“Courage is a form of constancy. It is himself the coward abandons first. After that all other betrayals come easily.”
The black and white photograph was more tattered and bruised than the day Jim Gannon claimed it and tucked it safely in his wallet more than a decade ago. By chance and design, he had visited the picture many times during the years that followed; the handsome features and earnest look inherent in the young man’s face almost always produced a memory of time well spent, but often they unearthed a more complicated and conflicting set of emotions. All were particular reminders of the impact a father can have upon a son.
Jim Gannon headed the pickup north; towards the small ranch he had bought several years back. The January day produced a clear sky and a cool, crisp morning. Three dogs, a chocolate-colored lab named Ben and two lemon-spotted pointers called Josh and Jake, sat patiently in the back of the truck, their bodies eager and their eyes trained on the passing countryside. The drive from his home in town to the main gate of the ranch took about thirty minutes, with the small headquarters, barn and corral located another two miles off the road. There, two stray cats and several horses awaited him. Today he planned to saddle the Buckskin gelding he called Zip, and check the condition of the fence lines and water gaps following last night’s storm. He rode almost every day now and liked being a passenger on Zip best of all; the horse had worked on ranches his whole life and together, they had begun to form a fine partnership.
He pulled the truck up to the barn area and stopped. Ben and the two pointers were standing now, their tails upright and wagging feverishly with anticipation. The horses stuck their heads over the top rail of the corral, greeting him with their gentle whinnies. It was easy to see they felt good today.
“Alright boys, let’s go,” he said.
With that command, the dogs leaped out of the truck and began to run and sniff and do all the things they were born and bred to do. He let them range into the distance and whistled them back before they got too far away; as always, he admired their stamina and desire. The voices of quail came from the vicinity of the water tank and windmill nearby, the sound of bob-White, as clear as a bell.