Murdo Girl…Bumps in the road

Jamie and Brad had planned to meet right after supper, but Brad was called to the phone again. He took the call in his study, but this time Jamie didn’t wait for him. Her parents had eaten in their quarters so she wanted to check on them and make sure everything was okay. While she was walking down the hall, she passed the library where apparently, Steve and Dina had gone to discuss something. Jamie couldn’t help but overhear them.

“I plan to ask her about it tonight,” she heard Steve say. “If Jamie doesn’t want to lease the farm to me, then it’s a mute point anyway. I just want to know where I stand with you, Dina. Are Katie and I going to be getting our own place by ourselves, or are you coming with us?”

“Steve, we haven’t talked about anything except what’s best for Katie. We’ve gotten along fine and Katie is thriving. I don’t understand why you would want to move her from the ranch now while she’s so involved in her dancing and singing. The dancing has helped her strength and coordination immensely.”

“I know,” Steve said. “But I think we could work it out. The school bus can still drop her off here every day and you can bring her home after rehearsal. I don’t think you understand, Dina. I want us to be a family and I need us to have a place of our own. You think about it and we’ll discuss it again after I’ve had a chance to talk to Jamie.”

Jamie knocked on her parent’s door and her smiling and rosy cheeked mother let her in.

“What’s the matter Jamie? You look distracted. Let me get your father. He should be here if there’s something you need to talk about.”

“I’m pretty close,” her father said. “Of course close only counts in horseshoes. Your mother is right. You’ve got a heavy heart and a full mind…or is it a full heart and a heavy mind. Anyway, what can your mother and I do ya for?”

“Since you didn’t come down for supper, I thought I’d better check on you and make sure everything is alright.”

“We’re fine.” her mother said. “We had a long day of rehearsing so we decided we just wanted to say here and put our feet up. Right dear?”

“We’re right as rain, honey.”

With that all settled, Jamie went to see if Brad was still in his study. After hearing Steve and Dina’s discussion, now she really needed to talk to him.

Arf and Annie were watching squirrels out the window, but Brad wasn’t in the study.

“Do you to know where Brad went?”

They both immediately got up and led her to the garden. She found Brad sitting in one of the patio chairs, but he didn’t appear to be relaxing.

“Am I interrupting?” Jamie asked. “You look like you’re deep in thought about something.”

“I just talked to Tom. Our mother has taken a turn for the worse. They’re not at all hopeful that she will recover.”

Both Jamie and Brad sat quietly for a few minutes before Brad finally spoke.

“Did I ever tell you why I didn’t go with my sister and brother to Ireland to see my my mother?”

“No you didn’t,” Jamie said. “I figured you had your reasons and if you wanted to tell me you would.”

“That’s what I love about you, Jamie. You let people do things in their own time. Like your parents…and me.”

“You know that anytime you want to talk, I’m willing to listen, and I’m very discreet.”

Brad gave her a smile before he went on.

“One of the reasons I didn’t go was because of you. We’re just getting to know each other and I didn’t want to go off to Ireland, for God knows how long. I couldn’t leave the ranch for very long, either. I’ve poured my life into this place. It’s a big part of who I am, but now that I know my mother is dying, all I feel is sadness and guilt. She was two people, you know. She was a government agent and a wife and mother. I only knew her as my mother and she was a good one. I had wonderful parents.”

“It was a shock to find out that Mom was still alive. I went twenty years without knowing. Gloria kept her a virtual prisoner for all that time while I struggled to make sure Tom and Barbie were taken care of. I sure made a mess of that didn’t I? Barbie was raised by Gloria and Tom was mistreated by our Aunt and Uncle.”

“May I speak?” Jamie could tell where this was going and it wasn’t s good place.

“You’re being a little hard on yourself don’t you think? You were only sixteen. You thought your parents had died in the fire. You saw your twin sister burned beyond recognition, but she lived to be the beautiful woman she is today. Tom is a fire rescue pilot. He saves people from fires. And you have helped so many others, Brad. You’ve brought us all to your beautiful ranch and showered us with kindness. Now, have you made arrangements yet to go to Ireland?”

“What? No…I hadn’t planned to go.”

“Of course you’re going. Let’s go to your study and call and see when the next flight to Ireland leaves.”

