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Daily Dilly

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PREVIOUS STORIES


 

THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2009:

 

(1)    JANUARY  -  THE ROSE

(2)    FEBUARY  -  THE TRAIN

(3)    MARCH  -  HENRY

(4)    April  -  THE SON RISE

(5)    MAY  -  MY FATHER'S CAR

(6)    JUNE  -  THE CAVE

(7)    JULY  -  THE TITHE

(8)    AUGUST  -  PROVISION

(9)    SEPTEMBER  -  THE LAMB 

(10)  OCTOBER  -  THE SHEPHERD

(11)  NOVEMBER  -  LIFE AFTER BIRTH

(12)  DECEMBER  -  LISTEN

 

THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2010:

 

(13)  JANUARY  -  LEARNING TO SWIM

(14)  February  -  THE RUNAWAY

(15)  MARCH  -  A TRIP TO THE CITY

(16)  APRIL  -  THE CATCHERMAN

(17)  MAY  -  ODD JOBS

(18)  JUNE - THE SQUIRREL

(19)  JULY  -  THE BELL RINGER

(20)  AUGUST  -  THE TASTE TEST 

(21)  SEPTEMBER  -  THE BIRD DOG 

(22)  OCTOBER   -   THE RETRIEVER

(23)  NOVEMBER  -   THE TARANTULA 

(24)  DECEMBER  -  CHRISTMAS MONEY

 

THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2011:

 

(25)  JANUARY  -  THE CLAY TABLET  

(26)  FEBRUARY   -   THE MULE

(27)  MARCH   -   FIRECRACKERS

(28)  APRIL   -   SNAKE BITE

(29)  MAY  -  FIRST DANCE

(30)  JUNE  -  BANG

(31)  JULY  -  SWEET REVENGE

(32)  AUGUST - SHOTS FIRED

(33)  SEPTEMBER - THE SEARCH

(34)  OCTOBER  -  THE STAKEOUT (Part 1)

(35)  NOVEMBER - THE STAKEOUT (Part 2)

(36)  DECEMBER  -  THE GOAL

 

THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2012:

 

(37)  JANUARY  -  THE LION

(38)  FEBRUARY  -  VALENTINE'S DAY CARD

(39)  MARCH   -   DROP YOURS

(40)  APRIL   -    THE STANDOFF

(41)  MAY   -    THE GRADEBOOK

(42)  JUNE  -  THE CONSTRUCTION SITE

(43)  JULY  -  THE MONASTERY

(44)  AUGUST  -  THE WATERBED

(45)  SEPTEMBER - THE LAUNCHER

(46)  OCTOBER  -  FAKE SNAKE

(47)  NOVEMBER  -  CONTAINERS 

(48)  DECEMBER  -  THE CROW

 

THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2013:

 

(49)  JANUARY  -  INDIAN TALES

(50)  FEBRUARY - VALENTINE'S DAY DINNER 

(51)  MARCH  -  THE SOLDIER (Part One)

(52)  APRIL  -  THE SOLDIER (Part Two)

(53)  MAY   -   AUNT MARTHA'S BIRTHDAY

(54)  JUNE  -  TRACKS

(55)  AUGUST   -  MY HEART 

(56)  SEPTEMBER  -  SEARCH AND RESCUE

(57)  OCTOBER   -   FAITH TO MOVE MOUNTAINS

(58)  NOVEMBER  -  THE RUSE

(59)  DECEMBER  -  THE TOWER

 

THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2014

 

(60)  JANUARY   -   SANTA CLAUS

(61)  FEBRUARY  -  THE FIELD TRIAL

(62)  MARCH    -    MY FIRST BEER 

(63)  APRIL       -      ROBBI

(64)  MAY      -      THE LONG HAUL

(65)  AUGUST  -  THE TREASURE HUNT  

(66)  SEPTEMBER   -  OFFICER DOWN

(67)  OCTOBER  - THE RIDE

(68)  NOVEMBER  -  THE STRANGER


THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2015


(69)  MARCH   -   BLACK FRIDAY

(70)  APRIL    -    HOW CLOSE

(71)  MAY      -      THE INTRUDER

(72)  JUNE     -     JAIRUS

(73)  JULY     -     THE LETTER

(74) AUGUST  -  THE WARNING

(75) SEPTEMBER - MORE OF UNCLE DUDLEY

(76) OCTOBER   -   BABE

(77) NOVEMBER  -  UNDERCOVER

(78) DECEMBER  -  UNDERCOVER  (Sequel 1)


THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2016


(79) JANUARY   -    UNDERCOVER  (Sequel 2)

(80) FEBRUARY  -  UNDERCOVER  (Sequel 3)

(81) MARCH    -    THE FLOOD

(82) APRIL    -    FOSTER'S FAIRYTALE  (Part 1)

(83) May     -     FOSTER'S FAIRYTALE   (The Tour) 

(84) JUNE    -    FOSTER'S FIARYTALE   (The Escape)

(85) July     -     ON THE ROAD TO JERICHO

(86) AUGUST  -  WHICH BUCKET

(87) SEPTEMBER    -    SPIES

(88) OCTOBER     -     WAGE EARNERS 

(89) NOVEMBER   -   THE VISIT 

(90) December     -     RETURN VISIT


THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2017


(91) JANUARY    -    THE HAUNTED HOUSE

(92) FEBRUARY   -   FOOTBALL

(93)  MARCH       -       ETYMOLOGY

(94)  APRIL     -     LEAH (Part One)

(95) MAY     -     LEAH  (Part Two)

(96) JUNE    -    LEAH  (Part Three)

(97) JULY     -    LEAH   (Part Four)

(98) AUGUST  -  LEAH  (Part Five)

(99) SEPTEMBER   -   LEAH  (Part Six)

(100) OCTOBER   -   LEAH  (Part Seven)

(101) NOVEMBER  -  LEAH  (Part Eight)

(102) DECEMBER  -   LEAH (Part Nine)


THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2018


(103) JANUARY   -   LEAH (Part Ten)

(104) FEBRUARY   -   LEAH  (Part eleven) 

(105) MARCH      -    LEAH (Part Twelve)

(106) APRIL      -      LEAH (Part Thirteen)

(107) MAY        -        LEAH (Part Fourteen)

(108) JUNE       -       LEAH (Part Fifteen)

(109) JULY        -       LEAH (Part Sixteen)  

(110) August     -     LEAH (Part Seventeen)      

(111) SEPTEMBER  -  LEAH (Part Eighteen)

(112) OCTOBER     -     LEAH (Part Nineteen)

(113) NOVEMBER   -   LEAH  (Part Twenty)

(114) DECEMBER    -   LEAH (Part Twenty One)


THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2019


(115) JANUARY   -   LEAH (part Twenty Two)

(116) FEBRUARY   -   LEAH  (Part Twenty Three)

(117) MARCH      -      LEAH (Part Twenty Four)

(118) APRIL        -       LEAH (Part Twenty Five)

(119) MAY        -        LEAH (Part Twenty Six)

(120) JUNE       -      LEAH (Part Twenty Seven)

(121) JULY     -      LEAH (Part Twenty Eight)

(122) AUGUST   -   LEAH (Part Twenty Nine)

(123) SEPTEMBER   -   LEAH (Part Thirty)

(124) OCTOBER     -     LEAH (Part Thirty One)

(125)  NOVEMBER   -   LEAH (Part Thirty two)

(126) DECEMBER     -     LEAH (Part Thirty Three)


THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2020


(127) JANUARY    -     LEAH  (Part Thirty Four)

(128) February     -     LEAH   (Part Thirty Five) 

(129) MARCH     -     LEAH  (Part Thirty Six)

(130) APRIL        -        LEAH (Part Thirty Seven)

(131) MAY          -          LEAH (Part Thirty Eight)

(132) JUNE          -          LEAH (Part Thirty Nine) 

(133) JULY          -           LEAH (Part Forty)

(134) August      -         LEAH  (Part Forty One)

