Here we are at Chapter 8 of The Farmers’ Sons, which will be called Harvesting Hope when it publishes. I may be making the chapters a little bit shorter here on the blog so they aren’t time consuming and some who have missed chapters can catch up.
If you don’t know, I share these chapters as a work in progress, so there will most likely be typos and plot holes, etc. If you notice them, please feel free to share with me in private or in the comments. Also feel free to share with me your thoughts on the story so far, on the characters, and on where you think the story should go next.
To read Molly’s story from the first book of this series, download a copy on Amazon or read it through Kindle Unlimited. To read the other parts of this story click HERE or find a link at the top of the page.
Jason watched the truck disappear down the road for a moment before turning back to the tire. He worked a bolt loose, saying a quick prayer for Liz. Quick prayers were all the prayers he allowed time for these days. Any longer and his thoughts spiraled out of control. A cool breeze brushed his face as he worked, the temperature lower after the storms moved through.
The crunch of tires on gravel brought his head up. There was little chance he didn’t know whoever was driving by. Everyone knew everyone in this county. When he recognized the old blue pick-up pulling up behind Molly’s truck, his heart sank.
Tom Lambert, his dark brown hair speckled with gray, leaned an arm on the wall of Molly’s truck bed. “Hey, Jason. Need any help?”
Jason rolled the flat tire off to one side. “Actually, I’m almost done. Appreciate the offer, though.”
He kept his head down, afraid to look at Ellie’s father for more than a few moments, afraid to see the anger that might be in his eyes, anger reserved for Jason.
Tom laughed and shook his head, tapping the side of the truck. “I know this old truck reminds Molly of Ned, but she really needs a new one. I’m amazed she’s been able to keep it running this long.”
Jason nodded with a smile, rolling the spare tire in place. “Yeah, we’ve tried talking her into scrapping it, but she’s not interested.”
Jason was trying to match the lightness he heard in Tom’ tone but he couldn’t help wondering how Ellie’s dad actually felt about him. How much did he know about the reason for their break-up?
“Here, let me get that.” Tom kneeled down and reached for the bolt that had slipped from Jason’s hand and hit the dirt.
Jason nodded his appreciation, taking the bolt and fitting it back onto its spot.
Tom sat there a few seconds, squatting next to the truck before he spoke. “Listen, Jason, I don’t know what happened between you and Ellie, but I just want you to know that Rena and I still consider you a part of our family. If you ever need to talk, we’re both here for you.”
Jason wondered if Ellie’s parents would feel the same affection for him if they knew why Ellie had broke things off.
He cleared his throat and tightened the last bolt, standing at the same moment Tom stood. Looking into the eyes of the father of the woman he’d hurt, he didn’t see anger there. He saw kindness and compassion and he hated it. He should see disgust in this man’s eyes, disgust over how Jason had lied to Ellie for so long, how he had failed the moral code he’d set for himself.
Despite the tension he felt, or maybe because of it, Jason couldn’t stop a soft laugh from escaping as he pulled his eyes from Tom’ and wiped his hand on a rag. “Thank you. I really appreciate that. I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel talking to my ex-girlfriend’s parents about my past mistakes, but the offer still means a lot.”
Jason heard good-natured sincerity in Tom’ laugh. “I understand, but really, Jason.” He placed his hand firmly on Jason’s shoulder. “We love you. I can’t imagine anything you could have done that would be bad enough for us to ever not love you.”
His words were like a knife to Jason’s heart. “You sure about that?” he wanted to ask. He wanted to tell his man about his past, about that night with Lauren, about his guilt, about keeping it from Ellie. He wanted Tom Lambert to hate him as much as he hated himself.
The ringtone of his cellphone startled him, but in a good way. He had never been more thankful for an interruption.
“Hey, Dad, what’s up?”
“Hey, just got a call from Marcia. The fence is down in the upper pasture and Old Bart’s gotten out. He’s headed down the dirt road toward the Patrick’s house.”
