By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 74

“Who knows if the moon's a balloon, coming out of a keen city in the sky--filled with pretty people? (and if you and i should get into it, if they should take me and take you into their balloon, why then we'd go up higher with all the pretty people than houses and steeples and clouds: go sailing away and away sailing into a keen city which nobody's ever visited, where always it's Spring) and everyone's in love and flowers pick themselves.” e e cummings

Oblio was talking quietly with Bobby.  Bobby knew about Oblio and was amazed what the boy could do healing animals.  Gil Morris told Bobby about the near miracle Oblio preformed on his Uncle Angus, but as yet, Bobby never witnessed Oblio dissolve into an energy being.  Oblio was trying to figure out some way of helping Monty without him finding out his true identity.  He explained to Bobby, his pa, Master Shane, told him if he was faced with a choice to save a life or not reveal himself, he should definitely save the life.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” whispered Bobby holding one of the beaver kits who had a cut on his side.  Oblio gently moved his hand over the animal, and the wound healed itself.  As young as the beaver was, it was grateful and squeaked his thanks to Bobby and Oblio.  The parents stood and watched the men check out each of their brood.  

“I’m trying to figure a way to help him save Coyote John without revealing myself.  Pa Shane has a lot of confidence in me I can keep my identity a secret from my dad.  I don’t wanna’ let him down.”

“You want my opinion, Yoda?” Bobby used his cognomen for Oblio.

“Sure, you know I value your opinion, brother.” he responded.

“I think yore’ dad is more capable of handling the truth than Foreman Shane thinks.  I’ve heard him say he wants to make sure he gets four good years of work out of Monty as his slave, but if he knew you was his it would be a distraction for him.  I don’t agree.  I think yore’ dad would look upon Captain Shane, and Boss Potter’s actions as thoughtful and caring and trying to protect him and you from Mr. Ruggles.  I think Monty would work for Captain Shane and this ranch for little or nothing anyway.  I think he’s so caught up in the idea of family, it rarely occurs to him he’s a slave.  How many slaves have freedoms like he does?  Hell, he flies his own spaceship what’s far more sophisticated than the Admiral’s ships.  By now, he’s used to you being around.  He loves and looks after you like you’s his little brother.  I think, to know you’re his son, would only be icing on the cake.  I don’t think much would change.”

“Maybe there’s another way.  Will you back me up, Bobby?  I won’t ask you to lie for me, but I'll need your help to pull it off.”

“You know I will, little bro.  You and me, we’s buddies, ain’t we?  I got chore' back, Yoda.”  Bobby smiled.

“Womb to tomb?” Oblio asked.

"Birth to Earth, little brother!" Bobby responded with sincerity, and they high-fived each other.

Ramrod Russell arrived and saw the coyote lying on the bench.  He knew without asking it was Coyote John.  He nodded to Bobby and Oblio, went to Monty and took him into his arms.  He looked deep into his eyes.  Monty responded.

“I couldn’t save him.  He’s been gone too long.  I failed him, Master.” tears started falling.  Jimmy Joe held Monty and urged him to try again.  “I’ve tried everything.  I’ve sent for Master Jesse, Utah and Indigo/Blue.”

“Angus told me before I left, Master Jesse and Utah are away on a sabbatical to recharge their healing batteries and can’t be reached.  Brett Jones, Basil Troubadour and Indigo/Blue’s powers are mostly for healing.  I’m afeard you’s on your own, Son.  I’m here now, try again.”

Oblio poked Bobby with his elbow to speak up.

“Captain Montana, we might be able to help.” Bobby started the conversation, thinking Oblio would jump right in at any moment, but he didn’t.  Bobby figured he'd have to wing it.

“How, Bobby?” Monty asked.  Jimmy Joe looked at Bobby and then at Oblio who was looking down at the critter he was caring for.  He slowly raised his small head, and looked deep into Jimmy Joe’s eyes.  Oblio didn’t glance away this time.  He penetrated Jimmy Joe’s consciousness and spoke to him:

<< You know who I am, cowboy.  Speak up.  You must help us so's I can help my dad, but it ain't time for him to know about me. >>  Jimmy Joe sucked in air through his teeth.  It was like the veil was pulled back, and he could clearly see the connection.  It was all so simple he overlooked the obvious.  All the pieces fell into place with a resounding thud and rocked the old cowboy in his boots.  To say it shook Jimmy Joe to his core was an understatement, but for all his amazement it struck his funny bone, and he laughed.

“Damnation!” the handsome cowboy exclaimed in surprise turning his head so Monty couldn't see the big grin on his face.  Jimmy Joe quickly caught himself so's not to give the boy away,  “Of course!  Them two's been around you healers for several years now.  Your master healed Bobby’s heart and saved his life when he’s just a young boy.  Captain Shane learned from them other healers.  Can’t tell me some’um ain’t rubbed off on ‘nim boys.  What could it hurt?  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Give ‘em a chance, Son.” Jimmy Joe urged smiled and winked at Oblio.  Bobby caught what passed between them and saw his little buddy smile to himself.  Bobby knew the ramrod put the pieces together.  He knew.

“C’mon, men.  Let’s see what chu' got.” Monty said resolutely.

Oblio looked at Bobby and winked.  He started shucking off his clothes and Bobby immediately followed suit.

“What chu' you men doing?” Monty asked somewhat surprised.

“Captain Montana, you and Ramrod Russell, shuck your clothes including yore’ boots.”  Bobby said.  “It’s important.  Please, just do it.” Bobby urged.  Oblio nodded to Jimmy Joe and smiled.  Jimmy Joe got his message.

“C'ain’t hurt nothing, Son.  Let’s humor them boys.” he told Monty and started taking off his clothes.  Monty shook his head but followed his ramrod’s lead.  Oblio was sending instructions to Bobby.

“We need one more.  Two would be better.” Bobby said.  About that time Monty’s two cowboy slave daddies walked into the barn to find two naked boys and the two grown men just about naked.

“You men take your clothes off.” Jimmy Joe ordered.  Bart and Telly were game for anything, but somehow they didn’t think this was going to be a circle jerk.  While they were undressing Bobby and Oblio took a couple of flat shovels and made a small circle of bare dirt on the barn floor.  In the center they cleared an area about the size of the coyote’s body.  

“Place the coyote on the bare patch in the middle of the circle.”  Bobby instructed Monty.  Monty picked up Coyote John from the bench and lowered him onto the bare patch of dirt.

“Everyone form a circle and hold hands.  Make sure your feet are in complete contact with the dirt.” Bobby said.

The men shuffled their feet to make sure they were in contact with the Earth.  They joined hands.  Monty, Jimmy Joe, Oblio, Bobby, Telly, Bart, and Bart took Monty’s other hand.

“What now?” asked Monty.

“Concentrate on him.  Think his name, Coyote John.”  It was news to Bart and Telly, but they didn’t let on.  They were used to the unusual by now.  This was just one more adventure for them.  Sex?  To hell with that when they were about to witness something bordering on the miraculous.  “We will call to his spirit, his identity of himself as imprinted on his brain.” Bobby continued, “He’s still in there.  He ain’t left his body.  We know he’s there.  We can feel his spark.  Call to him in your mind.  When I think we’re all in sync I will speak his name.  You think it in your mind as I speak.  We will call him back to life.” Bobby was saying everything his little buddy was telling him in his mind.  Oblio was using Bobby like a sock puppet.  Monty didn’t know what to think, but he went along.  Jimmy Joe knew exactly where Bobby’s instructions were coming from and gave Oblio’s small hand a gentle squeeze.  Oblio responded in kind.  It was confirmation between them, and they were locked in sync together.  When Oblio was satisfied they were all chanting, calling for Coyote John in their minds, he gave the signal to Bobby and he started slowly chanting Coyote John’s name.

“Coyote John!” but it came out in common time as “Ky-yot-tee John!  Ky-yot-tee John!  Ky-yot-tee John!” over and over he repeated in a steady rhythm almost like an Indian chant.  If they had a drummer it would’ve sounded even more like one.    

“Everyone join Bobby.” said Oblio and the men began to join in quietly, and their voices rose to a speaking level.  As they watched they saw the body of the canid shudder a couple of times.  Monty was used to the unusual, but to see movement in Coyote John’s dead body,  movement for which he wasn’t directly responsible blew him away.  He was impressed beyond words.  Jimmy Joe smiled to himself as he continued to chant and knew this time he wasn’t the one on the outside looking in.  For once he was inside and Monty was the one outside.  It gave him a warm feeling, he felt Oblio draw on his strength and he gave freely to the boy.  He relished the thought Monty didn’t have a clue who this young boy was, who looked like a miniature Shane Goodnight.  If the kid was like his daddy he could look like anyone he chose.  Jimmy Joe thought it was a brilliant cover.  He admiration for Shane, Cole and the young boy holding his hand multiplied ten fold.  Bobby Morris' stock tripled, split, then quadrupled in the ramrod's opinion. 

Oblio began to draw from all of them.  Their energy was grounded through their feet conjoined with the powerful raw natural energy of the Earth as it traveled around the circle to give Oblio the strength he needed to become separate from his body and still leave his physical presence within the circle.  They each brought individual strengths, but he could feel his dad’s was the strongest of all.  His first taste of his dad’s energy told him he was not functioning at full capacity, but that didn’t matter for right now.  Oblio wondered if Monty even knew the capacity of his potential.  His strength was somewhat depleted, but he began to bounce back, drawing energy from the same source Oblio was, the battery of the Earth.  Monty watched Coyote’s body struggle like he was going through the throes of death in reverse.  They continued to chant when suddenly the coyote took one great gulp of air.  He was trying to breathe.  Monty wanted to break the circle to help him.  His thought flashed around to Oblio who used his buddy to speak.

“Don’t break the circle, Captain Montana!” Bobby barked at him strongly. “If you want your friend to live you will not break the circle!  You will set all thoughts of control aside and allow me and my buddy, Yoda, to do what must be done!” he sounded like a man in charge.  Monty did as he was told and felt Jimmy Joe squeeze his hand in support.  Coyote didn’t seem to be breathing continually.  It was a periodic breath, as they continued to chant.  Then the most remarkable thing happened.  The coyote began to lift from the ground.  They continued to chant as the animal rose into the air, slowly turning until it was about chest high to the biggest men in the circle, Bart and Telly.  They continued to chant.  Bobby dropped out for just a second, and the coyote slowed its rotation.

“Continue chanting but close your eyes.  We must not look upon this next part.  If any man looks, our efforts will be for naught.  Now, close your eyes.” Bobby went back to chanting calling Coyote John’s name.  He looked to make sure everyone’s eyes were closed and nodded to Oblio.  Oblio’s body began to glow a bright blueish green color and a large portion of his electrical energy rose from him.  He was able to maintain his physical form by drawing on the strength and essence of his companions in the circle combined with the very energy of life from the Earth.  Bobby watched as the ball of plasma which formed before him went to the coyote with a small bright blue sprite moving all around darting in and out of the plasma ball as it slowly surrounded Coyote John’s body.  Then the sprite began to move in and out and through the animal’s body as it slowly continued to turn.  Bobby and the men continued to chant.  Bobby watched as the coyote slowly came back to life.  He began breathing in great gasps of air and then slowly settled down to a normal rhythm.

“Do not open your eyes!” Bobby admonished the men as he watched everything.  It was good to have a front row seat, he thought to himself.  His little buddy, Yoda, whom he considered his baby brother, was outdoing himself.  Bobby wondered if Monty would understand what was happening if he was watching what was going on before him.  When Oblio was satisfied Coyote John would live, he put him into a deep sleep and gave him a suggestion.  Oblio completed his resurrection of the canid and left the animal’s body.  The ball of plasma drifted back over to Oblio’s body and settled into it.  The small blue sprite was the last to enter but not before it did something mischievous.  The sprite flew up to Jimmy Joe’s handsome face and kissed him on his cheek.  Bobby almost lost it.  He giggled but continued to chant.  Jimmy Joe got a big smile on his face.  He knew who it was and why it happened.  Oblio was thanking him for his cooperation.

