Rural Love

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Rural LoveChapter 1Billllllllleeeeee!I heard the yell of my Aunt Paulette clear out to the barn. She and myUncle Nick had taken to raising me after my mom and dad died. It wasn’t agood memory.At least Mom and Dad died together. All I had was a mess of memories anda lot of nightmares to show for our house burning down and taking themaway from me.The metal of the wood stove burned through, and the hot coals landed onthe floor. The problem was, I had thrown buckeyes in it, and I feltguilty as hell. Maybe they would have lived had them buckeyes not gottenthrown in there.Everybody told me it wasn’t my fault and the stove would’ve burnedthrough no matter what. But, I could tell how people really thought. Isaw them when I walked into the church. All the eyes were on me, and theyall thought I was a murderer, or, What kind of person would do that totheir own parents? They said I lived because I was the furthest away.Me, I didn’t mean to do it. Heck, I was meaning to have some fun. I’ddone it before and the way everyone jumped when they popped made foreveryone getting scared and then laughing afterwards. Only this time, noone was laughing. They were all dressed in their Sunday’s finest andlaying up there in them closed caskets .When the funeral was over, my Aunt Paulette and Uncle Nick took me in.They were nice, but I could tell they blamed me. Both were real quiet andwould whisper when I left the room.My Aunt Paulette thought they should take me to a shrink. I didn’t needno shrink, I needed to be taken out somewhere and ran down with a brushhog and chopped up into little pieces.So, rather than sit and listen to them whisper, I went out to the barn.After not coming when my aunt yelled, my Uncle Nick came out and walkedcautiously into the barn. He saw my tear stained cheeks and said, “Billy,your aunt called, didn’t you hear her?” The tone of his voice told me hefelt sorry for me.I said, “Uncle Nick, she’s just calling me for supper, and I don’tdeserve to eat. I just deserve to die. So, if you’ll just start thattractor up over there, I’ll lay down and you just run over me with thebrush hog.” I began to cry real hard.He looked at me and said, “Billy, it…wasnt….your……fault.” He saidit slow and deliberate like, like he really meant it.All I heard was “You….killed….my….sister!” I started crying harderand he hugged me to him.He knelt down so he was looking me in the eye and said, “Billy, we knowyou threw buckeyes into the wood stove. I told your daddy that thing wasgoing to burn through. We were going to go on Saturday and get you all anew one that would’ve been better. So, if anyone is to blame, it’s mebecause I didn’t want to go get it right then. If I had, the buckeyeswouldn’t have done a thing to it.”I looked at him and really cried hard now feeling sorry for him.He said, “Billy, sometimes, things happen and there’s not a thing we cando. All we can do is to try to be better people afterwards. I love youand Paulette loves you, so let’s go in and eat and then we’ll talk somemore after supper.”I walked with him and he held me real close to him. I had a head achefrom crying and snot was running out of my nose. I wiped it off with mysleave and he said, “Billy, when we get inside, I’ll wash your face andthen we’ll get you an aspirin. It should make you feel better. I’ve gotme a whale of a headache going too.”How he knew I had a headache, I’ll never know, but I’m glad he knew.When we got inside, Aunt Paulette took a look at me and came over to hugme.Uncle Nick said, “Hon, Billy’s blaming himself just like I am. I told himit’s nobody’s fault and that things just happen. So, we’re going to washhim up, and get us an aspirin, and then we’ll eat your fine supper.”She smiled and patted me on the back as I walked by her. I could smellhomemade biscuits from the oven.We went to the sink and he took a washcloth out. The coolness against myskin felt nice and afterwards, he poured us some milk and gave me anaspirin. I stood looking at him and together, we drank our milk.Afterwards, I couldn’t help but smile because he had a milk mustache justlike me.He laughed and said, “Billy, we’re going to get through this, andhopefully, you’ll find that one day you’re glad you live here. Right now,a lot of decisions are needing made for you, but those will settle wheneveryone gets used to the situation.”We went over to the table and I saw Aunt Paulette had my favorite, friedchicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and biscuits. I liked friedchicken and proudly reached for a drumstick.My aunt smiled and said, “Billy, let’s say grace and then you can eat allyou want.”During grace, I thought about my mama and daddy being in heaven and said,”God, please tell my mama and daddy, I love them. I know they can hearme, but I want you to tell them I’m sorry so they know it’s true.”My aunt dabbed her eyes, and my Uncle Nick had tears in his eyes too. Ididn’t care if they heard me, I just wanted mom and dad to know I wassorry.After supper, my Uncle Nick said, “Billy, we’re going to town tomorrow asI’ve got to pick up some supplies. Afterwards, we’ll go to the livestockauction as I want to pick out some calves. Would you like to go with me?”I nodded as I liked the livestock auction. All the a****ls were neat.They had horses, cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, and even goats!I then asked to go outside and my Uncle Nick went with me. He hugged meas we walked and said, “Billy, your mama and daddy had quite a bit ofmoney invested. They also had a lot of insurance and that farm over therehad owner’s insurance on it too. Now, you’re too young to run it, so Iwas thinking that we put some livestock on it and that would be youroperation. I’ll help you run it and we can hire someone to work it. Youdon’t have to if you don’t want, but letting that land go to waste isn’tsomething that should be done.”I looked up at him and said, “Uncle Nick, that farm’s yours. Mama told methe land came from Grandad and you should’ve gotten it when he died. Shenever felt right about them getting it instead of you.”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, the farm is yours. My dad thought your mamashould’ve had it, so he willed it to them. He willed me money with whichPaulette and I bought this one. Fortunately, it was up for sale and itwas so close to that farm, I was happy. I always enjoyed living close tothem and not once did I hold a grudge it wasn’t left to me. You’ll findyour mom and I thought different on things.”I looked at him and said, “Uncle Nick, you do whatever you see fit. I’mnot old enough to run a farm and it’s not fair you now have to run two.So, you do with it what you want and take the money from it as yours.You’re raising me and that’s enough.”My Uncle Nick smiled and said, “Billy, we’re raising you because wewanted you. Paulette and I haven’t been blessed with k**s, and some day,the way I see it, this farm will be yours too.”I looked at him and said, “Uncle Nick, what if I don’t want to be afarmer. What if I want to go to the city and be a hellion?”He laughed real loud and said, “Billy, do you know what a hellion is?”I said, “Well it must be fun because they sure do get on t.v. a lot!Everytime they’d be on the television, my daddy would turn the channeland would say, ‘Them hellions are taking over the television.’ So, oneday, I asked him where the hellions were and he told me in the cities. Ifigure I’d like to go see some.”My Uncle Nick said, “Billy, your daddy thought that anyone who didn’tbelieve as he did were hellions. I’m sure he found hellions right here inour little town.”I looked at him wide eyed and said, “Really? Could I meet one?”He laughed again and said, “Billy, I’m sure you’ll meet people in yourlife you’ll think are hellions and you don’t need to be runnin’ ’roundchasin’ your daddy’s.”I got quiet and thought about it and said, “You’re probably right. I’lljust have to find my own.”We walked to the creek and he said, “Billy, is it o.k. if I invest thatmoney of yours in some more farm land?”I said, “Uncle Nick, that would be fine. Mom said land was the bestinvestment because no one could take it away and it wouldn’t be fritteredaway like some people do buying all them things.”He said, “What I’m going to do is start putting your money into landaround here and then when it’s time for you to do what you want in life,it will be worth more. Right now, land isn’t going for as high here as itis in other parts of our state. The only reason for that is the roadsaren’t that good. I’ve heard talk they’re buying up land over nearCharlotte to build a super mega highway, so then the roads will bereaching somewhere and people will want the land more. With the moneyyou’ve got, you should be setting on quite a nest egg when that timecomes.”I said, “Uncle Nick, what happens when that kind of egg hatches? I’m notgoing to be raising no fowl am I?”He laughed and said, “Billy, you won’t think it’s foul at all when thatday comes.”We began walking back to the house. I said, “Uncle Nick, couldn’t you andAunt Paulette adopt?”He said, “Billy, we had talked about it, and then this happened. So, wedid get someone. We got you. I think you’re enough.”I said, “Well keep it in mind because with me sitting on some egg waitinon it to hatch, I’m gonna be busy.”He laughed again and said, “Billy, you’ll be busy alright.”I said, “Uncle Nick, can I tell you something?”He said, “Sure.”I said, “You promise it won’t go further…dead man’s promise?”He smiled and said, “Yeah, I promise.”I said, “No, you gotta promise the dead man’s promise, or I can’t tellyou.”He said, “Billy, I promise the dead man’s promise.”I said, “Uncle Nick, I think I like boys in front of girls.”He looked at me strange and said, “What do you mean Billy?”I said, “Well, at school, I like looking at boys…not girls.”He nodded and said, “Billy, when I was your age, girls weren’t myfavorite either.”I looked at him and said, “Really!”He said, “Really…now you gotta promise to not say anything about thateither. Because now, I like Paulette, so maybe someday some girl willsweep you off your feet like she did me.”I said, “So, did boys give you a funny feeling?”He said, “Billy, you’re too young for me to talk to this way, but sinceyou asked the question, no, they didn’t.”I said, “Oh, well they do me…especially Bobby.”He smiled and said, “Well, Bobby probably likes you too.”I said, “No, Bobby likes Sally, he doesn’t even know I’m alive.”Uncle Nick said, “Well, Bobby probably isn’t the one for you then.”I said, “Uncle Nick?”He said, “Yeah hon.”I said, “Thanks for not thinking I’m strange.”He laughed and said, “Billy, you’re not strange at all. You’re just a k**growing up and getting used to things.”I said, “Well, hopefully one day, I’ll be used to them then.”He said, “Billy, I’ll let you in on something. I’m older and I’m not evenused to everything yet.”I said, “Well, maybe you’ll get used to them after a while.”He laughed and said, “Billy, when that day comes, I’ll tell you know andthat way it won’t be such a secret.”I said, “O.k.”When we got back to the house, Aunt Paulette said, “Billy, you need to gotake a bath.”I said, “Can I take a shower?”She smiled and said, “Yes, you can take a shower.”I ran into the bedroom and got some of my Tonkas and then ran to theshower. I liked taking showers because I could play with my Tonkas in it.No one would let me go out in the rain, but they’d let me play in theshower, so I liked showers.When I got to the shower, I began to play and my Uncle Nick said, “Billy,you need to wash your hair and body before you play. After that, you canplay all you want.”I said, “O.k.” and then washed my hair. I figured the water would wash mybody. I played Tonkas until the water got too cold. I shut it off andthen got the towel down from the rod which was mine and began drying off.My Uncle Nick came in and said, “Billy, here’s your p.j.s, so put them onand you won’t be so cold.”I took them and began putting them on. My Uncle Nick said, “Billy, you’rea good k**. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not.”I said, “Well, Uncle Nick, you’re a good uncle too…so, don’t let anyonetell you you’re not.”We went to the living room and I saw Uncle Nick had lit a fire in thefireplace. For a brief moment I thought about buckeyes and began crying.Uncle Nick hugged me close and said, “Billy, I’m sorry.”I said, “Uncle Nick, it’s not your fault. I just thought about puttingbuckeyes in the fire.”He hugged me close and said, “Billy, let’s save the buckeyes for thefires outside. O.k.?”I nodded and he said, “Maybe tomorrow night, we’ll build a fire outsideand roast hot dogs and marshmallows. O.k.?”I nodded and he said, “Billy, when you get a chance, we’ll go getbuckeyes and we’ll throw them in the fire together. That way, you’ll seethey’re still fun.”I never heard him all the way, I’d fallen asleep.Chapter 2:The next morning, I found myself in bed between Aunt Paulette and UncleNick. I felt warm and cozy and liked the feeling of being hugged allaround.I had to go pee, but being in betwen them, I couldn’t figure out a way togo to the bathroom without waking up them.I decided there were two ways to go. I could either come up out of thecovers or slide down the covers. Either one would do, but all I knew wasI had to pee so something had to be done. I decided to come up out of thecovers.Someplace on my way up, I didn’t realize me sliding up wasn’t working sogood. It made a lot of movement, and they were getting restless.Just about the time my butt was up to their pillows, my Uncle Nick wokeup. He looked up at me and siad, “Billy, what are you doing?”I said, “I have to pee, so instead of waking you up, I decided to climbup and out of the covers. Well, I made it this far and you woke up.”He sleepily said, “Come out this way, and whatever you do don’t wake upPaulette.”Well, that was the wrong thing because the combination of us talking andus moving, Aunt Paulette woke up. She said, “What are you all doing?”I ran off to the bathroom while Uncle Nick explained what we were doing.When I came back in, they were snuggled up together and Uncle Nick pattedthe bed beside him.He said, “Billy, you lay down here and I’ll lay in the middle. That way,your moving around won’t wake up Paulette.”I lay down and he put his arm around me and suddenly I could feel hiswarmth envelope me. In no time at all, I was back to sleep.Later, I was woken up by movement in the bed. Apparently they were wakingup and were moving to get out of it. I started to get up and Uncle Nicksaid, “You go ahead and go back to sleep. Paulette and I are going to getour showers and get breakfast made. We’ll wake you up in time to getready, o.k.?”I answered with snores probably because I was already back to sleep.When I was awoke later, Uncle Nick said it was time for breakfast. I wentto the bathroom, and then went into my room to get clothes which weren’tmine, but someone had donated to me. Mine weren’t any good anymore due tothe fire making everything smell like smoke.I put the outfit on, and then headed to the dining room where AuntPaulette had everyone an omelette made with slices of ham and hashbrowns. I took my toast and began slathering it with a whole lot of peachpreserves. My Uncle Nick smiled at me and said, “You got enough therebud? I can go down and get you another jar if you’d like.I smiled and said, “This stuff is good!”Aunt Paulette came in and we had fresh made biscuits. I looked at thepiece of toast I had in my hand and said, “Why are we having buscuits andI’m having toast?”She smiled and said, “I made you toast so you would be able to get thehead start on us you usually want to do. I figured it would tide you overuntil we had the biscuits ready. It worked, so you finish that toast andthen you can have a fresh biscuit.”I smiled and said, “Thanks Aunt Paulette.”She paused me and said, “Let’s say grace so we can all eat.”I bowed my head and grace was said. Then we began to eat. I made it apoint to tell Aunt Paulette how good everything tasted. She smiled andthanked me for my compliment.After breakfast, Uncle Nick and I went to the barn and began to get feedout for the cattle. We were a beef operation which meant no milking hadto be done. I did pick up a bottle to feed a couple of calves and uncleNick smiled at me. He said, “Today, you can pick out yourself a heard ofcows and we’ll get them on your property over there. Your daddy wasmeaning to go to this auction today to get a few head, so he’d be happyyou can get some.”Him bringing up my daddy made me sad and tears come to my eyes, but I didmy best not to show it. My uncle Nick said, “Billy, you can cry all youwant and I’m not going to say anything. I know there’s going to be timesin which I think of them and cry myself.”I said, “Uncle Nick, it’s just that they weren’t old like everyone issupposed to be when they die. Momma told me she wouldn’t die until theywere old, and now I just feel so guilty.”He said, “Billy, please don’t feel guilty. I feel guilty too, but youknow that accidents happen and no one intended for it to happen. It’sjust that something bad happened, and your momma and daddy aren’t hereanymore. You know they’d be here if they could, but we don’t ever counton something like this happening. To make a point, I’ll ask you this.Would you have put the buckeyes in the stove if you’d known this wasgoing to happen?”I said, “No uncle Nick!”Tears came to my eyes and then he said, “You’re right. You wouldn’t havebecause you’re a good boy. Just like I would have went and gotten thatnew wood stove if I’d have known it would burn through as fast as it did.It happened and that’s all I can say. Your daddy knew it was bad, but hedidn’t do anything either. So, does that make him a bad person? No. Hethought it wouldn’t burn through as fast as it did either. So, when wethink of them, we feel for them because we wish we could have donesomething different, but we couldn’t. It was one of those things whichhappened and we can’t change.”I hugged him and he said, “Let’s get these cows fed and then go to town.”I could tell he was looking sadder by the minute and I really wanted tohelp him. I didn’t like it when people around me were sad.When we got done feeding, we went to the house and got washed up. UncleNick gave me a hat and a bandana. He said, “Billy, you’re getting thesebecause you’re going to be around the livestock today. If you get yourhands dirty, you can wipe them off on the bandana instead of having torun to a bathroom. The hat is so your hair doesn’t get covered withanything that might fly about.”I chuckled and said, “Uncle Nick, you’re funny.”He smiled and said, “No, I’m tall and you’re down closer to the actionlittle guy, so I want to protect you all I can.”Aunt Paulette had walked into the room and smiled. She said, “Nick, youcould protect him more by not letting him that close to those a****ls.”Nick said, “Honey, you’ve never been a boy. Boys tend to go where they’renot supposed to go, so thinking in advance, I’m doing what I can so Billydoesn’t have to ride in the bed of the truck all the way home.”She laughed and said, “Never the mind, he’s not going to ride backthere.”Uncle Nick started to say something, but a firm look by her told himotherwise.We went out to the truck and I noticed he had the stock trailer hooked tothe truck. He said, “Billy, yours will be hauled out here by semi, so youget any you think you’ll need.”I said, “Uncle Nick, I’ve never bought anything like that, so I don’tknow how many I should think about getting.”He said, “I’ll let you know when you’re getting close to getting enough.So, don’t worry. You just get the one’s you think you’d like to have onthe farm.”I said, “Uncle Nick, would you help me? I don’t know what kind are thebest.”He smiled and said, “Billy, what I think are the best and what otherswould think are the best would probably be too different opinions.”I said, “Well, I’m going to agree with you on whatever kind they are, sodon’t worry.”He said, “Billy, when we get there, we’ll have to get you an auctionaccount. They might balk at signing you up, but I’ll sign behind yourname. That’s your farm over there, and it’s your money, so if they don’tlike those apples, we’ll go someplace else.”I said, “Daddy had a auction account, couldn’t we sign me onto it?”He said, “I’ll check, but I’m not sure if they’ll allow it.”We got to town and Aunt Paulette got dropped off at her momma’s house.She kissed Uncle Nick goodbye and then gave me hugs. She looked at me andsaid, “Billy, you get yourself the best money can buy and don’t hold backon cost.”I nodded and hadn’t thought of it before she said it, but I didn’t evenknow how much a cow cost, or how much I had to buy them with.We got to the auction barn and the smells instantly excited me. A lot ofpeople are probably repulsed by the smells, but to me, I knew it was neatto see all those different sorts of a****ls in one spot.As we walked around, a lot of the men in the group spoke with Uncle Nick.He told them he was here to get a few head for himself and that we weresetting up myself a heard. More than a few times, I heard the wordsbrangus and limousine (not as in car, but lime o sun as in breed of cow)being mentioned. They must’ve been a good kind of cows because everyonementioned them.As we walked into the barn area, I said, “Uncle Nick, show me the Brangusand Limousine, everyone mentioned them and I want to see why they thinkthey’re so good.”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, they are real heavy breeds of cattle. The breedsare great producers of beef and everyone pays top dollar when they goback to sell.”I said, “Uncle Nick, until Aunt Paulette mentioned cost, I never thoughtabout the cost. How much do they cost and how much do I have to spend?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, the cost of a cow varies. There are a lot ofways a cow can cost a different price. If one’s pregnant, it will costmore than one that isn’t. If you are buying a bull, it will cost themost. The best thing I’ll tell you is look for a real good bull and quitea few open heffers. Open means she’s ready to breed.”I said, “How much do they cost?”He said, “Well, a bull will cost quite a bit. The heffers will cost about$500 each.”I said, “That’s a lot!”He said, “Billy, yeah it’s a lot, but you’ve got enough money to notworry about it.”I said, “How much do I have to spend?”He said, “Billy, you’ve got enough money to easily buy every a****l hereand then probably about 3 times more, so don’t worry about cost.”I said, “That’s a lot!”He smiled and said, “You can thank your daddy on having so muchinsurance.”I looked down and he said, “Billy, don’t feel sad. He had that insurancebecause he wanted you and your momma to not have to worry about a thingif he should die. He just didn’t count on her dying too.”I said, “I understand and now he’s taking care of the farm with thatinsurance money.”Uncle Nick nodded and said, “Billy, we have to look at the a****ls. Wedon’t want any that are sick.”We looked at the cows and every one of them looked healthy. There was oneUncle Nick didn’t like the look of something about her and he made a noteto mark it’s number in a little spiral notebook he had with him.We then went over to look at bulls and when we got there, Uncle Nick toldme, “Billy, these are really dangerous so don’t go near the fence anddon’t be climbing on the fences like you did over there.”I said, ” O.k.”We got there and they all looked the same. There was one that just lookedway bigger than all the rest. Uncle Nick pointed at it and said, “Billy,that’s the bull you want. Now, if they have any who are sons of thatbull, we’ll look at them, but that’s the one we’ll bid on the most.”I nodded and said, “Why do we want that one?”He said, “The way it carries and the sizing of it is what’s going to earnyou money. It’s c***dren will carry it’s traits and make them bigger thanthe other ones will.”I said, “How much does a bull cost?”He said, “Billy, this one is going to cost a lot more. Don’t be surprisedif it goes for 35 to 50.”I said, “Dollars!”He said, “No, thousand.”I said, “Oh, that’s a lot huh?”He smiled and said, “Yeah, it’s a lot. But you want it because thebloodline will get you more money in the future.”I said, ” O.k., then that’s fine.”I noticed a lot of people around the pen and all were talking about thebull and it made me proud we’d made the decision to get it.We then walked over to another section and I saw some buffalo. I made myway over to pet a calf and said, “Can I get one Uncle Nick?”Uncle Nick smiled and said, “If you’d like, but don’t get too many ofthem.”I said, “I only wanted one.”He smiled and said, “Billy, have you ever heard of beefalo?”I said, “No.”He said, “It’s where they breed a cow with a buffalo. The meat is thebest of all of them.”I said, “Oh really?”He said, “Yeah, I was thinking about starting a string of them to see ifwe could do any good.”I said, “Well, which would you get?”He said, “I’d be female buffalo and then pay you to use your bull.”I said, “You don’t have to do that Uncle Nick.”He said, “Billy, that’s the way business is done.”I said, “Well, how about we consider the use of my bull payment for youtaking care of me.”Apparently, Uncle Nick didn’t like what I said. He said, “Billy, comehere son. Please don’t ever think I’m going to ever charge you a thing tolive with us. And, please don’t ever think you’ve got to pay a dime.Paulette and I are doing this because we want to. We’re getting just asmuch enjoyment from you living with us as you are living there.”I nodded and said, “Uncle Nick, I don’t want you to think you ever haveto pay me a thing to use that bull. You’re telling me families do foreach other, and then you’re telling me you want to pay me. Now, if I’mnot to pay you and you’re to pay me, how stupid is that?”He smiled and said, “One is business Billy, and the other isn’t.”I said, “Uncle Nick, don’t think I’ll take a dime from you…that’s theend of that conversation.” I was upset with him and I hoped he knew it.We walked over to another area and he began looking at cattle. Theyweren’t the same kind and I said, “Uncle Nick, why are you looking atthese kinds of cows?”He said, “Billy, these are the ones I’m going to get for our farm.”I said, “Why are you getting these?”He said, “Billy, I don’t have enough money to afford the ones you aregetting.”I looked at him and said, “Uncle Nick, you’re telling me that I’ve gotall that money and you don’t have enough for you to get the kind youwant, so why don’t you use some of my money to get the kind you want?”He said, “Billy, that’s your money and this is my money.”I said, “Well, Uncle Nick, you said that one day your farm would be mine,now when I get it, I’ll be putting on the kind of cattle which are thebest, so why don’t you just save us time and money and go ahead and getthem. You just put the money you were going to use in with my money andwe’ll get them together.”He smiled and said, “Billy, are you sure?”I looked at him like he was nuts. I said, “Uncle Nick, if I didn’t haveenough money to get a matchbox car, would you give me enough to get theone I wanted?”He said, “Yeah, but it’s not the same Billy.”I said, “Yeah it is. You’re just making it more difficult.”He smiled and ruffled my hair and said, “I’ll do it, but your AuntPaulette is going to have our hides over this. You know that, don’t you?”I said, “Uncle Nick, just don’t mention it and she’ll not worry.”He said, “Billy, she’s the one that looks over all the bills, there’s noway I can’t mention it to her.”I said, “Uncle Nick, then I’ll just go in and have a talk with her. Youtwo just make things difficult.”We walked over to get our numbers and Uncle Nick began speaking with theguy about getting my number. The guy didn’t think he could give me anumber. He said, “Why don’t you buy the k**’s cow and then have his dadsort it out with you when he gets home.”My uncle Nick said real loud, “Man, if you were paying attention to thename, you’d see this k**’s parents just died. He’s living with me and mywife and he’s setting up his own farm. If I do that, the tax man would beall over me. Now, if his money isn’t any good here, then mine isn’teither.” Several guys standing around said their’s wasn’t either.The guy said, “It’s an awful lot of work for just a few dollars.”Uncle Nick said, “Well apparently, you misunderstood me because this k**is going to be spending a few hundred thousand dollars here today.”After he said that, it suddenly got quiet in the room. The man who wasspeaking looked sick and everyone else looked at Uncle Nick with wideeyes.I looked up at Uncle Nick and said, “See what I told you. Adults makethings more complicated that they should.”Uncle Nick chuckled and suddenly everyone else started chuckling too. Theman behind the desk said, “I’ll use his daddy’s tax number and it shouldbe alright. You really need to get with the state and get that changed.”Uncle Nick nodded and said, “I’ll get right on that tomorrow. Today,we’re spending the day here getting him everything he wants. The least Ican do is to see he’s happy and set up in business to take care of thatfarm.”When we left that office, I had my own number. #008. Uncle Nick smiledand said, “Billy, that number was my daddy’s number when he was doingbusiness here. I think it was his daddy’s number too. What I know is theystarted doing business here before anyone else did in this parts. I’mglad you got that number because it belongs to your farm.”I smiled and said, “Our farm Uncle Nick.”Uncle Nick said, “It’s your farm Billy. I’m just helping you.”I was going to argue further, but about that time, I saw a k** my agewalk through that took my attention. Uncle Nick saw me looking andsmiled. He said, “Billy, is that the boy you were telling me about?”I smiled and said, “No, I don’t know who he is, but man, he’s someone Iwant to get to know.”Uncle Nick laughed and said, “Well, how about you go over and introduceyourself. I’ll stay right here and get us good seats.”I went the direction of where I saw the k** go and saw he was out by thebull pens. I followed him and he went to where everyone was standinglooking at the bull I was going to buy. He didn’t have any parents aroundhim, and immediately he jumped up on the fence.I was standing right behind him and saw the bull look in our direction. Isaid, “Get down from there, that bull will get you.”He looked at me and was just saying, “That bull isn’t….”When I yanked him back. The bull had turned and had ran at the fence.The k** looked at me wide eyed and I said, “I told you he would. Now stayaway from the fence. He’s mean.”The k** said, “Thanks, I thought I was a goner there for a second.”I said, “I wouldn’t have let that happen. My name’s Billy, what’s yours?”He said, “My name’s Michael. People call me Junior. My parent’s call meMike.”Right then and there, Jr. became the most beautiful name in the world tome. I said, “Jr., you like that bull?”He said, “Do I? That bull is awesome!”I said, “I’m going to buy that bull.”He said, “You mean your dad’s going to buy that bull, don’t you?”I said, “No, I’m buying that bull. My uncle and I are buying me a heardand we’re going to put it on the farm I just inherited because my parentsdied. So, it will be mine.”He said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”I said, “Oh, you didn’t. You didn’t know.”He smiled and I said, “See those cows over there, I’m buying them.”He said, “My dad raised them cows and we’re selling them. I hope you getthem though because they’re real good. It’s just that when my dad getsthem sold, we’re going to be moving because the man who owns the farmdoesn’t want to raise cows no more.”I looked at him and said, “Who’s your dad?”He said, “My dad’s up front. His name’s Michael Johnson too.”I said, “Oh, well, let’s go tell my uncle because he’s looking forsomeone to take care of the cattle I’m buying. Maybe we can get your dadto working on my farm?”I started walking towards where we were seated and had totally forgottenabout Jr. When I got back to Uncle Nick, I said, “Uncle Nick, his name’sJr. His daddy is looking for work. The man who is his boss doesn’t wantto raise cattle anymore. Do you think we could talk with him aboutworking my farm?