By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 41

Wade Mulligan got down out of the big crew cab pickup truck to greet the men standing around, and especially to say ‘hello’ and ask how his boss was doing.  He shook Curtis’ hand and pulled him into a big bear hug.  He was genuinely happy to see his straw boss looking good.  He told Curtis he looked better than he’d seen him in a long time.  I was standing next to my granddad and he kept looking at me over Curtis’ shoulder in disbelief.   He turned his attention to me.

“Holy crap!  What happened to yore’ blue eyes, cowboy?”  he asked.

“Uhh, them be contact lenses I was wearing, Mr. Mulligan.”

He looked at me, then looked at Curtis in amazement and confusion.

“Casey’s my grandson, Wade.  I jes’ found out this weekend.”  Curtis said putting his arm around me and holding me close.

“Yore’ shit’n me!  I’ll be go to hell!  I thought there was more’n  jes’ a small resemblance between you two.  Son of a bitch,— you got the same damn eyes as him.”  Wade spoke to me.  “You hid the color so’s nobody would know.”  He stated.

“‘Afeard so, Mr. Mulligan.  I’ll tell you about it on our way back.”

“You sit up front with me.  I wanna’ hear all about it.  ‘Air’s  z’another cowboy a’ wait’n on ya’ back at the ranch.  He’s got violet eyes like you and yore’ granddad.  Name’s Rance Harding.  Said he was sent to the ranch for a two week vacation by Mr. Wiggins.”  He laughed. “Some vacation in this weather,— huh?”  he added.

I looked at my granddad and winked.  I’d told him Sticker said he’d get Cousin Rance out to the ranch for a week or so for me to talk with him.  It was starting to rain again and with one last hug and a kiss on his cheek I bid farewell to my granddad.  He tried to be strong, but his eyes were watering.  I hugged and gave O.C. a quick kiss on his cheek and told him to take good care of our dad.  He smiled at me, told me to say ‘hello’ to his brother, Rance, and bid me goodbye.

I already put my bag in the covered rear portion of the truck and ran to jump in the seat next to Wade Mulligan without looking back.  I knew if I looked back at my granddad and O.C., I’d lose it.  Little Gip jumped in next to me to ride shotgun. After we got underway, I had to pull my bandanna out of my coat pocket to wipe something out of my eye.  Wade put his big arm around me and patted me like he understood.

I told them about my weekend with my granddad.  I didn’t tell them about our visitor.  I figured that was personal, and not everyone needed to know about it.  Besides, you never know who’s going to believe you.  To some, I might sound like a crazy man.

It was a scary trip back to the ranch.  It was one hell of an evening.  We saw two twisters touch down but never develop into much.  We watched another one take out an old abandoned house and barn.  It flew up into the air like so much kindling. It was raining so hard, Wade couldn’t see to drive.  He had to pull over a couple of times and wait until it let up. It was just too dangerous to continue.   

Consequently, we were a little late getting back to the Lazy 8.  No one came out to greet us as it was still pouring.  All the cowboys from the truck took their gear to the bobtail truck to put their stuff away in their lockers.  Cindy gave me several heavy duty plastic bags to transport my bedroll and such to my Tee-pee.  Wade told me I’d be sharing my Tee-Pee with my cousin as everyone else was paired up.  That was more than fine by me.

The indoor cook shack was a big double wide trailer they pulled from place to place during the winter and had several picnic tables where the cowboys could get out of the weather to eat.  I threw my bedroll into my Tee-pee and went to the cook shack to see if I could help Will.  There was my cousin, Rance, looking as hot as ever.  He opened his big, cowboy arms to me. To the amazement of the other cowboys, I went to him, we shook hands and hugged each other.

“Damn, Cousin,— h’it’s good to see you again!”  I exclaimed.

“H’it’s good to see you again, cowboy.  Damn, I swear,— you done grow’d another six inches.  Look at chew,— you’ve filled out a bit,— look’n lean and mean.”

All the other cowboys gathered around to welcome me back.  I got some startled looks when a couple noticed my violet eyes like my cousin and granddad’s.  Will grinned real big as he welcomed me, but he didn’t say anything right away.  I knew he’d wait for a moment when no one else was looking or listening.  The other cowboys weren’t real sure what was going on.

“So,— does yore’ granddad know everything, Son?”  Cousin Rance asked me quietly.

“Yes, Sir.  I didn’t see no need hold’n back anything from him.  If I’m gonna’ be his grandson, I didn’t wanna’ start off on the wrong foot by keep’n no secrets.  It wouldn’t be right,— he’s been honest with me.”

“How’d he take the news?”

“He was pert-damn surprised.”  I laughed and Will chuckled.  A couple of the other cowboys were beginning to put two and two together.  Of course, by the time we got back to the Lazy 8, Vince and Seth Swansey knew what went on over the weekend.  Little Gip and Waddie Buck already knew.

Will had a small job for me to do and Rance stood and talked with me while I worked.  I went on to tell Rance and Will about our visit from Seth Quee and they listened in fascination.  I told them everything.

“I can only imagine how he must have felt.”  Will said.

“It was pretty emotionally draining, Sir.”

Will just shook his head, looked at my eyes again and grinned real big.

“Damned if them eyes a’ yorn’ ain’t the exact same color as yore’ granddaddy’s, Son.  It’s just downright uncanny.”  

During supper, Sam and Hawk sat across from Rance and me to eat and almost fell off the picnic bench when they looked into my eyes.

“Jesus, Mary, Joseph,— what happened to you, cowboy?”  Sam asked and  got the attention of the other cowboys.  Little Gip, Waddie Buck, Vince,  Seth, and Wade were laughing at them.

“I been wearing contact lenses what turned my eyes a dark blue.  I jes’ decided not to wear ‘em no more.”  I smiled.  I knew they weren’t going to settle for that.

“Wait a minute, here!  The boss man’s got the same color eyes as you,— this gentleman here, you call your cousin,— he’s got eyes similar in color,—  there’s more to this story ain’t they?”  Insisted Hawk.

“Yeah, Hawk.  You guys got any ideas?”  I led them on.

“From what we overhear’d, I done figured boss man Langtry’s yore’ grandaddy,— ain’ ‘nee?”  claimed Sam.

“Is he right, Casey?” asked Hawk.

“Yeah, Hawk,— Sam wins the big cee-gar.”

I had to explain why I wore the contact lenses, and they all seemed to understand.  No one said anything bad about it.  I knew the group of cowboys we had now weren’t the type to think bad things about two men who are related working together.  If you were a cowboy and pulled your weight, that’s all they cared about.  They all knew Rance Harding’s reputation of being an all ‘round, top rodeo cowboy.  They idolized him, and if I was related to him and their straw boss,  must mean I come from pretty good cowboy stock.

* * * * * * *

Rance and I retired to my tent and pulled our sleeping bags together for warmth.  We talked a lot, and I was surprised he was going to be with us for a full two weeks.  Sticker told him to stay for one week only due to the weather, but Rance looked on it as a brief vacation for him to get away from the stock company for a while.  It was great holding my wonderful cousin in my arms again.  We stole a few kisses, but we didn’t do nothing. It was just too damn cold.

Fortunately, the weather broke that night and the next morning there was only scattered clouds.  The dawn came up like thunder to chase the rest of the clouds away.  It was still cold, but the kind old sun began to warm things up a bit.  It just made me feel warmer and a bit more happy to feel the sunshine on my shoulders.  I rode with Rance most of the day. We talked and caught up on a lot of things.

I put in a call back to Sid’s secretary, Kevin, and talked with him a while.  Kevin was pleasant and seemed genuinely glad to hear from me.

“Mr. Longhorn,— it’s nice to hear from you.  I heard how you and your partner saved Mr. Langtry’s life. Mr. Wainright told me you risked your life to save Mr. Langtry's.  I’m really impressed, Sir,— that was a very brave thing to do.  As a matter of fact, I was just talking with Mr. Wainright about you, Sir.”

“It’s great to hear your voice again, too, Kevin.  Please, Kevin,— call me Casey.  No more of this ‘Mr. Longhorn’ and ‘Sir’ shit,— okay?  I’m just another cowboy.”   

I heard a chuckle on the other end of the phone.

“Thanks, Casey,— I’ll be happy to abide by your wishes, but you aren’t just another cowboy.”

“Good,— I’s wonder’n if’n you could help me with a little problem with Mr. Langtry’s medical billing.”

“Be happy to, Casey.  What can I do for you and Mr. Langtry?”  

I told Kevin what the problem was, and he agreed the doctor should be billing the company’s insurance carrier.  He had all the information, and said he would call the doctor’s office that morning and take care of it.  Kevin was quick and efficient.  He had everything straightened out before noon.  He sent a check to my granddad from the company reimbursing him for his out of pocket fees.  I gave Kevin the amount and told him I would have Cindy Claymore mail him the receipts.  O.C. brought them with him when he came to pick up my granddad in Chapel Creek.

Granddad didn’t have to use a penny of the money I gave O.C. for him and immediately returned my check.  I wanted him to keep it in case of an emergency, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  He got a check from the company within days.  Kevin took care of the whole thing, and had Curtis’ doctor bill the company directly.  Kevin took care of the paperwork for the insurance company.

