8th Grade Assessment – Unit 1 – RL.8.2, RL.8.3, RL.8.4, RL.8.6
Read this passage. Then answer questions 1 through 7.
by Bryn Fleming
Caring for the cows on a ranch is a hard job for Pa and his two daughters. In this excerpt, Pa awakens his daughters, Fran and Cassie, to help round up his neighbor’s buffaloes. In the end, one daughter must also confront Cyrus, a fierce and dangerous bull.
BANG! BANG! BANG! I jerked awake to Pa pounding on our door.
“Daly’s buffaloes broke the fence. We have to get them out of the alfalfa!” he shouted.
Fran was on her feet in an instant. Pulling her jeans on under her nightgown, she
stepped into the hall. “Can’t we do it, just us, Pa? Cassie will only be in the way.”
5 “Both of you,” Pa said as he hurried for the back door. “We need all hands.”
Me, I’ve never liked being yanked out of a hard sleep and a good dream. I heard
buffaloes through my sleep-haze and scrunched lower under the covers, remembering
Cyrus’s chuffing breath on my neck and the creaking whine of fence planks. I grumped
and groaned when Fran pulled the quilt off me and slapped my feet.
10 “Let’s go, Cassie. Pa needs us quick.” Fran jerked on her boots and slapped my
feet again as she raced out of the room.
I pulled yesterday’s jeans from the pile of clothes by my bed, shrugged into a T-shirt, and
grabbed my hat off the bedpost. Pa had a pan of cold biscuits and a dish of butter on the
table. I gobbled one as I ran for the barn.
15 Fran was drawing up Pet’s cinch1 in the stable yard. Stars were fading in the east as
the sky lightened over the Blue Mountains. The autumn air smelled of sage and juniper scrub.
My lungs sucked it in like cold water.
Rowdy, my paint pony, stamped in his stall and nickered2 after Pet. The early morning
darkness and close scent of musky buffaloes set him on edge, but I talked him into
20 standing quiet and slipped the bit in his mouth. He pranced and high-stepped as I led him
out of his stall to saddle him.
Up ahead Pa was edging his mare around the wide gate to the open pasture. Fran and
Pet followed. I leaned out and hooked the gate closed behind us, something Rowdy and I
had been working on. I patted his neck. “Atta boy, let’s go get those buffs.” There was a shakiness
25 in my voice, but I squeezed Rowdy into a lope3 to catch up.
“Looks like half the herd is in here,” Pa shouted. “Big piece of the north fence is
down.” We stood a minute on the rise between the hayfield and the house. Thirty or forty
buffaloes spread out in the tall grass.
“There’s Cyrus. Watch him.” Pa pointed to a huge, dark shape shifting like a hill in an
30 earthquake. “I’ll pick him up and head him back through,” Pa said. “Some of the cows
should follow. Fran, take the right.” He ran his gaze over the herd again. “Cassie, hang
back. Move any stragglers up toward Fran. And stay away from Cyrus.” He didn’t need to
tell me twice.
Fran loped off, whooping and chasing the cow buffs toward the hole in the far fence.
35 Rowdy and I crisscrossed the field after strays. “Hut! Hut! Hut!” I called as I swung the
end of my rope at a cow’s flank. Fran shot me a look. “Get after those buffs, Cassie.
You’re not inviting them to a party!” I hollered louder and swung my rope harder. On the other
side of the field, Pa had Cyrus headed back toward the broken fence.
Seems like I looked away toward a hawk screech for only a second when I heard Pa’s
40 mare whinny sharply. I snapped my head around quick. She was rearing up in high alarm and
stepping backward. Pa wasn’t in the saddle.
Cyrus pawed the dirt in front of the mare, swinging his big woolly head from side to
side, his horns low to the ground. The mare spun off and stood stiff-legged. Pa sat in the
dirt with one leg stretched out in front of him. Cyrus flared his nostrils, sucking in Pa’s
In my mind I heard a plank fence splinter and
smelled Cyrus’s angry stink. I shivered, but there
really was no choice. I kicked Rowdy and laid the
reins across his neck.
50 Rowdy jumped to it as Cyrus scraped the dirt
powerfully with his sharp hooves and
For such cumbersome-looking beasts,
buffs can move real fast. I leaned forward in
55 the saddle, racing Rowdy across the field
toward Pa, hoping we’d be in time to head off the
enraged bull. As Cyrus closed in, I shouted and
waved my hat frantically. Cyrus jerked his head
toward us and turned as Pa
60 rolled out of his way.
Rowdy stopped on a dime, like he faced a mad buffalo bull every day. We dodged in
close, and I leaned out and slapped Cyrus’s rump with my hat while Rowdy danced out of
reach of his horns. Cyrus left Pa in a whirl of dust and pounded after us.
My hat flew off as Rowdy sprinted
65 over the field. We cut a sharp right at the
broken fence, and Cyrus plunged through the gap.
A dozen cows streamed after him with Fran at
She let out a whoop and flashed
70 me a grin. We’d done it!
As I rode back, Pa was trying to get
his feet under him. His jaw was clenched
tight, and his eyes were narrowed.
“Good work, Cass,” he said.
75 His voice shook, and he held his leg with both hands. I swung down next to him.
He stood crooked on one leg, leaning hard on my shoulder. I stood about a foot shorter
than Pa, but I felt strong and tall with him leaning on me like that.
1 cinch: a band or strap used to tighten the saddle on a horse
2 nickered: the soft neighing sound a horse makes
3 lope: relaxed stride of a horse
8th Grade Math Assessment: 8.NS
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