“You may open your eyes now, but continue to chant softly as we lower him to the Earth from whence he came.” Bobby said with authority

The men did as they were told.  Monty was as gobsmacked as the rest of the men.  Coyote John was breathing normally.  They could see the animal’s chest moving gently as he slowly turned and settled to the ground.  He was back.  Coyote John was very much alive.

“You may stop chanting now, gentlemen, and put on your clothes.  Our circle of life is complete.  Thank you for your participation.  We couldn’t a’ done it without you.” Bobby said like a camp director on awards day as he gave the two big naked men a hug and a kiss.  “You may pick him up and place him on your bench.  He will wake up when you call his name.” Bobby spoke to Monty.  Monty picked up the coyote and laid the animal on the bench.  He let him rest for a few minutes as he put on his clothes.  Everyone was anxious to see what would happen.  He went to the bench and spoke softly.  Monty didn't even notice Jimmy Joe was holding Oblio with tears streaming down his face kissing the boy on his head and cheek.

"You done good, Son."  he whispered to the boy.  Oblio stole a kiss and shed a tear.

"No more secrets between us, gram'pa?" Oblio whispered to Jimmy Joe.

"No more secrets.  We's tight, Son.  He won't find out from me."

“John?  Coyote John.  Wake up.  You can do it, buddy.  Wake up.  You’re alive now.  Me and Jimmy Joe are here with you, and I’ll send Jenny Bottom to get Criga to come to you.  Wake up, John.”  Monty said softly.

The animal’s eyes opened and blinked.  He tried to raise his head, but must have had a massive headache.  He winced and lay his head back down on the bench.  He looked like he was recovering from a bad hangover.  He got a pained look on his face.

“Easy, hoss.  You been through the doors of death and back.  Take it easy.”

Oblio handed him a small towel he dipped in a bucket of cold water from the creek.  Monty gently began to wash Coyote’s face.  His eyes began to focus.  He looked directly at Monty, but didn’t try to move his head.

<< Why did you bring me back? >> he sent to Monty.

<< We ain’t ready to let you go yet.  You got a life to live and things to do. >> he sent back.

<< You know, kid— I’m fond of Criga, but I don’t wanna’ be a coyote no more.  It’s too damn dangerous.  We almost became snake food. >>

<< You won’t have to.  Ramrod and me done talked, and we got chu' covered. >>

<< Is Criga okay? >> he asked.

<< She’s fine.  I sent her to tend your pups.  She’ll be here in a few minutes. >>

<< What happens now? >> he asked, still without moving his head.

<< I’ll keep you here with me until you fully recover. >>

<< Criga needs me. >>

<< We’ll help Criga for a couple of days.  Your pups are almost weaned anyway.  You and Criga were beginning to teach them to hunt.  They are only a couple of weeks away from leaving the den on their own.  I done helped Criga with another litter before I introduced you to her.  She's more resourceful than you think. >>   

Monty gently moved Coyote John to a comfortable bed he made for him of straw and old clean rags he kept around for cleanup jobs.  He told him as soon as he was strong enough he would feed him.  He left Bobby and Oblio to look after him.  Maxine came to the barn to tell him and Jimmy Joe the Admiral and Captain Shane wanted to see them on the Gopher Bay.  Before he left, Monty hugged and kissed Oblio and Bobby to thank them for saving Coyote John’s life.  He admitted he had no idea they developed such talents.  Bobby went along with it, and Oblio acted like it was all Bobby's doing; he was just following his big brother’s lead.  It was all Jimmy Joe could do to keep from rolling on the ground with laughter.  He settled for a wink and a big grin to his little buddy.

* * * * * * *

They arrived on the bridge of the Gopher Bay and several people were waiting for them.  The Admiral, Captain Shane, Cole, Boss Potter, Gil Morris, Angus, Charlie, Rocky, Ben, Cody and Pearl.  The Admiral smiled and shook Monty’s hand.  Shane gave him a hug and a quick kiss on his cheek.

“You done it again, Son.” Shane smiled.  “We’re proud of you and you managed to do it without being detected.”

“I wouldn’t have attempted it if my friends weren’t on board the alien ship, Master Shane.  I hope you and the Admiral understand it wasn’t an impulsive decision.”

“We understand, Son.” said the Admiral without giving away anything about Coyote John.  No one knew how much Angus knew about Monty’s decision to change John into a coyote.  Lazarus continued, “I’m surprised you bothered to capture and contain the reptiles.”

“I heard talk about having some leverage with the government.  I thought you might want to trade them for study.  We captured the ship for the same purpose, Sir.  Maybe you can use it as a bargaining chip.”

“Good thinking, Son, on both parts.  The ship is a valuable commodity to us and possibly to bargain with Scudder.  One never knows when one might need a decoy or Trojan Horse to guide into one of their nests with a nasty present inside.” Lazarus smiled, “On the other hand, while we appreciate the thought, the snakes are too dangerous to allow into the hands of an incompetent government.  There are too many variables to consider and too many things could go wrong.  It’s too late for them to use them to develop germ warfare against them.  Besides, they just don’t have the scientist left who could do the detailed research required.  When you throw your men of science into Cheney camps and kill them from slave labor, because they chose to believe in reason rather than religion, all you have left is a bunch of bible spouting creationist who never conducted an honest science experiment in their lives.  Furthermore, there looms the possibility Scudder’s government might use them as hostages and return them for the false hope of a treaty or some special consideration.  If they did, it would surely blow our cover and we would have a fight on our hands.  We got too damn much left to do to be concerned about being attacked.  If the grays and the snakes got the slightest hint there was another group working to steal their lunch away from them, they would work endlessly to detect us and try their best to destroy us.”

“What shall we do with them, Sir?” Monty asked.

“I’m afraid I already did what needed to be done.  I had Lieutenant JG Potter, here,” Lazarus motioned to Maxine, “instruct Cecil to transfer them to the molecular redistribution chamber.  They have been reduced to their basic chemical components to feed the Gopher Bay’s anti-matter reaction drives.  It’s only fair we treat them the same way they treat other critters in the universe.  They were cannibalized to feed your sky-horse, Son.”  Lazarus grinned.  “Don’t feel bad.  They were still out when they were transferred.  They never knew.  Now, to more important things, how are your friends?”    

“They’re fine.  Between me, Bobby and Oblio, they have been taken care of and most returned to their homes and families; however, let me strongly emphasize, without Bobby and Oblio's budding healing powers I could not have done it alone.  They provided us with a resurrection miracle and several healings as great as any I've witnessed.  I can't commend them highly enough, Admiral.  I'd like to request Bobby to be considered for a junior officer rank and a special commendation for Oblio placed in his personnel file to add to his credits to become a junior officer when he's old enough.

"It shall be done.  Congratulation, Ensign Bobby Joe Morris, and congratulation to you, Mr. Oblio Arrow Goodnight for your outstanding service to your captain and the Grange in general.  I'll leave it to your captain to write your commendation."  Lazarus shook Bobby's hand but had to grab Oblio for a hug and a stolen kiss.

"What about the children and cowboy slaves we rescued, Admiral?” Captain Montana asked.

“We can’t return the children or the cowboys without raising suspicion.  The children are all prepubescent so there’s every hope they can be taught reason instead of superstition.  Children are very malleable.  Once they see there’s a better way of living a more full life, they will change.  The cowboy slaves don’t wanna’ return to their masters anyway.  They’re more’n happy to take up residence on one of the Grange ranches, or we’ll find places for them on properties we’ve already established on some of the scout ships.  I know the Ongs are against slavery, but they might reconsider to save the men’s lives.  The children will be placed in one of our homes for homeless children.  We didn’t make our decision lightly.  Their names were checked against our master records Kyron keeps and their names were included on the ‘rapture’ list, so this must be a conformation of sorts.”

* * * * * * *

Lazarus didn’t know how generous with Scudder he planned to be as the days grew shorter for their departure.  What would Scudder and his armageddonist military do with another captured alien space craft?  Lazarus could envision several scenarios.  They might keep it for a final stand against the snakes and grays, but they would be so overpowered they wouldn’t last long.  Lazarus gave Scudder more credit for cunning than that.  He could imagine him sending another of his less fully functional alien crafts as a loaded Trojan Horse to wipe out their moon base and use the more perfect craft to attempt their own escape from Earth.  But why would he try the unknown of space when he had underground cities to go to and fortify himself and his followers?  Enormous cities built during the last century with unsuspecting taxpayer’s money fed into black-ops programs that were never investigated.  They were deluxe accommodations for the president, his cabinet and staff and all the rich folks of the planet, featuring underground highspeed, anti-gravity trains to connect them.  They could potentially live for centuries underground.  What a hell on Earth that would be, thought Lazarus.  More misguided people being told a savior would come and change it back the way it was so they could go on hating those whom they deemed not as worthy as themselves.  The irony was almost too much, but in the end, they were their own executioners.

The greater irony was the common folks who thought they would be saved along with the government and military personnel didn’t realize they were to become the workers for the elite.  They would become enslaved to do the menial, disgusting jobs with which the elite couldn’t be bothered.  The only problem was, if there was a revolt of the working class, there was nowhere for the elite to run.  The rich folks thought money could buy their security.  It might for a while, but there’s always a flaw in every well thought out plan, and you can bet someone will find it.  If you simply cut services to the wealthy they have to fend for themselves.  No services, no food or drink.

After two thousand years, religious fanaticism was literally about to choke out the sun.  Lazarus wondered what it might do to the humans who dwelled underground.  Would they evolve into another species?  Perhaps similar to the Morlocks described by H. G. Wells in the “Time Machine.”  Morlocks wore no clothing but were covered with fur.  As a result of living underground, they had little or no melanin to protect their skin, and so became extremely sensitive to light.  The Morlocks' main source of food was the Eloi, another race descended from humans that lived above ground. The Morlocks treated the Eloi like cattle, and provided for them in a luxurious manner until it came time for harvest.  The Eloi never resisted being captured or eaten.  Lazarus thought to himself it wouldn’t be too far a stretch from what the ruling, monied classes on Earth did for centuries until the advent of the middle class; when the middle class became too successful and began to demand more and more for themselves and their children.  The wealthy used every ruthless trick in their book to return them to their previous roles as meek, ignorant, superstitious peasants.

Religious leaders who held the same dreams to shore up their own personal fortunes and gain back lost power were only too happy to join them.  They were quick to grant the rich with special dispensations not allowed the lower classes.  The divine right of kings comes to mind, and later during the twenty-first century the people’s own government shored up families with mega-fortunes with taxpayer’s money by subsidizing all new building programs for their sprawlmarts.  Very few of the everyday grunts knew about such excesses of their government.  There wasn’t much they could’ve done about it anyway.  The government was too big and everyone was out to suck the biggest tit they could find. 
Corporate communism won.  There were no more patriots to come to the defense of the common man.  Those who heard the call and felt the fire in their belly to rebel long since perished in Cheney camps; heinous places named for a man with such contempt for the human race he might have been compared to the prototype for the Morlocks.  Cannibalistic creatures afraid of the light of truth, feeding off the flesh and bones of their fellow men.