(135) September    -    LEAH (Part Forty Two)

(136) OCTOBER     -      LEAH (Part Forty Three)

(137) NOVEMBER    -    LEAH  (Part Forty Four)

(138) DECEMBER     -     LEAH  (Part Forty Five)


THE FOLLOWING STORIES WERE POSTED HERE FOR 2021


(139) FEBRUARY       -      LEAH (Part Forty Six)

(140) MARCH      -        LEAH (Part Forty Seven)

(141) APRIL     -     LEAH (Part Forty Eight)

(142) MAY      -     LEAH (Part Forty Nine)

(143) JULY     -      EARL 

(144) AUGUST     -     BITS & PIECES

(1) 



THE ROSE


 

 By

Mike Boudreaux



 

The old man eased into a booth next to a window and made himself comfortable as he watched his grandson, who waited for their order at the counter. The old man looked forward to these Saturday visits with his grandson. This had become a tradition which had started twelve years earlier when Bobby was four. One morning the old man had taken Bobby’s chubby little hand in his, and without telling Bobby where they were going, led him along as they walked the three blocks to McDonalds. Once at McDonalds the old man treated Bobby to a Happy Meal and he had a cup of coffee while they talked about puppies, broken crayons or some other earth shaking event in a four year olds life. Then on the next Saturday, Bobby grabbed the old man’s hand and said “C’mon Poppy, sgo to M’Donnel’s”, ..... and so it was, each Saturday there after. Every now and again they would miss a Saturday for some reason or another but most Saturday’s you could find them sharing a booth, talking about things in general and nothing in particular. This Saturday was going to be a little different. The old man had seen a change in his grandson and he was hoping that he would be able to talk with him about it.


Over the years the old man had watched closely as his grandson grew. He had seen many changes take place, most were expected and for the most part, the old man was pleased in the way Bobby had developed, but lately he had seen some things that were disturbing to him. Bobby was raised in a Christian home and had a practical knowledge of the bible, however, this area in Bobby’s life still needed some nurturing. Some months earlier the old man had noticed that Bobby was not as faithful in attending church services as he had been. When he asked Bobby about his declining attendance, Bobby told him that he needed to study for finals. The final exams had come and gone and Bobby’s attendance had not improved, yet seemed to slack off even more. The old man had also seen a change in Bobby’s attitude toward his parents. Bobby had always been cheerful and happy, he had always been obedient, doing what he was told and not daring to do what was forbidden, but that had changed. At first Bobby continued to obey his parents, although with noted reluctance, then slowly his attitude deteriorated into outright rebellion and now Bobby was starting to do the things that were forbidden. The old man knew it was past time for a talk and hoped that he would be able to reach Bobby, to once again grab that chubby little hand and lead him.

 

Bobby slid into the booth facing his grandfather and held a cup of coffee across the table with an outstretched arm, “Here you go Poppy.” The old man reached out and took the cup into both hands, placing it on the table in front of him. The old man stared into the cup for a long while, contemplating what to say, he knew he would have to choose his words carefully. He thought of telling Bobby the parable of the prodigal son, but he knew that in Bobby’s present state that story would not work. Bobby was no dummy, he would quickly see where the conversation was headed and shut the old man out long before his point was made. Silently the old man turned to his constant companion and said, “Lord, help me, give me the words.”

 

To buy a little time the old man looked up into Bobby’s eyes and asked, “How’s it going?”

 

“Okay, I guess.”, Bobby replied.

 

“You don’t seem very happy. Is everything okay?”

 

“Ahh, you know, Mom and Dad are always on my case, I can’t do nothin’. I wanna hang with the guys and they just want me to stay home, mow the yard and clean my room. They’re always hassling me. I need some excitement, I wanna get out more. I wanna go do things and be where it’s at,! You know!.”

 

There was a short pause and the old man could see that Bobby was trying to decide if he should speak the next words. Finally Bobby said, “ I’ve been thinking ‘bout getting out on my own, you know, leavin’ home, movin’ out.”

 

“There’s the youth group at church, you could.....”

 

“Nahhh!” Bobby cut the old man off in mid sentence, “They never do anything good, they just play stupid games or study the bible, never anything worth while, never anything that is any fun.”

 

The old man looked out of the window and there he saw a rose bush in bloom. He noted how some of the roses were mature flowers, while others were beginning to blossom and some were just a bud. “How beautiful!”, thought the old man, ..... and as he gazed at the rose bush, a story unfolded within him.

 

“Did I ever tell you the story about the rose?” asked the old man.

 

Bobby, who had heard many of his grandfather’s stories, sucked noisily on his straw as he squinted one eye and glanced towards the ceiling, deep in thought. Finally his lips reluctantly released the straw as he replied, “Nope, don’t remember a story ‘bout a rose.”

 

“Well, there as this beautiful rose bush, kind of like that one there.”, the old man pointed to the rose bush just outside the window as he began to unwind his tale. Bobby glanced out the window at the rose bush as he took a long suck on his straw, he then turned his attention back to the old man. When the old man saw that he had Bobby’s attention he continued, “Instead of being outside of a fast food restaurant, this rose bush was in the garden of a home, very much like the one in front of my house. This one rose had just begun to bloom and was opening it’s petals for all the world to see. Ever since he was just a little bud the rose liked being on the bush with the other roses. The rose became accustomed to the gentle breezes that swayed it back and forth causing it to frolic and play with the other roses on the bush. Each morning the rose looked forward to the warm rays of the sun on its petals after the coolness of the night. During the day the rose would raise its blossom toward the sky and watch the clouds as they sailed along and made themselves into different shapes. People would walk by on the sidewalk, glance at the rose and make remarks like, ‘Oh, how pretty!’ or ‘What a beautiful flower!’ Each day the rose would blossom a little more and was well on its way to becoming a magnificent flower. The rose looked forward to the frequent visits of a bumble bee who would gently land upon its petals and poke around, looking for nectar, it tickled and made the rose very happy. Then one day the rose happened to look toward the house and through a window it saw another rose. This rose was standing majestically in a tall slender vase that sat in the middle of the dining room table. The rose watched as the family gathered around the table as a meal was served, there was talking and laughing and stories being told. ‘Oh! Wow!’ said the rose, ‘That’s where I want to be. If only I could be a rose in a vase on the dining room table, instead of having to be out here in the garden.’ After seeing that other rose in the house, standing so tall and majestic on the dining room table, that was all the rose could think about, it wanted to be in the center of all of that excitement, like that other rose. No longer did the rose become excited over the visits of the bumble bee, no longer did it think the warm rays of the sun felt good, no longer did it enjoy being swayed by the breeze, it quit frolicking with the other roses and stopped watching the clouds, ‘That’s boring!’ thought the rose.

 

Then one day the rose saw the owner of the house coming toward the rose bush with clippers in his hand. ‘Oh!, This is my chance.’ thought the rose. The rose opened its petals as wide as it could and strained to stand tall so the owner would notice. Excitement surged through the rose as it saw that the owner drew near, then it felt the owner’s grasp and felt the clippers tighten against its stem......and then, “SNIP”. It was a little painful at first, but the new felt freedom quickly overcame the pain of being cut from the bush. ‘I’m free, I’m free!’, thought the rose.

