By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 48

Granddad and I rode back to the ranch with Gip.  We were still in our rodeo gear; however, I helped Curtis removed his spurs and I removed mine.  It isn’t easy riding in a truck with spurs on.  Besides, we didn’t want to mess up the sheriff’s new truck.   Little Gip, and Waddie Buck were in the back.  Gip was in a great mood.

“Appreciate you men’s help today.  Ain’t never had the rodeo run so smooth.  It was the best rodeo we put on in a while.  Hell, it’s the best rodeo we ever done put on, wouldn’t you say, men?”  Gip spoke over his shoulder to his boys.

“Best one I can remember.”  allowed Waddie Buck.

“I ain’t that much older’n you, little brother, but I cain’t remember a better one.  We were through with ever’ thing by noon.  Lot’s a times we ain’t got out a’ there ‘til one or one-thirty.”

“Proud of you men for winning today.  You done good.  You shore’ whupped the pants off me’n the boys.”

“Thanks, Sheriff,” Curtis replied to him, “your times was damn good, and congratulations to you, Son, for coming in third in the calf roping event.”  he spoke to Little Gip.

“Thanks, Mr. Langtry.  Makes me feel good I placed.  I’m happy.  Hope I do as well tomorrow.”  Little Gip responded.

We arrived at the ranch and helped Gip unload the ponies.  Socks and Rocky were giddy again.  They were just as happy my grandsire and I won as we were.  They still didn’t want to be too far from each other.  They were like two love struck kids.

<< Will you two cut it out?  You’re embarrassing me. >> I laughed at them.

<< You been in love, man-colt,— you know how love is. >> Socks shot back at me.

<< Yeah,— you’re right, Ms. Socks,— I do know how it is, and I’m jes’ as guilty as you two. >>  they laughed at me.

When we finished Gip asked Curtis if he’d mind if he borrowed me for a minute.  

“You headed out to Casey’s coach, Mr. Langty?”  he asked.

“Yes, Sir, Sheriff,— I wanna’ take off my gear and clean up for the barbecue.

“‘At’s fine.  We got ever’ thing under control, but I need to talk with Casey for a few minutes, then I’ll send him on out.”

“Sure,— I need to sit me down for a spell anyways.  Ma’ hip’s bother’n me a bit.  I’ll wait for you in the coach, Son.”  Curtis spoke to me.

I quickly removed my chaps, handed them to granddad along with my spurs and asked him to take them to the coach for me.

“I’ll be along in a minute, Grampa.” I told him.  

Curtis turned and walked away with his head hung down.  I started to ask Gip to wait until later to tell me what he wanted, but the big man had his arm around me tight and started walking in the opposite direction.

Curtis walked toward the older barn on Gip’s property.  The parking shelters Gip and his boys built for the R.V.s was a little way beyond the barn and nestled in a grove of huge oak trees Gip’s dad and granddad  planted many years ago when his dad was still a kid.   The big trees were over fifty years old.   They shaded the back side of the old barn and the R.V. area.  There was always an updraft of air that kept the area cooler than the rest of the property.  Most of the cowboys who stayed at the ranch liked to stay in the old barn.   Gip’s granddad thought of everything and had a complete restroom and shower facilities built for the cowboys who would come and stay with his family for a visit.  

Curtis felt like every step he took was more effort than the last.  His hip was bothering him with a dull ache.  It wasn’t bad, but it was uncomfortable. He thought to himself  he would have to look in the medicine cabinet for some ibuprofen when he got to the coach.  He didn’t feel old, he just felt defeated.  How could he feel that way when he won the rodeo with his beloved grandson?  Casey had to remind him of his blessings.  He knew he was blessed.  He felt blessed.  He was grateful to God for his grandson and his life as it was now.  He wanted to have faith,— he did have faith,— but he was human.

He reached the coach opened the screen door and stepped on the metal fold down step to step up into the coach.  The door shut behind him, he walked into the living area and set Casey’s chaps and both sets of spurs on the floor next to the couch.  He stood upright again and suddenly felt he wasn’t alone.  He turned and saw a fine looking, middle age, cowboy standing tall, framed in the doorway to the bedroom at the rear of the coach.   

“Hello, Dad.” said Vince Longhorn.

“Vince?  Oh, my God in heaven!  Is it really you, Son?”  Curtis exclaimed.  

He reached out his hand, but his legs wouldn’t cooperate, his knees began to buckle under him.  Vince stepped to him in an instant and held his dad in his arms.  Curtis threw his arms around his son and held him tight.  He began sobbing his heart out, kissing Vince on his cheek and muttering how wonderful it was to see him again.  Vince shed a few of his own tears, but he  let his dad get it out.

“Yes,— h’it’s really me.  It’s okay, Dad.  I’m here now.  I’m sorry it took me so long to come to you, but I didn’t wanna’ tell nobody how I felt about chore’ letter until I had a chance to meet with you face to face and tell you myself.  I jes’ didn’t think it would be right.  The opportunity ain’t presented itself until now.  Since Sid and Sticker planned to fly out, I saw it as the right time to come, meet with you, and tell you myself.”

“It’s all right, Son, I understand.  I just thank God you’re here.  Nothing in the world’s important right now.  I’m holding my boy in my arms and that’s all that matters.  I’m so damn sorry, Son, for what I done to you and yore’ little brother.  I’m so ashamed of myself.”  Curtis sobbed.

“Shuuu,— you already done apologized in yore’ letter, Dad.  ‘At ain’t why I’m here.  I ain’t here to chastise you or cause you no more hurt.  I done figured, from what I read in yore’ letter, you done beat chore’self up worse than anything I might have to say.  Let’s not talk about the past.  I ain’t got nothing to say about the past anyway, other than to remember some good times.  I’m only interested in today, Dad,— here and now,— and the future.

I think you done had a pert-damn good idea for us put’n the past behind us and see’n if we can’t start again.  You asked me to give you another chance.   I done me a lot a’ think’n on it since Casey brought chore’ letter home, and I decided it might be a better idea if’n we give each other another chance; not only for ourselves, but also for my boy.”

“I love Casey so much, Vince.  He means so much to me.  I was so proud of him today.  We won the Tucson rodeo last weekend.  We won the rodeo today, and he won first place in the calf roping event in Tucson and here.  I wish you could a’ been there to see it.”

“I was at the rodeo, Dad,— I saw it all, and I was proud of both of you.  I saw the love what passed between you and Casey in the arena before you moved to the stalls to begin yore’ run.  One a’ my other boys, Sid Wainright’s boy Logan and I were sitting with Cindy Claymore, the sheriff’s wife and their daughters in the sheriff’s private box.  We were sitting with a bunch of wonderful Apache Indians.  When Cindy explained to the men what was going on, they insisted me and Logan wear their war bonnets to disguise us.”  Vince chuckled.  

“I’m so glad you’re here, Vince.  You don’t know how much this means to me.  I’ve always loved you as my son, but I’ve come to love and appreciate you in a new and different way through Casey’s love for you.  He’s so loving, open and honest, ain’t a day goes by he don’t come up with something what makes me have to stop and rethink the way I look at things.  I come to realize he’s a reflection of you, Son.  He ain’t you, but I see flashes of you and Seth in him that are unmistakable.  Ocie, Bubba and I could swear sometimes we see Seth Quee looking out at us from his eyes.  You have several other men who think you’re one the best men what ever walked this Earth.  A little buckaroo named Brent and his dad Bart Conners.”

“I shore’ ‘nuff fell in love with the little cowboy and his daddy when they’s  with us Christmas.  I’m still learning from my boy, Dad.  Family is important to him.  Somehow he collects family as he goes along, but he never seems to leave anyone behind.  He’s taught me, family is where you find it.  Family is were yore’ heart is, where it can reside in peace.  I only met the sheriff and his boys for a minute, but I can tell they’s fine men.

Cindy Claymore and her daughters told me they considered Casey a part of their family now, and they ain’t give’n him back.  They said you’s a part of their family, too, and they ain’t gonna’ give you up, neither.  They told me I’d just have to become a part of their family.” Vince laughed. “From what I’ve heard about ‘um and how good they been treat’n me since I been here, cain’t says h’it won’t be a pleasure.”

“They’s good people, Son.  They been loyal to Casey, and I cain’t fault ‘um for that.  They been good to me.  Casey’s taught me more’n a few things, Vince.  You couldn’t a’ raise him no finer.  He’s so devoted to you.  He tells me he’s yours,— you own him,— and he serious about it.”

