Tales from the Ranch

Book 2, Chapter 14: Rapid Growth
The next Thursday evening Craig and Dale rode to Kawarce with Frank and Doris to look at the construction progress on their new house.  Dale hadn't been down there for several days and was amazed at the progress.  All of the first floor was framed and about half of the framing for interior walls on the second floor was in place.  Much of the plywood sheeting for the outside walls had been nailed to the frame and openings for doors and windows had been cut out.

Doris and Frank were excited.  One could get some feeling as to the size of the rooms.  The kitchen and dining room were larger than at their old house in Arlington; after all, their family was growing.  The living room was about the same size.  The floor plan was similar and both were pleased with what they saw.  Craig led the way to the upstairs bedrooms.  There were three bedrooms, one of which Doris was going to use for sewing and crafts projects.  That room could serve as an extra bedroom by putting a sleeper-sofa in it.  Each of the bedrooms had its own bathroom and walk-in closet.

     Doris was worried about what they had to do and how everything would fit into their schedule.  She and Frank needed to spend at least two weeks in Arlington packing the things they wanted to keep and deciding what should be either sold or given to Craig, Susan and Becky for their own homes.  On top of that, Susan and Chuck's wedding in Williamsport was coming up on May 25, the Saturday before Memorial Day.  The house could be ready for them to move into shortly after the wedding.

     Susan and Chuck were planning a simple wedding, but a final decision needed to be made as to the guest list so invitations could go into the mail right away.  Although they didn't expect all of their friends from Dallas to make the trip, the couple decided to have the ceremony in the nave.  It would give the feeling of being married in a cathedral.  The service would be a solemn high nuptial mass.  They gladly gave Paul permission to pick music for the wedding.  The choir would be singing and Joey was to be the soloist.  Susan and Chuck had two requests for anthems:  the Brahms "How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place" and the Beethoven "Hallelujah!" from "Christ on the Mount of Olives".

     Craig was pleased with the construction work and made a mental note to call Ray Evans and tell him so if they didn't see each other the next day.  He was pleased with the work being done on his own house.  Calvin Kirk had his crew ahead of schedule and that was more than fine with Dale and Craig.  

     * * * * *
     Dale called both Blake Ritter of the Spurs and Boots Ranch and Hans Muller of the Morning Star Ranch.  Separate meetings were set up with the men, who he later found out were cousins.  He could never figure out how they designated first-cousins, second-cousins and so on.  The men had the same great-grand father and were further related by the fact their mothers were first cousins.

     He set up meetings, starting with Blake Ritter on Thursday morning and with Hans Muller on Friday morning.

     * * * * *
     He had to drive to Bluffton on the upper edge of Lake Buchanan to meet Blake Ritter.  He was early for the 9:30 appointment, so drove around the area a little.  It was a trip that he would frequently be making, both before and after the land and equipment deals were completed.

     The Spanish-style manor house for the Spurs and Boots Ranch was a formidable structure, probably twice as large as the house Marty and Chris lived in, along with Jason and Kevin.  The steel gate slowly swung open as he approached it.  He didn't know if it was on a motion sensor or not, but found later that Blake was watching for his arrival.  As soon as he approached the front door, Blake Ritter walked to the porch steps to greet him.

     "Dale?" the good looking fellow asked.

     "Good morning.  I'm Dale Richards," he replied.

     "Blake Ritter, the voice returned.  They shook hands and it seemed to Dale that Blake held the grip a little too long.

     "Come on in.  It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance," Blake told him.

     "Likewise," Dale replied.

     They walked into an entryway that made Dale feel they were in a green house.  He quickly realized that the adobe structure was built around an inner, enclosed courtyard that was two floors high which gave a feeling of being outdoors.  Blake led him into the living room, on the right side after crossing the courtyard.  Two ladies were just placing a silver coffee service and a large tray with pastries on a low table between two wingback chairs and a loveseat.  They backed out of the room, saying something in Spanish, to which Blake replied, "Gracias".

     Blake offered coffee and rolls and Dale chose two flaky rolls from the tray.  They were deftly placed on a plate.  "Black, cream or sugar?" Blake asked.

     "Black for me," Dale replied awaiting a signal to be seated.

     "Sit, sit," Blake urged, pointing to one of the wingback chairs.

     At that moment, another man entered the living room from the other side.  Dale stood to shake hands.

     "Dale, I'd like for you to meet my partner, Luis Garza."  They shook hands, telling the other they were glad to meet.

     "The usual?" Blake asked the other man.
     Dale realized that they might be lovers.  They certainly didn't look like brothers.  He began to relax a little.

     Soon all of the men were seated.

     Blake got right to the point.  "Did you and your partner just have a commitment ceremony a couple of weeks ago?"

     Dale could tell it was a friendly question and flashed his 1000 watt grin.  "We certainly did," he proudly told them.

     "That's good," Luis replied, Blake agreeing.

     "We'd like to do the same, but the priest at our Catholic parish won't even discuss this with us.  Can you introduce us to your priest?" Blake asked.

     "You have to realize that Craig and I belong to the Episcopal Church, we're not Roman Catholic," Dale told them.

"Only in that you recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury as head of the church and we're still praying to the Pope," Luis laughed.  "He doesn't think that gay people should be Roman Catholics and we're not sure that he should be the Pope."

     Dale had a hard time suppressing a laugh.

     "He's right, you know," Blake said.  "We each have issues with the church and we understand that in Williamsport you have the best of both worlds.  You use a different missal, but still he old ritual we used to use, but dropped away as a result of Vatican II."

     Dale felt that he was getting on bumpy ground, but he had to agree.

     "I have to admit that I like the grand music, the incense and ceremony that we have at mass.  You are most welcome to come visit us some Sunday.  Our rector and organist/choirmaster are getting ready to leave on a three week trip to England right after Easter, so you may want to schedule a visit, certainly by Easter.

     "Ah, yes, that's something else we wanted to know.  Your priest and his lover live together in the rectory?" Blake asked.

     "That's correct," Dale said, and then emptied his cup of coffee.  It was immediately tended to by Luis.

     "The fact that Fr. George and Paul are gay seems to have no effect on the members.  Everyone loves them.  The parish has grown and they are there whenever anyone needs them for any reason.  It's our understanding that we are adding two staff clergy because the rector and his assistant can't take care of the needs of everyone in the parish.

     The visit about the church went on for another half hour.  One of the women brought a fresh pot of coffee.  Dale realized that the pastries tasted good and helped himself to two more.

     Soon the subject changed to the reason for Dale's visit.

     Blake said, "Luis was hired as the ranch foreman seven years before, but within several months a relationship developed between the two of us.  He's still the ranch foreman, but sleeps in my bed."  Dale noticed them reaching for each others' hand.  

