Here we are with another chapter! I had a lot of fun writing this one. It made me chuckle in some places. I hope it does for you too!
My Name is Brayden Miles
Journal Entry #8
I had never worked on a farm before. Being a city boy I never would have thought that I would ever get the chance to. I grew up watching it on TV or online, I knew that it was labour intensive, I got that. If I was still a human, as scrawny as I was, I may have had a chance with the tasks that Applejack had given me, at least I would have hands. But as a pony...
started to gain respect for the animals that had to do this kind of work pretty quickly.
The smell of the farm burned my nostrils. It was a bit much to get used to, but this is what I agreed to do, and I was going to do my best to see it through. After I made it out of the pig pen, Apple Bloom was nice enough to direct me to the garden hose around the back and helped me get cleaned off as best we could do together. Once I was semi dirt-free and dry, I was pulled along to help with the chickens first. Applejack threw an old saddle bag over my back and shoved a bucket of chicken feed at me and Apple Bloom an empty basket for eggs. It was uncomfortable carrying something on my back and having a worn piece of rope in my mouth, but I shadowed the little pony and followed along with her to the chicken coop.
"Are you ready for this Brayden?" Apple Bloom asked, balancing the basket on her backside.
"Um hmm," I grunted, muscles that had never seen use like this beginning to tense. 'My neck is going to be ripped after all of this.'
We made it inside, the hen house was stuffy and my ears barely brushed the beams overhead. Apple Bloom trotted ahead of me, looking at the rows of chickens all sitting in their pens. I heard soft clucking here and there while they rested, each of them all nestled in their own beds of hay. I set the bucket down by the entrance and waited for instructions.
"Should I head outside Apple Bloom?" I asked quietly.
She nodded, "It's probably a good idea. If they chickens wake up right now and see the feed we migh' not make it out alive."
I gulped, 'She's kidding, right?'
I picked up the bucket and inched myself back out the door, walking down the ramp and set the bucket down, staring at it. 'How am I supposed to get the feed out of the bucket? I don't have hands, or a scoop. I can't just dump it all in one place...'
I inspected the bucket further and noticed a small cork on the side of it almost to the bottom. I pried it off as best as I could with my hoof and it popped off, rolling off to the side. I nudged the bucket, seeing a small pile of chicken feed pour out the hole. To be honest I was slightly impressed at the ponies ingenuity. I took the bucket and began to walk around, watching the feed zigzag and scatter all over the ground. Once I thought I had enough I went back and balanced the bucket and plugged the the hole, waiting for Apple Bloom to give the word.
I heard the sound of a bell from inside the small building, "Alrigh' chickens! Time for yer breakfast!" I heard the filly call.
There was the sound of scuffling and loud clucking, I swear it was like she released the beast. A flurry of chickens poured out of the entrance of the chicken coop and flocked to the feed sprayed on the ground, racing around to get a good pile of food in their stomachs. I stood at the edge of the fence, doing my best not to draw any attention that I had more in the bucket. Apple Bloom continued working inside what I stayed outside, keeping watch.
Some of them scratched at the ground, pecking here and there to get as many pieces as possible. A few of the chickens were flapping their wings at each other, duelling over some of the small piles of feed to declare a winner. It was kind of nice standing there watching the animals, it made doing chores slightly bearable. Or so I thought.
A few of the chickens took notice of me and the bucket and began to walk over towards me. One of them cocked their head to the side, probably that they hadn't seen me before on the farm. I looked back at them, shaking my head.
"You've had your fill." I said through my teeth, the rope still in my mouth. More chickens began to take notice and move towards me, and I gave a fake glare in their direction, trying to look intimidating. One of them clucked at me and I shook my head again. "No."
