The minute Brad met Jamie’s parents, Clyde and Clara Langford, he knew they were all going to get along just fine. Mrs. Langford was tired from the trip, and as a result of her recent stroke, she was having some difficulty speaking and walked with the aid of a cane. Even so, she appeared to be a cheerful person. Clyde had a slightly different way of expressing himself that might take some getting used to, but he seemed like he would be an amicable guy to have around.
“We have a place all ready for the three of you, and you’ll probably be happy to know it’s on the first floor,” Brad told them when they got back to the ranch.
“That’s good,” Mr. Langford said. “I have a unique problem. I have a tendency to fall up the stairs.”
“Daddy, I think we should let mother lie down and rest for a while before supper. Brad, can you show us where our rooms are?”
“Sure, I’ll grab a couple of bags and have Clark bring the others in a few minutes. I really hope you’ll be comfortable in this little suite of rooms.”
“I’m sure Mrs. Langford is looking forward to lying down on that magical place where suddenly you remember everything you’ve forgotten…the bed,” Mr. Langford said.
“Brad I’ve never seen this part of the house before.” Jamie was more than a little impressed. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Mr. Langford walked through the rooms without saying a word. After he had seen it all, he stood next to his wife and looked at Brad. “I don’t know if we can accept such generosity, Brad. Mrs. Langford and I are used to living in a very modest home. We’re not destitute by any means. We have enough money saved up to last us the rest of our lives…that is if we die by four o’clock.”
“When I added on and remodeled this house,” Brad said. “I had no idea why I wanted it to be, well… so massive. I think deep down I was hoping It would one day be filled with people that felt like family to me.”
“A man doesn’t know what he knows until he knows what he doesn’t know, and now you know what you didn’t know,” Mr. Langford said rather philosophically.
“Right,” Brad said. “I’ll go get Clark and we’ll bring the rest of your bags to you. I’ll knock on the door Jamie.”
Mrs. Langford had supper in her room, but everyone else ate together at the large kitchen table. The house had a formal dining room, but everyone preferred eating in the kitchen. Miss B and Grandma Helen especially liked it because they didn’t have to miss any of the conversation. The two ladies were serving desert when the phone rang.
“I’ll get it,” Miss B said. She loved to answer the telephone.
“Clark, there is a woman on the phone who says she needs to talk to you. She called you Butch. That must be your nickname.”
Miss Bessie must have forgotten that she’s the one who named him Clark.
When he got off the phone, Clark excused himself and left the kitchen. Brad also excused himself and caught up with Clark.
“Let’s go to my study, we can talk without interruption there.”
Annie was thankful that she happened to be in the study watching squirrels out of the window. Clark seemed very upset.
She was his designated dog friend, and after listening to the conversation, she knew he needed her more than ever.
Clark confided in Brad that his mother called to warn him. His father was very close to finding out exactly where his son was living. He knew the little airport that Clark had flown into and it was only a matter of time before he discovered that he was residing at Brad Humboldt’s horse ranch.
“Why is it important that he doesn’t know where you are? “Brad asked. “I thought he had basically thrown you out and told you that you had to fend for yourself. I can tell you’re afraid…Why?”
“I didn’t tell you the whole story,” Clark admitted. “I was told to find a cheap place to live and get a job right there. I was supposed to give them money every week. Mamma is the one who gave me the two hundred dollars. She had saved it up little by little and had it hidden away. She told me to get as far away from there as I could. I was about to pay her back.”
“How were you going to come up with two hundred dollars?” Brad asked. “I haven’t paid you anything.”
“I was going to sell my guitar. I figure it’s worth about five hundred dollars. I just hate to sell it. It belonged to my grandpa.”
Clark walked over and leaned down to pet Annie. She licked his hand and looked at him as if she understood.
“Daddy will drive all the way here and cause trouble. I just know he will. He knows Mamma must have given me money and he never has wanted me to have that guitar. Brad, can I take the truck to town tomorrow after I do Jamie’s chores? I already know there’s a place there that will buy my guitar.”
“There’s no need for that,” Brad said. “Are you sure your mamma is okay? It sounds like your father is really angry.”
“She said she’s okay, but he’s started to treat my little brother just like he treated me.”
