Cowboy Blues

Chapter One

By John Yager

This story will be posted in five chapters. This is a work of gay erotic fiction. If such stories are not to your liking or if you are not allowed access to such stories under the laws under which you live, please exit now.

I want to express thanks to Andrew, who has again done proofing and editing for me.

All stories which I have posted on NIFTY can be found by looking under my name in their Prolific Authors lists.

This work is copyrighted by the author and may not be copied or distributed in any form without the expressed written permission of the author.

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It's true -- there are few certainties in life, few things and fewer people you can really count on.

Jake Bridges knew that. He knew he had to look out for himself. If he didn't, nobody else would. He moved out of the smoke-filled saloon into the cold night, stood for a few minutes in the shelter of the porch, pulled his worn denim jacket around his neck, and headed up the street toward his old Ford pickup. When he'd driven into town that afternoon it had been warm and sunny and he'd felt like spring had finally come. Now, only a few hours later, it felt like January all over again.

Jake had come for supplies and to pick up a new hand who was supposed to arrive on the afternoon bus. He'd done the shopping but the new guy had failed so show. He'd had dinner at Wynn's Cafe and a couple of drinks at Barb's. It was time to head back to the ranch.

He moved like a guy who knew how to take care of himself. There was just a hint of a swagger in his walk, a hint of confidence, even pride. The skin-tight Levis hugged his muscular legs and the boots added three or four inches to his already impressive stature.

At twenty-seven Jake had been working one ranch or another for almost ten years. He'd first signed on the summer after high school and hadn't done any other kind of work since. He knew horses and he knew cattle and he knew men.

He'd started out as a hired hand and there had always been someone needing his skills. Over the next four years he'd worked his way from Texas to Montana and back again three or four times. When he tired of one spread, or they tired of him, he moved on to another.

He began as a seasonal cow puncher, but within four or five years a discriminating rancher had recognized in Jake the capacity to be a good boss. Ever since then he'd been the foreman on one of the biggest spreads in the state.

He discovered he had a talent for keeping simple books and when his boss bought a computer he quickly learned how to use it as well. He'd quickly learned how to manage a bunch of rough men too, how to be one of them and still be seen as the boss, a boss the others respected and willingly obeyed. Despite living in the continual company of other men Jake was, at heart, a loner. His one regret was the lack of another person in his life.

Well, that's how it was, Jake thought. Women and ranch work just didn't mix, not unless you owned the ranch and could afford to keep a proper wife. Not that there hadn't been quite a few women along the way. Jake had never approached them but, from time to time, one of them approached him. No wonder, he was a good looking man.

Those affairs, if you could even call then that, hadn't ever gone far and none of them had lasted long. Jake tried to give the women what they wanted as best he could, as best as he really understood what it was they wanted.

When the relationship was over, he'd move on. He liked it that way and sort of figured the kind of women who wanted him liked it that way, too.

Afterwards, he always had a sense of loss. It wasn't that he'd ever wanted any of those affairs to last, it was just that he was looking for something more. He couldn't have told you what it was, but what he'd had always seemed like it took more from him than it gave and left him feeling empty, drained.

He had to admit though, when he stopped to think about it, that he really didn't know much about women. His mother had been a sort of shadow, moving in the corners, totally submissive to his authoritarian father. Jake's father had been a big man and the only way he'd known how to relate to anyone was to show that he was boss. It was about the time Jake got big enough to be a real physical challenge to his dad that Jake left home.

He'd had no brothers so he what he knew about the ways men relate to men had mostly come from bunkhouse friendships which were never very lasting and rarely very strong. He had a sister but she was younger and he'd not really known her growing up, except as a little kid.

Jake had a trim, muscular body and a ruggedly handsome face. His hair was dark and wavy and he kept it neatly trimmed. He didn't like the way some ranch hands wore their hair long. It looked too feminine to him, and if there was one thing Jake couldn't abide, it was feminine looking men.

Jake couldn't abide a man who looked like anything other than a real man. So far as he was concerned, such creatures were just plain queer and better off dead. He'd have been glad to put them out of their misery, but the law seemed to frown on that way of dealing with such abominations.

The old Ford started quickly and Jake let it have a moment to warm up. There was no reason to hurry.

When the temperature gauge moved to warm he put the truck in gear and released the brake. The old truck moved slowly and quietly out of town.

Eight miles down Highway 16, he slowed and turned, crossed a cattle guard, and continued down a narrow dirt road. It ran straight for a mile or so and then turned slightly to the left, topped a rise. From that point it dipped into the valley of the river below. A few jack rabbits scurried in his headlights as he drove on. Three miles further he went across a second cattle guard and pulled up to the long, narrow bunkhouse which stood behind the big house, beside the stables and the barn.