“You mentioned that in yore’ letter.  I’ve heard talk about it, but I don’t have no claim to Casey other than to be his dad and love him.  We sort of gravitated to each other after Frances died.  We sort a’ invested the love we had for her into each other, and we became closer than most fathers and sons. We became buddies and friends.  I’m still his daddy, and I always will be but I have to let him grow up on his own, apart from me.  I didn’t realize that until he’d been away for a while.  My family back home done ganged up on me and told me I had to let him go, and they was right.  I jes’ didn’t understand it at the time.  Casey had to grow up faster than other kids ‘cause he had a dad who needed his support.  If’n h’it weren’t for Casey, Dad, I wouldn’t have the life I have now.  ‘At boy gave up a lot to see his daddy was comfortable and well taken care off.  He worked his butt off to see to my well being and never once complained about it.  He was just always there.  I hate to say it, but I began to take him for granted.

I love Casey with all ma’heart, Dad,— more’n anything on this Earth, but what kind of dad would I be to think I ‘own’ him.  He’s been talk’n with Waddie Claymore and his family too much.  ‘At ain’t what I have in mind for Casey.  I want him to be his own man.  I want him to chose who and how he wants to love.  I ain’t worried none about my boy, Dad, I know his heart, and I know even if we don’t have the same relationship we done before, he won’t never leave me behind.

When he wanted to go off and rodeo by himself, I knew ninety percent of his reason was to see if he could find you.  I tried ever’ damn trick I could think of to keep him from going.  To be honest with you, I was afraid to see him get hurt.  Fortunately, for both of us, it didn’t turn out that way, but I did lay a pretty heavy guilt trip on him.  I’ll admit, I was pert-damn afraid for myself if I lost my main support; however, after Sid and Sticker talked with me, I understood I had to let him go for both of us.  I’m glad I did.   It’s made me realize I can be a little more independent than I thought.  I don’t have to be so needy of him.

I done told him when he was home Christmas to stay on at the ranch if he wanted to.  H’it’s gonna’ be another three, maybe four years his little brother’s gonna’ be in school.  Logan and I need each other.  He needs me to keep him on the straight and narrow and make damn sure he don’t over extend himself with his school work.  He made a promise to me and his big brother he’d take care of me, and I made a promise to him and his daddy I’d see to it he made it though Med school.  I don’t know what’ll happen after that, but I ain’t worried none about it.  I come to realize I have to put myself in the good Lord’s hands and he’ll see me through.  Ever’ things gonna’ work out all right.

When I heard he and Ocie saved yore’ life, I knew he’d bonded pert-damn tight with both ya’ll.  I know from the way he talks about the Claymores he’s in love with them.  Cindy Claymore almost embarrassed me talk’n ‘bout him and sing’n his praises.  Her daughters think he’s damn near a saint.  You can’t contain a force like Casey.  My little brother was right, he contains the spark of three strong, healthy spirits.  Seth done told me he had strengths I could only imagine.  I can see letting him go was the greatest gift I could a’ given him and it was the best thing for me.

I’m solid with my love for Casey and his love for me.  In some ways our love has grown more mature and more rewarding.  I ain’t the least bit worried if’n he’s been share’n love with you and Ocie.  H’it don’t threaten me none.  ‘At’s jes’ the way Casey is.  ‘At’s the way I done raised him to be.  Hell, he was sharing his love with his brothers in high school.  Good thing, too, I don’t think either one of ‘um would a’ made it if’n he hadn’t.  His love bonded them three together to form an unbeatable force.  In all that time he never once short changed me with his love.  He was always there for me.

I know fer’ damn sure he and ole Bubba’s been play’n hide the little green snake.  I know’d he’s been ride’n the sheriff’s pony.  He’d be a damn fool if’n he weren’t, and I didn’t raise my boy to be no fool.”  Vince chuckled.  I jes’ about imagine he and Bart’s been knock’n boots.  I knew when he brought ‘um home, he’d fallen in love with Bart and Brent.  Now he tells me he’s fallen in love with their dad, too.  I’m look’n forward to meeting Hank Conners.”

“Casey’s an amazing kid, Vince.  Ain’t no doubt about it.  I’d love to have him stay on at the ranch for a while longer.  He tells me he’s happy jes’ being a cowboy, and he don’t want no more responsibility right now.  He don’t think I know, but he’s been working behind the scenes to make things better for all of us, and he’s managing to do it without make’n me feel like he’s doing my job.  He goes out of his way to make sure I ain’t threatened.

He and Bart’s become saddle buddies.  Casey’s been sharing a tee-pee with me when we’s out on the range, but we don’t never do nothing ‘cause the conditions jes’ ain’t right.  After he come back from a weekend with Bart and his family, I knew him and Bart bonded.  I told him he didn’t have to bunk it in with me,  he could bunk it in with Bart if’n he wanted.  He said he weren’t interested in changing things right away.  If’n it happened between him and Bart he wanted it to be a natural thing.  He didn’t wanna’ jump into nothing.  Claims Bart’s got his-self another love interest in his old high school buddy.  You remember Pete Chambers I used to rodeo with?  It’s his boy Nick.

I purposely arranged it so Casey and I wouldn’t have the same weekend rotation off so’s he could go and do with those he’s bonded with.  I didn’t want him feel’n obligated to take care of me.  I want him to know my love and appreciation for him goes much deeper than anything we might share physically.  I guess I’m learning more and more about some’um you’ve know all along, Son,— unconditional love.  Hell, other than work’n with him ever’ day, which is a blessing in itself,  I ain’t hardly had me no one on one time with him since he got back from Christmas.  Last weekend in Tucson was only the second weekend in six months I got to spend with him.  Shore' as hell enjoyed it, too.”  

Curtis couldn’t believe how easily they were talking with each other and not as father and son, but as old friends who hadn’t seen each other in years and had a lot of ground to cover.  ‘It’s better this way,’ Curtis thought to himself.  ‘I never was much of a dad to my boy anyway; now, maybe I can be his friend.’  He suddenly realized he had some good practice, his grandson treated him as an honored friend.  Maybe that’s why grandads and grandsons get along so well, they don’t have to worry about the middle man.

“I told Casey when he was home Christmas to stay on at the ranch for a spell if’n he wants to.  I’m all right.  I got his little brother who’s a tiger about being there to assist me in the mornings and evenings.  I guess you know, I ain’t standing on my own legs.  I got me a nice pair of store bought legs courtesy of the VA.”   Vince grinned at his dad.

“I know, Son, Casey done told me and showed me pictures.  I’m so damn sorry, Son.  I wish’t I could a’ been there for you when you come home.  I wish’t I’d a’ been there for your little brother.  I lost so much because I was such an insufferable asshole.”  Curtis started sobbing again.  Vince felt awful for his old man.

“There, there, Dad.  I done told ju’ not to live in the past.  What’s done is done.  We cain’t go back and fix it.  Wish we could sometimes, but we cain’t.  H’it jes’ ain’t possible.  We both lost a lot, but let’s be thankful for what we got.  Let’s us be thankful my little brother crossed over and found peace.  There again, if’n it weren’t for Casey and his love for Seth, he probably wouldn’t a’ made it.  Casey had ever’ one back home praying for Seth and according to Sid, Sticker and Waddie Claymore he had ever’ one at the Broken Arrow and here in Chapel Creek praying for him.

We got us a damn good boy what loves us beyond measure, and a goodly number of family and friends who are concerned about us.  We got us a second chance, Dad, and if’n we fuck this one up, there ain’t no more excuses, there ain’t no hope for us.  My boy has enough faith in us, Dad, we can make this work.  You know, I always dreamed of have’n me a dad.  My little bother done told me when he come to me, if I pass up this opportunity,  I’ll be a fool.  I don’t wanna’ be no fool in the eyes of the Lord, Dad.  I’m here to tell you, I’m willing to take the chance if you are.”   

 “You’re just like I remember you as a kid, Son.  You have a compassion and a stronger, deeper faith than I ever had which allows you to love unconditionally and forgive.  It comes so easy to you, it’s like it was a natural part of you, and you sometimes have a hard time accepting why other folks cain’t understand love and compassion the way you do.  I hope I’ve learned some of it over the years.  I had one young man teach me to love unconditionally.  He’s here at the ranch with Waddie Claymore’s family.  After twelve years, I was reunited with him at the Broken Arrow in Tucson last weekend.  We forgave each other, and it’s been wonderful to see him and his Master again.  Yore’ little brother come to Casey and me, and,--- Seth and me,— we made our peace.  I told him how much I love him and shared love with him one last time though Casey.  It was a wonderful, miraculous experience.  I’d be proud and honored if’n you’s to think on me again as yore’ dad, Vince.”   

“I always wanted to tell you I love you, Dad.  I’d never admit it to nobody, not even myself, but after I come back from Nam, I secretly yearned for things to be different.  It’s like a dream come true.  Me’n my little bother talked about it so many times, to be able to jes’ hold you like this and tell you we love you.  I want to love you, Dad.  I will love you if’n you give me the chance.”

“I meant ever’ word I said in my letter, Vince.  I’ll try my damnedest to make sure you never regret giving yore’ old man another chance.  I love you, Son.”

They hugged and kissed each other on the cheek again.  Vince let his dad go and walked to the kitchen.  He found the bottle of Comfort he knew his son always kept in the cabinet.  He held it up to his dad and smiled.

