By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 20

Blake talked with the Stamper boys and told them the only reason they were there was because Master Charlie and his ramrod told Master Hoot and Cotton if they were good and cooperating to allow them to come to the Easter holiday festivities.  They were impressed by what the boys accomplished and heard good things about their work on the new slave quarters.  Blake expected them to be on their best behavior or their holiday would be cancelled immediately.

It would be the boys first chance to eat regular food again.  Not even Burt would do anything to jeopardize that.  They had no idea they might get to play some football; however, when the time came the coaches included them.  They knew the talent available among the older Stamper boys and were interested in seeing what the younger boys could do.  They didn’t know what to think of the four boys that were new to the Goodnight ranch.  

Gavin and Jerry knew about football and played some with their dads.  Their younger lummox brother, Kurg, was almost the same size as Gavin, Waco and Lucas.  He wanted to play, too.  The coaches didn’t know what to make of a young half-man half-critter, but the rest of the boys wanted him to play so they went along with it.

Since Lucas’ recovery, and the months he had been drinking pure lummox milk, he had grown quickly.  He was now slightly bigger than his next two older brothers, Zeke and Jeb.  The Stamper boys had no idea he was a year younger than Zeke.  They thought he was about Sam’s age.

The Stamper boys were in for quite a bit of culture shock that day.   Blake was warned beforehand who would be there and knew there would be more furry men and critters the boys would certainly ask questions about; however, he warned them they might see some things they weren’t expecting but they were not to push.  He would have a talk with them later in the evening and explain anything they didn’t understand.

They certainly were impressed by the huge, hairy men who seemed to come in three sizes, big, larger and huge.  They found it amusing a huge horse the boys doted over named ‘Ranger’ was the center of attention and allowed to wander around everywhere with the boys.  Even more impressive was the two dogs ‘Scraps’ and ‘Happy’ who were constantly running up and down the sidelines barking at the boys like they were cheering them on.   A couple of the boys swore the male dog would speak to the boys, and on occasion, would be sent into the huddle by one of the coaches to tell one of the quarterbacks to send out a player to be replaced by another.   

For all the player swapping, there was no question in the coaches’ minds who the two quarterbacks would be.  It would be Waco and Lucas.  Blake, Bryce, JR, and Little Bear were used to Lucas being their quarterback and Waco’s men were used to him.  The Stamper boys were guest so they didn’t object.  They were just happy to be included and getting a chance to play.

The boys spent several afternoons teaching Bron, Bronc and Ts’gan the game of football.  The men were bright and picked up on the game immediately.  When it came time for the Sunday afternoon game, they were ready.  There were several younger slaves who wanted to play as well and the coaches were only too happy to have extra men to run in.

What they observed that afternoon was nothing short of a miracle as far as talent was concerned.  The teams were almost equally divided and fought back and forth, play after play, to gain some yardage against the other.  Attempts to run or pass the ball were thwarted by defensive moves by players from both teams.  Finally, Lucas managed to pull a fast one and passed the ball off to Bronc, and the rest of the men, including Lucas, ran interference for him.  It just barely worked, but only because Bronc proved to be a consummate athlete and managed to outrun and evade all of Waco’s men.  

Years of running silently through the forest to catch small animals and to outrun larger prey perfected Bronc and Ts’gan’s running techniques until they were almost untouchable.  After the touchdown the coaches’ mouths were hanging open.  They couldn’t believe what they just saw.  The could only look at each other in amazement and shake their heads.  Not only did they absolutely have to have Lucas for their school team, they started inquiring about how soon Bronc and his little brother would be enrolled.  When asked their last names, Bron looked anxiously at Charlie and Lazarus.  

“They’re relatives of mine, Coach Davis, their last name is Long.”  said Lazarus.    
Coach Davis stuck out his hand to shake Bron’s and spoke,

“We’d love to have yore’ boys play on our team at school, Mr. Long.”

Bron was pleased his boys made such an impression.  Then the coach went to Charlie and asked about his relatives who were staying with him.  Charlie already thought about a cover for the boys and spoke with Captain Trong and Commander Fielding.  The boys would be his relatives, Gavin and Jerry Fielding.  The coach accepted that and told him they were looking forward to them being on the team.  Charlie assured him they would be in school for the fall semester.

Waco’s team managed a comeback in the final moments of the game and kicked a field goal.  It was good, but Lucas’ team still won.  It was the toughest game either Waco or Lucas played.  They were exhausted as they hugged each other.  Waco told Lucas he had to come to school and play with him instead of against him.  None of the teams he and his men faced the year before were nearly as tough as Lucas and his team.  

The Stamper boys all got to play at one time or another in the game.  The older boys, Burt, Phil and Sam got to play the whole game, but when the coaches finally ran in Jeb and Zeke, they discovered two more naturally gifted young athletes.  Their cups runneth over.  Jeb and Zeke were never much interested in sports until they became slaves.  It was about the only exercise and play they had outside of working everyday.  Blake didn’t try to overdo with the boys, but he made sure he worked them steadily all day long.  At the end of the day, they were too damn tired to considered mischief or trying to run away.

Cotton and Hoot gave Lazarus and Charlie updates as to the boys progress.  They were generally pleased with the boys acceptance and developing work ethic; however, Hoot admitted to some gaps in their training.

“We’re so damned pleased with Blake Tindell’s work with the boys we ain’t pushed the sex thing.”

“I ain’t concerned about that at all, Hoot.” said Lazarus and Charlie nodded.  “They been busy with their building project.  There will be time for that later.”

“Well, we wanted to talk with you about it.  It seems some strange things are happening.  Three of the boys have developed friendships with one or more of the older cowboys and have sort of started looking up to them as big brothers and mentors.  If what we think is happening, is it all right with you if’n we let nature take its course.”

“Absolutely.  Sometimes it’s better to let something like that happen as a natural progression of events rather than forcing them.  Are the cowboys the kind of men who will respect the boys and let them come to them?” Lazarus asked concerned.

“Yes, Sir.  We’ve talked with each one of the men and with your permission we may wanna’ talk with the boys.  We’ve told the men we won’t tolerate them forcing the boys, but we don’t see nothing wrong with the cowboys actively courting them.  I know to describe it that away sounds funny, but we’ve put it to them, if the boys wanna’ participate they have to go to Blake or us to get approval.”

“Sounds like a good plan to me.  What do you think, Boss?”  Lazarus deferred to Charlie.

“I like the idea.  I waited for Blake to come to me.  He knew he was gonna’ have to participate sooner or later, but it became his choice.  It wasn’t like I took it away from him.  He made a choice to give it to me.  That can have a long lasting effect and go a long way to acceptance.”  Charlie mused out loud.

“I can’t help but be curious which boys are bonding with your other cowboys.”  Lazarus said.

“You might be surprised, Ramrod.”  spoke up Cotton, “Jeb, Sam and Burton.”

“Burt?  No!”  exclaimed Charlie, then chuckled.

“I’ll be damned.”  followed Lazarus, “You’re right, I am surprised.”

“Burt’s taken up with one of the older cowboys who’s sort of acting as a mentor and father figure for him.  You remember Jimmy Joe Russell, don’t you?” Hoot asked.

“Yeah, he was world champion bull rider three years in a row.  Got too rowdy, drank too much, ran through his money and robbed a bank.  He got thirty years.  Just enough to make him a lifetime slave.  He didn’t have no bullets in the gun he used or he would a’ gotten more time.”  explained Charlie.

“He’s one of our best cowboys and a trustee.  He come to us and asked about him and Burt bunk’n it in together.  Seems like Burt done come right out and asked him if’n he would break him in.  Said he’d rather have a man like Jimmy Joe he admired and trusted teach him rather than have it taken away from him.”

“Humm, maybe there’s hope for ole Burt yet.”  mused Lazarus.  “Hell, yes!  You handle it, but you men got the right idea.  Tell ole Jimmy Joe he’s got our blessing.  The rest we’ll leave up to you.  I couldn’t be happier with your and Blake’s progress with the boys.”

“You know after seeing yore’ androids here them boys is gonna’ start put’n two and two together.  H’it ain’t gonna’ be long before one of ‘em figures out you’re their owner.”  allowed Cotton.