     Blake maintained an office in the family-owned bank in Burnet.  He had started as a teller when in high school and honestly had worked his way up the ladder, becoming chairman of the board when he was 30 years old.  He usually spent two days a week at his office, mainly working on making the family fortune grow.

     Luis' real interest was in breeding cattle.  That was the reason he wanted to retain 100 acres around the ranch house; to allow him to run a small herd of cattle.
     Before they knew it, it was almost noon.  The invitation was issued to allow Blake and Luis to drive him around the ranch and then come back for a luncheon prepared by Maria, one of the women who served as their cook in addition to running the household.

     The spring planting had been completed about three weeks before.  They mostly raised wheat to sell, oats and hay to feed the cattle along with some silage crops.  The other half of the land was grazing land.  Blake stopped so Dale could look at the equipment they used for planting and harvesting, mostly John Deere and Massey-Ferguson.  He noticed that they still used square bales, like the Bar-W.

     Most of the ranch had good top soil and would be easy to farm.  Five of the six square miles of land was rolling ground with rich black loam.  The area closest to Lake Buchanan was rougher, but could still support grazing by either cattle or horses, especially with over-seeding of prairie grass.  Dale liked what he saw of the land.

     "Do you have a crew that does the planting and harvesting?" Dale questioned.

     "We have two men that live here on the ranch and we hire other people at peak times as we need them," Luis explained.

     "Do you have a place for the men to live?" was Dale's next question.

     "We have a bunk house that probably could handle about 8 men, but it's fixed up as a residence.  Nobody except Miguel and Tony has lived there for quite a few years.  I'm not sure they would be willing to share the house with other men living with them," Luis told him.

     Blake clarified the situation.  "These men have been lovers for many years and they have their own way of doing things.  Our family and Luis have allowed this because they are both good help and good friends."

     Dale described the new crew quarters at the Bar-W.  Luis simply said, "Perhaps you might have to build another structure."  Then he added, "The ranch house for the Morning Star isn't far from here.  They have plenty of space for ranch hands to live in their bunkhouse.  I assume you are going to talk to Hans Muller soon?"

     "Yes, I have an appointment with him tomorrow morning," Dale explained.

     "They have always taken good care of their help, something that the Diamond-R doesn't do.  That's the reason Hans approached Marty about buying the Morning Star ranch.  The Sharpe family is not well-liked around here and everyone would like to see them go out of business.  No one will sell them land, and we are glad to see the Bar-W expand and keep them from buying more land on this side of their ranch," Blake clarified.

     "I understand," Dale said.  "The Williamson family treats their employees well and I think we are the only ranch around this part of the state that provides benefits, such as insurance, sick leave, vacation and some profit-sharing at the end of the year, plus we plan to build more residences for crew members as they are needed," he proudly told the men.

     By this time they were back at the ranch house.  Blake showed Dale where he could freshen up and was told to join them in the dining room when finished.

     Maria had prepared a delicious meal of tacos, enchiladas and tostadas along with refried beans and Spanish rice.  Tecate, a Mexican Beer served with a lime wedge was the perfect accompaniment to the delicious meal.

     After the meal and more good conversation, Dale explained that he had to get back to the Bar-W to make sure everything was running smoothly.  Blake and Luis told Dale that they would be attending St. James the next Sunday.  Dale invited them to sit with the family and then go to brunch with them afterward.

     Dale was pleased with the opportunity to meet Blake and Luis.  He hoped that his meeting with Hans Muller would be equally productive.

     * * * * *
     Thursday evening baseball practices were always shorter than other evenings.  This Thursday they were through almost an hour early and Forrest had just arrived at the field when the practice broke up.  For some reason, the coach didn't insist on showers, so Joey got his street clothes out of his locker, put them in a plastic sack and hurried to the car to join Forrest.  They dropped Hal at his house, and then drove on to Saber Peak Ranch to feed the horses.  Forrest had chopped up carrots and apples for the horses to have a treat.  

     The horses went immediately to the barn when they heard the Camaro in the driveway, tires crunching on the gravel.

     Joey busied himself putting a mixture of oats and feed pellets in the bins for the horses while Forrest turned on the water to top up the tank at the side of the barn.  Then he broke open a bale of hay, distributing it into another trough made for that purpose.  Soon they were both through and gave the horses their treats.  Forrest shut off the water.
     "Do you want to hike up the hill and see what's been done to the house today?" Joey asked.

     Actually they hadn't been up there the two previous evenings.  Tuesday night they had too much homework and the previous evening was choir rehearsal and acolyte training, so they barely had time to feed the horses, go home, freshen up, have a snack and go to the church so Joey wouldn't be late for choir rehearsal.  Easter was approaching and the rehearsals were running later than usual.

     But, Forrest was content to sit and listen to the choir after his training class was over.  He was enjoying his participation, being the Crucifier on Sunday morning.

     They got into the car and drove up the hill to the parking area in front of the garage.  The first thing they noticed was that half of the concrete apron in front of the garage had been poured since the last time they were there.  Joey tested the concrete.  It seemed to be hard but they didn't dare walk on it, so picked their way around to where a sidewalk would be located that would lead to steps going up to the front door.

     It was then that Forrest noticed that Joey was still wearing his protective cup.  Forrest was wearing his, too.  He'd put on a jockstrap that morning and put his cup in a sack in his backpack.  He'd put it on while waiting for Joey's baseball practice to be over.  It wasn't comfortable, but he still liked the feel of wearing it and being half-hard.

     There hadn't been too many changes on the first floor except that some of the rock and brick was beginning to appear on the outside walls, especially around the fireplace in the living room.

     They went on upstairs to find that almost all of the plywood sheeting had been put in place on the outside walls.  Some of the roof supports and rafters had been nailed to the frame, too.  The stud wall assemblies were up so one could now tell where the inside walls were located.

     It was easy to tell where the bathroom was going to be, along with the use of steel beams to support the fireplace in their sitting room.  They looked in the other bedrooms on the way to the rooms that would make up the bed/bath/sitting room/closet for Dale and Craig.

     "Hey stud, ya wanna do something fun?" Joey turned on his 1,000 watt smile and grinned at Forrest.

     "What..." he asked.

     "How `bout initiating our new bedroom?"

     Forrest was momentarily at a loss, trying to figure out what Joey was talking about.  Joey was standing in front of him, rubbing his hands over his crotch area, adjusting his athletic cup.  All of a sudden the light came on.

     "Really?" Forrest answered.  He could feel himself getting hard in his cup and it was uncomfortable.

     "Sex in our new bedroom for the first time?" Joey grinned, reaching out to grope Forrest's mound.

     "You're evil, but I'm all for it," Forrest giggled.

     "We don't have much time and it's starting to get dark," Joey told him, unbuckling the belt of his uniform pants.  Joey dropped his pants to his knees and pulled up his tee-shirt and team shirt.  He was still wearing his jockstrap and cup.  Forrest was busy unbuttoning his 501's, then pulled up his outer shirt and tee-shirt.  They were both standing there getting hard in their jocks and cups.

