Daniel is looking to turn his life around. After the death of his outdoorsy father, he decides to leave his job as an urban photographer and find greener pastures, which leads him to Seyda Ranch in Wyoming. He thinks things can’t get worse after his boyfriend dumps him over this new venture, until his truck breaks down before he even makes it to his new cabin. Help arrives in the form of Seyda Ranch’s most trusted cowboy, Cole, a handsome young man with a kind heart. As Daniel spends more time with Cole, he wonders if his streak of misfortune has finally ended. But fate has one more cruel trick to play, and Daniel will need all the luck he can get to survive it.
NOTE: This story appears in the anthology, "Cowboy Roundup" edited by Drew Hunt, available in e-book and print formats. Buy the collection and get 16 great gay cowboy stories in one awesome anthology!
They rode the horses back to Daniel’s cabin at an easy walking pace. Cole started humming something. Daniel strained his ears to listen, hoping he would recognize whatever classical piece it was and be able to remark on it. He was surprised when he did recognize it, but for a different reason.
“Are you humming ‘Little Wanderer’ by Death Cab for Cutie?”
Cole smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, I checked them out and that one got stuck in my head. Don’t remember most of the lyrics, but I like the chorus.”
Daniel nodded. The dam around his emotions cracked again. “I -- I’ve listened to that one a lot lately too. Reminds me of my dad, ‘cause he used to call me a ‘wander-bug’ when I was a kid. But ... the part about wandering back home ...” He sniffled, then cleared his throat. “I went home when I could, but after Dad died I wondered if I went home enough, y’know? If I spent enough time with him.”
“Well, I guarantee you saw him more than I’ve seen my dad.”
“Oh? When’s the last time you saw him?”
Cole’s face settled into an expression of hesitance that Daniel understood well. “The last time? That’d be eleven years ago, when he threatened to kill me if I ever came home.”
Daniel’s jaw dropped. “What?”
“Yep. His exact words were, ‘If I ever see your damned face ‘round here again, I’ll shoot you dead, boy.’”
“Why? What did you do? Get a girl pregnant?”
Cole shook his head. “Worse. I came out of the closet.”
Daniel thought he misheard at first, that it was some auditory hallucination based on what he hoped was true, but the look on Cole’s face said it all. “Wow. Your dad sounds like a ... a ...”
“An uneducated, rotten, narrow-minded bastard. Yep. I think he was allergic to accepting new ideas or learning anything. Shoot, the only reason my siblings and I knew how to read was because our grandma taught us. She’s the one that played classical records for us too, hoped we’d absorb some culture.” Cole shook his head. “The old man just wanted to raise cattle farmers to carry on the family legacy. It’s the only thing I’ve ever really known how to do. Hitchhiked my way up here all the way from Texas and someone pointed me in Jake’s direction. He’s a good guy. Doesn’t care about anything other than whether you’re a good person and can do your job. Couple other guys here are gay, and all of us get along fine.”
It was a lot to take in. Daniel stared ahead, wide-eyed but seeing nothing, as he considered why Cole would divulge about his rocky past and the fact that he was gay. Daniel cleared his throat again. “Guess he likes keeping gay guys around, because, uh, I am too.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Daniel’s chest nearly exploded. “Y-You do?”
“Marcie told me. Said, ‘Dad’s bringing in another stray gay. We might as well turn this into a summer camp.’ Then she got this look in her eyes like she was really considering that. Frankly, I think it’d be good to have kids come here and learn how to work or just have somewhere to get away, y’know?”
Daniel was speechless. All this time he had worried he was pining after just another straight guy. Yet, even though Cole knew they were both gay, he had literally swept Daniel off his feet. Daniel’s heart sank a little. If he were interested in me, he would have told me he was gay sooner.
By the time they reached Daniel’s cabin, Daniel had muddled through polite conversation and come to the conclusion that Cole wasn’t truly interested in him like that. Cole had talked about the ranch and how they were going to move the cattle to the other side of their nine-thousand acre property for grazing rotation. That meant he wouldn’t be around much for a couple months, which disappointed Daniel, but at the same time he felt it was best if he didn’t have to wistfully watch Cole from a distance every day.
Cole helped Daniel ease himself off Pepper’s back and get inside. “Go easy on that leg for the rest of the week, okay?” he said.
“I will. Thanks for taking me out today.”
“My pleasure. If you need anything else, you have my number.” Cole gave Daniel a farewell handshake, then hopped back on Ziggy and led Pepper back to the barns.
Daniel flopped onto his couch. Terrific. I’ve got a gorgeous gay cowboy in my contacts list, but he probably wouldn’t date me unless I were the only other single guy in the state. When is my bad luck going to end?