Arf: I guess that means we’ll be left to take care of the horses. Do you know how to take care of them, Annie? Cause if you don’t, I’ll teach you. You work from sun-up till sun-down….and

Annie: Will you shush Arf? I want to know what Jamie was going to talk to Brad about. Let’s follow them into the study and pretend we’re looking at squirrels.

A little later, Arf and Annie left the study without learning anything. Jamie and Brad were on the phone arranging Brad’s trip and then they called Tom and Barbie. When Brad finally asked Jamie what she wanted to talk to him about, she said they would talk when he got back.

Arf: I hope Brad gets back in time for our performance.

Annie: He’ll be here. He made the reservations to fly back in a week.

Arf: You’re a real sleuth, Annie

Annie: Yeah…I have a pretty good idea what is on Jamie’s mind, too.

Murdo Girl…The preparation

Katie, Clark, Arf, and Annie, met with Mrs. Langford every day after Katie got home from school and Clark finished working at Jamie’s farm. They were learning two dances for their first performance. In addition, Mr. Langford who had been a music teacher, played the piano while they danced. He also accompanied them when they sang.

It was tough going at first. Clark had two left feet and it took Katie a while to get strong enough to do many of the moves, but everyone witnessing the evolution of both young people, were amazed at how hard they worked.


One dance was a fun soft shoe and the other was a modified jitterbug. Arf and Annie mostly continued with the, “ruff” step, step, step, kick, but they did it well.

Katie and Clark also learned two duets and each sang a solo. Clark played his guitar while they sang and Mr. Langford played the piano.

Everything seemed to be settling down at the ranch. Jamie’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Langford, were happy with their new project and planned to continue their stay. Jamie returned to her internship at the veterinarian clinic, but didn’t feel right about moving back to her farm with her parents continuing to stay at the ranch. The only thing she regretted was that she and Brad hadn’t been able to spend much time together.

Miss Bessie was fixing supper when Jamie got home that evening.

“Hi Jamie. You’re home early. Brad just got in, too. He went to wash up.”

“Good”…Jamie said. “I want to talk to him about something. Are my parents still rehearsing with the kids?”

“I think so. I haven’t seen them or the kids all afternoon. Or the dogs for that matter.”

“Thanks Miss Bessie. I think I’ll go wait for Brad in his study. If you see him will you tell him where I am?”

“Of course,” Miss Bessie said. She was hoping those two could spend more time with each other. They made such a cute couple.

When Jamie got to the study, Brad was already there. He was talking on the phone, but he saw her and waved at her to come in.

“Oh, so you do have an event room. That’s wonderful. Yes, the reason they’re putting this performance together is to bring cheer to folks in nursing homes, hospice facilities, and assisted living communities, but I’m sure children would also enjoy it, especially since there are two well trained dogs who are part of the show. One of them is actually a certified therapy dog.”

“Oh my goodness,” Jamie thought. “What is he doing?”

When Brad hung up the phone, he leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head, which is what he does when he’s pleased with something he’s done.

“It sounds like my parents, the kids, and Arf and Annie have an agent working for them,” Jamie said.

“Not intentionally. This call came from out of the blue. It seems the Research Hospital learned about how much the dancing and singing have helped the kids both physically and in Clark’s case, emotionally. They have both come a long way.”

“So I take it they have requested the kids bring their show to the hospital. I know they have a big children’s wing,” Jamie said.

Brad got up from his desk and they both moved to the chairs by the fireplace. Guess who was sitting in front of the squirrel window?

Arf: This musical thing is really becoming a big deal, Annie.

Annie: Yeah, and we’re already working our tails off. Pardon the pun. It’s fun though, isn’t it Arf?

Brad and Jamie continued their conversation.

“You know,” Brad said. “I have sneaked a peak and those kids are incredibility talented. I was contemplating something. I think it would mean a lot to Clark if his family came to one of their performances. What do you think?”

“Do you really think you could convince them to come?” Jamie wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. “Wouldn’t Clark’s dad think a musical show isn’t something a real man would be a part of?”


“I don’t know…I’ll have to give it some more thought. I’m hungry. Let’s go see if supper is being served.”

images (6)

“Okay,” Jamie said. “But I need to discuss something with you. Maybe we can talk after supper.”