     Forrest made the first move, dropping to his knees in front of Joey, extracting the cup and taking a deep whiff of the male scent he had come to love so well.  He tugged the pouch aside and easily swallowed about 5 inches of Joey's uncut cock, then moved back to the tip and ran his tongue around the foreskin and glans, gathering up about half of the smegma to share with his brother.

     Joey wasn't to be outdone.  He dropped to his knees and they exchanged a passionate kiss, transferring the gourmet treat of cock cheese from one to the other.  After swallowing the treat, Joey engulfed Forrest's cock in his mouth.  There wasn't any smegma to sample, but there was enough taste from the ball sweat to enjoy.

     There wasn't time to properly suck each other off so they had a hurried jack session, helping each other as they kissed.

     All too soon it was over with.  They cleaned their fingers, sharing with each other and when they were sufficiently clean, they reassembled their clothing and made their way downstairs and out to the car.

     "Thanks, bro, that was awesome," Forrest said.

     "You were, too, stud," Joey answered.  

     In no time at all they were at the condo.  They didn't tell their dads that it had been a short ball practice, at least at the athletic field.

     Dale and Craig were in the kitchen and told them to get cleaned up because they would be ready to eat in about 20 minutes.

     * * * * *
     On Friday morning Dale drove to Lone Grove for his meeting with Hans Muller.  He was amused at the arch over the highway with the sign proclaiming, "Welcome to Morning Star Ranch Home of Lone Grove, Texas."  He wondered if the ranch would still be known as the Morning Star or if that would get changed to the Bar-W Ranch.  He'd have to ask Marty about it.  This was the first time in years that the Williamson family had bought another ranch.  Usually it was a farm of much smaller acreage that didn't have a name.  This was a much different case.

     The Muller house was easy to find.  Another sign at the middle of the small town pointed to the right:  "Muller House Museum 2 blocks."

     Dale flipped on his right turn signal and rounded the corner.  The street was about two blocks long and ended in a parking lot that had six cars parked close to the building at the end of the street.  He was to find out later that the "old" Muller Mansion had been turned into a museum about 40 years before.  Sitting at a right angle to the museum and a block closer to the center of the little town was another large residence.  Whereas the old house could almost be called "Prairie Gothic" in appearance, the newer home looked like it had come off Frank Lloyd Wright's drawing board.  Although it was two floors, it still retained the "ground hugging" appearance of many of the Wright "Prairie School" homes he had designed.  Dale was intrigued with the home and wondered if Craig knew of its existence.  He'd have to check that out.

     Dale parked his Blazer in the parking lot, as close as he could get to the house and started up the sidewalk to the porch.

     He rang the bell and stood there, looking at his surroundings.  It seemed like a full three minutes went by before the heavy door swung open to reveal an older gentlemen dressed in a morning coat and striped trousers.  The man seemed to bow toward Dale.  "Mr. Richards, I presume," came the greeting in a British accent.

     Dale's first thought was, "I wonder what other surprises I'll have today."
     "Yes, I'm Dale Richards," he replied and realized that he was bowing, too.  He had to stifle a smile.
     "Ah, you are on time, please come in.  Mr. Muller will be back in a few minutes, but his mother will receive you in the back parlor.  Please come this way."
     They stepped into a hall that seemed to go on forever.  It was tall, about 20 feet wide and had a stained glass ceiling.

     "I am Goodwin," the butler said as they walked down the hall, stopping in front of a double door.  The servant knocked quietly on the door, then took hold of the handles, sliding the door panels apart for them to enter.

     "Madam, may I present Mr. Dale Richards of the Bar-W Ranch," Goodwin said in his British accent.

     The lady was dressed in a green suit, with a red blouse and appeared to be about 60 years old.  She had white hair that she wore in an elaborate style, with both red and green ribbons wound in the curls.  She laid aside her paper and Dale could tell she had been working a crossword puzzle.  "Yes, Mr. Richards, I am Agatha Muller.  Welcome to the Morning Star Ranch."  She paused for a second.  "My son, Hans, went out for his morning ride and got a late start.  He should return soon.  Please have a seat," she said, waving her hand at a wingback chair to her left.

     Dale was a little uncomfortable, but still intrigued.  He started to sit down when Goodwin said, "May I bring you a cup of coffee or other refreshment, Sir?"

     "Black coffee would be good," Dale replied. As he sat, he realized that a gray schnauzer lay back down on the loveseat beside Mrs. Muller."  He didn't know if he should comment on it or not, so kept his mouth shut.  He hoped that Hans Muller would return quickly.

     "Our family has known the Williamson's for several generations.  The first of our family arrived in Texas about 1846, just after Texas became a state.  My grandfather, Heinrich Muller, served in the state senate with Martin's grandfather, Senator Philbrook Williamson after the capitol building was built in the late 1880's.  It has always been somewhat of a joke as to which family would end up owning the two ranches and it appears that the Williamson family is going to have that honor."

     Before Dale could say anything, she continued.  "The land will be in good hands.  I'm sorry to see it leave the family, but Hans has other interests.  We don't want the land to fall into the hands of the Sharpe family.  They are not good stewards and will use the land up.  The Williamson family has always been concerned about environment, improving the herds of cattle and horses and also have two sons to pass the land to when they are through with it.  The family is well known and respected all over the state and have done well for themselves and those they come in contact with, especially their employees."

     Goodwin arrived with a large coffee mug and two pastries on a plate, placing it on an end table next to the chair where Dale was sitting.  Dale thanked him.  The butler turned to Mrs. Muller.  "Madam, may I get you something more?"

     "Thank you, Goodwin, I'll wait for Hans to come back."

     "Young Mr. Muller is back from his ride and went up the back stairs as I was getting coffee for Mr. Richards.  He'll be downstairs in just a few minutes, just ring when you are ready."  Goodwin gave a slight bow and left the room.

     "I have to agree with you about how the Williamson's treat employees, Mrs. Muller.  I started working at the Bar-W when I was just out of high school and worked on the crops crew as summer help for the next two years.  I was offered a full-time job when I graduated from Western Junior College.  Parker Morton promoted me to be crops foreman a year later and then last fall when he announced his retirement, Martin and Marty asked me to assume the duties of the General Manager," Dale told her.

     "Good for you, young man.  I'm sure you have found a position for life, at least as long as you want to continue as General Manager.  She continued, "You wouldn't believe that gang the Diamond-R has working for them.  They fight with each other and everyone they come in contact with.  Every Saturday night there are always two or three of them that get drunk and then are arrested by the Sheriff's Department.  That's why we don't want any of those people on our land, unless they are just passing through.

