By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 43

Dad was tired and feeling a bit down after we got home.  I talked him into a Comfortable hot toddy and to sit by the Christmas tree for a while, with only the lights from the tree on.  It was a crisp evening, and I made a small fire in the fireplace.  We sat together on the sofa and talked quietly about things.  He really liked his new saddle.  He didn’t get me a present this year, but I didn’t say anything.  I wasn't a kid anymore.  I was a mature adult.  I was a cowboy.  Cowboys are stoic and forbearing.  Receiving presents wasn’t important to me anymore;  after all, it’s the spirit of Christmas that counts.  My joy was in giving to others;  and,— if’n you believe that bullshit, you’ll believe almost anything.  Okay,— I admit it, I was a tad disappointed, but there was always tomorrow at Sid and Sticker’s.

Dad got up and walked over to a small built in cabinet between the two large windows on the side of the house.  He reached in and pulled out a small, nicely wrapped package.  He handed it to me and smiled.

“Don’t gotta' be no damn mind reader to tell when my boy’s disappointed ‘cause he thought his old man forgot him at Christmas.”  he laughed at me.

I smiled and nodded in agreement.  The man could read me like a,— no,— he knew me by heart like one a them damn children’s books.

“I didn’t put it under the tree because it’s personal.  I wanted it to be between you’n me, Son.  You got another gift from me over to Sid and Stickers anyways.”

“Aww, Dad, you didn’t have to git me nothing.”  I smiled at him.

“Yeah,— right!”  he laughed, “Go on,— open it!”  he commanded.

I tore the pretty paper off and opened the small box.  Inside was a beautiful gold pocket watch with a long gold chain wrapped in cotton and tissue paper.  It was obviously old and had been used a lot, but it was beautiful.  I flipped it open to look at the ornate hands and face.  Within the lid of the watch was a picture of a beautiful woman with violet eyes.  I knew who she was immediately.

“T’was yore’ great-granddaddy’s watch, Son.  My aunt had it and secretly gave it to me.  She was suppose to give it to my dad, but she never did.  She gave it to me jes’ before I went to Nam, and I carried it with me while I was over there.  I had it fixed and cleaned.  It works perfectly.  That’s a picture of yore’ great aunt, Lilly Langtry.”

“Thanks, Dad.”  I hugged and kissed him.  “Guess you know me pert-damn well.  I’d rather have this than all the new stuff in the world.  Maybe I shouldn’t let granddad see this.”

It was the first time I said anything about my granddad since I’d been home.  Dad didn’t looked shocked.

“No, if’n he’s changed, like I been told, he’ll be happy and proud to know I give it to you.”

“Do you ever regret changing our name, Dad?”

“Not for a minute.  I made a decision for me, and my family to protect ‘um, and I will never go back on it even if my old man’s become a fuck’n saint.  My tombstone will read, ‘Vincent E. Longhorn!’   He may be yore’ granddaddy, there ain’t nothing I kin do about that, but by God, you ain’t no Langtry, neither.  You’re a Longhorn.”

“I wouldn’t gainsay that, Dad, for a minute.  I’m proud to be a Longhorn.  ‘At’s what my tombstone will read, too, and if’n I have kids they’ll all be little Longhorns.  I swear to you.”  I laughed.
Dad was getting tired.  I assisted him in the shower and got him into bed.  I returned to the bathroom to clean myself and insert my plug.  I returned to the bedroom, and he was still awake.  I crawled up into his arms and gently kissed him.  He didn’t seem too interested in doing anything, so I didn’t push.  Some nights he just wasn’t in the mood.  I think he had a lot on his mind, and I certainly wasn’t going to complicate matters by demanding sex.  I rolled over and got ready to go to sleep.  Suddenly my brain itched a little.

<< ‘Zat chu,’ cowboy? >>  I asked.  I heard a giggle.

<< Merry Christmas, Casey.  I’s jes’ laying here think’n on you.  I didn’t mean to disturb you none.  I’s jes’ look’n at my ‘Bubba Longhorn’ cowboy bear, and I guess I thunk a little too hard about chu.’  I’m sorry. >>

<< Ain’t no need to be sorry, sweet baby buckaroo,— I’s jes’ laying here next to my dad about to go to sleep.  Merry Christmas to you, too, cowboy.  Is yore’ daddy there with you? >>  

<< Naw,— he was gonna’ stay all night in the chair again.  I done told him I’d be all right and for him to go get some rest.  He’s been look’n a mite tuckered lately.  I guess all this with me’s been hard on him.  I love him, Casey.  He’s been so good to me. >>

<< He’s a good man, Brent.  You’re lucky to have a fine man like Bart for your daddy.  He deserves yore’ love.  How you feel’n, buckaroo? >>

<< A lot better.  I’m stronger than ever before.  They got me up walking the same day I had my operation.  I’m up to four times a day now.  They told dad if I keep getting stronger they might release me next Tuesday.  I ain’t sore now or nothing.  I wouldn’t let ‘um gimme’ the last pain medication.  I told ‘um I don’t need it.  I ain’t in no pain. >>

<< Damn, cowboy!  ‘At’s really great news.  I’ll talk with yore’ daddy tomorrow and see what he says.  In the meantime, you take good care of yore’self and him,— ya’ hear? >>

<< I will, Casey.  Thanks for coming to see us tonight.  You don’t know how much that did for dad and me.  I love you, brother.   I love my  'Bubba Longhorn'  cowboy bear, too, Casey. >>

<< I love you, too, little buddy,— good night. >>

<< Good night, Casey. >>

I drifted off into a deep sleep.

* * * * * * *

Vince lay in his bed.  He could hear Casey’s breathing and knew his boy was asleep.  He thought about popping Casey’s plug out and giving him a surprise Christmas fuck, but he wasn’t in the mood.  That was rare for Vince.  He was always in the mood.  He was born in the mood. Vince decided to let Casey get a good night’s sleep without disturbing him.  The kid was busy all damn day and busted his hump to make sure everyone had a good time.  He couldn’t believe the present Casey gave Brent.  It was so like him to go out and find just the right gift to give to the boy.

As tired as he was, Vince couldn’t get to sleep.  Pictures kept going around in his head like he was on a mental merry-go-round, but he couldn’t seem to get things sorted out.  He was confused.  He didn’t know how he felt or what he thought about a lot of things.  He hadn’t felt this frustrated,— yes, that’s the word for it,— frustrated,— since he came back from Nam.  It was uncomfortable for him.  He didn’t want to admit his foundation was shaken by the news of his dad being a changed man.  How could it happen?  A leopard never changes its spots.

He lay there tossing and turning being careful not to wake, Casey.  All of a sudden he got a whiff of something in the air he hadn’t smelled in years.  His heart leaped to his throat, and his flesh began to crawl around all over his body like it had a mind of its own.  Even his ghost legs began to itch.  He suddenly realized he and Casey were not alone in his bedroom.  He knew the smell that invaded his senses was meant to trigger a memory.  Smells and odors are the strongest memory inciters in our brains, and this was a powerful one.  He smelled the essence of his little brother, Seth Quee.

“Casey,— ?”  Vince called to his son, loud enough to wake him.

“He won’t answer you, bubba,— he cain’t hear you.  Casey’s in a deep sleep.  He ain’t meant to wake up right now.  An archangel,— a fine angel named Urial, has his hand on him.  California could slide into the ocean and my handsome, wonderful, cowboy nephew wouldn’t wake up.  I’m here for you, bubba,— and only you.”

Vince heard the voice in his head clear as day.  He sat up and looked around, but he couldn’t see anything.

“Casey,— is ‘zat you fuck’n with my head?  If’n it is,— h’it ain’t appreciated, and h’it ain’t funny, Son!”  he barked in his best stern ‘dad’ voice.

“Yore’ boy would never consider doing some’um like that to you, brother.  You know better’n ‘nat!”  the voice chastised him. “Here,— I’ll show you.”

Vince watched as a small blue sprite materialized next to the chair where Casey set his legs.  It slowly moved closer to the bed.  Vince could feel his heart racing.   He watched it grow and stretch until it was the size and amorphous shape of a man.  It slowly formed itself into a blue picture like a three dimensional hologram of a cowboy; a buckaroo, with boots, chinks, a huge, dark-brown hat, a big red bandanna tied around his neck, and he was wearing a full length duster.  He had on buckaroo boots that came all the way up to his knees, complete with spurs.  Vince could see a face forming.  As it became more clear,  the face of his baby brother came into view.  The picture then coalesced into a solid form,— it was Seth Quee.

“Seth,— is ‘zat really you?”

“Yeah, brother,— don’t chu’ worry none, I ain’t no haint a’ Christmas past or nothing.  Ain’t got me no chains to rattle.”  he laughed, “Look!  They gimme’ some knew clothes.  What da’ya’ think?  Ain’t these nifty?  I don’t have to wear ‘em awful fatigues I was killed in no more.”

“You dress as a buckaroo?”

“Hell, yeah,— got me a good job on the biggest damn cattle ranch over there.”

“You work’n cattle up there?”

“H’it’s more like ‘over’ there, but yeah,— where you think all them critters go they be kill’n over here?  They’s a life force like you’n me, bubba. They come over there same’s we do.  Remember  ‘Sassyfras,’ our old hound dog we loved so much,— she’s over there with me.  Man,— was she glad to see me?  She kept pester’n folks when I was coming.  She got pissed ‘cause no one would tell her.  Truth was,— nobody knew.”

“I hear’d you done crossed over.”

