Her fingertips traced the crystal decanter set neatly on the mirrored settee and stopped atop the glass knob and pulled the top off gently. She noted the black dirt underneath her nails and overturned her palms and took in the filth between the lines and callouses. She glanced at her favored turquoise and silver band- the one her grandmother found in the little stream high in the mountains of their hunting camp. Her gran would’ve said, “those aren’t a lady’s hands”.

She reached for a bucket glass and poured a shot of rye, lifted it to her eyes and swirled it around mesmerized by the amber colors colliding against each other inside. She put the whiskey to her lips and shot it back with vigor, letting the burn reach her empty belly. She sighed, poured another, and held it close to her denim shirt clad breast, and peered over the rim at the giant rock fireplace in front of her.

She picked out her granddaddy’s brand placement in the rocks above the cedar mantle. She read the formation aloud, “H Bar R”. The fire flickered and she watched the flame lick the charred logs. For an instant, it lit her grey green eyes against the dark wood paneled room, caught the silver conch hair tie at the end of her long dark braid.

The giant room started to warm against the onset of winter breaching its way across the sierra slope behind her. The wind rattled the shutter slightly, bringing her attention back to the present.

Tomorrow’s gather would be the first without her granddad by her side. She ached at the thought of his absence; at the thought of looking over expecting to see him swinging his old, hand braided reata at a straying filly and longing to hear him bark a gruff order her way. Nothing would feel quite the same when she swung in the saddle the next morning peering out over the herd of wily, young mustangs readying to be shipped to new homes. Loneliness was setting in, threatening to take hold of her heart strings. She choked back the lump forming in her throat and the wetness forming against her burning eyes. She shot back another round of whiskey, and set the glass down harshly and walked upstairs to her room where a sleepless night await her.