Ranch Girl by Maile Meloy from Contemporary American Short Fiction
The story is told in second person, which gives the reader a sense of being in the story, at the same time being an observer. It begins with telling you where you stand in the socio-economics’ and in the eyes of your peers. “If you’re white, and you’re not rich or poor but somewhere in the middle, it’s hard to have worse luck than be born a girl on the Ranch. It doesn’t matter if your father is the foreman or the rancher – you’re still a ranch girl, and you’ve been dealt a bad hand. ” (551)
The story goes on, telling you where you where you live on the Ranch, who your father is (the foreman on Ted Haskell’s Running H cattle Ranch) and how you keep your room still decorated from when you were ten. You never have friends over, so you can keep your room that way. You never have friends over because no one wants to come over to a Ranch girl’s house. The second person point of view pangs at the readers emotions. You feel the hunger for attention and flush it creates when Andy Tyler flirts with you.
The author re-creates the feelings of a teenage girl, somewhere on the cusp of popularity, in such a way it is almost impossible not to get caught up with the story. I was never a Ranch girl, but when reading the story I felt akin to the feelings of the narrator. The experiences described are vastly different from any of my own child/young adulthood but the universal truths laid out are the same with any person. The narrator has fallen in love with a boy from the rodeo. She goes and watches him fight every Friday.
She s sixteen and the Ranchers daughter, Carla, and her curls they hair into perfect ringlets. Trying to catch Andy’s eye. When he gets up from fighting, he asks her to give him a rainbow and she twirls her rainbow gloved hand around his face. The narrator wants to marry Andy Tyler. The blushing hope of picking out her future husband harks back the authors understanding of a young girl. “Virginity is as important to rodeo boys as to Catholics, and you don’t go home and fuck Andy Tyler because when you finally get him, you want to keep him.
But you like his asking. Some nights, he doesn’t ask. Some nights, Lacey Estrada climbs into Andy’s truck, dark hair bouncing in soft curls on her shoulders, and moves close to Andy on the front seat as they drive away…. But cowboys are romantics; when they settle down they want the girl they haven’t fucked. ” (553) The narrator doesn’t feel too jealous of Lacey Estrada because she knows that Andy is like every other rodeo boy. He won’t marry a girl who he (or anyone else) has fucked. This statement is then contested after Andy Tyler dies in an accident.
The paper announces in Andy Tyler’s obituary that he was engaged to Lacey Estrada. When reading this, the author goes on to detail the narrators feelings that you can almost taste the salt tears from being hurt. “Andy’s obituary says he was engaged to Lacey Estrada, which only Lacey or doctor father could have put in. If you had the guts you’d buy every paper in town and burn them outside that big white house where Lacey took him home and fucked him. Then Lacey shows up on the Hill with an engagement ring and gives you a sad smile as if you shared something.
If you were one of the girls who gets in fights on the Hill, you’d fight Lacey. But you don’t; you look away” (556) I think putting this piece into second person was an excellent choice. If the piece were in first person, it might have been too emotionally sentimental, or with too much angst. If the piece was in third, it might not have been able to capture the vulnerability of the narrator. The narrator shuts down after Andy’s death, although it might be because of his death she has more options than if he had been alive.
The narrator feels cheated, alone since he died, but she continued through high school where her science teachers (who saw through her ignorant facade) encouraged and bothered her to go to college. In the first course in college, the professor accuses her of plagiarism because she can write. The feelings of frustration and anger, feeling cheated out of a life with Andy to be left alone. The narrator feels the expectations of others enshrouding her, something that would not have been if Andy Tyler had not died in that car crash. “You are so lucky to have a degree and no kid,” Carla says, “You can still leave. ” (558).
The narrator has the world around her telling her how she can still leave, how she has nothing to tie her to the Ranch, or to Montana anymore. She can go. “But none of these things seem real; what’s real is the payments on your car and your mom’s crazy horses, the feel of the ranch road as you can drive blindfolded and the smell of the hay…. But out there in there world you get old. You don’t get old here. Here you can always be a Ranch girl. ” (558) The tangible things that tie someone to a place has nothing on the emotional ties. Andy Tyler might have died and left her alone, but he still ties her to the Ranch by his memory.
The stolen life taken by a drunk driver took not only Andy Tyler, but also the narrators by taking him from her. She wastes her potential by pining and mourning someone she should have moved on from years ago. The sad desperation is clear in the description, in how the author portrayed the narrator through the second person point of view. The narrator comes off much more sympathetic and her motives are clearly understandable through the second person point of view. I don’t think that any other point of view could have given such a clear view of the narrator life.