By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 29

“What are your plans?”  Sonny asked David in a concerned voice.

“I don’t know, Dad Steele.  What would you do in my place?”

“I don’t know, Son.  I ain’t never found myself in that kind of situation.  What comes to mind?  What would you like to do?  Let’s start from there.”

David sat and thought for a minute before answering.

“I’d like to tell him to go to hell.  I’m angry he’s placed me in this position.  I asked him to stay and preach in my church on Sunday, but he wouldn’t.  He could’ve helped me strengthen my position in the community.  He wouldn’t do nothing for me, but now he wants me to do his dirty work for him.  It don’t seem right somehow.”

“H’it ain’t right.  His actions ain’t exactly what chu’ might call scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours; or the Golden Rule; but, what about them kids he wants to rip out of their homes and communities?  You given any thought to them?”

“Well, there’s that, but I ain’t so concerned about them.”

“You ain’t?  Why, not?  Being a preacher and following the teachings of Jesus I’d shore’ think being concern for them would be one of your top priorities.  After all, they’re the ones whose lives will be messed up.  They’re the reason this has all come about; that, and his Holiness’ penchant for young men and women.”

“They’re not members of my church.  Why should I care about them?  Their families don’t contribute to support me or my ministry.”

Sonny sighed deeply.  

“I know you’re suppose to be a man of the cloth, Son, and I’m just a dumb old cowboy; howsomever, it makes me stop and wonder whether Jesus would see it that a’ way.”

“What’s Jesus got to do with anything?  I give him his due every Sunday.”

“Ain’t that kinda short sighted on yore’ part, Son?  Where did you go to divinity school, David?” Sonny asked incredulously.  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Crookshank Foursquare Holy Redeemer Bible College in Lubbock.” David tossed off.

“Not mainstream, I take it.” Sonny grinned to himself.  David didn’t pick up on his father-in-law’s less than subtle putdown.

“Naw, Sir.  It was a privately owned, hell fire, damnation, washed in the blood, bible as the holy word of God, soldier’s of the cross, foursquare, good-news gospel, school.  They offered a doctorate degree in divinity in twenty-four months.”

“I thought a doctorate degree took four years of undergraduate college and at least two years of graduate work?” Sonny sounded puzzled.

“It does if you go to one a’ them big schools like SMU or Baylor.  If you go there you gotta’ take a lot of useless courses you ain’t never gonna’ use like liberal arts courses you’ll spend the rest of your career preaching against anyways.  Why bother when you can get all you need from a smaller college.  All your big name preachers only have doctorates from schools like what me and the Holy Prophet went to.  It ain’t how much book learn’n you got what’s important, it’s how much of the holy spirit you got in you what really counts.”

Sonny shook his head in disbelief.  He wondered if David had the equivalent of a dashboard meter or idiot-light by which he might gage his level of holy spirit at any given time, or if like all evangelicals claim, he was perpetually full of it.  When he had his ‘dipstick’ in David, Sonny recalled, his son-in-law was at least a quart low of the ‘fully divine’ mark.  David wasn’t nearly as good a fuck as Sonny’s cowboy-slaves.  Sonny thought to himself, ‘There were times, his buckaroos, could be a little piece of heaven.’  Sonny just conceded to himself, his son-in-law was one big dipstick and let it go at that.

“Didn’t you take courses on Christ and his message; love for your fellow man, brotherhood, compassion, forgiveness, the separation of religion and government, render unto Caesar, and the Golden Rule?”

“Sure, we touched on them things, but that ain’t what brings in the money.  To get the really big bucks you gotta’ scare the holy crap out of ‘em.  They got it, you just gotta’ loosen their grip on it.  The louder I preach and the hotter I make the fires of hell, the more they drop in the collection plate.”

“You don’t see being a pastor of a church as a sacred obligation?  Money aside, what about the good you can do for your congregation and the community as a whole?”

“Money is power, Dad Steele.  Ever’body knows that!  The more money I get out of ‘em, the more power I have to do what I think’s right for our government and community.”

“Humm, what you think’s right?”  Sonny asked.

Sonny bit his tongue from the anger rising within him and could taste the bitterness of the iron in his own healthy blood.  He thought of Vivian’s comment to him the day before about biting her tongue, and wondered to himself if that’s where the word ‘irony’ came from?  He hung his head in sadness, closed his eyes and prayed.  He wasn’t much of a praying man, but Sonny Steele, world champion rodeo cowboy seven years in a row, prayed like he never prayed before.

‘Please, Dear God!  Give me strength!  Hold back my hand!  Don’t let me kill him, Lord!  Not here!  Not now!  Not like this!  Show me the way, Lord!’ was his silent prayer.  Then he felt his overwhelming sense of cowboy humor kick in and again prayed, ‘Howsomever, on the other hand, Lord, if’n you see fit to lemme’ kill him, you don’t have to watch, Sir, jes’ turn yore’ head the other way.  I’ll make it quick.  I promise, I won’t never tell if’n you don’t.”

Sonny could swear he heard the voices’ of the ancients roar with laughter, and that was his answer.  As bad as he wanted to, he knew he couldn’t do it.  Besides, he considered the long-term consequences.  If he got away with it, he and Vivian would probably end up with Abigail moving back in with them, and he knew that would be a fate worse than his own death; he shuddered to contemplate; it wouldn’t be pretty.  Even though Abigail was an excellent student and made top grades in school, Vivian always considered her daughter a little less than ‘half-baked’ in the brains department.  Left together for any length of time, Sonny knew Vivian would most likely revert to her primitive animal state and consume her offspring.  He couldn’t let that happen to his precious.  Sonny resigned himself, for better or worse, his daughter’s place was with her husband.  Vivian was right.  Abigail made her own decision to marry David and become a minister’s wife.  She made her own bed.  It was one fate, from which, her cowboy dad couldn’t save her.  He shook his head and his eyes began to water, not from internalized pain but from the mirth within his heart.  David noticed his father-in-law was quiet, but allowed him his moment to himself.

“Do you have any idea how much money the other pastor gets in donations to his church every month?” Sonny asked, trying to steer the conversation down another path.  He’d reached a dead end from his pursuit of an imaginary road sign that read, ‘Moral responsibility, this-a-way.’

“Yes, Sir.  We got us spies all over the place.  Their lady treasurer faxes us copies of their financial reports.  She’s a closet fundamentalist, but her husband ain’t.  He’s a die hard, liberal, yellow dog Democrat.  He’s one of the original founders of the new Grange.  He’s one of their high mucky-mucks; name’s Sam Eagleston.  Mrs. Eagleston’s the lady what done told me about the strange goings on out to the Goodnight ranches.  I don’t know though, she could be just a little soft in the head; maybe just a little crazy.  She talks about some really weird shit like pixies what look like Tinkerbell flying around; huge, hairy Bigfoot-like men carrying around human babies in  pouches in their bellies; other Bigfoot young playing football with the Goodnight boys and their slaves; ring tailed critters what seem like us humans; healing crystals what speak to them; Waco Goodnight making a copy of himself for one of the alien crystal-critters to live inside his clone’s body; her husband and the rest of the Grange members shooting down alien space craft what’s been stealing their cattle; and lots of other shit like that.”

Sonny met all the creatures David described earlier that morning on the Bandersnatch.  Sonny felt an almost perverse pleasure knowing something his narrow minded son-in-law could have no concept of nor would he try to understand if he did.  To David Yates it would simply be ‘of the Devil’ with no explanation satisfactory to dismiss such an idea.  If it was something he couldn’t understand, it was simply labeled demonic; end of story.

“Crazy?!” Sonny blasted out, “Just a little crazy?!  Ya’ think?!  And you listened to her?!  Holy crap, Son.  Information like that is only as good as its source.  You let a crazy lady convince you the Goodnights and Lazarus Long are Devil worshipers who are demonically possessed?  That lady needs to be sent to a happy farm and locked away in their rubber room; and, you need to visit her real often until you’re convinced she’s where she should be.  No wonder them men got chu’ locked in their sights.”  laughed Sonny knowing the first thing he would do, if accepted into the Grange, would be to plug that lady’s hole.    

“From the financial reports she sends us, last year the other preacher took in almost five times the money we did, but we got five times the membership; however, they got all them big, rich ranchers what goes to their church and they can afford to give more.  That’s all gonna’ change soon though.  New legislation the Holy Prophet is supporting will require them to give us half of their take if they want to stay tax exempt.  Dr. Scudder calls it sharing the wealth for God’s holy work.”

It sounded more like legalized stealing to Sonny.  

“I don’t wanna’ have to go to Mr. Goodnight and Ramrod Long and tell them the Holy Prophet wants their boys for his own.”  David continued.