Brad smiled and winked. “There is nothing I’d like better than to spend time with you. Let’s meet back here.”

Murdo Girl…Stepping it up

Katie’s mom, Dina looked on as Mrs. Langford tried to teach Katie and Clark a few simple dance steps. The plan was for her to choreograph a dance routine for them that would accomplish a couple of things. It would be an excellent activity for Katie who needed to strengthen her leg muscles and improve her coordination. Secondly, their performance would be enjoyable entertainment for the residents of the nursing home and hospice care facilities near them.

Mrs. Langford

This first rehearsal was not going well. Clark was too embarrassed and timid to put much into it and Katie was upset because she wanted to dance with Arf.

Dina wondered how she could help the situation. At this rate, it would be months before they would be ready to put on a show.

“Step, step, step, kick…Step, step, step, kick,” Mrs. Langford instructed. “Come on you two. Put some life into your movements, and for goodness sake, smile!! This is supposed to be fun.”


Arf: This was your idea Annie. So now what are you gonna do?

Annie: Your the one who thinks he’s the regular Arf Astaire of the dog world. Clark isn’t really into the stepping and kicking thing and Mrs. Langford’s teaching voice is hard to listen to. Let me try something.

Annie went over to Clark and stood beside him. Then she turned to look at him and after she began with a quiet “ruff,” she marched ahead three steps before kicking her right front paw. She did the same thing two more times before going back to stand beside Clark who was laughing at the little dog’s antics.


“I get such a kick out of you, Annie,” Clark said.

Everyone in the room laughed and the ice was broken. Not to be left out, Arf joined in on the fun, while Mrs. Langford clapped her hands and continued with her mantra.

“Ruff, step, step, step, kick…Ruff, step, step, step, kick…Marvelous,” she exclaimed. You’re all in perfect form.”

“Can Arf and Annie dance with us?” Katie asked.


“Why of course they can.”

Mrs Langford was in her element. This was just what she needed to motivate her to get back into living her life. Who knows, maybe her husband would be willing to play the piano for them.

A Cheerful Casual Old Man Giving a Thumbs Up
Mr. Langford

Dancing, singing, guitar and piano music…what a show this was going to be. And they all had Arf and Annie to thank for literally moving them forward.

“This is a start,” Mrs. Langford said. “But we’ve all got a lot of work ahead of us. Now, one more time… Arf and Annie, would you get us started please?”

Arf and Annie: Ruff

When the dance rehearsal was over, Clark stayed behind. After everyone was gone, he picked up his guitar and began to play and sing.

Dina, Mrs. Langford, and Katie were walking down the hall and heard his sweet, pure voice. He was putting his heart into singing and playing.

Clark knew he had to let go of his fear about what lies ahead, and he needed to be free of bitterness about the past.

“Can we go back,” Mamma?” Katie asked.


(If you would rather not have your sound on, mute this and read the words. They are very meaningful considering what is going on in our world today. Our high school choir sang this song. That wouldn’t be allowed today.)

Murdo Girl…It’s July 28th again

Though we’re different sides of the same coin

His advanced age I would not purloin

Mom and Billy in front of the Murdo Locker. You can see the reflection of the water tower in the window

His mind is still like a steel trap

Unless he misses his daily nap

Billy and Mom at our cousin Blake Haverberg’s home about 25 years ago

On long shots, he’ll make the bet

He’ll take a risk with no offset

When we were kids, we sometimes fought

He has a temper… (I do not)

He tells lots of stories… Go figure

Each time I hear them, they get bigger

Fishing in the Black Hills… The fish is almost as big as his cigar

He keeps up with the latest news

He’s not afraid to share his views

New technology drives him crazy

He has the knowledge… but it’s hazy

If you’re his friend, it’s forever

Those close ties he’ll never sever

At one of the Mesa, AZ Jones County gatherings

I guess he’s my favorite brother

I wouldn’t trade him for another

Billy and his much younger sister at one of the Murdo all school reunions


All those years we raced to school

Why did he have to be so cruel

I’d get ahead… I knew I’d win

Then he’d pass me up again

That last race, I was ready

I’d run the race fast and steady

But I just plain ran out of gas

He smiled at me as he ran past

Billy and me several years before the final race.