Apparently they didn't want to take no for an answer. One of the chickens got out of my line of sight and began pecking at the cork on the side of the bucket. I felt the constant thud against the wood and I lifted my head higher, trying to get the bucket out of reach. However, the chickens were becoming increasing persistent. I felt sweat began to form on my forehead, matting my fur as I tried to back away from them, beginning to feel the insistent birds pecking at my hooves. Some of them were even trying to fly up towards the bucket to get at the cork, almost succeeding.
"Cut that out!" I grunted, feeling the fence pressing against my legs.
Some of the chickens teamed up and flew towards my face, making me turn my head to try and shoo them away. Unfortunately that was a big mistake on my part. One of them got a hold of the cork and I heard the familiar pop as some of the contents began to spill out all over my front and onto the ground.
"BAWK!" some of the chickens squawked, all of them unleashing their assault on me.
Instead of dropping the bucket like a sensible person, my mind decided to do the opposite. I fled. I fled with the rope still in my mouth. Big mistake. I ran awkwardly around the edge of the chicken coop, a flurry of chickens following quickly behind me. I was too slow to get away from them, my efforts in an escape failing horribly as they continued their chase. Some of them even got into the saddle bag and decided it was a nice time to sit while they enjoyed the ride. I was losing stamina quickly like this, unsure of where I should go. Apple Bloom was still working inside, and I didn't want her to get in an accident because of my stupid ass.
"Oh ponyfeathers. Let go of the bucket ye young whippersnapper! It's the food they want!" I heard call from the barn. The woman sounded old, her voice somewhat grainy.
I looked over quickly, trying to see who was calling to me when my back hoof caught in a hole behind the hen house. I fell on my side, my breath escaping my lungs and I let go of the bucket, watching the chicken feed spray in the air. The wind was not on my side as a breeze caught the feed in the air and blew it onto me, my fur covered in the stuff. I sputtered as some of it hit my mouth, the taste dry and stuck to my lips. The final straw was the bucket, coming back down to earth and landed squarely onto my head with a hard thunk, blocking my vision.
It was then that the chickens had caught up and finished me off. The whole flock must have jumped me. I could feel pecks coming for all sides, making me yelp and try to kick them away. It seemed like a futile effort, they were a ruthless bunch that didn't want to take the hint. I shook my head to try and get the bucket off my head, some of the chickens were pecking at it causing the thudding sound to echo in my ears.
"Round 'em up, Winona!" came a familiar voice.
I heard a dog beginning to bark, the sound getting louder. It seemed that the chickens took their cue, the sound of frightened clucking and wing flaps now filling my ears. The pecking ceased and the barking continued. I was able to lower my head for a moment to pry the bucket off, shaking my head. I discovered a small brown and white dog with a little red collar around its neck. It panted happily, wagging its bushy tail and a small pink tongue hanging out of its mouth. It looked at me, barking once.
"Uh...h-hey pooch." I said, looking at the mess of chicken feed all over me. "I guess I have you to thank..." I trailed off, squinting to read the name tag. "Winona."
I heard someone laughing and I looked up, seeing Applejack leaning onto the fence with a big grin on her face. "Well hello there, Brayden. I see that ye were getting well acquainted with the hens. Having a good time?"
I slowly got onto my hooves, glaring at her a little. "It isn't funny, Applejack." I gave my whole body a shake, a rain of feed falling off my fur. The pecking made my skin itch, but I wasn't in any pain at least. I saw the saddle bag on the ground next to me, trying to get it onto my back. "I just had a little accident."
"Well, ye seem to be fine. Yer not hurt are ya?"
I managed to get the bag onto my back, pushing it so it was level and didn't fall off. I shook my head, looking slightly angry and embarrassed at the same time. Winona barked again, noticing that some of the chickens were trying to get to the last remnants of their breakfast off of me. She growled at them, her front low to the ground.
"No, I think I'll be fine. I'm glad that your dog here was able to rescue me."
"Well ya better get back to the gate, otherwise I might find you covered in feathers instead of your coat. Come on Winona, stay with Brayden. Apple Bloom must be done collecting the eggs by now."