“I did, but ‘at don’t mean I can’t come back for a spell to talk with ma’big brother.  T’weren’t my idea no ways.  I done got called up by the Big Man His-self,— the Supreme Straw Boss,— the Holy Head Wrangler, to do a job for ‘em.  Well,— since He done went and saved my worthless, cowboy butt from perdition,— I weren’t about to argue with Him none or tell ‘em ‘no.’” Seth grinned real big and laughed, “‘Sides ‘at, I wanted a chance to come see my bubba. Yore’ my brother, Vince, and I love ya.’  Ain’t never stopped love’n ya.’”

“I love you, too, little brother.  God knows I love you, and 'at ain’t no bullshit neither.  He’s gotta’ know I love you, cowboy.”

“He does,— ‘at’s why he sent for me to come visit with you for a spell.  He didn’t want chore’ boy interceding like he done before with me.  Casey was kind and generous to act as a go between me, our other brother, and our dad.  Now I’ve crossed over,  I cain’t take over Casey’s body no more, no ways.  His Almightyness thought it might be too much of strain on him.  He loves Casey.

‘At boy a’ yores is some’um special, bubba.  Why, if’n h’it weren’t for ‘at handsome young cowboy lay’n there next to you,— I wouldn’t never been allowed to cross over.  You done good when you made him.  You couldn’t a’ made him no finer.”  Seth laughed and finally got a smile out of Vince. “‘At’s better, bubba,— you finally settling down and believe it’s me?”

“I believe you, brother.  Thank the Big Man for me.”

“He knows,— he done hear’d ju.’  I got me some things to say to you, but chu’ ain’t gonna’ like all of ‘um.  He wanted me to talk with you alone ‘cause He knows you ain’t talked with yore’ boy.”

“I’s git’n around to it.  H’it’s jes’ hard for me to do, brother.” Vince told him.

“Well, ‘at’s why I’s here,— to encourage you to talk with him about it.  You ready?”

“I guess I’s ready as I’m ever gonna’ be, I reckon.” Vince said.

“Ya’ wanna’ know why I didn’t come to you fer help, big brother?  Don’t chu’ know?  Didn’t Casey tell you?”

“Tell me what?  We ain’t talked about chu’ much.  He told me a little bit, but I think he’s afeard to tell me too much.  Talk’n about chu’ would mean have’n to talk about his granddaddy.”

“The Big Man told me you ain’t let him talk to you.”

“Casey knows he can talk to me about anything.”

“Yeah, right!  Anything, but our dad.  You ain’t ask him nary a question.  He weren’t make’n it hard on you.  He was letting you take the news at chore’ own pace, which is currently dead in the water, bubba.”  Seth laughed. “I’ll tell you why I didn’t come to you, I was too damn embarrassed.  I done some’um terrible I weren’t suppose to do, and I got myself severely punished for it.  If’n it hadn’t a been for yore’ boy pray’n for me and git’n all his friends and yore’ friends a’ pray’n for me, I’d a’ never crossed over.  So, maybe you kin understand jes’ how important he is to me, bubba.”

“What’d ju’ do that was so terrible, hoss?”  Vince asked him.

“I’m getting to it.  It ain’t gonna’ be easy for me to tell ya, but the Righteous Ramrod done told me h’it would be good for me to confess my sin to you.  I was gonna’ argue with Him until He done showed me His big boot and ask me how far up my butt did I think He could shove it?  He done adjusted my attitude real quick-like. ‘At cowboy wears one hell of a big boot, bubba!”  Seth giggled.

“When I got killed in Nam, I didn’t cross over when they come for me.  I wanted to find you and tell you I loved you one more time.  I searched all over Nam, but I couldn’t find you.  I figured out later you’d been shot, lost yore’ legs and was either in the hospital or on yore’ way home.

Anyways,— since I couldn’t find ju’ I went to Frances.  She was still pregnant with Casey.  I couldn’t git through to her, and I didn’t wanna’ appear to her for fear of scaring her into early labor.  So I decided to leave you a message,— my calling card, as it were.  I got inside Frances and give her baby boy a spark from my soul.  I knew he already had a spark from you and Frances.  I could feel ‘um strong and healthy.  I jes’ done give him a little extra to conjoin with hers and yours.”

“What’s so bad about ‘tat?  He looks jes’ like you.”

“H’it weren’t right in the scheme a’ things, Vince.  I was told not to do it. You know me,— I never listen to nobody.  I knew it was wrong when I done it, but I couldn’t help myself,— I done went and done it any how.  H’it was a sin against you and Frances to interfere with yore’ boy.  H’it was a sin of pride and arrogance.  What I done went a bit further than a ghostly prank. The powers what be were not amused.  I was punished greatly for my misdeed.   

I never should a’ done it, Vince, but I loved you and Frances so much,  I wanted to leave something of myself behind.  Casey’s soul is an equal part of me, you and Frances, brother.   As a result a’ what I done,— h’it messed with his DNA and he come out look’n like Zerox copy a’ me;  but, he ain’t me, bubba,— he’s his own cowboy.  You should be proud a' Casey, Vince, he’s a fine man with talents and sensibilities what far surpass ours.”

“I am proud of my boy, but I don’t give a tinker’s dam you give him a spark of yore’ soul.  If’n you’d a’ come to me and asked, I probably would a’ told ju’ to go ahead on,— knock yore’self out!  I’ve lived with the memory of you ever’ damn day since he was born, little brother.  I cain’t tell you how many times I caught my breath look’n on him and think’n on you; wish’n you was alive to love him.  Sometimes, h’it’s like you was inside him looking out at me.  Rance even commented on it.  Now, I know why.  A small part of you was look’n out at me.  I’m glad he looks like you, little brother.  I’m glad he reminds me of you.  As far as his abilities are concerned, he scares the holy shit out a’ me sometime.  I mean no disrespect by that, Sir.”   Vince said hoping his language wasn’t offending anyone.   

“I thought you’d be mad at me, bubba.” Seth continued, “I didn’t come to you for help after you got home, because by that time, I done the deed, and I was awful weak.  I didn’t have much power to appear to anyone.  If’n we don’t cross over when we should, all what’s left on this side is about the same size spark as we start with, so by the time I give a chunk a’ mine to Casey, I didn’t have much left.”

“Naw,— you should a’ know’d me better’n ‘nat, bubba.  I ain’t mad.  I don’t give a damn what chu’ done, I ain’t never gonna’ stop love’n you.”

Seth Quee started crying and put his hands up to hide his face from his brother.

“Aww, c’mon, little brother,— ‘at’s all I need right now is a bawl’n buckaroo haint.  I ain’t try’n to be mean, bubba.  I’d come over there and hold ju’ in my arms in a second if’n I could, but maybe you noticed,— I ain’t got me no legs.”  Vince smiled.

Seth took off his big hat and threw it in the chair.  He moved to the bed and knelt before his brother, threw his arms around Vince’s waist and pressed his head against his chest.  Vince sucked in a volume of air at the touch of his baby brother.  He placed his arms firmly around his brother’s head and gently held Seth to him.  He leaned over and kissed the top of Seth Quee’s head.  Vince could feel, touch and taste his brother’s essence.  It was too much for him, and he broke into sobs.  They cried in each others arms for a good while, washing away the pain and hurts of the past.  They cried for their childhood; they cried for their loss in Vietnam; they cried for their separation, and they cried for their joy in being reunited,— if only for a while.

Seth pulled himself together, moved Vince’s legs next to the night stand,  pulled the big overstuffed chair closer to the bed, put his cowboy hat back on and sat down in the chair to continue talking with his brother.  They sat there looking at each other for a minute.  Finally Seth started.

“Our daddy’s done went and changed, bubba.  He ain’t the man he used to be no more when we was kids.  As a matter of fact, he’s a lot like you now.  I guess you and me,— we unwittingly taught our old man how to become a dad.  You done told Casey the other night, he taught chu’ to be a dad.   "Air's a lot more 'at boy can teach you,  Vince, learn from him.  

I ain’t here to tell you what to do, bubba.  I done told the Head Honcho I never could tell you what to do no ways.” he grinned at Vince.
  “I’m here to plead with you to reconsider yore’ hard-nose stance towards our dad.  Think on it, bubba, ain’t chu’ being as guilty of inflexibility as he was when he was such a tight-assed, self-righteous bastard with us?  Look, hoss,— you don’t have to give up the hate you had for the man our dad was; however, I know you,— yore’ own compassion dictates you haf’ ta’ try to forgive and accept the man our dad has become.

You all ready forgive Curtis for what he was then,— to ignore him is to betray yore’ own heart, bubba; yore’ own sense of humanity;  of right and wrong.  Such an action don’t confirm the goodness of unconditional love,— h’it makes a mockery of it and becomes something even worse,— it becomes punishment.  Who’s to decide another’s punishment?  How much for this crime or how long for that injustice?  Only one power has that right,— and if’n he weren’t a forgiving cuss,— I wouldn’t be here talk’n with you right now.  H’it ain’t chore’ place to punish our dad for the wrongs he done us.  It is written, “Let him among you without guilt, cast the first stone,” and “Judge not least ye’ be judged.”

Curtis has been punished enough for what he done to us.  ‘At’s why the Big Kahuna sent me to you.  Dad’s own innate sense of  grief for the loss of his sons and his humility, only achieved by hitting rock bottom,  has left a burned out spark of a soul what, once upon a time, knew how to love and belonged to a fine, generous man.  He hit the bottom of the pit of his own self-destruction and had to either reconsider his life or perish.

So it is with the false ideas of many so called Christians.
  Most practicing Christians have little or no idea what their bible really says.  They make no distinction between the old testament and the new.  A goodly number believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. They become obsessed with their united belief in an uncompassionate,  baby killing, war-like, hate filled, vengeful God they've conjured up in their own image from the old testament,  proselytizing others to believe the way they do, even with a sword if necessary,  to validate their false belief system that has little basis in reality; however, there is more than just strength in numbers,— there is support. Their power don’t come from on high,— h’it comes from a mob mentality.

