The Day of the Drive
by, Grace Cary
The oppressive rays of the sun beat mercilessly down on Andi Carter as she shifted on her mount. Small droplets of sweat beaded on her forehead, and she ran a hand over her brow. Andi flicked a thick, black braid over her shoulder and sighed restlessly. “I'm ready to get moving with this cattle drive,” she muttered.
While she waited, Andi surveyed the busy scene before her. Her brothers, along with the several of the foremen, were clustered in a small ring nearby, conferring busily. She could see the brim of Chad's hat bobbing from the center of the group as he gave loud instructions to the crew. The lusty cries of the calves pierced the air, adding extra pitch to the already heavy din. In the distance, the foreboding foothills of the Sierra Nevada loomed above the valley.
All seemed oblivious to the black-haired girl astride a chestnut mare.
“Can't I do something?” Andi pleaded several moments later as her brother hurried past. “I promise I won't get in the way.”
“For the last time, Andi, no you may not.” Chad's voice carried a decidedly frustrated tone. “We're already an hour late as it is, and I have no time for your tomfoolery. Now if you'll let me do what I need to-”
“Chad!” Andi called impatiently, watching her brother hasten off. “We crawled out of bed at three o'clock this morning, rushed through breakfast, and immediately hurried out here to start readying for the drive. How in blazes can we be behind schedule?”
A quiet chuckle from beside her brought her around. Mitch pulled Chase to a stop beside her and smiled wryly. “Both you and Chad are reaching the end of your ropes, I'd say.” He took off his hat, raked a hand through his hair, and replaced the hat. Leaning closer to Andi, he lowered his voice. “I know Chad's a little bossy right now, but you have to realize that he's still uptight about what Inferno did. Remember?”
Andi nodded. “Yes.”
Chad's latest stallion, an enormous black beast of a horse with piercing eyes that flashed fire, had surpassed even Prince Loco's infamous reputation. Inferno was mean - dangerously mean. Shivers raced up and down her spine as she recalled the incident of several days before when Chad had been working with the horse. Unfortunately, even with all his sweet-talking, Chad couldn't get the halter on the stallion, and in a rage, Inferno had landed a painful kick to Chad's shin. Fortunately, nothing was broken, but her brother had the bruises to prove the extent of Inferno's wrath against mankind.
“Mitch?” Andi turned again to her brother. “I really don't want to be in the way, but I'm getting bored of waiting here. Surely there's something I can do to help.”
Mitch pulled the brim of his hat down further to shade his face from the sun. “Actually, there is. You could make yourself useful by getting over there and helping Cook.” He stabbed a finger in the direction of the chuck wagon. “I'm sure he can keep you and Levi busy.” A grin tugged at the corners of his mouth.
Andi groaned. Laboring under the scrutinizing gaze and sharp mouth of their short-tempered cook was definitely not the way she wanted to pass her time on this cattle drive. “If you say so.”
“Andi, just be patient with us,” Mitch admonished. “We'll be on the trail soon enough.” He smiled encouragingly at her. “The adventure of your life is about to begin!”
And he was right.