Winona gave a bark in response as I began to walk around to the front of the house. Apple Bloom was coming down the ramp with her basket, being really careful until she was safely on the ground. I looked around, wondering who was the other pony I heard, not seeing anyone else besides the sisters. The chickens were keeping an eye on me, making me slightly uneasy.
'Does everything on this world have a vendetta against me?' I thought, giving myself another shake.
"Applejack? Winona? What are ya doing back here?" Apple Bloom asked, looking at me. "Heya Brayden, where'd the bucket go?"
"I left it behind the hen house. I think for the better right now. I will go back and get it once it's safe."
"Safe?" she asked curiously. Some flecks of chicken feed trickled out of my mane, getting the fillies attention. "Ahh, I was wondering why I heard such a raucous. Sorry I couldn't get out in time to help ya."
"It's alright. I kept them distracted. You got the eggs though?"
"Yup! Righ' here!" she said, looking at the pile she had nabbed in her basket. "Granny Smith should be delighted with these."
'Maybe that's who I heard...' I thought, looking back at Applejack. "I think we're done here."
Winona gave another bark, clearing a path through the flock of chickens while Applejack flicked the latch to open up the gate. She was pretty smart for a dog. The three of us in the pen made our way out, and I felt much safer not being in there anymore. I did my best to be polite and keep my mouth shut, despite the negative aura I was feeling from Applejack.
"I'm gonna get these to Granny right now. You wanna come along?" Apple Bloom asked.
I shook my head. "Nah, I will stay out here. Don't want to track this stuff in the house."
"Alright then. I will be back soon!" She made her way towards the barn, leaving me and Applejack with Winona sitting at Applejack's side, her tail wagging happily.
The silence was making me nervous. I avoided looking at Applejack while she tended to her pet. I distracted myself by practising with my tail, still trying to move it on my own. I got it so I could sway it back and forth slightly at this point. It was progress, I was taking it.
"So...," Applejack spoke up, her tone still having a slight edge on it. "Apple Bloom seems to have takin' a likin' to ya."
I looked back at her, trying to sound relaxed. "Yeah. After what happened I am surprised. But I am glad that she's not upset anymore."
The yellow pony dug at the ground, looking at my flank. "Yes, and you seem to be on your best behaviour around her."
"Yes, I was wrong. I don't have a cutie mark either. I'm not as sensitive about the subject like she is. Which is why I am doing my best to make it up to her."
"I still haven't forgave you just yet."
I let out a sigh. "Listen, Applejack. What I said back in Ponyville, I meant it. I am really sorry for what I said. And I don't expect you to be as forgiving. But I'm a grown ma- stallion, and I can admit it when I'm wrong."
Applejack tilted her head, noticing my slip up. "Well, I will give you that, you seem honest." she commented. "But here at Sweet Apple Acres, we prefer actions as well as words."
"You mean getting almost pecked to death by a horde of chickens wasn't good enough for you?"
She let out a chuckle. "No, that was just really funny. A few pecks will toughen up that soft hide of yers. From what I'd seen from ya, you probably set foot on a farm before. Am I righ'?"
I shook my head and stopped. "Wait, how did you guess?"
"You let a harmless group of chickens get the better of ya."
"What do you mean, 'harmless'? They were all over-"
I stopped as she started laughing at my expense, making me frown. She nudged my shoulder with a hoof. "See what I mean?"
I rubbed where she nudged, feeling that it was a lot rougher than I expected. "Yes, but I could do more than feed chickens."
A glint of mischief sparked in her eyes, "Oh really?"
I mentally cursed, 'I don't like where this is going.'
"Then why don't we see if you can be good as you say. Wanna help Winona and I rustle up the cattle from the south field?"
"I-I don't think...I mean...I was going to say...aren't I supposed to stay and work on Apple Bloom's chores?"
"Ahm sure Granny will help her aroun' the barn just fine. Come along then..."