“The way I see it, y’ain’t got much choice.  Scudder could come down on you with his terrible swift sword of holy wrath and make yore’ life a real honest-to-God living hell on Earth.  On the other hand, if you confront the men of the Grange in a hostile manner, they’re gonna’ go nuclear on yore’ ass and destroy you in the community.”

Sonny saw a glimmer of hope in his words.  He was thinking out loud.  He felt like he was tossing his words from the bed of his pickup with a pitchfork like he was throwing hay to his cattle in the dead of winter, but there was somebody else driving the truck.

“I know.  That’s why I need advice.”  David said quietly.

Sonny heard the words in his head before he even spoke them, he just put his mouth in gear, and they began to spill out and pave the road.

“If in doubt, just don’t do nothing, Son.  Send a strong but polite message to Dr. Scudder you don’t wish to fail him in his request, but you don’t consider yourself worthy to take on such a great and noble task.  Lay it on thick.  All preachers are good with unctuous words.  I know you are, I’ve heard you preach.” Sonny didn’t know where that came from but he laughed inside, “You gotta’ baste that big turkey a number of times to keep it from burning from the heat of your intent.  Tell him you’re only a humble, small town preacher what ain’t got neither the political base nor the savvy to sway these citizens to provide for his needs.  Remind him miracles is his department.  Tell him you pray for ‘em, but you’re much further down the list at receiving answers than he is.  If he wants these things accomplished, then he must pray for them and seek God’s help.  If he don’t get ‘em, then it’s probably because God don’t want him to have ‘em.  Slam dunk that ball back into his court.  Then refuse to allow him to place you in that position again.  Tell him ‘thanks’ but ‘no thanks.’”

“He could still destroy me, Sonny.”

“Maybe, . . . maybe not.  Ain’t likely.  I doubt he’s gonna’ come down that hard on an old friend.  It wouldn’t play well in the press, and if he’s anything, he all about propaganda.  Neither would it look very good for him to use force on the community.  That’s why he’s having you do his dirty work.  That way, he don’t get the finger of corruption pointed in his direction.  If it all blows up, which is a pretty sure bet it will, all he’s got to do is claim you misunderstood his instructions and became overzealous.  Better you suffer his wrath than that of the Grange.  No matter what happens, after all is said and done, you have to continue living in their community.  Scudder don’t.  He’s ten thousand miles away in Washington.”

“But what if his Holiness uses force on these men?”

“Then you grab your shotgun and line up with them in defense of your community.  ‘Cause when it comes to their families, I know them men.  They’re gonna’ draw a line in the sand and protect their own, even if it means their lives are in the balance.”

“You gotta’ be kidding!  Me, with a gun?  I couldn’t do that!  They don’t go to my church!  Besides, I don’t even own a gun.  After what they done to me, why would I wanna’ standup and put my life on the line for them anyway?”

Sonny never wanted to backhand a man so badly in his life.  If a cowboy said something to him as stupid as his son-in-law just did, he would be in traction for a month, and then have to be fitted for a full set of dentures.  Sonny settled for grinding his rear teeth together and thought once more of Vivian and irony.

“Because, it’s the right damn thing to do, boy!”  Sonny said with such firm conviction there was no room in David’s small mind for rebuttal, “Son, do you ever read that damn bible of yore’n?  Even if you don’t, consider it a strong political move on yore’ part.  It would go a hell of a long way to improve relations with them men.  I’ll give you a damn shotgun to take home with you, just in case.  Besides, you won’t be alone.  Me, ma’ boys and dad will be right there on the front line next to you with our guns.  I ain’t gonna’ standby and let Scudder take them fine young men for his nefarious purposes.  I don’t care under what God’s name he thinks he’s doing it.  In Reason County Texas that dog won’t never hunt, Son.”

“You’re serious, ain’t chu’?”  David asked in quiet awe of his father-in-law.

“Bet chore’ evangelical ass, boy!  Dead serious!” Sonny said with all the import of his cowboy persona.  “There’s jes’ some things in life what are worth put’n your life on the line for, and them young men is one of ‘em!  They’re our last, best hope for a future of any kind, preacher man, and don’t chu’ never forget it!”

David was stunned.  He never heard Sonny so adamant about anything.  He was generally pretty mellow and jovial, but this was a side of his cowboy father-in-law he never saw before.  David wasn’t real sure what Sonny was talking about, but he decided it would be unwise to go up against his father-in-law.  Besides, he got what he came for.  Sonny laid out a plan for him the preacher thought just might work.  David quietly thanked his father-in-law and told him he valued his counsel.  Sonny learned a great truth from his old man.  Once you’ve had your say, made your point, back off and leave it alone.  Don’t muddy the water’s of conviction by using more words than necessary.

The sun was setting as the men headed back toward the ranch house.  They found Vivian in the kitchen getting supper on the table.  Sonny’s old man was sitting at the table talking quietly with his daughter-in-law.  David shook Warren’s hand and went to Vivian.  They gave each other a cursory hug and a quick kiss on the cheek.  Sonny could see Vivian’s heart wasn’t in it.  David could feel her disdain.  Vivian got the last of the food on the table and they sat down to eat.  They joined hands around the table.  Being a preacher, David just expected he would be asked to say the blessing.

“Dad?” Vivian shot across the table to Warren before David could get a word out.  Warren grinned and began to pray.

“Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies and us to thy service, Lord.  Grant us strength, health, wisdom and the courage to do what’s right and live our lives as an example to others.  Bless our family and keep us safe from harm.  Amen!”  Everyone said ‘Amen’ and sat down to eat.  Vivian thanked her father-in-law for his prayer, and added, “Ain’t never heard me a better one, Dad.”

“You’re welcome, daughter.”  Warren responded sincerely.

There was some conversation during dinner, but nothing was said about why David drove out to talk with Sonny or what was discussed.  Vivian and Warren were curious, but they knew the minute David drove away they would learn everything.

The three of them spent the morning on board the Bandersnatch with Lazarus, Cable, David and Jonathan.  Vivian couldn’t keep her eyes or her hands off the bio-mechanical men.  They didn’t mind.  They fell in love with her and she with them.  Sonny laughed at his old man getting an erection at his age from the men.  Warren was quick to point out the wet spot at Sonny’s crotch he’d been sporting all morning.  Sonny laughed and admitted he thought the men were pretty damn spectacular.

It was a Friday morning, a holiday and the boys were home from school.  There was more activity on the Bandersnatch.  Folks were on their way in and out of the ship all morning.  The Steele family got to meet most of the unusual players of the Goodnight family.  Cable’s staff was constantly being interrupted with their examinations of the Steeles.  They were used to it and took it in stride with good humor.  Waco and the dogs came through to get his brother Blue and Keeke to take them to the big house for breakfast.

“They’re staying on the ship?” Vivian asked Waco.

“Well, . . . yes and no, ma’am.  They’re staying in a small town called Parsons, New Mexico, but technically they’re on the ship.  Before you ask ‘how’s that possible’ let me show you.”

Waco took the three of them through another gate into a well lit cargo bay.  In it were several rows of sturdy racks that held what looked like trays with bubble domes.  Waco took them to one about four by eight feet, the size of a standard piece of plywood with a big bubble dome over the top.  It was opaque, but you could see down into the area.  It looked like there were clouds drifting by that sometime obscured the view, but every now and then you could get a glimpse of the tiny town.   There were tiny trees and houses; roads with horses and buggies being driven along by tiny people.

“My God, it’s a world in miniature!” exclaimed Sonny.  Warren giggled.  Obviously he was familiar with size reduction.

“Not quite.  Come with me.”  Waco urged the Steeles and he led them through another gate.  This time they emerged into the courtyard of Dr. Stevens and Arnie’s property right in front of their guest cottage.

“Welcome to Parsons, New Mexico folks.” Waco said.

“You mean . . .?”  said Vivian quietly.

“Yes, daughter, we been shrunk to their size.  Only we ain’t been shrunk in relation to the town.”  Warren answered Vivian.

“Amazing!” allowed Sonny.  

“Fantastic!” said Vivian and she grabbed Sonny’s arm.

Scraps, Happy and the pups accompanied them and the pups lit out for the door of the cottage as fast as their stubby little legs would carry them yelling for their buddy “Boo.”  It was mass confusion.  It was obvious they were there many times before.  The pups didn’t have or need any concept of size.  They were just thrilled to be able to see their big cowboy buddy again and his little friend who could fly.

Blue came out of the cottage fully dressed in his cowboy clothes, hitching up his Wranglers like any cowboy and strutting like any buckaroo in his heavy boots, with Keekepata flying close behind him trying to keep up with his big stride.  Blue stopped to acknowledge his furry little buddies petting them, calling each one by name, and allowed Keeke to catch up and land on his shoulder.  He smiled at the look of frustration on her face, reached up and steadied her with his big hand.

“You just couldn’t wait for me, could you?” she scolded him, “You know it takes a lady longer than it does a cowboy to get ready in the mornings.”