If ignorance ain’t their all consuming bliss, then they be doomed to wallow in the quagmire of their hatred and confusion until their wretched souls reach rock bottom before they can truly be born again; reborn to the hope and ideals of what God truly wants of us,— unconditional love.  They have little or no concept of the real truth or process of rebirth.  Their idea of being reborn becomes no more than a temporary, emotionally overwrought,  hyperventilated experience,— for them, it has no lasting, substantial meaning.  It becomes an empty metaphor they must keep referring to and feeding.
  Fundamentalism, as such, ain’t no religion a‘ tall, brother.  H’it’s like a glamorous movie set, a false facade claiming to be Christianity; the solution to all yore’ problems,— but it ain’t!  H’it’s a store front display to hide the corruption within behind a glitzy window dressing of empty promises.  It hides an addictive, collective mental illness fueled by stupidity and superstition, potentially more dangerous and deadly than all other addictions put together.

Like any drug addict, alcoholic or compulsive gambler,  rabid fundamentalists  must continue to feed their obsessive need to overcome their own personal doubts by pumping themselves up, reaffirming their belief systems, with yet another dog and pony show, ‘hallelujah’ fest.  Their temporary fix is generated by a cult mentality where weak, stupid minds set themselves up as demigods, to interpret scriptures of undoubtedly questionable origin written thousands of years ago for a totally different social setting.  In their arrogance, fueled by personal greed, they use the bible as the literal word of God to suit their own twisted, hidden agendas.  The sheep who follow them can never get enough.  They can never be truly filled.  They can never find real peace.  Time and again, they must keep returning to the well,  fed by mendacity, avarice, greed, cunning and deceit,  to feed their foul addiction one more time. 

Zealots are a lazy lot.  It’s too difficult or too complicated for them to think for themselves.  They need the ease and comfort of a mass mind,— a prepackaged religion,— one what agrees and supports their every superstitions, their every hatred, to boost their sociopathological and political status for themselves within their community.  To think for oneself goes against the smug insanity of their cult mentality.  To question is to be heretical.  It places you outside the flock.  To disagree with their madness is to be labeled treasonist, terrorist, provocateur, or worse, a liberal in league with the Devil.  There is no wiggle room.  ‘You’re either with us or you’re against us!’ they cry.  Only those sheep who bleat like they do or follow along blindly without question are allowed to remain in the flock.

For when they contemplate their own self-destruction, they intend to take thousands with them, where everyone, believers or nonbelievers, will be forced to drink their poisoned Cool Aid for the exercise of their uncompromising beliefs.  They believe heaven or hell is only an apocalypse away.  They give the term ‘rush to judgement’ new dimensions.  Them crazy folks be playing for keeps, brother.   When a mind shuts down and refuses to consider other possibilities, 
it becomes a sitting duck for demonic possession and leadership.  They be easy pickings.  The Devil loves a weak, uneducated, ignorant mind.  They're easily filled with unspeakable evil,  from whence they spew forth their vile gospel of hypocrisy, bigotry,  intolerance and hate,— all in the name of Jesus.

Curtis learned to hear the wee small voice that comes to all men if they stop long enough to listen.  He renounced all that bullshit, gave up almost everything he owned to go out into the world and find himself.  It either takes a foolhardy man or a desperate one to do some’um like ‘at.  In our dad’s case, he was desperate.  He hit bottom so hard he didn’t even bounce, and there was no place to go but up.  Curtis has walked through the refiners fire, brother,  and has been reduced to the purity of his original essence.  Like fine gold is reduced to its purest elements, our dad is once again a good, loving, and generous man.  He slowly learned to love unconditionally.

You love unconditionally, Vince, and you taught chore’ boy to love that way.  You’ve always secretly looked on it as a weakness, but it ain’t, bubba,— it’s yore’ strength.  Ask your boy,— he’ll tell you.  Don’t let this opportunity pass you by, bubba, or you’ll be sorry you did; not just for yourself, but for me, O.C. and Casey; oh, yes, and for our big brother Bubba Swansey.  

Because of the unconditional love you taught Casey,  yore’ boy’s done fallen in love with his granddaddy.  He told me he can find no fault in him, and whether you find it in yore’ heart to forgive Curtis or not, y’ain’t gonna’ stop Casey from loving him.  Once that kid drops his lasso around somebody, they ain’t git’n away.  Once again, brother,  learn from yore’ boy.  Casey has within him the spark of three loving people, which together, as one, is far more powerful than all the forces of darkness combined.”

Vince was quiet for moment.

“Anything else, brother?”  Vince asked meekly.

“Casey brought a letter home with him from Curtis.  He’s wait’n for a good time to give it to you.  He don’t expect you to read it right away, but he does expect you to read it sometime.  He loves you too much to push you into anything you’re uncomfortable with.  No matter his love for O.C, our dad, or any other man,  you’re his first love.  You will always be number one in his heart.  Yore’ damn lucky to have a boy like him, Vince.  He’s a treasure.  Hell, bubba, he done went out and found ju’ another brother to love.  Be good to our brother Ocie,  but remember, I done loved him first.”  Seth winked and laughed.

“Thanks, bubba.  You’re right, I didn’t wanna’ hear some of them things you  told me.  I won’t say ‘no’ to anything right now.  I even told Casey I’d try to come around to talk with him about his granddad, but h’it’s gonna’ take some time.  I didn’t build this wall up overnight, and I jes’ cain’t  tear it down overnight either.  Curtis has been dead to me for almost twenty-five years. I don’t even know him anymore, and I still ain’t real sure I want to.”

“No, but chu’ can remove one block at a’ time, and the sooner you start the more time you have to learn to love our dad.  You won’t always have him, Vince.  Having a dad to love for even a while is better’n never having a dad a’ tall.   Ain’t it what we always wanted, brother?  Ain’t it what we dreamed about and prayed for,— love’n our dad, him being proud of you’n me, and loving us in return?”

“Yeah, little brother, I guess it is.”

“They’re calling me, bubba.  I gotta’ git on back.  Wake that boy a’ yores and give him some good cowboy Christmas love’n.  Tell him his uncle stopped by to talk with you and told ju’ to tell him he loves him.”

Seth got up,  threw his hat in the chair again,  moved to kneel in front of Vince one last time.  They embraced and cried again.

“Gotta’ go, bubba, I love you.  I always will.  I’ll be wait’n for you.  I’ll come git chu’ when it’s yore’ time.  Merry Christmas, brother.”

“I love you, too, little brother, and Merry Christmas to you.”

Seth Quee stood, turned, took a couple of steps toward the door and vanished.  Casey let out a deep, contented sigh and stirred in his sleep.  Vince’s heart was filled with love and joy from the visit with his brother.  He couldn’t sleep now if his life depended on it, and seeing his little brother all decked out in his buckaroo outfit made him hotter than a two dollar pistol.  He retrieved a small towel from his night stand, removed the plug from Casey’s butt, and swiftly replaced it with his rock hard penis.

* * * * * * *

I woke up from the deepest sleep I experienced in years.  It was totally relaxing, but I had the feeling someone was watching over me while I was asleep.  Must have been my imagination; however, the cowboy shaft shoved all the way to the hilt up my ass wasn’t.   It was me dear old dad, horny as a bull in a pasture of fresh heifers.  Damn, he felt good and strong in my ass. He fucked me with a passion that he rarely let surface.  I got the feeling, there was more behind his passion than just slamming a good, hot fuck into his boy.  He brought me to climax just before he hit, and my ass was trying to chew his cock off.   Good thing he handed me a towel.  I would’ve had to change the sheets.  He shot volley after volley of his hot cowboy cream up my butt. Afterward, we lay hooked together trying to get our breath.

“Woah, dogies!” I exclaimed, “Where did that fuck come from?”  I chuckled.

“From me heart, Son,— from me heart.”  he laughed.

“Santa Clause couldn’t a’ brung me no better gift.”

“Merry Christmas, boy.”  he spoke softly and bussed a kiss behind my ear.

“Merry Christmas, Dad.  That was special for Christmas morning.”

We lay there for some time with him feeling my body and stealing a kiss from time to time. Finally, he broke our silence,

“You kin leave yore’ granddaddy’s letter on my dresser this morning.  I can’t promise I’ll read it while you’re home, but I will read it.  I ain’t making no promises, but I’ll read his letter.”

“How’d ju’ know about granddad’s letter?  I’ve kept it under lock and key since I been home.”

“Y’ain’t the only one what got a visit from my little brother.  He told me to tell you he loves you very much.”

I started crying I was so moved my uncle came to dad.  I knew how bothered he was last night about his little brother not coming to him for help.  Perhaps they had a chance to talk and work things out.

“Shuu, cowboy.  Ain’t no need for tears.  We talked about a lot of things.  Well,— he done most of the talk’n.  I mostly listened and gritted my teeth.”  he laughed.  “He told me some things I didn’t particularly wanna’ hear, but I agreed with him I probably needed to hear ‘um.”

“I’m glad, Dad.  I know you had a heavy heart last night.  I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t wanna’ tell you some’um you didn’t wanna’ hear.”

“I know,— I know.  I guess h’it weren’t you what was making it hard on me.  It was me making it hard on you.  I apologize, but I jes’ couldn’t talk about it.”

“H’it’s all right, Dad.”

“No,— it ain’t all right.  The things I done taught you, I’m failing to live up to myself.  My little brother was right.  I should, once again, learn from my son how to be a good dad.   He told me about his sin and his punishment.  I’m glad he done what he done, Son.  He seemed to think he contributed a lot to who you are today.”

