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8th Grade Assessment – Unit 1 – RL.8.2, RL.8.3, RL.8.4, RL.8.6

Justice February 11, 2015

Read this passage. Then answer questions 1 through 7.


Cowgirl Morning

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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

45          scent.

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

their rear.

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.

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1 cinch: a band or strap used to tighten the saddle on a horse

nickered: the soft neighing sound a horse makes

lope: relaxed stride of a horse

8th Grade Math Assessment: 8.NS