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The Simple Rancher


I'm a widower. My wife of six years died six months ago. She left me with two little ones. While giving birth to our second, she had to have a caesarean and that was when they discovered the cancer. It was almost virulent. My little boy was two months old when she died. I was at a loss as to what to do. I had my daughter who had just turned two and a two-month old boy. I moved home to be closer to my mother so she could help out. I loved my kids and they seemed the only thing I was animated about. I sort of lived my life in a daze. I'm a vet and was fortunate that the town's vet was retiring. So I took over his practice and made myself at home. I found myself in Eastern Washington, traveling on the road to the Apple Valley Ranch.

I go out every couple of weeks or so to tend the animals of the rather enterprising horse ranch. It was started by the late owner but kept up faithfully by his son. He was a sweet, kind man named Jimmy to all but me. I called him James. He was maybe twenty-five. His eyes were beautifully blue and eager and open. There wasn't a hint of deception or deceit in him. Probably had more to do with his being born with the cord around his neck and slightly brain-damaged. He was a bit slow and had a hard time learning new things. But he was faithful and constant, hardworking, tireless, and kind and gentle with the horses.

James always came out to the stables while I was there. He wasn't watching over me, he just wanted to be there in case I found anything. There was a foreman for the horses too. He was a grisly old cowboy called Doc. He paid attention too. I was looking over a mare that was about to foal, maybe in a couple of weeks. I looked up and smiled at the two anxious men. This was their first foal since the old man died. I assured them that everything was fine. With that Doc let at a whoop and left the stables. I went over near the tack room to wash up. I was just rinsing my hands when I looked up and saw the calendar. I did a quick calculation in my head and realized it was six months to the day since my wife had died. I also remembered that I hadn't thought about her, really thought about her for a couple of days. I think it was more guilt than anything, but I crumpled to the ground on my knees and cried.

I just sat there, crying because my wife was gone, guilty for not thinking of her, knowing that the pain was going away. James knelt down in front of me. He looked worried. He put his hand on my shoulder; just a simple gesture letting me know that I wasn't alone. My tears let up and I looked up into James' warm, caring face. He asked me why I was so sad. I told him that when I saw the calendar that it had been six months since my wife had died. He smiled at me and told me that he couldn't remember the day anymore when his mama had died. But he remembered crying on the day when he realized that he couldn't remember anymore. It was so good to know that someone cared and offered just a little comfort.

James stood up and asked me to follow him. He led me out of the stable and up a hill towards the main ranch house. Just before the main path to the front door, the path split and James took it. It led to an arbor that we passed through. Inside was a rose garden, surrounded by tall hedges. A path that ran the length of the garden divided the plants. On one side it was completely full with mature roses in large bushes. Being late June, the aroma was almost too much. But they were beautiful, all the various shades and sizes of flowers. James led me up the path. He stopped where the other side stopped off, about halfway through the garden. He turned to me and smiled.

"One side is just common roses, the other are hybrids I try. I do four every year. This year's are just blooming." He walked over to one plant. It had blood red tips that gradually flowed into a butter cream throat. It was beautiful. James stopped in front of it and brought out a pair of pruning shears and snipped off three of the blooms. I watched as he trimmed the thorns off the stems and trimmed up the leaves. He handed them to me when he was done.

"What was your wife's name?"


"What did she like to do most in the world?"

I smiled at the memory. "She liked to sing the babies to sleep in the rocking chair."

James smiled at me, full of warmth and kindness. "Then these roses shall be called 'Jenny's Lullaby'."

I was shocked. I looked down at the flowers in my hand and stammered. "James, you can't do that. God, it is so generous."

"I have a hard time naming my new roses. You just helped is all."

I knew that arguing would do me no good. His generosity and warmth made me smile. "Thank you James."

He smiled at me and we walked down the hill to the stables so I could get my bag. On the walk, I really looked at him. I had always seen him and knew what he looked like. But now I noticed him ... differently. He was tall, at least six-six. He had really broad shoulders and lean hips. He was obviously well muscled. He had dark brown hair and bright blue eyes. I had registered this before, but it was slightly different. This was new. I hadn't felt like this since college.