 

The rose was taken into the house, placed into a vase which was filled with water, and sure enough, its dream was fulfilled, the owner set the vase in the middle of the dining room table. The rose was so excited, everything seemed so wonderful. The rose had achieved what it had desired for so long. The rose surveyed its new world; the vase was very pretty, although it was a bit confining and didn’t allow for much moving around. The room was small, dim, and somewhat plain, not at all like being outside, but the rose could see out of the window. Of course the view was limited, the rose could not see the sky and it wondered what shapes the clouds were in. Suddenly the rose realized that it was hungry. While it was growing up the bush had liberally supplied all of the necessary nourishment that the rose had required, but now it no longer received that nourishment. The rose had to suck hard at the water in the vase to draw just a little up through its stem. This was not at all what the rose was used to, this was difficult and it was tiring. It was hard work to draw the water up through its stem and it required much of the rose’s time just to get enough nourishment to sustain life. The rose sighed and took a deep breath realizing that the air in the house was stale, and it was so hot in the house, there was no breeze what so ever. The rose looked out of the window and saw the bush on which it had budded. The rose saw that outside the breeze was blowing and the other roses were swaying and frolicking together. ‘Oh! it would be so nice, just to feel a little breeze.’ thought the rose, ‘But then after all, wasn’t this where it wanted to be? Wasn’t it better to be here in the house? Wasn’t it better to be here in the middle of all of the excitement? Wait a minute’, ..... the rose looked around, it was quiet in the house, no one was talking, no one was laughing no one was sitting at the table. Listening carefully the rose thought that it heard voices in another part of the house but was not sure. ‘Where is all of the excitement?’ thought the rose, ‘There isn’t any here that’s for sure.’ Glancing out the window the rose saw the bumble bee flitting among the other roses on the bush, it was sure the bumble bee was looking for him. The rose waved its petals and stood as tall as it could, trying to attract the bumble bee, but the bumble bee didn’t notice. The rose suddenly felt very tired and noticed that it was difficult to hold up its petals and that its stem was beginning to get a little limp. The rose sucked hard at the water in the vase but it didn’t seem to help much. Darkness came quickly and the house grew very quiet. The rose was lonely and felt forsaken. Finally it fell asleep, hoping that things would look brighter on the next day.

 

The rose awoke early on the next morning and was anxious for the sun’s rays to warm it. There on the edge of the table was a shaft of sun light which moved slowly toward the rose. The rose prepared itself to receive the warming ray, but the ray stopped short, just inches away. ‘What’s this?’, thought the rose. Then the rose noticed that the sun was blocked by the edge of the window and the ray could never reach where the rose sat in the vase on the dining room table. The rose was very sad and hung its blossom, glancing down at the table top. ‘What’s that?’, thought the rose. Looking closer the rose noticed that several of its petals had fallen out during the night and were laying on the table top near the bottom of the vase. ‘I can’t let this happen!’ thought the rose and it tried to lift its blossom, but it was just too weak. The rose drew hard on the water in the vase, but now found it was even more difficult to get nourishment than it had been on the previous day. ‘What’s happening to me?’ thought the rose. ‘My stem is so very limp and my petals are falling out. It’s so stuffy in this house, ...... if only I could get some fresh air.’ The day drug on slowly for the rose, on several occasions it tried to look outside, but it was just too weak. It was unable to even turn its blossom towards the window and even if it had been able to face the window, it did not have the strength to raise up high enough to see outside. By mid day its stem was drooped over the edge of the vase and the rose’s blossom was hanging so low it almost touched the table top. More of the rose’s petals had fallen out and lay on the table just beneath the rose. Just then the rose felt its stem being grasped by the owner’s hand. It was lifted out of the vase and carried towards the back door. Hope sprang up in the rose as it saw that it was being taken outside. Once in the fresh air the rose felt a sudden exhilaration and it tried to look around to see where it was. Then the rose felt itself falling, the wind rushed past, and the rose saw the sky rushing away as it fell. Then, “PLOP!”...... Being outside in the open air had refreshed the rose, some of its strength had returned and it managed to lift its blossom to look around. There it lay, right on top of the compost heap, among the hedge clippings, potato peelings and rotting melon rind. The sudden realization of what had happened to the rose was a terrible blow, from which it would not recover...... Now, all hope was gone, the rose was so very very weak. Even though it was just past mid day, darkness began to close around the rose. The rose managed to get one last glimpse of sunlight just before being completely covered over by grass clippings that were added to the heap. Then, ... total darkness, ..... complete stillness, ...... and silence............

 

The old man raised the insulated paper cup up and took the last sip of coffee as he slid out into the aisle and stood up. He started walking toward the door and looked back over his shoulder to where Bobby was still sitting in the booth, “Are you coming?”, he asked.

Bobby didn’t answer and sat motionless as he stared out of the window at the rose bush.

 

“Are you coming?” the old man asked again.

 

“Huh?.... Oh! ..... Yeah, I’m coming.”, Bobby said as he slid out into the aisle still staring at the rose bush.

 

Bobby was silent during their walk home. The old man ambled along with his hands in his pant’s pockets, softly humming ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, and wondered if he had reached his grandson.

 

When they arrived at the house, Bobby went inside, still without saying a word. With all of the talk about roses, the old man thought that it would be nice if he would cut some roses and bring in a big bouquet for the dining room table. The old man went to the garage, got his clippers and walked back out to the front yard. He stood in front of the rose bush and examined the roses, finally selecting one, he reached out and took it in his hand. Just as he was about to clip the rose, he felt a hand on his shoulder. The old man turned to see his grandson standing there with a look of concern on his face.

 

“Poppy,” there was a crack in Bobby’s voice, he cleared his throat and then quickly continued, “don’t you think that rose would be much happier if you left it right there on the bush?”

 

The old man stared into Bobby’s eyes and there he thought that he saw a tear beginning to form.

 

“ I think you’re right.” said the old man as he reached up and patted the hand that was still on his shoulder, noting that although it was not as chubby as it used to be, it was still a very nice hand, ...... a very nice hand indeed.

 

 

*****

(2)



 

THE TRAIN
 

By

Mike Boudreaux

 

 

 

The old man walked steadily along the edge of the dusty road leading to the train station. Without looking he located the gold chain that hung from his belt, his fingers raced along the links to disappear into his vest pocket. When his fingers emerged, they held a fine gold watch which he caressed in the palm of his hand. He felt the familiar warmth and smoothness of the case as he lovingly coaxed it open.

As the cover sprang open, it revealed a plain white face with bold black Roman numerals. The second hand clicked away the seconds, stopping on each one just long enough to say it had been there, then jumped ahead to the next. The old man noted that it was five forty three and saw no reason to quicken his pace.

 

The train was not due for seven minutes and he knew that he could easily reach the station in three. With loving care he returned the watch to his pocket and gave it a little pat, to assure himself that it was secure.

 

As he walked along he reviewed the days activities and asked himself if he had done everything necessary for her arrival, had he made all of the preparations? As he mulled it over in his mind he was satisfied that all was in readiness. He climbed the short set of stairs to the platform and looked at the tracks. They were empty as he knew they would be at that time of the day. The sun was low in the western sky and cast a golden glint on the smooth, shiny rails. He was alone on the platform, but he knew he wouldn’t be for long. He moved over to a wooden bench against the outer wall of the station. As he eased down on the bench, he leaned back against the wall of the station and felt the warmth of the bricks penetrate his shirt.

 

Again, the old man took out his watch and noted that it was five forty seven. A tall, distinguished looking man, wearing a black suit, mounted the platform from the far side of the station and walked to the bench where the old man was sitting. The man sat down next to the old man; neither looked at the other, but kept their gaze upon the empty tracks as the man in the black suit spoke.

 

"Evening."

 

"Evening, Preacher."

 

"Nice day."

 

"Yep."

 

Their conversation, which was about as extensive as they ever got of late, was interrupted when a door in the wall of the station banged against the wall and rattled as it slid open; the rusty metal rollers cried out for oil as they moved along the overhead rail. The stationmaster emerged from the darkness beyond the doorway as he pulled a large baggage cart out onto the platform. As always, the only thing on the cart was the outgoing mail pouch which could have easily been carried by hand rather than hauling it on the cart. In a previous discussion the stationmaster said it was regulations to use the cart. The old man thought that it was way over doing it to have such a big cart for such a small parcel, but accepted the stationmaster’s explanation and let it go at that.

 

The stationmaster parked the cart next to the edge of the platform, raised the tongue, and rested it against the foreboard. He then retrieved his watch from his vest pocket, glanced at it and then replaced it as he cast an eye up the track. Off in the distance the low tone from the horn of the east bound Sunset Limited could be heard. The old man glanced towards the sound and remembered when the trains had whistles; he longed for those days to return.

