Home on the Range
I pushed the stall door closed with my rear end as I sometimes did when my hands were full. Spark, being the rascal he was, managed to sneak his leg in there. When the door swung open, he sauntered out, as if in defiance of my having just stabled him.
I frowned, setting down the saddle and bridle and shaking my head. Resting my fists on my hips, I watched as he turned to face me. I was the only thing standing between him and the open door some ten feet behind.
He could easily have overpowered me and gone for a little late afternoon jaunt through the pastures, unencumbered by my weight. Somehow, I knew all he really wanted was to prove to me how smart he was.
“Alright, Spark, I’ve got way too much to do to be chasing you around this afternoon.” I pulled the stall open and just as he had walked out, he walked back in again, but not before nudging me with his snout.
I had been good with horses since I was ten years old, but the opportunity to work on horseback was far too tempting an offer to pass up. I didn’t know the first thing about cattle, or herding, but I had a feeling I was in for a crash course.
It was a long way to move Spark, but the spacious three berth trailer left plenty of room for him. Unfortunately, while we were moving, he had to be penned in pretty close. This meant frequent stops.
By the time I reached Tulsa, I was just about done. I could very easily have pulled up and camped in one of the rest areas, but opted to go for it. It was only another hundred and twenty miles.
I drove down the long track that led to the Martin Ranch about nine at night, and to my surprise, the place looked dark when I reached the cluster of buildings. ‘Early to bed, early to rise’, I thought as I tumbled out of my pickup and onto the dusty lot.
To my surprise, a lone figure approached from one of the outhouses, their face shrouded by a wide-brimmed hat. Being a girl and alone, I was a bit put off, but my wariness was unwarranted. “You must be Cari.” A decidedly female voice inquired.
“Why, yes. Cari Wooden, and you are?”
“Nat Martin.” She held out a hand and I was surprised by the roughness of her skin.
“Nice to meet you… Nat.” I assumed it was short for Natalie and had considered using that.
“If you want to be friends, don’t even think about calling my Natalie.” She affirmed. “We can get your animal into the barn and watered, but the rest can wait ‘til morning. You’ll be bunking with me anyway until we’re on the trail.”
“Thank you,” I replied, moving to the side of the trailer to open the ramp door, and bring Spark down. As he walked down, I saw an unmistakable grin beneath the hat.
“Nice Ap.” She complimented. “He must be all of seventeen hands.”
“Sixteen and a half, but he looks bigger.” Spark was a tall horse, even for an Appaloosa. I’d fallen in love with him as a foal. I had no idea my parents would buy him for me. Had they known how big he was going to get, I doubted they would have made the choice.
“Barn’s over here.” Nat led the way, as I slipped a halter over Spark’s head and led him through the new surroundings. He knew he was not at home, and his ears were up as we entered the barn. “There’s an empty stall down the end here. He’ll be happier away from the other horses.”
While Nat filled the water bucket that hung suspended from the wall, I slipped the halter off and eased Spark away from the door. “He’s an escape artist,” I admitted.
“Hmm, why doesn’t that surprise me.” Nat chuckled, as she closed the door and I said goodnight to my boy. “He’ll be alright.” But I noticed that she slipped a rubber guard over the hasp that held the door closed. “Just in case he tries any magic.”
Nat led the way back to her bunkhouse, which she seemed to have to herself. After grabbing my duffel out of my truck, I slipped into a chair across from her. It was the first really good look I’d had.
Nat was most certainly the hottest girl I’d ever laid eyes on. She was lean and tall, with just the hint of a curve at her breasts and butt. What killed me most were her sapphire blue eyes. I honestly had to stop myself from gawking.
“You’re probably gonna want to do something about your hair before we start the drive,” Nat advised, running a hand through her closely cropped black hair. “You could put it up, but it’d be a whole lot easier if you just got rid of it.”
“I didn’t realize that short hair was a prerequisite for the job,” I responded, running my fingers down the length of my waist-length blonde hair. I had always been proud of my hair, and did my best to take care of it.
“I’m not saying you have to, but you’ll be wishing you had after a few days on the trail.” Nat grinned, and I thought my heart skipped a beat. What the hell was the matter with me. She probably wasn’t even gay, although she would certainly break a bunch of hearts if she wasn’t, mine included.
