By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 30

Lazarus once again called on Sam Eagleston’s weapons men to help bring down another Gray spacecraft that was plaguing the Steele ranches.  It was on Matthew’s ranch they brought down the craft.  The Steeles were astounded with the swiftness and thoroughness of Lazarus and his men in cleaning up the mess.  The next morning you could go over every inch of the area, but you wouldn’t find a thing.  The only noticeable feature, and only if you were looking for it, was the cattle refused to go anywhere near the area.  They wouldn’t even walk through it to get to another pasture.  They would go around.  The grass died in the area and didn’t return for a couple of seasons.

Pastor Yates and his wife wrote another letter to Dr. Scudder.  It was polite but firm.  It was simple and to the point, David would not take Dr. Scudder’s offer to the ranchers whose sons or slaves were involved in the Holy Prophet’s proposal.  Yates would never admit it, but his father-in-law was a pretty shrewd judge of character.  He was glad he took his problem to Sonny.  He did exactly what his father-in-law recommended.  He hit the ball back into Scudder’s court, and now he was refusing to play his game.  

Jeremiah Scudder was not a man anyone said ‘no’ to.  With his meteoric rise to power he got everything he asked for and more; however, as sometimes affects the newly rich, it never seemed to matter how much  he accumulated, he was a sad and miserable man.  He wanted wealth and power and he got it.  He wanted to be worshiped as a near-god, but his own personal upbringing in fundamentalism and his own superstitions wouldn’t allow him to claim he was the second coming.  He settled for the same role as John the Baptist; holy but not quite divine.  For the ‘divine’ who was to come, he left it up to his advisor and left-hand apostle, Austin Taycious.  

G. W. Bush had his religious-political advisor in the form of a sadomasochistic, self-hate filled homosexual named Karl Rove.  Carl, or Turd Blossom, as his political protege or master called him, loved the rough, tough looking leather men of the Washington leather bars.  He introduced any number of these men to the bisexual president from whom Bush finally contracted AIDS.  

Austin Taycious was not only a lover of the more masculine appearing males, he fancied himself the potential lover of any male who appealed to him, and that list was as infinite at the stars in the sky.  He was an outrageously flamboyant queen and made no apologies to anyone about his preferences or his taste in men.  While many proclaimed Rove as a political genius it later became apparent he was little more than an opportunistic, uneducated, crass, career destroying little crack pot who happened to be in the right place at the right time.  

It seems every despot has their Goering, Rove or Taycious.  It was Taycious who came up with the idea to make Scudder more than just another hackneyed, hell fire, damnation Pentecostal Evangelical by ramping him up in the showbiz style of religion which was more outrageous and surpassed the Elmer Gantrys, Billy Sol Hagus, and the insanity of Pat Robertson and the hog-jawed mammonic antics of Jerry Falwell.  He held healing services that would make Benny Hinn look like an amateur.  Of course no one was actually healed.  They were all stooges who were carefully chosen before the service who wanted their five minutes of fame to prove their everlasting love for Jesus and the Holy Prophet, as Scudder became known.  (fame was devalued under the Bush administration from fifteen to five minutes.)

Scudder really put on a show and the throngs of disenfranchised and hoards of disillusioned recent poor who were yesterday’s middle class began to attend and pay dearly for his fakery with money, with which they could ill afford to part.  So it’s been with the money grubbing religious right for centuries.  They don’t care who they step on or ruin to increase their personal wealth and power.  If it wasn’t the Catholic church oppressing the poor and keeping them in darkness for centuries, it became the modern day TV protestant evangelicals.

There was always some miracle devised to really wow the crowd at each service.  Sometimes Scudder would levitate on the stage, speaking in tongues while spotlights were only on him in a darkened auditorium.  Other times they would have a huge outdoor swimming pool in which Scudder would baptize the faithful and later walk across the surface of the water.  Sometimes, he would invite one of the faithful up on stage to walk on the water with him.  He would take their hand and the two of them would walk across the water together.  The amazed look on the face of the person chosen was enough to empty every wallet and purse in the house.

There were no miracles.  It was all clever modern day electronics and trickery any competent magician could do; however, when some magician proved they could do the same, they were derided as charlatans.  Their Holy Prophet Scudder didn’t need magic because he was the real thing.  He had the power of the holy spirit and Jesus to do these things for him.  He had faith, and they had faith in him.  Their faith made Scudder a very wealthy man and while he was greedy, he wasn’t foolish enough to forget those who put him into his position of power.

Austin Taycious became the second most wealthy man in the new Kingdom of the Theocratic Republic of America.  His private, camp-name for Jeremiah was ‘Laura’ of potato chip fame.  Taycious claimed Jeremiah’s sexual appetites with young men were such, he never could eat just one.  Dr. Scudder’s pet names for Taycious were ‘Precious’ and ‘Medusa Gorgon,’ or ‘Meg’ for short.  Austin had wild hair that looked like a nest of snakes most of the time.  Jeremiah claimed his hair was a non-venomous extension of his viperous brain.  He claimed the only reason Austin could speak at all was because his tongue was split at birth.  Austin found out about Scudder’s going behind his back to acquire more Temple staff for himself and intercepted Yates’ second letter.  He was less than pleased with his friend and boss.  He decided to watch the situation closely.

* * * * * * *

As might be expected, Waco and Blue became very close.  There really was no reason to keep Blue on board the Bandersnatch as he looked and acted as perfectly normal as Waco, any other cowboy or slave on the ranch.  Blue probably would’ve been happier living with the rest of the Goodnight boys, but he never asked.  Waco never asked him to accept the task, but he came to see it as his job to stay with Keekepata to keep her out of mischief and to be a companion for her.  It wasn’t she was so high-maintenance as she just seemed to become bored and get into trouble.  Young Shushonnis were known to do rash things without thinking them through.  In her mad rush to assert her independence she didn’t consider the consequences of being out on her own and having to adapt to the situation she found herself.  No matter how discouraged or depressed she got with self-pity, Blue was always there to lift her spirits or entertain her.  

She came to look upon Blue as the big brother she never had and reserved the title and image of ‘master’ for Waco.  She came to almost worship him.  Even though Blue came to accept Keeke as his joint responsibility with his brother Waco, it didn’t mean he didn’t need time away from her.  Waco was a good judge of such things and saw to it Blue got some time off.  During those times others traded off Keeke-sitting so Blue could have a night away or a weekend to go rodeoing with the boys.  Sometimes, Arnie would babysit with her and they would have great fun visiting around the community.  Keeke slowly came to the idea she was not always going to get to be around Waco when she wanted which was her main reason for stowing away on the Buttercup.  She had to learn to do as he asked and stay were he told her while he was away.

When she misbehaved or didn’t do as she was told, Waco became more restrictive.  She was never punished.  Good behavior was rewarded with more privileges, and she got to be with the boys more.  She was never more happy than when she was dancing or when she could be one of the boys.  That’s not to imply she was a tom-boy or becoming sexually ambiguous.  She was very much a female and the boys treated her like a lady.  While Waco wouldn’t let the boys pander to her, they respected her sexuality and insisted she show them the same consideration.   

It couldn’t have been a better learning situation for Keeke.  It was almost like a planned match, if one believed in that sort of thing, and with report after report coming to Captain Vinceeth, he could see for himself she was being disciplined within reason, well taken care of, even loved and respected.  With his recommendations his superiors decided to leave her where she was.  There were some threats against their empire by the same reptilian factor that was trying to take over Earth, and they saw their princess hidden away right under the noses of their enemy as probably more safe for her than being on her home world or one of their ships of the realm.  After all, while she was under the direct supervision and care of Captain Waco Goodnight, he in turn, was under the guidance of the highly respected Admiral Lazarus Long, a hero to their empire.  They had unlimited faith in his abilities.

Waco made good on his promise to show his brother about the pleasures of his body; however, it was strange for Waco.  It was like holding and making love to himself.  It was a good experience for him, because he didn’t realize how physically large he was in comparison to his slaves and what they must experience having to accommodate him for sex.  It gave him a better perspective on becoming a more gentle and respectful lover.  They each commented on his change; however, Little Bear still wanted his rough and tumble football team member, bronco busting cowboy master to perform for him.  Waco enjoyed that too and had the best of both worlds with Travis and Little Bear.  Strangely enough there was never any rivalry between them for Waco’s affections or attentions.  They were as much involved with each other as Waco.  They soon found Blue was almost as good a partner as their master.