* * * * * * *

Captain Montana called a meeting of his crew.  Everyone was there including his ramrod.  He praised them for their roles and participation in capturing the alien vessel and helping to return two of his friends to him.  He especially thanked Bobby and Oblio for bringing the coyote back to life.  He didn’t tell them of his and Jimmy Joe’s decision.  Monty changed Coyote John into a cow dog and gave him to Jimmy Joe.  At first Coyote John was upset because he didn’t want to leave Criga behind, but Monty assured him he wouldn’t have to.  Once Criga raised her pups to the point they could care for themselves he would change her into a cow dog.  At first Criga didn't want to be changed, but she kept returning to Monty’s quarters when she thought Jimmy Joe and Coyote John would be visiting.  She got to be with Coyote John for a while, and she was never happier even if he was now a dog.  They would run and play together like old times, then lie close to each other in the tall grass and the flowers of the meadows.

<< Let Montana change you, Criga. >> Coyote John urged her, << Come live with me and Ramrod Russell.  He’s a good man.  He takes good care of me and his partner.  H’it ain’t such a bad life.  I never liked being a cowboy slave, I didn't mind being a Coyote or being your mate, but being a cow dog is something else.  It jes’ sort of comes to me natural-like.  I ain’t never so happy as when I’s nipping at a cow’s feet or pulling on his tail to make him go faster. >>

<< I don’t know, John.  I’ll think about it.  I miss you so much. >> Criga nuzzled him.

<< I never thought I’d ever say this to a female of any specie, Criga, but I miss you, too.  That damn Montana done this to me.  I never fully come to understand about love and hate until I met him.  You got him to thank for my love for you.  We both owe him a great deal.  I don't wanna' rush you into nothing, but you better think about it soon, before your next heat comes.  I won’t be there to take care of you, and you know what them wild coyotes is like. >> John licked her on and about her face with affection.  They heard a whistle from the door of Monty’s shack.

“Come in, Ca-yote, h’it’s a’ git’n dark!  You and Criga shouldn’t be out this late.  Invite Criga in with you if you like, and we’ll feed her.” called Jimmy Joe.

<< Come, Criga.  Don’t never pass up a free meal.  They’s always glad to see you. >> he encouraged her.  Criga followed Coyote John into Monty’s shack.  She was still shy around humans, but she became used to Monty and Jimmy Joe.  She allowed them to pet her and make over her.  They always seemed happy to see her.  Monty fed her a big bowl of chow and gave her some fresh water to drink.  He left the door to his quarters open in case she felt nervous and wanted to bolt for the cover of the night.  Not even the elusiveness of the night provided her with much comfort anymore after she and Coyote John were abducted.  She came to fear the night and would return to her empty den, not to venture out again.  She was always afraid and lonely.  Coyote John may not have been much as a human being, but as her mate, he was good to her.  She loved him and longed to be with him.

It was a cool evening.  The first two weeks in September went by and the nip of fall was in the air.  Jimmy Joe built a good fire in the fireplace and they set down to warm themselves.  To everyone’s surprise Criga joined them and lay down on Monty’s big platted rug in front of the fire beside Coyote John.  Most of the other times she visited, she would eat, thank Monty and after a final goodbye to Coyote John scurry out the door into the night to her den.  To lie before such warmth and security was luxurious and seductive.  Coyote John was very attentive to her.  He cleaned the last bits of her chow from her muzzle, and she did the same for him.  Jimmy Joe looked at Monty and smiled.  Monty shook his head and looked at them like they were speaking to him.  Jimmy Joe knew to be quiet for a while.

<< Can you really change me into a cow dog like John, Montana two-legs? >> she sent to Monty.  He smiled and nodded.

<< Not just like John, but similar.  You don’t want to be a male cow dog, do you? >> Monty laughed.

<< God, I hope not! >> interrupted John.

<< No, no, of course not.  If I became a cow dog, could I have Cayote’s pups? >> she asked.

<< Absolutely, but probably not every heat.  We’d be up to our ears in cow dog puppies. >> he laughed, << But, I can control that for you. >> Monty answered.

<< I don’t know how to be a cow dog. >> she lamented.

<< Not to worry, darlin’, I’ll teach you all you need to know. >> assured Coyote John. << H’it ain’t hard.  All we gotta’ do is keep them dumb cows going in the right direction.  In return for our help, they pay us by providing us with good chow, clean water, a treat now and then, and a safe, warm, dry, comfortable place to bed down together to sleep at night.  We won't ever have to go to sleep hungry again. >>

<< If I don’t like being a cow dog will you promise to change me back? >> she asked.

<< I give you my word as a healer, I will change you back if you ask me, but once I change you into a cow dog, I expect you to live as a cow dog for a full year, before you decide. >> Monty smiled at her.

<< That would be from one cold to the next cold? >> she asked.

<< Yes, if you wanted me to change you soon.  >>

<< Don’t think about it, darling.  Let him do it.  I worry about you ever’ damn night since them pups been gone.  I see one passing by ever’ now and then.  I call to him, but he don’t recognize me as his dad.  Ever’ time I hear a coyote howl I think of you.  I know it ain’t you, ‘cause I’d know your cry out of a thousand others.  When I’m away from here, I can’t wait to come back with my master to see if you’re all right. >>

<< Maybe, you’re right, John.  Maybe I should jes’ let him do it.  I see the life you’re living.  It don’t look so bad, and you seem happy.  I don’t want to spend the winter by myself.  Can you do it this evening, Monty two-legs? >>

<< I’d be happy to, Criga, if you think you’re ready. >> Monty send to her.

<< I don’t think I’ll ever be fully ready, but let’s do it.  I want to be with John. >>

<< You will be.  Ramrod Russell’s willing to take care of both of you if you work for him.  I think you’ll make a fine cow dog, Criga. >>

<< What must I do? >> she asked.

<< Just stand where you are and close your eyes. >> Monty instructed her.  Coyote John rose with her.

“What’s up?” Jimmy Joe knew they were talking, but he was silent drinking his coffee.

“Criga’s decided to cross over and become a cow dog.” Monty told him.

“Good for her.  I can use another good cow dog.  I never knew how much help they can be until we got the ca-yote.  Ma' cowboy slaves is crazy about him.  They spoil him rotten slipping him treats behind my back, and he plays them like a two-bit fiddle.”

Monty went to Criga and made sure her eyes were closed.  He slowly moved his hands up and down her back.  Coyote John and Jimmy Joe watched in amazement as she slowly morphed from a coyote into a fine looking female cow dog.  Jimmy Joe got the biggest grin on his face.

“Damn, Ca-yote!  She ought a’ make you happy.  She’s plumb beautiful.” he exclaimed.

<< Tell that old ass-hat cowboy master of mine to show a little respect and some manners.  Criga is a lady of breeding and quality. >> he barked for emphasis.

“I was told to tell you to show some respect and manners.” Monty laughed.

“I apologize to you both.  Welcome, Criga, I hope you find happiness in your new form.” Jimmy Joe said with sincerity. 

<< Tell him I knew what he meant.  John was being too hard on him. >> Criga responded.

"She said to tell you she understood what you meant and wasn’t offended."  Monty grinned at Jimmy Joe.

She allowed herself to be petted and told how good looking she was.  After much rubbing against each other and sniffing each other's butts the cow dogs settled down together in front of the fire for the night.  It would be Criga’s first night to sleep in a man’s house.  With Coyote John by her side, she thought she might be able to get used to it.  She liked her new body.  It responded differently, but it was bigger and stronger than her coyote body.  It was a long weekend, Monty and Jimmy Joe were together the whole time.  Wherever they went the dogs went.  They were like two kids in love.  They became dedicated to Jimmy Joe and Monty and became valued members of Angus' ranch.  The cowboy slaves came to love and appreciate Cayote and Criga as a team.  Coyote John never made anymore overtures to Maxine.  No one had to tell him she was strictly off limits for him.  He still thought she was pretty, but Criga’s new form was enough for him.  He became totally devoted to her.  The next fall Monty inquired as to Criga’s happiness and was she considering asking him to change her back?

<< Can I have another year to consider, Captain Montana two-legs? >> she asked Monty.

<< Sure.  No problem. >> Monty replied and smiled.   

 * * * * * * *

Waco didn’t realize how hard it would be for him to leave his home and those he loved, but everyone wished him well.  It was like cutting his heart out to say goodbye to Ox.  It was even more distressing to know he wouldn’t see his soul mate, Trey Vinceeth, for several months.  He was quite sure his ass would grow shut during that time.  He said his ‘goodbyes’ on the Bandersnatch and the ranch house before he left.  He wanted only his dad to drive him to the station.  Most freshmen going away to college take their belongings with them.  Not Waco.  He traveled light and only took his clothes and favorite lap top.  He figured if he was going to college to study, learn and play football, he didn’t have time for a lot of distractions.  He thought he was going to have enough trouble missing his family and friends.  His dad was quiet while they drove to the station.

“With all them spaceships we got at our disposal, we could a’ jes’ beamed you down into your dorm room, but you wanna’ take the train.” Charlie smiled at him.

“It’s part of a ritual in my mind I envisioned years ago when we talked about me going to college.  There’s jes’ some’um about a train what says you’re going off on an adventure.”

“You sure you got enough money in yore’ pocket, boy?” Charlie asked.

“Everyone was slipping money in my pocket.  I got me over five thousand dollars.  I never told you about Ramrod Long’s graduation gift to me.  I jes’ told you it was nice and thoughtful.  He deposited fifty thousand dollars in an account in my name at a bank at College Station.  All I gotta' do is show proper ID, sign my name, and I can withdraw any amount I choose.”

“Damnation, ‘at was a nice, thoughtful gift; big one, too.” laughed Charlie. “‘At’s one thing I like about Lazarus Long, he never does nothing half-assed.” They shared a laugh.

“Do you love him, Dad?” Waco asked.

“Of course I love him.  What kind of question is that?” Charlie raised an eyebrow.

“H’it don’t bother you none he has a mate and a family of his own?”

“Lord, no, Son.  There ain't no forever bond between him and me.  Well, that ain't true, neither.  There is, but there ain't.  We enjoy each other's company when we feel the need, but it ain’t what’s most important in our relationship.  We’s partners, him and me, but more than that, we've become family.  He's become an older brother to me, Angus and Shane.  He'd shit if he heard me say it, but he's become the granddaddy you never had.  Although he don’t have to, he works for me and we got so many things invested together, it’s hard to tell anymore where one begins and the other leaves off, but we know.  He’s always respected my position as bossman of our ranch, and I’ve always respected him as my ramrod and leader of the Grange.  Some might not understand our relationship, but we don’t care.  It works for us.  What’s most important is we share all our people together.  My people become his people, and his become mine.  Ox, Ping, Pong, Jack, Jill, Arlen Jones, Bryce Cannon, Lucas, Cable, David and Jonathan are all a part of you and me.  I can’t imagine a life without them.  Just like I can’t imagine a life without Trey, Travis, Little Bear, Gavin, Jerry, Bron, Bronc and T'sgan and all them other misfits we lived with for years now; to say nothing of yore’ crazy uncle, my big brother, and my wonderful baby brother and his herd.  Then we got us Hoot and Cotton and their brood.  There’s never a dull moment.  Lazarus will always be a part of our lives in some capacity or another.  Arlen Jones ain’t no dummy.  He knows his mate and I share a bunk from time to time, but he ain’t threatened by it.  Their relationship is solid.  Him and Lazarus go back hundreds of years.  He’s secure with their relationship.”   

“I’s jes’ concerned about you, Pa.  You never seemed to find one special person to give yore’self to.” Waco smiled at him

“Yes, I did.  I give myself totally to your mom and then to you, Son.  Since she passed, I lived my life for you.  Now you’s almost grown, I may think on taking on someone for my own.  If Blake Tindell weren’t heavily involved with Bryce Cannon, I'd slip him in my pocket in a cowtown minute.  Time is on my side, Son.  Look at me, I don’t look a day over thirty-five.  We’ll always have each other to worry about, and as long as we do, I guess ever’ thing’s all right.” Charlie grinned.  “The main thing for you to remember and take with you is, I love you, boy, and I ain't got me no words to tell you how proud of you I am.”