     About that time, a good-looking man entered the room from another area.  Dale wasn't sure how he'd gotten into the room, he was just there.  He appeared to be about 6 feet tall, light brown hair.  He was wearing a pair of Levis, western boots and a polo shirt.  Before his mother could say anything he walked up to Dale with his hand stuck out.  "Dale Richards?" he questioned.  He shook Dale's hand.  "I'm Hans Muller.  Good to meet you."

     Then he turned around to greet his mother.  "I had a good ride," he smiled warmly.  "Please tell Goodwin that I'm ready for coffee.  Mrs. Muller picked up a small gadget that looked like a remote control for a TV set.  Almost immediately, Goodwin was in the room.

     "Yes Madam?" he said.

     "I think we're ready for coffee now and bring more of the pastries for us to enjoy."

     With a "Yes, Madam," Goodwin turned smartly on his heels and left the room.

     "Dale, Marty and Martin have had nothing but praise for the job you are doing in managing the Bar-W Ranch.  I know that Mother and I feel a lot better with you taking over the management of our ranch, too.  He dropped into the chair next to where Dale was sitting.

     "We had some more vandalism last night.  The fence was cut about a hundred feet from the last time it was opened.  There were about a hundred head of cattle in our field.  I'd like to be able to catch the Diamond-R people doing it.  It's just plain vandalism, so I'll call the county sheriff, though I doubt it will do any good."

     Dale was immediately on the alert.  "Do you know what they are after?" he questioned.

     Hans replied.  "It's just another in a pattern of harassment.  We don't have anything in those fields for them to take, but the Diamond-R people claim they don't know how their cattle get into our pastures."

     "Are the cattle branded?" Dale asked.

     "Oh yes, and some have ear tags, also.  But they are doing it just to see if we complain.  Old Man Sharpe just likes to try to have the upper hand and is proud that he is scorned by the entire town."

     "This is another reason we aren't giving them a chance to buy our ranch.  He doesn't honor any agreement that you might be lucky enough to extract from him.  You play the game his way, or you don't play at all," Mrs. Muller added.

     They visited a while longer over coffee and the delicious pasties.  Finally Hans stood up.  "Dale, are you ready for a tour of our operation?"

     "Yes.  I'd like to get a feel for what you have been doing and how we might be able to integrate your operation into ours."

     "Mother, we'll be back in time for lunch about 1 o'clock," he said.  "Come on, Dale, we can take one of my vehicles."

     Dale followed him out a side door and to a garage in back of the house.  "Let's take the white pickup," pointing to an F-250 parked next to a gray Jaguar.  There was also a Mercedes, a Ford Bronco and another sedan that Dale didn't recognize.  He found out later it was a Bentley.

     As they started down the lane, Hans said, "Thanks for coming up here so soon.  My father died about two years ago and I came back to the ranch to see what I could do to keep this place running.  We are lucky to have a good crew and foreman, so I don't really need to be here at all.  I have my own law firm in Dallas, so need to be there more than here.  Mother has been dividing her time between the two places, but really wants to be closer to cultural things.  She grew up in Dallas and still has many friends there.  We decided to sell the ranch about a year ago, but hadn't advertised it."

     Dale was a good listener and his gaydar bells were going, `ding-ding-ding.'  He wasn't about to ask any questions about that.

     "How are your holdings divided up as to crop land, cattle grazing and whatever else you raise here?"

     "About three fourths of our ranch has been devoted to crops.  We mainly raise wheat and oats, but have cut that back last year and even more this year.  Our cattle herd has dropped from about 3,000 head to less than seven hundred.  They are sold and will be gone by June.  So that will leave you with about 4,500 acres of wheat and oats this year.  We had been having a second crop of soybeans or ensilage, but that will be up to you.  It's all good ground.  There are still a couple of sections that have never been touched by a plow so has a good stand of native prairie grass on it."

     As he drove, Hans kept up a running commentary.  They drove up to a bunkhouse.  Hans introduced Dale to two older men, Thane Walters and Bobby Isaacs.  "These are the men who have been responsible for keeping this place going the last two or three years.  They both want to retire, so this was another factor that helped us decide to sell to the Bar-W Ranch, especially with my cousin and his partner pulling out.  He has enough family money to count to keep him busy for the rest of his life," Hans joked.

     Dale was pleased to hear him mention Blake and Luis in a favorable manner.  He guessed that Hans wasn't homophobic.

     They arrived back at the family residence about 12:45.  Hans showed Dale the bathroom on the first floor, saying that he would go upstairs to use his own bathroom to freshen up.

     Just as Dale was going back to the parlor, he saw Goodwin moving Agatha Muller to the dining room table in a wheel chair.  He, of course, wondered about the extent of her problems which obviously kept her from walking.

     Mrs. Muller sat at the head of the table, with Dale to her right and her son to her left.  The meal started with a bowl of very spicy cream of tomato soup.  A tossed, green salad was next and then a platter of roast beef and turkey was presented after the salad plates were removed.  Accompanying the meats were mashed potatoes, brown gravy, asparagus, Harvard beets and green beans.  It was all delicious.  There was a water goblet at each place.  Goodwin hovered in the room in case anyone needed anything, and then removed the plates as people finished their lunch.  Cherry pie was offered as dessert, either with or without vanilla ice cream.

     The conversation at the table had mainly to do with the sale of the Morning Star Ranch.  Dale would have to figure out what needed to be done about the harvest of the wheat and oats and what to plant where and when.  He would have his work cut out for him, but hopefully he could move one of his men into a position of more responsibility.

     After telling his hosts `thank you' for the delicious lunch, it was time for him to return to the Bar-W Ranch.

     * * * * *
Friday, March 8, 1991
     Craig was the first to arrive home and opened the mail on Friday evening.  There were three magazines, Men, The Advocate and Architectural Digest, an electric bill, an envelope addressed to Joey, several ads and a reminder that Craig hadn't registered for the 10th anniversary celebration of his high school graduation.  He looked at that, shrugged his shoulders and laid it aside with the other mail so everyone could claim their own part of it.

     The Williamsport Patriot's baseball team was playing the Lampasas Badgers that evening.  Dale and Craig were going to root for Joey and the rest of the baseball team.  The previous game had been against the Fredericksburg Billies and won easily by the Patriots.  Tonight, the teams were more evenly matched, although Coach Adams told the team they would have to play harder to ensure a win.

     Matt Bryant Thompson, as he insisted on being called, was riding with Dale and Craig, along with Daniel Pearson.  The two boys had been spending a lot of time together, Daniel almost always spending Friday night at Matt's house since Daniel had to share a bedroom with his older brother, Scott.  Daniel's parents seemed to have no problem with him staying at Tom and Eddie's house, although they might have been more concerned had they known Matt was gay.  Daniel and Matt were in the early stages of exploring, having only beaten off together.  Matt wanted to do more, but was afraid to rush Daniel, whom he would later find to be a willing participant.