 

The stationmaster straightened his cap, adjusted his tie, and brushed off his trousers as he made himself presentable for the inbound train. Just then, two young boys rounded the far end of the station at full gallop, bounded onto the platform and reaching the edge, they leapt out into space toward the tracks. They hit the ground on the run and skidded to a stop on their knees right at the edge of the nearest track. Each opened their tightly clinched fist to reveal a bright new penny which had been held securely in their grip. With the dexterity of a surgeon they each placed a penny, dead center on the surface of the rail and then quickly scrambled back onto the safety of the platform. All of this happened before the stationmaster could utter a warning to the boys. When he heard their commotion, he had turned in their direction, raised his arm and started to speak; but before he could say a word the boys were back on the platform and smiling innocently. The stationmaster dropped his arm and let the unformed words roll out in a groan as he turned his attention back to the track. Again the train’s horn sounded but this time it was louder and seemed to be saying, "Here I come, ready or not!"

The stationmaster smoothed his vest and glanced at his shoes, and, while feeling the shoes could be cleaner, he raised one foot and wiped the toe of his shoe across the back of his trouser leg and then repeated the procedure with the other shoe until they both met with his approval. Then he snapped to attention as the engine rolled passed the platform and slowed to a stop. A variety of sounds accompanied the train’s arrival; There were the screeching of the brakes, the hissing of compressed air as it was released from a diversity of places, the clickity-click of the wheels as they passed over the junction of the rails and a series of indescribable clanks and clunks that only a train could make. Then like a mighty sigh, a final release of compressed air punctuated the arrival of the train.

All was still for just a moment; then the baggage car door slid open and an arm extended, holding the mailbag. The stationmaster quickly snatched the bag and tossed it on to the waiting cart. He then grabbed the outgoing mailbag from the cart and handed it to the arm protruding from the open door. The arm and the mailbag then disappeared inside of the baggage car, and the door closed. The old man had stood to his feet as the train came into the station and looked to the door of each car; they were all closed. He looked for an open door, which would have indicated that a passenger was preparing to disembark, but not one was open. The old man’s eyes darted back to each door and then to each door again; but each remained closed. He then began to search the faces that stared out of the large glass windows on the sides of the passenger cars; none were familiar. He saw a soldier with his head resting against the glass as he slept, a middle-aged woman whose blank expression and tired eyes revealed that her thoughts were many miles from this place and a wide-eyed youngster who gave him a quick smile when their eyes met; but he did not see the face he so earnestly sought.

The horn of the train sounded and the powerful diesel engine went from a soft purr to a mighty roar as the train began to slowly move forward. The old man’s eyes raced from window to window and from car to car as the train slowly picked up speed to continue on the journey east. As the last car pulled away from the platform, the stationmaster pulled the cart towards the open station door, exchanging meaningless glances with the two men as he passed by. The two young boys who had been anxiously awaiting this moment, plummeted off the platform and pounced upon their flattened pennies lying on the track. They gingerly held the still warm, paper thin pieces of copper in the palms of their hands as they examined them and then examined each other’s before they raced off out of sight around the far end of the station. The old man stood motionless for a few moments as he watched the last remnant of the sun slowly drop behind the two peaks, affectionately called the Twin Sisters by the townsfolk. He then walked to the edge of the platform where he watched the train until it was just a speck on the horizon.

 

The old man thought, ‘Tomorrow, . . . tomorrow she will come.’. . . . . . The old man then made his way to the end of the platform and as he passed the preacher who was still seated on the bench, he said, "Evenin‘." The preacher responded, "Evening", as he pushed himself up from the bench and stood staring after the old man. The stationmaster emerged from a door, placed a key into the lock and turned it. He then shook the door while he turned the knob, satisfying himself that it was secure. The stationmaster turned towards the preacher and noted his eyes were fastened on the old man as he walked away from the platform. The preacher becoming aware of the stationmaster's attention, said, "I wish more people had faith like his."

 

"Never knew the old man was much of a church goer." said the stationmaster.

 

"Oh, he’s not, but he is a man of strong faith."

 

"Whatcha mean, Preacher?"

 

"Do you know why the old man is here when the train arrives every evening?"

 

"Can’t say as I do. All I know is that I’ve worked here for twenty years, and that old man has been here every evening; you can set your watch by him. I don’t recall him ever missing the evening train, rain or shine; he’s always here."

 

"Precisely my point. How old do you think the old man is?"

 

"I really don’t know; around seventy five or eighty, I’d guess."

 

"Well, he’s eighty two; and like us all, he was young once and had a pretty young wife. They were married when he turned twenty; she was eighteen; wasn’t long before they had a daughter, her name was Rebecca, but they called her Becky. Becky was two years old when her mother died. I don’t know of what; she took sick one winter and never saw the spring thaw. The old man never re-married and raised his daughter alone. He did the best he could, making sure she had everything she wanted, even if he had to do without. Spoiled her; and he knew it, but he didn’t care; he wanted her to be happy. Everything went well until Becky reached her teen age years; the girl learned about the big cities and the excitement of the outside world. This one horse town couldn’t hold her and neither could the old man. One day she just packed a bag, left the old man a note and got on the west bound. At first letters came, postmarked from a variety of places, but then they began to come less and less frequently and finally the letters stopped coming altogether. The old man didn’t hear from Becky for several years; and then one night he received a phone call; it was Becky and she said she was coming home soon. She asked him to meet her at the station, as she would be arriving on the evening train; that was more’n forty years ago. The old man has met the evening train ever since, he has not missed a day that I can ever remember. He has a great faith that she will come and expects her to be on the evening train; and if she does not arrive, he expects her to be on the next train. He does not doubt that she will arrive on the evening train, just as she said she would. If only I could get my congregation to have the same faith concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, Jesus also said he would be coming soon; yet very few expect him to come in the same way that old man expects his daughter to come. Occasionally I will come down here to sit with the old man, to offer moral support, just in case he needs encouragement; but so far he’s never needed any. You see, he expects Becky to be on the next train. Oh, I imagine that he is somewhat disappointed when she does not arrive, but his disappointment is quickly replaced with the expectation that she will arrive on the next train. You know, . . . it’s kind of catching."

 

"Whatcha mean Preacher?"

 

"Well, I’ve got to where I almost expect Becky to get off of that train one of these days. I hope I’m here the day that she does."

 

"If you’re not here, I’ll call ya."

 

The preacher looked into the stationmaster’s eyes and saw what he thought to be a glimmer of expectation.

 

"Now if I could only get that same glimmer concerning Jesus." said the preacher, just under his breath.

"What’s that Preacher?"

 

The preacher cleared his throat as he spoke a little louder, "Will I see you at Sunday service?"

 

There was a moment of hesitation, as the stationmaster reflected on the preacher’s words.

 

" ‘Spect so, Preacher. Goodnight."

 

"Goodnight."

 

The darkness began to close in as the preacher stood alone for a long moment on the platform and then glancing upward said, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief."

 

 

*****

 

 

(3) 


Henry

 

                                                                                                             

By 

 

                                                                                               

                                                                                                    Mike Boudreaux

 

 

 

It was a Friday morning, the beginning of the fourth week of Henry’s life. Henry was a fine white faced, Hereford, bull calf. He had been born in the high country where the air was clean and cool. For two days Henry and his mother had been slowly descending toward the lowland pastures. The rancher, who owned the herd, of which Henry and his mother were a part, had gathered his herd and was moving them to a lower elevation for the winter months. Henry’s mother, being aware that Henry was still a bit unsure of his gangly legs, was moving slowly and being careful to pick the easiest trails. The rancher being aware of the young calves in the herd, did not push them too hard, but allowed them to move along at their own pace. They would often pause to graze on the sweet tender grasses. These rest periods would give Henry a chance to explore his strange new world. Henry was very curious and asked his mother many questions.

