Nowhere Ranch

Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan Read Free Book Online

Book: Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Heidi Cullinan
Tags: Contemporary m/m romance
town to eat, then head on over.”
    I wasn't wild about sitting at the cafe with him, but I was real tired of sandwiches. “Sounds good,” I said.
    We didn't say anything more either until we got to the fence lines, and then it was just to talk about the livestock. Some of the ewes had gotten tetanus, and I did my best to explain to him how they could pick it up from the soil. Loving was agitated because he really worked hard on nutrition, and he was after that wool on his Merinos, so it was real fine-tuning to get the balance between health and yield. I found out he had been reading up on the Internet again, which made me a little nuts, but like I could say that. Except he brought it up again when we were at the cafe, trying to argue with me over what some guy said on a forum, and I couldn't hold my tongue.
    “Look,” I told him. “You aren't even telling me where this guy is from. If he's in northwestern Nebraska, that might hold some water. But I bet you money he is up in Minnesota, and I'm here to tell you that you don't have the same soil conditions here as in Minnesota. We didn't even have quite the same ones in Iowa. All ranching and farming is hands-on stuff, Loving. You gotta get in it to your elbows and grip it yourself before you're gonna understand it. I don't care how many books or magazines or chat rooms you toss at me. I know your soil better than they do, and that is where your trouble comes from. You gotta work with what the soil gives you. Come to grips with your own soil and your stock and make it work. That's all it is. Listen to your soil.”
    Outside of what I wanted in bed, it was the biggest speech I had ever given him, and really, it was more words than I had put together for some time to anyone. Loving just sat there listening. It was kind of a power trip, having the ranch owner so interested in what I was saying. Except when he finally said something back, all he said was, “You can call me Travis, you know.”
    So I'd given him the best advice he was ever going to get about how to fix his sheep trouble, and all he had to say was that I could call him by his first name. I grimaced and poked a french fry into my ketchup.
    He sipped at his cup of coffee before he spoke again. “So why aren't you somebody's ranch manager, Roe?”
    I took a drink of water and wiped my mouth with my napkin. “'Cause I like to move around.”
    “Where have you been?”
    I shrugged. “Midwest. Nebraska, Dakotas, Kansas.”
    “You ever think about Colorado or Montana? Texas?”
    “No,” I said, then decided that if I couldn't shut him up, at least I could get him to not try and get me to talk about myself. “So you ever done rodeo?”
    That made him laugh. “Just the cowboys, though not many of them either.” He sipped at his coffee again, but he was staring out the window absently now. “I came to all this a little late.”
    By “all this” I assumed he meant being queer. And I guess now it was me being nosy, because I wanted to hear more. “So did you not know?” I couldn't imagine not knowing myself, but I know for some guys it does come on like a sunset.
    “Oh, I knew. I also knew I was screwed, so I tried to pretend. Got married. Went to grad school. Got a good job. Voted Republican.” He was just holding his coffee cup now in both hands, like an anchor. “At about thirty I figured out I had made a mistake, so I told my wife. She convinced me to give it one more try, and I did, for six years of hell and counselors. Finally I told her, no, there was no more trying. For a while it made me mad that I'd wasted all that time, not just the six years but the whole marriage. But I would have hit the worst of AIDS if I hadn't gone the way I'd gone. So in a way she saved me.” He gave me a funny smile. “Work with the soil you have,” he said.
    I blinked, then shook my head. If this was what came of college, count me out. “I'm not talking about women, Loving. I'm talking about dirt. Plain and

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