“He probably did, but as I understand it, no more or less than what I got from you or mom; although, I do look a lot like him.”  I went on to tell dad about the image in the mirror I thought was me, when it was my uncle.  He laughed.

“Look, cowboy,— do you really love yore’ granddaddy?”

“Yes, Dad,— with all my heart.  If I met him and he gave me any indication he was the least bit like you described him, I would’ve never revealed myself to him.  I would a’ jes’ come on home; cep’n I still would a gone back to visit the sheriff and his family; and Bubba and his boy; oh, yes, and my Uncle Ocie.”

“So, you and my younger brother, Ocie, hit it off pretty well,— huh?”

“Better’n purtty well, Dad.  I love Uncle Ocie.  He thinks the world of you, and he cried his heart out when I told him you was alive and I was yore’ son.  H’it liked to ripped his guts out.”

“I’d be lying if’n I was to say I didn’t wanna’ see ‘um again.  I’d love to see Ocie, Bubba and meet his boys face to face.  You got pitchers of ‘um?”

“Yeah, Dad,— I brought back a bait of ‘um.  They’s on my computer.”

“I’d like to see ‘em before you go back.”

Dad finally lost his erection and slipped out of me.  He immediately reached for my plug and popped it back into my ass.  He cleaned, me and I cleaned him.  I held him in my arms until he drifted off to sleep.   He slept so soundly,  I hated to wake him the next morning.  My dad was always a morning person, but for some reason, Christmas morning, he wasn’t interested in me jumping out of bed to get his legs.  He held on to me,  we stole a few kisses from each other, and talked some more.

When I finally got up to get his legs they weren’t by the big chair where I left them.  They were leaning up against dad’s night stand, and the chair wasn’t in the same place.  I looked puzzled.  I always put them by the chair.  Our routine was to get dad into his wheelchair, get him to the chair where I’d ‘assist’ him with his legs, assist him getting his pants on,  and pull him up to a standing position in the mornings.

“Uhh,— ?”  was all I got out.

“Seth moved ‘um last night, so’s he could move the chair closer to the bed to talk with me.”  he smiled. I just laughed and shook my head.  I knew dad couldn’t get up to move them.

We got dressed and went downstairs to fix breakfast.  I went out to gather the eggs in the early morning light.  It was foggy out.   The last couple of evenings were cool and many of the girls decided to keep their eggs inside them; however, there was enough for our breakfast and some for Bodey and Flynn.  I left a basket on their porch.

We had a leisurely breakfast and sat there talking about more things.  Dad was a lot more open and asked a lot of questions, but still skirted around asking any direct questions about his dad.  We were almost back to our open communication with each other, but there was still a hesitancy to make that final leap.  I could understand.  I didn’t want him feeling uncomfortable; after all, his dad reappearing in his life was the direct result of my journey.  While we were sitting there my cell phone rang.  I had it set the play the theme from “Bonanza” and I thought dad was going to fall off his chair laughing.  He called me “Little Joe” the rest of the day, and I had to play my ‘ring tone’ for everyone at the Christmas party.

“Casey.”  I announced.

“Hey, brother,— Merry Christmas.”

“Hey, Bart,— we jes’ finished breakfast and was sit’n here talk’n ‘bout you and my little cowboy buddy.  Ever’thing all right?”

“Oh, yeah,— better’n jes’ all right.  The doctors made early rounds this morning so’s they could git home to their families for Christmas day.  They told us if Brent keeps git’n stronger like he done the last couple a’ days, they’s gonna’ release him Tuesday afternoon.  Hell,— the nurses cain’t keep him in bed.  I’ve never seen him this active.”

“‘At’s great news, brother.  You keep us informed, and we’ll be there to pick ya’ll up and bring ya’ home.”

“‘Home.’  That word shore’ sounds mighty good about now.”

I talked with Brent for a minute, and he wanted to wish dad a Merry Christmas.  I handed dad the phone.  I swear, my old man’s face lit up like our Christmas tree when he heard Brent’s voice.  We said our goodbye and told them to keep in touch.

Bodey and Flynn followed us over to Sid and Sticker’s in their truck.  Logan sold them his truck about a year ago for a song.  He jes’ wanted to get rid of it and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.  His dad wanted to buy him a bit more reliable vehicle with more convenient features.  He decided on a big Nissan SUV.  It’s beautiful and really is more convenient for traveling to and from school and shopping for him and dad.

Christmas day was wonderful.  For all of Logan’s joking about the ‘spirit of Christmas,’ it was great not to have to spend half the day in the kitchen preparing dinner, and the food couldn’t have been better.  Everything was perfect.  There was a large group of friends who were invited sit down to Sid and Sticker’s table.  They made many good friends in the community over the years and genuinely enjoyed their company.

The greatest shock of the day, came shortly after we arrived when eight Harley-Davidsons pulled up and parked out front of Sid and Sticker’s.  I looked at them and raised an eyebrow.  Sticker slapped his knee pointed at me and laughed at the expression on my face.

“Quick!  Somebody grab a’ holt a’ that cowboy with the terminal grin on his face?  He jes’ might hurt himself!”   Sid pointed to me and hollered.

I was out of the door and out the room before anyone could make a move to catch me.  I ran to Master Waddie’s big arms, hugged and kissed him.  Then, it was Titus’ turn.  I went down the line immersing myself in biker love.  The rest of the men slowly came out to greet them.  To my surprise they all knew each other.  Several of the family weren’t with them.  They had other obligations for Christmas dinner but were joining them later.

I left granddad’s letter on my dad’s dresser.  I knew he probably wouldn’t read it while I was home, but that was okay.  I didn’t really count on taking any news back to Curtis.  I suppose it was good news dad agreed to read his letter.  I knew it would take dad some time, but at least he was talking with me more openly about things.  When I showed him a few of my pictures on my computer Curtis was in several of the shots, but I didn’t try to change the picture.  Dad studied them closely, but he didn’t comment on anything but Bubba and his boys.  He was wowed at how handsome old Bubba’s boys were.  He was even more impressed by the sheriff and his boys.

* * * * * * *

Christmas was almost over. Life began to settle back to a normal routine after the weekend; however, we had one more bit of Christmas to take care of.  Dad reminded me he always thought Christmas should last the entire week between Christmas eve and New Years.  I had to agree with him.  It certainly was turning out that way this year.  I didn’t mind, I loved Christmas.  I had a wonderful Halloween with my granddad, and a great Thanksgiving with my adopted family, Master Waddie, Titus,  my granddad and my uncle.  Why not enjoy Christmas for several more days?

The doctors removed the staples from Brent’s chest and released him Tuesday afternoon about two o’clock.  Dad and I were there to pick them up. We couldn’t believe the difference in the little cowboy we brought to the hospital only a week before.  Brent’s entire countenance changed.  He gained weight, his skin color was perfect, his cheeks were rosy red and his lips were no longer pale.  He wasn’t lethargic like he was before.  He looked like any healthy young buckaroo his age, but he was a lot more active.  Oh, Lord, was he active.  He was like a dervish running from me to dad and back again.  His daddy was having a difficult time keeping up with him.

They were thrilled to be leaving the hospital and coming home with us.  We were thrilled to have them.  As I was driving back down Interstate 15 we passed the small town of “Rainbow” and Brent asked if we were near our bridge.  I chuckled to hear him call it ‘our’ bridge.  I knew, for him, it would always be ‘our’ bridge,— his and mine. We were going around a large bend in the road that went around the apex of the mountain.  I told him as soon as we cleared the bend and could see down into the valley to start looking for the bridge at the top of the next mountain pass.  He saw it before us and pointed it out to me.  He was so delighted to see it again.
When we got to the ranch he ran to the house.  I told Bart I don’t think I ever saw him run before.  Bart assured me he hadn’t seen anything like his current level of activity.   Bart looked at me, shrugged, and got a pained look on his face like, ‘What the hell am I going to do now?’  I winked at him and laughed.

They were wowed by our Christmas tree. I told Brent most of the presents under the tree were left for him by Santa Clause, and there were several from the men who came to the hospital with us.  He would have to wait until evening to open them, because they all were coming for dinner and wanted to be here when he opened his presents.  Brent was excited, but he was a mannerly kid and agreed to abide by our wishes.  There were a couple of presents under the tree for his daddy as well.

We didn’t get back to the ranch until a little past four and I started in immediately to make supper for everyone.  I was making my famous tuna casserole.  Everyone laughed and poked fun at my casserole, but there never was any left after supper.  With the cowboys we were expecting, I made four big casseroles.  Hell,— Lamar alone could eat half of one by himself.  He was a BIG man and required a lot of food.  Dwayne had grown in size and was working out with his husband.  Lamar had the patience of a saint working with Dwayne and our brother was beginning to pop out muscles all over his body.  He was looking hot.

Brent saw Bodey and Flynn riding up from the pasture and begged his dad to go meet them.  We watched as he ran to the gate, went though, and ran all the way to meet them.  He was running so fast his little cowboy hat flew off his head, but he wasn’t about to stop to pick it up.  He was on a mission to get to Bodey and Flynn as fast as his little legs would carry him.

Bart let out a sigh like he was a man in heaven to see his boy run.   Bodey got down from his pony, squatted down, opened his big, cowboy arms to Brent and he ran to him.  They hugged, kissed and we could hear Bodey and Flynn laughing and making over him like they couldn’t believe the change in him.  Flynn had to have a big hug and a kiss.  Brent was eating up the attention.  He deserved it, the kid had been though hell and back.  Bodey sat Brent in his saddle and let him ride the rest of the way back to the corral.  He walked along beside him with the reigns in his hand.  He picked up Brent’s hat and handed it up to him.  Brent was in heaven as he held on to the saddle horn for dear life.