As the sun rose on that Friday morning, its warming rays woke Henry and he stood up, stretched his legs and looked about him. Just a short distance away, in fact it was exactly seven steps, two leaps, a skip and a stumble, Henry saw a strange sight. Regaining his balance from the stumble, Henry stood looking at a long row of what seemed to him to be short skinny trees without any branches. Strangely these odd little trees were growing all in a row, lined up one after another. These trees without branches were all the same size and height and had several long strands of metal wire connecting them together. Taking a closer look, Henry saw that the there were many sharp little barbs evenly spaced along strands of wire. Henry’s mother told him that this was called a fence and was used by the rancher to separate his land from other lands. Just on the other side of the fence, Henry saw a wide flat trail that was a dark gray color and looked to have a hard surface. This trail was much wider and a lot flatter than the trail on which Henry and his mother had been traveling.

 

As Henry looked at this strange trail he heard a sound he had not heard before. It was a low humming sound which was coming from the far end of the wide flat trail. Henry stretched his neck as high as he could and looked toward the sound but he couldn’t see what was making that strange noise. The sound grew louder and Henry, straining his eyes, saw a moving object streaking towards him on the wide flat trail. The sound grew louder and louder until it was a roar in Henry’s ears. The object kept coming towards him and Henry stared in fright and amazement. Just as the object came close to where Henry was standing, he turned and bolted toward the safety of his mother. The object roared passed and sped off down the trial, its roaring growing fainter and fainter until Henry could hear it no more. It was gone just as quickly as it had come. “What was that?”, asked Henry, as he looked out from between his mother’s legs. Henry’s mother said that she did not know very much about these things but would tell him what she knew.

 

Henry’s mother told him that these things were called vehicles and they used the wide flat trail to come and go. She said that they came in many different colors, sizes and shapes. She told Henry of a small two wheeled variety on which the operator sat, much like a rider sat upon a horse. These two wheeled vehicles were very loud and went very fast. She told Henry of very large vehicles with many wheels that carried logs stacked up high on their backs. There were some vehicles that were tall and some that were short, some were long and others were not, some were square and boxy while others were sleek and streamlined. Most of the vehicles were of the four wheeled variety and all had glass windows from which the occupants looked out. The cars would spew out smoke and fumes that tainted the clean air with putrid smells. Henry’s mother told him that they spoke with loud sharp voices, and she tried to imitate the sounds for him, which sounded very strange to Henry and made him laugh. These vehicles never seemed to rest and were always moving, even at night they would scurry along the wide flat trail. At night their eyes would glow very brightly which illuminated the trail in front of them. They seldom went slow and streaked passed before you even knew they were there. Henry’s eyes grew wide in wonderment and his mouth dropped open at his mother’s description of these vehicle things.

 

Henry’s mother told him of an occasion where two of the vehicle things came rushing toward each other, one from one direction and one from the other. As the vehicles drew close they collided with one another, right in the middle of one of the curved parts of the wide flat trail. There was a terrible sound of screeching and then a horrible crash. There was the sound of breaking glass and crunching metal. Then all was quiet except for the most horrible sound of all. “What was that?” Henry asked. It was the sound of low moans of pain and suffering coming from within the tangled mass of metal, which had once been two bright and shiny vehicles, Henry's mother explained. Then there was a terrifying wailing sound, like the screaming of an eagle, only much louder and lasting much longer, and there were flashing red lights as one of these vehicle things came roaring up to the mass of tangled metal. There were many more flashing red lights and the sound of more screaming eagles as more vehicles came and went from the scene. They took some of the occupants of the vehicles and laid them on the ground, covering them with white sheets, while they loaded others into the vehicles with the flashing red lights and they sped off with the screaming eagle sounds blaring loudly. Finally two big heavy vehicle things with big arms on their backs came and backed up to the mass of tangled metal. They used chains, hooks and cables to pick up the crumpled vehicles and then took them away. Henry’s mother sighed and said, “It was very frightening and a very sad thing to see.”

 

Henry stepped away from his mother, walked slowly over and stared at the wide flat trail for a long while. Then he looked at the fence with its many sharp barbs and branchless trees all in a row. Henry thought for a moment about all his mother had said. Then he stuck his tail straight up into the air, turned and strutted proudly back to his mother. Henry was glad that the rancher had fenced these vehicle things out of his pasture.

 

 

*****

 

 (4)



 

THE SON RISE

 

By

 Mike Boudreaux

 

 

There was a chill in the morning air, the overcast sky made the day seem so dark and bleak. ?What a dismal day?, she thought. She had the impression that the weather was mimicking her inner feelings and this only added to the gloom that seemed to press in upon her from all sides. She pulled her shawl snugly around her shoulders in an effort to insulate herself from the grief that was penetrating into her very soul. It was very early, but the hour did not matter, she had been unable to sleep. There was just enough light to enable her to pick her way through the many markers and stones in this place for the dead. She was having difficulty in finding his grave among the many that were there. She felt that she was in the right spot, but somehow she must have gotten herself turned around. In the place where she thought that he had been buried, was only an empty grave, standing ready to receive another's loved one. She wandered amongst the graves but was unable to find the place he had been buried. She felt that if she could just find his grave, perhaps laying her hand upon the stone would comfort her. She was hoping that being near his grave would provide her with some consolation, some relief from her torment. Along with everything else, frustration crowded in amongst her feelings and exhaustion swept over her. Finding a small stone bench, she slumped upon the seat and gazed out over the cemetery grounds. No one was in sight, she was alone; so very much alone and without hope. Her eyes were blank, her face expressionless, her heart felt cold and empty. It was so very still, so very quiet, not even a breeze. She thought,  'If only there had been a ray of sun light or the song of a bird; Something, anything to lift her from this pit of despair.' It occurred to her that even God had abandoned her and she had nowhere to go, and no one to turn to for comfort.

 

It started in the very center of her being, an uneasy, sick feeling that spread quickly throughout her body, causing her to shudder and cry out, "Where are you?"

 

The sound of her own words caused the dam, that had been restraining her emotions, to break and her feelings began to spill out, manifesting in loud wails of mourning that could only come from a woman who loved deeply and had lost her beloved. With her hands covering her face, she sank to her knees, and then fell prostrate on the cold ground. Her body shook violently as she allowed her grief and despair to flow out unhindered. Finally, after long moments of torment, she lay still. Then, realizing she was lying on the ground, she quickly got up and resumed her seat on the stone bench. She attempted to compose herself while she brushed the soil from her clothes and wiped the tears from her cheeks.

 

'What if someone came by? What if someone saw her?', she resolved that it did not matter. She recalled the first day he came into her life, she was instantly in love and didn't care who knew it, and now, she didn't care who saw her mourn for him.

 

When they met she was swallowed by his presence. His kindness captured her completely and she yielded to him without reservation. He had taken her from a way of life that would surely have led to her destruction; he was, in fact, her savior. The time she spent with him filled her with happiness and joy; he made her feel so alive. Because of him she had changed and she was no longer the person she had been before he came into her life. It was easy to love him, and she did, with all of her being.

 

His death had been so sudden, one day he was there to offer his love, to provide her with comfort, to give her hope... and the next day he was gone. 'Why?  Why did this have to happen?  Who would comfort her now, who would she turn to, who would fill this void in her life?' There was no one like him, no one. Who could possibly take his place. Again the agony of his having been taken from her began to well up from within and she began to weep aloud.

 

"Why are you weeping?"

 

The sound of a voice startled her, she had not heard any one approach.

 

"Who are you looking for in this place?"

 

She turned toward the voice to see a man standing at the opposite end of the bench. She had thought that no one would be at the cemetery at such an early hour?? then she supposed that this must be the caretaker. 'Surely he would know where his grave was; After all, wasn't this the man who took care of all of the graves.?'

 

"Excuse me sir, I'm looking for a certain grave, could you tell me where I might find it?"

 

The man turned and faced her, looking deep into her eyes. She looked upon his face, waiting anxiously for a response, hoping to hear the answer she was seeking. She noted that the face was kind and his eyes were soft. 'Surely he will help me', she thought. She saw his lips part and she leaned forward to hear his response.

