The Coeboy's Pride And Joy

By: Maureen Child

 “When Boston comes to Montana, it’s never a good thing.” Jake Hunter frowned into the distance.

 “You always were too hard on your mother.”

 Jake turned his head to look at the older man standing beside him. At seventy-five years old, Ben Hawkins didn’t stand as straight and tall as he once had. But he still had a full head of snow-white hair, piercing blue eyes, and a face weathered and tanned from years of working in the sun.

 “And you were always too soft on her.”

 Ben shrugged that away with a half smile. “She’s my daughter.”

 “There is that.” Jake nodded. “Anyway, if it all goes as promised, this will be the last time Boston comes calling for anything but a family visit.”

 “I’ve got to ask. Are you sure about this?” Ben pulled the collar of his coat up higher around his neck against the cold autumn wind. “I mean, what you’re planning can’t be changed. You’re signing away your rights to the business your family built.”

 “Oh,” Jake assured him, “I’m sure. This has been a long time coming, Pop.” Jake shook his head. “Hunter Media has nothing I want. Never has.”

 And he knew how much that fact irritated his mother. She had always planned on Jake taking over the day-to-day running of the company built by her husband’s family. The fact that Jake had never been interested really hadn’t bothered her any. Elise Hawkins Hunter was nothing if not determined.

 Ben snorted a laugh. “You always were more stubborn than anything else.”

 “Not stubborn.” Jake took a deep breath, relishing the sharp, cold sting that hit his lungs. “I just know what I want. Always have.”

 Now he glanced around at the ranch he loved. The place that had been his solace and comfort when he’d come here during the summer as a kid—and when he’d returned here after leaving the military.

 October in the mountains of Montana was spectacular. As though God was putting on a show just before the winter cold settled in. The trees were turning brilliant shades of gold, orange and red. Dark clouds scudded across a sky so wide and blue it almost hurt your eyes to look at it. From the corral and barn came the sounds of horses and the men working with them. And spilling out in front of and below the huge ranch house he’d built was Whitefish Lake, sapphire water surrounded by tall pines that dipped and swayed with the wind.

 The view soothed the dark places inside him, just as it had from the first time he’d seen it as a kid. Jake had known even then that this was his place. Not Boston, where he was born and where his family created and ruled a dynasty. But here on the mountain where his grandfather had carved out a way of life that spoke to Jake’s soul in a way that nothing else ever had.

 “No,” he murmured, gaze still locked on the lake below. “Boston has nothing to offer me that can compete with this place.”

 “Have to say I agree,” Ben mused. “Though your mother never did feel the bone-deep connection to the land that you and I do.”

 That simple statement made Jake smile. Maybe a love of the land skipped generations, he thought. This ranch had been in Ben’s family for more than a hundred years, always falling to the oldest child to maintain the legacy the Hawkinses had built since the first settler stumbled into Montana and staked a claim to the land. Until, Jake thought, his mother.

 Elise Hawkins Hunter hadn’t felt the pull of the ranch. His mother had been born and raised here, and she had escaped as soon as she was able. Going to college in Boston, she’d met and married Jake’s father there and settled into the kind of life she’d dreamed of. No early mornings to take care of animals. No quiet stillness. No solitude when the ranch was snowed in.

 She’d made plenty of trips to the ranch to visit her parents and sent Jake and his sister out here for a few weeks every summer, but Boston was her home as the ranch had never been.

 Elise was still puzzled by her son’s decision to walk away from moneyed sophistication in favor of hard work and empty spaces. But Jake had his own money—a fortune he’d built through good investments and well-chosen risks. He didn’t need to enslave himself to a desk to get his share of Hunter Media.

 His mother might not ever understand his decision, but she had at least, finally, accepted it.

 “So when’s your mother’s assistant due to arrive?”

 Jake glanced at his grandfather. “Sometime today, and with any luck, by tomorrow she’ll be on her way back to Boston.”