“I’m sorry, little sister, I jes’ heard ma’ fuzzy little buddies calling to me, saw ma’ brother and some new folks I wanted to meet.  I knew you’d catch up eventually and you did.”

Vivian was laughing at their bickering.  They sounded like a brother and sister having an argument.  Waco introduced Blue and Keeke to the Steeles and once again they were flabbergasted.  Waco explained how Blue became his brother and within him dwelt an intelligent blue crystal who had contributed much to him and his family.  The boys decided to give him a body to become more mobile and Waco and his cohorts conceived of cloning his own body for the purpose.  

“I couldn’t be prouder or happier to have me a twin brother.”  Waco put his arm around Blue and held him shoulder to shoulder.  You couldn’t tell them apart.  The Steeles had to agree, Blue was pretty damn impressive.

Waco then told how Keekepata stowed away on the Buttercup, damn near got herself eaten by a big ranch cat and was now his slave for a while.  Keeke just sat there and blushed at the story again.  She kept tickling Blue behind his ear like any younger sister might pester her big brother and he kept brushing her hand away.  

“If’n you don’ t behave yore’self, I’m gonna’ make you fly.”  he grinned at her.

“I’ll behave, big brother.” she giggled and quickly stopped her mischief.

The Steeles were enchanted by the two of them.  They all went back through the gate together to the infirmary of the Bandersnatch.  Waco, Blue and Keeke bid ‘goodbye’ to go to the big house for breakfast, but promised they’d return to check on them.  The Steeles went back to their examinations.

During the course of the morning, the Steeles got to meet the rest of the boys and they brought Ramrod Long’s twins in for a check up and just to say ‘hello’ to everyone.  They were accompanied by the two big Lummox.  Vivian was taken with the babies.  She looked at Sonny longingly, and he knew what was going through her mind.

The critters that really blew Sonny and Vivian away were Ping and Pong and Jack and Jill.  They thought they were beautiful.  The adults were quiet and well mannered but the young ones were all over Sonny, Vivian and Warren.  Warren met Ping and Pong many years before and they were delighted to see him again.  They were warm and affectionate with Warren.  Sonny and Vivian declared they never spent such a morning in their lives.  Warren had.

Cable ran all sorts of tests on the three of them and could find nothing wrong.  They were healthy.  He told Warren he would begin to notice a change from the long-shot in about a week.  He predicted it would bring him back to about his mid to late forties in health and appearance.  Warren couldn’t have been more pleased.

“Hell, we can’t keep up with him now.  How do you expect us to chase after him if’n he’s that much younger?” Sonny quipped.

“You won’t have to.” said Warren, “I plan to git me a pretty young filly to chase after me.”

“You wouldn’t!”  Sonny laughed indignantly like he was surprised at his dad.

“Watch me.” grinned Warren.

“Good for you, dad.” Vivian allowed.  “Leave your dad alone, Sonny.  He deserves a little happiness and your respect.” she laughed. “You’re gonna’ have enough on yore’ plate taking care of your stable.” she roared with laughter.  “If we got years to go, and I’m gonna’ be younger, I’m gonna’ see if these fine looking men can untie my tubes.  I plan to have me six more a’ yore’ babies, cowboy.  I didn’t get me enough the first time around.”

“Lord, woman, you’ll wear out this old cowboy.” Sonny giggled at the prospect.

“If I’m gonna’ get younger, so will you, buckaroo.  You know how you were even ten years ago.  We’re gonna’ have to get us another twenty cowboy-slaves just to keep you happy.”  she laughed.  Sonny just grinned real big.

* * * * * * *

Sonny was good to his word and loaned his son-in-law one of his twelve gage shotguns.  He showed him how to load it and gave him half a box of shells to go with it.  He carefully placed it in the back of David’s SUV for him and told him to leave it there until he needed it.  If all this blew over, return it to him.  David thanked him and made it a point to let Sonny know how much he appreciated their talk.  He felt better and could see some hope.

Preacher Yates went home, and with his wife’s help, carefully composed a letter to his Holiness outlining his position and graciously declining his offer to be his representative in the community.  He told Abigail he was following the plans he and her dad talked about on his visit to the ranch.  Abigail trusted her dad above all other men.  David sometimes wondered if she didn’t have a deep seated hidden sexual lust for her own father.  David had to admit sitting next to Sonny on that old tractor moved something deep within him.  He almost wanted to ask Sonny for a repeat of their earlier encounter.

* * * * * * *

Sonny dialed up the Goodnight ranch and spoke with Charlie.  He thanked him for their graciousness on the Bandersnatch earlier that morning and told him he talked with Reverend Yates.  He felt like it was important to have another face to face meeting with Charlie and Lazarus.  He learned some information from David they might want to know about, and considering the nature didn’t care to discuss it on the phone.  

Charlie invited Sonny, Vivian and Warren to breakfast the next day.  He and Lazarus had already invited them to their regular Sunday afternoon Grange meeting.  With Lazarus and Charlie to recommend them, the Steele’s membership into the Grange was all but a done deal.  Charlie asked if the matter could wait ‘til then, but Sonny was concerned it dealt with a subject of some sensitivity they might want to deal with before their Grange meeting.

The Steeles arrived through the gate on the Bandersnatch about an hour before breakfast.  They were impressed everyone was there to greet them and acted like they were old family.  Waco and his men were most impressed by Sonny’s rodeo skills and several asked for his autograph.  Of course, that went down real big with Sonny as Warren and Vivian winked and rolled their eyes behind his back.

Breakfast certainly wasn’t a formal affair around the Goodnight ranch.  The dogs and pups weren’t allowed in the dining area for obvious reasons.  The pups learned to be the worst kind of little beggars and could talk the boys out of their souls.  Charlie was beginning to wonder whether teaching dogs to speak was such a wise idea.  He could foresee a time when no one could say no to them and they would take over the world.  Who knows, they might do a better job than man?

Sonny was hesitant to talk about such a sensitive matter over breakfast, but Charlie and Lazarus assured him they had few secrets from the boys.  They were as much in this struggle as they were and deserved to be treated with the same respect.  Lazarus reminded Sonny of the old cowboy code, it don’t matter how young or old a buckaroo is as long as he can pull his own weight.

Sonny told them what his son-in-law, the Pentecostal Evangelical preacher David W. Yates told him about Mrs. Eagleston acting as a spy for his church and telling them everything about the finances of the other church and the activities of the Grange.  The Steeles were somewhat bemused by the men’s response.  Hank and Ida Mae were having lunch with them.

“Don’t surprise me a bit.” Spoke Ida Mae. “She’s been acting holier-than-thou ever since she and Mr. Eagleston started coming to the Grange meetings.  She’s been spewing her fundamentalist nonsense about this and that.  At first we tried to reason with her, then most of the ladies would just avoid her or shut up when she comes around.  I’m probably the last one to come around to how Captain Long and Mr. Charlie do things, but they saved my friends life and that big furry man’s milk cured my boy of endless headaches that made his life miserable.  Then me and Hank got us the Long-shot about a year or so ago and it’s reversed our aging to the point we’re acting more like teenagers than mature adults.  I ain’t seen nothing they done what ain’t been good for other folks.”  

“Believe it or not,” Charlie spoke to the Steeles, “she’s been good advertising for us.  From her talking outside the Grange, some folks have heard her and come to us on the sly to ask to join; however, we didn’t know about her spying for the other church.  That’s not right and it will be up to Sam to take care of it.  I don’t think it will be much of a surprise for him either.  Sam’s a good man, and he loves his wife despite her ultraconservative ideas about things.  He’ll handle it.  He won’t be mean or punish her, but he will make sure he shuts her up.  He’s too heavily invested in us and we in him to let her ruin everything because of her crazy thinking.”  

“We appreciate you folks coming forward to tell us about this.  It ain’t easy, especially for country folks to tell on others, but we’re living in delicate times where one loose tongue, if taken seriously, could bring down the federal government on us; however, they wouldn’t find much.  We’d rather avoid it if’n we can.  We can have everyone hidden in a matter of minutes if need be.  We conduct drills occasionally.”  Lazarus said.

Lazarus and Charlie seemed to be more interested in Sonny’s talk with preacher Yates.

“His lack of understanding about what’s going on in the world and all around him is staggering.” Sonny began, “Naturally, it’s painful for me seeing my daughter caught up with him; however, I understand once she made her decision to marry him and become a part of his world, I ain’t got no real claims to being her protective daddy no more.  Nevertheless, it still hurts.”

No one said a word.  They all could feel Sonny’s pain.  He was proud of his sons, but his little girl, his precious, had a special place in his big cowboy heart.  Sonny continued.  “I didn’t think I was gonna’ have much of an influence on him, but towards the last of our conversation, God help me, I don’t know where it come from, but I come up with a plan what just might work.  It was simple enough he could understand it without bruising his ego.  He said he liked the idea and would try it.”

