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Him Who Made The Seven Stars

By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 61

"Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the West; Through all the wide Border his steed was the best; And, save his good broadsword, weapons had he none; He rode all unarmed, and he rode all alone. So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war; There never was knight like the young Lochinvar." ~ Sir Walter Scott.

Billy decided to take the newer slaves to church who more recently morphed and didn't get a chance to go with the family Easter Sunday. They took fifty and joined the rest of his extended family out front before they went inside and took their seats. The Daniels' cowboy and cowgirl slaves were well turned out in their best clothes. Kate and Zelma decided the ladies should wear nice, fashionable dresses with limited accessories. None of the women wore makeup but were pretty and radiant without it. They looked natural and wholesome. Billy gave each one a five dollar bill to leave in the collection plate when it was passed around. The church members were even more cordial and open to the handsome young people with the Daniels' family this time than Easter. They looked forward to what moving power their strong young voices could bring to the singing of hymns. The minister of music was delighted to see them again. He had such a great time conducting them at Easter, he almost wet his pants when he saw the Daniels' bus arrive and fifty strapping young men and fine looking young women got out to meet up with the rest of the Daniels' family. After the first hymn he was in heaven. They created a great and wonderful sound with their singing, and they each knew the rudiments of how to read music.

The preacher got up and welcomed everyone including the large contingent from the Daniels' ranch and mentioned neighbors around the hill country area where the two rivers come together talked about wonderful music they could hear echoing through the hills and valleys and many wondered if it was coming from the Daniels' property. Billy stood and spoke, "Every Saturday afternoon we share music with our people. We have three parts to our programs. The first part is devoted to the classics, the second is devoted to ethnic music from different indigenous groups we have living with us, and the third is get-down Cajun and Texas country music. It was a special concert to celebrate our new stage we just built on the back of our old barn, and we're quite proud of it. I hope we didn't disturb anyone," he said.

"No one said anything discouraging. Most just wanted to know when you might invite your neighbors?" the preacher asked.

"Soon. Very soon. We ain't had the facilities to accommodate more folks than what we got living with us, but we're adjusting and creating more room. We will make an announcement within the next couple of months, and invite our friends and neighbors in for a Saturday afternoon," Billy replied.

Billy's slaves didn't disappoint. They sang like angels. They applauded the choir and even applauded for the preacher when he finished his sermon. Billy and his family joined them. The preacher looked surprised but took a bow. Billy thought it was a good precedent. If you agreed with his words, you applauded more than you might if you thought he was coming from left-field or was full of beans; or, if you were totally turned off by his ideas, the content of his message, and thought he was more politically power hungry than concerned for his flock, you didn't have to applaud at all. Billy wondered if the trend might catch on. He thought it was a wonderful idea, but doubted it would find favor with the greater congregation. Regular church goers are usually lazy. However, you never can tell about a congregation of cow-people.

* * * * * * *  
Hank, Buck, Poly, Cass, and a couple other of Billy's posse removed the back half of the seats from the school bus. The remaining seats were plenty for the cowboys who would be riding into Tall Pine from Stan and Cletus's cabin. The back half of the bus they carefully packed with two large fifty-five gallon smokers for barbecue brisket and chicken. Hank and Buck packed them tight with mesquite logs and kindling. They also filled two standing fifty-five gallon drums with more mesquite logs and placed them next to the other drums in the back of the school bus. Billy had Hank and Buck pack and ice down almost two hundred pounds of brisket and about fifty chickens. With his family's help, Billy, made five gallons of his five-alarm deer meat chili. Everyone pitched in to make five gallons of German potato salad and five gallons of Jambalaya.

They didn't know how many they would have to feed, but Billy remarked he never wanted to do anything half-ass. He wanted to make sure there was enough food for everyone who attended. Some questioned whether it would be enough, but Billy said they would have a choice of going Cajun, Texas Hill Country, or a combo of both. The only problem with the Jambalaya was, it was so good, everyone had to have a taste, and then another, just a little bit more, a bowl over brown rice, and another until they ate about half of the five gallon bucket. Jambalaya was one of Hank and Buck's best and most favorite dishes to cook for themselves and company.

Bossman Randy was keeping close mental tabs on how much and where everything fit into the puzzle of packing the back of the bus. He came to see it as his personal Rubik's cube. "I can tell ya'll right now, as good as that Jumbled-liar shit is – and we already done et us a bait of it – we ain't gonna' have enough to feed them folks," he complained. Everyone laughed at Randy's cowboy talk. He spent a lot of time with Hank and Buck and was copying their speech patterns. He was almost as good as they were at butchering the English language.

"Psssst! Come with me, little Brother. Lemme' show ya' some'um," Billy said and beckoned the young cowboy with his forefinger. Billy took Randy to the back of the bus, took the top off the five gallon plastic bucket of Jambalaya, waved his hand over it, and the bucket was immediately filled to the top again.

Randy's eyes got real big. "Holy crap!" he exclaimed, "Proud a' you, big Brother. You been brush'n up on your 'apps.' That's a good'un. So much for loaves and fishes! That's for amateurs. I'll take Jumbled-liar any day over them fish sandwiches at Burger-King. They's like eat'n deep-fried compacted sawdust, and they never got enough tartar sauce on 'um to suit me. But the big question is -- can you change water to wine?" he asked raising an eyebrow and grinned wickedly.

"Easy-peasey, little Bro. Hell, I can change branch-water into a fine liqueur. I made up a quart of Drambuie for Ms. Zelma. She likes a little snort with her sleepy-time tea at night," Billy confided in a sotto voce conspiratorial tone, and they laughed like two little kids sharing a delicious secret.   

"Do you do children's parties?" Randy asked and grinned.

"No, but only because I can't find a qualified magician's assistant named 'Sharon' what will wear a tutu," Billy replied, and they fell together laughing at their shared nonsense.

"Hear! Hear! Pay attention to your work! You two is have'n way too much fun when they's work to be done. We gotta' get this show on the road. The sun is git'n high in the sky," Captain Nick said as he walked up behind them.

"Can you do that for any food stuff, Bro?" Randy inquired enthusiastically.

"Yeah, check under your duplication 'apps,' and it'll tell you how to do it. I think it would be a lot more fun if we got a couple of cheap conductor's batons, turn them into magic wands, and chanted Latin nonsense when we engage a duplication 'app,'" Billy said, "Duplicationia! After all, the really fun part of magic is showmanship," he added and Randy agreed.

"I like your style, big Bro," Randy said.

"You two are hopeless. Be careful, that's the way religions get started," Nick said and rolled his eyes toward heaven.

"Us kids is just have'n us a little fun, Pa," Billy said and Randy giggled.

Billy checked and double-checked everything with his posse, and they were satisfied they made up enough food for Stan and Cletus's 'goodbye' party. They got everything loaded, including their musical instruments, and were ready to go through the portal. Going along with them was Billy's immediate posse of Nick, Balthazar, Clyde, Cowboy Andy, Garth-el, Macker-el, Enoch, Moss and Tron Garrett, Uncle Nathan, Randy, Poly, Cass, Bubba, Jack, Grover, Bubba's Brute, Boomer, Ludo, Ray Escobar, Etienne, and Etienne's dad, Odio Boudreaux. Since the two young grooms, Mace and Picard, were so attentive and helpful working with the orchestra the previous day, Billy asked if they would like to go along. Of course, they jumped at the chance to be with their master and his family. It wasn't like work for them. They considered it a great honor to be included. The village people and their family were proud of them.

After discussing it with Bubba and Jack, Billy also decided to take Harley-Buck, Earl Hickson, Erin Mascaro, and Big Blue, for their hard work on their new concert stage. Of course, Billy told Harley-Buck he'd have to lose his horns for the trip, but they would be allowed to wear regular western clothes without their usual paraphernalia for their away-mission. Billy, also, decided their watcher-protectors should morph into humans for the trip to the North Woods and outfit them as three huge cowboys. Boomer was for it so he wouldn't have to stay invisible most of the time. "I didn't know they could morph into humans!" Bubba exclaimed looking at Billy in awe.

"Yeah, they can, but they make enormous cowboys," Billy replied.

"'At's all right, I done seen me some pretty damn big buckaroos in my day. Our buddy Hoss, Elmer Breedlove, Harlen Johnson, Harley-Buck, and Odin Bluetooth ain't no midgets," Bubba declared, "Besides, I wanna' see what my sweet Brute looks like as a man of the west," Bubba added.

Billy commanded them to morph, and they did. They were a bit embarrassed because their thick fur covered their private parts. Without their luxurious fur, they were exposed to the rest of the cowboys. They were stark naked until Clyde could outfit them. No one made fun of them. Their tackle was too damn impressive for anyone to even snicker; in fact, it was downright awe inspiring. They inspired several cocks among the cowboys to get a hard case of the happies. They were even more impressive after Clyde and Randy got them outfitted in their western clothes. Their cowboy hats were so big they looked like cabana umbrellas from a beach at Puerto Vallarta.
"We gotta' talk later, Sweet Potato," Bubba said quietly to Bubba's Brute using his favorite affectionate name for his protector, and the rest of the cowboys howled with laughter at him. Bubba didn't give a shit. He just grinned real big and winked at his protector. Brute blushed. He made a stunningly handsome human male; enormous, but easy to look upon. Ludo was another. He weren't much to look at as a watcher critter, but as a big man, he was ruggedly masculine to the max. Randy ran to him, leaped into his arms, and smothered him with kisses. It went a long way to make Ludo feel comfortable in his new skin. If his master approved, he was a happy beast.

When Billy Gog Groats saw the watchers morphed into large cowboys, he asked Billy why he couldn't come along. He worked as hard as the rest of them on the new stage and so did Thor and Zeus. He could morph down to their size. Billy laughed, gave him a hug, and told him to come along and bring his brothers. He drew the line after that. They would have enough room, but they would have to transport several in the back of Stan's old pickup truck. They didn't mind. They just wanted to be included.

After saying last minute goodbyes to the rest of the family, Randy opened a huge gate, and they drove the vehicles through. Most of the larger cowboys walked through with Randy and waited for him to close the gate behind them. Randy didn't have to do much walking. He was caught up in the huge arms of Gog, Cowboy Ludo, Thor, Zeus, Bubba, or Boomer. Randy didn't complain.

Cletus, Stan, and their watcher family were sitting on the front porch of the cabin waiting for them. They were already up and going about their business gathering their personal belongings so they wouldn't have to pack when they got ready to go back through the gate with Billy and his family. Cletus and Stan would hide-out at Bubba's ranch until the next Saturday when Bubba and Jack would take them to the Daniels' ranch to surprise Elmer, Oatie, and Pete Breedlove. Jethro already knew about Billy's deception and ran interference when the Breedloves started to wonder why they were excluded from that particular Sunday afternoon's activities. Jethro carefully explained Billy needed some one-on-one time with his immediate family, and he wanted to devote some quality time to his husband, his pa, and his little brothers. As he understood it, they planned to remain in the line-cabin for the afternoon and evening playing musical beds, and didn't want to be disturbed. Vox wasn't convinced, but he didn't say anything. He knew everything Elmer knew, but the sudden introduction of Cajun music tripped a switch in his mind. He figured out who Etienne Boudreaux and his family were. Vox was almost sure Elmer was clueless, but he didn't mention a thing, and joined Jethro to mislead them. Pete wondered, but never said a word.

* * * * * * *
"Stan and Cleet came to greet the men. Billy and his men allowed Stan's brother Etienne and his surrogate dad, Odio Boudreaux to get to them first and exchange joyful greetings with their family members. There were many hugs, stolen kisses, pats on the back, and a few tears exchanged.

"Are you men ready?" Billy shouted as Stan and Cletus walked to the handsome young cowboy's arms. He hugged and kissed Stan on the cheek, and Stan returned his affection. Cletus wanted more and kissed his savior on the mouth. Billy returned his affections with equal compassion.

"I don't need to ask if you men are ready," Stan chided, "My God, Cleet! Would ju' look at them vehicles with them pretty insignias painted on the doors. Two enormous vans, a ranch wagon, a school bus, and they look packed," Stan said in awe.

"I told you to leave the cook'n to us. Our Cajun food may not be as good as you and Cleet can cook; the Boudreaux family done half, and we done the other half. I'll put my cowboy brothers, Hank and Buck's Jambalaya, up against anyone's. They made up five gallons, but we done et half of it afore we could get it on the bus. "What time you wanna' leave?" Billy asked.

"Right away," Stan replied, "By the time we drive into town and get set up, it will be close to noon. I told the town folks to be there early, and I told the out-of-towners we wouldn't start serving them until one o'clock," Stan explained. "For food, they have to buy a ten dollar ticket for which a portion goes to Nellie Peterson for use of her place and the rest goes to a town fund for improvements and helping the old and homeless," Stan said.

"Sounds like a plan to me," Billy said. "You lead the way. You got room in the back of your truck for a couple of giant cowboys?" Billy asked.

"Oh, Hell yeah! It's a three-quarter ton'er with heavy-duty springs. It'll carry the weight, if the engine will do the pulling," Stan said and laughed, "She nags, complains a lot, and acts like she's got the croup, but she ain't never let us down. Who are these enormous cowboys with you?" he asked, "I recognize the rest," he added.

"They's our watchers. They can morph into human form, but they don't very often; unless, they're in big trouble and need an alternate escape plan. Because of their size, they rarely feel the need," Billy said and smiled, "Rather than remain invisible, I talked them into participating in-the-flesh," he added.