“E’aup,— jes’ like his daddy,” I commented dryly, “ee’s gonna’ be a cowboy, no doubt.” I allowed quietly.  Bart laughed.

“God, I hope so.  There’s a lot worse things to be in life.” he said.

“Cain’t gainsay that, brother.”  I replied.

I put Bart and dad to work in the kitchen, and we had supper ready in no time.  Everyone arrived and dad made a drink for anyone who wanted one.  Finally we gathered around the table and dad said grace.  We sat down to eat and dad and I were amazed at the amount of food our little buckaroo buddy was packing away.  It was like Brent was making up for lost time.  He loved my tuna casserole and had a couple of helpings.  He asked his dad for more, but Bart was afraid too much might make him sick.  I told Brent to wait a spell and if he was still hungry after opening his presents I’d warm up some more for him.   He was satisfied with that and finished his milk.

After supper we cleaned up the kitchen before we  moved to the living room to watch our littlest cowboy open his gifts.  I bought him several things and just put on the card: “From Santa.”  We had a great time, and he and Bart were thrilled with their presents.  Dad and I got Bart seven large buckaroo bandannas of all different colors so he could have a clean one each day of the week if he wished.

After the presents were opened our guest stayed around for about an hour,  said their goodbyes and departed.  We were left alone with Bart and our little buckaroo dynamo.   The kid had so much energy, he didn’t know what to do with it all.  He would go from one toy to another and back again. Having lived most of his life feeling, depressed, fatigued and lethargic, Brent was making up for lost time.  He used to be quiet, sedate, crawl up into your lap and be content to sit for a while without saying much.  He’d always been so down he didn’t care much about anything.  Not any more.  Lord, he wanted to see and do everything.  He was taking in life at an enormous pace.  He was learning at a staggering rate, and he wasn’t afraid to try something new.  Bart looked at my dad in desperation and shook his head.

“I can’t believe this change in him.  Do you think he needs some medication to calm him down, Mr. Longhorn?”  he asked my dad.

“Gosh, no, Son,— he’s just adjusting to his new found strength.  He probably ain’t never felt this good in his life.  He’ll settle down after a while, believe me.  He’ll reach a plateau and level out.  You might have to chase him around with a butterfly net for a while or keep him on a short leash, but he’ll calm down in time.” Dad laughed at his own joke, “ The main thing is to keep him interested and teach him to finish one thing at a time.  Keep him busy and occupied all day, and by nighttime, he’ll be ready for bed.  Come’ere, Son.”  Dad held his arms open to Brent.   He immediately stopped what he was doing and climbed into my dad’s lap. “Now how ‘bout chu’ sitting here with us quietly for a little bit while we talk with yore’ daddy.”

“Sure, Mr. Longhorn.”

To Bart’s and my amazement, Brent sat in dad’s lap comfortably. He didn’t squirm or try to interrupt; he just sat there with his head leaning back against my dad’s chest.  We continued our conversation and in about fifteen minutes Brent was fast asleep.  Bart took him from dad, and I went with him up the stairs to their room to help him put Brent to bed.  Bart undressed Brent while I turned down the covers for him.  Bart mentioned he thought he’d turn in, too, as he figured maybe he could do some work for us the next day.  I told him dad usually didn’t try to get much done during the holidays, but there was probably some small things around the place we could get done.  He seemed satisfied with that,  I said my ‘goodnight’ and left them alone.  I returned to the living room and sat down on the couch next to dad.   

“You want another cup of cheer or you feel like turning in?”  I asked him.

“Wouldn’t mind another one a’ them toddies you fixed us the other night.  That was good.  Made me have sweet dreams all night.” he chuckled.

“Sounds good to me.  Be back in a second.”

He got up and followed me into the kitchen to talk with me while I made them.  

“Ya’ got anymore a them pitchers on yore’ computer, Son?”

“Yes, Sir, a bait of ‘em.  I only showed ju’ a few.”

“How do you get a picture on your computer like that.”

“Remember those digital cameras Logan give me’n Dwayne for our birthdays last year?”

“Yeah, you could look at the pitcher right after you took it.”

“Yes, Sir,— ‘at’s right.  I can take the pitcher and download it into my lap top computer and voila’ its there.  Then I can print it out on my color printer if’n I want to.  I ain’t printed too many because h’it’s so convenient jes’ to show folks on my lap top.  H’it’s like carrying yore’ photo album around with you.”

“That’s amazing.”

“Would you like to see some more?”

“Yeah, Son,— I would.”

“Who or what do you wanna’ see?”

“Hoh, I donno,— whatever you wanna’ show me.”

I retrieved my lap top from my desk in my junk room and ran into Bart coming back from the shower with a towel over his shoulder naked as the day he was born.  I got a good look at him and sucked in air through my teeth.  He was breath taking.  I know he heard me. I almost lost my cool.  He turned to me and smiled as he took his towel to cover himself.

“I’m sorry Bart, I’s jes’ get’n my lap top computer form my junk room to show dad  s’more pitchers from Texas.  Didn’t mean to invade yore’ privacy none. Don’t cover yore’self up on my account.  I ain’t embarrassed none, if’n you ain’t.  Y’ain’t got nothing I ain’t never seen before,— but I will say you certainly are easier on the eye than most cowboys I done run across.”

I smiled and winked at him.  Bart laughed but he looked at me funny.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”  he grinned.

“Good, ‘cause ‘at’s the way I meant it.”

“Thanks, Casey.”

“Have a goodnight, Bart.”

“You, too, cowboy.  Goodnight.”

I smiled to myself as I waked down the stairs.  I wondered what Bart would make of my statement.

‘You idiot!’ Bart thought, ‘Why didn’t chu’ compliment him back?  What did he mean by that?   Aww, fuck, cowboy,— the man jes’ paid you a compliment,— nothing more.  Don’t read nothing into it.  H’it ain’t right for you to have them feelings about a man what’s been as good as Casey and his dad to you and yore’ boy.”

Nevertheless, the big cowboy had to return to the bathroom to relieve himself, or he never would’ve gotten to sleep.

* * * * * * *

We drank our toddies and I showed dad more pictures.  I showed him pictures I took at the ‘Broken Arrow’ in Tucson, of Dan Yates, Cowboy, Boots, Sonny, and big Griz.  Dad couldn’t believe the size of the man.  He also agreed with me, Griz had to be the ugliest man he every saw.  I assured him Griz was far from ugly to me, and once he got to know him, he would feel the same.  Dad seemed to understand how that could happen.

I showed him pictures of Master Waddie and I rodeoing in Tucson and my winning second place in calf roping.  

“Who took these pitchers?” he asked.

“Cousin Rance.”  I said and grinned at him.  He just shook his head and smiled.

I came to some photos I took of granddad’s wounds from the gun shots, and dad winced when he saw them.

“Damn,— they got him good,— didn’nay?”

“He damn near died, Dad.  If’n his pony, Socks, hadn’t a called out to me he would’ve been a dead man.  We got there jes’ in time to pull him out of the quicksand pool.”

Dad never heard the whole story of me saving Curtis’ life, but he wanted to know about it.  I told him, and I didn’t leave any detail out.  He was wowed I risked my own life to rescue my granddad.  He put his arm around me and pulled me close to him.

“Why ain’t I surprised you done ‘nat?  H’it’s exactly what I’d expect you to do in a situation like ‘at.  I don’t care if’n it was yore’ granddad or jes’ another cowboy,  you’d a done the same thing.”

“Yes, Sir,— I suppose I would.”

“Proud of you, boy.”  he spoke quietly and bussed a kiss behind my ear. ‘At’s enough pitchers fer tonight.  Let’s us git our butts cleaned up and hit the sack.  I need to make a little love to my cowboy hero.”

“I ain’t no hero, Dad,— I jes’ done what needed to be done to save my granddaddy’s life.  Ever’ one else says I’m a hero, but I don’t think on myself as no hero.”

“I guess maybe that’s the way a real hero thinks on his-self, Son.  They called me a hero in Nam and gave me medals what says so.  You know what?  To this day I ain’t never considered myself no hero,— same’s you,— I jes’ done what needed to be done.  I look at them medals and wonder why they give ‘um to me.”  he smiled proudly at me like he put that thought to bed.  I just shook my head and followed him upstairs.

* * * * * * *

After we shared a little love, Dad wanted to talk a little more.

“Do you have any solid plans for the future, Casey.”

“By future, do you mean a month, a year, five years?”

“Well,— let’s start with a year.”

“I like to work at the ranch for a full year; that is, through the spring roundup.  I plan on coming home the first two weeks in July to visit.  If’n I can talk granddad into doing some rodeoing with me, I’d like to do the Tucson Rodeo and the Chapel Creek Rodeo on the Fourth of July.”

“Okay, let’s try five years.”  Dad stated.

“I ain’t thought ‘at far ahead, Dad.  I’m think’n one year at a time.  I’ve given serious consideration to coming home after my year on the ranch.  Cowboying day in and day out ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t git me wrong, Dad, I ain’t complaining none.   I’ve learned a lot and there’s days I can’t imagine anything I’d enjoy doing more’n being a cowboy.  Then there’s other days I’m bored out of my mind to say nothing of having to work in horrible weather conditions sometimes.

Texas ain’t like Southern California were the temperature’s mild all year round.  As you know h’it gits cold enough to freeze the brass horns off’n a billy goat, and when it rains in Texas, it don’t jes’ piss a little like it does here.  I been riding my pony some days when, I swear to you, it was raining s'damn hard I couldn’t see my pony’s head.”  Dad was laughing at my take on being a cowboy.