“This calls for a little drink, Dad.”

Vince didn’t wait for Curtis to answer.  He got two small glasses from another cabinet, poured a couple of fingers in each, and handed his dad one of the glasses.

“Here’s to change, Dad.  Here’s to compassion.  Here’s to forgiveness.  Here’s to fathers and sons everywhere who have learned to set aside their differences and find a common ground to love each other.  Here’s to new beginnings, and here’s to your grandson, without whom, this moment would have been impossible.”

Curtis had tears in his eyes as he clinked glasses with his son, and they took a sip.  Vince took Curtis’ glass from him, sat both their glasses down, returned to take his dad into his arms once more.  Vince was taken with the realization,  the man he was holding, who loomed so large, ominous and threatening in his memory, was now just a little smaller physically and a bit shorter than him.  He held his dad close for a minute, and they shed a few more tears together.
“Now, I want something from you I always dreamed of and never got.”

“Anything, Son,— what is it?”

“Kiss me, old man.”  Vince said like an urgent plea in a long forgotten prayer that had been prayed quietly for many years.

Curtis closed his eyes, gently placing his rough, cracked, sunburned, weather beaten old cowboy lips to his son’s and gently kissed him.  He would let his boy take or give as much as he needed, and that’s exactly what Vince Longhorn did.  He gave and took from his dad the love he always wanted, the love he always needed from him all those years and never received, but he wasn’t having to take it from Curtis like his little brother so boldly did.

Vince sensed Curtis was no longer afraid of love, . . . no longer afraid to freely give and receive his love.  His old man was genuinely taking the love he offered and was giving back to him as much love as Vince could handle.  How many times?  Too many times had Vince and his little brother cried themselves to sleep in each others’ arms asking each other why their daddy couldn’t or wouldn’t show them love.  Vince was living a reality he dreamed about at night for years and afterward would wake up having soiled his bed.  He never shared that dream with Casey.

It was like his dream had come true.  His subconscious dream-fantasy wish was being powerfully fulfilled, but this was not a dream.  This was reality. This was the real thing.  The more he made love to his dad the more Curtis returned his affections, until their bodies, which were pressed tightly to each other, began to tremble.  Vince could feel his dad growing stronger in his Wranglers, and he didn’t even consider trying to hide his physical attraction for his old man.  Now was not the time for either to hold back anything from the other.

Curtis was not going to be the first to break off their kiss.  He would fill his boy with as much as he could take.  Vince was taking his old man’s love into him like a starving glutton who found himself locked in the pantry overnight.   Their bodies began to shake, and they both knew they were approaching climax.   Neither pulled away as they reached the pinnacle of their passion, and began to explode in their Wranglers; each moaning and groaning from the ecstacy for their coming together.  Neither was embarrassed nor experienced the slightest guilt.  They were committed to their love and passion for each other.  It was as natural as the drawing down of blinds at the close of day.  It was a powerful moment neither man would forget for the rest of their lives.
Still they kissed until they both were sobbing so hard from the release and relief from the bonding they just shared, they had to break it off.  They stood holding each other tight, crying from their grief for the love they didn’t share for so many years and the happiness and joy in knowing they could now be free to forgive, appreciate and love each other unconditionally.

“There’s a bunch of cowboys, several fine cowgirls, and a whole tribe of Indians out there who are sitting on pins and needles right now to know about chu’ and me; to say nothing of our young cowboy whom the sheriff promised to rope and hog tie to give us this time alone together.  You think it’s about time we walked out, arm in arm to let ‘um know we didn’t kill each other?”  Vince chuckled and Curtis smiled.

“I think you’re right, Son, right after we clean ourselves, finish our drinks and have one more kiss before we leave.”

“ ‘At’s a can do.  Sounds good to me, Dad.  Let’s do it.”

   * * * * * * *

When we were out of earshot of my granddad, Gip spoke to me.

“Yore’ daddy’s out there in yore’ coach wait’n for yore’ granddad, Son.”

“Oh, my God!”  I exclaimed, as my knees went weak, but Gip held me tightly. “I knew something was up.  Griz didn’t tell me nothing.  Neither did the ponies, and most times, they cain’t keep no secrets from me.”

“‘At’s cause we had Griz talk with ‘um.”  Gip laughed.  “Mr. Longhorn flew in with Sid and Sticker.  Yore’ little brother Logan’s in our house wait’n for you.  ‘At’s why Cindy was gonna’ be late.  She dropped off the girls at the rodeo to get things started and welcome the tribe if’n they arrived early.  She drove to the airstrip and picked ‘um all up.  I had ya’ll work the barn so’s we could sneak Vince and Logan into my box with Cindy and the tribe.”

“You mean my dad done seen us rodeo?  I never saw ‘um up there, but the screen makes it dark, and I couldn’t make out anybody but Cindy.  I could see several of the chief’s bonnets.”

“Yeah, well,— the tribe went along with us and yore’ daddy and little brother was wearing their headdresses.”

I couldn’t help it, I fell out laughing.  I was almost in hysterics.  I was feeling joy and relief like I’d just been pulled back by someone who saved me from an oncoming bus and sure death.

“You’re a piece of work, Sheriff.  Ya’ll had this planned out for months.”

“Yeah,— we did.  You don’t know how close I come to spill’n the beans yesterday afternoon when we’s making love and  rodeo’n at the station, but I bit my tongue.” Gip chuckled,  “It was hell keep’n it from you, but we didn’t wanna’ take no chances.  Yore’ daddy had a hand in it, he wanted it this a’ way.  He wanted to make his peace with his old man one on one.  He told me when they was finished, he’d bring his dad out, and that would be the time for us to join them in their rejoicing.  He’s right, Son.  He didn’t do it that a’ way to leave you out.  Yore’ daddy’s a wise man.  I respect him ‘cause ‘at’s the way it ought a’ be.”

“I know.  I don’t feel left out, Gip.  I’s too damn happy to feel left out.  Hell, Sheriff, this is what we been praying for the last six months.  Thank God, it’s finally come to pass.”     

I saw my little brother come out the backdoor of the ranch house and start running toward me with a huge smile on his face.  I saw my other brother coming from another direction to meet us.  Gip let me go to run to them.  We met in the middle, held each other and shed a couple of tears.  Most of the cowboys and Master Waddie’s family gathered around us and applauded.

“Damn, it’s good to see you again, big brother.  I’s so proud of you and yore’ granddad for winning today.  Ain’t never seen me no better roping.” said little bit.

“You done good, brother.  We’s proud a’ ya’ll.  We’s happy Dad Longhorn decided to come with us.”  said Dwayne.

“I can’t believe you’re here, and you didn’t come alone.  I hope ever’ thing’s all right out there.”

“Don’t worry, brother, our dad’s a changed man.  I done figured he worked ever’ thing out in his head shortly after he read the letter, but he wouldn’t talk  to me none about it.  I knew better’n to ask, but he never volunteered nothing neither.  He cain’t keep no secrets from me.  He knows it, too.  Not because I touched him, neither.  I jes’ know him so well by now.”  Little bit giggled and added, “‘Sides, I didn’t have to, his pony tells me ever’ thing I wanna’ know.”   
We shared a laugh.  I guess ponies the world over are notorious gossips.  I don’t expect a rational answer, but I’ll have to ask Ms. Socks and her spouse  how they did it.  Logan continued,

“Mr. Longhorn done told me on the plane he knew I knew all along what he was gonna’ do.  Some’um come over him in the last six months, Casey,  what’s been a miracle in itself.  He’s more relaxed and comfortable with everything and everybody.  He always was a good and thoughtful man; however, lately he seems to appreciate so much more the least little thing anyone does for him.  He embarrasses me sometimes.”

“You embarrassed?  I done learned ju’ better’n ‘nat.”  I laughed as I joked with him.

We stood around and talked for sometime.  Bart walked over to shake hands and say ‘hello’ to Logan and introduce him to his dad.   HRH Brent Conners was being carried around by his giant Nubian Marine.  He was in heaven; however, I could see in his eyes he’d been crying.  I took him from Lamar.

“What ‘sa matter, buckaroo?  You been crying ‘bout some’um?”

“Yeah, but I’m all right now, Casey.  I jes’ overheard someone say my other granddad’s here.  I was so happy I started crying.  I wanted to fine him and go to him, but daddy done told me he was meet’n up with his daddy.  He said he’d be out here in a minute.  I’m so happy for them, Casey.”

“So am I little one.”  I stole a kiss and noticed all the men were looking toward the old barn. I tuned around with Brent still in my arms to see my dad and granddad slowly walking toward us with their arm around each other and big smiles on their faces.  I sat Brent down.

“Now’s, yore’ chance, cowboy.   Go on, run to him.”  I spoke loud enough for Bart and Hank to hear me tell him.  I patted him on his butt, and he was away as fast as his little legs would carry him, yelling at the top of his voice,

“Mr. Longhorn,--- granddad,— ! ”

Dad opened his arms to Brent, and the boy was in them in an instant.  He was hugging and kissing dad and telling him how great it was to see him again, and he knew he’d come.