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, we don’t have a house over there for them tolive in yet.”I said, “Well, maybe we could get one built for them. Would you talk withhim? Most of the cattle we’re looking at for me he raised, so he knowshow to raise good cattle.”Uncle Nick said, “Oh really. Well, that would be Mike Johnson then. Igrew up with him. He’s taking care of that place those city slickersbought. Those are some good cattle. Yes, I’ll talk with him.”I looked behind me to see where Jr was to tell him, but I saw himstanding over by a man talking real excited. The man looked like himenough to be his dad, so I pointed towards them and told Uncle Nick.Uncle Nick nodded and then did some sort of whistle. Suddenly Jr’s dadreturned the whistle. He looked over towards us and then smiled real big.In no time at all, he was over shaking Uncle Nick’s hand and giving himhuge bear hugs.Uncle Nick said, “Mike! How are you doing?” He looked really happy to seeJr’s dad and Jr’s dad looked really happy to see him.Mike said, “Nick, my son said you all were going to be buying thosecattle and that you were looking for someone to run a farm.”Uncle Nick said, “Yeah, Billy right here is Jenny’s son, you rememberJenny don’t you?”Mike said, “Yeah, I’m sorry to hear about what happened. Such a tragedy.”Uncle Nick said, “Yeah, we’re going to miss them, but the reason we’rehere today is to get Billy set up with that farm over there so it willmake him money. I heard you raised the cattle we’re looking to buy, so Iknow they’re good head.”Mike said, “They’re all good, but one of them isn’t going to bring much.She’s old and she’s not fit for much.”I knew that was the one which Uncle Nick had written into the book.Mike said, “You going into breeding, or inseminating?”Uncle Nick said, “He’s going into breeding. He really likes the lookat Ragin’ Dawn out there.”Mike said, “That’s the best bull I’ve seen in this whole area.”Uncle Nick said, “Yeah, he wants that bull because he wants the bestblood line in this whole area.”Mike said, “With those cattle, he’d have a real fine head start.”Uncle Nick said, “Mike, could you work for him? He’ll pay you what you’reworth and since it’s going to be basicly a start up, you could do thingsthe way you want with no restrictions. Right now, there’s not much overthere which I think he should keep. It’s not been much since our granddaddy’s ran their farms.”Mike said, “How much is going to be in tillage and how much in thegrazing?”Uncle Nick said, “Well, there’s approximately 1600 acres, but it’s splita thousand for grazing and the rest for tillage. The rest of what wasfed was bought.”Mike nodded and said, “How many head is he going to run?”Uncle Nick said, “He’s going to run 250 for now, but we’re going to bebuying him more land. A lot more land. His dad left him with enoughinsurance money, he’ll never have to worry again.”Mike nodded and said, “That was good. I never knew who Jenny married, butI never made my way over on that side of the area after my dad sold hisfarm.”Uncle Nick said, “Yeah, I wish he’d let you have it and then you couldhave gotten to know everyone.”Mike nodded and said, “Well, that’s all water under the bridge. You knowhow he was, and I’m just glad he retired to New Mexico. We’re all betteroff.”Jr said to me, “Do you want to get a Coke?”I said, “Sure, let me tell my uncle so I can get some money.”I went over to Uncle Nick and said, “Jr and I are going to go get a coke.May I have some money so I can get some lunch?”He nodded and said, “Here’s your money, don’t spend it all in one place.”He gave me a twenty. I was amazed and knew there’d be no way I couldspend it all there.Jr and I ran to the snack shop and found ourselves a seat. Just as soonas we sat down, the waitress came over to take our orders. Jr ordered andthen I did. He ordered a cheeseburger and french fries. I took a look atthe menu and then ordered chicken strips with ranch sauce. He looked atme funny and said, “You want chicken when you can have a cheeseburger?”I said, ” I like chicken and the ranch dipping sauce makes it evenbetter. I’d like to have chicken breast strips made into a sandwich withranch dressing and swiss cheese.”The waitress heard and said, “I’ll get that for you hon.”I smiled real big at her and said, “Could I get some of that pie overthere?”She said, “Which one?”I pointed and she said, ” O.k., I’ll bring it with your order.” She thensaid, “What would you like to drink doll?”I blushed and said, “I’ll take iced tea without sugar in a tall glass.Not much ice.”Ordering made me feel important.Jr said, “I sure do hope my dad comes to work over at your farm. It’d beneat to live near you.”I nodded and said, “It will have to be after we get everything readythough, there’s not a house over there and it needs some barns and pens.”He said, “My dad will know how to set it up. There are a lot of thingsyou need in order to raise cattle.”I nodded and said, “I would like to have a barn which is just for thesick a****ls. That way they’re seperate from the rest. I’d also like tohave each a****l have it’s own stall.”Jr said, “You need to talk with my dad as he’ll need to hear everythingyou want.”He said, “How old are you Billy?”I said, “I’m 8 ½, and you?”He said, “I turned 8 two months ago. Do you go to school at East Pine?”I said, “No, West Pine here and that’s where you’d go too.”He looked bewildered and said, “I never thought about losing my friends.”I said, “Don’t think as it losing your friends, look at it as gaining newfriends. Also, you’ll meet up again with your old friends when we go tomiddle school, so it won’t be long.”He smiled and said, “Well, you’ll be there, so it should be nice.”The way he said that, made me real happy.I said, “Yeah, and you’ll be too busy over at our farms playing with meand having fun.”Just then, “The waitress brought our order and laid the ticket down onthe table.”Jr looked disturbed and said, “She should have gotten mine seperately.”I said, “That’s o.k., I’ll pay and then take the change back to my UncleNick with the receipt. He shouldn’t mind.”We ate and he said, “Yours looks good, you wanna trade?”I said, ” O.k., we’re both about half way, let me take another bite andthen we’ll trade. I’ll split some of my pie with you if you’ll share someof your fries.”He smiled and said, ” O.k.”He pushed his plate over and I put some of the fries on the plate holdingmy sandwich. I then cut the pie in half and put some on the plate he wasgetting too.”I slid it over to him and he said, “That’s neat, we both get to eat a lotof stuff and it doesn’t cost more!”I bit into the cheeseburger, and it didn’t taste as good as the chickensandwich. He smiled and said, “This is good!”I said, “Yeah, this isn’t though, but I traded so I’ll finish it. Justremember the next time so neither of us ends up eatting something theother doesn’t like.”He smiled and said, “I hope it’s soon otherwise, I’ll forget.”I laughed and said, “I’ll remind you.”He tasted his pie and said, “This is really good too. Maybe the nexttime, you should order for the both of us.”I said, “No, two of the same thing wouldn’t be good. Then, we couldn’ttrade.”He said, “Well, you wouldn’t have to order two of the same thing.”I said, “Well, I know I liked that, so that’s what I’d order.”He laughed and said, “You’re right.”When we were done eatting, we got up and I went over and paid. I got thereceipt and then we went back to where Uncle Nick and Mike were sitting.They saw us coming and Uncle Nick said, “Did you have a good lunch?”I handed him the change and the receipt and he said, “Your first businesslunch.”I looked at him and he said, “You can write this off your taxes.”I said, “Uncle Nick, I don’t pay taxes.”He laughed and said, “You will Billy, that’s a part of being abusinessman.”The auctioneer was just starting and announcing the names of everyonehelping him in the ring. I stood up on my seat and was watching what wasgoing on. I turned to Uncle Nick and said, “Uncle Nick, you’ll help meget the cows we want, won’t you?”He said, “Billy, I’ll put you on my shoulders and then you hold up yourcard whenever you want a cow or group of cows we talked about. You justhold the card up there until you get them. O.k.?”I nodded and then the announcer started off on a bunch of cows we didn’twant. They weren’t the ones I wanted but some of them were the ones UncleNick wanted. He looked like he was about to bid and I said, “Uncle Nick,just get the ones which are best. I’ll help you.”He looked like he didn’t want to do it, but let the cows pass.It went like this several more times until the ring announcer announcedthe cows we were looking at. Uncle Nick put me on his shoulder and Itilted back the cap I had on.I held up my card and the auctioneer began calling the auction. Hestopped and pointed at me and said, “Mister, you need to tell that k** tostop bidding on these cattle. I’ve about sold them to him. He looked overto the other guy who was bidding and said, ‘Sold!'”My uncle Nick put me down and ran up to the booth. He got real loud andsaid, “That boy was buying those fucking cattle dickweed, and you justsold them out from under him. You’re going to tell me you’re not sellingthem to the highest bidder!”The announcer said, “I don’t sell to k**s.”My uncle Nick said, “Let’s see if you sell another fucking thing.”He went out into the ring and said, “Gentlemen, that boy over there isBilly Jacobs. You all know my sister and brother in law’s son. He’s inhere today to buy cattle for his farm which he just inherited. He WASplanning on spending about a quarter of a million dollars. We are nowwalking out of this arena and if you want to do business with that k**the rest of his life, my suggestion is you walk too.”He climbed up over the fencing and came back to where we sat. Mike wasdown at the ring and said, “NO SALE ON THOSE CATTLE”. He looked at theauctioneer and said, “You violated the contract by not selling them tothe highest bidder. Don’t put another one of the cows I brought in thatring.”Suddenly, the man who had given us problems about my number was down atthe ring. His face was red with anger and he told the auctioneer, Y”ou’rea bloody fool. Do you see what number that k** has? That means byinheritance, he’s on the board of directors of this auction company. Howfast do you want to lose your job?”The auctioneer said, “I don’t sell to k**s.”A man in the audience yelled, “You’re not selling to me either!”Suddenly a whole bunch of people were all yelling the same thing.I looked at Uncle Nick and said, “Uncle Nick, I want that bull!”He smiled and said, “Billy, I think you’ll get your bull. They’re goingto sell you those cows too otherwise they’ll see themselves in a wholelot of trouble.”The auction man and the auctioneer both began talking quietly and theauctioneer then said, “Gentlemen, the k** has a tax number and he has afarm. Apparently, he has a banker too who has verified the money is inhis account. So, it looks like we have ourselves an auction.”He looked at the guy he told “Sold” to and said, “That’s a no sale onthat consignment. We’ll have to re-bid it.”The guy said, “I wasn’t aware who the k** was. Let him have the cattlefor the price I bid.”I looked at Uncle Nick and he was smiling. He looked at Mike and said,”Is that alright with you Mike?”Mike said, “Oh yeah, that’s about $25 a head more than what I expected.”Uncle Nick said to me, “Billy, when I put you on my shoulder, you tellthe man you accept the deal.”I got up on Uncle Nick’s shoulder and yelled, “I accept the deal.”Suddenly the whole place began to applaud. I looked down at Uncle Nickand he said, “Billy, you just started your farm. Everyone’s now behindyou, so don’t disappoint them son.”I nodded and said, “Uncle Nick, that felt good.” The smile on my face washuge.He said, “It does, doesn’t it!”The next consignment was some more of the cows Mike was selling. I knewUncle Nick wanted these, so I got down. I went over to Jr. and he said,”Do you have any more cows you’re going to bid on soon?”I looked at Uncle Nick and asked him. He motioned his head no, so Iturned to Jr and he said, “Let’s go out here so I can show you that Emuthey have.”I went with him and he said, “Billy, I was afraid they weren’t going tosell to you.”I said, “I was too. But, I knew Uncle Nick was upset enough he would havewalked out of there before he bought anything else from them again.”He said, “I think my dad would have hauled them all out of here too!”As we walked, a lot of farmers were suddenly patting me on the shoulderand patting my head. I heard one say, “He’s the youngest farmer in thiscounty!”It made me feel happy, but at the time sad. Because if I had the choiceto make, I would gladly have my mom and dad back.We got to the alpaca and llamas and to me they looked like camels. Jr waslooking at them and said, “My dad says they are going to be the future ofthe business. He said, a lot of farmers don’t know the benefits of havingthem.”I said, “Can they be raised with cattle and buffalo?”He said, “I think so, they eat the same thing.”I said, “Well, I’ll get some then. If your dad says they’re good, thenI’ll trust his judgement on them. You’ll help me raise them won’t you?”He nodded and said, “I really wanted some but with dad not being sureabout us even having a place to live and no job, it wasn’t likely I’d getany.”I said, “Well, consider it that you have some now.”We went over to the buffalo and I showed him the ones I wanted. He noddedand said, “My dad said the beefalo would be real good to invest in also.He said the market is catching onto them and everyone’s starting to buyit.”I nodded and said, “Well, I’m hoping. Even though I don’t like beef much,I think it’d be neat to eat buffalo. You know that’s where they getbuffalo chicken wings from, don’t you?”Jr smiled and said, “un uh….” and shook his head no.I said, “Well, I don’t see any wings on them myself, so maybe they takethem off when they’re real young.”He laughed and said, “You tell my dad that one. I’m sure he’ll know wherethey come from.”We went back to the ring and I saw Uncle Nick bidding on some more of thecows we’d spoken about. He bought 6 head and I said, “Why didn’t you takethem all?”He said, “Billy, I can’t afford all of them.”I stood up and said, “I’ll take the rest at that price.”The auctioneer took my number and I turned to him and said, “How manyothers have you let go while I was gone. I thought we had a deal.”He said, “Billy, our deal was we could do what I could afford.”I said, “Uncle Nick, let me get what you can’t. O.k.?”He said, “I don’t have a choice, you just bought the rest.”I said, “Well, I’m sure you’ll get over it.”He looked at Mike and said, “Just like his mom.”Mike laughed and said, “You never won an argument with her either.”Uncle Nick laughed and said, “Yeah, but I think he has her beat. He makessense.”Mike laughed and said, “I never won any against her either. The biggestmistake I ever made was not going out with her.”Uncle Nick nodded and said, “Yeah, you broke her heart.”I looked them and said, “Uncle Nick, Mom would be o.k with me hiring himwouldn’t she?”He said, “Billy, she’d love having him there working for you.”I said, “Good, because I want to have Jr there too.”Uncle Nick gave me a look and I nodded. He smiled and nothing was said.Just about then, the auctioneer said they were going to take a shortbreak and then would come back and begin selling bulls. The first wouldbe “Raging Dawn”.I looked at Uncle Nick and he smiled. I said, “Did you hear if they haveany of his c***dren up for sale here?”He said, “Billy, the man that brought him is right over there, why don’tyou go over and ask him.”I went over and tugged on the man’s shirt sleeve. I said, “Mister, didyou bring any of ‘Raging Dawn’s’ calves today?”He said, “No, they are back at my farm as they aren’t big enough yet.”I said, “Would you sell me one?”He said, “How much would you pay for one.”I said, “Well, my uncle says “Raging Dawn” is going to bring a lot, so Ifigure a calf of his that’s a bull should bring in something less, butnot that much less.”He said, “Did someone send you over here to ask me?”I said, “No, I’m looking to buy it myself.”He said, ” There are two of them and I’ll sell you one for $10 grand.”I said, “Sir, are you sure?”He said, “Yes, now if that’s what you want, then I’ll offer it to you forthat, but not a penny less.”I said, “Let me think on it for a moment.”I thought to myself…”The daddy is going to go for a lot. If the son isas good as him, then it should go good too.”I looked at the guy and said, “Good bloodlines on the momma’s side ofit?”He said, “Pure blooded.”I said, “I’ll buy it.”He looked shocked and said, “Son, that’s a lot of money.”I said, “Yeah, but I’m told I have enough, so I’ll risk it. I’ll go tellmy uncle and he’ll tell you when we want it delivered.”I went over to Uncle Nick and said, “I just bought one of the two babybull calves for $10 grand. I hope you don’t mind.”Uncle Nick looked at Mike and Mike said, “Billy, that’s a $25 thousanddollar calf he just sold you for $10 thousand. What’s wrong with it.”Just then, the guy walked up and shook Uncle Nick’s hand, he said, “Theboy wants the younger bull, I’m selling it to him as his grand daddy andyour daddy made me some good deals through the years. I’m now returningthe favor.”Uncle Nick said, ” O.k., We’ll let you know when to deliver it, but I’llget you a cheque over from the bank tomorrow.”The guy said, “I’ll meet you at the bank and then you won’t have to sendit and I won’t have to deposit it. I’m about to sell my farm, so I’drather use the money to go somewhere else and start over.”Uncle Nick said, “Where’s your farm and how come you’re selling?”He said, “It’s over on country rd 428 and taxes my boy, taxes. They’reeatting a whole in my pocketbook.”Uncle Nick said, “Do you care if Mike, Billy, and I come over to look atthe farm? Maybe we can save you the cost of listing it.”The man nodded and said, “Well, how about I take you out there after wemeet at the bank?”Uncle Nick nodded and shook the man’s hand. The man went back to hisseat.Mike looked at Uncle Nick with raised eyebrows and Nick turned to me andsaid, “Billy, that might be a good farm for you to buy. I believe itmight back up to the place right down the road from your place. If youcould get one of the other adjoining farms, you’d have an open range.”Mike nodded suddenly becoming aware of the plan. He smiled and said,”That’d be a sweet deal if we could swing another one like it.”Uncle Nick said, “Once word gets out Mike, I bet Billy will have allsorts of offers to buy.”He looked at me and said, “Mike, do you think “Raging Dawn” is goodenough himself to buy?”Mike said, “The bull carries damned good and the bloodlines areincredible. If the sires all carry like him, they’re going to really holdsome weight. From what I know about that man, he doesn’t believe insteroids so what you’re looking at is natural.”Uncle Nick looked surprised and said, “Man, that’s got to be excellentlineage then!”Mike nodded and said, “Nick, I think Billy couldn’t go wrong getting theolder bull too.”I said, “Do I have enough?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, you have more than enough, so don’t worry aboutthat. The only thing I’m worried about is putting all your eggs in onebasket.”Mike nodded and I said, ” O.k., say we breed the bull with a buffalo andthe buffalo has a bull calf. Can we rebreed that calf back in to get agood heavy line?”Mike said, “That would work for the beefalo, but not for a good solidline of cattle.”I said, “If we’re selling them for slaughter, what’s it matter?”Mike said, “Well, nothing, but if we’re going to hope to sell the semenand sire future lines, then we need to have a good line so the customerscan see what they can grow with it.”I stood there looking at him and then turned to Uncle Nick and said,”What’s semen?”Uncle Nick said, “Mike, you tell him, you put me into this mess.”Mike said, “Billy, um uh….they’re going to start the auction here realfast, so let’s get ready.”He looked at Uncle Nick and said, “Sorry.”Uncle Nick said, “Well, one day soon, you’ll have to explain it to boththem because they’re going to have to learn. It’s probably safe now, butmy advice is to take them out to the barn or bull pen and show them.”Uncle Nick smiled and said, “Mike, you might have bought yourself sometime but you didn’t buy yourself much.”Uncle Nick turned to me and said, “Billy, here’s a bit of advice onbuying the bull. When the auctioneer starts off, he’ll start off at theprice he thinks it will go for and then he’ll lower it to where someonewill start it. When he starts off, you lowball the bid and yell at thetop of your lungs 25. That will start it at 25 thousand.”I said, “Uncle Nick, if it’s going to go for 50 thousand, why are westarting it lower?”He said, “Billy, if I told you we were going to race and told you therace would be 500 miles long, would you race me?”I said, “No, I’d be too tired.”He said, ” O.k., if I told you the race would only be a half mile wouldyou race me?”I said, “Yeah because that’s how far it is from the house to themailbox.”He nodded and then said, “But, if I raced you lets say several times andthen one day said to you, let’s do it again, you’d do it, wouldn’t you?”I said, “Yeah, if I wasn’t too tired.”He said, “Well, what we’re doing by bidding low is we’re getting everyoneinto the race to see who is wanting the bull. Then, we’re going to racethem to see what they really thought the bull was worth. If youimmediately bid the $50 thousand, and everyone else thinks it’s $35thousand, then you over spent the money you paid by $15 thousand. If youget it for the $35 thousand, you get the bull and the bull calf for lessthan what you’d paid for the one.”I nodded and said, ” O.k., it’s like going to the store and getting twofor the price of one. Why didn’t you just say so?”Uncle Nick said, “Well, Billy, I didn’t know if you would understand.”I said, “Uncle Nick, I’m not dumb.”Mike smiled and said, “Nick, quit while you’re ahead. Believe me, I’vehad practice at this…he’ll have you really thinking you’re old by thetime he’s done. Just quit now and admit defeat.”Nick laughed and said, “Mike, I agree because I had myself confusedthere.”The auctioneer then got back on the podium and said, ” O.k., into thering is Raging Dawn.” He then begin to give the bloodline of the bull andwho it’s daddy was and went right on back to it’s great great grand daddywas. He then paused and said, “Do I hear $65?”Uncle Nick patted my leg and I yelled $25 at the top of my lungs.The auctioneer chuckled and said, “I believe the boy wants the bull, sowe’ll start it at the $25 he just offered.”He then began to cry the sale and the numbers were going up real fast. At$37,500 it paused and he said, “Do I hear $40?”Uncle Nick said, “38” to me.I yelled “$38” and then someone else yelled “$39″Uncle Nick tapped my leg again and said, “$42,500″I yelled it and then the other guy didn’t say anything. I looked at itand then looked down to uncle Nick. Uncle Nick looked over to the guy andsmiled. The guy had shook his head and sat down.The auctioneer said, “Do I hear more?”No one said anything.He said, “Going once….Going Twice….Last Call….SOLD!”Uncle Nick patted my leg and Mike jumped up and down. Uncle Nick said,”Billy, between the two, you got them both for only $2500 more than youwere expecting the one to come in at. You did good.”He put me down and Jr came running over and hugged me. He said, “Wow! Yougot it!”I said, “Yeah, now I’m going to have to make friends with it otherwiseit’s not going to ever be nice to me. What are bulls favorite foods?”Jr said, “I don’t know, but I bet you it would like carrots. Everythinglikes carrots.”The man came over and said, “Well gentlemen, I’ll see you tomorrow. Itlooks like you got yourself two bulls.” He patted my head and said, “Son,you’re learning quick how to be a rancher. You won’t ever forget today asI’ve not forgotten my first time here.”He went out the door and I looked at Uncle Nick and said, “If the alpacasand the llamas come in, get 6 each of the female and 1 each of the male.”Uncle Nick looked at Mike and Mike smiled and said, “Jr got to him.”Uncle Nick smiled and said, “If I recall right, I remember a time whenyou got to me on a few goats. My daddy liked to whip my tail over themgoats for the next few years. Fortunately, there going to be at yourhouse.”I looked at Mike and said, “So you’ll take the job?”Mike smiled and said, “Billy, if I didn’t, Jr wouldn’t ever forgive me.”Jr smiled and then ran over to give me another hug. I hugged him back andsaid to Uncle Nick, “Would you talk to him and see what all he needs fora house so we can get them on built?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, tomorrow, we’re going to see them, so we’ll talkabout it then.”I nodded and then asked if I could go see Ragin’ Dawn.Uncle Nick nodded and said, “Thirty minutes and then the buffalo willsell.”I nodded and then we ran to see Ragin’ Dawn.When we got there, Jr said, “Billy, the younger one will probably likeyou more as he’s had more time to get to know you.”We looked at him and I said, “Jr. he’s a beauty, isn’t he!”Jr smiled and said, “Yeah, he is.”Jr turned to me and said, “Billy, can I ask you a question?”I said, “Yeah, what?”He said, “Do you notice boys more than you do girls?”Chapter 3That night, on the way home, I was really excited and probably relivedall the experiences to Aunt Paulette twenty times. Each time, Uncle Nickwould interject in with, “Be sure to tell her about Mike Jr.!” He’d laughand I’d be sure to tell her about Jr. again.When we got back to the farm, Aunt Paulette got out of the truck and wentto the house. I rode with Uncle Nick to the livestock ramp and we beganto unload the cattle from the trailer. The cattle we had were UncleNick’s and he sure seemed happy.He said, “Billy, what you did today was really special to me. I reallyappreciate it.”I looked at him and said, “Uncle Nick, I love you and you’re doing morefor me than this, so please don’t mention it again.”He said, “Billy, we’re going to have to go over it again as your AuntPaulette is going to hit the ceiling when she realizes what I did.”We fed the cattle and Uncle Nick said, “Billy, we’re going to be keepingthese in the holding pen until we can get them ear tagged, so pleasedon’t open that other gate.”I said, “Uncle Nick, what all are we going to need to be doing to get myfarm ready for Mike to go to work there?”He said, “Billy, we need to talk about that. Mike will need a house andthe barns over there aren’t really good at all. We’re going into this ata disadvantage because we don’t have much for the cattle to eat. We’llhave to feed them, and I’ll order up a bunch of feed, but it’s going tocost a lot.”I said, “Do I have enough money?”He said, “Billy, you easily have enough money, but I’m not sure howstrong the fences are over there. Your dad was really a private man withthose sorts of things and didn’t want any help. You probably know moreabout those things than I.”I said, “Uncle Nick, he never mentioned it to me. He’d mention going torepair fences, but I never got took out and he never even tried to showme more than feeding.”Uncle Nick nodded and said, “Billy, we’ve got to get a holding pen set upand we’ll be forced to use the old barn. I do know Mike and I talkedabout getting new barns built, but that’s going to take time.”I said, “Well, we need to get them a house so they can get over there.From what Jr said, they’re going to be without a place to live soon.”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, let’s get these head fed and then we’ll get oninto the house. Your aunt has several surprises she and her mom made thisafternoon, so I’m anxious to see what they are. If anyone can cook betterthan Paulette, it’s her mama.”He smiled and I said, “Well I know Aunt Paulette is a real good cook.”He said, “Billy, you need to tell her more things like that. It’d makeher feel good.”I nodded and said, “Uncle Nick, will it hurt your feelings if I startgetting closer to Aunt Paulette? I don’t want her to think I don’t wantanything to do with her.”Uncle Nick looked shocked and said, “Billy, do you think it’d hurt myfeelings?”I said, “Well, Uncle Nick, you two were talking about sending me to ashrink and I don’t want that. I was worried she didn’t want to be aroundme.” Tears sprung in my eyes, and I didn’t want Uncle Nick to see mecrying.He said, “Billy, we didn’t know how to handle the situation. We thinkit’d be better if you had someone to speak with about it who knows how todeal with these things with k**s.”I said, “Uncle Nick, you’ve known me all my life and how is someone whodoesn’t know me going to know how to help me better than you? Justtalking to you about this has helped me more than anyone. I think if Ihave Jr’s friendship, and you watching over me, I’ll be fine. It’s just Ifeel sad a lot. I miss my mom and dad but talking to a stranger isn’tgoing to stop that.”Uncle Nick nodded and said, “Billy, I’ll talk to Paulette, but you can’tbe wanting to kill yourself or have me kill you, and not go. The nexttime you say anything like that, or just disappear, I’ll be taking you tothat shrink myself.”I said, “Uncle Nick, what if I forget and go to my farm?”He said, “Billy, we’ll do what we can to make a board in the house whichwill have a way of you letting us know you’ll be over there. Then, ifyou’ve not marked that board, I’ll be speaking with you. You’ve got to beletting us know.”I said, “Uncle Nick, will you be sure to stick with me the first fewtimes I go over there. I’ve not been back over there since the fire.”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, I’m really worried about you seeing thecondition of the place. I don’t think that’s going to be good for you.Would you mind if we went through slowly and you got a chance to speakwith me about everything which is on your mind while we do it?”I said, “Uncle Nick, as long as I hold your hand, I’ll not be so scared.”He smiled and said, “Billy, I’ll probably more scared than anything aboutyou being hurt by all this. I’ll be holding onto you tighter than yourhand.”He came over and picked me up and hugged me. He said, “Billy, today, fora few moments I looked at you more like my son than I did you being mynephew. I can’t take the place of your mama and daddy, but I don’t thinkI could handle losing you too.”I hugged him back and said, “Uncle Nick, I’m not going to die. I want toget to know Jr more and I think he’s really neat.”Uncle Nick smiled and said, “Mike knows about his son. He was worriedabout you not liking Jr if you found out. When you two went to lunch,Mike and I had a talk about it. I told him you’d be fine with Jr.”I said, “Uncle Nick, he’s really a nice person. I think he’s cute and allthat, but the more I’m getting to know him, the more I like him than asbeing someone who’s cute.”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, just be careful and don’t do anything you’ll notbe sure you want to do. Having friends is fine, but don’t let everyoneknow as they’d not understand.”He put me down and I said, “Uncle Nick, what’s there to not understand? Ilike him and he likes me. If they don’t understand that, how stupid canthey be?”He said, “Billy, just be careful not to touch him more than a buddy woulddo out in public. People can be really hateful.”We walked towards the house and when we got to the kitchen, it smelledreally good. Aunt Paulette was sitting at the table and she had theinvoice from the livestock auction in her hand. She said, “Nickolas,would you sit at the table and William, I need to speak to your uncle, soplease go to the living room and watch something on t.v..”I looked at Uncle Nick and he said, “Billy, go on to the living room. Ineed to talk with Paulette.”I went to the living room and sat on the couch. I turned on thetelevision and watched the Power Rangers.Soon, Uncle Nick came to the living room and said, “Billy, your auntwould like to talk with you. Would you come in here please.”I saw him and he smiled. I went into the kitchen and Aunt Paulette wasstill sitting at the table. I went and sat down and she said, “Billy, Iwas looking at the invoices from the livestock auction today and noticedyour uncle spent quite a bit more money than what he went with. He nevertold me he got any money from you, so I was immediately worried about howwe were going to pay the bill. When you two came in, I asked him about itand he told me you were kind enough to offer. Billy, I want you to knowthe money you have is for your farm and not to pay us one dime. We’vetaken you in because we love you and want to raise you. Not because wewant to use you for your money, While it is true that someday, this farmwill probably will go to you, I really wish your uncle had spoken with meabout this before he went ahead and made that decision. What’s done isdone, and as much as I’m not used to getting help from my family or his,I understand you two did it with good intentions. All I’m asking you isto ask your uncle along with me to make these decisions in the future.What I want to let you know is when those cattle are sold, your portionof their sale will be returned to you.”I looked at Aunt Paulette and said, “Aunt Paulette, I was just trying tohelp. I didn’t know it’d make you mad.”She said, “Billy, I’m not mad, my feelings are hurt. Your uncle and Ihave a partnership in this. How would you feel if you had a friend whoyou two went into a partnership on a kool-aid stand and you came home forlunch and when you went back, you suddenly saw your kool-aid stand wasselling ice cream and popcorn and lots of candy. Wouldn’t your feelingsbe hurt he would do that without asking?”I said, “No, I’d ask him which I could eat first!”She laughed and said, “Well Billy, what if your partner told you it wasalright for you to work there but you couldn’t eat anything.”I said, “Aunt Paulette, I’d look at him and ask him who he thought he wasfooling!”She said, “What if you saw he was serious?”I said, “Well, it depended if we could still play matchbox cars on thecounter, because if we couldn’t, I wouldn’t want to stay working there.”She said, “Billy, your uncle did the same thing to me this afternoon. Myfeelings are hurt, but I’ll still work here and I’ll still play matchboxwith him, but when the profits come in from the cattle, you’re going tobe repaid every cent your uncle took from you.”I said, “Aunt Paulette, please don’t do that. If you give me back themoney, it will hurt my feelings. You aren’t letting me give you anythingand yet, you can give me everything. Is that fair?”She said, “Billy, it’s not the same.”I said, “Aunt Paulette, I don’t understand. If I bought you a mixer andyou made pie crust and then took it to the county fair and won a blueribbon, would you give me the ribbon?”She looked at me and said, “That’s not the same.”I said, “Aunt Paulette, it is the same. I gave something freely from myheart. No, uncle Nick didn’t speak with you about it, but it was agift…just as I’d be giving you a gift. Now, you’re telling me the giftwas a loan and you’re going to make him repay his gift back and your’s isdifferent.”Uncle Nick smiled and said, “Billy go on to the living room. I think yourAunt Paulette is seeing things your way now.”Aunt Paulette said, “Billy, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were doingthis to help us and was thinking about what everyone else was going tothink if they found out. I’m sorry.”I went over to Aunt Paulette and said, “Aunt Paulette, I love you and Iwant you to know you’re a real good cook. If I get you a mixer it’sbecause I want you to be the best cook around, not because I’m wantingyou to cook better. It’s the same with Uncle Nick. He could have cattlewhich aren’t the best, but when I went into the livestock auction andheard how all those farmers really liked the cattle because they were thebest…well, I wanted the best for myself and I also wanted the best foryou all too.” I hugged her and said, “I just want you all to know I thinkyou’re the best and that’s it.”She said to me, “Billy, your Uncle has said some really kind words to methrough the years and I love him all the more for it, but besides him, noother man has ever said anything as sweet. I want you to know how specialyou are to me.”I smiled and said, “Aunt Paulette, that’s what I think.”She said, “Billy, I don’t normally do too many things about this farm,but tomorrow, I’m going to be over there with you guys to make sure youaren’t getting too sad. You’ll make sure to tell me what you’re feelingwon’t you?”I said, “Aunt Paulette, I’ll tell you and Uncle Nick everything, justdon’t send me away to no shrink.”She said, “Baby, we wouldn’t send you away. Is that what you think?”I said, “I didn’t think you two wanted me.” I started to cry and shehugged me to her bosom.I cried for a long time and then finally, I stopped. She hugged me toherself and said, “Billy, no one is ever going to take you away from us.Please don’t ever worry about that again.”Uncle Nick was squatted down by us and said, “Paulette, he’s been worriedabout this because he’s been overhearing us talk about it. In the future,I think we should speak with him about all these things and us justworking through them with him.Yes, tomorrow is going to be a big day, butI think if we take it slow, we can talk with him and get to knoweverything he’s feeling. We can share some of our feelings too and he canknow it’s alright to feel sad, and remorseful.”Aunt Paulette said, “I understand.”Uncle Nick said, “Today, Billy asked me if it was o.k.. if he could bearound you more because he was worried about what I thought. I think justas much as he needs me to be a male role model in his life, he needs awoman in his life too.”She said, “Billy, please don’t ever think you can’t come talk with me. Ican’t replace your mom, but I think your mama wouldn’t mind one bit ifyou came to me and told me things you went and spoke with her about.”I said, “Aunt Paulette, this may be hard to understand but my biggestfear right now isn’t what everyone’s going to think but it’s about what Ithink. My biggest fear is forgetting them.” I began to cry and said, “Idon’t want to forget them.”Tears came to her eyes and said, “Billy, tomorrow, we’re going to be overthere, and I pray there are a lot of things we can get out of what’s leftof the house. There are a lot of regrets I have regarding your mama andthat’s we didn’t spend enough time together and we didn’t share enoughwith each other. The only photos I have of them are their weddingpictures and that’s just not right. I now pray there are some photoswhich weren’t damaged.”Uncle Nick said, “Paulette, let’s wait until tomorrow and not worry aboutwhat we are going to find and not. I’m sure everything we find will be ablessing to Billy.”She nodded and I said, “Can we go to my bedroom? I have a lot of things Iwant to get from there. Mama and daddy’s bedroom is it burned real bad?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, it’s not burned real bad, it was a whole lot ofsmoke in there which they died from.”I said, “Well, Mama kept the photo albums by their bed as she said it wasthe one thing she wanted to get out of there in case of fire. She justnever had a chance.”I began to cry and said, “Why didn’t they have smoke detectors?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, I bet they never thought about it. Otherwise,they would have had them.”Aunt Paulette said, “Billy, not once in my knowing them did they everthink anything bad would happen. They were so excited about tomorrow andseeing what you’d be doing they never thought a bad thing like this wouldhappen. Let’s remember them like that, o.k.?”I said, “Uncle Nick and Aunt Paulette, do you all have smoke detectors?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, let me show you where they are. Each month, Ichange the batteries. The extra batteries which come out of them, I usein the sensors from the electric fences, so they are always fresh in thesmoke detectors.”He carried me through the house and then he showed me where the fireextinguishers were located. He told me, “Billy, if there’s ever a fire,you get out of the house and don’t you ever try to fight it yourself. Runand go call the fire department.”I said, “Uncle Nick, who called the fire department when our houseburned?”He said, “I don’t know.”The look on his face suddenly became alarmed and said, “Billy, your mamaand daddy were found asleep in bed, and we live the closest, so I don’tknow, but tomorrow, I will know.” He said, “Billy, let’s go downstairs asI want your Aunt Paulette to know what you just asked.”I went downstairs with him and he said, “Paulette, Billy just asked aquestion which has me perplexed. If his mom and dad were found asleep inbed and we’re the closest people who live around here, who called thefire department? Everyone’s assuming the fire started in the living roomas it was in that wood stove, but I don’t think anyone checked it.”I said, “Uncle Nick, daddy said at supper that night he had seen one ofthem hellions in town that day and had words with them.”