"Lemme' see – the one next to you is Boomer. The one next to the Bossman is his protector, Ludo, and the one next to Bubba is Brute, but who is this handsome giant?" Stan asked about Gog.

"I guess you ain't never had the opportunity to meet one of our resident giants, Veed. This here fine looking giant is our very own Billy Gog Groats," Billy introduced Stan and Gog.

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Groats. Welcome to Oregon and our humble home. Welcome to all you men, and thank you for coming," Stan said so everyone could hear.

"Nice to meet you and your husband, Mr. Breedlove," Gog said and shook Stan and Cletus's hands.

"We ain't formal here, Mr. Groats. Call us Stan or Cleet," Cletus said.

"Same here, Son. I'm just Gog," the giant replied and hugged Cletus like he was his little brother.

* * * * * * *
Stan and Cletus said goodbye to their watcher family. They fed them earlier in the morning and promised to bring food back with them when they returned from town. Erasmus and his family were looking forward to relocating to Texas. Stan promised, while the summers could be quite hot, the winters were much milder than Northern Oregon.

Stan led the caravan of vehicles down the long dirt road to the blacktop. When they got almost to the road, there was a huge tree which grew a low-hanging branch completely obstructing passage. Cletus jumped out of the passenger side and motioned for Gog to jump-down from the bed of the truck to give him a hand. Cletus explained to Gog it was a natural gate to their road. It hid the entrance and nobody could see the road going off through the woods. Gog thought it was a great idea for privacy. They held the branch back for Stan and the others to pass. The caravan stopped to wait for the last vehicle to pass, Cletus and Gog let go of the branch, it automatically sprang back into place, and they walked over amid cheers and hat waving from their brothers as they got back in Stan's truck.

The men drove into Tall Pine and arrived just before ten o'clock in the morning. They drove directly to Nellie's Cantina. Nellie, her boy Wilbur; Mr. Flint, their janitor cum handyman; Gladys Gimble, and Norm Hoover, were sitting around having coffee, waiting for Stan and Cletus when one of the town men came running into the Cantina and shouted, "They're here! They're here, but they got four giant cowboys in the back of their truck and four other big vehicles with them with Texas license plates and one of them is a school bus. They all got the same signs painted on them what says: Highland Shire Daniels Ranch," the local shade-tree mechanic, Rudy Plato, said with his eyes wide open.

About that time, the men started coming into the Cantina following Stan and Cletus. Rudy didn't lie. Several of the cowboys had to stoop and turn sideways to get in the front door. The Tall Pine natives were more than a little impressed with Stan and Cletus's extended family from Texas. They were good looking men dressed immaculately. Stan introduced everyone to them starting with his surrogate brother and dad, Etienne and Odio Boudreaux. Then he introduced Master Billy Daniels, and the rest of his cowboy family. Wilbur Peterson's mouth dropped open and didn't close until his mother gently reminded him it might be the polite thing to do. He and Gower Flint shook the cowboy's hands like automatons priming pump handles. Wilbur developed a wet spot in his khaki cargo pants the size of a Olympic medallion. Gladys and Norm were overjoyed to see Stan and Cletus's family were almost larger than life and so attractive. They felt great joy for their two musical friends. Somehow, they figured the day would be interesting.

"I can see we're gonna' have to open the patio doors, Mr. Flint, to make it easier for the larger cowboys to come and go," Nellie said.

"They ain't been opened in years, Nellie. I don't even know if the hinges work," Gower Flint said.

"We'll help," volunteered Billy, "ever' cowboy worth the name keeps a toolbox in his truck with a can of WD-40," he said hitching up his Wranglers like he was ready to go to work.

"When's the last time you were out there, Nellie. It's overgrown, and there's a lot of junk all over the place. There's even a rusty old VW bus from the sixties," Mr. Flint argued.

"We need a place to set up our smokers for barbecue brisket and chicken, Ms. Nellie, and a patio next to the Cantina would be perfect," Billy argued back, "Can we take a look, ma'am? We come to work and make the day as enjoyable as possible for our brothers and the good folks of Tall Pine," he added.

Nellie grinned at Billy's Texas drawl and calling her 'Ms.' and 'ma'am.' She liked his Southern respect. She melted like butter in his hands. "Wilbur, grab them keys off that nail by the cash register and give them to Mr. Daniels," she said to her boy.  

"Yes, ma'am," Wilbur replied and scurried behind the bar to retrieve the keys for Billy. He returned in a flash, "Here, Mr. Daniels," he said as he handed them to Billy.

"Will you folks do me a favor – do all of us men a favor, and call us by our first names. But, if you must show respect to someone, call my elderly Uncle Nathan and our even older neighbor, Mr. Garrett, over there 'Mister,'" Billy said and got a laugh out of everyone.

Nathan turned his hat sideways on his head, assumed a bowlegged cowboy pose, shoved his thumbs down between his belt and pants and responded, "Why you young whipper-snapper, us old farts can still out-ride, out-rope, and out-gun the lot of you young'uns with one hand tied behind us," Nathan replied in his best Gabby Hays character imitation. Everyone laughed again. Tron took off his own hat and was flogging his mate with it laughing his ass off.   

Billy took the key and tried it, but the lock was either so old and rusty, or it wasn't the right key. It wouldn't open. Billy looked at Randy and winked, moved his hand over the lock, and it popped open. Randy giggled and Billy shot him an evil 'hesh-up' look which only succeeded in flipping his little brother's giggle box. Only Billy's posse made the connection. The rest didn't have a clue why they were laughing. When Billy flung wide the huge double doors, it wasn't a remake of the Wizard of Oz. The patio was pretty much as Gower Flint describe it, but it was a huge area, twice as large as the interior of the barn which made up the Cantina. There was a double-wide gate at the rear, with a single entry from the street. It was a mess, but it had promise. "It's perfect!" Billy said quietly almost in awe. "What do you want to get rid of, and what do you want to save, Ms. Nellie?" Billy asked.

"There ain't nothing out there worth saving. Do what you will with it. Any improvement would be better than what it is now," Nellie replied.

"What about the old VW bus?" Billy asked.

"Get rid of it. It ain't worth fixing anyway," Nellie replied.

"But, Mom, you told me I could have it and fix it up for myself," Wilbur objected.

"It's rusted out, and it ain't worth the bother, Son. If these men will get rid of it for us, they'll be doing us a favor. There will be time for you to get something better, I promise," Nellie said.

"Is that double garage down the hill on your property, ma'am?" Billy asked.

"Yeah, they belong to us, but there ain't nothing in them," Nellie replied.

"What if we relocated the bus down 'nere? It would be better protected from the weather, and it might be a good place for Wilbur to tinker around with it," Billy suggested, and a big grin spread across Wilbur's face.

"Sure, whatever you men want to do with it. I don't even know if the tires will make it down there," Nellie said.

"We'll get it down there, Ms. Nellie. In the meantime, let's get to work men. We'll open the gate to the front and drive our vehicles down behind so's we won't take up parking on the street," Billy said and everybody got busy. Billy grabbed Randy by his shirt-tail, swept him up in his arms, and turned around to the folks in the Cantina. This here's ma' little brother. I know Stan done already introduced you to him, but I'm doing it a second time. His name is Randy Rutherford, but we just call him Ramrod Randy or Bossman. He's my right-hand man and buddy. I'll be sending him in for information and questions. Anything you can help him with will make my job easier, and we'll be able to get things done quicker. Don't let his small size fool you. He's a bright young man what can play a fiddle, a mean banjo, and tickle a pie-annie until it screams for help. He can make them sing so pretty it will make the angels cry. How do I know? I done wiped away their tears for them on many an occasion," Billy said in his best Buckaroo hyperbolic voice and laughed. Everyone laughed with him. They were quite sure Billy Daniels was full of bullshit.

"I'll close these doors to the patio so's it won't disturb you good folks and keep dust down in here. We'll re-open when we're done. If you need anything just come around to the front gate and one of our men will let you in," Billy said as he closed the doors and put the lock back on. He walked out the front door carrying Randy who waved to everyone over his big brother's broad shoulder.
"Lucky little fucker," Wilbur said under his breath to himself. Gower Flint heard him, winked at Wilbur, and grinned.

"Just remember, Son, hitch your wagon to a star if one comes close enough to lasso," Gower said quietly.

"I'm a nobody, Mr. Flint. I ain't got no special talents. I didn't even go to school. My mom was suppose to home school me, but she's only got a sixth grade education herself. She never taught me very much except how to make change, play solitaire, and how to cheat at poker. I know she wouldn't trust me to take the family cow to market to sell. She'd be afraid I'd return with a handful of worthless beans," Wilbur lamented, "The worst part is, she's probably right," he added in despair.

"Mark my word, Son, these men ain't your usual Texas cowboys. I been around my fair share of cowboys and none of them were as well turned-out or intelligent as these men. There's just something about them what tells me they ain't what they seem to be," Gower said.

"Bad?" Wilbur asked.

"No, on the contrary. What I mean is, there's more in their book than you can tell by their cover. It's like they're here on a mission, and come Hell or high-water they plan to get the job done to everybody's satisfaction. Billy Daniels went out of his way to make sure he preserved that damned old rust bucket of a VW bus for you. He's looking out for your best interest, Son," Mr. Flint said, "That says a Hell of a lot to me about him and his men. They're damn good men – thoughtful and considerate," he added.

"You really think so, Mr. Flint?" Wilbur asked.

"I'd bet what little life I got left in me, Son. You just make damn sure you're Johnny-on-the-spot to do everything or get anything you can for him and his men. Make them up a fresh pot of coffee and offer them some of your momma's fresh homemade pie," Gower urged him.

Wilbur took the old man's words to heart and walked out the front door down the front of the building to the open gate where Randy was standing. Wilbur poked his head in and looked around. The men were working clearing away overgrown shrubbery and weeds and hauling them out the back, but the main thing was, the old VW bus was gone.

"Where's the old bus?" Wilbur asked Randy.

"It was the first to go. You can walk down to them garages and take a look. It's inside and got an old tarp thrown over it to protect it," Randy said and smiled.

"Jesus Christ!" Wilbur exclaimed, "How'd they get it down there so fast?" he asked.

"One a them big giant cowboys got on each corner and carried it down there," Randy said, "See that big ugly one what's got a five-o'clock shadow of a beard at noon?" he asked.

"Yeah, he's just about the meanest, most masculine looking cowboy I ever saw. He reminds me of  Bluto in them Popeye cartoons," Wilbur said in awe.

"Funny, I never thought about it, but I named him 'Ludo' after a good hearted monster in that 'Labyrinth' movie staring David Bowie. He belongs to me. He's my protector. He rides herd on me and keeps me out of trouble," Randy bragged, "I think he's the best looking one, but I'm prejudice, 'cause I belong to him, too," he added.

"I ain't sure I understand, Bossman. I thought your big brother was your protector, and you two belong to each other," Wilbur said.

"Oh, we do – he is – we's all them things, but he's ma' big bro, and I don't have to tell you I'm his little bro," Randy explained and laughed. "We work and play together, and sometimes I do a sleep-over with him and his adopted pa – that big, buffed, balding guy working next to him over in the corner. His name is Captain Nick Samuels," Randy said.

"You must live a fascinating life," Wilbur said.

"Never a dull moment, my friend. Now, what can I do for you?" Randy asked.

"I come to see what I can do for you men, Bossman," Wilbur replied.

"We need some lights to string across the rafters of this covered patio to brighten up the place a bit so's we'll have light out here after dark," Randy said.

"We got box after box of old antique big-bulb Christmas lights in our old store room in the attic of the barn next door. Come with me, and I'll show you what we got," Wilbur said.

Randy called Grover Parsnip over to watch the front gate for him and to tell his big brother he's off on a procuring junket with Wilbur. Grover saluted the Bossman, clicked his boot heels, winked at him, and patted the young cowboy on his little butt as he walked through the gate. Randy giggled. "Dirty old man!" Randy said, and they broke up laughing together.

"Damn! You have such a wonderful relationship with these men. I must admit I'm a bit envious," Wilbur confided.

"We're family. Grover ain't no dirty old man. He's one of our town's best and brightest lawyers. Him and me is buddies. If I'm feel'n down or sorry for myself, I can climb up in Grover's lap, tell him my troubles, and he'll listen 'til the cows come home. I always feel better after a good long chat with old Grover. You won't never meet a more generous and caring man than him," Randy said.

"I know it's premature, but I'd give anything to become a part of your family, Randy. I ain't had me much school learn'n, but I'm smart enough to know Stan's husband Cletus didn't just get better overnight. Me and my ma come to know Stan pert-damn well, and we were stunned when he announced to us – out of a clear blue sky one day – his mate was much better and would soon be back to his old self. I was one of only a couple of men to ever meet Cletus, and I assure you, he was completely bedridden. He was totally paralyzed from the waist down and was helpless. He depended on Stan for everything, including changing his diapers and cleaning him. That's when I come to really admire Stan. I don't know's I could a done what he did for his mate.

"Sheriff Andreeson was the other man to meet Cletus. I knew where the Fennel's hunting cabin is, but the sheriff didn't, so I agreed to ride out there with him to check on Stan and Cletus. Nobody heard from them in a week or more, and we were worried about them. Come to find out, Stan took some time off work, but his dick-head of a boss, George, went on vacation and never bothered to tell the rest of the help or anyone else for that matter. He damn near got his ass thrown into jail over it, but the sheriff couldn't think a' nothing to charge him with. I think you know how Cletus come to get better so quick," Wilbur said.