     This time in addition to Bret Jenkins, Jr., Bryce Barnett and Hal Shaw were riding with Forrest.  Frank and Doris were driving in their own car, but bringing their neighbors who liked high school baseball.  The attendance of Williamsport people at high school baseball teams was growing.  Everyone loved a winning team.

* * * * *
     RSVP's for Dale's surprise birthday party were coming in rapidly.  Craig was always amazed at the number of people who would either try to crash a party, ask if their invitation had possibly gotten lost in the mail or other's who would call to ask if they could bring a guest.

     Greg was mum about what he was going to do to decorate the large party room at Tony D's, but did go over the buffet menu with Craig, Doris, Forrest and Joey.  They approved the menu of Italian salad, tossed salad, Chicken Saltimbocca, Lasagna, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Veal Parmesan, Chicken Fettuccine and Stuffed Eggplant.  There would be plenty of grated cheese, breadsticks and pitchers of wine on the tables.

     * * * * *
     Joey and Forrest came up with what they thought was a neat idea to help Dale celebrate his birthday.  Deciding that he was going to be 25 years old, was taking on more responsibility due to the Bar-W Ranch expansion and "wouldn't have time to be a `kid' anymore," they told Craig they wanted to take him to Burger King for his "last kid's party".  Of course that meant he would be expected to wear one of the paper crowns and eat something from the "kid's menu".  The boys had come up with a guest list of about 16 people.  Included was the "gang".  Craig thought it was a hilarious idea and okayed it.  He knew that Dale would have a great time.  He had already been honored by celebrating his birthday with Kevin Williamson.  

     There would be three more parties to go; the Burger King party, the surprise party at Tony-D's, and the family dinner at his parents house for the immediate family and Doug and Becky were driving down from Dallas to help honor Dale on his special day.  

     They would also be attending a birthday party for Matt Bryant Thompson as he and Dale shared the same birth date.

     * * * * *
     Monday morning Dale had a "staff meeting" with the members of his crops crew.  The five men and Dale filled his little office at the Bar-W.  He had picked up 2 dozen assorted donuts and made a large pot of coffee for the men to enjoy.  Of course, the men were wondering why they were having a meeting.  That had never happened before as Dale always talked to them individually when there was a problem.

     There wasn't room for everyone to sit down as there was only the desk chair and two others in front of the desk.  Dale sat at the desk, Pat and Michael sat on the other two chairs and the three new fellows stood.

     "Guys, I have some good news this morning.  If you haven't already heard about it, the Bar-W Ranch is purchasing the Spurs and Boots Ranch at Bluffton and the Morning Star Ranch at Lone Grove.  Together these properties total almost 13,000 acres and almost 20 square miles."

     There was general murmuring as the men thought about what they had been told.

     Dale continued.  This is going to almost double the size of the ranch.  The new land will support raising crops as it's mostly good rich black soil.  In addition, there are large stands of native oak, walnut and ash trees.  

     "Isn't the Diamond-R Ranch in that area?" Coby asked.

     "Yes, it's west of the Morning Star Ranch and we will share a common fence line that goes on for quite a few miles," Dale replied.

     "Are you hiring their crews?" Lonnie asked.  He hoped this might be a chance for more responsibility.

     "Part of the reason the two ranches have become available and bought by us is that their foremen want to retire and they haven't trained anyone to take their place.  Also, the land has passed to a new generation that isn't really interested in the ranches.  They are lawyers and bankers and not farmers," Dale explained.

     "Are you going to be hiring men to be foremen or do we have a chance of advancement?" Vince wanted to know.

     "I am going to be hiring more people, and quickly," Dale said.  "It all depends on who I can find to hire, their experience level and working together with the rest of us.  I won't lie to you guys, but this is going to totally change our operation and I hope you can help make the transition easy as I'm going to be asking each of you to take on more responsibility.  Pat and Michael have worked here for about a year and know the routine I've established.  The three of you who are new are going to get a quick course in how to best help me.  There is good farm equipment at the two new ranches, but we know that only the Morning Star Ranch has living facilities for the crews we are going to have to hire.  The Spur and Boots Ranch has two men who want to retire.  Otherwise, they depend on seasonal hiring to take care of planting and harvesting.  That is going to change as soon as I can determine the best crop rotation for all of the ground."

     The men didn't have any other questions.  What Dale had just told them would require some thought.  Their jobs seemed secure and maybe even advancement might be offered to some of them.

     Pat's thoughts were that he didn't want any responsibility.  He liked the routine of what he was doing and was satisfied with the wages he was receiving.

     Michael wanted more responsibility, but knew he had a lot to learn.  However, he felt he could count on Dale to help him learn new duties.
     Coby Cantrell was anxious to prove himself.  He wasn't afraid of hard work and it seemed to him that he had come to this new job at the right time.

     Lonnie Parke had somewhat the same thoughts as Coby.  He needed a job, he had a good work record and felt he had hired on at an opportune time.

     Vince Garten probably had more experience than Coby or Lonnie, but it was on a much smaller scale than what the Bar-W operation was becoming.

     "I just wanted to let you fellows know what is going on so you don't hear it first from an outside source.  I'm sure that the newspapers and maybe even the TV stations will pick up the story as it becomes public knowledge.  Again, we are going to be making big changes and those of you who want to be part of this and are not adverse to hard work for the next year or so will be the guys I depend on," Dale smiled.  He wanted to give the men something to strive for.

     "If you know of anyone who is dependable and not afraid of hard work, have them call me for an interview appointment.  But, don't send any slackers because we don't have a place for them.

     "One other thing.  As you can see this morning, this office is not adequate to handle a meeting of more than two or three people.  Marty has suggested that we build a new office building across the driveway from where we are sitting.  He envisions that we will be in need of an assistant manager to help me, along with a secretary who can help with scheduling and take over most of the paperwork that this operation generates.  I can tell you this, I've thought there is a lot of paperwork now, but with hiring more employees in all areas, I certainly can't take care of it because I feel that I'm going to be on the road from Williamsport to Lone Grove and Bluffton everyday."

     All of the men had many more questions as they thought about what they had just been told.  Questions generated other questions.  Dale spent the next hour answering those questions and noting which of the men generated them.  That would give him a clue as to their job interests.
     Finally the coffee and donuts ran out.  "Gentlemen, today it is your usual jobs.  Next week I'm going to start implementing changes and look forward to your feedback, questions and suggestions for making this the best ranch in the state of Texas," Dale smiled.

     The men left the office, talking among themselves as they prepared to move tractors and plows to the assigned fields to work today.

     * * * * *
     Craig suggested on Wednesday evening that they hadn't been to Tony-D's for awhile and innocently suggested that they go there on Thursday evening for dinner to celebrate Dale's birthday.  By doing it that way, he didn't think that Dale would have any suspicion something else was planned for the evening.