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, I’m going to find out who called them, but let’snot be thinking it was anything more than what it was.”Aunt Paulette said, “I’m going to call my father and ask him to speakwith the fire chief. They’re good friends and he should know.”She went and got on the phone and Uncle Nick said, “Billy, there aretimes we have questions we don’t know the answers for. Sometimes, theyare one’s which perplex us. So, what we’re going to do is not go intoyour house tomorrow until we have someone in who will answer the questionto our satisfaction. It wouldn’t be good for us to not fully find outwhat the cause of the fire was without knowing.”Aunt Paulette got off the phone and she said, “My dad is going to callthe fire chief and ask. He’ll call back when he’s spoken with him.”She went over to the refrigerator and pulled out a pot which she put onthe stove. She said, “Guys, today, my mama and I made up some HungarianGoulash. I’ll reheat it and then we’ll have it with French bread. Billy,would you mind setting the table for supper?”I said, “No, I don’t mind, mom always asked me to do it at home, so Iknow how to do it.”I went over and pulled the step stool up so I could get out the dishesand then took them to the table. I set the table just as we did at homeand put out glasses for everyone to drink from.”Uncle Nick had taken the invoices from the auction and went to the roomwhich he used for an office.Aunt Paulette said, “Billy, would you take that loaf of french bread outof it’s package and put it on a baking sheet?”I did and she then said, “In the drawer over there is a long knife whichis a bread knife. It’s got a wavy blade and isn’t real sharp. Would youuse it to slice the bread and then butter the slices?”I said, “Sure.” and began to do it as I had done it at home. It made mefeel good I was able to helpThe phone rang and Aunt Paulette answered it. I listened to her end ofthe conversation and she told her dad she’s be sure to keep us away fromthe house. She got off the phone and said, “Billy, tomorrow, we’re notgoing to be able to go to the house. The fire chief is perplexed like usas to whom called it in as the call went to the 911 dispatch center. bahis firmaları He’sgoing to get the records and wants to call in the state fire marshal asan actual investigation was never done. Usually it’s done, but in thiscase, they were sure it was the wood stove as you and your Uncle Nickboth told the fire department it was the wood stove.”Uncle Nick came in and she told him. He said, “Paulette, if it’s the woodstove, right now, I’ll be relieved. I’d really hate it to be somethingelse.”I said, “Uncle Nick, I threw the buckeyes into the wood stove. Will I getinto trouble?”He came over to me and said, “Billy, I don’t think you’ll be in troubleat all if it’s the wood stove which caused the fire. Billy, is there anyother thing you can remember your daddy saying for you to be careful ofas he thought it would start a fire?”I said, “No, not that I can remember. He always said it about the barnwith the hay and to always turn off the light out there, but nothing inthe house.”Uncle Nick hugged me and said, “Billy, tomorrow, we’re going to put yourlivestock out in the back pasture. Your bulls we’re going to put in ametal pen we’re going to have over here.”I said, “Uncle Nick, why don’t we put all the livestock over here untilthings can be built over there?”He said, “Billy, there’s not enough space.”I said, “If we use the hay from the barn and I buy the feed, will it workout better until things are built?”He looked at Aunt Paulette and said, “Honey, what do you think?”She said, “I think until you have someone over there to watch them fulltime, and until we know something more definite, I think we should havethem over here. It’s an awful lot of money and I don’t want anything tohappen.”Uncle Nick said, “Tomorrow, I’ll call the livestock barn and tell them wewant the delivery to be made here. Billy, we’re going to go to the Kubotadealer and we’re going to get you a RTV.”I said, “What’s that Uncle Nick?”He said, “Billy, it’s an atv which is 4 wheel drive and is enclosed soyou can go out with to the cattle and be able to tend to them. I’ll feelsafer because wherever I see it on the farms, I’ll know that’s where youare.”Aunt Paulette said, “Nick, isn’t that an expensive toy for him?”My Uncle Nick said, “Paulette, he’s going to need something, and if we’dget him a horse, then it’d not serve the purposes around here like he’dneed. With the RTV, he can hook any of the wagons to it and be able to dothe chores better.”She said, “Nick, when you go, I want to go too to make sure it’s safe.”I was perplexed. Yes, I would love to have a bigger bike, but Uncle Nickwas getting me an ATV. How cool is that!”Uncle Nick said, “Paulette, you can go, but it’s a choice. We can get hima tractor which would serve the purpose, or we could let him drive one ofour tractors, but I’d feel better if he had something with a lower centerof gravity which wouldn’t tip over as easy.”She nodded and began putting the goulash on the table. Uncle Nick pulledthe french bread out of the oven and put it out on the stove. Then, heput it into the bun bowl which had the lid on it so it’d keep it warm.Aunt Paulette said, “Billy go ahead and sit down. Would you like milk, oriced tea with your dinner?”I said, “Aunt Paulette, I can get it. Mom and dad used to let me get thedrinks at home.”She smiled and said, “In the future, you can get them, but I’m upanyways, so I’ll get them.”I said, “I’ll have milk.”She got it and poured her and Uncle Nick a glass of tea. They sat downand we said grace.As we ate, she said, “Billy, those cattle are a huge responsibility. Youruncle thinks you’re old enough to be a farmer and handle theresponsibility, but I’m going to make sure it doesn’t affect you in anyway which it shouldn’t. Hopefully, we can get Mike and his family movedin over there soon and things in order so it’s not on you to help. I justdon’t feel right in putting that on you.”I said, “Aunt Paulette, I’ll help in any way I can. I want to help.”She said, “Billy, I understand, but I also think a puppy would have beenmore responsibility that you should have had.”I laughed and said, “Daddy wouldn’t let us have a dog. He said he didn’tlike them.”She smiled and said, “Billy, I understand, but handing a c***d a wholeheard of cattle isn’t a way for anyone to learn responsibility. I’mthinking it’s a whole lot more than what should be done.”Uncle Nick said, “Paulette, by the time I was Billy’s age, my daddy hadme out doing all the chores to run that farm. No, I didn’t help buckingthe bales, but I sure drove the tractor while they did it. A farm k** isjust different than a city k**.”She smiled and said, “Nick, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying we needto let him be a c***d as long as he can.”He smiled and said, “Billy, your aunt and I aren’t having a disagreement,o.k.? I understand she’s concerned and I am too. I just you to know Ithink you’re capable of doing anything you set your heart to doing. I,myself, don’t feel comfortable with you being around all the workingmachinery on this place. For those times, I’d rather I do it. With youoperating an atv which can’t go real fast and can pull the trailer, thereshouldn’t be no harm. I’ll load the trailer and then all you’ll have todo is drive it to the pasture and unhook it so the cattle can feed offit.”I nodded and Aunt Paulette said, “Nick, you take him down the first fewtimes and make sure he knows how to do it safely.”He smiled and said, “Honey, I’m planning on doing that, so don’t worry.”We ate and carried on the conversation about the RTV. About the time wewere done, I looked at Uncle Nick and said, “What’s semen?”My Aunt Paulette began choking and said in a panicked voice, “Billy,where’d you hear that!”Uncle Nick smiled and said, “Honey, that damned Mike today mentionedsemen at the auction barn when we were discussing the bull.”She looked pale and said, “Oh Lord!”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, semen is something the bull gives which you cansell to other ranchers to make money from the bull.”Aunt Paulette said, “Nick, not at the supper table. Leave that sort oftalk out at the barn, o.k.?”He smiled and said, “Billy, one thing you learn is women get allflustered when you discuss a bull. Leave the talk about them out at thebarn.”I said, “Can I discuss cows in the house?”He said, “You can, but not the bulls.”I didn’t understand it, but I didn’t understand girls either.Uncle Nick smiled at Aunt Paulette and he said, “I’ll remember to tellMike you appreciated hearing that at the supper table.” He winked at herand she smiled weakly.I learned one thing about my Aunt Paulette during that conversation. Shehad my Uncle Nick thinking she was strong, but all she was was a girl.After dinner, I said, “Uncle Nick, I’m not interested in a bonfiretonight, can we save it for tomorrow night?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, sure, maybe tomorrow night we can have Jr overand you two can have a bonfire and a weenie roast.”I said, “That’d be neat!”Aunt Paulette looked a bit better and said, “Billy, tomorrow is going tobe a big day, so after supper, why don’t you go take your shower and getyour pj’s on and then we’ll watch some television.”I said, “Good, I like taking showers.”I then looked at my plate and said, “I’m done eating, may I please beexcused from the table so I can go shower?”Uncle Nick said, “Sure, your pj’s are under your pillow, so just go aheadand get them. You know where everything else is.”I left the room and as I left the room I heard my Aunt Paulette say,”Semen! Nick, you just wait until I see Mike tomorrow!…..” I heard myUncle Nick chuckling.I never heard the rest as I was running upstairs to get my Tonkas.The next morning, everyone got up and as soon as breakfast was done, wegot prepared to go to town.I was upstairs when I heard the telephone ring and didn’t pay it anymind. When I was dressed in my town clothes, I came back down to see AuntPaulette speaking with Uncle Nick. Apparently, the fire chief and thestate guy who investigates fires was going to be over at the farm today.Aunt Paulette said, “Billy, when they’re done, they’ll want to speak withyou. I’ve been told to have you prepared.”I said, “Am I going to be in trouble?”Aunt Paulette said, “No, hon, they’re just wanting to ask you somequestions about what happened the night before the fire.”I said, “O.k., because I don’t want to be in trouble.”Aunt Paulette hugged me and said, “Billy, don’t you worry your mind aboutthat. I just wanted you to know what was happening so it didn’t take youby surprise when we got over there.”I said, “Well, after that, can I go to my bedroom and see what I can get?She said, “Billy, if they say we can’t go in, then we can’t. “I said, “Well, I hope we can.”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, go over and put on your coat. We’re going to goto town now.”Aunt Paulette stood up and Uncle Nick put on her coat for her. She toldhim thank you, and then we were on our way out to the truck.Driving into town, I said, “Uncle Nick, those houses over there arealready built, could we get one of those for Jr to live in?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, those are called manufactured homes. I wasthinking one of those would be a way of getting them a place to live infast, but I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the fit and finish ofthem isn’t what they hoped over the long run.”I said, “Well, as long as we have them someplace to live now, they canmove in. After a while, we can get them something which will lastlonger.”Uncle Nick said, “Let’s see about one of them some other time as we needto get to the auction barn to get the cattle delivered to our place.”We drove through town and went to the auction barn. Aunt Paulette said,”I’ll stay in the truck, you two hurry along.”We went in and went to the office where I got the auction number. The manwas there who gave me my number. Uncle Nick went over to him to tell himwe needed to have the cattle moved to his farm.The man replied he was glad we had came in as he needed to know how wewanted everything delivered. We had the bull, cattle, the buffalo, aswell as the alpacas all coming to the farm.Uncle Nick told him to bring the bull and the cattle first and then we’dfind a place to put everything else.The man told him he’d gladly have it done and Uncle Nick told them tobring them by at 4 pm.We then went out to get into the truck and drove to the atv dealer. Whenwe got there, they had a bunch out front. The store salesperson came outand said, “May I help you with something?”Uncle Nick said, “We’re needing to get him a RTV 700.”The man said, “Isn’t that a bit big for him?”Uncle Nick said, “Well, he’s going to be needing to pull some wagonsloaded with hay and feed around the farm, so rather than getting him atractor, I think this will be safer.”The man said, “A wagon loaded down will be too heavy for that…thetongue weight would lift the front wheels off the ground. My suggestionis to get him something a smaller tractor.”Uncle Nick said, “The roll bars are good enough. I want him absolutelysafe.”The man then said, “Well, here’s what I suggest. We have them Bobcats2300 over there. It’s an enclosed roll cage. It can be equipped with awide variety of options which can make it user friendly on a farm. Wehave one on a horse farm and they’re real satisfied with it.”Uncle Nick said, “I want him safe. So, put a cab on it and make sure hehas heat.”I went around looking at all of the different items they had while UncleNick picked out what he wanted me to have. The Bobcat which was a sk**steer was neat. I played on it while Uncle Nick finalized the deal withthe man.Uncle Nick came out and said, “Billy, would you come in here for amoment?”I went in and he said, “Billy, the man’s going to come out on Saturdayand bring the Workcat with him and teach you all you need to know aboutit. Is that o.k.?”I said, “Sure, is it going to be like that one out there?”I showed the man the one I was referring to and he said, “No, it’s goingto be like this one over here, except it’s going to have an enclosedcab.”I said, “So, it’s going to be like a pickup truck!”He said, “Yes, except one you can use on the farm and the other you haveto have a license for on the road.”Uncle Nick looked happy about the decision, so I didn’t pursue it anyfurther.We loaded in the truck and Uncle Nick told Aunt Paulette what he’dchosen. She looked apprehensive, but he said I’d be safe, so she was o.k.We then headed over to the farm & home store and Uncle Nick ordered upsome feed for the livestock. While he did that, I stayed in the truckwith Aunt Paulette.While we were in the truck, I said, “Aunt Paulette, is it always going tobe this busy?”She said, “Billy, right now it’s busy, but things will settle down oncewe get everything situated. Nick has just taken on an extra load and he’swanting to make sure everything goes good for you.”I said, “Well, he knows I love him no matter what, doesn’t he?”She said, “Billy, it’s because we love you we’re doing all this. Yourgrand dad instilled in him a sense of responsibility which drives him tothe point of exhaustion sometimes. He’ll need our help and I’m going todo everything I can as I’m sure you will too.”I said, “I’ll help every bit I can, I’m just afraid I don’t knoweverything.”She laughed and said, “Billy, I don’t know it all either, but I’m sureNick will be patient with us.”Uncle Nick came back out and he said, “Billy, I ordered you a couple ofbarns while I was in there and some gate fencing for corrals. That way,you’ll have a good head start. The man said he’d pour concrete and geteverything built so all we have to do it decide where it needs to be.”I said, “Uncle Nick, wherever you think’s best is fine with me.”He laughed and said, “Billy, you’ll help me to decide this, but I’llspeak with you about it when we go to the farm later. Right now, we haveto go meet Mike and then we’re all going to go out and look at thatfarm.”We drove to the diner downtown and as soon as we pulled up, I saw Jr..Instantly, I was excited.Aunt Paulette saw how excited I was and chuckled. She said, “Billy, waituntil we stop the truck before you get out.”I waited, but some people can be so slow!As soon as we parked, Aunt Paulette and Uncle Nick got out. Me, I wasalready out and Jr was there to greet me. The smile on his face was asbig as mine.We all went into the diner and Aunt Paulette greeted Mike’s wife Amy. I’dnever met Jr’s mom before and she looked real pretty. Between Mike andMrs. Johnson, I sure could see where Jr got his looks.Jr and I went over and sat at a table which was just for two people. Hesaid, “I already ordered yours and I got mine too.”I said, “Chicken strip sandwich with ranch and swiss cheese?”He smiled and said, “Yes, and I had them cut it in half so we couldtrade.”I said, “What did you get? I hope I like it this time.”He said, “I got their corn dogs with french fries. You got onion rings.”He smiled and I said, “This is neat, we can each have twice as much as wenormally would choose.”I went over to Uncle Nick and asked to have some money for the jukebox.He fished out some change from his pocket and handed it to me. He said,”Did you get ordered?”I said, “Yeah, Jr already ordered for us. He knows what I like.”He smiled and said, “Let Jr pick some of the selections on that jukebox.”I ran over to get Jr and we went to the jukebox. We found out we hadenough change for 7 selections. I said, “O.k., we each have 3 selectionsand we get to pick the last together, so tell me what you like and theones we agree on, we’ll pick as the last one.”As it turned out, Jr and I liked most of the same songs. We picked 5which we liked together and then he picked one and I picked one. As theybegan playing, we went back to our table.He smiled at me and said, “Daddy says you’re going to have a whole lot ofdecisions to make here shortly.”I said, “Uncle Nick is going to be doing a lot of that. He’s already gotme a Workcat ordered and ordered the barns today. Tomorrow, I think we’regoing to go pick you all out a house to live in.”I said, “Excuse me, I’m going to go remind Uncle Nick about that.”I went over to Uncle Nick and whispered in his ear, “Remember to tellthem we need to pick out them a house tomorrow!”He smiled and said, “Billy, I’ll tell them, don’t worry. Go enjoy Jrwhile you can.”I whispered in his ear again, “See if it’s alright if Jr stays all nighttonight”Uncle Nick said, “O.k., you go over there now. “I went back over and when I got there, our food was on the table. Ismiled at Jr and said, “Why didn’t you tell me it was here! I would havecome running!”He laughed and said, “You were over talking to your Uncle Nick. I’m notsupposed to disturb other people’s conversations.”I said, “I wanted him to see if you could stay all night tonight.”We ate and sure enough about half way through, we traded plates. Thistime, he picked good tasting food, so both of us enjoyed the meals.”He said, “I wish we could do this at home. This is fun.”I said, “Me, too. Maybe when you get moved to the farm, you can eat halfyour supper at your house and I can finish eating it for you. You cancome over to finish eating mine!”He laughed and said, “I think that’d be neat, but I don’t think myparents would let me.”I said, “Yeah, I know what you mean, so maybe we’ll just have to tradeoff eating at each other’s houses. Did I tell you I asked if you couldstay all night tonight?”He smiled real big and said, “Really! That’d be great!”Quick as a flash, he went over to his dad and I saw him talking with him.He turned to his mom and then got a real big smile on his face and camerunning back over.He said, “They said, I can!”I said, “Good, we can play Tonkas in the shower!”He smiled and said, “You like playing with them too!”I said, “Oh yeah, they won’t let me play outside in the rain with them,but they’ll let me play with them in the shower. It’s the same.”He laughed and said, “We’ll have to get all our toys together when I getmoved over there and then it’ll be like having twice as many!”I said, “I never thought of that, it will be great!”We then compared toys we each had until it was time to leave. I didn’trealize it, but the man who had Ragin’ Dawn was now there and wanting totake us out to see that farm.Everyone went out and Jr rode with us. We sat back and played Nintendo onthe t.v. in the truck. When we pulled up at the farm, I saw the name wascalled Dawn Ranch. It had a big picture up above the driveway of Ragin’Dawn, or it looked like him.I mentioned it and Uncle Nick said, “That’s Ragin’ Dawn’s daddy. His namewas just Dawn”I knew better to discuss bulls in front of Aunt Paulette, so I told Jr,don’t discuss bulls in front of women. They sure get upset!”Jr said, “That’s crazy! Why don’t they like to talk about bulls?”I said, “I don’t know, but I got told we could only discuss bulls out atthe barn.”I looked up at Uncle Nick and his face was red and he was trying not tolaugh. He kept looking over to Aunt Paulette but I couldn’t see her face.From her ears, I could tell her face was red too. She looked at UncleNick and said, “Don’t you say a thing Nicholas!”Uncle Nick laughed and I said, “I don’t know, but I mentioned semen atthe table last night and Aunt Paulette nearly had a conniption!”Jr said, “Oh man, you didn’t!”I said, “Well, I didn’t know!”He said, “No wonder.”Aunt Paulette said, “Boys, I can hear you!”I said, “Sorry!”Jr said, “Sorry, I didn’t know Billy was so dumb!”She chuckled and said, “I told him to ask your daddy what it was, but outat the barn! Nick’s definitely going to be there too.”Jr smiled and his face was red and I knew he wanted to say something, butcouldn’t.”We finally stopped driving and when we got out, I saw the farm was reallynice. The barns were beautiful.The man, Mr. Anderson, was really nice. He had a tractor all hooked upwith a hay wagon on it and told us all to climb aboard. He starteddriving and soon, we were way out in a field. He stopped and pointed andsaid, “That’s your boy’s calf over there. That one’s name is ‘Gray Dawn’,the other over there, if you buy the farm, I’ll throw in. His names is’Delta Dawn’. My grand daughter named him.”We continued to drive around and occasionally, we’d stop and he’d show ussomething else like the ponds, and where the fence lines were. I wasn’treally paying attention, but the idea of fishing in the ponds suresounded fun. I mentioned it to Jr and he agreed. He said, “Daddy sayshaving lots of water on the farm is going to be imperative.”I said, “What’s that mean? Can I say that word at the table?”Jr smiled and said, “Can Billy say imperative at the table?”Aunt Paulette said, “Yes, that’s acceptable …and while I’m on thatsubject Mike.”Mike turned to look at Aunt Paulette. Then she said, “When you go toteach Billy words, you need to tell him ‘semen’ is not an acceptable wordto use at the supper table!”Everyone busted out laughing and Mike said, “Billy, we’ve got to have atalk son.”I said, “Yes sir.”He said, “Words I use in the barn, stay in the barn. O.k.?”I said, “Well, I didn’t know what it meant, and still don’t!”Mike laughed and apparently Mr Anderson heard too as he was reallylaughing.We got to a gate and Mr Anderson said, “Guys, this gate adjoins the nextpiece of property. Wilbur Thompson owes it. He’s told me to show it toyou. Now, it has approximately 400 more acres than mine, but we’ve alwaysranched it together. It runs the full length to the back of your farmover there and goes all the way to the county road over there. I’m prettysure it ends where yours does at the creek.”Mike and Uncle Nick looked at each other and smiled. I said, “That’s goodright?”Mike said, “Nick, what do you think?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, what do you think?”I said, “I’m asking you!”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, that will give you way more than you need overhere. You’ll have the largest ranch in the county and it will all beadjoining. The price is really good. Let’s just wait and see what all ithas on it.”Uncle Nick and Mike were really looking over everything. Each was makingcomments and Aunt Paulette was really writing in the spiral notebook. Amyseemed to be making comments to Aunt Paulette and Jr and I were playingin the hay.We got to the next farm and pulled in. Uncle Nick said, “Mike, the barnsover here are all brand new. That hay barn has to be the biggest.”Mike said, “Wilbur sells a lot of hay. If you buy this farm, you won’thave to feed as much this winter.”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, come here. I need to speak with you.”I went up and he sat me on his lap. He said, “Billy, The farm of Mr.Anderson’s is a steal for the price. Mr Thompson’s is a really excellentdeal. If I were you, I’d snatch the deal.”I said, “Uncle Nick, you do whatever you think is best. You know I’llhelp you all I can, right?”He smiled and said, “Billy, when we get out to talk with Mr Thompson, youtell him you’ll take the deal but we can’t sign until next week, o.k.? Ithink I need to speak with a lawyer first and make sure your daddy hadyour farm incorporated. If not, we’ve got to get you incorporated realfast. It will save on a whole lot of taxes.”I said, “Is Mr. Anderson incorporated?”He said, “I don’t think so. A whole lot of the farmers hereabouts don’tbelieve in it. Nowadays, it’s the only way to go as it saves a lot ofmoney on taxes. That’s probably why Mr Anderson has to sell.”I looked at him and said, “Why don’t we tell him?”He said, “Billy, sometimes, people hear what can help them and still makethe decision to not do it. I’m sure he’s heard.”We pulled up at the Thompson farm house and stopped. Everyone got out andMr. Thompson came over. He shook Uncle Nick’s hand and Mike’s. Jr wentover and looked into the barn and I was about to go too when Uncle Nickput his hand upon my shoulder.”He said, “Mr. Thompson, this here is Billy Jacobs. His parents had thefarm out back there.”Mr Thompson said, “That was a terrible tragedy. I sure hated to see thathappen to them good people.”Uncle Nick said, “Mr Thompson, Billy here inherited quite a bit of moneyand he’s the one who is looking at your farm. Mike and I are just goingto be working for him. The deal today is going to be with him.”Mr Thompson, looked surprised and said, “Well, Billy, I’m going to speakwith you like an adult. The terms we’re discussing are adult terms.”I said, “Well, Mr Thompson, then we have to go to the barn.”He looked like he wanted to laugh and looked up at Mike and Uncle Nick,and said, “O.k., we have to go to the barn.”We went to the barn, and I said, “Wow, look at all that hay!”He said, “Billy, this farm has brought me in a lot of money in hay sales.It’s all free and clear of debt, but the tax burden is what is bringingme to my knees. I have the option of incorporating, or I have the optionof selling. Corporate farming isn’t for me. It goes against everythingI’ve ever believed in. To me, it says I answer to an accountant ratherthan the good Lord and I’m not about to do that.Mr Anderson has told me the deal he is making with you on his farm and ifyou want, I’ll sell you this one for the same price.”I said, “Mr Thompson, could we sign the papers next week as I have tospeak with my attorney.”He smiled and said, “Billy, you’re a young whippersnapper and I’m sureyou just starting out in farming could get used to corporate farming. Usold timer’s, well, we’re made of different stock. I’ll wait to sign thepapers if you’ll shake on the deal.”I shook his hand and said, “Uncle Nick, what’s the price?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, you have enough.”Mr Thompson said, “I’m sure glad his parent’s thought of him.”Uncle Nick said, “Us too.”He said, “Mr Thompson, the night of the fire, did you happen to seeanything out of the ordinary over here?”Mr Thompson said, “No, can’t say that I did. Why?”Uncle Nick said, “Well, we’re still trying to figure out who called inthe fire call. Billy didn’t do it and his parent’s were asleep.”Mr Thompson looked alarmed and said, “I see what you mean. Out here, if afire gets called in, then someone has had to seen it. That’s suspicious.”Uncle Nick said, “Yes, that’s why I was wondering if you happened to seenanything.”Mr Anderson was standing close by and said, “Wilbur, didn’t you say yousaw some tracks out in your back pasture which didn’t belong to yourtractor and ask me about it shortly thereafter?”Wilbur looked at Mr Anderson and said, “Why I sure did. Let me get my hatand I’ll take you all out there.”He grabbed his hat and suddenly he was moving fast. Mr Anderson said,”Boys, I sure never thought to put two and two together until you saidsomething, but I’ll tell you now is there’s any shenanigans going on,whoever did that is going to answer to some back road justice and justpray they can get to a marshall.” He looked really upset.We all climbed upon the wagon and Mr Thompson led the way in a nice new 4wheel drive. We got to a back gate and stopped. Everyone got out and hetook us to the gate. He said, “There’s the tire prints. They don’t belongto nothing I got.”Mike took a look at them and said, “Those belong to an ATV, but they haveboth turf tires and ag tires on it. See the waffle print with the imprintof the paddles?”Uncle Nick said, “Mr Thompson, when you get back to the farm, could youcall the fire chief and tell him what we have here. The state firemarshall is over there at the farm investigating, and I’m sure they’llknow who to get ahold of to investigate this.” .Mr Anderson came over and said, “Boys, I’m sure sorry we didn’t think ofthis sooner. It just makes me plum tankard to think something like thiscould have happened.”Uncle Nick said, “We’re not even sure it’s the same thing, but I knowthey didn’t have an atv over there and you all don’t, do you?”Both of the men shook their heads no and Mr Thompson said, “I can’t eventhink of anyone around here who even have one. I know I haven’t givenpermission to anyone to be on my property.”Uncle Nick thanked him and said, “We’ll be back with you next week on thepapers, but thank you for your help.”I shook Mr Thompson’s hand and we climbed back in the wagon. We drove toMr. Anderson’s farm. When we got there, we all climbed off the wagon andI went over to shake Mr Anderson’s hand. I said, “Mr Anderson, I reallyappreciate you helping us. The same deal goes for your farm. I have towait until next week to sign paperwork. Just as soon as we know somethingfrom the attorney, Uncle Nick will get ahold of you. O.k.?”He smiled and said, “Billy, I appreciate how you do business. You listento your uncle because he’s teaching you how things should be done.”I felt happy about the compliment and said, “Mr Anderson, thank you. Ireally appreciate the compliment, and I’m sure Uncle Nick does too.”He said, “Billy, if you ever learn one thing, know this… your greatgrand pappy and your grand daddy both were honest upfront businessmen.They never took a dime more than what they needed and they always madesure the other person was satisfied. I’ve done business with both andbelieve me, I’ve never regretted a decision I made in dealing with them.I’m real satisfied you’re getting my farm as I know it’s going to someonewho deserves it.”I said, “Mr Anderson, is it possible I can come over and bring a taperecorder and have you tell me some stories about them? I don’t get tolearn from them and mama died, so the only person who knows is UncleNick. He’s helping me all he can but I’d like to know other people’sopinions too.”Mr Anderson said, “Billy, anytime you want, you can come and talk with meand I’ll tell you all I know. I’m sure Wilbur would have some storiestoo. They cleaned out a lot of fence rows together.”He patted my head and we all got into the truck.Chapter 5Everyone loaded up into the trucks and we all headed over to my mama anddaddy’s farm. To me, it wasn’t my farm, it would always be their farm. Wewent in the back way, and when we reached the farm next to ours whichbacked to Mr. Anderson’s farm, I asked Uncle Nick, “Who does that farmbelong to?Uncle Nick said, “Years ago, it belonged to Mike’s mom and dad, but I’mnot sure who owns it now. Maybe Mike knows.”I said, “It’d be nice to get it, then we’d have a whole great big squareof them put together.”Uncle Nick smiled and turned to Aunt Paulette, he said, “He’s getting thefever.”I asked, “What fever, Uncle Nick?”He chuckled and said, “Billy, when you Aunt Paulette and I were talking,she told me you’d get what we call the fever of wanting more and more.It’s not a bad thing, we’re just finding it amusing.”We pulled into drive and as soon as we turned, I could see a lot ofdifferent vehicles parked there. A big red truck which looked like astation wagon was parked there and I could see three men all around theshell of our burned house.”Aunt Paulette turned to me and said, “Billy, when we get out, I want tobe sure you hold my hand, o.k.?”I said, “O.k., Jr, will you hold my other hand?”We got out and Mike walked over and said, “It sure is sad here.”Uncle Nick said, “Every time I see it, chills go through me. “I took Aunt Paulette’s hand and Amy called for Jr to come over and bewith her. Aunt Paulette said, “It’s o.k., Amy, he’s helping Billy here sohe will feel more secure.”As much as I tried not to. I kept looking at the house. We walked over tothe back gate to the yard and stood. Uncle Nick was speaking to a mandressed in uniform. I didn’t recognize him, but apparently Uncle Nickdid. The man came over towards us and said, “Paulette, it’s good to seeyou.”Aunt Paulette hugged him and said, “Daddy get out here yet?”He said, “Your daddy’s already went back home.”He looked at me and said, “Billy, it’s nice to meet you son. My name isBen Gentry. Is it o.k., if you and I talk for a bit?”I looked at Uncle Nick and Uncle Nick nodded o.k., so I said, “It’s o.k.”He came over and said, “Billy, is it alright if I pick you up and carryyou?”I nodded and he picked me up.Mr Gentry said, “Billy, what all those men are trying to do is figure outwhy the fire started. Is there anything you can tell me so I can know howit happened better?”I was really scared, but Uncle Nick and Aunt Paulette said I wouldn’t getinto trouble, so I told him. “I started the fire.”He said, “Billy, how did you start the fire?”I said, “I put buckeyes into the wood stove.”He said, “Billy, why did you put buckeyes into the stove?”By this time, I was getting really sad and started sniffling. I said, “Iused to do it…….So everyone would get scared when they popped.”He smiled and said, “Billy, did you do anything else?”I said, “No, that’s all I did.”Mr Gentry said, “Billy, you putting buckeyes into the fire didn’t startthat fire.”I looked at him and said, “I know I killed my mama and daddy.” By thistime, I was really crying.He hugged me to him and I said, “I’m sorry.”His voice cracked and he said, “Billy, you’ve been dealing with this fora long time haven’t you?”I nodded and he said, “Billy, from this day on, you just understand whathappened here wasn’t your fault.”I pulled back and looked at him and he had tears running down his face.He said, “Billy, do you know anyone who would want to do anything mean toyour mama and daddy?”I said, “No, but daddy said he talked to one of them hellions that day.”He smiled and said, “Did he mention anyone by name?”I said, “I don’t know. He went to town and when he came home, hementioned it to mama at the supper table.””Billy, do you know where your daddy went when he went to town?”I said, “He went to the hardware store and he went to the farm and homestore. I don’t know if he went anywhere else.”Mike said something and Mr Gentry, holding me, went over towards Mike.Mike was crouched down looking at the ground and said, “These here arethe same as what’s out by the back gate.”Uncle Nick by then was looking at them and agreed. The man holding mesaid, “Billy, I’m going to put you down. In a moment, I’ll be needing toask you some more questions. Would you go back to your aunt?”I went over to Aunt Paulette and she picked me up with a grunt. She hadher handkerchief out and dabbed my eyes. She said, “Honey, I’m so sorryyou have to go through this.”I said, “Aunt Paulette, he said I didn’t start the fire.””Billy, I knew you didn’t.”I said, “Well, if I didn’t, then who did?””Honey, that’s why all these people are out here.”Mr Gentry came over and said, “I’m going to have to call in the highwaypatrol on this to investigate it. They’ll probably bring in someone whowill want to ask Billy some more questions.”He went to his truck and started speaking into his radio. After a while,he came back and said, “Billy, can I carry you again?”I nodded and he took me from Aunt Paulette. He took Aunt Paulette’shandkerchief and said, “Honey, we need to have everyone leave here so noone walks on any prints if they’re still here. Why don’t you all go toyour farm, and I’ll bring Billy when I know something more. This wholefarm is now a crime scene.”Aunt Paulette said, “O.k., but Nick needs to stay for Billy’s sake.”Mr Gentry nodded to her and then I looked at him and said, “What doesthat mean?””Billy, I’m going to carry you around and as we walk, you tell me whatyour daddy did that day. Hopefully, something will be information I’ll beable to use to help find out what happened here.”I said, “Do you know who called the fire department?””Yes, Billy, we do. That information is coming to us right now.”I said, “Well, they probably know where the fire was when they called.”He looked at me and said, “You’re right Billy. In order for them to call,they had to see it.”He put me down and said, “Billy, as we walk, I’m going to ask youquestions. I think it will be better if you show me what you did in hereand then I’ll know what you touched.”We walked towards the barn and as we walked, the man was looking down. Hesaid, “Billy, when your daddy got home, do you remember what he did thatday?”I said, “Well, he was gone when I got home. Mama was here and she hadoatmeal raisin cookies. I had to go out to the barn to feed old Bessieand I was sure to turn out the light like they told me to do.”I went in and then I said, “Where’d Bessie go?”The man said, “Did your Uncle Nick take her over there?”I said, “No, I’m sure if he had Bessie, she’d come to the fence when Iwent out to feed.”The man called Uncle Nick over and said, “Nick, do you know what happenedto the cow they had?”Uncle Nick said, “No, I never thought of the cow. Bessie is aHereford./Holstein mix. I’m sure the livestock auction would have recordswhen she was purchased.”I said, “Her ear tag is #803.”The man said, “O.k., Billy, let’s go into the barn and see if anythingelse is missing.”We went into the barn and I looked around. Everything was the same as Iremembered it. I was looking around and as I did, the man was lookingover in another area. He said, “Billy, did your daddy do anything withthe gas tanks to this cooking grill?”I said, “Not that I know of, they were with it when we put it out herelast fall. I helped daddy push it out here. He said he didn’t want it toget rusted.”We looked a little further and he said, “Billy, what was sitting here?”I looked over and said, “That’s where the trash barrels sat. They didn’thave trash in them, but they had wheat in them. One of them that sitsover there has rye in it.”I looked over to where I pointed and a huge pile of rye was on the floor.I said, “Why would someone want to take the barrels?”We went further back and suddenly the man stopped. He said, “Billy, don’tcome back here. We need to go back up front.”I