"I ain't gonna' lie to you, Wilbur. Of course I know how he come to be healed. I was a part of it. My big brother, Billy, is an enhanced human. He saved my life several months ago. I was dying of a vicious crippling form of Parkinson's disease, and he saw me trying to walk by myself back to our car with my mom and big sister in the parking lot of a Walmart store in Fredericksburg, Texas. He squatted down on his boots, opened his big arms, and called to me to come to him. I knew I had to get to his arms by myself under my own power. I didn't know why at the time, but I knew it was the most important thing I would ever do in my life. I did it, but it took the last ounce of strength out of me. Just as I was sure I was home free, I tripped, and fell forward, but he caught me up in his huge arms as he spun me around and held me close while we cried together. That big handsome cowboy licked and kissed my tears away while he held me and told me what a brave boy I was. Next thing I know'd, rays of light come down from the sky and lit us up like a giant sparkler on the Fourth of July. I could feel it healing me and fixing my wasting body parts," Randy said as if in a wonderful trance. There was a stunned silence between the two young men. Only the rays of the sun came through the windows of the attic and the dust soldiers marched silently around them causing many sparkles of sunlight to bounce off other objects.

"Oh, my God! Is Billy Daniels the Walmart Cowboy Jesus?" Wilbur asked in awe.

"He won't claim the 'Jesus' part. It makes him nervous, but 'yes' he's a healer, and he healed me that day," Randy confirmed.

"I even remember your name now. I remember the young boy's name was Randy. I read about it on my computer and thought how wonderful it would be if the story was true. Now, you're here in this attic, with me, Mr. Nobody, thousands of miles away, by chance, telling me you were that boy? What are the odds?" Wilbur asked in awe.

"Maybe not by chance, Wilbur. Maybe you's suppose to become a part of our family. I know Stan and Cletus got a lot to do wiff' it, but you'll understand as time goes on as you learn more about us," Randy replied and tried to calm him.

"You men drove all the way up here from Texas?" Wilbur asked.

"No, Wilbur. Too much time and effort. Too expensive. We drove our vehicles through a gate like one a them star-gates you seen on them T.V. shows," Randy bragged.

"No way!" Wilbur challenged.

"Look, show me what you got up here we can use, and I'll gate us to the patio," Randy demanded.

"You know how to do it?" Wilbur asked.

"Of course I know how to do it. My big brother done told ju' I was his right hand man. Why do you think they call me 'Bossman,' Brother?" Randy asked, winked, and grinned.

Wilbur showed Randy six huge boxes they could barely lift filled with the heavy-duty old time large bulb Christmas lights, but Randy was more interested in many of the older antiques in the attic. There was a genuine Cigar Store Indian and an Indian Maiden standing together and several other magnificent treasures Randy thought should be displayed to make the place more attractive to out-of-towners. "My big brother's gotta' see these, Wilbur. Don't stand too close to him though, he's likely to shit his Wranglers," Randy said and giggled, "Now I'm gonna' open a gate to the patio. Don't shit chore' pants, Wilbur. It won't hurt chu' none. My favorite dogs run back and forth through them, and they ain't afraid," Randy said.

"As long as I know about them, I won't be scared," Wilbur said.

Randy waved his hand and a good sized gate opened in the attic – a blue wall of excited electrons.

"I'll never doubt you again, Randy," Wilbur said with his voice shaking.

"C'moan, Brother, help me push these big boxes through the gate," Randy said.

The gate sprang up on the patio just as Billy and his men were getting ready to lay a solid floor of large three-feet square slabs of concrete pavers Billy duplicated from only one. "Now who could be gate'n onto the patio? Hold all traffic at the door, Grover, and close it for a minute," Billy hollered. He and the men watched as one big box after another was pushed through the gate until Randy and Wilbur came through carrying the last ones in their arms. "I might have known. So much for secrets, little Brother," he said nodding to Wilbur and laughed.

"And I suppose a hundred and four people from the Houston Symphony Orchestra was just a drop in the bucket. Huh, big Brother?" Randy shot back, and the cowboys laughed at Billy.

"Jesus, you got a new 'app' for mental Karate, little Bro?" Billy asked and laughed.

"You leave the Bossman alone, you big bully! And that's, 'Yes, sir, Mister Garrett,' to you, Cowboy!" Tron exclaimed.

"Hosanna!" shouted Nathan.

"Hosanna, in the highest," the other men said in unison and laughed their asses off at the look on Billy's face. He knew he'd been had.

"Ah, Wilbur's all right. I done give him my keep-his-mouth-shut, observe-us-as-a-family, and we'll-explain-ever'-thing-as-we-go-along lecture," Randy said, "Besides he already done figured it out for himself, and them boxes was way too big and heavy for us to bring down them stairs from that dark, dusty old attic. Besides, big Brother, you got to step through the gate and take a look at a couple of things what could make this place look great. They's some old-time tables and chairs you might could duplicate," Randy said.

"Welcome to the family, Wilbur," Billy said taking the young man's hand, pulling Wilbur into a hug, and stealing a kiss. The older boy shed a few tears in Billy's arms and thanked him for the honor. "Just stick close to the Bossman, and he can tell you what you need to know. Now let's take a look in the attic," Billy said. He was as wowed and impressed as Randy. Billy got several of the cowboys to help carry some of the treasures out onto the patio, and they would place them after they completed the floor. The folks in the Cantina heard the sounds of people walking around in the attic. Nellie only saw Wilbur and Randy go up there, but she could swear there was a herd of buffalo walking around.

"Could be big rats," one of the regulars said.

"Only if they're giant rats from Texas, and they're wearing heavy-duty buckaroo boots," Nellie shot back and everyone laughed, but she didn't bother to go up and look around. She figured Wilbur and Randy would tell her when they came down. Old man Flint smiled knowingly to himself. He reckoned Wilbur made contact with the unknown.

Among the other many treasures, Billy found some two-by-eight foot lattice panels covered with a strong saran screening he found traces of which originally surrounded the patio from the top of the fence to the roof to completely enclose it and keep the bugs out at night. He took it from the attic, duplicated about thirty new ones, and set Harley-Buck and Earl to nailing them up with their nail guns. It only took them about thirty minutes to complete the job. In the meantime, Randy was agog over the cement pavers Billy made.

"You need a hand laying them giant pavers, Brother?" Randy asked.

"You got an 'app' for it, little Brother?" Billy asked.

"Yeah, the same one what put the veneer on our new concert stage, Brother. It will give my new brother, Wilbur, here, an idea what I can do," Randy replied.

"You mean 'showoff,' don't you, Bossman?" Billy said and grinned.

"We ain't gonna' tell you again to lay off that boy, or we'll send you to bed without no supper," Captain Nick shouted and got several 'hear' 'hears' from the other cowboys.

Billy broke up laughing. "The voice of my conscience is really loud today. Go ahead-on, Little Brother, do your thing and wow us," Billy said.

"You want them in line with the original in front of the door or do you want them geometrically perfect?" Randy asked.

"He wants them geometrically perfect, Son. Use the one in front of the door to mix in with the rest," Captain Nick hollered before Billy could answer.

"What ma' pa just done said, Little Brother," Billy said and laughed. The rest of the men were having a good time with Billy and Randy's exchange. They had to give it to the kid, he was sharp.

Randy motioned for everyone to wait outside the back double doors as he stood and waved his hands toward the pavers. Like something out of the Sorcerer's Apprentice the pavers lifted into the air one by one until they were floating about four feet off the floor. Wilbur's mouth dropped open as he watched Randy in action. The pavers butted up against each other tightly to form a solid floor and Randy slowly lowered them into place without so much as a speck of dust rising up from the massive placement. They were perfectly set into place around the room. Not one was crooked or not snugged up tight against the other. It was perfection.

"Well done, Little Brother. Hosanna!" Billy shouted and raised his hand in a fist to honor his little brother.

"Hosanna, in the highest!" the others echoed and joined their master raising their fists. Wilbur felt he was a part of the family and joined in. He never felt so complete as he did at that moment.

"I won't have no problem calling you Bossman after watching that, Randy," Wilbur said, "That was phenomenal, Bro," he added.

"Okay, that's one more thing out of the way. Lets get them lights put up, tables duplicated, and set around. Brother Blue can we get a hand from you and your mate stringing these old Christmas lights?" Billy asked.

"We'll be glad to help, Master Billy. These old things are great. They'll last a life time, but the bulbs are hard to replace," Blue said and shook his head.

"Not any more, Master Odin. My big brother's done learned his'self a duplication 'apps' what can duplicate them bulbs like he done them pavers," Randy bragged.

The men set to work and had everything done by noon. When they opened the doors from the inside to the patio, there came a gasp from the few locals who came early to the Cantina to see what the fuss was about. Wilbur walked to his mother who stood looking out in awe and took her hand, "Come, Ma, and see the wonders Master Billy, his little brother, and his cowboys have done to the patio," Wilbur urged her. Wilbur led his mother like he was taking her to the see the mother-ship what just landed on Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Nellie Peterson was stunned beyond words. Gower Flint was equally overwhelmed by what he saw. How could these men have accomplished so much in so little time? It was stunning and Nellie didn't miss the business opportunity the remodeled addition to her property might mean for her. All she had to do was get off her ass and become a business woman again. She even saw the possibility of giving George's Bistro a run for his money. She would have to talk it over with her family and friends. She certainly included Stan, Cletus, Master Billy and his family, as her friends.

Everything was set up. The serving tables were placed in front of the double-doors to the back-side of the patio so the food could be brought in from the vehicles. They set up the smokers behind the wall. Hank and Buck fired them up and the coals were settling down to the proper temperature to place the first of the barbecue on the racks. The serving trays were stainless steel with covers for the tops. Billy didn't worry about keeping things hot. The trays were sitting in a bath of hot water heated by an electric element submersed in the water and controlled by a thermostat.     

"We're just about ready to serve lunch, but before we serve anyone, we need to make up cartons of food for the old or indigent who won't be able to get out and come to town. Does anyone know how many families we need to make up food for and who they are?" Billy asked.

Wilbur held up his hand. "I know them all, Master Billy. There's only four older couples who can't get out and about. They order take-out from us from time to time, and I deliver to them. The sheriff's mother and dad are real sick and can't get around, but somehow they manage to take care of the sheriff's grandmother – his dad's mom. I'll be happy to take you and your men around to deliver food," Wilbur said.

Billy encouraged his men to get busy, and they made up a big box for each family. The others walked back into the Cantina, but Wilbur stayed and watched the preparations. He helped when they let him. The younger men watched as Billy waved his hands over each serving of food and a bright blue light would emanate from the palm of his hands. He seemed to pay particular attention to some sweet cakes they called 'Hosanna Cakes.'

"I'm impressed! Another new 'app' you learned, big Brother?" Randy asked.

"Yeah, enough to get them up and around, feeling a little better about themselves, and life in general," Billy replied.

"Will it be permanent, Master Billy," Wilbur asked concerned.

"Nothing is permanent, Son, but it will heal them and reverse their aging about twenty years," Billy explained, "I could do more for them, but I won't have to. Others will come along after me to finish my work," he added.

"Like who, sir?" Wilbur asked.

"Like you, Son," Billy said quietly and smiled at Wilbur. Wilbur blushed and smiled.

"Why do you bathe the small Hosanna Cakes with more light than the food, sir?" Wilbur asked.

"Good, observant question, Wilbur. Old folks have a tendency to eat the sweet things first. They reason they might not live through a complete meal, so they should eat their dessert first – just in case. The more life force I can get into them, the more hungry they will become for solid food. If they only eat one good portion, it will reset their clocks like they were about twenty years ago," Billy explained.

"Amazing," said Wilbur.

"Y'ain't seen nothing yet, Brother," Randy said and laughed.

The men packed the food into the large van and headed out for the first home of the elderly. The first family were the Potters; Ben and Virginia Potter. They were still getting around and welcomed Wilbur and his group of well-dressed cowboys. They were overwhelmed and most appreciative Wilbur, Stan, and his mate would remember them. And so it went for the next two families, Doug and Wilma Rogers, and Ken and Alice Austin. They were helping themselves to the good food and in awe of the variety. The men's last visit was with the Andreeson's, the sheriff's dad, mom, and grandmother. They were in much worse shape than the other three pair of old folks. Grandma Andreeson was languishing in bed most of the time, and it was all both of them could do to take care of her. They needed around-the-clock care for the three of them, but they couldn't afford it under the current government medical programs which were only for profit and nothing for the poor or indigent.

Billy decided drastic situations called for drastic actions. He had his main cowboy-angel posse with him, Captain Nick, Clyde, Balthazar, Cowboy Andy, Garth, Mack, Bubba, Jack, and he invited Grover to come along. They removed their shirts, disappeared, and reappeared in a flash. Wilbur was just as surprised and impressed as the Andreesons. "My God we got us a band of angels visiting in our home, Ma?" Mr. Andreeson said to his wife. "Did you know they was angels when you brought them to us, Son?" he asked Wilbur.

"I knew these men possessed great healing powers, sir, but I ain't never seen them with their wings before. They're amazing," Wilbur replied.  

"What are they doing for my mother, Wilbur?" he asked.

"They're going to heal whatever's wrong with her and reverse her aging by about twenty to thirty years, Mr. Andreeson; then, as I understand it, they will do the same for you and Mrs. Andreeson, sir," Wilbur replied respectfully.

"But why would they do that for us, Wilbur?" he asked.

"Because they can, and Master Billy Daniels is a kind and compassionate man. I also asked him to help you and Mrs. Andreeson if he could," Wilbur told them the truth, "I think a lot has to do with your grandson, Bobby, Mr. Andreeson," Wilbur hazard a guess.