I called the local florist, “The Flower Wrangler,” in Chapel Creek, a fine man, an award winning designer, Mr. Van Horn, and had him FTD a ‘thank you’ flower arrangement to Kevin for his help.  I had him send one to Cindy for her kindness as well.

Mr. Van Horn was introduced to me over the Fourth of July weekend at the sheriff’s barbeque.  Gip irreverently introduced him to me as  “The Carnation Cowboy.”  Fortunately, the man knew the sheriff well and had a great sense of humor.  Gip later confided in me, he had personal knowledge, “Mr. Van Horn could suck crome off’n a bumper hitch and whistle ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’ while doing it,— or him.”

Mr. Van Horn did all the “fly’er rustle’n” for the party.  The centerpiece for the main table was a fireworks display in itself.  Even though it was static, it just shouted at you, “Stars and Stripes Forever.”  One could almost hear Sousa’s stirring march and it made you want to start humming along. You know,— you’ve heard the part that goes, “Be kind to your webfooted friends, for a duck maybe somebody’s mother.”  I digress.  The centerpiece was, indeed, a veritable riot of red, white and blue;  an undeniable masterpiece of “fly’er wrangling.”  

Mr. Van Horn was a fine, well respected, business man in the community,— a wee bit free with his hands, but what the hell,— I’d never deny a cowboy as talented as him a chance to cop a good feel.  With all the fine looking cowboys around, I think Mr. Van Horn’s mind was on a little more than pushing posies that day.

He must have had a good time at the party, he had a fatuous grin on his face most of the time.  I noticed the knees on his Wranglers were filthy by the end of the day, and when I spoke with him I noticed a faint, tell-tale hint of cowboy come on his breath.  The toes on his cowboy boots were permanently bent up on the ends like he was an official member of the Lollypop Gang looking for a yellow brick road,  and he kept applying a lot of Chapstick to his lips.  I felt so sorry for him.  The poor man must have suffered from a dry skin condition.   

* * * * * * *

I pulled night duty the next week and had the boring adventure of keeping the cattle quiet.  Rance volunteered to ride nights with me. He and I would sing cowboy songs back and forth to each other.  I’d never heard my cousin sing before, but damned if he didn’t have a fine baritone cowboy singing voice.  He could’ve been a country and Western singer.  When tending cattle, you didn’t need to sing loud,— just loud enough to let the critters know you’re there looking out for them.

We were a long ways from sounding like the “Son’s of the Pioneers;” however, for a captive audience of cows, we harmonized pert-damn good on “Red River Valley.”

“I’ve punched me a lot of cows in my day, but them critters is one tough audience.”  Rance drolly allowed.

About all we got out of them was a couple of belches and one big fart.  Rance assured them there would be no encores.

“Seeing as how we ain’t got us no fat lady,— they’s shit out a’ luck,--- they's gotta' listen to us the rest of the night.  C'mon pod'na' let's us give 'em son's a' bitches our rendition of, "Homos On The Range."   I damn near fell off Big Red laughing at him.  Rance kept me laughing all night.

I called my dad a few times that week to talk with him.  I told him I was night riding the cattle, I planed to spend Thanksgiving with the sheriff and his family, but I was planning on coming home for two weeks at Christmas.  He was thrilled.

In no time the two weeks passed and it was time for another weekend off.  Rance decided to go into Chapel Creek with me for the weekend.  Rance knew Gip and his family well and renewed old friendships.  I told him I was planning on driving down to spend an evening with Curtis, O.C., Bubba and his boys.  We borrowed little Gip and Waddie Buck’s truck and drove down Friday evening. We had a great weekend together.  Rance ran into Bubba and met his boys at various rodeos, but he hadn’t seen O.C. and Curtis in years.  There was many tears shed that evening after we arrived.

To have Rance confirm everything I told my granddad was like a blessing to him.  Rance pulled a bunch of photos out of his wallet of Dwayne and Lamar, and a couple of me and my dad together.  Curtis and O.C. handled them like they were gold and wept as Rance told them of his reuniting with his boy after years of being kept away from him.  He didn’t go into the lurid details of the Colonel’s shenanigans with Dwayne,— I think he didn’t want to relive that part of getting back with his boy.  I could understand, I didn’t like to think about it either.

I talked some with my granddad, and his doctor told him he would release him to return to the ranch at the end of the month.  That was only two weeks away.  He expressed his appreciative for me taking care of his medical billing.  He was all ready saddling Socks and riding her for brief periods of time.  He didn’t want to overdo for her sake.  Socks told me, as far as she was concerned, she was completely healed. She said she’d fallen in love with Curtis and O.C.  I asked her if she wanted to go back to the Lazy 8 or stay with O.C.

“Are you kidding?” she replied, “Go back and have to stand around in the wet and cold every night when I got me a warm barn to snooze in with plenty of oats and hay? I don’t think so, cowboy,— but, thanks anyway.” she tossed off nonchalantly as she munched away at her oats.

I laughed with her and told her she didn’t have to go back if she didn’t want to. She was happy about that.  When I told the men over supper that evening they all laughed at what she said.  Granddad didn’t want her going back to the Lazy 8, and O.C. was happy to have her.  She had become somewhat of a legend in her own time.

Rance and I said our goodbyes and headed out for the airport for him to catch a flight back to San Diego.  We got to the airport, and I went with him  to see him off.  I asked him what flight he was taking, and he said it wasn’t a regularly scheduled flight.  He took me to a special terminal and there was a staff of folks waiting for him.  He was being flown back to San Diego in Sidney’s personal/company Lear Jet.  Rance had his own pilot, co-pilot and steward for the flight.  I was more than a little impressed. Not bad for a old rodeo cowboy.

I drove back to Chapel Creek and had a relaxed evening in the double ‘R.’  I went to church with my family the next morning and Gip took me and his boys into town to meet the truck from the Lazy 8 that afternoon.  I’d had two wonderful weeks with my cousin and good weekend with my other family.   I felt better about the future after talking with Rance. For a man who had the reputation of being a hot headed cowboy, my cousin, Rance, could have the most calming effect on me.  Maybe it was because as he grew older and came to know and appreciate his own self worth, he lost a lot of his fiery temper.  He felt sure he could talk some sense to my dad.  He didn’t think he’d be alone.  

* * * * * * *

Thanksgiving weekend came and the men who were going into town for the holiday got ready to leave for Chapel Creek.  The skeleton crew who volunteered to stay behind was Wade, Preacher, Jamie, Gabe, Sam, and Hawk.  They didn’t have families and wanted the extra money.  The sheriff told me to invite any of the men who wanted to come for Thanksgiving.  As far as food was concerned, Will burned a couple of birds for Thanksgiving dinner and two hams with all the trimmings, so it wasn’t like the crew wouldn’t eat well.  

It was one thing Sticker insisted on and I agreed with him.  If the cowboys were willing to work their butts off for what little pay they got, the company could at least afford to feed them well.  For all his humor and guff, Will was a damn good cook.  All the meals I ever ate at the ranch, Will never fixed a bad one, and it wasn’t like institutional food or military food either, where, after a while, you couldn’t bring yourself to look at it.

Will planned well balanced meals and had a wide variety of foods he knew how to cook to keep it interesting.  There were certain meals you could count on to be the same.  Breakfast was pretty much your basic ham, sausage, or bacon, eggs, hot cakes, toast and coffee.  Every once in a while he’d fix something I loved,— chipped beef on toast.  The other cowboys liked it, too, even though they irreverenty refered to it as 'shit on a shingle.'  There was never any left.

Every Friday evening was catfish.  No cowboy ever passed on Will’s catfish.  Wednesday evenings was Mexican food with enchiladas, make your own tacos, burritos, refried beans with goat cheese, salsa and tortillas.   I would eat so much I would be uncomfortable for hours, but it was so good.  Even the Mexican-Americans allowed Will got a good scald on his Mexican food.

My granddad, O.C. and Bubba came by the ranch to pick us up so Wade didn’t have to make the trip.  All the cowboys were glad to see their straw boss and told him he was looking really well and relaxed.  They congratulated him on finding out I was his grandson.  He told them the doctor released him to return the first of December and he would be at the ranch the Sunday before.  While they allowed Wade Mulligan was doing a good job in his absence, they were all looking forward to his return.  Curtis was please his men thought so much of him.  

We traveled directly to the ranch and everyone came out to greet us. I was thrilled to see two motorcycles I recognized parked by the barn.  Master Waddie and Mr. Titus rode back to spend Thanksgiving with the sheriff and his family.  I hugged and kissed Gip, Cindy, the two girls, then ran to Master Waddie’s open arms.  The big man spun me around, hugged and kissed me. Next, I was all over Titus, hugging and kissing him. I whispered to them how glad I was to see them and how pleased I was to see them together.

“So much for us.”  laughed the sheriff, winking at my granddad and O.C., “Look who gets the Lion’s share of our cowboy’s love.”