The big house was dark but there was a welcome glow coming from the bunkhouse windows and a steady stream of smoke rising from its chimney.

Jake took the old Stetson from the seat next to him and climbed out of the truck. As he walked across the open yard toward the bunkhouse door, an especially cold blast hit him, causing him to grab for his hat and lean slightly into the harsh wind. The air felt damp and he figured there would be snow, maybe a lot of it.

It was a good thing he'd headed back to the ranch when he did. It could turn out to be a bad night. He'd seen late spring snows before that left a couple of feet of snow and drifts four feet deep.

As he opened the bunkhouse door and entered the low central room, he was struck by the excessive heat from the old potbelly stove. Dave, the oldest of the hands, liked to fire the fucker up so the small bedrooms got a little heat. Jake would have preferred having less heat in the central room, even if the bedrooms were cold. He liked sleeping under two or three blankets on a cold night and didn't mind if the air outside his warm bed was cold enough to freeze piss.

Dave and Billy and a younger guy were playing cards around the old table in the center of the room. The kid had to be the new hand but Jake wondered how he'd gotten there. The overhead light bulbs swung ominously with the cold draft from the door.

"Close the door, Jake, you'll freeze our balls off," Dave scolded.

Jake just laughed and slammed the heavy oak door, being sure the bolt was shot. He was the last one in so he might just as well close it up for the night. Then he remembered the supplies in the back of his truck and knew they'd have to haul them in soon. Some of the stuff couldn't wait till morning.

He peeled off his jacket and put it on one of the hooks by the door, then hung his Stetson over it. Turning to face the others, he saw that Dave was wearing a sweat shirt and still looked cold. Billy and the new kid were just wearing T-shirts and looked uncomfortably warm in the over heated room.

The kid had turned in his chair and was watching Jake. His eyes traveled over the length of him, taking in the tight, rangy body and the suntanned, angular face. He clearly liked what he saw.

"It's hotter than hell in here, Dave," Jake said. It was an old argument which raged from the first frost in September till the wildflowers were blooming in early May.

"You'll be glad enough for some warmth when you go to bed, Jake," Dave countered. "It's going to be one hell of a cold night."

"No I won't. I'll be sleeping naked on top of my sheets, the way you have that fire going." As he approached the table he pulled his flannel shirt from the waist of his jeans and unbuttoned it revealing the tight T-shirt he wore underneath. The T-shirt, like his jeans, was molded to the contours of his muscular body, revealing the deep curves of his chest and stomach.

The boy thought he looked fine.

"This is Tom," Billy said, gesturing towards the younger man and then towards Jake as he took a chair at the table.

"Hi, Tom," Jake said, extending his hand. "I was supposed to pick you up at the bus stop. How'd you get here?"

"The bus broke down just west of Marshall," Tom said. "I got a ride with a man heading for Stow."

"Well, welcome to the Lazy Pitcher," Jake said. "I hope these guys haven't filled your head with a lot of nonsense."

"No," Tom grinned, "they just told me you were a real bastard to work for."

"You don't work for me, mister," Jake shot back. "I just try to boss this motley crew. You work for Mr. Robert S. Turner, and don't you forget it."

"From what I hear, Turner hasn't shown his face around here for nearly a year and so far as Dave and Billy are concerned, you run the show."

"Don't let them fool you, Tom," Jake laughed. "They're worse than a pair of Missouri mules when it comes to stubborn. Nobody tells them what to do."

The kid grinned at him and said, "well, assuming the truth is somewhere between you being a sweetheart and a bad ass boss, I think I'll try getting off to a good start and ask if I can bring in the supplies from your truck."

"Smart kid," Jake said, taking a liking to the younger man. "I guess Dave and Billy told you I'd be coming back with a load of stuff."

"Yep," Tom grinned as he pulled on a heavy windbreaker over his T-shirt.

"And I guess they told you I drove a pickup, too."

"No, they didn't mention that part, but I figured a guy like you was more into pickups than something like a Coupe De Ville."

"Good guess," Jake laughed as he sat down at the table, where Dave had just poured him a cup of hot, black coffee. "Have fun, and don't drop the smaller box. It's got our meager supply of hooch for the next couple of weeks."

"Got yaw, I'm always careful," Tom called back over his shoulder as he headed out the door. As he left, a cold gust entered. It was going to be a bitch of a night.

"Nice kid," Dave said when Tom had gone.