I’ll end this poem in a nice way

It’s my brother, Billy’s, birthday


I love him more than I can say

Recent photo of Billy
Billy’s family and mine with Uncle Chuck Francis
Billy and Gus at a social distance gathering

(Most these pictures are pretty old, but I like them)

Murdo Girl…Making assumptions

Arf: Clark sure does play beautiful music on that guitar of his and he can really sing, too. Did you hear him sing, Amazing Grace last night?

Annie: Of course I did. I sleep in his room at night, remember? It was really beautiful. I didn’t even have the urge to howl.

Arf: Yeah. It put me right to sleep, but not before I got an idea.

Annie: You must be thinking what I’m thinking. Clark needs some cheering up and Katie needs something to motivate her to keep going with the therapy on her legs.

Arf: Yup the trouble is, sometimes it’s hard to tell humans what we think they need. Got any ideas?

Annie: Remember that day I watched you and Katie do a dance at the nursing home and hospice? The folks just loved it. Maybe we can do a whole show for them. It’ll take some work though. Katie’s legs will have to get stronger. Last time, she was still in the wheelchair.

Arf: And another thing. Clark is afraid to play his guitar in front of people. That probably means he’s afraid to sing in front of other humans, too. We’ve got our work cut out for us don’t we Annie? I’ll probably never be able to hunt frogs again.


Annie: Oh stop feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve had it easy for too long. Let’s meet at the squirrel window after supper tonight. We’ll try to figure out how we’re going to make this work.

Arf: Good…That gives us all day to think.

Dina couldn’t get another appointment with Katie’s therapist until the following week. She knew Steve was pretty unhappy with her because she had gotten involved in taking care of Jamie’s mother and had forgotten about yesterday’s appointment. She should never have agreed to work with Mrs. Langford.

On the other hand, why couldn’t she do both? She just needed to organize her time better. She would talk with Steve about that, today.

Steve was in the kitchen with Miss Bessie and Grandma Helen. He had already eaten breakfast, but he  needed some advice, so he decided to have another cup of coffee. He didn’t have to broach the subject. Grandma Helen jumped right in and pretty much nailed his dilemma.

“I heard you say something about wanting to lease Jamie’s farm. Is that something you’re seriously considering?”

“I’ve thought about it,” Steve said. “Between you and me, I don’t see Jamie going back to the farm to live even if her parents don’t stay here.”

“Sounds like you’ve thought it all out. It’s bound to make your life easier, right?”

Steve leaned back in his chair and proceeded to tell Grandma Helen and Miss B all of the plans he had for the little farm. He finished by saying, “And not only that, until the farm starts to be profitable, I’ll still be doing my carpenter jobs. Most of them are in town and the farm is a lot closer. It’s only ten miles from there. This ranch is ten miles on the other side.”


“What about Dina and Katie?” Grandma Helen asked.

“Dina will have a garden and chickens and a cow to milk. She’ll be plenty busy,” he said. “You’re Dina’s mother. I’m counting on you to help convince her to move to the farm with Katie and me. We can start over as a family.”


“Excuse me, Helen, but I can’t listen to this a minute longer without throwing in my two cents. Just how much of these elaborate plans have you shared with Dina? My guess is that you’ve barely mentioned anything about this to her.” Miss Bessie had been wiping off the table and now she had her hands on her hips. Her lips were a thin line and her eyes were snapping.

“As a matter of fact,” Steve said. “I mentioned it to her last night.”

“And what did she say?” Miss B asked.

“She seemed surprised at the thought. She didn’t say anything. I’m hoping we can settle things this morning before I go to work.”,”

“I wouldn’t count on it,” Miss B said. “Now, I’ll get my nose out of your business and make some pancakes.”

Without saying a word, Grandma Helen sat down and took a sip of her coffee. She was glad Miss Bessie had said what she did.

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By then it was time for Steve to go to work so he decided to give it until the weekend, which was only a couple of more days, to talk with Dina.

That night Arf and Annie met at the squirrel window and came up with a plan. Now if it only worked.

The next morning after breakfast, Clark took the old truck to Jamie’s farm. He did her chores and checked on the house and was back at the ranch by eleven. He was on his way to the kitchen to get a cool drink when Annie just about bowled him over.