“Awh, you know better’n ‘nat, Sheriff.” I chastised Gip, “ H’i don’t gits to see them near as much.  Of course they gits a goodly portion of this cowboy’s love.”  They all laughed including my granddad and O.C.  They knew what Master Waddie meant to me. 

I invited O.C. and my granddad to stay in the double ‘R’ with me, but O.C. declined.  He said he’d bunk it in the barn.  He wanted to give me and Curtis our privacy; it might be a while before we could be together again.  I got the feeling there was more to it than that, but I didn’t push.  I took them by the hand to re-introduce them to Master Waddie and Titus as my granddad and Uncle O.C.   Neither men seemed surprised and later Master Waddie told me he suspected for years O.C. Harris was my granddad’s boy.
  Master Waddie and Titus told me they were happy to see me and my granddad together.  Gip told them all about our experiences.

I carried my granddad’s bag to the double ‘R’ as he walked with me.  He seemed really happy to be at Gip’s ranch and was looking forward to the holiday tomorrow.  It would be a long weekend for the cowboys. We had Thursday though Sunday evening away from the Lazy 8.  I was ready for it.  During the time you’re not rounding up cattle for one of the two big roundups every year, things could get pretty dull and routine.  You found yourself going out of your way to find something new to do to break the monotony. I was going to really miss my wonderful cousin who could keep me entertained for hours with his cowboy nonsense and stories.  He could tell some whoppers that would have me and Big Red laughing our ass’s off.  He could recite endless numbers of cowboy poems from memory.  Some were poignant, but others were fall-down-roll-on-the-floor funny.

We got to the double ‘R’ and I threw granddad’s bag in my bedroom.  I came back into the living area and took him in my arms.  We hugged and kissed.

“That’s a lot better.  It’s so good to see you again, Son.  O.C. laughed at me ever’ time he caught me check’n the calendar.  When we got up this morning, he caught me check’n my watch ever’ fifteen minutes.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have someone to love, care about and look forward to seeing.  I ain’t been so fortunate or happy in years.  I always had Ocie, but now even our relationship has changed.  After all these years, I finally invited him to my bed.”

“I’m so glad to hear that, Grandpa.”

“We talked before we left.  He didn’t wanna’ hurt chur’ feelings none by not staying in your coach with us.  He jes’ wanted us to be together this weekend.  He loves you as much as I do, Son.  I don’t wanna’ come between your relationship.   When I gits back to the ranch,  I’m gonna’ put Wade on my weekend off rotation, and I’m gonna’ take his.  You and me can see each other at the ranch and plan a weekend off together from time to time.  Wade’s flexible that way. I want you to be able to see O.C. when you want, without me always being around.  You two need to spend some time together.”

“Aww, Grandpa,— that’s thoughtful of you.  I’ll admit it might’ve been a bit awkward, but we would’ve worked it out somehow.  I’d jes’ set up my ‘take-a-number’ machine outside my bedroom.”  we shared a laugh.

“I got chore' number, cowboy,--- the only number you be a' need'n this weekend.”  he said laughing at me and grabbed his crotch.

“Grampa!  Really!” I tried to sound indignant, “And,— it certainly is a  'nice' number, I might add.”  I stated, laughing.  He roared with laughter.  It was good to see my granddad developing a sense of humor and feeling comfortable enough to joke with me.

* * * * * * *

Thanksgiving day was wonderful.  It was like a dream come true.  I was surrounded by family and friends I loved.  I missed my family back home, but these folks had become part of my extended family.  To me, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about; enjoying the day with family and friends. Everyone ate too much.  I wanted to take a nap after dinner; however, it turned out to be a warm sunny day and the sheriff and his boys wanted to rodeo; so did Bubba and his boys.  

Bubba pulled his big, four pony trailer behind his truck and brought his and his boys ponies.  He had room for one more and they just happened to bring Socks.  She was beside herself to get to come to visit Casey and his owner.  She took one look at Rocky and looked me right in the eyes,

<< Damn, Casey,— yore’ right,— he is purttier’n me. >>

I almost laughed my ass off at her.  I told my granddad and O.C. what she said and got them laughing, too.  Granddad saddled her up to rodeo with him.  She wasn’t a trained roping pony, but she told me to let her watch for a spell, and she probably could get the hang of it.  She watched about five or six runs and told me she was ready to try.  Everyone was calling for Curtis and me to rope.  I put it off so Socks could watch what was going on.

The first time out of the stocks she performed perfectly and granddad and my time became the best of the day to that point.  The other cowboys laughed and just shook their heads.  Then, O.C. and I made a run and it was almost as good.  Next, Master Waddie and I made a run and it beat granddad’s and my time.  The other cowboys were hooting and hollering at us making little snide comments.  We just ignored them.

“Pay no attention to ‘um, Son.  They’s jes’ jealous ‘cause we still got it.”  Master Waddie said to me.

“We ain’t never lost it, Sir.”  I smiled and winked at him.

“I need to talk with you alone sometime later today.  Sid Wainright asked me to.  H'it’s about a dinner party Titus and I was invited to attend at Sid and Sticker’s.”

Master Waddie didn’t elaborate.  I knew he would tell me what I needed to know, but I couldn’t help being curious.  I had a feeling it was about my dad.  That evening before supper, I excused myself from my granddad and O.C.  I told them Master Waddie had some news from home he wanted to talk with me about in private.  I found him and Titus at a picnic table having a cup of coffee.  I didn’t care if Mr. Titus was there to listen,— hell, he was my brother.

“Son, we went to Sid and Sticker’s for dinner last Friday night. Our sheriff, Lee Bard, was there with his wife and so was Spencer Winchester and his wife, Donna. Frank Mayhew and his partner Curley and yore’ dad’s two hands Bodey and Flynn were there.  Your cousins, Rance and Dwayne, Sid’s boy Logan and yore’ dad was there, too.

We had a fine dinner and was sitting around afterwards talking.  Mrs. Winchester and the sheriff’s wife went off into another part of the house to have coffee and left the men alone.   We must a’ sat t’ere for an hour or more having after dinner drinks and coffee.  We talked about many things and team rope'n came up.  Your daddy told me he remembered going up against me and my brother, Gip Justin, with his daddy and little brother years ago.  I told him I remembered him, too, but since running into him out in California under a new name, I didn’t push to get reacquainted with him.  I figured he had his reasons for want’n to be incognito.

Master Waddie went on to relate the conversation to me, with an occasional reminder from his handsome new mate.  (Master Waddie and Titus hadn’t had their bonding ceremony yet.  They were going to wait a full year before they announced to their family Master Waddie was claiming Titus for his slave.)

* * * * * * *

Master Waddie’s Story

“I appreciate you keep’n my secret, Waddie.”  Vince said to me, “I didn’t tell my boy until he was eighteen about my past or his lineage.  Now,— I wish’t ta’ God I never done it.”

“How’s ‘zat?”  I asked him.

“He ain’t fool’n me none.  I know’d he went back to Texas to find his granddaddy.  He told me he ran into you by accident in Tucson.”

“Well, it was and it weren’t.  Casey thought it was an accident.  H’it was an accident we ran into him at a gas station on the outskirts of Tucson, but Sid, Sticker and the sheriff, here, done asked me to keep an eye out for him.  I invited him to stay with us at our friend’s, Dan Yates and Billy Gunn’s ranch, ‘The Broken Arrow.’  H’it’s about ten miles South of town.”

“Not THE Billy Gunn, world champion roper?”  Vince asked me.

“Yes, Sir,— the very same.  Him and his Master are still pert-damn good, too.”  I replied.

Yore’ dad looked surprised and shook his head.  I went on to tell him about you staying with us that weekend. I didn’t tell ‘em nothing ‘bout you’n me, but yore’ daddy ain’t no dummy, Son.  He done figured 'at one out for his-self.

“You have a fine, Son, Mr. Longhorn.” I told him, ‘I’m right proud to have met Casey and rodeoed with him. He means a lot to me and Titus. He done something for me what turned my life around.  I wouldn’t have this man by my side right now if’n if weren’t for yore’ boy, Sir.

Casey confided to us at the ‘Broken Arrow’ he was look’n for his granddaddy.  Dan Yates recalled a man with the same color eyes as Casey's visiting his ranch and riding with our family a number of years ago.  Dan jogged Titus’ and my memory.  We remembered him, too, as a fine looking middle aged cowboy who was good with a rope.  He rode with our family several years and then suddenly disappeared.   We ain’t seen nor heard nothing from him in ten,— maybe fifteen years.”

I told Casey I didn’t know if’n the man I knew was his granddad, but my boy was sheriff of our county, and he’d know about him if anyone would. After Casey and I won the Tucson rodeo, h’it jes’ seemed natural to invite him to rodeo with us in my hometown of Chapel Creek for the Fourth of July.  I invited him to stay at my son’s ranch with us.  I’m afraid my boy and his family done went and adopted yore’ boy.”  I laughed, “He’n his boys think the world of Casey,— and his wife, Cindy, thinks yore’ boy sets the stars out at night.”

Vince  mused for a minute, then thanked me for looking out after his boy.   

