Him Who Made The Seven Stars
By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 63


"And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal." ~ John F. Kennedy, June 10, 1963.

The Homecoming ~

After Billy and his family saw Sheriff Andreeson, Trucker Willie Whistlepie, and Wilbur Peterson off down the road to continue their lives, they turned and walked back through the gate to the ranch. They had more goodbyes to take care of as Bossman Randy needed to get back to his family and his ranch. Bubba, Jack, Stan, and Cletus had to get back to Bubba's ranch. Everyone was tired and needed to get some rest after the long exhausting night they spent together. Randy departed with his protector, Ludo. There were many hugs and kisses with promises to see each other the following Friday.

Bobby Andreeson hugged and stole a kiss from Randy to say goodbye and wish him well, "I won't ever forget what you done for me, Brother. There are no words to express my gratitude," he said quietly.

"H'it t'weren't nothing, Brother. I just passed on what was freely given to me. I was in your place once't, only I was dying and didn't have much longer to live. In some ways you were in a much worse situation than me. You were living between life and death; a living Hell; watching life pass you by unable to participate beyond your bond with your dad. I didn't contribute to your rescue just for you. I got me some selfish motivations. The short time I lived with them cowboys, I learned family can mean so much more than just those living under the same roof as you. I needed me another brother, and what better pick than one who is my age, yet has been forced to develop his own mature wisdom and patience in the face of total despair. You got much to teach me, and I will share what little I've learned with you. Lastly, I done it for myself to say thanks and repay the beautiful and more compassionate parts of the universe for giving bow'fus a second chance. Let's be sure we make the most of it," Randy replied.

"Now I know why you men say 'Hosanna,'" Bobby said.

"Exactly," Randy said, "It's my hope we'll share many more 'Hosannas' together, Brother," he added, and they shared a final hug.

* * * * * * *
Billy and his immediate family transported to the line cabin and collapsed. They didn't bother to undress. Boomer and the twins went off to the loft in the barn. Nick and Billy threw themselves across their bed and were out like a light in ten minutes. They slept until a little past noon, got up, cleaned themselves, and sat around the cabin like zombies. They missed lunch at the big house, but they had enough slave chow and nutrient biscuits they each could eat a bit to tide them over until supper.

"I hope this ain't a busy week and all Hell breaks loose. I don't know if I can take another week like the last one. I met myself come'n and go'n several times," Billy declared, and Nick laughed at him.

"I suggest we get to bed early tonight and get a good night's sleep, so we'll be better prepared for the rest of the week. We done missed Monday by sleeping the morning away. We might get a few things done this afternoon. I think you should check on your planning commission and your business guide people you installed after the last mass visit to Retikki Prime. We got to check on Wilbur. We need to get him back here by this evening. With as many cowboy-angels what helped you with Wilbur and Stan's enhancement, there's a possibility they might begin to change early. Better for Wilbur to be with us when it starts. Since Bubba enhanced Stan in hopes of fulfilling his wish to have a pair of wings like Jack's, he's in good hands over to the Kirkendall spread. We taught Bubba how to cut and heal when Jack fledged.

"Well, lets get our day started," Billy said, yawned, and stretched.

They left the line-cabin and checked in with Aunt Helen and her staff in their suite of offices in the castle on board Captain Nick's ship. Everything seemed to be in order and running smoothly. Aunt Helen gave them a run down on where the two teams were, what was accomplished the previous week, and what they expected to complete by the end of that week. They were getting an amazing amount of things done, and they were only working four and a half days per week. Billy wondered aloud if their success was partially the result of not stressing out their people and allowing them time for rest and relaxation on the weekends. Aunt Helen agreed with Billy, he just might be correct.

Billy asked about distribution of Irin personnel, and Aunt Helen activated a huge screen on the wall she controlled from her small computer on her desk. She showed where the Irin were being housed and how far along they were on their ranching projects. The Rutherfords housed twenty-six; the Breedloves had fifty men and women divided equally among their two ranches. The Garretts and Bubba housed twenty-five each; twenty-five were placed at Mick Flynn's ranch; twenty-five were being picked to be housed at the Hickson ranch, and twenty-five more to the Harley-Buck Johnson ranch for a total of two hundred and one persons. With six bunkhouses built on the Daniels' property to accommodate thirty-five per house they were keeping two-hundred and ten cow-persons, for a total of four hundred and eleven bodies morphed and put to work on various properties. They counted a much smaller herd of Irin cattle than they started off with, and they were mostly acting as guard cattle for the front gate and stationed at strategic places around the ranch.

"We have contracted with the LaFleurs for twenty-five to work at each ranch, and have accepted applications to join the Highland Shire Grange Co-op from the men assigned as board of governors for Harley-Buck Johnson's ranch. We're getting inquiries daily regarding the Grange and local rancher's eligibility. If things keep going the way they are, we should easily be able to meet your goal of having the first shipment of Irin cattle morphed and housed by the end of summer, Master Billy," Aunt Helen said. Helen had a photo slides of each ranch to show Billy and his crew the progress. The Rutherford spread was well underway. They already had the place looking much better and more well organized than it ever was. The cosmetic accomplishments to make the place look like a successful working ranch were staggering. "It's amazing what a few repairs and a coat of paint will do to a place," Billy commented and everyone agreed.

There were pictures of the Breedlove's bunkhouses and grounds before and after. Even Elmer and Oatie were blown away by the changes and improvements. When you live around it day in an day out, you don't see the overall results like you do with a series of time lapse pictures.    

"I've arranged an agreement with the Garretts to construct four more bunkhouses on their land adjacent ours, and I want four more built on our property in the same area to specifications I'm giving the planning commission this week. They will be one or two-person, small, efficiency, one and two bedroom studio apartments. Each will house fifty people. I want those who have been faithful to do the grunt work of being cowboys to be able to move up and have a bit more privacy and comfort for themselves. The next herd of five hundred will fill in their jobs at entry level positions. I also want a scientific center created to start inventing and designing systems which will revolutionize the way of life on this planet, but keep an Eco-positive footprint.

"Aunt Helen, I'd like for you and your team to be in charge and discuss with Bubba any of Brad Kirkendall's discoveries which might help our cause. After you have a list prepared, we'll sit down with Bubba and discuss possibilities and suitable recompense to his estate. I'd like a monthly report of expenditures and profits, if any!" Billy exclaimed, paused, and laughed with his men, "Getting ranches started and a new social movement going will not be a profitable enterprise for the first three years; however, with the manpower and outlay of substantial funds, I want to be able to turn that around to a year and a half max or less if we can manage to come up with a couple of miracle products. We should be getting feedback from our Oregon adventure soon," he said and smiled.

"Is that why you's blessing them Hosanna Cakes, Kemosabe?" Nick asked, "You dog!" he exclaimed, grinned, and gently hit Billy on his shoulder with his fist.

Billy laughed. "I promise you, it was a spur-of-the-moment, spontaneous decision on my part. I just wanted to tickle a random population to see what effect it might have if those who ate them suddenly became cured of an affliction they might be suffering from and whether they would make a connection. It was sort of a psychological test-tickle," Billy punned and got a laugh out of everyone.

"Is that what you plan to do for the final product? Like Willy Wonka and the prize in the chocolate bars, you plan to randomly bless a certain portion so those who are lucky enough to eat an enhanced one wins the good-health lottery?" Nick asked.

"I ain't thought about it, but it makes good sense to me. Why not? Some folks get healed; some don't. It would be like religion itself, spotty at best. You can't prove it one way or t'other. We know the bible ain't beyond question, and it can't be considered proof. It won't hold up under scrutiny due to glaring contradictions and scientific errors. Neither is belief in imaginary friends gonna' get it for most educated folks what have developed a keen sense of reason. I even got some ideas about advertising. A little girl is kneeling to receive her first communion and as the priest comes and places a wafer in her hand she looks up at him, smiles sweetly, and asks if she can have a Hosanna Cake instead," Billy said and laughed. He broke-up everyone in the room.

"What about a young cowboy?" Balthazar asked.

"Even better!" Billy agreed and laughed.

"How about a scene from the last supper? As the camera pans the table for a close-up of Jesus, he looks down and grimaces at the sparse meal on the table, rolls his eyes toward heaven, and the announcer says, "Are you afraid you'll fall from grace as a social maven among your closest friends by serving them hummus with bitter herbs, ordinary unleavened bread, and cheap wine that tastes like recycled swamp-water? Rejoice! You can redeem yourself with a plate of Hosanna Cakes for dessert. All will be forgiven." Jesus picks up a Hosanna Cake, winks at the camera, and passes the plate to his disciples. After they eat one bite, a bright light appears over their heads, and Jesus says in a relieved voice, 'Hosanna!' and his disciples respond, 'Hosanna, in the highest!' Then they play the last hallelujah from the Hallelujah Chorus," Clyde said and laughed. Everyone laughed at Clyde's scenario.

"That's great, Clyde! I really like that one! Keep those thoughts. One night soon we'll brainstorm them in the tubs when we're relaxing with a strong hot mug of Texas Tea. Hey, how 'bout that for a name for our various teas?" Billy asked. It got Buck and Hank's approval.

Billy asked if Helen would call together a meeting when everyone on their financial committee can be there. He wanted to talk some things over with them. Since it would include Moss, Enoch, and Tom McMartin, maybe a Friday morning before the weekend starts. The three of them had business to take care of all week in Houston, but Enoch and Moss would be back and forth. Aunt Helen made a note and told him she would see what the others schedules were and get back to him. Bubba didn't have any problem with Helen Kirkendall working for him. Billy was paying Bubba the same salary for his Aunt Helen's enhanced organizational abilities as he was paying Oatie for Jethro's excellent natural management skills.
 
The rest of the day, Billy and his men spent touring the different work spaces on the ship. Jethro returned to duty, and there were no more sad faces among the workers. They eagerly welcomed their demon manager back among them, and they were happy. Later in the afternoon, Billy's cell phone rang, and he saw it was Wilbur calling from Oregon. "Hey, little brother, what's up?" Billy answered.

"Nothing much, except my mother and Mr. Flint had to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after I found my presents in the old barn. I don't know what to say, Master Billy. No one has ever treated me with such kindness and generosity. I was overwhelmed, and I'm deeply grateful. I'm calling because you told me to be sure and check in with you this afternoon about transporting back to the ranch," Wilbur said.

"I did, and I'm glad you called, Son. You're welcome for the surprises. I had a feeling you needed some reassurance you're doing the right thing. We will open a gate down to the old garage and come get you right after we have supper, but I'll call first. We need to get you back here. Fledging can be a tricky thing to judge. Some start to grow their wings quicker than others. Just to be sure, we need you close. Is everything all right there? Have you seen the sheriff today?" Billy asked.

"The sheriff stopped by for a quick lunch around noon, but I didn't get to talk with him much. We were surprisingly busy for lunch. He said he had a difficult time explaining to his wife why he thought it was best to let Bobby go with you folks. He insisted he didn't have much choice in the matter since Bobby was eighteen years old. He told her he was comfortable with the arrangement because Bobby's great-grandmother would be with him, and she promised to look after him. The sheriff said to tell everybody 'hello.' We been getting calls from people who were here who ate them Hosanna Cakes you enhanced and found themselves cured of all sorts of things. They wanted to know if we got any more. We told them we didn't know that much about them as they were gifts brought along by Stan's family. Mom told them we have a few left, but they're for us and a few of our steady customers who might want them. Several offered us large amounts of money for what we got left but mom told them they weren't for sale," Wilbur said.

"Well, at least we know they work," Billy said and laughed.   

"How are things going at the ranch, sir?" Wilbur asked.

"Busy, but since we were up most of the night, me and my men slept in past noon. We been taking it easy for the afternoon. We'll get a good night's rest tonight, and hit it hard tomorrow. I'm glad you called. I'll call you back in a couple of hours, but if your back and shoulders start to hurt, you call me immediately, Wilbur," Billy said firmly.

"I will. I promise, sir. I'll let you go and look forward to hearing from you a little later," he said.

They said their goodbyes and disconnected.

One of the members of a group working under Aunt Helen came running up to quietly discuss something with her. "Master Billy, I just received word, the final master video of Saturday's Barnyard Concert is finished by our editing team, and they're set up in the large auditorium for a preview if you want to give final say on posting it to YouTube and putting it on the market for five bucks plus shipping and handling," she said.

"Sounds like a great way to spend a relaxed afternoon, Aunt Helen. Will you join us?" he asked.

"Not unless you need me, sir. There are several other pressing matters I need to attend to this afternoon," she replied.

"That's fine. If I know you, the video had to pass your approval before your workers could show it to us," Billy said.

"You're right, Master Billy. I've already seen it half a dozen times," Aunt Helen said, "I think you will be pleased," she added and smiled.

Billy and his posse went into the large auditorium, sat in the plush seats, and the attendants started the video. The screen was huge and looked like they were right at the Barnyard Concert sitting in the front row. Of course, they had hundreds of video feeds to choose from cameras flying around the place unseen by everyone. The announcer's voice Billy recognized as the deep voice of Big Blue, Odin Bluetooth. He sounded like the ultimate professional announcer and explained this was the first in a series of Barnyard Concerts being filmed on a large working ranch in the hill country of West Central Texas and what the concert would include. The cameras were panning the good looking audience, but with careful editing, they managed to keep out the more strange critters.

The Haydn string trio was the perfect appetizer for the rest of the program, and Billy was in awe a second time from the talent of the three women playing. Young Kayla was stunning and carried the trio while the mature ladies let her shine. It became even more obvious to Billy's family they had another major talent on their hands. Next was the  Beethoven and Rachmaninoff followed by a couple of encores from the brilliant mature pianist Mr. Jessie Jones. Finally, they included the Country, Western, and Cajun parts. They edited out much of Billy's nonsense and banter with the audience to concentrate more on the music. It was fine with Billy. He vowed he would have suggested it anyway. It was a great success. Billy gave his approval for it to be posted, and to be put on the market for sale.