said, “What’s back there?”He said, “Someone killed your cow and what’s left of her is back there.”I said, “Did she starve to death?”He said, “No son, someone butchered her.””I know my daddy didn’t do it. He always does it out in that tree. Heuses a come along and mama always helps. When he does it, it’s a wholeday long chore.”Just then, I remembered my mama and daddy weren’t alive anymore and I wastalking like they were. I started crying and he came over and picked meup real fast. I said, “They’re dead and I keep forgetting.”He took me out to Uncle Nick and said, “Nick, the barn’s a crime scenetoo. Don’t let anyone go in there either.”Uncle Nick came over and said, “Billy, talk to me son, what are youthinking?”I said, “Uncle Nick, I keep forgetting mama and daddy are dead.”He said, “Billy, in our memories, they’ll always be alive. You’re notforgetting, you’re just remembering them. They’d enjoy that.”I said, “It just hurts.” I started crying again and the man handed me toUncle Nick. He had Aunt Paulette’s handkerchief and wiped my face. He hadtears in his eyes too and said, “Billy, I promise you, I’ll find out whodid this and I’ll make them pay.”I said, “They can’t pay. There’s no amount of money I’ll take for them.”Uncle Nick started crying and said, “Billy, he’s meaning they’ll go tojail for it.”I said, “Well, I want them to die just like they made them die.”The man said, “Billy, when the highway patrol gets here, they’re going toneed you to answer a lot of questions. I’m sorry, but you’re the only oneleft who knows if something is missing, or not.”I said, “O.k., but I might not know everything.”He smiled and said, “Billy, just tell us what you know and you might besurprised at how much you help. You’ve already done a lot.”Just about then, a little beagle dog came running over and sniffed me. Ileaned down to pet it and she licked my face. I said, “Where’d you comefrom?”Mr Gentry said, “Billy, this is Missy, she’s a special dog. She sniffsthings to see if anyone used anything flammable to set a fire. She’sdoing her job right now, so we need to let her work, o.k.?”I said, “O.k., but can I pet her later?”He smiled and said, “Billy, I’ll talk to her owner and I’m sure we canlet you pet her.”Missy’s nose went back down to the ground and she took off againsniffing. She went into the barn and I saw the guy following her give MrGentry a look. He nodded his head and Mr Gentry said, “Billy, we need togo over here.”He said, “Billy, I’m going to have your Uncle come over with us, andwe’re going into the part of the house which is still standing.”I said, “Aunt Paulette wanted to be with me when we did this. Both herand Uncle Nick.””Billy, I’ll be here with you. And, your Uncle Nick will be too. If you’dlike, I’ll have your Aunt Paulette come back over.”I said, “O.k.”He turned to Uncle Nick and said, “Nick, could you have Paulette comeback over? I’m going to take Billy over to this out building and we’regoing to see if there’s anything missing over here. After that, we’regoing to need to go into the house.”Uncle Nick nodded and said, “Billy, if you need me, I’ll come running.”I said, “O.k. Uncle Nick.”We walked over to the pump house and as we walked, Mr Gentry said,”Billy, what was this building used for?”I said, “Mr Gentry, this building is the pump house. Daddy said thishouse used to have a windmill sticking out of it and it’s where we getout water. “I stopped and started crying again. He stopped and leaned down and said,”Billy, remembering them is a good thing. I know you love them and thembeing alive as we talked about them is just natural.”I said, “It just hurts right here.” I held my hand up to my chest.He said, “Billy, we’re going to find out who did this. When that daycomes, they’re going to be really sorry.”I said, “You promise?”He said, “Billy, if anyone ever did this to one of my k**s, I’d doeverything I could to see I found a way to come back and tell everyonehelping them what happened. Your memories are a way of your parentstelling us. So, just think of it as them telling me. O.k.?”I said, “o.k., maybe it won’t hurt so bad thinking of it that way.”We went over to the shed and as we were opening the door, I heard the dogbark. I said, “She sure sounds happy.”He smiled and said, “She does that, doesn’t she.”I said, “My daddy wouldn’t let me have a dog. He said they chased thelivestock. He was planning on getting some more cattle.”We went into the pump house and everything looked the same as it had whenI’d been in there last. Daddy’s lawn mower for the yard was in there andso was his other yard tools.”I said, “Mike will need these things for when we get their house outhere.”Mr Gentry said, “Mike Johnson’s going to live out here?”I said, “Yeah, I’m hiring him to watch over my cattle I bought.”Mr Gentry said, “You got cattle?”I said, “Yeah, we went to the livestock auction and I got a whole bunchof them. They’re being delivered today over at Uncle Nick’s because wedon’t have anywhere to put them here now. But, Uncle Nick has ordered anew barn and we’re going to get Mike’s house tomorrow. Is it alright ifwe get their new house?”He smiled and said, “Billy, that might have to wait for a few days, butwhen they do, it will probably have to be set someplace besides where thehouse and the barn are now because I’m sure if this goes to court, thejury is going to want to see everything.”I said, “Well, as long as we can get my things out of the house and AuntPaulette can get the photo albums out, we’ll be fine.”We went to the shed over near the pump house and I couldn’t get the dooropen. I said, “Daddy had a hard time with that door. It slides on themrollers up there. He kept saying he needed to get out here with WD-40 andoil it, but he never got to.”I stopped as I had to cry again. It wasn’t so bad this time and Mr Gentrywas there touching my shoulder. I said, “Mr Gentry, it’s just sad, daddynever got to do everything he wanted to do here.”Mr Gentry said “Yes, we just don’t know how long we have.”I looked at him and said, “Well, I’m going to make sure I let everyoneknow I love them as long as I’m here. My mama and daddy made sure I knewthey loved me.”I paused and said, “Are you sure the buckeyes didn’ t start the fire?”He said, “Billy, Missy smells where people have poured gasoline orsomething flammable on the floor to start a fire. Whoever started thefire, used something on the floor in the house. They poured a pathleading through from the front door to the back door. Did your mama anddaddy lock the doors at night when they went to bed?”I said, “I don’t think so. Daddy said he’d hear someone and be up withthe shotgun if he heard someone. With them being in bed, I don’t think heheard them.”Mr Gentry said, “Billy, it’s probably better he didn’t. They probablywould have made sure to kill you if your daddy had found them.”I said, “Mr Gentry, why would they want to kill us?”He said, “Billy, I don’t know. I imagine they were stealing things andthen didn’t want to get caught. Their problem is they left all thisevidence.”I said, “What’s evidence?”He said, “Billy, it’s like pieces of the puzzle which individuallydoesn’t look like much, but when it’s all added together, it makes up abig picture.”I said, “So them killing Bessie is a piece of the puzzle?”He said, “Yes, and them taking the gas tanks off the grill and thebarrels too.”Mr Gentry said, “Billy, I don’t think they came this way. I can’t getthis door open. Let’s look around on the ground and see if we can see anyof those tire prints.”We looked out by the gate leading to the side pasture and didn’t seeanything. As we walked back towards the house, I saw Missy going towardsthe back fence barking. She was sniffing at the ground.Her owner lifted her off the ground and then put her on the other side ofthe gate. Missy took off barking and running out through the pasture.I said, “She sure is having fun!”He said, “She is.”I said, “Her owner better go catch her, it’s a long ways out there!”A man came over and said, “There’s a trail of gasoline all through thebarn. Either it didn’t catch, or they decided to not burn it. She’strailing the scent of gasoline out through that field.”Mr Gentry said, “They were probably in a hurry.”I said, “There was more than one?”The man said, “Yes, I think there was three. We have a good dna swatch inthe barn from at least two. When they were butchering the cow, someonecut their hand. Another one left a jacket out there which has hairsamples.”Mr Gentry smiled and -said, “Billy, we just got some more pieces of thepuzzle.”He smiled and I said, “How can you tell something from those things?”Mr Gentry said, “Billy, did you ever take a look at the tips of yourfingers and see your fingerprints?”I said, “Yeah, we did that in school.”He said, “Well, in each of our bodies, we have blood and in that blood,we have dna. It tells us who the person is it belongs to. The person whobled in there just told us who he or she is. The person who left theirjacket probably told us who they are too.”I said, “So, my mama wrote my name on my book bag and didn’t need to. Shecould have found out it was mine anyways.”He laughed and said, “Billy, if your mama worked down at Jeff City, she’dsure be able to.”I said, “Well, mama worked at the house and I could tell her cookies fromanyone’s.”Mr Gentry said, “I never thought of it that way, but I imagine you’reright. No one made cookies like my mama either.”Aunt Paulette arrived with Uncle Nick and she came over to me in a hurry.She said, “Billy, are you o.k.?”I said, “Aunt Paulette, Mr Gentry told me something which is helping me.He said my memories of mama and daddy are them telling me what he needsto know in order for them to help find out who did this.”Mr Gentry said, “Nick, Paulette, the barn has a lot of evidence in it.It’s absolutely off limits. Billy told me you all are planning on puttinga house out here for the Johnsons to live in. My suggestion is to nottear down the house or anything here until after the trial. If a jurywants to see the crime scene, they’ll have it. You have no clue how muchit affects a jury to go to the crime scene. The conviction rate isstaggering when they want to see one. My advice is to keep everything asit is.”Uncle Nick said, “We were just talking about that and I think Mike andhis family could live in either the Anderson or the Thompson place untilthen. Billy’s buying both farms, so they can live there.”I said, “That’s a long ways and I won’t get to see Jr.”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, Mike’s done told Jr he can have a Workcat likeyours so you two can see each other. We can teach you how to go throughthe gates and you won’t have to leave the property.”I said, “Well, when mine comes on Saturday, will Jr’s?”Uncle Nick said, “I don’t know. I’m not sure when they’re getting himhis.”I said, “Can I buy him his?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, let me get the farm incorporated and then itwill be covered as a write off.”Mr Gentry smiled and said, “We need to get into the house. We’re notgoing in that end as it’s a designated crime scene. Whomever it was,poured gasoline from the front door to the back door. They never enteredthe bedroom end of the house. If we go in through the window which is inBilly’s room, we can get what you need there. There’s a lot of smokedamage, but everything is still in good shape.”We went to the house and I said, “Can I take what I want from mybedroom?”Mr Gentry said, “I would get everything I could from the house as long asit’s not in towards the burned section.”He paused and said, “Whomever called in the fire had to called it inbefore it was set. I’d say they had a guilty conscience and didn’t wantto do what they did. It doesn’t make them less guilty, but it sure helpedto save Billy.”Uncle Nick said, “How do you know that?”Mr Gentry said, “When a fire is started with petroleum based chemicals,it gets real hot and real smokey real fast. In instances where a firealarm is nearby, that’s going to alert the people in the dwelling. Inthis instance, there was no alarms. So, as I said, it goes real fast whenit’s set. In three minutes a fire can be so hot it can consume a wholeroom. In seven minutes, it can be so smokey, it can kill everyone. Thefire response out here was 32 minutes at best. Are you getting where I’mgoing with this?”Aunt Paulette said, “They called the fire in 25 minutes before they setit?”Mr Gentry said, “Yes, and I’m going to say something else, so keep realquiet on this. The person who called in the fire, was on the rural firedepartment. He’s also the person who is credited for getting Billy out ofthe house. There’s evidence over in that barn a flammable was used to setit. Either they ran out of time, or they got scared. My guess is theyrealized what they were doing was killing someone and had sense enough toget Billy out.”I said, “I don’t remember who it was.”Uncle Nick said, “It doesn’t matter who it was. They still killed youparents.”Mr Gentry nodded and said, “They left dna evidence in the barn. At leasttwo of them did. Whomever that comes back to is going to talk and believeme, they’re going to tell on each other in order to try to get out of thedeath penalty.”He paused and said, “What I’m not getting is their motives. They killedthe cow and butchered it. Cows aren’t like dogs and seem to remembertrauma to the family. All I can figure is they decided to carve it up tohave a cookout or feed their family. The second thing is they took thepropane tanks and the barrels which tells me whomever it was probablycooks meth. Meth chemists usually are so tweaked they don’t make rationaldecisions like waiting to call the fire department. They’re usuallycalling the fire department when the place is burning down around them.”I said, “The person whomever it was, you said, had a conscience. Maybe hedidn’t want to be here with the others. Maybe he decided it was a badidea?”Mr Gentry said, “Billy, that doesn’t make him less guilty. He had theoptions of stopping all that when they were on their way over here. Justas soon as they stepped foot on this property, it went from idea toconspiracy even if they didn’t do the crime. They did, so all are guiltyof the same thing…conscience, or not.”We climbed in through the window and I started gathering up my toys. AuntPaulette pulled my sheets off my bed and used one to place all my toysand everything I wanted in it so it’d be easier to carry.Uncle Nick and Mr Gentry went into the hallway probably to mama anddaddy’s bedroom. I heard them coughing as the smell of the smoke was badstill. I remembered that night and I said, “Aunt Paulette, the guy had abig tattoo on his arm in the shape of an eagle…right here. I alsoremember he had on a denim jacket and had black hair with a bushy beard.He smelled like pipe tobacco.”Aunt Paulette called in Mr Gentry and said, “Billy, just remembered theguy had a eagle tattoo on his left forearm and wore a denim jacket…haddark hair with bushy beard and smelled like pipe tobacco.I said, “He handed me out the window to a little guy who was wearing ared shirt. It had a Nike emblem on it. He wore glasses. His hair waslight brownish blond. He wore blue jeans that had a rub spot in the backpocket like a can of chewing tobacco. He also had on them kind of bootswhich looked like a Harley rider. He talked like he had a mouth full ofchewing tobacco and was complaining about his boots getting messed up.”Mr Gentry said, “Did either of them have any blood on them?”I said, “No, but the one didn’t have on a jacket which I thought was oddas how cold it was out there.”Mr Gentry said, “What did they do after they got you out?”I remembered and began crying, “The one who picked me up went in to getmama and daddy and when he came back he said, “You dumb fuck you’ve goneand killed them, they’re both dead! He was really upset. He was coughinga lot.”Mr Gentry said, “Where’d they take you Billy?”The one took me out by that tree and said he had to go meet the firedepartment. It wasn’t long until the fire department pulled in. Iremember that.”Mr Gentry said, “Do you remember seeing them anymore?”I said, “The one took me to the firetruck and put me in it so I’d staywarm. The one with the denim jacket. I never saw the other anymore.”We heard a vehicle pull in the drive as I heard the tires crunching ongravel. Mr Gentry heard it too and said, that’s probably the highwaypatrol unit. I’ll go speak with them. We need to get someone back hereand get what Billy’s saying.”He went out the window and it was strange seeing my window being used asa door. The curtains were laying outside.”I said, “Aunt Paulette, the guy that wore the denim jacket, he woke me upwhen he broke the window. I remember it being really smokey in here andsuddenly the air whooshed in and it was better. I was coughingand….and…then, he lifted me up. I was still really sleepy.”Mr Gentry came back with a man and he said, “Billy, this here is Adam.He’ll be listening to you and he’ll ask you questions.”Aunt Paulette filled Adam in on what all I was remembering. Adam had apocket radio he was using to record everything. He held it out and said,”Billy, hold this and speak into it as you remember things.”I held it, but all I remember was it was so smokey.I said, “Can I go into my mama and daddy’s room now?”Aunt Paulette said, “Let me go with you Billy, it’s going to be tough tohandle.”I walked int the room and as I walked, I felt the carpet crunch under myfeet. It was strange as it was supposed to be soft. I turned to look atAdam who was behind me now and I said, “Adam, catch these people. My mamaand daddy would want them caught.”When I went into their room, the first thing I noticed was the mirror ontheir dresser was really blackened. When I always came into their room,I’d look at the mirror and make funny faces at myself. Now, I couldhardly see myself. I said, “Mama and daddy’s door was open. That’s whythe smoke killed them. My door was shut as the light from the hallwaykept getting in my eyes.”I looked at the bed and I immediately knew why Aunt Paulette said it washard. The bedclothes were really sooty from the fire and where they laid,wasn’t. It was like someone had taken dust and poured it over them asthey slept.I turned to Aunt Paulette and said, “Did you get the photo albums?”She said, “Yes, and we got your daddy’s shotguns out of the cabinet.”I said, “In that drawer over there is where daddy kept all his recordsfor the farm. He’d do it sitting at the desk. Aunt Paulette said, “MrGentry, would you carry that drawer out for me please?”I turned to Adam and said, “Adam, the last man had on a long trench coatwith real long stringy black hair. He’s the one that got on the atv. Iremember now. He was cussing up a blue streak to the other in the redshirt to get on the atv so they could get out of there. They left throughthat gate. He got on the atv over there. They had a trailer on the backof it. The trailer had white wheels but the rest was black. The one inthe denim jacket ran over and closed the gate.”Adam said, “Billy, could you show me where they got on the atv?”I said, “O.k.”It was strange because I felt really tired. I felt like my shoes weigheda lot. Adam must’ve figure it out because he lifted me up and carried me.I said, “Adam, I’m really tired.”Adam said, “Billy, this has been rough on you. Just show me where the mengot on the atv, and we’ll be done. You’ve done a good job.”I took him over to the right of the barn. It was by the tree my daddyused to hang the deer and the cattle on we slaughtered. Adam saw the tireprints and said, “I’ve got to put this peg in the ground Billy so we canget a g.p.s. locator on this.”He leaned down and I said, “Why are you doing that?”He said, “We map a crime scene according to where the evidence islocated.”I said, “Adam, if they used gasoline, did they get it from the wellhouse?”He said, “I don’t know.”Mr Gentry said, “Billy, let me go check. I didn’t think to look for a gascan if it was in there.”I said, “Adam, if they knew how to do all this, were they at our housebefore?”Adam said, “I don’t know Billy, just hold onto the recorder there andI’ll be sure they’re asked those questions when we find them.”I looked at Adam and said, “I want to know why they did this and why mymama and daddy had to die. How would they like it if someone went totheir house and killed their mama and daddy.”I said, “Adam, when you catch them, would you tell the one in the denimjacket I said thank you. He didn’t have to save me and he did. I justwish he’d gotten to them sooner.Adam said to me. “Billy, I want you to hold onto that recorder. I’m goingto be after it in a moment. Right now, I’m going to give you back to youraunt and uncle, so they can take you home. I think you need to get somesleep. It’s been a real trying day for you.”I said, “Adam, before you do that. The man that had the long trench coat.He took my mama’s flowers from the pot out there and he put them in theleft side pocket of his coat. I don’t know why he did that, but I bet youhe pulled up some of the dirt when he did it. That dirt in that pot wasreally sticky.”Adam said, “Billy, show me the pot.”I took him to the pot and I said, “The trench coat guy’s name was tooter.That’s what the red shirt guy called him. The red shirt guy’s name wasJimmy. The trench coat guy kept yelling at Jimmy to get on the atv andfinally the red shirt guy yelled back ‘tooter, shut the fuck up, I’m onmy way’. The trench coat guy was really mad and the red shirt guy wasgetting upset because the trench coat guy was yelling at him. Just asthey drove through the gate is when the fire truck pulled up. The denimjacket guy was over in the front yard pulling the bushes back from thefront of the house. He had an axe…maybe that’s what he used to break inmy window.”Adam nodded at Uncle Nick and said, “Billy, you’re doing great hon. Keeptalking into the recorder.”Uncle Nick picked me up and said, “Billy, we’re taking you home.Paulette, will you drive so I can hold him?”All I know was I was confused. My home wasn’t my home anymore. I wastired and it felt good to be hugged so tight by Uncle Nick….just likethe guy in the denim jacket…I fell asleep.Chapter 6:When we got to the house, Uncle Nick took me up to my bed. He sat me onit and said, “Billy, you take a nap, I’ll be up to get you.”My voice was tired and yet, in a pouty voice, “I wanted to play with Jr.””Jr. will be downstairs waiting on you when you wake up.””Could he take a nap with me?””Honey, I don’t know if Jr wants to take a nap, but I’ll ask.””O.k.”My spirits seemed lifted with the hope Jr would come up, but I also knewhe might not want to take a nap.I kicked off my shoes and lay down. Uncle Nick covered me up with ablanket. He kissed my forehead and said, “Billy, I think you gave themenough to catch the guys, I’m just so sorry you had to go through this.””Uncle Nick, I really thought I started the fire and those guys saved me.I didn’t know they did this.””I know Billy. I know.”He turned and went out the bedroom door.”Uncle Nick?””Yes hon, could we start closing our bedroom doors? If mama and daddy hadshut theirs, they’d probably be alive.””Yes hon, we’ll start doing that. I admit our door handle to our bedroomgets used as a coat hook. That’s going to change.”He left and shut the door behind him which made me feel better.I was just starting to get about to sleep when I heard the door open anda few moments later, I felt weight on the other side of my bed.”Billy, I’m going to take a nap with you.””O.k., get under the covers here.””You smell like smoke.””Yeah, I had to go into the house.””I’m supposed to take a nap with you and got told we’re not to be playingor talking. Let’s talk when we wake up. You look tired.”I rolled over and hugged him. “Jr, I’m glad you’re here.””I like you Billy. You’ve got smudges on your face.””Oh, maybe I need to take a shower.””No, just go to sleep. If they hear us up here, I’ll probably have to goback downstairs.””Can I hug you and fall to sleep that way? I used to like to do that withmy mama.””Yeah, you smell like smoke though.””I’m sorry.””It’s just strange. I’ll get used to it.”I don’t think I heard him all the way, I was asleep.When we awoke, I could smell something cooking. I started to get up andlooked out the window over Jr’s shoulder. It was dark out. I wondered howlong we had been asleep.Jr woke up and said, “What you doing?””I woke up, I’ve got to go pee.””Me too.””Let’s play water wars.””What’s that?””I’ll show you, but we can’t make a mess.”We went to the bathroom and I said, “O.k., we pee at the same time and wesee if we can pee in the same spot. It’s like a canon. We imagine we’refighting a war and that spot is our enemy.””Cool.”I started peeing and he did too. It was hard to concentrate as I lookedat his peter. It was the same size as mine. I looked down at the spot andrealized I was away from his.”You’re losing.””Yeah, I looked at your peter.”His suddenly veered off course.”Now you’re losing!””Yeah, I just looked at your peter too! We’re the same size.””Well, we’re the same age.””My dad’s is huge!””Really?””Yeah, we were out on the tractor one day and he had to pee. I saw it.””I’ve only seen yours.”I ran out of pee, so I stopped and zipped up.”I’m going to take a shower, then I’ll be downstairs. Would you tellUncle Nick and Aunt Paulette what I’m doing so they will get me a towel.Mine’s not on the bar.””O.k.””You can shower too if you want.””I don’t know if they’ll let me.””Ask Uncle Nick.””O.k.”He left and I started taking off my clothes. Uncle Nick came in and said,”I forgot to put the towel on for you. I’m sorry.””No, you forgot, that’s o.k.””Are you alright hotshot?””Yeah, my head doesn’t hurt as bad.””O.k., if it gets to hurting again, tell your Aunt Paulette and she’llget you an aspirin. I’ll get your clothes for you.”Jr came into the room and started taking off his clothes. “It’s O.k.!””Yippee! We’ll have some fun, my tonkas are over there.”I turned on the water and got under it. Jr stepped in and said, “Ooh,it’s cold!””Yeah, it’ll warm up.”Just then it warmed up.”We’ll only get to play for so long before it gets cold again, so we haveto wash our hair and our bodies before the hot water runs out. It’s notfun to do in the cold. You shiver.”I got the shampoo and accidentally poured too much into my hand. “Here, Ipoured too much, I’ll put it on your head.””That feels good, put yours on so I can scrub your head too.”I did and as he scrubbed, it did feel good.”That’s neat, we could scrub each other’s bodies too!””You wash me and I’ll wash you.”He grabbed the soap and started even though we hadn’t rinsed off ourheads. I was afraid of getting soap in my eyes. “Jr, let me rinse so Idon’t get soap in my eyes.””O.k., I wanted to wash you so bad, I forgot.””I understand, I want to wash you too, but I want to see you when I washyou.”I stuck my head under the water and soon was rinsed off. When I came backout from the water, he stuck his head under the water. I soaped up thewash cloth and with a great amount of giggles, began to soap him.”Wait!……Wait!” he sputtered, I already was washing his butt.He was laughing, “That tickles!”Uncle Nick knocked at the door and said, “Boys, you need to get out ofthe shower as there’s someone here that wants to speak to Billy.”We looked at each other and he said, “Billy, you still have smudges onyour face, let me wash them off.”He washed my face and washed my neck. It really felt good. “Maybe we canshower again before we go to bed so we can still play tonkas.””O.k., I wonder who it is that wants to see you.””Maybe it’s Ben, he was real nice to me today.””Well, you better hurry up then, what am I going to do while you talkwith him.””I don’t know. Maybe you can talk with him too.””I don’t know anything.””No, but you can sit with me.”We got out of the shower and new sets of clothes were laying out on thebed. We swatched each other with our towels and somewhere in all theplaying, we managed to get dry enough to put the clothes on.When we were dressed, he said, “Run a comb through your hair boy, youlook a mess!” He giggled, “My dad always tells me that.”I went in to comb my hair and he followed me. I combed mine and then forfun, I turned and combed his.”I could have done that!””I wanted to. It’s fun taking care of you.””O.k., as long as I can take care of you too.””O.k., let’s go downstairs.”When we went downstairs, a man I’d never seen before was sitting at thekitchen table. I went over to Uncle Nick and stood by him.Uncle Nick turned to me, “Billy, this man here is Clyde Cramer, he’s theProsecuting Attorney.””The what?””He’s the man who is going to see those men who did this to your mom anddad go to jail.””Oh good, because I want them to be punished.”Clyde spoke, “Billy, can we go to the living room to talk?””Can Jr come with me?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, this isn’t play time, Jr needs to stay in herewith us.””He wanted to go in there and take care of me.””Clyde is it alright with you if Jr here goes in with Billy?””I don’t see any problem with it. Everyone can come in if they want, Ijust want Billy to be more comfortable. There are quite a few questions Iwill need to ask.””I’ll go in, but everyone else can stay out here except for Jr. Paulette,do you want to come in?””No, Jr will be with him, but if he gets upset, then come get me.”I looked at her and said, “I won’t.”We went into the living room and Mr Cramer sat down on the sofa. “Billy,would you come over and sit next to me?””O.k., Jr, you can sit on this side.””That’s good. Well, that’s what I want to talk with you about. Iunderstand you had quite a day.””Yeah, it was the first time since the fire I got to go home…but it’snot home anymore. It was sad.””Yes, I imagine it was.””From what I hear, you remembered quite a bit of information. My reasonfor being here is I need to get questions asked so when we take the mento trial, you won’t have forgotten what we talked about.””I doubt if I forget what happened.” I looked at him and thought he wasstupid.”Billy, time has a way of making us see things differently. People cansay something or you could hear something in town and it could changewhat you thought happened. The reason I’m here is to make sure we haveyou answer the questions so the men’s lawyers can’t make you think thingsdifferently when we go to court.””O.k., we did something like that in school. We all lined up and then theteacher said something to one person and that person said it to theperson behind him until we got to the end of the line. It was funnybecause what the teacher said was “My dog has brown socks.” and by theend of the line, Jeremy Sanders said “His horse had a long tail.” Istarted to laugh remembering it.Clyde Said, “Billy, yes, it’s something like that, is it alright with youif we video tape you answering the questions?””O.k., I’m glad I combed my hair.” I giggled looking at Jr. “I’m glad Icombed Jr’s hair too!” Then, I really giggled.Mr Crane laughed and said, “Well, we’re glad you did too. I’ll set up thevideo camera over there and ask the questions. It shouldn’t take me verylong.”He went over and took out a suit case. When he opened it, Jr and I wentover to look. He had a tripod like what my daddy used when he worked withhis rifles right before deer season. He’d practice and make sure histelescope got so it’d show him where he was going to hit the deer.Mr Crane put the camera on the top of it like daddy did the gun and thentook a remote control out and hooked it to the camera. He said, “Billy,when I go over there, tell me if I’m all in the picture.”He went over and sat down and then I saw his head was partially cut off.He said, “Would you make it so my head is in the shot?”I looked at it and then made an adjustment, at first the camera went downand then I figured it out and then it went back up until I got Mr. Cranein the shot to where his head wasn’t cut off.”O.k. It’s looking good now.” I felt proud he had me help.”That’s good Billy, see, the camera isn’t something which you should beafraid of is it?””No, it’s just a camera.””What I’m going to do next Billy is I’m hooking the camera up to mylaptop computer. That way we can see ourselves. It makes a betterimpression on the jury if we watch it as we talk so they think we’relooking them in the eye as we speak. So, be sure to watch the laptop,o.k.?””Yeah, My mom had jury she wore all the time.””No, that’s jewelry, a jury is a group of people who all sit and listento the evidence and make the decision if the person is guilty or not.””They’re guilty, I saw them!””Billy, we need the jury to hear that because they didn’t see it. They’recounting on you telling them what you saw.””O.k., because I saw a lot.””Well, let’s set this up and then you can tell them, O.k.?””O.k., but Mr Cramer?””Yes, Billy.””They killed my mom and dad I want them to die. The Bible says and eyefor an eye, so I want them to die….well, all except for that guy whobroke in my window and saved me. I don’t want him to die. They didn’thave to do that to my mom and dad.””O.k., I’m glad to hear that Billy because I think I’m going to ask theydie for this. You could have very easily have died too and will have tonow live without a mommy and daddy, so I don’t want them to have a chanceto ever get out.””Me neither because who knows what they’d do to someone else.””Yes, and we don’t want that.”By this time, Mr. Cramer had the laptop hooked up and turned on. I turnedto Uncle Nick, “Can I get a laptop?””Maybe when you’re older.””O.k.””How about if we get you a desktop first and put it in your bedroom?””O.k., because then I could do my homework on it and send it directly tothe teacher’s computer for her to grade.””We’ll tell your Aunt Paulette as I’m sure she knows quite a bit aboutthose sorts of things. She has one in the office for her to put thingsinto for the taxes.””Oh, that would be good. Maybe we should get one for Mike so he can takecare of things for my farm too.””We’ll check to see if Mike thinks he needs it.””Daddy has one over at that farm he works at now.””Well then, I guess that decides it, we’ll go shopping for computerssoon, o.k.?””O.k.”Mr. Cramer sat on the sofa again and looked at the laptop. “Billy, youwant to come over and we’ll get started.””O.k..””When we start, you just look right at the picture of us and answer.””O.k.””Now, before we start Billy, we’re going to make all the funny faces wecan because once we start, we need to be serious, O.k.?””O.k., Jr, come over here, we get to make faces!”Jr came over and we were really getting into making different faces andall the a****l noises we could think of while we did it. We did that fora moment and then Mr Cramer said, “O.k., We need to get started.”In making the faces, I’d gotten up and had been acting like a dinosaur,so I went and sat back down.Mr Cramer started, “We’re here today to do a deposition in regards to thehouse fire which occurred on January 17th of this year. With me, I haveBilly Jacobs.””Billy, speak up nice and loud to the camera, and would you please tellthose who are watching your full name and your age please?””Billy Jacobs, I’m 8 years old.””We need your full name, Billy.””It can’t get any fuller, It’s Billy.””Did your daddy and mommy name you William?””No, they named me Billy. William is stupid. That’s why I like Billy.””Oh, o.k. Billy, I guess I now know your opinion of William, let’s justhope we don’t have anyone on the jury named William.””Well, he probably thinks it’s stupid too and prefers to be calledBilly.”He chuckled and said, “You might be right.” Under his breath he said,”Lord help us.””You said we needed to speak up loud and clear and if you’re prayerstarts off “Lord, help us”, I need to bow my head.”He laughed and said, “Let’s get to the next question and forget theprayer. Billy, in your own words, can you describe what happened thenight your house burned down.””Well, I was asleep and something woke me up. I saw a bunch of smoke andsuddenly the window in front of my bed just exploded inward. It scaredme, I nearly peed the bed. Then I saw a guy and got real afraid because Ithought he was breaking into my bedroom. I lay really still because I wasafraid. He finished busting out the window and then said, “Your house ison fire, I’ll get you out of here!” really loud. I could hear a bunch ofsounds like a bonfire and a sort of roar, so seeing the smoke, I knewwhat he said was true. He lifted me out of bed, but before he did, hepulled up the sleaves of his denim jacket and I saw the tatoo on hisforearm of an Eagle.He had black hair and a full bushy beard. I knew because it tickled whenhe bent over to pick me up. He smelled of pipe tobacco, that vanillakind. He took me over to the window and handed me out to a littler guywho wore glasses who was wearing a red Nike shirt.The guy in the red shirt took me and then put me down on the ground. Hehad light brownish blond hair. I was in my pajamas and barefoot. I lookedat the guy in the red shirt and he had blue jeans on that had one of theskoal can marks on his butt. He had boots on that a Harley rider wears,the kind that has a strap and a motorcycle on it. The boots had a lot ofmud on them and he was complaining about it a lot to the bushy beard man.The guy who had saved me came back into my bedroom and said, “You dumbfuck you killed them, they’re both dead.” to the red shirt guy. The denimjacket guy came out of the house and they took me to the tree over by theroad in the front yard.When I got there, a man in a long black trenchcoat that looked bluishgreyish black was over by the shop door entrance of the barn and he wasyelling at the man in the red shirt telling him to hurry up and get onthe 4 wheeler.Th 4 wheeler was camouflage and had a trailer on it that was