“Okay. I’ll go wrangle him and get the fix back up.”
“Better call Brad to help you out. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to move fast enough to help.”
Brad. Yeah. Right.
“Keep me updated.”
He slid his finger over the end call button and slid the phone into his back pocket. “Hey, I’ve got to head out. Aunt Marcia says the bull is out of the fence. I need to head up and get him back in.”
“Old Bart?” Tom looked down the dirt road behind him. “Which way is he headed? I’ll follow you in my truck and we can wrangle him together.”
Jason tossed the lug wrench and jack into the back of the truck. “Thanks, but I can get him. Shouldn’t take long.”
Tom turned back toward his truck. “You’re going to need someone to help you to get that fence back in if you get him inside the fence and that’s a big if. Those old guys can be ornery.”
This encounter was becoming more uncomfortable by the moment. “I really appreciate the offer, but I’m used to him and —”
Tom was standing with his hand on his truck door now, grinning. “Afraid I’ll break a hip?
Jason laughed, rubbing a hand along the back of his neck. “No, sir, it’s just —”
“You think I’m old.” Tom was still smiling. “I’ll have you know I’m only two years older than your dad. Come on, boy, I’ll show you how real bull wrangling is done.”
He climbed inside the truck, signaling the discussion was over. Jason let out a deep breath and climbed behind the steering wheel of Molly’s truck. Apparently, this day full of awkward moments wasn’t going to end anytime soon.
Old Bert was standing in the middle of the intersection of Drew and French Creek Road, chewing grass when Jason and Tom pulled their trucks off into the grass.
Jason exited his truck slowly, not interested in startling the 2,000 pound beast and sending him either barreling toward him or into the woods up an embankment to the left of the road. It would have been easier if he hadn’t wandered this far north and away from the main Tanner farm. As it was now, Jason would have to rope him and lead him back to the farm the old fashioned way, on foot. There was a gate to the upper field about a half a mile down the road.
He told Tom his plan and then reached for the rope he’d picked up at the farm on the way by.
Bert’s eyes were still on him when he closed the truck door with the rope in hand. Tom stepped off to one side, behind Jason. “Should I go behind him and try to move him toward you? He’s usually a pretty calm guy. He probably wouldn’t like me behind him and would step away.”
Jason shook his head. “Not sure really. He can be unpredictable at times. Better stay behind me and let me see if I can get this rope around him first.”
He was only a few steps away from Old Bert, lasso in hand, when the bull turned and ran for it, galloping up the road at a solid pace. Jason growled in frustration and followed him, again only a few steps away when Bert changed direction and darted into a wooded area to the right. Jason was close behind but not close enough to get the rope looped around him.
For such a heavy animal he sure did move swiftly. Jason had a hard time keeping up with him and almost tripped over a tree limb that had fallen and was halfway buried under old leaves.
“I’ll see if I can get ahead of him by going around that grove of trees and chase him back toward the road,” Tom called from behind him. “Distract him for me.”
Jason waved the lasso in Old Bert’s direction, hoping the bull would follow the motion of the rope instead of Tom. He did, starting toward Jason in a startled jog only when Tom crashed through the under brush behind him.
Jason swung the rope, but it slid down Old Bert’s massive side, missing his neck completely. This was nothing like the movies when cowboys rode horses, giving them the advantage of height over the bulls they were trying to corral.
Jason was surprised at Old Bert’s speed. He wasn’t referred to as Old Bert for nothing. He was reaching the end of his use as a stud bull and his legs should have been a little less flexible than they were now.
Tom leaned over slightly, his hands on his knees, breathing hard. “Well, that didn’t work.”
“It was a good idea, though,” Jason said, also breathing hard.
He looked up at Tom, at the sweat on his forehead and drenching his shirt. He’d better try to send him home. The man having a heart attack while trying to help Jason wrangle the Tanner’s bull wasn’t going to help Jason’s case with Ellie at all.
“Why don’t you head on home? I can chase him back down the road and through our fence.”