“I gets up some mornings and my boots are frozen solid.  Do you know what it’s like trying to shove yore’ feet into a pair of frozen buckaroo boots?  For thirty minutes or more,  h’it’s like walk’n around with two ice cubes on your feet.”  Dad nodded his head in agreement, but didn’t stop laughing long enough to comment.

“During the coldest weather, I don’t even bother to kick off my boots no more.  I jes’ sleep with ‘um on.  I ain’t had my boots off for a week at a time, sometimes.”  Dad was really laughing, “‘Sides, even though I talked granddad into share’n a tee-pee with me, so’s we kin put our sleeping bags together for extra warmth, we’re still s’damn cold I couldn’t offer him comfort if’n I wanted to.”  Dad looked at me and raised an eyebrow.  I wasn’t going to comment further unless he asked.  He didn’t.

“Do you and your partners have plans for your third of the ranch?”

“Naw, Sir.  We ain’t talked on it much.  The  brains behind our corporation, our little brother, ain’t suggested we do anything but sit on the stock and reap the dividends right now.  We’re doing pert-damn good.  I make in one month off the dividends what I make all year as a cowhand.  That’s all right.  I’m glad to cash my paycheck ever’ month jes’ like the rest a’ them cowpokes.”

“What does Dwayne and Logan get out of your corporation?”  

“I pay ‘um an annual salary, and write it off against capital gains.”

“What?  How come you didn’t ask me to be on yore’ board?”  he tried to sound like he felt left out.

“C’mon, Dad, you had yore’ chance.  We asked you, but chu’ done told us you weren’t interested.”

“That’ll teach me.  Next time my boy asks me a question like that, I’m gonna’ ask a hell of a lot more questions.”  he laughed quietly, “I think you may have gotten yore’self into some’um you didn’t count on.”

“How’s ‘zat, Dad?”

“Sid and Sticker are seriously talking about making you manager of the Lazy 8 after a couple of years if you’re still interested in working there.  It makes a lot of sense to them.  I gotta’ admit, h’it makes sense to me, too.  Sticker’s getting more and more involved in Sid’s holdings, and Sid’s been giving him a lot more to do.  According to Sid, Sticker really don’t have the time no more to manage the ranch like he’d like to.  He almost didn’t make it for the fall roundup.  So,  who’s their logical choice for a new manager?  A man who knows cattle ranch’n, the cowboy way and owns a third of the company.

They’d have a man who has a strong vested interest in the company and essentially worked his way up from the bottom.  They really admire you for working as any other cowhand instead of demanding an executive position with the company because of yore’ holdings.  Sid really admires you and yore’ brothers for put’n one over on him and keep’n yore’ mouths shut.  He laughs his ass off ever’ damn time he hears the name, ‘Hensley Agrocon.’ He also liked the idea ya’ll set back and watched as silent partners for damn near a year or more.  Sid said he’d have Sticker learn you what you need to know about managing the ranch, then supervise you for a year or two until they feel you can run it by yore’self.”

“Really, Dad?  They ain’t said nothing to me about it.”

“They’s jes’ talk’n ‘bout it.  Ain’t nothing definite yet,— but h’it’s a big possibility as far as they’re concerned.”

I don’t know’s I could do it,— I mean,— with my commitment to you and all.   I know we talked about two years, but I honestly never meant to be away from you for more’n a year at the most.”

“Look,— yore’ little brother is gonna’ be in school at least another three years,— maybe more.   He ain’t even finished his first year yet.   I’m ride’n herd on him, and I won’t let him take too many courses per semester and burn himself out.  We git along jes’ fine. We got us a good work’n relationship.  As Sid and Sticker done pointed out, he needs me and I need him.  Also, we jes’ happen to love and respect one another.”

“You say’n you don’t need me no more, Dad?”

“Never!  Don’t be silly!  You know better’n ‘nat!  ‘At’s crazy talk, boy! Don’t chu’ never think that a’ way!  All I’m say’n is,— if’n the opportunity comes along and you wanna’ go for it,— let’s talk about it.  Afore you left, you didn’t know how long you’s gonna’ be gone.  Being manager of the Lazy 8 puts you pretty much in charge of ever’ thing.  You can come and go as you please.   You don’t have to be there all the time.  Hell, Sticker's hardly ever there, cept'n at roundup time.  As long as we keep in touch, and I gits to see you for a couple a’ weeks,— two,— maybe three times a year, we can talk about it.

Being manager of the ranch pays a hell of a lot more money than a cowhand makes, and you’d be working for Sid; but,— a word of warning.  Once ole Sid gits his claws in a’ you,— y’ain’t never gonna’ git away from him.”  Dad roared with laughter, “When he gits a good man what will work hard,  make money for him and everyone in the company, he’ll bust his ass to keep you happy.  ‘At’s his business philosophy, and I cain’t say it ain’t a good’un.  It’s made him a very wealthy man, Son, and he sees the same potential in you.

Why,— he pays Sticker six figures a year to manage the ranch.  ‘At ain’t too damn shabby for a cowboy.  It has perks, too.  I believe you’re find’n that out by being flown here and there in the company’s corporate jet.”  he smiled.

“Gotta’ admit, Dad,— it is pert-damn sweet,”  I grinned at him, “and I can wrap my mind around six figures comfortably.”  we shared a laugh. “When Mr. Lyons, the steward,  came to git me at the airport in El Paso he gave me a message from Mr. Wainright.  He told me Sid said to tell me, ‘A corporate executive shouldn’t have to fly commercial airlines.’  You think that’s what Sid was talk’n about, Dad?”

Dad was laughing again and shook his head.

“Ain’t no doubt in my mind, cowboy.  He’s done got chore’ life planned out for you.  He’s excited as hell about all this.  He knows yore’ little brother jes’ ain’t got the interest in such things like you do.  Sid was talk’n to me the other day ‘bout chu’ going to college for a business degree,  a degree in ranch management, or even veterinarian school.  You ain’t gotta’ be at the ranch twenty-four/seven.  You could go to school and manage the ranch on weekends.”  

“He’s bring’n Dwayne along, too.  He’s keep’n a close watch on him.  Sticker’s giving Rance other jobs than being head wrangler of the stock company.  Now he’s the manager,  he don’t have to do none a’ the hard work no more.  He can manage the company from the ranch and make occasional trips to check things out.

He’s taking Dwayne with him and teaching him about the business.  Sticker’s got Rance managing two other of his companies.  He’s encouraged Rance to get Dwayne involved.  Them two be making money hand over fist. Lamar sends most all of his pay home to his ‘little darlin,’ We rolled on the bed at dad’s imitation of Lamar’s pet name for his mate.  Dwayne was far from being ‘little.’  He was bigger than his dad and outweighed him with a good sixty pounds of solid muscle.  “Dwayne dutifully socks it away in a retirement account for his giant husband.”   Dad was on a roll and we quietly laughed and giggled.  We dearly loved them both.

* * * * * * *

Thank goodness we got to bed early.  Dad and I were both so jazzed with talk about possible futures we had a hard time getting to sleep.  I told him a good, hard, animal fuck always seemed to work like a sleeping pill for us and he agreed.   He took me at my word and didn’t spare the horses.  I slept like a damn baby the rest of the night.

The next day dad did have a few chores for us to do, but Bart and I didn’t ride out with Bodey and Flynn.  They went about their regular cowboy duties seeing to the cattle.  Dad had Bart and I doing maintenance work around the place.  There was a lot of little things that needed to be done.  Dad decided to ride out to check on Bodey and Flynn.  He wasn’t spying on them, he just wanted to see how things were going.

Brent begged him to go alone.  Dad looked at Bart, and he nodded his approval.  Dad pulled Brent up into his new saddle with him and sat him in front of him.  They moseyed off to the pasture beyond the barn.  Brent had the biggest smile on his face.  Bart and I spent most of the afternoon repairing things.   About three o’clock we’d done pretty much everything Dad asked us to, so I asked Bart if he wanted to saddle up and ride out to the range.  We slowly rode out to the pasture.  We weren’t in any hurry to get there.  Bart and I hadn’t really had a chance talk a lot, but today we were making up for lost time.

“There’s bits and pieces of things I keep picking up on what don’t make no  sense to me, Casey.  H’it ain’t none a’ my business, and it ain’t right for a cowboy to ask a lot of personal questions.”

“I don’t mind answering any question you have, Bart; however, if’n it’s something I’d rather keep private, I’ll tell you.”

“Fair enough.  As close to yore’ old man as your are, Casey, there jes’ seems to be some’um between you and yore’ dad you can’t talk about.  Has it always been that way?”

“Lord, no.  My dad and I are tight as two ticks on a hound.  I know what you’re talk’n about, but it’s only a temporary situation.  You see, my dad and his dad didn’t get along years ago.  My granddad kicked my dad out of his home for git’n a girl pregnant before he finished high school.  That ain’t all there is to the story, but you don’t need to know the rest right now.”
“Lemme’ guess.  His daddy went crazy and kicked yore’ dad out of his life.”

“Yore’ momma ain’t right, brother.  Y’ain’t dumb.  That’s exactly what he done.  He was a crazed right wing fundamentalist loonie and kicked my dad out when he was only eighteen.  Dad married the girl and  moved his pregnant wife to California, changed his name, joined the army under his new name, went to Nam, got his legs blown off and came home to buy a ranch.”

“So Longhorn ain’t your real family name?”

“Lord, Bart,— don’t never let my daddy hear you say that.  As far as he’s concerned, ‘Longhorn’ is our family name.  He done told me the other night, his tombstone will read: ‘Here lies Vincent Longhorn.’”  I winked at Bart and laughed, “He had a younger brother who became so angry with his dad for sending his brother away for some’um so stupid, he roped his dad, tied him up and raped him.”