“I love you, too, Dad.  I’m jes' sorry we ain’t never got around to knock’n boots.” Waco lamented.  Charlie chuckled.

“Lord, when would we ever find time?  For the last four years we had to make appointments to sit down and have a conversation by ourselves.” Charlie laughed. “I’m wait’n for you to come home in your Corp's uniform.  If I git to the train 'afore Trey Vinceeth gits a good look at you, I jes’ may git lucky.” they shared another laugh.

The train was on time for once.  Waco prayed it would be late.  It was always late, but it wasn’t that day.  They both swore and be-damned to each other they wouldn’t shed a tear.  They meant what they said, but their hearts didn’t listen.  

“I’ll miss you, Dad.” Waco cried.

“Make me proud of you, boy.” Charlie said what he thought a father should say who was sending his only child off to collage.  He was about to come unglued at the hinges.  His big cowboy heart was breaking.  It would be the first time in eighteen years he and Waco were separated for more than a few nights at a time. 

“I’ll do my damnedest, Pa.” Waco assured him.

Charlie watched the train leave down the track and stood watching until it disappeared around a bend some thirty-five miles away.  He took a deep breath and returned to the ranch wagon.  His heart was heavy as he drove back to the ranch, but he was happy Waco decided to go to college.  He was sure his boy wouldn’t have time to graduate, but he wanted him to have the experience.  Charlie thought about his life after Anne died, and how he wanted to give up, but reasoned he had to go on living for his son.  His boy became the focus of his attention for his striving in a world that made less sense every day.  He knew Waco was special from the time he was a young boy, but it wasn’t until he decided he had to have a big hairy monster as his slave on his twelfth birthday did he begin to grow into an extraordinary young man.  Then, somewhere along the way, their roles became so intertwined Charlie realized the three of them, man, boy and beast, were living their lives for each other.  Even now, Waco was doing what he thought his dad and his beloved lummox would want for him, and he was right.

That evening, after everyone bedded down for the night, Charlie found himself wandering out to the barn, being draw by some invisable force stronger than anything he ever felt before.  It was a wee small voice that called to him.  He came to the foot of the ladder to the loft and slowly climbed.  A great, hairy hand met his and pulled him up the rest of the way into the loft.  He found himself surrounded by the warm, comfortable, loving arms of his son's giant beast.  Charlie broke into tears.  His body was wracked with great sobs as Ox gently stroked and caressed him, sang to him, and slowly began to remove his master's clothing.  He didn't stop until he had Charlie completely naked, pressed tightly against his body.  Ox took Charlie's head in his massive hand and gently moved it to his teat as an invitation.  Charlie rarely took advantage of Ox's milk, but he did that eveing.  It seemed like he was being offered a key, the very essence of the universe.  Later, when he had his fill, Ox took his master's seed to relax him and bring him comfort.  Before Charlie drifted off into a deep, peaceful sleep he could swear he heard Ox say,  "I miss him, too, Master Charlie, but my young master has left me to love and protect you." 

* * * * * * *

The very next stop the train made in another small West Texas town, a young man, a cowboy, about Waco’s age was getting ready to get on the train.  Waco thought he recognized the kid as someone he played ball against.  At the station, to see the young man off were several adults and close to a hundred boys and young men his age or younger.  Many of the youngest were crying and clinging onto the cowboy as he made his way to the train.  Everyone had to say goodbye with a hug and a kiss.  He was obviously emotionally distraught over having to leave his friends and large family behind.  One little boy about five years old came running up to him and jumped into his arms.  Waco watched as the boy gave him a big hug, kissed him on both cheeks, and handed him his favorite plastic toy pony for him to take with him.  It was a poignant moment for the young man, and he shed tears as he accepted it from the boy.  He quickly tucked it under his arm and made his way to the steps as the conductor waved for the train to start again.  He stood in the open doorway as they called to him and waved goodbye.  When the train was underway, he turned, walked into the car where Waco was sitting and smiled from ear to ear.  He headed straight for Waco.

“You’re Mr. Waco Goodnight, ain’t cha’?” he stuck out his hand. “I’m  Buskin Namid.  You and your brothers whipped our asses four years in a row at football.  We met as captain’s of our teams on the field.  I’d know you anywheres.  I seen pitchers of you in the paper.  May I join you, Sir?” he asked.

“Be my guest, Mr. Namid, but don’t call me ‘sir.’  That’s reserved for my dad.” Waco smiled and motioned to the seat.

“Name’s Buskin, Sir.  Please, jes' call me Buskin.”

“Call me Waco, Buskin.” he grinned at the young man’s exuberance. “Ain’t ‘Namid’ a Cheyenne name?” Waco raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, Sir.  It means ‘star dancer’ in Cheyenne and Chippewa.  How’d ju’ know?  Most people pick up on ‘Buskin’ being native American, but you’re the first to know my last name is also an Indian name.”

“Remember, one of my slaves is a native American, Little Bear Tin Penny.  Why you on this train, Buskin?” Waco smiled.

“I hear’d tell you’s going to A&M this fall.  I had my choice of any school in the Southwest Conference for a full football scholarship, but when I heard you’s going to A&M, well sir, I knew I had to go there.  I wanna’ play ball with you, Waco.  With your arm and my legs we can’t be beat.” he said with enthusiasm.

“I been reading about you.  I remember you was the main power on your team.  You guys was like us having to play iron man football.*  You damn near checked me several times.  I was impressed, Son.”  Waco exclaimed with enthusiasm, and the young man grinned from ear to ear.  Waco offered his hand again, and they shook once more.  It was an instant bond.  “Were all them folks yours, Buskin.  If’n they is, you got a damn big family.” Waco complimented him.

“Yeah, they’s all my family, but not in the general sense.  I’s from a boys home for homeless children run by the Methodist Church.  Them adults were my house parents, and all them boys was ma’ little brothers.  I was placed in the home when I’s only three years old.  I ain’t never know’d no other family but the one I got with them.  They’s just like a real family.  I love everyone of them tykes, and the adults are special people.  I think on them as my mom and dads.  Only thing is, I got several mom’s and dad’s.  More to love is the way I look at it.”

“That’s amazing, Buskin.  I can understand your love and joy for them.  I got me a big family what weren’t born under the same roof as me.  I was an only child, my mom died when I’s just a toddler and my dad was left to raise me alone, cept’n we weren’t never alone.  My dad and mom took in my little brother JR who was the son of our housekeeper and one of our lead cowboy slaves so’s their boy wouldn’t have to be brought up as a slave.  I think on JR and love him like he’s ma’ little brother.  JR and me had sixty cowboy slave brothers who loved us, taught us to rope and ride and the cowboy way.  When I’s twelve I got me my own slave for a companion and protector.  He’s a huge beast I fell in love with at first sight.  For ma’ birthday that year I also got me two brothers for personal slaves as gifts from other folks.  You met ‘em on the field several times, Travis Jessup, and Little Bear.  Then later we got us several more brothers Indigo/Blue, Lucas Long, Gaven, Jerry, Bronc, and T’sgan?  Our family grew and grew.  Now I got all kinds of family I love and work with every day.  It broke my heart having to leave them.  I could see you were a bit upset have'n to say goodbye.” Waco said.

“You’re right, it damn near broke my heart.  Other than short trips to other towns for football games, It’s the first time I ever been away from home.  I was big brother to a lot of them boys.  That little one what come running up to me and gimme’ his favorite pony was one of my favorites.  His name is Kevin.  He had a hard time when he first came to the home, but I tried to help him.  He slept with me for the first month, but then decided he was big enough to have a bed of his own.  His bed was right next to mine, but he'd still slip in bed with me if'n he's worried or scared about something until he became more sure of himself.” Buskin pulled out the cheap looking brown plastic horse and showed it to Waco.  Waco admired it and handed it back to the fine looking young man.  Buskin lovingly put it away in his canvas bag.  “‘At’s worth more to me than all the gold in the world, Waco.” he sighed.

“I understand, brother, I got me a slew of little brothers what’s from other families, but they belong to me.  Four of ‘em, all about the same age, we call the coyote cowboys.” Waco laughed.

“What you doing on this train, brother?  I would think a well-to-do, important man like you would have his own transportation.” Buskin asked.

“It was offered to me, and I probably will get some transportation later on, but I didn’t wanna’ have to drive all that way by myself.  Dad offered, but I told him no.  I wanted to go by train my first time.  Glad I did.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t a met you.”  Waco could charm the pants off a billy goat when he wanted to.

“I know’d you was a cowboy to the bone.” Buskin grinned real big.

“To the bone, brother!” Waco laughed and nodded.  It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.  It was a long trip into College Station, but they talked, slept a little, ate together and talked some more.  Waco pulled out his lap top and began to show Buskin pictures of the ranch and his brothers.  When he showed him a picture of his slave Ox, Buskin got a funny look on his face.

“That ain’t no beast.  He certainly ain't no monster; ‘at’s a Bigfoot.  My people know about Bigfoot.  He is our cousin.  We call him ‘Chi-ye-tanka,’ a Lakota name for elder big brother.  When I first come to the home, I was so lonely I made friends with a young one about the same size as me while I's playing by myself down by the creek.  We couldn’t speak to one another, but I knew he wouldn’t harm me.  We played together a lot that summer, and he took me home to meet his parents.  They were huge, but they were very gentle, loving and kind to me.  Because I was their son’s friend, they considered me part of their family.  His daddy offered me some of his milk from his huge breasts.  I didn’t know no better and drank it.  Ever’ time I went to visit them, he would pull me up into his big lap and offer his teat.  I never refused.  I remember it as the best damn stuff I ever tasted.  It tasted like warm ice cream.  It done something magical to me, because I began to hear my furry buddy, and I could communicate with him in my head.”

“Did he have a name, brother?” Waco inquired.

“Yes, his parents called him ‘Droon.’  I loved him very much.” Buskin lamented.  The name rang a bell with Waco, but he didn’t say anything.

“Go on with your story.” Waco urged him.

One day I went to meet him, but they were gone.  I never heard from him again, but once in a while, on a dark, moonless night, I could hear him call to me in my mind.  I know'd he’s still alive out there some'mers, but I ain't been able to hear him in the last several years.  I worry he might be dead.  However did you come across one a them?” he asked in awe.  Waco told him how it came about, and the men who captured Ox didn’t realize what they had.  They tried to clip off all his hair to make him look like a man so they could sell him as a slave.  He explained his original name was Garron, but he gave him the cognomen of ‘Ox’ an abbreviation of lummox.

“Is he tame?” Buskin asked.

“Ox?  Tame?  Lord, I hope not.  I never want my lummox tamed.” Waco laughed, “If you mean is he housebroken or does he relate well with people, the answer is ‘yes.’  He’s one of the three great loves of my life.”

“Who’s the other two, Waco?” he asked innocently.

“My dad's one.”  Waco smiled sidetracking the issue. “We got us a special relationship.  My dad is the finest man I ever know’d.  I love and respect him like no other.” Waco got a glassy look in his eyes.  Buskin was touched.

“I wish’t I’d had a dad I could be close to.” he lamented.

“Ain't never too late, Buskin.  I know lots of men what found they’selves a dad after they's adults.  My cousin is one.  He was a slave for ten years, but when he was emancipated he bought his slave daddy and took him with him.  They’s happy as two ticks on an old hound dog.” Waco laughed.

“I’ve often thought about that kind of relationship.  Men with men as masters and slaves, or slaves together.  I been taught it’s wrong, but I got my own beliefs about it.  Is it all talk, Waco, or does it really go on?” Buskin asked.