The name and novel idea of a Barnyard Concert caught the imagination of the public and the video began to go viral within three days. Within a week, it became the hottest item on the Internet. They received well over a million orders for the DVD within the next five days after the video went viral, and that was just from Internet orders on credit cards. The staff was working two shifts, night and day to produced the DVD's ordered. Billy and Aunt Helen's crew initially only counted on five thousand copies being produced. Mail orders continued to pour in for the rest of the week.

From the talent of the first concert they earned enough money to float most of Billy's enterprises for a month, and the sales kept climbing every day after that. It became a phenomenon. News reporters were calling the ranch wanting interviews with the new exciting young maestro who conducted two great works of music with a freshness and sensitivity rarely seen in someone so young and inexperienced, and in the next half of the video he could bend them guitar strings and sing a country song through his nose with the best of them. It was such a delightful diversion, everyone had to have their own personal copy.

Billy instructed Aunt Helen and her staff send out checks to every member of the orchestra including his family members for ten thousand each along with a copy of the Barnyard Concert DVD. It was a mere pittance from their profits from the sale of the DVDs. Billy never contracted with the orchestra for them to share in any recording royalties; however, they understood they might consider marketing a bargain-basement DVD of the concert, and they gave their blessing in a charitable manner. They were happy to get the money for the gig of playing at the ranch. They didn't expect any more.

They were stunned when they received their checks. Ruth Rutherford was blown away. She got two checks; one for Kayla and one for Randy. When she asked Billy what she should do with the money, he told her to start a savings account for their college educations. Billy's generosity went a long way to solidifying his place with the members of the Houston Symphony. He got e-mails and phone calls of thanks for the additional money and promises should he need them again in any capacity to let them know, and they would drop everything to come running for another Barnyard Concert. It was tough out there for musicians of any kind because of endless austerity programs forced on the people by the moneyed oligarchy. Rabid conservatism which preached entitlement cutbacks for the middle class and less for the poor is the first step on the road to slowly kill a democracy and undermine a more balanced society.

The members of the orchestra were not only victims, they were also prime examples of the decline in the social structure by financially inhibiting the arts. Old money was more prone to encourage and protect the arts while the nouveau-riche looked upon it as an unnecessary, expendable financial burden which should be done away with altogether because it became a drain on their resources.

They saw the arts as appealing only to those with educations, and they were definitely against education which might teach reasoning and enlightenment. Such unnecessary things for the masses creates unrest and upheaval and becomes a threat to the status quo of the ruling class. Life without the arts creates a society with little or no direction. The arts show us where we've been, where we are, and what we hope to become.

It is a ladder man has used for centuries to lift himself from the quagmire of strife and sometimes the agony of disappointment living ordinary lives of hopeless despair. It was never religion as an institution which stirred men's hearts, minds, and souls, but the arts that flourished as a result of religion. A day without music starves the complete body of mankind. Beyond the cowboy hyperbole, for his age, Billy Daniels was highly intelligent, sensitive, and a compassionate young man.

Billy called back to Oregon and got Wilbur. "Hey, Son, we're ready to come get you. Are you ready?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, shall I meet you in the garage? I moved the VW up to the gravel area behind the restaurant and plan to leave the keys with mom in case she needs to use it while I'm gone," Wilbur replied.

"Good thinking on your part. No, just stay where you are. We'll walk up to the Cantina to say 'hello' to your mother and Mister Flint," Billy said, "See you in a few, Cowboy," Billy added.

"Great, I'll wait for you here, sir," Wilbur agreed.

In a few minutes, Billy, Captain Nick, Clyde, Balthazar, and Cowboy Andy walked into the bar of the restaurant. Boomer was with them, but he was invisible to the others. It was after sunset in Texas, but it was two hours earlier in Oregon, and it was still light out. There was only a couple of young men in the bar playing pool, and they were strangers. They stopped by for a bite to eat and a beer on their way down to Portland. They took careful notice of the five large cowboys who walked into the bar, noting three of them had rings through their noses. The leader of the cowboys appeared much younger than his more mature company.

Nellie Peterson came from behind the bar to greet and give each cowboy a big hug and a kiss. Mr. Flint shook hands with them smiling from ear to ear. Nellie thanked them for coming for Wilbur and also thanked Billy for his wonderful gift to them. Billy noticed the phone behind the bar was off the hook and beeping to return it to its cradle. "Lot of calls?" Billy asked and grinned motioning toward the phone.

"Yeah, if I put it back on the hook, it will immediately ring. Someone else asking when the next cowboy show will be. Or they will ask where they can buy Hosanna Cakes, and do we have any for sale?" Nellie said with mild disgust and grinned. Beneath her frustration was a joy in being recognized, and the advertisement for the bar and restaurant was money in the bank. "They keep telling us about some concert your people posted to the Internet today, and they say it will go viral in a couple of days. Wilbur left his lap-top in Texas, so we don't have access to the Net," Nellie explained. "I never did learn to use one a them contraptions. Wilbur tried to teach me a few things, but there was too much going on for me to understand," she added.

"What about you, Mr. Flint? Are you computer savvy?" Billy asked.

"Somewhat. I ain't a real whiz like Wilbur. I sometime need to ask him how to do something or get some information I need. I use mine mostly for playing movies, sending and receiving e-mails from friends and what family I got left who will speak to me. Wilbur showed me how to download books and stories to read," Gower Flint replied.

"We're gonna' need someone pretty good with computers if we're going to become business associates, Mrs. Peterson. Have you got somebody who can run the place for you for a couple of days, Ms. Nellie, while you and Mr. Flint get away and come to the ranch with us?" Billy asked.

"It would be difficult, Master Billy," Nellie replied.

"Do you ever leave Mr. Flint in charge when you need to get away?" Billy asked.

"Oh, yeah, Gower's good to look after the place. I hop a Greyhound, what stops here a couple of times a week, and travel down to visit my older sister in Portland once a month," Nellie replied.

"Good, then we'll do it in shifts," Billy said.

"Do what?" Nellie asked watching a big grin spread across Wilbur's face.

"You and Mr. Flint could use a refurbishing job if we want to be successful in our business venture. Make you look and feel younger to provide you with the strength and stamina you're gonna' need," We can take Mr. Flint with us this evening and return him before the weekend so's he can look after the place while you join us for the weekend. We'll return you on Monday," Billy said.

"What do you think, Gower?" Nellie asked the older man and smiled.

"Are you crazy, Woman? I don't know about you, but if these men are sincere, and from what we already know they can do, I see no reason to doubt them. I done sowed my wild oaks, enough for two life-times. I went to Vietnam, damn near got myself killed, come back, was rejected by my family and society, couldn't find a job, lived on the streets of Portland and Seattle for years, and became a reclusive drunk. I damn near killed myself from self-abuse and alcohol, but I put them things behind me when some guy brought me to Tall Pine and dumped me. You was good enough to take pity on me. You gimme' a job and a place to call my own. I made you a promise I wouldn't let you down, and I tried hard to keep it," Gower paused for a minute.

"You did keep your promise to me, Gower. I never regretted throwing you a lifeline, but I was pretty blunt with you. I told you the first time you messed up, you were out of here for good," Nellie said, "Fortunately, for both of us, you never did, and after ten years, I don't think you ever will," she added.

"No, I never will let you down. I done went through the downside of life, but to be given a second chance to make amends for them years; a chance to work and help you realize your dream, would be the greatest gift a man could be given," Gower Flint said, "I can just imagine. An old man living in the body of a younger one knowing the things I know today would be heaven itself. I would never consider asking for more in a hereafter even if I believed there was one," he added.

"If you come for the weekend, Ms. Nellie, the ladies of my family can see to you and help you. You will like my grandma, my Aunt Zelma, and my other aunt, Aunt Helen, and we can introduce you to Wilbur's new family. We'll come get you Friday morning about nine so's you can have dinner with us," Billy said.

"Please, Mom. I know you won't regret it," Wilbur pleaded.

"All right, I'd like to see your ranch for myself, so I'll feel comfortable knowing where my boy is living," Nellie agreed.

About that time, the door opened and in walked Sheriff Andreeson. He smiled, but he didn't look happy. Billy noticed the two men playing pool suddenly stopped, put their pool cues up, and walked out the door. They didn't seem nervous, just wary of the lawman. The sheriff greeted the men and shook hands. "How's my boy, Master Billy?" he asked.

"He was in the saddle most of the day riding with one cowboy or the other. He's taken a shine to two of my punishment slaves, Earl Hickson and Harley-Buck Johnson who are both excellent horsemen. He told me he was having a great time. I plan to get him his own pony to have the responsibility to care for another critter other than himself. I could tell he was getting tired, but he didn't want to stop. He was having too much fun. He'll sleep soundly tonight," Billy said.

"I'm glad to hear it; sounds like he's having a good time," the sheriff said without much enthusiasm.

"Things going all right with you, Sheriff?" Billy asked.

"As well as can be expected, I suppose. My wife is having trouble adjusting and blames me for everything, but she'll get over it. My kids seem relieved Bobby's gone. I guess I never realized how much I neglected them because of him. They seem to understand better than my wife, and I think we'll form new stronger relationships between us. After I assured them Bobby was going to be fine, they tried to reason with their mother on my behalf. They didn't have any more success than I did," the sheriff said, "It's like she's inconsolable, but I hope she'll come around. She thinks my new image you gimme' is demonic," he added.

Nellie got them some coffee and the men sat at a table. Nellie and Gower joined them. They talked for only a few minutes when they heard the air-brakes on huge eighteen-wheeler engage and there came a quick blast from the air-horn. "That's got to be Willie. He always gives one short blast on his horn when he comes to town. He must be on his way back through," she said looking out the window for his truck.
 
"Good! I was hoping he'd stop by on his way back. I need to thank him again for his heroism," Bob Andreeson said.

Willie walked into the Cantina to shouts and yells of welcome from everyone. His eyes got real big when he saw Billy and his posse sitting at the the table with the sheriff, Wilbur, Nellie, and Gower. "I can't believe my good luck. I didn't think I'd get to see ya'll again 'till next Friday. I saw the sheriff's car out front and thought I'd stop for a bite and jaw with him a bit," he said as he headed for Billy.

"'At's why we's here, Trucker. Your timing is perfect," Billy replied and took Willie into his arms. Willie wasn't shy and planted a big one right on Billy's mouth. Billy didn't hold back from the big man's affections. "Daymn, Trucker, that was one Hell of a welcome," Billy declared and grinned.

"I couldn't help myself, Master Billy. I ain't felt so good in several years. I swear to you, I feel like a young spring colt what just found his running legs. I can't thank you enough for what you done for me over and above the accident," Willie said, as he went from man to man shaking their hands.

Bob Andreeson stood, and after Willie shook his hand, the sheriff opened his arms as an invitation. He pulled the trucker into an embrace and gave him a kiss what would make Billy and Willie's kiss seem like a quick peck. Willie didn't hold back from the sheriff and returned his kiss in kind. When they finished they both had tears in their eyes. "Thanks, Son, for giving my life back to me. I'm glad you stopped by, so's I could have another chance to thank you properly," the sheriff said.

"That was one of the best 'thank yous' I ever done got, Sheriff. I'd certainly say it was proper, and I can't tell you how much I appreciated it. You're welcome, sir," Willie said and sat down to join them. "Where's your protectors, Master Billy?" he asked.

"Brute is back in Texas with his master, but Boomer's here with us. Show yourself, Boomer," Billy said and the huge beast appeared next to Billy. Gower and Nellie liked to have jumped out of their skins.

When Gower got hold of himself he slapped his knee and laughed. The others laughed with him. "I told Nellie I seen several around here, but don't think she believed me," Gower said.

"No, It's not that I didn't believe you, Gower, I just didn't know. I seen strange creatures roaming around out back from from time to time. Do they live with you, Master Billy?" Nellie asked.

"Yes, ma'am, Boomer is my number one slave, my husband, and the father of our unborn son Billy Daniels Junior, who is back in Texas in the womb of a surrogate mother and will be born in about eight months from now," Billy proudly announced.

"I'll explain later, Ms. Nellie. My buddy, Brute, told me about them things," Willie said.

"You remember the over-sized cowboys we brought along with us. They were our watcher-protectors. They can morph to look like humans if they need to. They don't like to, but they will if they have to," Billy said.

"Have you come to get Wilbur? Are you leaving for Texas, Master Billy?" Willie asked.

"Yes, and we're taking Gower Flint to spruce him up a bit and bring him back tomorrow morning after breakfast," Billy replied. "Why don't you come and go with us. You can have supper with us, rest a bit, and we'll bring you back in the morning. Will your truck be safe on the street?" Billy asked.

"His truck will be safe," the sheriff assured Billy, "I'd give anything to go with you men and see my boy again," the sheriff said.

"Can you get away for the e'nin, Sheriff?" Billy asked.

"Sure, if Nellie will let me park my patrol car back of her place. I'm the only one on duty, and if an emergency arises, Nellie will call me. She's got my number on speed-dial," the sheriff replied.

"Then you're welcome to come. I hate to cheat you out of the price for a couple of dinners, Ms. Nellie," Billy said.

"Nonsense. We made more money in one night from your folks visit than we made all year, and you never charged us a penny for supplying the food. Go with my blessing, Gentlemen, and I'll look forward to my turn next Friday morning. Fix Gower up good. He'll be here all weekend by himself," Nellie said.

