Tuesday Sampler: Maggie’s Fall by Ricki Wilson
September 8, 2015
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Tuesay’s Sampler is an excerpt from Maggie’s Fall, a story of perseverance and hope, by Ricki Wilson.
As one reviewer wrote: A true-to-life family saga set in the contemporary west that is both endearing and well written. You won’t want to miss this compelling tale by Ricki Wilson.
In a time when the country seems to be licking its wounds and chanting “poor me,” Maggie McClellan reminds us that getting our hands dirty and scratching out a place for ourselves is far more empowering than falling in line.
Maggie McClellan is living the good life in the best of two worlds, her corporate profession as a PR director for a world renowned boot maker, and her frequent escapes to the serenity of the West Texas ranch where she was raised – until her parents are killed in a car wreck. Selling the ranch seems the obvious choice, but when Maggie learns that she is pregnant, she can’t imagine raising her child anywhere but on the M- (M Bar) Ranch.
In the ten years since leaving El Paso and moving home, Maggie has pulled the ranch out of debt, devised a scheme to keep it afloat, and made a home for herself, Martha and Jonah, the housekeeper and ranch foreman who stayed with her, and T.J., her beautiful son, her reason to keep up the struggle. Everything seems to be falling into place, but Maggie has overlooked one small detail, a major portion of the ranch is leased, and the lease has run out. Maggie can run the surveyors off her land with the aid of her mother’s old rifle, but she can’t stop the anonymous buyer from taking her land out from under her.
Overwhelmed by the crushing realization that she stands to lose everything she’s worked for, everything her parents worked for, Maggie flouts her own rules and takes a young horse out for a solitary ride. A nearly fatal accident leaves her trapped and alone. Before Maggie can resurface from the darkness that swallows her up, she will have to realize what is really worth fighting for.
Maggie’s Fall is a character driven story of perseverance and hope. A well-rounded supporting cast provide their fair share of love, despair, humor, and frailty, but the story, like the fight, is Maggie’s.
While Maggie sat in the shade of a Mesquite thicket, T.J. tromped around the edge of the muddy pond searching for crawdads.
“T.J., what are you going to do with those things once you get them home?”
T.J. turned around and held up the minnow bucket that he had stuffed with crawdads.
“I’m putting them in the little creek in the first pasture. That way, they’ll be close enough to the house that I can take some of the summer kids down there and we can catch ‘em again.”
“Well that’s pretty good thinking. It looks like you’ve had a pretty good harvest. We better head back. You get your stuff gathered up and get your boots back on and I’ll get the horses. You be sure to dry your feet off before you put your boots and socks back on or you might get a blister,” Maggie said, pushing herself off the ground and slapping the red dust from her jeans.
One more curve in the trail and T.J. and Maggie would be in sight of the house. It had been a good morning for a ride and Maggie was pleased that she had followed through with her promise. Catching a slight movement in front of her, Maggie realized that someone was riding towards her in a hurry. A few seconds later, she recognized the rider as Jonah.
“Hey, I’m glad I caught ya’ll before you got back,” Jonah said, his voice ringing a little less than true, but not so much that T.J. would notice. “I meant to ride out earlier, but,” Jonah hesitated, “well anyway, here I am now. T.J., would you mind riding back a ways with me and show me where you’re catching those crawdads?”
“Sure thing Jonah. I was gonna catch some more, but we had to head back. Can I Mama?” The excitement was apparent in T.J.’s request.
Maggie knew that something was up. “Why don’t you give Jonah and me a minute to go over a couple of things, and then I’ll head on back to the house and you two can be on your way.”
“All hell’s broke loose at the house, Maggie. That developer who’s trying to buy that lower meadow sent a survey crew over to look at the land. Martha wouldn’t let them in the gate, and she told them to get off of the property. They left, but it wasn’t no time and they were back, and they brought their boss with them.”
“You mean the guy who’s trying to buy our meadow is at the house?” Maggie asked, somewhat shocked at the news.
“No, not him—his general manager,” Jonah replied, putting emphasis on the title to show his contempt. “He must have one hell of an operation if he employs his own survey crew.”