Waco would occasionally have one or more of the boys sit in with him when he had a conference with Captain Vinceeth.  The Captain always seemed to greatly enjoy when Blue would join Waco.  He just seemed to melt when he saw both men on his huge holographic screen.  At some point, Waco and Blue would strip for him and allow the cameras to pan them as they had their arms around each others’ shoulders.  As time went on their bodies matured, grew larger and harder from all the activities on the ranch and the athletics in which they were participating.  Trey Vinceeth never shared those videos with his crew.  

However, the other video logs Waco forwarded once a week became like love letters from home to Captain Vinceeth and his men.  Everyone on his ship knew each cowboy by name.  After one season of football they knew all the team member’s names, how they were related to the Goodnight boys, and even learned all they could about the opposing team’s members.  That season, Waco and his team went undefeated.  In fact, they were undefeated their entire time in high school.  They became a phenomenon in high school football and the further along they went the more hungry the college and universities became.  Their junior and senior years, they had scouts at every game they played.

Of course the highlight of the videos were the boys showering and running around naked in the locker room after the games.  Kyron became an excellent cinematographer and could anticipate what Waco might want included in the video.  There was always Waco’s private sign to his suitor Captain Vinceeth and the crew of the Banshee would always respond with whistles and cat calls.  They were happy for their captain.  
Keekepata was contributing more and more of her fantastic dances to the videos and she began to rely on a host of others for suggestions.  Waco and Kyron gave her unlimited access to ballets, ballroom dancing videos, even ice skating performances which was a sport she’d never been exposed to.  She watched ice skating by the hour and loved it.  She took many of their moves and incorporated them successfully into her routines, until she became one of the most accomplished dancers of the Shushonni.  

Unbeknownst to her, Captain Vinceeth shared with Captain Waco he had dutifully forwarded some of her more spectacular dances to his home world to her family and the high counsel.  A couple were released to the public and were the hit of the viewing public for several weeks in a row.  They had never seen such dancing before.  Keeke’s videos became the darling of the critics throughout the empire.  The females began to adapt her dresses and hair styles to their own purposes.  Waco got permission from Captain Vinceeth to tell Arnie about his contribution to Keeke’s success.  Waco took him aside and told Arnie his creations and suggestions with her hair were the rage of an entire empire in another galaxy of the universe.  Arnie was amazed and humbled.  He doubled his creative output and called in a couple of assistants from the same sex community.  It was the beginning of a great fashion movement among the colonies.

Needless to say, when her family and the high counsel saw her maturity and development in her dancing, they were overjoyed.  The proof of their convictions in allowing her to make the best of her current situation was obviously paying off.  It was right there before them to see.  Keeke danced with such joy and maturity there was no doubt in anyone’s mind she was thoroughly enjoying herself and wallowing in her artistic expressions.  Of course, Captain Vinceeth asked Captain Goodnight to be discreet and allow him to tell Keeke about such things.  Waco assured him he would.

* * * * * * *
The Watkins Man

And it came to pass, in another, small, poor agricultural community just South of Reason County there was a poor family named Kodaly, of Hungarian extraction.  Twilla Kodaly, the wife of Zoltan, was the town’s church organist and music teacher.  If a family wished their child to learn music, they sent her to Ms. Twilla.  As mentioned, it was a poor community, but Mrs. Kodaly didn’t charge a lot for her lessons.  As a results, or as the a direct result of the voices of the ancients, she fostered a rather remarkable crop of young musicians.  

Twilla was the mother of five wonderful and bright children who were all musical except her first child, her oldest boy, Johauk, who was certifiably tone deaf.  His condition was reminiscent of another musical family from the eighteenth century, the Bachs, who, little known to historians, had among their musical ranks of twenty-one children one who was hopelessly musically challenged.*  Poor Johauk was similarly plagued.  He couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket if his life depended on it; however, he was incredibly rhythmical.  Give the kid two spoons, and he could make them speak a language more beautiful than all the would-be purveyors of glossolalia.  He also learned to play the piano and organ with a modicum of talent and/or dexterity.  What he couldn’t sing he could pound out on a keyboard.  While he learned to read music as well as reading a book, he never learned to improvise or play by ear.  Neither could he join in the family motets that became a tradition in the Kodaly household on Sunday evenings.  It made him sad because he especially loved Bach chorals.  (Those of the musical side of the family.)  

Mrs. Kodaly lay in the bedroom of their large farmhouse in labor, ready to give birth to her sixth child.  Her faithful husband, Zoltan was beside himself with worry.  It was a late child and conceived shortly after Twilla’s fortieth birthday.  To say little Bela Kodaly was a mistake was never considered in the Kodaly’s minds, but he was definitely unplanned for.  They thought they had taken all precautions short of surgery to prevent another pregnancy, but they never considered one cardinal rule of the universe: be sure, nature, or some unknown force, will find a way.

It was not an easy delivery and while baby Bela was strong, well formed and healthy, Twilla’s vaginal bleeding wouldn’t fully stop its flow.  It would stop for a while, but as soon as she moved it would start again, and she would begin to hemorrhage.  She was losing blood faster than her body could resupply it.  The town physician came to the house and suggested the family consider taking her to the hospital in Reason; perhaps they could stop the flow; however, the family had no medical insurance, and the hospital refused to take her.  The doctor did all he could and departed.

The family began to plan for Twilla’s demise.  The church people and family members gathered that Sunday afternoon at the Kodaly’s large farmhouse to bring gifts of food and prayers.  Everyone was busy as the local preacher and Zoltan kept watch with Twilla.  The wife of one of the farmers looked after Twilla and continued to clean her and change her linens.  As the day progressed and Twilla grew weaker, the sun went behind the clouds and the day darkened as a dreaded blue-northern threatened soon to be seen rolling over the Texas plains.  It was almost unheard of this late in the season.  It almost seemed like the weather was making a poetic statement about what was transpiring with the walls of the Kodaly home.

As the Kodaly children and several of the church choir members began to softly sing motets around the dinning room table, from nowhere came a stranger to the back door of the Kodaly house and knocked.  Johauk went to the door to answer the man’s knock.  Standing at the bottom of the steps was an imposing figure of a man.  He was huge.  Johauk guessed him to be about six foot six.  He looked like he could be a cowboy drifter looking for work and a place to stay for a night or two.  The thought crossed his mind the man might be an escaped cowboy-slave, but once he saw the man’s eyes the thought left his mind completely.

The cowboy was dressed in typical Western clothes.  He wore Wranglers with an older, faded chambray work shirt with a brown leather work vest.  He wore a large rodeo belt buckle with a wide belt and older pair of rawhide mule skinner boots.  He was a powerfully built man with a large upper torso.  He reminded Johauk of movies and pictures he’d seen of an old movie actor from the fifties and sixties named Clint Walker.  He wore a heavy cream colored, below the waist fleece lined jacket.  Johauk thought it was unusual he had a tall ornately carved walking staff in his right hand.  His hair was cut short and was mostly hidden under a huge, wide brimmed felt cowboy hat which wasn’t shaped.  The brim looked like it had seen many tugs to pull it down around his face to protect him from the elements.  He had a fine looking Collie dog beside him who came to heel immediately and looked up at his master with love and respect.  The animal  waited silently.  Both seemed to have a glow about them other people or dogs didn’t.  In the dimming light Johauk couldn’t tell how old the man was.

“May I help you, Sir?”  he asked.

“Sorry to bother you.  It looks like you folks got company.  Me and ma’ buddy here, we’ve traveled a long way.  I’m tired and hungry.  Could your family spare a piece of bread and some cooking oil of some kind, and perhaps some scraps for my companion.  After I rest a bit, I would be willing to work for what food you might be kind enough to provide.”  he spoke softly.

The Kodaly children were taught to share with those who had less than themselves and to be kind and hospitable to strangers.

“Come in, Sir.  Our mother is dying.  She gave birth early this morning to my little brother; however, her bleeding will not stop.  We’ve had the local doctor in, but he could do nothing for her.  We don’t have insurance so the hospital in the next town refused to take her.  It’s only a matter of time.  We have all this food brought to us by kind relatives and friends.  We will be happy to share with you and your companion, and afterward, you may use our barn to rest and refresh yourself.”

“Thank you, young man, you are very kind, but all I require is a small amount of some multi-grain or wholewheat bread and a small amount of oil.  My companion needs little more.” insisted the cowboy.