“I done told Mr. Langtry you’d come, Sir.”  Brent smiled at Vince.

“It’s good to see you again, young’un.  My goodness how you’ve grown.  How is yore’ daddy paying the food bills?  You must be eat’n him out a’ house and home.”

Everyone laughed.

“I catch me a lot a’ catfish and eat’um, Mr.  Longhorn.”  he winked mischievously at dad.  He and Curtis roared with laughter.
All the cowboys and Indian men gathered around us.  Hank gathered Brent from dad, and it was my turn to give him a hug and a kiss.  I couldn’t help myself, I shed a few tears, but may old man was, too.  Someone started clapping.  The rest joined in out of happiness and respect for me and two men who had come together after years of being separated.   My dad and granddad were in tears.  I was hugging granddad when dad turned to the crowd and began to speak,

“Thank you, gentlemen, one and all.  This is a day we’ll remember the rest of our lives.   My personal thanks to those who helped make it happen and thank you for being a part of me’n my dad’s reunion.  We appreciate yore’ help, yore’ love, and we love all of you.”

There was another round of applause, and Gip held up his hand to speak.

“Ya’ll know I ain’t one for long speeches.  If’n that’s what it took to get elected yore’ sheriff ever’ year, I’d never git a vote.”  they all laughed.  “Lemme’ jes’ say my thanks for the love all you men and ladies showed to these gentlemen.  We couldn’t a’ done it without ch’all.  Now, let’s celebrate our independence day and do us some rodeo’n.   If’n anyone here goes away hungry or thirsty, h’it’s their own damn fault.  Have a good time.”

The men whistled, applauded and cheered the sheriff.  We disbursed to head to the picnic area.  It took us a while to get there because we were introducing dad to folks along the way.  Brent took him by the hand to introduce him to his other granddad Hank Conners.  I could tell dad and Mr. Conners liked each other right away.  

Dad wept uncontrollably when he met his brothers O.C. and Bubba again.    He lost it when he met Bubba’s boys Vince and Seth Quee.  It was another powerfully emotional afternoon, but things began to calm down after a while.

After eating too much and helping with some things for the picnic Cindy or Gip needed us to do, Bart and I joined the other cowboys who were already rodeoing.  Many of the men gathered around Gip’s arena to watch.  It was a really laid back afternoon.  I roped a couple of times with Bart, Mutt and Master Waddie.  I even got my dad on Ms. Socks to toss a couple.  He roped with me and then roped with granddad.  They made a good team.  Granddad, me and Bart continued to have the best times.

We put the ponies up early to have them fresh and rested for the rodeo the next day.  Gip and Cindy were serving up homemade ice cream to anyone who wanted it.  A lot of folks did.   Their was plenty for all, but the kids got theirs first.  Dad and granddad were sitting at a table with Bubba, Ocie, Logan, Dwayne, Lamar, and Cousin Rance.  I don’t think they were far away from each other all afternoon.  I brought them their ice cream and returned with Bart to get ours.  Bart was with me most of the afternoon.

I know I see him all the time, every day, but I just feel comfortable having Bart around.  He never intrudes, but he’s always there if I need him or need companionship.  His personality reminded me so much of a combination of all the men my life, including Master Waddie.  It was like he was all of them wrapped up in one special package,--- one special cowboy.  I couldn’t imagine celebrating a Fourth of July without him in my life.  I just wished we could have more time to spend together away from the ranch.

I promised him the first weekend after I got back from California I would spend with him and his family.  I also promised I’d spend the long Labor Day weekend at his place.  He never said anything, but I knew he wasn’t looking forward to being without me for two weeks.  We’d stay in touch though.  I don’t care if it costs me a small fortune in cell phone bills, I think I need to hear from him as much as he needs to hear from his saddle partner.

It was one of the most magical days I can remember in my life.  Everything seemed to be in harmony with the universe.   Everyone was having a good time and no one was arguing are being disagreeable.  Gip talked the Apache men into performing  another couple of dances for us, and they were excellent.  Garth Yellow Hawk was an impressive man and a great fancy dancer.  They danced for a couple of hours.

Finally, they invited all the veterans to get up and dance with them.  My dad,  granddad, Rance, Sticker, Lamar, Ocie, Master Waddie, Titus, Harley, Mutt, Big Jim, Beau, Blaine, Chief, Cowboy, Bull, Charlie and several other men got up and danced.  They were reluctant at first, but Garth Yellow Hawk knew who the vets were in the crowd  and pointed them out to his dad and the elders.  They would come and take each man by the hand and lead him to the dance.  My dad couldn’t dance too well with is legs but he kept up a good rhythm.  It didn’t matter to him or anyone else.  That wasn’t what was important.  What was important was the healing.

I think it was the single most moving thing I ever witnessed.  They all were a bit shy at first, but as the drums went on and the songs continued, they got caught up in the healing of the dance.  They seemed like they were transported to another plane of existence where nothing mattered but the dance and their release within it.  Tears were streaming down their faces as they danced around each other until they spiraled into the center of all the dancers and were dancing as a small group. No one who witnessed it could help but feel the presence of God surrounding them and those who loved them.

The sun began to set and the sheriff opened a ten by twenty metal storage shed he had away from everything.  It was packed to the ceiling with fireworks.  Everything you could imaging.  He brought them out and passed them out to the adult men to supervise the kids setting them off.  Everyone was setting off rockets and roman candles.  For an impromptu fireworks celebration it lit the sky for and hour or so.  Everyone had a ball.  It was the best Fourth of July celebration I can remember.

Afterwards, folk began to say their goodbyes and leave.  The evening was winding down and they knew the men had another big day of rodeoing ahead.  It finally came down to the cowboys and Master Waddie’s family.  Bart, Brent and Hank left to go back to Spring Hill for the night.  It was hard to say goodbye after spending such a wonderful day with them.  Brent got to play and be with a bunch of kids his own age.  He was a tired little buckaroo as he hugged and kissed dad and granddad goodbye.

Dad, granddad and I found ourselves alone for a few minutes.

“If you wanna’ stay with Casey in his coach tonight, Son, I can bunk it in with the other cowboys in the barn.”  Curtis said quietly to dad.

“Naw,— ain’t no need in that.  I didn’t come here to disrupt anything.  Come Sunday, we’s flying out a’ here back to California, and I’m gonna’ have him all to myself for two weeks.  You men need to be together tonight and tomorrow night.  I got my other boy here,” dad motioned toward Logan who was talking to some of the cowboys nearby, “he takes damn good care of me.  I rented us a room for a couple of nights.  I think Sid and Sticker was planning on staying with the sheriff, but when I told ‘um we’s staying in the motel, they decided to rent a room.”

The evening was winding down and everyone was getting ready to retire for the night.  We said goodbye to dad, Logan, Sid, Sticker, Kevin, Jeremy, pilots and they left to return to town and the motel.  Dwayne, Rance and Lamar were staying in the barn.  Granddad and I returned to the double ‘R’ for the night.  I don’t think I ever saw my granddad so happy and relieved.  He was like a new man and it translated into his love making.  We shared some good sex during the last year, but nothing like we shared that night.  There was no talk of insurance policies.   What granddad and I shared that night was indescribable.

Curtis and I rode the entry flags again the next day at the rodeo and we won first place in team roping.  Me and Bart won second place.  I won first place in calf roping again and little Gip won second.  It was another great day, but this time dad and my little brother weren’t hiding in the sheriff’s box.  They were in the stands with Sid, Sticker, and my other family from home, yelling their encouragement.  At one point the crowd laughed at their enthusiasm.  

That afternoon was almost a repeat of the previous day except it was a much smaller crowd and everyone seemed to have a glow about them from the rodeo going so smoothly.  Gip was positively radiant.  He was so happy everything went off like clockwork.  He was everywhere that afternoon making sure everyone was having a good time.

Granddad and I spent that night together in the double ‘R’ and it was another wonderful night.  He poured more of his good love into me and I tried to give back to him as much as he gave me.  We lay there together talking quietly afterward.

“I’m gonna’ miss you, Grampa.  Wish’t you was going with me.”

“I hope they’ll come a time when I can go with you.  I’d like to see you and Vince’s world.  Sid and Sticker seem anxious for me to come out to visit.  I might be persuaded to sometime.”  he smiled.

“You happy, Grampa?”

“More happy than I’ve been in a long, long time, Son.  I ain’t been this happy since me’n Tom Harris was still sharing love with each other.  I loved yore’ grandma, she was a good woman, but the love you share with your buddy is different.  I cain’t put no words on it.  I cain’t define it.  H’it’s just different.  I hope he’s smiling down on me right now and can forgive me for turning against him.  I loved him so much.”

