By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 71

A month passed since Coyote took off and no one saw hide nor hair of him.  He left no trail.  Even bloodhounds couldn’t pickup his scent further than the Potter/Goodnight ranch.  From there, he seemed to vanish into thin air.  A week after the sheriff’s deputies found his slave RFD chip inside the javelina, they gave up the search.  Another two weeks went by, and it was Thursday evening.  Monty’s ramrod came through the gate to spend the night with him.  The previous Sunday was the last night they spent time together.  It was a busy week with long days.  Monty was running his ass off trying to get everything done he needed to do.  Since Tuesday morning, Monty could think of nothing else but Jimmy Joe’s fine cowboy cock, the graceful way it hung from his tight body, framed by his handsome set of Monty-enhanced balls, and the full-bodied, strongly masculine aroma of his manhood, to say nothing of the taste.  The taste of Jimmy Joe’s penis would haunt his dreams and cause him to ejaculate in his sleep, but the very best, was the signature fragrance of Jimmy Joe’s splendid body from which his fine cowboy penis hung.  He never used perfumed soap.  He cleaned his body with a good quality, hard-milled soap another buckaroo taught him about years ago.  Jimmy Joe’s distinctively clean, masculine smell was all his own.

Monty wouldn’t change his bedding until the morning before his ramrod was due to visit.  He would have several nights to enjoy the lingering essence of his lover.  While it would drive him to distraction with lust, after he fell asleep the gentle quality of Jimmy Joe’s lingering presence would drift in and out of his subconscious and bring him the restful sleep of peaceful dreams.  Monty was so horny he was ripe for the picking.  After another long day, which he was sure would never end, he and his ramrod were finally alone, together, relaxing and getting ready for bed.  Jimmy Joe seemed to be his same old self to everyone but Monty.  His young devoted slave noticed a difference in his partner.  Since Coyote John went missing, it was like a little of his ramrod’s cocksureness, which made him the man Monty loved so well, waned a bit.  Monty wondered about it.  He wondered if his ramrod felt like he failed Coyote.  It had been a little over four weeks since Coyote ran.  Monty was surprised Jimmy Joe never talked with him about Coyote’s disappearance.  They usually talked about everything and shared a free flow of information from important things to tiny tidbits of day to day juicy gossip like what cowboy what fucking whom or who had the hots for another.  Jimmy Joe never said a word to him about Coyote’s disappearance, and Monty never broached the subject.  He got the distinct feeling Jimmy Joe didn’t want to discuss it, but he couldn’t abide the thought Coyote might be a bone of contention, driving a wedge between them which might possibly jeopardize their relationship.  Coyote John cost Monty enough.  He wasn’t going to let him come between himself and the simple, honest, hardworking cowboy he came to love so dearly.

“Ramrod?” he asked with reticence.

“Yes?” answered Jimmy Joe.

“Why ain’t we never talked about Coyote’s disappearance?”

“I was instructed not to,” Jimmy Joe responded, “and I guess there’s still enough slave in me, I know when to obey my master, or in my case my employer, and keep my big pie hole shut.  Didn’t Master Angus talk with you?” he asked.

“Yes, Sir.  He asked me a couple of questions.  I told him the truth.” Monty replied.

“Coyote John was Angus Goodnight’s property.  If he’s happy with your answer, then I’m a happy camper.” Jimmy Joe smiled.

“I wish I could feel comfortable with yore' explanation, but I ain’t.  H'it ain't because I don't believe you.  I do, but I get the feeling something ain’t quite right.  I don’t want Coyote coming between us, Master Jimmy Joe.  He done cost you'n me enough.  Is there some nagging doubt in yore’ mind, Sir?” Monty asked.

“Don’t worry yore’self none, he ain’t coming between us.  I won’t let him.  I’m just puzzled why Master Angus wouldn’t want me discussing it with you.  He knows how close we are.  I thought you and me shared ever’ thing, but I guess we don’t.  Yes, I suppose I got me some lingering doubts; certainly some unanswered questions.  Only someone as close to the situation as you, me and Angus would suspect some’um was wrong; some’um don’t rightly add up.  I wondered if you’s having some doubts.”

“You think it would help if we discussed it?” Monty asked.

“Maybe, but we gotta’ do it as slave to ex-slave, man to man, and not as master to slave.  You git's ma' drift?  You understand my meaning?” Jimmy Joe asked.

“I think so.  Is it like the cowboy code of honor?” Monty asked.  

“Very similar, but on a deeper, more secret level.  Sort of like a man might share sensitive information with his wife or vice versa.  It becomes pillow talk or privileged conversation protected by the vows of marriage, bonding, or the sanctity of the bedroom.  By that, I ain’t trying to draw no analogies, mind you.  Just trying to stress what’s talked about in a man’s home and his bedroom, be it between a husband and wife or two bonded cowboy slaves, if’n it’s understood between them it's only for their ears and theirs alone, it becomes a sacred trust.  What is discussed in the bedroom stays in the bedroom.  It will never be repeated, especially if it’s agreed upon and sworn to by both parties.  Does that help, Son?”

“Yes, Sir.  I can live with that.  Makes sense to me.”  Monty allowed.

“Very well then, do you know what caused Coyote to run?” Jimmy Joe asked.

“I got me an idea, but only from what he told me.  He said it was because Master Angus fucked Little Bear in front of him one night and made him watch.  He thought it was Master Angus’ doing, but I assured him it weren’t.  It weren’t Master Angus’ idea a’ tall.  It was Little Bear’s.  Little Bear done told me several weeks before, he was gonna’ asked Master Angus to do it with him.  He thought it might make his dad see it ain’t so bad to be Master Angus’ slave.  He wanted to show his dad how much he loved Master Angus.  I don’t think it really mattered.  I think Coyote was jes’ looking for a reason to run and that was as good as any.  If it hadn’t been that, he would’ve found some other reason.  Is there something about that night I don’t know?” Monty asked.

Jimmy Joe was quiet for a while then grimmaced and shook his head almost in disgust.
  “H'it weren’t just Master Angus fucking Little Bear.  There was a lot more to it than that.  Master Angus had me clean Coyote real good, insert the biggest butt plug we got up his ass and tie him to a wooden, straight-backed chair.  I tied his hands behind him and his boots to the rear legs of the chair.  He was sitting on the big plug, and I was instructed to shove a good size penis gag in his mouth, down his throat and strapped it in tight.  I had me a cattle prod on low setting, and I my job was to stand there and zap him if he tried to look away.  I followed Master Angus’ instructions to the letter.  They chose the big bed in my bedroom Ramrod Birdsall left behind.  

I guess Ramrod Birdsall was somewhat of a showman.  He installed several small spotlights from different positions in his bedroom to highlight one thing going on in the room right in the middle of his big bed.  Master Angus and Little Bear got upon the bed, and went at it hot and heavy.  The bed became a big performance platform for their coupling.  The harder Master Angus fucked Little Bear the more the boy taunted his big cowboy master he weren’t fucking him hard enough.  I ain’t never seen me two men go at it like they done.  They looked like something out of one a them S&M porn movies.  I could see it was upsetting Coyote, but it was exciting to him at the same time.  He kept a stiff erection the whole time.  He weren’t the only one.  Hell, ma’ old hoss was hot, hard and dripping heavy.

After Master Angus and Little Bear finished, Little Bear come over to his dad, set on his cock and did a major lap dance until he got his dad off.  I ain’t never seen nothing like it in my life.  Some night, when we ain’t got us nothing else to do, we gotta' see if Kyron has video available.  You won’t believe yore’ eyes.  It was like Little Bear was fucking his dad’s dick with all the frustration of his eighteen years without his dad’s love.  He was taking what he wanted from his old man; what he needed all them years and never got.  It was like, if’n his dad wouldn’t love him, he was gonna’ take it away from him.  He fucked his dad so hard with his ass I thought he might hurt himself, but Angus didn’t stop him.  It was like Little Bear was determined to make his dad shoot his load in his ass; like he wanted to wear his dad’s come up his butt as his personal trophy.

There weren’t no doubt in my mind when Coyote shot his load.  Not even the penis gag could muffle his roar, but it was more than just a shout upon ejaculation.  It was a cry of a wounded soul.  It sounded like the death throes of a dying buck.  Little Bear responded in kind and roared with him, but he just kept hump’n his old man’s cock with his ass until I could see his legs begin to tire.  Just when I was sure Little Bear couldn’t make another jump on Coyote’s dick, I watched as that young buck pumped out the biggest load I ever done see’d come out of a man’s penis.  It flew all over him and Coyote.  His young cock shot like he had bucket’s full of love for his dad stored up inside him that only now was coming out.  At one point I wondered if he was recycling the load his master and his old man deposited inside him

After he was completely drained, Little Bear set resting on his old man’s cock, threw his arms around him and held him tight.  He cried like a baby.  He cried like a man denied a great treasure in his life.  It weren’t the tears of a frustrated child or even a confused adolescent, it was the tears of a mature man who learned the high price of human relationships the hard way.  It was a scathing indictment of the man whose cock he was sitting on.  Something broke inside Coyote, and he started crying, too.  I’d bet them fine boots you made for me, that hardened old Indian ain’t never shed a tear a day in his life until that moment.  After Little Bear got it out of his system, he slowly withdrew from his dad’s cock, knelt in front of him and methodically cleaned him with his tongue like Coyote’s body was some kind of holy relic he had desecrated with his carnal lust, but now was trying to make amends, paying penance, by showing homage.  He reminded me of a young warrior who knew he might soon die in battle, and it was his one and only chance to worship and redeem himself before the altar of his god.  He never said a word to Coyote.  He didn’t have to.  His message was more clear than any words could ever express.