“Casey’n me won my hometown rodeo, too, but then, me and my biker family had to take off for our run to Key West, Florida.”

There was a long silence.  Sticker picked up after me.

“Several of the cowboys from the Lazy 8 were at the Chapel Creek rodeo with our foreman and saw Casey and Waddie rope.  My foreman offered him a job.  Casey told him he couldn’t because he promised the sheriff, Gip Claymore, he’d work for him for a spell.  Gip told Casey he only needed him full-time for a couple of months.  After that, he could go to work for the Lazy 8 if’n he wanted to.”

“You mean he’s been work’n for you at the Lazy 8 all this time?  He told me he’s been working for the sheriff in Chapel Creek.”

“He didn’t lie to you, Vince,— he worked for Gip for two months then went to work for the Lazy 8 the first of September.  He left his coach and pony at the sheriff’s ranch.  He gits ever’ other weekend off, and he stays at the ranch and works for Gip.  He’s become like family to them folks.  They think on him as another son.  They been damn good to Casey and he loves them, too.”

“Oh, dear Lord.  I have a feel’n you men are try’n to tell me something I don’t wanna’ hear.”

“Maybe so, Vince, but the reason we’re tell’n you is,— not to be meanspirited,— but because we love you and Casey.”  added Sidney. “We think you ought a’ hear this from us.”

“Do you know what they’s gonna’ tell me, Son?”  Vince turned to Logan.

“Yes, Sir,— pretty much, Mr. Longhorn.  I didn’t say nothing to you for fear of upsetting you.  You know I wouldn’t betray you or my brother, Sir,  but I know you can appreciate how it done put me in one hell of an awkward position.”

“I ain’t blam’n you none, Son.  You been too damn good to me, and I love you too damn much to get all jacked out a’ shape over some’um like ‘at. I do appreciate your loyalty to me and your brother.  So,— he’s run into his granddaddy,— am I right?”  Vince asked all the men gathered.

“Yore’ daddy’s been the foreman of the Lazy 8 for almost twelve years now.’  said Sticker quietly, “Curtis come to our old friend Will Shott, and asked if he could git ‘em a job cowboy’n for the Lazy 8. He’d been a biker bum,— no offense, Waddie and Titus,— for a number of years,— got his heart broke by some young biker jes’ back from Nam, and didn’t wanna’ be a biker no more. I hired him on as jes’ another cowhand.  I wasn’t happy with the foreman we had, and after several months, I asked Curtis if’n he thought he could handle the job.  He said ‘yes,’ I fired the other man and promoted yore’ daddy to straw boss. One of the smartest decisions I ever made.  He’s worked for us ever since.

I done hired him on as a cowboy twelve years ago before we knew anything about him being yore’ dad.  I always thought it was a coincidence Curtis had the same color eyes as Casey, but Sid and me,— we ain’t never put two and two together. The night you told Sid and me your other name we damn near shit our pants.  I told Casey you could a’ scraped us up off’n the floor with a butter knife.

Sid and I didn’t say nothing to you, because we had a fine, trustworthy employee who jes’ happened to be the dad and granddad of two of our closest friends.  We didn’t wanna’ stir up no shit.  I didn’t really know fer sure if Curtis was his granddad until Casey confirmed it for me the second day of the roundup.”

Vince hung his head and looked down at his lap in despair.  Sticker looked at Sidney for him to pick up the story.

‘Vince,— like you, I had an idea what Casey was up to, but I found out some things I didn’t even tell Sticker about.  There was a couple of  reasons I didn’t.  First of all, brother,— h’it ain’t none a’ our business how you feel about your dad;  however, for Casey’s sake, I think you should hear us out. Yore’ daddy ain’t the man he used to be.  Waddie,— you wanna’ take it from here?”  Sidney asked me.

“Mr. Longhorn, Sir,— I can remember when yore’ daddy rode with us he went by the name, Job.  Most bikers went by some other name until they got to know you;  however, I don’t think I ever learned your dad’s real name.  He told me he took the name from the biblical character who suffered so much.  He said the only difference was, Job was innocent and suffered greatly as a test of his faithfulness, while yore’ dad told me he was guilty and deserved any pain he was suffering.

He and I hit it off pretty well.  I’d been back from Nam for a while, but I was still eaten up with grief from the loss of my brother, Gip Justin.  Yore’ dad wanted to know what it was like over there, and I told him some stories.  In turn, he shared some of his pain with me. Job or Mr. Langtry said he suffered because of his own pride, arrogance and stupidity.  He told me about losing his two sons in Vietnam, how he alienated them before they went, and he never had a chance to set it right with them.  Since that time, he turned his back on organized religion and reverted to the sensibilities and ideals of the ‘cowboy way.’

He knew the rules of our family which were approximately the same as the cowboy way.  He agreed to abide by them to ride with us, but he was fully aware what was going on within our group.  It was spelled out to him in no uncertain terms by our founder, Beryl Mc Innis, before he was allowed to ride with us.  Aside from me and a handful of our family members he liked, Curtis would rarely let a man git close enough to him to offer him any comfort; however,— once in a while, he did.  Talk gits around, and it was rumored he was always oral passive, but never offered much in return; until, he met my younger cowboy brother, Cassidy Crenshaw.

Because Cass had his face half blown off in Nam and was so disfigured, he went by the name of ‘Mutt.’  Mutt was caught up in the clutches of a, meanspirited, bad-ass outlaw biker named Spider, and agreed to be his slave.  Spider would offer Mutt his affection only to get drunk, beat him up, use him, then, totally reject him. Mutt was like a yo-yo to him.  When Spider needed some comfort, he’d snap is fingers and Mutt was there to service him without any questions.

One of the many times Mutt tried to pull away from Spider, he met yore’ dad, spent a couple of weeks with him, they bonded,  and Curtis fell very much in love with him.  His heart went out to my little brother.  Mutt was the first man Curtis allowed himself to completely give himself to after he became a biker.  He begged Mutt to become his slave. Curtis told him he would protect him from the outlaw biker and treat him with the love and respect he deserved; however, Mutt was too deeply involved with the bad biker and ultimately walked away from yore’ dad to return to the man.  Mutt almost died as a result of his decision, but Curtis never knew.  He was so devastated he left our family group, and no one heard from him again.”  

I paused for a moment not knowing were to go from there.  Fortunately, Sticker picked up the story.

“There are bits and pieces that have only recently come to light as a result of something what happen at the Lazy 8 during the last roundup; however, I’m getting ahead of myself.  At the Fourth of July rodeo in Chapel Creek,  Casey met up with an old buddy of yours and your brother.  He and his boys, Vincent and Seth Quee Swansey,  were staying the weekend with the sheriff and his family."  Yore' daddy eyes looked like they's gonna' pop out a' his head.  "Yes, Sir, — Bubba done named his boys after his beloved brothers he lost in Nam."

I had to stop for a moment,---- yore' dad started crying he was so touched. 
I hit chore' daddy pretty hard to hear Bubba done went and named his boys after him and his little brother. Finally, he got himself together.

“My God,— Sweet Jesus,--- Bubba’s got two boys?"  Vince shook his head, "And he named ‘em after me and my little brother?  I’ll be damned,— old Bubba.  God I loved that man."  he smiled, wiping away another tear with the back of his hand, and shook his head. "I’ve wondered all these years if Bubba was still alive; if’n he made it back from Nam.  I never knew.  I never tried to look him up or contact him for obvious reasons.  I broke all ties with folks back there after Nam."

“Bubba didn’t know until Casey come along you was still alive.  Casey bonded so tight with them three, you couldn’t pry ‘em apart with a twenty mule team.  Bubba and his boys always help out at the Lazy 8 ever’ year come roundup time.”  said Sticker,  “They’s with us this year the last two weeks of September.  His boys is still working at the ranch.  We had some unexpected trouble, and we found ourselves short on cowboys; so, they decided to stay on, help us out, and work for a while until we can get some new hands.

Bubba bought your dad’s ranch when Curtis gave up everything and hit the road to become a biker.  Bubba invited Casey down for a weekend to see the old place and introduced him to one of his neighbors, O.C. Harris.  Casey and him bonded and they was thick as thieves come roundup time.  They was two of the best cowboys we had. They rode together the whole time.  Thank the good Lord, they did.  All this time yore’ daddy didn’t know Casey was his grandson.  Casey wore them blue contact lenses of his.  Curtis knew he liked Casey and thought enough of his cowboy skills to offer him a job, but beyond that he knew little else.  Of the folks who knew,— no one said nothing,--- they's all protective of Casey.”  

“Gees,— O.C. Harris.  He was my little brother’s best bud.  They was all the time together.  I’ve wondered what happened to him, too.  Me, Bubba, Rance and Seth loved our little buddy. The four of us was all the time together git'n our ass's into trouble.   He was the nicest kid, and Bubba and I,--- we played us some pert-damn awful tricks on him.
  He probably ain’t so little no more.

“From what I hear’d, O.C. didn’t think they was so bad.”  Sticker laughed. “He married and had two beautiful girls.  They’re grown and have families of their own.   O.C. don’t see ‘em too much.  He’s pretty much alone, so when Casey come along look’n for all the world like his bonded brother, he had to know about him.  Are you aware your son has developed some talents similar to our boy sitting next to you?”