"You're a good boy, Son. I always had faith you would one day find your calling, and I know you will walk in the path of light and goodness the rest of your life," Mr. Andreeson said.

"I hope so, sir. I want to be a good man and do good for others who are suffering and in need," Wilbur said.

When they were through with Grandmother Andreeson, Billy and his posse worked on Mr. and Mrs. Robert Andreeson for about thirty minutes until they got them sitting down to the table to eat. They brought out the food and served it to them. Billy made sure they each had a nice tall glass of herbal iced tea to drink. The cowboys couldn't stay too long and needed to get back to the Cantina. They invited them down later if they felt up to it. They thanked the men and began to eat the wonderful food set before them.

By the time Billy and his posse got back, the town folks were already going through the line picking and choosing what they wanted to eat. Some wanted only a couple of things. Others wanted to sample a little of everything. They did their best to accommodate the people, but the out-of-towners could only have two entrιes unless they bought another ticket. They were told the iced spiced herbal tea was free with their meal, but if they wanted wine or beer with their dinner they had to buy it from the Cantina. Nellie was doing a brisk business, and she was glad she tripled her order to the supplier. Stan and Cletus were welcoming the town folks and Stan's fellow workers from the Bistro at the front door. Several brought their families and others brought several friends who they told about the wonderful music. They got free food as guests of the town folks. The smells of the barbecue and the sweet pungent fragrance of the smoldering mesquite wood made an intoxicating heady brew which gnawed at their hunger centers to create great anticipation for the food. No one was disappointed or went away hungry. They had a tray of the Hosanna Cakes for dessert and told everyone they would be marketing them soon in health food stores. They were gluten free and made of Quinoa flour instead of wheat. All sugars were natural, and they were absent of any fats.

Stan's work mates arrived including the irrepressible Luigi Carobelle, the head chef at the Bristro. The restaurant people and their guests went through the food line, but Luigi had to taste each thing they were serving before he would get in line. He tasted dish after dish. Luigi exclaimed and bragged how wonderful each was. He loved the mesquite smoked beef and chicken. He adored Billy's deer meat chili and Kate's German potato salad. He would have run barefoot, removed his shirt and wallowed in the Gumbo and the Jambalaya if they let him, but he saved his greatest compliments for the Craw-fish Ιtouffιe. "I must have this recipe! Splendid! Wonderful! Delizioso!" he exclaimed. Billy noticed the big Italian man would hide his left hand a lot and keep it in his pocket. He finally got a look at it, and Billy saw he was missing his little finger. He invited Luigi to see something he might never get another chance to see and invited Wilbur to come along with them. They took him down to the old double garage and Wilbur let them in. Billy turned to Luigi, ginned at Wilbur, and spoke, "Lemme' see your left hand, my friend," Billy said.

"No, no! It's nothing. It is my shame," he said, shaking his head.

"Show it to me, friend," Billy spoke quietly but firmly with the added strength of compassion.

Slowly Luigi removed his hand from his pocket and showed it to Billy and Wilbur.

"Did you cross someone?" Billy asked.

"No, I couldn't pay a protection fee to the local Mafia in Chicago for a small restaurant I owned because my youngest daughter needed an operation, and it was a choice of her life or suffering the consequences. I explained and showed them the medical bills, but they didn't care. It cost me my finger," the big Italian man said, and a tear rolled down his cheek remembering the humiliation and pain. I sold the restaurant the next week and moved my family to Oregon.

"You been good and kind to my brothers Stan and Cletus. I will give your finger back to you," Billy said quietly.

"That's impossible. How could you do that?" he asked.

"He can, Mr. Carobelle. Trust me," Wilbur said calmly.

Billy disappeared and reappeared in a great flash of light fully fledged with his beautiful gold wings.

Luigi Carobelle was stunned. "Holy Mary Mother of God, you're an angel. I suspected something like this, but would never allow myself to believe it. Stan's mate was too badly injured to recover in such a short time, but no one challenged him. Now I know. Praise God, but I am of little importance. I can live without my finger, Master Billy. Oh, Dear Sweet Jesus, now I know why Stan calls you 'Master' Billy," he babbled on from shock and excitement.

Billy pricked the man's finger, tasted his blood, and then proceeded to cause him to regrow another little finger. He would ask Luigi to move it from time to time as it was re-growing to make sure everything was in line. When he was satisfied it was complete, Billy powered down and returned his wings to the 'cloakroom.'

"How can I ever thank you, Master Billy?" he asked as he shed more tears.

"You have already thanked me by being good to your fellow man, Luigi. Nothing more is necessary except to keep on being the wonderful man you are," Billy replied, "Oh, yes, and don't hide your hand anymore. When someone asks you about it, tell them the truth; tell them an angel gave it back to you as a reward for being a good man," he added. The three men walked arm in arm back to the patio of the Cantina and nothing more was said about the incident. Luigi didn't hide his hand anymore, but to his surprise only a couple of his closest workers noticed his new finger. He began to be more expressive in his conversations and forgot how much he liked to use his hands to talk.
* * * * * * *
Sheriff Andreeson and his family arrived with Stan's buddy, Bobby. They got their food and the family sat down to eat. Stan, Cletus, Billy, Randy, and Wilbur joined them to talk while they ate. "If you men don't mind, we'd like to take some food to my parents and my grandmother who live here in town," the sheriff said.

"We already did, sir," Stan spoke up, "We took a huge box full of three equal portions of everything we served here this afternoon. My cowboy brother, Billy Daniels, wouldn't let us start serving until we delivered food to the old or poor of our community," Stan added.

"I'd say Mr. Daniels is the right kind of man to have as a friend, Stan," the sheriff allowed. Stan was busy with Bobby trying to get him to eat one of the Hosanna Cakes and drink some of the herbal spiced tea. He was eating it as fast as Stan could feed him small bits.

"Won't eating sweets curb his appetite for more healthy food?" the sheriff's wife, Shirley, asked.

"If it was like a 'twinkie' I would agree, but these are special treats created by and for the Daniels family chocked full of vitamins and other healthy items which are cleverly disguised as a sweet treat. They're called Hosanna Cakes because when you bite into one, it makes you want to shout 'Hosanna!'" Stan explained and grinned.

"I wish we could get him to eat regular food with that much enthusiasm, but then his best bud is feeding him, and it means a lot. He's been looking at the clock in the kitchen all morning like he's trying to make the hands go faster," Bob Andreeson said and smiled. Randy was sitting next to Stan holding the small plastic plate for him as he fed Bobby. Bobby would smile at Randy from time to time and the sheriff could tell he was equally fascinated by the young boy. "He also seems to have found a new friend in your little brother, Mr. Daniels," he said.

"Billy! Just call me Billy, Sheriff. Randy has unusual talents. He can speak mind to mind with people like Bobby who are unable to communicate in a normal manner," Billy explained.

The sheriff looked at his wife and grinned, "Pardon me, Son, but I find that hard to believe," Bob Andreeson replied.

"You're sitting behind Bobby. He's busy eating. He can't see you. Hold up any number of fingers on your right hand so Randy can see them," Billy said.

The sheriff did as suggested and held up three fingers. Bobby stopped eating for a minute, smiled at Randy, and raised his right hand holding up only three fingers. The sheriff and his wife looked befuddled like it might be a cheap trick. "Try again, Sheriff," Billy urged him. The sheriff held up five fingers, and once again, Bobby held up all five of his fingers.

"You try, Hon," Sheriff Bob told his wife. She held up two fingers, and Bobby held up two fingers.

"My God, that's remarkable. Can your little brother hear his thoughts?" Shirley Andreeson asked.

"Yes, ma'am, I can hear his thoughts. He's very happy to be here with Stan and Cletus. He loves them very much. He's happy to get to meet Stan's family with whom he will be going back to Texas to live. He likes me and my big brother, but he particularly likes the big cowboys," Randy replied.

"Ask him what we got him for his birthday this year?" the sheriff needed a bit more proof.

Randy giggled and Bobby grinned real big, "He showed me a picture of his Krusty the Clown clock and night light by his bed you got him this year because he likes to watch Simpson re-runs on T.V. He also told me he wants to spend the night with Stan and Cletus, and their cowboy brothers. He loves himself some cowboys," Randy said. A big grin came over Bobby's face, and he nodded his head in agreement with Randy's words.

"I don't think that will be possible for Bobby to go off on his own with these men," the sheriff said.

"Why not, Sheriff? He won't be on his own. He'll be with his brothers. Bobby's eighteen years old, and he's never been away from his parents in all these years. He needs to feel like he's become a man. What better way than a camp-out in the woods and a sleep-over with his best buddies – his brothers? I'm certainly capable of taking care of him. If I took care of my mate for two years, and he lived to tell about it, I can take care of my buddy, my younger brother, for one evening. If you let him come back to our cabin with us, we'll return him in the morning before we leave for Texas. We have to drive through town anyway on our way out," Stan said.

"I don't know. We'll have to talk about it. What do you think, Dear?" he asked his wife.

Shirley Andreeson looked scared like she was unsure of her feelings. She didn't reply but shrugged her shoulders like she would leave it up to her husband. She was looking at Bobby the whole time, and slowly a smile came across her face. "Look, Bob! Look how calm he's become since he started eating that cake and drinking the tea. He's not as frenetic as he usually is around people.

"He wants a piece of paper and a pencil," Randy said.

"I'll get it! I got just the thing," Wilbur said and was away from the group in a flash. He soon returned with a clipboard holding several sheets of blank paper. Attached to the board was a pencil on a string. He handed it to Stan, and Stan gently handed it to Bobby. Bobby took the pencil and slowly began to write large crudely drawn letters: I go w Stan + Kleet 2 nite. He wrote.

The sheriff read the note. His eyes grew big as he shared it with his wife. It was the first actual communication they received from their boy in eighteen years.

"I don't know, Son, I'll have to think about it," the sheriff replied.

Bobby reached for the board, and his dad gave it back to him. Bobby wrote: vry mportnt 4 me 2 ½ chnce 2 b cum man dad. When he finished he handed it back to his dad. Bob Andreeson looked at it, but he didn't understand. Stan looked at it and smiled. "It says, it's very important for me to have a chance to become a man, Dad," he translated. Bobby was nodding his head in the affirmative, confirming what Stan said. Bob Andreeson didn't reply, but it was obvious to everyone he was a shaken man. His invalid son was demanding to be heard and have a say in his life. The sheriff was losing control, and he felt uncomfortable. Nothing more was said, but everyone present could feel a divide which came between the sheriff and his boy. It was a moment which has been shared by fathers and sons since the beginning of time.

Billy was right about enhancing the Hosanna Cakes with more life force. Suddenly Bobby became more hungry than he ever felt before and wanted to taste and eat everything. His parents watched him eat more of the wonderful food the cowboys provided than they ever saw him eat before. He couldn't get it down fast enough, and it was like every morsel was better than the last. He didn't care much for the barbecued chicken, but he loved the brisket and engulfed the Cajun food like it was holy ambrosia from the table of some unknown god. He ate so much his family was afraid he was going to be sick. Billy and his men knew better. Bobby made his first step toward independence.

* * * * * * *
In the main room of the Cantina where the music would be played, Billy and his crew set up comfortable chairs but left enough room for a good size dance floor. If this time was a repeat of the previous Sunday afternoon in Tall Pine, there would be dancing. As the three o'clock hour came around most of the crowd were fed and becoming restless for music. They started clapping and chanting. "We want music! We want music! Man can not live by hardy, delicious, succulent, Texas barbecue and wonderful, sinfully spicy, orally orgasmic Cajun food alone, he must have music!" a few were heard to shout. (Well, maybe not that verbally florid, but you get the idea.)

Stan wheeled Bobby into the room. Those already gathered made room for him and the Andreeson family to pass. They reserved a table especially for the sheriff and his family. Stan made sure Bobby was down front and could see and hear everything. The musicians took their places. Billy brought along his sound equipment, and it was much better than Stan's Karaoke Boom Box. They placed four microphones on stage, and it was a great sound. Billy and his men decided to let Stan take the lead. It was, after all, his and Cletus's going-away tribute to the town, and they didn't want to overshadow them. Stan walked up to the microphone introduced himself and each musician and what each man, and woman meant to them. They were basically their family, but Stan still had blood family back in the small town they came from.

Stan didn't spend a lot of time on introductions and finally said, "Ya'll ready to take a trip with us to Lou-easy-ann?" he shouted, and the gathered crowd went crazy. The first number was Stan, Cletus, and Etienne's, and they picked a winner. "We'll start off with the Cajun Groove! Stomp yore' big boot, Husband!" Stan shouted to Cletus and the big man set the tempo. With two experts on the squeeze box, Stan on his square-box fiddle, the twins, and their fiddles with the others playing backup, it brought down the house. Everyone was in a Cajun party mood.

Billy's posse listened and practiced every Cajun tune they could find on the Internet and Aunt Helen ordered dozens of CDs which they would listen to and learn from. There wasn't a Cajun number Stan or Cletus could play which Billy's musicians couldn't wing a backup. The first hour they played non-stop Cajun music. Stan took advantage of his players and knew who could harmonize or sing backup on a tune. Even the French-Cajun tunes they sang, Billy and his men could sing harmony in the Cajun tongue.

After a solid hour of playing, Stan decided the band needed a break for visits to the comfort stations and to have some more spiced tea. He got Billy aside and asked why he wasn't more forthcoming with musical suggestions. "It's your party, Brother. Other than offering backup we didn't wanna' walk in and take over," Billy replied.