“‘At’s all right.  Master Charlie and I thought about that when he wanted to invite ma’ boys to the party.  We knew it might be a possibility.  I don’t want ‘em lied to.  If’n they press you or Blake about it, tell ‘em the truth.  They don’t need a lot of details.  Let’s let ‘em work it out for themselves.  They’ll eventually have to be brought into the fold; however, for the time being they don’t need to know more than we want ‘em to.”

“We agree.  We’ll talk with Blake.  We had a feeling you’d feel that away.”  Hoot confirmed.

* * * * * * *

The ranchers discussed many things over dinner.  There were several topics of conversation that weighed heavily on everyone’s minds.  First of all, the ranchers were losing cattle right and left.  Charlie lost almost ten percent of his herd and according to his figures, if he lost a few more, he would barely break even for the year.  That’s not why ranchers are in business.  They raise cattle for profit.  A lot of Charlie’s cattle and that of his brother and neighbors were being sold to the government.  Beef prices were almost too high for the common man to afford red meat for his table; however, the politicians always had plenty of fresh beef and supplied it to their paid military as an incentive for young people to join and be loyal to the theocratic regime that had been in power for over a couple of decades.

Charlie smelled a rat, especially after the visit from the government men; however, he had no proof.  Slowly but surely the neighboring ranchers came to trust Charlie’s ramrod and listened to what he had to say.  Charlie asked Lazarus’ opinion in front of Angus, Ranger Gibbons, Sheriff Lassiter, Hoot and Cotton and several neighbors.  The sheriff invited Chief Tin Penny to come to the Easter party to be with his grandson again.  The Chief readily accepted and was having a good time.  He was sitting with the men.  Lazarus spoke to them,

“I’ve examined dead and mutilated cattle from all the surrounding ranches and the patterns are the same; however, not all the cows taken have been accounted for.  Less than two thirds of the missing cows have ever been found.  There’s a reason for that, Gentlemen.  I’m going to tell you what’s happening, but you must keep a completely open mind and not repeat what I’m about to tell you.  If you’re serious about doing something about your situation, you’re going to have to rearrange your thinking.  You’re gonna’ have to start thinking outside the box.  You can never think about your world and your family’s place in it the same way again.  Too many things have changed.  There’s forces at play you know nothing about, but you’ve long suspected.

Most of you men have either fallen away from the hardline fundamentalist religion or were never very thrilled with it from the beginning. You have seen the way they’ve perverted anything to do with honest beliefs.  I’m not here to knock anyone’s religion or right to believe anything they want, but one thing is important.  Fundamentalism is an escapist way of dealing with the greater problems of life. It’s God’s will.  Let’s leave it in His hands.  You can’t think that way and survive what you have to face in the coming days.  You have to take your fate into your own hands and pray God or, more likely, you neighbor is watching your back.  Just remember what your dad and mother used to tell you, ‘God helps them what help themselves.’   

You can no longer think about what’s best for you.  You must start thinking about what’s best for your greater family, and for those of you who don’t understand my meaning let me spell it out for you.  Your greater family must extend beyond the boundaries of your homes.  You have to start thinking about the folks in your community as your greater kin; your friends and neighbors; even your slaves.  Whatever’s discussed here, you must keep to yourselves.  Do you understand?  Do I have your promise?”

All the men murmured among themselves, shook their head in agreement, but Angus stood and spoke for all of them.

“Captain Long, if you know anything we’d appreciate knowing what you know.  We understand we live in times where we have to hide most of our lives from our own government and from those who don’t believe the way we do about things.  The more conservative element among our community are becoming increasingly more demanding everyone must conform to their way of thinking and relating to others.

We once thought we were being conservative by voting Republican.  We thought the Democrats had become too liberal and were giving our hard earned tax dollars away for programs we didn’t approve of.  They were moderates compared to what we face today.  We should a’ listened to our daddies.  They was all yellow dog Democrats.

We got sold a worthless bill of goods that did nothing but rape our great state and lined the pockets of the wealthy until it got so out of control we have nothing left.  There is no one to stand up for us ranchers.  I think we’ve all come to the conclusion we must stand together and stand up for ourselves.  If you can give us any idea what we’re facing, perhaps we can come up with a solution or a plan to fight against whatever is what’s robbing us.”     

“You are being robbed by three factions, gentlemen.  Two are alien and one is your own government.  Have you noticed the government has been buying less and less of your beef in the last couple of years?”

The ranchers all agreed with him they were down almost a third what they were in beef sales to the government even two years ago.

“Why should they pay for your beef when they can get it for free?”

 Lazarus tossed his comment out and let it lay at their feet for a minute to sink in.  There were a couple of murmurs go through the crowd.

“I understand what’s happening, Captain Long.” spoke Chief Tin Penny, “I’ve seen it happening on our reservation.  We’ve not only lost many cattle, we’ve lost horses, sheep and goats.”

“I’m sure you know, Chief.  Would you like to tell these men what’s going on,— what they’re up against?”

“Gladly, Captain.  Gentlemen, there are two alien factions what are working with your government to rob you of your cattle.  First there are the small gray critters with the big slanted eyes you’ve all seen pictured in movies and ads on T.V.  They’ve become a part of modern folklore or at least that’s what your government wants you to think; they’re just folklore.  We’ll they ain’t.  They’re very real.  

The grays ain’t like regular intelligent critters like we have on the Earth.  Each one represents a part of a greater whole.  They’re like a hive mentality.  They all share a portion of the same knowledge,— sort of like insects.  Like ants or bees, what one learns and knows, they all know.  They have developed telepathic means of communication that’s very powerful and can be used to control most of us primates; however, for all their advanced technology, even they answer to a higher power.  They are a slave race.

They do the bidding of masters what are rarely seen on Earth.  They are fearsome and loathsome creatures.  They are the nightmares of all men’s dreams and have been seen by mankind as demons and servants of the Devil.  They are a reptilian race and look like lizard men.  The most amazing thing is, the Earth is their original home.  They developed their civilization during the age of the dinosaurs when our ancestors were little more than night-crawling proto-primates.

They left Earth thousands of years ago, but have kept a close watch over it since then.  Because the Earth is so unique in its placement in the universe and its ability to sustain bio-diversity it became a way-station for warriors and travelers from distant galactic conflicts.  It became a refueling station for food, chemicals and sometimes a little R & R for travelers.

Losing livestock ain’t new.  It’s been going on for centuries.  It went on before men learned to domesticate cattle and other livestock.  My people have stories of seeing the buffalo rise up into the sky and disappear,— never to be seen again.  Same with antelope, big horn sheep, deer, elk and moose.  White man came along and destroyed all the massive buffalo herds, so alien critters now rely on domestic cattle and sheep.  It’s been known about among native peoples for centuries.  It’s just within the last hundred years of global communication other men have become aware it happens to everyone, all over the planet.

The reptilian race leave all their dirty work to their servant race, the grays.  The grays steal your cattle and divide it equally between themselves, the reptile race and your government; but that ain’t all.  Should I tell them the rest, Captain Long?”

“You’re doing fine, Chief.  So far you’re bat’n a thousand.  I know you know the rest.  H’it ain’t pretty, but they need to hear it.  They need to know what they’re up against. ”

“Animal livestock ain’t all they take.  They have been known to take pets and human livestock, or slaves.  The also take freemen, women and children who are never returned or seen again.  They even take young mothers with their babies.”  Chief Tin Penny paused for a moment, then continued,  “Like our livestock, those what ain’t returned are used for alien consumption.”

There was a gasp ran through the men.  One man, Al Dugan, raised his hand.

“I been missing four a’ ma’ cowboys for six months.  Them and their ponies is all missing.  We found one man,— what we thought was one of our men,— what was left of him, in a ravine about a month ago.  He were’t kill’t or eaten by scavengers.  They wouldn’t touch his carcass.  He stunk to high heaven, but it was obvious he weren’t decomposing.  No tell’n how long he’d been there, but you could tell he was dropped from a great height.  There was no footprints around his carcass.  All the bones in his body were broken and his head was crushed.  There was no trace of blood on or around his body.”

Another rancher held up his hand.

“Same with me, only one a’ ma’ sons is missing.”

Three more held up their hands they were missing men.  Angus and Bill Birdsall said they were missing a couple of men who were riding night watch on their herd.    

