Him Who Made The Seven Stars
By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 33

"If you put a chain around the neck of a slave, the other end fastens itself around your own." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The massive fledging was a great success. Those newly winged were instructed they must wear their wings for six to twelve hours before Billy and his posse could teach them how to de-wing. Some woke up, managed to get themselves together, and made it downstairs for breakfast, but many didn’t. It didn’t seem to be as hard on the Sun Bears as it was on the humans. They were having a ball standing before mirrors and admiring each other. Every time one of the boys past them the bears would tell them again how kind and considerate they were to tend to them and see to their needs. They never experienced another group of people who displayed as much care and love toward them as their new family. They were thrilled with their new wings and living under the protection of the humans on Earth.

Since Vox was still convalescing from his fledging, he wasn’t able to make it to church for the Sunday morning service. Fortunately, the small town stopped having more than one service on Sunday mornings and no service on Sunday evening. While people still clung to their myths and superstitions, they attended services less. As the evolution of a society progresses technologically, the church, which once was the center of social interaction between like-minded people, served as a news resource, renewing of close relationships within a community, became obsolete. Like Television killed Sunday evening services, the Internet and it’s vast accumulation of knowledge and communication may be slowly killing the rest of the beast. Billy agreed to drive in to the small town to be a substitute organist for Vox. Kate said she would like to go and invited Zelma Jane.  Zelma wouldn’t miss a chance to hear Billy play. Abigale felt her boys were doing a wonderful job of caring for their dad and the Sun Bears and asked to join the ladies. They graciously encouraged her. The boys were enjoying their positions of importance, and wanted to stay behind to help those who still might be in pain.

Boomer morphed into his huge cowboy persona to accompany the ladies and protect his master. Nick went along as one of Billy’s top cow hands. They took the big ranch van and there was plenty of room for everyone. Dorcas didn’t want to go and stayed behind to get Sunday dinner underway. The preacher and many of the congregation were surprised and pleased to see the Daniels represented at Sunday morning Church Service. When Billy explained he had come to replace an ailing Vox, the pastor became concerned. “Is Mr. Humana all right?” he asked.

“Yes, he’s fine. Just a bit under the weather with a spring cold -- you know how everyone has to adjust from the cold of winter to the warmer weather of spring -- and, of course, you appreciate how much harder it can be on older folks. He’s been staying with us at the ranch for several days. We’ve been seeing to him and keeping him in bed. He thought he would be okay by today, but we urged him not to push it. I promised Vox I would gladly come and fill in for him. Either me or my grandmother will be happy to play for the service,” Billy said.

“Billy, I’d rather you play, if you don’t mind. I don’t often get to be with alone Mrs. Redbone and Abigale McMartin. It may be our last chance for a while before they go back to Houston. It would be a relaxing treat for me if you would, Dear,” Kate said and smiled the smile only a grandmother can pull-off convincingly while patting him ever-so-lovingly on his arm. She didn’t fool Billy for a minute. A big grin crossed his face. He knew his grandma wanted to gossip with Zelma and Abigale.

“You will do nicely, Mr. Daniels,’ the preacher said, “We’re most grateful. You’ve played for many of our services before and know the drill. Nothing fancy. This isn’t a special holy day anyway. Every Sunday should be a holy day, but today isn’t one of note -- except, for your music of course,” the preacher said, and they shared a laugh at his clever repartee.

Billy took his place at the organ and fit in so well very few people in the congregation realized the regular organist wasn’t playing, and they had a substitute playing the windy beast. Billy found one of Vox’s Dudley Buck preludes beneath the bench, and gave it a rather spirited reading while the rest of the congregation were being seated. Kate sat between Zelma and Abigale. “All right, ladies, who among us feels left out?" Kate asked. She raised her own hand and without further explanation Zelma Jane and Abigale raised their’s.

“I don’t know what being enhanced means, but from the looks of Vox and Elmer, I’m ready to dive in head first,” Abigale said, “Besides, Roz and Roxanne got wings,” she added.

“Exactly, Dear heart!” Zelma Jane exclaimed, “Don’t get me wrong, I will be eternally grateful for what Billy and his angels did for me, and I swear to both of you, I haven’t felt so good since I was a freshman at Baylor,” she allowed, “However, I certainly don’t think it would do us any harm to gently remind 'them good ole boys’ if they want angel food cake, somebody’s got to bake it!” Zelma declared. Kate and Abigale broke up laughing.  

“Then it’s settled! Over Sunday dinner, I’ll bring up the subject and not ask ‘why’ but ‘when,’” Kate declared.

“Good for you, Mother Kate!” Abigale said and adjusted herself in her seat.

“We got chore’ back, Tiger Lady!” Zelma Jane exclaimed, and they shared a laugh.

It came time for the Offertory, but the choir didn’t have anything worked up. Billy played Wagner’s ‘Siegfried Idyll’ quietly, and it worked perfectly; just long enough for the ushers to pass the donation plates. As a postlude, Billy played the J. S. Bach's chorale “Sheep May Safely Graze” and it was the perfect ending to a standard church service. After the service was over, Billy and his family were the last to leave. The pastor was at the front door shaking everyone’s hand, thanking them for coming, and wishing them well. “Will Mr. Humana be resuming his regular duties as organist or should we start looking for a replacement?” the preacher asked Billy rather presumptuously.

“Goodness, no!” Kate replied for her grandson, “He’s just got a bad cold. In fact, since he’s been at the ranch these past several days, he looks and feels like a new man. You won’t believe how much better he looks,” she said, knowing full well the preacher would probably drop his dentures.
“I’m sure Vox will be able to play for the church for many years to come,” Billy backed up his grandmother.

On the drive back to the ranch, Kate was a little angry the preacher seemed like he wanted to get rid of Vox. “I’m half a mind to tell Vox not to go back to that darn church. They can see he’s getting older, and I think they just want to get rid of him. After all his years of faithful service and hard work for that church, they seem to be chomping at the bit to rush him out the door into a rest home. Can you imagine what a shock it will be when they see the newly refurbished Vox with his extra talented sister helping him with his playing?” she said. Everyone grinned but no one laughed at her. “It just ain’t right for them to be that way. They’re suppose to be supportive of the poor and elderly,” she added.

“Grandma, Vox was almost to the point of not being able to perform his duties for the church. He’s much better now and hopefully will last many more decades, but we shouldn’t judge the preacher,” Billy said quietly.

“I know you’re right, Billy, but the way he asked -- he just made me angry,” Kate said.

“That’s because you love Vox and feel protective of him. Vox is like the brother and sister you ain’t never had. That’s why so many straight women have gay men for close companions. They have a boyfriend who won’t insist on feeling them up all the time, a girlfriend who understands their problems with men, and will be honest to a fault with them about their horrible taste in clothes. Love’n someone as unique at Vox ain’t nothing to be ashamed of, Grandma,” Billy tried to soothe her feelings.

“I’d like to see them get another organist who was worth a tinker’s dam for the pittance they pay that poor man. If it weren’t for the Breedlove’s and our help, we wouldn’t have a competent organist to play for our church,” Kate said with considerable anger.

“Cheer up, Grandma. I got good news what’s gonna’ make you very happy,” Billy said.

“Good news would be welcome about now, Billy,” Kate replied like she felt defeated.

“Our big daddy bull asked Vox and Roxanne to marry him last e’nin,” Billy said quietly.

Billy was unprepared for the ‘whoop’ and hand clapping from the three ladies. Zelma Jane and Abigale were overjoyed and Kate shed tears as she was laughing and applauding the good news. “How wonderful. If there were ever two souls what needed and deserved each other more than Elmer Breedlove, Vox, and Rox, I can’t imagine it,” Kate said, ‘It certainly is good news, but it brings up more worries about two men getting married,” she added.

“Not necessarily, Kate,” Abigale spoke up, “Tom, me, and the boys have been included in several same sex marriages in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Calhoun was ring bearer for one of Tom’s close business associates. We invited him and his partner to our place many times for parties and holidays. The boys are not new to same sex marriage and take it in stride. I think they’re more open minded and well adjusted about it than most of their peers. I know it isn’t that way in smaller towns in Texas, but despite the theocracy we had forced upon us, I think the people are tired of living with hate and denying a minority equal rights,” she said.