When he finished he slowly walked back over to Angus, gave him a big hug, a gentle kiss, thanked him and they left together with their arms around one another.  The love that flowed between them was palpable.  It was obvious to me, Little Bear was making a powerful statement.  He was leaving with the man he loved, who loved him and became his father in Coyote’s place.  It was a castrating gesture to his old man.  I don’t think taking a sharp knife and cutting Coyote’s balls off would have been as psychologically damning as what Little Bear done.  It said to his old man, I used you, and there weren’t a damn thing you could do about it.  Now, I’m casting you aside to love another man who will gladly be the father to me you never could; just like I had nothing to say, and there was nothing I could do about it when you cast me aside.  How does it feel?  I knew how it felt.  I could feel the big man’s despair.  Coyote was devastated.  I knew something inside him broke, but I couldn’t tell whether it was for better or worse.  Only time would tell.”  Jimmy Joe finished and shook his head in sorrow.  His eyes were watering.  Monty put his arm around him and pulled him close.  They were silent for a few minutes, then Monty spoke.

“Jesus!”  he exclaimed softly, almost to himself, “I know Little Bear.  I don’t think he had that in mind when he done it.  If he really wanted to use his old man he wouldn’t a’ bothered cleaning him up and paying homage to him afterward.  I can’t tell you the number of times he told me how envious of me he was for having had six months of sex with his old man.  He weren’t angry with me, because he knew Coyote forced himself on me, but maybe therein lies the rub.  He was willing to give himself up to his old man just to gain his love.  I told him you can’t suck love out of no man.  What comes from any man’s penis, other than piss, might feel good for a few seconds, but it can’t be confused with love.  When you git some on you and it dries, it ain’t no magic armor what’s gonna’ protect you from the hurts of the world, it’s just dried come.  I told Little Bear, in six months of trying to please that hard Indian, he never once told me he cared about me or thanked me for me responding to him.  It was only after my trial he said a couple of words that made me think he might have, at least, appreciated my efforts.

What I come to feel about Coyote was of my own invention.  You can’t invest six months of your life trying to please another person and not feel something for them.  At least I can't.  It took me a while to understand, whatever affection I had or still have for Coyote certainly ain’t because he led me to believe he gave a shit about me.  Coyote never had nothing to do with it.  On the other hand, I can understand how Coyote must have felt, but he was blaming the wrong man.  The way I see it, there weren’t no one man to blame.  Like you done said, Coyote’s master Angus’ property.  He didn’t have no say about what his master done to him.  I hear’d worse stories than having to be forced to watch two men fuck.  Coyote ain’t no blushing, powder puff ingenue in the forced sex department.  Master Angus ain’t no pushover neither.  That big cowboy may be lot’s a’ things, but he ain’t no fool.  I think Coyote underestimated you and Master Angus.  Master Angus knew exactly what he was doing, but I also know he loves Little Bear so much, he’d let his'self be talked into just about anything to please him.  In a way, they lit Coyote’s fuse together, and he exploded.  No pun intended, pa.”

“I thought about that, Son, and to be honest, it bothers me.  It bothers me a lot.  It’s almost like they set him up.  What they hoped would open him up to a greater understanding, only succeeded in deeply wounding him.  Indians, especially one like Coyote John, look on life differently from you and me.  I asked myself why Angus would do that to the man?  Then again, it ain’t my job to question Angus Goodnight about what he should or shouldn’t do with his property.  It’s my job to take care of them and make damn sure they give him a good day's work.  Could he have a cruel streak?  Like you done said, was it really cruel a' tall?  Was it any more cruel than what Coyote done to you?  I don’t know, but giving Angus the benefit of the doubt, maybe he allowed his judgment to become clouded because of his love for Little Bear.  They go back a long ways.  All I know is, I weren’t comfortable with it.  As exciting as they was to watch, I was uneasy about it the whole time.  Maybe Angus went along with Little Bear’s wishes for a reason; to kill two birds with one stone. 
You know, he ain't never been too upset about it.  J’ever think maybe Angus wanted Coyote to run?  Did he want it to happen?” Jimmy Joe asked with some reserve.     

“Master Angus told me the night he talked with me he didn’t want me git’n involved should Coyote try to run.  He told me he didn’t care if I offered Coyote some comfort, and by that, I took him to mean sex.  Master Angus told me no matter what happened not to set foot off’n this property, and I assured him I wouldn’t.  He said he would only ask me one question and that was did Coyote come by here?  Actually, he asked me two questions: did Coyote come by here, and did I offer him comfort?  My answer was ‘yes’ he came by here but ‘no’ I didn’t offer him comfort; however, Coyote insisted, and like always with Coyote John, I gave him what he wanted to placate him.  I told Master Angus the truth.  I didn’t offer Coyote nothing, but I also told him I let Coyote fuck me.  Beyond that, there really ain’t much to tell.

Coyote was in the barn hiding in the dark when I went out to feed Jenny Bottom for the night and tuck her in.  He jumped me from behind and held me until he was sure I wouldn’t yell.  I weren’t surprised.  I didn’t struggle none ‘cause I knew it was him.  I knew he wouldn’t do me no harm.  He begged me to run away with him.  He was convinced, if I went with him we could make it to the border of Mexico and live in South America.  He said people are poor down there, but they don’t have slaves.  He told me escaped slaves were welcome in South America.  I told him there weren’t no way I’d go with him, but I didn't tell him the wonders I'd discovered since I become Captain Shane's slave.  I told him he was crazy for running.  I begged him to go back through the gate with me to your ranch, and I would speak to Master Angus on his behalf.  I’d tell him after talking with me, Coyote decided to return on his own.  I thought for a first offense, Angus would show mercy and let him off with a severe warning.

He wouldn’t hear of it.  He was determined to run.  Master Angus knows I could subdue Coyote if’n I wanted to.  He never would have gotten away from this ranch.  I could’ve morphed into a lummox, overpowered him, tied him up and held him for you men to come git him, but Master Angus never asked me to do that.  He told me to let him go, but make sure I didn't set foot outside this ranch.  Coyote told me he loved me and wanted me to go with him, but if I wouldn’t, could he have one last piece of ass before he took off?  I dropped my Wranglers, and he fucked me right there in the barn.  We never came into my quarters.  I cleaned him up, wished him well, hugged him, gave him a kiss, told him I loved him, and sent him on his way.  That’s the last I seen of him.”  Monty finished and there was another long silence between them.

“Did you enjoy it?” Jimmy Joe finally asked sort of dejected.

“Why would you ask me that, pa? You must be having self-doubts.  You never ask me a question like that before.  I ain’t never ask if you enjoy your cowboy slaves and Master Angus.  I never asked if you enjoyed fuck'n Coyote John.  I just assume you do or you wouldn’t keep doing it.  Do you want me to lie to you, Master?” Monty asked quietly.  “Is it really that important?”

“No, ordinarily not, but jes’ this time, for personal reasons, I need an answer.  Forget about me being your ramrod or master for a moment.  As one man to another, I’m asking for the truth.” Jimmy Joe demanded.

“Of course I enjoyed it.  Coyote John’s like a wild animal, Jimmy Joe.  I learned to enjoy his brand of rough sex when I’s sharing the same cell with him for six months, but sex with him ain’t near as good as what I got with you.  You got the same wildness in you.  The only difference is, you got it saddled and broke.  He don’t.  You know how best to make it work for you and your partner, and you don’t stop ‘til you git the fuck’n job done.  Coyote?  He ain’t got no clue.  No matter what magical four letter word Coyote whispered to me to git what he wanted, my ass ain’t nothing more to him than a convenient come-dump for his prick.  Comfort ain’t only physical.  There’s a part what can’t be taken from a man.  It has to be freely given, even from the most subservient slave.  I would never give Coyote John the comfort I give to you.  I couldn’t.  H’it ain’t in me to do.  You’re the only man what will ever be welcome to sleep inside me as long as you need me.  All I want is my self-assured, swaggering, cocky, buckaroo master back again who knows his self-worth, who’s proud of his'self and his accomplishments, who can appreciate the finer points of a good piece of ass, and knows how to fuck the holy b’jesus out of it like he's a wild man on a demonic mission when he gits it!” Monty built to a climax, then shut up.  There was another long moment of silence between them.  Jimmy Joe gently slipped his rough, calloused hand behind Monty’s head and slowly pulled him to his lips.  He kissed Monty with a kiss of relief, like he needed the young man to reaffirm his need for him.  

“God, I love you, boy.  Sometimes you jes’ seem to know the words I need to hear.  You been read'n ma' mind?” he whispered.

“No, I ain't been read'n yore' mind.  H'it ain't ethical.  I jes' love you a powerful lot, pa.  More'n I ever loved anybody in my life, and that includes Shanna.” Monty responded quietly.

“You like calling me 'pa,' don’t chu, boy?” Jimmy Joe stole another kiss.

“I feel the same way about you Master Shane feels about his ramrod.  I never got to call no man ‘pa’ when I’s growing up.  Yes, it means a hell of a lot to me.  You’ve taught me so much.  I thank the name of some unknown god ever’ damn day I got you in my life.  I couldn't have me no finer man to love me and lean on, Master.  When I have self-doubts I think on you and how much you mean to me, and they vanish like exorcized ghosts.  Ever’ time I call you ‘pa’ it reminds me how much I missed as a kid, but it also makes me believe in second chances.” Monty said laying his soul bare for his ramrod.

“Means a lot to me, too, Son.” Jimmy Joe sighed.

“Any more questions, slave to slave or man to man?” Monty asked without nuance.

“No, I’m satisfied, less'n you trust yore' old pa enough to share the rest with him.” Jimmy Joe fished and grinned at Monty..

“What makes you think there’s more, pa?” Monty asked.

“I know you too damn well, boy.  H'it's almost like you become my son, Monty.  I know what your talents are and how yore’ mind works.  Your body tells me things your mouth don’t.” Jimmy Joe was bluffing with nary a card to draw to, but from the expression on Monty’s face, he knew he struck pay dirt.  He won the hand.