“What are you doing, girl? You sure seem to be in a big old hurry.”


“Okay, I’ll come with you and see what’s up but first let me get a cold drink of water. I worked up a sweat out there this morning.”

Annie waited impatiently for Clark to drink his water and then she led the way to a room down the hall from Brad’s study.

Clark found himself in a room with beautiful polished wood floors, big windows that let lots of light in, and in the corner was a piano sitting on a small stage. Ballerina bars lined one wall and there were mirrors on another.

“This must be some sort of dance studio or a place to put on all kinds of shows. It’s really nice, but what do you want me to do in here?” Clark asked.


At that moment Dina came in and she had Mrs. Langford with her. Although she could walk with the aid of a cane she was still in a weakened condition so Dina was pushing her in a wheelchair.

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” the lady said. “I’m Mrs. Langford, Jamie’s mother. The only thing I know about you young man is that you play a mean guitar and you have a beautiful voice.”

Clark’s face turned four shades of red. He was at a loss for words.

“I see you’re somewhat confused, Clark. I wasn’t able to sleep last night, so I went out to the sitting room in our lovely quarters intending to read. You can imagine my surprise when I heard Annie whining. Well, I opened the door and there she was. I had no idea what she wanted, though I was able to figure out she wanted me to keep the door open. It was only a minute or two later that I heard the most beautiful song being played on a guitar. It was a song I had never heard before. It wasn’t long until I heard someone begin to sing and soon after that, I heard a second voice harmonizing with the first. You see my rooms are right down the hall from you and you’re room is close to Katie’s. Arf had managed to get her door to stay open as well.”

Dina was beginning to show her excitement while on the other hand Clark didn’t seem to be excited at all.

“Young man,” Mrs. Langford said. “You and Katie both have exceptional voices, but I’m not a singing coach. Until I retired, I was a dance choreographer. I understand Katie needs to work on strengthening her leg muscles and improving her coordination. You are going to help her. I also think the two of you can sing a couple of songs together. We’ll get you ready to put on one humdinger of a performance. What time does Katie get home from school, Dina? I would like to get them started on a couple of moves this afternoon.”


Murdo Girl…Where did all the money go?

By the time you read this poem I’ll have won the lottery

I bought myself a ticket and I’m waiting patiently

Realistic Detailed 3d Lotto Ball Concept Card Background. Vector

Six numbers will be drawn and of course they’ll all match mine

On Monday I’ll be standing in the lotto payout line

'Congratulations, you won $34.  Let me call you a limo.'

Twenty-seven million before taxes is enough

To payoff all our bills and buy all kinds of stuff

I’ve picked out a new car and a beach house for a start

I’ll give a bunch to charity to prove I have a heart.

I can’t forget the relatives. I’ll gladly share my fortune

Family members and some friends will get a little portion.


I know what else I really want, a brand new big RV

I’ll spend at least two million…maybe even three

We’ll take the kids to Disneyland. We’ll have tons of fun

We’ll have no money worries because of all I won


You won’t be seeing me around here quite as much

I’ll be busy going places, but I’ll try to stay in touch

Oh just look at the time. The numbers have been drawn

I know that I’m the winner. The conclusion is forgone


I google Lotto Texas and see the numbers on the screen

I should have put two dollars in a slot machine.

There is a lesson to be learned. The odds just aren’t that good

Keep your hard earned money and spend it like you should

If you have someone who loves you be it family or friend

You’re already a winner and that’s a real godsend

(It sure sounds like fun though doesn’t it?)

Murdo Girl…Friday night combo

I’m going to catch you up on Arf and Annie tonight, but first I have to say how nice it is to be in my little cottage listening to Amy Grant and looking at my lighted flowery swag and pictures of my grand-kids. The only thing missing is my tea. I need to buy an electric pot so I can brew my tea on-sight. I want to try those tea blossoms. They come in several different flavors and while they’re brewing, they turn from a pod into a beautiful flower. I also need some more beautiful teacups. I’ve broken a few moving things around in here. It’s not a true tea drinking experience unless you drink your tea from a beautiful cup and sometimes add one or two sugar cubes and a touch of warm milk or cream. (Not with the tea blossoms. That would be weird.)