"Wait, I don't think-"
"...or do I get to call you a hoity toity, yellow bellied, city slicker?"
I twitched inside. That did it. This girl really knew how to get one riled up. I let out a grunt, my anger starting to rise as my ears flattened close to my skull. "Oh. It. Is. On."
"That's the spirit!" she beamed, walking towards the barn. "Follow me. I'll go tell Apple Bloom that we're on our way. Maybe the exercise will help knock off the chicken feed buffet you still have on your backside."
I followed behind, gritting my teeth to control my simmering rage. Once we made it to the front of the home, the gears began to turn in my head. Wait a second, I was getting myself into a pretty dangerous scenario. I had seen cattle rustlers in western movies before, and now I was going to do it on my own? I swallowed hard, my rage beginning to be replaced my fear. I still didn't know how to gallop properly, let alone trot before tumbling into a mess of tangled legs. Now I was going to be sprinting around trying to drive cattle? Applejack looked like she was really serious about this idea. Maybe it was her way of getting back at me, and possibly getting me trampled with stampeding cows.
I heard a soft whine and I looked down, seeing Winona still at my side. Since I caught her attention her tail began to wag, sitting pretty on her back paws. She must have noticed my apprehension. I lowered my head to her, and she licked the end of my nose.
"You wouldn't know if Applejack was going to lead me to my death, would you?" I asked, getting another lick. I shook my head and snorted, feeling her soft fur brushing against my leg. I smiled. "Thanks for the vote of confidence Winona."
She scampered around in a few circles before stopping, spotting something at the door and barked. I looked in the same direction to see Applejack return, the same devious, intimidating smile plastered on her face. I felt my tail began to slide between my legs again...
'No, I can do this. If Applejack can do it, so can I.' I said, trying to be confident. I smiled back, looking like I was ready for anything. 'This body must be good for something. If it's going to be used to wipe that smile off her face, then so be it. I am not going to let her get the better of me, not this time.'
"All set, chicken boy?"
I narrowed my eyes, determination growing inside me. "After you, -miss- Applejack."
I didn't realize how much time had passed already. The sun was shining above us, with a few billowing clouds floating overhead. I was led to a wide open field, the air filtering into my nose. It was a step up from the smell of farm. I could even catch a hint of apples from the nearest orchard. I inhaled deep, for once being glad to have fresh air. I stood beside Applejack, looking around the field and spotted some of the cows lazily grazing, not paying us any mind. Some of them mooed at each other, some of them responding in kind.
I noticed the large stallion called Big Macintosh standing beside a small boulder in the distance, the collar from the wagon still hanging around his neck. I blinked, wondering why he still had it on, but didn't want to really pat it any mind. Winona bounded in front of us with Applejack a few steps ahead of me. The closer we got to the red stallion I noticed how broad he was in body compared to me. He was a few inches taller than me, but he looked like he could pin me down like I was a feather pillow. I noticed his uninviting gaze on me, and I looked away.
'He's on my case too. Just perfect. You're doing a wonderful job on that grave of yours Miles.'
"Heya Big Mac!" Applejack called as we got within earshot.
The stallion snorted, his gaze softening as he looked at the golden yellow mare. "Heya sis."
I went slightly wide-eyed. 'They're all siblings?! Now it makes sense that he's pissed too.' I groaned internally. Winona sat beside me, watching my actions.
"You've met Brayden before. He's going to help us by bringing the cows back to the barns. You fancy he will be able to do it?"
He raised an eyebrow, examining me from ear to tail. He closed his eyes and spoke a short, "Nope."
My eye twitched at the abrupt answer, looking at Applejack. "Well then...I guess I better make it back-"
"Nonsense. Big Mac was just trying to joke with ya." she laughed. She nudged me again, this time it was harder and I nearly faltered. "Lighten up, this will be fun."
"Yeah. Fun." I said flatly, rolling my shoulder. 'Fun for you.'