     The Burger King party was going to be on Friday night after the Williamsport-Johnson City game, which was an at-home game for the Williamsport Patriots team.  Tom and Eddy's party for Matt was to be on Saturday night and the family birthday dinner for Dale was on Sunday evening.  Dale's birthday was going to be celebrated in grand style.

* * * * *
Choir rehearsal on Wednesday evening ran over about 25 minutes.  The choir was growing stronger each week and seemed to require less time learning parts.  Rev. Douglas Perryman had arrived in Williamsport in time for lunch with Fr. George and Fr. Geffory Whyte.  Fr. George was immediately impressed with the Reverend Perryman.  The three clergymen spent the afternoon talking about St. James and how they could work together, visiting the sick and tending to the needs of those who were no longer able to attend mass.  Some of those people were home-bound and others were in rest homes where the clergy regularly visited, celebrating a mass for anyone wishing to attend.  Of course, Rev. Perryman, being a Deacon, could not celebrate the Eucharist, but could officiate at a "Deacon's Mass" by using pre-sanctified bread and wine.  However, Fr. George thought that was an option of the last resort.  He insisted on the full ceremony.  That wasn't a problem for Doug Perryman.  He was immediately impressed with the two priests and it didn't bother him that the parish was planning to hire another priest to join the staff.

As part of the tour and prior to the Vestry meeting, Fr. George took Rev. Perryman to the choir rehearsal so he could hear the choir.  It was like a breath of fresh air as far as the young Deacon was concerned.  He couldn't believe that a parish church in a small city could produce such a wonderful choir.  He was enthralled and could hardly wait until Sunday when he could take part in the solemn high mass.

He would, of course, take his turn with morning and evening prayer during his stay in Williamsport.  He had an excellent voice for chanting.  His pitch was strong and accurate, something that many clergy didn't seem to accomplish.

The Vestry interviewed him after their visit to hear the choir.  They found that he was dedicated to his vocation and were impressed at his devotion to take his place among the soon-to-be staff of three priests.

After the interview, Fr. George was told to contact Bishop Wrelling to finalize his offer of assigning the Deacon to St. James in Williamsport.  Fr. George was only too happy to make the phone call on Thursday morning.

Rev. Perryman had personal items and furniture in a secure storage in Houston.  After the agreement was finalized with Bishop Wrelling, he would have to find a place to live in Williamsport and bring his belongings from Houston.

     * * * * *
     Thursday morning, Dale was in his office drawing maps of the land they were acquiring from the Spur and Boots and Morning Star ranches.  He was writing the present usage for each field and then making a second map of what he proposed to do with each piece of ground.  He was aware of a vehicle driving past the office, then heard a car door slam.

     As he got up to go to the door, it opened and Parker Morton walked in.  Dale was glad to see him.  He knew that Mort and his wife had been on several trips but this was the first time they had seen each other since the retirement party, over two months before.

     "Hey, how's it going?" Dale wanted to know as they shook hands.

     "Really, really well," Mort told him.  I want to thank you again for suggesting that we rent some motor homes before buying one.  We've decided that we don't like living in one and they are really expensive to operate.  You were right, we can spend the night in a luxury hotel and be money ahead, not owning one of the gas-guzzling, expensive to repair road hogs," he laughed.

     Dale smiled at what he was being told.  He was sure they were saving big bucks by not having bought a big RV.

     "Hey, you're visit is timely.  I'm looking for more help and you're experienced."

     Mort had a funny look on his face.  "What do you mean?  Are you having trouble keeping help here?"  He couldn't believe that Dale would have a problem with those working for him.

     "No, not keeping help.  I need more help and quickly."  Dale said, "How about a cup of coffee and I'll tell you what's going on."

     Mort nodded and sat down in one of the chairs in front of Dale's desk.  He was puzzled.

     Dale handed him a cup of coffee and filled his own mug.  He settled into the other chair and explained his need for more ranch hands.

     To say that Mort was stunned was putting it mildly.  "There has been a joke about who would end up owning most of the land in this area of the state, and I think it goes back at least a hundred years.  Look's like the Bar-W is it," Mort said.

     "That's what Mrs. Muller told me.  That ranch abuts the Diamond-R ranch and they don't want to sell to them.  Our purchase of the Morning Star effectively blocks their acquiring any land to the east of their property."

     Mort agreed.  "The land to the west and north of the Diamond-R isn't good land for farming or grazing.  You can raise a lot of mesquite there and it is a cash crop that doesn't require irrigation, but you don't make a lot of money doing it."

     Dale agreed.  "One thing that bothers me a little bit is that Hans Muller told me that he had found the fences cut between their ranch and the Diamond-R.  He seemed to think it was just vandalism, but on the part of the Diamond-R workers.  He said that he would never hire anyone who had worked for old man Sharpe."

     "He's right," Mort said.  "The rivalry between Christian Muller and his family and the Sharpe family go back a long ways.  Wilford Sharpe is as crazy as they come and people don't like him because they never know what he's going to do next.  He won't keep his word on anything and I hate to say this, but you are going to have your hands full because he seems to control the Sheriff's office and to get anything done, you may have to rely on the Texas Rangers."

     Dale didn't like what he'd just heard.

     Mort stood up.  "I hate to leave, but I know you have work to do.  I'm glad Marty was able to buy the two ranches and I know you'll be able to hire good help.  You're a smart young man and I know you'll get everything worked out.

     "The wife is ready to leave on another trip, but this time we're driving our own car and enjoy those first-class hotels."  
     The men shook hands and Mort left.

     Dale returned to his desk, deep in thought.  He didn't like what Mort had to say about Wilford Sharpe and the Sheriff's Department.

     * * * * *
     On Thursday, baseball practice was out early as per usual.  Forrest and Joey made a quick trip to the family ranch to feed the horses and give them treats.  They were back home by 6:00.  The surprise party for Dale was to begin at 6:30, so they didn't have a lot of extra time to shower and dress for the event.

     Dale didn't get home much before the boys and Craig was getting a little nervous, but Dale had called to say that he was simply running behind at the ranch office.

     Craig just told Dale that they were to meet Frank and Doris at the restaurant at 6:45.  That should insure that all of the guests were there to welcome Dale when they walked through the door to the large party room.

     There were a large number of vehicles parked at the restaurant and they actually found a parking place in the lot as another car was leaving when they drove it.  Joey had called Greg as they were leaving the condo to tell him they were on their way and should be there within 10 minutes.  As they entered the restaurant, one of the servers went into the party room to say that Dale and his family were there.

     Greg greeted them at the door, and all five of the guys exchanged hugs.  "I want to show you what we've done to our party room, then you can join Frank and Doris at their table for drinks," Greg told them.  He didn't say that Frank and Doris were in the party room.  That sounded like a reasonable request from Greg so they followed him as he opened the door.

