The Modern Cowboy

By: Riley Moreno

Chapter 1

Alex

Alex Ray Johnson, known by his friends as ‘the modern cowboy’, lives on a ranch in Texas and refuses to conform completely to the modern world. Sure, he’s still modern in the sense of electricity and the internet – but he still believes in working hard and living a sustainable life that he has built. He hates that the world relies so much of everyone else in order to survive, whereas his ranch is set on acres of land in which him and his team grown their own food. It’s a life that his father showed him and one that he has believed in strongly from a very young age.

It was his father who showed him how to be an animal herder and how to tend to all the cattle on the ranch. The job is not nearly as easy as some might think – it involves a lot of strength and a boat load of patience – of which he has both. Alex always laughs when his friends come to visit, with their tales of the hours they spent at the gym. No matter how many hours they might spend going to the gym they still never look anywhere near as muscular and tanned as he does. Hours of hard work outside always takes precedence in the end.

The reason he has these friends was due to a one year break that he took from ranch life, five years ago. Alex had married early – to a girl that he had grown up with on the ranch. When he met Emily the two of them were too young to even consider marriage. There weren’t many other kids on the ranch so the two of them became instant friends, sneaking off to play as often as they could. Alex clearly remembers the day he started to have feelings for her. They were fifteen years old and going out to a party that someone on the ranch was throwing. He had dressed up for the occasion, and went over to house to fetch her. The plan was to walk together – because quite frankly they never did anything alone. When he arrived at her house he knocked on the door and waited for her to come out. She was taking forever to come out and he remembers screaming out “Come on Emily, stop taking so long.” But when the door opened and she stepped out he had taken a step back in shock. Little Emily looked like a woman. She had on a dress that was tight at the top and flew out at the waist. It made her bosom look big and her waist look tiny, and Alex suddenly saw parts of her body that he hadn’t really thought about before. He barely said a word to her the whole night, he could barely look at her he was so nervous. He spent the whole night talking to everyone except her but whenever she wasn’t looking he would gaze at her longingly. On the walk home he looked over at her and noticed that she was crying. “What’s wrong Emily?” he had said, shocked by her tears. “You think I’m ugly,” she had said. It hadn’t been a question – it was simply what she believed. And that’s when he kissed her. It was awkward and strange and beautiful all at once. Five years later, the two of them were married.

Alex loved Emily more and more with each passing year. The two of them were inseparable and life on the ranch was perfect. But only a few years into their marriage, and right at the moment when they were talking about starting a family, Emily fell sick. To this day Alex has no idea what happened – but within weeks her illness had gotten worse and worse, and just a few weeks after that she quietly passed away. The death had devastated Alex.

Two months’ after her death he left the ranch. He just needed to get away. His father had urged him to go and agreed that he needed some time to simply breathe. He always knew that he would come back to the ranch, and after a year of being away he knew that the ranch would always be the place for him. Living away from the ranch had been an eye-opener. He always knew that people in the city lived a different life to him, but he hadn’t given it all that much thought. He spent that year working various jobs and made some great friends, all of whom he is still friends with to this day. The three friends were Adam, Jerry and Paul – and they welcomed him into their group immediately. They found the idea of Alex as a cowboy fascinating and somewhat hilarious and dubbed him ‘the modern cowboy.’ Being away from the ranch had been good for him. Firstly, it had given him time to grieve Emily but also to learn how to live without her. He didn’t meet any girls in that time away from the ranch – no matter how much pressure he received from his friends or how many girls tried to chat him up. He promised himself that he wouldn’t – and also the girls were of no interest to him. He didn’t like these girls, who were so different to what he was used to. He was used to Emily – who had been down to earth, hardworking, natural and sincere.

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