Sonny went on to describe what he discussed with David.  Sonny added David called later that evening and said he and Abigail sat down and wrote a letter containing all the points they discussed.  Charlie, Lazarus and the boys thought it sounded like a great plan.  The boys confirmed for the adults they had no desire to become a part of the Holy Prophet’s boy band.  Sonny went on to say.

“If push comes to shove, you gentlemen have our pledge, me, my boys, ma’ dad and several of my older grand-kids will be on the front line of resistance with our guns locked and loaded.  We won’t let this happen in our community.  If’n he can do this to you, our boys will be next.”

Charlie, Lazarus and the boys thanked the Steeles and told them their pledge was a comfort to them, but they hoped it didn’t come to that.  If it did, Lazarus had ways and means to make sure thing went in their favor.

* * * * * * *

The residents of Parsons, New Mexico loved to have outside visitors.  The larger the Grange grew and more folks were available, they began to develop a thriving trade as a tourist attraction.  It was wonderful for the people of the regular world.  It was like going back into history.  While there were a few internal combustion engines still in operation for farm and ranch use, by and large the community reverted back to horse and buggies for transportation.  It just seemed to slow down the pace of life in the small town to where the residents and visitors were more laid-back and congenial with one another.  It was ecologically more sound and conserved on combustible fuel sources; although, they set aside a percentage of certain crops to make bio-fuel.  They also recycled their human and animal waste to produce methane for home cooking and heating.
Several other micro-mini communities sprang up due to sexual, racial and religious persecution from the government.  There were two thriving same sex communities who were open to trade and visitors.  The men took a page from the old movies of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, they were all the time putting on shows in their barn.  While some were quite good, others were really bad; however, even the awful ones were fun and everybody had a good time.  Thankfully, when they were bad the performers had the good sense to know it and camped it up to make the best of it.  Those were the shows that were remembered, laughed and talked about for years afterward.  

Several of the towns became active in trade and entertainment swaps with the various communities and that afternoon Parsons decided to hold an old fashion country Fair and Rodeo.  All the boys were going and several were participating.  They invited the Steeles to join them.  The Steeles went back through the gates to get their cowboy outfits.  Sonny was feeling better and Warren had a glow about him he hadn’t experienced in years.  Cable noticed, grabbed him, checked his pulse, smiled, winked at him and whispered something to the elderly man.  Warren blushed the deepest red color, smiled,  nodded his head in the affirmative, hugged Cable to him, and bussed a kiss behind his ear.  Everyone began to laugh.

The boys debated letting Scraps, Happy and the pups go to the Fair with them; however, Keekepata came to their rescue.

“Master Waco, . . .  Blue, Jack, Jill, Ping, Pong and I are as different as the pups and we’re accepted without question in all the communities.  They welcome us with open arms.  They all know about the pups from the community news channel you men set up.  Every time we go to one of the communities they wanna’ know when they’re gonna’ get to meet the pups.  Now is as good a time as any.”

“Yeah, Auntie Key-Key!” they pups yelled their approval.  “We wanna’ go, too, Master Way-co!” one of the little females yelled.  “Yes, yes, yes!  Please, Master Way-co!”  the others chanted.
“How could anybody say ‘no’ to them?”  Waco asked the assembled group.  “All right!  You can go, but the first one who gets sick from eating too much junk will cause the rest of you to have to come back to the ranch.  Is that understood?”  Waco tried his best to sound like the voice of authority, but his heart wasn’t in it, and the pups could see right through him.

“Oh, yes, Sir.  We promise, Master Waco.  We promise to be good.”  everyone laughed at them.

“Yeah, right!”  Waco said with considerable sarcasm in his voice.  Everyone fell out laughing at the exchange.

* * * * * * *

Sonny left his foreman slave-trustee in charge of the ranch and called his oldest son to tell him they would be in Parsons, New Mexico for a Fair and Rodeo if they were needed.  His son didn’t bother asking, he just accepted his dad’s statement and agreed to see him the following day at the Goodnight ranch.  It was a wonderful day and everyone had a great time.  Sonny participated in the rodeo and roped with Waco, Travis, and Little Bear.  Lucas and Blue were still learning, and while they competed, they never managed to get a rope around a steer.  Lazarus and Charlie won the roping competition.

The pups became the center of attention.  They were invited onto the rodeo stage where the judges gave Scraps and Happy a blue ribbon for the best country family at the rodeo.  Scraps was thrilled and the pups went bananas.  The audience wanted to hear the pups sing.  They’d seen them on the closed circuit local news channel.  Since Lucas created the monster it was his job to lead them.

Lucas took the microphone from the announcer and introduced himself.  He thanked the audience, but said he and his brothers were a little tired of the A, B, C song.  Lucas explained, he, his brothers and the pups worked up another song, and they wanted to sing it for the first time for this audience.  That got him and the pups a big round of applause.

Lucas pulled an ipod from his vest pocket and set it and the small speakers on the stage.  He sat the microphone in front of it.  He lined the pups up and gave them a little pep talk.

“Okay, now, everybody gather ‘round.  Are y’all ready?”  They were running around all over the place and the crowd was going crazy laughing at them.  Finally they ran over to the edge of the stage and sat down in a line in front of Lucas.

“We’re ready, brother Loo-cuss.”  they chorused.

“All right.  Let’s do it just like we rehearsed.  We done done it a hunnert times or more.  You guys all know this.  Okay, here we go.”  Lucas pressed the button and a piano started playing.  Lucas started singing in his best cowboy voice.

Would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a mule?

Lucas held the microphone close to the first little female who picked up the first verse.  She threw her little head back and sang out like Ethel Merman.  The audience was enthralled.  You could hear a pin drop.  She tossed her head from side to side as she sang and balanced herself from one front paw to the other.

A mule is an animal with long funny ears
He kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny but his brain is weak
He's just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
And by the way, if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule

Everyone joined in on the chorus.

Or would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a pig?

The next verse was sung by one of the little males.  His voice was noticeably lower than his sister’s, but his enthusiasm was equal her’s.

A pig is an animal with dirt on his face
His shoes are a terrible disgrace
He’s got no manners when he eats his food
He's fat and lazy and extremely rude
But if you don't care a feather or a fig
You may grow up to be a pig

While the male pup was singing, Lucas’ cowboy brothers slowly and quietly came onto the small stage and sat down on the front with their legs dropped over the edge.  They each picked up a pup, set it in their laps, and joined the next chorus with them.

Or would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a fish?

Waco and Blue sang the next verse helped by the two pups they were holding in their laps,

A fish won't do anything, but swim in a brook
He can't write his name or read a book
To fool the people is his only thought
And though he's slippery, he can still get caught
But then if that sort of life is what you wish
You may grow up to be a fish

Everyone joined in on the chorus with great enthusiasm.

And all the monkeys ain't in the zoo
Every day you meet quite a few
So you see it's all up to you
You can be better than you are
You could be swingin' on a star

“One more verse?” shouted Lucas asking the crowd.  They went crazy applauding their unanimous approval.

The Canine/Human chorus continued,

Or would you like to swing on a star,
Carry moonbeams home in a jar,
And be worse off than you are,
Or would you rather be a dog.

It was the pup’s time to shine and they took it away as loud as their little voices would sing.  They put their all into it.  They instantly turned into six miniature hams.    
A dog is the bestest friend a cowboy ever had.
He herds cows and tries to make him glad
He keeps him company and don’t never complain
He warms his feet when it’s cold and rains
So you won’t be as lonely as a frog,
If you grow up to be a dog.

Everyone joined in for the final stanzas,

“You should grow up to be a dog!”    

“What?  I didn’t hear you!”  Lucas put his hand to his ear and sang to the chorus.  They all sang their answer retardando,

“You should grow up to be a dog!”

“You really mean it?” Lucas asked the pups.  

They sang the last phrase together, grand rallentando, for a big finish.

“Yooooouuu, should grow up to be a dog!” *

The pups were all over their cowboy brothers with licks and kisses while the crowd went nuts.  It was lethal stuff, the purest form of death by cute.  They got a standing ovation.  Vivian, Sonny and Warren were laughing so hard they had tears running down their faces.  All of this was being carefully recorded and noted by Kyron, the AI, (artificial intelligence) to be included in the next video log to be sent into deep space to Captain Vinceeth’s ship the ‘Banshee.’

 * * * * * * *

The rest of the Steele family joined their parents and granddad the next day.

“Dad, I checked out Parsons, New Mexico on the Internet last evening and the town was wiped out by a big meteor about two years ago.  There’s nothing there but a huge crater.”  said Matthew.  His brothers were surrounding their dad and granddad.