“But we have all this food.” Johann motioned to the table full of dishes of food and desserts.

“Only bread, Son, but I thank you for the offer.”

Johauk didn’t argue.  He found several pieces of some fresh multi-grain bread his mother baked several days before and poured about an ounce of extra virgin olive oil into a small cup and gave it to the man.  He took it from Johauk and bowed deeply to him in thanks, turned and sat at a small table on the back porch.  Johauk got some dry dog food they fed the cow dogs and a bowl of fresh water for his companion.

The stranger ask for his companion’s food and Johauk handed it to him.  The man set his companion’s food next to his on the table.  The dog went to his master and sat close to him.  Johauk watched the stranger cover the food with his left hand while holding his wooden staff with his right hand.  He bowed his head, and Johauk watched as the dog, sitting along side his master bowed his head as well.  Johauk couldn’t make out the words, but it sounded like no language he’d ever heard.   The young man watched in amazement as the area under the man’s hand began to glow with the purest white light covering the food with its radiance and continued for several seconds; then, it went away as quickly as it began.

He sat his companion’s dish down, patted him lovingly on his head and urged him to eat.  Then, he slowly began to eat his bread which he would dip into the olive oil.

“Would you like some coffee with your meal, Sir?” Johauk offered.

“No, thank you, but if you have some water I would be most grateful.”  he replied.  

“Of course, Sir.  I gave you companion fresh water.  How inconsiderate of me not to offer you some.”

“You have much on your mind right now, Son.”

Johauk got the man’s water and left him alone to eat his meal.  He went to check on his mother and was told there was no hope.  Everyone was praying for a miracle, but they feared the worst.  Johauk didn’t want to intrude on his father even though he was the eldest.  He figured if his dad needed him, he would send for him.  He spoke with several folks and tried to comfort his brother and sisters.  Then, he returned to check on the stranger and found him sitting in the same place.  He finished his food.  So had his companion who sat quietly by his side.

“May I get you more, Sir?  We have plenty for right now and my parents have taught me to share what we have with those less fortunate than us.”

“Is there anyone less fortunate than you, this evening, Johauk?”  he asked quietly.

Johauk was stunned.  How did this man know his name?  He never introduced himself.  Perhaps he overheard someone speaking to him.  Johauk looked into the man’s eyes.  They were like no other he had ever seen.  They were like crystal clear pools of blue water.  They were the color of a fancy blue Western rodeo shirt his mother made for him to wear.  He noticed the man had jet black hair, and up close Johauk could see he wasn’t an old man at all.  Johauk judged him to be about thirty-five years old.

“Yes, Sir, there are many in this world who are worse off than me.  I understand your meaning and appreciate your sentiment, but living and dying is a fact of life.  If it is my beloved mother’s time to pass over then I will be grieved to let her go, but I will be glad in my heart she has gone to a better place.”

“And do you believe there is a better place than this world, Son?”

“Yes, Sir, there has to be unless all this is a cosmic joke and has no purpose in the first place.  If so, why bother?  My observation of nature, apart from any religious beliefs is, nature isn’t cruel.  Some die that others might live, but it’s always for a purpose.  Nothing is ever wasted.”

“You think for yourself, Johauk, that’s unusual for a young man in today’s world.”

“My parents taught me to question all things, even religion and God.”

“They are wise and benevolent parents.  If I could grant you one wish this evening for your hospitality what would it be?”

Johauk looked at the man like he was daft to even ask.

“I have to hear the words from you, Son?”  he almost whispered.

“I would wish for my mother to be saved from the jaws of death.  Even though I’m sure of her greater life after this, I’m selfish enough to want her here with us.  Is it wrong of me to wish for that, Sir?”

“Not at all, Johauk.  I was expecting it.  If you will bring your father to me, I will try to grant your wish.”

“I won’t question your sincerity, Sir.  I watched you bless your food.  I only hope I can convince my father.”

“You leave that to me, young man.”

Johauk rushed off to speak with his dad.  He called him from the room.

“Dad, there is a stranger here who asked for food and a place to rest.  You taught me to be kind and hospitable to strangers.  He asked only for a couple of pieces of multi-grained bread and a very small amount of olive oil.  I gave his dog some kibble and water.  I fed them and he asked to speak with you.”

“Not now, Son.  Your mother may not be with us much longer, and I want to be by her side when she passes.  Pass on to him my regrets and apologies, but surely he will understand.”

“Father,” Johauk never used the term ‘father’ with his dad unless he was trying to make a strong point. “remember you once told me if I had something of great importance or a truth to tell you to let you know it was the time for you to listen to me?”

“I remember, Son, and I meant it.  Are you sure this one of those times?” he asked like he was about to become impatient with his son.

“It is, Father!  There’s something different about this man.  Please, Father, if you’ve ever considered doing something for me to prove to me you trust me, now is the time.  I just know it, Dad.  I bring you a greater gift of truth than I could ever express in words.  Please, speak with this man, Father.”

“All right, Son.  I suppose I could spare him a minute.  Go in and be with your mother.  Hold her hand and speak softly with her.  She is aware, I know it.  She will know it’s you.”

Johauk went quietly into the room.  The preacher was sitting in a chair on the other side of the bed.  Johauk took his mother’s frail hand and softly spoke with her.

“Mother, it’s Johauk.  I’m here for you, mom.  Dad stepped away for a moment, but he’ll be right back.”  

Johauk watched as his mother’s eyes flutter and opened.  She looked at her oldest son, smiled sweetly and gently squeezed his hand.

“You are so handsome, Johauk.”  She spoke softly, barely above a whisper.  The preacher took notice and leaned forward to hear.

“Shhhuuu, don’t try to speak, mom.  Save your strength.”

“Why?  Best I use it to tell you ‘goodbye,’ how much I love you and how much you mean to me.”

“I love you, too, mom.  I don’t want to let you go.”

“You won’t have to.  He’s here, isn’t he?”

Johauk looked at her like he was stunned.

“Yes, ma’am.  He’s on the back porch.  Dad’s talking with him.  He came to the backdoor and asked for some food and a place to rest.”

“I’m proud of you, Johauk.  You showed him compassion and charity.  You fed him and offered him your comfort even though your heart was heavy.  I do hope the bread was still fresh.  I know the oil was.”

Johauk looked at her and smiled.  He knew without asking she was there in spirit and saw how he treated the man.

“I think the bread was satisfactory.  I tasted it, and it was very good.  He seemed to enjoy it.  He complimented you on it.  I told him my mom makes the best bread in nine counties.  He agreed with me.”

“How is little Bela?”

“Already spoiled.  He’s the center of attention and he’s doing well.”  Johauk smiled at his mom.

He heard the door open and turned to see his dad with the stranger and his dog.  The tall man came to Twilla’s bedside and set his hat on a night stand next to the bed.  He stood his wooden staff in the corner next to the bed. Johauk could see his hair was cut very short.  He motioned for his dog to go and lay by the fire.  The animal didn’t hesitate and did as instructed.

“Come, Son.  Come, Preacher.  We must leave them alone.”

“What?” questioned the preacher.  “Is that wise, Zoltan?  Do you know this man?”  he asked.

“It will be all right.  Now, come with me and Johauk.”  Zoltan spoke quietly but firmly.

Reluctantly the preacher left with the men.  He continued to give Zoltan what-for after they left the room, but Johauk took him by the arm.

“My dad knows what he’s doing, Sir.  There are things under heaven and Earth that can’t be dream of in our limited philosophies.  Trust in God for a miracle, trust my dad, trust me, but most of all, trust yourself.  Help us pray for our beloved mother.  We have the instrument to save her, we need you to assist us in channeling the strength of our spirits to bless her with a miracle.  Even as the storm clouds gather and the evening grows colder, so our hearts must conspire against the elements of nature to appeal to a higher source for her salvation on Earth.  Lead us, preacher.  Pray with us.  My mother will be saved from the jaws of death this very night.”  Johauk told him with strong conviction.

The preacher had no idea what Johauk was talking about, but if that’s what the family wanted, he would do his best for them.  Zoltan assured him his son spoke for him as well.  Zoltan put his arm around his son’s shoulder and walked a short way from the crowd to speak with him in private.