You drink different teas in different ways which we’ll get into later. Tea is also an acquired taste. I haven’t totally acquired it yet, but I’m working on it.

I can’t take a picture of myself drinking tea right now because I’m using my phone like an iPod so I can listen to Amy Grant. It takes me about thirty minutes to get myself all set up in here before I start to write, and then another thirty minutes to breakdown when I leave.

So good night all! Oh Wait! I promised an Arf and Annie story.

Brad and Clark are on their way home from settling things with Clark’s father. Brad’s attorney is going to get Mr. Sanders out of a contract that gave him virtually no income from the fruits of his woodworking labor. In turn, Mr. Sanders should have fewer anger issues and if he does become frustrated, he has agreed to stop taking things out on his family.

Clark and Brad were both pretty quiet on the flight back home. Brad was thinking about Jamie. It was going to be interesting to see how things would work out between them now that her parents had moved to the ranch.

Clark was grateful that Brad could help his family out. It seemed like things would be okay for them. So why wasn’t he feeling over the moon happy? Isn’t this what he had always wanted?…Yes, it was. but he had wanted to experience it, too. He wanted a dad who loved him and was proud of him. Well, If it didn’t happen for him, at least his brothers and sisters had a chance.

Things weren’t going smoothly at the ranch. Dina had forgotten about an appointment Katie and Arf had at the research hospital. Katie had gotten behind in her physical therapy and her therapy dog, Arf didn’t know what he was supposed to do next, either.

Dina had become involved in taking care of Jamie’s mother. She had just moved to the ranch after suffering a stroke and Dina had agreed to be her attendant. She had been assigned to stroke victims in the past and had enjoyed working with them, so it was an ideal situation.

When everyone got home that evening, Katie was beyond upset that her mother had forgotten about her appointment and Katie’s father, Steve, wasn’t too happy, either. He asked Dina if they could have a few minutes alone before supper. They found themselves in Brad’s study where Arf just happened to by lying by the squirrel window.

Arf: I feel bad for Dina, but she shouldn’t have forgotten. It’s really important that Katie doesn’t quit her therapy until she can run and do things that all of the other kids do. I also know that Dina needs to feel like she is being helpful and productive all those hours that Katie is at school.

“I’m really disappointed to hear this,” Steve said. “Our highest priority should be Katie. What were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t thinking. I was helping Jamie’s mother and I lost track of time. I’ll call Katie’s physical therapist tomorrow and make another appointment.”

“I’ve been thinking about something, Dina. What if we leased Jamie’s farm? That would give us a place of our own to start over. We could be a real family again… if that’s something you would even be interested in.”

Dina hesitated and the hesitation didn’t go unnoticed by Steve.


Arf: I sure wish Annie was in here. I don’t know what I can do to help this situation. What should I do? What should I do? I should interrupt before Steve or Dina say something stupid that they’ll regret. I didn’t know what would do it, so I started barking at the window, hoping there was a squirrel out there that wouldn’t give me away.


“Look,” Steve said when things quieted down let’s go and see if Katie is ready for supper. We can talk about this tomorrow.”

Grandma Helen and Miss Bessie looked on as the family picked at the delicious food they had spent hours preparing.

When everyone finished they didn’t congregate in the great room like they usually did. They all went straight to their own rooms.

Katie talked to Arf about what it would be like to run and really dance. She loved music and the thought of dancing. Arf became even more resolved to do everything he could to help her reach that goal.

Annie was with Clark. She was listening to him play beautiful music on his guitar. Soon he started to sing a song his mother had taught him about laughter and love.

Down the hall, Katie, hearing the music, began to hum in perfect harmony.

Arf and Annie couldn’t wait to get together in the morning. They had plans to make.


Murdo Girl…Still decorating

Somebody stop me. I’m out of control

I’m tired of establishing goal after goal

My poor little cottage has started to flinch

While it’s space is consumed, inch by inch

It doesn’t want to become what it’s not

A storage place for the things I have bought

My collections reign with plenty of space.

The Beasterhop village is quite a showcase

My friend L J designed a swag for the wall

Now are we finished? No, not at all.

We noticed another project outside

Two plain poles we couldn’t abide

We had lots of tools but not one single clue

What could they do except cause a boo boo

We decorated the poles in bows and grapevine,

ribbons and lights. They looked mighty fine.