Your daddy looked at your little brother who didn’t return his gaze.

“H’it turns out your boy learned a lot from his little brother, and a big bear of a man at the ranch in Tucson helped him learn about his gifts.  Casey has spirits of the departed come to him for help sometimes.  Your younger brother, Seth, come to him because he needed help.  Griz, the big man in Tucson, done told Casey to have everyone pray for Seth Quee. Griz said he hadn’t crossed over, and was suspended between here and the hereafter.  We all been a' pray’n for him and jes' like Griz told us,  Seth done gained enough strength to do what needed to be done to atone for his sins so they would allow him to cross over.”
Sticker went on to tell yore’ daddy about you and O.C.’s experience with Seth Quee and him begging his mate's  forgiveness.  Sticker told yore’ daddy how you was a hero and risked your own life to save yore’ granddad’s.  Vince was in tears, sobbing in yore’ little brother’s arms, but he didn’t try to stop Sticker from telling him everything.  When Sticker done told Vince about Curtis’ relationship with Tom Harris and O.C. was his half brother, yore’ daddy  really broke up.  Your little brother had his arm around him trying to comfort him as best he could.  

Sid told Vince about your experience with your granddad and Seth Quee and how they set things right between them; how they forgave each other, made love and Seth departed with two angels and Tom Harris.  Sid told Vince how you finally revealed yourself to yore’ granddad.  Your dad sat there for a while not knowing what to say.  He was even more amazed when your little brother admitted helping Casey,  and Sheriff Bard done told ‘em he was the one what contacted Lamar.  Sheriff Bard told Vince he’s been in contact with Sheriff Claymore in Chapel Creek for sometime now and been keeping tabs on Casey.  Sheriff Bard told Vince him and Sheriff Claymore's been friends for years.

Vince looked like he’d been ganged up on and beaten half to death.  We all felt sorry for him.  I told Titus h’it probably would a’ been easier on him if’n we had jes’ beat him up.  It was all too much for him at the moment. He couldn’t feel betrayed by the men because, they all went out of their way to see to his boy’s well being.  It was like you, Logan and Dwayne were actually adopted by the larger community of the men in that room.  I don’t think yore’ daddy wondered about it too much.   After all them men went through together with Dwayne and his step-dad,  Vince couldn't be pissed at 'em. Finally yore’ Cousin Rance spoke up and urged his brother to consider what we’d told him.  He’d been aware of many of the things they were telling him.”

“I know’d for sometime now Casey and Dwayne were developing gifts like their little brother.”  Rance told him.

Dwayne looked at his dad in surprise.

“Yeah,— you been try’n to hide it from me, but you gotta’ go a long way to keep some’um like ‘at from your old man, Son."  We all laughed. “You always seem to know jes’ what yore’ mate’s doing, and I know the way you squeezes a nickel ‘til the buffalo shits,  you ain't been talk'n with him that much on the phone.  Shore’ has cut down on our long distant charges though.”  Rance laughed.

“There’s one other thing you need to know, Vince.”  said Sid.  “There was more than a curiosity about his granddad or wanting to play cowboy what made Casey wanna’ go to work for the Lazy 8.  Unbeknownst to us, our three boys formed a corporation and bought a third interest in the ranch; however, all the stocks are owned and controlled by your boy.”

“What?  How’d that happen?”  Vince looked shocked and amazed.

“Remember me’n Casey telling you about us think’n on buy’n some stock in a large ranch.”  your little brother asked him.

“Yeah,— ya’ll asked me if’n I wanted to put some money into it, and I said ‘no.’  You tell’n me the ranch was the Lazy 8?”

“Yes, Sir, Mr. Longhorn.  Casey had the money just sit’n around gaining minimal amount of interest, so my brother and I urged him to buy all the shares of public stock my dad and Sticker were offer’n.   He did and we formed a corporation, Hensly Agrocon, Inc.  We made an anagram of Casey’s first and last name and that’s what we come up with.  Casey’s president, Dwayne’s vice-president and I’m secretary.”

“Holy crap!  My boy owns a third interest in the Lazy 8?  What else have you men got to tell me?”

“‘At’s about it, Vince.”  Sid smiled at him. “Hell,— ain’t that enough?” he laughed.  Everyone laughed.

“So basically,— what chur’ tell’n me is,— my old man is work’n for his grandson?”  

“‘At’s right.”  said Sticker.

* * * * * * *

Your Cousin Rance was quite most of the time we was talking with yore’ daddy, Son.  I guess h’it weren’t no secret he’d been out to the Lazy 8 for a couple of weeks checking on things for Sticker and Sid.  You’re dad looked at him and spoke,

“I guess you learned everything while you was out to the ranch,— huh, cousin?”

“A little here,— a little there,— yeah, brother, I learned a lot from Will and Casey.  H’it ain’t what chu’ think though, Vince.  I didn’t git to see Bubba, his boys, Curtis or O.C. ‘cep’n the last weekend I was there. I spent most of the time in the saddle punch’n cows with Casey.  We talked a lot.  He filled me in on a lot a’ things, and he’s concerned.  He loves you more’n any person on this Earth, Vince, but he’s fallen in love with his granddad as well.  He feels guilty about not obeying you to the letter, but he had to see for himself, Vince.”

* * * * * * *

Master Waddie went on to say the men talked for another couple of hours, and my dad felt better by the end of the evening.  He thanked  the men for their honesty, but they assured him they hadn’t betrayed my confidence.  After my first weekend with my granddad in the double ‘R,’ I told Will he could tell Sticker and Sidney they could tell my dad if they wanted to.  He would have to be told eventually, and Griz suggested it might be easier coming from his peers rather than his son. It also might act as a buffer for my planned trip home at Christmas.

We talked about a few more things. I thanked Master Waddie and Titus and returned to my granddad and O.C.  They were curious what Master Waddie had to talk with me about, but they were polite and didn’t push.  The time we were apart, my granddad told O.C. about my third interest in the Lazy 8.  I asked Curtis how he reacted and he said O.C. fell out laughing.  He told Curtis,  he knew me well enough by now that nothing would surprise him about me.

I had another wonderful, relaxed weekend with my granddad.  O.C. was with us most of the day and we rodeoed a lot.  Curtis looked like he was doing fine in the saddle; although, toward the end of the day, I could tell his hip was giving him some problems.  Socks confirmed it.  She could feel him favoring his right side over his left.  She was a bit concerned for him as well;  however, I didn’t foresee any problems with him coming back to the ranch by the first of December.  Until he fully recovered he might have to put in less than a full day in the saddle for a while.  No one would fault him for that; however, I knew the kind of man my granddad was, he would push himself to the limit.  Maybe, me being there to remind him to take it easy until he fully recovered was a good thing.

That Saturday night I told Curtis about what Master Waddie told me.

“I wanted to tell you, Granddad, because I don’t want there to be any secrets between us.  I’m glad my dad knows.  I’m glad it’s out in the open.  I don’t like having to keep secrets from the man I love most in my life.  I don’t know what will happen, but I ain’t too worried about it.  I’m comfortable with my love for my dad, and I know he won’t go doing some’um crazy.  I jes’ hate to leave you know’n you’ll be at the ranch by yourself for Christmas.”

“Don’t chu’ worry none, cowboy.  I won’t be alone.  I’ll have any number of cowboys around and O.C.’s planning on stopping by on his way back from visiting his daughters.  He’s planning on having supper with us Christmas day.  I wonder how Vince might feel about a letter from me?”

“What could it hurt, Grampa?  He can either read it or not.  If’n he don’t, then you made the effort.  I think I know my dad well enough, he ain’t gonna’ turn his head the other way.  I know him to be a man of compassion.  He’d have to be to put up with me all these years.”  I laughed.

“I can only imagine what a joy you must be to him.  I know he must miss you terribly.  I know how much I’ll miss you over the holiday, but I want chu’ to go home.  I think you need to be with your dad this Christmas. You may look like my youngest boy, but you have yore’ daddy’s strong, good heart, Son. Vince was so much like you about chur’ age.”

* * * * * * *

We all went to Church with the Claymore family the next day, and it was time for granddad, Bubba, and O.C. to leave and return home.  They took Socks back with them and there was more sad goodbyes.  I knew my granddad would be returning to the ranch in a matter of days, but I would miss him for the short time we were apart.  I had time to talk with O.C. over the holiday and he was looking forward to a weekend with me before I went home for Christmas.  I told him I loved him, and I was looking forward to us getting together.

The sheriff drove the cowboys into town to meet the ranch truck.  Again there was sad goodbyes from the sheriff and Cindy.  Little Gip, Waddie Buck, Vince, Seth Quee and the other young cowboys decided to work at the ranch until after the spring roundup, then they would decided whether they wanted to continue working there after that.  By that time, Curtis and Wade was hoping to find some more hands.  I had my doubts about the boys working much longer than that.  Even though Bubba and Gip told me they thought it was a wonderful experience for their boys,  I could see in the two big men’s eyes it was tearing their hearts out every time they had to say goodbye to them.