“Thank you, boy.”  His dad paused for a moment and looked like he bit his lower lip, “No,— I apologize, Son.  I will never call you ‘boy’ again.  You will always be my son, my boy, but today you became my equal.  You’re a man today, Son, with all the privileges it implies.  No matter the outcome this evening, I know we done the right thing.  The stranger asked me to have you sit outside the door.  He told me to tell you not to allow anyone in the room until he calls for you, not even me.  I trust you to do just that, Son.”

“I will do as you ask, Father.”  Johauk said proudly.

“One other thing, Son.  He said you will hear him calling you, but it will be in your mind.  Open your mind and heart and allow him to channel what he needs from those of us who will be praying.  I don’t understand it, Son, but he assured me, you would.”

“I do understand, Dad.  I don’t know how I understand, but I do.  I will do as he asks.”  Zoltan hugged his boy to him and kissed him behind the ear.

“I know I rarely tell you, Johauk, but I love you very much.  You were my first born, a son, and I’m more proud of you today than the day you were born.”

“Thank you, Dad.  I’ll try to live up to your love for me and your trust.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind, Son.”  he smiled at his boy.

* * * * * * *

“You came.”  Twilla whispered to the stranger kneeling beside her bed holding her hand.

“It’s the least I could do for one so devoted to the music of the cosmos and her gifted children.  Your greatest is yet to sing, but if his lung capacity is any sign, he will be far greater than the rest.  He will become one of the finest musician this world has ever produced.”

“Can you save me?”

“I hope so.  Young Bela needs a fine teacher.  It will be difficult, but if you stay with me, I think we can make it to the shore.  It won’t be easy, Twilla, you’ll have to do battle against a greater desire to leave this world, but you have one outside your door who will fight off the seven-headed dog guarding the very gates of hell to fight for you.  He is young, strong and pure of heart.  He will provide us with what we need.  Take from him.  Take from me and my companion, all you need.  As you and your family have given unto me, so it will be freely given unto you.  Shall we begin?”

“I’m ready, Master.”

“Here, this evening, I am no master.  I am a guest in your fine home.  Your Son, whom you have raised to be considerate of others has made a friend of me and my companion for your family.  I am only repaying his kindness and unconditional hospitality to us.  Think of me as your brother, Twilla.  It will be easier for you when I must touch you in your private places.”

“I understand.”

They began.  The music stopped in the other room, but the stranger sent to Johauk to have them begin again and not stop until he told him.  Johauk relayed the message to his father and softly the motets began again.  This time Zoltan was carrying the bass line for the family.  Twilla sighed as she heard her husband’s deep, bass voice and she relaxed.

The hours passed and still the family sang and prayed.  They would pray then sing another motet, another choral then pray again.  Six hours passed and Johauk watched as he saw strange, bright flashes of different colored lights come from under the bedroom door.  He could feel the energy from the front room flowing through him and on into the bedroom.  Suddenly, on one of his very favorite motets, ‘Krist lag in todesbonden’ he started humming the bass line with his dad.  He had played the choral many times and knew the words and notes by heart.  It dawned on him he was carrying the bass line while leaning on his dad’s strong voice.  Johauk threw back his head and started singing with all his might in perfect tune.

His family didn’t stop singing, but looked through the room to see Johauk singing in perfect harmony with them.  They increased their volume until they were completely united in song.  Everyone watched as the words and music poured from Johauk, but along with the words was a brilliant white fluid-like light that seemed to be pouring from his very soul.  It flowed forth from his mouth, down his front, spilled onto the floor and found its way under the door and into the bedroom where his mother lay under the close watchful eye of a man of purest nature and his pure-hearted companion.  They were no longer strangers to the Kodaly family.

It was as if the family’s combined and united prayers were producing this healing flow of some unknown plasma from their oldest sibling.  He felt his strength flowing from his body and spirit, but still he sang.  He was not afraid.  If his mother took all of him, he would gladly give her what she needed without question for himself.  The weaker he became the stronger the others supported him until he gained a bit of strength and was able to carry his own again and the piece finally ended on one huge cadence.  Johauk slumped over in his chair in a dead faint.  His father quickly went to him.  He held Johauk in his arms until he came around again.  When he opened his eyes he heard a voice in his head.

“Come to me, Son.  Bring your father.”  It was the voice of the stranger.

“Come, Dad.  He is calling for us.”

Johauk took his father’s hand and led him through the door.  The stranger was still kneeling by his mother’s bed.  She had color in her cheeks again, but she was asleep.  She had the most peaceful look on her face.  He knew she was all right.  She would recover.  She would live.  The stranger held out his hand for Johauk and motioned for Zoltan to go to the other side of the bed.  Johauk took his mother’s hand in his and it felt warm and alive.  He saw the tears falling from his dad’s eyes as he took her other hand.  Johauk turned to speak with the man, but he and his companion was already out the door and he quietly closed it behind them.   

Twilla awoke after eight hours of deep, relaxing sleep.  She smiled to see her husband holding her hand on her right and her oldest son holding her hand on her left.  They were both asleep.  She smiled to herself.  They saved her from death.  While the stranger and his companion were the instruments of her salvation, her two men saved her with their determination and the strength of their love.  They refused to let her go.  She knew more than one miracle occurred that evening.  He oldest boy, could now sing.  She wasn’t sure which meant more to her, her life or hearing her first born sing.  She wasn’t going to worry about it, she had both and her heart was full.

Twilla announced she was hungry.  That was an excellent sign.  She ate and over the course of several days, she was up and walking around.  She regained her strength quickly and was soon able to take care of her new baby.  She had much help from her family who insisted she not try to do too much at first.  She let them pamper her and the baby.  She saw it as their due for saving her life.  They deserved to be allowed to pamper her and young Bela.  It was their way of showing her their love and devotion.   It was their way of regaining their strength and sense of worth.

* * * * * * *

Zoltan and Johauk went to the barn to thank the stranger, but he was gone.  The girls gave him more bread and oil for his breakfast.  He left a note for them with the girls and younger brothers.  It simply read: ‘We will meet again.  You are whole again.  Stay well, the best is yet to come.  Join the Grange of Reason County.  Ask for Ramrod Long of the Goodnight ranch.’  The men fell to their knees and cried in each others’ arms as they wept from joy, relief, and a deep sense of personal despair not being able to thank their benefactor.  Twilla later assured them, their thanks were unnecessary.  The stranger knew their hearts.

* * * * * * *

Word of Twilla Kodaly’s miraculous recovery, the big cowboy and his companion spread throughout the surrounding counties.  He was seen on several occasions and would stop by some rancher or farmer’s home and share an evening meal with them.  He would only eat whole-grained bread and a bit of cooking oil.  He would allow his companion a variety of foods, but they must be blessed before they were consumed.  Families started keeping fresh whole-grained bread and extra virgin olive oil on hand.  A spare place was sat at many tables at all times in case he might drop by.  He always volunteered to do work for his and his companions food.  Many times he did help a farmer or rancher for several days at a time who needed help and they got to know him pretty well.  He was mild mannered, soft spoken but friendly.  He had a good sense of humor, but never at someone else’s expense.  His companion worshiped him.  Many would ask him to speak to them, and he would ask them what they wanted to know.  He would tell them what simple truths he knew.

The Kodaly’s made a special trip on a Sunday afternoon to the Goodnight ranch for their Sunday afternoon feed and football game.  The entire Grange was there.  They were greeted with open arms and Zoltan gave Lazarus the note the stranger left them.  He smiled when he read it, and they all wondered.

“Your family comes highly recommended, Mr. Kodaly.”  Lazarus smiled and as he handed the note back to Zoltan.

“Do you know of this man, Ramrod Long?”  Mr. Kodaly asked.

“Yes, I met him many, many years ago.  He and his companion came to me when I needed a friend, and he carried me through a difficult time in my youth.  He let me lean on him until I could make it in the world by myself, then he and his companion departed.  I didn’t understand at the time, but others needed him as much or more than I did.  I never knew his real name.  I call him the Watkins man, but he goes by many names.  I don’t know anyone who knows his real name.  Maybe he don’t have one.”

“Why do you call him the Watkins man?  My grandmother used to tell me stories about the Watkins man.  I thought a Watkins man was a door to door peddler of household goods in the early West? ” said Sam Eagleston.