"We're scraping the bottom of our barrel, Billy. Please, take over. We can insert other Cajun tunes here and there, but I was hoping for a more mixed bag of music from cowboy ballads, hoe-down numbers, to cry'n-in-your-beer songs. Ask what they want to hear. It's one of the best crowds I can ever remember playing to," Stan said.

"They seem like an educated intelligent group. I'll take over for the next hour, and then we'll see where it goes from there," Billy said.

"In the name of some unknown god, thank you, Master Billy. You just saved my life – a second time," Stan said and they shared a laugh.

The musicians took their places again and Stan turned the microphone over to Billy. Billy had an aura about him of a down-home-naive-but-bright-good-old-country boy. "First off, let me say, us Texans is mighty proud to be here among you enlightened Oregonians," he said. The crowd went crazy applauding for his comment, "Secondly, let me say I'm gonna' kidnap and steal me away Ms. Gladys Gimble and your find bass player, Mr. Norm Hoover. Take a bow, you two!" Billy motioned with his hand for Gladys and Norm to take a bow. They did and the crowd went nuts again for them. "Thirdly – was there a thirdly?" he asked and got a laugh, "Oh, yes, thirdly my brother Stan done asked me to take over for the next hour, and we'll try to entertain you wiff' some cowboy tunes and other dances with perhaps a little nonsense now and then. You never know what my cowboys will come up with. First off, we'd like to showcase my little brother, Randy Rutherford, on banjo with a complicated tune he learned called the Flint Hill Special.

Until that time, Randy followed Billy's idea of playing backup and was just strumming chords but not much fingering on his banjo to give Stan, Cletus, and Etienne the lead. When he stepped up to the microphone and started picking and twisting his tuning pins to bend the starting melody the crowd went nuts with applause for the young boy and stood in awe at his playing. Randy, Clyde, Billy, Poly, and Cass played the piece so many times they became a strong solid statement for the beauty and strength of well-played bluegrass music. Randy gave them their turn to shine and they took off like roman candles exploding at a fourth of July fireworks display. Clyde and the twins got rounds of applause after their solo parts. Billy played chords but he didn't solo. By the end the crowd was so worked up they applauded for several minutes for Randy, Clyde, Billy, and the twins. Billy and his group continued, but within most of the stuff they chose to play there was ample room for squeeze boxes. They were beginning to come together as a fine group of musicians. After they played several numbers, someone in the crowd yelled out, "You know any classical numbers?"

Billy walked up to the microphone and grinned, "You just had to ask, didn't you?" he said and grinned. "Poly! Cass! Front and center! Clyde you play continuo with me. Randy get chore' fiddle and back me up," Billy barked. As Randy was changing instruments, Billy walked back to the microphone. "We done played this piece yesterday afternoon at our barnyard concert at our ranch with a chamber orchestra made up of members from the Houston Symphony. We's a few fiddles short, but we can make up for them," Billy said, took his place at his electronic piano and changed the setting to harpsichord. He gave a downbeat and Poly and Cass took off on the Bach Double in D Minor. To Billy's surprised, he heard Norm Hoover behind him playing every note of the bass line of the continuo along with him. It gave Billy more opportunity to play the orchestral part and add support for Clyde and Randy. After their cadenzas, and the final cadence at the end of the first movement, the crowd was completely overwhelmed. They never heard such a rag-tag group play Bach so well. Then all hell broke loose with whistles, stomping of boots, applause and cheers. Stan was right, it was an intelligent crowd.  
They immediately went back to playing country music and the folks started dancing again. Suddenly there was something happening at the front door; a commotion of some sort. Wilbur was at the front door of the Cantina letting folks in, but there was a long waiting line. The place was packed as it was, but through the crowd came the four old couples and grandmother Andreeson to the front door. Billy stopped the music as Wilbur explained to the waiting crowd, the nine people were residents of the town and took precedence over them. Billy saw Wilbur wink at him and graciously usher in the old folks who were walking slowly, but more out of pride than lack of stamina.

The very last to enter was Mrs. Evangeline Andreeson dressed in a bright canary yellow lace gown with long sleeves and buttoned all the way to the top of her throat. It was lovely and looked like something from the turn of the Twentieth Century. She was wearing a small matching pair of low-heel slippers and her hair was done up in a great swirl on top of her head. Sticking out and up from the back of her hair was one brilliant canary yellow ostrich feather. She was so stunningly attractive the crowd parted for her like she was visiting royalty and allowed her companions to follow. Billy was almost struck dumb. "In the name of some unknown god, I ain't never seen me such a beautiful, radiant woman in my life. She positively glows," he said.

"Hosanna, big Brother!" Randy said quietly.

"Hosanna, in the highest!" the others echoed Randy.

Billy jumped down from the stage and walk to her. He took his cowboy hat off and made a sweeping bow, went down on one knee, picked up the hem of her lovely gown, brought it up to his face, and kissed it. The crowd went 'oooh.' "Welcome, beautiful lady," Billy said to her.

"I'm the one who should be on my knees before you, my handsome young cowboy Lochinvar; my savior," she replied softy as she took her dress from him and held it like she was ready for a dance.

"Nonsense, fair lady, this cowboy always bows to beauty no matter what form it takes," Billy said and she smiled. "May I have the first dance, my lady? A waltz, perhaps?" Billy asked.

"I would be honored to dance with such a handsome young man of the West," she replied.

"Gentlemen! The Anniversary Waltz!" Billy yelled to the band. Poly and Cass knew what their master was requesting. They played the waltz together many times, and they started in. The rest of the musicians followed. Billy put his cowboy hat back on and they began to dance around the empty floor. They made a handsome couple with Eve holding the hem of her lovely dress like dancers in olden times. Billy and his lady made one complete circle around the room and on the second pass the other three older couples joined them. After another pass, others in the room began to join in the waltz. There must have been a hundred couples dancing the waltz around the room, but Billy and Eve Andreeson stood out above the rest. The sheriff and his wife stood and watched in awe. Not only was the sheriff's parents dancing, his grandmother was leading the group. How could this be? Ever since Billy Daniels came to town strange things began to happen. The sheriff just considered it coincidence, but seeing his parents greatly improved in health and his grandmother looking as young as his parents was a tad more than coincidence. It was downright spooky.

As they danced Billy and Eve talked quietly. "I knew when you entered my room you were my Lochinvar come to save me. I can see your auras. They are strong and well developed. You were gifted by genetics to produce your own aura, but yours has been greatly enhanced. You basically have three auras. Your genetic one is bright blue like the healing rays which come from your hands. The second is a bright yellow. It is artificially produced, but it was a gift from a great race of ancient people who have acted as watchers throughout the ages to keep mankind from destroying himself. I can see at least four of them in human form around the room. They are your protectors. Surrounding your two auras is a deep purple aura; the color of royalty; the color of a savior; given to you by an even greater, more advanced, race of ancient beings," she said, "You are much loved and treasured by countless people throughout the heavens," Eve said.

"I never saw another's aura until a moment ago when I saw yours. It's strong, but you also have a blue aura with a golden yellow aura surrounding; one within the other," Billy said.

"The blue was inherited from my grandfather. It usually skips a generation. The yellow you see is your gift to me," Eve explained, "I wondered how they might intervene and save one of their finest who is destined to become one of your greatest, most beloved family members," she added.

"Bobby?" Billy asked.

"You were already suspicions," she said firmly.

"Always, lovely lady. You know as well as I do, to never discount the least of those with whom we come in contact," Billy said.

"Truth well said, my handsome Lochinvar," Eve replied, "And have they given you Excalibur?" she asked.

"They have. How did you know?" Billy asked.

"It came to me as an important metaphor from one of Walter Scott's poems. As you grow stronger and become better known, you must keep it close to you at all times, Master Billy," Eve replied like she was afraid for him.

"I will take it under advisement, dear lady," Billy said, "But I would like to know more about your aura, and why the sheriff didn't inherit your genetic information?" he asked.

"Sometimes natures goes crazy or pulls pranks. How do you think man evolved?" she asked and grinned, "I blame it on the cow my son married. I told him he was marrying beneath him; she didn't have the bloodlines, but 'love' for better or worse conquers all," Eve said drolly, "It might have been passed to another child, but they only had the one. Robert Junior is good hearted, somewhat compassionate, and sweet enough to be a small town sheriff, but unfortunately, he married an even bigger cow. I know that sounds terribly judgmental on my part, but I can't help how I feel as I have slowly come to understand the human condition. I hope my vision for a more progressive future for mankind makes up for my somewhat belittling remarks about my son and grandson's spouses. I use the term 'cow' as a metaphor and not as a condemnation, but I long ago balanced the equation in my mind as to being a confused, non-committal liberal to assigning blame for our slow lackluster record of progressive development as a species. I hear you cowboys have a phrase for it – taking names and kick'n asses," Eve said, and they laughed together. She continued, "Robert must have carried the dormant gene and passed it along to Bobby, my great-grandson, also known as Robert Eugene Andreeson the third. However, when it skips a generation, Mother Nature can get nasty and sometimes gives humanity the ultimate finger-wave; poor little Bobby Gene is a genius trapped inside a dysfunctional body – until now," she said and smiled sweetly at Billy.  

"What are my chances, gracious lady?" Billy asked.

"Good. Better – now that you have my son and me on your side, but you planned it that way. That's not meant as a snide remark; just an observation. I'm not even sure you planned it. More likely it was planned before our births. It doesn't matter, I'm most grateful not to be lying in bed wondering if my next breath will be my last. You certainly deserve our deepest appreciation, gratitude, and cooperation. My life belongs to you, Master Billy, and I use the term 'master' in every sense of the word. Mark my word, Robert Junior won't give his dad's recommendation much heed, but he will mine. He listens to me. He quickly learned his grandma wouldn't – what you cowboys call – blow smoke up his ass. He knew he could come to me as a child, and I wouldn't lie to him about the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or where babies come from," she said.

"I need a big rock to wedge Bobby away from his dad long enough to repair and enhance him," Billy said.

"You're holding your rock in your arms, Master Billy," Eve grinned wickedly, "I wouldn't miss the the reconstruction of my great-grandson for the world," she added, "However, I might urge you to reconsider enhancing him right away. Giving such a powerful gift to a young man who hasn't had the benefit of growing up normally among his own kind could possibly be disastrous. The very thought of genius without maturity of a normal childhood makes me shudder. Adolf Hitler comes to mind; a mad genius in a stunted body with a crippled intellect. That Bush boy was another abomination who did the same with little or no intellect. We have so many of those running our country today who go by the misnomer of 'Christians' and 'conservatives.' Can you give him just enough to light his fire, create a passion – an endless thirst within him for knowledge, and a bend to learn compassion for his fellow man?" she asked.

"I can regress him physically ten years or more and enhance him. He will still have some pretty remarkable abilities like I gave my little brother, but he won't become totally functional until he goes through puberty; then, he will grow wings and become fully fledged," Billy explained, "From the looks of him, I doubt his nature has awakened enough hormones to start him on the wonderful, if somewhat treacherous, road through the dark forest of sexual probabilities," Billy added.

"Two childhoods might be better than having an enhanced creature in a repaired body of one with great resentment for his childhood," she said firmly.

"Excellent point! Not only are you lovely, you're wise. Would you be interested in becoming his ward; his mentor, and come live with us on our ranch?" Billy asked.

"You have room for me?" she asked.

"Of course we have room for you, or I wouldn't make the offer," Billy assured her.

"I can't live with my son and his wife anymore. I would surely die of boredom quicker than old age, but I have no prospects for the future. Therefore, I accept your kind and generous offer, sir," she said.

A bonding contract was made, and the fate of Bobby Gene Andreeson was decided while dancing a waltz. Somehow, it seemed natural to Billy, and he entertained the thought: All great decisions in life probably should be made while sharing a waltz.

* * * * * * *
After the dance was over the band broke into another waltz, 'Three O'clock In The Morning,' and Billy led Eve over to the Andreeson's family table. Everyone was in awe of seeing her look so much younger and healthy, except Bobby. He just grinned like he shared a secret with his great-grandmother. He somehow realized she was his guardian angel and came to help him escape his bonds of infirmity. She took a seat along with her son and his wife. Other than kisses and comments about how healthy and well they looked, nothing much was said. The music and the crowd made conversation almost impossible, and Eve was not one to yell above the din. She was taught from childhood, ladies of breeding and quality were never loud or abrasive but reserved, dignified, and well-mannered. She wondered if Billy could give her another chance at childhood.

After several more pieces, Billy and Stan decided to take another break. They decided it was to be a longer break of thirty minutes, and they would only play two more sets. By that time, it should be about nine in the evening. They figured by the time they got everything cleaned up and put away to return to the cabin it would be ten o'clock.

During the break, the sheriff called his dad aside onto the patio away from the main crowd. "What's going on, Dad?" he asked.

"What do you mean, Son?" his dad asked in reply.

"You, mom, and grandma! You look twenty years younger and grandma looks almost as young as you and mom," he said.

"I really can't say, Son. Young Wilbur Peterson and them fine looking cowboys brought us some wonderful food. We didn't have much to eat in the house, but they brought us the best food we had in years. They sat us down and saw to it we were eating before they left to get back. Wilbur Peterson is a right-nice young man and them men from Texas were southern gentleman. They treated me, your mom, and your grandmother like we was the most important folks on Earth. We ate until we couldn't eat no more. We never saw your grandma eat so much. When we were through, we looked at one another and were amazed. We don't know what happened, but we know we look, feel, and act like we's twenty years younger and your grandma? Well you saw her on the dance floor with that big, tall, handsome, Texas cowboy," he said, "How's your back?" his dad asked.