“I have to agree with Abigale, Kate,” Zelma Jane said, “Lord 'a mercy, them many years me and Travis were sponsoring the arts in Houston the gays were in and out of our house so often it looked like a fairy’s nest where they were breeding. Our home was decorated by a bonded couple who were world famous, and they spent our money like it was fresh spring-fed branch water. When we threw benefit parties to raise money for some charity or the Philharmonic, half the damn guest list was gay men and women, and believe thee me, everyone knew which team everyone played for, who the pitchers and catchers were, and who the pinch hitters were. They were not just hanger-ons either. They didn’t come just to be seen and eat the food; many were wealthy and were our most generous benefactors. They were men and women of the arts with high political and social positions.

“It never ceases to amaze me, how some evangelical who climbed the social ladder quickly learned, if they were going to be successful, they couldn’t pull out their bible and give an impromptu sermon on who could bed whom and what would not be tolerated by them, their god, or Jesus. They were the very image of hypocrisy. Like the Roman god Janus, they wore two faces; one to the party and a more vicious, hate filled face to the public. Over the years, we weeded out the despicable two-faced bastards; they just didn’t get invited and the 'in’ crowd shunned the parties they attended. It was a standing joke there was either polite society or the low-life bottom feeding scumbags.

“Of course, we got the reputation of being godless liberals, but it wore well with us as we were both raised Democrats and didn’t jump the fence to embrace the failed actor Ronnie Ray-gun’s Corporate Rebiblicanism. We did pretty well until that little two-faced weasel Bush got into office as Governor; a different form of carpebagger from the North disguised as a 'good ole' boy.' He played up the prejudice against gays serving in Ann Richard’s cabinet while the little hypocrite himself sucked more cowboy cock under the governor’s desk than the temple whores of Sodom. Dubya Bush always reminded me of the TV character Beverley Leslie, the arch nemesis of Karen in the “Will and Grace” series played by the gifted actor, Leslie Jordan,” Zelma said with considerable disdain, “At least Mr. Jordan isn’t a hypocrite. He’s a proud cocksucker and funny as Aunt Polly’s dead cat she used for a hairpiece,” she added.  

Abigal and Kate were laughing so hard at Zelma they were holding each other. Billy guffawed and shook his head. Nick and Boomer joined him. There was a moment of silence and Billy was looking at the Bluebonnets along the roadside when he felt a tickle in his mind. << That chu,’ Tonto? >> he asked.

<< Yes, Kemosabe, >> Nick replied, << Boomer damn near knocked me out the side of the van elbowing me to contact you and tell you about a conversation he overheard while you was playing the organ before they started the service. Them ladies decided to ask you today before dinner why they can’t have wings since Roz got a pair? >> Nick explained.

<< Oh, dear, what shall I do, Nick? >> Billy panicked without thinking.

<< You wanna’ eat dinner, don’t chu’? >> Nick replied, and he and Boomer laughed. They got Billy laughing, too. The ladies looked at them like they were daft.

"They do that from time to time. They have their little jokes they share," Kate said. The ladies laughed.

“Grandma, when is Easter this year?” Billy asked.

“This is the last weekend in March and Easter Sunday is late this year. It’s not until the third weekend in April. That’s three weeks from today. Why?” Kate asked.

“Going to church today, I thought it might be nice if we got ever’body together, go to church for Easter Sunday, and come back to the ranch for dinner,” Billy said.

“When your granddaddy was alive we always made a big day of the holidays and invited lots of people to the ranch, but after Daws died, it was only me, you, and Nathan. The most we’d do is have Vox out and invite the Garretts over,” Kate said.

“Let’s do it up right this year and invite our family and friends over for the weekend, have them go to church with us, including most of our Irin cowboys and cowgirls. We can come back to the ranch and celebrate the final fledging of our family members,” Billy said with added enthusiasm. There was a stone-cold silence in the van you could have carved into an ice sculpture. Billy heard Nick and Boomer suck in air and were holding their breath like they were bracing themselves for the backlash of a nuclear explosion.

After several more minutes of silence, Kate spoke in a small voice, “That would be nice, Billy,” she said without nuance.

There was another prolonged silence only to be broken by Zelma Jane, “So much for backing up our Tiger Lady,” she declared and laughed.

“Grandmother?” Abigale exclaimed in mock indignation, and they laughed together. Nick and Boomer joined them and got Billy laughing.

“Did you ladies really think we were going to leave you out?” Billy asked.

“We wondered why we couldn’t be included when Roz and Rox got wings,” Kate said.

“It’s already been discussed. You got your choice, Ladies. Next weekend or the following weekend,” Billy said.

“I got to get back to Houston with Tom, Abigale, and the boys this evening, but depending on their schedule, either weekend would be good for me,” Zelma said.

“I’ll have to talk with Tom, but if he can get away, next weekend works for me,” Abigale said.

“Next weekend will be fine with me, Billy,” Kate said.

“Okay, lemme’ know, and we’ll work around your schedules,” Billy said.

“Can you really enhance us and give us wings, Billy?” Kate asked.

“Yes, ma’am, them Irin folks gimme’ the complete package on our last trip. I can make my own ‘home-brew’ angels. I may have a few problems until I get the hang of it. You ladies might end up looking like turkey buzzards, but at least you’ll have a set of wings,” Billy declared and laughed. Nick and Boomer laughed at their master having fun with the ladies.

“Is he telling us the truth, Nick?” Zelma demanded.

“You know cowboys and the truth, Ms. Redbone,” Nick replied and got a laugh from everyone.

“I certainly do know about cowboys and the truth, Angel Nick! I want a black pair, Master Billy -- solid black -- maybe with some white tips down the backside of the wings for a formal accent,” Zelma Jane said.

“Do they come in pastel decorator colors, Master Billy?” Abigale asked and got a laugh from everyone.

“I’ll check before we begin, Ladies. You shouldn’t worry none. If you’re to be a part of my family, I damn well want you to be the the finest looking angels I can create,” Billy said.

As Billy pulled into the gate to the ranch, Mary Rutherford with her mother-in-law, Evelyn, drove in behind them. Evelyn Rutherford was holding her granddaughter. Billy waved to his guard bulls and they immediately started to part to let the two vehicles pass. They drove on up to the compound and found everyone outside sitting in the warm sun exercising their wings. The Sun Bears were attempting to lift off the ground and gliding for a few feet like a flock of young birds trying to leave the nest. It certainly wasn’t your usual ranch crowd. Billy was stunned by the variety of color combinations of each individual’s wings. Interestingly enough the Sun Bears’ wings were all the same color, a bright golden yellow color which matched their fur patterns perfectly. Zelma Jane declared they looked like paintings or statues of baroque cherubims, only they weren’t fat little babes.

Doctor Oatie Breedlove’s wings were a dark gray color with no variation. Ramrod Reed’s wings were almost a burnt orange color with a touch of red to them. They blended well with his ginger hair and mustache. Tom McMartin’s wings were an almond color with just a hint of brown. The most startling to Billy was Vox’s wings. They were almost exactly the same silver-gray color with the same black tips on the ends of the feathers outlining the backside of his wings like Elmer’s. Billy wondered if them ancients saw Elmer and Vox as a mated pair and gave them that distinction to announce to anyone they belonged to each other. Billy's suspicion was confirmed when he caught sight of Buck and Hank. Their wings were exact duplicates of each other. They were both a light brown with darker brown, almost chocolate tips on the back feathers. Tron and Nathan had wings just alike and so did Enoch and Moss. The men looked very handsome in their wings, but Roz was probably the most spectacular of all. Her wings were multicolored from bright greens, yellows, and changing into beautiful purples on the tips and down her backside. She looked like a human version of an exotically plumed bird of paradise or a rare Amazon parrot.

“I want a set of wings similar to Roz’s, Master Billy,” Abigale said.

“I still want black with white tips,” Zelma said.

“Canary yellow for me, Billy, so I can tell everybody, I did see a puddy-tat,” Kate said and giggled like a school girl.     
The kids came running up to Billy followed by a stampede of Sun Bears. He squatted down on his boots and gave each one a hug and a kiss. Randy was last, and Billy stood with him in his arms. “H’it ain’t fair, Cowboy Billy, us kids gotta’ wait until poohbeartea to get our wings,” he lamented.