     Everyone started yelling or singing Happy Birthday to a very surprised Dale Richards.  He couldn't believe that everyone was there to help him celebrate his birthday.  The decorations were black balloons everywhere with Dale's picture on one side and "25" in white numbers on the other.

     Those closest to the door grabbed him for big hugs as he started around the room to say hello to everyone.  Greg asked him what he wanted to drink and then appeared with a crystal mug full of Beefeater Gin, with three balloons tied to the handle.

     "I can't believe this!" Dale told Greg.  "Who is responsible for this, anyway?"

     "I think it was planned by your husband and children, but you can see that you have lots of friends and they are ready to party hardy, so have a great celebration," Greg told him.

     Indeed it was a great party.  Dale was surprised.  Everyone had a wonderful time during happy hour.  About 7:25 the kitchen crew brought in the food and placed the large pans on warmers.  Fr. George asked the blessing and everyone made their way through the buffet line, finding tables where they could sit and visit as they ate.  The food was beyond excellent.  Later they found that there were 238 items of either canned goods or boxed dry food to be donated to the food bank in Dale's name.

     * * * * *
     The Burger King party on Friday night was equally successful.  Most of the guests were close friends or members of Joey and Forrest's "Gang of 8".  Others included were Doris and Franck along with Leland Stanton and David Perkins.  Chris Williamson had a conflict but Marty was there with Jason and Kevin.  Craig thought that Dale might balk at the "kid's party" but he was a good sport and loved all of the silly gifts everyone brought him.

     * * * * *
     So, the morning after the Burger King party Isobel Barnett was already drunk and was waiting for Bryce when he finally came into the kitchen for something to eat at 8:30.

"Did you go to a birthday party for Joey Sullivan's Dad last night after the baseball game?"  Bryce could tell that she was livid, so answered truthfully.  
     "Yes, Mom.  It was a lot of fun.

     "Yes, it looked like it," she said shoving the Williamsport paper at him.  There was a short article about the party, along with a picture of Dale and several of the people who were celebrating.  Bryce could clearly be seen in the picture, standing to Dale's and Dale had his arm around Bryce's shoulder.  Bryce's grandmother had brought the paper over earlier for Bryce, otherwise, Isobel wouldn't have known about the party or the picture.

     "Hey, neat, I got my picture in the paper and on the front page of section two."  He was excited.

     "Where did you get the money for a gift?" she slurred.  "I already gave you some money for Matt's party tonight," she stated.  He could tell that she wasn't very happy.

"I didn't eat as much lunch this week and used what I saved to buy him a bag of pepper licorice, which I know Dale loves.  Everyone gave him stuff like that, candy corn, gift certificates to Mickey Dee's.  All for fun.  Everybody loves Joey and Forrest's two Dads."  He immediately realized that maybe he'd said the wrong thing.  He wasn't sure if his mother knew that Matt had two dads, too.

"What do you mean, two dads?" she questioned. She really hadn't paid much attention to Bryce and the boys he ran around with.  He mentioned Joey Sullivan a lot, as well as Daniel Pearson and several others.  He had asked his mother's permission to work at the new computer center, Saber Computers, but she didn't think he had any chance of getting a job there, so told him know as she didn't want him to be disappointed.  What she didn't know was that his friend, Joey, had helped several others get jobs there and they were earning good money.  She didn't really think much about the ill-fated protest staged by Fred Phelps as the customers had seen to it that they didn't even get close to the store and ran them back to their disabled vehicles.

     Nor, had she really put "two and two" together when she heard rumors that Joey's "Dad's" were having a "commitment ceremony".  That was something that happened in large cities, not a small place like Williamsport.

     Isobel Barnett's husband was an Air Force Colonel stationed in Germany on his next to final assignment before retiring as a Brigadier General.  She had reasons to suspect him of cheating on her with another officer, a man, so she packed up her three boys and left Germany.  At least she had sense enough to know if she divorced him, she would ruin his career and also cut off funds to herself.  She moved her family back to Williamsport and rented a small house across the street from her parents.  Bryce was 16 and his younger brothers were 14 and 13.

     Her being an alcoholic, booze came first, and she had to be frugal with the money she got from her husband's salary, barely giving her children enough money to eat lunch and for things they needed, let alone have money to spend for things they wanted or places they wanted to go.  While her parents would slip the boys a few dollars from time to time, she didn't realize that Bryce's friends took turns paying his way if they went to the movies or went out for pizza afterward.  Bryce felt bad about that happening, but was grateful he had friends who cared.
     So, things rocked along pretty good until Bryce asked his mother for $3 to buy a silly gift for Joey's Dad, Dale for a surprise birthday party at the Burger King.  She thought that was about the silliest thing she had ever heard of and wasn't about to part with any money for him to spend on foolish things like that.  So, Bryce skipped dessert and other foods in the school cafeteria everyday that week to have the money to buy a "fun gift" for his pal Joey's Dad.  Bryce thought that the whole family was "neat", including Craig and Forrest, although he really wasn't sure how all of that had come about, but knew Forrest was certainly better off than he had been before, especially that Dale and Craig bought a neat car for him and Joey to drive.  He envied them.

Bryce launched into the story about Joey's father dying, him moving to Williamsport so Dale could take care of him.  Then he told about Forrest's grandmother dying on Christmas Day and how Craig had adopted him to keep him from becoming a ward of the state.

Isobel barely heard what Bryce was telling her, instead being lost in her own self-pity and she was certainly good at that.  Finally after Bryce finished his story, she told him, "In no circumstances are you to go to Joey's home.  Those men that you say are his fathers are nothing but queers and I forbid you to have anything to do with them.  Do you understand me?"  She was riled up and Bryce had reason for the first time to really be afraid of her.

"Did you hear me?  I don't want you to have anything to do with those people.  They remind me of your father and his friend, Major Larry whatever his name is."

That caused Bryce to remember something that he had forgotten since he didn't understand what was going on with his parents.

Isobel still didn't have an answer to her question and was slurring her words.  "Do you understand me?" she all but yelled.

"Yes mother, I understand you perfectly.  But you don't understand, Joey and Forrest's Dads are wonderful people and I'd be proud to have them as my father."  Immediately, he realized that he had said the wrong thing.

About that time the telephone rang.  He could tell that his mother was upset by the call as she waved him out the door.  Bryce was glad for the opportunity to escape.  His mother's drinking problem was getting worse and he went across the street to his grandparent's home to see if he could get something to eat there.

 * * * * *
     The four men were guests at Tom and Eddy's party for Matt on Saturday evening.  It was announced that Dale shared Matt's birth date and everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to him, too.  Otherwise it was Matt's night.  They thanked Tom and Eddy for including them in the celebration.

     Bryce was at the party and everyone was having a good time playing Trivial Pursuit.  Bryce cornered Joey and told him about his mother's edict about not having anything to do with Joey or his family.  Joey immediately got Dale's attention and motioned him over.