“Tell me again how that slave to slave thing works, pa?  You sure it’s like the cowboy code of honor between buckaroos?” Monty asked.

“It’s much deeper than the cowboy code.  If a slave or ex-slave swears on his soul, you can bet chore’ boots he won’t never betray your trust.”

“It would be nice.” Monty said. “I think it would go a long way to easing your heart and any tension between us.  I don't like keep'n things from ma' pa.  H'it jes' ain't right.  Are you willing to swear on your soul, Ramrod?” Monty put to Jimmy Joe with all seriousness.

“I do so swear, Son.” Jimmy Joe smiled and held up his right hand.

“Will it git me ma’ beloved master cowboy buckaroo pa back in his saddle again?” Monty said in frustration.  “Will you promise to fuck ma’ cunt until you hear it beg for mercy or start to sing a new song?” Monty challenged.

“Guaran-damn-teed!” Jimmy Joe promised as he took the young man into his arms.  Monty was quiet for a good while and held his ramrod tight.  Jimmy Joe broke the silence, “Coyote won’t never be found, will he, Son?” he said quietly like he was afraid to ask and even more afraid of the answer.

“Naw, Sir, he won’t.”  It opened up the flood gates and Monty told his ramrod everything.  Jimmy Joe listened with his mouth open.  He was stunned.  He was amazed, but he wasn’t surprised.  He had to stop Monty a couple of times he was laughing so hard.  Tears were streaming down his face.  The old cowboy hadn’t had a drink in years, but insisted Monty break out his bottle of Comfort.  Angus went through his only bottle, a pint, but replaced it with a quart of the sweet firey liquor.  The bottle was never opened.  At his master's insistance, they shared two fingers together in a toast.

“Here’s to Coyote John.  May he live long, prosper, have many sons and daughters and find happiness South of the border.” Jimmy Joe laughed and they took another sip. “You know what, Son?”

“What, pa?” Monty grinned.

“I think our big cowboy master is more shrewd than we give him credit.  I think he anticipated something lie'kiss.  I think he knew what him and Little Bear done might provoke Coyote to run.  I think he wanted Coyote to run, but Angus made damn sure he had all his bases covered.  That old cowboy ain't no man's fool.”

“No, I don’t think so.  Ya’ think?  Hell, I don’t know.  Well, maybe.  He did tell me some’um awful strange about how he thought I was ready to handle Coyote, and he knew I would do it my own way.  He said it like he was proud of me, and if offered the opportunity, wanted me to take control of the situation between me and Coyote.  He said he didn’t give a shit how I handled it, but he trusted me to do the right thing.  To my way a’ thinking, that gives a man a hell of a lot of latitude.  Do you think I done the right thing, pa?”

“Oh, hell, yes!  Fuck’n A!  Ain't no doubt in my mind, boy.  I'm proud of you. Ya' done damn good, kid!” Jimmy Joe exclaimed breaking up into gales of laughter.  "I got me a feeling if’n Angus ever found out he would have a fuck’n heart attack.  He'd do exactly like I done.  He would laugh his big cowboy butt off.” They shared another laugh and rolled on the bed together. “Now I know why he didn’t want me jaw’n with you about it.  H’it weren’t like he said.  He said he was trying to protect you.  That’s jes’ pure-dee old horseshit!  He knew damn well you could take care of yore’self.  The men what he’s trying to protect is Little Bear and his dad.  As far as I'm concerned, he left the job to the best man.  He was right.  He knew you was ready.” Jimmy Joe smiled at his mate.

“You know what, Ramrod?” Monty grinned.

“What, boy?”

“I got me one hell of a smart pa.” Monty said sincerely as a big grin spread across his handsome face.

“E’aup!  But h’it don’t take no shit load a’ brains to do what I’m about to do to you, boy.  What would you like to hear that sweet little pussy of yorn sing, Son?”  

“Oh, I don’t know.  How ‘bout the last act of La Boehme?” Monty tossed off.

“Git down there on yore’ old man’s cock, Son, and hum a few bars.  My poo-cheenie’s a mite rusty.  I’ll warm up that sweet little music box of yorn with a good old-fashioned buckaroo mustache ride, and fake the rest.” Jimmy Joe grinned real big.  They fell out laughing again.  Monty was happy.  He had his cocksure cowboy ramrod back in his saddle.  After that evening, everything was back to normal between Jimmy Joe and Monty.  They were tighter than two ticks on a dog and their love for each other blossomed.  Everyone commented it was like they shared a secret between them no one else knew.  Well, almost no one else.  While they remained steadfastly true to their secret vow to one another, it didn’t take Angus long to figure out they knew what he did.

* * * * * * *

Days began to go by faster.  It was the end of summer.  The ranch would be kicking into fall roundup gear and several of the young men would be returning to school.  It would be JR and Jerry’s last year in high school and they were being carefully groomed as the next football heroes for the small town.  They also had the heft and superior brawn of Bron’s two boys, Bronc and Ts’gan.  Bronc was approximately the same age as Waco and his men, but he talked his dad into letting him run wild with their relatives for a season and missed a year of school.  He heard the romantic call of the wild, he answered it, but now he was back.  The romance wore off real quick.  He decided life on the ranch was a hell of a lot better than foraging for food, being on the run all the time, and freezing his butt off in winter.  He was bigger than ever, and he and his little brother made imposing line backers.  No one ever got through.  Their teammates called them ‘the animals.’  They weren’t too far wrong.

Monty was busy all week with various projects for Shane and Boss Potter.  He spent a good deal of his time with Bobby, Maxine, Rocky, Dexter, Cody, Pearl, Ping, Pong, Jack and Jill.  It just seemed natural for the coyote cowboys to latch onto him.  They wanted to spend as much time with Monty and his posse as possible.  They were the ‘in’ group in the Grange for the moment.  They were where everything was happening.  They found Monty fascinating and thought of visiting the Gopher Bay as their personal Disneyland.  Monty set them down and had a long, brotherly talk with them.  Monty’s talk was pre-approved by both Shane and Admiral Long.  When they were on board his ship there was no such thing as master and slaves.  He was the undisputed captain of his ship and his word was law in keeping with maritime traditions dating back centuries.  They would obey his orders without question.  Anyone found guilty of disobeying one of his ‘thou shalt nots’ or cardinal rules would be court-martialed immediately.  No one would be forced to walk the plank, but depending on the offense, it would be decided by a jury of their peers (Monty’s posse) whether that person would be welcome aboard the Gopher Bay anymore.

As a matter of fact, the Admiral suggested Monty take such an action.  The cowboys had a reputation for cutting corners, taking liberties with rules and bending them to suit their own purposes.  Lazarus stressed to Monty, with a ship as unique and valuable as the Gopher Bay, he could ill afford to have a young kid try out some hair brained idea at everyone else’s expense. 
They weren't meanspirited.  They were just too damn intelligent and clever for their own good.  They didn't always use good judgment.  In fairness to the coyotes, they were growing up fast and were learning responsibility.  They certainly had come a long way since messing with their big brother’s robo-cam.  Also, for the purpose of security and a general beefing up of a powerful sergeant-at-arms presence, Lazarus wanted another big bio-droid male created to be a bookend for Rocky.  He would leave the details up to Monty.  

The one dead whale brain Wankle let them have in the first group Monty left outside exposed to the elements.  It was his thought the softer rays of the sun reaching Earth, over a period of time, might stimulate the brain and reawaken it.  He checked it regularly for the first couple of weeks, but it showed no response whatsoever.  It seemed deader than the proverbial doornail.  With so many other things going on he forgot about it, until one night, a couple of months after Coyote took off, Nurse Jenny Bottom came to him in one of her usual frenzies.  Jenny knew no moderation in relating.  It was either mildly annoying frenzy or if it was something she thought was really important, it became a full-blown, super-duper-hyper-hee-hawing frenzy.

<< Remember that thing you set in those rocks you said was the dead brain of a giant critter from another world? >> she asked.

<< Yeah.  I forgot about it.  It’s been there for weeks.  No, make that months.  It’s been there since the first of the summer.  I was hoping it might begin to show some signs of life, but I think it’s beyond hope.  I gave up and forgot about it.  Unfortunately, Nurse Bottom, I ain’t got the same healing abilities for silicone life forms. >> he lamented.

<< Maybe you do.  I think you should take another look at it, Monty.  I noticed some strange lights inside it. >> she brayed.

<< Really, little sister?  Let’s go see. >> Monty was up and out of his quarters in a flash with Missy Bottom close behind complaining the whole time.  Monty rushed out into the darkness of a moonless night to the large boulders where he left the brain.  Sure enough, there were a couple of small lights glowing dimly inside.  They were barely visible through the dense neural webbing of the brain matrix itself.  He picked it up and rushed it into his lab.  He explained to his workers what Jenny found, and they gathered around in awe.  They were as impressed as Monty and they immediately hooked it up to meters and a computer interface.  They tinkered with it for several hours until Monty was about to fall asleep.  He said his farewells, left the lab, and got ready for bed.  He knew by the next morning his workers would have an answer for him.  He checked with them before he walked to the bunkhouse for breakfast.

