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.
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.
grandson, Wade. I jes’ found out this weekend.” Curtis said
putting his arm around me and holding me close.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
“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.”
Sam and Hawk sat across from Rance and me to eat and almost fell off
the picnic bench when they looked into my eyes.
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. 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
I’ll be happy to abide by your wishes, but you aren’t just another
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.
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
* * * * * * *
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
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
“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
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
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
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.
* * * * * * *
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
“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.”
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
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
and grabbed his crotch.
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.
* * * * * * *
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
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
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
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
about a dinner party Titus and I was invited to attend at Sid and
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
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
* * * * * * *
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.”
‘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
“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.
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
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
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.”
mused for a minute, then thanked me for looking out after his
“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.”
Lord. I have a feel’n you men are try’n to tell me something I
don’t wanna’ hear.”
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.
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
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
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.”
his head and looked down at his lap in despair. Sticker looked at
Sidney for him to pick up the story.
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.
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
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
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,
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
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."
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.
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.”
Harris. He was my little brother’s best bud. They was all
the time together. I’ve wondered what happened to him, too.
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
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?”
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
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
Creek for sometime now and been keeping tabs on Casey. Sheriff
Bard told Vince him and Sheriff Claymore's been friends for years.
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
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
that much on the phone. Shore’ has cut down on our long distant
charges though.” Rance laughed.
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
How’d that happen?” Vince looked shocked and amazed.
Casey telling you about us think’n on buy’n some stock in a large
ranch.” your little brother asked him.
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.”
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.
what chur’ tell’n me is,— my old man is work’n for his grandson?”
right.” said Sticker.
* * * * * * *
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
* * * * * * *
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
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.
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.”
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
“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’
* * * * * * *
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.
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
He wrote a beautiful letter to my dad and I promised I’d take it to him
when I went home for Christmas.
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
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,
“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.”
* * * * * * *
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
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,
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,
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
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
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
“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.
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,
Bart,— call me, Casey. ‘Mister’ Longhorn’s my daddy.” I
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.
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.
“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.
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.
huh,— ?” I said.
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.”
Lyons,— is there room for two more folks on Mr. Wainright’s plane.”
of room. It seats twenty.”
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.
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.”
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
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.
Sir.” He answered softly. I stole a kiss from him and
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.
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,
“Aww,— it’s kind
of a joke, Bart.”
Wainright the same man what owns the Lazy 8?” he asked.
Wainright owns the ranch. I’ve know’d him all my life. He’s
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
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 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.”
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.”
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
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
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
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.
damn nice of you, Mr. Longhorn.”
Sir,— any man who does something like that for his fellow man who’s in
trouble gets my full respect.”
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.
God, he’s got another family!” exclaimed Sticker in awe.
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.
you, old man.” I said to him.
“Not half as
much as I’ve missed you, cowboy.”
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.
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
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.”
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.”
Longhorn. I believe in the cowboy way. My daddy done taught
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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
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
“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.”
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.”
sincerity caught my dad off guard. He returned Brent’s kiss.
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.
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
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,
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
End of Chapter
41 ~ Texas Longhorns
Copyright 2005 ~