“You mean he,— ?”

“You kin say it, Bart.  He had sex with his dad.  He didn’t emasculate him by sodomizing his dad or nothing, he jes’ made love to him until his dad shot his load three separate times.”

Bart shook his head in disbelief, but he didn’t look disgusted,— jes’ amazed.  I waited to see if he wanted to hear more.

“Gosh, a’mighty,— then what happened?”

“He untied his dad and had a cowboy buddy of his and my dad’s come pick him up.  He walked out of his dad’s home at sixteen never to return. He forged a birth certificate, joined the Marines, was shipped to Nam and was killed less than a year later.”

“Wow, that’s tough.  I’ll bet yore’ granddad was devastated.”

“He was, but from what I heard from dad, he deserved it.”

“What was yore’ dad’s name, originally, Case?”

“Langtry.  Remember Judge Roy Bean and Lillie Langtry.  She was my great aunt.”

“She had them purple eyes.  I done heard about it from my dad.  Wait a minute.  Yore’ daddy was Vince Langtry years ago.  Holy shit,— Mr. Langtry, the foreman at the Lazy 8 has them same eyes.  He’s yore’ granddaddy,— ain’ ‘nee?”

“Your mom was totally wrong about chu,’ Bart.  You’re a bright man.  Yes, Curtis Langtry is my granddad.  I went looking for him this past summer to look him up and see for myself if’n he was as bad as my dad told me he was.  He’s changed, Bart.  He ain’t the man he was back then.  He’s one of the finest men I ever met.”

I went on to tell Bart about wearing contact lenses so it wouldn’t give me away when I met my granddad.  I told him about Curtis offering me a job with the Lazy 8, working for him and saving his life.  Bart was hanging on my every word.  He was fascinated by my story.

“So,— you come home for a visit,— yore’ dad knows you ran into yore’ granddaddy,— but he won’t talk with you about it.  That’s the missing piece?”

“‘At’s right, Bart; although, my old man’s coming around.  I left a letter for him on his dresser from my granddad asking forgiveness for his sins against my dad.  Dad ain’t read it yet, but he will.  I’ll take some time, but I know my dad.  He’s asked me a few things within the last couple of days.”

We rode up to the three men and one little cowboy.  They weren’t doing much but jawing with each other.  I was surprised to see Brent so tranquil, but every now and then he’d smile and laugh about something.  Then it dawned on me.  I taught him how to touch someone, and he was either listening in on one of the men or the ponies.  I sent out a feeler and listened to him talking to the ponies.

<< Do you like being a pony and git’n rode? >> he asked the chestnut mare Flynn called ‘Peaches.’”

<< It ain’t a bad life.  Some days are better than others. >> she replied soberly to the young man-colt. << My man-stallion is good to me and feeds me well. >>

Brent laughed because she called Flynn her man-stallion.  I tapped into Brent’s head.

<< Busted! Caught chu’ talk’n with them ponies. >> I sent to him and laughed.  Brent went crazy giggling.  Dad and the cowboys looked at him like he was daft.  It only took my dad a minute to figure out what was going on.

<< Casey, you didn’t tell me I could talk with animals. >>

<< The most important thing, and my main concern was git’n you well again. I done figured you’d fill in the blanks. >>

I came up on my pony next to dad. Brent held out his arms for me.  I took him from dad’s saddle and put him in front of me.  Bart grinned real big.

“Seems like yore’ boy is developing some talents of his own, Bart.”  I told him nonchalantly.

“Like yores’?”

“E’aup.  I caught him tickling the ponies.”

“Aww, Casey.  I weren’t doing nothing wrong.  They’s jes’ ask’n me questions.”  Brent pushed back into me and looked up at me.

Bodey and Flynn had no idea what we were talking about.  Dad explained to them.  They looked at dad and grinned like he was blowing smoke up their butts.

“Yore’ pony, Peaches, said she likes you, Mr. Flynn.  Said you treat her good and feed her well.  She told me she’d shore’ appreciate it if’n you rubbed her down a little bit more in the evenings after a hard day’s work.”

We all broke up laughing.  Flynn looked at Bodey and shrugged.  They hadn’t told Brent the names of their ponies.

“What’s the name of my pony, Son.”  Bodey asked him.

“Sam.”  he replied.  Bodey laughed.  “He said you should give him his head more, and he’ll work better for you.”  Bodey laughed again.

“You tell him I’ll keep that in mind, Son.  I been think’n on it anyways.”

“I don’t have to, Mr. Bodey.  He done heard ju.’”   Sam nodded his head in agreement.  We all laughed.

We rode back to the house, put the ponies up, fixed a nice dinner and sat around talking for a while afterward.  Bart was looking forward to getting home and being with his dad.  I asked him when he wanted to come to work for the Lazy 8.

“As soon as possible, Casey.  You going on back to the ranch when we gits to Chapel Creek?”

“Yeah, we’ll fly back Monday, the second, and they’ll either send a truck for me or Gip will take me down.  Why don’t you spend some time with yore’ boy and family.  If you wanna’ start the following Monday will be fine.  There’s a ranch truck what leaves every Sunday afternoon at six o’clock from the sheriff’s station if’n your dad can bring you to Chapel Creek.  You can bring yore’ own saddle if’n you want to.  We got saddles at the ranch, but most of the cowboys prefer their own. Bring enough clothes for two weeks, ‘cause you only git every other weekend off.  There’s lockers you can lock up your valuables and bedroll.  Bring a good size combination lock.  Keeping up with keys was too much for me.”  I laughed.

 “‘At sounds about right, Casey.  I’d like a week to get ready, and I got a couple a’ things to do with my dad.  Me’n Brent’s gonna’ take him fishing.  He loves to fish, but believe it or not, we ain’t never been fishing together in all them years.  Mom always found some way to stop us from going together.  She wouldn’t let me or my little sister go with him.”

“Humm,— ”

“Yeah,— I know.  I gotta’ do some’um about that.”

It was getting late.  Our little cowboy was already fast asleep on the couch next to his dad.  He had a big day playing cowboy, but he was gaining strength by leaps and bounds; however, he was still limited in his ability to go for long periods of time.  Dad was right, he was beginning to mellow out and not be so hyper.

The next several days was spent helping out around the ranch and chasing Brent with a butterfly net.  He was fast gaining stamina, but he never became quite so hyper again.  He was active as hell, but he soon began to learn he could do certain things and others he couldn’t.  He worshiped my dad.  Bart would holler at him, and Brent would sometimes just ignore him.  Dad could reign him in with a glance.  Bart learned a lot from my dad that week.  He would sit and talk with dad for hours.  Bart really fell in love with my dad.  He thought he hung the moon.  He was right, my dad sets the big silvery orb out every night to shine in the heavens.

New Years was uneventful.  Sid and Sticker threw a big party and we attended.  I wasn’t interested in drinking and became our designated driver.  I think dad had one drink and Bart had a beer.  Bodey and Flynn didn’t drink at all and drank sodas or iced tea all evening.  At midnight everyone hugged and kissed.  Master Waddie and Titus were there, and I kissed them on the mouth.  I kissed a lot of the men on the mouth, but when Bart grabbed me to hug me I let him take the lead.  I was surprised when he kissed me on the mouth.  I didn’t hold back from him either, and we held it a little longer than socially called for. Finally, we broke it off.

“Thanks for that, Casey.  I been want’n to do that for a while now.  ‘At’s for your friendship, your generosity, and your love.  Ain’t met me no better men than you and yore’ family.  I hope when you come to know me, you might think on me as one a’ yore’ brothers.”

“I already do, Bart.   A higher power than us got us together for a reason.  Brent was only a part of it.   I do think on you as my cowboy brother.  I’ll look forward to work’n with you.  We’ll have us some good times.”

“Sounds great, pod’na.’” he smiled.

That night Sid and Sticker took me to Sid’s office and asked me what my plans were for the future.  I told them pretty much what I told dad.

“Has your dad said anything to you about some things we talked with him about.”

“Yes, Sir,— he mentioned a couple of things, but meaning no disrespect, Mr. Wainright, Sir,— I don’t think I want a lot of responsibilities right now.  I jes’ wanna’ be a cowboy for a year,— maybe two,— three at the most.  After the Fourth of July rodeo in Chapel Creek, I’ll make up my mind what I wanna’ do from there.”

I noticed Sid grinned and winked at Sticker.

“Sticker told me exactly what you’d say.”  he laughed, “Truth is, we want chu’ to take it at your own pace.  If you wanna’ play cowboy for two or three years is fine with us.  This is just something we’d like you to think on while you’re out there miserable, wet, cold and hungry.”   Sid and Sticker laughed. “When you think you’re ready, we’ll sit down, and we’ll draw up a proposal.  Sticker will work with you for a couple of years until you get on your feet.”

“I appreciate you talk’n to me about it.  Lemme’ think on it, and we can talk some more.”  I thanked them and we returned to the party.

* * * * * * *

I spent New Year’s day with dad, Bart and Brent.  We had breakfast and watched the Rose Bowl parade.  It was just a laid back day.  We had a steady stream of visitors all day coming by to say goodbye to Bart, Brent and me and to wish us well.  It was a great day.  We spent that evening packing Brent’s toys and children’s book for the trip.  We managed to get them into three medium sized cardboard boxes.  I taped and tied them up good, so they wouldn’t fall apart.  We went to bed early because we had to be up early.  We were flying out of San Diego at nine the next morning.  I called Gip.

“Claymore Ranch.”  I heard Cindy’s voice.