“Pack a bag, Clark. We’re going to fly there tomorrow. Hopefully, if we fly, we can get there before he finds out your here and heads this way. I take it there’s a place where I can rent a car. I assume your airport is as small as the one here.”
“Yes Sir. You can rent a car.”
Annie couldn’t tell if Clark was relieved or worried or both. She followed him to his room and watched while he packed his bag. What she didn’t know was that Clark was confused. He didn’t want to cause Brad any trouble, yet he trusted him to help his mamma. In the end, he took out his guitar and played his mamma’s favorite song, In the Garden. He closed his eyes and began to sing, “I walked through the garden alone…”
Down in his study, Brad was formulating his plan. He had to be smart about this. Clark was only sixteen. He wasn’t legally an adult, yet. He picked up the phone and called his attorney.
Jamie and her parents didn’t get to the ranch for another week. Brad had a lot of time to think about the future and all he knew for sure was that he wanted Jamie in it.
He had grown to love the big family that had been brought together through happenstance. He had people in his life to care about and who cared about him. His brother, Tom and sister, Barbie were enjoying spending time with their mother and getting to know each other as well. He had intended to join them, but he just couldn’t make that happen, yet.
Brad was thinking about all of this when he was headed to the kitchen for his morning coffee. He had a couple of hours before he had to leave for the airport to pick up Jamie and her parents. Dina was going with him in case Jamie’s mother who had just recently had a stroke, needed her attention.
As usual, Clark was already in the kitchen. He was normally the first one there in the mornings, so even though he didn’t drink coffee, he always had it made.
“Good morning Clark. I’m glad we’re the first ones up this morning. It’s been so busy around here, I haven’t had a chance to ask you if you were ever able to talk with your mother.”
Clark had been smiling, but it was quickly replaced with a look Brad didn’t quite understand. He brought Brad his coffee and got a glass of juice for himself before answering Brad’s question.
“Yes, I talked to my mamma last evening. I should be there, Brad. She needs me, but she told me not to come back. She doesn’t want me to come on home.”
“Listen son,” Brad said. “I told you that you could talk to me about anything and I would try to help with any problems you’re having to deal with, but I’m not going to pry. I figured you would ask for my input when and if you needed it.”
“Well Sir.” I guess I need it. It’s my daddy. He’s not a very good person. He’s got a hot temper and all of us go around in fear that we’re going to do or say something that will set him off. Mamma takes the brunt of it now, since I’m gone. She thinks the only way I can make a good life for myself is to stay away from there, but that don’t feel right, either.”
“Clark, I need to ask you something. Do you fear for your mother’s safety and what about your brothers and sisters? There’s five of you all together, right?”
“Yes, I have two brothers and two sisters…all younger than me. So far, he hasn’t laid into them, just me and Mamma. He roughs her up some, but he’s smart enough to know he needs her to cook, clean, and take care of the little ones. Mamma says it’s her lot to deal with. She says the best thing I can do for her is to make a better life for myself. She might be right.”
“I think it’s time for me to get to school, Sir. Maybe some day I can provide a better life for Mamma and the kids. Can you help me? I promise to work hard after school and on the weekends.”
Arf and Annie have been lying on the floor by the door and listening to all of this.
Arf: Why do I think there might be problems coming our way, Annie?
Annie: Because dogs sense things, Arf. I’m feeling the same thing you are. It’s the way we feel right before something bad happens.
Arf: We need to be on the look out, Annie. Maybe between the two of us, we can figure out what that something bad is.
Steve was going to take Katie to school, but Dina decided to look in on her daughter before going with Brad to the airport. She found her sitting at her pretty little vanity brushing her hair.
“My goodness, you’re up bright and early this morning. You must be excited about going to school. Is there something special going on?”
Katie put her brush down and looked at her mother.
“Remember Mommy? I brought a note home. Today is rally day. All the kids race and broad jump and things like that. I’ll have to sit in the stands and watch. I don’t want to go, Mommy. Please don’t make me go. Will you talk to Daddy?”
Dina felt like her heart was breaking. She also knew that the situation they found themselves in, was partially her fault. She had let Katie take her eye off the ball. She had not encouraged her to continue with her therapy. She could have made more progress and at least if not today, Katie would have felt like the possibility of doing the things the other children were doing could be something in her future.