“I get reports every week from folks missing slave-cowboys and pets.”  added the sheriff and his men, “We thought it was runaway slaves at first, but only a couple have been found, and they were dead for sometime.  We know the ranchers ain’t killing their slaves.  They’re too torn up over it and most of the time, it was a valuable slave they lost.  Same with pets.  I even lost a couple of horses last week; lost a number of cattle and sheep last year.  They even took one a’ ma’ prized bulls.”  Sheriff Lassiter lamented.

“Is there anything we can do to fight back, Captain?”  One of the ranchers asked.

“Yes, a couple of things; however, if you consider doing it, you also have to consider the consequences.  Do you really want to get yourselves into an all out war with aliens who have a more advanced technology than you, and do you want to have a corrupt, fascist, neo-Nazi dictator government coming down on top of you?”

“What other option do we have, Captain Long?  If we sit by and do nothing, we’ll perish.  If we try to boycott selling to the government and take a loss on our beef by selling to the public, they would pass some outrageous law requiring us to sell to them in the name of national security.  Then they would still be stealing from us.  If they have all the money, why are they picking our pockets?”

“Simple, gentlemen,” replied Chief Tin Penny, “because they can, and they know there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it.  Not meaning to beat a dead horse, but maybe you gentlemen can understand the feelings us native Americans had over the years when the federal government backed the killing of the buffalo herds so our ancestors would starve.  They robbed and cheated us out of our lands and heritage.  We survived,— so will you.  I have faith in Captain Long and the good men who have come in the ‘long-boats.’  They have been prophesied by my people for hundreds of years; however, we never considered ‘Long’ would be a noun.”

“The Chief’s right, men.  There are several options you might consider.  You can buy ground to air rocket launchers or more simple grenade launchers RPGs.  You can keep a watch every night and the first chance you get, blow them son’s a’ bitches out of the sky.  Now, to do that, you must first have something to interrupt your thoughts so they can’t scan your minds.  I know it sounds weird, but they scan a group of men to see if any of them is thinking about a threat toward them.  That’s why they ain’t been caught or confronted before now.  How do you shield your thoughts from them?  It can easily be done by providing your men with hats lined with an electrostatically absorbing material.  If’n they can’t read your mind, they don’t know what you’re up to.”

“Wait a minute.  You’re telling us these creatures can read our minds?” asked one of the older ranchers, Sam Eagleston.

“Yes, Mr. Eagleston, that’s exactly what the ramrod is telling you.”  Confirmed Chief Tin Penny, “Why is that so hard for you to believe?  You’re pony’s been doing it for years.  Why is it sometimes you could swear he knows what you’re thinking?  That’s ‘cause he can.”  smiled the Chief.  “Many of our young people communicate with each other, their dogs and ponies.  A few even know how to block any critter from taping their brains if they don’t want ‘em to.  My people have been communicating with a rebel faction of the grays for many years.  They were the ones what taught us how to protect ourselves from them.  If they can’t get into your minds, they can’t control your thoughts or control you.  That’s how they take folks against their will.”

“Well said, Chief.”  allowed Lazarus, “Once again, the Chief is right, gentlemen.  You can protect yourself and your people against them.  There’s an electrostatically negative material I can get for you, but you have to teach your people to make their own linings for their hats.  There are several things to consider if you wanna’ fight back.  There is much more involved than I can tell you now, but you’re gonna’ need to know everything.”

“If’n they can read a man’s thoughts, what’s to keep them from reading them when they’s in the bunkhouse?  Are the men suppose to wear their hats inside as well?”

“Good question, Mr. Eagleston.”  replied Lazarus, “Corrugated tin roofs will do the trick.  You can easily put a tin roof over a composition roof.  It also adds a reflective value to keep the building cooler in the summertime.  You have to make sure the roof is completely grounded with a four foot piece of re-bar or a galvanized piece of water pipe of the same length hammered into the ground at each end of the building.  Any electrical activity inside the building will go directly into the Earth and not off into space.”

“What about our ponies?”  asked Hoot Austin.

“Your ponies are a crafty lot, as you well know.  Most have learned to block the gray critters thoughts; besides, the grays look down upon horses as little more than cattle.  Because they work with us they consider them beneath probing most of the time.  You won’t find as many horses taken as you will cattle and the reason is, most of the time the grays can’t locate them.  They’ve learned to give them critters the slip.

Gentlemen, some of the things you learn over the coming days and weeks are gonna’ seem weird, strange or too bizarre to be believed.  That’s what your current government wants you to think, so you will be in the dark and unable to defend yourself from them or the creatures they’re in cahoots with.  Like Mr. Eagleston here, many of you are gonna’ have a hard time believing until you have it laid at yore’ feet.  As time goes by and we learn who we can trust and who we can’t, more will be revealed to you.  We’ll get into the whys, wherefores, and who’s later.  Right now, let’s consider  how to protect yourself, your families, your friends, and your property.

If you should take out a spaceship of the grays,— by that, I mean shoot it out of the sky,— there might be several possible outcomes.  We must consider all of them.  Since your government doesn’t want to admit there are such things as aliens and insist there is no such thing as UFOs,— if you take one out and dispose of it immediately, there’s not a lot they can do.  They will be operating under their usual confused ignorance.  Why are they ignorant?  Because the grays and the reptoids only allow them to know so much and nothing more.  Unless it’s reported to them by the grays they won’t have any way of knowing, and communication with them is not an everyday thing.  Other than satellite images, and they can be blocked easily, there is no way your government will know.  

What’s the government gonna’ do if’n you take one out,— come down on top of you demanding to know what you did with the alien spacecraft?   What alien space craft?  They’ve been denying their existence for years,— now they wanna’ know what you did with a spacecraft what was stealing your cows?  I don’t think so.  You can laugh them off your property.  Get the media out to cover them.  If you can’t, secretly video them and their actions and release it to the media later.  They will come off looking like fools and they know it.  

There is several options for dealing with the grays.  First, you could buy surplus weapons on the black market.  You all know there’s a thriving trade in illegal weapons of all kinds.  If’n you got the money you can buy anything.  So that’s one option.  The only problem with that is you have to be accurate; however, with the newer RPGs and heat sensing rocket launched missiles, there’s very little chance of missing.  

Secondly, you can rig cows with plastic explosives with a remote detonator or even a more sophisticated altitude sensing detonator.  As soon as a cow is in their bay, and the ship takes off, if it flies above a certain altitude, blam!  The bomb goes off,— the cow and ship are destroyed.  The only problem with that is you have to arm a lot of cows.  

The third option is more subtle but lethal.  We inject the cows with a virus that only affects the grays and the reptile race.  The drawback is, they won’t know exactly who or where they got infected and may return to your area again.  Also you won’t have a clear idea of your success ratio.

The first option is probably your best bet, because once they’re missing a ship known to be in your area last before it went missing, they’ll think twice before sending another ship to help themselves to your cows.  Just remember, the main goal is to completely destroy or eliminate any trace of their ship once you shoot it down.  I may be able to help with that.  I have access to some toys, of which your government has no concept.”

“Do you have one what will bring down their ships?”  asked Angus.

“Yes, Sir, I do.  They ain’t complicated to operate.  The average man can handle one.  They cancel out the ship’s anti-gravity, and they crash.  The only problem with the device is, it must be used with care or it will cause a great implosion of matter for a large diameter around the ship.  It will create a mini-black hole that will suck everything into it that ain’t nailed down for a large area, and whatever it sucks in simply disappears,— it won’t exist no more.  To use the weapon is sort of a double-edged sword.  While it takes care of the disposal of the aliens and the ship, you might lose more than the one cow.  Hell, you could potentially lose half yore’ ranch.  It would be better to bring the ship down by an explosion and then dispose of it by other means.”

“Then, I take it you have other ‘toys’ in your arsenal that will make short work of disposing of what’s left of a ship and bodies after it falls to the Earth.”  said Charlie.

“Yes, Sir, Boss.  There won’t be a trace of it left.  Nothing for the government to find or the aliens to come looking for.”

“Sweet.” said Sheriff Lassiter.  The other men laughed nervously.  If the sheriff of the county was in on it, they considered they had little to fear from local law enforcement; after all, Don Lassiter had as much to lose as the rest of the ranchers.