“Pooh-bear-tea?” Billy asked, “I like that, Cowboy,” he said and laughed, “When the time comes, us Pooh-bears will have us a nice picnic, an Edwardian riparian feast, down by the riverside. We will have tea, lemonade, watercress, and cucumber sandwiches. Together we will sit down and discuss the situation. We will speak of cabbages and kings and whether pigs have wings. It will be far more civilized than the the old birds-n-bees song and dance routine what don’t make no sense to kids no ways. What has the birds-n-bees got to do with us cowboys? I agree with you, h’it ain’t fair you should have to wait, but think of it as a coming of age or a graduation from being a kid to become a young man and a fully fledged cowboy angel. Don’t despair. You’ll still have almost as much power as them others, it just won’t be as strong -- which, might be a good thing until you learn enough from life experience to be ready for such power. Look how much you and your brothers helped with the fledging. I’m proud of you, and you should be proud of yourselves. Besides, look at them fine big protectors you men got. Not every boy your age can claim they got an eight foot, four hun’nert pound buddy to hunker down with and sleep peacefully on a cold winter’s night,” Billy told Randy loud enough for the others to hear. “Your sister was a valuable help cleaning up the mess afterward and seeing to those who might be uncomfortable. She never once complained,” Billy said while giving Kayla a big hug and bussed a kiss on her cheek. Kayla giggled and hugged him back.

Castor and Pollux came out of the barn. They were working on a project for their master under Hank and Buck’s supervision. It was the first glimpse of them Billy got since they were fully fledged. They saw their master, smiled real big, and started walking toward him like two old cowboy angels who copied the cowboy walk so well it was second nature to them. Billy laughed at their easy down home look in their western clothes and their magnificent wings. “Am I beginning to see a pattern in my family’s wings?” Billy asked his cowboy angels.

“I think them two were shown a little preference according to their talents, Kemosabe,” Nick replied and continued, “Look at Roz’s wings and compare them with the twins; altogether different in color but outstanding in beauty,” Nick backed his assumption. Cass and Poly’s wings were pure white but a line of feathers which ran the length of the back of their wings were a bright shinning gold color. It made them look absolutely heavenly and visually might imply they were most high in their master’s ranks. Billy couldn’t gainsay that. He loved his two halflings as much as the rest of his family. You can’t play music with someone time after time without building an unspoken bond that transcends mere friendships. Your souls become a revolving door of understanding and shared love for each other.  

“I guess your talents paid off, my beautiful angels. Them Grigori and Irin did you up proud. Are you happy with your wings, Gentlemen?” Billy asked and smiled.

“More than we can express, Master Billy,” Cass replied and Poly nodded his head.

Billy hugged and kissed each one and complimented them on their appearance. “You men fit the title of ‘cowboy angels.’ I’m proud of you,” he said.  

“We love you, Master Billy,” Poly said wiping away a tear.

“I know you do, and I couldn’t love you more; although I sometimes get busy and forget to tell you often enough,” Billy said.

The afternoon was one of many days Billy would remember the rest of his life as a perfect and wonderful time. He couldn’t be more happy and proud of the family he was forming, and they seemed just as pleased and happy with their prospects for the future. After lunch Billy and his three protector angels transported everyone to Nick’s ship to introduce them to the village people and the great Shedu’s. Those who fledged went as they were with their handsome wings and made quite a stir with the village people. Billy made a small announcement that the winged folks with him were just like him, who found favor with two ancient races what gifted them with special powers and a pair of wings.

Everyone was introduced to the great Shedu Beauford and his several co-protectors; Raza, the dragon man; Leon, the lion man; Pan, the panther man; Joe, the naked blue giant humanoid and his bonded mate, Crunch, a lime green half ork/humaniod hybrid who was also naked. By any discerning decorator’s sense of order, be it whimsical or classic, there was no doubt their color combinations was a major fail; however, in the dark at the height of passion, all flesh becomes the same color -- hot. Joe and Crunch didn’t seem to notice and loved each other passionately -- almost too passionately.

To use a more descriptive word like 'clash’ would weaken the following: their species have a mating cycle built into their DNA of once a year when it would grow strong, overtake them, and became an almost insatiable drive. For three days, their brains fly out the window, they literally go bat-shit crazy with knuckle dragging, frothing at the mouth, spittle slinging raw animal lust for each other and are plunged into a vortex of unmentionable passion the villagers named, for lack of a better term, 'Close-cauldron.’ (Not to be confused with the Vulcan mating ritual, 'Pan-far.’) During those three days they were locked into a large arena built of large stone blocks to rival stone henge. The arena was carefully built with high sides and only one entrance from which there was no escape when the great heavy cast iron panels were closed. The huge metal doors would not be opened again until they fought tooth and nail battling back and forth for dominance. When the mating madness passed, and Beauford announced the winner, the triumphant one would place the heavy chain of subservience around his defeated partner’s neck, urinate upon the loser’s body, and command him to drink the rest from his bladder directly from his penis. It was a ritual of ultimate humiliation to reinforce their positions.

The villagers could tell when Joe and Crunch were approaching their Close-cauldron state because their skin colors darkened like meat simmered in a hot pan; Joe became a deep blue color and Crunch became a dark green olive drab. When it happened, they knew to get to the arena and await the inevitable. The villagers would stock a non-fight zone with food and drink for the two combatants. The giants ate and drank very little during the period, just enough to sustain them and keep them alert.

Joe and Crunch made the wrestlers of the WWF look like wimps, wrestled nude, and between bouts fucked and sucked each other in a never ending orgy of raw animal sexual rut until they were exhausted. They were the living reality of a fantasy every young gay man who follows professional wrestling conjures for himself. There were viewing stands built of more solid stone around the arena similar to a small Roman Colosseum. The giant’s mating ritual became the major yearly sporting event for the villagers and great wagers were made based on how many times they would mate in their seventy-two hour sado-masochistic knock-down-drag-out sexual marathon smack down. (Similar to what one might expect to occur in your average Texas redneck trailer park on a hot Sunday afternoon.)

Bets were made on who penetrated the other first; the last to throw a fuck into the other; who would fuck the other the longest; how many times they fucked, and how many times they gratified each other orally. Large sums of money changed hands over Joe and Crunch’s matings. To anyone else, it might seem a bit of an excessive bother to put up with such strange creature’s mating habits, but they were two of Nick’s most devoted protectors and he felt meeting their needs was a larger win for himself, the giants, his crew, the villagers, and protectors. More than that, under controlled circumstances, they were also great fun and highly stimulating for the villagers to watch. More of the village women got pregnant during the annual Close-cauldron fights than any other time of year. The opening fight of the giants for dominance was always the main attraction and no one missed it. The spectator areas were filled to capacity, and it wasn’t just a men only sport. The women loved the giants and threw flowers at their favorite in the midst of battle.

Joe and Crunch were both from strong male oriented societies and were trained from an early age they must fight off all other males to mate with the female of their choice; however, they weren’t males fighting off other males for the favor of a female. If two of their species of the same gender decided to mate, they did away with fighting the other males and fought each other to see who would become the dominant partner and who would be forced to be passive until the next Close-cauldron. Their own races didn’t consider the phenomenon as strange or ‘queer’ and easily adjusted their expectations. The dominance and submission cycle lasted one complete year until their next mating ritual smack down, when they would enter the arena again for ‘Close-cauldron’ and battled it out to establish who was most dominant and would be on top for the next twelve months. Since Joe was larger than Crunch, he was thought to have an edge on his younger mate. Crunch was more muscled, faster than his bigger companion, and won their last Close-cauldron competition.

Joe wore the symbolic heavy chain of submission for nearly a year, and as was their custom, Crunch would lead Joe into the arena every thirty days, command him to kneel before him and would publicly reassert his dominance over his partner. Crunch would urinate all over Joe’s big body, then command him to drink what was left in his bladder. Joe had no choice but to do as his master commanded. There was no contesting his loss to his mate in the arena during the last period of ‘Close-cauldron.’ If he didn’t like being a sub to Crunch, he would have to defeat him in the arena the next time.