Depending on the way one looked at it, it was either very bad news or it could be very good news.  The whale’s knowledge was completely gone.  There was nary a trace of memory from a past life.  It was a blank slate.  On the other hand, it was still fully functional and could be refilled sort of like a write/rewrite CD or a memory stick only much more sophisticated.  Once the original power source died, all memories were lost to time.  What was left was analogous to the human reptilian brain stem.  His lab workers had no idea what caused it to become active again.  There were any number of reasons it might have occurred, but to know for sure the experiment had to be repeatable.  He didn’t know whether he could get the other dead brain from Wankle.  He would have to talk with the Admiral.  To anyone else it would have been depressing news, but not to Monty.  He would have to speak with Lazarus about several ideas he was considering.  When he presented his idea to Lazarus, it was over breakfast one morning at the Goodnight ranch.  Lazarus invited Monty and Jimmy Joe to come through the gate early.  Waco and his crew were there including Waco’s mate Captain Vinceeth.  When Monty told Lazarus what he wanted to do with the empty brain he almost fell off his chair laughing.  The rest of the men laughed at Lazarus.  Monty wasn’t offended.  He knew Lazarus was laughing because of the uniqueness of his request.

“Now, let me see if I got this right.  You wanna’ try to download your Oracle from the spheres into the empty whale brain, thereby creating a second sergeant-at-arms, giving your Oracle a permanent physical presence and a permanent link to the spheres?”

“Yes, Sir, that’s pretty much what I had in mind.” he smiled weakly.  You could've heard a pin drop around the table.

“Brilliant, boy.  That’s all I got to say.  It’s a fantastic idea, but if I might make a suggestion?”

“Of course, Admiral.” Monty replied.

“If you’re successful, I’d like for us speak with Rocky and see if some of the secrets of the spheres and communication with them could be achieved by downloading information into his brain matrix without destroying or altering his basic personality.  I think we all agree, Rocky has become a well thought of and beloved fixture with you men.  If there was the slightest doubt his personality might be jeopardized I wouldn’t approve it.”

“I understand, Sir.  I feel the same.  He’s unique.  It would make sense to have a backup link to the spheres in case of an emergency.  When you’re dealing with advanced applications, there ain’t no such word as ‘redundancy.’” Monty allowed and Lazarus agreed with him.

Rocky wasn't present at breakfast that morning.  He was spending some time with his little brother and sister at Angus' ranch and helping Angus and Jimmy Joe with several projects.  Rocky took up permanent residence in the large downstairs bedroom off the kitchen in Shane and Cole's house.  He was so damn pleasant and comfortable to have around, Shane and Cole invited him to stay with them.  He was pleased and flattered.  It was much nicer than his small room off Monty’s office in his quarters.  Besides, he was with Monty almost every day, and he felt Monty needed his privacy.  Since Dexter got his new body he needed a larger bed and a place to call his own rather than a cot in Bobby’s room.  He became a regular guest in the other downstairs bedroom which shared a bath with Rocky’s room.  Sometimes Dexter would be found in Rocky’s larger bed in the mornings when Cole poked his head in to wake them.  No one asked and they didn’t tell.  It became a question everyone had on their mind, but no one really wanted to know the answer.  There were many bets made one way or the other, but only Dexter and Rocky knew for sure.  They were aware of the talk, but neither seemed bothered by it.  They just never talked about the time they were alone together.  When asked, they gave the pat answer that echoed the cowboy way, “Cowboy’s don’t never kiss and tell.” They never did.
* * * * * * *

Monty hadn’t opened his spheres since the night of the move to the Potter/Goodnight ranch.  He really didn’t have any need for them, but things were getting more complicated on the Gopher Bay, and aside from consulting them about his ideas, he needed help.  He also wanted to talk with his Oracle about either duplicating his persona or taking up residence in the dormant whale brain.  He was pleased to see Ben Johnson again.  The older cowboy was as fine looking as ever.  Monty was convinced he would make a fine bookend for Rocky.  After they exchanged pleasantries the two men set down to talk.

“You’re learning to change your shape and alter others.” Ben observed.

“Yes, Sir.  There is a couple, a man, and his canine companion, who taught me how to use my morphing abilities.  They’ve come in quite handy.”

Monty told his Oracle what he’d been up to and his accomplishments.  He told him about moving the barn and his quarters.  The Oracle, who spoke for all the intelligence within the spheres, was impressed.  Monty went on to tell them about his ramrod and his love for Jimmy Joe.  Ben never batted an eye.  He smiled several times and nodded.  He kept Monty company in his bed many times in the past when he was lonely.  Ben taught Monty about the female sex and how to satisfy a woman.  Like Monty would do for his ramrod, the big cowboy would morph his genitals to provide Monty the tools with which to learn.  The greater the intelligence, and the more one is educated without guilt and shame, the less one is prone to be confused about sexuality.  Monty began to tell Ben about his work with the bio-droids and the whale brains.  The spheres were very interested and asked many questions.  He finally told them about the lifeless silicon whale brain he brought back to life by accident and what he wanted to try.  The spheres reacted much like Lazarus.  They thought it was a great idea, and told him to go ahead and create a new body.  He explained he wanted to give Ben a chance to become more than a program.  The Oracle was moved.

Monty gave instructions to his workers to create another adult male body using the same body pattern as Rocky which they fashioned after Captain Shane, but the new body from the neck up would be a copy of Ben Johnson.  Since the spheres created Monty’s workers, they were familiar with Mr. Johnson.  In keeping with Lazarus and Shane’s wishes he also instructed them to start work on five more bodies for the remaining whale brains in their possession.  The brains who hadn’t received bodies yet were more happy than they were on Mars.  They could go anywhere and look in on anything going on in the world and the various ranches of the greater Grange due to the electronic net.  With the Admiral and Ping’s permission, Kyron gave them almost total free access to anything they wanted to view.  Of the five left were three young adults, in whale years, and two older adult brains.  It was decided to create two more adult bodies, one male and one female to become a team of surrogate parents for the younger whale brains and those going through adjustment periods following implantation.  All of these new bodies were produced in a week of what Monty came to refer to as ‘real’ time.

* * * * * * *

The last week in June, Maxine suffered through her first heat.  She was miserable.  Ping, Pong and their kits were good to give her a shot of specially produced pheromones which would relieve most of her yearnings and relaxed her.  She wasn’t the only pup going through the throes of awakening sexual awareness.  Her sisters, Patty and Laverne were going through it close to the same time.  They hit within days of each other.  They sometimes met in sickbay but had little to say to one another.  They just wanted to get their daily dose of Langerian pheromones and go back to their families.  Maxine stayed close to Monty the whole week.  Boss Potter even gave her special permission to stay with him several evenings.  Her best girlfriend Essmee Biddle felt bad for her and would slip her favored treats.  Ox gave her some of his milk several times.  She slept a lot.  She would follow Monty to sickbay, Ping would produce a pheromone for her, she would follow Monty to the Gopher Bay, curl up in a comfortable nook he created for her and sleep.  

Monty would wake her when he needed to return, they would stop by sickbay on the way back to the ranch for another shot from Ping or one of her kids, go through the gate, Maxine would have her supper, go to her small bed in the corner of Monty’s office and be zonked out for the night.  She swore she didn’t know if she could put up with it the rest of her life.  Monty assured her she wouldn’t have to.  After she had a litter, he could take the urge away and give it back to her again in the future if she wished to have another.  She loved Monty dearly.  She had two great heroes in her life.  Boss Potter reached out to her in the depth of her despair from depression, offered her a home and family, and according to her, saved her life.  Monty saved her life for the second time and opened a world to her she could only dream about.  He created a small headset so she could communicate directly with the evolved intelligence on the Gopher Bay.  She could run the whole damn ship if needed.  Monty made her his first mate.  He even gave her the title of Ensign Maxine Potter.  All this was done with his master, Boss Potter, and the Admiral’s approval.

She told Boss Potter several times if and when he decided to allow her to have a litter, she wanted to have Monty’s pups.  Monty agreed he would be pleased and honored to provide the stud service for her when she needed.  Maxine wasn’t too closed mouth about her passions and word got around she wanted Monty to be the father of her pups.  There was much good-natured razing about Monty being a salty old dog; also, there were many bets made about the future pups and what talents they might have which would far exceeded those of Scraps and Happy’s puppies.  There was no way to tell what the combination might produce.

* * * * * * *
Frieda Toosoon was skeptical at first about a new baby moving into Ox’s small condo, but she was too large to fit so she really had no prior claim.  She sort of liked the idea of having a little brother even if he was furless.  After several months of being taken care of, pampered, and catered to by everyone, she was beginning to think living in a world of mixed species was far better than being cold, hungry and dirty in a dank, dark cave that smelled of death.  Ox didn’t forget her.  He made sure he showed her extra affection when he took on the new bairn.  Shane’s new baby slave in Ox’s pouch didn’t have a name yet.  Shane decided there was no rush, but until the child was old enough to decide for himself, Shane decided to call him 'Oblio' because he had such a nice round, little head, which was not at all well suited for the game of triangle toss,* and there was a country rock bank out of Missoula, Montana, from the early part of the century Shane liked named Oblio Joe.  So, until further notice, the baby’s official name would be Oblio Arrow Goodnight. 

For all practical purposes, for a while at least, he would become Shane and Cole’s de facto son.  Shane considered farming the boy out to Strom and Lyle Chambers but the more he got to know the kid the more he wanted to keep him close him him.  Cole saw a deep need to play "mother hen" within his mate and encouraged him.  Shane had many talks with the babe and explained the difficult circumstances under which his dad became Shane’s slave.  He explained it would be necessary for Oblio to hide his identity from Monty for a while, but Shane made him a promise, when he was four years old and Monty was granted his emancipation, they would sit down and tell him together.  Until that time, Oblio was to grow up in Shane’s household and look upon Shane and Cole Jenkins as his parents and masters.

“Will I be a slave like my dad?” he asked.