“I also have a fleet of other small recon ships on board my ship that can make quick work of the grays inferior crafts.  They are invisible to radar or infrared detection and can’t be detected by any of the gray or reptiod’s technology.  We can take them out and dispose of them neatly enough; however, before I get involved I want you men to make an effort to defend yourselves.  If I just hand it to you, you won’t appreciate the fact we’re all in this together.   It will make any man who participates think twice before snitching to the government what we’re doing.”

“What is the ultimate goal of the aliens, ramrod?  If’n they’s so powerful and technologically advanced, why don’t they just come down and take over.” Asked Stan Brown, a tall lanky rancher.  Chief Tin Penny started laughing.  He laughed so hard he got Lazarus and Charlie laughing with him.

“They already have,” Lazarus said laughing at the Chief,  “you jes’ don’t realize it,— but you will very soon.”

“I have a question.”  spoke up Cotton.  Cotton was always the pragmatist.

“Shoot, Son.”  Lazarus acknowledged him.

“Say we do use this telepathy cancelling material in our hats,— ain’t them critters gonna’ git suspicious they ain’t able to read no minds?”

“Good question, Son.  While they’re technologically advanced they have some limitations.  They have a difficult time thinking in the abstract. Sort of like an animal who gets caught in a trap because he went after food what was left inside.  He don’t look at the metal box and think it’s a trap.  His only interest is to satisfy his hunger with a nice morsel of food.  So it is with them, or— at least the first time.  So we need for them to be able to read a few minds to throw them off.

You men are fortunate.  For some unknown reason, your children are developing mental powers never before seen in any sentient race before.  We ain’t real sure what’s causing it, but we have our suspicions.  Your young people are your greatest hope for your immediate salvation.  Living among you are a number of young’uns what communicate telepathically with each other and their pets.  Some of you already know about them, others have kept it hidden from you because they’re afraid to appear different.

They’re learning to block mental tapping from folks they don’t want touching their thoughts and can allow only selective thoughts to be probed.  They can’t be controlled by the grays or the reptilians.  They are unique in one aspect, but not in another.  Animals and certain races of people, like Native Americans, have been able to do it for centuries.  We’re just now catching up.  Lemme’ see a show of hands.  How many of you have suspected for sometime one or more of your kids has some abilities they ain’t letting you know about?”

Every rancher there slowly raised their hands.

“I thought so.  Gentlemen, it’s time you had a good heart to heart talk with your kids.  They just may save yore’ butts.”  
The meeting broke up.  There were a couple of things agreed upon.  Angus asked when Lazarus would address the entire community of concerned folks about what was taking place.  

“Not for sometime, Angus.”  Lazarus responded.  “Right now, we’re on a need to know basis.  The more folks we bring into our greater family the easier it’s gonna’ be to convince other folks; however, a number of things have to happen first.  We also have to pick and choose those who we will be forthright with.  Can you imagine what the ultra-conservative loonies would do if they found out we were including another species into our families when they’re sure they’re God’s only chosen people?  No species or group of people has the right to make such a claim.  Any man who even entertains such a stupid proposition has a greater agenda.  He’s not a fool for telling someone such an absurdity, he only becomes a fool if he believes it.

Any man who buys into such arrogant, ignorant  hubris ain’t worthy of salvation.  There are so many sentient species out there in the universe, it would make them folks pale to know they weren’t the only ones.  We will know when the time is right.  The greater consciousness of the universe will tell us.  When your youngest brother comes to you and tells you, ‘Now is the time, brother.’  You will know.”

Angus mused over Lazarus’ almost cryptic statement and his lopsided smile.

“I’ve often wondered about Shane.  Even when he was younger, he seemed to be confused a lot.  Not because he had a bad heart, but because he always seemed to be listening to the beat of a different drummer.  It was like he was listening for a voice that was just beyond his range of hearing,— like he knew it was there, he could hear it, but he couldn’t make out the words.  I always told myself it was because he didn’t have any solid grounding because his parents were dead.  Now, I’ve come to believe it’s more than that.  I still see that faraway look in his eye sometimes, like he sees or hears something other men can’t.”

“Another year,— maybe less, and he will hear those voices, brother.  Then you will begin to listen to him.  That’s when you will become whole again.  You’ll let yourself off the hook and understand in yore’ heart you done the right thing by him.”

Angus almost shed a tear as he thanked Lazarus for his kindness and his honesty with the men.

The ranchers came around to shake the Chief’s hand and thank him for his honesty.  They shook Lazarus’ hand with reverence and told him what he said about extended family was a realization they came to on their own but never put into words before.  They understood its meaning and were more than ready to participate.  They saw their task in the years to come as one of survival and not just existing.  Their lives and the lives of their immediate families would depend on their cooperation.

Lines were being drawn.  The crazier the right wing fundamentalist got the more of their congregation they lost.  There was great changes from the dog and pony hysterics of a broad based fundamentalism to a more concerned and respectful meditation.  Many folks became weary of people rolling around on the floor of the church, babbling like idiots, speaking in tongues no one could understand and being told they were holy.  Folks got tired of being told about lakes of fire and eternal damnation if they didn’t abide by every crazy new idea some demagog of a preacher felt he could impose on them.  As one old cowboy put it, “I’m such a sinner, I’m already gonna’ have to swim laps across that durn lake a’ fire.  A few more coals added to the fire ain’t gonna’ make that much difference one way or ‘tother.”

There came a great divide between religious philosophies.  The more liberal and sedate churches were gaining in attendance as folks became overwhelmed by the excesses and abuse of power the fundamentalist clergy imposed upon their congregations.  Giving to the church was raised from a voluntary contribution to a demanded tithe.  Tithe amounts were adjusted according to an individual’s wealth gathered from tax records and expected to be paid.  The right wing had legislated their way into every aspect of society and government.  Ignorant, small town preachers became like feudal lords of the middle ages.

Liberal churches found themselves being persecuted by the more vocal and militant fundamentalist.  The right wing was trying to stamp out the liberal churches because, under guaranteed freedom of religion, they had as much legitimate claim to the tithes of their congregations as the fundamentalist to theirs.  Some of the more wealthy ranchers and members of the community belonged to liberal churches.  It was money the fundamentalist preachers weren’t getting and their greed overwhelmed their tolerance, to say nothing of understanding or compromise.

The fundamentalist began to insist their view of religion was the only valid one and liberal churches were preaching heresy.  Many historians made comparisons to the early day founding of the Catholic church wiping out Gnosticism.  If the Catholic church didn’t approve of any aspect of theology that didn’t follow Catholic dogma it was banned as heretical and forcibly destroyed.  The truth of religion or justification for such actions had no basis in concern for the souls or betterment of mankind.  It was all about power and money.  So it became with the fundamentalist.  They were out to brainwash and control the whole of their societies.  They were working furiously to have what was left of the Constitution changed to acknowledge fundamental Protestantism as the officially recognized religion of the United States.  All other religions would be tolerated, but they had to pay a tithe to the fundamentalist to continue to exist.

It began to divide the community, but it also had the effect of bonding the smaller, more liberal congregations together like never before.  There were just enough rugged individualist left in the West who could see the way their society was going and refused to be caught up in the fanatical maelstrom of  fundamentalism.  The religious right became increasingly warlike in their attitudes and approaches to other religions and the other churches in their community.  They began to train their ‘Young Christian Soldiers’ at training camps called ‘Jesus Camps’ where children as young as six years old were encouraged to wear uniforms and taught to drill with small replicas of automatic weapons, all in the name of Jesus.  History has confirmed, in many instances, organized religion, in particular fundamentalism, marches in lockstep with neo-conservative fascist political values.  
* * * * * * *

There was nothing settled as to when, where and how the ranchers might take their first strike against the aliens who were robbing them.  There were several things to consider and plans to be made to protect their cowboys from thought control by the little gray critters.  Lazarus promised to get the ranchers the anti-static material he told them about before a fortnight.  He would have Cable run off fifty yards of the material from the ship’s replicators.

Lazarus and Charlie thanked Chief Tin Penny for his help and support.

“We must stand together as the tribe of man rather than be individual tribes, Captain Long.”  he spoke solemnly.

“I hope all these men understand that, Chief.”  replied Lazarus.

“I think they do understand it, gentlemen.” allowed Charlie.

* * * * * * *

The afternoon wore on and Charlie served homemade ice cream and cake as a final dessert for the day.  It was enjoyed by everyone.  It was a real treat for the Stamper boys.  After they finished they asked their boss if they could talk with the men they thought were their examining angels.  Blake Tindell had already asked Cable if they were prepared for the boy’s questions and he assured him they were.