On the drive home, I kept thinking about his smile; his gentle kindness and generosity and it made me think things I hadn't thought about in years. I remembered my first roommate in college. Adam and I found each other one night. We were cold and tired and collapsed on the same bed after a party got out of hand and destroyed the other bed. We turned during the night so we were face to face. The moment was perfect and we were kissing. We made love that night and throughout the rest of the year. We weren't being openly together; we were just enjoying the time we had. But by the end of the year, he wanted more. To be truthful, I was afraid. I turned him away out of fear. I always regretted it until I met Jenny. We shared six wonderful years and I loved her more than anything. But now that she was gone, I found myself thinking those thoughts again. Technically, I guess I would be considered bi. I enjoyed the two people I ever slept with a lot. I loved them both. But the moral climate, the fears and prejudices of the world made me turn away the first so I could find the second love of my life. Now that she was gone, with time I knew I would find a third.

A couple of weeks later, I got the call that the mare was having difficulty and was in hard labor. So I got my mom to watch the kids and drove out to the Apple Valley Ranch. I made it out there about 2 AM and Doc met me as I pulled up. I grabbed my bag and found James kneeling in the stall, holding her head and petting her, offering soft, gentle words and a caring touch. I smiled at him as I came in to kneel down and examine her. The cord was wrapped around a front leg. It wasn't overly threatening, but if untreated, would cause the mare to hemorrhage when the foal dropped. I reached up there and moved the cord away, unwrapping the foal and tilting its head for the trip into the world. She wasn't ready to drop just yet, but it would help to do it now. James and I helped that horse through the night. She would stand and pace, then lie down and whinny. He crooned to her the whole time. His love for that animal was palpable. Just before dawn, the water broke. It made us both messy, but it meant it would only be a few more minutes. I reached in to guide the foal, pulling lightly on the muzzle to allow it to fall out gently. The mare was standing and the foal just landed in the hay. I removed the sack over its nose and watched as the mare helped it, cleaning and nuzzling the baby to her. It was a beautiful filly with its sire's coloring. After about twenty minutes, the foal was standing after a couple of clumsy steps. I examined her and mother and baby were doing great.

I looked up at James and he had tears in his eyes. It wasn't pity or fear but the overwhelming emotions of seeing nature in all its glory. I grasped his arm and smiled at him. He looked at me and smiled back. I stood and the two of us moved out of the stall so Doc and another hand could clean them up and muck out the stall. James led me to the tack room and the showers there so I could get cleaned up. It wasn't much, but the water was hot and there was plenty of it. I peeled off my bloody, messy clothes and crawled under the hot spray. I noticed James removing his clothes and I watched him.

He was beautiful. His body was sturdy and very strong. He didn't have any fat on his torso. His muscles were sculpted and defined by tight skin and shiny, thick, dark hair that covered his chest from collarbone to the waistband of his jeans. He toed off his boots and shucked his jeans. He stood in white, loose, cotton boxers and socks. He was absolutely amazing. He didn't arouse me. I was just impressed by such a beautiful body. Then he bent and peeled off his socks before standing and dropping his shorts. I continued looking at his beauty. His legs were thick with muscle, indicative of a lot of lifting and climbing ladders to pick the apples in the orchard. They were covered in corded muscle and dark hair. But he also had a beautiful cock. It was thick and long and accompanied by large, heavy testicles that swung below his shaft. His pubic hair was thick and surrounded his flaccid penis. He walked towards me and stood under the showerhead next to me. He grabbed some soap and vigorously scrubbed his arms, removing the muck. He washed his legs then turned to place the soap back. It was then I saw the scars crisscrossed on his back. They ran in long, parallel streaks and they were of differing depths and length. They also ran in every direction along his shoulder blades and mid-waist. I had seen scarring like this before, on a horse. James had been beaten or whipped, perhaps both.

I reached out and placed my fingers on the meanest looking scar and traced it. James stiffened and stood, turned to look at me with a little panic in his eyes. Compassion filled my eyes and voice with tears. I looked in his eyes and cupped his cheek.

"Oh James, what happened?"

He looked down, as if ashamed. He mumbled a response that I didn't hear. I pulled his face up and looked at him, rubbing my thumb under his eye to catch a tear. "What happened?"