The men drank another cup of coffee. The sheriff moved his car around back, and Willie made sure his truck was secure for the night. Nellie promised she would watch it for him. They walked down to the old garage, Billy opened a gate, and they walked through to the older barn on the Daniels' ranch. They walked up to the main house together. As they approached a small buckaroo came clomping down the front porch stairs in his buckaroo boots waving his cowboy hat and arms about  yelling, "Daddy! Daddy! Is it really you?" Bobby hollered as he ran for the sheriff's arms. Bob Andreeson picked up his boy and spun him around holding him in his arms and shedding a few tears.

"You look so good, Bobby. You been in the sun today and got some color. You're gonna' make a fine cowboy, Son, I just know it," the sheriff said and stole a kiss from his boy.

"I thought it would be a while before we got to see each other again, Dad, but I'm glad you're here. Are you gonna' have supper with us?" Bobby asked.

"I was invited. I can only stay for a while and Master Billy and his men will take me back to Oregon. I begged Master Billy to give me one more chance to visit with you for a while. He was kind enough to let me come with Wilbur, Mr. Flint, and Mr. Whistlepie," the sheriff replied.  

"Grandma will be glad to see you again. Come, let me introduce you to everyone," Bobby said taking his dad by his hand and leading him up the stairs into the big ranch house.

They had a wonderful supper together, but Bobby kept dropping off to sleep after he ate his dessert. "He's had a rough day in the saddle, Sheriff," Billy joked with Bob Andreeson, "He'll sleep good tonight and dream sweet dreams," he added.

"Can I take him up to bed?" the Sheriff asked.

"Of course. Grandma Andreeson, will you show the sheriff the way?" Billy asked.

"I'll be happy to, Master Billy. Come Bob, and bring our boy. We'll take him up and put him to bed," she replied.

They left and returned in a few minutes. Evangeline Andreeson had a sweet smile on her face and winked at Billy. The sheriff sat down at the table and was quiet for a few minutes, "I can't thank you enough, Master Billy. I had my doubts all day today, but I don't no more. Bobby made the right decision for his life, and I'm happy he's here with you and his grandmother. Knowing I'll get to see him from time to time will be a blessing in itself," the sheriff said and wiped away a couple of tears.

"It was never anyone's intention to separate you from your son permanently. Of course you may see him when we come to Oregon, and when you can get away and spend some time with us. You're always welcome, sir," Billy said.

* * * * * * *
Later in the evening, Billy decided he wanted to retire with his immediate family to the hot tubs for some relaxation and to enjoy some Texas Tea. His immediate family grew lately to include the giants and those living in close proximity with them. Billy Gog Groats, Thor, Zeus; Joe, the blue giant, and his younger brother, Blue Willie; Odin Bluetooth and his mate Erin Mascaro. Erin was learning along with a number of other workers under Big Blue about electrical engineering and maintenance.

"The men of my immediate family will be retiring to our hot spa tubs for some after dinner soaking and drinking mugs of hot herbal tea like you drank at the party in Tall Pine. Willie will be joining us. Would you like to join us?" Billy asked the other two men.

"As long as you get me back when Willie goes back, it will be fine. I suppose this one time I could stay the night," the sheriff replied.

"That will be fine. We will feed you a good breakfast and take you back in the morning; however, I must warn you about this evening, Sheriff. My immediate family ain't your average male family members. As you might expect from a community bath, everyone gets naked, and you may see some unusual characters join us," Billy said.

"I think I'm ready for almost anything, sir," the sheriff said.

"I wonder if the Sheriff is ready for me?" Willie said, raised an eyebrow, and smiled.

"Why not? If not for your quick action he wouldn't be with us this e'nin. You having second doubts, Hero?" Billy asked Willie.

"No. I am what I am. I can't change it. You might be able to change me, but I can't. The sheriff will have to accept me the way I am or not at all. Besides, what a man's got between his legs don't necessarily make him a man, nor does it make a woman a woman," Willie said firmly.

"Amen to that, Brother," Billy said agreeing with his trucker buddy, "As the dude abides, sometimes nature overdoes," he added and grinned.

The sheriff didn't say anything, but he certainly didn't miss the unusual exchange between Billy and Willie. He decided not to question it.

They took Mr. Flint to the dungeon area of the old castle to refurbish him before they moved to the bathing area. Gower Flint was agog at the way the cowboys easily moved from space to space through what he considered electronic gates. They were much more sophisticated than mere basic electronics, but the concepts formed the platform on which the rest operated. The sheriff was equally impressed; however, when Billy and his posse fledged and reappeared with their wings in their cowboy-angel form, both men were totally unprepared.

Gower knew about them from Wilbur's recounting of his enhancement, but he brushed it aside as post-adolescent hormonal hyperbole; hickory dickery dock. Bob Andreeson was totally unconscious when they brought him to the ranch and worked on him. He woke up in the house and didn't see any cowboy-angels the night before. Trucker Willie wasn't affected in the least. He made his peace with the idea there really were such creatures, and he found no fault with them.

"My God in heaven. What are you men?" the sheriff asked in awe.

"A mixture of men; from cowboys to greatly enhanced humanoid forms. Me, Hank, Buck, and several others you will meet later, were born and raised in Texas and later enhanced by benevolent ancient races what want to see a turn-around on Earth for man's situation from one of such a highly divided, top-heavy society to one of more compassionate equality. Our purpose is to build a microcosm of a new society through peaceful means, one step at a time, without threatening the status quo; unless, it becomes necessary to defend ourselves from outrageous tyranny," Billy explained.

"Don't you consider the division of our society as it is today tyranny enough?" the sheriff asked.

"Pretty much. I'd venture we're right at the boiling point for a revolution, but we live in rural areas where we're not affected as bad as those in the greater metropolitan areas. Huge slums have grown in our larger cities from lack of funds and privatizing of infrastructures to the point if you don't have the money nothing gets fixed, or if your house catches fire there's no public fire department to come to your aid. If you ain't highly insured and pay butt-busting fees into the citizen's protection fund you don't get any services whatsoever. It's getting to the point, the average middle class wage earner can't afford these perks anymore and are facing dire poverty. We want to change that," Billy replied.

"To do that, you would have to have an army of people, unimaginable powers, and incalculable wealth -- to say nothing of having the patience of a saint and the cunning of the Devil," the sheriff argued.

The sheriff was somewhat chagrined when the other men laughed at him. "They mean no disrespect, Sheriff Bob. They just know I got me one a them three things you mentioned in my back pocket. You're new to us. I know you must be filled with questions, but wait until you know us a little better; then, base your questions accordingly. At this point you're shooting from the hip," Billy said and turned to start the process of refurbishing Gower Flint. Billy tasted a small sample of the old warrior's blood, and he was ready to go.

Billy's grooms, Mace and Picard, helped Mr. Flint remove his clothes and told him not to be concerned; everyone would be naked after they processed him. Gower was no exception to the two young grooms' charms and physical attributes. Willie and the Sheriff stood and watch in awe as Billy and his family gathered the life force from the universe to repair and refurbish Gower Flint. Billy wasn't happy with the size of Gower's penis, and asked if he wanted a larger one. He also asked if he'd like a new set of teeth.

"What man wouldn't?" Gower replied.

Billy removed his old teeth and replaced them with a perfect set of new teeth. He proceeded to lengthened Gower Flint's penis, filled it out more than it was, and gave him back his foreskin. When Billy finished, Gower's cock wasn't overly large, but it was considerably more than he previously owned. It was like moving up from a Volkswagon Beetle to an early 1960's Lincoln Continental. Billy referred to it as his 'Ladies Home Companion' model and got a laugh from everyone.

When Billy and his men finished with Gower he stood before them a changed man. He looked thirty years younger, his body had no battle scars nor blemishes of any kind, and his cock was an impressive piece of masculine pulchritude. He reached down and felt its heft and weight for the first time and shed a couple of tears. "A new body, new teeth, and a new cock -- what more could an old forgotten-war veteran ask for? Thank you, Master Billy. I will be eternally grateful for your generous gifts," he said.

Billy took him into his arms and gently kissed the new Gower Flint on his forehead. "Glad to help out an old veteran, Mr. Flint. You deserve it. Wear it with pride and honor. It is a refurbished temple for your old soul. Don't make the mistake of abusing it like you did your older model," Billy admonished him gently.

"Have no fear of that. I have a small but important family with Nellie and Wilbur. I won't let them down. Nor will I let you or your family down, sir," Gower assured him.

They escorted Gower and their guests to the hot tub spa area where the giants were already sitting waiting for them. The three new men were even more wowed by the size of the giants and their king-size family of Thor, Zeus, Big Blue, and the smaller but equally impressive physical form of Erin Mascaro. The men in Billy's family parked their wings in the cloak room and immediately upon their return, began to undress. Billy urged Willie and the sheriff to disrobe. He didn't plan to introduce his men to the three new men until everyone was naked and on an equal basis.

It was like a new world for Willie Whistlepie, Sheriff Robert Andreeson, and Gower Flint. Both the sheriff and Gower were struck by Willie's indefinite sexual appearance. Billy was proud of Willie. He didn't try to hide anything, but rather took a good amount of pride in his new appearance. He was also feeling much better physically which added to his increased self-assurance. Master Billy's family were used to physically touching each other in an embrace whether they were wearing clothes or not.

The sheriff didn't ask any questions about Willie and decided to go along with the protocol. Billy introduced Willie to Hank and Buck first. Buck was morphed with his small hairless cunt between his legs, and it didn't go unnoticed by Willie or the other men. Buck and Hank gave Willie a great welcome with hugs and stolen kisses. Willie got tears in his eyes when he embraced Buck. "Looking good, Cowboy," he said quietly in Buck's ear.

"You don't look so bad yourself, Trucker," Buck replied.     

Billy finished introducing the other members of his immediate family and took them to the giants to introduce them. Billy introduced Thor and his male-wife Zeus to them. Since their permanent morphing was approved by their master, Thor kept Zeus wearing his cunt most of the time, but like Buck he would morph Zeus to his male form when they had work to do as external plumbing was easier to take a quick leak and get back on the job. Little Willie Whistlepie didn't fully believe Billy when he told him he had family members who could match or trump his anomaly, but he was proving it to the big trucker in spades.

Joe, the blue giant, and his smaller brother Willie, the other blue giant, after talking with Thor and Zeus about Zeus's cunt decided to contract with Master Billy earlier in the week to teach Willie to morph a cunt for his big brother's pleasure. Blue Willie wasn't shy about displaying himself before the rest of his family. As a matter of fact, Blue Willie was rather proud of being willie-less. Billy joked he didn't get any bad feedback from his big brother. "And I promise, you won't!" Joe exclaimed, and the men shared a laugh. The two Willies, Little Willie and Blue Willie, bonded immediately.

The biggest giant of them all, Billy Gog Groats, held Little Willie in his arms and made sweet love to him -- complimented him on his fine attractive body, and what a handsome man he appeared to be. The giant blatantly invited the big tucker to share his bed anytime he felt he needed some comfort and had no one to scratch his itch. From the size of him, Willie was quite sure Gog could provide him with all the comfort he might need. Trucker Willie never felt so welcome among a group of men in his life. It was like he found a new home among them.

Odin and Erin talked with the two blue giants about Blue Willie's new cunt, and that evening, Erin told Master Billy he wanted to test drive one for his husband's pleasure. Before everyone, Billy passed his hand over Erin's front. They watched as Erin's sizable penis began to shrink and a fine looking hairless little cunt formed in its place. Erin gasped for breath when he felt it forming internally within his body. It was almost an orgasmic sensual feeling as exciting as the sex act itself. Billy wished Vox and Rox was (were) there to join them to put the ultimate period at the end of the sentence for Little Willie, but he didn't want the chance of someone tipping them off to their surprise they worked so hard to insure.

Everyone settled down to the soothing hot water and any apprehensions were abated by the wonderful herb tea they were drinking. The sheriff and Gower Flint got erections during the introductions, especially when they made body contact with the others, but no one said a word about it. It was just expected. Gower Flint had a damn good excuse. His new young daddy done give him a brand new toy to play with. The sheriff didn't have an excuse, but he was packing enough heat to be considered a cowboy with bragging rights himself. In fact, Bob Andreeson looked like he could fit the role of one of Billy's posse.

Talk was lively around the tubs and as usual no subject was taboo or too sacred to discuss. While overt sexual acts were frowned upon in the hot tubs, touching, feeling, a stolen kiss, and a bit of grab-ass play were accepted as part of the experience. Willie was sitting on Billy's left and Captain Nick was sitting on his right. Sheriff Andreeson was sitting next to Willie on his other side. Gower and Wilbur were sitting next to Captain Nick. The sheriff was quiet for a good while until the herb tea kicked in, and he began to relax. "Are you uncomfortable talking about your -- " the sheriff didn't finish his question to Trucker Willie.

"My sexuality, Sheriff?" Willie asked.

"Yes, I was looking for a better word, but nothing come to me," he admitted and grinned sheepishly like a young boy.

"No, I have no problems openly discussing it with someone who is curious and asking to be informed rather than to ridicule. I was born this way and have lived with it all my life. Master Billy said he could tell by tasting my blood, I'm mentally stable, and I don't have no problems with my 'sexual anomaly' as he refers to my condition," Willie said, "What would you like to know, Sheriff?" Willie asked.

"Are you fully functional as a woman or a man?" he asked.

"Both. My vagina is fully functional and my small penis, which, I suppose, was intended to be a clitoris, functions fully on its own. It certainly has a mind of its own. I have a fully developed womb which is capable of being impregnated by another male and making me pregnant. Master Billy told me I'm capable of making myself pregnant, but it probably wouldn't be a good idea because of the genetics necessary from two parents to make a healthy child," Willie said, "There is one advantage I have which regular men and women don't," he added.

"What's that?" Bob Andreeson asked.

"I can reach a double climax while getting fucked," Willie said proudly and smiled.
 
"Do you have difficulty finding sex partners?" the sheriff asked.