“He done told me he forgave you when he come to me that night afore you was shot, Grampa.  He still loves you.”

The next day was Sunday and Gip wasn’t having any of the locals over that afternoon.  He let it be known he wanted Sunday to relax and be with his family and guest.  The folks respected his wishes.  He’d done a great job of seeing to everyone else’s happiness for a couple of days, it was time to let him be for a while.

Everyone went to church Sunday morning.  We were joined by dad, Logan, Sid and Sticker.  Bart, Hank and Brent had been invited for the day and they were with us, too.  I can’t remember a time when going to church meant so much to me than that day.  It didn’t have anything to do with the service, it was a representation of my life.  I had around me my my past, my present and my future sitting with me.  It was hard for me to concentrate on the service.  

After a wonderful Sunday dinner there wasn’t a rush to rodeo like the last couple of days.  Sid and Sticker wanted to fly out by about two o’clock so there was just enough time to get my stuff together and say goodbye to my family in Chapel Creek.  I knew I’d see Master Waddie and his family back in California after several days.  I felt bad about leaving Curtis, Bart, Brent and Hank.  I loved them all, but they had become special to me.  I knew somehow, all these beloved folks would be a major part of my life.

We left Texas in Sid’s private jet at two fifteen in the afternoon.  Gip, Bart and Granddad drove us to the airstrip.  Others wanted to come, but there just wasn’t enough room.  I said my tearful goodbyes to Brent and Hank and all the others at the ranch.  I said my final goodbyes to Curtis and Bart at the airstrip.  I was touched by the love that passed between Curtis and my dad upon parting.  They shed more tears and promised to keep in touch with each other.  

Flying home was a fun experience.  I was going home with my family for a  visit and I was looking forward to it; however, it was almost like I left another home behind me.  Had I become so attached to Texas and the folks back there? The empty hole in my heart told me the truth.

I spent a wonderful two weeks with my dad and family.  It was good to be home.  I worked every day with dad around the ranch, but it wasn’t really like working.  It was more like sharing time doing things with my beloved buddy.  In the evenings we either entertained or was wined and dined royally by the folks in our community.  The next Sunday afternoon we spent all afternoon at the Wild Animal Park not far from us and attended an evening barbecue at the ranch where Master Waddie and Titus live.  

I visited several times with the Winchesters and they came to most of the family dinners and functions we had while I was home.  I got to be with Sheriff Bart and his family several times.  All in all it was a pretty well rounded visit.  I told my little brother not to be so standoffish.  He was welcome to come by and get his Longhorn fix a couple of afternoons.  He thanked me and told me he needed our dad at least once a week.  He was funny.

I had a couple of good, long talks with dad about the Lazy 8 and the future.

“Son, I talked with yore’ granddad, and I’ve heard from others this idea that you belong to me.  You will always belong to me, but not in the way you might be think'n.  I tried to talk with you the last time you were home about your options and tried to feel you out about what you might like to do.  I don’t want chu’ to make the mistake of confusing belonging to me and me owning you.  I don’t own you, Son.  I never wanted you to think that.  I know you’ve been highly influenced by Waddie Claymore and his family, but they have a little different take on male bondings than the way I see things and what I want for you.  I can’t fault ‘um none for their way a’ doing things.  Hell, the proof is in the longevity of their relationships.  They must be doing something right.  I know yore’ granddaddy swears by them, and if’n they’s even partially responsible for his change, they got my everlasting gratitude.”

“Are you happy granddad changed, Dad?”

“Of course I am, Son.  Having a dad who has learned to give and receive love and believes in the cowboy way is something me’n ma’little brother dreamed about for years.  Whatever time we have left is better than none at all.  Just the idea I can be free to love him instead of hating the man he was makes all the difference in the world.  Always remember, Son, to hate someone takes a hell of a lot more energy and is harder on yore’ soul than it does to forgive and love them.”

“I’m glad you made the effort, Dad.  I’m proud of you.  You’ve always been my greatest hero, but when you came to Chapel Creek, you topped all my expectations of you.   As far as I’m concerned, ain’t a’ one a’ them super heros what can hold a candle to my old man.”  

“What I’m trying to tell you is, I don’t wanna’ own you, Casey, and I don’t want you to think you have to spend the rest of your life devoted to me.  Going out on yore’ own taught me a few things about myself I forgot about.  I  will always need you, Son, but I don’t need you to take care of me.  I’ll get by, but if worse comes to worse I know you’ll be right there if’n I need you.  I’ve put my trust in the good Lord, and I have faith he’ll see me through.

I could see what you mean to them folks in Texas and you’ve made family there.  The sheriff got me off to myself and told me he loves you like you’s one of his boys.  He weren’t kid’n me none neither.  My brothers Ocie and Bubba think the world of you and so does Bubba’s boys.  I just can’t see you up and leaving them folks with as much as you got invested there.  That ain't to say nothing about Bart and his family.  It’s plain to ever’ one what’s going on between you two.  You’re plumb head over boot-heels in love with each other.  Maybe you ain’t admitted it to one another, but ever’one else knows.” Dad laughed at me.

“I guess we are a bit obvious, but we don’t carry on in public or when we’s working dad.”

“H’it don’t matter none.  We kin see the way he looks at you and the way you look at him.”

“He’s got another man in his life he loves, Dad.”

“You mean the Chamber’s boy?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Bart's daddy done talked to me about that.  I won’t tell you what he said, but I know he’s gonna’ tell you to talk with Bart about it.  By the way, I know’d Hank Conners for years.  He didn’t remember me until we got to talk’n, but I always admired him.  I think he’s a fine man, Son.”

“I think Mr. Conners is pretty special, too.  I’ve decided I wanna’ stay on at the Lazy 8 for another couple of years, Dad.  I enjoy the work, and if I do take over managing the ranch, it’ll be good experience for me.  I already got some things changed though working with Sticker and Sid. The cowboys is gonna’ have a lot more time off from the ranch than before so they kin have some life away from there.  The couple who’s living and managing the ranch house and barns is getting older and won’t be living there much longer.  I got plans for that, too.  I just think I may have found my place at the Lazy 8.”

“You could do a lot worse in life, Son.  I’m proud of you, Casey, and what you’ve accomplished on your own; damn proud.”

That got my old man a big kiss and me and good fucking.

I flew back to Texas by myself on a Sunday exactly two weeks to the day.  By that time, the pilots were used to flying into Chapel Creek.  It was a pleasant flight and we landed about one-thirty in the afternoon.  Guess who was there to pick me up?  You guessed it!   Well, hell, . . . how many men can claim to have the sheriff of a county in Texas as his personal chauffeur?  While the service wasn’t exactly free, I was certainly willing to pay the price.  Gip was so glad to see me, I didn’t even ask.  I just knew we would stop by the station on our way back.   It felt so good to have the sheriff back in my saddle again.

After we had two fantastic rodeos we lay there relaxing and enjoying each other.

“H’it’s so good to have you back, cowboy.  I was afraid you might git back there in California and not wanna’ come back.”  

“Naw, not a chance.  You cain’t get rid of me that easy, Sheriff.  I love it here, and I love you and yore’ family.  I love all the folks I’ve come to know.  My daddy told me he respected the fact I made family here and he don’t wanna’ see me walk a way from ya'll.  I guess seeing my dad and granddad git back together has given me a new perspective on love and family.  How strong ties between folks can be and how easily they can be broken by someone’s foolish actions.  I don’t never want that to happen to the family I’ve built up here in Chapel Creek; however, neither will I leave my family in California behind.”

“I don’t think you’ll have to.  Yore’ daddy asked me to talk with you about something, Son.  I don’t know how to go about it, but jes’ talk with you like I’s yore’ real dad.  I know you’re a fine cowboy, and I dearly love riding the range with you like we done this afternoon.  Some of the happiest moments a’ my life in the last year’s been spent with you in this here apartment or yore’ coach, but have you given thought to settling down and raising a family?”

“I ain’t given it much thought, Sheriff, but I ain’t ruled it out neither.  I love kids.  I found that out with Bart’s boy Brent.  I'd love to have me about four or five jes’ like him running around, but to have that I have to git married.  I ain’t never even been with a woman, Sheriff.”

“I didn’t think you had.  Yore’ daddy didn’t think so either.  To be honest with you, neither had I until Cindy come along.  I was pretty much like you.  I was foot loose and fancy free.  I spent several years riding with my dad’s family and a couple of the other families.  I was running from the draft to git out a’ going to Vietnam.  My daddy and granddaddy made sure I didn’t go over there and git myself killed.  After I settled down, I had me some guilt feelings about not going, but after a while they went away.  When the folks wanted me to be their sheriff, I decided it was a better way to serve them than git’n my big, cowboy butt blown off in Nam for no reason.