The first fight usually set the pace for the many couplings during the period of the Close-cauldron, depending on the strength and cunning of the winner. After several hard-won fights and forced submissions, the battles became more symbolic than fierce; but, not always. Once in a while, the giant who lost the first round, if his dominant mate wasn’t careful and maintained complete control of the situation, could be overthrown and the sub would dominate for the rest of the mating. That very thing happened to Joe in their last Close-cauldron encounter. He became too confident he had the win in the bag when Crunch upset him, gained the upper hand, and held it in a death grip until he was called the winner by Beauford. It was an unexpected upset. There in lay the biggest prize of all among the betting public. An upset in dominance between them was a major bet, but bigger yet, was if the original dominate male regained the upper hand and finished out the session on top.

When the mating period was over and Beauford gave judgment, only then, the great doors were opened, the villagers rushed into the arena to deck them with garlands and necklaces of exotic fragrant flowers to crown their heads and gird each lover’s neck, to lead them in exhausted triumph from the arena to the post-ritual-mating tub they prepared for them. The huge tub was filled to overflowing with hot water laced with sweet essences and spices. There they would pamper them with strong drink, sweetmeats, and scrub them down singing songs about how well their coupling went. Much hoop-la and admiration was spent on the village giants, while Joe and Crunch cuddled and cooed like two newly mated turtle doves building their nest. They would kiss the wounds they inflicted on each other, and whisper soft words about how deep their love was. They would be fine for another twelve months. Why ‘twelve’ since they weren’t from Earth? Twelve is a sacred number throughout the universe. Twelve, its double, its multiple, its triple, its square, and many more are all important numbers. There are even some culture’s mathematics and language based on the number twelve.   

* * * * * * *
Those in Billy’s family who never met anyone other than humans were enthralled meeting the different species; Oatie Breedlove in particular. “My God in heaven, this ship is another world -- possibly a microcosm of what’s out there in the universe waiting for us to grow up and go out and find them. My mind has been blown so many times this weekend by what I’ve witnessed and the new experiences we’ve been introduce to, I feel like a popcorn machine about to blow it’s top and spill my brains all over the place. I’ve gone through more than a single metamorphosis. I’m still a human by birth, but together, as a family, we’ve stepped into a new world. Our worlds will never be the same again, and I’m glad for it,” he said to his granddad, Vox, and Perry Reed.

“I have to agree, Son,” Elmer said shaking his head, “Life has suddenly become worth the effort to strive to live again in these interesting times. I never understood the term 'reborn’ until this weekend,” he said.

“This ship?” posed Buster Tate standing close to the Breedloves, “T’ain’t nothing compared to what we seen on them two other planets we visited with Master Billy last Friday e’nin. I cain’t even describe the wonders and different people we saw and met in the couple of days we was there,” Buster declared.

“How could you spend several days and return the same evening?” Oatie asked.

“Different time dilations. Don’t ask me for an explanation. I don’t understand it, but I lived it, and I know it happened,” Buster answered.

“I hope to go with Master Billy to see for myself sometime,” Oatie said.

“I’m sure you will. They love to meet new family members, and they will treat you like visiting royalty,” Vox consoled Oatie.

Oatie was curious about everything. “How did the Close-cauldron arena come about, Captain Nick,” Oatie asked.

“The first time them two giants went into Close-cauldron rut, Joe and Crunch went bat-shit crazy and damn near destroyed the village. We noticed changes in them but never thought much about it until they started foaming at the mouth and arguing with each other. The first battle happened followed by three days of fighting back and forth, sexual couplings in public square or wherever they happened to be, leaving come trails and pecker tracks everywhere to clean up. We thought we were going to have to tranquilize them until one of their buddies, a dwarf Ork, told us about their male mating rut period of three days once a year. You’d be amazed how much damage them two giants can do in seventy-two hours. After it was over and they settled down, they felt awful about the destruction. They were like two bad little boys, sorry for their misdeeds, and promised to work just as hard to rebuild what they tore down. They made good on their promise and worked their big butts off to make things right. I knew if we were going to keep them, something had to be done. The villagers were the ones who came up with the idea of making their annual rut a sporting event under controlled conditions. I had Beauford build the great stone Close-cauldron arena before their next rutting season, and since that time, their annual ritual mating battles have become a great sporting event. It’s worked out fine. Once the dominant male wins and is recognized, the other becomes his sexual slave and serves his master’s needs for the year. What they won’t tell you is, they swap out with each other on just about everything, but the winner of the Close-cauldron fight calls the shots. Right now Joe wears the heavy chain of submission to his mate, Crunch,” Nick explained.

“Fascinating,” said Oatie, “When is the next Close-cauldron?” he asked.

“Four more weeks. The weekend after Easter,” Nick replied.

“Can we attend?” Oatie asked.

“Better ask my master, Master Oatie,” Nick replied.

“Can we, Master Billy?” Oatie asked like an excited kid.

“Let me take it up with my slaves, and I’ll get back to you,” Billy replied.

“We don’t mind, Master Billy, we don't remember much about it afterwards anyway,” Crunch said for him and Joe, which was his right.

“There, you have your answer, Doc Breedlove,” Billy said.

* * * * * * *
Captain Nick took his guests to visit the great female Shedu, Madame Spartza. Everyone was rightfully impressed by the large lady Shedu. She was most gracious and had no fear of mingling with her major protectors, Master Billy, Captain Nick, and Balthazar present. She hadn’t yet been formally introduced to Beauford so he didn’t accompany Master Billy’s family to her quarters in the castle. However, both their powers of creation and intuitive forecasting futures of the time line was increased logarithmically just by being in close proximity to each other. The great stone block arena it took Beauford several weeks to complete, could now be done within the blink of an eye.

Everyone was wearing their new wings, and Madame Spartza was quite taken with them. She thought they were quite resplendent. They stirred memories of her experiences at the courts of the earliest Kings of history when artificially created angels like Nick, Balthazar, and Clyde were everywhere, coming and going, and they all seemed to be concerned for her as a young calf. They pledged themselves to her well-being while she was growing up. The many wings hearkened back to a time in her life when she felt secure. She had many fond memories of the winged people. She easily made the connection the ancients on Retikki Prime and Fort Adam Lear were gearing up to intervene in the dynamics of a rogue planet what was on the verge of becoming a most unsettling place to live.

Madame Spartza was particularly enchanted by the Sun Bears and their enhancements. They were able to chat with her mind to mind. They told her of the wonderful things they observed at Master Billy’s ranch and the friends they made in such a short period of time. The Sun Bears knew they were going to stay on the ship in their rooms in the castle for a while and become company and companions for Madame Spartza. Everyone was chatting and getting to know each other when one of Captain Nick’s bridge officers sent him a message there was a gathering of life forms outside the cave entrance where the ship was hidden.

“Put it on visual, Ensign,” he ordered his communication’s officer.

Suddenly, a large holographic screen appeared in the courtyard of the castle and showed the Bigfoot and daddy long-legs Billy’s family saw watching the Saturday afternoon barnyard concert. “Looks like we got visitors, Kemosabe,” Nick said to his master.

“Well, lets go out and greet them. Who wants to go out with us to meet the local crew of wild Bigfoot and daddy long-legs?” Billy asked. Almost every hand went up. “I must warn you, they don’t bathe very often, and they might be a bit ripe,” Billy said. There was some talk among them but only a couple of hands went down. The rest wanted to go. Billy and his four main cowboy angels transported everyone into the cave and there was much excitement among the huge watchers and their daddy long-legs brothers. When Billy led his family to the mouth of the cave, and they could see the number of winged people coming forth, they whispered among themselves and suddenly looked uneasy like they were on the verge of running. Billy stopped, smiled, and raised his hand for his people to stop. He raised his wings to their full spread, and his cowboy angels joined him. It was almost a chain reaction as the others automatically raised their wings with him.

“Hosanna!” Billy exclaimed in a normal tone of voice as a comfortable greeting to the watchers and long-legs.

“Hosanna in the highest!” answered his family and the watchers as one voice. They were instantly united in purpose.

The crowd of wild watchers and long-legs were in such awe they were overwhelmed by what they saw before them, and they were sore afraid. They suddenly fell to their knees to prostrate themselves before the magnificence of the winged people. Billy was mildly amused by it all, but it also touched him deeply these creatures and men felt the need to show their respect. He was impressed their bodies did not announce them. Somehow they managed to clean themselves before approaching his family. The watchers were not unaware of the oder barrier.