“I don’t see why not, gentlemen, as long as you’re polite and not too personal.  They’re fine men and will tell you the truth.”

The boys walked over to where Cable, David, and Jonathan were talking to several of the women folk.  They stopped their conversations to acknowledge the boys.

“Ah, the Stamper brothers, gentlemen.  It’s good to see you again.  Congratulations on the great game you played today.”  Cable stuck out his hand to shake Burt’s and passed him on to David as he took Phil’s hand and shook it.  Cable had something good to say to each boy as he shook their hand, but he paid special attention to Sam.

“Sam, you’re looking fit and happy.  You look as if you’re adjusting to your new lifestyle well.”

“I suppose so, Sir.  As well as can be expected anyway.  How have you gentlemen been?”

“We’re well and happy to be here today.  We’re thrilled to have been invited by Mr. Goodnight to share in the festivities today.  We’ve had a great time.”

“Are you the gentlemen who examined us for our physicals?”  asked Sam.

“Why, yes, we are.  I hope we were gentle enough with you.”

“You were fine.  None of my brothers had any complaints.  As a matter of fact we were all in awe of you and your brothers.  Where do you come from and where is your clinic?”  inquired Sam.

“Our clinic isn’t far from here and we are the sons of Master Long, the ramrod of this ranch.”

“You’re Master Long’s sons?  I thought Lucas was his son.  Oh, but wait a minute.  He looks a little like you men.  You’re his older brothers?”

“You might say that.  We’re considerably older than young Lucas.  We’re helping to raise him.  We’re very proud of him and what he’s accomplished.  We’re also proud of the way he played football today.  We were rooting for him and his team.”

“Are you slaves, too?”

“No, only young Lucas is our father’s slave.  He’s comfortable with his position, and he has us to help him along.  We love him very much.”

“I apologize if I’ve asked too many questions, Sir.  I didn’t mean to be a bother.”  Sam said, remembering his manners.
“Nonsense!  It’s quite all right.  You’re naturally curious about the three nude men who examined you.  We’re always nude at the clinic because when our patients are nude it seems to put them at ease for us to be nude.”

“It shore’ worked for me, Sir.  You men are remarkable.  You must work out a lot to keep your bodies so perfectly fit.”  

“We have a routine we complete every day to stay fit.  The better we look the more at ease our patients seem to be.”

The other brothers were taking in all of this.  Each had a question for the men and they answered as best they could without giving a lot to the Stamper brothers.  Zeke complimented them on their cowboy outfits and how authentic they looked.

“Having a cowboy for a father, we learned how to dress Western at an early age; however, we prefer to be nude most of the time.  We practice nudity when we’re alone at home.  It’s just more comfortable for us.  If we’re warm and comfortable, we don’t see the need for clothing.”

“After seeing you in the nude, I can understand why.”  allowed Burt.

The boys asked a lot of questions of other people about Lucas and got very little from them.  Lucas himself was cordial with them but wouldn’t linger in conversation with them.  He wasn’t rude to any of the boys, he was just busy most of the time.  When he wasn’t doing something with his friends he was with his Master or one of the other men who seemed to be so protective of him.  He became more of a mystery to the Stamper boys than he was before.   

* * * * * * *

The afternoon came to an end.  Everyone said their goodbyes and thanked the Goodnight brothers and ramrod Long for a wonderful day.  The Stamper brothers were most grateful for being included and shook everyone’s hands in gratitude.  They were wowed by the hairy men at the ranch.  They had met Ox but to meet a smaller version of the big men and play football with him was an altogether different ball game.  They shook Ox’s big hand, Captain Trong’s, and Strom’s huge paw.  It was all Strom could do to keep from hugging each one.  With Captain Jones’ pregnancy, Strom was going into paternal mode and anyone under the age of twenty fell under his protective urges.

All the guests left and Charlie invited those left into the ranch house for a late supper.  The boys gave Ida Mae the evening off to be with Hank and put out left overs from the noon meal.  Lucas was in charge and ran everything like a benevolent monarch.  Ida was proud of him.  He’d come a long way and learned a lot from her.  She and Hank Morgan had supper with the men and then retired to her house.  J.R. stayed with his brothers to help clean up afterward and join the men around the fireplace.  It turned out to be a cool evening.

Captain Trong and Commander Fielding would be leaving to return to their ship with their younger children.  Kurg had such a good time he became a bit withdrawn and began to cling to his human dad.   The Commander could read him like a book.  There was a closeness between them that was undeniable.  He knew Kurg wanted to stay with his brothers, but he wasn’t old enough and the time was not right for him to be accepted into this society yet.  His dad held him, stroked him and told him quietly his time would come.

Trong and Kyle were impressed with the ranch and whatever trepidations they might have had about letting the boys live there were washed away by the comradery of the day and evening.  Kurg’s brothers and Waco finally got him away from his dad and engaged him in conversation about the day and football.  Kurg was enthralled with the game and spirit of being part of a team effort.  Waco promised Kurg he would see to it he spent a good deal of time at the ranch.  There was always time and room for sleep overs.

Finally it came time for the Trongs, David, Jonathan, and Cable to return to the Bandersnatch.  Arlen and Bryce would be staying the night with the ramrod and his son.  The men walked them out to the portal in the barn to say ‘goodbye’ accompanied by two frisky dogs and one huge young stallion who insisted on walking right behind Waco and Ox as close as he could get to them.   He was always amazed by the men disappearing though the door of “blue light-water” he referred to it.  There were final handshakes and hugs and the company departed.

The men said their goodnights and headed for their respective houses.  J.R. started to walk with Lazarus and his men and Waco whistled to him.

“Hey, little brother.  Come with us.  I got permission from your ma to sleep over with us tonight.  She and Hank need some time alone.”  Waco winked at J.R. and smiled.  J.R.’s face brightened and he smiled back and nodded knowingly.

“Really?  That’s great, brother.  Who do I get to bunk it in with?”

“Take yore’ pick.  Ox is gonna’ stay in the barn tonight with his dad and there’s just the four of us.  We can all bunk it in the large bed if’n you like.”

“That’d be great.”

J.R. was happy to be included with the older boys.  He played his heart out at football and was one of a few men, other than Waco and Lucas, who played the entire game.   Waco figured he would pass out as soon as they got into bed and his prediction came true.  They were all tired.

* * * * * * *

Lazarus returned with Lucas, Arlen and Bryce back to his house, followed close behind by Bron, Bronc and Ts’gan.  Bron and his boys said ‘goodnight’ and went off to their room.  Lazarus, Arlen, Bryce and Lucas went into the kitchen and sat down around the table.  Lazarus offered the two older men a bit of bourbon.  Bryce accepted, but Arlen declined.  He didn’t think it would be good for the bairns.  Lazarus already started to pour him a small amount but divided most of it between his and Bryce’s glass.  The rest, about one finger, he sat in front of Lucas.

“Every tasted good whiskey, Son?”

“Naw, Sir.  Ain’t never tasted any kind of alcohol.”  Lucas answered.

“Sip it slowly in small amounts.  It’ll burn like the devil going down the first time.  It’s an acquired taste.  If you don’t like it, stop.  You ain’t required to drink it.”  Lazarus said firmly.

“I’d like to taste it, Dad, but I don’t know about drinking it.”

“It’s up to you, Son.”

Lucas slowly raised the glass to his lips as the men watched.  He took a small sip and swallowed.  His face turned bright red and he began to choke and cough.  Lazarus put his arm around him and patted him gently on the back.  Arlen and Bryce were trying not to laugh, but Lazarus had such a concerned papa look on his face they could help it.  Arlen stopped long enough to speak.

“We ain’t laughing at you, Son.  We’re laughing at the memories of the first time we ever tasted strong liquor.  I reacted much worse than you.  I damn near passed out.  I swore I’d never take another drink of the shit and didn’t for several years.”

“Me, too, little brother.”  added Bryce.  “I still don’t drink very much.  I ain’t that crazy about it.”

“I think that will be my only try until I’m older, but I appreciate you letting me taste it, Dad.”

Lazarus took the rest and shared it with Bryce.  

“Was it my imagination today or were you smoother than I’ve ever seen you on the playing field?”  Lazarus raised an eyebrow at Lucas.