Tom shook his head. “I don’t mind trying a couple more times.” He stood, stretched his shoulders back. “It’s personal now. I don’t like the idea of that old bull beating us.”
If only Tom Lambert wasn’t as stubborn as his daughter.
It took another 20 minutes but corralling Old Bert between them, stomping their feet and yelling if he tried to dart into the woods again, finally brought them to the gate at the end of the Tanner’s field. Old Bert darted through the gate when Jason opened it, toward the pond his grandfather had built years ago next to a weeping willow.
Jason laughed softly. “He’s probably trying to get away from our shouting.”
They walked inside the gate, several feet into the pasture, chasing Old Bert further in the field to be sure he headed back further down the property. Jason still had to get him to his corral and locked back in, but he’d do that after he picked up his truck.
“I can’t figure how he gets that gate open, but I know what my project is this week.”
Tom nodded. “Fixing that gate latch, I’d guess. Or maybe packing the freezer with some extra steaks and roasts.”
Jason laughed, stopping with his hands at his waist to catch his breath. “That sounds good but he’s an old bull. That would be some pretty tough meat.”
Tom turned and looked back over the field toward the road and an old stone fence running down a short length of the border of the Tanner’s property against the road. A warm breeze filtered over the two men and Jason wondered if more storms would be coming later in the evening.
Tom nodded toward the fence, his breathing still fast, but slowing down. “Is that still the original fence down there?”
“1800s? Early 1900s?”
“We think late 1800s. Probably built by my great-great grandfather to mark the end of our property.”
They started walking toward the fence. “It’s amazing isn’t it?” Tom shook his head as he walked. “How well they built things back then. They really took their time, made sure it would stand the test of time.”
Reaching the old stones, crumbling but still in place, they stopped walking and looked at the fence that reached the level of Jason’s chest.
“They did that with everything back then,” Tom continued. “Homes, barns, even relationships.”
Jason nodded, not sure where Ellie’s father was going with this conversation, but fairly certain that he didn’t want to know.
“Holding on in the tough times can make the foundation of a relationship stronger,” Tom said. “But only if there’s a third person in the middle to help two people hold on.”
Jason pulled his cap low on his head. He didn’t want to have this conversation right now, or ever. Not with the father of the woman he loved, but now hated him. He cleared his throat, shifted his weight from one leg to the other and folded his arms across his chest. He looked at the ground, kicked at the dirt with the tip of his boot.
“Thanks for the help with Bert, Tom. I should be getting back.”
Tom nodded. Jason was glad he didn’t push the conversation any further. Tom put a foot on the old wall and climbed up it, tapping the stones with his foot as he stepped, shaking his head, still obviously amazed at the workmanship. Jason followed him for a few steps, then stopped, an unexpected sound catching his attention. Thunder maybe?
By the time he registered it was hoofs on the ground, not thunder, Old Bert was only a hundred feet away and gaining fast.
Old Bert wasn’t usually violent but the way he lowered his head and pawed his hooves made Jason think he might have turned over a new leaf. He and Tom had to get out of this pasture. And fast.
“Tom, climb faster.”
Tom tilted his head, raised a questioning eyebrow, his back to Bert. “What’s that?”
“I said —”
It was too late. Bert was already a few feet away. Jason took off for Tom, hoping to grab him and push him over the wall, but worried he couldn’t outrun a 2,000 pound bull.
His hands were on the back of Tom’s shirt, yanking him up the stonewall when Bert reached them. A sickening crack coincided with Tom’s body flying up and over the wall. He slammed into Jason and they both fell in a heap into the road on the other side of the fence.
Grimacing as pain shot through his back, Jason was at least glad they were out of the pasture to keep them from being hit again.
Ellie’s dad was eerily silent, laying on his side in the ditch behind the fence. Jason’s heart pounded hard as he sat up quickly and half crawled, half dragged himself to Tom. Pain shot through his back, but he didn’t have time to focus on it.
Oh God, please don’t let me have gotten Ellie’s dad killed.