"Not really! I don't mix my sex life with my job if that's what you mean. I don't advertise. I don't cruise truck stops or go beating the bushes in public parks. I'm a truck driver, but enough of my good buddies I trust know about me. Word of mouth gets me referrals, and if it's convenient, both are interested and willing, we get together once in a while -- enough to keep me truck'n on down the road whistling a happy tune," Willie said and laughed, "I lost two great loves in my life, Sheriff, and I'm wary of forming long-term relationships for that reason," he added.

"I would have never guessed," the sheriff said shaking his head in awe. "Do you worry about getting pregnant" he asked.

"No, I have contraceptives I carry with me in my wallet, just in case," Willie explained.

The sheriff was quiet for a good while. He put his big arm around Willie's shoulder and gave him a brotherly hug. "I'm glad for this time with you, Willie. Thank you for being open and honest with me. I wouldn't have missed this opportunity for the world and in a way, I got you, my boy, and Master Billy Daniels to thank for the experience," he said sincerely.

"You're welcome, Sheriff. I got me a feeling we'll become good friends," Willie said.

"Hell, we already were good friends. I always enjoy having a cup of coffee or a bite to eat and bullshit with you when you come through town. This will just make us better friends," the sheriff said.

* * * * * * *
Billy kept referring to the coming Sunday as 'Dancing Day.' Billy Gog Groats, the largest of the giants, asked Billy about his use of the term. "It has to do with two things," Billy replied, "When I was a senior in high school, I agreed to tutor a young cowboy who was way behind in his reading skills than the rest of his class. I would meet him at school an hour before classes, and we would go to the library where I would work with him every morning. He had a much thicker cowboy inflection than me -- if you can imagine," Billy said and got a laugh, "I had him read for me, and he came across the word 'wedding' and read it as 'webbing.' I know enough cowboy-speak, I knew 'webbing' didn't translate to 'wedding' when it suddenly dawned on me he was dyslexic.

"We worked for six months together, and I'm proud to say he was up to speed with the rest of his class after that; however, the word substitution lingered in my mind: wedding and webbing. It produced a surrealistic conundrum for me when I thought about it, and I thought about it a lot. Was a wedding an act of webbing two people together to immobilize them mentally and spiritually until a great spider came along to eat them?" Billy asked, and the men laughed, "I know! I know! It's a wicked, way-out, convoluted projection. Even though I loathe curds and whey, I eventually filed it away in the back of my mind as my 'Little Miss Muffet Syndrome' and went on with my life, but I was never able to shake the concept," Billy said and laughed at his own nonsense. The others broke up laughing at him.

"The second thing ain't complicated. I just don't like the staid or stuffy term 'wedding'; especially, for same-sex marriages. It reeks of old traditions grounded in the mental-catacombs of the early church which has absolutely no credibility for me whatsoever in a modern society. So in keeping with some other older traditions which have become lost over the years, I find the idea of the conjoining of two people, two souls, regardless of their sex, as entering a contract with each other for the beginning of a new dance in their lives. They agree they will dance together as long as the music plays. As I come to see it, inviting and accepting a partner should be a loving gesture to assure each other with their bonding they will never have to dance alone again," Billy explained.   

There was a silence after Billy finished his explanation to Gog.

"I don't ever want to dance alone again," Tron Garrett said.

"Hear! Hear!" agreed Billy's uncle Nathan.

"Will you dance with me, Cowboy?" Tron asked Nathan.

"I will, indeed, dance with you, Buckaroo," Nathan said. The two cowboys embraced and sealed their troth with a goodly kiss. Everyone applauded for them.

"You know what this means, don't you?" Tron asked.

"Yeah, we gotta' go out an buy two rings before next Sunday," Nathan said.

"Should be fun," Tron said.

"A day with you by my side is always fun, Cowboy," Nathan said.

"Oh, Jesus! Yucky-poo! Gag me with a spoon!" shouted Moss Garrett, "I don't know whether to slowly submerge under the water and drown myself or stand up and cheer," he said and his mate roared with laughter. Everyone else laughed, too.

"Smart ass!" Tron barked, "I can't wait 'til you and big'un start gathering bits of twine and twigs and start to build your nest. Your chortling and cooing sounds are already way beyond social norms," he added.

"We's way ahead of you, old man. We done bought our rings two weeks ago in Houston," Moss shot back and everyone laughed. "Glad you woke up," he added, and they laughed harder.

Wilbur was very quiet, but he seemed like he was enjoying himself. "You all right, Son?" Billy asked him.

"I think so, Master Billy. I feel a bit strange, but I think I had too much Texas Tea," he replied.

Stand up, Son!" Billy motioned to him. Wilbur stood. "Turn your back to me," Billy said and Wilbur slowly turned around. His shoulders were growing two large sharply pointed nubs. "You feel anything yet, Son?" Billy asked.

"An itching on my shoulders, but the hot water soothes it, Master Billy," he said and everyone laughed.

"You're starting to grow wings, Cowboy. We won't continue this gathering much longer. We got a big week ahead of us and a bigger weekend. As you all know, we didn't get a lot of sleep last e'nin. We'll get you taken care of before we bed you down for the night. I'll get one of my watchers to stay with you and provide you with his milk and our Aunt Helen to keep watch over you. By this time tomorrow, you'll have a new set of wings," Billy said.

The men began to leave and with his master's approval Billy Gog Groats invited Willie Whistlepie to share his giant bed with him. To everyone's surprise, Willie accepted. "That's fine, but you must have Willie up to the big house by six in the morning, big guy," Billy admonished the giant.

"I promise, I will have him there on time, Master Billy," Gog said and smiled.

Billy took Gower and the sheriff back to the big house and had Clyde take them to the bedroom next to his, where there were two double beds. As they were getting ready for bed, Gower noticed the sheriff was very quiet. "You all right, Bob?" he asked.

"Yeah. I'm just feeling a little down. What do you make of all this, Gower?" the sheriff asked.

"I ain't surprised. I knew there was something different about them men when they came to Tall Pine and Wilbur confirmed it for me. I think it's a new beginning. I don't know if they'll be successful. I will work with them, and I wish them well. They give us both a second chance. Look what they done for your boy. What's bothering you, Son?" Gower asked.

"I don't know, Gower. I can't put my finger on it," the sheriff replied. They didn't say much more and went to bed.

* * * * * * *
Billy and his immediate family returned to the line-cabin, did their evening ablutions, and got an early start to bed. It seemed like their heads only hit the pillow when Billy's internal cowboy alarm went off, and he got up to make coffee to get their day started. They transported to the big house and found Willie, Gower, and the sheriff with his boy by his side in the kitchen sitting around the table having coffee. Having breakfast with his son and his grandmother seemed to be a real treat for the sheriff, and he was ready to return to Tall Pine after they said their tender goodbyes to each other. Billy and his posse returned the three men to the garage in Tall Pine, said their goodbyes with promises to see them again soon, and left. The men walked up to the Cantina and found Nellie up and waiting for them. She almost had a conniption fit when she saw Gower. She couldn't believe it was the same man. "How is Wilbur?" she asked.

"Doing well. He started fledging and his wings started growing in while we were there. We watched as Master Billy and his men did a small operation on his back to allow the nubs to break through the skin. They healed him immediately, and he suffered neither pain nor discomfort. They have him in a deep sleep with a great watcher attending him. Master Billy's Aunt is watching over him.

"I can't believe it! My boy's an angel," Nellie exclaimed as tears started running down her cheeks, "Of course, I always knew in my heart, he was an angel," she added and wiped her eyes with a napkin. "Oh, by the way, Sheriff, your wife called and asked where you were. I told her you got a call from out near the Fennel place from another trucker whose truck broke down, and you and Willie drove out to see what you could do for him," Nellie said.

"Thanks, Nellie. I'm on my way home right now," Sheriff Andreeson said and walked out the front door.

"I need to be on my way, Ms. Nellie, but I'll be back Friday morning before nine in the morning. I'm invited back for the weekend. They's gonna' have several couples get married, and I want to be there. I'll be in my pickup truck. May I leave it out back while we's gone, ma'am?" Willie asked.

"Certainly, Willie. We'll look forward to seeing you again," Nellie said.

Willie took Gower's hand and pulled him into a hug. They gave each other a brotherly embrace and a pat on the back. "See you soon, Son," Gower said, as Willie walked out the door.

Nellie looked at Gower. "I know it's you, but I can't get over how good you look. We'll have a difficult time explaining to our town-folk," she said.

"Naw, I plan to grow a beard, so they won't notice so much. In the meantime, I'll just dim the lights a bit in here, and they'll never notice," Gower said and grinned.

"I'm glad you're back, Gower," Nellie said.

"You're gonna' love the ranch, Nellie," Gower said.

"I'm looking forward to it," she replied.

* * * * * * *
The week proved to be as busy as any other week. Billy and his posse were in and out of meetings every morning of the week including Friday. Tuesday morning Billy met with his financial board and told them the Internet fees they were paying the phone company were going to bankrupt him. They knew better, but Billy was right to voice concern. With more Irin living on the ranches and Billy provided each one with their own computer, the cost skyrocketed. Of course Verizon didn't give a shit and as usual ignored any attempts at conversation to work out a deal. They were a huge corporate monopoly. They held everyone by the balls, and there was nothing anyone could do about it if they wanted Internet service. Billy wanted a team to work on the problem and come up with some suggestions. He assigned Archie and Edith, his beautiful Psyches, to head up the team.

They met with the local men of the Johnson Trust Board on Wednesday morning and the ranchers the court assigned were wowed and overwhelmed with the cosmetic progress Billy's slaves made on the Harley-Buck Johnson ranch getting it ready to accept real cattle to tend and raise. They were so impressed they made up their minds to see if they could contract with the Daniels to join the Highland Shire Grange and become a part of their rancher's co-op.

The two main men were Phil Shaw, and Horse (Horace) Reynolds. The other three were Art Danvers, Spencer Marshall, and Crumble Lee Kumquat. Billy took their applications to join the Grange. He told them his board of directors would review their applications, and he would get back to them. He told them to consider, while he would provide the same options for them he did for the other ranchers, they must understand his slaves would not be under their control. They would be under his control and the ramrod or straw-boss he would send along with them.

If they wanted to make a suggestion, make a change, or have something done, they were required to take it up with the ramrod or straw-boss Billy put in charge. If Billy's ramrod couldn't accommodate them, then they would contact their master for a decision. Any violations of these rules, upon review, might be grounds for dissolving any agreements or contracts between them.

Billy decided not to discuss the obvious with the ranchers. Sometimes, when men have complete untethered authority and control over others, they develop omnipotent despotic attitudes toward their help and quickly lose their personal humanity and compassion. (That's assuming those virtues were an integral part of their nature to begin with, but Billy wasn't willing to take the chance with anyone outside his immediate family.) The old adage: absolute power corrupts absolutely applies to personal relations as well as tin-pot dictators.

When the Irin slaves were put under Billy's trust and supervision, he vowed he would never let one of them be mistreated or abused. The five ranchers were under the assumption they would have complete control and be in charge of everything. They told Billy they would have to reconsider his proposal. Billy stood his ground. He would not be bullied by them. He graciously thanked them for their applications. Without further explanation, he told the ranchers he would hold their applications for review until he heard further word from them.

Aunt Helen responded to Billy's request to form a group to investigate who would like to learn to play instruments, and who would like to sing in a chorus. Almost every Irin slave responded. Billy told her to take names and make suggestions for them to check out the different instruments in the orchestra on the Internet before deciding what they wanted to learn to play. They were way ahead of Billy and Helen. They cleverly ferreted out ample basic tutoring programs for learning to read music. The slaves formed information blogs on various subjects for information about learning programs which could only be accessed by a rather complicated password. It became a mass-mind learning system for educating themselves on things which caught their interest. In response to the requests, Billy approved buying a number of reasonably priced instruments. Forming a chorus and auditioning potential singers was to be left to Vox Humana.

Billy managed to keep the week as normal as possible to avoid any suspicion from Oatie and Elmer. From Tuesday on they were in and out of the ranch several times. Bubba and Jack were included in most everything. Bubba told Billy he didn't have to worry about Stan and Cletus being seen around their ranch. Since they only had one bedroom completed other than Bubba's bedroom, Jack graciously gave them permission to use his room.

"Hell, I don't think Jack and me's seen 'um half a dozen times. They only come out of their room for supper. They take their meals out to the bunkhouse with the slaves. They been playing Cajun music for them ever' e'nin, and our cow-folks done went and adopted them. They's get'n damn good, too," he said and laughed, "It's been a good excuse for Jack and me to eat out since we don't have to fix nothing. They told us it was like having the dream vacation they always talked about, but they never thought it would be on a ranch in Texas. After the Saturday surprise at the Barnyard Concert and the Dance'n Day on Sunday, they's looking forward to settling down and getting to work doing something. They ain't sure what they wanna' do yet, but no one's pushing them. We told them to take all the time they like. They ain't no trouble. They can stay as long as they like. Hell, I can always make Jack another bedroom. It's like having two brothers living with you," Bubba said.

"How's their watcher family getting along?" Billy asked.

"They's doing fine. They're adapting. They met ever' body and made friends with my regular crew of watchers. They sort of look up to Brute as a straw-boss and their go-to-man for anything they need. Our Irin cowboys feed them left overs from breakfast and supper, and I told them to give them some slave chow and a biscuit for lunch if they like. They don't ask for much. I think they'll fit in real well. Jack and I done grow'd fond of Casper and Tinker Bell. Jack treats 'um like they's his little brother and sister. He's always want'n to stop by the store to buy 'um some fresh fruits for treats," Bubba replied, "He's even got me eat'n some, and I never eat fruit," he added.

* * * * * * *
Wednesday, Billy got a call from Jessie Jones. "What's shake'n, Brother?" Billy asked.