“Yeah, we noticed it, too, little brother.”  Bryce added.

“I shore’ felt different.  Everything just seemed to fall into place.  I think part of it was playing in front of and with Caleb’s brothers.  It was something else though.  It was the love and support I got from by brothers, and the men there what love me.  I could feel it, but it wasn’t only them, either.  It was Scraps, Happy, and certainly Ranger.  I could also feel the Kryscells.  I gave them permission to ride along and experience the game with me.  They were as encouraging and sometimes as rowdy at the folks on the sidelines; especially, Blue Boy.  I actually let him take control and play several downs.”

“Blue Boy?  You mean the blue Kryscellian we managed to bring back to life?  You let him take control of your body?”  Lazarus asked Lucas.

“Yes, Sir, we don’t call him that, but he knows we think of him that way.  He knows we humans have nicknames for those we like and are close to.  He feels honored we gave him one.  He caught on to the game real quick and he handled my body with great precision.  All I had to do was let him take over, and I sat back and went along for the ride.”

“Are you boys working on a way to make them a bit more mobile?”  Arlen asked.

“Yes, Sir, Captain Jones.  We’re working with them, Ox, Ping, Pong, Cable, David and Jonathan.  Waco’s in charge and he’s come up with some remarkable ideas.  I’m afraid I can’t tell you too much about it.  I’ve been sworn to secrecy.  Of course I told them my trust would have to be tempered by my Master’s wishes.  They understand my circumstances.”

“I won’t require you to reveal anything to me, Son.”  spoke up Lazarus.  “At some point we have to start trusting each other.  I sat that task for Waco to see what he could come up with.  Since he’s included you and wants your input, it would be wrong of me to insist you share it.  I trust you and Waco.  Besides, you have too much good guidance from some fine folks to go too far astray.  Knowing Ping and Pong you couldn’t go too far for them.  Those two have a store of knowledge we’re only beginning to learn about.  They surpass the Kryscellians in some areas.  I’ll be looking forward to what you men come up with.”

“So will we.  Can you give us a guesstimate about a time frame for completion?”  Bryce asked.

“It will depend on certain factors of materials and availability of a few extra things we’ll have to order and have especially made.  Cable and Ping assure us our ideas are within reason and feasible if somewhat unorthodox.”  Lucas chose his words carefully.

“Unorthodox?” Lazarus smiled wryly at Lucas, took a sip of his drink and winked at Arlen and Bryce.  “I may regret saying this, but I like the sound of that.”  he laughed.

“I do, too, but why do I get the feeling it’s going to be something us adults would never think of and are not gonna’ be prepared for?”  Arlen chuckled.   Bryce laughed, too.

“Most of the ideas are Waco’s.  The rest of us men have only made suggestions to enhance or worked to confirm the plausibility of his concepts.  He’s definitely thinking outside the box.  If we complete the project the way Waco conceived it, I think you men will not only be pleased, you will be blown away.”  Lucas said softly, but couldn’t help chuckle under his breath.

“Damnation!  He sounds like an engineer talking about his pet project and a corporate diplomat trying to sell it to the government.”  laughed Lazarus.

They all shared a laugh.

“One other thing, Dad, since we’re talking about it.”  Lucas said quietly.

“Yes?” replied Lazarus.

“H’it ain’t gonna’ be cheap.”

“I didn’t expect it to be.  If Waco put you up to feeling me out about it,  tell him and the rest of your crew, financing ain’t no problem.  The Kryscells have saved our butts too many times to scrimp on their comfort.  They are wonderful allies and good friends.  Whatever you men have in mind, it’s first class all the way.”

“I told Master Waco you’d say that.” smiled Lucas.

* * * * * * *

After returning to their ranch the Stamper boys showered and got ready for bed.  Blake always managed to have a brief bullshit session with the boys before sending them to bed.  They would discuss things that happened to them during the day and were allowed to ask questions about what was going on.  It seemed to have the effect of bringing them together and accepting Blake as their established leader.  He slowly earned the boy’s admiration and respect.  They not only cared about him, they trusted him and were even becoming protective of him.  He threw the floor open for discussion.  They were silent for a moment.  

“Well, h’it ain’t no secret who owns us no more.” said Jeb flatly.  The other boys looked at him quizzically.  Sam got a big grin across his face and chuckled, punched Jeb in the arm playfully and nodded.  Blake just grinned at him real big.

“I might a’ know’d you’d be the first one to figure it out.”  Blake smiled as he complimented Jeb.  The other three obviously hadn’t come up with anything yet.

“Who?” was all Phil asked.  Burt looked at Sam and Jeb.

“I didn’t pick it up ‘til little brother said that.  It was right under our noses the whole time.  It was almost too obvious.”  Sam stated.  “Just think who them three cowboy vets work for.  Who’s their daddy?”

“You mean the ramrod of the Goodnight ranch bought us?” asked Zeke.

“Good for you, little brother!”  Sam complimented him, “He’s got his own son for a slave.  Guess that would make Lucas Long our slave brother.”

“Is that right, Boss?” Burt asked Blake for confirmation.

“E’aup,— Master Long owns you men.  You be his livestock.  Just like his own son is his livestock, and I’m Master Goodnight’s livestock.”

“Why all the secrecy?”  asked Phil.

“H’it ain’t no secret.  You just didn’t need to know before now.”

“Why ain’t we working for him?”  asked Zeke.

“You are.  What do you think you’re doing here?  He’s footing the bill for all this construction we’re doing.  He’s helping expand Master Hoot and Cotton’s business.  He’s got a vested interest here and in Master Charlie’s ranch.  Eventually, you’ll work directly for him.  He’s real busy right now.  He’s got a lot on his plate.  He don’t have time to work with you and train you himself, so he contracted with Master Hoot and Cotton.  Master Charlie loaned him me to work with you men.”  

“Where’d he get money like that?” asked Burt.

“A slave don’t need to know that sort a’ thing.  You can think about it all you like, but you don’t need to know.  As a matter of fact, I don’t even know.  T’ain’t none of ma’ business.  My business is being the best damn slave I can  for Master Charlie and doing the best at any job he assigns me.”

“Are you happy ride’n herd on us, Boss?” asked Zeke.

“What do you think, Son?” Blake smiled at him.

“You seem to be happy most of the time.”  Zeke replied

“Of course, I’m happy.  You don’t have to be depressed being a slave.  Did you men have a good time today?”

“Great!”  said Sam.

“Wonderful!” allowed Jeb and Zeke.

“We had a damn good time, Boss.”  Burt spoke for him and Phil.  “I guess when you don’t have it given to you all the time, when you have a good day come along it makes you appreciate it more.”

“Good observation, Burt.” Blake told him.

“All I can say is there’s some strange things going on at the Goodnight ranch.”

“What’da ya’ mean, Phil?”  Blake asked.

“All them hairy men and animals talking to the humans.  When that Border Collie ran into our huddle and told Master Waco a play to run, I damn near shit my pants.  Can the female talk?”

“Naw, just Scraps.  He’s kind of a fluke.”

“And the big draft horse,” added Jeb, “I heard him speak several times.  How is it a horse can talk?”

“Uh, he can’t, Jeb.  Ranger can’t speak.”  said Blake cautiously, realizing he might be in over his head.

“Meaning no disrespect, Boss, but I heard him clear as day.” Jeb insisted.

“So did I.”  spoke up Zeke.

“I did, too, Boss.” added Sam.

“Okay, I might be wrong about that.  Let me check it out and I’ll get back to you.  I’ve never heard him speak, but you’re right, sometimes there’s some strange things go on around that ranch.  It certainly ain’t dull, though.”

“I wanna’ go back as often as we’re allowed.” said Sam.  The other brothers agreed with him.

“Why do I get the feeling we’re involved with something that’s beyond our understanding right now?” Jeb asked rhetorically.

“Maybe you are.” said Blake softly, “But I promise you, it ain’t bad.  Trust me, even as slaves, you’re more fortunate than you know.  Just keep going like you are now.  Work hard, cooperate, learn and keep your eyes and ears open.  More will be revealed to you as time goes on and your master feels you’re ready for it.  I’ve seen things since I was given this job that have made me stop and wonder.  Just give it a chance and let things progress in a natural manner.  You will be as amazed as I was and you will come to understand why you’ve become slaves to Ramrod Long.”