“If you come from a church home, they’ll likely tell you it ain’t so; h’it’s only talk, but that ain’t the truth, brother.  It’s the rule rather than the exception.  On some ranches it’s worse for the slaves than it is on the Grange ranches.  Grange members are humanist and treat their slaves with respect, but they’re still expected to perform as slaves with all that implies.  Any previous hangups they had as freemen have to be abandoned.  It’s all part of breaking a slave to the will of his owner.” Waco said and watched Buskin for a reaction.  There was none.  “You’re wondering if I ever...?”  Waco smiled.

“No, no, I don’t know you well enough to ask, Waco.  It would be rude and inconsiderate.  H’it jes’ ain’t the cowboy way.” Buskin was serious.

“Well, since you put it that way, I’ll tell you.  You answered your question earlier when you said I’s a cowboy to the bone.  That’s your answer.  Whatever you can imagine, I done it, except with animals.  I draw the line with my critter buddies, and I got me a whole slew of creature pals I’ll introduce you to one day.” Waco replied.  They rode on in silence for a while.  Waco was reading some stuff on his lap top and could feel the wheels turning in his companion's mind.  He couldn’t figure out whether Buskin was a fundamentalist or if he somehow missed getting the gene which cause a propensity for belief in myths and superstition.  Suddenly the young man looked at him and Waco heard in his head.

<< Lummox milk makes you able to hear other's thoughts. >>

<< I know.  I drunk my fair share of it over the years.  So there's no need for secrets between us, is there, brother? >>

<< No, Waco, I ain’t a believer.  I’m an Indian.  I have secretly learned the ways of my forefathers, but I also believe in the cowboy way. >>

“You’re unusual for someone raised in a church funded home, Buskin.”

“I know.  I tried to believe.  Them folks what raised me were good Christian folks and taught me their ways, but they weren’t no rabid, foaming at the mouth Pentecostals.  They taught more about being good to my fellow man.  In some circles they might be considered liberal Christians.  I learned there are still pockets of them left what ain’t been persecuted.  I done all the things they think I should to make them happy and proud of me, but my heart tells me there’s more to a full life what they don’t know about and certainly more I don’t know.  I know you know what I’m talking about if you got a Bigfoot for a slave and buddy.”

“I do.  I let you read my mind this time, but I been taught to block anyone tapping my mind I don’t want hearing my thoughts.  You shouldn’t be tapping people’s thoughts less’n you got their permission.” he smiled.

“I know.  I’m sorry.  I don’t do it much.  I done it some with my house parents to understand what they wanted from me.  It made it easier.  I done what they wanted and everyone was happy.  I wanted to be good and fit in, but I guess the truth is, I never did.  You’re the only other person other than my lummox brother who can read my thoughts.” he said.

“I’ve had a lot of practice.  I can speak with my ponies and some other wonderful critters.  I have brothers who are better’n me at talking with critters. Then I got me some canine brothers and sisters what’s been genetically modified to talk.”

“No!  Talking dogs?  I don’t believe you.  You’re shit’n me, cowboy.” Buskin said.  Waco grinned, got a DVD from his backpack and put it into his lap top.  He punched in his id code and on the screen popped up six pups on a stage with their big brother Lucas Long leading them in singing “Would You Like To Swing On A Star.” Buskin’s mouth dropped open, and then he started laughing.

“Oh, my, God!  That’s dubbed!  It’s gotta’ be.” he challenged.  Waco smiled and showed another clip of him carrying on a conversation with Moe talking about his life living with Stan and Jimmy Bob.  Buskin shook his head.

“I hope I’m invited to visit your ranch someday.” he said humbly.

“Count on it, cowboy.” Waco assured him.

They were tired when they finally arrived at College Station.  They were met by upperclassmen in the Corps and taken to their dormitory.  Waco and Buskin decided to be roommates and were billeted in the new athletic dorm.  Waco thought he was traveling light, but Buskin had almost nothing.  He didn’t have a lap top or a lot of clothes to attend classes.  Waco would soon take care of that.  Once they went through orientation and got their classes assigned they returned to their room for a rest period.  Waco was pleased to discover Buskin was taking the same pre-med courses.  Buskin wanted to be a doctor and return to help his people.  Waco wanted to be a veterinarian.

“Do you know how to use a computer, Star Dancer?” Waco grinned.  Buskin smiled at Waco’s use of the meaning of his name.

“Yes, I’ve had classes and each home had a couple.  We were allowed only a couple of hours a day on them, because there weren’t enough to go around.  Seniors, like me, got the most time.”

“How you plan to take notes and study without one?”

“The old fashioned way, take notes by hand and study hard.” he replied.

“Nonsense.  We live in the age of computers.  They make life so much easier.  Tell you what.  I need me a new one.  If you go shopping with me, you can have this old one of mine.  Ain’t nothing wrong with it.”

“No, I couldn’t accept it.  I ain’t got the money to pay you for it, Waco.” he replied.

“Who said anything about paying me for it?  In your native culture it’s down right rude and inconsiderate not to accept a man’s gift what’s offered.  You been taught to do things for folks with no thought of getting anything in return.  Ain’t that what them Christianist teach, to give unto one another?”

“Yeah, but...”  Buskin knew he was trumped.

“Enough, then.  Say no more.  We’ll go buy me a knew one, I’ll take us to dinner, we come back, I’ll transfer my shit onto the new one, I’ll erase the old drive and reinstall my lady friend's special operating system.”

“You use another operating system besides Gates or Linux?  You got chore'self a girlfriend?”

“Not a girlfriend as such, but a very special lady friend.  She's family, one of my super intelligent critter family.  She created it, and it can’t be hacked or traced when you’re on the net.  It can’t be detected by other programs or systems.  It’s silent and stealthy, but best of all it is an evolved intelligence that will become your partner and co-terminus to make suggestion and help you find what you need.  It will even help you study.  It will drill you until you're ready to take a gun and shoot it.”  Waco laughed at his exaggeration. “Here I’ll show you a pic of the lovely lady what created the system.”  Waco clicked on a couple of windows and up popped a beautiful shot of Ping which displayed all her many colors.  She was smiling and waving at Waco in the picture.”

“My God!  She ain’t human.”

“No, she’s of another species.  He name is ‘Ping’ and her mate is ‘Pong.’  They call themselves Langerians.  They come from a planet in another solar system what was destroyed by the same aliens what are making life miserable for us today.  They came wandering over the hill one day during a Sunday afternoon barbecue on my twelfth birthday and asked my dad for sanctuary on our ranch.  They managed to explain they were the last of their species and they would work for him in exchange for food and a corner in the loft of our barn.  My dad is a man of infinite goodness and compassion.  He took them in and they became a couple of the closest members of our extended family.”  Waco clicked on another file and the whole family of Ping, Pong, Jack and Jill came on the screen.  “As you can see they’ve started their own family.  Jack and Jill are my little brother and sister.  They are remarkable creatures, and I love them very much.”

“No, you’re the one what’s remarkable, Waco.  Who would suspect a cowboy would know about such things?” Buskin said in awe.

“Exactly, Star Dancer, who?” Waco grinned.  He got his point across.  

“Have you knowledge of other star people, Waco?”

“Yes, more than you can imagine, and each more wonderful than the next.”

“Can you tell me about them?”

“I can do better'n 'nat.  I can take you with me and introduce you to them.  Remember my look-alike cousin, Indigo/Blue?”

“Was he an alien?” Buskin asked.

“No, he was artificially cloned by a race of silicon bio-bots from my DNA.  He's one of a kind; unique in the universe.  He has a silicon life-form and a biological one living within him in symbiosis.  He's also my bonded brother.  My dad thinks on him as one of my many brothers.  But, enough of this for now.  You will learn many things about me, but I know I can trust you to keep your mouth shut.”

“Of course, but how do you know?” Buskin challenged.

“You belong to me, don’t you?  I just give myself to you by sharing these things.  I trust you.”

“Yes, of course, how stupid of me.”

“Y’ain’t stupid, Star Dancer.  You’re ma’ brother.  I ain’t got me no stupid brothers.”  Waco took him into his arms, hugged him and bussed a kiss behind his ear.  Buskin melted into Waco’s big arms and shed a couple of tears.  “No time for tears, little brother.  We got us some serious shopping to do.” he urged.

The young men went by the bank in the small town.  Waco signed for his new account, got his checks and credit card, activated it, and they hit the town.  There was one big sprawlmart just outside of town where Waco found a lap top he liked with all the bells and whistles he wanted.  He was perfectly happy with his old one, but it was only a ruse to get one for his roommate.  So began a partnership that lasted through their college days and for years afterward.  They became inseparable friends.  Waco was elected team captain his freshman year and Buskin was his co-captain.  Together they formed the core of a powerfully unbeatable team.  They became known as the Aggie ‘Buckaroo Brothers.’  The cowboy and the Indian.

It was lucky they got to the school early to settle in, because the first week of classes flew by and they had their first game the sixth of September against Miami and won handily.  They went balls-out studying and practicing football.  They had a game almost every weekend until they played Texas Thanksgiving Day.  They won and handed Texas their worst defeat in history.  Afterward, they had a few days off, a long weekend, to have a belated holiday with their families. 
On their return they were looking at a couple more bowl games.  Whenever they weren't involved with football they were in the library, on their computers, or studying like crazy.  Buskin named the co-terminus of his computer after one of his great grandfathers, Comanche Chief Ketemoczy.*  Buskin shortened it to "Chief Kat."  His co-terminus searched the net until he found all the information he could on the great chief and patterned himself after Buskin's great grandad.  Waco was right.  While helpful and nuturing, the old chief
could be ruthless and demanding in his drilling Buskin to learn the material to become the best he could for himself and his people.  Buskin came to have great respect for his co-terminus.  When time came for exams, Buskin and Waco were always the two best prepared students on campus.

Waco invited Buskin home with him for the Thanksgiving holiday.  He didn’t think he could get out of going to his home, so Waco agreed to go with him with the understanding Buskin would spend Christmas vacation with him on the ranch and they could travel to his home for visits.  He agreed.  Buskin shared his huge family with Waco.  They were thrilled Buskin had such a fine young man for a new friend and readily accepted Waco.  The men had a great time and the boys listened endlessly to their stories about the games they played that fall.  Buskin and Waco were like gods to them.  Buskin’s baby brother, Kevin, was in his lap or Waco’s the whole time they were there.  They never got tired of him clinging to them and encouraged him.
  Waco was taken with the quality of life the folks were trying to provide for the boys and contacted his dad for a donation.  The Goodnight/Potter/Long-Jones family foundation along with the Grange donated a hundred thousand dollars to the school.  It was greatly appreciated because it came at a time when money was tight.  The administrators were looking at a bleak Christmas for the boys, and they faced the possibility of having to close down the home.  What might happen to the boys was too dreadful for anyone to contemplate.  Waco had other thoughts, but he didn’t say anything.  He knew he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to this home for boys.  Waco Goodnight became like a patron saint to the adults of the facility.

There was a lot of concentrated study when the men returned to school.  Waco and Buskin hit the books and burned the midnight oil getting ready for their first semester exams.  To help them, a fresh jug of a sweet milk would mysteriously appear in their small fridge in their room each week.  Waco smiled as he handed Buskin a glass.  On his first taste, tears came to the young man’s eyes.

“I’d recognize that taste anywhere.  ‘At’s lummox milk.” he said in awe.

“Right you are, little brother.  Drink up, it will help you in every way.  You’ll see.”  Waco urged and they clinked glasses as a toast.  Waco was right, it did help him and Buskin greatly.  It increased their stamina ten fold and helped focus their concentration to learn what must be learned.  One day, during the final week of their biology class, their professor threw open the class for discussion or any questions his class might have about what they learned and how it might apply to their world.  One student, who Waco and Buskin pegged as the son of a fundie rancher, wanted to know what the professor thought about the aliens everyone was talking about what was stealing his family’s slaves and cattle.  The professor smiled and responded, until he saw one or a spaceship he didn’t believe in them.  He thought there would be some other explanation found.  Then he lumped in all the other cryptozoological critters like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot.  Buskin looked at Waco.  Waco winked at him and Buskin stifled a laughed.