“Arise, friends, we have come out to meet you and welcome you to our ranch,” Billy said. They looked around at each other and saw one of the biggest of them, the one called 'Catfish’ rise and they followed his lead. “Do you represent this group of watchers and long-legs, Catfish?” Billy asked. They muttered their approval for Catfish to represent them.
“I can speak for us, Master Billy,” Catfish replied.

“Why have you come forth after so many years of living distant and apart from mankind?” Billy asked. He already knew the answer to his question but wanted to find out if they knew and to confirm their motives and intent.

“Some of us were called to our other home world to stand before the Lord High Councilors, and we were commanded to tell our brothers the time has come to join with their representatives on Earth to become greater than we are. A dozen of us watchers made the trip,” Catfish said in a booming bass voice.

“May I see a show of hands of the watchers who accompanied Catfish?” Billy asked raising his own hand to prompt them. Twelve of the largest males raised their huge furry hands as Billy counted them and made a mental note of their faces. “Thank you, and what else did they tell you, Catfish?” Billy asked.

“We, and our daddy long-leg brothers, are to become your slaves. We were told to bow down to you, to recognize you as our master, and offer ourselves to you so you may include us in your plans to create a new society here on Earth,” Catfish replied.

“You were not expecting winged men and women?” Billy asked.

“No, sir, Master Billy, but it makes sense. We have heard stories and rumors of angels who are men and men who have become angels. We always thought it had something to do with religious beliefs, but we have none,” Catfish replied, “I think most of the daddy long-legs have lost faith in man’s religions,” he added.

Billy lowered his wings and everyone else followed his lead. Billy removed his clothes, his leather harness, and stood naked before his family, the beasties, and the long-legs. They watched in further awe as he morphed into an almost exact copy of Boomer. Many in his own family never saw him morph and gasped in surprise. “Sweet Jesus,” he heard Elmer exclaim, “My master weren’t kidding about becoming a Bigfoot,” he said.

The watchers and long-legs were once again wowed by Billy’s abilities. He walked up to Catfish and gave him a big hug. There were tears in the monster’s eyes as he hugged Billy back. “You and your family of watchers and long-leg brothers are free and welcome to roam and forage on the land of the ranchers you see here before you today, but there will be other ranchers joining us, and you will be welcome on their land as well, as long as you don’t kill their livestock or destroy any crops. Our immediate group has always looked out for you and left food for you during the worst of winters and droughts. We will continue to do so. If I assign you as slaves to other ranchers, you are to understand they are part of my family, and you will accept them as your masters and family. Is that understood?” Billy asked.

“It is, sir, we were told the same on Retikki Prime, Master Billy,” Catfish replied.

“Good, I just wanted to confirm everyone understands,” Billy said, “The daddy long-legs among you are welcome to join our family and reap the benefits of living a little more comfortably, but no one will be forced to do so until he is ready. Then you must come to me, prostrate yourself before me, and voice your petition to become my slave and have a closer walk with my family. When you do, we will find a place for you, and accept you into our greater gathering. We will expect you to live by our rules, standards, and work ethic. In return we will provide you with food, shelter, and companionship -- that is, if you want it. Nothing will be forced on you, but one begets the other,” he added.

“Catfish, I want you and your light colored blond companion to become the slaves and protectors of Master Elmer Breedlove and his grandson, Oatie. Is ‘Blondie’ your mate?” Billy asked like there was no shame should Catfish answer in the positive.

“No, Master Billy, he is my younger brother by birth. We had the same mother and birth-dad, sir. He has no name,” Catfish replied.

“He does now,” Billy said and laughed, “Welcome to the family, Blondie,” Billy said and the big critter smiled. “I need one more watcher for a protector and companion for Ramrod Perry Reed. Come forward, Master Reed,” Billy said. Perry Reed got a big smile on his face and came to Billy’s side. “Do you see one out there what catches your fancy, Ramrod?” Billy asked.

“The big black one standing behind Blondie,” Perry Reed said and pointed to the huge black furred watcher.

“Do you have a name?” Billy asked the watcher.

“No, sir,” he replied, “We were told our masters would name us,” he added.

“Are you bonded to another one of these watchers as your mate?” Billy asked.

“Yes, Master Billy. Blondie and I are mates,” he said.

“Well, we can’t break up a bonding. Do you have a bonded mate, Catfish?” Billy asked.

“Yes, Master Billy, the small reddish brown watcher with the high voice we call 'Mouse,’” Catfish replied to much laughter.

“Well, he is smaller than most, but he ain’t no mouse, that’s for dang sure,” Billy said and everyone laughed, “Okay, Blondie and, you Blackie, are to give yourselves to Master Reed. Catfish, you and Mouse, are to do the same with the Breedloves,” Billy ordered.

“Yes, sir, Master Billy,” they replied.

Billy went on to let Tron and Moss pick a couple for their ranch and he had Ludo pick a close friend for the Rutherford ranch. Billy didn’t assign any long-legs. He left it open for them to approach him, then he would work with them. Billy went on to explain he needed volunteers for milking once a week, and since they seemed to enjoy the Saturday afternoon barnyard concerts, afterward they could come to the back of the other barn and be milked. The following week he had twenty-three watchers to milk. Billy had more watcher milk than he knew what to do with, but none was wasted. Others began to drink it instead of cow’s milk and reaped the benefits.   

Billy closely watched the daddy long-legs with the leather face mask at the very back of the group as he closely observed everything Billy and his family did. At the end of their gathering, Billy morphed back to his cowboy-angel persona. The kids were surrounding him as he put his clothes on. Neither the boys nor Kayla seemed embarrassed or put off by Billy’s nakedness. After he was fully clothed, Billy instinctively reached down and picked up Randy, gave him a big hug, and stole a kiss. Billy watched 'Leather Face,’ as he came to think on him, and could see him watching with keen interest. Above the chatter of all the minds there, Billy could feel great sadness within Leather Face. He sent a mental feeler out to him -- not an attempt to contact, but a feeling of concern, warmth, and an offer of empathy. Billy felt him stiffen, saw him bolt from the back of the crowd, and vanish into the thickets of the mesquite and scrub oak. Later he caught a glimpse of him forging the James River to put the water between him and Billy’s mind. Leather Face turned on the other side, looked back once to see Billy walk into the cave still holding Randy, and watched them vanish to return to his slave’s spaceship he heard the others talk about. Tears filled his eyes.    

Billy and his family spent a couple of hours learning to drop their wings and re-fledge again. Between him and his cowboy posse of angels, they made sure everyone, including the Sun Bears learned how to de-wing and wing up again. He told them the length of time they could go without their wings, but they must wear them for a couple of hours several times a week; just get into a routine and habit. When you’re home alone, relaxing with your family, wear your wings until bedtime. Try sleeping with them. He told them they would be amazed what a good night’s rest of peaceful dreamless sleep they could get while wearing their wings.

After the village people gathered their instruments and played for them in the square, Billy’s family transported back to the ranch. Everyone was ready for a light supper and had to go their separate ways to start their week. The Rutherford’s left, but Randy and Ludo stayed behind with Cowboy Billy. Ludo was too large to transport in the Rutherford’s SUV. Mary agreed to call Billy after the ladies got home, and he and his posse would transport Randy and Ludo over to their ranch.

The McMartins got ready to leave. Rory and Calhoun were devastated they had to leave Caesar behind. Billy assured them he would be comfortable in the loft of the new barn and he would have company. Another Bigfoot brother would be staying with him along with a couple of Billy’s Irin cowboys. Billy suggested the McMartins leave some clothes behind in their room, and when they came back the next weekend, Tom could transport them instead of having to drive. Tom didn’t feel confident enough with his abilities and wanted some time to practice. Billy understood. He didn’t get it right the first time, either; Nick had to come looking for him. Zelma Jane was a basket case saying goodbye to everyone especially Kate, the other ladies she had come to love, but most of all to the four cowboy angels who gave her life back to her. She was a mess; but, a happy mess.

Sheriff Tate, Buster, Doctor Oatie, and Perry Reed departed for their ranches and promised to be back the following weekend for the lady’s fledging. Oatie was fascinated by his enhancements and almost hourly found he could do things he never could before. While he was an exceptionally intelligent and dedicated young man with few vices, nothing ever seemed to come easy for him. He had to work his tits off to be the best, but he had more than enough natural talent as a student and athlete to excel. The driving force behind him was two fold; his undying love and admiration for his granddad and his internal hatred for the life he was forced to live before he came under his granddad’s sphere of influence. After that, his granddad provided the means, and with the exception of his younger brother, Oatie’s deep need to separate himself from his estranged family provided the fuel.