"Now listen here, this is the plan." she started, looking towards the cows. "Big Mac, Winona and I will be gathering all the cattle around the pasture. This will be quick. The three of us have done this together so much that the cows know when it's time to head'r back home. I'd ask you to come along but I wouldn't want you to break a nail." she smiled, earning a slight glare from me.
"And where do I fit into this. It sounds like you don't need me at all for this job."
"Aah, but that's where yer wrong." she noted. "Getting them together is always the easy part, leading them all together without the herd trying to break apart or some get loose is the reason you're here. Apple Bloom is still too young, and not fast enough to join us yet. Granny Smith is too old to be doing much of any real hard labour. Which is why I am getting you to help."
I took a moment, looking over the field and back to the path. Like it or not I had to do this. I could have said no, but I made a promise. And I couldn't back out of it even if I wanted to.
"Are you ready?" she asked, looking half-expected of me giving up.
I took a deep breath, my expression becoming serious gaze, my tone low, "Yes. Just tell me what to do."
I think I surprised her. She looked at me with some bewilderment. There was a short moment of silence before she looked at Big Macintosh, who was silent through the whole thing. He gave a nod to her and turned, getting ready to spring into action. Applejack was alongside him, followed by Winona.
"Brayden, there should be a rope in your saddlebag. Grab it for me please."
I did as instructed, opening one of the bags, finding a rope for her. I pulled it out and was able to toss it in her direction. She caught it effortlessly in her teeth and slipped it over one shoulder.
"Where do you want me?" I asked.
"Stay right here. We will call you over when we're ready."
I stayed silent, remaining beside the rock, observing them. 'I am intrigued, and yet immensely terrified at what they're going to do.'
"Alright Big Mac, Winona. Ya'll both ready to fetch us some cattle?"
Winona gave a soft growl.
Big Macintosh nodded. "Eeyup."
"Then let's get us some cows! Get 'em Winona!"
When Applejack gave the go ahead, the dog went straight towards them, with the Apple siblings following suit. It was amazing watching all of them work together. I leaned against the rock, watching intently. The three of them ducked and weaved through the growing volume of mooing all of around them. They coordinated their movements as they were moving the livestock closer and closer without getting trampled by heavy, thundering hooves until there was one large collective of black and white surrounded by green grass. Applejack zoomed around them with incredible speed. If I wasn't directly focused on her she would've been a complete blur.
Once they moved the cattle into position, they slowed their speed, getting in close without spooking them. There was a long pause, I assumed that they were making sure all of them were gathered in one spot. There must have been at least thirty by my count. Things seemed to look good. Applejack tied one of the ends of the rope around one the neck of one of the cattle, holding the other end in her mouth. She looked towards me, giving me a nod.
I took it as the signal to move closer. I attempted a trot, which seemed to work for me. I lucked out and didn't fall on the attempt. I could see Winona and Big Macintosh taking point on either side of the group, with Applejack staying in front. The volume of moo's got really loud as I drew closer. The large, red stallion checked his side and came towards me, making me stop.
"Stay back here. Make sure they're no stragglers. The kine needs to stay together or it will break apart and we'll have to round them up again."
"Kine. The cows."
"Oh. Right. Okay"
I remained back, seeing nothing but rear ends. As much as I wanted to gripe about where I was being placed, I did my best to take it seriously. I took like I was at my job, I needed to take the responsibility of my position and make sure things get done properly with as little mistakes as possible.
Besides, if I did things correctly I could wipe that smug look off of Applejack's face when we were done.
Speak of the devil, I found she was looking back at me, probably expecting a look of disgust on my face. But I remained stoic, hiding my emotions from her. She pulled on the lead cow, giving the others the hint that it was time to move. All of us began to make it towards the dirt path back towards Sweet Apple Acres.
'Time to prove my worth.'
.o~End of Journal Entry~o.
Whew! There we go! Please read and review!