 

"Mary"

 

Just as he spoke her name, a ray of sunlight penetrated the clouds and illuminated the place where he stood.

 

'How does this man know my name?', she thought. Again she looked upon his face, it was as if a veil had been lifted from before her eyes, her senses were awakened and recognition took hold as she focused on his features. 'I must be imagining things, my eyes must be playing tricks on me.', she thought. She reasoned that because she was so distraught and the fact that she wanted so badly to see her beloved, that she had fabricated his image. . . . But No! . . . This is his voice, those are his features, there was no doubt, this is him. She cried out to him, "Master!"

 

Her heart began to warm within her, she was unable to contain her enthusiasm and she reached out to take him into her arms. Just as she drew near and was about to embrace him, he said, "Do not touch me, as I have not yet ascended to my Father."

 

She stopped and looked upon him, letting her eyes take in his form, she saw the nail prints in his hands, the same hands she had seen touch blind eyes and they were opened, the same hands that held the lame and they walked. She knew that this was him, her Lord, her Savior.

 

This was so wonderful, so marvelous, he was alive, he was not dead as she had supposed! Now she knew why the grave was empty; He had risen from the dead! The grave could not hold Him! He is alive!

 

Instantly her mourning was gone and she was full of joy and excitement. His words came flooding back to her, she remembered when he had said, "A little while, and you shall not see me; and again, a little while and you shall see me, because I go to the Father." At the time these words confused her and she had no idea as to their meaning. She also remembered that he had said, "And you now, therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you." Now she knew what these words meant, now she had joy and she knew that no matter what, she would always have this joy.

 

"Mary, go unto my brethren and tell them that I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God."

 

Mary hesitated but for a moment, not wanting to leave him, and then realized that she would always have him, and hastened to do as he had said. She so wanted to be obedient to him and to tell the news of his resurrection, not only to the brethren, but to all who would listen. With each step her joy increased, with each step her heart swelled with his love. She imagined what Peter's face would look like when she told him, and what John would say when he heard the good news. She was so elated, she almost soared, her feet barely touching the ground as she raced along the path leading into Jerusalem. The sun broke through the clouds, bringing warmth to this new day, just as Jesus had brought warmth into her heart. The light had overtaken the darkness, making the day as bright as her emotions. "What a glorious day!", she thought. As she ran to find the disciples, she shouted, "He is alive!, He has risen!, He is alive!"

 

 

*****

 (5)




MY FATHER’S CAR

 

By

Mike Boudreaux

 

 

I don’t remember what kind of a car it was, but I do remember that it was a brownish, bronze color. Not quite brown and not quite bronze, if the sun reflected off of it just right it looked like it was made of gold. It was a two door coupe, with two little seats in the back on opposite sides that faced towards each other. When the seats were not in use they could be folded up to provide more storage space behind the front seat. When the whole family went for a ride my brother and I had to face each other on the little rear seats and situate our knees so we wouldn’t touch. Touching would always result in an argument or fight. When this would happen my father would say, “Don’t make me have to pull over and stop this car!” I can remember my father saying this more than once, in fact, on several different occasions, but he never had to say it more than once on a single trip. I didn’t quite know what would have happened if he were to have had to stop the car, but by the tone of his voice, I knew I didn't want to know. Another thing my father’s car had were running boards; running boards were situated on each side of the car between the front and rear fenders just below the door and were used as a step to enter and exit the car. Modern cars have long since dispensed with running boards, but I think this was my favorite part of my father’s car. My father was very proud of this car and he would wash it every Sunday before driving it to church. He would never take it for a drive unless he first checked each tire, and looked under the hood to check the water in the radiator and the oil in the crank case. If this check were not to his satisfaction he would add water or oil until it met his standards. Another thing I remember about my father’s car was the horn, that horn had its own special sound. I could tell my father’s car from any other car, just by the sound of the horn, it was different from all other car horns. I could be playing in the neighborhood and hear the sound of my father’s car horn and know that he was coming home. It was my father’s habit to sound his car horn when he first approached the neighborhood and was getting close to home. I was always excited when my father would come home and would run to meet him. On seeing my approach, my father would always pull over to the side of the road to meet me and allow me to step up on the running board and hang on to the bottom of the open driver’s side window. He would reach out with his left arm and embrace my shoulders, pulling me close to the car as he drove slowly down the road headed for home. I always looked forward to jumping up on that running board and riding home, and like Pavlov’s dog, the sound of that car horn always excited me. No matter what I was doing it was never so exciting that I would forgo running to meet my father and get to ride on the running board as we headed for home together. I don’t know how many times I met my father’s car but each time it held it’s own special excitement, it never got old. My ears were always tuned to the sound of that horn and when that sound was heard, I was off and running to meet my father. Even if I had been bad that day and my mother had told me, “You just wait until your father gets home!”, it did not matter. I was always eager to meet my father, even if it meant that I would receive a well deserved punishment for some misdeed I had done. I knew that no matter what I had done or what punishment I might receive, when it was over, I was always forgiven. Meeting my father and that ride home on the running board with my father’s arm around my shoulder was so very special to me.

 

As I reminisce about the times I ran to meet my father’s car it leads me to believe that it will be much like running to meet my Heavenly Father. One day there will be the sound of His horn, (1Cor. 15:52), that sound will let me know that my Heavenly Father is coming and He will pull over to meet me as I run to meet Him, he will allow me to step up and He will draw me close to Him as He embraces me. It will not matter if I had sinned, He will forgive my transgressions and we will go home together.

 

 

*****

(6) 



THE CAVE

 

 

By

Mike Boudreaux

 

 