"It's gotten much worse in the last couple of weeks, but it's better this evening since I ate. I don't know how much longer I can keep doing my job, but we ain't got no medical insurance and we don't have enough money saved up to get me any treatments. We live from hand to mouth, from paycheck to paycheck, and I feel like a failure as a son because there ain't never nothing extra to help you and mom out. I don't know what I'm gonna' do. It seems like the universe is set to work against me, Dad. I'm worried about the kids and Bobby. Dad, Stan and them men wanna' take Bobby with them for the night. Bobby managed to communicate with us by scribbling on a piece of paper he wants to go with them, but I'm afraid to let him go," the sheriff said.

"Afraid to let him go with them, or afraid to let him go period?" Bob senior asked.

"I don't know, Dad – both, I guess," the sheriff looked down at his boots and back up to his dad's radiant face, "That's why I'm talk'n with you to help me figure it out," he added.

"Bobby's eighteen years old, Son. He's of legal age to leave home if he's a mind to and could. He might not be physically able to do so on his own, but he's got some fine men what care about him, and they want Bobby to share an evening of camaraderie with them. What harm could that do?" his dad asked.

"I don't know, Dad. What do you think I should do?" the sheriff asked in reply.

"It's only one night, Robert. Let the boy go with them. Besides, your grandmother will be by his side," his dad dropped a bomb in his lap.

"What? What are you talking about, Dad?" he asked.

"That fine young cowboy who danced with your grandma offered her a place to live on their ranch, and she accepted. She's agreed to chaperon Bobby for his overnight camp-out with them. Then, after they return Bobby tomorrow, she's going back to Texas to live with them," he said.

"And you're just gonna' let her go?" the sheriff asked in amazement.

His dad laughed and slapped his knee with the palm of his hand, "What can I do about it? You know your grandmother, Robert. Once that woman makes up her mind, there ain't no changing it. Besides, we can't take care of her properly no more. We just been fool'n ourselves we was helping her. All we could do was watch her die. We don't want to do that no more. If they can put her up, and she wants to go, I can't stop her," Robert senior said.  
"Holy shit! What's happening here? Nothing's been the same since these men come to town. Do you know what's happening, Dad?" the sheriff asked sharply almost demanding the truth from his father.

"Yes, Son, I know, but it ain't my place to tell you. I can tell you it ain't nothing bad. As a matter of fact, it's something so wonderful you wouldn't understand it if I's to tell you and draw you a pitcher. You wouldn't believe me anyway. You'd call me a crazy old man suffering from old-timers disease; however, in your old man's defense, you always were a bit limited in the scope of your vision about life and the goodness of other folks. Sometimes I think you imagine yourself to be the only fair, good, and compassionate man around these parts. It's partly true, you are a good man, and I'm proud of you, but you ain't the only one. You ain't the only source of goodness in this old world, Son, even when it seems to be closing in on you get'n ready for the kill," his dad said firmly.

"I just can't let Bobby go with those men, Dad!" he exclaimed.

"Then why the Hell did you even bother to ask my opinion? You done made up your mind afore we walked out here. You just wanted me to confirm your decision to ease your conscience because you know you're being a selfish prick. Well, you're wrong! You never listened to me when you's grow'n up, and it got chu' into a lot of unnecessary trouble. You ended up marrying a woman you didn't love because you got her knocked up. I kept your secret, but your mom and grandma ain't no fools. They done figured it out. You been carrying guilt around these eighteen years; you think your first born was a failure because of your imaginary sin. You think God punished you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if there was a God, how the Hell could you expect him to forgive you unless you forgive yourself first. I'm your dad, and I forgave you. Your mother forgave you. Your grandmother forgave you. Why can't you forgive yourself, Son?

"I don't even know why I'm waste'n my breath discussing it with you. You didn't listen then, and you ain't gonna' listen to me now. I'm a silly old man to think you might hear my words and heed them when it would make a difference. A difference so great, it would gulf the divide what's grow'd between us all these years. I never thought I'd have to say anything so harsh to you, Bob, but you're a gall-durn fool if'n you don't let that boy go with them men tonight. Believe it or not, your decision is the key to our future. And it ain't just your future, it's all our futures as a family. You can't see it, but your salvation for your imaginary sin is at hand. It's being handed to you on a silver platter, and all you have to do is say 'yes.' For once in your life, trust your old man! If you don't, you will fuck it up for all of us by being so gotdamned hardheaded and narrow minded," his dad said, got up, turned, and walked away leaving his son alone to think about his words. The sheriff was stunned and sat by himself for several minutes.

The music began again and Sheriff Andreeson got up and returned to his seat at the family table. He looked around and caught his grandmother's eye. She smiled sweetly at him and nodded. He looked to his other two children, and they were enraptured by the musicians who were singing a funny song about a man being his own grampa. He looked at Bobby and saw something he never witnessed before in his boy. Bobby had a bluish glow about him which would grow lighter and darker with the music. He was totally engrossed by his friends and their talents. They became his life outside his narrow framework. The sheriff could tell he adored them. The sheriff noticed on the next slow tune one of Billy's older cowboys, Hank, came up to his grandmother, removed his hat, bowed to her gallantly, and ask her to dance.

Evangeline Andreeson gave her hand to the cowboy, he helped her from her chair, and proudly led her to the dance floor. After they were dancing for a few minutes the other couples stopped and moved away from them to let them have the floor to themselves. The band was playing  'Waltz across Texas' and Billy and Clyde were singing the words. When the song finished they applauded for the couple, and another cowboy, Billy's Uncle Nathan, took Eve's hand and they began to dance. The rest of the crowd joined them. After a couple more cowboys asked her to dance, the sheriff went up to his grandmother and bowed before her.

"May I, please, have the next dance, lovely lady?" he asked.   

"It would be my pleasure, kind sir," she replied and the music began.

They danced for a while and began to talk, "Are you really going with the cowboys this evening, Grandma?" the sheriff asked.

"I am, whether you allow Bobby to go or not. Billy Daniels has offered me a place to stay on his family's ranch, and I accepted. I can't live with your dad and mom anymore. I was such a burden on them they grew old before their time. I won't let it happen again. Things have changed a little. They have been given a second chance, and so have I. We talked and decided it would be best," she said.
"I'll miss you," Robert said.

"No you won't. I'll keep in touch with you and the kids by Internet. I will return often with Billy and his family. He's forming a partnership with Nellie Peterson to make her Cantina an upscale restaurant which will offer more than the vegan fare at the Bistro. They will offer organically grown and humanly slaughtered beef and free range organically grown chickens. Billy and his family will support the place by providing entertainment a couple of times a year. I'll be here with them. I always wanted to be a roadie," Eve said and laughed. She even got a laugh out of her stoic grandson.

"Dad come down on me pretty hard, Grandma, about letting Bobby do a sleep-over with the cowboys," Robert said.

"Have you considered it was because he loves his grandson enough he wants what's right for him?" she asked.

"No, but you have a good point. Actually, in a round-about way, as harsh as his rant was, underneath it all, I got the feeling he was telling me he loved me and he needed me to trust him. I never saw him so adamant about me doing the right thing. I'm still confused and uncomfortable with the idea," the sheriff replied.

"You know I've always told you the truth no matter how hard it might be to accept. I won't rant, but I will tell you this, once you see the blue aura surrounding your boy as he's watching his heroes on the stage in front of him, you will see the love he has for them, and you will do the right thing," Eve said quietly.

"I done seen it a while ago, Grandma. I thought it was my imagination at first, but it weren't. I'm still confused," he lamented.

"Don't punish yourself, Robert. I declare, you can be your own worst enemy sometimes. Allow it to come easy for you. You must feel comfortable, or the magic won't happen. Trust your dad, and trust me. I'm sure you will do the right thing," Eve replied.

The sheriff wasn't real sure he understood. The music stopped, and he escorted his grandmother back to the table.

* * * * * * *
The band took another break before the last set. Stan and Billy were talking about whether the sheriff was going to allow Bobby to go with them. Randy was drinking another glass of herb spiced tea and listening to them. He was smiling to himself like he knew a secret he wasn't planning to share with anyone.

"I know that look, Cowboy! You's up to something. What's going on in that head of yorn? What's that wicked smile about?" Billy confronted him. Stan laughed at Billy.

"You want the sheriff to let go of Bobby for the evening?" he asked.

"We ain't been talk'n about nothing else for sometime now," Billy replied.

"Do you trust me? Will you leave it in my hands?" Randy asked.

"Oh, fuck yes! You know I trust you. I done seen you in action too many times to have any doubts now. How big a rabbit you gonna' pull out of yore' buckaroo hat this time? You got a plan?" Billy asked.

"A simple one. Leave the last number of the evening to me. I'll type up a quick intro for Stan to read. Turn the mic over to him, turn out the lights, and he sets the scene. We have Big Blue turn on them two pin spots he installed over the stage. You sit in a chair and invite me to come sit in your lap. You and me do one our Burt and Ernie back-and-forth nonsense routines; sort of a radio sketch of the Muppets. We done played off each other so many times we know all the lines by heart. You feed me, I respond. I feed you, you respond. But when I pinch yore leg – gently, of course – lemme' fly solo; a mental knee-play to get our point across and nail our sheriff to the barn door. That old two-bit word-sling'n buckaroo, Billy Bob Shakespeare, from Stradford-upon-the-Guadalupe, done said it best: The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King – from his famous play 'Green Eggs Wiff' Spam,'" Randy said eruditely.

"You sure about that quote, Bossman? I think it might need a citation," Billy checked him and laughed. Stan almost dropped to the floor.

"Close enough for government work!" Randy shot back, and brushed Billy's comment aside.

"I understand, Ramrod, say no more," Billy replied and laughed again.

"I ain't mess'n around none neither, I'm going straight for the sheriff's heart. I plan to rip it out of his chest, wring it out in my hands before God and everybody, put it back inside, and leave him feel'n weaker than a new born calf," Randy said, "Sesame Street and the Jim Henson characters just happen to be a tight bond between the Tall Pine Lone Ranger and his first born son. Who would a thunk it? Burt and Ernie will become our law-man's Achilles heel," Randy said in awe.

"Now wait a minute, Bossman, you and me done watched hours of the Muppet shows and ever'one a their movies, rolling on the floor together laughing at their nonsense. I'd say it's a pretty tight bond between us, too," Billy shot back.

"That's true. No argument from yore' ramrod, Sonny. You couldn't be more right, and if we didn't share the same affection and respect for the humor – and the love we shared watching it – we wouldn't be able to pull it off convincingly. Like a big old catfish on the bottom of the river what smells week-old fermented cow's liver and takes the bait, I promise you, brother to brother, the Lone Tall-Pine Ranger will make the connection, and he will let Bobby come with us," he bragged.

"I pity the poor sheriff, and I ain't got no clue what you two are talking about," Stan said, and they shared a laugh.

"You're on, little Brother. Somehow, I just know you can pull this off," Billy said grabbed Randy, gave him a big hug, and bussed a kiss on his cheek. Several of the people watching applauded Billy's overt act of love for his little brother. They grinned and took a bow.

Before they began the last set, they got all the players in place and everything was ready. In the last hour they pulled out all the stops and let their hair down. They let themselves go with the flow of the crowd. They did silly things that got everybody rolling on the floor laughing. Billy got his dancing cowboys on the floor for a Texas Cowboy Jig dance and the band played a fast piece. Almost every cowboy including Randy, Poly, Cass, Hank, Buck, Nick, Cowboy Andy, Clyde, Balthazar, Bubba, Jack, Grover, Torn, Uncle Nathan, Harley-Buck, Earl, and a couple of others, were on the dance floor making fools of themselves trying to outdo one another. None of the giants participated. There just wasn't enough room.

It came down to the final song and Stan announced they would turn out the lights to set the mood for their last offering. The lights went out and Stan walked to the microphone with his ipad in his hand and began to read, "We'd like to take you back aways in time, into the wonderful world of Television in the last three decades of the last century, when we still had a Public Broadcasting System as a public service and a means of getting the truth in a growing world of censorship and misinformation which worked tirelessly to take our freedoms and liberty away from us. It was an easier time – a more gentle time, when we still had a strong middle class and certainly more prosperity for the common man than we have today.

We take you to the world of Sesame Street and the Muppets. Where Big Bird, Aloysius Snuffelupagus, Grover, Oscar the grouch, Cookie Monster, Rowlf the dog, Elmo, Kermit the frog, Miss Piggy, Burt and Ernie, and a host of other beloved characters lived, interacted with each other and delighted the child within us all. You didn't have to be a kid to appreciate the sophisticated humor and life lessons from Sesame Street. Without further ado, we give you our version of Burt and Ernie!" Stan said, and the two pin spots came on showing Billy sitting in a chair with Randy sitting in his lap. The cowboys had Burt and Ernie's voices down pat. The audience applauded for them.

"You comfy, Ernie?" Burt asked.

"Pretty much, but something keeps poking me in the butt," Ernie replied and snickered his signature laugh.

"It's your imagination, Ernie, I assure you," Burt said like he was having none of his smaller companion's nonsense.

"I don't think so, Burt," Ernie said and wiggled his butt. Suddenly there was a squeaking sound and the audience went nuts laughing.

Billy as Burt reached down with his hand and retrieved a rubber ducky and squeezed it a couple of times. "See! You sat on your rubber ducky," he said frustrated.