black withwhite wheels. I could tell as the light out by the pump house showed thewhole parking area. The 4 wheeler was parked over towards the tree wheredaddy used to hang deer and butcher a****ls with mama. The man who was inthe tipobet güvenilir mi trench coat at sometime came over to the front yard to get the guy inthe red shirt as the guy in the red shirt was looking at the houseburning. He was cussing the red shirt guy and saying for “Jimmy” to gethis ass on the fucking 4 wheeler as they had to leave. Before he wentover to the 4 wheeler, he grabbed the flowers out of mama’s planter andput them in the left pocket of his trench coat. He must’ve been lefthanded as he did it with this left hand.The trenchcoat guys was named “Tooter”, I remember it because I thoughtof him being named after him farting a lot. He had long black stringyhair, like that one guy on Harry Potter. He had a cut hand! I justremembered that! His right hand was cut! He must’ve been the one thatkilled Bessie my cow!”By now, I was crying and I felt Jr slide over to me and hug me. Mr Cramersaid, “We can stop for a break if you want to Billy.””No, I’ve got a few more things to say and then it’s done. The guy whohad saved me was out at the front to the house cutting and pulling bushesaway from the front of the house. Jimmy went to the four wheeler and goton and it drove through the gate by the barn and across the pasture.That’s when the fire truck pulled up.”The guy in the denim jacket took me over to the fire truck to get warmand told me to stay in it as I’d be in the way. I remember the man in thedenim jacket went in my bedroom with a fire hose as the others went tothe other end of the house. I wonder why he went in that way when he knewmy mom and dad were dead? He must have wanted to act like he was savingthem.””Is there anything else you can tell us Billy?””Yeah, the man in the denim jacket, to me he was a hero and I wanted totell him thanks, but if he was a part of the guys that killed my mom anddad, he’s no hero. That’s sad. He just wanted me to think he was nice.””Billy, you’ve done a wonderful job tonight. If we have any morequestions, I’ll be asking them to you, O.k.?””O.k.”He pressed the remote control and the screen of the laptop went black. Ilooked at Uncle Nick and said, “Something tells me the guys name whosaved me is named Ray.””Close Billy, his name is Gray.””You know him?””Yes, he’s my age and I went to school with him. I’m willing to be theguy who was with him in the red shirt is named Jimmy Darnell. They werealways around each other and the description sounds like him.”Mr Cramer nodded and said, “Tooter is the nickname of someone who isDarnell’s cousin. He’s a real piece of work. I’ve had dealings with himbefore and have sent him to prison before. It should be easy to call himin for questioning. Gray is being arrested tonight and with luck, they’llbring in Jimmy. Jimmy’s a good k**, but from what Billy says, he just gothimself into a whole lot of trouble.”As Mr Cramer talked, he was putting away his camcorder and the tripod. Jrwas over watching him. I went over to Uncle Nick and hugged him. Helifted me up and said, “You did good again. I’m proud of you.””I just wish it was my daddy saying that, but he never said anything likethat.””Your daddy had his own way of saying things Billy. He couldn’t tellsomeone he loved them or give them a compliment, but he’d do somethingfor them that let the person know.””Well, he always said I was too little to do anything with, so I guess Iwas too little to love.””Well, your mom said she loved you, so you knew she did.””Yeah, Mom showed me she loved me and said it a lot. She even would putraisins in my oatmeal raisin cookies in the shapes of hearts. She said itwas so I’d know she loved me inside.”I started crying again and Uncle Nick hugged me. Mr Cramer came over andsaid, “Billy, you’ve been so strong and I’m going to do everything I canto make sure those guys know they did something really bad to you.”He spoke to Uncle Nick, “We have a fund for k**s like Billy whichprovides for his care. You and Paulette need to contact them so you arereimbursed.””That’s o.k., we don’t need charity.””Son, it’s not charity. It’s a fine added onto fines everyone has to pay.The people who do bad things to other people are the ones who are theones who ultimately have to pay. These guys who did this aren’t evergoing to see the light outside of a prison, so it’s no use for them to beordered to pay restitution. But they will pay one hundred and fiftydollars for each victim they have, so that’s times three in thissituation.””Make that times four, they killed my cow.” I said sniffling. “Bessiedidn’t need to die. She was a real sweet cow. She always come over to thefence to meet me.””I’ll do what I can to be sure they’re charged with cruelty to an a****lBilly. The law doesn’t provide a death penalty for killing someone’s pet,but I think the jury won’t even bat an eye on finding them guilty. Theyeach have pets and know what they mean to them……And, I’d say killingan a****l is pretty cruel treatment.””Yes, they cut her head off.””Billy, don’t think about that.””I try not to, but I try not to think about a lot of things and itdoesn’t happen. I still think about it a lot.””I know Billy. Just remember your mama and daddy and the good thingswhich happened. I’ll take care of the bad things.”He looked at Uncle Nick and said, “I sure wish I had that recorded. Thatk** would’ve ripped the hearts of the jury out of them.””He’s a good k**. He even wants Gray to know he appreciates him savinghim.””I’ll see he gets that appreciation when I’m there to witness his mirandarights being read to him. He left a trail a mile wide telling us he wasthere. The phone company GPS tracking showed he made a phone call tosomeone from that location about a half an hour before the phone call to9-1-1. I’ve got all the evidence I need to go get the warrants. I justneeded Billy’s statement to confirm things and give me more evidence.””Did I help?””You did great Billy, you gave us plenty of help.””Well, I’m glad because my mom and dad would have been upset to be robbedand have Bessie killed, but they would have forgiven them. They don’teven get a chance to forgive them for killing them. Mom always told me toforgive people and I try, but I don’t think I can forgive them.””Billy, I doubt if a jury will either. Let’s just make sure of it.”He carried his suitcase to the door and said goodbye to everyone. Afterhe left, Uncle Nick said, “Let’s get some hot chocolate.”We made up our cups with marshmallows in them and Aunt Paulette ladeledthe cups full. We took them to the living room and Aunt Paulette said tome, “Billy, Jr is going to stay here tonight. His mom and dad havealready left. We all think it will be a good idea for him to sleep withyou so you have someone to hang onto.””I think that’s a good idea to. Can we take another shower so we can playtonkas?””How about you bring the tonkas down here to the living room and playwith them in here.””O.k., come on Jr, let’s go get them.”As I ran out of the room, I heard Uncle Nick say, “That fucking GrayDaniels…”Chapter 7That night, I was really tired. Jr came up to sleep with me, but eventhen I could barely keep my eyes open.When I did get to sleep, I had a nitemare of my daddy and mommy coming totalk to me. Daddy said he was proud of me and the only thing I felt wassad. I asked him why they had to walk away from me. Each time I tried tocatch up with them, they’d leave me againI woke up crying and Jr was laying there comforting me. Aunt Paulettecame into the bedroom at a run and sat with us while I told her what theysaid. She told me I was having the dream because of us going to the houseand everything being so stressful.When I finally calmed down, Aunt Paulette asked me if I wanted to gosleep with them. Knowing Jr would be with me helped and I told her Iwould stay with him.We lay back down and Jr and I hugged each other really tight. As I dozedback off, he told me he loved me and he’d not run away from me. Finally,we made it through the night and the next morning, we awoke to the smellof breakfast cooking.Right after breakfast, Uncle Nick told us Mike would be coming over andwe needed to discover some things about the farms. He also congradulatedme on the other farms and said Mike thought it would be great as they’dall tie in easily.I then said, “Uncle Nick, What do you know about Gray Daniels?”Uncle Nick’s voice got a bit louder and took on an angry tone. His facewent a bit red, “Billy, he was the meanest guy in our school. He wasreally sly about things, but the end result was people always got hurtwhenever he was in the area. If he’s involved in things that went on withyour mom and dad, I can believe it. I’m just wondering how the others tiein.””I just hope they catch them.””Well, what I’m worried about is if he gets bailed out when they catchhim.””Did they catch him yet?””Not that I’ve been told, but maybe they’re keeping things quiet.”We went out to see the a****ls which were brought in yesterday and it wasneat to see the different ones. Jr’s favorite were the alpacas. He saidthey were real smart and looked forward to teaching his some tricks.We walked around and then we were told not to go near the buffalo. UncleNick said the young ones wouldn’t be accepted back from their momma ifthey smelled us on them. We’d never heard about this before, so we werehappy Uncle Nick told us.We continued to look at the different a****ls and feed them. When we weredone, we drove the tractor back up to the barn and saw Mike’s truckparked. He wasn’t outside, so we put the tractor away and went into thehouse. He was in showing Aunt Paulette some computer programs he used fordifferent aspects of the farm.He said, “Billy, how you doing?””I’m doing fine, Uncle Nick said you wanted to discuss some things aboutthe farms.””Yes, I do. What we’re going to need is to seperate the a****ls. We thinkthe buffalo and the bulls will be good on one farm and the alpacas andcattle will do on another. As long as we keep a pasture between themopen, the two can be corralled out to the other farm and moved sonothing’s over grazed.””Which farm do you want to live in?””I think it will be fine for us to look at Mr. Thompson’s farm. The barnsare better there and all we’ll have to do is build a veteranary buildingand an office and we’ll be set up.””How much do you want to work for me?””Here’s what I made at the last place. It was a good living and we werehappy there. I made thirty thousand and Amy got to work outside of thehome. If she works for you, then it will be another twenty five. Oneother thing we got was a truck to drive and full medical.””Well, it really doesn’t matter, I want you no matter what and Uncle Nicksaid I can afford it. What matters is Jr gets an allowance and gets oneof those little trucks like I’m getting. Uncle Nick said to tell you asyou would be able to get it so it could be written off.””O.k., but Jr doesn’t need one of those.””I’m going to have one and in order to get over here to see me, he’llneed one. So, I’d really like for him to have one.””O.k., you’re the boss, so I’ll let him have it. I just don’t want himgetting too spoiled.””He won’t. He can help me when I’m over there working.””How much do you want him to make?””He can make what I do. Right now, Uncle Nick is giving me an allowancebut is paying me eight an hour on the weekends to feed. Jr helped feedtoday, so he can be paid today.””Jr, is this o.k. With you?””Yes daddy, I didn’t know what I was doing was work, but it’s fine withme.””O.k., The next thing I would like to talk with you about is the barnsfor over at your paren’ts place. Do you still want them there?””Yes, do whatever you need. We can’t do anything inside the barn lot ornear the house, but they didn’t say anthing about the other areas.””O.k., I’m thinking about having that area as the main a****l center andfeed storage. We don’t want to have too many things in one area and spendtime driving hay and feed from one spot to the others. What I think isthe bulls and buffalo can pretty much graze and the alpacas and cattlecan graze but will need more vet care.””So, you’re going to put them on the Thompson place?””Yeah, I think it will be best. We can still pull hay from the farms, androtate the a****ls at the same time.””What are we going to do with my parent’s place?””I think it will be good for some grazing, but it’s really begging to bea feed crop farm. We can grow milo, corn, soybeans, and wheat there withno problems.””Will we need any different equipment?””We’ll need a few pieces, but the tractors and the wagons are alreadythere. We’ll need a combine sheller and some wagons, but what we’ll needis some bins put up.””Whatever you think, then get them. Just keep in mind I’m going to beadding more land as we can get it.””We’ll do that, I’ll make some calls and we’ll get things going as soonas you all get the farms bought.””Uncle Nick, when will that be?””I’ll get the papers handled this upcoming week. Hopefully the weekafter, you’ll take possession because those guys want to be out of it assoon as possible. I think Mr. Anderson’s content on staying over at hisplace, but will probably be moving. I did get a hint Mr. Thompson will bemoving in with him.””They must be good friends.””Yeah, they grew up together and both had families and stayed on theirfarms. For as long as I can remember, they farmed together.”I turned to Mike, “That reminds me, Uncle Nick said you probably knew whohad your old farm .””Some people from the city own it. They don’t use it for anything otherthan hunting. Are you interested in purchasing it?””Yeah, but what happens if they don’t want to sell?””We’ll have to find something else. What I do think is if you make anagreement they have lifetime hunting rights on the place, they’llprobably sell.””They can’t shoot any of our cattle though.””They won’t. They’re really safe.””Well, just make sure they know that. I don’t want to have any cattleshot.””I’ll give them a call and see what their interest in selling is…””O.k., that would be neat.”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, on Monday, you’ll be going back to school. WhileI’m in town, I’ll run by the attorney’s office and we’ll see aboutincorporating and what all needs to be done.””O.k., will Jr be going to my school?””Jr will need to continue going to his own school until we get moved.Then, we’ll get him transferred.””Uncle Nick, Mike said he’d go along with Jr getting a toolcat, would yougive them a call so they can get one of them sent to him?””Just as soon as I know if the corporate account is open, I’ll get oneordered for him. Mike, you and I will be getting one too. They’re reallyneat and ride on a path the same size as a gator. I think rather thanrunning trucks all over, we can have them for on farm use and can be justas safe. It might be good for us to order one for the Anderson farm too.””O.k, so we’re needing to order four more?””Yeah, but you might want to order another.””That’s like a hundred grand!””Yeah, but the advantage is they have attachments like a tractor anddon’t have to be licensed or insured like a truck. They’ll pull wagonsjust the same.””I see what you mean. The savings on the license and insurance is goingto be about a grand a year each.””Yeah, and if you really think about it, most of the time, on the farm,we don’t really need to fire up a tractor or a truck. And when’s the lasttime you ever used your tractor or truck to mow?””Wow, that’s giving me all sorts of ideas now!””Here’s a brochure, the attachments are awesome. They attach easy andbasicly give us the use of everything we need in short easy to useattachments. They’re so easy to drive, the boys won’t have a problem andbe safe as they don’t have a high speed.””I’m seeing what you mean. That flashing light on top is something Amywill insist on.””Yes, we ordered Billy’s that way and I’ve also added safety stripes soeven in the dark, they will stand out.””That’s good. I’m sold on them now. Heck, do I have permission to getattachments ordered too?””Yeah, get what you need.””These fork lift hooks tell me we can probably get hay hooks for roundbales. That would be awesome as it’d be a lot easier….and it’s even gota three point hitch! Who needs a tractor now with one of these things?””That’s the idea, but we’ll still need tractors for some things, but thesavings in fuel will be a huge benefit.””I hear you. Let me see if I can get a discount on an order of six andthrow Billy’s in on the invoice.””Billy’s is already bought, but if they give a discount on six, then getthe guy to put the money taken off onto the savings of the others.””Will do. Now, when do you want me to get the other items going like thebarns and bins being put up over on the Jacobs land?””I need to call and see if they’re going to need us to make a new entryin so we don’t have to keep going through a crime scene.””O.k., but it will be good as I think the homesite and that barn would begood for a sick a****l center and veteranary care. That barn would begood for that, and where the house is would be good for that.””So, you don’t want it to be over at the Thompson place?””I’m torn between those two. We could use the Thompson place as the mainimplement storage and hay storage, but the feed could be what is known asthe B side of the Jacobs place with the vet care being A.””Whatever you need Mike, know I’ll be in to help, and just rememberPaulette will be in on these plans too.””Are you and Paulette going to be incorporating your land in on Billy’sfarms?””Paulette says the decision is up to me. She’s fine with either way. Atfirst, I wanted everything to be seperate, but now I’m thinking if wethrow in, then it’s not going to hurt us. Whatever we do, know we’ll bedoing everything we can do to help.””Well, if you throw in, then Paulette would really help a lot by doingthe paperwork and the accounting. She’s already doing all that for you,and she’d require an office. She could receive a paycheck from the farmsand could sublet her work to others if she really wanted. There is a lotof demand for that and not many local accounting agencies know theintricacies of farm management.””Let me call her in and ask. I think she’d be happy, but we need tocheck.””While we’re doing this, why don’t I ask Amy to come in. You know she’s aveteranary tech and she can do a lot a vet can do?””I wasn’t aware of that, but it’d come in great.”I was sitting back and listening to everything. What excited me about itall was it was falling together like a big jigsaw puzzle. Everyone had ajob talent which would be vital to the whole unit and even Mr.s Andersonand Thompson could have a part of it. That reminded me I needed to goover and speak with Mr. Anderson sometime to get his memories down on mygrand and great grand dads.Aunt Paulette and Amy came in and sat down. When they heard the plans,they were really excited. Each could work for the farm and each couldsublet their work to others in the area. The plan formed where AuntPaulette would have an office based out of the same building Amy wouldhave her vet building. Amy said the veteranarian she worked for probablywould be happy to work at the building as he didn’t really have alocation which afforded him the space to care for sick or injuredlivestock. She said his building in town was primarily for smallera****ls.When she brought up the fact horses would probably need boarded andtended, Mike added oats and rye down on the things we’d need to farm onthe my parents farm which was now being called the Jacobs farm. That mademe feel strange them calling it that, but I thought my parents wouldreally be happy knowing the site of sadness for our family would be oneof hope to a lot of people.We carried through the conversation into lunch time. Aunt Paulettebrought in makings for sandwiches and we all made ourselves lunch withchips and some pickles. Jr and I sat and listened to the conversation. Jrwas excited about having such a wide variety of a****ls as I was whichwas neat. We both were excited about tending to different a****ls. He hisalpacas and me, my baby buffalo and beefalo.As the converation continued, Mike was drawing diagrams of what each farmwould do and what the layout should look like. The only thing I saw wasthe homesite and barn lot there being a huge obstacle. They didn’t thinkso, so I didn’t voice it.What was good about everything was sometime during the conversation, Mikemade the phone call to the man he thought owned his old farm. It turnedout the man who owned it had sold it and gave him the number of the onewho now owned it. Mike called him and the man was eager to sell it. Whenhe was offered lifetime hunting privledges, he was really excited aboutthe sale. Mike then said he would call his old boss and see if he wasinterested in selling. He did and another farm was agreed to be bought.I was worried about the money and whether I had enough. Uncle Nick keptassuring me I had enough and at some time in the conversation he said Ihad a lot of millions of dollars… like fifty. He told Mike a doubleindemnity clause kicked in or something which made things a whole lotbetter. I’m not sure what all that means, but apparently it meantsomething good. I wasn’t realy sure how much a million is, as I can onlycount up to a thousand and that’s a lot. What I was told was a thousandthousand is a million. Well, that’s a lot.Jr looked at me and said, “Ask them if we can go buy some candy sinceyou’re so rich.”I said, “Let’s wait and see if we can get some after church tomorrow.”He agreed and asked me, “Am I going to be your employee, or your friend?””You’re my friend, but you get paid to do what we did this morning. Isn’tthat neat!””Yeah, I wonder if we can buy a cart for my alpaca with that money, Iwant to teach it some tricks.””We’ll see. I bet we can.”The conversation continued until there was a knock at the door. No onewas expecting company, I thought, but believe me as soon as I saw who itwas, I was running out to his truck. My new tool cat had arrived!Jr was right on my heels going, “Oh man, that’s so cool!””You’re getting one too and so’s everyone else, but just as soon as Ican, we’re going out to drive this one. I promise you can drive it too.”Everyone else had came out to see it and apparently Mike was reallyexcited. He spoke with the man (who also was the one who sold it to us)and the man was so excited at the prospect of a huge order he gave Mike afifteen percent discount and would include the discount of mine in thedeal too. That discount was like getting another free, so Mike ordered aseventh one for Aunt Paulette and Amy to share.The man and Mike soon got to talking about all the attachments we’d needand the more Mike spoke, the more the man was excited. He was stutteringand saying all sorts of things like rebates, discounts, and percentagesoff. It sounded to me like if we bought one thing, we were going to pay alot, but since we were buying a lot, they were throwing the things at usfor free. I wished a candy store was like that!The man showed us how to drive it and at first, Uncle Nick showed me howto drive it. We drove in it with Jr in the bed of it looking through therear window. We stopped to turn around and Jr got up on Uncle Nick’s lapand I drove. I was nervous, but within a few hundred feet, I had the hangof it. It was real neat and the brakes on it were real easy.When we got to the house, I took Jr out and when we got to the turnaround spot, I let him drive back. His face lit up like Christmas he wasso happy.When we got back to the house, I got out and Mike got in with Jrdriving. They went down the lane towards the lower field and when theycame back, Jr got out and Amy got in. She drove real good and Uncle Nickthen asked Aunt Paulette if she wanted to drive. She said she did andwhen Mike and Amy got back, they took off with Aunt Paulette driving.Mike was so excited he was telling the guy he wanted a total of seven ofthem. One for each of us and then one for Mr.s Anderson and Thompson. Allof them would be equiped the same and the man selling them was surehappy.One of the items which Mike really liked was the post hole auger. He saidwith all of them running an auger, putting up fence wouldn’t be a choreat all. It didn’t sound like it to me either, and fences on a cattle farmwere a chore. It required stretching and lots of hours digging holes.With the holes taken care of, the job was going to be a breeze.Things went good all the way up until dark. Jr and I drove around and theadults all stayed in the house talking. Uncle Nick and Mike made plans ongoing over to Mike’s old farm and the one he used to work at so theycould see them. I didn’t need to go to Mike’s old farm as I’d snuck overthere often enough. What I knew of it was there were a lot of stickerbushes over there and lots of trees. They’d let it grow up and becometerrible. Mike said we’d have to have someone come in and clear it off.Uncle Nick suggested we rent a dozer and do the work ourselves and have ahuge bonfire. Then Mike said he thought the wood from the trees could beused for firewood and then once again they got excited about all thelittle trucks we would be having.At some time about dark, Jr and I was down the road and he said, “Billy,can I kiss you?”I said, “Sure, come here!”We kissed and I felt really happy all over. He said, “When we get back tothe house, let’s ask if you can stay all night over at my house.””O.k., but I doubt if they let me as we have church tomorrow.””We go to the same church, so that’s not going to be a problem. We can goand you can go home with them then.””I’ll ask, but I doubt if they let me.””O.k., let’s ask. You never know…”When we went in, Uncle Nick and Mike took us out to the barn and showedme where I was going to be parking my little truck. Mike made a jokeabout putting numbers on them to be able to tell all of them apart. Isaid, “Can I have a name on mine instead?””Sure, what name would you like on yours?””Old Bessie, she was the best cow I ever had.””Then Old Bessie is what your little truck will be known as from now on.”I was really happy. I wish I had a picture of her, but having her name onmy little truck was good too. Jr said he wanted to call his a name hewanted to call his pony he’d always wanted. So, he was going to call hislittle truck lightning. Mike said, “If you call yours lightning, thenI’ll call mine thunder, then when you see us coming you’ll be able tosay, ‘here comes lightning and thunder!'”Uncle Nick said, “I want mine to be Old Blue, that’s the name of my firstpony and I bet Paulette will want hers called something named after aflower. She did ask me to have the wheels painted pink on hers.””Oooh, Pink? That’s a girls color!””Billy, she’s a girl, she likes girl colors.””Oh, I forgot. Well, that’s o.k., then.”We went in the house and Aunt Paulette and Amy were making supper. Theywere turning out to be good friends and I was happy for Aunt Paulette.And, just as Uncle Nick said, once Aunt Paulette heard the names of ours,she wanted a girl name of Petunia. Amy wanted hers to be one to matchMike and Jr’s. She wanted hers to be called ‘Rain’. It sounded cool tome, ‘Lightning’, ‘Thunder’, and ‘Rain’.As we were beginning supper, Uncle Nick said grace and the phone rang.Aunt Paulette answered it and handed the phone to Uncle Nick. As he wasspeaking, she said, “The sheriff’s calling to tell us they’ve apprehendedthe guys. We can sleep easier tonight.””Who were the other two?””I don’t know honey, but I bet Nick will know when he gets all theinformation.”I listened to the conversation Uncle Nick was having and he was findingout who the other guys were. The sheriff told him the guys names as hesaid the local news would be having that information just as soon as thepress release was given.After the phone call, the conversation shifted over to who the guys wereand the adults knew the names. It turned out they were all living at thesame house and were making d**gs at the house. The evidence they had atthe house showed the items missing from our barn were in that house.Uncle Nick said it was really a open and shut case as they had a lot ofmeat in their freezer and he was sure DNA evidence from Old Bessie wouldmatch. He said they’d also found a lot of other evidence at the house,but didn’t say what it was.Jr and I asked if we could spend the night together again, andsurprisingly, Uncle Nick and Aunt Paulette agreed for me to spend thenight with Mike, Amy, and Jr.We were through eatting, so I excused myself along with Jr and we ran upto my bedroom to get things I would need.When we went downstairs, Uncle Nick said, “Billy, would you please comewith me to the office?” The look on his face looked like he was upsetabout something and I got worried I was in trouble for something.We went into the office and he said, “Sit down, I need to ask you aquestion which I didn’t want anyone else to hear.””O.k. Uncle Nick, am I in trouble?””No, but we should be because I feel like just as big of an ass as youwill when I tell you what’s on my mind.””Oh?””Yeah, it’s a big oh.””Ok, what’s wrong?””Billy, how would you feel if Jr and his family came over and were makingall these plans like we’re making and they wanted you to help?””I’d think it was neat and feel honored they thought enough of me toallow me to help.””Wouldn’t you feel a little left out?””Not if I could help them.””That’s the way they feel right now because they need someplace to workand we’re offering it to them. But, how would you feel if aftereverything’s done and you’ve worked real hard doing everything. Wouldn’tyou feel a bit insecure that they got everything they wanted from you andnow, you’re nothing more than an employee?”The realization suddenly hit me. “Oh, I never thought of that Uncle Nick.I’d be scared.””Yeah, and we’ve been doing all this thinking and Mike’s been so excitedand he’s anxious to do everything he could for us. You, well, you’rethrowing in an awful lot of money. Me and Paulette, we’re throwing ineverything we’ve worked for all this time. Them, well, they’re throwingin all that knowledge and both of us know their work and knowledge aregoing to help the farms grow bigger. Right?””Yeah””So, why don’t we ask them to be a partner in this effort too. Not anequal partner, but just the same, I’d like them to know that when it’sall going, they’ll have an interest in it which won’t be sold out tosomeone who will work cheaper.””That’s good Uncle Nick because I sure wouldn’t want them to feel badenough to take away Jr.””No, and I wouldn’t want them to take away their friendships either. Mikeand I have been friends for a long time and I don’t want them to think itis in jeopardy.””Me neither.””So, what do you say we call your Aunt in and tell her and ask her whatshe thinks and then afterwards, go out and tell Mike and Amy. O.k.?””Sure, I’ll take Jr upstairs after we talk and that way you all can tellthem.””You can stay if you want.””No, I think it’d be better coming from you. It was your idea.””O.k., but you’re a partner in this too.””O.k. But all I want is Jr to be my friend.””I understand and that’s what I want with them.””You want Mike for a boyfriend?””No, not in that way, but there once was a time I could’ve…but don’tlet anyone know. O.k.?””Wow, you two would have made an awesome pair!””Yeah, but we were young just like you and Jr. That’s why I don’t thinkeither one of us will ever stop you two. We both remember that if thingswere different, we’d be together.””That’s sad.””No, that’s reality and that’s life. My daddy knew and to be quitehonest, that’s why his daddy moved away. I think that’s why my daddynever left your farm to me.””That is awfully mean.””That’s the way some people thought. Your mama knew and Bless her soul,she never told anyone. If your daddy had known, I’d probably be on hishellion list.””My daddy didn’t like gay people?””Your daddy would still love you Billy, but he never would understandit.””Well, he will understand now between Jr and I as he can see us from upin heaven.””Yes, and I’m sure the good Lord is telling him he approves of peopleloving each other no matter what.””I think so too. Why won’t people just mind their own business?””That’s the way people are Billy. You just remember so when people judgeother people for whatever reason, it’s to make themselves feel superiorto someone and that’s all it is. It’s sure not loving someone if they dothat, is it?””No and I won’t like them because of it.””Me neither. Well, let’s call your Aunt Paulette into the office here andthen we can let you go stay the night with Jr.”He left the office and soon Aunt Paulette came in. The first thing shedid was come over, look at me and say, “You o.k. Baby?””Yeah, I’m o.k.”She looked at Uncle Nick. “What’s going on?””I thought of something and just as soon as I did, I felt like a mule hadkicked me in the stomache. I saw something was wrong, so I called Billyin to see if he was o.k with what I thought. Once he was o.k with it, weagreed to ask your opinion.””O.k, what’s on your minds?””We’ve been making plans for this all day hon, and not one time have wereally thought about Mike and Amy’s feelings on this.””We’ve offered them a lot, how can you say that?””We’ve offered them jobs and that’s it. How do you think they’ll feeldown the road when they’ve worked their hardest for us and see they couldbe replaced by someone cheaper?””Oh” Her voice faltered and said, “Nick, you go out there and tell them Iwant them to be a part of it. Whatever you do, make them feel they’resecure. I’m building friendship with Amy and I’d sure hate to think shewasn’t getting treated fair.””That’s what I realized and then told Billy. He feels the same way. It’sjust making me sick we never really thought of them in all this. But, I’mglad we thought of it now and we’re correcting that mistake.””Me too.””Can I go upstairs now?””You go on upstairs and Paulette and I will go out and tell them it’smutual.””What’s mutual?””It’s another word which means agreed upon as in feelings.””Oh, o.k. So, it’s mutual that Jr and I like each other.””Yes, that’s a good way to use it.””Well, I’m going upstairs.”We all left the office and went into the kitchen. I looked at Jr andsaid, “Come upstairs, Uncle Nick and Aunt Paulette need to talk with yourmom and dad.”He gave me a look which asked me if I was in trouble and I just said,”Come on!”He took off running and said, “I’ll race ya!”Like a heard of thundering elephants we raced up the steps.As soon as we got to my room, he grabbed me and hugged me. “You’re not introuble are you?””No, but I should be, but Uncle Nick’s taking care of that right now.””What did you do?””Well, all day today, your dad and mom have been here helping us andthinking of different ways they could make things better so we could makethe farm a success. Right?””Yeah, daddy says he’s going to really like working for you guys and sodoes mom.””Well, right now, downstairs, Uncle Nick’s making your dad and mom apartner in the farms.””Really!””Yeah, we felt bad about not inviting them, so now we’re correcting thatproblem.””Daddy’s going to like that!””I’m liking it too. It means you won’t ever have to leave me.””Billy, I would never leave you.”Chapter 8″Nick, I’m not doing this to better myself. I’m doing it to help that boyupstairs. Now, if you want to make me a partner in these farms, I’llgladly walk out the door right now. All I’m bringing to the table is myknow how on raising cattle. There’s not a penny I can invest and that’snot enough.””Mike, listen to me. I’m putting our farm on the line. I’m puttingPaulette and I’s future on the table. Yes, it does have monetary value,but it’s also Billy’s future because he’s just as good our son. Billythinks, and I think, you’ve brought enough to the table. You being heremeans we can have a life away from the farm. We can live a normal life.We’re not a slave to some b**sts whose very existence depends upon us.You’ll be there to step in and that means the world to us. Now, if youthink you’ve not brought enough to the table, then tell me what yourknowledge means to you, because I’ll tell you now, it meant enough to uswhen we bought the cattle you raised to know we were getting damned finecattle.We paid for them because they were the best cattle there bar none.It means the world to Billy to have your son with us to be a friend. Thatmight not mean much to us, but it should. You remember how much yourfriendship meant to us when we were little. I was there for you, and youwere there for me. I love you like a brother and there were times, youwere the only one there for me. Now, you tell me it doesn’t mean much tome? Get real man!””Nick, let’s go outside and discuss this rationally.””Mike, this is one time I’ve got to say no to you. Paulette’s futre andyour wife’s future is dependent upon the decision. I don’t want to takeany guff over this. I just want you to agree.””You say you’re doing it for the boy’s future. I’m doing it for Jr’sfuture. Yes, I raise cattle for a living, Nick, but if it’s really known,all I’m doing is trying to put meat on the table. Our goals are similarhere. We’re just trying to make a future for the k**s. Now, if you wantto put anyone’s name on the dotted line, then put Jr’s name on it. I’llwork my tail off just the same, but I’d prefer my name not be on it.Don’t ask me why, but I don’t. I’ll stay and secure their futures, but Idon’t want to share equal billing when I didn’t bring anything to thetable.”Nick walked around the table and shook Mike’s hand. He turned to Pauletteand said, “Babe, we’ve got him on the best way he’ll stay. It’s betterthan nothing, but now we’ve got to get Billy to agree. Tomorrow, we’llask