Since he foreclosed on his family’s ranch, Oatie only occasionally ran into members of his family. In a small town it’s almost inevitable you will run into everyone sooner or later. He would be ignored by his mother and sisters, but his dad would exchange a few pleasantries with him. Oatie still had feelings for his dad, but he suppressed them. He wouldn’t respond  to him further than a brief discussion of the weather. When Oatie had to put Elmer in the rest home, he thought his ex-family would begin to say bad things about him. His mother, Janice, had a few choice words against Elmer but never said a word about Oatie. His dad, Pete, told Oatie he knew he didn’t have no choice in the matter. He couldn’t work, run a ranch, and take care of his granddad, too. It was the only personal conversation Oatie had with his dad since his old man kicked him out.

Over the years, Pete drifted aimlessly from job to job and woman to woman. He became known as the town drunk and was finally thrown out of the one drinking honky-tonk on the outskirts of town, beyond the city limits. He got into a fight with some younger cowboy and the sturdy buckaroo whipped Pete’s ass. He was hurt pretty bad. The owner of the joint knew Oatie was Pete’s son and called him to come get him. Oatie tried to get out of it, but his granddad was still living with him and urged him to go to his dad. Oatie did and Pete was a mess. Oatie brought him home and kept him in the bunkhouse with Jethro to watch over him. Oatie tended his wounds and fed him while he went through alcohol withdrawal. They didn’t talk much but Pete and his dad, Elmer, talked a lot. Elmer had a way about him and was one of the only men who could get through to Pete.

Pete got better and after a month staying with Oatie and Elmer decided it was time for him to leave. He made several attempts to talk with Oatie, but he refused to respond to his dad.
Pete was crushed even more than before, but the time he spent with Elmer seemed to give him a new backbone. He got a decent job on another ranch, stopped drinking and associating with loose women. He became dedicated to his job and began to put some money aside. He bought a sturdy second-hand truck and drove into Brady once a week to spend some time with his dad. That weekend he traveled to the rest home only to discover Oatie took Elmer home with him, called the rest home Sunday morning and told them Elmer would not be returning. Pete knew it would be the thing Oatie would do if his dad was dying. Elmer made Oatie promise he would die in his own bed.

* * * * * * *
After saying goodbye to the family and Perry Reed, Oatie, Elmer, and Vox drove to the Breedlove ranch in Vox’s SUV. Elmer told Vox he didn’t plan to let him out of his sight from now on, he and Rox would just have to get used to it. They assured the big bull nothing would make them happier. Oatie was touched but laughed at them. They were like two high school sweethearts; albeit, two unusual sweethearts. Elmer was the captain of the football team and Rox was the petite cheerleader who would blush and giggle at everything her big bruiser of a  cowboy had to say. To hear them cooing back and forth was enough to make one nauseous, but Oatie’s sense of humor saw him through. They no sooner walked into the house when the phone rang. Oatie answered, “Good evening, Breedlove Ranch, Oatie speaking,” he said. There was brief pause on the other end of the phone and Oatie knew immediately who it was, “Pete?” he asked.

“Yeah, Oatie, it’s me. Sorry to bother you, but I been trying to get you all day. I drove to Brady this afternoon and got there about three. I didn’t think to call ahead. They told me you came and got dad and called earlier this afternoon and told them he wouldn’t be returning to the rest home. They said he was in pretty bad shape. Is he all right? Is he about to...?” Pete couldn’t bring himself to say the words.

“Shed his mortal coil? Kick the bucket? Shuffle off to Buffalo?” Oatie said and started laughing.

“Well -- I remember he said he wanted to die at home,” Pete said cautiously. He could still hear Oatie laughing.

“I know, I’s just fun’n with you, Pete. We’s over to the Daniel’s ranch yesterday and most of the day today. He’s doing all right. So well, I ain’t gonna’ take him back over there to that home. He’s home wiff’ me and Vox and doing fine. He just needed to be around some of his people. Did him a world a’ good. You wouldn’t recognize the old man, Pete. You wanna’ talk with him?” Oatie asked.

“Shore! If’n it wouldn’t be too much trouble to get him to the phone,” Pete said.

“No trouble. He’s walking again,” Oatie said, “Master Bull your son is on the phone. He’s worried you’s in line at that big SprawlMart in the sky git’n ready to check out,” Oatie said laughing.

“Ah, hell far, gimme’ that piece of afterbirth Ma Bell couldn’t bury in the basement,” Elmer bellowed and got a laugh from Oatie and Pete. Howdy, Son, I ain’t ready to check out just yet. I got me a few years left, and I plan to make the most of ‘em. Sorry I weren’t at the home today. It’s early. You wanna’ drive over and visit a spell?” Elmer asked.

“Would it be all right with Oatie?” Pete asked.

“I ain’t sure, lemme’ ask. Oatie did you git them alligators in the moat rounded up and locked away in their pens? Did you take down them booby traps in the front yard to keep Pete at bay? Are them vicious hounds shut up in the barn?” Elmer hollered to his grandson.

“Not every alli-ma-gator, Granddad, but what’s left is only little ones, and they’s so old they’s toothless. They won’t hurt him none. They might try’n gum him to death, but if he steps quick he can outrun them,” Oatie replied playing the game. “You might wanna’ warn him about them watch-geese. They ain’t none too friendly,” he added. Pete heard someone else laugh.

“Y’all got company?” he asked.

“Oh, hell no! Vox ain’t company, he’s family. This is his and his sister’s home as long as I’m living here. C’moan over, Son, we’ll explain things to you. You been out to see Flynn lately?” Elmer asked.

“Last week. I took him out a cheeseburger, some fries, and a shake he wanted from the DQ. He’s doing just a little better than you. I’ll leave now, Dad, and see ya’ll in a little while,” Pete said.

“Look forward to seeing you, Son,” Elmer said and handed the phone back to Oatie. “I didn’t think you’d mind, Son,” Elmer said.

“You know I don’t mind, Granddad. I see and talk with Pete ever’ now and then, but we never talk about nothing personal; only about you and the ranch. I don’t hate Pete, I just don’t think on him as my pa no more. He allowed Janice to talk him into turning his back on me and inadvertently my little brother. He made his choice, and I remind him of it ever’ time I call him Pete. I know it bothers him, but he ain’t done much to fill the potholes in the road between us. If he ever made an effort, and didn’t try to use Janice for an excuse, I’d give him a break -- don’t know how big a break, but I’d make an effort. It’s the least I can do to have my main bull, my Bossman back in my life,” Oatie said. Elmer grabbed him and engaged Oatie in a lip-lock what was considerably more than just a grandfatherly kiss. It was a kiss of rebonding and thanksgiving between them. Vox giggled and Oatie joined him. “Hosanna!” said Oatie breathlessly.

“Hosanna in the highest!” Elmer and Vox answered.

* * * * * * *
Pete arrived about thirty minutes later, and his dad met him at the door. The poor man was devastated. His seventy-three year old father looked younger than his son. Elmer opened his arms. Pete went to his dad and was surrounded by two strong arms. He broke down into heartrending sobs. Elmer did his best to soothe and calm his son. “There, there, ain’t nothing to get all worked up about, boy. I just had an angel gimme’ a few adjustments,” Elmer said like it was nothing.

“What are you talking about? Nothing to get worked up about? Look at you! You’re younger looking than I am, and Mr. Humana is younger looking than you. I could swear Oatie looks ten years younger. How is it possible? What the hell’s going on here?” Pete demanded.
“I thought you’d be happy for me, Son,” Elmer held Pete away from him and looked into his eyes.

“If’n it’s real, and lasting, of course I’m happy for you. Everything’s changed. You got all your teeth, and they’s perfect. So does Vox. I know Oatie was having problems and paying  a dentist out the ass to fix his teeth. His are perfect, too. I’m happy for you men, but I can’t help feel a little jealous. Look at my teeth. Talk about toothless alligators,” Pete said and grinned. Oatie thought Pete’s grin made him look like a jack-o-lantern what lost its candle. For the first time in a long while, since Pete kicked Oatie out of his home, he had a twinge  of empathy for his biological father. There was more of Pete in Oatie than he would like to admit; but, he felt absolutely no sympathy for him. There is a difference.

