By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 34

We got up early the next morning to fix coffee and get breakfast underway. It wasn’t long before the men from the barn stomped into the house.  Cowboy boots make a lot of noise on wooden floors.  The men clomping up the wooden stairs to the back porch sounded like a stampede.

“Damn,— they sound like a herd of buffalo what’s jes’ been spooked.”   Bubba said dryly.  I laughed at him, he was like Gip in his humor.  He could be painfully funny at times.  I guess that’s probably why he and Gip got on so well together.
Bubba and I were the center of attention that morning.  I can’t say we didn’t expect it.  It’s just the way cowboys are.  Bubba and I remained stoic;  we all ready discussed and decided we weren’t going to throw them any bones;  neither of us volunteered anything, but there was much whispering and giggling behind our backs.

“J’all have a good time last night?”  Gip drawled cautiously, which caused much snickering from the four younger men.

“Tolerable.”  Bubba tossed off as if it was no big deal.  “Right tolerable, Sheriff.” he added.

“Jes’ tolerable, cowboy?”  Gip addressed me with a wicked grin.

“I’d have ta’ agree with my bunkmate, Sheriff; however, for me, it was a bit more than jes’ tolerable.”  I smiled and winked at him.  They all caught my meaning and laughed.  “I’d venture to say,— on a scale of one to ten,— ole Bubba rang my chimes at about twelve plus;— fucked me pert-damn good, too. I had to strap my belt around my butt to keep my ass from fall’n off.”

I couldn’t help but laugh after my statement of Bubba’s sexual powers.  That broke the dam for much laugher and hooting.  After that nothing more was said.

* * * * * * *

We spent the day pretty much as Gip guessed we might.  It became almost a full blown rodeo.  The local cowboys got wind of Bubba having the Sheriff and his boys from the next county as weekend guest, and the word was there was to be an impromptu rodoe at the Swansey ranch. Pickup truck pulling horse trailers started arriving around nine in the morning and continued until almost noon.  I don’t think Bubba counted on such a large crowd descending on his ranch, but he took everything in stride.

Bubba and I roped together a lot that day and I have to believe what Master Waddie told me about two men sharing something special were hard to beat at roping.  The nearest team to come close to Bubba and my times was Gip and Waddie Buck.  They were getting better all the time.  I was glad for both of them.   I roped with everyone at least a couple of times.  I even roped with some of Bubba’s neighbors who were damn good ropers themselves.

We broke around noon to enjoy the tables of food the neighbors brought.  Vince and Seth Quee had also prepared several dishes they contributed to the overall feast.  Bubba lite his outdoor grill for anyone wanting hot dogs or hamburgers.  There was plenty of food for all.  When country folks get together they always bring lots of food.

One fine looking older cowboy kept staring at me all morning like he was really interested; in fact, he couldn’t take his eyes off of me.  Bubba, Gip and all the boys commented about it as we were having lunch.  I didn’t want to seem vain, but I asked if they got the same feelings I was getting from him?

“You mean like he’d like to shuck you like a ripe ear a’ corn?”  Gip chuckled and everyone else laughed with him.

“Uhhh,— yes, Sir,— I guess.” I replied.

“You ain’t imagining it, cowboy.  Jes’ look at that ear a’ corn in his Wranglers and the wet spot at his crotch.”  More laughter from the men.

Bubba knew the man and told us his name was O.C. Harris.  For many years,  O.C. lived with his family not far from Bubba’s ranch.  He lived his entire life in the community and went to school with Bubba and my dad.   O.C. lost his wife to cancer several years ago, and his children, two daughters, were grown and moved away.  They only came to visit him a couple of times a year.

“He was a close friend of your uncle’s, Casey.  He was really tight with your uncle, dad, and cousin Rance.  The five of us were always together and yore’ uncle and him was best friends all through school.  They’d never admitted it, but Vince and I knew they was fuck’n each other.  We caught ‘em in the barn one afternoon, but we didn’t say nothing to ‘em.  I think he’s seen yore’ eyes and has a thousand questions running though his head. ”

Bubba said he was a lonely man, but he didn’t know how to help him other than be a good neighbor and friend.  It seemed strange, because he never made an effort to meet me; however, we were never together with someone we both knew to introduce us.  Country folks can be strange that way.  They believe you should be properly introduced to a man before you talk with him; however, it’s all right for you to stare at and wonder about him.  I thought it might ease the man’s mind, and he wouldn’t be so obsessed looking at me if we were to meet.  I asked Gip to introduce us.  Gip had met the man several times before.  As we walked towards O.C. Harris, he got a look of panic on his face. I though he was going to bolt and run.

“Good Lord,” Gip spoke quietly to me, “I hope the man don’t have a heart attack.”  

“You noticed it, too, huh?  Then I ain’t crazy.”