Are we finished at last? No, just for tonight.

One pole has dim lights and the other has bright.





Murdo Girl…Brad meets Clark’s parents

Clark’s father didn’t answer when Brad asked him if he could go to his workshop with him, but that didn’t deter Brad. He was right behind him. He already knew the man’s name was John Sanders. In fact, Brad knew quite a bit about Clark’s dad.

“You stay here with your mother, Clark,” Brad said. “I’m going to spend a little time with your dad.”

The house the family lived in was large enough, but it hadn’t seen a coat of paint in years and the inside needed a lot of work, too. The yard was unkempt and void of flowers or trees.

On the other hand, the workshop was a different story. It was in pretty sad shape on the outside, but the inside was clean and well organized. It had varnished wood floors, and pinewood paneling on the walls. The windows were like new and let in just the right amount of light for this time of day. The projects that Mr. Sanders was working on were all at different stages of completion, and all of them showed the talent of a real craftsman.

“Your work is amazing, Mr. Sanders. I knew it would have to be considering the value others are willing to pay for your talents.”

Mr. Sanders looked extremely uncomfortable, but remained silent. He wondered how much Brad knew about his personal business. He began to work on a beautiful table that was almost finished. Brad could see the six chairs that went with it and they were all meticulously built. The chairs had the same intricate design carved into the backs as the table had in the middle.

“Now I know why buyers and others who need things to be restored or designed ask for you,” Brad said. “You’re very talented. You could make an honest living doing this. You could pretty much name your price…if that were possible.”

“Why are you here?” Mr. Sanders asked as he began sanding a little harder than he probably had to. “And why did you bring Butch with you. He was supposed to get out on his own, get a job and help out, but he left town with all his mother’s savings. He’s a loser. Butch is a real loser, but I’m going to give him one more chance, so you can go on and leave now.”

“I’m going to take Clark, or Butch with me. Mr. Sanders. I’m going to put him to work on the ranch and get him some help with school. That’s settled, but there’s more I want to talk to you about. I just can’t leave here knowing you have a wife and four more kids to mistreat.”

Mr. Sanders could barely contain his anger. “My wife and kids are none of your business, mister. Now get out of here and take that no good kid with you. He can go on one condition. He has to leave my pa’s guitar here. It’s worth a lot of money.”

“I just as well lay it all out here, Mr. Sanders. I’ve done a little checking and I know all about you and why you’re still mining coal when you could be making a fortune with your woodworking. You have to pay a very generous amount to a middle man don’t you? I know you signed a contract thinking it was a fair agreement, but it leaves you with a fraction of what your work is worth, All of this has befallen you because you can’t read or write.”

Mr. Sanders sat down in one of his beautiful chairs and put his head in his hands. “How do you know all of this?” He quietly asked Brad.

“Never mind how I know it. What matters is what are we going to do about it?”

“There’s nothing that can be done about it. That contract goes on for the rest of my life and I get nothing from it. It doesn’t take from the fact that I get a certain amount of satisfaction knowing that I’m good at what I do.”

Mr. Sanders got up from his chair and started working again. “I need help from those no good kids. I had to work when I was their age.”

“It’s not your kid’s fault that you couldn’t go to school. Don’t you know that for them to have a better future they need to have an education. They need to know how to read and write.”

“Are you finished telling me what I should do? It’s too late for Butch, anyway. He couldn’t add two and two when he was in school. I did him a favor by taking him out and telling him to move out of the house and support himself. He could have made enough to help us feed his brothers and sisters, too.”

Brad was getting exasperated, but he couldn’t leave the situation this way. “I’ll make a deal with you, Mr. Sanders. I have spoken with my attorney. He knows his stuff and he believes he can get you out of that contract. He also thinks he can sue the man that has been taking advantage of you all these years. With that done, you’ll be able to afford a better life for everybody, quit the coal mine and do what you love to do.”

Mr. Sander’s interest was peaked. “What do I have to do.”

“You have to be a good husband and father, and if you’re going to run your own business you better learn how to read and write. I bet your wife doesn’t even know what all has happened does she? If she can read and write, let her set up the books.”

Brad reached out to shake Mr. Sander’s hand and this time he got a firm handshake in return.