"After my mama died, my daddy would get angry at me. He would come in my room and take his belt to me for being bad."

I cringed at the image of that poor boy having no one to turn to; living with fear and uncertainty. "How old were you when your mama died?"


My heart clenched. Pity and compassion stirred in me. Before I thought it through, I leaned towards him, tilted my head up to him, and pressed my lips to his. James froze under my touch. All I could think was: what if he was really a child in an adult's body. I went to move away, not so fast I would startle him, but gently lifted the pressure of my mouth. But I felt James follow, applying pressure and a little suction to my lip. He had closed his eyes. I moved away and waited for him to open his eyes. I looked at him. He smiled shyly at me. I had to know, his reaction was a little curious.

"Have you ever kissed anyone James?"

"I used to kiss my mama's cheek each night before going to bed."

I couldn't help but smile. "I meant on the mouth."

He shook his head no.

"Do you want me to kiss you?"

He nodded. I moved to him and cupped his face with my hands. I brushed my lips against his lightly, butterfly light. I stood only a couple of inches shorter, but I still had to tilt up to meet his lips. I waited for James to meet my lips before opening my mouth. Once he opened his mouth, I moved a little more aggressively over his lips. I touched his lip with my tongue, waiting for James to follow. He did, tentatively, awkwardly. When our tongues met, I felt him shudder. I just brushed his tongue with mine for a few strokes before pulling away, disengaging from his mouth. James had his eyes closed again. Beautiful, dark lashes fanned over his cheekbones. He was beautiful and innocent. I couldn't stop the smile. He was also breathing hard and his cheeks and neck were flushed. I didn't have to look down to see him hard. I felt it against my belly.

James was trembling a bit when he opened his eyes. He stared into mine while catching his breath. Then he looked down. I wasn't unaffected. I know I was erect and brushing in the soft hair of his belly. He snapped his head up and blushed even darker. I smiled at him and kissed his cheek. I turned off the water and grabbed a towel. I dried off and started putting on my spare clothes. I had only put on my briefs when I turned to watch James. He had turned from me and ducked his head under the water. He was shaking. He had turned the water cold. My erection deflated. All I could think about was that I hurt him. Pushed him into something he wasn't ready for.

I walked up to the shower and put my hand on his arm. The water was frigid. I turned him to me and shut off the water. He wouldn't look at my eyes. He kept mumbling that he shouldn't have done that. He said that it was wrong to be hard in the shower. I tried to calm him, but everything I said seemed to make it worse. He grabbed a towel and dried off. He then wrapped it around himself and grabbed his dirty clothes and walked out, up the hill to the house. The whole time he had his head lowered. I wanted to go after him. But I stopped and went back inside to finish dressing.

While I was putting on my boots, Doc came in to the tack room. He didn't look angry, but he was concerned.

"What did you do to Jimmy? He doesn't walk around without a shirt unless he's upset."

"I don't know, he kept mumbling about being hard in the shower."

"I know you kissed him, I saw it."

I was at a loss. Things had moved quickly and I had a feeling I had really done some damage to James. "Yes, I did kiss him. He turned around and turned the water blasting cold. He grabbed a towel and walked off."

Doc leaned back against the doorframe. "I know what got him so upset."


Rather than answer, he looked at me. It was an appraisal. I don't know what his verdict was. "I came to this ranch when he was just seven. His mama loved him more than anything. But his daddy wouldn't have anything to do with him. Jimmy couldn't please that man no matter what he did. At nine, he was winning riding awards. At eleven, he won an award for the best hybrid rose. At fourteen, his section of the orchard had almost double the output of any other section in the whole eighty acres. It wasn't enough. The old bastard cared nothing for him.

"Just after his mama died, I was trying to get a new horse to saddle. I got on but he threw me. I landed hard and had the wind knocked out of me. Jimmy vaulted that fence and pulled me out of harm's way. He crouched down and begged me not to die too. He told me he loved me and didn't want me to go. Here I was, this loner, and I fell for that kid. His love is pure, no qualifications, no questions, no prejudices. I loved him like he was my own. I went to all of the events he was in. I cheered for him the loudest when he won awards. The old man just showed up to smile and wave; then ignored Jimmy on the drive home.