“I’ll think about it.” Was all I could offer.
Later, as we both settled in, I found myself incredibly aroused, knowing that she was sleeping only a few feet away. I’d seen what she’d gone to bed in, and it wasn’t much. I’d been prepared for informal sleeping arrangements, and had a bunch of my father’s T-shirts to wear. Nat wore nothing but a skimpy pair of boxers, and it was all I could do not to stare at her small pert breasts as she slipped under the sheets.
“We’ll just take care of that, right now.” I could hear Nat say, as I slipped off of Spark to free a calf from a bit of fencing it was caught up in. As she bent down with her knife, I saw her slip the blade into the wire that had ensnared the hoof, freeing the animal almost immediately. “Might as well take care of this too.”
I felt, rather than saw her grab ahold of my ponytail. The gnawing sound behind my ears had me reaching back, but my hands were brushed away. “My hair!” I shouted, but it was too late. When Nat finally let me up, she held my long hair in her fist, laughing as the men gathered on their horses to investigate.
“Nooo!” I shouted, sitting straight up in my bed, and scaring the daylights out of Nat, who was by my side almost instantly.
“What’s the matter!” She asked, frantically. “Somethin’ bite you.” She reached down and shook the sheets, looking for anything that might have fallen out.
“Just a dream.” I sighed, out of breath. “Nightmare.” I corrected.
“Jeez. I thought maybe a scorpion got you. We’ve got a bit of a problem with them around here.” She admitted.
That was when I noticed Nat was still quite topless. She was exquisite, and I bit my lower lip so hard that I swore I drew blood.
“Make sure you check your boots in the morning,” Nat suggested, before slipping back into her bunk.
I knew she’d fallen right to sleep, but it wasn’t so easy for me. Between the disturbing dream, the close proximity to her screaming hot bod, and the thought of scorpions crawling over me in my sleep, I lay awake for quite a while. As a precaution, I pulled my hair under the sheets with me, just in case the damned bugs got into it.
The next few days were spent getting used to life on the ranch. After having learned the routines, and familiarized myself with the use of a rope, something I had yet to master, I felt reasonably confident that I wouldn’t get in the way on the first cattle drive of the season. I was a long way from being a competent cowgirl.
Nat, on the other hand, was every bit as dashing on horseback as she was half-naked next to my bed. Her skill with a rope, as well as her knowledge of all things ‘cowgirl’ was impressive, to say the least. She was a good teacher too.
By the end of the first week, I found myself lassoing my first bull. I remember her smile as I succeeded. “I guess you’ll do.” She kidded, slipping the rope from around the young animal’s neck.
The first drive was fast approaching, and the owner of the ranch was confident that I’d make a good addition to the team, not to mention a more suitable companion for his daughter. That’s something I found out quite by accident. Nat wasn’t one to brag about being heir to the cattle empire her father had built. I did begin to wonder if I’d been hired strictly as female company for her though.
I’d managed to hang onto my hair, despite being urged to cut it by more than a few of the hands, Nat being the most insistent. Then it happened.
I was in the process of roping a calf that had run off from the herd, when my long braid managed to get tangled into the finely braided hemp rope. The force was so violent that it pulled me right out of the saddle, landing me on the hard-packed dirt with an embarrassing thud.
Nat was at my side quickly, but by then I’d already stood and was in the process of brushing myself off. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Just…” I really didn’t want to explain what had happened, which would surely add fuel to the fire. “…fell off.”
“Cari, you didn’t just fall off. I saw the whole thing.” She reached over and grabbed the long braid, which was a bit frazzled for the entanglement. “That’s enough now. This has to go.” She implied. For a moment, I pictured her pulling out the long sheath knife she kept strapped to her hip, and having at it. I even steeled myself for her to, but she didn’t. “Tonight.” She sighed, evenly. Not wanting to argue out in the field, I simply nodded.
The rest of the day went smoothly, but in the back of my mind, I knew that I was going to be losing my precious locks. I wondered when it would happen, how it would happen, but nothing could have prepared me for the reality.