"Absolutely nothing! Harlen's been gone most of the time, and I been practicing more than I have in years. You really got me stoved-up with the fun I had playing with the orchestra. I can't thank you enough. Now, what's with this check I just received for twenty-five thousand dollars from the Highland Shire Project Foundation? I didn't perform for no money, Cowboy. I done it to live a dream you afforded me, and the experience of playing with a fine orchestra," Jessie said.

Billy laughed, "Royalties!" he replied, "Ain't chu' been on the Internet in the last couple of days, Pod'na?" he asked.

"God, no! I ain't had time. Between practicing and taking care of them two monsters you recreated who are no longer quiet and attentive, my hands are full. Daffy and Chloe have become my worst critics and don't let me get away with nothing. They suddenly developed a fine tuned ear for music. They can tell in an instant when I'm fudging on a difficult part, and they make me practice it until I get it right. They're great companions, though, and they can't wait to get back to the ranch. It's all they talk about. They're about to drive me and Harlen crazy," Jessie replied.

Billy laughed, "Well, drop everything, go to your computer, use Duck Duck Go, and type in Highland Shire Project Barnyard Concert Number One," Billy said.

"You posted it to YouTube?" Jessie asked excited.

"Four hours of music, Buckaroo. It's done went and gone viral. Here it is the middle of the week, and I'm surprised you ain't heard about it. We done already made a small fortune off the DVD. We only asked four-ninety-nine plus shipping and handling. That check is a token of our appreciation," Billy explained.

He heard Chloe in the background yell, "We love you, Master Billy!" she shouted. Billy laughed.

"Tell her and Daffy I love them, too, with all my heart. Is you and your family planning on coming to the ranch Saturday?" Billy asked.

"We talked about it. I think Harlen wants to. I think if he don't, his children will rebel and refuse to speak to him," Jessie said and laughed.

"You tell Daffy and Chloe there's an extra special treat in it for them if they do," Billy said and laughed, "Get back to me and let me know. We'll send a posse to the stable in the morning for you," Billy said.

"I'll give you a call later this evening after Harlen gets in, and I've had a chance to watch the video. Daymn, Cowboy! You just made my day," Jessie said.   

"You got anything to play for us Saturday?" Billy asked.
 
"Yeah, a couple of old war horses I dug out and dusted off, and Stravinsky's Concerto for Winds and Piano," Jessie replied, "A neo-classical masterpiece," he added.

"God, I love that piece. Good. Are you up to performing it?" Billy asked.

"Yeah, I think so. With the brutal coaching this past week from Madame Chloe, the Rosina Lhevinne of our household, she gave me three strong barks of approval," Jessie said.

"What?" Billy exclaimed and laughed.

"You gotta' love her! I was playing one of the more difficult passages, and she started barking at me and yelled, 'Stop! Stop! No! No! No! That's all wrong! You ain't keeping the same tempo on that part you were playing before. You always slow down right there because you're afraid of it. That's silly! You know how to play it, and you play it well. Just high your britches up and play it up to tempo. Now start in again and watch my tail,' she ordered me," Jessie related. He could hear Billy on the other end of the line about to lose his lunch he was laughing so hard. Jessie continued, "I started in again, and Chloe's tail was better than any damn metronome. She held me to the tempo, and she was right. I was unconsciously slowing down on that part. After an hour and a half of grueling practice under Madame Chloe, I got it down to her satisfaction, and she gave me her barks of approval. I've never been more proud of myself in my life," Jessie said sincerely and laughed. Billy was going crazy laughing.
 
"That's a wonderful story. I can't wait to tell my grandmother and Ms. Zelma. Look! We can get a small chamber group at a moment's notice," Billy said excited, "We done bought a new, expensive battery of kettle-drums, and various percussion instruments, and the lot arrives tomorrow. We got two harps on order, so the players don't have to worry none about transporting them. I'm sure them musicians done played the piece before, but I could take a couple of hours Saturday morning and meet them at Uncle Tom's cabin to run through it wiff' 'um. It would be worth the time. Do you need a rehearsal with the group? Are you up for it, Cowboy?" he asked.

"Hell-far! Us real cowboys don't need no frick'n rehearsal. You should know that!" Jessie exclaimed and got Billy laughing again, "Hell, yes, I'm up for it. I'm comfortable with no rehearsal, but lemme' talk with Harlen and get back to you. Hey! And thanks again for the check, Cowboy," Jessie said and they disconnected.  

Billy got busy and sent some e-mails. He sent one to Daddy Byrd, the tuba player, and told him he needed only one tuba, but if his son wanted to come along he was welcome. He sent one to George Privet, the percussionist and told him to leave his kettle-drums at home, Billy bought a battery, and acquired some cymbals as well. He sent e-mails to the four horn players, four trumpeters, and three trombonist. He remembered, of the four bassoon players, one doubled on the contra-bass bassoon. He told him to bring it along with his bassoon. He sent him and the first chair an e-mail. He sent others to two clarinetists, three flautists; one who doubled as a piccolo player. He needed two bass players but figured Aunt Helen and Roz could handle those.

Last, but not least, he sent an e-mail to Clara Mae Bastiaen, the first chair oboist, and music librarian for the Philharmonic. Billy told her he needed three oboists with one doubling on the English Horn. She immediately sent him an e-mail; either Clara or her second chair could doubled on the English Horn, and all three would be at Uncle Tom's cabin at nine Saturday morning ready for another wonderful afternoon at the Daniels' ranch. She added they played the Stravinsky piece numerous times, and it was one of her favorites. She thanked Billy again for her check and generosity, and agreed to gather the parts and score.

The weekend was beginning to shape up better than Billy expected. At least he had one outstanding piece of fine music to feed his culturally starved herd of Irins who drank up human culture like it was a rare wine. With the state of the arts in the new theocratic republic at that period in time, Billy thought 'rare wine' was a pretty apt description. Billy got an inspiration and disappeared to the line cabin for the afternoon. Everyone was looking for him. Only his posse knew where he was, but they wouldn't tell anyone. They insisted he was fine, he just needed some time to be by himself for a while to take care of his creative muse. It took him longer than he thought, but when he was through, he got up from the wonderful old upright grand piano he bought from the Garretts, gathered his stuff, and took it to Roz and Aunt Helen. They took one look at the piece of music he composed and smiled from ear to ear.

"This will be sensational, Master Billy, but do you think the musicians can play it without a good deal of practice? Do you plan to just spring it on them?" Aunt Helen asked.

"No, if you get the solo parts deciphered from my hen scratching and written out in readable fashion, I'll send a file to the Byrds for them to print out. We'll see what happens," Billy said and smiled.

"We'll have it done right after supper. We have a new program which the computer can take a shot of your score and print out the parts and a more legible score for you. We may have to do some cut and paste editing to delete the impassioned X-ed out measures, but we'll have it done within a couple hours," Aunt Helen said.

"I would appreciate it. It will give our family a better picture of the wind instruments and their possibilities," Billy said.

"If one of those men can play the solo part, it will be no small accomplishment. The part for the second tuba is almost as grand and complicated as the solo, but I see what you're going for here. Every phrase the second tuba plays leads into the beginning of another portion of the solo like he's the father or good Sheppard leading his lamb. Here you have the second tuba support the melody in parallel thirds and at the speed you have marked, it will pass so quickly the mind won't be able to make the connection. The cadenzas you wrote for the first and last movement are wicked, and to include the second tuba as the go-between follows through your call and response to switching rolls and the soloist makes the calls at the end. Brilliant! I hope they don't blow their brains out," Aunt Helen said, and they shared a laugh.

"I like the title, 'Dancing Day' A Celebration Concerto for Two Tubas and Winds," Rox said, "I see you wrote parts for double bass," she added and smiled.

"I used the same complement of instruments as the Stravinsky piece, except I added another tuba and a harpsichord part. I thought a piano would be too bold, and I only wanted the equivalent of a continuo for the double basses. I'll ask Vox or Rox to play it with us," Billy said.

* * * * * * *
Billy called the Byrds and talked with them about the piece. He explained his reason for writing it, and what he hoped to accomplish. He told them there would be extra money for them if they could learn the piece before Saturday. Billy would leave it up to them who would play the solo part, and who would play the orchestral part; only, they might find the cadenzas and the ending of the piece a bit unusual, but he hoped they found them compelling. He didn't explain further, but they said they were certainly willing to try. The idea of premiering a new solo work for the baritone-tuba repertoire was an exciting prospect.  

It was Wednesday night and the usual extended family were invited to share supper with the Daniels' family. Bubba, Jack, and Grover came. Bubba brought Wilbur Peterson with him and Jack. For the time being, Wilbur Peterson was staying with Bubba, and they introduced him to those not-in-the-know about Billy's secret plan to surprise Elmer, Odie, and Pete Breedlove, as Wilbur Peterson a relative of Mrs. Andreeson and her grandson, Bobby. The Andreesons were staying with the Daniels' until Bubba and Jack could get a couple of rooms made up for them.

No one asked any questions. It weren't the cowboy way to be overly inquisitive of new folks. Wilbur and Bobby were polite and well-mannered. The cowboys assumed they came from good families. Grandmother Evangeline carried herself with a certain grace and dignity which could not be denied. She got along quite well with Kate, Zelma, and the rest of the ladies in the house.

The Breedloves came along with Mick Flinn and Perry Reed. Billy told Elmer to invite his boy, Pete, and Pete's buddy, Leon, and they came with the family. The Tates were invited and were fully represented. The Garretts were there with, Enoch, and Zelma Redbone. Of course Billy's immediate family were there. You can bet when a group like that got together talk will be lively.

Tron asked what they would be hearing at the Barnyard Concert on Saturday afternoon. "We got two solid confirmed performances lined up, and we're working on a third, depending on whether the soloist and his dad can learn the parts. The first on the program will be our new flautist, Clarice Wombat, Roz, and me playing Mozart's Sonata for flute, cello, and piano. It's time we introduced our lovely new Irin flute player to our family. She's been asking when she could play with us. Roz found a lovely Mozart trio, and we done played it together half-a-dozen times. I think we're ready. Clarice has played it several times with Roz and Aunt Helen playing piano, so I know Clarice and Roz are ready. I hope I am. I think I am. Therefore, I guess I am," Billy said, grinned, and winked at Bobby.

"Are you sure, you're sure, Sherlock?" Tron Garrett asked, responding to Billy's silliness.

"I'm am, Sam, but I still won't eat green eggs with ham," Billy tossed off. He got groans from everyone except little Bobby and Wilbur. They thought it was funny. Billy was on a tear. "Just think," he paused dramatically, "Clarice will be using her lovely lips to blow Mozart instead of passing hot air," Billy said and giggled like a wicked school boy. All talk stopped around the table until everyone got themselves together.

"That was terrible, Billy," Kate said shaking her head.

"I thought it was hilarious," Zelma Redbone checked her, and everyone laughed again.
 
"Maybe Clarice didn't deserve it, Mother, but her altered ego did," Billy's Uncle Nathan said.

"How is she doing?" Elmer asked.

"She's doing great. She practices her flute a couple of hours a day after she's done her work, and she seems to be an avid reader. She likes old nineteenth century romantic novels about Knights and damsels in distress. She volunteered to teach music and how to play the flute or piccolo to anyone wishing to learn," Billy said.

"Any flashbacks to the past," Odie asked.

"None we know about. She's been trained to discuss unsettling things or adjustment problems with her group leader, and if they can't help, to contact me. I ain't been breathing down her neck. I don't want to appear like I'm watching her. It might make her paranoid. I check in on her about once't a week, ask her how things are going, and if she's comfortable. I chat with her when she comes and goes to play with the ladies, and grandma's included her in several projects," Billy said, "On the other hand, I don't want her to get the idea she's not being included in the greater Highland Shire experience. That's why we're including her in a major work on Saturday. It will give her a chance to shine. She's very good," he added.

"By the way, Leon, why don't you bring your dad with you Friday afternoon or e'nin when you and Pete get through at the cow-lot. We's expecting the mother of our newest family member, Wilbur Peterson, to be with us for the weekend, and we plan to do a quick body and fender job on her. We been talking about forming a business arrangement with her. Her name is Nellie Peterson, and she's had a rough go in life. If you'd like to bring your dad, we'll be happy to see what we can do for him. And while we're at it, we just might give you one a them quickie Tijuana twenty-nine-ninety-five special tuck-and-roll truck-seat upholstery jobs on yore'self, Cowboy," Billy said and winked at him as the others laughed at his joke.

"What? You gonna' stuff the poor man with straw and cow-flop so when he gets wet he smells like a cow-lot?" Nathan asked.

"Hell, he's got two windows on his truck. He can roll 'um down and drive real fast until he dries. Won't bother him a bit," Billy shot back, and everyone laughed again. Leon laughed the hardest.

"I'd be happy to bring my dad, Master Billy. It would be a great boon for him and me, and take some of the responsibility off our watchers, but I ain't got nothing but good words for them; they ain't never complained once. I would be most grateful, and I know my dad will be, too," Leon said quietly.

"Not to worry. I promise, Leon, we'll only use the very freshest cow-flop," Billy said and laughed. Little Bobby and Wilbur laughed at him again. Billy was playing to his younger audience.

"Could we, please, talk about something else?" Kate said as monitor of her domain.

"Yes, ma'am, Grandma. Sorry, Leon, we's jes' having a little fun at your expense," Billy said but couldn't help grin.

"Don't bother me none. It's like water off'n a duck's back. I lived around cowboys all my life. I'm used to it," Leon replied.
 