“That’s right, the Watkins man was a highly respected, honest and revered business man.  He was much more than that, though.  He was a bringer of news.  He was a pharmacist, advising and dispensing various patent medicines.  He was a friend and remembered the names of all the children and most of the pets in a home.  He was like an extended family member to many. Folks would feed him and put him and his horse up for the night just for stopping by their small town or remote ranch.  He would always give the lady of the house in which he stayed a much needed gift for her hospitality.

The name came to me as an analogy for him.  He travels out of his way to do good things for others and pedals his love throughout rural communities and homes.  He stops by homes who are full of love, absorbs it, takes it with him and redistributes it to those who could use a little, along with a goodly dash of hope.  What home, including ours, ain’t always just a bit low on love?  We use it up like it was sugar.  We can’t never seem to get enough.  He comes along and refills your larder and asks very little in return.  Call him Mr. Watkins if you need a name for him.  I do.  He always laughs at me, but he knows how I mean it.  I ain’t seen him in years.  I’d like to though.  He always has a companion, a beautiful Collie dog who don’t have no name neither.”     

Lazarus left it at that.  The crowd wanted to know more about this man, but they were country folks who knew it was impolite to ask for more than they were given.  They went about their socializing.  Young Johauk was swamped by the Goodnight boys.  He and his next youngest brother, Johann were recruited to play in the afternoon football game.  The boys played against him and his team and knew Johauk was a pretty damn good footballer.  So was his younger brother.  The Kodaly children were fascinated with the strange and wonderful new creatures they were seeing to say nothing of six rambunctious pups yelling they wanted to meet them.

The next thing that occurred amazed Zoltan and Twilla.  The women of the community absconded with little Bela.  Each took a turn holding him and telling Twilla what a handsome boy he was.  They took him to a huge furry monster and to Twilla’s dismay handed the babe to him.  Twilla could only watch in horror as the women smiled at her and shook their heads for her not to be concerned.  Twilla watched as the enormous, hairy man tenderly undid the blanket to look upon the face of young Bela.  Twilla saw a look of what she could only describe as unconditional love cross the monster’s face.  He showed the babe to his human companion sitting next to him and the man gently offered Bela his finger which the babe grasped with both his strong young hands.

“He is so handsome.”  said Lyle Chamber.  “Congratulation, Mrs. Kodaly, he’s wonderful.   My mate wants to know if he’s been fed in a while?”

“No, not since this morning.  I’m not producing enough for him, and we have to prepare a formula.”  replied Twilla.

“No, need.  Lummox milk is the best in the universe.  Strom wants your permission to feed him.”  said Lyle Chambers.

Twilla turned a pale shade of green.  The other women assured her their babies were being raised on lummox milk.  Twilla looked at her husband.  He smiled, shrugged his shoulders and nodded his approval.

“All right.” she replied softly.

She and Zoltan watched in utter amazement as the big monster gently held young Bela to his teat and the child went crazy sucking.  It was like they hadn’t fed him in a week.  Strom got the biggest smile on his face and winked at Twilla.  She felt a little better as she watched one of the women take a damp, warm towel and gently began to clean some of the spilt milk young Bela couldn’t get down quick enough.  The baby didn’t stop until his little stomach was ballooned up.  Then he promptly went to sleep.  He didn’t wake up all afternoon, but he maintained the sweetest smile on his little face.

The Kodaly family were unanimously voted into the Grange.  The family had a wonderful afternoon and promised to try to make regular trips to meeting at least once a month.   Charlie, Angus and several other of the men of the Grange explained the wonders of their organization and their ultimate goals to Zoltan.  He had a difficult time believing and accepting what he was being told; however, now that he considered his son a man, he asked for him to be included in any explanations the men might have.  There was something transpired between him and the stranger Johauk never shared with his father.  Zoltan never asked, but he knew his son had changed.

After a quick trip to the Bandersnatch and a visit with Captain Long’s medical staff, young Johauk was a convert.  He and his dad got the Long-shot and managed to get his little bothers and sisters into the barn for their shots.  Lazarus gave one to Twilla and young Bela as well.  Twilla didn’t know about it, but if her husband and oldest son were so for it, she went along.

Ranger Gibbons and his wife Mary heard all the talk about the miraculous recovery of Twilla Kodaly.  Mary was beginning to show signs her cancer was returning.  The Kryscellians or Blue couldn't help her.  They and Lazarus could do nothing more for her.  Mary wasn’t angry.  She was grateful for the extended period she had with her husband, but above all to give him the son and heir he always wanted.  They couldn’t help ask.

“Captain Long, is there any hope this unknown cowboy could help my Mary?” Ranger Gibbons asked.

“To be honest, Son, I don’t know.  I was so young when I knew him, I never learned the full extent of his healing capacities.  I don’t think I even knew he had abilities until we parted ways.  I should have known.  He healed my spirit and body on several occasions.  I just never thought much about it.  I don’t know how to contact him.  I don’t think anyone does.  You know I’d do anything I could for your wife, brother, but sometimes the matters of life and death ain’t up to us.  Pray for Mary and for a miracle and we will join you.  We got the power of the Grange behind us.  Let’s use it.”

Ranger thanked Lazarus and that evening at sunset, as was their tradition, everyone joined hands and prayed.  One man of the Grange was picked to lead them in prayer.  This time it was an older cowboy, who was looking and feeling younger every day, Warren Steele.  As he prayed he covered all the high spots and then at the very end he prayed,

“Dear Lord, protect and help those less fortunate than us.  Open your heart to those among us who are ill and suffering with disease.  We pray for a miracle, Lord, for Ranger Gibbons and his beautiful and faithful wife, Mary.  Look into every heart here, Lord, and know we are of the same mind, spirit and love for them as our family.  Hear our prayer, oh Lord.  Bless and keep each of us.  Let your light so shine on us to make us lamps unto your glory.  Amen.”  There came a resounding ‘Amen’ from everyone gathered.

Prearranged, young Johauk took a pitchpipe and blew into it.  The Kodaly family launched into J. S. Bach’s arrangement of Philip Nicolai’s “How Bright Appears The Morning Star.”

How bright appears the Morning Star,
With mercy beaming from afar;
The host of heaven rejoices;
O righteous Branch, of Jesse's Rod!
Thou Son of Man and Son of God!
We, too, will lift our voices.
Everyone continued to hold hands as the talented family sang several verses of the well known choral.  It was a moving moment as the sun slowly sank behind the hills in the West.

Waco and his men exchanged e-mail addresses with Johauk and a couple of the older Kodaly children.  News of the communities were quickly passed between the kids on each others’ web sites.  They had a wider, broader, better sense of what was going on with their extended family than the adults.  The boys made up half a dozen bottles of lummox milk for young Bela and gave them to his mother.  Twilla was almost in tears at their thoughtfulness.  They even made up one for Johauk and urged him to drink it.  It wasn’t a joke, it would give him perfect pitch.  He wouldn’t need to use a pitchpipe any more.  From what he observed during the day, he didn’t doubt them.  He just accepted their gift graciously.  He was glad he did.  It did exactly what they said it would.  

* * * * * * *

The pups were growing up fast, but Waco was not in any hurry to break up the act.  Neither were any of the rest of his brothers and adults around him.  They were a lot of work, but they were a delight to have around.  Maxine was already spoken for and the date of the boy’s birthday was agreed upon by all that those pups who had found homes would depart that day.  Maxine was going to Sheriff Lassiter’s family.

Laverne found a home near Parsons.  They no longer called it New Mexico because it wasn’t officially a part of the state.  Laverne was asked to come and live with the Olsens.  Their little girl needed a companion and she and Laverne got along great.  The Olsen boys were thrilled when they found out their family was getting one of the pups.  So were the Stampers.  They knew they’d get to see Laverne almost as much as the boys.  Patty was going to stay on at the ranch for a while longer.

Moe was going to live with Stan Edmunds and his family.  Since they were a poor family they couldn’t afford to buy a cow dog so Waco and the boys voted to give Moe to Stan and his owners, the Blooms.  They seemed to get along great and Moe spent several weeks on their ranch helping them.  Moe was staying with Stan during the last month of school helping him get the cattle and the milk cows in at night.

One afternoon the school bus dropped Stan off at the usual time.  Moe was waiting for him, but he seemed upset.  He was jumping about.  Stan waved ‘goodbye’ to Waco and his brothers from the Goodnight ranch.  The boys were leaning out the window to say ‘hello’ to Moe.  

“Master Waco,” Moe shouted at the bus, “men come to ranch today.  They take Mr. Ole and Ms. Hattie away in big, black cars.”