Maggie set her mare off at a long swift trot and didn’t pull up until she reached the backyard of the ranch house. Stopping for a minute to catch her breath, and to let her mare catch hers, Maggie gathered her fortitude and proceeded slowly around the house, intending to come up behind whoever was on the front porch. As Maggie carefully approached the corner of the house, she saw Martha sitting in her rocker on the front porch. Maggie chuckled to herself; Martha was rocking and shelling peas as if her audience were members of the local sewing circle, and Jett was playing right along. He lay at Martha’s feet not moving a muscle, not one tightly bunched, hair raising muscle. Being careful to keep her mare’s nose well behind the huge holly-hock bush that sprawled around the northwest corner of the house, Maggie leaned forward in her saddle and listened intently to the man who was addressing Martha.
“Look lady. What are you, the cook? The maid? – What the hell do you care if we walk across this property? Don’t you know it’s illegal to deny a man access to his property? It’s called an easement, lady.”
Maggie McClellan had two stages of mad. In the first, the one most folks were used to, she would get mad, shout, bang a few doors, and get over it. But in the second, the one few people had ever seen, and those who had never wanted to see again, her anger seemed to envelope her in a vacuum where nothing existed except Maggie and her antagonist. In this version, there was no yelling, no banging of doors—nothing but deathly silence, broken only by a voice—low, dull, and cold. The man in the front yard had pushed her to somewhere in between the two, but before things could go any further, Maggie nudged her mare around the hollyhock and came up behind the man doing all the talking.
“Everything okay?” Maggie spoke only to Martha, refusing to even acknowledge the stranger’s presence. She quickly surveyed the situation. The man running his mouth was obviously a big shot: tailored khaki pants, a polo shirt, tasseled loafers, mirrored sunglasses, he certainly wasn’t dressed for much work. The other three men, now sitting on the tailgate of their pickup, were all dressed in jeans, tee-shirts, and ball caps. Maggie would have wagered, correctly, that they were getting quite a kick out of this little scenario. Martha caught Maggie’s eye, and the look told Maggie that no, everything was not okay. , but, like Maggie, Martha also refused to acknowledge the unwanted visitors.
“I got some okra planted this morning,” Martha replied, continuing her work with the peas. “The garden’s in pretty good shape, but I could use T.J.’s help tomorrow with the tomatoes.”
Unused to being dismissed, and especially by women, the man who had been raising such a ruckus was momentarily taken aback. Upon recovering, he started towards Maggie, meaning to shake her hand. As soon as he reached towards her though, Jett raised up on all fours and let out a low growl.
“Jett!” As soon as she spoke, the dog stopped growling, but he didn’t sit down, and he looked like he was ready to leap across the yard.
“Now look here. My name is—“
“Mister,” Maggie held up her hand, cutting off his speech, “I don’t want to know your name. I don’t want to know who you work for, and I don’t want to know what you want. All I want to know – is that you’ve gone.” Maggie’s matter-of-fact, deadpan remarks were punctuated only by the silence of the late spring day, but not for long.
“Lady, I’m not leaving until I get through that gate with these men and their equipment and they get that land back there surveyed. Now your little charade is costing the company twelve dollars an hour per man for every minute that those three sit on their butts doing nothing. If I have to get the law out here, I will,” he threatened, puffing out his chest, thinking he had won.
“Ya know, Martha, maybe we should let Henry handle this,” Maggie said without even a glance at the man standing below her.
“Lady, if there’s a man here that I can talk to, I certainly do wish you’d get him,” declared the frustrated man.
“Well,” replied Maggie, “Henry usually does most of the talking. Martha, why don’t you go ahead and get Henry.”
Maggie stepped off of her mare and loosened the girth, patted the mare on the neck and led her up to the porch steps where she looped the reins over a corner post. Maggie stepped up on the front porch just about the same time that Martha emerged from the house and handed Maggie the old Henry rifle that always stayed in the broom closet. Martha tapped the side of the magazine as she handed the rifle to Maggie so that she would know it was loaded without having to ask. Maggie slid her hand along the smooth, cool barrel of her mother’s old gun and cocked the rifle before she ever turned back to face the intruders.
The three men on the tailgate had scattered to find shelter behind various trees and vehicles, but the idiot in the front yard was still running his mouth.
“I don’t know how you can say that,” Maggie answered, her voice level and controlled.
“I’ve got a loaded rifle, that I know I can control, and a dog who I’m not sure I can control, and you’re still standing in my front yard. I’d say you’re the one who’s crazy.”