     "What's going on, Bud, you and Bryce look unhappy about something.  We're supposed to be having fun.  Dale was standing between Joey and Bryce with his arms around their shoulders.

     Bryce started crying.  He was so ashamed of himself for that happening, but he was upset and couldn't control his emotions.

     "Let's go to the kitchen where we can sit down and talk about this," Dale told them.

     After they were settled at the counter, Bryce started his story about what had happened that morning.  Dale was both shocked and upset at what he was hearing.  Joey couldn't believe that Bryce's mother would tell him who he could have for friends, especially since Bryce was 15 years old.

     Finally, Bryce finished his story.  "I don't know what to do, the least little thing upsets my mother.  She can be a wonderful person, but lately she can't function because she drinks all day.  My grandparents have tried to get her to see a counselor, but she say's she can quit drinking on her own, but he keeps getting worse.  I'm almost afraid of her and my brothers are, too.

     "I'm sorry about your mother and her viewpoint that none of us should be your friends.  I'm going to have to think about this because we don't want you to get into trouble, but I'm thinking that maybe Craig and I should pay her a visit and let her see that we are normal people."

     Dale wondered about Bryce's father and what was going on there, but realized that Bryce didn't know the whole story, whatever it was.

     After they returned home from Matt's birthday party, Dale and Joey told Craig and Forrest about Bryce and the story he had revealed to them.

     * * * * *
     Even though it was the 5th Sunday of Lent, St. Patrick's Feast Day was celebrated at St. James on Sunday morning.  In his homily, Fr. George said that "everyone was a bit Irish on that day," and all of the hymns and anthem were related to Irish hymn tunes.  Even the color of the vestments had been changed to green instead of a variation of the usual purple used during Lent.

     The new Deacon, Rev. Douglas Perryman took part in the solemn high mass, being vested as a Deacon and did an excellent job of chanting the Holy Gospel.  Everyone in the congregation was invited to a reception during coffee hour to greet the new clergyman after the mass.

     True to their word, Blake Ritter and Luis Garza were at St. James for mass.  Father George immediately headed to where they were visiting with Dale and Craig to introduce himself and welcome them.  They made an appointment to talk to Fr. George the next afternoon.  Luis and Blake joined the family for the brunch at the Holiday Inn.

     * * * * *
     Prime rib was the expected fare at family meals to celebrate any event in the growing family of Frank and Doris.  Happy hour started at 5 p.m. and there were ten gathered to help Dale celebrate the newest milestone in his life.  Doug and Becky had driven down from Dallas to spend the weekend and help with the celebration, too.

     Dale's gifts ranged from clothing and gift certificates to Craig giving him a new Seiko watch for "dress wear".  Joey gave his Dad a beautiful framed oil painting for two horses, one of which looked like his horse, Cutter. Forrest gave him a boom-box for his office that could play both cassette tapes and CD disks.  Dale was pleased with all of his gifts.

     The main topic of discussion was the expansion for the Bar-W Ranch and Dale telling everyone that he hoped he was up to the job of consolidating operations and deciding what each tract of ground was best utilized for.  He expressed doubts that more than one or two of the present employees on his crew would be able to step into a position of more responsibility without a lot of training, but that would be the case regardless of who he might hire and the experience they already had.

     The new office building was discussed.  Dale and Craig would have to have a meeting with Marty and his father to get a better feel for what type of building might be needed.  Certainly if they were building a new building, it had to be adequate for future expansion of the ranch office as the Bar-W Ranch would surely get larger.

     When the topic of the ranch wound down, Frank related an interesting happening at the store the previous Friday.

     "You will never guess who came in to apply for a job with Saber Computers," Frank said, his eyes barely containing his mirth.

     "Well don't keep us in suspense," Craig laughed.

     "None other than Joey's old pal and mentor, Kent Korte," Frank replied.

     "What??" Joey asked.  "Why would he apply at our store?  Man, he doesn't know anything about computers!"  He was annoyed.

     Everyone else started laughing.

     Frank told Joey, "Well, if it makes you feel any better, we didn't hire him.  "In all fairness, Dennis and David happened to be in the store, so I asked them to sit in on the meeting.  They told him the same thing that I did, that we didn't have an opening for someone with his qualifications.

I told him that his computer skills needed to be updated since he only taught Basic and DOS and encouraged students to use his bulletin board."

     More laughter.

     Joey was clearly enjoying the discussion.  "He sure had the nerve to apply for a job, didn't he, Grandpa?"  He couldn't believe it.

     "I'm not sure that he realizes there is any connection between you and the store.  It was almost like he did know we were here and stumbled into the store quite by accident," Frank told them.

     "By the way, do you get any reports from the computer lab class and the new instructor?" Craig wanted to know.

     "Guess that everyone is happy.  I don't know anyone in those classes, but I know that the people in the class have to work hard and there are tests every week, Joey told them.

     "That's the way it should be," Forrest added.

     "Wonder if the poor guy was going door to door to apply for work," Dale said.  "It certainly serves him right if he doesn't have any marketable skills."

     "Teaching a computer lab class certainly wasn't a skill he had," Joey laughed.  It made him feel good that his old teacher wasn't qualified to work for his company.

     * * * * *
     Doris, Susan and Joey started planning the family Easter Sunday dinner.  Becky and Doug would be coming from Dallas.  Craig's cousin, Larry Thomas, and his partner, Darin Weston, would be there from Shreveport and would spend a few days.  That meant 12 people without anyone outside the family.  Other names to consider for invitations were Fr. George and Paul, Rev Perryman, Leland Stanton, David Perkins and Jeremy Houser.

     * * * * *
     Sunday morning Bryce became aware of the doorbell ringing.  His brothers were asleep and his mother must still be passed out as she had gone to bed early, leaving Bryce to heat up some canned soup for he and his brothers to have for their supper.

     He was still half asleep and was wearing only a pair of old gym shorts and a ratty t-shirt when he answered the front door.

     "Dad!" Bryce practically yelled, throwing himself at his father and bursting into tears.
* * * * *
End of Chapter 14

To my readers if any are left:

Here is the long-awaited Chapter 14 of the Second Book of "Tales from the Ranch".  I hope that you enjoy it.  Some of you may want to go back and read a couple of chapters to refresh your mind as to what is going on in Williamsport before reading this chapter.

There have been a lot of changes in my life since I last posted a chapter and for the most part it has been good.  Last Monday I was offered a job in Tulsa that I had not applied for, but was offered a deal I simply couldn't refuse, especially since my goal was to move back to Tulsa.  I'll be locating to a new residence on May 16th and expect to start work the next week.

I can't promise a regular writing schedule, but think I'm going to strive for chapters that are 8 to ten pages long instead of 20 or more.  Maybe that will help me keep focused on the story.

Comments, both good and bad are welcome at tulsaauthor@hotmail.com.

Happy Reading,