him what he thinks.”Paulette looked across the table, “You better ask Jr what he thinks too.He’s the one who’s going to be sharing it. Now you two go outside andleave us women out of your haggling.”They all laughed and Nick and Mike went outside.When they got outside, Nick turned to Mike, “Mike, you know as well as Ido we just gave those boys what we couldn’t have. I’ve got an oath I gaveand you do too, but you know I loved you more than that land over there.”Mike had tears in his eyes, “Nicky, if things had been different and ourdaddies hadn’t found out, we’d be together. They did and it nearly ruinedour lives. I loved you too. I loved you enough to put up with the hellthat old man put me through after we moved.””I’m so sorry. If we hadn’t gotten caught, we’d be a lot better rightnow. But we did. Let’s just make sure the boys get a chance we didn’t. Ifin the future they don’t like each other, then we’ll deal with it, butBilly’s already told me he likes Jr.””Jr says he likes Billy too. We were the same age, you remember?””Yeah, it was a lot further to walk to school then, and I’m just glad theboys have it easier.””Amy says she’s going to support him in anything he chooses. I think sheknows about how I felt about you. There were some times when I saw you inschool, it nearly tore my heart out. She saw, and she picked up thepieces. She’s not let it be known, but I think she’s figured it out.””She’s smart. If she didn’t see you looking at me, I’m sure she saw melooking at you. It was damned tough. I don’t know how many times I sawyou and had to duck out someplace because I was crying.””Me too.” Mike paused, “Well, that’s all under the bridge now. We’ve gotwhat we’ve got and we’re going to have to make the best of thesituation.””I’m glad you’re here, and I’m glad the boys finally have it so we canjoin those two farms together and get a chance at what we’d hoped backthen. Heck, they’ve got it better because they’ve got all those hayfields. They’re going to have it made.”Mike looked at Nick, and then said, “Nick, did you ever go see BrokebackMountain?””No, was it any good?””Oh hell man, we went and saw it and the only thing I could think was itwas our story. I can’t tell you how I finally had to go to the restroombecause I was losing it. By the end of the movie, I’d made myself sick. Idon’t think even cold water on my face hid my eye’s from Amy.””I’m glad I didn’t go then. Paulette’s understanding, but I imagine she’dbe a lot less understanding than Amy. She’d probably be in town nowliving at her mama’s.””She going to be fair to the boys?” Mike asked with concern.”Oh hell yeah, she’s understanding about them. I just don’t think she’dbe as understanding about me though.””Well, I don’t imagine. If we’d gotten together, I don’t think I’dunderstand you mooning over someone else.””You wouldn’t have to. We’d had what we wanted.””Well, We’ve got now, so let’s work on it. I’m just going to tell younow, don’t let on such the boys catch wind. If the time comes, we’ll tellthem, but I don’t want them to know.””Mike, you were always strongest of us two.””No, I was a weak motherfucker when it came to you. You knew me betterthan anyone and you had my heart. That’s why it was so unfair. If it’dbeen us that split us up, then we’d be a whole lot better about thingsnow. I’d probably not speak to you, but we’d sure as the world wouldn’tbe where we are now. There are times now, I still look at you and thinkabout what might’ve been.””Me too….Me too.””Well, we can talk, but let’s not cross the line to cause us any moregrief than what we’ve got in our hearts. We’ll have these conversations,but that’s all I can offer.””I understand. I appreciate what you’re giving. I really do.””I know you do.”By this time, they were out at the barn.”Nicky, you and that boy sure bought some fine cattle. Their breedingprogram is going to put them in the top of the state’s herds.””You’ll be there to take credit for it too. I want you to be.””I’ll be there, but I’m going to point the finger back.””Mike, what’s the shit about you not bringing anything to the tablefinancially. You know money doesn’t mean a thing to me!””Nicky, you gotta let me do it how I need to do it. Amy would have reallyhad me out of there if she’d thought I wasn’t entitled. She’s been aroundme too long to know that’s not the way it is with me. You are the onlyone I’d even consider it with and having you in my heart with her and Jr,is enough.””O.k., but that’s not what I was intending. I just didn’t want youbuilding up resentment in the future and have you hauling tail.””I doubt if I go anywhere Nicky. We’re back where we belong and that’show I want it.””Me too. Well, what do you think about the alpaca’s?””My boy’s got it in his head he wants to raise some. I’ve done somelooking into them, and they’re a sign of the future, I think. Their coatscan be shorn like sheep and their meat is going for a nice price…betterthan cattle. One thing you’ll learn about alpaca’s is they’re a docilea****l and a smart a****l. A cow will shit all over it’s own pasture andfeed right next to their excrement. Alpaca’s have a communal dung pileand won’t feed near it.””Wow, I didn’t know that!””Yeah, the boys couldn’t have picked a better a****l for pets. They don’tbite and rarely if ever do they spit. They’re docile and if one spits,then that’s either a sign the boys have done something wrong, or we’vegot to watch that one and get it to the sale barn. They’ve gottemperments and each is individual, but a bad spirited one, we don’tneed.””I’m going to switch subjects on you. What do you think of this with GrayDaniels?””I’ve not kept up with Gray, but he’s always been a real asshole. I thinkhe knew about us and he didn’t say anything because there were times Ithought he was looking at me in the showers at school. Now, him doingwhat they did with his cousins? I think the one cousin talked the otherone and Gray into doing what they did. That’s just my thought, but Ican’t see Gray just going out and doing something like that to a totalstranger.””We don’t know them, or him anymore. They said they were involved inmaking d**gs. So, what else they might’ve been capable of, we don’tknow.””Nick, stop a second and think about it. Gray isn’t on the stuff. He’snot, because all the times I’ve seen him in town, he’s been full weightlike he was in school. The other two, I don’t know. I can’t rememberthem. The one…the best thing I can say is the dude looks like a vampirehe’s so pale. I’d be willing to bet you he’s the one that put the othertwo up to everything.””Well, they’re all in jail now, so I imagine one’s going to talk to savehis hide. From what Billy said, the one that was up by the house is theone that probably poured the gasoline through the house from what Graysaid to him.””Probably so, but the one that’s the ring leader probably was the one outat the barn. He sounds like he’s the sort that will hide out andslaughter a defenseless a****l, but send the others to do the dirtywork.””Well, they’re all going to go away for this one. It’s just a shame theydidn’t have dogs over there.””Speaking of that, I’m going to tell you now, I prefer to have a dogaround and I’ll probably have several. I just want you to know now.””I’m not going to mind as long as they’re not the attack kind.””Any dog will attack, but they’re the best form of defense a cattlemancan have. They’ll bark when a cow will only moo. A dog will let out thatalarm when a cow is too far away for us to even here. I’d just prefer itif we have an alarm system that will give us a chance to get out ashotgun and go out to stop something from happening. Also, a dog willtend to keep a coyote or a wolf away. They just don’t encroach on eachother’s territories.””O.k., let’s just make sure the boys have a choice in the matter becausethey’re likely to make them into a pet.””Yeah, I know Jr will.””You’ve got a fine boy in him. He looks just like you did back then.””Billy is the spitting image of his mama. I saw him and instantly thoughtback to that time and it was just uncanny.””Well, I’m glad they’re taking a notion to each other. I’m just gladyou’re back around. For too long, I’ve not had a friend I could call myown….well, not since you left.””I know. It’s been the same for me. Now, I’m going to do a subject switchon you.””O.k., shoot. “”Those two guys over on those farms…Anderson and Thompson….you doknow they’re lovers don’t you?””I guessed it, but all I knew was they’d farmed together all these years,but the one had a family.””Well, when we went through all the troubles we did, my dad told me thehistory he knew and it turns out they were lovers way back an the onewent out and got the girl knocked up in the military during the war. Hekind of shelved his love life with the other when he brought her and thek** home. The first thing my dad did was beat the tar out of me andquestion me if we’d went over and got taught to be faggots by them two.””Oh, Mike, I’m sorry.””You knew my dad. He’d put one and one together and come up with ninetysix, Nick. He wasn’t the best when it came to brains. He just was tooparanoid to give us credit for coming up with us liking each other on ourown.””Mike, we just need to make sure they don’t catch the flak we did.””I’m not going to stop them. In fact, if they want to go over to thatfarm over there and learn how to see two guys living together as rolemodels, then it’s fine with me. I want them to have the best future theycan have.””Me too. Speaking of them, did you know they were together back then?””Heck no! I didn’t know a thing the whole time…not until my dad saidit. Then, afterwards, I kicked myself for not getting us to go over as Ithink it’d probably been better for us not to get caught.””Mike, if we hadn’t gotten caught, where do you think we’d be today.””Oh, I’d say, my dad probably would’ve still died and I would have gottenthe farm. You’d probably came over there to live and we’d still had Billywith your sister and her husband as neighbors. That would have beennice.””Yeah, s*s accepted us. You knew that didn’t you?””Well, I didn’t know she knew, but I suspected. The amount of time wespent with each other had to gotten people suspicious. I just kick myselffor not taking the truck that night and us going somewhere different topark. Then, things wouldn’t have happened like they did.””As you know, hindsight’s twenty/twenty. We didn’t know we’d gottencaught, and who’s to say we wouldn’t have gotten caught at a differenttime? It happened and at least we’ve got each other as friends now.””You bet ‘cha. I’m thankful for that myself.””One thing I need to ask you Mike, is to measure the distance from theThompson place over to here. I think we need to put up another fencealong that one and put in some wind breaks so the boys can drive thosetrucks back and forth….well, the women too for that matter. What I’mgetting to is I don’t want us to inadvertantly have a bull in one ofthose fields and it to charge a truck.””I was thinking about that myself. What I was thinking about how weshould pour gravel, or blacktop a strip of pavement because as easy asthose are going to be on the soil, they’re still going to wear down thegrass in the Spring and we’ll have a mess. I don’t know how much a stripof pavement or gravel for that matter will cost, but that’s the bestthing I can think.””Let’s go with asphalt. The one thing I want to teach the boys is to dothings right the first time as it’ll save problems down the road. If wego with gravel, yes, we’ll save money, but if we’ve got to put downasphalt later, then we’re time ahead if we do it now.””You’re right. I’m just not used to having a budget that’s allowed me todo that. If that’s what you want, then we’ll do it. I agree totally it’sthe right way to be and I’m sure we’re going to be doing things right byhaving Amy as an onsite vet.””True. That in itself will be a savings just in potential problems.Paulette will save us money and make us money, but Amy’s going to be abusy woman.””Yeah, that’s what I think. She doesn’t realize how many people haveneeded a place like we’re proposing.””Nick, can I suggest something else I want the boys to learn?””You don’t even have to ask, Mike. You know it’s just us here, tell mewhat you’re thinking.””Well, I feel strange about taking Billy’s care for granted. That’s why Iask.””Treat him like you do your own, that’s all I ask and I know you’ll dothat, so what’s on your mind?””I want us to get on the board of some of the things with the county. Iwant the boys to have a hand in making their future better. For so long,I know I’ve felt some of the decisions being made there haven’t been onesI agree with and there’s no one to blame but myself. I just think if I’dbeen there doing more, I could’ve made a difference.””You’re probably right. Those guys take care of their own and some of thethings done just scream of them taking care of themselves. Foley’s thehighway commissioner and he has asphalt all the way to his farm…noother farmer can say they went from a dirt lane to asphalt, but he surecan!””Yeah, that one didn’t even look suspicious. He built that new bridge andthe way the highway looks out by his place just says to me they certainlyknow where their funding comes from.””What sort of offices do you want to try for?””I don’t know. Ag commissioner….rural power….well, being roadcommissioner wouldn’t hurt us any!””I agree, but if the road out there gets to be too well traveled, thenwe’ve got to be careful with the boys and their little trucks. I’d haveto have them hurt crossing it.””If it gets that well traveled, I’ll go to the county and get a boxculvert put in that’s big enough to allow them to drive under the road aswell as allows cattle to move from over here to over there. With thembeing the biggest rachers in these parts, I don’t think they’ll beignored…or at least, they better not be.””That’s why we should be on different boards. You protect our interestsin one area and I’ll protect them in another area. If we could get thewomen on some, we’d have it sown up!””Well, Amy would be better suited on the Ag commission and Paulette wouldbe better suited for finance. She knowing the budget would certainly tellus where the money’s headed.””You’re right, let’s go in and talk with them about it.”The two went back into the house. When they got there, the women wereseated at the table doing some scrapbooking.”What you two up to?”Paulette smiled, “We just thought we’d take some of these receipts andmake the boys some scrap books of the beginning of their farm. Later,when they get older, they can look back on it and see we were thinking ofthem.”Nick smiled, “That’s a good idea. Do you care to have company? Mike and Ihave a few ideas we’d like to run by you two.””Sure hon, you sit here and you can be designated scissor man. Mike,you’re in charge of glue. Now, what’s your your mind? Because our jobsgot a lot easier!” She said with a chuckle.Nick chuckled too and looked over at Mike, “Do you wonder how we gotroped into this?””I do…it all started with the words, “I do”!” He said with a laugh.Everyone chuckled and Mike began, “Nick and I have a few ideas we’d liketo run by you.”Paulette and Amy looked up at him.”We’re wondering if you two as well as us would like to take on thechallenge of going to the county meetings and getting ourselves on a fewof the committees or boards.””Don’t we have to be elected on them?” Amy asked.”No, sometimes, they form the committees just from interested parties.Others, yes, we’d need to get elected, but that wouldn’t be bad either asit’d show the boys how to be a part of the voting process.”Pauletted asked, “What sort of committee? I for one sure don’t want to beon a committee which oversees the county fair. That’d be a realheadache.””No, what we’re wondering is this….you have a professional ability tooversee finance, so that’d be where we’d focus you. Amy, you’re betterwith a****ls, so ag would be better where you’d excell.”Paulette looked at them, “What’s brought this on?”Mike without missing a beat said, “Nick and I were out at the barn andone thing led to another and we were discussing different things whichwe’ve felt would’ve benefitted us if we’d been better at participating.We discussed it and we think it’d be good for the boys as it’d show themto be more active in the county’s governing and it’d not have themthinking they’re a vital part of things if they only reach out.””So, this is a way to help them learn to be better citizens” Paulettesaid, “I like it! I’ve thought a few things needed changing down theremyself. One of them is the distance the fire and emergency units are fromthis part of the county. A satellite office could mean the difference insomeone living or being severely maimed over here in case of an accident.I can’t help but to think that if a fire truck had been closer, Billywouldn’t be an orphan now.””That’s true. Maybe that’s a committee Nick could be on. With you beingon a committee over finance, you will know where the money’s spent andear marked, so we can know what’s going to be in the future.”Nick stepped in, “And, you’d know if something’s not going to benefit usdown the road by knowing where the money’s going.”Paulette smiled, “Amy, what do you think?””I think being on the Ag committee would be great. You don’t know it, butthat committee oversees who is the one that pays for things like food forthe elderly at the county home and it’s just now the crops and livestocklike most people think. Someone who is in on the committee now is goingto be making decisions for the upcoming baby boomers that are retiringnow. You may not realize it, but the county home is in deplorablecondition. Most people don’t think about it until they need it and oncethey’re in there, it’s really too late to improve it. I’d like to seeabout doing something now to have it be a better facility. If given theright foresight, we could get a facility built that would be one the restof the state would wish they had.””That’s a good idea!” Paulette said, “I didn’t know that! Our parents aregetting to an age now they might not have any other choice soon and I’vereally not thought about the home out there. We should see if they give atour and then, we’d know what it’s like before we went into a committeemeeting. I’d like to be on that committee too.”Mike smiled, “So, you’re in agreement this is something we need to setout to start doing?”Paulette paused and then said, “Yes, I’m in agreement. I want to beinvolved, BUT, I don’t want to become so active the boys suddenly see usgone all the time. If given a choice of helping or the boys, I’d make thechoice of them over anything.”Nick interjected, “Most certainly, that’s not what we’re saying. Whatwe’re saying is we need to be active, but not over extend ourselves.”Paulette said, “I think if we did things right, my parents would be moreactive in either being on a committee too, or they’d be happy to watchthe boys on the nights where we have commitments that overlap. I’ll asktomorrow.”Nick smiled, “Why don’t you ask your parents what they know about thingsand what they’ve heard. I’m sure they probably know someone who is on oneand could give us some advice on how to go about being more involved.””I’ll ask, as I’m sure my parents would know someone. Mike, what all areyour interests, so I can know what we’d each be best in asking about.?””As you know, ranching and raising cattle, but I’m really interested inthe roads, or something which would help us in the long run. The schoolis one which I know is going to affect the boys, so I think it’d be goodto get some influence there.”Nick said, “I do know the school board appointed someone from this areathe last time because they didn’t have anyone run. It’s an elected spotand you’d most likely run uncontested for that seat. That’s a good plan.Also, the commissioner’s positions are elected, so we’d each have to runfor one of those seats, but it’d be good to see us on the seats in themeeting.”Paulette smiled, “I sure never thought about it, but it’d be somethingI’d really like to do. Guys, this is a great idea!”They sat there and cut out scrapbook tidbits, photos, and receipts asthey talked. Eventually, Mike and Amy left agreeing to meet together forSunday dinner after church. They agreed to bring makings for a feast ofBeef roast, carrots, potatos, and all the trimmings.After church, I rode home with Jr and his family. When we got to thehouse, Amy and Aunt Paulette went into the house. Mike, Uncle Nick, Jr,and I went out to the barn and Uncle Nick got a wheel thing and said forme to drive my little truck to my parent’s farm and then we went throughthe side pasture gate instead of the gate which the other guys used whenthey left the main parking area.Uncle Nick took the wheel thing and measured to the fence towards thelane and then told me to drive a straight line towards the Thompson farm.When we got to the fence, he used cutting pliars to cut the fence andthen said for me to drive over to the fence and drive along it to thefarm. While he rode, he kept the wheel on the ground and measured how farit was in feet. When we got to the Thompson farm, he told Mike thedistance and then we parked the little truck to go across the fence andtell Mr. Thompson we were there.Mr Thompson wasn’t there, and Mike said he was probably over to Mr.Anderson’s house. Mike took a slip of paper and left a note for MrThompson telling him we’d cut the fence but it was o.k., as it joined toour pasture. There was no livestock in the field and Mr. Thompson didn’thave any lifestock, but Mike said he wasn’t sure if Mr. Thompson ever putany of Mr. Anderson’s bulls in there. I didn’t want to correct Mike intelling him the bulls were mine now.When we drove back, Uncle Nick and Mike talked about spacing forevergreen trees. Mike thought two rows on each side would be enoughspaced eight feet, but Uncle Nick said he thought we ought to have three.I didn’t understand what they were talking about and asked, that’s whenthey told me they were going to lay a strip of asphalt for us to driveon. They said they thought a strip eight feet wide would be enough foreveryone to be able to pass side by side. The advantage of it, was itwould be big enough to drive a truck on also.When we got back to the fence we’d cut, Uncle Nick used his pliars tomend the fence. I watched and he did a good job. If I hadn’t known it wascut, I wouldn’t have been able to see it.By the time we got back to the house, Aunt Paulette and Amy had a reallygood lunch for us to eat. Mike and Uncle Nick talked about getting a pipeand putting it in the ditch for us to drive over. They talked about theentrance to the new office being there and then about wondering who theyshould contact with the county to get permission. They got involved inthat after lunch and Jr and I drove down to see the a****ls.The alpaca’s were really neat. We fed them and they came over to thefence for us to pet them. Jr said he’d have to ask for us to grow a bunchof carrots this summer so we’d have a lot of them to feed them as snacks.We drove around the farm and as we drove, Jr and I held hands. I’d sneakglances over at him and he’d look back at me. We shared driving and itwas fun. One thing which rested at the back of my mind would be going toschool tomorrow and not having him in the same school with me. I told himand he seemed just as bummed about it as me.We were down by the creek when we heard the truck horn off in thedistance. Jr said that usually was a sign he needed to get home, so wehurried back up to the house. Mike and Uncle Nick were standing outsideand said Mr. Anderson had called and one of the bulls was in need ofmedical care. He said Mike and Amy were going to use my little truck togo over to help.I asked if I could go, but Uncle Nick said I’d probably get in the way,so Jr and I went inside to play Tonkas in the living room while UncleNick watched sports on t.v.. Soon Aunt Paulette came in and asked Jr andI to come to the kitchen. She was making some popcorn balls and wanted usto help.We went in and I think we ate more than what we made. At least I knew Iwas full! But, we had a good time popping popcorn and mixing it all up.One trick Aunt Paulette used which was neat was she put the mixed stuffinto zip lock bags she’s sprayed cooking oil into so it didn’t get ourhands all greasy. We moulded them from the outside and then would turnthem out onto wax paper when we were done. Jr and I had a good timemaking popcorn ball men on the wax paper. Aunt Paulette helped us becauseshe got into her gingerbread house supplies and got us gumdrops and candycorn for the various eyes and mouths.After a long time, Mike and Amy came back and said Delta Dawn had aproblem and was very sick. Amy said he’d gotten some soured hay andbasicly the only thing they could do was feed him lots of milk to get himover it. She said medicine would work too, but milk was the cheapest wayof doing the same thing. Mike said she and Jr were going to go on home,but he’d go over and sit up with Delta Dawn and Misters Thompson andAnderson.Jr left with Amy and Uncle Nick decided to go with Mike to see the bull.I stayed with Aunt Paulette and we went through the photo albums takenfrom my parent’s house. Everything smelled like the smoke, so AuntPaulette scanned the photos into her computer and made me a photo albumto view on the computer. There was a photo of mama and daddy when theygot married that she made larger and printed out. She put it into a photoframe and we put it in on a wall in my bedroom.One thing she wasn’t expecting was me asking her to make me a photo ofher and Uncle Nick’s wedding so I could put it on my wall too. I told hershe and Uncle Nick were like my new mama and daddy and she got tears inher eyes and hugged me. It was then I told her I wished I had a digitalcamera so I could take pictures of Jr, Mike, and Amy. She said she’d getme one this week and said it’d probably be good for us to have severalphotos of the livestock so we’d have proof for insurance purposes. I toldher I wish I’d had a photo of old Bessie. She said, “Maybe we can get youanother cow and you can call her “new Bessie”” I told her I liked thatidea.About eight o’clock, Mike and Uncle Nick came back and got something toeat and filled a thermos. They took a few of the popcorn balls and filledtwo of the old milk cans with milk. We didn’t have milk cows, but a cowthat was nursing could provide just as good milk We had several of those,so they rounded them up and got about ten gallons which they said wouldbe enough.I went back into the house and Aunt Paulette said for me to go take ashower and get ready for bed. I didn’t even ask if I could play tonkasbecause I’d already played them with Jr.After my shower, I went to bed and Aunt Paulette came up to tuck me inand say good night.That week at school, nothing much went on. One boy said his daddy hadgotten arrested, and I wondered if he was related to the guys that burnedour house. I made it a point of staying away from him in case it was ashe was upset about it. Other than that, the week was like any other.During the week, Uncle Nick went to the lawyer and got all the paperworkdone for the farm. I had to sit with him and he had to explain a lot ofwhat each paper meant. It was hard, but he put things into terms I couldunderstand. The main question I had after everything was when we couldbegin doing everything and if Jr’s family could now move into theThompson farm. Uncle Nick said they could just as soon as Mr. Thompsonmoved his belongings out, and he and Mike were going to help Mr. Thompsondo that the upcoming weekend.After that, Uncle Nick asked me to sit down and explained to me what allhe wanted to do. He said we’d need to have a stock trailer and a semi andsince we were going to be getting a semi, he thought we ought to getseveral trailers so we could haul hay bails to deliver them to peoplethat bought them. He said it would be a good living just from the haysales and he’d get used equipment which would save us money.I agreed with everything and then he said to me he would be teaching mehow to drive a tractor because in hay season, I could drive one and it’dhelp. I thought that was neat and asked if Jr could learn too. He said heand Mike had discussed it, and Jr would be taught too. He said he didn’twant us near the moving parts of a tractor, and if anything went wrongwith a tractor, we were to shut it off and not to touch a thing until anadult got there. He said most of the accidents on a farm were eithera****l related or machinery related and the machinery accidents were theworst because it could hurt or kill a person real fast. He showed me witha pencil and a string how people get caught up in the pto of a tractor. Iknew then I didn’t want to do that. It just scared me with a string!The rest of the semester, nothing much happened of significance exceptthe new barns were built and the new office building was built too. Thenew road coming in was built and it was neat driving over on the asphaltto what became the Johnson’s farm. Jr and I didn’t get to go to the sameschool as the Thompson house needed renovations and it was nearly the endof the semester before they moved in. They said Jr would start the nextyear with me, but he’d finish the school year at his old school. Jr was alittle upset about leaving his friends, but knew we’d only have one yearbefore everyone got to rejoin at the middle school as it was combined.Jr and everyone else got their little trucks. Misters Anderson andThompson both liked their and they soon started coming over to the officeto help with the various chores around it. Both of them were really proudof what all we’d accomplished and knowing they were happy, made me feelgood about everything too.I liked those two guys. They didn’t show how much they cared for eachother physically, but I knew they loved each other just by the way theylooked at each other. It seemed a spark would carry between them and Ijust knew.What was neat was sometime in May, we did the baling for the first time.The two older guys came over and showed us how to go about everything.Uncle Nick and Mike spray painted everything on the tractors bright whitethat we weren’t to touch. It didn’t seem like much, but knowing thoseparts weren’t what we were to be around kept me from even being near thatpart of a tractor.What was good was I learned to drive a tractor and it made me feel like Iwas growing up. Seeing Jr on the other tractor was a neat feeling becausehe looked just as proud as I felt. We both knew that Uncle Nick and Mikeboth were seeing we were growing up.One other good thing was sometime during the Spring, Jr and I got tostart helping with the feeding. It wasn’t hard, we just had to be carefulof being in amongst the cows, or buffalo when they realized it was timeto eat. One time, I was in the middle of the big O shaped fence we putthe bales in a little too long. By the time I was ready to leave, Ilooked around and all I saw were buffalo! Needless to say, my truck wasabout fifty feet away and so was my cell phone. I couldn’t call and Icouldn’t even beep the horn. Finally, Jr came to see what was taking meso long and saw what had happened. He laughed, but for a moment, it wasscary!Another interesting thing was the way we now herded cattle, or buffalo.Most of the time, herding lifestock, it takes several people as cattlewill dart back and forth. It was Jr who realized cattle don’t have eyeslike ours and they see things more from the side than from the front. Hesaid it came to him one day when he saw a cow stuck in a corner. The cowwas standing in the corner with it’s nose facing inward like I used tohave to do when I was in trouble. He said the cow thought it was boxed inbecause all it could see was fence out of it’s eyesight.That led us to putting more rounded corners into the pens and fields. Italso gave Uncle Nick and Mike an idea to put on of the roung hoopedthings which goes around the bales when we feed onto the front of atruck’s front hitch. The cow would see it an would be driven forward. Theplus side of it was if we drove either a mama or a baby, the other wouldfollow and soon the whole herd was following us!A few other things which happened that Spring was Aunt Paulette got me anew digital camera and gave me the chore of going out and taking photosof the different a****ls. I took a close up of the a****l’s face with theear tag and then one from each side. Jr helped in a big way as he likedthe downloading of the camera onto the new laptop we were given for thejob. He got to be really good about documenting them and making files soeveryone knew how to access it. It made it easier to care for them asthat file held the individual a****l’s vet forms and documentation.Sometime in the Spring, Uncle Nick, Aunt Paulette, Amy, and Mike allstarted going to meetings with the county. It started off rather slow,but soon it was going on a few times a week. On nights when they’d begone, Mike or Amy would watch me. On nights when they’d be gonetoo…which usually were either Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturdays,Misters Thompson and Anderson would watch us two over at their house.It was neat because I began to take my voice recorder over, and then Jrfigured out how to hook up the microphone onto the laptop so all we hadto do was set it up and let them remininsce. The good thing was welearned a whole lot about farming from them two. They’d tell us differentthings and then, later we’d ask how to do things when we were out in thebarn, or out in the field. They’d show us and it was amazing how much andhow fast we learned. If you’d gave me a pop quiz in farming, I’d passedwith an A+. One side benefit from all this was the two older guysinsisted we get involved in 4-H.We found out 4-H didn’t have a chapter locally, and the closest one wasover an hour drive. They decided to set up a chapter and we began to havemeetings at the livestock barn so it’d be centrally located for everyoneto drive. We decided to have the meetings on Wednesdays and we advertisedin the newspaper for a month before the first meeting. I was wondering ifanyone was going to show because I hadn’t heard anyone talking about itat school. Jr said he hadn’t either so we thought we’d be the only onesthere! Boy, were we wrong! That first meeting had over one hundred andfifty boys and girls at the meeting! It made us feel good because theyhad so many, they decided to have a junior group and an older group. Jrand I got elected to be the Vice President and President. Jr gotPresident, but it didn’t matter. Where he was, I was, and we were atevery meeting because we liked it so much.For Jr’s project, he did it on Alpacas. Mine was a baby buffalo whosemother didn’t want a thing to do with it. I nursed it with cow’s milkseveral times a day and made it a huge hay pile in the barn with blanketsover the hay so it could lay and feel secure like it’s mama should havedone. The result was the little girl thought I was her mama! When I’d goout in the truck, she’d follow me and wherever I went, she’d go. I had tobe careful about driving too fast otherwise she’d stop and startsqualling. Then, I’d have to turn around and go back and get out andnudge up against her like her mama would to tell her I loved her. Then,she’d shut up and I’d have to give her a bottle. The bottles for her werehuge! Each one was a half gallon and she went through a lot of them!By the time Summer came, we’d also gotten a garden in the ground and Jrand I made sure we had rows and rows of carrots. With all the a****ls wehad, we had to treat each one like they were the only one. Each would geta carrot and soon, we didn’t have to herd them anymore as they’d followus looking for their carrots. This led to side racks on the little trucksbecause they figured out real fast that’s where we kept them. Then,they’d be eatting them and not letting everyone get their share.One interesting thing of note was the buffalo would eat beets and potatoslike the cows would eat the carrots. Jr and I tried it and once wediscovered this, we made plans to add this to our list of things wewanted to grow in the garden. I don’t think they liked the taste of themall that much, I think it was the crunch and the texture which theyliked. That’s the only thing we could figure out which was similar in allthree.As time passed, Jr and I were more and more affectionate with each otherwhen we were about our chores. It was like we were one in our actions andthoughts. One would start the sentence and the other would finish it. Itgot to be so much, the adults were all calling us “the twins”. Onebenefit was when school got out, we were sleeping over at the other’shouse so much, no one cared. Everyone knew where we were and what wasneat was the adults were all really close. Even Misters Anderson andThompson were over quite often. They’d come around and it was like a hugeextended family.Then, sometime in June, news came which everyone dreaded. The trial forthe guys would be in mid July. When I heard this, a sickness hit me in mystomache and I just knew it was going to be bad. I won’t go into it here,but I’ll wait to tell you about it later.One advantage with the weather being warmer was we got to swim. What Ihad hoped was we could swim in one of the ponds, but the two older guyssaid we couldn’t because of the fear of water moccasins.I hadn’t seen many snakes out on the farm, but being told about one ofthose snakes really made my skin crawl. I do know when I did see a snake,if it wasn’t a black snake, I was to call one of the adult men and they’dbe along bets10 shortly with a shot gun. I learned that after the first time ofseeing one and not doing it right away. Later that night at supper, Itold the story of seeing it and asking what kind it was. When theydiscovered it was a copperhead, they wanted to know why I didn’t radio itin. I told them I didn’t know I was supposed to! That’s when I was toldhow much one of them could do if they bit a cow and how much it wouldcost for vet bills.After that, I made sure I called it in real fast! I’mjust glad I didn’t see one often, but we did have rattle snakes andcopperheads on the farm. The black snakes were o.k., I learned and theyweren’t to be shot.One other event I need to tell you about is the excitement of birth! Asyou probably know, we bought a bunch of cattle and some of them werepregnant. The first full moon when it was time to give birth, we hadthree which decided to give birth on one night. It took everything Amy,Mike, and Uncle Nick could to bring those little one’s into the world. Iknow it took everything Jr, Aunt Paulette, and I could to run themwhatever they needed to make sure they didn’t need to leave the cow. Thatwas when we decided to put in pens into the new barn and make sure thecows which were about to give birth were in there. It kept them in thesame area and we didn’t have a problem getting the cow to the barn whiletrying to give birth. We learned that lesson because the first full moonhappened to accompany a severe rain storm. Two of the cattle decided togive birth out in the middle of the pasture!I won’t even begin to tell you how much of a mess that was! But, let mesay this…after all that water, and after having to hold an umbrella forthat long, my arms were sore and we ended up soaked anyways. What I doknow was Amy was a lot smarter because she had Jr go get her theirfolding picnic shelter. It was like a building with a tent awning top.They fastened some roll plastic to the sides and them lucky ducks weredry!The next day, Mike and Uncle Nick moved all the pregnant cattle into thebarn…I wonder why!