Montana Rhapsody Pt. 03byEgmont0409©
"Yes, even Hal."
That night Paris made a heart-wrenching decision. She decided to end her novel with heroine Skye dying giving birth to her second child, a female, who died with her. The grieving Billy would be left their year-old Wyatt. Well in that respect Skye had delivered what he wanted.
Paris sat, wringing her hands. It was taking a big risk and could kill her book sales and anger her editors because the tradition with romances was to leave hero and heroine in a happy ever-after cocoon. God how could she be so cruel and then it came to her why: that terrible time when that beautiful heifer died on her post-calving. She resolved to defy all pressure by editor to change her story's ending. Some people said she was tough so what did she have to fear when it was her novel?
Slightly more cheerful, Skye began writing about Billy and Skye going on their first vacation together. It was only a week but Skye returned to the ranch unaware she was pregnant while Billy was left thinking had sex ever been so good?
* * *
The film crew of five comprising a director-manager, two cameramen, sound-technician and general hand arrived at the ranch after considerable negotiations.
Hal had growled, "Who's going to pay for their food and other supplies on the drive?"
Paris had sighed and said she would but Hal growled no-way.
As it turned out the producer in New York said the company would pay for everything including breakages and any damages caused by the crew spooking cattle.
Hal insisted they must be able to ride horses but the general hand could drive an all-terrain vehicle behind the chuck wagon.
Paris relayed that, the producer agreed and agreed to have the crew arrive a day early so they could familiarize themselves with riding western style. It was becoming such a pain that Paris wondered whether it would be worth all this trouble. But within hours of the crew arriving she and Hal were impressed. They were two women and three guys who'd been on outdoor assignments in at least a dozen countries and the first thing the chief cameraman said to Hal was, "Our biggest concern is not to spook the cattle Hal. We need you to be our adviser."
Hal was most impressed, unaware that when driving the crew from the airport Paris had briefed the chief cameraman about Hal's concerns and had fed the guy those words to repeat to Hal.
The settling-in day went fine and although there was room in the house for them the film crew opted to sleep out in their two and three-person tents to acclimatize. They and the boys had dinner buffet-style in the house and for the next four hours the visitors described some of their 'great outdoor adventures' in different parts of the world. It made Hal and the boys feel they were just the village people and although Paris lived in New York and had traveled overseas that had been only as a tourist so she was rather awed at the tales being told.
Next day they began work, filming Paris looking at the dawn coming over mountains and then going to the barn to saddle Marissa who was fully recovered. She was assisted by Larry who was horse wrangler for this drive, in charge of the three horses for each rider.
They rode for six hours over a span of seven and a half hours, stopped for lunch and two other breaks and reached the meadow where the steers were. The director had Paris helping Annie with dinner and Paris was filmed asking Annie about her background and the feelings she had being up in the mountains of Montana.
They were filmed eating dinner and around the campfire when to Paris's astonishment Larry turned into quite an entertainer by reciting cowboy poetry. In turn Paris astonished everyone by the clarity of her voice when Tom, who'd been strumming 'Red River Valley', suddenly sat up and played properly when Paris began singing the song. She was urged to sing three more songs and then Hal was film saying, "Right folk, time to get some shut-eye. I want everyone out of bed at 5:30 in the morning checking their gear and horses and attending to personal care. Breakfast is at 7:00."
"What is this personal care thing boss?" drawled Larry. "You usually say have a crap. Are you going soft just because we have Paris with us?"
"Get your ass into your tent Larry," Hal roared.
The director laughed cut. She loved it.
Hal spoke to the camera next morning about how the 60,000-acre ranch included this pastureland up the mountain to where it petered out but he was still responsible to conservation authorities not to overgraze it and to do his best to conserve the natural habitat.
"The grasses my cattle graze up here are wild grasses and at the end of our five-mile drive today that includes some quite steep patches we'll come to a bowl that will appear to be a sea of yellow and white flowers. I never tire of the site. Our steers will eat the grass and make a real mess of the flowers but when we move the steers on to the next location in seven to ten days' time, depending on weather, that pasture will reestablish and another new crop of flowers will have reappeared. The old-time cattleman knew about conservation before we thought of having officials running it and politicians making rules. The old-timer's regarded these summer pastures on mountains as one of God's gift to cattlemen."