“Yeah, that’s right.  Only it weren’t destroyed.  It was saved and so was all the folks of the town.  It’s on Ramrod Long’s spaceship.  It’s been shrunk to the size of a sheet of four by eight plywood.  We went to a county fair and rodeo there yesterday.”  Sonny explained as solemnly as he could.  His dad couldn’t help giggling.  Sonny’s oldest boy Matthew rubbed his chin and smiled.

“An entire town on board the ship?  Did you have to shrink down to go there.”

“No, we just walked though one a’ them gates, and we was there.” Sonny responded.

“Damn, that’s phenomenal.” allowed Matthew.

“Remember that area they call Lake Olsen now?  There used to be a ranch there.  Then one night it just when missing.  It disappeared.”

“It’s on his ship, too?” asked Mark.

“E’aup, we talked with the Olsens and their family.  Their little girl is living with them, but their two boys is living with Hoot Austin and Cotton Daniels and going to school.  Remember we saw the Olsen boy play football with the Goodnight boys?  Captain Long rescued the Olsen’s from detention camps run by the Scudder regime, and they’re living happily on their ranch on his ship.  There’s a lot more folk been rescued and saved.  All sorts of folks were there yesterday.  It was like an old time country fair and rodeo.  I rode with several of the Goodnight boys, and we had us a great time.”

“Damn, Dad.  Remember you got three sons who would love to see some’um like ‘at.”  interrupted the youngest Luke.  He laughed.

“There’ll be other times.  I got a feeling we’re gonna’ be close to the Goodnights and Longs, but we gotta’ do ever’ thing we can to help ‘em through this crisis with their boys.  Who knows, if’n we don’t he could come after our boys.  I think David and Abigail wrote a letter to Scudder last night.  We don’t know what the results is gonna’ be, but I’ve pledged our help to them even if it comes to drawing a line in the sand and taking up arms.”

“We’re with you all the way, Dad.” said Mark.

“You know it, Dad!” agreed Luke.

“Just say the world, Dad, and we’ll be there loaded for bear.” threw in Matt.

 * * * * * * *

The Steeles were unanimously voted into the Grange.  There were two other families being considered, and they were voted in as well.  Lazarus and Charlie got Sam Eagleston aside in private and told him what they learned from Sonny Steele’s conversation with his son-in-law.  Sam was understandably embarrassed and upset.  He was ready to resign from the Grange.  Lazarus and Charlie tried to make it easy on him.

“We don’t want that, Sam.  You’re too good a man to lose because of a small setback like this.  We don’t hold it against you.  It’s just the mind-set in the world today what supports ever’ damn thing that little hypocrite does under the name of the almighty.  He gets away with more shit. The rest of us would be in prison if we done it.  All she can see is the false religious aspect of him.  She can’t see his flaws.  You handle it anyway you see fit, Sam.  We ain’t looking for her to be punished or hurt because of what she sees as right.  Just do what you think’s right, Sam.”  Charlie told him.

“Maybe if you explain what Scudder asked preacher Yates to do for him, procuring young men for his sexual purposes she might see things differently.”  Lazarus urged.

“Naw, she’d never believe he wanted them men for that purpose.  She’d come up with some holy crap reason that don’t make sense to nobody but her.  Anyone with a lick a’ sense knows what that little monster’s all about.  I’ll take care of it.  Her brand of religion has some pretty harsh things to say about women keeping their mouths shut and obeying their husbands.  I’ve always tried to let her have her own voice, but I didn’t know it had come to this.  I appreciate you men being so understanding.  I won’t resign, but I will make damn sure she don’t endanger the Grange no more.”

Sam immediately took care of the situation.  He forced his wife to resign from being Secretary-treasurer of their church.  He kept her at home most of the time and took all her transportation keys away from her.  He allowed her to go to church with him, but he wouldn’t bring her to Grange meetings any more.  When he found out she was calling around in the community to raise sympathy for her support he threatened to remove all phones but his cell phone.  When she wouldn’t mind him he personally ripped them out.  He had the only phone on the ranch, and he kept it with him at all times.  She wasn’t allowed to call anyone unless he was there and listened to the call.

Finally, she became so unmanageable and defiant he shipped her off to live with her liberal, spinster school teacher sister in upstate New York, thinking her sister might be able to talk some sense to her.  After six months, her own sister told Sam she thought she was hopeless.  She didn’t see her sister changing her mind or attitudes.  She became increasingly convinced of her own personal religious persecution and martyrdom at the hands of her family.  She found a Pentecostal evangelical church near her who welcomed her with open arms until she started telling stories about spaceships, monster aliens, and pixies flying around.  Then they cooled to her quickly and wrote her off as a mental case.

She threatened to divorce Sam if he didn’t let her return so she could be closer to her kids and grandchildren.  Sam didn’t want a divorce because of his kids, but to his surprise they all faithfully stood behind him.  They didn’t want her back.  Unbeknownst to Sam, she was working hard behind their backs to indoctrinate her grandchildren in the ways of fundamentalism and was slowly turning them against their parents and granddad.  Sam lost his oldest boy in one of the Bush wars and had two younger boys devoted to him.  So was their older sister.  They urged their dad to divorce their mother, to rid himself of her.

Finally, in desperation, Sam divorced his wife.  He spent a year in mourning for her, and at his children’s urging, finally began to date again.  They had never seen their dad happier than when he met an older lady in their church who was a widow and began to see her regularly.  The kids still kept in touch with their mother and went to visit her regularly, but they would tell her nothing about Sam and his life.  They stopped taking their kids to visit her because she would teach them her rabid, hate-filled fundamentalism and try to turn them against their more liberal, humanist parents.  She was warned repeatedly until she was cut off from seeing her grandchildren.  It was a hard lesson for the old lady to be told by her own children they didn’t want their children growing up to be bitter and hate filled like she was.

Try as they may, not even her own children could save her.  Like their dad, they finally gave up.  She got left behind several times.  Then one day, in times of great trial on the Earth,  the greatest cut of all happened to her, when right before her very eyes, her liberal, agnostic sister vanished from the chair she was sewing in.  She knew in her heart, without a doubt, her sister, whom she consider slightly better than a heathen, had been raptured, but she was not.  Could she have been so wrong?  Perhaps, but she still had her faith.

* * * * * * *

Jeremiah Scudder was livid when he received pastor Yates’ letter.  He certainly didn’t expect a negative response.  He fully expected his dim-witted cohort to bow and fawn over his every wish.  Maybe it was that wife of his? She had a degree from a major university.  Perhaps she was instrumental in Yates’ refusal to carry out his wishes.  He sat at his desk in the oval office grinding his teeth in anger.  He looked up at his Temple Guard who just brought him the letter and was standing at attention.

“You’re Armstrong, ain’t chu?” he barked.

“Yes, Sir, your Holiness.” Brick came to even greater attention.  From close observation, he knew his Holiness well.  He knew he was in a foul mood.

“How long you been a Guard?”

“Four years, Sir.”

“Humm, you been cut yet?”

“No, Sir.  I ain’t been offered the honor of the Holy Order.”

“You’re big enough; good looking enough.  Maybe this fall.  You been sleeping with one of my semi-vestals, ain’t chu’?”

“Yes, Sir, your Holiness.”

“You in love with him?”

Brick was silent.  He was about to panic.  How could he deny his love for Tim?  Tim was the first person in his adult life he really cared about.

“Yes, Sir.” Brick answered quietly.

“Better you tell me the truth, Armstrong.  The Holy Prophet will always know when you lie to him.  You ready to give him up to join the Order?”

Once again Brick was silent.  Why hadn’t he prepared himself for this possibility?  He knew what was in the letter he just delivered and imagined it had something to do with the Holy Prophet procuring more semi-vestal virgins for his harem.  It must not be going well for him because he never paid much attention to Brick before.

“You think about it, Armstrong, and make up your mind.  I’ll ask you again later.  That will be all.  You’re dismissed.”

Brick bowed to Scudder, turned and left the room.  Scudder buzzed for his secretary, and she came into the oval office.

“Martha, get me Pastor David W. Yates on a secure line.” he barked.

“Right away, your Holiness.”  Martha Alvenshine bowed to Scudder and left the room.

* * * * * * *

Waco introduced his teacher and fellow Grange member Lyle Chambers  to the Steeles at the Parson’s Fair.  Lyle was accompanied by the huge lummox who stood a little over ten feet tall.  His size was overwhelming.  Ox was with Waco everywhere he went, and earlier, they introduced the Steeles to the Trong-Fielding family who were together and seemed to be having a great time.  The Steeles were further amazed they had three human children and three lummox.  The kids seemed to have a close bond and got along great with each other.  The were like any family group, but there seemed to be just a little more closeness between them than a normal family.  It was something the Steeles found wonderful and appealing.