“You have something to share, Mr. Namid?” he asked pointedly.

“Meaning no disrespect, Sir, but you’re wrong about Bigfoot.  He does exist.  I had me one for a buddy when I’s just a kid.  We’s just about the same size.  We played together all one summer, and he took me to meet his parents.  They were huge but gentle and kind to me.  They could’ve easily snapped me in two and eaten me for supper, but because I was their son’s friend and playmate, they treated me with utmost love and respect; like I's one of their family.  I was even offered some milk by my friend’s daddy, and I accepted.  I drank from his huge teats, and it was the most delicious milk I ever tasted.  It tasted like warm ice cream.” Buskin finished.  The class hooted and laughed at him.

“That’s some story, Son.  How old were you, Mr. Namid?” the professor asked with skepticism in his voice.

“Five or six.” Buskin replied.

“A classic case of an imaginary friend.” he said.

“My brother wouldn’t lie, Dr. Dyer.  I know Buskin too well.  I know he’s right, Sir.  They do exist.  I got me one for a slave, as a personal servant and bodyguard.  My daddy bought him for me when I’s just a kid.  He became my teacher and protector.  I drank my share of lummox milk.  Buskin’s right, it taste just like ice cream.  He looks big and clumsy so they called him a lummox, but he ain't clumsy a' tall.  I shortened lummox to ox, and that's what we call him; also, 'cause he's huge like a big ox. 
I grew up with him by my side.  He’s one of the great loves of my life.  He ain't just a slave, Sir, he's family.” Waco stated as fact.  The class went nuts laughing and hooting at the professor and the captain of their football team.  They didn’t know what to think, but they were almost sure Buskin and Waco were having fun at the professor’s expense.  Some wondered, because they never knew Buskin or Waco to make up a story they couldn’t backup.

“Aww, come on, guys.  You’re setting me up.  You’re two of the most respected men in this school right now.  Gimme’ a break.  You’re blow’n smoke up my butt.  Help me out here.  There ain’t no such thing as Bigfoot, and you know it.” the professor pleaded like he was on the ropes.

“Yes, Sir.  If you say so, Sir.” Waco backed down.  He smiled at Buskin.  When the class broke up Buskin stayed behind for a minute as Waco went to speak with the professor.  He handed him a DVD.

“Take this home with you professor and watch it all the way through in one sitting.” Waco smiled.  That night their phone rang in their dorm room.

“It’s professor Dyer.  He wants to speak with you, brother.” Buskin grinned real big.

“Yes, Sir, professor, what can I do for you?” Waco asked.

“Was that you as a young boy in that video with those monsters?”

“Yes, Sir, it was, but they ain’t no monsters, Mr. Dyer.  The video was a composite of other videos of various Bigfeet brothers of mine I’ve know’d and loved over the years.”

“Do you know what this means?”

“Yes, Sir, I got me a good idea what it means, but we don’t want it disclosed.” Waco said firmly.

“Then why did you let me see it?  What’s to keep me from showing this DVD to other people?” he challenged.

“Try playing it again, Dr. Dyer.  It was being erased while you watched it, and it can't be copied.  All you have is a blank DVD.” he grinned and winked at Buskin.

 “How’d ju’ do that?” he demanded.

“Basic computer trick, Sir.  I meant no disrespect, Dr. Dyer.  I just think a man of your knowledge and talent should know the truth.  You told us yourself to keep an open mind about evolution even though you don’t believe in it.  I thought if you learned there were other, highly intelligent, bipedal critters what developed same as us, but with different functions, you might reconsider.”

“I can’t, Mr. Goodnight.  My job depends on me speaking out against evolution and teaching the bible is the only acceptable answer for the creation of the world and man’s existence.  There are state and federal laws which preclude the teaching of evolution as a fact.  Everyone knows it’s little more than a bad theory.”

“I understand, Sir.  I ain’t trying to challenge the law or change your mind none.  It’s up to you to decide.  I jes’ thought you might like to have all the pieces to make an informed decision.” Waco said.

“Yes, well, thank you for that.” Dyer was pleasant but frustrated.  He hung up the phone.  He inserted the DVD and tried to view it again, but Waco was right, it was blank.

“I hope it don’t affect our grade, brother.” Buskin said.

“It won’t.  We done good in his class.  If we ace the final we’re looking at an ‘A.’” Waco assured him rubbing his hands together.

The next day in class the professor was subdued and low keyed.  He reviewed everything for the exam and told the class the important things to remember and study.  Waco and Buskin had their laptops on and while everyone else was typing away at their computers, their co-terminus' were taking notes and formulating study plans while they listened.  Professor Dyer claimed if they took good notes and studied the things he told them, they would have no problems.  At the end of the class he asked for everyone’s attention.

“I would like to make a formal apology to Mr. Namid and his fraternal brother, Mr. Goodnight.  I still hold my doubts about cryptid-critters, but I have reconsidered my original position and have to admit there just might be some validity to the legends of Sasquatch or Bigfoot.  Unless I see one for myself I will remain a skeptic; however, if I’m ever offered the opportunity to meet one, in person, face to face, I would not turn it down.  I would love to be proved wrong.  Class dismissed.” he said and everyone began to leave the room.  “Mr. Namid!  Mr. Goodnight!  May I have a word with you?” he asked.

“Sure, professor.” answered Buskin.

“Gentlemen, is there a way I could see one of these creatures for myself?” he asked.

“It might be arranged, but not if you hope to bring them to the attention of the world, Dr. Dyer.  We love and protect them.  They're a race on the verge of extinction.  The alien races that threaten our planet almost wiped them out a number of centuries ago.  A few were sent to various planets where they could hide and reproduce, but it’s been hard for them without a society.  They became little more than wild animals but retained a high degree of intelligence.”
“Then the stories of aliens taking cattle and people for food are true?” he asked contritely.

“Very much so, professor.” Buskin confirmed.

“Why isn’t our government doing more?” he asked rhetorically.

“We can’t discuss that with you, Sir.  We don’t know.  You’ll have to ask your representative.” Waco said without nuance.

“Yeah, lot a’ good that’ll do me.  I guess if you wanna’ know something in this world you gotta’ find out for yourself.”

“May I suggest the free-net, Sir.” Waco said.

“What?  That bastion of ultra-left wing fascist clap-trap?” he challenged.  “Surely a cowboy like you wouldn’t believe anything you read on the free-net.  It’s all just left wing propaganda.  It’s garbage.  They call for the overthrow of our theocracy.  They claim people are dying right and left in Cheney camps and it just isn’t so.  They’re very well treated in those camps.  I’ve seen videos.  They’re like country clubs.  Our leader wouldn’t let that happen to anyone just because they disagree with his policies.  This is America, the land of the free.  They’re in there because they’re criminals and traitors to their country.”

“Whatever you say, Sir, but there are other things on the free-net that ain’t political.” Waco left it at that, and the men left the room.

Some of his teammates discovered Buskin was from a Methodist boy’s home.  Buskin never tried to hide his background and freely discussed it if he was asked about it in a nice way.  They set up collections centers all over the campus for toys and new clothes for his little brothers.  A major boot manufacturer heard about it and donated a hundred pair of Western boots of all sizes, with a guarantee if every boy wasn’t fitted with a pair they could return the boots for a pair in their size.  The football team, along with Waco and Buskin, boxed up the stuff and shipped it by train to the director of the home a couple of days before the semester ended.  It was four huge crates of toys, books, videos, clothes of all sizes and boots.  Waco was amazed at the generosity of his fellow students.  No matter how screwed up their heads were with religious garbage and right winged political beliefs, they proved Americans could still be the most generous people on Earth.  If four crates weren’t enough, from last minute donations, Waco and Buskin had four enormously heavy sacks of stuff to carry with them on the train.  They planned to take the gifts to the ranch, drive over to Buskin’s home Christmas eve and take the gifts with them.

Waco and Buskin aced their finals.  They worked hard and both had a four-point-oh for the end of their freshman fall semester.  They were thrilled and looked forward to the Christmas holidays.  All their teammates were jealous they weren’t going home with their team captains to play cowboys.  They got everything together and stood checking to see if they forgot anything.  They were dressed in their Western clothes.  It was good to get out of their Corps uniforms.
“What time does the train leave, brother?” Buskin asked.

“Anytime we want it to, little brother.” he smiled.

“I don’t understand.  We’re gonna’ need help with these bags.” said Buskin.

“How would you like to dance among the stars on our way home, Star Dancer?” Waco put to him with a look of love on his face.

“You know I’d do anything you asked of me, Waco.” Buskin said quietly. “You’re my brother, and I love you.” he said.

“No more’n I love you, bubba.  We got ever’ thing together?” he asked.

“I’m all packed.  These are my things.  I’m ready.”

“C’mer.”  Waco opened his arms.  “Close your eyes and kiss me, cowboy.  We ain’t never kissed before, but that don’t mean I didn’t want to many times.  Set chore’ old ways aside for a moment and give yore’ brother a big ole wet, sloppy, Aggie Christmas kiss to start our holiday together.  Show me how much you love me, Bubba.” Waco challenged him.  Buskin's heart melted.  He couldn’t count the times he wanted to throw his arms around his bigger brother and do exactly what he was now urging him to do.  He didn’t hesitate for a moment.  Waco took him into his arms, held him tight and kissed him gently on the mouth.  He let Buskin take it from there, and he got the kiss from his brother he asked for and more.  Suddenly, there was a great flash of white light in the room, and the men were standing on the deck of Waco’s ship, the Buttercup.  Waco was still getting some good loving from his co-captain and hesitated to break it off.  With a deep sigh he broke off their kiss and held him even tighter.

“Now, you may open your eyes, brother.” Waco held him as the young man almost jumped out of his skin.

“What the fuck!  Holy shit!  Where are we?" he demanded.

“On board my spaceship, little brother, the Buttercup.  Ms. Myra, say ‘hello’ to my brother, Buskin Namid.”

“Helloooo there, Mr. Buskin Namid, Sir!  Yowser!  Yowser, and ring my chimes!  Damnation, Captain Waco, you shore’ ‘nuff can pick ‘em.  He’s a beauty!  A thoroughbred if I ever did see one.  Too bad I ain’t got a body no more or this brazen old hussy would give you a run for yore’ money, ‘at’s for damn sure!  He’d make me a fine trophy cowboy lover.” she giggled.  “I’ll bet he’s got a whopper on ‘em!  

“Myra, mind your manners!  And for your information he’s hung like a small pony.” Waco laughed.

“I knew it!  I jes' knew it!” she exclaimed, “Sorry, Captain Waco!  Sorry, Mr. Namid.  Welcome aboard the Buttercup, sweetheart.  I meant no disrespect, Son.”  

“None taken.  Thank you, ma’am.  Where are you?” Buskin looked around.  

“All around you, Son.  I’m this ship.  I’m the evolved intelligence what flies this, here, bucket of bolts.” she giggled again.

“Myra!” Waco exclaimed.  “How many times I done told ju’ the Buttercup ain’t no bucket of bolts.  You’re the only thing on this vessel what’s got a screw loose.” he shot back.

“Good one, sweetie!” she laughed. “You’re git’n better.”  As amazed as he was, Buskin broke up laughing at their exchange.

About that time Jack Hall, Buck, Warren Steele, Horse, their son Colt, Trey Vinceeth, and several others came onto the bridge followed by several of the pups, Moe, Laverne, Patty, Larry and Shep.  They were all bouncing around trying to be the first to get Waco’s attention.  Each one was yelling something at him.  It was utter confusion, but Buskin loved it.  It was like coming home to his little brothers.
“Captain Waco!  Captain Waco!  You’re home!  You’re home!  And you brought Mr. Namid with you!  Mr. Namid!  Mr. Namid!  We’re great fans of yours!  We watched you play football with our brother on the video.  We watch ever’ game!  We never missed a one!  You’re so great!  You can run faster than we can!  We love you, co-captain Namid!  Gosh, he’s more handsome than the pictures you sent us, Captain.” they cried.

