it."

"Sure, no problem. The timing was right. You close on your new place tomorrow, don't you?"

"Yeah, Acey, I do. I'm really excited about it. There's some work to do on the house, but nothing major. I want to refinish the floors; they are a bit marked up. I'm also having the master bathroom and kitchen redone—the appliances are a bit dated. It's a big log cabin, about twenty years old. You have to see it."

We chatted on the drive to the ranch, but it didn't take that long. Gene took care of him and I helped Auntie with fixing dinner. The next morning Gene took Terry to close on the property. They came back with Terry all excited and full of plans on what he was going to do with his new ranch to make it what he had envisioned.

We had a big Thanksgiving dinner the next day, and I couldn't help but notice how much more Terry was smiling since he had brought the property. I guess the ongoing passage of time was in play here also. It was now six months since his fateful trip to Perú had ended with his loss of his Annie. He sat across from me giving us a chance to get to know each other better. I asked him about his Western novel.

"I'm going to base it a few miles north of this ranch. There are several large ranches that started up in the early 1880s. I'll change their names and some of the details to make it fit my story, but the area there is exactly what I'm looking for."

We chatted back and forth on some of his plot ideas, and he told me of his dream and how realistic it was. "Damn, when I get cold I swear my side is stiff as if I had really been shot. I've never had a dream that realistic. Well, maybe it will add something to the story."

He told me that on Monday he would start working with contractors. "I'll be back at Christmas to check on the work, and then move in sometime in April.

Gene call down from the head of the table, "Hey, Terry, you should go Turkey hunting while we are here. The best place is couple of hours up the creek that runs through our place."

"Yeah, that sounds great."

"I'm tied up tomorrow, but maybe Acey can take you."

I nodded my head, and looked back at Terry, "Let's go over to your cabin. You stayed in the main house last time, but there are some tricky things about the water and heating you need to know about."

We walked over to his cabin, and I grabbed a mostly full bottle of wine on the way over. I showed him what he needed to know about the cabin—it was really a small, one-bedroom log home—and we covered what he needed to know for hunting turkeys. The weather was supposed to be clear and five to ten degrees above freezing, so we wouldn't have any problems. I started a fire for him in the fireplace, and stayed for an hour or so. He was easy to talk to, and I felt like I'd known him forever.

The next morning we mounted up—I'd packed a picnic lunch—and rode up the creek to a hilly area covered with brush and scrub trees. Uncle Gene was a licensee for Wyoming Game and Fish since he regularly had people in to hunt. He had the permit ready for me. Gene gave us a couple of Benelli-Nova pump 20-guage shotguns. When hunting in brush he liked the smaller gauge because it was a pound lighter and easy to handle.

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