Waco hollered for the bus driver to hold the bus.

“C’mon, men, we’re git’n off here.  Our brother needs us.  I’ll call the ranch and have someone come pick us up."  The Stamper boys wanted to get off, too, but Waco told them to go on home.  He would call them and their masters as soon as they knew something.

The bus took off and the boys half walked, half ran down the long dirt road to the Bloom’s ranch.  Nobody was in the house.  There wasn’t a note or anything.  Ole and Hattie Bloom were gone.  The only witness was Moe, and he did as Master Ole told him; he didn’t say a word and hid under Stan’s bed off the front hall.  He stayed there until he heard Ms. Hattie crying, then he tucked his little head and ran right for the man holding her to bite the first thing he could wrap his mouth around.  The other man saw him coming, drop kicked him like a football, and he went sailing through the air.  He landed in some cactus and ran away yelping and crying.  He found his way back into the house and hid under Stan’s bed again.

“Did you hear what they said, Moe?”  Waco asked the pup.

“Yes, Sir.  I could hear everything.  They said they’s arresting Mr. Ole and Ms. Bloom as political distances.”

“Close enough, little brother.”  Waco encouraged the pup.

“The big man said they was plotting to overthrow the Holy Prophet and his government.  He said they had to be locked away so they wouldn’t pervert the rest of the folks in the county.”

“Did they argue with him or try to fight back?”

“Mr. Bloom said they’s full a’ shit, him and Ms. Hattie was good upstand’n, god fear’n Christians, and had no political ties with any subversive groups.  Then the big man asked Mr. Bloom if they was members of the Grange.  He admitted they were and that’s when the big man told his men to handcuff them.  They took them away with Mr. Bloom cussing and Ms. Hattie in tears.  The big man said they would come back later for Stan.  It was awful, Master Waco.  I was so scared I didn’t know what to do.  I disobeyed Master Bloom.  I ran out and tried to bite the men what had hold of Ms. Hattie.  They kicked me pretty hard.  My side hurts real bad, and I got cactus sticking in my side and paws.”

“Don’t worry, Moe, we’ll git you to Cable and he’ll fix you up.  You done good, buddy.  We’re proud of you.”

All the boys agreed and Stan gave him a hug and kiss.  He was devastated.  He was in tears.   Waco whipped out his cell phone and dialed the ranch.  Charlie answered.

“Dad, me and ma’ brothers got off the bus at the Bloom ranch.  Moe hollered at us Mr. and Mrs. Bloom were taken away by government men.  They said they’s coming back for Stan later.  We gotta’ get him out of here.”

“Okay, here’s what you do.   You men get out a’ there, but don’t take the roads.  I would send someone after you, but they might return before we could get anyone over there.  Take the back country route and head for our place.  Stay out of sight of the roads.  I just saw Lazarus head over to his house.  I’ll check with him and get back to you.  Don’t waste any time.  If Bloom’s got enough horses, you men double up and ride bareback.  The main thing is to git out of that house and on yore’ way.  Understand, Son?”

“I understand, Dad.  We’re out a’ here.”

Waco no sooner put his cell phone away when Travis spotted three black limousines turn onto the dirt road to the ranch.

“Look, you men hide in the barn.” shouted Stan, “Let them take me.  What can they do?  I know you and Captain Long will figure out something to save me and my folks.  Take Moe with you.”

“I wanna’ stay with you, Stan.”  Moe cried.

“Look, little buddy.  You done enough for right now.  No tell’n what they might do to you.  They could shoot you if they thought you was gonna’ try’n bite ‘em again.  You’re hurt.  I can see it.  Go with Master Waco and get chore’self fixed up.  Do it for me, little brother.  I love you.”

“I love you, too, Stan.”  Moe whined.

“Come, Moe.  We gotta’ git out a’ here.”  Waco urged the pup.

The boys scurried out to the barn and hid in the hayloft.  They watched through knotholes in the old board’s of the barn.  They watched the men in dark suits with sunglasses get out of the limos and walk up to the house.  Stan was in his room like he just got home from school.  He pretended he didn’t know what happened and met the men as they walked in the front door.

“May I help you, gentlemen?”

“Are you Stan Edmunds, the Bloom’s slave?”

“Yes, Sir, I am.  They ain’t home right now.  I think they probably went into town to buy groceries.  They should be back in a while.  In the meantime, is there something I can help you with?”

The big man looked around and raised an eyebrow.

“You here all alone?”

“Yes, Sir.  I jes’ got home from school.  I’s about to change ma’ clothes and go out to do ma’ chores.”

“You won’t be doing yore’ chores today.  You’re coming with us.”

“You?  Why?  What have I done?  Who, the hell, are you anyway?”

Stan looked at the huge, muscular man in his leather outfit with his tall imposing boots and badges.  He knew very well who the man was, but he was playing the dumb country boy.

“You ain’t done nothing, Son.  I’m Officer Brick Armstrong of His Holiness’ Temple Guards.  Your owners have been arrested as political dissidents and will be placed in correction camps by the government.  Since you’re a slave you will be taken back to Washington with us and be given a position as one of the Holy Prophet’s semi-vestal virgins.”   

“Fuck you, I don’t wanna’ go be no perverted hypocrite Jesus freak’s sexual toy-boy!”  Stan shouted.

“Watch your mouth, slave!  I won’t be the one getting fucked!  You’ll have the honor of having his Holiness fuck you.  You should be grateful, you’ll be guaranteed a place in heaven and his kingdom.”

“I don’t believe in all that crap.”

“Obviously, neither did your owners.  Look where it got them.  They’re just the first of many of this subversive Grange who will be sent for re-education in the ways of the bible and the word of the Holy Prophet.  We’ll be doing them a favor.”

“You won’t get away with this.  There’s other forces in the universe that will stop you.”

“Yeah, like what?  What has your prayers ever brought you?”

“A good home and folks what love me, until you assholes come along.” Stan slammed the big man.

It stopped Brick Armstrong in his tracks.  It made him think about his miserable childhood and how he took to bodybuilding to overcompensate his small size and goofy looks as a young boy.

“You’ll forget all about them in a couple of months.  You’ll be pampered like you can’t imagine.  All you’ll have to do is eat, and work out to keep your body perfect for his Holiness.  They have all sorts of entertainment for you kids back in Washington.  You’ll love it there.”

“C’mon, Sir.  I’m begging you.  Just leave me here.  Tell your superiors I ran away.  I have a place I can go where no one will find me.”

“And where might that be?” Brick asked as he raised an eyebrow.

“Two old cowboys who are slave trainers.  They’ll take me in, and I can be a slave for them.  They’re good men.  They’ll let me stay with their slaves and work for them.”

“They members of this so called Grange?” Brick asked.

“Yes, Sir, but they be good men.  Please, Sir.  I don’t wanna’ be no sex toy for the Holy Prophet.”

“Sorry, kid.  Your fate is sealed.  Your owners were sent an offer to buy you that would’ve made them rich beyond their wildest dreams for the rest of their lives.  They never even bothered to reply to the office of our Holy father.  They ignored his generous offer completely.”

“If they did, it wasn’t because they were against him, it was because they love me.  Don’t chu’ see?  Money don’t mean much to country folks what ain’t never had it before.  They invest in folks.  The Blooms are my family.  They’re the only parents I’ve ever known.  I love them, and I know they love me, Sir.  Please, give me back my family and my home.”  he begged.

Tears were running down Stan’s face.  It was really beginning to get to Brick.  He tried to change the subject.

“Where’s that damn dog that was around here earlier?  It tried to bite two of my men.  They kicked him pretty good.”

“You mean, Moe?  He didn’t come to greet me when I came in.  I was going out to look for him.  He was a stray we took in a couple of days ago.  If you hurt him he probably took off again.”

Stan was hoping the huge man would accept his explanation.  Brick bought it.  He was more interested in getting the boy out of there.  Brick pointed to two of his men.

“You, Scott and Roper, got out to the barn and check it out.  See if you can find that mutt what tried to bite you earlier.  If you do, shoot it.”

“No, please, Sir.  Moe’s ma’ buddy.  He didn’t mean nothing.  He was only trying to protect Ms. Hattie.  He’s jes’ a pup, Officer Armstrong!”  Stan really began to cry.

“Okay, if you men find him, see if you can get a rope around him and bring him with you.”