* * * * * * *
The Byrd men received the files for the music Billy wrote and took them to a local print shop to have them enlarged. Billy even sent them a copy of the complete score, so they would know the entry cues from the other instruments. The two men poured over the score sitting around the table of their home with the other musical family members gathered around. Finally, Poppa Byrd let out a deep sigh and leaned back in his chair. "Amazing! This is simply amazing! It's breathtaking! I've never seen anything like it. Can you play it, Son?" he asked.

"This piece ain't as difficult as some of the modern crap we've played in the past, Pops. This is rooted in the classics. This stands on the shoulders of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Yet it's cutting edge modern neo-classical. Look at that right there! He's got four separate keys going at the same time, but musically, it makes perfect sense. You couldn't write it any other way and get the sound he's going for. Hell, the late string quartets of Beethoven? Musicologist are still trying to figure out the dominant key where some of the wilder passages rest as all four instruments are sawing away like a hard winter's coming and they gotta' cut up their instruments for firewood. With you to play backup and give me support, we can do it, Pops!" Junior Byrd said, paused for a moment and shook his head.

"Look at this melody, here, here, and here, Pops! I knew I heard if from someplace. It's the old cowboy tune, 'The Streets of Laredo' only someone playing it might recognize. Excuse me family, but this is a freak'n great piece of music. It's the work of a young genius. When music looks that good on the page, you can tell it will sound good. The cadenzas are the most unique I've ever seen written for any instrument. It's almost like he wrote it for us. And see his subtitle for the first movement, 'Like father, like son, we will build tomorrow.' I swear to my family, I will never make fun of Billy Daniels' cowboy speak again. Any man who can create something this wonderful is to be revered as an outstanding talent. What would you say, Pops? Is this an amalgam of Stravinsky, Hindemith, Copland, and Bartok, or what? Can you imagine the coup we will achieve if we pull this off, Dad?" he asked, "Not only for us but for our orchestra as well. I have to admit, and I think the rest of you will agree, for all his cowboy bull, Maestro Billy is a thousand times better conductor than that ass-hat clown we got now. I don't know where this will go, but if we make a good enough showing for ourselves and this man's music, this piece with become a must-hear across our country. It will put Maestro Billy on the music-map, and we will be in demand to play it," Junior Byrd said.

"Then, let's get to work, Son," Daddy Byrd said. They went to their basement and began to play. They practiced and played until they had to rub unguent on their lips. Still they played on and on until they were satisfied they could perform it from memory. They rested and practiced Thursday and Friday almost none stop except to eat and sleep. Saturday morning, they rested their lips until the rehearsal.

Billy sent the other parts to the other players so they could familiarize themselves with the music.

* * * * * * *
Bossman Randy came through a gate with his protector, Ludo, Friday morning early to have breakfast with the Daniels family, and his new brother, Bobby. You'd think Randy went away on a long trip and just returned; everyone was so glad to see him. He had a big hug and a sloppy wet buckaroo kiss for everyone including his new friend, whom he immediately started calling his 'Pard' for 'pardner' or 'partner.' Everyone picked it up, and Bobby became 'Pard' Andreeson. Bobby was thrilled. He shared with his great-grandmother he never liked the name 'Bobby.' Bobby was who he was when he was trapped inside a dysfunctional body. He wanted a new name anyway, and his little brother, Bossman Randy, gave him a real cowboy name.

At nine o'clock Randy opened a gate to the garage behind Nellie's Cantina, and he, his Pard, Billy, and his posse, including Wilbur, walked through the rippling wall of blue free-electrons. They found Nellie Peterson, Little Willie Whistlepie, and Gower Flint waiting for them. Gower came down to the garage just to say 'hello' and thank Master Billy again for his refurbishment. Gower stayed behind to see to the Cantina, and waved as the gathered party walked back through the gate. It was an overcast, rainy day in Northern Oregon, but they stepped out into the bright light shining outside the old barn in Texas. Nellie was overwhelmed at her first sight of the ranch, and the people going and coming for their Friday morning duties. Billy explained, everyone worked until eleven on Friday mornings and then knocked off for the weekend, unless they were on food preparation or other maintenance rotation.

The ladies of the house, Kate, Zelma, Roz, Dorcas, Evangeline, Aunt Helen, Kayla Rutherford, and several Irin helpers were waiting to meet Wilbur's mother. Abigale McMartin just arrived with her husband and their boys a few minutes earlier. Nellie didn't know what to expect, but the women looked wonderful, healthy, and attractive. Billy introduced her to them and told her to get acquainted. He and his men had some work to do, and they would join them for lunch.

"Gower said you fledged. Where are your wings, Son?" Nellie asked Wilbur.

Wilbur looked at Billy. "Gimme' your shirt, Son," he said and winked at Wilbur. The young cowboy did as his master told him, and to his mother's astonishment disappeared, then reappeared almost as fast with his wonderful new set of wings. They were a light power blue color, changing to deeper blues, and finally deep indigo hue; almost black toward the tips of his feathers around the edges.

His mother was in awe. Nellie was stunned. "You look wonderful, Wilbur -- so handsome, and all grown up. I'm so proud of you," she said and threw her arms around him for a hug and a kiss.

"We don't go around like this all the time, Mom. I'm just a junior bird-man for right now. Master Billy trusted me enough to enhance me and give me a set of wings. Now I have to prove myself and earn them. I don't wing-up unless Master Billy gives me permission. I got a lot to learn so's I won't hurt myself or others if I don't know what I'm doing," Wilbur said and smiled.

"My boy is an angel. It just seems so right, Wilbur," Nellie said.

"I better change back now, Mom, and leave my wings in the cloakroom. I'll be right back," Wilbur said and vanished to return in an instant.

Billy handed him his shirt and smiled at him. "You're get'n pretty good at it, Cowboy," Billy complimented him, and Wilbur beamed.

Billy decided to wait until afternoon and evening do any alterations on anyone. Since Tom McMartin arrived, Billy asked him if he might consent to let him store his old upright grand piano he kept in the line-cabin for a couple of weeks. Billy had plans to build a bigger and better line-cabin with a number of perks to make his and his immediate family's lives a little more comfortable.

"Sure! No problem. When do you want to do it?" Tom asked.

"If we take time this morning to transport it, then it will be ready for rehearsal tomorrow morning, and our soloist will have a piano to practice with the orchestra," Billy replied.

"You having the orchestra out again?" Tom asked.

"Only the wind section this time. It's all we need for the concerto Jessie is playing, and for the concerto for tubas I composed yesterday afternoon," Billy replied.

"You wrote a concerto in one afternoon?" Tom asked in awe.

"Bach wrote a new cantata for soloist, chorus, and orchestra every week," Billy replied and grinned.

Tom just shook his head and put his arm around Billy's shoulder. "Let's angel-flight your piano, Cowboy. I can't wait to hear your composition," he said, "Do I get to sit in on rehearsals?" he asked.

"Sure. Anyone in the family may come, and I expect a few will," Billy said.       

Billy told Wilbur to stay close to him for the morning, and he could help move a piano three hundred miles across Texas to a big warehouse his big brother, Tom McMartin, owned. Wilbur had no idea what he was talking about, but he made up his mind he wouldn't ask questions. Everything Billy ever told him came true, and while he might not understand at the moment, he was sure he would soon enough.

The men winged-up in the barn and transported to the barn at the line-cabin. Wilbur was wowed by the trip. He was learning to transport from place to place, but Billy hadn't had the time to teach him everything. He thought if Wilbur went along with them to the warehouse, the young man would get the feel of transporting objects from one place to another.

The cowboy-angels went into the small storage room in the back. Everyone placed a hand on the huge piano, and they transported it three hundred miles in the blink of an eye to the McMartin warehouse. The chairs were still set up from the previous week's rehearsal. They moved the piano in place and transported back to the barn at the ranch.

When they returned to the ranch the ladies were getting lunch ready for the family cowboys. Everyone sat down and had a nice meal. It was just the family with a couple of guests from Oregon. The Breedlove family with Pete and Leon wouldn't come until later when they could come together as a family. The same applied to the Tates. Buster and Everett wouldn't come until Will came home from work, and they came together as a family.
 
After lunch the ladies prepared Nellie Peterson for her trip in the Daniels' way-back machine. They decided the barn and the slave processing room was no place for a lady. They wanted Nellie's refurbishment done in the ballroom on the third floor. They asked Balthazar to get the anti-grav gurney for them, and insisted it would do splendidly for a lay-me-down table for Master Billy and his cowboy-angels to gather about.

Nellie brought along a nice lavender peignoir which the ladies urged her to wear. Billy and his posse were accommodating and waited patiently until the ladies prepared Nellie. Billy decided Wilbur should be one of the cowboy-angels to gather the life-force from the universe to restore his mother. Wilbur could hold her hand and bring her comfort.

The refurbishing of Nellie Peterson went off without a hitch. Billy and Wilbur agreed she didn't look a day over thirty. The ladies reassured her she looked wonderful, but it wasn't until Nellie Peterson could stand before the large mirror in her room did she come to realize the special gift the Daniels' family bestowed upon her, and she wept. Kate and the rest of the ladies were there to offer their support and comfort.

On their way back to the barn to check out Little Willie Whistlepie's progress from the previous week, Billy asked Willie if he had thoughts about any modifications or enhancements he might like for his sexual conundrum. "I suppose I'm the only one not bothered by my sexual condition. That ain't true, neither. Your wonderful giant, Gog, had no problem with me. He was a wonderful host and partner for the evening I shared his bed. He has a tongue what can perform miracles," Willy allowed, "I see no need to change my current status, but I would ask for a couple of minor considerations," he said.

"Name it, Trucker," Billy said.

"Can you make me sterile and stop my menstruation periods until I might decide whether I want to have a child?" he asked.

"I can do that," Billy replied, "What else?" he asked.

"All the men I go with like to eat at the 'Y,' and I'm excessively hairy around my private parts," Willy lamented.

"No problem, we can reduce it or remove it completely," Billy said.

"I don't want no hair down there, front or back," Willie said.

"Done, Trucker. Off with your clothes, I'll taste your blood again, we'll see how you're coming along, and take care of them other things for you," Billy said in a gracious manner.

"I don't think you could make me feel any better, Master Billy, but the small considerations we discussed will go a long way to make me a happy trucker," Willie said and smiled, "I'm most grateful for what you and your men done for us, sir," he added.

"You're welcome. Don't hesitate to discuss anything with me, Brother. If I can make your life a little easier, I'm here for you," Billy assured him.

* * * * * * *
The Breedlove family arrived almost at the same time. Pete and Leon brought Leon's dad to have supper with them. They were early enough Billy and his men took them immediately to the slave processing room, healed the irascible old man, and refurbished him to about the age of fifty. When they were finished he was no longer irascible, but humble and full of awe for the mysterious cowboy-angels surrounding him.

His son welcomed him back to reality, but he wasn't so sure. He watched as Billy and his posse worked on his son. While they worked on Leon, Billy received a mental message from a higher source which simply said, << Give Leon Tollefson the full-monty, >> and that was it. Billy did as he was instructed and gave Leon a full enhancement. Oatie and Elmer were around Billy so much they knew what he was doing, looked at each other, and wondered, but they didn't say a word. They looked at Billy and smiled. Billy nodded and returned their smile with a mischievous grin. << "T'weren't my idea, guys, >> he sent to Oatie and Elmer, shaking his head, << I do what them voices tell me, >> he added.

"We understand, Son," Elmer said softly, "We won't leave him alone until it's accomplished," he added.

"Good!" exclaimed Billy quietly.

"Until what's accomplished?" Leon asked.

"Your transformation," Oatie said quietly.

"Oh, my God. That's way more'n I expected," Leon said like he was almost frightened.

"Why ain't I surprised, Leon? Your humility is your strength, Cowboy. It precedes you like a sword and shield to protect your suit of armor. Never lose your stable sense of self. Relax, Buckaroo, them ancients must think highly of you. If they have faith in you, that's all I need to do their bidding," Billy said to calm him.

"Then you must know the depth of my thanksgiving, Master Billy," Leon said calm and collected.

"To the core, Cowboy," Billy replied leaned over and kissed Leon on his forehead.

"I'll never wash that spot, sir," Leon said.

"You better! The last four I kissed turned green, and they's hopping around down on the river bank," Billy said and got a laugh out of everyone.

"You were right. That was some pretty fresh cow-flop," Leon said and everyone laughed again, "Is there anything special I should know, sir?" Leon asked.

"Naw, your new family will take care of you. They know the drill. They done been through it. You're safe in their hands, Cowboy. I got faith in them," Billy replied and grinned.

"Nothing to it! We won't let you out of our sight for the next twenty-four hours, Pardner," Jethro spoke up, and the rest of the Breedloves agreed with him.

* * * * * * *
Bubba and Jack were there to lend their support to the Breedlove family and the Tollefsons. They wanted no suspicion as to their whereabouts. They talked with Billy right after they arrived and mutually decided they would bring Stan and Cletus over between eleven-thirty and noon the next morning. The Daniels decided not to serve lunch until one o'clock.

Supper that night was almost magical. Everyone was in a great mood looking forward to the coming Barnyard Concert, and the official conjoining of several of their family members the next day. The Breedloves were thrilled to hear Nathan and Tron would be joining each other as well and Enoch Redbone and Moss Garrett.

Billy already called and made arrangements with Harlen and Jessie; he and his younger posse, the Bossman, Wilbur, and Pard Andreeson would come for them and their family at six in the morning to gather them to have breakfast at the Daniels' ranch. Afterward, they would gate to Uncle Tom's Cabin for a rehearsal with members of the orchestra. Billy told Jessie about storing his old upright grand at the warehouse.

"It will be perfect for a rehearsal. I was wondering if I might play the Stravinsky on the Steinway, Billy?" he asked.

"No problem. I'll have my men swap them out after supper. Do you need a wake up call in the morning, Pod'na?" Billy asked Jessie.