“I want you to go today, Katie. I know it will be hard, but spend your time seeing what it’s all about. Tomorrow, I will take you and Arf to see your physical therapist, Sam, at the research hospital. It’s time you all got back to work. How does that sound.”
“Okay, Mommy. That’s a good idea.”
Katie’s daddy, Steve was mulling over some ideas of his own. He was wondering what the possibilities were that he might be able to lease Jamie’s farm. He really wanted to get his family together in their own place and the farm would be ideal. It was closer to town and not far from the ranch. He just had to pray that Jamie’s parents agreed to stay on…and that Dina would be willing to try putting their family back together in a place of their own.
Miss Bessie and Grandma Helen were both in the kitchen cooking up a storm.
“Why are you making pancakes” Miss B asked. “I thought we agreed we were having French toast this morning.”
“Well, I saw that you were making sausage. We always have sausage with pancakes and bacon with French toast.”
Brad was hoping that his regular cook, Alice would be back from vacation, soon.
“When is Alice coming back, ladies?”
Both Miss Bessie and Grandma Helen began to look a little nervous which Brad knew was not a good sign.
“Well,” Miss Bessie said. “She’s not exactly coming back.”
“What exactly does that mean?”
“She quit,” Grandma Helen said.
Yram has heard so much about this Loretta person that her nose for news has led her to track down this Loretta person.
Using her wily ways, Yram intends to snag an interview that is sure to be one that can stop the presses at the Murdo Coyote Newspaper and give Yram another feather in her cap. It’s been so long since she got the first one, she can’t even remember who she interviewed.
Since Loretta is known to frequent Mack’s Cafe, Yram decides to check there first and ask the first person she sees if she knows where Loretta is.
“You can sit anywhere you like,” the first person she sees says.
“Thanks, but I don’t want to sit. I was wondering if you could tell me where Loretta might be.”
“Have you tried her house? She spends a lot of time there.”
“Well, no…Great idea!”
“She has a motel and a house down by the highway. You can’t miss the motel, but the house is a little hard to find. It’s underground. Good luck…I gotta run.”
With that, the waitress goes back and sits at a table where she is enjoying a Bing and a Coke. Yram makes a mental note to make friends with this waitress. They have a lot in common.
With a lot of help and a little luck, Yram finally finds herself making her way down the steps of the basement house. She looks through the window in the door at the bottom of the steps and sees a lady sitting in a booth and talking on the telephone. She waves Yram in.
Yram can’t help but overeavesdrop the conversation.
“You need me to make cookies? Loretta asks. “Well let’s see I……” before finishing the sentence or saying goodbye, she hangs up the phone. Then she picks up the phone and a rather loud busy signal comes on for a couple of minutes.
“They’ll never believe that I hung up on them while I was the one talking,” she says.
“Don’t you want to call them back?” Yram asks.
“No. Why do you think I hung up? I don’t want to make cookies, but the PTA is hard to say no to. If they call back, the phone will ring busy. Too bad. Who are you? “
“My name is Yram Sicnarf. I’m a crack up reporter from Gun Barrel City, TX where they shoot straight. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions.”
“You should have called first…but since you didn’t, come on into the living room. I have a few ladies over here playing bridge. That’s why I’m all dressed up.”
Yram and Loretta enter a smoke filled room. It’s hard to see the ladies through the haze, but apparently, they could see Yram because they all gasped. (Not for air. They were surprised.)
“She looks just like Mary,” the lady next to the nuts and mints says. “And Mary looks a lot like you. You and Yram look a lot alike. Is it time for cream “o” cheese “o” cherry pie yet?”
Loretta signals to Yram to come to the kitchen with her to cut the pie and make the coffee.
“You can call me Mom, Yram. You probably really are Mary and you’re still mad because I got rid of all your mementos.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mom. My name is Yram and…Uh Oh. I just have one question. What made you think I would never have an occasion to use my pom poms again?”
“Oh, I gave those to the coach’s daughter. You were her Connie like. I sold the saxophone, your cheerleader outfit, your Betty Crocker Homemaker of tomorrow pin and your Ray Charles album. Who has just one album?”