"I didn't know he was beating the boy at first. The kid came to me whenever he didn't understand something. But he kept this to himself. He was fifteen before I found out. I walked up to that old man with my rifle and threatened to kill him. I told him if he ever raised a hand to his boy that he'd be dead before he knew what hit him. For the most part it worked. I didn't find out about the other until recently."

Doc wiped tears from his eyes, but he didn't go into details about what 'other' meant. "You seem to be a good man, Alex. But don't hurt him. He doesn't understand the game. When I first saw you, I thought you might be like me. Any warm body would do, man or woman. But now I know, it's not like me. I just look for a little break from the loneliness of night, doesn't matter what gender they are. But you're a forever kind of guy. I envy you that.

"I can see you are halfway there, but you have to decide. Jimmy is worthy of love. He deserves to have someone love him. But you need to decide, because it will be forever for him. He doesn't understand casual sex. With him it's all or nothing. Yes he's slow. He can't comprehend half of what he reads. But he is all heart; he loves with everything he is. It's all you really need."

With that, Doc walked out, heading for the house. I drove home as the sun broke the horizon with more questions than answers. What Doc said was true: I was already halfway in love with him. I had watched and observed James every time I came out to the ranch. Now I admitted that I was attracted to him, probably had been from the beginning. But there were two small reasons to think about it first. Missy and Brad, my children, deserved to have a loving home. I knew that James would love them. They were impossible to resist. If all I had known about him was the gentle touches he lavished on his horses; that would have told me he could love them. But could he be a parent to them? Could he love their hurts away? Of course he could. But could he spank them for their pranks and naughtiness? Because Doc said he had been beaten, I had a feeling James would probably go leniently with them. Not a bad thing, all in all. But, if something was to happen to me, could he take over and be the parent that they would need? That thought startled me. The idea of so completely melding my life with James' should have scared me. It didn't. It made me feel warm and good. Doc was right, he was deserving of love. I know it showed a lack of trust, but I needed a test. I was more than halfway in love with him and needed to know before I let myself go.

The following Sunday, while my practice would only need me in an emergency, I took Missy and Brad to the Apple Valley Ranch. I had Brad slung in a backpack and Missy grasping my hand as I walked into the stables. Doc was there. He walked up to me and asked if I had made my decision. I looked at him and told him I would by the end of the day. He got angry, until Missy tugged on his hand. When he looked down at her he ruffled her hair. Then he looked up at me. I told him that if it was only me, the decision would have been made already. He smiled at me, understanding lighting in his eyes. Yes, I was testing James, but Doc understood. James walked into the stables a few minutes later. I was just finished checking on the foal. Brad was asleep on my back. James walked down the aisle between the stalls. I knew where Missy was; she was close to one of the stalls, trying to gather her courage to pet the animals. James walked up to her, kneeling down by her side. He didn't ask anything, he just knelt by her. Eventually she turned to him and smiled. I watched as James smiled back. He asked her if she would like to pet the horse. She nodded and James stood. He asked Missy if he could pick her up. She nodded again. He settled her on his hip as if he were born to it, tilted away from the horses, protecting her, shielding her with his big body. He told her to stick out her hand, palm up. He then placed a sugar cube in it. Then he took another cube in his hand and held it out to the horse. The horse snorted and slobbered all over his palm. He then shifted Missy closer. When the horse nuzzled her hand she giggled and squirmed against James' neck. He giggled with her, sharing her mirth at the joy of connecting with the horses. She reached out and stroked the nose of the horse and probably fell in love with horses right then.

James sat her down when she spotted me. She ran off to me but not before she stopped and kissed him on the cheek. I picked her up and stared at James, knowing it was no use. He had taken my heart when he lovingly played with my daughter. It was over, and now I knew, it was never really a contest. I loved him. Now we just had to decide how to come together. He invited the three of us for lunch. As we sat around his table with Doc and James, the kids both connected to him. He was kind and gentle. Despite his size, which usually intimidates small children, they were drawn to him. James took Missy on a tour of his home while I fed Brad. Doc looked at me and wanted to talk.

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