“You ain’t crazy, Son. I seen cows in a thunderstorm what weren’t as spooked as that man looks.”

We arrived were Mr. Harris was standing; he couldn’t take his eyes off my eyes and his face lost all it’s color.  It was like he was mesmerized.

“Howdy, Mr. Harris.”  Gip stuck out his hand to shake O.C.’s hand.  O.C. took the sheriff’s hand and diverted his attention from me for a moment. “Ain’t had a chance to come say ‘hello’ since you got here, but I wanted you to meet my new hand working for me.  This, here, young cowboy is Mister Casey Longhorn.  Casey this gentleman is Mister O.C. Harris.”

I stuck out my hand and the man took it and slowly began to shake it as he once again looked deeply into my eyes.  His face lost all its color. He looked like he’d seen a ghost.

“Pleased to meet cha,’ Mr. Harris.”  I told him.

“Good to meet you, too, Son.” he paused for a moment like he was trying to figure out what to say next, “Sheriff Claymore said yore’ name is Longhorn.  Is ‘at right?”

“Yes, Sir, it is.”

“Humm,— ” He mused like he was confused.  “Got any relatives around  here, Son?”  He asked.

“Naw, Sir,— I jes’ went to work for Sheriff Claymore this month and I met Mr. Swansey and his boys at the Chapel Creek rodeo several weekends ago.”

“I’m sorry I been staring at chu,’ Casey.  There was a young man who used to live on this ranch before Bubba bought it from the boy’s dad.  Bubba named his youngest son after him.  He and his daddy had eyes the same color’s yours.  His brother didn’t, but their cousin who live on the next ranch over yonder a ways had ‘em.  It’s got to be more’n chance.  ‘Sides,— I grew’d up with the boy, Seth Quee Langtry.  We was the same age and went all through school together.  I knew him well. We was best buds.  We was like brothers. You could be his double or identical twin.  Seth Quee, his brother Vince, their cousin Rance, Bubba and me was together all the time.”

Unknown to me, Bubba walked up behind me and was listening to the exchange.  I felt Bubba’s big arms surround me from behind and pull me back into him to hold me close.  He nuzzled me on my neck in a gesture of affection.

“Best we tell Mr. Harris the truth, Casey.  H’it won’t do no harm and it sure would do him a world of good.  He loved yore’ uncle like he was his brother.”  Bubba whispered to me.  I nodded my head in agreement. “Casey is Vince’s boy, O.C.  Vince made it back from Nam and changed his last name to Longhorn so’s old man Langtry couldn’t find him.  Casey’s come looking for his granddad.”

The poor man’s eyes started watering.  He kept shaking his head like it couldn’t be true; and yet, the undeniable truth was standing right in front of him.

“Oh, my God!”  He exclaimed, almost reverently. “All these years we thought Vince was dead.”

I opened my arms to the man, and he didn’t hesitate letting me hold him.  That’s all it took for his emotional dam to burst. We stood there surrounded by loving men who understood his turmoil as he broke down into uncontrollable sobs.  I held him and comforted him as best I could until he got himself together.

“I’m so glad yore’ dad made it back alive, Casey.  Have you met yore’ granddaddy, yet, Son?”  He asked.

“Yes, Sir,— I met him at the Chapel Creek rodeo.  He came to the picnic at Sheriff Claymore’s afterward.  I was wearing my blue contact lenses so he wouldn’t put two and two together like you done.  I let my beard and ‘stache grow to hide my facial features.  I don’t think he figured out nothing.  I wanted a chance to be around him to see for myself what kind of man he is.  My daddy would shit if he knew I was anywheres near my granddad.”

“He has good reason to feel that way, Casey.  I don’t blame you a bit, but Curtis has changed.  It didn’t jes’ happen overnight, but he ain’t the man he used to be.  Yore’ granddad’s a different man today from what he was then.  He done some wonderful things for me and my family over the years.  Do you think you’ll ever tell him who you are?”

“Cain’t say, Mr. Harris.  He offered me a job work’n as a hand on the Lazy 8.  I accepted and start work in September for fall roundup.  I wanna’ chance to be around him for a while before I decide whether I wanna’ tell him.”

“That’s understandable, Son. I’ll be there, too.  He always includes me in the fall roundup.  It helps me financially,  and since I ain’t got nobody to home no more, it gives me a chance to get out and be with men I know and care about.”

“That’s great, Mr. Harris,— then we’ll see each other again.”

“I got a thousand questions, Son.”

“I understand, Mr. Harris.  I’ll do my best to answer them.”

We hugged again and someone yelled,

“Let’s rodeo!”

Between times of roping with someone I would ride over to Mr. Harris and answer his questions.  He told me a lot of wonderful stories about my uncle, my d