“One more question, Mom and then I would love a piece of that pie. Why didn’t you ever teach me how to play bridge?”
“Because you didn’t smoke and you would have eaten all of the cream “o” cheese “o” cherry pie. I did take you to the horse races, but it was more your brother’s thing.”
“Well it’s been nice meeting you Mom. Have I ever told you what a good mom you were when I was growing up? Are those Oreos on the counter?”
“They’re just in case I got roped into making cookies for the PTA meeting.”
I never could convince you that you can’t take Oreos to the PTA meeting. The cookies have to be homemade.”
“Now Mary…don’t you remember those last ones I made? I accidentally left a batch in the oven too long and when you came home, you could smell them burning. You knew they must be homemade. It was a good thing I had already made the two dozen for the PTA meeting.”
“Did you know Billy found the package from the store that the cookies came in? It was in the garbage.”
“He loved my cherry turnovers.”
Yram smiles. “That’s another story.”
“Goodbye Mom. I’ve got to go pick up cousin Lav. You know her as Valerie, your sister, Ella’s, daughter. She’s at the Pioneer Auto Museum. She’s been over there all day just sitting in that red convertible. Can I take her a piece of pie? That will get her mind off that car.”
Loretta gives Yram two pieces of pie.
“This was one heck of an interview,” Yram says…”Thanks Mom.”
Don’t worry. Annie and I will be back tomorrow. MG just gets nostalgic sometimes. Big things are happening at the ranch. Some are moving in and some are moving out.
And…Clark is about to get a big surprise.
Before I start the Arf and Annie story, I want to ask you something. It will probably only apply to the baby boomer readers.
I made a bundt cake today which reminded me of the angel food cakes mom always made when someone had a birthday. I didn’t really like angel food cake. I thought they were too spongie, and Mom’s weren’t always the most beautiful.
I didn’t count the candles, but Dad must have been around 37 on this birthday.
When I got older, I asked for cheesecake for my birthday. The question I have is…did your mom take the angel food cake out of the oven and turn it over on a pop bottle to let it cool. It was just the right size to hold the angel food cake pan up off of the counter. Mom seemed to know just how long to leave it like that before she could easily get the cake out of the pan and onto the plate. It doesn’t work for a bundt cake because the hole in the middle of the pan is too big. My cake stuck to the pan a little bit so I had to put extra glaze on those spots.
Arf and Annie define their duties…
Arf: I know you love everyone just like I do, but we’ve got so many humans living here now that we’re running into each other trying to figure out who is keeping an eye on who. What do you think, Annie?
Annie: Well, I’ll try to keep an eye on Clark since he’s the newbie, but you might have to take him fishing once in a while. He has a secret, but I can’t tell you about it yet. I don’t think he’s ready to go public with it. Since I know his secret, I think I should stick with Clark.
Arf: Whatever…I still have some work to do with Katie, although she hasn’t seemed too interested in working with me lately. I think she’s getting complacent.
Annie: What does complacent mean?
Arf: It means happy with the way things are. Kind of lazy about striving to do the best you can. Anyway, I’m going to have to come up with some ideas. We’re going to go to the nursing homes and dance for the folks next week. Maybe I can show her that I still remember the steps and the signals and she’ll want to practice. She won’t be using her wheelchair, so that’s going to make a huge difference. I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed and we haven’t even gotten to sad sack Brad, yet.
Annie: What is the deal with Katie’s parents? They seem to live separate lives, and only do things together when Katie is involved.
Arf: It’s a long story. They have been married a long time, but Dina left the family when she got really sick right after Katie was born. She thought she was going to die, but as you can see, she didn’t. Grandma Helen is Dina’s mom.
Annie: Now I’m getting overwhelmed, too. You go check on Katie, and I’ll go check on Clark. He should be back from Jamie’s by now.
Clark was in Brad’s study. He wanted to ask a favor, but he didn’t know if he should.
“Can I help you with something, son?” Brad got up and motioned for Clark to sit in one of the easy chairs while he took the other one. Brad didn’t like to have conversations across his desk.
“Well, Sir, I was wondering if it would be alright if I called my mamma. It’s in her nature to worry a lot and I want to let her know I’m okay.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Brad said. “There’s the phone right over there. Talk with your mamma as long as you’d like. I’ll give you some privacy.