“Hear Ye! Hear Ye! All rise for the Honorable John Blanton. Please remain standing until the judge is seated. Then, we request quiet in the court.”The judge sat down and his flowing robe made him look really huge. He rapped the gavel and then everyone sat down.The Bailiff came forward and the Judge said, “What do we have today Ricky?”“Your honor we have Case Number 897650238 State of Missouri Vs James, , and . Murder First Degree. We have Cramer representing the State and Jack Offenhauser representing the defendants.”The judge rapped his gavel and said, “Have any motions been made for plea agreements?”Ben stepped forward and said, “Your honor, the state will not allow a plea agreement in this instance due to extenuating circumstances.”“What’s the circumstances?”“The one lone victim requested none be offered sir.”“Does the victim realize this is bordering on these gentlemen’s rights?”“I don’t think the victim really cares sir, he’s being raised without parents due to these gentlemen’s actions and….”“Your honor, I object!”“Sustained, Cramer, refrain from incriminating statements in front of the jury please. He turned to the Defense Attorney and said, “If you wish to object before I have a chance to speak, I’ll most certainly grant similar rights to the prosecution. I know the law very well and can run this court room without your input. Give me a chance to do so and you’ll see I do a right fair job.”“Ok your honor”“Jury’s selected and everyone agrees?”“Yes your honor, we have thirteen in case one becomes ill.”The judge looked at the Defense Attorney and said, “You do realize bench trials are more lenient than jury trials, don’t you?”“Yes, your honor, I believe I can defend my clients with a preponderance of the evidence.”“It’s not a preponderance we’re looking for…but a verdict. Remember that and you’ll give your clients a better value for their dollar. Mr. Cramer, let me see your witness sheet and evidence list. Ummm hmmm, ummm hmmm, ok, you do have all the witnesses subpoenaed and your statements taken?”“Yes, your honor.”“Defense, bring forth your witness statements and evidence sheets.”“Here you are your honor.”“You’ve got three clients and they’re going to serve as each other’s witnesses?”“They requested this sir.”“You gentlemen do realize one speck of evidence will not only throw out your statements, but will also put you in contempt?”They looked at him and he growled out, “Will the three accused please stand!”The stood and he said, “I believe I asked you a question. Believe it or not gentlemen, I’m trying to get you a fair trial here! Did you hear me?”“Yes sir”From the line of guys when they sat back down, the courtroom was filled with a statement, “Fuckin’ kangaroo court”“Will the defense please stand back up and would the person who made that statement please step forward?”No one stepped forward. The judge said, “The next outburst in this courtroom will have you ejected and tried in absentia, am I heard?”“Yes your honor.”“Then sit down and remember, you are to remain silent.”The judge looked at Mr. Cramer and said, “Mr. Cramer, make your statements to the jury and then, please make them brief.”Mr Cramer nodded and stepped forward. He made his statements and told the jury what happened in a story version. Afterwards, he said, “The state will prove. Evidence, dna evidence, and physical evidence will prove the defendants were at the Jacob’s residence on the said evening and they set out to rob the farm of items, beef from a cow slaughtered on site, and to kill the family by burning the farm to cover their tracks.”He then went over and sat back down.The defense attorney stood and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. What I’m going to do is give you a different scenario in which the gentlemen here standing accused couldn’t possibly have done what they’ve been accused.”He sat back down and the judge said, “Sir, you do realized that statement sounded a bit like a first year law student making a statement? We’re not seeking a retrial here, but we’re seeking a fair representation of the law. Am I understood?”“Yes your honor, there’s not much to say. He points the finger and I do what I can to make him out to be mistaken.” he said with a smile. “If that’s law 101, it seems to work every day in every court room.”The judge frowned and said, “Ok, I’ll refrain from making any more assumptions. Please do yourself a favor and make these fellas believe they paid for an attorney which cuts it to the quick like you.”The defense attorney nodded and then, the judge said, “Mr. Cramer, call your first witness.”Mr. Cramer stood and handed the bailiff a card.“The State calls the County 911 dispatch operator, Lois Barnes.”A woman got up and stepped forward.“Do you promise to tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help you God?”“Yes”And so it began. He asked her questions and then after she was through, they let her off the stand.“The State now calls Detective Max Lithrow.”The defendants looked at each other. A man walked forward and took the stand.“State your name and qualifications if you will.”“My name is Max Lithrow. I work for the State Highway Patrol Crime Lab.”“When you’re called in to investigate fires of this nature, how do you proceed?”“We check the situation to see if it was a fire which started of natural origin, or if it was deliberately set. If was set, then we take test samples to see how it was set and where it originated.”“And was this a natural fire?”“No”“So it was set deliberately?”“Yes”“How did you find it was set?”“In the photos I took, you can see char marks which show a trail of a flammable substance. Also, there was a dog there which sniffed the trail.”“How do you determine where it was set?”“When a fire starts, it burns there longest. However, when it begins, there’s a flashpoint and then the flammable substance ignites. Because flammable substances have fumes, they spread and as that substance ignites, those fumes ignite.”“Based upon the photos, can you show us where the fire originated?”“No, but our dog revealed it started at the front door and then trailed the substance. Based upon char marks, we saw the trail led through the living room, in through the dining room and on into the kitchen leading to the back door.”“And you could tell what the substance was?”“That’s based upon other tests. We took samples of the carpeting in the living and dining rooms as well as the kitchen linoleum and determined it to be gasoline.”“This was done in your lab with the state?”“It was done with the lab in our offices as well as the labs of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the F.B.I.”“Why did you send it to the other labs?”“We always get other opinions so we have three sources of verification.”“And they all revealed the substance to be gasoline?”“Yes.”“Did you send the sample to the carpet to the lab for a determination to see where the trail of gasoline led?”“No. We have a dog which can sniff that trail.”“And the dog revealed the trail?”“Yes.”“Did further tests corroborate the dog’s findings?”“Yes.”“How did you arrive at these findings?”“Based upon flash and charring of the carpeting. With the tile, it was a different.”“What do you mean it was different?”“Due to the tile being a hard slick surface which won’t absorb liquids, it spreads.”“How do you test it?”“It’s rather interesting. Different chemicals react differently with the finish of the tiles constructive material. You have to do tests on different tiles and see how something eats into the finish and then, see how it burns afterwards. Fortunately, the manufacturers send us tiles to use for these tests.”“Can different cleaning solvents deteriorate the finish?”“Yes, but no one washes their floors with gasoline and stays around long. Gasoline was the liquid used in this instance.”“Is that all you can tell from the finish?”“No. Interestingly, we can tell the container used as well as the rough height of the person who poured it.”“How?”“Different containers have different flow rates. If you notice, a metal can has a different filler neck than a plastic container and based upon those containers, the flow rates are different.”The judge interrupted, “Can we move this along?”I looked at the judge. I was listening and paying attention. I knew Daddy had both metal and plastic jugs out in the well shed.I turned to Uncle Nick and said, “Daddy had all of those jugs out in the well shed. They had to go there first.”“Yes.”The prosecutor asked, “Were you able to figure out how tall the person was who poured the gasoline?”“Five foot nine inches tall.”I saw the defense lawyer begin writing franticly at his desk.“Uncle Nick, that guy in my room was taller than that.”“Yes, but look over there at the shorter guy. He was the one out there in the barn.”“Yes. Do you think he came in the house?”“It looks that way.”“So he’s the one that set the fire?”“I think they’re pointing the finger that direction.”The prosecutor turned to the judge. “Your honor, may we have a recess? There’s a lot more information here than even I anticipated.”“Yes, I believe we can have a fifteen minute recess.”“Your honor, may we have thirty?”“Any particular reason?”“Sir, I’ve got someone testifying who is an expert witness. He’s giving information which could if refuted could potentially get this case brought up to appeals if it’s found faulty. I’m sure the defense won’t argue he’d like to look into this information as do I.”“Ok, please keep it to thirty.”The judge stood and we started to get up. The prosecutor came directly over to me. “Billy, I need to ask you something.”“Ok.”He leaned over so his head was between Uncle Nick and me and asked, “If I can get the other two guys to testify the shorter guy was the one who set the blaze, will you let me get them twenty years?”I looked at Uncle Nick and he said, “Get them forty and I’ll let Billy consider it. We don’t want Billy to see these guys out before he gets out of high school when they get good behavior.”The prosecutor nodded and said, “I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll push that, but I’m not going to bargain for anything less than thirty five years for them because that can get knocked down to twenty four real fast with good time in our state.”Uncle Nick nodded and said, “What do you think Billy?”“I don’t want them out. Mama and Daddy aren’t going to get out of their graves sooner.”“Billy, we know that, but if we can get those two guys to testify against the one, then it will have them all worried what the others are going to say.”I looked at the prosecutor and said, “Offer it to the guy, Gray Daniels, who saved me, but don’t let them get out.”“Ok, I’ll go over and see if I can strike a plea with him.”He went over and spoke with the defense attorney. I saw the man shake his head no, but then Gray shook his head and said loud enough I could hear him. “I’ll take it.”The prosecutor went over to his table and quickly got on his cell phone. He came back and said, “He took it. We’ll get him questioned and get him on the stand. If he doesn’t testify against them, the deal is off. We’ll throw them all in until hell comes to get them.”Uncle Nick and Aunt Paulette stood up and we went out into the hallway.A lot of people were there. Immediately to the right is steps which go down to a landing. We saw Mike and Jr over at a bench. Uncle Nick went over to them.Aunt Paulette said, “Billy, go use the restroom.”“I don’t have to go.”“Honey, go try. We’ll be sitting there a while and it’ll cause a disturbance if you are getting up and down.”“I won’t get up and down. It’s interesting.”“I know honey, but please go try. I’ve got to go myself.”“Ok, I’ll walk you down the steps and go.”We went down the steps. The line for the womens restroom was long. There were probably fifteen women standing out in the line.“Go ahead honey.”“Ok, I’ll come back over here.”I went to the restroom. As soon as I went in, there were men standing inside. One of them said, “Them sons of bitches did it. Did you see the look on that short one’s face when that man said it was someone his height!” He chuckled.I looked at the men. I thought It doesn’t bring back my mama and daddy.I went over and used the bathroom. The one man who was speaking came over and ruffled my hair. “Son, you rest easy. Them guys are guilty and if they get out, we’ll see to it they don’t make anyone be bothered again.”I looked up at him and said, “They won’t get out. I saw them. They’re going to have me testify.”“Son, if you ever need anything, you come over to the bank in Jacksonville and speak with me. I’ll get it so you don’t have a worry.”“Ok. I wish you were there before my mama and daddy died.”“So do I son….so do I.” He shook his head and went out of the room.I went over and washed my hands. The roll of cloth was laying out all over the floor and was all used up. I wiped my hands upon my pants legs.I went back out. Aunt Paula wasn’t there, so she must be in using the restroom.I stood and waited for her. An older lady came over and handed me a handkerchief. “Honey, if you got to cry, use this. It’s just so sad what they’ve made you have to go through. It’s just so sad.”The way she put it out towards me, I couldn’t do anything other than take it. I took it and put it in my pants pocket. Aunt Paulette came out and came over to me. “Billy, your pants legs are wrinkled.”“The towels in there were all used up. I had to wipe my hands on them.”She smiled. “At least you washed your hands.”We went back up the steps to the courtroom. Uncle Nick came over and said, “We’re going to get Mike and Jr in our row. They got here late and the courtroom was already full.”Aunt Paulette nodded.Jr came over and hugged me. “How are you doing?”“It’s interesting. That man who testified had a lot of neat information.”I filled him in on everything and then Uncle Nick said, “Billy, come on they’re getting ready to start again.”We went in and sat down. The prosecutor and the defense attorney were over speaking. The bailiff came in and told us all to rise again. We stood and the judge came into the room. The judge sat down and then everyone else all sat down.The prosecutor told the judge about the plea offer of forty seven years offered to Gray Daniels, the man who rescued me, and it’s being in effect if the man would work with the prosecution of the other men.The judge nodded his head and said, “I’m guessing you need time to question him to get his statements before he testifies.”“Yes your honor.”“Ok, bailiff remand that man and be sure to tell the Sheriff to get him into protection so nothing affects his testimony.”The defense said, “Your honor, in light of this event, can we get a continuance?”The judge’s face got red. His lips pursed together until they were white and then, he looked towards the jury.“Sir, you’re attempting to get me to continue this circus putting the juries lives on hold until you attempt to build a defense. It should seem to me you either know these men’s innocence or guilt and have contingency plans for circumstances such as these. I’m thinking I’m being generous to give you until tomorrow morning to have your dogs and ponies in order so they can perform. This show is going to roll then.”He looked at Mr. Cramer and said, “You two get together and get up there so that man is questioned and you have him on the stand at nine a.m. Because if you don’t, I’ll nullify that plea agreement and we’ll go on as we are.” He paused and said, “You get that boy in my chambers because I want to speak with him.”“Which one sir?” The prosecutor.“Billy Jacobs. It seems to me you’re affecting his life with these decisions. These men are facing considerable time. If they are found innocent or you’re making offers which has that c***d enduring more pain in the future, I’m not going to take it lightly.”The prosecutor nodded. The judge stood and looked at us. “Nick, would you and your wife please bring Billy back into my chambers?”Uncle Nick nodded and looked at Aunt Paulette and I. He took my hand and then turned to Mike. “We’ll be right back.”Mike nodded.We stood up and then Uncle Nick took us forward to the door the judge just went through. The bailiff opened it for us and we went into the judge’s office.The judge was taking off his robe. He hung it on a coat rack and then sat down at his desk.“Nick, did you agree to that agreement?”“Yes your honor. They wanted to offer twenty and I told the prosecutor to double it. I didn’t want Billy having to deal with them before he was out of high school.”The judge smiled and said, “So he went and offered forty seven?”“Apparently. I wasn’t within hearing distance.”The judge looked at me and said, “Billy, come around here please.”I went around his desk and the judge put me up on it sitting so we were looking eye to eye.“Billy, I’m doing what I can out there to try being fair. The amount of fairness I’m giving is with YOU in mind first and foremost.”He shook his head and continued. “I didn’t know your mama and daddy personally, but I’m just damned sorry I couldn’t put those idiots behind bars longer than I could when they were in front of me previously. I think if I had, your parents would be alive.”I said, “Sir, you have a job and if you had known, I know you would have. Mr Thompson told me once he got kicked by a mule. He said had he known the mule was going to kick him, he sure would have took the shoe off it so it wasn’t wearing them.”The judge chuckled.“You’re right. I can sort of tell someone is bad business when they’re in front of me, but all I can hope is they’re going to get their lives in order and then stay out of my court. Most do, but there’s others who are gladly taking their places. We don’t have many murders in these parts and thankfully so, but when one happens it’s usually got me to thinking what I could have done different.”“Sir, I understand. I raise Alpacas. There are good ones and then, there are those that spit. When they’re little, you don’t know which ones are going to be spitters and not. They usually learn it from older ones, but just the same one learns it, another standing right beside it won’t ever spit.”He laughed and said, “Yeah, I’ll have to try not thinking of any of the people who come in front of me as alpacas. It gives those beautiful a****ls a bad reputation.”He paused and asked, “Billy, why did you agree with that offer?”“Because I saw them guys. The one who took the deal saved me. If he hadn’t, I’d probably be dead too. The other one was outside. That short one was the one who was in our barn and killed Bessie.”“It looks like he killed your parents too. What do you want me to do when that man comes up in front of me for sentencing?”“Make sure they never get out. If that one is the one who killed my mama and daddy, then do what you can to see he dies…if you can.”“Billy, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I don’t think there’s enough on him to get him the death penalty. What I will do is get him life without a chance of being released. That way he won’t ever get out. How about I give that other guy seventy five years?”“Sir, can I say something?”“Yes.”“If those men told me my mama and daddy couldn’t see me for seventy five years, I’d think they were some awful people. I’d wait that long to see them, but as it is, I’m not going to see my mama and daddy ever again. That’s why I don’t ever want to see them again and don’t want them to get to see their families again.”He nodded and said, “You have a good point. Let me see what I can do about that. You don’t know it, but I can make recommendations with the prison system of where they’re put. Usually, they try to put them close to their family for their convenience. What I’ll do is request the man be put way far away so their family finds it rather hard to see him.”“How far away?”“There’s a prison down in a town which is five hours by car which they can be placed.”“Can you make it so they don’t ever see each other in there? If they can see each other, then they’ll gang up on someone else.”“I’ll put that in my recommendation. What I’d like to ask you is if you’ll speak to a woman who is a friend of mine named Fannie. She’s over the parole board. They’re the ones who decides when guys get out.”“You’re going to let them out!”“No Billy, but she has a lot of pull inside with those people and I’d like for her to be pulling for you so what you’ve requested.”“So you’ve already decided they’re going to go to prison?”“Billy, you’re going to testify, aren’t you?”“Yes. They’ve already asked me to do it by video, but I didn’t want it to be done that way. I want them to see me tell what I saw and I want them to know I’m plenty mad at them.”“I promise you I’ve already seen the video you made. If you tell the jury what you told the video, there’s not a one of them who is going to let them men get out.”“Your honor, you want to know what I wish you could do for me?”“What’s that son.”“I wish you could make it so I could remember my mama and daddy’s faces. I’m already forgetting them. I have to look at pictures and then, when I do I get sad all over again.”The judge had tears in his eyes. “Son, I wish I could do that. Do what you can to remember your mama laughing and your daddy and you were doing something together and what he looked like when you were doing that. It helps. I’m older than you and that’s the only way I can remember my mama and daddy.”“Your mama and daddy are dead too?”“Yes.”“It makes you sad, doesn’t it?”“Yes, it hurts like all get out….at times. That’s why I want you to speak with Fannie. She’s a great gal and I just know if you spoke with her, she’d get everything you wanted done.”“Ok, I’ll speak with her.”He looked at Uncle Nick and Aunt Paulette and said, “I’m going to ask a favor because a lot of what’s been said in here needs to be kept in here.”Uncle Nick said, “Don’t worry about that with us.”“No, what I’m going to ask next is right up there with lightning bolts on ethics.”Uncle Nick nodded and said, “As long as it doesn’t hurt Billy, we’ll agree.”“I want her and Billy to go out there to that farm and talk. I want her to see where it happened. If I can make her see his parents were alive one moment and then his life was damaged over what happened, I want her to never forget this boy.She’s the type of woman who will not forget and will make it a point of every time she thinks about him, she’ll make a call to see those men’s lives won’t ever be peaceful in the prison system…I’ll tell you that.”Uncle Nick nodded and said, “Billy, is that ok with you?”“Yeah, I don’t have a problem taking her there. I don’t know her, but I’d like it if she’d be able to make them have mean friends in there.”The judge paused and said, “Nick, video tape everything out there with Billy telling what he remembers…as if he’s giving a complete accounting of the night over. We’ll get it put onto DVD so it goes to Fannie. I just know she’ll show it to people in there in confidence so those people who are their caseworkers will remember Billy all the way through the years.”Uncle Nick nodded and said, “We’ll do that. That way, their deeds follow them.”The judge paused and said, “Nick, Paulette, I know you two have loss too. I don’t want you to think I’m negating that fact.”Aunt Paulette said, “We know that. We understand what you’re doing. It’s fine with us. If it gets justice done beyond the court room, we’ll gladly do it.”The judge said, “Why don’t you do a part of the DVD telling about the Jacobs so they know it was your family who was killed. I think it’d be good if those people see it and immediately think of their family members and the loss they’d feel.”Uncle Nick asked, “How long do you think this trial will take?”The judge scrunched his nose and said, “The trial portion should take less than two weeks as long as the prosecutor will keep witnesses like todays off the stand. The man on the stand today was giving valuable testimony, but I began to wonder if he was deliberately throwing in enough questionable material to help the defense for retrial.”Uncle Nick look startled. “You don’t think!”“No, as you saw, I interrupted and was thankful the prosecutor got the point. I will tell you I came back in here during recess and called that man’s superiors to tell them the transcript was being emailed to them so they could get him to not jeopardize anyone’s case in the future.”I looked at the judge and said, “I thought what he said was neat.”“It’s interesting Billy, but that defense attorney previously had nothing to grasp ahold of to save his men. Now, he’s got fine threads which he’ll use to try saving them. That is how these people get out of these things.”“They’re not going to get free, are they?”Mike looked at me and had the worst look ever on his face, “Those men won’t ever be free. If they do, they’ll face back road justice…my way!”Uncle Nick looked at him and I asked, “What’s back road justice?”Uncle Nick said, “Billy, don’t worry about it. Mike is just doing what he can to make sure you know they’re not going to be let loose.”“Ok, you had me afraid there for a minute.”I heard Uncle Nick and Mike talking. Jr came over to me and said, “Back road justice is when someone gets in trouble and a bunch of guys take them out on a back road and beat the tar out of them.”“You don’t think they’re going to be getting out! Do you?”“No, what did the judge say?”“He wanted to ask me if I was agreeing to the deal they gave that one guy.”“Did you?”“Yeah. He’ll tell on the other guys and get to get out after forty seven years.”“It doesn’t sound like that’s a good deal to me.”“It is when the other guys are facing never getting out.”“It still makes him a rat. He’ll never be able to show his face around here again without being told that’s what he is.”“No, but I don’t want to think about that. If it helps get the others put away forever, that’s what I want.”He nodded and hugged me. “I know it’s hard for you.”“The judge wants me to meet a girl named Fannie. She’s probably got a big fanny!” I said smiling.“Who would name their daughter Fannie?”“I don’t know, but that’s what her name is.”“Who is she?”“She talks with the people in the prison to make sure the guys don’t get treated good. That’s what the judge said.”“I’d like to have that job.”“Not me. I don’t think I’d want anywhere near them.”We started walking down the steps. We were about all the way down when someone started yelling for Uncle Nick. We all turned around and saw the prosecutor running down the steps towards us.“I’m sorry Nick, but I have to ask Billy a question.”He looked at me and said, “The defense attorney wants to have me ask you if you’ll agree to giving them life with a chance of parole.”“What’s that mean?”“It means they’ll get life in prison, but they’ll have a chance for parole eventually.”“What’s parole.”“A parole meeting is when the guy goes up in front of the parole board and they think about letting him out.”“So they’d get to get out?”“Not for a long long time. The way it goes is a guy has to wait for twenty five years before he even gets to see them. With the circumstances of your mama and daddy dying, I’ll tell you the parole board won’t let them go. They’ll tell them to come back in five years and when that happens, they’ll most likely tell them to wait another five years. They’ll keep doing that, but what’s good about it is when they have that meeting, you get to be there and tell the parole board about what happened and then tell the parole board you don’t want them to be set free.”I looked at Uncle Nick and he asked, “If they each have both murders is that going to be in twenty five years? Or, is it going to be they go up for parole in twenty five years and then, have to start doing the next twenty five for the second murder?”“That’s a good point. I can ask it be done that way.”“Do that and then I’ll let Billy consider it. I don’t want those guys to ever have the privilege of even thinking being set free until they’re old and gray.”The prosecutor nodded and said, “Billy, you stay close to a phone. I think those guys are worried now that one of them is willing to tell what happened. I think they’re going to grab ahold of any deal we make.”“What happens if they want to use what that one guy said to try being set free?”“The good thing is if they take the deal, it’s like this trial didn’t happen. There’s no chance for them to get a better deal because they’re saying this is the best deal they could have gotten. They can ask the judge for leniency, but I’ll tell you now that judge isn’t going to give it to them.”Uncle Nick said, “You get them to run them separately and we’ll think about it. Until then, he’s scared those guys are going to be set free. Let’s not scare him any more than he’s already been.”The prosecutor nodded and said, “I’ll make that offer that way. Will you consider that if I do?”“You put it in writing where we can see it and we’ll take a look for ourselves it’s actually that way.”The prosecutor nodded and said, “Ok, how about we just go ahead and agree to it being that way because I sure won’t offer them it being the other way.”Uncle Nick said, “How about you just go ahead and run all of those charges they’re facing that way? It’ll buy time for us and give them more time.”“Nick, here’s the problem with that. The deal is they’ll plea to the murders and we’ll sweeten the deal with the other charges of arson, cruelty to a****ls, burglary, theft, and all the others to get them to take the worst ones.”Uncle Nick said, “It doesn’t sound good enough.”“What I’m afraid of Nick is they can take this through trial and use that witness’ testimony to get the time reduced on technicalities.”“Then why in the hell did you let that man on that stand!”“I’m sorry about that. If I could have told the man to shut up, I would have. Instead, I’ll be calling his boss and telling him he sure didn’t do us any favors with his testimony.”“What’s his bosses name? I really would like to give him my opinion too.”“I’ll get that for you.”Uncle Nick said, “I know you didn’t deliberately put that man on the stand to do this. If you can get those charges of murder to be ran separate, then we’ll consider it. A lot of time is better than no time. I realize it’s your job to try to get them the most and their job is to try to get the least, but you tell them we won’t even consider it not being that way. We’ll take our chances their guy and Billy’s testimony will sway that jury to be upset enough to give them the maximum they can.”I said, “No matter what, I want to know why they did it. They have to tell me why. If they can’t, then I’ll tell you now I’m not going to let them get out without telling me.”The prosecutor said, “Billy, I’ll see if I can put that in the agreement. We’ll do it so they have to make a full confession and write it all out what they did and why they did it. It’ll secure the convictions and it’ll keep them from ever trying to make themselves a better deal later.”“How can they make better deals?”“It’s a slim chance at all. What they have to do is they have to hope the judge will even consider it. That’s why I’m saying it’s a slim chance. Sometimes a judge will do that, but this time isn’t one of them. I don’t think.”Uncle Nick said, “You can rest assured it isn’t. We spoke with the judge and he’s all for giving them a hard time in there. He’s wanting to have Billy speak with a woman who can make that happen.”“Did he happen to mention her name?”“Fannie Lawe”“Oh man, I’ll tell you now the judge is baiting a bear trap then. She’s head of the parole board. If he’s wanting Billy to speak with her, I’ll tell you now he’s going straight to the top and not holding anything back.”“Well, he wants her to know what happened and what Billy thought when it was happening. He wants it on DVD so it can be played for their caseworkers and everything.”The prosecutor smiled. “She’ll do it to. I’ve heard she has the ability to go in and make life miserable for those guys.”“Well, get that agreement done the way we asked and we’ll consider it.”He nodded and said, “Nick, I’m sorry that man did that.”“It’s not your fault. Let’s make it a point of complaining to his boss so no one else is jeopardized in this manner again. They ought to have them practice giving testimony. For a moment, I thought he was deliberately saying things to help them.”“I think his problem is he’s taking the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” a bit far. He’s supposed to answer questions and not go on and on like he did.”“Well, get me his bosses’ name because I’ll be writing a letter of complaint.”“I’ll do that. Stay here in town because I’ll have that agreement done in about an hour.”“So fast!”“You have to strike while the iron is hot. If those idiots get a chance to go back to that jail and hear what we’re doing, then they’ll not take it.”“Does this make the other guy’s deal the same?”“No, unfortunately not. We made that deal so that’s what we’re stuck with. The good thing is we’ll get his side of things because that’s already a given. How much he’ll say, I’m not sure, but if it’s not good enough, I’ll request the judge to disallow the agreement and he’ll have to either stand trial or take their agreement. The plus side of it is I can tell him that’s what will happen once they take it and he’ll make sure he gets that better deal.”“In a way, I hope he doesn’t so he has to take the same deal they’re getting.”“I don’t think he’ll be that stupid. The plus side of it is his family is going to be on him something awful for even thinking about testifying against his own family. Then, when he’s released sooner than the others, he’ll have to face all of that again.”“I guess that’s a plus, but it really isn’t in my eyes. I’d just as soon Billy not ever have to see them. What’s the likelihood of what he’ll have to do with good time and everything….honestly?”“Honestly, they get a chance of parole at fifty percent. That’s twenty three years. I’ll tell you now, that parole board isn’t going to give it to him, so what happens is it automatically goes to two thirds which is thirty one or two. When he gets out, he’ll have to do five years parole and what we’ll do is we’ll make it so there’s a lifetime restraining order on him to stay away from Billy. If he so much as attempts to go near him, then he’ll have to go back and finish that sentence.”“Little consolation if he wants to come at him and finish the job.”“I don’t think he will. He had opportunity to finish the job, but chose to rescue him. I think it’s a situation of a good man being caught up in a bad crowd. When it counted, his true colors showed and Billy is here because of it.”“You sound like his lawyer.”“I probably do, but what I’m saying Nick is I don’t think he’s one Billy will need to worry about. I’m trying to give you some hope there.”“Ok, I understand. It’s a shame he didn’t save everyone.”“Yes, but we have to take our blessings as they come.”Aunt Paulette said, “Nick, I think you guys are on the same page. He’s telling you not to worry and you’re still worrying.”Uncle Nick said, “I’m just worried what prison is going to do to that man. The best person in the world could go in there and still come out an a****l. My worry is he’ll aim that fury at Billy and I’ll not around to protect him.”“Hon, please. I know you mean well and I’m sure this man here means well.He’s telling you to count your blessings and you’re spitting in the eye of God. How would you feel if that man had went ahead and finished the job? It took Billy telling us what they looked like. All we would have had was another person to bury and not have anything but suspicions. Be thankful the man was there so we could have Billy to tell us so we got this much justice!”