Waco and his men saw the men coming for the barn.  They started to climb down the ladder from the loft and make a run for it when they saw a big cowboy with his shirt off, sweat pouring from him, with a pitch fork in his hand mucking out one of the stalls.  He looked up smiled at the boys and motioned for them to lay down and cover themselves with hay.  Waco didn’t know who the man was, but he had his suspicions.  They made sure they were covered with hay and Waco held Moe and whispered for him to be quiet.  He nodded his head he understood.  The men got to the barn and saw the big cowboy working up a sweat.

“Who are you?” one asked.

“Just a drifter cowboy.  The Blooms offered me and my companion food and a dry place to stay a couple of nights in their barn in exchange for cleaning out their stalls.”  he motioned toward his dog who was laying down in some clean straw.

“That your dog?”  the other asked stupidly.

“Yes, Sir.  He’s ma’ buddy.  Goes ever’ where I do.”

“You seen another black and white mutt around here?”

“You mean the boy’s dog?”

“Yeah, I guess.” said the one.

“Yeah, I saw him hightail’n it out a’ here about an hour or so ago.  Sounded like he’d been hurt by somebody.  I didn’t git a chance to check him out though.  He ain’t been around since.”

“Okay, well you better be moving on after you finish up here.  Help yourself to what food’s in the house.  The family won’t be back.”

“What about their slave; the young boy?” the man asked.  “You could leave him here with me.  I’ll see to it he finds a home.”

“Ain’t none of your business, mister.  Just take what you will for your work and take off.  We’ll be checking back to make sure you don’t steal nothing.”  the big man bluffed.  

“As you wish, Sir.  If I was gonna’ steal, I’d steal from rich folks, not poor folks like the Blooms.”  the cowboy replied and went back to work.  

The men left and walked back to the limousines.  They said something to their boss, then they got into the big, black cars and left with Stan.

“H’it’s okay, now.  You men can come out.  They’re gone.”  said the cowboy.

Waco and his men climbed down from the loft.  They were all shaking.  Moe was really hurting by the time they passed him down from the loft.  The folks he was bonding with and his new young master were taken away, he ached all over, and the Cactus thorns hurt his little feet.  He was in no mood to be messed with.  The man’s dog walked up to him and looked deeply into the pup’s eyes.

“What’s chu’ look’n at, dog?”  Moe said like he was irritated.

“I’ll be damned!”  exclaimed the cowboy slapping his leg and laughing, “A talking dog.  In all these years I never thought about giving you the gift of speech, Utah.  Go on, answer the pup.”

“I’m sorry, young one.  I was just concerned for you.  I wanted to see if I could help.” said the beautiful Collie.  “Thank you, Master.  It’s a wonderful gift.”  he spoke to the cowboy.

“Are you who we think you are?” asked Little Bear.

“Who do you think I am, Chief Tin Penny?”  The boys chuckled because the man knew Little Bear’s last name.

“I ain’t no Chief, yet.”  he said humbly, “I hope to be one day.  We think you’re the Watkins man?”

 The big cowboy threw back his head and laughed again.  He had a deep musical laugh that made the boys smile.

“You been talk’n with Lazarus Long, I can tell.”

“Yes, Sir, he’s our Captain.” agreed Little Bear.

“Fine man, your Captain.  Yes, I’m the Watkins man.  I guess the word ‘shaman’ would describe what I do sometimes except it ain’t magic.  It’s roots are firmly established and planted deep in science and physics.  It’s just a science your Scientists ain’t discovered yet. ”

“Did you really contract with the Blooms to work for them?”  Travis asked.

“No, I lied to them men.  I came along a little late and saw what was going on.  I thought you men might need a hand so I stepped in to create a diversion.  I’ll finish up my job here, do the chores, feed the stock and then be on my way.”

“Can we invite you to come stay with us?”  Waco asked him.

“Shore’ you can.  I’d be right proud to visit with you men.  I heard a lot about you and the Captain.  Better contact yore’ dad, Son.  Let him know you and your men got some work to do.  We can ride the horses over to your place so it’s less to take care of over here.”

Waco took out his cell phone again and called his dad.  Lazarus answered.


“It’s me, Son.  How are you men?  We didn’t hear from you, but something told me not to call you.”

“We’re all right.  They come and took Stan away.  We hid in the barn, but we ran into an old friend of yours, the Watkins man.”

“Yore’ shit’n me.  Really?”  

“You know I wouldn’t lie to my Captain, Sir.”

“No, I know you wouldn’t.  Then I know you’re fine.  He won’t let nothing happen to you men.  Can we come get you?”

“Naw, Sir.  We got us some work to do.  We need to feed and water the stock, do some chores around here.  Then we plan to saddle up the horses and ride ‘em back to the ranch overland.  We ain’t gonna’ use the roads.”

“Good idea.  Sounds like a plan.  Do you need help?”

“Naw, Sir.  I got all ma’ brothers here.  You might tell Keeke why Blue is late git’n home so's she won’t be worried.  Tell Cable, Moe’s been hurt.  We’ll be bringing him to sickbay when we get home.”

“We ain’t never got around to installing a gate over to the Bloom ranch.  It’s my fault.  You still got that gate-post I give you to keep in your wallet?”

“Yes, Sir.  I forgot about it.”  

“Use it.  I showed you many times how to set one up.”

“I remember.  That sure would make it easier on us right now.  Thanks, Sir, we’ll do that.”

Waco talked with his dad for a minute and put his phone away. 

“We don’t have to ride the horses over to our place.  We’ll leave them here for tonight.  I got a gate-post in ma’ back pocket.  I can set it up, and we’ll git Moe to Cable in no time.  Can you lay down and wait for a few minutes, Moe?”

“Yes, Sir, Master Waco.  I’ll be all right if I don’t move too much.  He went over and lay down near the stranger’s dog.”

“Look, I’ll install it right now so we can git you to Cable.  Ain’t no sense in you laying around hurt’n when they could be working on you while we take care of things here.  You tell Cable what happened.”

Waco got out his wallet, found the thin metal gate-post a little smaller than a dime, cleaned away a small square of ground next to a large beam near the first stall.  He pressed it into the ground and a large vibration shook the area.  The stranger got a funny look on his face.  Waco took out his hand held remote and programed in a couple of codes and number and the gate sprang up.  Waco motioned for Moe and he ran through.  He was home in Cable’s arms.  He was in sickbay on the Bandersnatch.

“I’ll be damned, again.” said the big cowboy.  “Where’d old Lazarus find this technology?”

The boys pitched in, and they had all the chores done in no time.  They watered and fed all the stock.  Later, after the boys finished the chores, they approached the gate and Waco opened it again.

“Come, Utah,” urged the stranger, “walk on through.  It won’t hurt you none.”

The beautiful Collie didn’t hesitate and walked through the wall of free electrons.  He was followed by all the boys and his master.  The cowboy took one look at Cable and his men and laughed.  Cable smiled at him.  They already had Moe on the operating table and were checking him out.

“Welcome to the Bandersnatch, Sir.”

“Thank you, Cable.  You men are, indeed, fine looking.  I’ve heard talk about you, but words don’t do it.”

“Thank you, Sir.  You’re very kind.”

“Nonsense, if I taught Long anything it was to give him an eye for beauty.  I dare say he exceeded my expectations.” the cowboy roared with laughter.  The boys were enchanted by him.  Lazarus and Charlie came through the gate from the barn.  Lazarus went to the Watkins man, placed his hand on his broad shoulders and looked into his beautiful blue eyes.

“I’d know them eyes anywhere, you handsome Devil.  It’s s’damn good to see you again.”  Lazarus hugged the cowboy to him and wept.  The Watkins man shed a few as well.

“No better’n it is to see you, you old reprobate.”  he smiled.  Lazarus looked and saw his companion who was wagging his whole body.

“Hello, old friend.”  Lazarus said as he generously petted the beautiful Collie.  “Have you given him a name?”  he asked.

“Yeah, we done a lot of walking through the state of Utah.  It was his favorite state, and he says he always feels most at home there, so I named him Utah.”

“ Utah.  ‘At’s a perfect name for him.”  said Lazarus and looked into the dogs eyes.  “You’re as handsome as ever.”

“Thank you, Captain Long.”  the dog replied.  Lazarus laughed.  “How long’s he been talking, cowboy?”