“Oh, no, Clark said. “I can’t call right now. Daddy will be home. It won’t do for me to call when he’s home. I’ll call her in the morning if that’ll be alright.”
Brad decided not to question Clark about his reluctance to call home when his father was there, but then he wondered what kind of parents would turn a sixteen year old boy out to fend for himself.
“Tomorrow is fine, Clark. You feel free to use the phone anytime…and Clark, I want you to know you can talk to me. I want to do what’s right by you. If you decide to stay on here, we’re going to have to start talking about school. Maybe we can find someone to help you catch up on your studies.”
“Yes sir. I know I should be in school, but can we wait just a while? I’m still stinging from my last experience.”
Arf found Katie playing alone in her room. She had her dolls all set up and they were all talking about stuff.
“Why does your daddy want to move?” The blonde doll asked.
“He says it’s too far for him to drive to his handyman jobs and he wants to find a place that’s closer to town,” said the little redheaded doll.
“I don’t want to move,” she said. “Boo Hoo.”
“Are your mommy and your Grandma Helen going to move, too?”
“I don’t know, but I’m afraid they won’t want to. What will I do? Will I go with my daddy or stay here? I don’t want my daddy to be all alone.”
That night, Brad joined everyone for supper a little late. He was excited about telling them his news.
“I’ve talked to Jamie several times today. Her mother is doing better and they have agreed to come here for a visit. They want Jamie to continue with her internship and studies without interruption.”
Brad turned to look at Dina.
“Anyway, since you have experience working with stroke victims, Dina, they want to hire you to care for Jamie’s mother.”
Dina was about to say something when Steve spoke.
“Will Jamie be living here, too?” Steve asked.
“Yes…that is if they decide to stay. Jamie said if her parents are happy here, she will try to lease out the farm. Grandma Helen and Miss Bessie would you mind getting those rooms with the little kitchen and sitting area ready? That will give them all plenty of room.”
“Now don’t that beat all!” Grandma Helen said. “I can’t believe the things that happen around here.”
“We’ll be happy to freshen things up, Brad,” Miss Bessie added. “I can’t wait to meet Jamie’s parents.”
I thought I would show you a couple of new cottage additions before the Arf story…Thank you Rebecca for the cute little shelf. As you can see, I put it to good use.
Kip put some floating shelves up for me. I’m still trying out different pictures of the kids and grand kids.
Wow! That angel shows up bright in the photograph!
Jamie called Brad when she got to her parent’s house just to let him know she had arrived safely. She was planning to have a bite to eat with her dad and then they were going to the hospital to see her mother.
“Was that Jamie on the phone?” Miss Bessie asked. “How did she sound? Is her mother doing better?”
“She sounded tired and she hasn’t seen her mother yet. They’re going to the hospital after supper.” Brad was tired and worried. He felt like he’d said goodbye to his best friend.
“Miss Bessie, I am really at a loss here. I want to be there for Jamie, but I don’t know how I can help her. I don’t know that much about her relationship with her parents. All I know for sure is that Jamie is an only child and her parents travel a lot. That’s one of the reasons she decided to stay here for her internship. She was lonely at home because her parents were never there.”
“Well, if you ask me, I think Jamie is at a loss too. This came out of the blue and she must be pretty confused. She has no idea what she’s facing and she might not know for a while.”
“I want her to know that I’m not going anywhere.” Brad said. “I want to ask her to bring her parents here. I mean after her mother is stabilized. It’s an option I hope Jamie might consider. Do you think I should suggest it to her, Miss B.?”
“Well, Lord knows there are enough people around here to help take care of her mother which would take some of the load off Jamie and her father.” Miss Bessie thought for a minute before continuing. “I think if I were you, I would tell her the part about you being there for her no matter what. Then you should add that you would be happy to go there for a few days if she needs you to help out. That will kind of ease you into the possibility of moving them all here. The whole thing must be gradual. You can’t force the issue, Brad. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
“Yes, Miss Bessie…it’s called manipulation, but I’m not a very patient guy. Once I’ve made my mind up about something, I want to forge on ahead. But what you’re saying is that Jamie might not be ready for that.”