“Yes, Son, because of legal situations on Earth right now, for your protection as well as your dad’s you must be a slave.  One of our Admiral’s finest, most beloved sons is his slave.  We’ll have you talk with Lucas Long.  He will tell you what it’s like to live as his dad’s salve and what’s expected of him.  He’s been offered his freedom several times but refused each time.  There are certain advantages to being a slave to a good master on Earth at this time in history.  Other times, not so much.  To further answer your question, you will be a slave, but not like your dad.  You dad is a grown man with many talents, and he’s using those talents to work for me to help us get off this planet when the time comes.  You, on the other hand, will be growing up and be mostly involved in being a kid and learning.  You will be given certain responsibilites as you grow in keeping with your age and physical abilities.  You will be assigned chores and duties to perform but no more than any average ranch kid growing up might expect to have.  You’re main job, as my slave and son, will be to be a kid, learn as much as you can and make me proud of you.  You do those things well, and I’ll be a happy camper.  In return, I will make sure you have a happy, well adjusted childhood.”

“Will I get to visit my mother?” he asked.

“I told you I will always be honest and straight forward with you, but that’s a question I can’t answer.  Why?  Because a lot will depend on your mother.  She’s been brought up in a religious home that is very strict in their ideas about life, living and their view of society.  They are mainly interested in suppression of free thought and reason.  They worship an imaginary being they consider their creator and are convinced he sent his son to Earth as a messiah, teacher and prophet for the redemption of all mankind if they only believe in him.  Legend has it he was killed by the people of his own religion some two thousand years ago, but they believe he will come back for them and take them away to a wonderful land where they will spend an eternity being slaves to their creator and worshiping both.  Every generation, for two thousand years, have thought they would be the generation to see the return of their messiah.  If he ain’t showed up in two thousand years, chances are, he probably never will.”

“Their religion don’t sound very reasonable to me.” Oblio said.

“H’it ain’t, Son.  There’s even more crazy things they believe, but they’s jes’ the main things.  It would be all right if they believed what they do and left others alone, but they feel the need to change the world to believe like they do.  To accept their religion is to become brain dead to reason and new ideas.  It’s like a powerful, mind numbing drug they believe is the answer to all their problems and helps them git through the drudgery of day to day life.  They give up all responsibility for their own actions because no matter what they do to their fellow man, they will be forgiven because they believe.  They become like zombies who feed on the negative energy of their narrow beliefs and vehemently oppose trying to understand any concept beyond their rigid dogma.

They’ve become powerful, because men of reason and intelligence were either too accommodating, too complacent, or too passive to speak up to ignorance, to confront their foolishness, lies and mindless propaganda based on nothing more than blind faith; faith in imaginary mythological beings and religious ideas that can’t be tested or proven.  They dumbed down the public school systems and insisted on teaching faith based science, which is no science at all, and allowed each succeeding generation to become less educated and more ignorant.  When you take away people’s ability to reason, it’s easier to fill them with lies and outrageous beliefs so you can control them to think like you want them to.  Together, they impose their will on government and everyone’s private lives.  Your mother is a votress of their order and has told us she won’t give up her blind faith in mythology to become a part of us.  We’ve invited her.  We were open with her when she was convalescing from your birth.  We asked her to stay, but she refused.  We’re still in touch with her.  We adjusted the neural pathways in her brain by feeding her lummox milk ice cream every day.  We hope she’ll come around, but only time will tell.  In the meantime, I can promise you a life filled with education, reason, enlightenment, understanding, with lots of healthy humor thrown in for good measure, but best of all love and the encouragement of a large and uniquely diverse family.”

“How long will I have to remain with my second parent?” he asked.

“You don’t have to remain in Ox’s pouch any longer than you want to.  It’s been almost a month you’ve been living inside him.  He would love to have you stay until you’re too big to fit, but we need to get you up and around.”

“I love it when I’m inside him.  I love him for providing me such a warm, safe place to mature in, and his milk has really opened my mind to all the possibilities before me.  How long will I have to remain an infant, Sir?”

“Only until you can learn to morph into an older child, say one or two years of age.  It would make it much easier on us, and it would be the perfect cover so your dad won’t be suspicious.  We can provide you with the genetic information if you need.”

“Won’t be necessary, Sir.  I can morph to look like Ox, you or Mr. Jenkins.  You all have held me, and I’ve absorbed your genetic information.  Who shall I look like, you?”

“If you think my looks are pleasing, I would be flattered, Son.” Shane responded.

“I wouldn’t mind living as a lummox, Sir, if it would help, but if you’d rather me appear human, either you or Mr. Jenkins would suit me fine.”
“No, I definitely want you to appear human.  There might be a time I’ll give you permission to morph to a young lummox if you like, but for right now I need you as one of us.  You might be more difficult to explain if you looked like Mr. Jenkins.  If you look like me, you can pass as a Goodnight man.”

“Makes sense to me, Sir.” Oblio said and began to morph until he looked like a one year old boy.  He was just a toddler, but he could walk with a little assistance.  He was quite handsome and looked like a tiny identical copy of Shane all the way down to his penis.  He even copied the musculature of Shane’s massive body.  He looked like a diminutive bodybuilder.  Cole took one look and almost fell on the floor laughing.

“I love it!” he exclaimed, “Your very own mini-me.” he laughed.

“Hesh up, pa!” Shane laughed at his ramrod.

“Did I do something wrong, Sir?” Oblio looked bemused.

“Not at all, Son.  H'it’s jes’ ma’ ramrod’s got a warped sense of humor.  You done fine.  I wouldn’t have you no other way.” Shane grabbed Oblio up into his massive arms, hugged and kissed him.

“I may have some accidents until I learn to control my you-know-what.” Oblio said.

“We fully expect it, Son, and we won’t have no problems with it, but it will take less time for you to adjust than if you remain an infant.”

“Right, Sir.” he smiled.

Shane fitted him with a large diaper.  Now, all they had to do was make arrangements for Obilo to see Ox regularly for more lummox milk, get him some clothes, a nice pair of boots and he would be the youngest buckaroo-slave on the Potter/Goodnight ranch.  Ox wasn’t ready to let go so quickly and asked Waco if he could be the boy’s wet nurse for a while.  Waco would do anything for his slave and granted his permission.  Therefore Ox and Frieda Toosoon came to live with Shane and Cole for a while and Ox became Obilo’s wet nurse, chaperone, wrangler and guardian.  Frieda wasn’t sure about going to live on the Potter/Goodnight ranch, but when she learned she would get to be around Monty more often, she changed her mind.  The three were a perfect combo.  Ox, Frieda and Oblio could carry on wonderful conversations and no one could hear.  Ox was the perfect early tutor for the boy about the ways of the world and how to relate to the people and critters within.  He became Oblio's jungle-gym.  The boy could grab a handful of lummox fur and pull himself to a standing position and hold onto the huge beast as he took his first steps.  Ox was always there to catch him when he stumbled.  With two bairns to care for and their wonder at learning a new world, was for Ox like reliving his youth and made him yearn for the day when he, Waco and Trey would have bairns together.  He envisioned himself  becoming the caretaker of the clan.  His big heart ached for a large family.

Shane didn’t bother to explain the details to Monty or the other ranch hands about Oblio except he was the illegitimate son of one of Shane’s brothers.  By that, Shane was considering Monty his brother, but everyone thought he was talking about one of his two older, city dwelling brothers Jessie or Dermont Goodnight, with whom, the ranching Goodnights had little contact anymore.  Charlie, Angus and Shane were surprised if they saw them and their families once a year around Christmas.  His story made sense.  Shane Goodnight was the type of man who would rescue and hide his brother’s indiscretion even if it mean raising the kid himself.  Only a handful of men knew the truth.  The fewer who knew, the less likely word would get back to Monty.  What better place for a young child who was of questionable birth to be raised?  The term ‘illegitimate’ held no negative connotations at the Potter/Goodnight ranch.  It simply meant a child born out of wedlock and no more.  Cowboys held little truck with the pedigree of a man’s birth.  It was what he grew up to be that mattered.

Shane shared their secret with Angus, and the old cowboy fell in love with the boy.  He wasn't around Frieda Toosoon very much, but he included her in his affections.  Angus was a hard man for a kid of any specie not to love.  Beneath all the bullshit and bull-of-the-woods bravado, beat the heart of a child just about Frieda and Oblio’s age.  Angus spoke kid fluently and became a third father to the two of them just as he became a second dad to Monty.  Oblio and Frieda along with Ox were welcome to visit their cousins, Cody and Pearl, at their Uncle Angus and Aunt Jean’s ranch anytime they wanted.  Jean hadn’t been exposed to lummox bairns very much but came to love and appreciate Frieda.  Oblio and Frieda communicated well with the whale brain children and they formed tight bonds.  Likewise, they captured the heart of Angus’ ramrod.  There was just something about the little boy that captured Jimmy Joe’s heart and imagination, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

Shane made a pact with Oblio he wouldn’t use his abilities without either his master/dad’s permission or Shane’s ramrod they called Pa Cole.  Monty was fascinated by the new boy, and they seemed to get along fine.  Shane was worried Monty might be able to detect his own DNA within Oblio, but the kid was more advanced than his dad.  He disguised his DNA to be almost an exact duplicate of Shane’s.  He made minor variances so it would appear a normal evolutionary progression.  Monty didn’t have a clue Oblio was his son, and far from being frustrated, the boy seemed to revel in the idea he could be with his dad and not be recognized.  He was perfectly happy with his adult support staff of Captain Shane, Ramrod Jenkins, Boss Potter, Maxine, Angus, Essmee Fay Biddle, Gil Morris, Bobby, Dexter, his little lummox sister, and their ubiquitous wrangler Ox.