We took turns in the shower, and as always, I was treated to the lithe, muscular body Nat wasn’t shy about displaying. I wasn’t sure if she knew about my being a lesbian. I hadn’t said anything, for fear of any repercussions it might have caused. Something told me that she knew, though.
“Don’t bother braiding it, Cari. I want to enjoy it down for a while.” Nat said, and almost instantly I knew. This gorgeous girl, this gift from the gods, was gay. It was so plain on her face as I ran a brush through my hair, probably for the last time.
Pressing my luck, I said something. “Does your father know?”
“Know what?” She asked, innocently. For a moment I thought I might have made a mistake, but I pressed on.
“Oh, come on, Nat. You don’t have to hide it from me.” I insisted.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She turned away, hiding the embarrassment that showed in an acute blush. Without her seeing, I allowed my robe to fall open, exposing my naked front to her as she turned back around.
“I think you do.” I grinned. Her eyes almost fell out of her head as they wandered down over my breasts to my well-manicured bush.
“Jesus Christ, Cari. You’re killing me.” She finally admitted.
“Well, now that the cat’s out of the bag, you should know that you’re in good company. We’re the same, you and me.” I encouraged, running my fingertips down her chiseled jaw.
“This can’t be happening. Jesus. If I’d known that…”
“That I’m gay? A lesbian? You mean you wouldn’t have hired me if you’d known?” I admonished, trying not to be too accusatory.
“No. I mean, Jesus.” Obviously flustered, she ran her fingers through the black curls that hung so seductively over her forehead. “You’ve been watching me parade around here practically naked, and you didn’t say anything?”
“Why would I? I mean, you’re not hard to look at.” I chuckled.
“You’re not so bad yourself.” Nat sighed, her face flushing red all over again.
I figured I’d embarrassed her enough for one night, so I changed topics. I fanned my fingers through my hair, pulling it away from my shoulders and allowing it fall all about me in a blonde curtain. “So. About this.”
“Oh…” Nat startled, still apparently mesmerized by my seductive hair move. “Yeah, I…I was going to take you down to Bab’s.” She started to reach out, and I knew she wanted to touch my hair.
Unashamedly, I took her hand and ran it down the length of my freshly washed hair, and I thought I heard a muffled moan escape her lips. “Who’s Bab?” But instead of an answer, Nat was kissing me. It was a moment I don’t think I will ever forget.
She was gentle and forceful all at once as her mouth enveloped my own, her hands running frantically through my hair. Then they were caressing my shoulders, pushing the robe away from them, and exposing me completely to her, the white terrycloth wrap falling around my feet.
“I’ve been dreaming about this.” She admitted, as she pulled away from me, prying at the buttons on her shirt, and slowly revealing the small athletic breasts hidden beneath. I ran my fingers over her erect nipples and was rewarded with a gasp of pleasure.
“So have I, Nat.” And then we were naked, standing face to face, and almost vibrating with anticipation.
Her powerful arms lifted me from the floor, laying me gently on her bed. “I can’t believe this is happening. I’ve never drea…” But my lips were over hers before she could finish.
Something told me that this was Nat’s first time. A thrill ran through me as that idea sank into my mind. This ravishingly beautiful woman, that would turn heads like a swivel wherever she went, was making love to me. How could I be her first? I was confident that I was.
As we lay on the bed, beads of sweat coating our naked flesh, the gravity of what had just occurred finally sank in. It had been glorious, and I could never remember feeling as sated as I did in that moment.
Only then did I realize that Nat was crying. “Hey, hey, what’s wrong?” I soothed, turning to wipe a stream of tears from her cheek.
“That was…I’ve never…”
“I know, babe. I do, it was wonderful… you, were wonderful.” I sighed, running my hand down to cup her moist breast.
“I don’t want you to cut it.” She finally said.
“But, I want to. I’ve sort of resigned myself to it, now.” I admitted.
“It’s gonna hurt.” She managed, wiping at another trail of tears.
“No, it won’t. I’ll be fine.” I assured her.
“Not you…, me.” She confided, sitting up on one elbow and looking down at me. “Look at you.” Suddenly, she dashed from the bed, grabbing her phone from the pocket of her jeans.