* * * * * * *

The weather let up a little bit and we were enjoying some warmer days.  The nights were still cold, but the days were better.  Curtis came back to work that following Sunday evening and everyone was there to greet him and welcome him back.  We didn’t have any problems working together.  It might have been different if I was a total stranger who had an interest in the Lazy 8, but I think being his grandson sort of cancelled it out in his mind.  Being his family was foremost in his mind, and we worked together like peas and carrots.

For the first week, he would have to break from work early and get out of the saddle for a while, but Wade and the other cowboys covered for him.  They were all good men.  They understood it was going to take him a while to get back to his old self again.  It didn’t take him long.  By the time it was time for me to leave to return to California, he was putting in full days.  He wasn’t back up to a hundred percent, but he was able to stay in the saddle all day.

I had one weekend off and O.C. came up to Chapel Creek and spent it with me in the double ‘R.’  It rained that weekend as well and we hardly got out of bed except to clean up and  go to the big house for meals.  It was just what we needed.  A laid back weekend with each other.  Laying in O.C.’s arms was almost like being back home with my dad.  I had the same easy feelings for O.C. as I did my dad.  O.C. was really getting into the boot ritual and enjoyed it almost as much as I did.

I guess my granddad was right.  He and I spent a lot of quality time together on the ranch.  On my suggestion, he moved into my tee-pee with me, and I had him all to myself every night.  We couldn’t do a lot because of the situation and the cold weather, but that didn’t matter to us.  We had each other.  There was no more secrets between us, and we could talk openly about our hopes and dreams for the future.  He wrote a beautiful letter to my dad and I promised I’d take it to him when I went home for Christmas.

“Are you worried, Grampa?”

“No, Son.  I’ll accept anything yore’ daddy allows.  If’n he don’t wanna’ have nothing to do with me,— at least I know he’s still alive,— God’s given me a chance to try’n set it right with him, but the rest is up to him.  I wouldn’t blame him none if’n he don’t wanna’ have nothing to do with me.  I’ll always be his dad, and he will always be my son, but that’s only a biological thing.  A father’s suppose to love his son and a son’s suppose to love his father, but quite often that ain’t the way it is.  Sometimes things go haywire.  Two men may share the same blood, but they don’t share the same idea of love.  For us to know each other again will mean we have to start from scratch.  He’ll have to learn to love another man as his dad from what I was back then.  I’ll have to learn to love the man he’s become.  I’m sure it’ud be easier for me than it would for Vince.  No matter how it turns out,  I’ll still have you, Casey.”

“I told ju’ it didn’t make me no never mind what my daddy decides, Grampa, I won’t stop loving you or being your grandson; however, I ain’t a’ gonna’ stop loving my dad, neither, if’n he cain’t bring himself to forgive you. It may take some time, Grampa.”  

* * * * * * *

The following Friday after my weekend with O.C. I was leaving the ranch to fly home.   I said a tearful goodbyes to my granddad and rode into Chapel Creek with the other cowboys who had the holiday off.  The sheriff invited any of the men at the Lazy 8 who had the weekend off, to spend Christmas on his ranch with his family and friends.  Brett and Curt took him up on his offer.

I got to spend another wonderful afternoon with Gip at the sheriff's station.  Afterwards, he and I drove out to his ranch.  Gip was going to take me to the small airport in Chapel Creek the next morning,  where they had air shuttles to the main airports out of Texas.  I was going to fly into El Paso and catch a commercial jet from there.  I had my seat reserved for a month or more.  Saturday morning, Gip, little Gip, Waddie Buck, Brett and Curt took me to the small airstrip in Chapel Creek.  I’d already said some tearful goodbyes to Cindy and the girls and now I had to say goodbye to the sheriff and my cowboy brothers.  I didn’t realize, until that moment, how much they had come to mean to me.  I wished them all a Merry Christmas and told them I’d see them the day after New Years.  
It was a short flight to El Paso.  I went to the airline ticket counter to purchase my ticket.  Since it was the weekend before Christmas the terminals were packed with folks, and it was a long wait. There were several people ahead of me.  Directly in front of me was a big, fine looking man, a cowboy, with a young boy about five years old.  He wasn’t just a drugstore cowboy, either.  I could tell by the way he dressed he was a buckaroo.  After you’ve been around cowboys for as long as I have, you can tell in a minute who’s real and who’s a poser.

The big man was desperately trying to get him and his boy tickets to Los Angeles.  This was the fourth line he'd stood in with his boy in six hours of waiting.  I overheard him explain to the ticket lady he had to get his boy to the Children’s Hospital.  The boy had something wrong with him, and the doctors in Los Angeles could take care of him, but they had to be there by Monday.  The ticket agent was sympathetic with him; however, she firmly assured him, there were no tickets to be had.  They were completely booked and had been for a couple of weeks.  She told the cowboy there may be cancellations, but they’d have to wait, standby, and take their chances. It might mean sitting for hours until she could get two cancellations on one flight.  He asked if he could carry his son and buy one ticket.  She carefully explained, since his boy wasn’t under one year old, he had to have a ticket. It was FAA rules.

She took the cowboy’s name and told him and his boy to have a seat,— she would notify them the minute she had any cancellations.  The big cowboy picked up his little boy and walked away like his world was coming to an end.  I felt bad for them, but I didn’t know what I could do. I said a small prayer for a miracle for them.  I stepped up next, and gave the lady my name.  She put my name into her computer, then smiled at me real big.

“Ah, yes,— Mr. Longhorn.  You won’t be flying with us.  Good! That will release one seat for the man who was just in front of you.” She saw the puzzled look on my face. “Just one moment, Sir.”  She picked up a phone and spoke to someone.

“If you’ll have a seat right over there, Sir, a gentleman will be with you in a few minutes to take you to your flight.  He’s on his way.”

I didn’t know what to think, but I did as I was told. I went over and sat down next to the cowboy and his little buckaroo.  He looked like a miniature version of his dad from his little hat to his boots. He looked at me and smiled. The next thing I knew, he was up in my lap, and I was holding him.

“He never met a cowboy he didn’t like. Takes after his old man, I suppose.”  his dad told me.  We share a laugh.  “His dad’s a cowboy so he thinks every man in cowboy clothes has to be like his daddy.  My name’s Bart Conners,— this here’s  ma’boy, Brent.”

I stuck out my free hand to shake his.  Bart Conners was a big, handsome cowboy.  He stood about six four and outweighed me by a good fifty pounds of solid beef.  He was only a little older than I, and had platinum blonde hair that stuck out in tufts, rings and curls from beneath his huge black Stetson hat.  His boy’s hair was the same color.  They both had bright blue eyes.

“I’m Casey Longhorn, Mr. Conners.  Good to meet chu’ folks.”

“You can’t git a ticket either, Mr. Longhorn?”

“I don’t know what’s happening, Mr. Conners.  She didn’t tell me nothing but to have a seat,— someone would be with me in a minute.”

“Call me, Bart, Mr. Longhorn.”  

“Same here, Bart,— call me, Casey.  ‘Mister’ Longhorn’s my daddy.”  I laughed.

We talked, and I found out Bart Conners was a working cowboy who hadn’t had a job in a while and was living with his dad and mom.  His wife died last year and suffered a prolonged illness which lasted almost three years.  Young Brent had to watch his mother die.  It was all Bart could do to keep life and limb together much less work a regular job.  Things had gone from bad to worse when they discovered his boy had a rare heart problem and needed an emergency operation.  Not having a lot of money he turned to the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles to see if they could help his son.  They agreed, but called him suddenly, telling him he had to be in Los Angeles at the hospital with his boy the day after tomorrow.  The small community they were from, next to Chapel Creek, took up a collection to get him and his boy to Los Angeles; however, it wasn’t even enough for a round trip.  He was hoping to get work in L.A. while his boy was in the hospital to pay for their return trip.  

When he discovered I was friends with the sheriff of the county, and I worked for the Lazy 8 we began to talk ‘cowboy.’  He said he really needed a job bad.  He was still paying off his wife’s funeral expenses.  He remembered seeing me and Waddie Claymore rope in the Chapel Creek rodeo.  He was amazed we were meeting in an airport in El Paso. I can’t say’s I wasn’t a bit amazed myself.  It soon became perfectly clear to me why.  We didn’t meet just by chance.  It was meant to be. I became a part of the miracle I just prayed for.

Pretty soon a fine looking young man in a nondescript uniform, driving a small electric cart, pulled up in front of us, stopped and addressed me.

“Mr. Longhorn?”

“Yes, Sir,— I’m Casey Longhorn.”  I replied.

“Here,— let me help you with your bag.  We have a plane waiting for you, Sir.”

“A plane,— for me?  I don’t understand.”

He laughed, “Mr. Wainright sent his personal jet to pick you up, Mr. Longhorn.  He said to tell you a corporate executive shouldn’t have to be flying commercial airlines, Sir.”  then he chuckled again.