* * * * * * *

Things began to settle down into a more comfortable routine for everyone on the Potter/Goodnight ranch.  Ox and Frieda stayed with Oblio six months until he was strong enough to get around by his own power, and he was housebroken.  Then they returned to Captain Waco’s world.  Shane made sure Oblio could spend as much time with them as he wanted, but he soon became caught up in the world of the Potter/Goodnight ranch and didn’t see them as much.  By default, he became included in Monty’s posse and was learning by leaps and bounds.  Maxine, Rocky, Bobby, and Dexter knew who Oblio really was, but they protected his secret like it was their very own.  Monty wondered at how quickly they integrated Shane and Cole’s new ward into their midst.  Monty had some reservations about including a small boy as young at Oblio, but he was strongly encouraged by his most trusted teammates.  Maxine, Rocky, Bobby and Dexter said they would look after the boy and make sure he didn’t get into trouble.  They thought Oblio showed great potential.  He took them at their word and was pleasantly surprised how quickly the kid learned.  Even the coyote cowboys, who remained clueless, came to appreciate and encouraged Oblio.  Bobby Morris fell in love with Oblio and he and Dexter became his big brothers.  They gave him the cognomen of "Yoda." 

Monty developed the new Sargent-at-arms, but it took him longer than he expected.  It didn’t take his workers any longer to get Ben’s new body perfect, but the spheres were so sophisticated they were having problems interfacing the blank whale brain.  Once it was accomplished, it only took one twelve hour period to download all the necessary information into the brain.  It worked perfectly and Ben Johnson was born.  Monty thought he looked really hot and wondered if he would be able to resist his attraction.  In the meantime, he was working with Rocky as well as downloading huge amounts of information from the spheres to his brain.  They were impressed with the size and storage ability of the whale brains.  With the new brain for Monty’s Oracle, they could rebuild it from the basics.  It was unimaginably fast and accurate.  The new Ben Johnson was able to be in contact with the spheres at all times.  Information flowed both ways and it was a great opportunity for the entire evolved intelligence to grow and expand.  It was a win-win situation.   Rocky was somewhat more limited, but nevertheless, they were impressed with his capabilities, and he provided the perfect backup for Ben.

The big day came when Monty felt he and his team were ready for the maiden voyage of the Gopher Bay.  Since it was brought on board the Bandersnatch it was never moved.  Lazarus insisted Monty and his crew explore every facet of the ship before they attempted flight.  Lazarus also insisted he and his staff be included on their first flight.  Naturally the major players of the Potter/Goodnight ranch were invited.  Everyone was there except Essmee Biddle.  She didn’t want to make that trip until she knew the end was coming.  Of course Monty invited his ramrod and Master Angus.  They had a ship full of the who's-who of the Grange.  Boss Potter was there to see his little girl sit as number one next to the captain of the sparkling ship.  Shane and Cole were proud of their crew.  Monty even included his cowboy slave daddies.  Along with Bart and Telly, he invited Phil Pie and Eli Stone.

Monty also wanted to include several of the Ong family, but this time only the major males.  The Ongs took to the Grange like geese to water.  They attended and contributed to everything.  They were constantly being wowed by some new critter or person they met.  They were in constant contact with Monty and Dexter.  They were so thrilled for Dexter and his new, improved body.  Shane didn’t keep Oblio secret from the Ongs.  He figured they should have as much exposure to him as the rest of the family.  He knew they would keep the boy's secret.  Shane and Cole made a special trip with Oblio to a dinner with the family for them to meet the boy.  They were in awe of him and how much he looked like Shane.  Shane told them he could look like anyone he wanted, but his appearance was a disguise to fool his dad.  They understood and supported Captain Shane’s decision.  While they were sad to hear about Oblio’s mom, they knew the child would be better off with men like Captain Shane who understood his abilities.

Monty invited granddad Ong, Mr. Ong and his three oldest sons.  They were pleased and humbled to join the group.  Monty showed them the ship before.  They were impressed, but to be included in the maiden voyage was a great honor for them.  They brought him small gifts to commemorate the day.  Monty was touched.  It would be their first flight into outer space.  The first flight of the Gopher Bay went off without a hitch.  It was capable of extracting itself from the Bandersnatch by a means similar to Monty’s shifting dimensions to project himself from one place to another, but the Gopher Bay’s technique was more subtle and far more sophisticated.  One minute they were in the dock on the Bandersnatch and the next they were hovering over the Goodnight ranch.

“Are we in a cloaked mode, Son?” Lazarus asked.

“We are, Sir.  I had Ensign Potter see to it before we got underway.  Take us out, number one."  Maxine was strapped into her seat next to Monty and gave the word to the ship's intelligence to move the ship into space.  The next thing they knew they were looking down on the Earth just a little beyond the Clark orbit some twenty-three thousand miles.  The Earth was a beautiful place from that height.

“What have you planned for a test run, Son?” The Admiral asked.

“We planned to circumnavigate the moon and serve refreshments behind the dark side.  We’d like to show off the ship’s jump capabilities.  It would seem they are similar to the jump engines on Mars.”

“Let’s see what she’s got, Captain Montana.” Lazarus smiled at Monty.

“Let’s go to the moon, Ensign Maxine.” Monty ordered, Maxine gave the command to the ship’s intelligence and faster than anyone could blink an eye, the ship was positioned about a hundred miles behind the dark side of the moon.  The ship’s holovid screens made it look like you were looking out into space itself and not protected by the energy walls of the ship.  To everyone’s surprise on the surface they could clearly see hundreds, perhaps even thousands of space ships.  It was no doubt to whom they belonged and why they were there.

“Is there any chance we might be detected, Captain?” Lazarus asked.

“None, Sir, according to our intelligence, we're fully cloaked from their sight and sensors.  They would have to be aware of our power systems to detect them, but they ain’t even come close to discovering the technology behind this ship’s drives.” spoke Maxine proudly.

“Well done, Ensign.” the Admiral praised her.  Monty looked at Maxine and winked.  He was proud of her.  No one seemed the least amused or found it odd  Monty’s first mate was a dog.  Lazarus smiled to himself.  He wished he had a dozen more Maxines.  Maxine’s family were aboard including Scraps and Happy.  They were so proud of their little girl.  Moe was thrilled for her, but her other two brothers Shep and Larry were a little jealous of their sister.  They were crew members of Captain Vinceeth’s ship.  She was second in command of a starship.  She wore a fancy, dark navy-blue leather collar on board ship with gold Ensign bars Monty made especially for her.  She looked smart and official in her role as Monty’s number one.

“There seems to be a lot of activity, Admiral.” Waco observed.  “What do you think they’re doing in such massive numbers?”

“We're looking at an old-fashioned drive-in diner, gentlemen.  This is where they bring the animals and humans they abduct and chow down.  You’re looking at the fleas and ticks of the universe.”

“We have some powerful weapons on board, Admiral.” Monty said.

“I know you do, Son.  You gave me a complete list.  The ship has some impressive fire power, but now ain't the time.  We want to escape this plague, not stir it up.  We’re going to have to start monitoring this side of the moon more frequently.  At least once a week.  That will be a good job for your crew.  I don’t want any heroics.  All I want is reconnaissance.  They’re building up for something.  If they can’t have what they want from Earth, if we oppose them, they’ll destroy it.  That’s just how ruthless they can be.” Lazarus shook his head.

“I don’t think anyone will feel like having refreshments looking down on that.” Monty allowed.

“Take us back to our last position.  We can enjoy the beauty of our blue marble one last time.  Time is growing short.  Some of us may never get to see it again in its current pristine beauty.” said Lazarus.

“Good idea, Admiral.” agreed Monty.  “Give the order, Number One.”

Maxine instructed the intelligence to return them to their previous orbit.  Monty and his crew learned how to operate the replicators on board the Gopher Bay and created a fine table filled with delicacies for their passengers to snack on and several beverages.  Monty programmed it to replicate several exotic and tasty oriental dishes he created.  The Ongs were impressed.  They held their refreshment period on the observation deck which was more like a giant greenhouse.  It was like visiting a very formal tropical forest.  It was beautiful.  It grew wild the many years the ship was buried, but Monty found out how to activate the caretaker drones and in no time it was looking fine.  All waste materials were reduced to pulp and taken to the matter reactors.  There, it was broken down to its lowest common denominator, its molecular level, and used in the replicators to create new and delicious things.  They were actually eating the reorganized materials.  No one complained, it was delicious.  After everyone finished they returned to the same docking bay from which they left.

“Does this ship have land storage capabilities, Son?”

“Yes, Sir, we made a video.  We’ll submit it for your information and approval.  As you might expect, it’s far more advanced than our current standard models of land compression and storage.  It uses a sophisticated layered tesseract technology.  Hundreds of thousands of acres, perhaps even millions can be stored on this ship.  Enough to equal the land mass of all of Russia and the African continent combined.  Not that you’d want to miniaturize an entire continent, but it has the capability.”

“Good, I’ll look forward to reviewing the video.  In the meantime, I think you and your crew should start practicing making some grabs.  Next week a few of us will go along with you and help you make your first grab.  We should start with some Alaskan wilderness.  We’ll yank some large land area and make it look like a meteor hit it.” he grinned.

Everyone complimented Monty and his crew on a successful maiden voyage of the Gopher Bay.  They took everyone on a grand guided tour of the ship and each place they took them the more impressed they were.  It was a grand ship.  It was designed for long flights and provided the utmost comforts.  Monty’s cabin alone was massive and boasted its own private garden complete with small birds.  Monty invited several of his hummer friends and several species of finches families to live on board, and they were happy in their new home.  They had no pedators to worry about and were very friendly with Monty's guests. 
There were maintenance droids everywhere cleaning or repairing something.  Everything was in its place and all was spotless.  Maxine shared her captain’s quarters.  Every member of the crew had their own personal cabin.  Their youngest member shared a large cabin with Bobby.  It boasted opulent guest cabins for visiting guest of high rank like the Admiral, Captain Vinceeth and his mate.  They were impressed.

“Wanna’ trade ships, Son?” Lazarus grinned.

“Thanks for the offer, Sir, but we’re happy with the Gopher Bay.” they shared a laugh.

“You should be.  This is magnificent.  How was it when you began?” he asked.