They learned Gavin and Jerry’s real last names were Trong-Fielding and they were only using the Goodnight’s last name to avoid any suspicion from the school district.  In the outside world they were Waco’s cousins.  The Steeles watched Gavin Goodnight play football with his Goodnight relatives that fateful Friday night.  The Steeles were beginning to put the pieces of the Goodnight/Long puzzle together and they were more amazed than ever; however, it all seemed to work flawlessly.

They met Ox or Garron’s son Bron and his two boys Bronc and T’sgan.  Once again they figured out they took on Lazarus Long’s last name for obvious reasons.  They watched Bronc Long play football with the boys. T’sgan was still too young to be playing highschool football.  He and JR were about the same age and were now stars of the junior high team, which all the Goodnight men and Stamper boys supported.  They were there for every game cheering JR and T’sgan on.

Strom was bigger than Captain Trong.  He stood out above everyone, but it seemed everyone knew and loved him.  Everybody was stopping to chat with him and Lyle Chambers.  They asked about the twins and how Strom was doing after giving birth to them.  The Steeles noticed there was strong feelings passed between Lyle Chambers and the big lummox.  They were constantly touching each other.

“Are you staying in town tonight?” Vivian asked.

“No, ma’am.” Lyle answered, “We got permission from the town fathers to bunk it in an old abandoned barn just South of town.  There’s a farm house on the property we can use, but Strom won’t fit in any of the human beds so we stay in the barn.  There’s a lot of hay stored in it by one of the nearby farmers, and he kindly gave us permission to use it.  It’s warm and comfortable.”

“I don’t think anyone here ain’t slept in a barn at one time or another, Son.” Sonny allowed.  Warren grinned knowingly.  

The Steeles were stunned.  There were lots of same sex couples walking around holding hands and being openly affectionate with one another.  No one seemed to be paying them any attention.  It just seemed natural and made Sonny and Vivian want to be more openly loving with each other; something they rarely did, but it just seemed right somehow in the setting in which they found themselves.  When they did, the other couples would smile and nod their approval.  It made Sonny hug Vivian closer to him and steal a kiss from time to time, and Vivian would respond to her big cowboy husband in kind.

After exchanging pleasantries, Lyle made excuses for him and his mate and strolled away, only to stop and talk with others who knew them.  

“I take it they’re in the process of bonding.” Warren asked a little shyly.

“Yes, Sir, Mr. Steele.”  Waco replied, “You know what they say about human-lummox bondings?” Waco grinned as he put his arm around Ox’s big waist and pulled him to him.  His huge lummox slave gently dropped his big arm over Waco’s shoulder and smiled at him.

“I heard it years ago.”

“What’s that, Dad?” asked Sonny.

“Male-male bondings between humans and lummox are the strongest in the universe.  Once bonded, they rarely separate.”

“What if another love interest comes along?” Vivian asked.

“It happens.  If’n it does, they make room.”  Warren tossed off as if it was the most natural answer in the world.  “Garron has had at least two human mates.  I knew his last mate, Bronc.  Hell of a man and cowboy.  Reminded me a lot of you, Sonny.” Warren grinned and winked at Sonny.  Then he continued, “To be honest, I stay away from them big furry men.”  Warren shook his head.

“Why’s that, Dad?” Vivian asked.

“I’m vulnerable to ‘em.  I jes’ know it.  I know in ma’ heart if’n I ever let ma’self get attached to one, I’d never let him go.  And I wouldn’t settle for one the size of Ox or Captain Trong.  No, no!  Mine would have to be as big as Strom.  I’d have that big monster’s babies fer damn shore’!”  Warren grinned mischievously and winked at Waco.  Waco grinned, blushed and nodded his understanding.

“Dad?!” exclaimed Sonny, like he was astounded at his father’s revelation.  Vivian was about to bust a gut laughing at Warren and her husband.

“I’m jes’ being honest wit’cha, Son.  You don’t know how close you came to having one a’ them big critters for a brother.”  Warren started laughing, “When we found out yore’ ma couldn’t have no more kids, and Cable had to tie her tubes, I almost asked Captain Long to hook me up with one of ‘em.  He could a’ come lived with us on the ranch, and I could a’ had me all the sons I wanted.  They didn’t have to be human, neither.  I would a’ loved to had me one a’ them furry boys for a son.  Still ain’t give up on the idea.”

Sonny was laughing, but this was a side of his old man he’d never seen before.  It made him wonder if he wasn’t enough for his dad.  He put it to his old man.

“That don’t make me feel real secure, Dad.  Makes me think I weren’t enough of a son for you.”

“Are you kidding?  You been a great son for me, boy.  What cowboy wouldn’t be proud of a son who was world champion all round rodeo cowboy seven years in a row?  I love you with all ma’ heart, and I couldn’t be prouder of you.  Don’t chu’ never forgit it.  Look what you and ma’ beautiful daughter-in-law here done gimme?  You gimme’ three of the finest cowboys in these here parts for grandsons and a beautiful, intelligent, if somewhat misguided, granddaughter.  I got me a dozen great-grandchildren to call ma’ own, and I’m proud of ever’ damn single one of ‘em.  H’it’s jes ever’ man imagines how his life should go, but when it don’t, in his later life he wonders how it might have gone if’n he done things a little different.  Maybe my point in all this is to prepare you for the idea, one way or another, you’re gonna’ have brothers and sisters.  If this shot keeps working like it’s done in the last couple of days, you can take that to the bank, and to be honest with you I ain’t fully made up my mind what road I’m gonna’ take to get there.  I jes’ may take both.  I might marry me a fine young woman and take me on the biggest male lummox critter I can find for a husband on the side.  One day you might find me and my little bride fight’n for the toilet because we both got morning sickness from our pregnancies.”

“Dad?!” exclaimed Sonny for the second time.

“Leave Warren alone, Sonny!” Vivian came to her father-in-law’s rescue.  “He’s jes’ being honest with you.  To tell you the truth, I can’t think of a man who would make a finer dad or primary dad, as Captain Long calls the first father, than Dad Steele.  I welcome him the opportunity to do what he wants with his new lease on life.  You should, too.  If it happens, I’ll be the first one there with warm towels to help them through it.  I’d love it!”  Vivian registered her vote, loud and clear.

“I suppose if I can run ma’ arm up inside a heifer to turn her calf and help birth cows all these years, I could give my old man a hand birth’n his little ones.”

“‘Er ya’ go!”  laughed Warren.  “‘At’s ma’ boy I know and love.” Vivian grabbed Warren and they broke up laughing at the look on Sonny’s face.  Sonny just shrugged his shoulders and grinned.

“Uh, Kyron’s got holographic videos of Captain Trong and Commander Fielding conceiving and birthing their last bairn together.  It shows ever’ thing from the Captain planting the proto-embryo into his husband all the way through the first birth with the baby crawling into Captain Trong’s pouch.  It’s really something to see.  I’ve watched it several times.  I never get tired of it.  I just look forward to the day me and Ox can have several bairns together.”

“Really?  You got videos of them two?  Damn, I’d like to see that?”  Warren sounded excited.

“Me, too!” added Vivian.  Sonny just looked constipated, but then he smiled.

“Ah, what the hell, I wanna’ know what ma’ old man might be git’n his’self into.  I’d like to see it, too.” he admited.

“I’ll make arrangements for one evening next week if you like.”  Waco volunteered, “Hope you don’t mind if’n a few others join us.  Ever’ time we show it, there’s a packed house in the auditorium on the Bandersnatch.”

* * * * * * *

Lyle and Strom left the Fair in the late afternoon to walk out to the abandoned barn they were staying in for the night.  The went out early that morning to drop off some things for the night.  They found a nice corner in the loft and made their camp.  It was nice because they didn’t have to worry about anyone coming and stealing their stuff.  They were sure it would be in the same place they left it.  There were several families with horse drawn wagons and surreys who stopped and offered Lyle and his big companion a ride, but they graciously declined.  They were enjoying the walk.  While there was no actual sunset the artificial daylight was beginning to dim and they were enjoying the feel of the moment.  They walked along, hand in hand, and talked quietly in their heads.
<< Are you afraid? >>” Strom asked Lyle.

<< Not at all.  Should I be? >>

<< No.  I would never hurt you. >>

<< I know that.  I wouldn’t be with you if I was concerned. >>  
<< Did you have a good day today? >> Strom inquired.