“Ma Claymore?”

“Casey,— oh, Casey!  Gip,— it’s Casey!”

“You coming home tomorrow?” she asked.

“Yes, ‘um, me and Bart Conners and his boy Brent.  I done sent cha’ll an e-mail about ‘um.”

“Yeah, we got it.  We’ll look forward to seeing you.  Here’s Gip.”

“Howdy, Sheriff Claymore.”

“How’s ma’boy?”

“He be jes’ fine, Sheriff.   Looking real forward to seeing you again.”  I put a little emphasis on the word ‘real.’  I laughed.  He got my message and laughed, too.

“Not as much as I’m look’n forward to seeing you, Son.” he laughed. “I got in touch with the Conners and they’ll be out to the Chapel Creek airport tomorrow to meet Bart and Brent.  ‘At was a nice thing you done for them men, Son.”

“Aww, Sheriff,— I’s jes’ doing what needed to be done, s’all.”

“I’ll be there to pick you up in the morning.  Sidney Wainright said ya’ll should land about eleven forty-five.  Yore’ granddad’s gonna’ drive in to pick you up Tuesday morning.  I done begged him for an evening so’s you could have a chance to relax.”  Gip laughed like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar.

“Glad ju’ did, Sheriff.  I could shore’ ‘nuff use me some fine relaxation.  We gonna’ stop by the station first?”  I chuckled.

“Count on it, cowboy.”  he lowered his voice to a needy growl.  We shared a laugh.

“Sounds damn good to me, Sir.  See ya’ tomorrow.”

* * * * * * *

Dad drove us to the airport the next morning.  We had everything ready to go the night before.  All we had to do was throw it in the back of the truck, and we were off.  I said my major goodbyes to my dad before we left the house, but I knew there was always last minutes things to say.  Bart sat down with  dad after breakfast and told him what dad had come to mean to him.  Brent didn’t want to get further from dad that thee feet at anytime during the morning.

We left for the airport in plenty of time to get there before nine. Dad saw us to the plane and exchanged pleasantries with the crew.  I swore to myself I wouldn’t cry when I said goodbye.  I was a responsible young man, a cowboy, for cries sake.   I might as well been pissing in the wind, it didn’t do any good to tell myself those things,  I cried anyway.

“I love you, old man.  I always will.”  I told him.

“Not half as much as I love you, cowboy.”

Bart was good for one last hug for my dad.  Brent was in tears not wanting to leave his new mentor behind.  We boarded the plane and took off.

* * * * * * *

Jeremy was glad to have us aboard again.  He was a delight and catered to our every whim the whole flight.  He served us a great meal and this time Brent didn’t pick at his food.  He ate the whole thing, and had ice cream and cake for dessert.  In the week since the operation he’d gained almost five pounds.  He was starting to fill out and look like a normal kid.

Jeremy took Brent to the back of the cabin where there was a small video screen for viewing in-flight movies.  Jeremy put a cartoon movie into the player and Brent was entertained almost the entire flight.  Bart and I sat and talked.  I told him my plans had been slightly changed, I was going to spend the night in my motor coach and my granddad would pick me up the next morning.  It was a good flight and Jeremy couldn’t have been nicer.  I tipped him twenty bucks for being so nice to Bart and Brent.  He graciously accepted it.
Bart’s parents were at the airport to greet them.  They were so happy to see their grandson again and were stunned by his change.   Bart took his dad in his arms and hugged him.  I saw tears come to his dad’s eyes.  Brent hugged and kissed his granddad and told him he was glad to be home.  Bart introduced me to his parents and they thanked me for helping their son and grandson.  They were genuinely grateful.

Gip was there for me and I introduced him to Bart and Brent.  He’d seen Bart before but never met him.  The Connors got everything loaded and took off.  I told Bart I’d see him the following Sunday.  He had my cell phone number and to call me if he needed to ask any question.  He hugged me and kissed me on the cheek and spoke quietly to me so his parents couldn’t hear,

“I told my ma I done met me some angels, but they didn’t have no wings. They looked like cowboys to me.  I didn’t lie to her, Casey.  You and your family was me and ma’ boy’s angels.  God bless you, thank you for all you done for us, and I love you, brother.”

“I done what I had to do, Bart,— nothing more.  We’ll have lots more times together.  I love you, too, bubba.”

They left to go home.  I threw my stuff in the back of the sheriff’s truck and we headed for town.  I thought Gip was going to wreck the truck, he was going so fast.  He couldn’t get to town fast enough.  I laughed at him and he grinned real big.

“Cain’t help it none, cowboy.  Ain’t seen ma’boy in a coon’s age.  I need me some a’ yore’ sweet cowboy love’n.”

“Well,— I dare say we ain’t a’ gonna’ git no ticket; so, put the pedal to the metal, Sheriff.  I shore’ ‘nuff need me some a’ yore’ brand of good, strong, cowboy love’n.”  we shared a laugh.

“I’ve seen Bart before around the rodeos and all.  I’ve always thought he was a fine look’n man.”  Gip commented.

“I accidentally ran into him in our hallway on his way back from the shower one evening.”

“And,— ?”  Gip was poised for my response.

“Breathtaking, Sheriff.  He makes a fine look’n cowboy but with his clothes off he could pose for one a them statues of Greek Gods.”

“That good,— huh, cowboy?”

“Made my ole asshole lose its pucker.”  I allowed. Gip roared with laughter.

“We’re gonna’ see if’n we cain’t help you with that, cowboy.”  he laughed wickedly.

“Damn,— I hope so.  I need me another grand opening, Sheriff.”

We got to the station and Gip helped me with my bags.  There was hardly anyone there.  We went directly to his apartment in back,  and I headed for the shower.  When I returned he handed me a small glass with two fingers of Comfort.  I’d gotten to where I really like Southern Comfort.

We didn’t fool around too much with foreplay.  We were hotter that two bobcats in heat.  We were of one mind.  I wanted his big, fat sheriff’s dick up my butt as fast as he could get it there, and he was just as anxious to fill my tank.  Gip couldn’t get my plug out fast enough.  Damn, he felt good as he quickly replace it with his fine, cowboy cock.

“Welcome home, Son.”  he whispered as he took a long, deep stroke in my ass, and stole a quick kiss.

“Thanks, Sheriff.  I’m glad I got me a dad what knows how to welcome his boy when he comes home.”

“How you want the sheriff to fuck you this afternoon, Son,— long, slow, and deep, or short, heavy and fast?”

“Damn, you shore’can talk some shit, Sheriff.”  I laughed at him. “‘Member that afternoon a couple a’ months ago, when h’it was raining like a mother,  you thought you got too carried away,  apologized and apologized for being so rough?”

“Yeah,— I remember.”

“Think you could do it again,— but this time,— without the apologies.”  I laughed.

“Why, you,— if’n my dick didn’t feel s’damn good up yore’ cowboy butt, I’d turn you over my knee, take my big black gun belt and whup your little butt until it was nice and hot.”

“Next time,— promise?”
Gip roared with laughter.

“Hell, I never know what’s coming out that mouth a’ yours.  Hang on, cowboy, yore’ gonna’ git rode down hard and mean.  You want a good, heavy duty, industrial strength, lawman fuck’n, I’m jes’ the man what can give it to ya.’” the sheriff growled at me with his deep authoritarian voice and went to work.

He didn’t lie.  He rode me down rough, hard and mean and didn’t stop until he drained us both.  Gip fucked me many times, but if he ever asked me for a request from his repertoire of fine fucks, nine times out of ten, I’d pick his mean ass, animal fuck.  It satisfied to the max.  I stayed fucked for days afterward.

* * * * * * *

We got cleaned up and headed for the Claymore Ranch.  My God, it was like the prodigal son had returned.  Cindy and her two girls were all over me, hugging and kissing.  Cindy knew beyond a doubt the sheriff and I were up to no good.  She got the biggest damn grin on her face.

“It is SO good to have you home, young man.”  Then she giggled like crazy.  “And, by the way, thanks for them pretty flowers you sent. You didn’t have to do that,— ” she smiled real big, “but it shore’ ‘nuff was appreciated.’”

“Aww, Ma,— you done some awful nice things for me, and I jes’ wanted to say thanks.”

“While you men were out, you got a phone call, Casey.  It was yore’ granddad.  Curtis wanted to know if he could drive in, spent the night with you, and ya’ll return tomorrow morning.  I didn’t think you’d mind.  I told him to come on ahead and have supper with us.  He should be here in another hour or so.”

“‘At’s fine, Ma Claymore.  Be great to see my granddad again.”

They wanted to know all about my trip home and how my dad was handling the news of his dad.  I told them he had a visit from my uncle.

“But this time, I weren’t allowed to hear what they talked about.  From what I can make out, Uncle Seth urged my dad to consider forgiving Curtis.  I left Curtis’ letter on his dresser.  He promised he’d read it, but he wouldn’t say when.”

My granddad arrived and it was reunion time all over again.  It was so good to see him.  I’d forgotten what a fine looking cowboy he was.  We had a wonderful supper with the Claymores.  I was going to help Cindy with clean up, but she wouldn’t hear of it.  She shooed me out of her kitchen.  We said our goodbyes and left.  Granddad carried one of my bags, and I carried the heavier one.  He linked his arm in mine, and we slowly walked to the double ‘R.’

It was a clear, crisp, January night under the Western sky.  Everything seems bigger in this damn state,— even the stars.  I could swear there were more stars shining in the night sky above us than any other place on Earth.  I discovered,— it’s true,— the stars at night ARE big and bright,— deep in the heart of Texas.

End Chapter 43 ~ Texas Longhorns
Copyright 2005 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All rights reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com