It would a’ been real easy for me to take on a mate with someone from dad’s family.  I already had me a couple of brothers I was riding with who I was tight with, but I wanted more.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted until my brother from Bandera, C. W. Crenshaw, Cass’s baby brother, decided he was going home after the war was over and marry a girl he went through school with.  I was his best man at his wedding, and it got me to think’n I wanted me family.  Then, too, I had my granddad and several other good men talk to me about settling down with a good woman.

I came home to stay for a while to help my granddad.  He just lost my grandma and was having a rough go of it.  While I was home I started dating Cindy.  She’d gone off to college while I was on the road and was home taking care of her mom who wasn’t doing to well.  We’d dated all through high school and I really enjoyed being around her.  We never done anything ‘cause I jes’ didn’t believe in it.  We got pretty close, and I told her about my life.  I didn’t leave nothing out.

She told me she was a virgin, too, but I had a lot more experience than she did.  She wanted to git married and give it a try with me.  I told her I didn’t know whether I could give up my cowboy buddies.  She said she didn’t care about that as long as I took care of her and didn’t have no cowgirl buddies.”

Gip laughed, and I laughed with him.

“We dated about two years and were together a lot.  Dad came home to help take care of  granddad and his other dad Morgan while he was dying.  He urged me to marry Cindy, but I still wuddn’t sure.  After couple of years, granddad was better and I took off on my bike again for a summer to ride with the family again.  It jes’ weren’t the same for me.  I had all sorts of opportunities offered me, but I jes’ couldn’t let myself do nothing.  Finally, an old man I loved very much, the leader of the family, Master Beryl, sat me down one night and talked to me.  After that night I knew what I had to do.  I had to come back and marry Cindy.

We been together ever since.  Once I learned the ways of a woman, I fell more and more in love with her.  She knows about me and my cowboy buddies, but she don’t care none.  For some reason after a good session with you, old Bubba or even one a’ my boys, my thirst for Cindy is double what it was.  She seems to appreciate it.  ‘At’s why it’s been so easy for her to think on you as another one a’ her boys.  She really loves you, Casey.”

“I love Ma Claymore, too, but I don’t know about marriage, Sheriff.  I’d like to have me a family, but I don’t even have me a girlfriend.  I love both yore’ daughters, but I think on them more like sisters.  I like Ruby Rose a lot, she’s jes’ like her momma, but Linda Sue, . . .”

“I know you don’t wanna’ say nothing judgmental about Linda Sue.  You don’t have to, I know.  Her momma and me’s taught her to be compassionate and forgiving, but she somehow got herself caught up in the that fundamentalist hog wash.  I jes’ know she’s probably gonna’ end up marry’n some little half-baked, snot-nosed, Southern Baptist, preacher-man what’s gonna’ cause me all kinds a' grief, and I’ll probably end up squashing him like a bug.”  Gip chuckled.  He meant it as a joke, but I knew he had serious concernes about his daughter.

“Now, Rose, on the other hand, is more like her mother.  She’s asked Cindy and me about you.  She don’t wanna’ marry no bible thumper.  She wants to marry a cowboy, and I think she’s got her heart set on you, Casey.  Truth is, ever since the rodeo, she’s been driving me crazy to tell you.  Cindy done told me it would make her happy no end if’n you two might happen to git together.  I ain’t try’n to suggest nothing to you.  I jes’ wanted you to know.  Cain’t say’s it wouldn’t make me awful damn proud to have you as my son-in-law, cowboy.”

“Gosh, thanks, Sheriff.  Glad ju’ told me.  I never considered it, but it's something to think on.  I been so busy with the Lazy 8, my granddad and my dad, I ain’t had me much time to think on anything else.  Then there’s my cowboy brother Bart.  We ain’t been together but once, but we been riding together ever’ damn day for six months.  I hear tell ever’ one thinks we’s in love with each other.”

“Are you kidding?  Of course you are.  We all see it and joke about it behind yore’ back.  Curtis told me Bart wandered around them two weeks you was gone like a wall-eyed calf what lost its momma.  Curtis said he never shirked his job, but he jes’ weren’t the same old Bart they all love.  Yore’ granddad put the word out, any man what teased him about it would have to answer to him personally.  I guess no one did.  You ain’t gotta’ give your cowboy brother up, Son.  Hell, you jes’ try’n give yore’ father-in-law up and he’s libel to throw yore’ cowboy ass in jail until you come across with sufficient bail.”  Gip threw back his handsome head and roared with laughter at his joke.  “My point is, if Bart loves you the way I think he does, he won’t never abandon you jes’ ‘cause you decide to git married and have a family.  Do you think that cowboy would give up the family he’s got now to ride off in the sunset with you, whistling ‘Happy Trails’?  Ain’t very likely.  He’s devoted to his old man and that kid a' his, as well he should be.  They’s both treasures.  If’n you's worried about that, you let his old man handle him.  Hank Conners knows and believes in the cowboy way.”

“I’ll think on it, Sheriff.  You know what?  I shore’ as hell wouldn’t mind have’n you and Cindy for in-laws.”

That was all we said about it.  We got into Gip’s shower together.  He loved me pampering and bathing him.  I didn’t mind a bit.  It got me another chance to suck him off and swallow some hot sheriff come.  By the time we finished and got cleaned up we had just enough time to drive to the ranch, say ‘hello’ to everyone, have a bite to eat, grab my clothes and cowboy gear and head back to town to meet the ranch truck.  Garth, Bret, Curt, and Sam rode back in with us to meet the truck.  They had all sorts of new things to tell me about what was going on back at the Lazy 8.  Bart met us at the sheriff’s station with Brent and Hank.  I got to say ‘hello’ to them again and promised I’d see them the following weekend.
Granddad and Wade rode into town to pick us up.  Lord, you’d think I was gone for months, they were so glad to see me.  Bart, Wade, and Granddad filled me in on everything.  Most all the cowboys who talked with us at the two rodeos showed up and wanted to try out for a job on the ranch.  According to Granddad we now had a full compliment of cowhands plus four extra.  Wade and Granddad had to decide who stayed on and who they would let go after another four weeks.  They declared it was going to be hard, because they were all fine cowboys.

Sticker told Curtis it was discussed and the board of directors wanted a full compliment of eighteen cowhands, two cooks and two helper cooks.  Granddad went on to tell me about the new rotation of weekends off and how all the men were a lot happier with more time away from the ranch.  Bart kept nudging me in the side with his elbow.  He knew I was behind these changes.  He seemed a lot happier with the new changes as well.  

We got to the ranch and Will held supper for us.  It was like homecoming with the older hands, and it was good meeting the new hands again.  I’d met and talked with all of them at the rodeos, including, to my surprise, Mr. Evelyn Le Fleur.  He was very happy to see me again.  Granddad was right.  You couldn’t tell him from the rest of the buckaroos.  He obviously went out and bought all new gear, but he looked the part from his hat down to his big, heavy duty, buckaroo boots.   Gone was his shoulder length hair.  He had his hair cut into a crewcut and he looked completely different.  I didn’t say anything, but I certainly wondered about his transformation.  I was to find out, granddad was right about another thing, he could roll his own with any of the other cowboys.

Will seemed to be adjusting well to his new cook-crew and according to Wade Mulligan, he was pert-damn happy with the new time-off schedule, too.  I met the new second cook and the two helpers.  The cook was a middle aged man who was a mess cook in the Navy and became a cook to another large outfit in Wyoming.  He came highly recommended.  Will wouldn’t approve of him until he cooked a meal for the hands, then he let them decided to hire him or not.  They all voted for him to be hired.

One of the young brothers who rode with us before was back.  He decided he wanted to try another year and Granddad hired him on the spot.  He didn’t have to go through the six week trial period.  Wade and Curtis knew he was a good hand and since he was good enough to help us during a hard time there was no question about them hiring him again.  It was just the cowboy way.

Everything was different.  It was like coming into a completely different group of men.  Even the men I’d worked with day in and day out for a year seemed different.  Everyone seemed more relaxed and jovial.  No one seemed to be grumpy or depressed.  Everyone had a smile on their face and a good word to say.  The transformation was dramatic.  Granddad, Wade and Bart told me to expect a difference.  It seemed like the new added feature of having more time off away from the ranch was proving to be a good thing.  

Bart was particularly happy with the extra time off.  He got to be with his family more and relax.  He told me before the new schedule, he looked upon working at the Lazy 8 as a means to an end.  It was something to support his family until he could save enough or find something closer to home to do, but now, he was seriously considering staying on for a good while longer.  Of course he told me a lot had to do with his saddle partner and what his ultimate goals were.  I was going to talk with him over the weekend about that.

It was a good week.  I rode Big Red several times that week.  He was there every day if I wanted him, but a couple of days I told him he needed some rest, to take the day off and relax.  He seemed to appreciate my concern.  There was always another pony waiting to work with me.  Bart had a couple of favorites he liked and they never seemed to run from him if he wanted them to work with him.  He was a fine horseman and respected his pony.  He had the attitude his pony came first.  He wouldn’t ask them to do anything he felt might put them in any danger.  All the ponies respected him for that reason.