Elmer told the story of how he became involved with the Daniels many years ago, and was promised by some aliens and watchers, the grandson of Daws Butler Daniels would one day become a great leader with incredible powers granted him after he reached maturity, and he would restore Elmer’s life to him. The young man would need an elder master; a simple but wise man of the Earth; a great bull; an everlasting father; a counselor and confessor to a prince of peace. He will have dominion over all the Earth and will come to power holding the hand of the devil in one hand and the hand of him who maketh the seven stars and Orion in his other. Elmer proceeded to tell his son everything. “You must never try to tell anyone about these things, Son, until you see them come to pass,” Elmer admonished him, “People will see us and wonder, but they will not know until it is time for them to see clearly. If you try to tell anyone, your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. It will remain there until you come to one of us, and we relax it for you; however, we will know you have not kept your word and trespassed against us. That would not be a good thing,” Elmer said firmly.

“Why are to telling me all this? I ain’t got the best track record in the trust department, Dad. Look what I done to my sons what trusted me to love them unconditionally. One I ain’t heard from in years, and the other who is gifted beyond measure what torments me with guilt; not because he’s bad, but because he’s done everything right and worked his butt off to become a respected pillar of the community who only tolerates me. I lost your respect and few people in our little town will even give me the time of day,” Pete lamented.

“Why are we telling you these things, Son? To give you a second chance like we been given. Now is your chance to set some things right, but to do so you must understand what we tell you is true. We will not ask you to have faith in us and accept what we say just because we say it’s true. We don’t expect you to believe without proof what you can witness for yourself. You complained about your teeth. Can you take care of Pete’s teeth for him, Oatie?” Elmer asked.

“Be happy to, Bossman. It would give me pleasure to put a bite back into my old man’s mouth for a change,” Oatie replied and laughed, “Master Daniels done taught me how. I don’t have to wing-up for that less’n ya’ont me to,” Oatie replied.

“Be proud you’s an angel, boy! Pete should know what his boy has become; it’s all right, Oatie, I done cleared it with the master,” Elmer encouraged his grandson.

Oatie removed his Western shirt and threw it on the back of a chair. In a great flash of light the young cowboy disappeared and reappeared as quickly, fully fledged in his handsome new wings and heavy leather harness.

“Holy shit!” Pete exclaimed, “Did you men die in an accident and come back as angels?” Pete asked, “That would explain a lot,” he added.

“Interesting idea, but no cee-gar, Son. We been enhanced by two races of ancient aliens what used to make angels artificially for other aliens to buy from them. Wings is only one of the wonderful things they bestowed upon us,” Elmer replied.

“Kneel before me, Pete, and open yore’ old pie hole,” Oatie ordered his dad.

Pete did as his son told him. Oatie ran his forefinger around the old teeth in Pete’s head, and they were gone in an instant with no blood or pain. The young cowboy angel ran his finger around his dad’s gums again, and his mouth was filled with a perfect set of gleaming white teeth. “Go look in that mirror over there, Pete,” Oatie pointed to a mirror on the wall. Pete slowly walked over to the mirror. He could feel a mouth full of teeth, but he had to see. His teeth were perfect; better than the originals. It made him look ten years younger.  

After Pete calmed himself and sat down to talk with the men, Elmer told him he would have a new brother and a new step-mother. Elmer and Oatie explained Vox and Rox to Pete. The poor man was having a lot of new information dropped in his lap, and it was almost overwhelming to him. He was listening to what they were saying, but it was hard for him to comprehend. They talked for a good while until Pete began to tire. He had to get up early in the morning for work and said his goodbyes. Oatie allowed his dad to hug him and kiss him on his cheek. Oatie shook his hand.

“You men got a busy day planned for tomorrow?” Pete asked.

“We’re going over to Mick Flynn’s and see what us band of cowboy angels can do to restore him. He’s a good man and will make an excellent family member, besides I love him like a brother,” Elmer said.

“You mean you all got wings?” Pete asked.

“Yes, Son, we all been enhanced,” Elmer replied, “But of the three of us, I think I done got the most enhancements,” he added. Vox and Oatie nodded in agreement.

Pete left and drove home in a daze. He could still feel his mouth filled with new teeth, and he smiled. This time he didn’t look like a jack-o-lantern. He looked like an above average looking middle aged cowboy.

It was late. Oatie, Elmer, and Vox decided to retire for the evening. Oatie and Vox got busy and put clean sheets on Elmer’s large bed. Oatie went to his room and went to bed. At two o’clock in the morning he breathed a deep sigh and made a mental note to buy his granddad a new bed. He didn’t get a lick of sleep from the bedspring concert he was treated to which went on into the wee hours of the morning. It was like living next door to a heavy metal rock enthusiast with a thousand watt amplifier except the bed springs were more palatable to his ear and for the most part in better tune. Elmer, the bull of the hill country, was riding the range with his favorite little heifer and neither were quiet lovers. Oatie could swear they were giving their all to make up for lost time and a little more to invest for the future.

Oatie finally gave up and went to the bunkhouse to sleep in one of the extra bunks near Jethro. Jethro was asleep in his own king size bed, but Oatie didn’t want to give him the wrong idea by crawling in bed with his slave. Naturally, Jethro woke up to the sound of his cowboy master clomping around on the wood floors to ready one of the bunk beds. He didn’t say much, but he was happy to have his master’s company. He wanted to talk, and tested the water with a couple of questions. Oatie wasn't ready to talk and 'make nice' with Jethro, and told him if he still wanted to be his slave some changes must be made. Oatie told Jethro he couldn’t live with uncertainty anymore.
“I’m sorry, Master Oatie, I didn’t mean to upset you by my lack of indecision. I been that way all my life. I don’t know what I want or need out of life, and while I’m happy with you as my master, I don’t feel secure. I know you love me, but it don’t seem to be enough,” he lamented sadly.

“Not to worry, slave, I’ve made arrangements for you to find out just what it is you’re missing, and I plan to have it corrected,” Oatie said without nuance, “Catfish and Mouse will be here tomorrow morning to gather you. They are my new slaves and may be sharing the bunkhouse with you. You will go naked with them down the river to the Daniel’s ranch. You may wear your boots because your feet have become tender from wearing them. They will take you to Master Billy Daniel’s and introduce you. You will pay homage to Master Billy and give yourself to him.  If you wish to continue as my slave, you will honor me by showing him proper respect and refer to him as Master Billy. You will remain at his ranch until he releases you to return to me. Do you understand?” Oatie asked firmly like he wouldn’t consider any argument.

“Yes, sir, Master Oatie. Thank you, sir,” he replied meekly. Was there a glimmer of hope his master was taking control of the awkward situation between them? Jethro could only hope. He felt like floundering fish out of water making clumsy attempts to regain his balance.

* * * * * * *
The next week was busy for Billy and his posse. They were short two men. Moss Garrett and Enoch Redbone rode back to Houston in Tom’s limo. There was plenty of room for everyone. Tom had a job for them on Tuesday. It would be their first delivery as a team for Tom’s company. Tom planned on firing Eustace Barger on Monday. While Barger kept his end of the bargain and testified against Orville at his trial, Tom still didn’t want to keep him. He figured Moss and Enoch could pick up enough from the other men who worked for him, and they could always contact him if they had any questions. Tom took into consideration Eustace cooperated with the prosecution in getting a sentence of lifetime slavery for Orville. He gave Barger severance pay, and promised he would give him a good recommendation when he applied for another position. Eustace wasn’t pleased, but he knew Tom was holding all the cards and held him by the gonads. He took what he could get and left quietly.  

After they returned to Houston, Tom drove Enoch and Moss to Enoch’s place where his truck was parked. It was Enoch’s first time to return to his place since Orville Higginbothem tried to kill him. It seemed strange to be coming back to Houston when he came to think on the Daniel’s ranch as his home. Moss didn’t see any problem. When they got set up, they could transport from place to place. They would maintain a base in Houston, but their hearts and home would be on the ranch. Moss told him to think on both the Garrett and Daniels ranches as his home.