“Mr. Sanders…If I ever hear of you mistreating anyone in this family ever again, there will be hell to pay. Do you understand me?”

“Yes Sir,” was the meek reply. “Can Butch come for a visit every now and then?”

“Yes, of course,” Brad said. “But he’ll be keeping that guitar. Looks like he inherited something good from your side of the family. He’s very talented.”

On the way back to the ranch, Butch who intended to continue calling himself Clark, thought about Annie. He hoped she missed him just a little. She was the only one he felt comfortable singing to.

Murdo Girl…Trying times

Later that night, Arf and Annie were lying in front of the window in Brad’s study. It was too dark to see any squirrels, but since most of the important conversations go on in the study, they like to spend a lot of their leisure time by the squirrel window.

Arf: I’m a little worried about Brad and Clark going to confront Clark’s father without one of us being with them. What do you think will happen?

Annie: You were doing something with Katie, but I was in here last night after Brad told Clark to go pack. Brad called his attorney. He got some good advice from him, but I don’t know if he’s going to take it.

Arf: I suppose you’re not going to share what you know with me. You make me crazy Annie.

Annie: I just love it when I reach a goal. Anyway, if Clark wants to be on his own he has to do it legally. He has to be emancipated. Until then, if his father wants him to return home, Clark will have to go back and stay there while all the legal stuff takes place.

Arf: What do you think Brad will do?

Annie: That’s the part I can’t tell you… mainly because I don’t know.

Clark couldn’t believe he was going back to the last place in the world he wanted to be. He also knew that no one would be more surprised than his daddy, and no one would be more filled with anger. His father didn’t like outsiders involved in family business. Brad would have a fight on his hands.

What Clark didn’t know was that Brad was prepared. Clark’s father was going to learn that making people fear you was not the right way to motivate them. It was the cowards way.

When they arrived at the small airport, they were able to rent a car and they drove straight to Clark’s home.

“Daddy’s car is gone. I hope he’s at work and not on his way to the ranch,” Clark said.

“Me too, “Brad was counting on it. “Let’s go and see who is here.”Clark opened the door and called for his mamma. A plump little haggard looking woman came running. She had tears in her eyes as she hugged her son whose given name was Butch.

“I’m so happy to see you, son, but you shouldn’t have come back. I fear it will rile your daddy up even more than he already is.”

“Mamma, this is Brad Humboldt. He’s the fine man who has given me a home. He owns a horse ranch.”

“Pleased to meet you, Sir. I thank you for helping Butch out. I’ve rested easier knowing he has had a roof over his head. Least wise until the last few days.”

“Please call me Brad, Mam. Do we have time to talk before your husband gets home?”

“He’s at work isn’t he Mamma? He didn’t head for the ranch did he?”

“He left for work, same as usual, but he’s been saying he’s going to find you and bring you back here. He says you’re making him look like a fool that can’t take care of his own.”

“He threw me out, Mamma.”

“Mam,” Brad interjected. “A lady at the ranch renamed Butch, Clark, so you may hear me refer to your son here as Clark. Anyway, Butch has told me about your circumstances and I would like to help you and your children, but first, I need to talk to you and your husband. Do you think he will agree to that?”

“You can ask him yourself, Clark said. “I see him pulling in.”

Brad looked to see a thin man with a scowl on his face come through the door. He carried a lunch bucket and he was covered in coal dust. He looked at everyone in the room and walked right by all of them. Without saying a word, he went to the kitchen sink and began washing up. When he was finished he turned to his wife.

“When Mike gets home from school, send him to my workshop…and I expect the man here who brought Butch back to be gone when I come back in for supper.”

“I have something I’d like to say to you, Sir.” Brad extended his hand but the gesture was refused. “I was hoping you’d hear me out. May I come with you to your workshop?”

Back at the ranch Arf and Katie were waiting for Katie’s mom, Dina, to take them to the research hospital. They were hoping to continue working together to further Katie’s abilities to strengthen her legs and improve her balance. They had an appointment with the doctor and the physical therapist that afternoon.

Dina was working with Jamie’s mother, Mrs. Langford, who had recently had a stroke. Dina had been really excited when Brad had asked her to take over Mrs. Langford’s care. In fact, she was so involved in what she was doing, she had lost all track of time.