The director called cut and, sniffing and wiping her eyes she said, "That was so beautiful Hal, quite stunning. I know that came from the heart."
The woman with the second camera was filming the cowboys who were shuffling their feet or standing awkwardly. She filmed Paris wiping her eyes.
At mid-morning break, with three of the five miles covered, the cowboys spent half their time yelling 'hee-yah' when circling strays and getting them returning to the herd of around 190. The film crew filmed Hal and Paris standing on an outcrop with a magnificent backdrop of snow-covered mountains and low down in the distance could be seen sage bush covered rounded-hills and flats. The director was on-camera conducting the interview. She began with the question, "Why did you come to Montana Paris" and that was explained. Then when she asked, "How did you and Hal come together?"
"It began when he stopped resenting me being on his ranch."
"What stirred you Hal?"
"Well Paris is a lovely looking lady and has, um, a great body and a hugely warm personality. She was doing okay and pitching into the work with the boys and stopped falling off her horse so I guess I began forgiving her for being there."
"There were other things as well. People were befriending her, the boys and Annie admired her hugely and that helped. In May, calving month, she impressed me beyond belief. I didn't think she'd last more than a couple of days on that work in the barn. But she lasted all through. The most telling moment came when a heifer that had lost her calf died after Paris had stayed with her all night. We found Paris sobbing into the heifer's side, stroking it and saying the heifer was not meant to die. Paris was so exhausted she really had no idea of time or where she was. I guess I had to say my heart just melted when I saw her tear-stained face. We put Paris on to the bunk in the barn and she slept and later I carried her over to the house for Alice to get some food into her. She did have some broth and fell asleep and Alice put a blanked over her. A couple of hours later during a routine check Alice had found she'd gone and found her back in the calving barn dealing with a birthing problem."
"I told the boys er my cow hands, Alice and Paris that despite this being the worst winter we've had in years thanks to the boys and especially thanks to Nurse Paris McCoy we had one of the lowest calving mortality rates for some years."
The director asked, "Have you got over losing that heifer Paris?"
"Yes Miriam. Like many people in this world I've learnt that despite adversity life goes on but I still recall that heifer. For a cow she could almost be called pretty and my feeling was she'd make a great mom. The calf was just too big for her."
"Moving on, apart from Hal of course, what are the biggest impressions you have of Montana?"
"Well Miriam for someone who lives on the fifth floor on an apartment on Manhattan the sheer grandeur of the county makes a huge statement. But what has impressed me most amid this isolation is the interaction among people I know. For example, our nearest neighbor is six miles away in a direct line and the next closest is a little over twice that distance. Hal has three permanent employees, called cowhands but I call them cowboys because I prefer that description. In New York I'd never fraternize with guys like that which perhaps is my loss. I like and respect them all and they assisted greatly to take me from greenhorn to cowgirl status."
"Now here's a little story against myself. One day my horse threw me and I fell over a bluff, fortunately to be halted by a tree 70-feet down. Miraculously I was only badly bruised on the back and butt. Alan called in a chopper to haul me out. Hal's doctor was in the area and heard the emergency call and drove out to see if she could assist. The boys had sensibly moved the horses right away to avoid being spooked by the chopper arriving. I was given medication and taken to my bed and ordered to rest for two days and Hal and Alice took turns to watch over me that night. I was told later neighbors and people who'd befriended me in town were on the phone to see how I was. Hal and the boys looked soppy when I appeared at the doorway unexpectedly to say thanks. I knew then my little escapade had shaken everyone up, that I was part of the team and the wider community was accepting my."
"What I'm saying is out here in isolation and in difficult terrain we all stand by one another. It's the code and has to be that way for survival. I greatly admire everyone for the support I received that day and you know what? I heard not one adverse comment or anyone mutter, "The lady from New York can't ride a horse. It's very difficult to keep riding a horse when it stumbles when its leg goes into a hole."
Miriam called Alan over.
"Can you honestly say Paris can be called a cowgirl?"