<< Yes, a very good day.  Just being with you made it special.  I don’t get to see you too much.  My schedule at school keeps me from getting out to the ranch very often.  Of course the Goodnight and Long boys are a blessing.  They are forever dropping by my desk after class to let me know they have a word from you to pass on to me.  I appreciated their understanding and discretion.   A word from you makes my day.  Just walking along this country road with you is special for me.  It’s like another world, and I’m with someone I care very much about.  There is so much craziness out there in our world, you don’t know how lucky you are to live in a protected environment.  Did you have a good day? >>

<< It was a wonderful day.  One of the best I had since I’ve been part of Captain Long and Master Charlie’s extended family.  I carried his and Captain Jones’ twins.  That helps to make me feel part of their world, but it ain’t all I need.  I need to belong to someone and someone to belong to me. >>

<< Until I met you I never considered how important it is to me, Strom.  I was just satisfied to get what little I could from Chet. >>

<< I wouldn’t expect you to give him up if you join with me, Lyle.  He’s your bonded brother.  You shouldn’t just cut him out of your life.  Just like you became a part of his life, he can become a part of ours. >>

<< I’d like that, it’s just I don’t know when I’ll be able to devote my full time to you, Strom.  I don’t think I could teach school while carrying our bairns. >>

<< Why not? >> Strom teased.

<< I suppose I could wear bigger clothing, and tell everyone I have a glandular problem.  I could tell them I gained unwanted weight; only, it would be a lie because it would be very much wanted. >>  Lyle laughed and Strom squeezed his hand with his huge paw.

<< You could quit teaching and come live with me out here.  We could set up residence within this community.  We could probably take over this farm.  I could farm and you could teach school in the community.  I overheard some folks talking with Captain Long and Mr. Goodnight about saving some school teachers from the government so they could have a school.  Right now they have some same sex folks come in to teach.  They seem to make great teachers, and they’ve never had a problem. >>

<< If we got together, would we have a ceremony? >>

<< We can have whatever you like.  I wouldn’t mind.  I rather like ceremonies.  I think we probably should for those who love us.  Your sister-in-law backed me into a corner and wagged her finger at me.  She told me if we didn’t allow her to be part of our bonding she would personally turn me over her knee. >>  Strom bellowed out loud with laugher.  He had a booming, resonant laugh that echoed over the valley and hills.

Finally, a big, long wagon pulled along side.  It was loaded with hay and there were several couples laying about; cowboys with cowgirls, cowboys together, and cowgirls together.  It was an old fashion but progressive hay ride.  It was going to the end of the road, turn around and head back into town.  They stopped and offered Lyle and Strom a ride.  Strom saw it was being pulled by a team of six stalwart horses and he agreed.  He had a strong sense of overburdening animals.  They climbed in to the hay and lay together in each others’ arms.  It was very romantic.  They made a little love.  The two men next to them stuck their heads up from curiosity about Strom.

“How is it to make love to a lummox?”  One asked Lyle.

“Big!” Lyle chuckled.  The guys laughed.

“Ouuu, tell me more!” the smaller of the two giggled.

“Ignore, Marvin, he such a size queen.”

“That ain’t true.  If I was a size queen I wouldn’t be with you.”  Marvin snapped at his mate.

“Ouch!  That hurt!”  laughed his partner as he swatted Marvin on his butt.

“You’re plenty for me lover.  Don’t chu’ worry none.”  Marvin cooed.

“Does he talk?” asked Marvin’s mate.

“Only to me.” replied Lyle as he smiled at Strom.

“Now, that’s the kind of man to have!” the other exclaimed and they laughed again.

They reached the end of the road.  Lyle and Strom got off the wagon, thanked the driver, waved ‘goodbye’ to everyone and headed down the long road to the old barn.  They were only about halfway to the barn when the hay wagon was out of sight.  It was completely dark by the time they reached the barn.  Lyle found the kerosene lantern hanging on a nail by the door where he left it.  He lit it and they climbed the ladder to the loft.  Lyle got his personal bag and excused himself to go into the house to clean himself.  It was their first time together, and he wanted everything to be perfect.

The old farmhouse was serviceable and kept in good shape.  Several of the families from surrounding farms would get together once a month to clean the house and do minor repairs.  It had running hot and cold water and was as comfortable as any modern house, except it didn’t have electricity.  It had power lines running to it, but since no one was using it, the town didn’t see any reason to hook it up.  Now that tourism was beginning to be a major market for them they were considering it.  Lyle carefully cleaned himself and returned to the loft.  He found Strom laying out on the soft blankets they brought along.  He looked so handsome Lyle immediately popped a boner.

He wasted no time shucking his clothes off and going to his lover’s waiting arms.  They lay together in a fond embrace for quite a while.  Lyle shut off the lantern and they were alone in the dark.  Lyle could smell the unique fragrance of Strom’s huge body and it was like an intoxicating aphrodisiac to him.  Since Ping and Pong were experts in communicating with pheremones, they made it a personal study to find out why lummox and human male bondings were so particularly successful.

It took them several years of research, but their conclusions were indisputable.  They found each lummox male was capable of producing his own unique personal pheromones that would be a strong draw to a human male of his choosing, and he was capable of adjusting it, although unconsciously, to tailor fit the human male he found attractive; however, it was a two way street.  By producing such a powerfully bonding pheromone, it also released strong pleasure endorphins within the lummox male he could find nowhere else.  These endorphins were highly addictive and once experienced could rarely be overcome.  It was almost an impossible task to create an antidote because each was unique to the couple who produced them.  It was, in effect, a double edged sword; however, it had a downside.  If either lost a bonded male mate due to death, it triggered a withdrawal that was almost impossible to overcome.  Garron suffered through it twice and the horrors of that period of his life still haunted him.  The only sure cure for a lummox was to bond with another human male.  In some rare cases a lummox male would take on a lummox female for a mate, but they never had the same, strong relationship.

Lyle and Strom were in the infancy of such a journey.  They were counseled and warned of the difficulties; however, they were so drawn to one another, they couldn’t hear a word anyone was saying.  Ping and Pong shook their heads and agreed, so it was with lovers throughout the universe.  Lyle and Strom’s bonding was the closest you could get to the textbook love at first sight.  Lyle never let himself go with anyone like he was with Strom.  He was all over him, tasting and sampling all of him.  Strom wasn’t a shy lover.  He took matters into his own hands and soon had Lyle begging for mercy.  Lyle wanted Strom to take him, but he was worried.  Strom felt it.

<< What’s the matter, my love?  >>   Strom asked.

<< Will I become pregnant right away? >>

<< No, no. >> Strom laughed, << Us Lummox can control our proto-embryo discharge.  All I will release into you is seminal fluids which will bring me great physical release and pleasure.  Without my proto-embryo there will be nothing to fertilize. >>

Lyle was quiet for a moment. << Seems sad in a way. >> Lyle thought quietly.

<< There will come a day, little one, we will both agree on.  Until then, we can enjoy each other without procreating.  It’s like someone once quoted to me from your holy book, ‘There is a season for everything under heaven.’  So it will be with us.  When it is time for us to have bairns, we will know.  Then that will be the time we will rejoice in. >>
<< I love you, Strom. >>

<< I love you, too, my little human. >>

Lyle was a good size man at six foot three, but he had to admit, in Strom’s huge arms he felt like a young, teenage boy.  It was a good feeling, and he relaxed to prepare himself to be taken by his monster.  He felt like he could take Strom.  They were on the precipice of consummating their love.  Strom was poised at Lyle's entrance.  The moment was theirs,. . . when they heard a soft crying sound.  It sounded almost like a human child, afraid and alone.

<< Do you hear that? >> Lyle sent to Strom.  

<< I do.  What do you think it is? >>

<< I don’t know, but we better investigate. >>  Lyle said.  Strom didn’t respond, but nodded his agreement.

They got up and Lyle quickly pulled on his clothes.  He carefully lit the kerosene lantern, and they quietly descended the ladder from the loft.  They followed the soft crying sound to a corner of the barn.  Lyle held the lantern high and they saw a black and white fluff ball trying to hide under a gunny sack behind a bale of hay.

“What are you doing back there, little one?”  Lyle spoke softly.

“I’m afraid.  I’m scared.  I got separated from my family.  Two big mean cats chased me here, and I’ve been wandering all over trying to get back to my family.” said the pup.

“Which one are you?”  Lyle chuckled.

“Laverne.”  she said.

“Well, you’re safe now.  C’mon out.”

The pup bounded out and into Lyle’s hands.  Strom smiled and took the lantern from his mate.

“You’re Mr. Cam-bers, and he be big daddy Strom.”  she was all over Lyle licking and kissing him.  She was so relieved and happy to see friendly faces.  Strom rolled his eyes at Lyle as if to say, ‘so much for our love making.’  Lyle grinned and shook his head.

“Close enough, Laverne.  Come, we’ll take you to bed with us.  You’ll be safe with us, and we’ll take you back tomorrow.”

“But my family will be worried about me.”

“No they won’t.  I have my cell phone with me.  I’ll call Master Waco and tell him you’re with us.”

“That would be okay, I guess.”

“Well, it will have to be because we ain’t gonna’ take you back tonight, and we won’t let you try it alone.  You’re jes’ too damn small to be out in the world by yourself right now.”