Arf: Miss B is sure a talker and Brad is sure a thinker. What they don’t know is that Jamie loves Brad and if he backs off too much, he might miss his chance. This is his defining moment. (I heard that on Lassie.)
Annie: You’re exactly right, Arf. That Lassie is one smart dog. What do you think of Clark?
Arf: I think he’s trying really hard to fit in here, but he’s got a lot to learn about ranching.
Annie: I think he’s kind of lonely. I went with him and Brad to do the chores at Jamie’s farm. He whistled all the way over there. It made me crazy, but I figured out it was because he couldn’t think of much to say. Brad was really quiet too, but we know what that’s about.
Arf: Keep your ear to the ground, Annie. We’ll figure out something. We need to spend some time with Katie, too. She’s really doing great, but she still can’t run. Let’s go see if we can talk someone into a bone. Is it hot in here or is it just me?
Arf still usually slept in Katie’s room, and Annie spent the night in the kitchen by the stove. That night she thought she heard music. It wasn’t very loud, but she was sure it was the sound of someone singing. She decided to go in search of the source and found herself in front of the door to Clark’s room. She knew she wasn’t supposed to paw at the door, but she wanted Clark to let her in. It took a while, but he finally heard her.
“Annie, what are you doing here? Do you want to come in and listen to me play my guitar? I sure hope I’m not waking up everyone in the house. I really don’t want other people to hear me, but you can if you want. I’ll play a song just for you.
He played a song called Ol Red. It’s about a dog falling in love under unusual circumstances. Clark sounded just like George Jones.
Annie: After listening to Clark play and sing, I knew exactly what would be a real special thing for him to do. He should go with us to the nursing home next week. Those folks loved to watch Katie and Arf dance, and they would surely love Cark’s singing and playing. Now, we just had to get him over being shy about doing it in front of people.
I slept beside Clark’s bed that night. Every once in a while he reached down to pet me. I’ll sleep here every night if he wants me to.
It was a quiet ride to the airport. There were so many things Brad wanted to say to Jamie, but now didn’t seem to be the appropriate time.
What if she didn’t come back? What if her father needed her to stay and help with her mother? There was a solution. One that Brad would keep tucked away in the back of his mind as he and Jamie both waited to see how things unfolded.
“Here we are,” Jamie said. “I can’t thank you enough for bringing me, Brad. It made it so much simpler.”
“Come on,” Brad said. “I’ll grab your bags and help you get all checked in.”
When it was down to only a few minutes before Jamie’s flight boarded, Brad took her hand in his and squeezed it tightly. Jamie had tears in her eyes. Poor emotional little Jamie. His heart went out to her.
“I’m here if you need anything. You know that don’t you?” Brad was trying his best to do and say the right things. “I don’t think you have any idea how much you mean to me. I love you, Jamie, and I want to do whatever I can to make things easier for you.”
“I’ll be in touch.” Jamie smiled as she turned to leave. Brad waited for her to turn around so he could see her beautiful face one more time, but she didn’t. Instead, she rushed to board the airplane.
Clark had been enjoying all of the attention Miss Bessie and Grandma Helen had been giving him, but by the afternoon of the third day, he found himself avoiding them. He had eaten more pie and cookies than any human ought to in a month much less a couple of days. He was grateful that Brad was going to take him to Jamie’s farm tomorrow and teach him how to do her chores.
He was outside sitting under a tree when Arf came over and started barking at him.
“Why are you barking, boy? You want me to come with you? Okay, I’ll come along with you, Where we going?”
Arf led Clark to the pole barn and when they were inside, he went right to a bunch of fishing poles hanging on a wall in the back. In a storage cabinet beside them, he found a tackle box.
“Do you think it would be okay if I borrowed a pole and some lures?” Clark was excited. He loved to fish.
Arf barked and turned to lead the way to the river. He knew where all of the good fishing spots were.
“Okay,” Clark said. “I’m going to trust you. Now let’s go catch some fish!”
If anyone had been upset by the borrowed fishing poles, all would have been forgiven when they saw Arf and Clark had caught enough catfish to feed a small army. Clark cleaned them and the ladies fried them up for supper.
“Clark,” little Katie asked? “How did you learn how to catch such good fish?”