"I sure can. She can ride almost as well as Larry and me but not Tom because he's a horse wrangler and former rodeo rider. I'd say the boss rides marginally better as well."
"What happened when Paris was thrown?"
"We were looking for stray cows and calves before driving the herd up the mountain. Her horse stumbled and Paris was hurled over its head. Then she was deal unlucky. She was dusting herself off when a four to six feet width of bank collapsed and she went down. I thought it was the end of her because some 150 feet down were rocks. But trees grow out of the bank and lo, she'd landed on one and bounced off branches on to a ledge and lay still, out to it in shock. We thought she could be dead but waiting for the helicopter I thought I saw movement. Oh boy was I pleased about that but then thought oh god, what if she attempts to get to her feet and tumbles off the narrow ledge? She told us later her back felt so sore she was sure she'd broken it. Lucky girl, eh?"
"Indeed. Ranch work is a dangerous job."
"I'll tell you this Miriam, bus drivers sit on their ass all day but sometimes bus drivers get killed. Think about it."
"Indeed. Well thanks guys. Cut."
The mountain-side became steeper and progress slowed as the cowhands move the steers in gigantic zigzags to even out the rate of climb. The new problem was to stop steers attempting to turn back but at last they reached the first of three huge adjoining bowls growing grass and painted with wild flowers.
"Ohmigod," shouted Miriam. "Get those cameras going and film the cattle spreading out.
Hal and Paris stopped to watch, stirrup to stirrup.
"Is this what you wanted to see?"
"Oh yes Hal. It is straight out of a picture book. It's so amazing."
"Yeah but so much for the hand of God. If you were caught out in the open up here during a winter blizzard it could easily kill you.
Later when returning to stay the night in their original camp Paris said, "We didn't have sex in the flowers."
Hal gave a promising smile. "We'll do that tomorrow. I'll take you to a field that by now should be a picture of yellow buttercup and early blue violets. It's one of our hay pastures being rested in rotation."
* * *
At the beginning of August Hal organized a big farewell party for Paris who was leaving for New York to concentrate on dealing with the changes editors required to her manuscript. She'd decided to work longer hours and finish writing earlier than planned to be clear of the project before the wedding. Hal thought that was a great idea and they settled on the wedding being in the last week in August. That would allow a leisurely honeymoon in California and be back in time to start bringing the cattle down to home pastures sometime from mid-September.
Paris was off alcohol because she was eight weeks pregnant.
She was delighted to be surrounded by so many of her friends and had only heard the previous afternoon that the documentary, 'Paris McCoy's Montana Cattle Drive' would be screened on network TV in six week's time when she and Hal would have just returned from their honeymoon. She decided to say nothing. Perhaps they could have another party that Sunday evening.
There was a tearful farewell for the ladies at the airport in Billings late next morning for the flight to New York with a short layover at Minneapolis. Lisa was accompanying Paris for the month as a vacation and to make corrections in the returned proofs that Paris marked as approved. When they turned for the last wave at their guys David and Hal looked so woeful that the women burst into tears again.
"God, some of my friend's husbands are relaxed about seeing their wives go off but not those two," sniffed Lisa, when they had gone through airport security. "Now what's this big problem I heard you mention to Merle Cook?"
"She asked me what was the name of my book and I said it hadn't come to me, that I'd left my pathetic working title on the manuscript which is 'Babe in Montana'.
"Ohmigod, are you sure you're an author? That sounds like a slow-learner's title for her school essay."
"I know. But as soon as I become homesick for Montana it will come to me."
"Homesick for Montana would be a goofy name for a paperback."
"I know. The night Hal and I first had sex I thought of 'Fucking in Montana' but thought one or two people might not like that."
Lisa laughed. "Only one or two? My that's been optimistic."
Paris still had more than half of her advance from her publisher intact so she'd rented a vacation apartment for a month rather than stay with Lisa in Paris's parents' apartment that would be a little cramped for a fourth person, having only one bathroom. She also wanted the freedom to spread out her proofs and not have to tidy up on command.