‘What corporate executive?’  I thought to myself.  No wonder the man was laughing.  Here I was dressed for all the world like a brown dirt cowboy, down to my buckaroo boots.  Bart Connors looked at me and raised an eyebrow like I’d just hit the jackpot in Vegas.

“Gee, thanks,— huh,— ?”  I said.

“Sorry, Mr. Longhorn,— name’s Jeremy,— Jeremy Lyons.  I’ll be your steward for your flight.  We have a nice meal prepared for you, and your choice of several movies to watch if you wish.”

“Uhh, Mr. Lyons,— is there room for two more folks on Mr. Wainright’s plane.”

“Sure,— plenty of room.  It seats twenty.”

“Bart,— would you, and my buckaroo buddy, here, like to fly to San Diego with me on a private jet.  H’it’s only a hundred miles up to L.A. from San Diego, and I promise I’ll see to it you get to the Amtrak station to catch the train into L.A.  H’it’s only about twenty bucks per person for the train, but I think kids is free or half fare.  It’ud be a lot cheaper than plane tickets to L.A.”

“Are you sure it’ud be all right, Casey?”  he asked me.

“Perfectly all right, Sir.”  Jeremy spoke up.  “Here,— let me put your bag on back and climb in behind us.”

“We’d be much obliged, Casey.  We’d be happy to pay you a fare.”

“Not necessary, Sir.”  Jeremy came to my rescue again, “If Mr. Longhorn wants to take you to San Diego with him,— it’s his call.  You’re his friends, and there will be no charge.”

“Son of a bitch!” Bart exclaimed, “Sorry.”  he caught himself, “‘At’s awful damn nice a’ you, Casey.”  the big cowboy said to me almost in tears.

“Aww, hell, Bart,— us buckaroo’s gotta’ stick together.  Ain’t ‘tat right, cowboy?”  I asked my little buddy.  He smiled real big.  “Yore’ daddy teach’n you the ‘cowboy way,’ Son?”  I asked him.

“Yes, Sir.”  He answered softly.  I stole a kiss from him and laughed.  

Bart got in back, and I got in the front next to Jeremy with my new, buckaroo buddy in my lap.  Brent was in awe, his new cowboy buddy was going to take him up in a private jet.  Brent’s dad was no less in awe.  To tell the truth, so was Casey Longhorn.

We arrived at a separate terminal and Jeremy ushered us on board the same jet that flew Cousin Rance back to California.  It was really plush inside and comfortable.  Jeremy was right, it would sit about twenty people comfortably, but we were the only folks on board.  The Captain and Co-Captain came on board, introduced themselves to us and went to the cockpit to get underway.  Jeremy told us to fasten our seat belts, and he would see to us after we were in the air.

I couldn’t believe it.  This was too much.  What a nice surprise.  I never expected Mr. Wainright to send his private jet for me. My prayer was answered.  ‘Does God know what we need before we ask him?’ I wondered.

I sat my little buddy between his dad and I and strapped him in.  It took little time and we were airborne.  Jeremy joined us and told us we could relax and unbuckle our seat belts.  I was surprised when he told me he had enough food for everyone.  I was ready to give my meal up to Bart and Brent, but Jeremy told me they always carried extra food.  That wasn’t all, we had our choice of three different entrees.  He served us a fine meal and fed the pilots as well.  We moved to a table in the small cabin that had for chairs around it.  Brent sat next to his dad.  Bart tried to get him to eat, but he didn’t seem too interested.  He was too excited being in an airplane for his first time.  Bart confided it was his first time to fly.  He laughed when I told him it was my first flight.  

While Brent was excited about the trip, he didn’t seem to have the stamina of a normal five year old boy. He was thin and pale.  There was little color in his face, and his skin had a bluish tent to it; not the normal healthy reddish-pink of a normal child.  The least little thing he did seemed to sap him of his energy.  He would have to stop and rest for a while and then try again.  He was very lethargic.  He picked at his food and ate a few bites, but he didn’t seem to be too hungry.  I could tell Bart was really worried about him.  He explained his condition to me, but I’ll be damned if I could understand it; something about his heart valve not being right or something like that.  He had to have surgery immediately to correct it or he would die.
“What did Mr. Lyons mean when he said Mr. Wainright called you a corporate executive, Casey?

“Aww,— it’s kind of a joke, Bart.”

“Is Mr. Wainright the same man what owns the Lazy 8?” he asked.

“He sure is.  Mr. Wainright owns the ranch.  I’ve know’d him all my life.  He’s close friends with me’n my dad.  His boy, Logan Wainright, and my cousin, Dwayne Harding are like brothers to me.  We done grew’d up together and were close friends all through school.  Mr. Wainright and Mr. Wiggins decided to offer some stock in the Lazy 8 to the public. They needed some capital to modernize and make the operation more comfortable for the cowboys.

My brothers and I thought it would be fun to buy some of the stock and own a little piece of the ranch.  We formed a small corporation and bought several shares from rodeo winnings and other money we’d saved.  We decided we’d keep our corporation secret from him and Mr. Wiggins.  It worked for a while until Mr. Wainright’s male secretary done figured out who the owners of the company was.  Mr. Wainright’s only know’d about it for a couple of months.  Since then, he thinks it’s funny to refer to us cowboys as ‘tie-coons.’” I told him.

I laughed and got Bart laughing like it was all a big joke.  I didn’t tell him we bought all the stock and owned a third interest in the ranch.  I didn’t want him thinking I was bragging or putting on airs.  

“You mentioned you need a job, Bart.  The foreman for the Lazy 8, Mr. Langtry, is looking for some extra hands.  I’m sure with a recommendation from me, he’d hire you on.  You wouldn’t get to be with yore’ boy but every other weekend, but it might be a chance for you to git back on yore’ feet until you can find some’um else.”

“That’ud be great, Casey.  I’d shore’ nuff’ appreciate it.  I hear’d tell the Lazy 8 pays it’s hands about the best of any ranch.  I’d be right proud to work for the Lazy 8.  We been living with my parents for a while now.  I work ever’ day for my old man, but they’s poor folks, and it stretches ‘em to have to take care of us.  My folks,— they’s good people and all, but h’it make me feel guilty live’n with ‘em.  H’it makes me feel like I weren’t a good husband and a good dad to my boy.”

“You shouldn’t never think that a ways, Bart.  I’m sure your family loves you and Brent. I'm sure they don’t mind help’n you out.  We all go though bad periods in our lives.  The main thing is to believe in the cowboy way and keep yore’ faith, brother.  H’it ain’t jes’ by chance we met up today.  The Old Man’s look’n out for you and Brent.  He’s tell’n you He’s watch’n over you and to trust him, He’ll see you though this.  He’ll take care of yore’ boy.  You’ll come through this okay, and be a better man for it.  Trust me, Bart,— you’ll see.”

“I wondered about that, Casey.  I think you jes’ may be right. Sounds to me like you’re a man what’s rode that trail.”

“I have, Bart, but I didn’t ride it alone.  I’ve got family and friends who pick me up, dust me off, and help me git back in the saddle when I fall. Seems to me like you could use a good friend about now.”

I thought the big cowboy was going to cry.  He pulled out his bandanna from his back pocket and wiped his eyes.  I looked over and saw my little cowboy buddy was about to go to sleep.  I picked him up and carried him to the long, leather couch and laid him out on it.  Jeremy brought us a couple of pillows and a blanket to throw over him.

Jeremy took away our trays and asked if we wanted to watch a movie.  Neither Bart nor I was interested.  Why would I want to watch a damn movie when I had Bart to look at?  I thanked him, but told him I thought Bart and I would like to talk the rest of the flight.  It wasn’t that long a flight anyway.  It was only about an hour and forty-five minutes.  Bart and I talked and drank the last of the wine Jeremy served us with dinner.  He offered us more, but we declined.

I excused myself to go to the restroom and on the way I asked Jeremy if he had an envelope I might have.  He had a drawer with pens, stationary and envelopes.   I went to the head, came out and sat at a small desk Jeremy let me use in his area of the plane.  I wrote a brief note and counted out five one-hundred dollar bills. I folded them up in the paper and sealed it in the envelope. I looked up to see Jeremy smiling at me.  He knew what I was doing.

“That’s awful damn nice of you, Mr. Longhorn.”

“Casey, Jeremy,— Casey.”

“I’m sorry, Sir,— any man who does something like that for his fellow man who’s in trouble gets my full respect.”

“Thanks, Jeremy.”  I replied softly.
I returned to my seat at the table across from Bart. We talked all the way to San Diego until just before we were ready to land.  Brent woke up just a few minutes before we started our descent into the airport.  He came over and crawled up in my lap again.   Brent wanted to sit next to me for landing, and Bart told him he could.  I strapped him into his seat.  He wanted to hold my hand while we landed.   He was such a fine looking little boy, and I could see he was the apple of his daddy’s eye.

We landed in San Diego, and we thanked Jeremy and the two pilots for such a nice flight.  They seemed genuinely grateful for our thanks. Everyone was there to greet me.  I only expected my dad and my little brother.  My God, there was Sid, Sticker, Rance, Dwayne, Lamar in full dress uniform,  dad and my little brother.  Bart, and my little cowboy buddy were as shocked as I was.  I was carrying Brent as we walked down the stairs from the small jet.  
“Oh, my God, he’s got another family!”  exclaimed Sticker in awe.