“Not too bad.  A skeleton maintenance crew were left active, though not very many due to energy reserves, but they kept things pretty much in a status quo.”

“Impressive ship.” said Charlie Goodnight.

“I agree, Dad.  I had no idea it was this large.” Waco commented.

“Where’s my room?” grinned Jimmy Joe.

“You done seen it, Sir.  Mi casa su casa, Ramrod.” Monty smiled.

“That’s pert-damn posh for an old cowboy.” he grinned.

“Don’t worry, buckaroo, I built you a bunkhouse with a two-hole'r out back.” everyone laughed at them.

The Ongs asked the Admiral if their boy, Monty, could extract their property for the trip when the end came.  He assured them Monty had his permission.  They were thrilled they could keep it all in the family.

* * * * * * *

That fall several things were accomplished.  The two new adult bio-droids took up residence on one of the first couple of land grabs Monty and his crew made under the watchful eye of the Admiral and several of his main staff.   Along with a large chunk of Alaskan wilderness, they lifted a fine piece of abandoned property from the wilds of Washington State.  It was run as a resort lodge by a wealthy liberal family who were wiped out during the early and middle government purges of anyone who was suspected of being the slightest bit left of center.  One of the Admiral’s other ships who did only reconnaissance and inquiry about such things gave him the coordinates and how much to take.  They did their homework.  There was a beautiful lodge and any number of outbuilding that were comfortable and habitable.  It was taken and stored on the Gopher Bay.

Lazarus was getting worried the Potter/Goodnight ranch was getting heavy with bio-droids and thought some should be relocated to the protection of the colonies on the ships to avoid discovery by the government.  He knew they were in no jeopardy from the local law as Sheriff Don Lassiter and most of his men were solid Grange members.  Therefore, the two new adult bio-droids Boss Potter named Maggie and Jiggs were given the lodge to live in and they would be accepting more of the resurrected whales for education and a period of acclimation to their new bodies.  They ran it as a working, producing farm and it taught the young one’s the value of hard work and gave them a sense of accomplishment.  They contributed greatly to the overall wealth of the colonies and provided organic food products they couldn’t get anywhere else.  The last group of bodies Monty produced who were living in the bunkhouse with the cowboy were due to go with them, but the cowboys grew so attached to them they didn’t want to give them up.  The three young females insisted on learning the ways of the kitchen and were a great help to the cowboy slaves who were the cooks.  The three young males, for their small size made great junior buckaroos.  All the cowboys had to do was show them once how to do something and they could do it with little or no practice.  With Cole’s recommendation, Shane decided to leave them where they were for the time being.

The other thing that happened was Angus’ oldest boy, Shane’s favorite nephew and his family began coming to more Grange functions.  While Angus’ boys and two daughters were members of the Grange only Darrell seemed interested in the ranches and coming to Grange meetings.  Darrell had a lovely wife named Martha and two wonderful kids, a boy of ten, and a girl of eight.  Darrell was one of Angus' boys who was kind and understanding with his older uncle when he got into trouble and became a slave.  He never treated Shane like a slave unless his dad was around; then, it was with compassion.  He always treated Shane with respect and never stopped loving him as his uncle.  Sometimes Darrell was the only one of Shane’s family with whom he could carry on a normal conversation.  When you're a slave sometimes the smallest considerations by someone else can take on great meaning.  Shane adored Darrell.

Darrell was a successful business man, but he was unhappy in the city and was worried about his children being overly influenced by the neo-con packed schools.  They were forced to attend fundamentalist bible classes in their public schools.  Science classes consisted of memorizing the first chapter of Genesis from the old testament and they were told that’s all they needed to know about evolution and where we came from.  The small schools in the rural areas were still teaching both but pressure was mounting to do away with teaching evolution altogether.  He expressed his concerns to his uncle a couple of times but never said anything about leaving the city.  He never said a word to Angus.  Of Angus’ three boys, Darrell was the most like his dad.  He looked so much like Shane they were often mistaken for brothers.  He was a Goodnight man to the bone with all it implied.  Angus begged Darrell to bring his wife and family to live on his ranch with him.  After five years, Angus would make him a full partner in the ranch, but after graduating from Texas A&M with several degrees in farm, ranch and corporate business practices, after his obligatory service in the army, he was offered a job in the city he couldn’t refuse.  He became quite successful and wealthy, but he didn’t believe in what he was doing.  His dad taught him differently and while he thought he could feel one way and work for a company who had no soul or thought about the safety and health of their employees or consumers, he began to grow weary.     
One afternoon while he was visiting his Uncle Shane they decided to get away together to talk.  He and Shane saddled a couple of the ranch’s finest horses to ride to the Crandall ranch, the new property Boss Potter and Shane acquired during the summer.  Shane was chatting away about what they planned to do with the property and how it would fit into the rest of their operations.  Darrell listened intently but was quiet and didn’t say much; however, when Shane showed him the remodeled three story old ranch house and all the out buildings he broke down and started sobbing.  Shane took him into his massive arms and held the young man to comfort him.

“Has it come to this, nephew?” Shane spoke softly.

“I have it all, Uncle Shane, yet, I have nothing.  Can you understand what I’m saying?” he asked like he was throwing out a lifeline.

“More than you might imagine, Son.” Shane held him tight.  “When you git ready to throw in the towel, boy, you let me know.  There’s always a place here for you.  You can have this place if you want it.  We been trying to figure out someone to live here and help run this part of the ranch.  Boss Potter’s got three thousand sheep being delivered the first of next week.  We got more and more slaves we need to buy to save from ruthless ranchers who don’t take care of ‘um.  They take better care of their animals than they do they’s slaves.  We get two to four freemen per month wanting to come live as slaves on our ranch just to have three meals a day and a clean, dry place to sleep.  We shore’ could use us a man like you, Darrell, to run this place.  I’ll make you the same offer I made Gil Morris; we'll offer you a minimum base salary to begin, but after you work for us for five years, we’ll start sharing profits with you.”

“I’m ready, Uncle Shane.  When can we move in?” he said enthusiastically.

“How long will it take you to quit your job in the city and sell your house?”

“A month.  Three at the most.  If I have to give the company longer notice, I’ll commute.”

“Fine.  Have you talked it over with your dad?”  

“You know how dad is, Uncle Shane, he’d insist we move in with him and mom.  I lived under my old man's rule for twenty-one years.  While I love and respect my dad like no other, I don’t know’s I could do that no more.” he lamented.

“Say no more.  I know exactly what you’re talking about.  You'll always be his little boy.  I’m still living as a slave to him in his mind.  The only difference is, I don’t mind.  I let him git away with thinking I’m still his slave-boy.  As my ramrod pointed out to me, in a way I guess a part of me always will be his slave.”

“You’re a bigger man than I am, Uncle Shane.” Darrell said.

“No, I ain’t.  Your daddy, for all his flaws, is one of the finest men I ever know'd in my life.  He’s just a little rough around the edges and don’t think about people’s feeling sometimes, but never make the mistake of underestimate’n that big cowboy.  He’ll pull the rug right out from under you when you least expect it.” Shane laughed.

“Let me tell him, Uncle Shane.”

“Won’t say a word, nephew.”  

It took Darrell a little longer than a month, but he was fully resigned from his job and living in the old house, running the new ranch by the following spring.  He cashed in all his chips in the city and had close to a million dollars from stock options and the sale of his home in a wealthy residential area of Houston.  He wondered about his wife, but she knew he was unhappy for some time and realized it was for the best.  She saw how his attitude and love for her changed once he made up his mind.  She had her old cowboy husband back again and soon became pregnant with their third child.  By the time Darrell and his family move in, the sheep were well established and Maxine had a wonderful new job.  Her two sisters were green with envy and got permission from their masters to help her.  Moe loved working with Stan and Jimmy Bob on the Dodge family ranch, but the lure of sheep was too much for him.  He would travel from their gate to the old Crandall ranch to help his sisters.  Larry and Shep discovered their parents were helping out on larger roundups and drove Trey crazy until he gave them permission to take leave to go play with the sheep.  They insisted on wearing their headbands.  It was sometimes uncomfortable for her, but Maxine would wear her Ensign’s collar to one up them.

When Darryl visited the ranch with Profesor Wankle and his fiancee he saw another opportunity for a money making story.  He took hours of video clips provided by Kyron and pieced together a story of a family reunion of the singing pups and their parents on the sheep ranch.  He even got Lucas to teach them some new songs and their daddy, Scraps, sang bass.  They sang cowboy songs and several popular songs, but the song that got the people the most was an old folk song Johauk Kodaly taught them to sing.  It went to number one on the charts in the colonies, Mars and Venus and stayed there for weeks.   A second song they recorded on their album was one from the turn of the century.  It shot up on the charts and alternated back and forth as number one and two with their other song.  It was called “Who let the dogs out” complete with them barking on the chorus.

The film was a moving story about the pups journey so far in life.  It told about their ups and downs, Maxine’s tragic loss of her little mistress she took care of so faithfully and her touching climb back from depression.  Laverne’s several problems.  However, there were the successes of Patty becoming a favorite welcome hostess at the Two Meadows Inn and her volunteer work with patients at the clinic in Parsons.  Moe was a successful ranch dog on the Dodge ranch and his brothers Larry and Shep were crew members on one of the best known ships in the solar system, the Banshee, and were the personal guards of the captain and his staff.  The story told of Maxine’s rise from the depths of depression to become Captain Montana’s number one on his starship and flying with the winged horses of Mars.  The film was shown all over the colonies, Mars and Venus.  Darryl made millions and set up a trust fund of several million for the pups.  Maxine was a millionairess several times over.  She could have designed and paid for her own starship.