“You’re not actually going to take a picture of me, naked. This better not get passed around with your buddies.” I warned.
Almost offended, she stopped, looking down on me as I lay on her bed. “I would never, ever…”
“Okay, sorry.” I offered. “Go ahead then.”
The mood restored, she perched over the top of me, her naked feet straddling my hips. I endured the clicks of her camera, finally turning away. “That’s enough.”
“Look.” She laid back down and shared the very first of several images she had captured. There I was, naked as the day I was born, but what struck me was that my hair was splayed out beneath me, like a silk blanket. It really was a striking image. “Something to remember you by, as you are now.” She sighed.
“So…, Bab’s?” I questioned.
“It’s a barbershop in town.” She said, sullenly.
“Well, let’s get dressed and get this over with.” I sighed, slipping off her bed and hooking my robe from the floor with a finger.
“Maybe we should go somewhere else,” Nat suggested.
“Bab’s will be fine.” I grinned. “I’m assuming that’s where you go?”
Nat nodded, running her fingers over her tapered nape. “It is.”
“Well, if it’s good enough for you, it’s…”
“He doesn’t know anything about cutting women’s hair, Cari. He’ll cut it short.” Nat explained.
“Isn’t that what you want?’ I asked, recalling all the taunts and suggestions from the previous week.
“Not anymore.” She admitted. “Not now.”
“If you’re talking about what just happened, I really don’t think a haircut is going to change anything.” I didn’t know why I was advocating for the haircut that I had been dreading since I arrived. Perhaps it was the rope incident that shifted my opinion. Some of the stories from the guys had held some sway, when they explained they could go a week without a shower on the trail. I tried to imagine my long hair after a week of neglect, and it wasn’t a pretty picture.
“No.” Nat sighed. “It won’t.”
“This isn’t going to be a problem, is it?” I asked, pointing back and forth between us.
“Why would it? It’s not like we’re going to be making it public or anything.” She declared.
“Then you haven’t told him.” I assumed.
“No. I think he’d disown me.” Nat said, sadly.
“I bet you’d be surprised.”
“You don’t know my father.” She chortled, slipping her phone into her pocket “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be, I guess.” I sighed, following her out the door to my truck.
Bab’s barbershop melded into the rest of the storefronts in the row of businesses that comprised most of the town. The only thing that set it apart was the spinning barber pole that was coated with the same dust everything else was.
“Are you sure about this?” Nat asked, one last time before we crossed the street to the shop.
“You said yourself, that it’s not going to work on the trail, and after today, I have to agree with you.”
“How are you, Nat.” An older gentleman called out, as she led me into the distinctly male environment. “Who’s your friend?”
“This is Cari. She’s our newest hand.” Nat explained as we took a seat in a row of wooden chairs that were functional at best.
“You know I don’t do lady’s haircuts,” Babs warned, as I fumbled with the plastic card, the number seventeen printed on both sides. A few chairs down, a couple of kids joked around, as they perused a magazine between them.
“Nat told me,” I spoke up. “That won’t be a problem.”
He nodded, giving me a once over before returning to the haircut he was finishing. I looked over at Nat, who seemed more nervous than I was. “I’m fine,” I assured her.
I watched as the barber made short work of the two youths ahead of me, giving them matching crewcuts. It seemed like such as easy process, I observed. The clippers just peeled it all off to one length, barely long enough to pinch between your fingers. There was some shortening up on the sides and back, but that was it. Short and sweet.
“Seventeen,” Babs called out. I stood, suddenly nervous. Where had all my confidence disappeared to, I wondered? I walked over to the chair and took a seat, my long hair getting caught behind me as I did. “Why don’t you lift all that up, so I can get this cape around your neck,” Babs instructed, impatiently.
I eased my mane from beneath my butt and held it up, while he swept the cape around me, clipping it in place rather tightly. “I’d like to save the ponytail.” I made clear, producing a hair tie which I secured tightly around my doomed locks, as close to the back of my head as I could manage.
My hair was extremely thick, so I knew the process of cutting it off was going to be arduous, not only for me but the barber. To my surprise, Babs simply grabbed the largest set of clippers on the shelf and began to eat away at the thick rope of hair.