“Ok, put that way, I understand better. I’m sorry.”He went over and put his head on her shoulder. “It’s just I have to be strong when I have to raise him and know I’m getting to see everything my sister should have been able to see. His first love. His graduation. Heck, he even learned how to drive and she didn’t get to see that.”Mr. Cramer said, “Nick, what I want you to do is make a victim’s impact statement. Have you done that?”“No, what is it?”“It’s a letter you write which gets read at the parole hearings. You can do it on DVD if you’d like, but the way it’s normally done is via letter. What is good about it is it’s put in the file and each time they come up for parole, it’s read just like you being there.”“I’ll do that. Maybe it would help. Right now, all I can think about is everything my sister isn’t getting to see in regards to him.”“I know. It’s hard. What’s good is you can add to it and all of them will be read. I think you need to really consider that.”“We will. I think Paulette needs to do one too. Her life has been impacted as much as mine.”“Is that why they’re having me do it on DVD?”Mr Cramer nodded, “Yeah hon. I think it is. They want you to do it because a little boy your age shouldn’t have to ever go through this. I think they’re having you do it so when it’s viewed, those parole board members can look at it and say, “My God, he’s just a baby.”“I’m not either!”“You might not think so now Billy, but some day you’re going to look back on it and think they really robbed you of a lot more than you think.”“I know they took my mama and daddy. That’s more than enough.”Uncle Nick dropped down on his knee, “They took experiences you would have had with them. That’s what he’s trying to say. It’s not that you don’t get to experience them, but you’re having to do them with people who aren’t your parents. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing things with you, but I think your mama and daddy should have been the ones to do them with you.”“I understand, but I don’t want you and Aunt Paulette to think I don’t love you for doing them with me.”“We know that.”The prosecutor blew his nose in an handkerchief. I looked up and he had tears running down his face. I stepped away from Uncle Nick and went over and hugged him. “It’ll be alright.”He smiled and said, “Billy, you’ve had to be so strong. I look at how you are and I just know your parents were some fine people. I need to go get that agreement done so we can get you guys to look at it.”He looked at Uncle Nick and said, “Nick, if I didn’t think that man jeopardized this case, that right there would have me still fighting this thing to the end. Instead, we got what we got and now we have to give them the hardest deal we can.”“Are you doing this because of that man’s testimony, or because we have them on the ropes?”“Both. We have them on the ropes because they’re afraid of what their guy is going to say.I’m feeling like I’m on the ropes because of what that man said. I know if we take this on through, they’ll get a retrial based upon his testimony and could get it.With a retrial, their guy’s testimony could be disallowed as they could say it was in his best interest to make them look bad. I think us offering this deal is our only hope to get something set in stone.”“Ok, get the deal made up as we’ve asked, go ahead and present it. BUT, you tell them if they don’t take it there won’t be another. We’re not going to whittle this thing down until there’s nothing. You’ve got the best you’re going to get. I’ll take us being on the ropes and make a noose out of it to hang them myself if need be.”He nodded and said, “Do you want to look it over?”“No, because if you didn’t give them the deal we agreed to, I’ll personally see you’re not re-elected. Furthermore, the judge is going to ask Billy if that’s what we agreed to and once he tells him no, then you’re going to be on the front page of every newspaper being viewed as the man who sold out a little boy’s parents.”“Don’t worry, I’m not going to change a thing.”“Just don’t. You now know how far I’ll take this. I’d rather have you know it up front. Personally, I think you should have known a little bit more about how that man would testify than you did. It’s upsetting, but I also have to tell myself you always have that guarantee. That’s why I’m going to be off talking with his boss.”“Nick, when this is over, I’d like to sit down and talk with you. Have you ever heard of court appointed liaisons?”“No, what is it?”“What it is, is someone who comes into the court acting on behalf of people who can’t act in their own interests.”“I’ve got my hands full as it is.”“You’re not understanding me. Let me explain it better.The reason I’m suggesting it is because you’re not afraid to tell me how you feel. A lot of people view me and judges with a bit of intimidation.I’ll tell you now there are times when I get a head of steam and don’t see any other thing except what I’ve made in briefs. It takes someone with common sense to not be afraid in open court to say, “Hey, that’s stupid. Do you really think you’re acting in the best interest of this person here?”“What sort of people get court appointed liaisons?”“k**s get them. The elderly. The mentally handicapped, and so on and so forth. Heck, people in comas get them because we need someone to speak on their behalf.”“Am I legally liable for doing it?”“No, not at all. The plus side of it is it gets you experience. It gets you networked with the people of the court. You can use it to branch out politically, or do what you want.”Aunt Paulette said, “Nick, look into it. You’re wanting to be a county commissioner, that’d be one way of getting your foot in the door.”“Ok, I’ll look into it.”“Hearing you want to be a commissioner, let me give you a bit of information. Your county commissioner isn’t really interested in the job. He’s ran the past three times because no one else has ran. If you want to be one, let me get you in contact with him and he’ll gladly support you on it.”Uncle Nick smiled and turned to Aunt Paulette. “Hon, this might be what we’ve been hoping for.”He paused and asked, “How much time is this court appointed liaison thing going to take?”“The plus side of it is it’s usually one afternoon a week.”“How much time do I have to look over that person’s file?”“That’s the bad thing about it. You would pick up your files on Friday afternoon and have to be ready for court on Monday afternoon.”“Is that fair to the people who are represented?”“Nick, most of the time, it’s either for k**s who are getting adopted or for someone who is elderly who can’t speak for themselves. They are unable to take care of what is normal capacity and/or themselves. What happens is you basically have a lot of reports in the files which are from doctors, health care professionals, or whatever which say exactly that. You’re given the access to the person if you would like and can actually see for yourself, but that’s how it goes.”“Then why do you need a liaison for them?”“Because sometimes things get screwed up. I’d like to say it nicer, but just a couple weeks ago, we had a mess because we had three people with the last name of Brown who were up on the dockets. Needless to say, somewhere along the way, we had a patient in one of the nursing homes who got remanded to a different nursing home in the court records. In that circumstance, we didn’t have a liaison who was there, so we sat the file on the table and had court without one.”“Is that legal?”“Unfortunately, it is. And, unfortunately, that’s why things get screwed up.”“Ok, how much does it pay?”“That’s the part I wasn’t wanting to say. It’s donated time.”Uncle Nick said, “Ok, how many files a week?”“Sometimes one or none and sometimes, it could be ten. We never know.”“And looking over those files all takes time. I’ll tell you now I’m the sort of person who is going to take it seriously.”“I know, that’s why I’m telling you about it. What I need to tell you is there are some cases where if the file takes a considerable amount of time, then you’re paid.”“Like what?”“Let’s say someone is elderly and has no family. They lived at home, something happened and now, they’re going to be confined to a nursing home the rest of their lives.What happens then, is a liason is appointed and that liaison is charged with the power of the court to auction the person’s belongings off and in doing so, a percentage of the proceeds is given to the liason as payment in kind.”“Sounds like a lot of work.”“It can be, but I’ll tell you there are a few unsavory persons in this county who seem to want to snatch those up. They make deals with only certain auctioneers and or real estate people and they in turn see a sizable portion of those moneys in return for only dealing with those people.”“You mean to tell me they’re taking kickbacks on it!”“I’m not going to say yes, and I’m not going to say no. All I’m going to say is if it smells like a snake, coils up like one, and slithers along like one, then most likely they’re snakes.”“Is that legal?”“Yes, unfortunately. That’s why I’d push strong to have someone of good moral character to be in there so I can get those people out.”Mike said, “I’d be interested. If it’s bodies you want, then I’ll do it providing it’s ok with Nick.”“Sure Mike. I’ve got no problem with that. If it’s something you want to do, then go for it.”“Ok, I’ll get you guys some information on it and make plans on having you in there. Without knowing it, you just cut the odds of those people getting all of them down by half.”Aunt Paulette said, “I can up the odds by throwing my hat in if you’d like. We can get other people told and then, we can make it so they’re not getting many at all.”“I’m sorry, but I can’t let other family members do it. The reason for that is you might in some circumstances be in with files which have you standing across the court from each other.”“How’s that?”“Ok, I’ll tell you a circumstance and then, you’ll see.A man and woman have a car wreck. They’ve got four c***dren. Unfortunately, the man was driving and he was killed. The woman probably would have been killed, but instead they did all the resuscitation measures and kept her alive. Now, she’s in the nursing home living the rest of her life as a vegetable. Paulette, that’s your file.Nick, your file is the k**s. The parents didn’t have a will, and they didn’t have much family. They’ve got a family member in some distant state who lives in a trailer filled with beer bottles and likes to beat up on his women. He’s got four pit bulls outside and he’s just not real clean about himself.Now, do you take custody and give it to him, or do you fight to put them in better circumstances and Paulette, is that person really in a vegetative state? or could she possibly come back with better care only to find the k**s have all been adopted out?”“Oh man.” said Aunt Paulette.“Yeah, it can be messy.”Uncle Nick asked, “Why isn’t family services handling these things?”“Because it’s not viewed as impartial if one state agency is handing k**s over to another agency without independent persons who aren’t afraid to stand up and say, “Hey, Bubba’ down there is a poor choice for any parent of the year award. If you’re thinking about doing that, get a new hole drilled in your skull because the ones you have are holding in too much stupidity.”Everyone laughed.Uncle Nick said, “I can see why you don’t have family members doing it.” He looked at Aunt Paulette and said, “Hon, if you want to do it, that’s fine with me.”“No, you go ahead. I was offering to throw my hat into the ring to help make the pot a little thinner for those other people.”The prosecutor said, “I’d hate to change the subject, but have you guys noticed how much family support those guys have gotten?”Uncle Nick said, “I’ve not been paying attention. Is there any?”“Absolutely none. They monitor the calls and visits at the county jail and they’ve had no takers and no one comes to visit them. We reserve a bench behind the defendants for family and not one person was sitting there. Finally, they gave it to the spectators who were having to stand.”Aunt Paulette said, “At least their family has some sense. I think if anyone in my family did that, I’d not come either.”I said, “I would. It’s too easy to hate someone. We’re supposed to love the sinner and hate the sin. I’d go because I’d want them to know I still love them.”Everyone looked at me and Uncle Nick said, “Out of the mouths of babes.”He turned to the prosecutor and said, “We’ll stay in town for lunch. Give us a call when you have those agreements. We’ll come and give them a look.”“Ok, I’ve got your cell number.”We went out onto the front steps of the court house. Uncle Nick said, “Mike, we’ll be down at the diner. Would you guys like to go?”“I need to check some things out at the farm. Jr can stay, but I’ve got to be there to check them.”“Ok, we’ll take him and get him lunch. We’ll see you guys later this afternoon when we get home.”Jr came over and said, “Come on, I’ll race you to the truck.”We took off running and I barely beat him tagging the door handle.“Billy, do you mean it that you’d come see me if I got in trouble?”“Yeah! But I’d probably be sitting right beside you because we’d be in trouble together….but you’re not going to kill anyone.”“I’d be there for the back road justice to be delivered if it had to happen. So, if that’s what we decided, then I’d do it too.”“I wouldn’t. It’s a whole lot better to hate someone than to kill them.”“So you don’t think they deserve the death sentence?”“The court is deciding for them not to get it, so we’ve got to follow what they want.I think them being put away for that long is fine. They don’t get to see their family and stuff, so it’s just like what they did to me. So, they’re getting their eye for the eye for an eye.”“I’d want them to get killed just like they killed if it were my parents.”“If it happens to you, you’ll see it gets pretty old having everyone feel sorry for you.It’s like when you’re sick and get better. Everyone still wants to give you cough syrup when you’re not even coughing. It’s that way for me with everyone feeling sorry for me. Life is getting better, so I’m not going to worry about it.”“How was it for you at first?”“It’s like when you slam your finger in a door. It hurts and then, it really hurts for the first few weeks, but then, after a while you don’t think about it anymore. I’ve got you and everyone else to keep my mind off of it, so it’s getting better.”“You don’t think about them?”“Yeah, but I don’t walk around thinking about them all the time, but there are several parts of the day when I think of them and get sad.One of the times I think of my mama a lot is when I first walk in the door from school. I really think about her then because she’d have cookies for me and a big glass of milk from Bessie. Now, mama and daddy aren’t there and neither is Bessie. I just know Bessie is in Heaven with them.”“I guess you’re probably right, but I’d miss my parents something awful.”“I do, but it’s getting better. You’re making like I never think of them.”“No, I’m not doing it to argue. I just know how it’d be for me. I’m sure it’s the same for you, but it’d be awful.”“Do you think we can sleep together tonight?”“We’ll have to ask. Are you guys doing anything special?”“I don’t think so, but even if we were, I think you could come. You usually do.” I said smiling.“Yeah, but after today, they might not let me.”“I’ll ask. I know your dad and mom would let you come over if they thought I was going to have a rough night of it.”He smiled and said, “Are you?”“Not if you’re there. I always sleep better when you’re there.”“Me too.” He said smiling.“I wonder where Uncle Nick and Aunt Paulette are?”“They’re over talking to that couple.”“Well, wait here, I’ll go over and see what the hold up is. I want to eat!”I ran over to Uncle Nick and Aunt Paulette. They were talking to the couple.Uncle Nick looked down at me and said, “Here he is. Billy, this is the parents of the two guys who are brothers which killed your parents.”“I thought you said they weren’t here?”The man spoke with a bit of a sneer. “We’re not here for them. We came to tell you how sorry we are our boys would do such a thing to you. As far as I’m concerned, they’re not my sons any longer.”“Can’t you forgive them? I’m trying to.”“Son, They weren’t raised to do that.”“No, but their choices weren’t yours. They made them.”“Yes, but I’ve got to live in this town knowing. And others live in this town knowing. They and I don’t take kindly to what they did.”“I don’t either, but the Bible tells me to love the sinner and hate the sin.Jesus also said to cast the first stone if you’re without sin. He did that because he knew everyone’s done something bad. Your boys did that, but it’s sure going to be hard for them to not have you. I know what it’s like to live without parents and it’s hard.”He looked at his wife and a tear slid down his face. “Son, we’ve came here to let you know we just went to the lawyer to have you put in our Will instead of them. I can’t sleep at night knowing they would stand a chance of receiving everything I’ve worked my life to achieve.”“You sure?”“Without a doubt. You’re a good k**. Mine are disgraces.”“Would you ask them one question for me?”“What’s that?”“I want to know why they did it. They didn’t have to do it, but they did. I’d like to know why.”“Son, I can tell you my one son that was at that window was there because he knew it was the right thing to do.My other son who was stealing and killing wasn’t there. He’s always been no count and I can tell you he’s the one which put them all up to no good.”“Yes, but I get into trouble just as much as Jr when we do something wrong. I know if I’m there and don’t talk him out of it, then I’m just as wrong as him.”“And that’s why I want to see all of them go to prison. That’s why I’m trying to make sure you’re taken care of instead of them.”“But don’t stop loving them! It’s just as bad as killing them! I thought when you’re a parent, you were supposed to step in and make sure your sons were corrected and then help them to do better? You’re killing them just like they did my parents…only you’re not killing them!”He looked up at Uncle Nick and said, “Nick, would you please tell others what I’ve decided. I can’t make up for his loss, but I sure can make sure my sons don’t benefit from it.”Uncle Nick said, “I’ll do that.”I was upset. I went over and hugged Uncle Nick and said, “Are you going to stop loving me if I do something bad?”“No son.”“Good. Now, would you tell those guys I forgive them even if others can’t?”“I’ll do that, but why don’t you tell the judge that. I’m sure he’ll make sure the word is passed along.”“Do you hate them too?”“Billy, I’m not in the least bit happy about what they did. I can see your point, but this is in the hands of grown ups.”“Well, I guess I want to be a Judge when I grow up so I can tell parents to love their k**s no matter what.”I ran back to the truck. Jr asked, “Who are they talking to?”“The parents of the two guys.”“Oh. What did they say to you?”“The guy changed his will to love his k**s. He doesn’t love them anymore.”“That’s stupid.”“Yeah, but Uncle Nick said he’d still love me if I did something bad.”“Well maybe that’s why they killed your parents….their parents aren’t nice.”“The guy seemed nice. It’s just that he’s thinking loving his k**s is like a light switch. If they do good, then it’s “on” and if they do bad, it’s “off”.”“Do you think ours do that?”“No, I know even when I’m getting a spanking they still love me.”He looked at me and said, “You were over there an awful long time, is there something else they said?”“No, he asked Uncle Nick to tell everyone else of his decision.”“So he wants your Uncle to tell everyone he’s dumb?!”“Yeah.”“I can do that!”Aunt Paulette came over. “Boys get in the truck. Your Uncle is coming now.”“Aunt Paulette, why are they like that?”“What do you mean?”“They stopped loving their sons!”“Hon, they still love them. They’re not happy with them right now.”“But the man said he changed his will to love them?”“He changed his Will honey. That’s the thing they read when someone dies. It gives their property and all their belongings to someone else.”“What does that mean?”“He wants you to get what was going to his sons.”“Why?”“To make up for what his sons did.”“They didn’t take that property from me!”“No, but they took your parents from you, so he’s trying to give you what means a lot to him to make up for it.”“So if it’d be like me giving Jr something if I broke something of his?”“Yes.”“Then why doesn’t he still love his sons?”“Billy, different people have different ways of showing their love.”“That’s dumb.”“It’s not up to us to decide how he loves his sons. I don’t agree with it personally, but I can understand why he’s doing it.”“I don’t. So he wants you and Uncle Nick to run around telling how he doesn’t love his sons?”“Yes.”“Then don’t do it! Let him decide he’s made a mistake and get back to loving them.”Uncle Nick got in the truck. “Boy, I’m hungry!”He looked at Aunt Paulette. “What? It’s quiet in here.”“Hon, Billy doesn’t want you to tell anyone what they are doing.”“Why?”“Because he thinks it’d be broadcasting the man is a fool.”“I don’t think so!”“You will when you hear what Billy thinks.”“What’s he think?”“He thinks the man is an idiot for picking and choosing when to love his k**s. He thinks the man is choosing to stand away from them because of what they did, but if they were up there getting an award for doing something good, he’d be there taking credit for being a good parent.”“Well, the man is going to have a hard way in this town for what they did.”“Hon…”I said, “Uncle Nick, when that happens, I’m going to tell them what the Bible tells us to do. It’s not loving and it’s not being nice. We’re supposed to love everyone and hate their sins. That man didn’t do a thing.”Uncle Nick looked at Aunt Paulette and said, “Man, the k** is going to be a preacher. I’m learning more about what the Bible MEANS through him than I’ve learned sitting in church.”Aunt Paulette said, “Hon, it’s forgiveness. He’s moving on because he can forgive. It’s us who are stuck here because we can’t get past the past.”He turned around and patted my knee. “Billy, I’ll tell everyone what you think instead of what that man thinks. I think it’d be a lot better if I do that.”“Can you make that man keep his land?”“No, it’s already been decided.”“I think it’s a mistake. If someone is making a mistake and trying to give me things, why can’t I refuse it?”“Some things don’t work out that way.”“Then I’m just as in the wrong by accepting it than he is in giving. I don’t like that.”“Billy, I can’t tell him what to do. He’s an adult and his decision was made before he even spoke with us.”“What can I do to change it?”“Not much I’m afraid.”“What’s going to happen to those guys when they get out? They’re not even going to have a home to come home to?”“Don’t fret about them Billy.”“Uncle Nick! They’re going to be old. They’re going to need someplace to live, or they’ll come looking for me!”“No, they’ll stay away from you.”“Well can’t we give them back that land?”“No, absolutely not.”I looked out the window. Junior’s hand found mine.Aunt Paulette said, “Nick…”“Paulette, I’m not going to have him giving those guys a thing!”“Human Compassion!”“Paulette!”“Nick, the way I see it, that man’s mistake is like sin. It keeps on giving and it’s sure wrapped around you to make you make mistakes. I can see where Billy is coming from and fortunately, THREE of us in this vehicle aren’t choosing to play a part in perpetuating the mistakes.”“What would you have me do? REWARD THEM!”“No! I think if it’s in Billy’s heart, then they can get out and go home. I think if it’s not, then it’s up to him to cast them to the streets. He’s not casting stones here. He’s choosing to drop his. I’m going to do the same.”“So I’m throwing stones of hatred here?”“I think you’re not helping to disarm the situation.”Junior said, “Nick, Billy told me him choosing to continue hating them was like being sick and then getting better.Everyone’s still treating him like he’s sick and wanting to give him cough syrup. He’s better now, but you’re still treating him like he’s sick.Instead of stones, I think you’ve got a big bottle of cough syrup you need to put away.”Uncle Nick looked at Aunt Paulette and said, “Hon, I’m afraid.”“I realize that. I’m also sorry for arguing about this in front of the c***dren. Unfortunately, it’s the c***dren which are teaching us how to be adults.”“What do you think I should do?”“Let Billy make the decision. If that’s what he thinks, then support him. If it’s not, then support him on it.”“Fortunately, that’s going to be a long time coming.”“Yes, but just the same, we can’t poison his mind to hating them.”“Ok, but I will NOT take him to see them in prison!”“I didn’t ask that. He’s going to speak to the judge.”“What!”“He decided. I’ll support him and whatever he wants, I’ll support him. You do the same, or else!”“Hon, let’s not argue. Things are changing and I’m trying to find out what he wants!”“I realize that. Billy, tell him what you want dear.”“I want that man to love his sons no matter what. I want them to go to prison for a long time, but I also want them to know we’re not choosing to hate them when I don’t.”“So you don’t want them to get out of jail soon?”“No, they did it, so they’ve got to go. Just the same, I think the man is dumb. It’s like he turns “on” his love and turns it “off”. I think that’s stupid.”“Billy, I think you’re right.”We pulled into the diner’s parking lot. When we went in, the place was loud with a lot of people talking. Then, suddenly it got quiet and everyone looked at us.Uncle Nick said, “Folks, I realize you guys are probably wondering how we’re handling things. Let me say I’ve learned a lot today on how to be a Christian from Billy. He’s not choosing to hate those men, but he’s choosing not to like their actions.Today, two of the men’s father signed his farm over to Billy in his Will to make up for what his sons did. Billy doesn’t want it because he views that man’s actions as a mistake. Yes, it’s viewed as the thing to do because it’s that man trying to atone for his sons misdeeds, but Billy thinks it’s wrong because the man didn’t actually do the deed. So, please don’t hate that man for what his sons did. Billy isn’t.”A big farmer in a pair of bib overalls came over. He took off his John Deere hat and got down on his knee. “Son, everyone here is just worried about you.”“I’m doing fine. Yes, it still hurts occasionally, but it’s not ever going to take away the love I had for my parents. I’ll miss them, but I’ve got a lot of other people who love me just the same.”“Well, I certainly hope you know all these here folks love you too.”“Do you love those guys who did it?”“Son, I’m afraid we don’t.”“BUT…”“We can’t support their actions.”Nick put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Folks, when you listen to Billy, you’re going to realize how much he can teach you. Go ahead and speak son.”“Here’s what I think. The Bible tells us we’re supposed to love the sinner and hate the sin. You love me because my parents got killed, but you’re choosing to not love them because they sinned.We’re the same. I didn’t kill my parents, but I still love them. Love them and their father, but choose to hate what they did. The Bible tells us who is without sin are the ones to throw the stones, but I’m going to tell you I’m not throwing that first stone.Now, they’re going to go to prison, but I don’t want everyone hating their dad because of what his sons did. If it wasn’t for one of those sons, I’d not be here.”The place suddenly got loud. The farmer said, “Son, that lesson just bought you lunch!” He turned to Uncle Nick and said, “You ought to have him tell everyone at church. I’d come to hear it again.” He turned to the waitress and said, “Maggie, put this group of people’s lunch on my card. I’m buying.”As we walked through the diner to go sit down, folks reached out and patted me all over…my legs, my shoulder, my butt, they ruffled my hair, and one older lady even put her hand upon my face. By the time we were sat down, I felt like a doll that had too many c***dren playing with it.Maggie came over and said, “Hon, that’s the best thing I’ve heard in here all day. Everyone was talking bad about them, but you made them see how it is for you. What will you have?”“I want chicken strip sandwich with swiss and ranch dressing. and he’ll have a cheeseburger. Cut both in half. He’ll have fries and I’ll have onion rings. Both of us will have a large glass of sweet tea.”“You sure that’s all you want?”Uncle Nick said, “They might have pie after lunch, but that’s what they always get. They asked to have them cut in half because they trade the other half.I’ll have a cheeseburger, fries, and a large Coke. Paulette will have the open faced roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy over everything.”“You get another side with that ma’am.”“Green beans. I’ll also have a Coke.”“Ok, anything else?”“Not right now.”“Ok, it’ll be right out. I’ll have the cook put it to the top of the list.”She left and I said, “Why’d she have us pass everyone else?”“Apparently, she’s supporting you in doing the right thing. She can’t do anything else, so she’s making it so you don’t have to wait as long.”“Well, I don’t like it. Is this the way it’s going to always be?”Aunt Paulette said, “Hon, in time, people will treat you more normal, but this trial has stirred up a lot of feelings with them.”“What are they going to think when they find out there isn’t going to be a trial?”“I don’t know. Do you want me to make another announcement?”“Do you think it would help?”“I think it’d get your opinion out a lot faster than anything else.”“Ok, then do it because I don’t want everyone to think I’m not happy about it. I just want to be treated normal.”Uncle Nick stood up and clanged his fork on his glass. “Folks, Billy would like for me to tell you about today’s court proceedings.He’s afraid you’re all going to be upset when you find out there’s not going to be a trial.”Everyone suddenly started talking.“PLEASE! LISTEN UP!”The talking got quieter and then Uncle Nick spoke again. “As you know, Billy didn’t want any plea bargains. As you know, we had a man on the stand today who really did us no favors. He brought up a lot of things which very easily could have had us going through more trials and never getting this thing over.Rather than do that, the prosecutor asked us to consider a plea bargain. One of them got forty seven years and the others are getting lives in prison with a chance of parole for each count of murder with each running one after the other.It’s not the death penalty folks, but it sure beats them possibly getting out. They stand a chance of getting out when they’re in their seventies, so we’re fine with that.”Someone asked, “What does that do to help the boy?”“It keeps him from having to go to court for appeals. Someone who takes a plea bargain doesn’t get to appeal it. They don’t get anything except what the bargain is. They either take it, or we keep having to go back and back and back until it finally ends up at the state’s supreme court where they decide the man who testified put enough doubt into the case he’s screwed this boys life up.You know they did it. I know they did it, but it’s called rights folks. They get them, but this boy gets the right to be inconvenienced more by not having parents and not having a normal life because he has to keep going back until he sees his rights and those of his parents were stripped so bare we don’t get squat.All I can say is Billy now says he wants to be a judge. He wants people to love each other, but where’s the love in situations like this? All I can say is I hope they take it so he can live the best life he’s afforded because what he had isn’t there anymore.”“So you want him to not take the man’s farm?”“That man didn’t do anything to Billy! He raised c***dren who chose the decisions they did. They made that decision and because he’s a parent, he thinks it’s up to him to correct them.They’re adults. They made those choices. It’s admirable he wants to step forward just like all of you with your compassion, but ultimately, it’s up to those guys to pay for their crimes. We’re not denying them that, but we’re sure not wanting people to give who isn’t guilty.”Everyone got quiet and I said, “Uncle Nick, can I say something?”“Sure.”I stood up and then, Uncle Nick said, “Billy, step up over here to this chair.”I stood on the chair and said, “You know, when it first happened, I was really worried. I lost my parents and then, my whole world was messed up. Each of you can only imagine what it must feel like, but then it was a thing which healed with the funeral, the love of my Aunt and Uncle, and then my getting a lot of insurance money.I’ll tell you now, buying things doesn’t take up for your parents. It makes the world more fuller, but even now, I still think about my mama and daddy all the time. It’s sad, but that’s the way it is.Everyone tried telling me to hate those men. The Bible tells me I’m not supposed to. The Bible tells me what is right, and everyone else tells me I’m supposed to follow it or go to hell. It also tells me to not believe some people because they could be wrong and it’d help me when I need it. Now, I’m needing it and it’s helping me.For a long time, I needed you folks. I still need you, but not as much as I did when it first happened. It hurts still, but I understand you know it hurts. I’m telling you it’d still hurt if we saw those guys killed, but it’d hurt their families too. I don’t want that.”Uncle Nick spoke up “Folks, it’s the pain factor. Most of you have heard ‘an eye for an eye’, but at what cost? You and I would most likely sit there until the end and wait for that price to be paid. I can’t sit there because the cost is too much and the risk is too high for him.I know a lot of you probably don’t agree with it, but the price he’s paid has already been too much. He’ll still have to pay it after most of us are dead and gone.Those guys will be paying in ways we only can guess. What we do know is the judge is going to have a victim’s advocate speak with him and video his thoughts so when they do come up for parole, the video is played even if he’s unable to be there.Please, whatever you do, support him and lay your anger at me. My shoulders are big. I’ll bear it, but don’t blame him for a thing except being a k** who has to live without parents.”Someone said, “Nick, you spoke of this victim’s advocate and that she’s going to video the impact it’s made on him.Can some of us who knew his parents and did business with them speak on his behalf so they know what sort of people they took from our community?”“That’s a good idea!” several of them agreed.Uncle Nick said, “When she speaks with him, they’re going to be out at the farm. What I’ll do is I’ll take names and phone numbers of those of you who wish to speak. When she comes, I’ll give you a call and have you come out. I think if there’s enough of you who are wanting to make statements, she can’t but help to listen to you all and take those statements.Furthermore, I’m going to ask for a copy so your memories are placed on a disc for him. It might not make him feel better on a personal level, but it’d sure make him feel better knowing his parents were good and valued in your eyes.”Maggie came over carrying our food. “Nick, here’s your meals. Go ahead and eat. I’ll make up a sign up sheet for you guys and that way they’ll all get on it.”“Thanks Maggie”She lifted me down from the chair. “Hon, I want to be at the top of that list. I went to school with your mama and know what a doll she was.”“Thanks.”I went over and sat down. Jr smiled at me and asked, “Was it scary speaking in front of everyone?”“No, they’re all people who love us. If they were standing there with rotten tomatoes in their hands, I’d ask you to stand in front of me, but I’d still speak.”Everyone laughed and Uncle Nick said, “Junior, what he’s not saying is his daddy was someone who could speak in front of a crowd. He taught me and your daddy how he did it because each of us was scared just like you. He said the same exact thing!”I said, “Daddy would tell me he’d practice speaking in front of the cows. They’d moo if they agreed with him and if they didn’t, they’d walk away.”Uncle Nick said, “That’s what he said too. You don’t know it, but his daddy took speech class with us. He didn’t have to, because he’d taken it before, but he really liked speaking in front of people.”I said, “Daddy used to get up in church and talk.”Aunt Paulette said, “It was the local events. He did it because he could do it better than anyone. He’d throw in funny bits of humor and then it’d be a lot more interesting.”Uncle Nick said, “He’d do funny so people would listen. He knew if he went up to read it as it was written, no one would listen. So, he’d do it funny so everyone would pay attention.”Junior asked me, “Did you really mean it when you said you wanted to be a judge?”“Yeah, it’d be neat.”Aunt Paulette said, “You’ll have to do good in school. In order to be a judge, you have to be a lawyer and that’s not easy.”“Really?”“Yes dear.”“So I’d have to defend people like that?”“No, not necessarily, but you’d have to be a lawyer.”“Ok, well I’ll be a lawyer and then, I’ll just be a judge.”Uncle Nick smiled, “Why don’t we ask the judge to have you sit with him during some trials. That way, you’d get to see what they do.”Junior said, “I still want to be a farmer.”I said, “I want to be one too.”Uncle Nick and Aunt Paulette both laughed.

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