Darrell settled in and began to get slaves from everywhere.  Lazarus developed close financial ties with Hoot Austin and Cotton Daniels over the years.  He paid for the upkeep and maintenance on the Stamper brothers and their building projects.  They were well known throughout the county and if you wanted a good job of building you contacted Hoot, Austin or their young partner Blake Tindell.  Hoot and Cotton had their noses in everything going on in their area of the state and attended many slave auctions and estate sales of property and slaves.  Lazarus paid them a finder’s fee for any good slaves they could find and not just the strong and healthy.  They were instructed to buy the worst of the lot to save them from being ground up for dog food.  Some of Charlie, Lazarus, and Shane’s best slaves were those saved from the jaws of the grinding machines.

As families were torn apart by the loss of their children, large quantities of unwanted slaves were flooding the market and prices dropped. 
The government didn’t seem to be doing anything to stop it.  Things got so bad, the smaller ranchers couldn’t afford to feed their families let alone their livestock.  Sometimes the law had to step in where there was severe neglect.  Don Lassiter knew better than to just put them down.  He and his men couldn't do it anyway.  While slaves may be classified as livestock they were still human and they saw it as murder.  His men would load them in trucks and take them to Hoot and Cotton’s ranch.  With Lazarus’ money, the Stamper boys built a large, comfortable, new slave hospital and rehabilitation center for just such a purpose.  Once the slaves were healthy again, they were farmed out to one of the Goodnight or other Grange ranches.

Darrell Goodnight threw himself into his work with a passion, a passion he never experienced working for the corporate world.  He never was so happy since he was a young man working for his dad on their ranch.  Angus was proud of him, but had to work some things out.  He was a bit hurt Darrell came to his uncle instead of him, but it said a lot about the young man’s faith in his uncle.  Agnus always knew Darrell was fond of Shane and would never say anything bad about him.  Many times he stood up for Shane against his dad and told Angus he was being way to hard on his uncle.  As with every minor setback or disappointment, Angus quickly adjusted and was as supportive of Darrell and his family as anyone.

Monty’s second prophetic dream came true the following fall when the pups once again gathered to help him and his posse with the gathering of the sheep for counting, dipping and shearing.  He went to Hoot and Cotton’s ranch and saved the dying cow dog.  He was a hero again and beloved by all the critters on many ranches, but several strange things began to happen.  Sometimes, when Jimmy Joe was visiting, he loved to take his coffee and go to the door of Monty’s quarters to see who was lined up patiently waiting to see Doc Monty.  That morning he was blown away when he opened the door.  There were four older elephants patiently standing in line behind each other.  Each held the one in front of them’s tail like they were trained in a circus.  He was stunned but began to see the humor of it all.  He laughed and hollered to his partner.

“You better come take a look at this, Doc Montana.  Y’ain’t gonna’ believe what chu’ got for patients this morning.”

“What are they, Pa?” Monty asked as he walked to the door with a cup of coffee in his hand.  “Holy crap!” he exclaimed.  "I seen them big furry critters on Mars, but I ain’t never even seen me no elephants up close before, Pa.  Where you think they came from?”

“Their mothers.” laughed Jimmy Joe not giving much help.  He had no idea where they came from.

“What do I do?” he asked.

“What you always do.  They ain’t here to hurt chu’ none.  They’re here because they need your help.  Maybe only one needs help and the others are sisters what come along to keep the sick one company.  I understand they’re very social animals.”

“How’d ju’ know that, Pa?” Monty looked at him with new respect.

“Nature programs on PBS.” was his reply. "You watch a lot of television when you live alone, Son."  he winked at Monty and laughed.

Monty slowly approached the first elephant.  She was huge, but had a gentle look in her eye.  He tried sending to her.

<< Welcome, great mother.  Have you come to see me about a health problem? >>

<< We must have the wrong ranch, sisters. >> she sent to her companions.

<< No, no, Doris,  I’m sure this is the ranch where the child lives.  I can hear him.  He is near. >> her second sent to her.

<< This human is too old to be the healer.  The one we seek is but a young child; hardly three years old.  He has a strange name like ‘Oleo.’ >>

<< Are you looking for Captain Shane’s boy, Oblio? >> Monty asked.

<< Yes, we were told he could help Doris, our matriarch who stands before you. >> her second sent to him.

<< Pardon me, great one, but I don’t know about any healing powers Oblio has.  I’m the one all the animals come to see.  My name is Montana. >>

<< We’ll, for goodness sake, if we can’t see the boy let this man try to help you, Doris. >> her companions urged her.

<< Very well. >> Monty could hear her sigh, << You may proceed.  I’m worried about my calf. >>

<< Where is your calf, Mother Doris? >> Monty asked without thinking.

<< Place your ear to my side, and you will hear another heartbeat.  I’m concerned because it is sometimes erratic and seems to hiccup. >> she told him.

<< Of course, great mother, forgive me. I didn't understand.  >> Monty went to her side and placed his ear against her.  He felt with his fingers and sent probes into her.  Everything was as it should be.

<< Excuse me, Mother Doris, but there are three heart beats.  Yours and two others.  I know it’s probably rare for your species, but you are carrying fraternal twins.  One male and the other female.  The male is stronger than the female and you hear his heartbeat more readily.  The female’s heartbeat is faint, but it’s only because of poor nutrition.  If she doesn’t get better quality nutrition and more food she will die.  You will run the risk of losing both.  Where you came from, did they feed you well enough? >>

<< No, me and my sisters were always hungry. >> she lamented.

<< Your problem can be corrected with proper nutrition and more food.  We will feed you and later I will give you some special milk to drink which will help your calves. >>

<< I would be most grateful.  Thank you for seeing me. >>

<< You’re most welcome, Mother Doris. >>

Monty took them to his barn.  They never saw a building so large, and felt like it was made just to hide them.  They said they were on the run from a nefarious Mexican circus who beat them and treated them awful.  They told Monty they walked hundreds of miles to get to the ranch.  Monty offered them temporary refuge until he could talk with his bosses.  They had fresh oats, lots of new mown hay to eat and were welcome to walk down to the creek for fresh water and a bath.  Later Monty called for a large donation of lummox milk from the stomping of Bigfeet on Mars.  He managed to obtain a couple of gallons and fed it to Doris.  She called it 'magic milk' because it seemed to improve her health almost overnight.  That morning at breakfast in the big house Monty told his family about the new visitors and their matriarch’s problem.

“The strangest thing is," he mused, "they didn’t come to see me, they came to see Oblio.” Monty watched the boy as he slowly picked at his food.  He didn’t look up but turned a dark red color.  Shane glanced at him but didn’t look disturbed.

“You been in contact with them hefalumps, Son?”  Shane asked him with a smile.

“They came to me in a dream, Pa Shane.  I been fascinated by elephants ever since I seen them on videos.  They’re like the Mammoths and Mastodons on Mars without the hair.  They asked if I knew of an animal doctor who might see their leader because she was feeling poorly.  I told them I didn’t know about no animal doctor, but my big cowboy slave brother sometimes healed animals.  I didn’t give them Monty’s name but told them to come here and ask for me.  I give them directions.  They come a long way.” Oblio’s statement seemed to satisfy everyone.

“I guess that lummox milk you been drinking really opened you up to such things.” Shane covered for the kid.  He knew he’d get the real story later.

“Yes, Sir.  I sleep with a large body of consciousness.  It's sort of like that movie "Where the wild things are.”  The hide me away on the bottom of the pile,  keep me warm, protect me, chase away bad dreams, and sing to me." he replied.

“Let’s take care of them here for a couple of days, then you and Maxine fly the Gopher Bay over the ranch and beam them aboard to the new bio-droid ranch.  They have plenty unused pasture land for them to graze in ‘til their heart’s content.  It’ll be a good animal husbandry learning experience for the bio-droids.  Momma hefalump can have her babies there in peace and comfort.  Then we can decided where we want them from there.  We might consider taking them to the savannah on Mars.  They will fit in fine with the other large critters.”  Monty thought it was a good idea.  He had enough to do taking care of all his projects and seeing after the sheep as well.  Darrell was slowly taking over the sheep project, but for a while Monty would have to run the operation.  Later, Shane questioned Oblio.

“What did you leave out of that story, Son?” he asked.

“I healed a grackle who stopped by the ranch for a handout on migration.  A wild cat almost got him and broke his wing.  He managed to get away and came to me.  I took pity on him, healed him, fed him some chicken scratch and sent him on his way.  I told him not to tell nobody.  It jes' goes to show, ya' can’t never trust a grackle.  He done told momma elephant about me while he's cleaning parasites from her back.” he shook his head in sorrow.

“You done the right thing, Son.  Don’t fret none.  I ain’t mad at cha.’ You covered yore’ butt pretty damn good.  I don’t think he caught on.  Look, if it comes down to you saving a life or your dad finding out, save the life, but do your best to keep your secret.  You’re creative enough you can cover your ass so’s he don’t have no clue.  We can always tell him you might a’ picked up some of Officer Jones’ DNA by accident.”

“So y’ain’t mad at me, Master Shane?”

“No, I might be if you done something meanspirited, but healing a wounded grackle ain’t no mean thing.  It’s an act of kindness.  T’ain’t chore’ fault grackles are notorious gossips, Son.  Have you been in contact with other critters who talk with you in your sleep?”

“Yes, Sir, a strong voice what lives here on the ranch.  He comes to me almost ever’ night, and I seen him several times in the pastures.  He wants to come to me, but I’m afraid of him.  He claims he’s a human what my dad changed into a coyote.  He asked me if I could change him back to a human, but I told him I didn’t think so, I’s only three years old.  He’s taken a wild female coyote as his mate he calls Criga.  She’s shown him how to live as a wild animal, and they have a litter of pups he’s having to provide for.”

“Did he tell you his name, Son?” Shane braced himself for the boy’s answer.

“Yes, Sir, he calls himself Coyote John.”

End of Chapter 71 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2008 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com
Proofed: 12/14/09

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Point!