“Our owner must be well thought of and important.  I seen him talking with the other ranchers today and they were hanging on his every word.” said Sam.

“He is well thought of.  His ideas and opinions are highly valued, especially in today’s world and our immediate community.  You know how hectic the world is we live in.  You men were born after our country fell to the right wing and became a one party Theocratic Democracy, they call it, but h’it ain’t nothing like a real democracy like we had before.  I can barely remember it myself.  Since they took over, times have been rough for farmers and ranchers.  They’ve been left behind in a huge corporate run world.

If I had to define in one word what’s happening to you men is an “adventure.”  Not just a ho-hum everyday adventure either.  As Jeb suggested earlier, a great adventure you have no concept of that will last the rest of your lives and you are only in the first days.  The fact that you’re slaves is only a small part of the greater picture of what’s to come.  Have faith, gentlemen.  Have faith in me, have faith in your Masters, have faith in your owner, and most importantly, have faith in yourselves.”

“I guess it’s the everyday things what sometimes get to us, Boss.”  said Burt.

“I can understand that; however, look how far you’ve come.  What was your life like as brothers before you became slaves?”

“We was all the time fighting with each other and our older brothers tried to make us younger guys do everything for them like it was their due jes’ ‘cause they’s older’n us.  They wouldn’t do nothing for us.” spat out Jeb, “Except for Sam.  I guess ‘cause he’s in the middle he tried to get along with both sides.”

“I think I’d give Sam a little more credit than that.” allowed Blake.  “Okay, so it was you against them and all of you against your little brother.  Since you’ve been here how many fights have you had?”

“None.” said Zeke.

“Why do you think that is, Zeke?”  Blake probed.

“‘Cause we work side by side with ‘em all day and work jes’ as hard as they do.  We deserved to be respected and treated as equals if’n we’s pull’n our weight.”

“Do you agree with that, Burt,— Phil?”

“Yes, Sir, Boss.”  replied Phil for both.

“They ain’t such little pests here, and we ain’t got nothing for ‘em to be get’n into.”  said Burt.

“How about getting to know your younger brothers and what their individual values are?”

“Yes, Sir.  There’s definitely that.”  said Sam.  “What’s happening is we’re becoming something we never was before.”

“And what’s that, Sam?”  Blake coaxed him.

“— a family.”  responded Sam.

“Exactly!”  Blake emphasized. “All right,— that’s enough for tonight.  Let’s get to bed.  We got us a full day tomorrow.  I wanna’ get the wiring and the last of the plumbing finished up.  We’re way ahead of schedule and part of this coming week I want us to start doing some much needed repairs to the other cowboys' bunkhouse.  It will go a long way toward good public relations with them men.”

Blake asked Burt to say an evening prayer and when he was done the boys departed,— all except Burt.

“Boss,— you know you’re becoming a part of our family.” he said as a statement and not a question.

“Yes, I know, and it feels great.  I never had me no family when I’s growing up, Burt.  I never learned to give and take and appreciate folks around me.  Being Master Charlie’s slave-cowboy for these years has taught me a lot.  One thing is, I missed out by not having a family; however, I’ve been given a second chance, and I ain’t gonna’ fuck it up.  Maybe you and I are in the same boat, Burt.  You were ready to step out into adulthood on your eighteenth birthday.  You probably would a’ left your family behind and never learned to appreciate them.  Now, you’ve been given a second chance.  Make the most of it, Son, and I guarantee you won’t never regret it.”
“Thanks, Boss.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Son.”

* * * * * * *

When escrow paid Elam Stamper for selling his boys into slavery, he asked for payment in cash.  He specified he wanted it in one thousand dollar denominations, in five envelopes of fifty thousand each.  They gave him what he wanted.  He took his five heavily ladened envelopes home and promptly hid them where he could remember where he put them.  They were nowhere in or around the house in case of fire and were sealed in large, heavy duty ziplock bags.

His female companion, Betty Blanche Hightower, a local honky-tonk beer hall slut, wore cheap clothes too young for her and even cheaper perfume.  Her heavily panted lips looked like two night crawlers trying to have sex when she got drunk.  She urged him to sell his boys into slavery and  asked all sorts of questions about what bank he had his money in and was he going to sign her on as a joint account holder?  He refused to answer her questions; however, she began to notice him disappearing to the side of the barn when he needed more money for them to drink and play on.

After getting Elam really drunk one night and making sure he was passed out in bed, she took her flashlight and did a quick search of the area to the side of the barn.  She discovered his secret stash of almost fifty thousand dollars.  She didn’t bother to look further.  She quickly packed her bags and drove her pea-green Dodge Dart back to the only bar on the outskirts of town, ‘Slim Pickin’s’ and joined a big cowboy she had known for sometime who was in town for a few days visiting relatives.

After fucking her a couple of times in the bed of his pickup, out behind the bar, in a drunken moment he asked her to leave the small town and come to the Lubbock area with him where he worked as a roughneck in the oil fields.  After buying them both a drink, she told him she was packed and ready to go.  They left in his newer pickup truck, and she left her car with her niece.  She figured she had enough money to buy herself a newer one.  One that actually ran on all cylinders and didn’t belch fire and smoke after every full stop.

Betty Blanche’s new boyfriend was Jack Hall.  He was a rough talking, beer swilling, redneck cowboy who went through women like shit through a long necked goose.  He was good looking, knew how to dress like a cowboy and reportedly had the dick of death.  His license plate on his big black Ford duelly pickup read: HUNG 10   It was no lie, and he knew how to use it.  B. B., as she was called by her intimates, thought she had it made.  She had herself the cowboy of her dreams and fifty thousand dollars in the bottom of her purse.

They drove to Lubbock together, but she was wise enough not to flash a lot of money.  She let Jack pay for most everything; however, she did manage to get a one thousand dollar bill changed at a truck stop and began spending a little of Elam’s money.  It took them two days to get to Lubbock and another day to settle in before Jack had to go back to work and leave B.B. at home by herself.

He lived on his own small ranch out away from town about ten miles. There was nothing around for miles.  Jack’s place was in the middle of nowhere.  There were no neighbors for miles in either direction.  It was pretty bleak and desolate; however, B.B. figured she’d soon get a small car and could leave any time she wanted.  She just wouldn’t let Jack know about the money she stole from Elam.

Elam discovered the next day his sweety had robbed him and skipped town with Jack Hall.  He didn’t let on to anyone she made off with his money.  He drove around town and saw B.B.’s car sitting in the driveway of her niece.  He casually went to the door to inquire if B.B. was there, knowing full well she wasn’t.  B.B.’s niece was full of regrets and information for Elam as to where she was.  Jack’s license plate was known by everyone and burned into Elam’s memory like a cattle brand.  He had no trouble casually inquiring of his cousin who worked at the Sheriff’s station the address of his old buddy from DMV records for the State of Texas.

He went home, threw a few clothes in a duffle bag, got his twelve gage shotgun he used for turkey shooting and killing jackrabbits, threw them behind the seat of his truck and set out for Lubbock.  He had no trouble finding Jack’s spread and parked his truck away from the house behind a large water tank.  He had his field binoculars and watch what went on for a day.  He figured out Jack would leave around six in the evening, every evening because he was on the swing shift on an oil rig.

The second evening, a couple of hours after Jack drove away, Elam took his shotgun, loaded it and walked under the cover of night to the house.  He could see B.B. walking around in her slip in the house.  He watched her get up from the T.V. to walk down the hall to the kitchen to get herself another beer.  Elam silently let himself into the room through the screen door.

When she returned to the living room a look of fear and horror spread across her face as she saw Elam with his gun leveled at her head.  She never had a chance to speak a word when he unloaded both barrels into her face.  The impact not only blew her lovely night crawlers away, it lifted her up and knocked her backward down the hallway about six feet into the kitchen where she slammed up against the refrigerator with a dull thud, then slid to the floor on her ass.  Her arms and legs were flailing about like a puppet whose strings had become entangled and the puppeteer could no longer control its actions.  

Elam walked down the hallway, stepping over her flopping body and into the main bedroom of the house.  He looked into Jack’s closet and found what he was looking for.  He knew every cowboy living out away from town would have his own collection of guns.  He found Jack’s twelve gage, fully loaded and returned to the kitchen.   B.B. was still flopping uncontrollably and letting out mewing sounds like a cat that was going through the throws of death.  He cocked the gun and unloaded both barrels into her chest, stopping her heart immediately.  B.B. stopped twitching.