Laverne didn’t argue.  She was too happy to be safe.  Lyle took the lantern from Strom, handed Strom the pup and climbed the latter to the loft.  Strom handed him the pup and then climbed the ladder himself.   Lyle found his cell phone in his back pack and pressed Waco’s number.  Waco answered immediately.

“Mr. Chambers?”  he saw who was calling.

“Yes, it’s me, Waco.  Are you missing a pup?”

“Yes, Laverne is missing and we’ve been looking all over for her.  We’ve got half the damn town out searching.”

“Well, tell them to stop looking.  She’s with us.  She said she got lost and some cats chased her.  She ended up in the barn we’re saying in.  She was scared, cold and alone.  We’ll take care of her tonight and bring her back to town tomorrow.”

“That’s great, Sir.  We really appreciate your help.  It will be a relief for everyone.  Scraps and Happy have been so worried.  Ox, me and the dogs are staying with Blue and Keeke tonight so if you just bring her by there in the morning, it will be fine.”

“We will, Waco.  We’ll be up early and bring her in.”

“Thanks, Mr. Chambers.”

“You’re welcome.”  

Lyle and Strom took the pup to their bed and put her between them.  She was a bundle of nervous energy.  She didn’t know who to love first.  She was smart, though.  She knew where the extra milk she and her litter mates loved so much came from and she could smell it in Strom’s big teats.  She made a couple of attempts to lick them.  Strom looked at Lyle and winked at him.  He nodded his head.  Lyle laughed at her.

“Are you hungry, Laverne?”

“Oh, yes, Sir, Mr. Cam-ber.  Laverne very hungry.  Didn’t eat much ‘cause Master Waco said for us not to.  He didn’t want us getting sick.”

“Would you like some lummox milk?”

“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, Sir.”

“I think it could be arrange.  I have a big, handsome lummox for a close friend, and if you’re very good I might talk him into letting you have some.  Do you know how to suck without biting?”

“Oh, yes, Sir.  I won’t bite big daddy Strom, and I’ll be good, I promise.  I learned my lesson today.  I won’t wander off on my own no more.”

“Okay.” Lyle said as he picked her up and handed her to his giant friend.  Strom smiled at her and put her on his left teat.  She hooked up to him immediately and started drinking like a pro.  Her little tail was wagging back and forth like a metronome set to prestissimo while she drank Strom's warm,  sweet milk.

<< Damn, that looks good. >> Lyle commented.

<< I just happen to have an extra one what ain’t being used. >> Strom smiled at Lyle.

<< You wouldn’t mind? >>

<< It would be a pleasure.  They been so full lately they’re starting to hurt a little.  You’d be doing me a favor. >>
Lyle smiled, but he didn’t hesitate.  He hooked up to Strom’s other big teat and started to drink his share.  Strom began to sing to them.  It was a deep, soft lullaby.  Lyle had about enough and found himself getting drowsy.  He looked up and noticed Laverne was gone.  Strom smiled at him and pointed down to his mid-section.  There was a good size lump where his pouch was.  

<< I offered her lodging accommodations for the night and she accepted. >> Strom laughed. << She went right to sleep.  She hasn’t moved since. >>

<< Damn, wish I was smaller.  I’d crawl in there with her. >> They shared a laugh. << I’m sorry for the interruption, Strom. >>

<< Don’t be.  It’s part of our journey.  It’s like the wisdom of the ancients are trying to show us a small picture of our future together.  We have a small one to protect and take care of for the night.  Years from now we’ll remember this evening as one of the sweetest of our time together. >>

<< Could I make it even sweeter for you, big daddy Strom? >> Lyle teased.

<< As you wish, my Son. >> Strom replied.

Lyle found his mate’s enormous member and began to pleasure him.  Strom began to sing again it was so pleasurable to him.  He had his pouch filled with a young life he was protecting for the moment and his chosen one was bringing him pleasure of the most intimate kind.  He had never had anyone put their mouth on his penis before.  The moment was so very overwhelmingly erotic for him he found himself climaxing before he really wanted to.  Lyle drained all of his male milk from his penis as surely as he drank the milk from his teats.  It all seemed to mix together into an unbeatable combination of flavors that was at once as satisfying as it was addicting.  Lyle knew, he would never be able to escape this huge gentle creature.  He knew he would never want to.  He was in it for the long haul.
They made a little love, Strom told Lyle how handsome and wonderful he was to him.  Then the big lummox sang another lullaby for his mate.  It was only for Lyle and caused him to drift off into a deep, relaxed, unencumbered sleep.  It was easy resting in Strom’s huge arms.  Lyle felt safe and protected like Strom was taking away all his worries and anxieties of the outside world.  Strom became Lyle’s peaceful oasis.  Laverne couldn’t have agreed more.  She was exhausted from her fear of and flight from the evil, feral cats.  She felt fortunate she had a delicious meal and found a room for the night.  She was warm, comfortable and had her little belly full of warm, sweet, nourishing lummox milk.  She didn’t have to worry about her brothers and sisters pushing and shoving her about or farting in her face.  She didn’t move all night.  If she knew about such things, she would’ve inquired about a lease.

* * * * * * *

The phone rang at the parsonage.  Pastor Yates answered and heard an irate Jeremiah Scudder on the other end.

“I asked you to do one simply thing for me and you refused.  I’m really disappointed with you Yates.  I thought our friendship meant something to you, aside from my position.” Jeremiah Scudder barked into the telephone.

“It does, Dr. Scudder, it’s just you placed me in an awkward position in my community.  I tried to explain it to your Temple Guards when they were here, but they refused to listen to me.  I’m sorry I had to be so blatantly honest with you, but you’re talking about taking these folks' town heroes away from them.  They’re oppressed enough as it is without you taking the one thing that unites them and they live for on Friday nights.”

“Are you saying my policies are oppressing our great nation, Yates?”

“No, Sir, Dr. Scudder, but you’ve told me some things are out of your hands.  You said the reason our nation’s in a financial bind is because of the huge multinational  mega-corporations mismanagement.  Our folks are barely making ends meet.  A few are doing better than others.  Some of the bigger ranchers are doing okay, but they’ve fallen on hard times as well.  These folks work hard to carve out a living for themselves and their families.  Farm and ranch work has always been under the thumb of government and big business. They work sixteen to eighteen hours a day to make a decent living.  It’s hard backbreaking work, but they do it because they love it.  It’s their life and it’s been in their blood for generations.

After a hard week of work they look forward to forgetting about all that’s happened with our country and all they wanna’ do is spend a relaxed evening watching their local highschool heroes play a great game of football.  You have to agree you saw our boys play an amazing game when you visited.  If you got to know these folks a little better, maybe come here regularly and preach in my church, they’d warm up to your proposal.  I just think it would be the wrong thing to do to push them on this.  I’m sorry if you don’t agree; however, if you insist on taking further action it’s up to you, I won’t be a part of it.”  

“You didn’t even go to them and present my generous offer, did you, Yates?”

“No, Sir.  I didn’t.  I went to my father-in-law who knows most of the men in this community and had a long talk with him.  He advised me not to put it before them.  I don’t have a strong base in this community, Dr. Scudder.  I’ve lost a lot of my membership due to dissatisfaction in the way things are going in our country.  Many are losing faith in your leadership, Sir.”  David cringed as he said his last words.

“Obviously you are, too, Yates.”

“Oh, no, Sir.  You know I’m devoted to you, Dr. Scudder, but sometimes it takes a true friend and not a ‘yes’ man to tell a friend he’s making a mistake; and, for what it’s worth, Sir, I think it would be a big mistake on your part to push this.  I know there’s other sources for you get the staff you require.  Why must it be from our community?

Scudder was quite for a few minutes like he was mulling over David’s comments.  He had to admit the man was being forthright with him.  He was standing up to him and sticking to his guns, but Scudder figured it was from stupidity rather than bravery.  Scudder couldn’t help but make one more push, one more bluff.  He didn’t get to where he was by having some little jerkwater preacher tell him ‘no.’

“Look, I gave you an assignment and I damn well expect you to carry it out.  Now you take my propositions to them men and tell them it would be foolish to resist me.  Now, I got more important things to do than argue with you.  I got me a country to run.  I don’t wanna’ hear from you again until you carry out my order.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir, I understand.”

Preacher Yates heard the Holy Prophet slam the phone down to cut him off before he could tell him he wouldn’t do what he asked.  Sonny was right.  David had no choice but to throw his lot in with the Grange.  He was more sure now than ever.  As preacher Yates saw it, his choice was little more than the lesser of two evils.

End Of Chapter 29 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2007 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com

* With grateful thanks and humble apologies to Mr. Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke for quoting their wonderful song, “Swinging On A Star,” made popular by Bing Crosby in the 1944 RKO Academy Award winning film “Going My Way.”