"Are you kidding?" Jessie asked and fell out laughing, "No, I assure you, that won't be necessary. Daffy and Chloe won't let us sleep when they know they're going to the ranch to see their friends," Jessie replied. Billy heard a deep bark confirming what Jessie said, and they shared a laugh.

"See you in the barn at six," Billy said, and they disconnected.

Billy no sooner disconnected when another call came through from the Byrds. "Hello, you got the saddle tramp of the Daniels' ranch," he said.

"Saddle tramp my ass!" he heard the younger Byrd say and laughed. "Not in my book, Cowboy," he added.

"Did you find my music to your liking, Mr. Tuba Man?" Billy asked.

"My dad and I don't have words to tell you how impressed we are, sir. The reason we's calling we want to know if we can meet an hour earlier with you and your family at the McMartin warehouse. I already cleared it with the others, and they're willing to be there with us at eight. We're worried we might need a bit more time rehearsing to get it right, Maestro Billy. It would be a downright criminal shame on our part not to do justice to your masterpiece," he said.

"Masterpiece?" Billy asked, "I don't think so, but I bow to you and your dad's undeserved compliment. I'm deeply flattered. I don't see any problem meeting you folks at eight. We'll be there with refreshments and our family," Billy said.

"Oh, and one other thing, Maestro Billy, the rest of our family want to tag along to the ranch. May they join us? They know only dad and I will be paid for this gig and we're willing to pay for their meal," Junior Byrd said.

"Nonsense! Of course they may come. They been to the ranch. They know what to expect, but any treats or meals are on the Daniels' family. What kind of hosts would we be to charge them when they're kind enough to share their dad and brother with us?" Billy asked.

"We would appreciate it, and thank you for your generosity, sir. We hope you won't be disappointed," he said.

"I have no fear. You and your dad won't let me down. I wouldn't have written the piece if I didn't think you men could handle it," Billy said.

They said their 'goodbyes' and disconnected.

* * * * * * *
The next morning was a madhouse at the Daniels' ranch. Hank and Buck took Wilbur and Pard under their wings to have them help with the refreshments. They had five huge boxes of freshly baked 'Hosanna' cakes on a table waiting for Billy to bless them. They had such a great response from the folks in Oregon, Billy thought it might help the members of the orchestra who didn't receive any enhancements from the Daniels' family the last time. They were set up and ready when the first of the orchestra members arrived, and it was the Byrd family. Big daddy, Wilbur Byrd, and his son, Wil junior; wife Selma; sister Willamina; daughters Martha, Jane, and Sarah or Baby Byrd; and their cousin, Gerry Thomas.

On their heels came the rest led by Clara Mae Bastiaen. She immediately went to Daffy and Chloe where she was smothered in large doggie kisses and love. "I brought you each a treat, my darlings" she gushed as she reached into her carry-all bag and brought out two giant doggie-bone treats. Daffy and Chole gobbled them up and thanked her graciously, insisting she didn't have to do that. Jessie grinned and shot a look at them what said they were hypocrites; he knew better. They grinned at him, and turned their backs. That only made Jessie laugh more.

Everyone got something to drink and a Hosanna Cake. Billy was surprised. Most of the members opted for the sweet herbal spiced tea. Billy thought the combination of the blessed Hosanna Cakes and the fortified tea just might do the trick. He encouraged Jessie to have some, too.

The Daniels family were already setting up chairs to observe and hear the rehearsal. They came to greet the orchestra members like old friends. There was much love and good feelings in the air. After everyone had a bite and got set up, Billy stepped to the podium. The small orchestra applauded for him and Billy blushed. That made them laugh and further endeared him to them.

"Let's start with the Stravinsky. I apologize to our soloist he has to perform on my old practice piano I bought from my neighbors some years ago for a hun'nert dollars," Billy said.

"No apology necessary, Maestro. I love this old piano. It has character," Jessie said.

Billy told the Byrd men to both play the tuba part. "You will be just doubling the bass, and to my way a' think'n, like cowbells, you c'ain't never have too much bass," he said and laughed. The Byrds smiled, nodded, and agreed with him. They started in and Billy stopped them about sixteen bars into the piece. "The beginning is written to be pretentious and somber, but it ain't no funeral dirge. Let's try for a little more sprightly step but maintain the pretension and sobriety," he said. They began again and responded to his wishes. "Yes!" he yelled out to them, "That's much better! That's what I want!" he said.

After the final chord of the introduction, Billy gave the down beat. Jessie and the orchestra exploded into a neo-baroque orgasm which lasted until the very last note. It was perfect. Billy couldn't have asked for more. The slow movement sang until it brought tears to Billy's eyes, and with the last movement, all Hell broke lose until they came down to a recapitulation of the pretentiously somber opening theme from the first movement.

It was like the fun was over and now was the time to get serious again until the last note was played. Billy gave another downbeat, and the last eight bars of the piece always stuns an audience. It pulls out all the stops and is one last jubilant dance, flipping the bird to formality, and a race to the finish for the piano and orchestra. It thumbs its nose at pretension and staid sobriety with hilarity and good feelings.

Billy likened it to sitting on the toilet not expecting great things, but then, you experience the perfect dump. It brought the house down. The gathered family were on their feet applauding, stomping boots, throwing hats, and yelling; also many barks of appreciation and encouragement from Daffy and Chloe for their master.

Billy was stunned by the response from the orchestra and told them so. "I don't know what got into you people, but that was fantastic. You play that well at the ranch, and we might have to bring out armed guards to protect you folks from too much love from our people. They will take you to their hearts," he complimented them, "And what can I say about our soloist? I have never heard this piece played better. Damned if that old piano ain't got a soul still left in her. Jessie, you were beyond fantastic. Madame Chloe you taught your protégé well," Billy said speaking to Chloe and she barked. Billy shared Jessie's story to his family and the orchestra about Madame Chloe's metronome, and they enjoyed a good laugh.

Since none of the Breedloves were at the rehearsal, except Vox and Roxanne Humana, Billy felt confident enough to confided to the orchestra the significance of the day and the following Sunday when four couples would be getting married. "One of our own family members, Miss Roxanne Humana, who will be playing the harpsichord for our second concerto, will be marrying the undisputed patriarch of the Breedlove family, the bull of the hill country, Elmer Breedlove. I'm about to reveal a secret our lovely harpsichordist knows nothing about, but I know she and her brother have probably deduced there is a small plot brewing within our greater family. I would trust my life to her and her brother, and I know she will say nothing to the rest of the family.

"We located the long lost son, grandson, and brother to the Breedlove family," Billy watched a knowing smile cross Roxanne's pretty face, and she grabbed for her kerchief to wipe away a tear, "You probably recall the Breedlove name from the great athlete and football player for the University of Texas team about ten years ago, Dr. Oatie Breedlove. It is his younger brother, David Stanley Breedlove. Stan and his husband will be with us this afternoon, and the family will be reunited.

"It is to be a surprise. Stan and his husband, Cletus, are staying with our close neighbor down the road apiece and they are suppose to arrive with him somewhere around noon. I wanted to say a word to prepare you for any hullabaloo you might not understand, and being cowboys, God only knows what might happen. Us mere mortals ain't got no clue," Billy said and grinned. "Now are you ladies and gentlemen ready for a reading of my first composition?" Billy asked.

"We're ready, Maestro," Wilbur Byrd shouted firmly.

"Come forward, Mr. Byrd, and make your stand," Billy said and smiled.

"We got us a Wilbur, too. Son, give Mister Byrd a hand with his music stand," Billy said, and young Wilbur Peterson was at the man's side in an instant. He carefully carried Wil's stand to the front, and set it up for him.

"I want to try one complete read through of the first movement. I want to see how you folks feel the music before I make an ass of myself and tell you you're wrong. My experience is, sometimes the way a musician plays a part may be better than what I was trying for, and who am I to diminish natural talent. So feel free to interpret my music as you feel it. Then we'll go into negotiations," Billy said and grinned.   

They played almost all the way through the first movement when Billy stopped them. "Clarinets? Is there an eighth rest before the last two notes in that last phrase on your parts?" he asked.

"No, sir, Master Billy," they replied.

"I'm sorry, it's a copy error. It's suppose to go de-ta-de-ta, de-ta-de-ta, rest, da-ta. Like the last two notes are a stinger at the end of a phrase; sort of a double exclamation point, if you will," he said, and they tried it again. "Great!" he shouted, "go on," he urged them. They came to the cadenza for the first movement, and Billy stopped conducting altogether. It confused Wil, and he stopped playing. Billy turned to him, "This is you and your dad's time to shine, Bubba Byrd. It's meant for you to emote and choose your on time. Play it as fast or as slow as you want, but just keep it steady and sure; that's all I ask, and I will pick up my baton when you and your dad make the final double trill," Billy said.

Wil put his horn to his lips and began the cadenza. Billy motioned for his dad to stand, and he did. It was obvious to everyone, the Byrd men put a great deal of time and thought into this part of the concerto, and they knocked it out of the park. After the double tuba trill, Billy gave the down beat for the rest of the orchestra to come in, and they played the unflagging baroque-like rhythm to the very end. There was a stunned silence, and then, everyone went bananas cheering and applauding for the Byrd men. They were wonderful. They deserved their praise. Billy shook Wil Junior's hand and walked to his dad, Wilbur Senior, and shook his hand. "I knew you men could do it, Mr. Byrd. That was perfect, and you can't improve on perfection. Play it that well, and I will be a happy composer," Billy assured him.

"It was a pleasure, Maestro. I'm looking forward to the performance," Wilbur said.

They played the second movement and Billy only had one small correction. The last movement wasn't as difficult as the first, but it was incredibly busy, and while the final cadenza wasn't as difficult as the first technically, it was by far the greater calling of the two for musicianship. Billy told Poppa Byrd, in the middle of the double cadenza, he wanted the glissando to the central note to be a loud wail, like the cry of a great beast or some imaginary creature in distress calling out to its mate it knows it may never see again. "I don't want clean and pretty. I want anger, frustration, and hurt from deep in your gut, Daddy Byrd. Pull it up, and let it out for all to hear!" Billy explained.

Senior Byrd couldn't have responded better. It was exactly what Billy wanted, and he complimented the men for their musicianship and technique. Billy was satisfied they could play it, and play it well, but the orchestra asked for one more run-through. Billy agreed, but he placed a stipulation. "The cadenzas couldn't be more perfect. We'll play up to the cadenzas; then, pick up right after. I don't want these men to over-do. I want them fresh and strong for the performance," he said, and they appreciated his concern for the soloists. They did one more run-through. It was smoother and even better than the first time. Billy was ecstatic and the orchestra was proud of themselves. Clara Mae and the others couldn't praise the piece enough. They were as convinced as the Byrds, it was a young masterpiece.

"It's a perfect companion piece for the Stravinsky, Billy," Jessie said, "It certainly can stand on its own, but in combination with the Stravinsky, it's dynamite," he added.

"Billy couldn't have been more pleased with his three family members who joined the orchestra, Aunt Helen, Roz, and Roxanne Humana, and he gave each a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Vox decided the piece was a little too difficult for him, and he would have to put in more practice than he had time for with such a short notice. Roxanne sat down and read through Billy's piece the first time without a mistake. However, Vox was responsible for re-tuning the old upright grand for the rehearsal, and he did an excellent job. Billy couldn't love them more. They each brought different, unique talents to everyone's life. The real winner, though, was the great bull of the hill country.

The rehearsal was over. It went better than anyone expected and they got back to the ranch earlier than they thought they might. It was around nine-thirty. Billy explained to the orchestra they would see many more cowboys at the ranch than the previous Saturday because it was sort of a homecoming for his extended family of slaves who were out-stationed to work at other ranches in their community. Everyone but a few, skeleton crews, came home to enjoy the food, get together, and entertainment. The next homecoming, in about a month, they would rotate duty, so no one would have to stay behind more than once a year.

Billy decided he would load up the wagon and take dinner and Barnyard Concert treats to the wild watchers and daddy long-legs. He had more volunteers than he could use, but he agreed to take Daddy Byrd and Junior Byrd with them. Billy also made sure young Wilbur, Pard, and Randy were with them. He also took along his complement of family watchers and several of the giants including Gog, Thor, Zeus, Odin, Erin, and Willie Whistlepie. Willie and Gog bonded as good friends. The watchers pushed the daddy long-legs before them to get their food and treats first. Leather Face was looking better than he had in a while, and he was wearing a new clean shirt and older but serviceable overalls.

Billy looked at Randy and winked. << Your doing? >> he tickled Randy.

<< Yeah, I was worried about him and gave Ludo more of my uncle's old clothes. Mom was gonna' take them to the thrift store, but I begged her to give them to me for the daddy long-legs. I got more, but he don't have no place to store shit, so I'll just try to keep him clothed and warm. Don't tell mom, but I been let'n him and his watcher buddy sleep in the loft of our old barn during the cold weather, >> Randy said.

<< Have I told you lately, I love you, you little fart? >> Billy asked and laughed.

<< No, but even a little fart responds well to a little love, >> Randy replied.

<< Well, I do! I love you very much, >> Billy said, << You got a good heart and honest love for your fellow man. Don't chu' never lose it, Son, >> he added.

<< With you as a role model, how could I? >> Randy asked returning the compliment.

After everyone got food and treats the men loaded up the wagon and headed back for the main compound. They got to the main road and were just moving out of sight of the river. They could see the folks gathered in the compound, when suddenly there was a big hubbub going on down at the river.

The watchers and daddy long-legs were standing and acting agitated like something was scaring them. They were trying to make up their minds to stand or flee from something coming up the river. Billy was about to turn the wagon around when he saw what was bothering them. It was huge saucer shaped disk coming down the river very slowly like it was floating on the air currents.