Lisa had been to New York a few times so wasn't bug-eyed. The next day they visited Lisa's parents and late afternoon went to the dressmaker Lisa's mother had chosen where Paris was measured for her wedding dress. Paris had already decided it had to be white lace with a high front neckline and a plunging back and the length four inches above her knees. The first thing the professional dressmaker, a woman in her sixties said when they entered the fitting room and she looked at the bride to be was, "I have no problem with you wishing to wear your dress short with legs looking like that."
"They're almost as good as mine," Lisa said.
Mrs Logan and Lisa's mother looked at Lisa's legs, said nothing but both shook their heads.
"Ah almost Lisa dear."
At that Lisa's hollow smile filled out.
The next day the two young women went to the publishing house of Barron and Drew where Ruby Street took them to Thelma DeLuca's office for coffee. The four had greeted like old friends and they arranged to go to dinner that night. Thelma appeared to be uneasy and Paris wondered if that was because she'd brought Lisa in although having made the point Lisa was acting as her keyboarding assistant. The reason for the discomfort became apparent when they returned to Ruby's office.
"Again I repeat Paris we in this company who are in the know are almost falling out of our trees in excitement over your manuscript. It has bestseller written all over it. But..."
"No Ruby and that's non-negotiable."
"Please allow me to finish. We are unanimous. The heroine cannot die and die during childbirth for god sake."
"Oh Paris, you can't do that," Lisa said, turning pale.
"It's non-negotiable. What's the next thing you wish to discuss Ruby?"
"Well there is nothing more to discuss until you agree to comply."
"No and unless you stop being pig-headed about this I demand I be released from contract and my manuscript be returned to me together with all hard copies of it and an assurance all electronic copies be destroyed."
"Me being pig-headed? You bitch, you can't allege that."
Paris flared. Now listen to me you New York moaning bitch who's in danger of losing literary perspective..."
"Girls, girls please. You're in danger of allowing this to spiral out of hand," Lisa cried attempting to keep her voice calm.
Ruby sniffed and leaned back on her red leather chair, swinging it slightly. She calmed and said. "You make a good point as moderator Lisa. So what do you suggest?"
"Arrange for Paris to explain herself to the publication board or whatever you call it."
Ruby looked thoughtful and said mildly, "Paris?"
"I except you to enhance my novel Ruby, not to act like a maniacal cunt and attempt to destroy it just because your pals want that horrendous change."
Lisa's face was now red. "Paris, apologize to Ruby this instance."
"It's okay Lisa we expect our writers to have passion and Paris and I do foul-mouth one another a bit."
"But what she just said was totally unacceptable. Apologize Paris."
"Sorry I called you maniacal Ruby."
The two protagonists grinned slightly but Lisa snarled, "Paris!"
"I totally withdraw my maniacal phrase and apologize Ruby. I knew disagreement over my ending would be raised as a big issue and my tongue just ran away with me."
"Apology accepted. I will try to set up a meeting with Thelma and our company's two principals and advise you. Good morning ladies."
"So dinner's off."
"No Paris, we are friends aren't we?"
"Oh I suppose so."
"Paris if you shoot your mouth off at any meeting I arrange you'll be asked to leave the building. You must come with her Lisa to pull her chain."
"Of course Ruby but when you speak like that..."
"Leave it Lisa. Ruby is okay."
Out on the sidewalk Paris took the older woman's arm. "You played your part admirably darling."
"Part, I wasn't playing any part. In fact I was becoming quite angry with you."
"I needed someone to pull my chain Lisa. You did good."
"That's not grammatical. Ohmigod, you used me."
"Relax darling. I knew if I told you, you'd over-act. You had a calming influence on me."
"Calming influence when you used that disgusting word on your friend?"
Paris sighed and said they required a switch in mind set. "Let's go shopping. I'd like to buy you a new dress for tonight."
"Oooh Paris. God you are exciting to be with."
"Yeah, I guess that's what had brought a glint into Hal's eye."
They walked along rocking in laughter and then Lisa pulled in tight against her friend.
"Careful dear, I might get the idea you want sex."
"Oh god," Lisa said but couldn't break the cowgirl's grip.
She gave up and relaxed. "You can be so disgusting."
"I'm an author darling."
Ruby called an hour later where to meet for dinner that night and in the afternoon called again to say the meeting was set for 9:30 next morning.