Each time the clippers would grind into the mass, I saw Nat grimace. Finally, our eyes met, and I think the calm that I was feeling spread to her as well. We both took a deep breath, simultaneously, as the thick bundle of hair was handed to me. It seemed so strange to be holding the disembodied tresses, after being attached to me for so many years.
Holding it out at arm’s length, Nat quickly took my once treasured hair from me. Somehow, it just felt right for her to have it.
“So, what are we doing here?” Babs asked, trying to work a comb through the thick mass of hair that remained.
“Well, we’re hitting the trail on Monday, so it probably ought to be short,” I suggested, deliberately leaving the decision to him. I thought Nat was going to jump out of her chair, but at my urging, she sat back and held on.
“Short, huh.” He mumbled, as he reoiled his clippers and changed the attachment he had used to sever my ponytail. “I can certainly do short.”
Without any fanfare, he quickly brought the whirring clippers to my forehead and ran them straight back over my crown. I wasn’t sure if I was more shocked or relieved that there was nothing to be done but watch. The drastically shortened crop that sprung up behind the blades grew wider and wider as he laid down one pass after the next. For whatever reason, I was more fascinated than upset.
When the top was harvested, he moved to the sides, stripping those as bare as the top, my ears suddenly appearing from under the mass of blonde hair. Nat had her face in her hands, and I wondered whether I had gone too far. He began working on the back, and I felt strangely naked as the last vestige of my hair was peeled away from my head.
When the clippers finally fell silent, I couldn’t resist the urge to run my fingers over the top of my head. The soft pelt of hair had felt strangely exciting as I slipped my hands back under the cape.
“That’s a number four. Being a girl, I didn’t want to take it all the way down. Is that good enough, or do you want me to trim up the sides and back?” I remembered the skintight whitewalls the two boys had walked out with and wondered how that would feel. In for a penny, I thought.
“You can trim up the sides.” I allowed, amazed by the mass of blonde hair that surrounded the base of the chair. To be honest, I was beginning to enjoy the clippers against my scalp. Their strange vibrations against my skull were almost intoxicating, and seemed directly connected to my sex. Were I not so satiated from our wild encounter only an hour before, I would certainly have found the experience arousing.
“You got it.” Babs continued, swapping out the attachment once again. I could tell that I was getting a pretty good skinning, the cold breeze from the fan circulating above, palpable against my virgin scalp.
Nat still had her face buried in her hands, when Babs finally released the cape and helped me out of his chair. Once again, I ran my hands over my head, realizing that the sides and back were just about bald. Looking in the mirror, the blending was done well, but there was no mistaking the two-inch-wide strip of jet white scalp that framed my ears. ‘Whitewalls’, I thought.
“That’ll be twenty,” Babs said, flatly. I went to pull the cash out of my pocket when Nat slipped by me, depositing the money in Bab’s waiting hand.
“I’ve got this.” She managed, not quite able to look at me directly.
“Nat? Nat!” I shouted as we sat in my truck on the opposite side of the street.
Shaken out of a daze, she finally looked over at me. “I feel terrible.”
“Why?” I asked, almost annoyed. “I kinda like it.” Fawning over myself in the rearview mirror, mockingly.
“Did you have to let him cut it so short?” She mewled.
“So, you don’t like it? Did it ruin me for you?” I asked, acerbically.
“Ruin you? God no. I think you look so damned hot I could just burst.” Nat admitted. “I just know how much you loved your hair.” She looked down at the plastic bag containing the three-foot-long ponytail that used to be mine.
“You know what. It was time for a change. I’m not going to miss it.” I declared, skinning my hand back over my fresh crewcut and starting my truck.
“To be honest, I can’t wait to get you back home and into my bed.” Nat reached over and ran her fingers over my closely shaved sideburns. “Make me a promise.” She grinned, provocatively.
“What’s that?” I asked, leaning into her caress.
“Promise me that you’ll keep it this short.” Her proposition sent a warm wave of pleasure directly from where her fingers slipped over my naked scalp to my sex, and I couldn’t help but gasp.