Billy started his installation of Irin cowboys with the Rutherfords. He didn’t have a foreman to send with them, but he sent his right hand cowboy ramrod, Andy, to get them settled and get things started. Andy was to bunk it in the foreman’s house until Billy could find a replacement. He explained to Andy he wanted him near him and wouldn’t leave him without a ramrod and bossman. He wanted Andy to look for one of the Irin cowboys to replace him when the time came. Billy wanted a freeman for the ranch foreman or bossman. He told a small group of his cowboys, one would be sent to him soon.

Buck and Hank went with them to help Andy make arrangements for provisions or anything else they might need. Buck and Hank calculated to the penny what they thought the first month’s cost would be and Billy had his staff of Dorcas and Dociean get them the money. Billy was impressed his people were going to work to get things done with minimal supervision. They came to him for the larger questions, but most of the problems they took care of themselves. Billy planned to get one installation done per week. The following week another fifteen Irin cowboys would be installed on the Garrett’s ranch, and the next week fifteen  more on Perry Reed’s ranch. The week after that another thirty would be installed on the Breedlove ranch. Oatie asked for fifteen extra to get some major project done which went neglected due to lack of manpower.

One of the larger bunkhouses on the Daniels ranch was complete and the second would be complete by the end of the week. Billy was learning the powers of the Shedu and beginning to use them for projects. He was developing his mental powers to be in full contact with both when he needed their assistance. The prefab buildings were already delivered, but getting them to the cliff above the river and set into place would be a major undertaking. Not with the Shedu’s. Billy simply showed them what he wanted. Everyone stood back and watched as each building was gracefully floated through the air like a great air yacht and lowered into place on their foundations Billy’s cowboys made for them. Each pre-fab bunkhouse would house thirty cowboys comfortably. The electricity and plumbing was hooked up within hours and they were ready for occupancy.

“Do you need more of these buildings?” Beauford asked.

“We’re planning on three more,” Billy replied.

“No problem. They will be ready tomorrow morning,” Beauford said.

Tuesday morning there were three perfectly matched buildings complete with foundations plumbing and wiring setting along side the other two. The handful of cowboys sleeping inside the first buildings never heard a sound. Each bunkhouse would house thirty cowboys and Billy wanted them filled as soon as possible to get more of his people morphed and productive. It turned out to be one of the busiest and most productive weeks on the Daniel’s ranch.

Catfish and Mouse delivered a naked Jethro to the door of the barn. Billy received him and after milking Catfish and Mouse sent them on their way back to their master. The morning was so chaotic, after Jethro paid homage to Master Billy and gave himself to him, Billy welcomed him with a hug and a kiss, handed him a clip board and told him to not leave his side. Everywhere Billy went a naked Jethro was with him and Boomer. No one paid Jethro any attention because he was naked and Jethro began to feel more free to be the slave he felt he needed to be. He never saw anyone with as much energy and enthusiasm as Master Billy Daniels who didn’t just amble through the day. Jethro watched Billy attack every problem like it was a giant stack of flapjacks, and he was a hungry woodsman. By noon, Jethro’s tongue was hanging out just from following Billy around with his clipboard. He likened Billy to a tornado he was trying to chase down and lasso. The name ‘Pecos Bill’ kept coming to his mind.

“C’moan, slave. Time for lunch,” Billy said to Jethro and took him to the big ranch house. He got a bathrobe from a closet under the front stairs and threw it to Jethro. “Cover yore’self for the ladies, slave,” Billy ordered and smiled.

Jethro couldn’t believe he would eat with his new master and his family. It was a wonderful experience for the man. He never was around a family like the Daniels who treated everyone with equal love and respect; even their slaves. They asked Jethro questions, and he would respond as honestly and politely as he could. The food was excellent and Jethro concentrated on eating while listening to their conversations.

“Jethro, here, is Doc Oatie’s slave. He’s been having some identity problems and seems to have come to a crisis. I volunteered to have him spend some time with us to see if I can help him,” Billy said.

“Does he have to remain naked?” Kate asked.

“Yes, for the time being. He’s a slave whether he accepts it or not. He was once a daddy long-leg, but gave himself to be Oatie’s slave when the Doc saved his life. I think there’s some lingering questions in his mind if he did it only to comply with the moral values of his accepted brothers, them big watchers; much in the same way Nick and Boomer felt obliged to give themselves to me after I saved their lives. He may be having second thoughts, but Master Oatie has left it up to me and him to decide. Jethro got over his shame of nudity while running wild. To remain nude for a while is to remind him there is no shame in either; nudity or being a slave. Other than ritual homage, he will not be subjected to ridicule or physical abuse on this ranch. He will be treated as a contributing member of our family,” Billy explained.

Jethro thought Billy’s words were wise, but he didn’t feel ashamed of being naked or being Master Oatie’s slave. He was actually quite proud of being Doc Oatie’s slave. Thinking on himself as Oatie’s slave defined him but not enough. His problem was, Oatie treated him like a close friend or companion and made few demands. He remembered Master Oatie’s words from the night before: he couldn’t live with uncertainty. That was the problem. Jethro felt like he was the one living with uncertainty. Jethro didn’t understand his personality disorder of Asperger’s syndrome, but he knew there was some major flaw in the way he perceived relationships.

“I offered to keep Jethro for several days to observe him and get to know him. What better way than to have him follow me around as my assistant and ‘go-for’ for several days. He gets to know me, and I get to know him. He bonded with me as a surrogate master, but he understands his first and strongest bond is with his master. A slave cannot be expected to serve two masters; however, he can serve one at a time successfully,” Billy explained.

Billy kept Jethro Quince for a week and had him follow him around. They found him a bunk in the older bunkhouse near the main ranch house, and he came to know the Billy’s other cowboy slaves. He was impressed by their work ethic and devotion to Master Billy. Jethro was impressed by their pride in belonging to the man and the Daniels family. He talked with Orville Higginbothem several times and found himself almost envious of Orville’s well defined role even though he was considered on the lowest rung of the totem pole as a slave bereft of his freedom for punishment. Jethro just couldn’t understand why.

* * * * * * *
Monday morning Elmer called Buster Tate. “We need two extra cowboy angels for a job today, Brother. You and that new boy of yours wanna’ give us a hand?” he asked.

“Sure, be happy to oblige, but we ain’t got no transportation. I don’t know if my old truck it still running, Bull,” Buster said.

“You got wings,” Elmer said.

“Yeah, but we can’t go fly’n over the country side. Folks might see us and have a stroke,” Buster said.

“Or, it could make them suddenly remember they ain’t been to church in a spell,” Elmer said and laughed, “Ain’t no problem, Brother, we’ll pick up you men and take you along with us,” Elmer added.

“Fine. Ma’ boy’s done gone to work, but ma’ other boy’s here riding herd on some rowdy critters. We’ll be here wait’n for you,” Buster said.

“Be right there, Brother,” Elmer said.

Vox drove his SUV and there was room for two more. When they arrived at the Tate ranch they went inside. Buster introduced Elmer to Everett and the two of them bonded as friends immediately. Oatie wanted to check on Miranda and the pups. He and Vox forgot to tell Elmer about Miranda and the pups fledging. Their wings were fully grown, in proportion to their small bodies. The pups were just beginning to come into their ‘death-by-cute’ stage of development where they were into everything and Miranda was having a devil of a time keeping track of them. They were everywhere into everything at once and the world was their oyster. Three new big people? Bring ‘em on! They were new and must be investigated. Elmer took one look at the family and damn near fell on the floor laughing.

“Now I done seen about ever’ thing,” Elmer proclaimed, “I got to have me one a them angel-pups, they's just too cute for words,” he said.

“I already put our name in the hat for one, Granddad,” Oatie said, “How are you holding up, Miranda?” Oatie asked.

“Fine, Doc Oatie. I not git words right, yet, but me better,” she said and wagged her tail.

“They talk?” Elmer asked.

“Miranda is learning, but the pups are too young. In time, they will be able to speak,” Oatie replied.

“Sweet Jesus, can you imagine what a talking dog could do for someone get’n on in years?” Elmer asked.

“They would make great companions,” Vox replied.

“Exactly,” agreed Elmer.

The men left the Tate ranch and headed for Mick Flynn’s ranch. They were an angel posse hell bent on an errand of mercy.

End of Chapter 33 ~ Him Who Made The Seven Stars
Copyright ~ © ~ 2012 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com
Visit Web Site: http://www.asstr.org/~Waddie_Greywolf
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