“Buskin, meet my little brothers and sisters.  They’re all here except Lieutenant JG Maxine Potter.  She’s probably back at my uncle’s ranch or on her captain’s ship on a run with him some’mers.  That’s Laverne and Patty.  The big one on the end is Moe, and the two with clan headbands are Larry and Shep.  They’re members of an alien space crew on a ship called the 'Banshee.'  They’re the captain’s personal body guards.”

Buskin had to shake each one’s paw and pet them.  He was having a ball.  Here he was carrying on conversations with five dogs, but he still couldn’t believe it.  They each welcomed him, had a big wet kiss for him, wished him a pleasant visit with their family and a Merry Christmas.  He met Jack Hall and his mate Buck Hall.  He was blown away to meet Warren Steele, Horse and their bairn Colt.  Colt reminded him of his playmate from his childhood.

“I’ll explain later about Horse and Mr. Steele having a bairn together.” smiled Waco. “In the meantime, Ms. Myra, make sure we’re cloaked and take us out past the Moon, please.”

“Will do, Captain Honey.” she responded.  Buskin laughed.  Waco grimaced and shook his head.

“You’re captain of your own spaceship?  How Star Trek is that?” he laughed.

“I thought you might appreciate a quick trip home by way of the Moon.  I asked if you might like to dance among the stars.  I do a mean Texas Two-step.”  Waco laughed.

“Are you an alien, Waco?” Buskin asked.

The pups laughed, and the men chuckled.

“Oh, honey, he’s about as alien as they come.  H’it ain’t no wonder.  He’s had enough alien giz pumped up his cowboy butt he even walks like one.” giggled Ms. Myra.

“Just row the damn boat, Mrya!” Waco shot back in a disgusted voice.  She fell out in guffaws of laugher.  She got a laugh from the other men, too.  Waco even laughed.  “Fuck me!  She could cut the hide off’n a damn rhino with that tongue of hers!” he exclaimed through his laughter.  “To answer your question, little brother, I’m a home boy, jes’ like you, but I promise this week you’ll meet some aliens what will turn your head around.  Let me introduce you to your first one.”  Waco motioned for Trey to join them. “This here enormous humanoid is the Admiral of the ninth fleet of Visallian War ships.  He and his symbiotic race, the Shoshonni, have pledged themselves to helping us escape Earth when the final holocaust happens.  He looks human enough he can pass in our society as a big cowboy.  Looks pretty authentic, doe’nee?  However, he has other attributes what are definitely not human.” Waco grinned and complimented his lover, “His name is Captain Hogarth Treygor Vinceeth.  We call him Trey or Captain Vinceeth.  He also jes’ happens to be my bonded mate.”

Buskin shook Trey’s hand and told him he was glad to meet him, but his countenance fell when Waco called Trey his ‘mate.’  Buskin had hopes of more between him and Waco.  Trey saw it and smiled at him.

“Don’t fret none, young man.  I ain't got no collar around his neck.  He ain’t on no short leash.  He’s ma’ mate, but I ain’t neither no jailer nor no master to him.  If he ain’t making sweet love to one as outstandingly handsome as you when you’s alone together at school, then I bonded with the wrong cowboy.” Trey smiled and winked at him. “He ain’t experienced enough or ready to be no man’s daddy, but he shore’ ‘nuff can help you along the way until you find yore’self one.” he added.

“An alien what speaks cowboy lingo?” Buskin asked in amazement.

“I been around these cowboy yahoos too long, Son.  I done picked it up listening to them.  When in Rome you do your best to fit in.  Their language becomes comfortable.  It has a rolling gate to it much like the way they walk in them big boots they wear.” he grinned and pulled up his pant leg to show Buskin his huge buckaroo boots handcrafted by Montana Hayden and his merry band of hominids.  Buskin decided he liked the huge alien man.  He certainly didn’t want to be on his bad side.  He was built like a Sherman tank.  He could understand how Waco might fall in love with someone like him.  He was incredibly handsome and buffed to the nines.  Buskin thought it was silly of him to think about Waco that way.  The man he wanted would have to be older than Waco; although, he wouldn’t turn down a romp in the hay with his bubba if Waco offered.  Buskin didn’t suffer long.  He found his surrogate dad the minute he laid eyes on Charlie Goodnight.  It was love at first sight for both men.  It was like they felt the Earth move under their feet and the sky came tumbling down.  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind who the new man would be bunking it in with while at the ranch.  Buskin asked Waco if he would mind.

“Why would I mind?  Yore’ my little brother, ain’t cha’?  He’s ma’ dad but there’s enough of him to go around.  If he’s happy, I’m a happy camper.  If you offer my dad some comfort and you give and take from each other what you both need, I couldn’t approve more, little brother.”

“Ain’t he a little young to be yore’ dad, Waco?” Buskin asked.  Waco laughed.  

“He’s older’n he looks, bubba.  There’s things we know I ain’t told you about.  We know how to stop and reverse aging in humans and most animals.  While you’re here I’ll have our medical staff give you the long shot which will increase your age potential a hun'nert fold while maintaining your present age.”  

“You mean you folks live forever?” he asked in awe.

“Pert-damn near.  Our leader, who gimme’ my spaceship is over two thousand years old.  Talk about maturity; yet, he don’t look a day over forty.” Waco grinned.

* * * * * * *

Christmas eve came and a large contingency of men and several ladies wanted to make the journey with Waco and Buskin to his home to spend Christmas eve with the boys.  All eight dogs were allowed to go; the pups, including their parents Scraps and Happy.  They were told they didn’t have to keep quiet.  They could talk and play with the boys like they would anyone else.  Lucas got them together and they rehearsed several Christmas songs to perform for the folks.  They were in great voice.  Daddy Scraps sang bass.  Waco decided it was Christmas and the boys might enjoy a visit from his slave, Ox.  Ox was in full winter coat and practically flowed everywhere he went.  Waco dressed him up in his uniform of big boots and leather harness.  He looked like something out of Star Wars, and the boys insisted he must be a ‘Wookie.’

Charlie’s ranch van was packed.  The cowboy slave truck with extended work crew cab was packed and in the bed were the heavy sacks of toys and other goodies.  Lazarus drove the ranch van and Hank Morgan drove the cowboy slave truck.  They were followed by the ranch wagon and several other cars and trucks.  They kept it a surprise and didn’t tell anyone at the home they were coming.  The smallest of the boys, Kevin, told them his big brother Buskin wouldn’t forget him at Christmas.  He would be there.  They tried to tell him Buskin was visiting Captain Waco’s family for Christmas to ease his let down when Buskin didn’t show.  They had egg on their faces.  His hero did show with arms loaded with gifts.  Kevin kept a lookout for them.  They tried to call him away from the window several times, but he refused to leave.  He kept looking out the window when he finally saw the lights of the caravan.  

“He’s here!  He’s here!  They did come!  I told you so!  Buskin wouldn’t forget me at Christmas.” he crowed.

The others weren’t so sure, but they couldn’t deny there was a dozen or more vehicles arriving at the compound.  They walked out into the bitter cold night to see who these people were and sure enough, Kevin was right.  It was beginning to snow, and it was a picture postcard of the spirit of Christmas.  One doesn’t have to be a believer to enjoy the spirit of the season when humans seem to be at their very best and most giving.  It is a time of year when the spirit of peace and hope, which surpasses all understanding, dwells in the hearts of men everywhere.

“Buskin!  Buskin!  Waco!”  Kevin yelled.  Staff from the home took the presents from Buskin, and he opened his arms wide for his baby brother.  They hugged, kissed and cried in each other's arms.  “I knew you would come, big brother!”  Kevin said through his tears.

“Of course I came.  I couldn’t let my baby brother celebrate Christmas without me.  I want you to know that pony you gimme’ sits on my dresser at school.  Ever’ morning I pet him for good luck, and I think on how much I love my little brother what give him to me.”

“I knew he would bring you luck, Buskin.  I love you so much.”

“No more’n I love you, baby brother.  Now let’s us git in out of this cold.  It’s snowing jes’ for us for Christmas.” he allowed.

The home already received the massive crates of gifts for the boys and it took the staff days to go through and assign each present for the right boy.  Now they had four more enormous sacks to go through.  It didn’t matter, they were thrilled to have them and the visitors.  The boys went crazy over the talking pups and the staff were amazed.  Christmas was held in the main auditorium of the school and when the pups came on stage with their cowboy brother Lucas, the boys went crazy applauding.  Lucas set on the edge of the stage.  He was dressed in his full Western garb with his big buckaroo boots dangling over the edge.  He had three pups on either side and daddy Scraps behind them.  Over the years, Lucas took up playing the guitar and like everything else he did, he became a professional at it.  He was very good.  He strapped his fine guitar around his neck, tuned it a little, and strummed a few chords.  Then he started playing softly.  You could hear a pin drop the auditorium got so quiet.  In a clear country/Western cowboy voice Lucas began to sing ‘Silent Night.’  He was joined on the chorus by his companions in four part harmony.  Everyone was blown away including Buskin.  Waco put his arm around him and pulled him close.

“Merry Christmas, little brother.” he whispered.

“It is a very merry Christmas, big brother, thanks to you and your wonderful family.”

Christmas was a great success.  The staff claimed it was their finest Christmas on record.  They thanked the Goodnights and Buskin for making the trip and sharing part of their Christmas with them.  The boys didn’t want to let the pups or Ox go.  They each had to have one last hug and sloppy kiss from them.  The pups and the big furry beast seemed to make their Christmas all the more magical.

The Goodnights and the closest Grange members had their Christmas the next morning at Charlie and Waco’s house.  Waco told Buskin he wasn’t to get presents for anyone, but he made one small present for Waco.  It was a small semiprecious stone drilled on four sides with four gold tags on short gold chains attached to the four holes.  In the center, carefully inlayed into the stone was a perfect gold circle with another golden dot in the middle.  Waco recognized it immediately.

“How beautiful.  A god’s eye.” it was made with the greatest of care, expert craftsmanship, and it radiated love.  “What a treasure, little brother.  I will cherish this as much as you love Kevin’s pony.  Thank you.”

Waco and Buskin got matching pairs of handmade buckaroo boots that fit like a second skin made by Montana and his workers.  Monty called them his Aggie boot series.  They had Texas A&M carved in big letters down the side. The boot tops were dyed a rich, dark maroon with the eponymous letters in a stark white.  The bottoms were dyed a dark reddish-brown color to match the senior Aggie boot colors and buffed to a bright shine.  They were outstanding.  Waco and Buskin almost pissed their Wranglers when they opened the boxes.  They noticed their names were engraved inside each boot.  Buskin was astounded.  He got several cards with money, but he got material gifts as well.  Charlie bought him and Waco big black Stetsons in their sizes.  Buskin looked quite handsome in his.  When all the presents were handed out, Buskin was several thousand dollars richer and had more clothes and boots than he knew what to do with.  He was overwhelmed by the Goodnight family’s generosity.  

He spent several days with Waco touring the other Grange member’s ranches.  He was impressed but most blown away by the Potter/Goodnight ranch and their wonderful variety of people and critters.  He couldn’t believe his old cowboy heroes Rocky Lane and Ben Johnson were alive and well, living on the ranch.  He was even more astounded when he discovered they were bio-droid clones of his heroes.  He fell in love with Oblio, Dexter, Cody, and Pearl.  He became quiet fond of Captain Montana and his mate Ramrod Russell.  But he was most astounded when he was introduce to the big lummox who took up residency in Monty’s barn to be near his young ward, Oblio.  Buskin’s heart almost stopped when Captain Montana introduced Oblio’s companion and protector as ‘Droon.’