“Well, I guess that I’m a natural.”
“What’s a natural?”
How could he have forgotten how difficult it was to communicate with an eight year old. He had three little sisters and two younger brothers.
“A natural is someone who doesn’t really have to learn something. They naturally know how to do it.”
“Oh,” Katie said. He was about to offer another explanation when he realized she had already forgotten the question and was busily eating her fish.
Clark couldn’t help but notice how Arf and Annie watched over everyone at the table. He had never seen anything like it, but then he had never been allowed to have a pet. I like it here, he thought. I really like it here, so why do I feel so lonely?
Clark excused himself early that night and went to his room. It was the nicest room anyone could ever want. He went to the place he had found to keep his treasure. He pulled it out and for the first time in months, he opened up the case. After a few minutes he reached in and took out his beautiful guitar. He began to play and the music was sweet, and his voice was even sweeter.
I wrote a poem the other day that needs a few adjustments.
The message was, in retrospect, lacking in real substance.
It isn’t true that true believers never feel the angst of stress.
Or can live their lives without the joy of social happiness.
Cancel culture has the power. It decides what’s right or wrong.
I watch and hope that someone else deals with the angry throng.
I’ve felt confused and helpless. I’ve watched the world turn upside down.
Have I become desensitized to the horrors all around?
It’s not enough that we believe if no one else believes.
So many have no values, and they don’t wear fig leaves.
Can we put the toothpaste back in the tube of love and trust?
We can’t go on pretending our lives won’t soon combust.
All of us must treat ourselves and others with respect.
This is our only world. It’s not too late to reconnect.
I have come to realize we have no other choice.
We can’t be stifled anymore. We have to find our voice.
We have our families to think of. Today is a new start.
But I alone don’t have the power to change another’s heart.
With the One who’s there to help me, I can begin by reaching out.
I can lead by example and show what faith is all about.
Action has to follow words. I’m not yet sure how that will look.
I’ve been told that all the answers are written in the Book.
Lord help me to remember that I have learned one thing.
Nothing good can happen if good people don’t do something.
(Link to previous poem)
I don’t know where to begin.
Years ago when Brad bought the ranch it included a few hundred acres and a modest home. Over the years he had added acreage when he could and he was now the owner of a sizable horse ranch. He had also remodeled and added on to the house. He wanted it to be fitting of the beautiful land that surrounded it. He had worked hard over the years, and he was proud of what he had accomplished and accumulated.
Except for a housekeeper and cook, Brad had lived alone all those years. It was only recently he had decided he wanted to share his massive home and good fortune with others. Miss Bessie, Grandma Helen, Steve, Dina and Katie had all come to make there home at Humboldt Ranch.
They all shared two beautiful dogs named Arf and Annie. They had become the glue that held the family together.
Now there was a young man who had come to make his home with them. No one ever asked him what his name was, but they all called him Clark.
The next morning when Brad walked into the kitchen to get his morning coffee, Clark was already there. Miss Bessie and Grandma Helen were both fussing over him and he didn’t seem to mind a bit.
“I’ll just pour myself a cup of coffee,” Brad said. “What’s that your cooking for breakfast, ladies? It sure smells good.”
It was obvious that neither of them heard him. They were too busy carrying plates of bacon, eggs, hotcakes, and fried potatoes to the table. They placed them all in front of Clark. Grandma Helen took hot cinnamon rolls from the oven and Miss Bessie poured a big glass of orange juice for the honored guest.
“Clark, did you sleep well last night?” Miss Bessie asked. Those rooms can get so drafty and I wasn’t sure if I had given you enough blankets.
“No Mam, I mean yes mam, I slept like a man with no worries.”
Brad got up and put some bread in the toaster. “Clark, have you ever ridden a horse?”
“Well Sir, I’ve never had the need to ride a horse, but if I had the need, I’m sure I could figure it out. I’m real good at figuring things out, and animals of all kinds like me.”
Arf who was lying in his usual spot in front of the door, had a different opinion. Animals he doesn’t kidnap after stealing the truck they’re riding in might like him. Annie said she was going to give Clark a chance. I guess I will too. I wonder if he likes to throw frisbees to dogs.