One day in the fall of 1975, I had a free day with nothing to do and as it was about a week before deer season, I decided to take a drive into the mountains to scout out the area that I intended to hunt on opening day. While I was driving around on the back roads of the remote mountain area, I saw a huge iron door, right next to the road, which covered the entrance to a natural cave. I had heard about this cave from forest rangers. It had once been a tourist attraction, in the 1930’s and early 40’s, and guided tours were conducted through its labyrinth of tunnels. The attraction had not been as popular as supposed and proved not to be financially beneficial for the forest service to maintain, so it was closed and sealed off with an iron door. I stopped to check it out and found that the door did not fit the opening very well and with a little effort a person could squeeze between the iron door and the rock face around the opening to the cave. I could tell that in the past others had managed to squeeze passed the door, so I thought I would venture inside to see exactly what the cave was like. I grabbed a flashlight and squeezed through the space between the iron door and the entrance to the cave. Once inside I found that the cave was small, only about four feet wide and six feet tall with many twists and turns. I walked along looking at the splendor of the cave and after about sixty yards the cave opened into a large room about forty feet tall and forty feet wide and thirty yards long. The floor and ceiling were covered with stalagmites and stalactites which I had to negotiate around in order to make my way further into the cave. I noted that there were several forks in the path I was following which led towards other openings in the walls of this room. I followed what I thought to be the main trail on a well worn path that many feet had traveled in the past. At the far end of the room I came to a redwood staircase supported by iron rods anchored in the ceiling. The stairs were well worn from much past use. The stair case was a bit rickety but it was strong and not in danger of collapsing. Climbing the stair case I found myself in another large room, slightly larger than the first, which had a small stream running through it. The water was so clear, that at first, I had not realized the stream was there until I stepped into it. The stream was about four feet wide and three to four inches deep, the water was crystal clear and ice cold. The floor of this room was sprinkled with stalagmites of all different sizes and shapes, some only a few inches tall and no bigger around than a pencil, others were several feet in diameter and reached almost to the ceiling. At one point I had to either squeeze through a narrow opening between two large stalagmites or wade the small stream which was about six inches deep at this point. I choose to stay dry and squeeze through the stalagmites. At the far end of this room was a waterfall, that came over an escarpment in a crystal clear sheet, falling approximately twenty feet. The waterfall was perfectly formed, appearing to be a curtain of crystal clear glass. The stone wall behind it was easily seen, like looking through a department store window. A well worn path went over, around and through some midsized boulders to the top of the waterfall where I discovered the reason for such a perfect sheet of water. Someone had installed a piece of sheet iron between two boulders, the iron sheet had a shallow niche cut out at the top. When the water flowed over this piece of iron it formed a perfect sheet of water. It was a magnificent sight. At the top of the falls the tunnel narrowed down to about six feet across and ten feet tall and again twisted and turned as it went further back into the mountain. At this point I came to where another smaller tunnel branched off. I decided to stay in the larger tunnel to see how far it would go and come back later to explore this smaller tunnel. I had not traveled very far when I came to a place where several smaller tunnels branched off from the main tunnel and went in various different directions within just a few feet of each other. I remained in the larger tunnel and continued on for about forty to fifty yards where I entered into another large room. This room was by far the largest of the rooms I had yet been in. This room was forty to fifty feet tall and sixty feet wide and about sixty yards long. As I walked along in this huge room I was amazed at the beauty of the rock formations and the many different colors of the stone. Near the center of this room I came to a hole in the floor about eight inches in diameter. Looking into the hole I could see crystal clear water about four feet down. The water was about a foot deep and flowed through another tunnel that was below this room which looked to be about four feet wide and five to six feet tall. The bottom of the stream was littered with coins of all denominations. The coins were out of reach but I mentally made plans to return with some device with which I could retrieve some of the coins; not that I was desirous of the value of the coins, but to satisfy my curiosity as to the dates of the coins. Reaching the end on this room I found a large coffee can sitting in a prominent spot on the top of a flat rock. The coffee can contained many little scraps of paper that gave names and dates of people who had visited the cave in the past. Some of the notes had comments on the splendor of the cave and remarked on some of the more spectacular sights within the cave. The oldest note I found was dated August 12, 1948. Also in the coffee can were a couple of sharpened pencils and a small blank note pad. Of course I had to sign and date a note remarking on the beauty of the cave. It was not possible to venture any further into the cave from this point so I decided to go back and explore some of the tunnels which branched off from the main tunnel. When I worked my way back to where the other tunnels branched off, I began to get hungry and decided to go back to my truck and get some lunch. It was pretty chilly in the cave and it would give me a chance to warm up before I explored the cave further. I made my way back to the waterfall and began to climb down the boulders to the lower level. It was pretty damp inside the cave and around the area of the waterfall the rocks and floor of the cave were wetter than in other areas due to the mist from the waterfall. I was about half way down to the lower level when my foot slipped on a wet rock and I lost my balance. In my effort to prevent falling I reached out with both arms to brace myself against the side of the cave and a large boulder. I was holding the flashlight in my right hand and as I reached out to brace myself, the flashlight struck the boulder and was knocked free of my grip. I steadied myself and watched as my flashlight fell about eight to ten feet to the lower level. When the flashlight hit the floor at the lower level all went black.

 

Suddenly I was plunged into utter darkness. It was absolutely black, no light whatsoever. I froze, not wanting or daring to move. I was standing on firm ground but I didn’t know if I moved my foot whether there would be something sturdy to stand on or just thin air. I have never been afraid of the dark but suddenly I got a very queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, the air became heavy and hard to breathe and I had the feeling the walls and ceiling were closing in on me. If this was not panic, I was missing a really good opportunity for it. This was not just dark, but a total absence of light. I have been out on dark nights when there was no moon and the stars were covered by clouds but still there was some light and at least I could see objects and make out forms. But here there was nothing, no light just pitch black. I could almost taste the darkness and it was not a pleasant taste. I put my hand up in front of my face, and was unable to see it, I had to touch my nose to assure myself that it was actually there. I raised up my other hand and there was a dim glow from the luminous hands and hour markers on my watch. It did not provide me with enough light to see anything, but it gave me such comfort to be able to see that little glowing watch face. Praise God for small miracles, just the sight of the glow from my watch was enough to ward off a full blown panic attack.

 

I knew exactly where that flashlight was and I started moving very cautiously down the slope towards where I had last seen it. I moved along by brail, feeling every inch of the way before me. As I was moving down a fairly steep grade, I found that it was easier to lie on my stomach while feeling out in front of me with my hands and then pull myself along with my arms, dragging my feet along behind almost like anchors. Actually it took only a few minutes but it seemed like it took forever to reach the lower lever at the base of the falls. I reached out feeling along the floor until I felt my flashlight. I quickly picked it up, hoping that when it fell, it had struck the switch turning itself off. I switched the switch several times; nothing happened. I shook it with no results and then shook it harder; still nothing. I loosened the head and retightened it, hoping to avert any possible short; nothing. I took the head completely off, extracted the batteries, rubbed them on my shirt to clean any possible dirt and grime from the contacts, replaced the batteries and flipped the switch again; nothing. Again I removed the head and took out the bulb, cleaned it and replaced the head; still nothing. I shook the flashlight even harder and flipped the switch several more times but the flashlight refused to work, it was dead. I resolved to the fact that I was going to have to find my way out of this cave in the dark. I crawled along on my hands and knees, away from the waterfall and encountered many obstacles. Each time I encountered an object which I was unable to go over, I skirted around it, hoping I was maintaining my course, but the only thing, with which I had to take a bearing, was the sound of the waterfall. I knew I must move away from the waterfall. I remembered that as I was going deeper into the cave that the little stream was on my left, all I had to do was keep the stream on my right and I should be going in the right direction. As I moved further away from the falls, I could no longer hear the falling water and could not use that as a point of reference. I had not noticed it on my way into the cave but the silence was overwhelming. The only sounds were of my breathing and the sounds I made as I shuffled along. When I would stop to rest there was as much silence as there was darkness. I remembered playing blind man’s buff as a kid, feeling my way around in a familiar back yard, when all I had to do was tilt my head back and peek out under the blindfold in order to get a clear view of where I was going. I wanted so much to be able to peek out from under this darkness or to just rip the darkness from before my eyes, but there was nothing there, just more darkness, no amount of tilting my head would render any light.

 

No one knew I was in the cave, I had not told anyone that I was going to scout out my intended hunting area. I wondered how long it would take for someone to find my truck parked outside of the cave and figure out I was somewhere inside. I thought of the note I had left behind in the coffee can, remembering that I had signed and dated it. At least, when they eventually found my body, they would know when I had become lost in the cave. Waves of panic would rush over me and I wanted to cry and almost did several times, but then I would look at the luminous dial on my watch and gain courage from that tiny glow. Just that little bit of light comforted me and kept me from losing my composure. I struck out again carefully feeling my way along. Occasionally my fingers would touch the cold water of the little stream, at least I would not become dehydrated, there was plenty of water in the stream.

 

As I carefully felt my way along I came to a large stalagmite and started to move around it on the right, but quickly changed my mind, the stream was on the right side and the water was very cold. I moved around to the left side and found that there was yet another large stalagmite blocking my way. I started to move to the left of this stalagmite, but came into contact with the wall of the cave. I moved back to my right, thinking that when I reached the water I would ease around the stalagmite until I came to dry ground again.

 

As a felt my way along I remembered that when I was going into the cave I had to squeeze between two large stalagmites in order to stay out of the water. I thought to myself that this must be that place. I stood up and felt between the two stalagmites, sure enough, there as a narrow space between the two stalagmites just big enough to squeeze through. I squeezed between the two stalagmites and sat down on the floor of the cave to gain my composure and try to get my bearings. I sat there on the floor of the cave and leaned back against one of the large stalagmites.