“About and hour now.  Don’t know why it ain’t never crossed ma’ mind in all these years to give him the gift of speech.  When I heard the boy’s pup speak it made me feel sad I ain’t done it sooner.  Now I got me somebody to talk with without reading their mind.  It’s good to hear the sound of another voice even if it’s just a bark.”

“And what about you, cowboy.  Have you taken on a name for yourself?”

“I think my last name is gonna’ be Watkins, thanks to you.  Don’t mind though.  I always sort of liked the name and the analogy from which it was derived.  Your head man here’s already done come up with a name for me.  He heard it last Sunday when the Kodaly family was singing for the folks.  He gimme’ my name right then and there.  It echoed down through the winds like a the great reverberation, or an aftershock of a great Earthquake or a tsunami.  As them folks sang ‘Amen’ so did all the voices of the immortal chorus.  It was like it was branded across my butt like a flaming sign, to say nothing of the imprint it made upon my heart.”  he chuckled.

“And that name would be — ?”  Lazarus prompted.

“Ask Master Waco, your young Captain who has the heart of a fine, handsome Visallian Captain and warrior neatly wrapped up and lemniscated with pretty ribbons tucked away in his own heart.”  The cowboy smiled and winked at Waco.

It was a highly romanticized but fairly accurate description of Waco’s feelings for his brave suitor.  Waco blushed bright red and his men hooted and laughed at him.  He took their razzing good naturedly.

“What name did you give our Watkins man, Son?”  Charlie asked.

“Jesse.  From, ‘O righteous Branch of Jesse’s rod.  It just seemed to fit.’”  spoke Waco quietly.

“Jesse Watkins.  I like that.  It’s a perfect name for you, cowboy.  It’s time you had a name for men to know you by.”  Lazarus encouraged him.

“I guess I have to agree with you.  The voices on the winds won’t let me do otherwise.  So, now I have a name.  It’s the first step to becoming integrated within a species.  Something I never thought I’d allow myself do after watching what my brother went through.”

“He was a bit of a rebel and a hot head.  He never would admit it, but he was far more political than you.  You’re not that way.  You’re level headed and peaceful.  You’ve had two thousand years to adjust and relate with these folks.  Would it really be so bad?  You could do worse than to throw your lot in with us.  We shore’ could use your help.  If the winds are correct and what’s been recorded for years from other sources, we’re in for seven terrible years.”

“So it would seem.  I’ve spoken many times with my companion about it.  Utah’s urged me to get more involved on a personal basis with these folks, and I can’t say he ain’t been convincing at times.  At other times, I see and hear some of the crazy damn things they do and want to pack our bags and leave.”

“You can leave anytime you want.”  Lazarus chuckled.

“I know, it’s just a metaphor.” he laughed.

* * * * * * *

Cable took good care of Moe.  After a while, the pup was loving the attention, but when it came time for the boys to go to the house for their supper, he wanted to go with them.  Cable had his ribs tapped up tightly and had managed to remove most of the Cactus stickers.

“Sorry, little one.  You have to stay with us this evening.  I want you to stay here for one night so we can observe your progress, then we’ll see about tomorrow.  I’ve given you a mild sedative and I don’t want you running around hurting yourself more.  You’re going to be very sore tomorrow morning, trust me.  We have plenty to feed you on the ship.”  Cable insisted.

Moe kind of groaned like any child might, but he knew better than to argue with Cable.  He was the lord and master of sickbay.  His word came before Captain Long’s when it came to someone who was injured or sick.    

“Hey, little brother.  We’ll come back after supper and bring one of your favorite folks with us.  Maybe we can talk him into sharing a little of his sweet milk for you after your supper.”    

The promise of lummox milk lifted Moe’s spirits, but he asked if he could see his parents, his brothers and sisters when they came back.  Lazarus assured him they would bring them.  They didn’t let them come this time because there would’ve been too much confusion.  Moe seemed to understand.  Moe expressed great sadness over the loss of his family, Stan Edmunds and the Blooms.

“Don’t worry, little brother, we’re going to discuss what to do over supper.  We won’t forget about them.”  Blue comforted him.

* * * * * * *

The men left the Mighty Bee and walked to the ranch house for supper.  They were not as late as Ida Mae thought they might be, and she was happy to see them.  Lazarus warned Jesse and Utah to prepare themselves for the onslaught of two grown dogs and five pups who will want to know about their family member.  Sure enough, Scraps was the first to them.

“Please, Master Long, Master Charlie, how is our boy?”

“Yes, Master Long, tell us.”  echoed the pups.  Jesse had a big smile on his face.

“They all speak?”

“All but Happy, and we’re working on her.  She doesn’t seem to be too upset about not talking.  She gets her message across to the pups without it.”  Charlie laughed.

“He’s going to be fine.  Cable discovered a couple of cracked ribs, but they weren’t broken.  He’s still working on him and I promised him we’ll all come out to visit him after supper.”  Lazarus explained.

“Yeeeeaaaaa!”  shouted the pups.

“That’s a comfort to hear, Sir.”  Scraps told him.

“I know, Scraps.  We were concerned for him as well.  Cable’s gonna’ keep him on the ship tonight, and we might let him stay with Keeke and Blue for a while until he fully recovers.  We don’t want him running off looking for Stan or the Blooms.  He won’t find them.”

“That’s probably a good idea, Master Long.  He does have his mother’s passion for life.”  Scraps observed.  Happy wagged her body.
Charlie introduced the Watkins man to Ida Mae she shook his hand with awe and reverence.

“Thanks for what you done for Mrs. Kodaly.  We’ve only known the family for a short while, but they seem like wonderful people.”

“You’re welcome, Mrs. Wallace.  You should be very proud of your son.  He’s going to become a great leader.”  

Hank’s chest puffed out like Frigate bird in mating season.  Ida Mae marveled at how the man could know such a thing.  JR acted like he didn’t want to hear it.  Later when she asked him he told her he didn’t want to know the future.  He wanted to live it as it came.

At the table Ida Mae set out several slices of a whole-grain bread and a small amount of olive oil for Jesse and a bowl of dry dog food for Utah next to his plate.  He smiled when he saw the food.  Charlie sat at one end of the table and Lazarus at the other.  Jesse sat next to Lazarus and JR was on his other side.  The boys watched in awe as Jesse blessed his and Utah’s food.  He  then gave his companion his food to eat.

“Will you bless our food, too, Sir?”  Waco asked.

“He blesses his own food and that of his companion’s because the bread and dog kibble are only vehicles which carry what nutrients their bodies need to exist.  The real nourishment comes from that, with which, Jesse blesses their food.  It wouldn’t work the same for our food.  We gain nourishment from what’s in our food, not for what someone else might convert it to.”  Lazarus explained.

“I can say words over your meal as your species does from time to time, if you like.”

“I think we’d all like that, Mr. Watkins.” said Bronc.  The others agreed.

Jesse told them to join hands.  They did and Lazarus grabbed Jesse’s rod lower than where Jesse was holding it to complete the circle.  A strange red and green light began to emanate from a small stone mounted in the top of Jesse’s staff and shown down on everyone and over the table.  He began to speak,

“Bless this food, fathers.  May it bring the proper nourishment to our bodies and our spirits.  Be with us in our lives and in our hearts to do what must be done in the coming days.  Walk with us and guide us.  Grant us your wisdom and blessings.  Amen.”

“Amen” echoed the boys, and the light went out.

End Of Chapter 30 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2007 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com

* J. S. Bach had twenty-one children and wore out three wives.  One of J. S. Bach’s lesser known sons  Philipi, Philipi, Philipi Bach was stone-dead, tone deaf.  He tried and tried his best, but he just couldn’t master the fugue or the canon, to say nothing of motets, gavottes, or passipieds.  He couldn’t even jig properly.  He was like a fish out of water at Bach family gatherings.  Later in life he married into a very wealthy family of Jews by the last name of Juke who insisted as his integration into their family the two last names be hyphenated with the Jewish name first; after all the Jews were the chosen race.  (similar to when Felix Mendelssohn converted to Christianity.  See: Wikipedia:  Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy)  The Jukes were totally unmusical and couldn’t carry a tune with the help of a pack mule; however, Philipi Bach fit right in.  Philipi Bach, himself, never did much to garner acclaim, but one of his great grandsons did become a rather prolific inventor and invented the now famous Juke-Bachs.  Unfortunately, while purported to be a musical reproduction unit, it’s never been known to carry a decent tune.  Such are the ways of the musically challenged.