Elam was wise enough to wear gloves and threw the smoking gun across the table in the kitchen.  He returned to the bedroom and found B.B.’s purse.  He emptied the contents on the bed and found his plastic, ziplock bag with the manilla envelope in it.  He saw she had cashed one of his bills and took the majority of the larger bills but left some.  He didn’t bother to open it and count it.  He knew, without a doubt, from the weight of it, B.B. was too stupid to hide any of the money.  She never thought Elam would have the balls to come after her.  She gambled and lost.

Elam got what he came after, his job was done, and he left.  He took an old branch off a tree he found in the yard and dragged it behind him covering his footprints in the dirt as he walked away from the house.  In ten minutes he was back to his truck, popped the top on a cold can of beer and took a couple of heavy pulls.  When he finished, he threw the can into the back of the truck, started the motor and headed back home.

Jack returned home around two o’clock in the morning to the carnage.  At first he was concerned someone might still be in the house, but when he saw his own gun on the table he knew there wasn’t anyone there.  He walked into his bedroom and found B.B.’s purse and everything dumped out on the bed.  He began to put two and two together.  He went to the fridge and got himself a beer.  He had to push B.B.’s body out of the way to get the door open.  He tried hard not to look at her.  He got an old tarp off the back porch he used for painting and threw it over her.  He went into the living room and sat down on the sofa.

What was he going to do?  His mind was racing as he took a long hit from his cold can of beer.  What happened while he was gone?  His immediate reaction was to call the sheriff and let him handle it, but instead he decided to cool down for a bit and think about it.  The only thing he could think of was Elam got jealous and came after B.B.  No, he didn’t think Elam was that taken with her.  She asked him several times to marry her, but he refused every time.  He knew Elam sold his boys into slavery and was rumored to get a lot of money for them.  With Betty’s purse emptied on the bed, whoever was there was looking for something specific.  They didn’t even take all the money.  There was still a couple of hundred dollars left.

Then it began to jell in his mind.  B.B. ripped him off and Elam came after his money.  She didn’t tell Jack anything about it.  She placed him in jeopardy without his knowledge, and she got her damn head blown off.  If Elam was jealous, he would’ve been after Jack as well.  He could’ve easily taken out both of them, but he didn’t.  He waited until Jack went to work.  His beef wasn’t with Jack, it was with B.B.  Elam was smart.  He killed her with Jack’s gun.  From the looks of her, she was hit twice, but he knew the sheriff wouldn’t care about that.  She was dead and it was Jack’s gun that killed her.  He would have a lot of explaining to do.

Finally, a smile slowly crossed Jack’s face.  Elam played his cards right.  Jack knew the sheriff would find no trace of Elam around the place and in a rush to justice, there was a good chance Jack would be charged with her murder.  Even if, by some slim chance, he wasn’t convicted, there would be a bundle to pay in attorney fees for his defense and he knew, beyond a doubt, he would lose his job; probably lose his truck and ranch as well.

He wasn’t going to let that happen.  His granddaddy told him a story one time of a dog who had to cross a railroad track to get home and got the tip of his tail caught in the tracks.  The train was coming and the dog frantically tried to bite his tail off to get away; however, the train ran over him and cut his head off.

“You know what the moral to that story is, boy?” his granddad asked him.

“Naw, Sir.  What, Granddad?” Jack asked.

“Don't never lose yore' head over a little piece a’ tail.”  the old man answered.

Jack was more relaxed after his beer and returned to the kitchen.  He tucked the tarp in and around B.B.’s dead body and carried her out and laid her in the back of his pickup truck.  He had a camper shell on the back with dark tinted windows.   He threw in his shovel and pick and locked the back.  He returned to the kitchen, made himself a sandwich, got the three last beers in the fridge, climbed into his truck and headed out to the badlands behind his house.  

It was a hot, West Texas night.  The moon was shining just enough you could see everything in the desert and the stars were brilliant.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  After traveling for nearly forty-five minutes, Jack came to a secluded canyon he knew about and stopped the truck.  He turned his radio on low to his favorite Country and Western station and popped himself another beer.  He sat it on the hood of the truck and walked to the back.  He got out his pick and shovel and began to dig a grave in the hard packed sand.  It took him about an hour to dig a hole about three feet deep and six feet long.  He guessed she wasn’t taller than five feet six.  He stuck his shovel in the sand for the last time and leaned his arms and chin against it to rest.  The work made him hot and horny.

He took his shirt off and threw it into the seat of the truck and walked back to the rear.  The tarp had come undone and he could see B.B. hadn’t been wearing anything under her slip.  He could see her cunt wide open in the moonlight.  He reached in and felt her.  It was such a hot night rigor mortis hadn’t set in.  She was still warm to the touch.  Jack’s dick went from semi- flaccid to rock hard.  Should he?   He’d heard about weirdos who liked to stop by a mortuary now and then for a cool one, but he didn’t think he could do anything like that; however, there it was,— just grinning at him.

Before he gave it a second thought, Jack had his Wranglers down to his boot tops and was easing his big cowboy dick into B.B.’s cunt.  It wasn’t as bad as he thought it might be.  Hell, he’d fucked women who were more loose than her.  It began to feel pretty damn good to him.  Jack fucked her for all he was worth and unloaded a huge cowboy wad into her.  He finally pulled out and wondered if he should wait for a while and fuck her again before he buried her.  

‘Naw,’ he thought, ‘I won’t tempt fate.  To fuck her once put the period at the end of our sentence for old time’s sake.  To fuck her twice would be downright plumb sick.’

He wrapped her up good in the tarp and placed her in the hole.  It only took him a few minutes to cover her and make the area look undisturbed.  He sat big rocks around on top so the coyotes couldn’t dig her up.  When he was through, he loaded his tools in the back of his truck and closed it.  He got his last beer and sat on a big rock overlooking B.B.’s grave enjoying the last few minutes of the desert night.

“Sorry it came down to this, babe,” he said as he toasted her with his beer, “but you just should a’ never stole that cowboy’s money.  I guess I should say some holy words over you, but I can’t remember me none.  I never was much of a church goer.  I hope the good Lord forgives you and takes you home with him.  Wish’t we could a’ had a little more time together,— at least until we got tired a’ one another.  You were a pert-damn good piece a’ ass.  Thanks for the final fuck in the truck.  Even dead, you was damn good.  I fucked me some scags in my day what weren’t no better alive.  Maybe my baby boys’ll help you rest in peace.  I know off-load’n ‘em’s gonna’ make me sleep good.  Adios, darlin.’  Until we meet again in that big honky-tonk in the sky.  Say ‘hello’ to Patsy and ole Hank for me.”

Jack finished his beer and returned to the truck.  He threw the can on the floorboard.  He knew better than to leave anything around.  He slowly drove home as the sun was coming up in the East.  He got home and did a cursory clean up of the mess, showered and went to bed.  He slept like a baby.  He had the next evening off so he spent the day burning B.B.’s clothes behind the barn.  He loaded her personal belongings in a black plastic bag and threw it in the back of his truck.  He always carried his garbage to work with him and threw it into one of the huge dumpsters.  No one ever looked in the bags and they were taken to a landfill daily.

Within a couple of days everything was back to normal, and there was no trace B.B. was ever at his place.  When a buddy asked about the woman he brought back with him, Jack told him she’d already moved on.  B.B.’s niece called him a couple of times, and he told her the same thing.  He told her how disappointed he was she left him, but he’d recover.  She invited him to stop in to see her the next time he was in town.  He promised he would.  

Jack didn’t visit his folks until about a year later for the annual Fourth of July rodeo.  He stayed with B.B.’s young niece and fucked her the whole time he was there.  He had no compunction about drinking in the honky-tonk where he met B.B., and sure enough, after a while, Elam Stamper strolled in.  He saw Jack sitting down the bar and nodded to him.  He bought a beer and told the bartender he wanted to buy the cowboy down the bar one.  The bartender sat another beer in front of Jack and he raised his bottle in thanks to Elam.  Later they sat together and talked about old times.  They never once spoke of Betty Blanche.

End Of Chapter 20 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2006 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com