It made no sound whatsoever as it slowly rose a little higher, turned a bit, and headed inland toward the big house on the ranch. It was a beautiful craft made of shining metal. It had a ring of colored lights which ran around its perimeter and would change colors as it went along. It was moving at a snail's pace almost frozen in mid-air.

Billy shook the reins to the team and hollered "giddy-up" to them. They started up again. It was as if the saucer was pacing the wagon and was in no hurry to go anywhere; like whoever was inside was observing the creatures below. Just about the time the wagon got to the compound the big ship made another slight correction and floated stately over the old barn and the Barnyard Concert stage.

Billy handed the reins to one of his men and told him to unharness the ponies and let them roam. Elmer Breedlove and Oatie followed by Jethro came running up to him. Elmer held a pair of binoculars in his hand and was trying to get a good look at it. Suddenly he broke up laughing. The others looked at him like he was daft.

"You think we's being invaded by aliens, Master Bull?" Billy asked.

"I don't know; unless they's aliens from Texas. Here, you take a look at the bumper sticker on the bottom, Son," Elmer said and handed the binoculars to Billy. Billy adjusted the focus to his eyes and saw the sticker Elmer was talking about. It was a Lone Star flag with the words: Don't Mess With Texas.

Billy broke up laughing. "Who could it be?" Billy exclaimed.

"I ain't sure, but I got my suspicions," Elmer declared.

About that time the saucer made one complete rotation and started to hum. The hum got louder and louder until Billy recognized it as the drone on the lowest note on a battery of double basses when suddenly the air was filled with the sound of trumpets playing the first three notes to the opening theme of Richard Stauss's 'Thus Sprach Zarathustra.'

The trumpets were followed by a huge orchestral answer with a tympani playing very loud. The theme was repeated the second time by a battery of trumpets and was much louder than the first as the giant saucer slowly began to move to the center of the compound and back away toward the exit road down the hill so it could get a good look at everyone, and they could get a good look at it.

The next couple of repetitions of the theme and answer from the orchestra damn near blew out the windows to the big house and rattled the crystal in Kate's china cabinet. At the very end of the fanfare, the saucer stopped completely and just silently hung there in mid air. The silence was almost as deafening as the music, and made everyone feel uneasy.

Billy looked around and everyone was speculating about what the thing was, and who could be responsible; except, Aunt Helen and Bossman Randy. They were holding each other laughing their asses off. At that point Billy knew something was rotten in Denmark.

"I just love a subtle entrance," Billy said drolly to Elmer, and the big cowboy double over laughing.

"Is this your doing?" Elmer asked.

"No! I swear to you, Master Bull. I don't know nothing about this, but I got me a feel'n I know who would. Look over there at Aunt Helen and our Bossman. They ain't stopped laughing since we seen that thing. You think it's one of Brad Kirkendall's projects?" Billy asked.

"Don't know. Could be. I guess we'll just have to wait and see," he replied.

The next thing the saucer did was play the five tones from Spielberg's movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." It didn't stop there. Someone carefully recorded and edited the landing of the mother ship scene from the movie score by John Williams and played it even more loudly than the Strauss fanfare.

It was so loud it loosened old fillings in some folks' teeth. It could be felt through your boots like the sound was coming up through the ground. Finally, when the music came to a halt and the final bleeps and farts from a contra-bassoon played, the craft slowly lowered until its flat bottom came to rest in the dust of the compound.

Whoever was inside was playing it to the dramatic hilt. It just sat there for a few minutes looking as foreboding and ominous as a flying jukebox can. The people from the orchestra didn't know what the Hell was going on and looked at Billy. Billy shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, open his hands and showed his palms in mock surrender to them, "Remember what I told you folks! Expect anything," he hollered to them and they grinned.

Slowly, the side of the saucer opened and a stairway folded out and down to rest on the ground. Smoke or strange vapors poured from the inside making it look all the more foreboding and mysterious. Unknown to the observers, it was a cheap five gallon plastic bucket laundry detergent came in with a big chunk of dry ice covered with water.

It was dark inside. You barely could see movement through the evil looking vapors pouring forth from around the door, when Billy managed to make out a cowboy hat, and caught the first glimpse of Cletus Abernathy as he appeared in the opening grinning like a Cheshire Cat. Following Cletus, holding his hand, was his beloved husband David Stanley Breedlove.

"Well, stone them crows, if'n h'it ain't the Breedlove family prodigal! Blow up them trumpets and kill the fatted calf! Jump'n Jehosaphats, it's my grandson!" Elmer cried out, and broke into a run to the men. Oatie and Pete Breedlove were right behind him. It was a reunion to top all reunions. There wasn't a dry eye in the compound. The members of the orchestra were deeply moved. Stan stood tall and proud when he introduced the big hairy Cajun man to one and all, as his husband, Cletus Abernathy.

Randy came running up to Billy giggling and laughing his ass off at the look on his face. "Got-cha!" Randy exclaimed.

"You lovable little monster! I take back ever' damn word I said down to the river!" Billy exclaimed, grabbed him up, and planted a big kiss on his cheek.

"Nuh-unh! You can't take it back. You done already said it. I couldn't tell you about it. You can't never keep no secrets noways," Randy leveled his big brother with a stunning quadruple negative construction which he landed on one skate. They shared a laugh and another hug.

"Was the sound system another one of your apps?" Billy asked.

"Yeah, it's a good'un, ain't it? Damn near blew me socks off. Aunt Helen and me, we picked the music. Did you like it, Brother?" Randy asked.

"No! I frick'n loved it! It was spectacular, to say the least. I almost shit my Wranglers, Ramrod," Billy declared, and they laughed again. Slowly, but surely, everyone came around to congratulate Stan and Cletus and wish the Breedloves well. Bubba and Jack finally exited the saucer with big shit-eating grins on their faces. They were really proud of themselves, and they had a right to be.

"What made you think of this?" Billy asked Bubba.

"It was one of my Uncle Brad's inventions and Aunt Helen taught me and Jack how to operate it. We been practicing flying it for several weeks until we felt confident we could handle it. We wanted to do something spectacular so we brought in the experts, Aunt Helen and the Bossman, to help us plan it. From the look on everyone's faces, I think we succeeded. Can we park it in the barn until e'nin, and then we'll fly it back to its resting place under cover of dusk?" Bubba ask.

"Sure, but we put a loop on the satellite feeds for the weekend so it's got the same picture over and over what ain't got nothing unusual on it. We been doing it for sometime now, after an admonishment from Ramrod Randy," Billy said.

"That kid is a genius, Brother. He knew exactly what we wanted, and him and Aunt Helen are dangerous together," Bubba said, and they shared a laugh.

Billy and his men opened the doors to the largest barn. Bubba and Jack carefully flew the saucer-mobile inside. Everyone was in awe of the craft. It was beautiful and certainly unusual.

"You wouldn't see nothing like that at Disneyland," Poppa Byrd told his family, and they laughed.
   
A great feeling of togetherness came over everyone. Billy, once again, shared the day with the folks on Captain Nick's ship because they would be hosting everyone the next day for Dancing Day. From the biggest, most unusual creatures, to the smallest, everyone seemed to join together in a great feeling of love and contentment. Billy was proud of his extended family and for the first time in his life he felt like he was a rich man, but not in a monetary way. According to his financial board, he was more wealthy at that moment than all the Kings of history combined; including those of the Roman Catholic Church. He kept asking himself: Why does a cowboy need money? And the answer came to him, to provide for and protect your family.

* * * * * * *
The Barnyard Concert and Hoedown was one of the most successful Billy and his family put on in a good while. Clarice Wombat and her flute turned out to be a sensation. She performed brilliantly. Billy and Roz let her shine and gave her the lion's share of attention from the audience. She made her mark. Even the flute players from the orchestra complimented her and praised her performance.

Next on the program was Jessie and the orchestra playing the Stravinsky Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments. Jessie was right to have asked to play the Steinway. It was more suited to the Stravinsky, and he played it masterfully. Madame Chloe was proud of her student and lavished him with sloppy kisses and much praise. The audience called for him to play it again, but Billy promised they would repeat the piece at another concert. They must move on.

Billy explained the next piece would be a composition he wrote for the occasion of his people conjoining together the following day. Billy called it a Dancing Day Celebration Concerto for Two Tubas and Chamber Orchestra. He asked, if it wasn't to the audience's liking, they throw only soft items at him afterward. Everyone laughed. Billy didn't know what happened, but the orchestra played even more brilliantly than they did in rehearsal. Billy thought it must have been from the Hosanna Cakes, Texas Tea, and the good wholesome foods they served for dinner. He never considered it also might be because they had come to love him for his talent and overlooked his somewhat crude cowboy ways. Then there were those he and his family worked together to bring around right. They had something to celebrate. They had someone to believe in. They had someone to love.

The Byrd men became instant heroes, not only to their own family, but Billy Daniels' larger extended family. The audience threw correctness to the winds at the end of the first movement and gave the tuba players a standing ovation. Billy grinned and brought Daddy Byrd forward to take a bow with his son. Hardened cowboys were seen to pull out their bandannas to wipe a tear away at the end of the lovely second movement. But at the end of the last movement, everyone was on their feet again, and there came such a roar from the audience, the orchestra was almost frightened. Everyone went bananas applauding, cheering, whistling, stomping boots, and throwing their hats onto the stage. The Byrds took bow after bow with Billy and alone. Billy had the orchestra stand and they received a huge standing ovation. Billy made his mark on the music world and announced to one and all he was a budding new talent to be reckoned with.     

The second part of the program began with Billy telling the story of a confused young man caught in the middle of a family war who knew his sympathies and allegiance belonged to his brother and granddad, but he was trapped in a rigid, unbending, ultra-conservative family who would not tolerate any deviation from their narrow definition of normal. Billy didn't have to elaborate. Everyone in Billy's family knew who and what he was talking about.

"To come 'out' to his family would have been social suicide. He saw what happened to his big brother, so he kept to himself, sought refuge and found acceptance within the Cajun family of one of his best buddies in high school. He fell in love with them and their music. He wanted to play the fiddle. His Cajun family taught him the basics, but when he asked his mother to buy him a cheap fiddle, she refused claiming only long-haired perverts played the violin. So what does one do when a passion runs deep? He learns everything he can about the instrument, and makes his own fiddle out of an old wine box, but he doesn't stop there. He works on it for several years. It becomes a passion for him to get the sound he wants; he tears it down and rebuilds it numerous times until he gets it just right.

"After high school he goes off to war in the Middle East and leaves his beloved fiddle with his surrogate adopted family. He meets another rather large Cajun man who can play a squeeze box so fine he can cause the angels to cry. I know because I seen him do it," Billy declared and got a laugh from his audience. "They get hitched to each other and when he returns to visit his Cajun family, he learns his best bud, his Cajun brother, was presumed dead but his body was never found. It broke his heart. When the family tried give his precious fiddle back to him, so he might play with his husband, he refused. He told them to keep it. He would never play a fiddle again.

"Fortunately, for us, we found his long lost brother, and he is one of our regular Texas Barnyard Hoedown Players, Etienne Boudreaux. This spring we united the brothers, and our beloved Coo-zone 'Veed took up his fiddle again. David is Stanley Breedlove's first name and Cajun love shortened it to 'Veed.' I could go on, but I won't. What's past is gone and we must put it behind us. We must live for today, for tomorrow, and work together to make our world a better place for everyone. So, without further ado, I give you Coo-zone 'Veed' and his husband, the incomparable, Coo-zone Cleet!" Billy yelled and everyone began to applaud the two men as they walked on stage.

Stan walked to the microphone, he looked out at the audience, and smiled, "It's good to be home," he said, and they gave him a round of applause. "I ain't too good with words or speeches. I let my music speak for me," he said. Stan put his fiddle to his chin and hollered, "Stomp you boot, Daddy, and let's show these folks some Cajun love!" Cletus stomped his boot, and they took off like a two rockets on the Fourth of July.

Bubba was right. Their week of practice and playing for his slaves mellowed and perfected their music. Elmer, Oatie, and Pete Breedlove never heard Stan play his fiddle before. He never brought it home and only played it with the Boudreaux family. The three men were reduced to tears to witness and hear the talent their younger family member possessed. They were more than stunned. They were devastated and angered they never got to share Stan's talent with him before. The son, grandson, and brother they knew was a mere shell to the talented mature man they watched play his heart out and gain the love and appreciation in the hearts and minds of hundreds of people gathered that afternoon.    

The Boudreaux family were there to see their wonderful surrogate son and his husband shine. Even little Dashaway Howler was there with her mom and dad. They were enjoying the show as much as everyone else and having a good time. Stan and Cletus performed five songs by themselves and then gave Billy the high sign for his family to join them on stage. Billy strolled out in his cowboy clothes and his guitar, followed by Clyde carrying his guitar, Randy with his banjo, Kayla with her mandolin, and Etienne Boudreaux with his squeeze box. They started up again and Billy and Etienne sang 'Jolie Blond' in the native Cajun tongue.

Almost everyone in the orchestra stayed for the second part of the concert and seemed to enjoy it as much as the other folks. They were in awe of Billy being able to switch from one idiom to another, and yet be so competent at both. While they were classically trained musicians they, nevertheless, could appreciate the talent and time put into becoming good at any form of entertainment.

They got into the spirit of the hoedown and saw it bring everyone together in a great spirit of family togetherness. Billy and his family played old songs everyone knew and the words would be displayed on a great screen behind the performers for the audience to follow. When you get nearly three hundred people, young voices, singing together, it can be a moving experience. And so it was that day; the day of homecoming; the day before dancing day.


End of Chapter 63 ~ Seek Him Who Made The Seven Stars, And Orion  
Copyright ~ ~ 2013 ~ 2014 ~ 2015 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com
WC = 23944
11/22/2013 (Fifty years ago today our country failed its people)
04/28/2015

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