"Oh, good, I was worried for a second. It was starting to feel really good," Ernie replied and laughed his silly laugh. The audience laughed with him.

"I told you to keep him in the tub, Ernie. He don't belong out here with us," Burt said.

"He's ma' buddy, Burt. I love Rubber Ducky. Rubber Ducky I'm really fond of you," Ernie sang the last part, squeezed his ducky a couple of times, and got another laugh.

"Are you my buddy, Burt?" Randy asked as Ernie.

"Yes, and you're my buddy, Ernie," Burt replied.

"Even when I'm being difficult?" Ernie asked.

"Even then," Burt replied.

"Are you my brother, Burt?" Ernie asked.

"No, we were born to different parents, Ernie," Burt replied.

"That really limits the concept, don't you think, Burt?" Ernie asked and everyone laughed.

"What's your point, Ernie?" Burt asked.

"I think a brother is someone who is there for you when you're hurting. He picks you up, dusts you off, checks to make sure you're okay, and sets you on your feet again. A brother is someone what sees you ain't smiling, offers you one of his, and for good measure he gives you a big hug especially made for you. A brother is someone who stands by your side and holds your hand when things ain't go'n so well and helps you understand it won't always be that way. A brother can be a brother by blood or by bond. He can be a close relative, or just a damn good friend, but brothers are always created and motivated by love," Ernie replied. Randy got a brief round of applause for Ernie's definition of a brother.

"That's nice, Ernie," Billy replied as Burt.

"You done all them things for me, Burt," Ernie said.

"I never thought about it when I was doing them, Ernie, but you're right. Then, by your definition, I guess that makes me your brother, don't it?" Burt asked.

"I hope so. I'd like to think so, 'cause I promised Rubber Duckie you'd be his brother, too, Burt," Ernie said and snickered. The audience roared with laughter.

"That's pushing the envelope, Ernie, don't you think? What's this all about? What are you leading up to? Are you gonna' sing for us?" Burt asked.

"Naw, I only sing in the bathtub wiff' my Rubber Ducky," Ernie replied.

"Then who's gonna' do the last number? We gotta' have somebody sing the last song," Burt said.

"My old buddy Kermit the frog is gonna' sing a song for our brother, Bobby. Bobby's sitting on the front row right over there," Randy replied and pointed to Bobby. Bobby was all smiles and enjoying Billy and Randy's exchange. He clapped his hands together to show his approval.

"Okay, then, let's hear it," Billy said.

Randy took up his banjo, put the strap around his neck, and started to pick single notes. "Plinka-plinka-plinka-plinka-plink!" he played and paused, "Plinka-plinka-plinka-plinka-plink! he played and paused again. He repeated the same two phrases then began to sing in a voice that was a perfect imitation of Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog: "Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what's on the other side. Rainbow are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide. So we've been told and some choose to believe it. I know they're wrong, wait and see. Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me.

By the time Randy (as Kermit the frog) got to the end of the first phrase, there wasn't a dry eye in the place. Billy looked over to the Andreeson table and saw the big, stalwart, handsome sheriff reaching into his back pocket for his bandanna to wipe his tears away. Billy smiled in his heart. He reckoned his little brother done hooked the big one.

Randy continued, "Who said that every wish would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star? Somebody thought of that and someone believed it; look what it's done so far. What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing? And what do we think we might see? Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me. All of us under its spell, we know that it's probably magic.

"Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices? I've heard them calling my name. Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors? The voice might be one and the same. I've heard it too many times to ignore it. It's something that I'm supposed to be? Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me. La, la, la, la-de-da, la-la, la, la, la, la, la, ooooh."*

There was a brief pause like the audience couldn't believe the song was over. They didn't want it to be over. They wanted to to go on forever. They wouldn't stand for it and started the single greatest round of applause anyone got that evening. The cowboys were stomping their boots and tossing their hats for their very own, Bossman Randy. Ludo beamed with pride as he clapped his huge naked hands together and stomped his boots. "More! More!" the crowd shouted. "Sing it again, Bossman!" several yelled above the din. Randy took bow after bow and grinned real big. He walked up to the microphone. "Okay, I'll sing it again in my own voice, but this time everyone in the place must sing with me. I know you know the words. I watched you mouth them as Kermit sang. Brother Billy can we get some fiddles, bass, drums, guitars, pie-annie, and them squeeze boxes to back me up?" Randy asked.

"We gotcha' covered, little Brother," Billy assured him.

"Okay, I don't want to see a mouth out there what ain't singing," he shouted at the crowd, "and that includes my wonderful new brother, Bobby," Randy looked down at him and winked, "don't worry none about the words, big Brother, just throw back your head and wail the melody. I know you got it in you. We all love you. Now show us your love," Randy added and turned his attention to his banjo. They started in and the sound was tremendous. It only took Bobby a few seconds and he started into wail. At first it wasn't anywhere near a note the rest were singing but little by little he was getting the hang of it, and by the middle of the first phrase he jumped on the melody like a dog with a new bone. His dad walked over and stood by him, took his hand, and they sang together. Great tears were running down the big man's face and his wife was one big smile.

Billy and his musicians provided a wonderful backup which was neither overpowering nor inappropriate. They, too, were spot on. On and on they played and sang until they came to the final cadence, and they were done. This time there was no pause. Everyone broke into great applause and generally went bananas, but they were hugging and kissing each other, too, like they just shared one of the most remarkable experiences they ever witnessed.

"Thank you all for coming. We've had a wonderful time," Stan said over the microphone and got another great round of applause.

The crowd milled around for almost another hour, thanking the musicians, but Stan and Cletus in particular. Many walked over to tell Bobby how well he sang, and he was thrilled. The sheriff and his family were a wall of smiles. Evangeline Andreeson sat with a smug smile on her face. She had no doubt her grandson would allow her great-grandson to go with her and the cowboys. She walked over to Billy and took his hand. "Most impressive, Master Billy. Brilliantly played," she said and smiled sweetly.

"I wish I could take credit for it, Ms. Evangeline, but it was my little brother's ball game. I was just a bit player in his plan. He mapped it out from start to finish and carried it off like clockwork," Billy said.

"Under your tutelage and leadership. Never underestimate your influence with those around you who are dedicated to your cause and love you. It weaves in and out of your family psyche like a synaptic system causing them to strive to do their best for you," Eve said, "I'm leaving now to return to my son's home to pack a small bag. I will be waiting in the swing on the front porch for you when you drive by," she added.

"I don't know how long it will take us to wrap up here, but don't despair, we will be there whether Bobby is with us or not, my lady," Billy said and gallantly kissed her hand. She smelled of roses and hard-milled soap.

"He will be with you. Trust me," Eve said and smiled.

"I hope you're right, my dear friend," Billy said.  

* * * * * * *
The sheriff sat down in a chair next to Bobby and looked at him. "You still want to go with Stan, his husband, and the cowboys, Son?" he asked.

Bobby was more collected than the sheriff could ever remember. The whole evening was like watching a miracle unfold. Could this be what his dad was talking about? Bobby shook his head up and down in the affirmative. Bob Andreeson could see the anticipation in his boy's eyes and knew if he refused to let him go, it would crush his spirit, possibly destroying his trust in his dad, and Bobby might never recover. As much as he hated to admit, his son was of legal age to make his own choices. "All right, you may go with them. I could be a hard-nose and say 'no' because of your condition, but you would never forgive me, and I fear you would hold it against me for the rest of your life. I realize I have to let you go to keep our love intact and that's greater than a thousand fears or any objections I might have. I love you very much, Son, and I only want the best for you," he said.

The sheriff watched his boy's face light up like a Christmas tree and watched him form the words with his mouth: I love you, Dad. It almost ripped the big man's guts out. He turned and walked over to Stan. "We're taking off Stan, but we're leaving Bobby with you and your family for the evening. We'll see you in the morning. Thanks for a wonderful afternoon and evening. I can't remember a time when we had such a good time in this town," he said.

"You're certainly welcome, Sheriff. Are you still having reservations?" Stan asked in empathy.

"Some, but they're manufactured by my personal fears and feelings of insecurity. I figure if a group of men as talented and intelligent as you and your family seem to be, have the balls to expose your soft underbelly to the world and have everyone fall in love with you for doing it, then you got to be damn good men. I know, without a doubt, you're braver than me," the sheriff said and laughed, "I appreciated the fact you made sure your humor was wholesome and you kept your entertainment well above a family rating. There was no foul words, smut, or sexual innuendos. It was just good hearted fun. You got a tender, loving quality about you, and you ain't afraid to show a vulnerable side. That ain't to say you men don't have an irreverent side and find nothing too sacred to poke fun at. I was particularly impressed there weren't a lot of talk about God, Jesus, or proselytizing for religious purposes, and it didn't turn into a babbling-in-tongues, I-just-love-me-some-Jesus-freak-fest, which puts the responsibility for our fellow man in the same ballpark with myth and superstition and selfishly ignores any personal responsibility. Let Jesus and God take care of the poor, we'll give our money to God's Own Party and Carnival Cruz. I got the message you were more for working together as a family and celebrating the joy which comes from sharing your talents and your love equally. In short, you're the type of men I ain't afraid to entrust my first born son with your care," the sheriff said.

Stan shook his hand. "Thanks, Sheriff, that's a wonderful compliment, and I promise we will take good care of your treasure. I couldn't imagine doing otherwise for my little brother and would protect him with my life if need be. I'm sure he will enjoy the evening, and we will certainly enjoy his company. We'll return him tomorrow morning early on our way through town. Bless you, Sheriff, for sharing your son with us. For what it's worth, with my deepest respect, I think you done the right thing," Stan said and smiled.

The men got busy and loaded the bus and vans. It didn't take them as long as Billy thought to get the area cleaned up and everything loaded. Randy, Stan, and Cletus were assigned to see to Bobby, and they entertained him until it came time to load him into the van with the wheel chair lift.

"What about you, little Brother?" Billy asked Wilbur, "Are you coming with us?" he asked.

"I didn't know if I would be invited, Master Billy. I didn't want to appear pushy by asking," Wilbur replied.

"Wait a minute. I'm sure the Bossman weren't kidding about you becoming part of our family, and I sure as Hell didn't welcome you to leave you out," Billy said and grinned.

"I couldn't think of anything I'd like better, sir," he replied.

"Then talk it over with your mother and see what arrangements you can make. If all goes as planned, we will be leaving through the gate for Texas sometime after we get back to the cabin. If you have to come back, we'll make arrangements. If you can stay a couple of days, pack a bag, and go with us. We'll be coming back to the cabin next week. We're gonna' help Stan and Cleet do some improvements on the cabin as a gift to the Fennels for their kindness and compassion for allowing them to stay there for so long without paying rent," Billy explained.

"How much should I tell my mom, Master Billy?" Wilbur asked.

"Whatever you wanna' tell her or as much as she will believe. If she needs proof have the Bossman open a gate and take her though to take a gander at the ranch. If we're going to become partners, she has the right to know all about us, don't you think?" Billy asked.

"Makes sense to me, sir. I'll talk with her and get back to you," he replied and left to pull his mother aside and talk with her.

Stan left Bobby with Cletus, Randy, and Grover, and walked over to Billy. "Is Wilbur coming with us, Master Billy?" he asked.

"I invited him, but he needs to talk with his mom. I thought he was older, but he's only eighteen himself. He might not be able to break himself away from Nellie. I think she depends on him more than we realize," Billy said.

"I was going to give my old truck to him. They don't have any transportation and have to rely on others to gather supplies. I thought my truck might come in handy," Stan said.

"That ain't a bad idea. You won't need transportation in Texas for the first week anyway and if you do, I'll make arrangements to get you some. My slave, Earl Hickson, has an old truck he ain't using. Actually, it's mine now, because he's my slave. You can use it if you need transportation, but for the first week you're gonna' keep a low profile at Bubba's place anyway. We didn't go through all this to ruin our surprise," Billy said and grinned. Stan agreed with him.

* * * * * * *
"Mom, I been invited to go with Master Billy and his family to Stan and Cletus's cabin for the night," Wilbur said.

"That's fine, Dear. Mr. Flint and I were wondering if they might," Nellie said to her son.

"That ain't all, Mom. They invited me to go to Texas with them for several days – maybe a week. Can you get along without me for a while?" he asked.

"That's a long trip, Wilbur," Nellie said.

"Not the way them men travel, Mom. They didn't drive them four vehicles here from Texas. It would have cost them a small fortune and taken way too long. The food they brought would have gone bad. Everything was fresh as if it were made the same day. That's because it was, Mom. Remember them old Stargate shows we used to watch on TV? That's the way they travel. They open a gate here and drive through to Texas," Wilbur said.

"How much of that herbal spiced tea did you drink, Wilbur?" Nellie asked and smiled, "I know there was a tad more in that tea then just regular herbs. It made me feel better than I have in years and more mellow than I ever felt when I got stoned on pot when I was your age, but there was no bad side effects – nor did I get a terminal case of the scream'n green munchies – although, I'll have to admit, I had more than my fair share of them Hosanna Cakes. And true to their name, every time I bit into one I exclaimed 'Hosanna' in my mind," she confessed to her son.

Wilbur laughed at her forthright honesty, "How do you think we got all them statues and lights from the attic without you seeing us carry them out, Mom. I'm sure you heard them cowboys stomping around up there with Randy and me. Bossman Randy opened a gate from our attic to the patio, and that's how they got there," Wilbur explained.