We rode together all week and Curtis or Wade would send us off to check out an area for strays or heifers who we knew were near delivery.  The weather was really warm for July.  The nights were mild but the days were almost unbearably hot.  We didn’t want to overwork the ponies because, we didn’t know when we would be able to get water for them.  We always carried large canteens with us in case of an emergency.  Many times we’d stop and give them a little water whether it was an emergency or not.

We rode into the box canyon where granddad and socks was shot, and it must have rained a couple of days before, because the canyon was in bloom and there was pools of water everywhere.  We stopped for a while to let the ponies get a drink.  I was riding Big Red and ask him before we stopped if he’d like a beverage.  He told me he’d appreciate a cold one.  Bart and I found a shady place beneath an outcropping of rocks that was part of the wall of the canyon.  We sat for a few minute while the ponies drank their fill.

“You know, Casey, I didn’t find out ‘til the Fourth of July picnic about chore’ uncle who was killed in Nam was named Seth Quee like Bubba’s son.  It got me to think’n it coudn’t be no coincidence his boys were named Vincent and Seth Quee like yore’ daddy and his brother.”

“Naw, you’re right, brother.  ‘Member me telling you about granddad turning his back on my dad and throwing him out of his home.”


“Well, there was a little more to it than just him git’n a girl pregnant.  About the time he got my mom pregnant, Curtis caught my dad and Bubba in the barn one afternoon suck’n each other off.”

“Woah, dogies!  That puts a whole different light on some things.”

“Yeah, I thought it might.  I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.  To be honest, when we come back from the weekend at chore’ place, granddad asked me if I told you about me’n dad.  I told him I thought I’d done told ju’ ever’thing, but I jes’ plumb forgot about it.  Since I didn’t know nothing about you when we’s in California I didn’t see no need to tell you, but that weekend we spent together changed all that.”

“I know you and yore’ Uncle O.C. are tight with each other and I’m kinda’ think’n you and yore’ granddad are too.  It’s hard for me to understand how he could a’ been so upset.”

“He was a different man back then.”

“Yeah, my daddy told me he knew Curtis to be a hell fire damnation church going man back when dad was rodeoing with his buddy Waylon.”  Buck said.

“Yeah, well, thankfully he ain’t no more.”  I allowed.
 “I know better’n to ask about, . . .”

“Play’n hide the little green snake?”

Bart laughed.

“Yeah, but I guess a cowboy ain’t got no right to ask that sort a thing about his buddy.”

“I could tell you the same thing I told Sticker Wiggins when he asked me if’n you and I ever knocked boots.”

“Knocked boots?”  Bart took his hat off wiped his brow with his shirt sleeve and laughed, “Damn, Casey, you come up with some a’ the most off the wall shit I ever done heard.” he laughed again, “So what’d ju’ tell him?”

“I told him cowboys don’t never kiss and tell.  He asked me the last day of roundup before we spent the weekend at chore’ place.  I told him I didn’t know if’n you’d ever consider such a thing.  I didn’t know.”
“Wait a minute!  You mean Mr. Wiggins and his boss, Mr. Wainright are, . . .?”

I just smiled at him.

“Cowboys don’t never kiss and tell, right?  Okay, I understand.  I won’t ask no more.  I guess I got me a lot to learn.”

“The thing is, . . . would ju’ really wanna’ know?” I asked quietly.

“I don’t know.  I think sometimes maybe I would, but then I ask myself 'why'?” Bart confessed.

“I would never ask you how things turned out between you and Nick.  I didn’t have to, I knew the weekend you came back after being with him.”

“I didn’t say nothing.  Oh, I see, you . . .”

“No, no, now,— don’t go there, brother.  I ain’t never tried to touch you, and I never would without chore’ permission.  I don’t even hear from Brent that often.  He’s learn’n fast he cain’t be invading folks privacy when he feels like it.  His granddaddy’s being a fine influence on ‘nat boy.  I didn’t need to touch chore’ mind, I jes’ knew from the way you was for a couple of days.”

“I was confused when I come back after being with Nick that weekend.  His wife done took his kids away from him, and he's been lonely as hell.  He’s been drink’n a lot.  He asked me over for a Saturday night.  He didn’t have nothing in the house to eat ‘cept’n a stale box a’ pretzels, and he’d been drink’n heavy.  I drove him into town to the DQ for a burger and some fries.  He sobered up a bit, and I took him back to his place.”

“You don’t have to tell me this, Bart, if’n you don’t wont to.  I ain’t judging you none.  I love you, and I’m still gonna’ spend the weekend with you and yore’ family and enjoy myself.  Nick Chambers ain’t gonna’ come between us.”

“I guess I jes’ wanna’ tell you, Casey.  I git the feel’n you think I still love Nick and I do, jes’ not the same way I love you.”  I was going to protest again when Bart held up his hand to let him finish, “ One thing led to another and he wanted me to fuck him.  I asked him if he’d cleaned himself.  He asked me what I’s talk’n about, and I explained.  He hit the ceiling and told me he weren’t gonna’ give hisself no enema jes’ so’s I wouldn’t git shit on ma’dick.  I tried to explain to him what we done that night in the back of his daddy’s pickumup truck was dangerous; his ass wasn’t made for hold’n shit and my big cowboy dick too.  I didn’t give no rat’s ass ‘bout git’n ma’dick dirty, but I could seriously hurt him.  Well, he weren’t having any of it.  I apologized and left.  I guess he reconsidered.  He called me about an hour after I got home and told me he was clean, to come on back over.  I apologized again and told him I’d have to take a rain check.  I was already in for the night, and I’s fix’n to go to bed.  He cried on the phone and begged me, but I didn’t go back over.  I could tell he was drunk.  I jes’ don’t like being around him when he’s like that.”

“I’m real sorry to hear that, Bart.  I don’t know what to say.”

“You ain’t gotta’ say nothing, Casey.  I jes’ wanted you to know why I was different when I come back to the ranch after that weekend.  It weren’t ‘cause Nick and I got it on.  I though on it a lot and I come to the conclusion,  I was disappointed we didn’t git it on, and I felt bad and guilty because he has no one.  At least for now, I got my saddle partner.”

Bart didn’t elaborate, but I knew what he meant; he wasn’t getting needy.  That’s what I love about Bart, there’s no hidden agendas.  It’s all right out there on his sleeve.  He knows he can depend on me to be the same man for him day after day.  Sex has nothing to do with it, but love, compassion, understanding, friendship and companionship does.  

It was our last ride of the day and we headed back to camp.  We weren’t in any hurry.  We were taking our time.  It was still hot and we asked enough of the ponies for the day.  I apologized again for not telling him the weekend we were together about me’n my dad, but since that time things have changed somewhat.

“You don’t owe me no apology, Casey.  I realize why you didn’t tell me until you know’d me better.  Besides, it ain’t been that long since you visited with us.  I ain’t surprised none.  You’re right when you told me I ain’t been around much.  I’s unlearned about a lot of things.  I saw how close you and yore’ dad was, but I never would a guessed.  H’it makes sense now.

‘Sides, I got my dad and my boy to take care of.  I’s just thankful I have a family to love who loves me.  I’ve learned a lot from you, Casey,  and for that I'm grateful.  I wouldn’t have my dad to love if’n it weren’t for you.  Probably wouldn’t have my boy, neither.  Don’t think for a minute I ain’t given thought to making love with my old man; however, I know we can’t do it with an inquisitive six year old who can tune into our thoughts.  Ain’t gonna’ stop me from tell’n my dad how much I love him and what he means to me.

I’d be a damn liar if’n I’s to say the thought of you and me ain’t crossed my mind.  I’d love to think one day I could be yore’ man, but I ain’t entertained the idea for long.  I never knew, but I’m discover’n my daddy’s a pretty wise old man.  He done told me you was way out of my league.  It kinda’ hurt when he told me, but he’s right, I ain’t got nothing to offer you.  I’m just a cowboy.  I accept that, but I told him I don’t care none,— I wanna’ be with you until you moved on or you don’t need me no more.”

We rode along in silence for a while watching the sun beginning its journey into evening.  I finally broke our silence.

“Cowboy,— you have a hell of a lot more to offer than you realize.  You have more than most men ever dreamed of.  You have more wealth than you know.  I can’t speak for no one else,— but for me,— I’d rather have you for a cowboy brother than any man I ever met.  I don’t know what the future has in store for us.  I know whatever my future brings, I won’t leave my dad or granddad behind; but then again, I don’t think you’d leave your family behind for me either.  I don’t think either of us would ask that of the other.  I don't think we have to.  It was my granddad’s suggestion I tell you about me'n my dad, so if you have others  you might love as much or more, you wouldn’t deny yourself the opportunity. That’s why I’m sorry to hear about Nick.  I’m hope’n he might come around later, but you might have to let him lean on you for a while.”
We rode along in silence for a little longer.