“Buskin?  Is it really you?” Droon asked in stilted English.

“Yes, it’s me.  Are you the same Droon I played with so many years ago?”

“I am.  I never forgot you.  I’ve loved you all these years.” he opened his huge arms.  Buskin went to the huge beast and cried in his arms.

“I never stopped loving you.  I never knew what happened to you, but I heard your voice from time to time.  I knew you were still alive, but then I stopped hearing you.  I was so worried you were dead.”

“No, I was taken to Mars for a while.  Captain Montana and the Grange rescued me from hunters who had me trapped.  I asked to come back to Earth to be another man’s baby’s wet nurse.  After a while they placed the child with a lummox family, and I was offered the job of being Oblio’s teacher and protector.  It’s so good to see you again and hold you in my arms.” he said sincerely.

“You can speak now.”

“Yes, I’ve been learning.  We have the ability, but most lummox don’t use it.  I want to become a part of the humans.  I want to become a part of you.  I heard your name mentioned several times, but never let myself believe it might be you.”

“And your folks?” Buskin asked.

“They’re well and living in the colony on Mars.  My dad would love to see you again.”

“I remember his sweet milk.” Buskin said. “Waco’s been sharing his with me.”

“Where do you think it comes from?”


“Yes, most of it.  My breast get too full sometimes.  I only feed Oblio when he needs some and other critters who need help, but it ain’t enough to keep me drained.  Captain Montana pumps it from me to send to you and Captain Waco.”  

“God, it’s so good to see you again and to know you’re all right.  I still love you, Droon.  I always will.”

“I know.  It is said the love between a lummox male and a human male is the strongest bond in the universe.  I think I believe it, Buskin.” he said with all sincerity.  They spent the afternoon together enjoying each other's company.  They walked hand in hand through the meadows and joined everyone watching Monty and Maxine put on a miraculous air show that astounded everyone.  Buskin confided in Droon he didn’t know if he was ready for all he was being witness to.

“I understand, my love, but take it one day at a time.  Trust in Captain Waco.  He will be your rock.  Don’t fail to offer yourself to him.  He will instruct you in the ways of love.  Then one day, when you’re ready, you will come to me, I will make love to you and make you pregnant with my bairn.  It might seem strange to you now, but you will come to love me as your husband and we will have many children and bairns together.” he boomed in his deep voice.  Buskin was shocked by the big beast’s words, but he was so taken Droon should want to share something so binding as family with him he was enthralled.

“I’ll have to think about it, Droon, but I understand from Waco it is possible.  It will take me some time to get used to the idea.” he conceded.

“Your love for me and mine for you will overcome all fears, Star Dancer.  I knew when we played together as youngsters I wanted you to have my bairns.  I still do.”

“Maybe that’s why I came to love you so much, Droon.”

“Take your time.  There’s no rush.  You will live a long life and so will I.  I’m here when you need me for any reason.  I will be the friend you always wanted, but I'm ashamed I left you alone without a word.  I had no choice.  My family was being tracked by hunters, and they were closing fast.  We escaped down into the badlands of Old Mexico.  There the natives treated us as distant cousins and left food out for us at night.”

Droon led Buskin away from the others and took him to his well hidden nest in the huge loft of Monty’s barn.  He offered Buskin his teat and the young cowboy couldn’t refuse.  As he drank, Droon slowly removed Buskin's clothing until they lay together naked.  It seemed to Buskin like the right thing to do.  Droon played with him until he became hard as a rock.  He stopped Buskin from sucking his teat and spoke softly to him.

“It’s my turn to take your milk, my sweet friend.”  

Before Buskin could protest the giant beast took his sizable penis within his great warm maw and began to suck Buskin with incredible power and sensitivity.  There was nothing the young man could do.  He didn’t want to do anything but give his great beast what he most wanted, a taste of his human friend.  Buskin wondered at Droon’s expertise.  How could he know how to pleasure him so greatly?  It didn’t matter, before he could think of an answer Droon had him to the point of no return.

“Oh, Droon!  Oh, god, I can’t hold it another second.  I love you, Droon!” Buskin yelled as he erupted into the giant’s mouth.  Droon sucked and sucked until Buskin became very sensitive and called for him to cease.  The big lummox stopped immediately.

“Am I suppose to return the favor, my love?” Buskin asked.

“No, absolutely not!  You’re not ready.  Not now anyway.  You need time.  I didn’t invite you to my nest to force myself on you.  I invited you here to share my milk with you; to pleasure you, and to show you my love.  Whatever happens between us must be your choice, little one.  I have no fear.  One day, you will become mine.  You will come to me, give yourself to me, and I will be your husband.” Droon gently kissed Buskin, and he responded in kind.

“I won’t say ‘no’ it won’t happen, Droon, but I will have to think about it.”

“Think all you want.  Talk with Master Charlie.  Talk with your cowboy brother, Waco.  Speak with Warren Steele, Lyle Cummings, and Commander Fielding.  I’ll be waiting for you when you decide you’re ready.”  Droon droned in his deep base voice while bussing a kiss on the back of Buskin’s neck.

* * * * * * *

The men chose to take the train back to school.  They thought they needed the time alone together to talk about the time they spent and all the new and wonderful things Buskin discovered.  They talked about many things including Buskin’s time with Waco’s dad.  Buskin was a virgin to sex of any kind.  He never had physical sex with another person male or female.  Charlie Goodnight was just the right man for the job of taking him for his first time.  Waco personally took Buskin under his wing and taught him how to prepare himself.  It made sense to Buskin and it made the experience all the more enjoyable for him.  When they finished, Buskin did as Waco instructed and cleaned himself and Charlie.  They lay together making love and talking with each other.  Buskin enjoyed Charlie so much he gave himself to him every night they bunked together.  The final night he talked with Charlie about Droon.

“I’m afraid the big beast is right, Son.  You will one day give yourself to him, and he will become your husband.  I’ve seen it happen too many times.  Once a lummox male and human male bond they will pair off and become mates for life.”

“What about Waco and Ox?” he asked.

“Is there any doubt in your mind?  My boy will one day have both Trey Vinceeth's sons and several bairns by Ox.  He’s bonded to both them creatures and they love him equally.  I don’t know how he plans to do it, but they ain’t worried.  If anyone can pull it off, no pun intended, my boy will.” Charlie chuckled.

“What about us, Mr. Goodnight?” he asked innocently.

“What we got is special.  You need a daddy until you can walk on your own in the world and take your place by your giant’s side.  I will gladly take care of you and love you until you’re ready to move on, but don’t think that’s the end.  You won’t never stop being ma’ boy, jes’ like Waco won’t never stop being mine.  I expect one day you might have my son or perhaps a daughter with that big giant.  It could happen.”

“As strange as it might sound, I think I’d like that, Sir.”

“The more you think on it, the better it’s gonna’ sound to you.  Then one day, you’ll know when you’re ready.”

* * * * * * *

The cowboys wore their new buckaroo boots and matching Stetson hats Charlie bought for them when they went back to school.  They caused a stir on campus when they returned.  Every man wanted to know where they got their boots, and if they could order a pair?  Waco gladly gave them his uncle’s address at the ranch and told them they could get price quotes from his business manager, Gil Morris.  Waco shared his world, and his large extended family with Buskin and showed him the wonders of the Grange and his close associations with other creatures.  Buskin’s mouth stayed open for several days.  Waco took him into space in his own spaceship to show him the coming of the end of their world.  Buskin was deeply troubled, but Waco took him to Mars and Venus to show him some hope for the future and another world.  Buskin wanted to know if he might be a part of this new world?

“You call me your brother, and I ain’t denying it.  That makes you a part of me, doe’nit?” Waco smiled at him.

“I hope so.” he replied.

“Then you’ve answered your question.  How could I leave my brother behind?  ‘Sides, my daddy’s done taken a shine to you, boy.  He’d shore’ ‘nuff  whup my butt.” he laughed, “Whether I love you or not, which I most certainly do, I got me a bona fide, certifiable, warshed in the blood, womb to tomb, cowboy brother.”  Waco laughed. “‘Sides, why on Earth, would I show you all this and not include you?  It would be pert-damn heartless of me.  It would be like me showing you a Christmas tree loaded with presents and tell’n you, you cain’t have none.” Waco teased him.

From that visit on, Buskin invited his brother to his bunk regularly.  While Waco was a fine lover, took from him and gave him what he needed, he just didn’t satisfy Buskin like his dad, Charlie.  Maybe it was because Charlie Goodnight was his first, but there was a spark Charlie had Waco lacked as a sex partner he could only equate to maturity.  Waco took him like a concerned brother.  Trey Vinceeth was right.  Waco was the best brotherly fuck Buskin might expect, but he wasn’t ready to become another man’s daddy.  Buskin wagered a man like Trey had the market cornered on being a man’s daddy.  He thought he would have to be to keep a man like Waco Goodnight satisfied.  He laughed at Ms. Myra’s gig about Waco having enough alien giz up his butt.  Charlie Goodnight took him like it was his due as his dad or as much as Buskin hated the thought, as his master.  It was a psychological ploy Charlie learned from Lazarus.  Lazarus was a good teacher, and Charlie was a willing student.  He learned well from the master.  It was the spark Buskin craved and could only get from Charlie Goodnight, his surrogate dad.  He returned to Charlie’s bed every chance he got and became more involved with his beloved lummox friend.  A wonderful new world opened for him, and he was more happy than he ever was in his life.  For once he had family.  A real family.  One he wanted to belong to, but he never forgot his roots and returned often to help and encourage his younger brothers.

* * * * * * *

Waco and Buskin played ball together for four years and won the Southwest Conference Championship four years in a row.  It was an unheard of feat.  A&M rose in the standing and everyone wanted to come to College Station to play ball with the greatest team in college football history.  They got the cream of the crop and became invincible.  JR decided he wanted to follow in his big brother’s boot-steps and their junior year he joined the team.  He continued Waco’s winning streak with his high school team.  He was the most outstanding high school athlete in the state his senior year.  He won the Heisman trophy his first two years at A&M.  Lazarus and Charlie laughed at Hank Morgan.  They swore his boots never touched the ground for two years.  Ida Mae was beyond thrilled.  Charlie made sure she and Hank never missed a game.  When JR returned home and gave his dad his trophies each year he won the Heisman, the old cowboy couldn’t speak.  JR reminded him of his promise he made to him several years before.  Hank agree, it was about time.   

Their last two years, they were invited to play in the Rose Bowl where they defeated the number one team USC both times.  Waco Goodnight, Buskin Namid, and JR Goodnight became household words.  Sports writers, announcers and pundits all came to the same conclusion, Goodnight and Namid could read each other's minds.  Then they would laugh about how ridiculous the thought was.  It wasn’t so ridiculous to Buskin and Waco.  Their team members were quite sure of it.  Although the state became tainted by bad and ignorant political figures, the men were proud of their Texas cowboy heritage and wore their Western clothes to all interviews and TV appearances.  They did their best to present a good image for their state.  They achieved some success.  The nation loved them and the Texas Aggie team.  They had offers from every pro ball team in the nation.  They could write their own tickets and become the wealthiest ball players in the history of football, but they respectfully declined all offers.  They had other plans.  Both men graduated with honors and planned to continue their medical school careers together, but it didn’t work out that way.

End of Chapter 74 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2008 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com
Proofed:  01/16/10

*Iron Man Football ~ only enough men for one complete team.  They have to play both offense and defense the whole game.

Chief Ketemoczy.  A small town in Mason County, Katemcy, Texas is named after the great chief.   Actor Dewey Martin who was once married to Peggy Lee is from Katemcy.