Nellie got a blank look on her face and just looked at him for a moment like she was stunned. "You know, you're right. With all the confusion of the day, I never stopped to consider how that stuff got out there. I just thought you and Randy would tell me what the commotion was about, and you just did. Then, what this means is, you'll only be a gate away. You can come and go along with the rest of his family. You can come home when you want to or if we need you," Nellie said.

"Exactly, Mom, and you can come to the ranch and visit with me," Wilbur said excited.

"I always wanted more for you, Wilbur, but I never was able to provide it for you," Nellie said and tears began to form.

"Don't go there, Mom. You done the best you could and obviously I turned out pretty good to have such fine men invite me to become a part of their family. I don't want to miss this opportunity. I think Master Billy is serious about becoming partners with you and gave me permission to tell you what I know. Mr. Flint told me to hitch my wagon to a star, and I can't imagine one brighter than the Daniels family and what we witnessed here today," Wilbur said.

Nellie grabbed her boy, hugged, and kissed him. "I can get by with Mr. Flint here to help me. We made a kill'n on the booze concession and Mr. Daniels gave me five hundred dollars for the use of our place. Go gather a few of your things. Don't keep them waiting, but remember where your family is, and we love you," Nellie said.

Wilbur hugged and kissed his mom on the cheek. He ran off to his room to gather a few things and put them in his back-pack. When he returned, he was ready to go. Mr. Flint shook his hand and asked one question, "Was I right about them cowboys, Son?" he asked.

"More than you know, but mom will fill you in, and I'll be back in several days. I'll tell you more when I return. I'm on my way to Texas to become a cowboy," Wilbur said and grinned real big.

"Good for you, Wilbur. My best wishes go with you, Son," the older man said and shed a tear.  

* * * * * * *
Final tearful goodbyes were said, and the cowboys left Nellie's Cantina. The caravan made one brief stop at the Andreeson's place. Billy gallantly carried Ms. Evangeline's small suitcase to the van, helped her into the front seat next to him, and adjusted her seat belt for her. She looked back at her great-grandson and smiled. Bobby was thrilled to see his great-grandmother was going with them. He could see her lovely blue aura surrounding her, but now she also had a golden-yellow aura surrounding her blue aura. Bobby thought it made her all the more radiant and exotic to him.

Stan led the way in his truck with the extra-large buckaroos in the rear and began to flash his lights as they approached the turn off to their road. He pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. Cletus and Gog got out of the truck and pulled back the huge branch and allowed everyone to pass. The caravan stopped when the last vehicle was clear, Cletus and Gog ran to Stan's truck, got in, and the caravan continued on to the cabin. Erasmus, Momma Lisa, Casper, and Tinker Bell were waiting for them on the front porch.

"My God in heaven, a family of watchers, and how handsome they are," Evangeline Andreeson said in awe, "Are they domesticated?" she asked.

"God, I hope not, Ms. Eve," Billy replied and laughed, "They're very much wild, but they been good to Stan and Cletus, and the men gave them names. When you give a watcher a name, and he answers to it, they belong to you. The big male is Erasmus, his mate is Momma Lisa, the young male is Casper because he appears and disappears like a ghost, and his little sister they named Tinker Bell," Billy said and laughed again.

"That's wonderful. If Stan and Cletus are going to Texas, what will become of them?" she asked concerned.

"They're part of Stan and Cleet's family. They wouldn't think of leaving them behind. They belong to each other just as much as Bobby belongs to you," Billy said.

"And really – that's the way it should be," Eve said resolutely.

"We think so. As soon as they can get undressed, our watchers will morph back to their regular form," Billy said, "The most handsome one is named Boomer. He's been my protector since I was born. Today he's my husband and the father of my son, Billy Junior," Billy said and grinned at Eve.

"Just as I suspected! You're a demon, Billy Daniels, to tempt me, and leave a cryptic comment like that lying at my feet like an unwanted step-child struggling for breath," she exclaimed, waggling her forefinger back and forth in a scolding manner and laughed, "You know I'm dying to ask, but you got other, more pressing things on your mind right now. I can wait. Let's get done what must be done," Eve said like a lady on a mission, "We don't have long before my grandson starts out to find us," she tossed out one of her own cryptic comments and smiled sweetly.

"I think I've met my match, lovely lady," Billy said, "I don't need to ask about your comment. I'd say your chances of being right are ninety-eight point six – give or take," he added, and they shared a laugh.

They unloaded Bobby from the van and wheeled him in front of the cabin. Billy and Stan were in the cabin preparing the picnic table for the young man. They folded blankets and comforters to make a soft pallet on the table to place Bobby on to make corrections on him. They placed him on the bed before they began. Billy sat down next to him and took Bobby into his arms. Randy was sitting next to his big brother to listen to Bobby's thoughts.

"Can you understand my words, Bobby?" Billy asked quietly.

Bobby nodded his head and smiled.

"Them Hosanna Cakes work wonders don't they?" Billy asked.

Bobby nodded again and grinned.

"Me and my cowboys can make you whole, Bobby, and enhance you with increased mental capabilities. We can cause you to grow into a handsome young man; however, after discussions with your great-grandmother it's been decided I should refurbish you to be just a bit older than our Bossman who will be seven years old in two weeks. I must sample a drop of your blood to gather your DNA information and your current physical condition; that is, whether you started going through puberty or not; although, it will make little difference if I reset your clock to become seven years old. What we're after, is an attempt to give you a second chance at a normal childhood; or, I might add, as normal as possible for an enhanced kid to have. If my little brother is any example, you're in for a fun ride. Our hope is to provide you with a more positive situation and setting to re-mold and reshape your outlook on life to give you a solid foundation for when you become an adult. Do you understand, Bobby?" Billy asked.

Bobby nodded his head he understood.

"Do you have any questions?" Billy asked.   
"He wants to know where he will grow up, and who will be responsible for him?" Randy said.

"You will grow up with me and my family in Texas, just like Randy, except you will have Stan and Cletus for god-fathers, and your great-grandmother as a mentor and head of your household," Billy replied, "You are chronologically eighteen years of age, and as such, you have the right to make this decision for yourself, but once you do and I refurbish you to become seven years old, you will forfeit your current age of majority, and any decisions for your life for the next eleven years will be made either by me, Stan and Cletus, your great-grandmother, or a combination," Billy said, "It must be your choice, Bobby," he added.

Bobby nodded he understood.

"Does he have any more questions?" Billy asked Randy.

"No, he said he understands," Randy replied.

"Do you agree to the conditions, Bobby?" Billy asked.

Bobby nodded his head he understood.

"Would you like to continue?" Billy asked and Bobby nodded affirmative.

Randy giggled, "He said for you to please shut-up and hurry!" he said.

"You got it, little Brother," Billy said, grinned, and winked at Bobby.

Billy placed him on the make-shift operating table, and his great-grandmother removed his clothes and diaper. One by one, Billy's family of cowboy-angels came into the cabin fully fledged and surrounded the table. Bobby watched Billy disappear and reappear wearing his harness and beautiful wings. Tears came to his eyes, but they were not from fear. They were for the anticipation of a better life for himself. Billy pricked his finger and sampled his blood. Randy took Evangeline by the hand and led her to a corner of the room as the men raised their wings and began to gather the life force of the universe. They watched in awe as Bobby's small emaciated body began to grow, fill out, and change. They worked on him for over an hour until Billy was satisfied the boy was going to be about as perfect as he could make him. He gave a signal and the cowboys powered down and folded their wings. Bobby was a fine looking young boy of seven years with an impressive set of tackle on him. If he had to live his childhood again, Billy figured he would bless him with the finest attributes. His great-grandmother came to his side and took his hand. Tears welled up inside her. "You look wonderful, Bobby," she said quietly.

"Hello, Gran-gran," Bobby replied and opened his arms for her.

* * * * * * *
Sheriff Andreeson woke up from the pain in his hips and lower back. He managed to pull himself up into a sitting position and slowly walked to the kitchen for some ibuprofen pills and a glass of water. He couldn't understand why the pain was back. For most of the afternoon and evening he felt pretty good. The nagging pain was still there, but it seemed like when he ate the sweet cakes at the Cantina and the good food seemed to alleviate some of the more heavy pain he experienced over the last several weeks. He took his pills without much hope of relief and found himself yearning for a 'Hosanna' Cake. He imagined he could taste one of the delicious morsels, and almost like Homer Simpson, his mouth dropped open, and he started drooling at the thought. Hosanna in the highest ran through his mind and echoed down the empty chambers he never bothered to fill. He wondered if they contained some addictive ingredient, or if they might have been the reason for the reduction of pain in his back and hip joints.

He couldn't think of anything to make him feel better, and worst of all, the house seemed empty and lonely without his little buddy. He made himself a cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen table feeling miserable, wallowing in his own self-pity and remorse for letting his boy go with the cowboys. What if the cowboys talked Bobby into going back to Texas with them and his grandmother? There wasn't anything he could legally do about it. Bobby was eighteen. He reached the age of majority, and the sheriff didn't have the money to hire an attorney to petition a court to appoint him as the boy's permanent guardian. He just assumed he always would be. He never considered a time when he might not be capable of taking care of Bobby, or the boy, himself, might ask someone to make other arrangements on his behalf.

His wife, Shirley, came in with her nightgown and her hair tied up with towel wearing her pink bathrobe and her fluffy bunny slippers. Robert thought she looked like a cross between Miss Piggy and Janice, the lead guitar player with the Electric Mayhem band, on the Muppet Show. Unlike a fine wine, Shirley didn't age well. She never met a Hostess Ho-Ho she didn't like. Robert took one look at her and remembered why he never bothered to have a vasectomy so they couldn't have any more children. He lost interest in her a number of years ago and with the growing pain in his back and hips he couldn't even lope his mule let alone jump into the saddle. His only joy in life became his bond with his boy. He could swear Bobby could read his mind sometimes, especially when he was tired, hurting, and feeling sorry for himself.

He knew trying to get back to sleep was useless. Shirley offered to cook him some breakfast, but it wasn't food he was hungry for. He went in and pulled on his uniform and his boots. He made up his mind he had to go check on Bobby to make sure he was all right. It was like he became possessed, and in the process of stoking the fire of his obsession, he could forget about his pain for a while. While he attended the party in his western clothes, or civvies as he thought of any clothes not his uniform, he thought his uniform might give him an air of authority if he needed to intimidate his way through a situation. He wondered if he should take his gun. Take his gun? And do what with it? Ride in like a drunken cowboy waving it about threatening everyone because his kid was on his first camp out; a sleep-over with one of Bobby's best buddies while being chaperoned by his great-grandmother? He quickly squashed that idea and settled for just the uniform.
He got into his patrol car and headed out down the highway going north in the direction of the Fennel's hunting lodge. He was only there once with Wilbur Peterson and wasn't sure he could remember where the turn-off road was. He didn't care. He drove as if he was on a mission to save his boy from a rogue band of traveling gypsies who kidnapped Bobby and were taking him to some far country where he would never see him again. He drove on and on into the dark night and tears came to his eyes and began to blur his vision. He reached for his handkerchief or a paper towel, but he couldn't find anything to wipe his eyes. Without thinking, he reached for the windshield wipers and turned them on. They hadn't been used in a while and only succeeded in smearing dirt and mud across his field of vision. He pressed the washer pump button. It whirred but produced no fluid to clean the windows. He saw head-lights approaching over the mountain top from a big semi-truck, and they blinded him.

He was almost certain he was close to the turn off for the Fennel's place, but he couldn't be sure. He turned on his search light and tried to aim it down into the bushes on the side of the road. Suddenly a jolt of pain hit him so bad he lost all control of his legs, and he stomped the accelerator to the floor board on his patrol car. When he did he lost control of the search light, and it move to be in the direct line of sight for the oncoming semi-truck. It blinded the driver, he swerved over to the shoulder to get out of the way of the light, but the sheriff's patrol car was coming at him fast.

The truck driver thought he could get past him if he floored his truck as he was on the downhill grade and was picking up speed. He managed to get the cab of his truck past the sheriff's car, but it hit his trailer, bounced off, and headed straight for the ditch on the other side of the road still traveling at breakneck speed. The truck driver immediately hit his air-brakes and managed to pull to a stop. He watched as the sheriff's car became air born, flipped in the air, and came down hard and burst into flames. The truck driver reached behind his seat and pulled out his fire extinguisher. He hit his CB and sent out a distress signal. He didn't have much hope in getting a reply until he heard a man's voice with a decided Texas drawl come on. Billy left his CB on in the van and answered the distress call.

"You got the cowboy-angel here, Trucker, what's your situation, and what's your twenty?" he asked.    

"Hell, I don't know where I am. I'm about twenty miles north of Tall Pine, and a sheriff car just hit my trailer, went off into the ditch, flipped over, and it's on fire. I'm heading over there with my extinguisher, but my left arm is cut and bleeding pretty bad," he said.

"We'll be right there, Brother, leave your CB on. I repeat! Leave your CB on, so's we can triangulate your signal. Do what you can, but don't try to be no hero, Trucker. We'll be there in ten. Copy?" Billy asked.

"Copy that, Cowboy, but hurry! If you're really an angel you better flap them wings hard and fast, Cousin," the trucker said, and broke out into a run for the sheriff's patrol car. He made sure he left his CB on.

End of Chapter 61 ~ Seek Him Who Maketh The Seven Stars (and Orion)
Copyright ~ © ~ 2013 ~ 2014 ~ 2015 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved~
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* The Rainbow Connection ~ Music and Lyrics by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher from the Muppet Movie 1979.