“Well son, when you’re finished eating us out of house and home, I’ll take you on a tour of the ranch. Then I’ll show you how to clean out a horse stall.”
That evening when Clark and Brad walked into the house, both Miss Bessie and Grandma Helen gasped. One ran to Clark and the other ran to get the first aid kit.
“Oh dear, what happened?” Grandma Helen was beside herself.
“Clark decided to go straight from horseback riding novice to rodeo king. He had an unfortunate fall before he even had a chance to clean out his first stall.”
“You’ve been gone for hours,” Grandma Helen said. “Why didn’t you bring this poor thing straight back home so we could dress his wounds properly?”
“I said he had his accident before he had a chance to clean out his first stall. I didn’t tell you he insisted he do the work, so I let him clean out a few before we headed back. You did a real good job, too Clark.”
Clark grinned from ear to ear and his ears are pretty far apart.
“Where is everybody?” Brad asked. “It’s close to supper time. I figured everyone would be home.”
“Dina had a doctor’s appointment in town and she took Katie with her. Steve’s still at work, I guess. Mark is still out of town and Jamie, of course, doesn’t live here, but she did take me to the General Store today while she worked at the vet clinic. I thought she was unusually quiet all the way home. I hope she feels okay. She’s probably just tired.”
Brad quit listening to Miss B. after the first or second sentence, but when she said Jamie was unusually quiet all the way home, he became concerned.
“Go ahead and eat without me. I’m going to my study and give Jamie a call.”
Annie: Hey Arf…lets go sit by the window in Brad’s study and watch the squirrels.
Arf: Yeah…I think we need to listen in on that conversation. I thought Jamie acted funny yesterday, too. She’s just not herself.
Brad tried twice to reach Jamie, but there was no answer.
“Come on Arf and Annie. Let’s drive over to Jamie’s and make sure everything is okay.”
When they arrived at the farm that Jamie had purchased from Miss Bessie, Jamie was packing a suitcase.
“You haven’t said anything about going anywhere,” Brad said. “Is everything okay? Are you okay?”
“No and No. I got a call yesterday from my father. Mother has had a stroke and has lost the use of her left side. She also has trouble communicating. Dad is not handling it well. I was able to get a flight out tomorrow morning. Beyond that, I have no idea what the future holds.”
“What about your internship? You’re so close to completing it.” Brad knew as soon as he said it that Jamie wasn’t so selfish as to think about herself.
“It doesn’t matter, Brad. I talked to Dr. Floyd today and he said he’ll do whatever he has to in order to make things easier for me.”
“I’m really glad you came here tonight, Brad.” Jamie motioned for him to sit down. “I need to ask you if you could find someone to take care of the farm until I decide what to do with it. This was all so sudden I didn’t have time to think about everything.”
“Of course,” Brad assured her. “Between Mark and I, we can take care of everything that needs taken care of. Please don’t rush into making any life changing decisions until you’ve had a chance to see what is needed. What time does your flight leave? I want to take you to the airport. It’s important to me that I see you off.”
That night. Clark unpacked the box he had brought with him from home. It had a few clothes in it and some things that were important to him. At the very bottom of the box was his most prized possession. He smiled as he carefully unwrapped it. It had made the trip without incurring any damage. He would have to find a special place to keep it.
Arf and Annie sensed that things were going to be changing at Humboldt ranch. There were so many people to watch over, and now Brad’s future was up in the air.
I’m not hosting a virtual birthday party for someone who’s virtually a friend.
It’s not going to be in the virtual cottage. I hope it’s ready by then.
We all won’t wear our most fabulous hat, and we might not have a contest.
The winner won’t be the birthday girl, though her hats are always the best.
We won’t start out in my virtual home where everyone can’t gather.
The ladies can’t have a spot of tea or a mimosa if they’d rather.
Then two at a time, I won’t take them to see…my virtual very own place.
It’s the cutest thing you have never seen, a virtual cozy and comfy space.
The birthday girl won’t be the honored guest and we won’t sing the happy birthday song.
But as soon as this virus leaves us alone, the party will be back on.
So don’t save the date until the day we can all go around unmasked.
You WILL be invited to a birthday bash that heretofore has been unsurpassed.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE LIFE OF THE PARTY
WE LOVE YOU