"Yeah," Jake agreed, "and he looks like he can carry his weight."

"Easy to have around," Dave added as he shuffled the cards. "He jumped in and helped me fix dinner without even being asked."

"As if you would ask," Jake grinned, knowing Dave wasn't too happy to have anyone else messing with his kitchen.

"Well, he did fine. He peeled potatoes and cleaned up nice. Didn't get in my way like you and Billy always do when you get it into your heads to help."

"Blain said the kid looked good. We may be sorry to lose him at the end of the summer."

Blain ran the general store in Stow and served as a sort of informal job agent for the ranches in the area. Each spring he ran a few ads and kids looking for summer work wrote in. When Jake had let Blain know he needed a kid for the summer, he'd sent half a dozen of those letters on to the Lazy Pitcher for Jake's consideration. He'd liked the tone of Tom's letter, sent him the offer of a job. Jake had liked the fact that Tom had a great academic record as well as a history of working on farms and smaller ranches every summer since he was fourteen.

The kid had included a photo which suggested a young man who could work hard and not complain. He seemed to have a toughened body under his fitted shirt, a body honed by hard work, not by hours in some pansy gym. The kid had short, light brown hair and, as best as Jake could tell from the photo, piercing blue eyes. He'd have turned twenty-two by the time he started work on the ranch and his being a little older than most college guys looking for summer work sounded like an extra plus to Jake. He was tired of playing nursemaid to college kids with sore backs or sprained ankles.

What clinched it for Jake was that Tom would be completing his college degree in December. He planned to do a little traveling, but would be available to start work in March. That was usually a problem with college guys. Most of them weren't available until late May at the earliest and work on the Lazy Pitcher started to pick up a couple of months before that. Jake also noted that Tom had been accepted by the veterinarian school at the state university and would be starting the program in the fall. He knew it was a real bitch to get into vet school so the kid had to be bright.

Jake sent Tom a letter and the kid accepted the job, agreeing to start work on March 3.

Now, as the boy came back into the bunkhouse with an armload of boxes and bags, Jake gave him a longer look and figured he'd made a good call.

"Here," Jake said, standing up as Tom kicked the door shut behind him, "let me take a couple of those." As Jake took two of the bags from Tom's grasp, his hand grazed the kid's upper arm. "Yeah," Jake thought, "there's a lot of muscle there."

"Do you want any help?" Billy called as he came back into the big central room from the hall leading down to the bedrooms he and Dave occupied.

"No thanks," Tom called back as he stacked the last of the parcels on the kitchen counter. "I can get the rest in one more trip."

He ducked out again as Dave rose from the table and began sorting the packages, putting various items into the refrigerator and others into the shelves above the counter.

When Tom came back in Jake again helped by taking bags and boxes from the younger guy's arms and placing them on the counter for Dave to sort. He tossed back the hood of his jacked, revealing sweat soaked hair plastered against his head.

Jake had been right about the boy's eyes. They were an amazing blue. His hair, however, was lighter than Jake had expected from the photo the kid had sent with his letter. Even damp, it was almost golden in color.

Tom took off his windbreaker and hung it on a hook next to Jake's. He'd worked up a bit of a sweat, despite the cold night air, and his thin T-shirt clung to his body, revealing the hard, well defined muscles of his chest. As he pulled out a chair and took his place at the table again, Jake also noticed that Tom's arms were well developed and his biceps flexed and bulged with every movement he made. All told, he was a great looking kid.

"Yep," Jake thought to himself, "Tom will definitely be a nice addition to our

team, a nice guy to have around."

"Well, I don't know about you guys," Dave said as he finished storing the supplies, "but it's getting late for an old fart and I'm heading off to bed."


"It looks like snow," Jake said as Dave prepared to leave them. "If it's as heavy as I expect it'll be, let's just sleep in. Maybe you can make pancakes, Dave, and we'll have a late breakfast."

"Sounds good," Dave said as he headed for the door. "You just trying to impress Tom here with our leisurely life style?"

The other guys laughed at Dave's remark, knowing how hard life at the Lazy Pitcher could really be. Even Tom, who was new to the ranch, had enough experience to know the days and months ahead would be long and exhausting.

Tom looked over at Jake, letting his eyes roam over his new boss's body. There was something about the way he looked at him which caused Jake's muscles to tighten, a boldness in his eyes, a sense that the kid was looking deeper, harder, than the usual casual glance. At the same time there was an unasked question in the boy's eyes.

"Nah, I know better," Tom said. "I bet life here can be a living hell."

To be continued.