“You mean you’d still love me as yore’ cowboy brother, even if’n I’s to have something with Nick?”

“Of course I would.  Wouldn’t be fair of me not to if’n I’s sharing my love with others.  I ain’t ready to make no commitments to nobody right now.  You’s about the closest thing I got to a commitment right now.  I see the other men I love when I can, but it ain’t no regular thing.  We don’t have no strings attached to one another, not even my granddad; but, there’s a difference in making a commitment to someone and think’n on somebody as family.

“I guess I really am dumb.  For a long while, h'it never occurred to me you and Mr. Langtry might be knock’n boots.”  he laughed.

“How do you think we won the rodeo, cowboy?  How do you think you’n me won Nick’s rodeo and won second place in Chapel creek?  H’it’s ‘cause we love one another.”

“Think we’ll ever win first place, cowboy?”

“I don’t know about team rope’n; however, I plan to help my cowboy brother win the wild, bareback bronc ride’n event when we rodeo in his bedroom this weekend.”  I winked and laughed at him.  He laughed then grinned at me wickedly.

* * * * * * *

I spent the weekend with Bart and his family and had another wonderful time.  It was even better than the first time.  We went fishing a couple of times and caught a bunch of fish.  Brent was twice as alive and active as he was before; however, now, he was an accomplished horseman, and he was getting pert-damn good at learning to toss a rope.  He wanted his daddy and I to work with him every chance we got.  He was beginning to make some catches on his pony.  He’d get so damn excited when he roped the steer, he’d forget to dally his rope and it would get away.

Bart and I made long, relaxed, leisurely love at night.  It was the stuff of dreams.  Saturday night he fucked me until the moon got bored and went to bed, and the nosey stars came out to play.  Laying there afterward, talking quietly, saying outrageous things to each other, I realized what dad, granddad, Gip, Bubba, Ocie and all the men from home told me, I was in love with the big cowboy who had his fine dick soaking in my ass.  This wasn’t my usual I-just-love-‘em-all kind of feeling.  This was something I never felt before.  It just felt right, but it was different.  I didn’t feel like I had to capture it in a bottle and only let it out when I needed a little.  It wasn’t something that was here today and gone tomorrow.  I knew, no matter what lay in store for Bart and me, we would always be close within each other sphere of love.

“Think you might wanna’ fuck me sometime, Casey?” he asked, “I ain’t the kind a’ man what has to be on top all a’ time.  I aim to find out how good a fucker my old man is sometime.  I jes’ can’t imagine me fuck’n him, h’it jes’ wouldn’t seem right somehow.  Don’t think I got me nothing to worry about.”  he chuckled.

“I ain’t gonna’ rule it out, but for now, I’m more’n satisfied to have you be my man.  That’s what you want ain’t it?”

Bart took another long stroke up my butt as if in answer to my question.  

“I’ll be yore’ man as long as you need me or want me to be, cowboy.  I love you, Casey.”

“You know what, brother?”


“I love you, too.  I can’t imagine going through life without you by my side in some way.  I don’t know what the future holds.  To be honest, I ain’t given up on having a family.  Love’n you and Brent made me come to realize how much kids mean to me, my dad, granddad and maybe a few more folks I love.  Would you still be my man if’n I’s to git married and raise a family?”

“I wouldn’t say no, but I don’t understand how I can be?”

“Same way’s our sheriff does it.”

“You ain’t gonna’ tell me, . . .”

I didn’t answer him, but I smiled real big.

“He was another one what asked me about us.  I told him the same thing I told Sticker.”

“I’ll be damned.  He’s always been one a’ my heroes.”

“Gip manages to balance his life pert-damn well.  He don’t give up the men he loves or put himself in a bottle.  He don’t have nothing to do with no other woman but Cindy, but he knocks boots with a number of men he considers family.  He and his dad got together a lot over the years until his dad bonded with Mr. Titus.  What if you decide later you wanna’ have something closer with Nick?  What if you decide you wanna’ git married again and have another couple of cowboys?  As Brent git’s older what about you and yore’ dad git’n a little closer?  Do you really think, for all them possibilities you and me is ever gonna’ be that far from each other?”

“I ain’t never thought about it that way.  I just think about a man and woman git’n married and living together.  I guess with two men h’it’s different and you gotta’ adjust yore’ way a think’n a bit.  If'n Nick had been more honest and open with me,  I would a' carried on a closer relationship with him even after we's both married.  I thought about it many times,  expecially after my wife died.  I guess we jes' don't know about situations and how we should handle 'um until we got 'um stare'n us in the face.  Then, we don't always make the right decision.   I guess I shouldn't fault Nick none too much.  I's as much to blame as he was.  I never made it no easier on him and I could have.  I could a' said some'um to him to git him to think'n  'bout us being more open with one another, but I didn't."  Bart chastised himself.  

“You still got time to change that, cowboy.  Way I sees it,  yore' brother needs yore' help.   If'n he goes off the deep end an does some'um rash,  you might live the rest of yore' life regretting you didn't try a bit harder.  I ain't say'n you gotta' sell yore' soul and let Nick suck you dry.  I think you got chu' enough horse sense you wouldn't let that happen no ways.  As far  as we're concerned, even if we don’t never live together, we’re gonna’ be together on the ranch for a good while.  I’m probably gonna’ take over managing the ranch in the future, but I ain’t in no hurry.  No matter where life takes me, do you think I’d ever let go of my main man, my cowboy brother?  Do you think I’d leave you behind?  You ain’t git’n rid a’ me that easy.  We’re gonna’ find time to be together no matter what.  We always got us some fish to catch or a rodeo to go to.  You mean more to me than all the tea in China or all the gold what used to be in Fort Knox.  I meant what I said the other day ride’n back from the canyon, you have more worth than you know, cowboy.  All the gold this cowboy will ever need, brother, is in that big cowboy heart a' yore'n.  You're one of the few things in life I feel like I can bank on and never come up short.
  I couldn’t git chu’ out a’ my heart if'n I's to put a stick a’ dynamite to it.  Look, Bart, the bottom line is, I love you, cowboy, and I always will."

“God knows, I love you, too, Casey.”

We  kissed each other with a kiss that moved the stars around in the sky.  It sealed a bond between us as great as any marriage vows ever spoken in the so-called world of convention.  I lay there in my cowboy brother’s big arms with him still firmly planted in my ass.  We were quiet for a while when I heard his breathing change and knew he drifted off to sleep.  I didn’t move.  I didn’t want to disturb him or the treasure I had inside of me.  I gave forth with a deep contented sigh and looked at the stars twinkling in the warm summer night crowding each other for a place in the heavens.   The moon had left much earlier while I was busy taking care of my man.  I didn’t get to tip my hat nor tell it, “Goodnight, Mr. Moon.”  Still,— I had the silly stars to approve our performance. 
I imagined them as crazed rodeo fans sitting in the stands watching  their two favorite cowpokes win the rodeo in my brother's bed.  Beyond the stars, I had the future to ponder, and I saw that it was good.

I drifted off into a deep sleep and found myself riding Big Red, herding cattle on the Lazy 8.  I knew it was spring roundup on the ranch.  My mature, middle aged, fine looking, cowboy brother was riding on my right side.  To my left a beautiful young cowgirl about seven or eight years old rode up behind us, who looked for all the world like Gip's daughter Ruby Rose.  She told me her ma and grandma sent her to tell us supper was about ready.  She smiled at me, reached out to take my hand and rode along  with us for a spell.  I knew I loved her beyond measure.

Off in the distance I could see eight young cowboys of varying ages riding toward us.  Following behind them was eight older men I made out to be Hank Conners, Gip and his dad, Waddie Claymore, Titus, Bubba, Uncle Ocie, my dad and granddad like they were riding herd on the younger men.  The oldest of the young men I recognized as Brent, but the other seven I didn’t recognize; however, they looked remarkably familiar.  They all were exceptionally handsome young cowboys.  For some unknown reason my heart leapt to my throat.  Bart looked at me, winked and grinned real big at the sight of them riding toward us.

<< Are you responsible for this dream, Red?>> I inquired of my pony.

<< No, you are, man-stallion,— but the look into the future is courtesy of me, yore’ owner, his dame, and their son, Griz. >>

<< You gonna’ tell me who these seven, handsome cowboys is, Red? >>

<< Don’chu’ know, man-stallion?  Look closely. >>

Brent smiled, tipped his hat to me and rode up beside his dad.  He looked like a younger copy of his cowboy dad.  As the others drew closer, I could see their smiling faces and every damn one of them young cowboys had lavender eyes. They all gathered around, said 'howdy' to their little sister, and called me dad.  I wept when I realized I was looking upon the blessed sight of my own children; one daughter and the seven sons of Casey Longhorn.  With me and dad's blessing, Curtis changed his last name, and together our family became, the Texas Longhorns.

The End

End Of Chapter 48 ~ Texas Longhorns
Copyright 2005 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All rights reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com

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