August 11, 2018
In a Christmas tale for the present day and set in the vast open ranch country of the high plains in Wyoming, a family story develops that ultimately rescues three lost souls. Here is the “Prologue” to a story written straight from the heart; now represented for book and film development.
Christmas had been unusually good to the ranch this year, he considered. Now past, he welcomed the chance to relax but somehow also know for certain that the Love legacy would be safe and continue.
As he had each morning at sun-up, cattle boss and ranch manager Dan Echohawk walked down the long drive from the main family home and unlocked the ranch-run café managed by Phil Jensen’s wife, Doris. He would have his first cup of a hot wake-up drink, and then return to manage the dying cattle spread.
He sat on the red bar stool and swirled the black liquid in his coffee mug as if an answer waited for him in it. Dan mentally measured how the two-generation old cattle business didn’t need to die as so many other family ranches had. It was financially sound but just needed a good man and woman at the reigns again; someone who loved the ranch as much as he did.
“Rachel,” he sighed hopefully. “I think Jake…” he muttered, and then realized he was talking to himself again. “You have a nice day, Doris,” Dan finally offered with a heavy cough, as he took one more swallow and prepared to leave.
Dan suddenly realized how much harder every movement was becoming. His cloaked illness was becoming less likely to stay hidden each passing day. Hope Rachel and Jake return early today, he posed in silent reverie. Best we finish this story while I can.
Doris waved from the other end of the room as she dialed the heater up and began her preparations for the regulars who would be coming through the doors any minute.
“How do you do?” the younger man said as he took a seat next to Dan at the counter. He seemed to appear without making any sound upon entering.
“Doing well; thank you,” Dan lied. “What brings you to Love so early, stranger?” Dan quizzed.
“Just enjoying being out at this hour” he replied. The visitor offered a few other particulars about himself, but with a pleasant demeanor kept his focus upon Dan.
One thing led to another and soon Dan found himself considering how this day’s early morning walk down to the Love Diner had offered a new twist. Someone returned back up the gentle hill with him.
Dan built a fire from the pile of pine logs stacked in the brass cradle, and now sat in his favorite easy chair positioned near the stone hearth in the Great Room. He and Missy had enjoyed many hours here after the sun went down; right up to her final day on earth last year.
He invited his friendly guest to take the lounger opposite him. A roaring fire soon crackled and took a winter chill off the one hundred-year-old lonely ranch house main floor.
There was something interesting, and even wise about the inquisitive man who had entered the diner at opening hour; a man who simply called himself “William.” He guessed the well-groomed man fitted in typical Wyoming western wear, was in his mid-thirties, though his energy seemed more like a college athlete.
For some unearthly reason William just seemed to open Dan up, like no one had ever before done. With few close friends, he was busting to share some of his secrets about this place folks simply called the Love Ranch but had little confidence in how to go about it. Dan’s visitor urged him on and he decided to trust William. He began to tell his story as honestly as he knew how:
Few folks take the lonely stretch of road from I-80 north, then another due west past Eden, where a whole lot of nothin’ greets the eye until you reach a sharp bend before a long drive at a sign post marked ‘Love, Wyoming – Population 50.’ Our small diner and gift shop, the last of the one gas pump country cafes that served the occasional passersby and local cattle folks since the 1920’s, marks downtown.
Up the drive leading to the diner and then the ranch house are three more signs welcoming strangers. Each one was placed there by an original member of the Love family who settled this land. In a family tradition, of sorts, every generation was expected to add their own sign upon marriage. The first of three signs welcoming a visitor up the drive was placed by the original ranch owner, ‘Old Man’ Jack Love. It reads:
If you are going to fall, you might as well fall in Love.