"'At's my boy!"  exclaimed my dad.

I laughed and winked at Sticker. He couldn’t be closer to the truth. Everyone let my dad get to me first. Bart took Brent from me, and I stood there holding my dad in my arms and cried like a damn baby.  I kissed him on the cheek.

“I’ve missed you, old man.”  I said to him.

“Not half as much as I’ve missed you, cowboy.”

Everyone else came up to me to give me a big hug and a kiss to welcome me home.  Finally, Lamar physically picked me up and rested me on his huge chest and gave me a big ole kiss.  He was more massive than the last time I saw him when I left home.  I could see Bart’s eyes getting wide at the size of our giant.

“How good it is to hold ju’ in my arms again, little brother.”  he boomed in his deep bass voice.  I could see Brent looking up at him with awe.

“You don’t know how good it is to be held by you and to see your shining face, my big brother.  I love you so much, Lamar, and can’t thank you enough for what chu’ done for me.”

“I done told ju,’ little brother, you git chore’ ass into trouble,— all you gotta’ do is call ole Lamar and he’ll do the rest.”

Lamar put me down and turned his attention to the handsome little boy standing next to me.  He stooped down to make himself smaller and opened his big arms to the boy.  Brent looked up at me, and I nodded for him to go to Lamar.  He ran into his arms and was lifted skyward to be held by the giant man for all to see.

“Folks,— I’d like to introduce you to my new cowboy buddy, Brent Connors.  He flew with me to San Diego with his dad, Mr. Bart Connors.  They couldn’t git no tickets to Los Angeles due to the holiday rush, and they had to git my cowboy buddy, here, to the Children’s Hospital by day after tomorrow for an operation.   Mr. Lyons said there was room for them on our plane, so I offered them a ride. I told them I’d see to it they gits to the Amtrak station to catch a train for Los Angeles.”

I introduced each man to Bart; all the while young Brent was watching from his new black friend’s arms.  Brent was as vulnerable to Lamar’s charms as the rest of us were.  He was a young buckaroo in love.  He was fascinated by Lamar’s uniform.  He wasn’t alone.  I thought my giant black buddy looked outstanding in his uniform.  Dad pulled me aside.

“Why don’t you invite Bart and his boy to stay the night with us and we can take them up to L.A. tomorrow.  He’s gonna’ have a devil of a time finding his way around Los Angeles with a sick boy in tow.”

“You’re a good man, Mr. Longhorn.”  I smiled at him.

“Naw, my boy’s the good man.  I’m still learning from him.”  he shot back.

I gave him another hug.  I wondered if there would be room for all of us, but when I found out Sticker drove his ‘Canyonero’ I knew there would be plenty room. Hell, the ad says the damn thing seats sixty-five.

“Bart,— my dad asked me to invite you and Brent home to our ranch to stay a couple of nights.  Then, day after tomorrow,— we’ll leave early in the morning, and drive you up to the Children’s Hospital in L.A.”

The big man broke down and turned away so his boy wouldn’t see.  My dad went to him and put his arm around him.

“Shuu,— ain’t no need for tears, cowboy.  We’ll be glad to help.  You traveling with a sick boy and having to stay overnight in a strange city before you could even git him into the hospital would be jes’ plain awful.  You can call the hospital tomorrow morning to see if they’ll take him early.  If they will, we’ll drive you up tomorrow.  Either way, you don’t need anymore pressure on you than you got right now,— understand?”

“Yes, Sir, Mr. Longhorn.  I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you good folks.”

“Your chance will come to do some kindness for someone else, Son.  If you do it for them, you’ll repay us any debt you might feel in yore’ heart you owe us.  Just for being kind to somebody in need,  don’t make us feel like you owe us nothing.”

“Thanks, Mr. Longhorn.  I believe in the cowboy way.  My daddy done taught me that.”

We all got into Sticker’s Hummer.  I could see Bart was impressed by the big cowboy’s truck.   Brent insisted in sitting in my lap on the way.   We talked about many things on the way back to our community.  The topic of getting Bart a job came up.

“If Casey recommends me to his foreman at the Lazy 8, Mr. Wainright, do you think I might get a job as a hand?”  Bart asked Sid.

There was a few snickers and a couple of outright laughs from the men in the truck.  Even my own dad laughed at that one. I could’ve strangled them all,— lovingly, of course.  I knew Bart didn’t know what was so funny about his question, but Sid came to the rescue.

“I’d say with our cowboy’s recommendation it’s a done deal, Son.”

“That’ud be great, Sir,— I really need a job.  My folks will take care of ma’boy, but I need to git some money to ‘um.  He starts school next year.  I’ve gotta’ start provide’n for him.”

“Don’t chu’ worry, Son.  You hitched a ride with the right man.  He’ll see to it you git a job at the ranch when you’re ready.  You jes’ worry about getting yore’ boy well and safely returned home.  We’ll do what we can to help.”

We arrived at our ranch.  Sid, Sticker and Logan were going to drop us off and go home.  Rance, Dwayne and Lamar drove to our ranch from their ranch and left their truck.  They all said their goodbyes and left.  Logan went home with his dad and Sticker.  He wanted to give me an my dad our first evening alone.  He promised he’d be back in the morning for breakfast.

We went into the house, and I got Bart and Brent settled in a room and showed them where their own bath was.  I explained to Bart, if he heard me and my dad together in our bath, I had to help him because of his legs.  He was wowed when I told him my dad had his legs shot off in Vietnam.  I told him someone had to sleep with him because he needed help with his legs in case of fire.  I explained my little brother, Logan Wainright, was staying with him while I was away.  I warned him he might see dad in his wheel chair but not to worry if Brent or him wanted to ask questions,— my dad was a kind and patient man.

It was still early.  Dad was downstairs fixing us some supper. I explained to them I was going down to help and for them to come down anytime they felt like it,— we’d enjoy their company.  They followed me down and dad put Bart and I to work in his equal opportunity kitchen.  Brent sat quietly watching my dad and listening to us talk.  It didn’t take long for me to realize, our little cowboy was fascinated with my dad.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of him.  Dad looked at him and winked.  Brent giggled, then he spoke,

“Is it true what Casey done told us about you, Mr. Longhorn?”

“You can count on most anything my boy tells you as being true, Son.  What’d he tell you?”

“That you ain’t got no legs. If it’s true, how come you walk around like you do?”

Dad looked at Bart and me.  Bart had a look of horror on his face.  Dad shook his head to keep Bart from scolding the boy.

“‘At’s a damn good question, Son.  H’it’s true,  I lost my legs fighting in a war a long way from here. I have artificial legs I walk on.  I’ll show you if’n you don’t think it would scare you none.”   

Brent assured him it wouldn’t frighten him.  Dad sat down beside him and pulled up one of the legs of his Wranglers and showed Brent the metal rod that went down into his cowboy boot.  Bart tried not to look, but he couldn’t help himself.  Brent was amazed.  He went to my dad, crawled up into his lap, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him on the cheek.

“I’m so sorry you lost your legs, Mr. Longhorn.”

The boy’s sincerity caught my dad off guard.  He returned Brent’s kiss.

“Thank you, cowboy.  What you jes’ said was the kindest thing anyone’s ever told me about losing my legs. I surely appreciate that.”

From that moment on, my dad was my little cowboy buddy’s hero.  The kid had good taste,— he was my hero, too.

We had a nice supper. Bart and I fixed a salad, and I made some iced tea for us. Getting in the kitchen and helping out did great things for Bart. It gave him a sense of belonging and being part of a family.  He began to relax and mellow out with dad and me.  Having a family style supper gave him a feeling of well being and comfort in a time of great emotional turmoil and stress for him.

 Dad fixed his hamburger helper “Chili Mac.”  It was always one of my favorites and proved to be a big hit with our littlest cowboy. Even Bart was surprised how much Brent ate.  We cleaned up the kitchen and sat in the living room for a while.  Brent crawled up in my dad’s lap, and a look of love and contentment crossed my old man’s face; however,  I could tell dad was getting tired and needed to get to bed pretty quick.

Bart decided he and Brent would take their showers and turn in early.  He wanted to get up early the next morning to call the hospital.  Logan told him he didn’t think they would take patients on Sunday, but since it was a speciality hospital he recommended Bart call anyway.

I got dad cleaned up and put to bed and I went in to clean myself.  I inserted my plug,— just in case I got lucky.  I returned to our bedroom only to find my dad asleep.  I laughed to myself.  We hadn’t had a moment alone since I got home and just when I was ready for some one on one time with him,  he goes to sleep.  I lay down beside him gently so’s not to disturb him. I felt his big arm thrown across me to pull me to him.  He stole a kiss and whispered,

“Surprise, cowboy,— I weren’t asleep.  Welcome home, Son.”  He chuckled as he popped my plug from my ass and deftly replaced it with his sweet cowboy dick.  

End of Chapter 41 ~ Texas Longhorns
Copyright 2005 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All rights reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com