 

I had never been one for much prayer and my relationship with God was one of distance, except on Christmas and Easter. As I sat there I began to pray and ask God to help me get out of the cave. Up to this point I had relied totally on myself and my skill to try to get out of the cave. I knew that God knew where I was and that He also knew how to get me out of that cave. I finished praying and sat there for a long time waiting for God send someone in to find me; no one came. I listened for any sound that might help me find my way out; there was nothing, just silence. The floor of that cave was getting pretty hard and cold, so placing the palms of my hands on the floor I pushed up shifting my position to one of a little more comfort. After getting more comfortable, I folded my hands in my lap and waited on God. My right hand had grit and small pebbles embedded in the palm the rough floor and I brushed my hands together to rub off the grit and pebbles. Wait a minute……………… I quickly put my hands back down on the floor of the cave, my right hand was on rough gritty surface, while my left hand was on a smooth grit free surface. I quickly got to my knees and felt all around where I was sitting, I found an area about a foot wide that was relatively smooth and it extended as far as I could reach. I had found the path, the path that had been worn smooth by the many previous visitors to the cave. God had been a lamp unto my feet and had shown me the way out of the cave. I gingerly felt my way along, the smooth surface of the path was easily detected and following it was easy. I crawled along the path and soon came to the wooden staircase. I eased my way down the staircase until I reached the level below. Again I bent down on all fours and found the smooth well worn path and began to crawl toward the entrance.

 

The first sign that I was getting near the entrance to the cave was a fresh breeze which swept across my face carrying with it the scent of pine. Then a very pale light seemed to pervade the darkness, shapes were beginning to form and I detected an ever so faint glimmer of diffused light from the cave wall ahead. The light was ever so dim but it was almost blinding. I could see that I was in a narrow tunnel and I could easily touch both sides with my extended arms and my cap occasionally would scrape on the ceiling above. Then as I turned a corner I caught my first glimpse of direct light. I had to shield my eyes from the blinding light, it actually hurt to look at it, but what a beautiful sight it was. I almost ran to the narrow opening between the iron door and the opening to the cave. I stuck my head out and viewed the outside world. There was a time, while inside of the cave, that I thought I might never see this again and for the longest time I just stood and stared at the scene before me. It was not a particularly beautiful scene, but it was a most welcomed sight. I squeezed my body through the narrow opening and for what seemed like an eternity, I stood outside of the cave. Checking my watch I had only been inside of the cave for a little over two hours, but it seemed like a life time. In fact, in some ways it was, as the person who went into that cave was not the same one who came out. While in that cave I came to realize that God was not just words on a page, but a living caring Shepherd who watches over His sheep and guides them in the way they should go.

 

 

 

*****

 

 

(7) 




The Tithe

 

By

Mike Boudreaux

 

 

I don’t remember where I got the dime, I can just remember that I had it clutched tightly in my hand as I rushed out of the house and headed towards Jack’s Market at full speed. Jack’s was a little Mom and Pop market about a block from my childhood home. My plan was to head straight for Jack’s and buy me a cold RC Cola. That was my plan, but sometimes God has other plans for us. As I said the market was about a block away and it was quicker to run down the alley. It was a hot summer day and I could almost taste the RC Cola that dime was going to buy me. It was going to be so good. I was eight, maybe nine years old, and as I ran towards the store, my thoughts turned to the lesson my Sunday school teacher presented just a few weeks earlier. The lesson was on tithing and how we were to give ten percent, one tenth of all that we received, back to God. As I ran, my thoughts were on the lesson my Sunday school teacher had taught and I thought of the dime in my hand. One tenth of the dime belonged to God. One cent was His and that left me with nine cents. Nine cents was not enough to buy an RC Cola. My pace began to slow. Now I was no longer running at full speed…… half speed, maybe. And then I was not running at all, I was walking and my pace continued to slow until I was at a dead stop……. I stood there looking down at the dime lying in the palm of my sweaty hand.

 

If I were to continue toward the store and buy the RC Cola, it would mean that I chose to ignore God’s word. If I went back to my house I could ask my mother to exchange the dime for a nickel and five pennies. Then I could put a penny into my tithe jar, which I took with me to church each week. That would leave me nine cents, not enough for an RC Cola. There I stood in the middle of the alley staring at the dime, imagining the cold bottle in my hand and tasting the RC Cola as it filled my mouth, flowed over my tongue and rushed on it’s way down my parched throat. Oh, it would taste so good!

 

What to do, satisfy my flesh or satisfy my spirit? My next step would be the biggest step I had yet taken in my young life. That RC Cola was so enticing and I wanted it more, at that very moment, than anything else in the whole world. It called to me, it pulled at me. I stood there in that alley for what seemed to be an eternity, staring at the dime and then I knew what I was going to do. It made me feel uneasy, almost as if I had no control, I had given in to what was a stronger force. I felt my weight shift as I began to take a step, picking up my foot, swinging my leg out, then to the side as I turned and put my back to the store. I stepped out slowly making my way back home.

I had made my decision, I was going to give my tithe to the Lord, and I would like to say that it made me feel good, but I felt lousy. I wanted that RC Cola, but now I was headed back to my house on a hot summer day with my head down and my thirst almost unbearable. I kept trying to convince myself that I had made the right decision, but all I could think about was that cold RC Cola. Again the thoughts of the cola were foremost in my mind. Did God really need my penny? After all, He owned the cattle on a thousand hills, why did he need my penny? I almost stopped and headed back towards the market, but a small voice from within me asked, “Would you steal from God?” I pictured myself sitting on a pew in the sanctuary as the offering plate was being passed, but instead of putting in my offering I saw myself taking a penny from the offering plate. I thought to myself, ‘I would never do that, I would never take anything out of the offering plate, that money belonged to God.’ Then the small voice said, “What is the difference, whether it is in your hand or in the offering plate, what is God’s, is God’s, do not steal from Him.” Then I knew within myself that I had made the right decision and my spirits began to brighten. The air smelled cleaner than it had before, and the birds seemed to sing louder, a cool breeze caressed me and I heard myself whistling as I walked along enjoying the many blessings of God.

 

As I walked along, a glint, which came from some tall grass at the base of a power pole, caught my attention. Drawing closer for a better look I found two empty coke bottles which had been discarded at this spot. Coke bottles were redeemable for two cents each. With this miraculous find I was now four cents richer. With fourteen cents I could pay my tithe, buy an RC Cola and have change left over. God is so good to His children. The Coke bottles were there on my way to the store, but I could not see them, they were out of my sight, because my eyes were not on Him. When my eyes were back on Him I was able to see His blessings. I praise Him for teaching me this lesson when I was young as I know it is a hard lesson to learn when one is older.

 

As I look back over the years, having been faithful in my tithing, God has shown me some mighty big “coke bottles” and has blessed me mightily with His goodness.

 

 

 

*****

(8) 




 

PROVISION

 

 

By

Mike Boudreaux

 

 

The donkey ambled slowly down the dusty path, he had wandered away from the safety of his pasture where his master continued to care for him even though he was now very old and could no longer carry heavy loads. He was so tired, his once great strength was almost completely gone. The donkey was thinking of how he no longer would be of any further use to anyone, he could not even carry a light load, he could barely carry himself. He had carried many loads in his day, some weighing more than he himself. He had traveled many miles without a stumble, but now he often stumbled over a small pebble. As he picked his way along the rocky path he was unaware of a pride of lions laying in wait just ahead. Closer and closer he came until just at the right moment the lions sprang from their hiding place and pounced upon the donkey bringing it down. It was over quickly and the donkey suffered no more. The lions dined on the carcass of the donkey until they were gorged and they could hold no more. After the lions had left, the circling vultures began to swoop down from the sky until the carcass of the donkey was buried beneath a sea of black feathers. The vultures picked the flesh from the bones until they could hold no more and then they flew away. Then came the ants, thousands and thousands of ants, they crawled all over the bones and removed all edible material until the bones were stripped clean. The bones of the donkey, now only a few hours old, lay in the hot sun and soon would be bleached white. Then a man, with his hands bound, was brought along the path and he found himself placed before his enemies, who were intent on slaying him. As his enemies shouted and fell upon him the man broke free of his bonds. Even though the odds against him were tremendous, he was not willing to give up without a fight. He had no weapon with which to fight and the man was soon over powered and knocked to the ground by his many assailants. Yet he continued to battle valiantly. During his gallant struggle his hand fell upon something, in desperation he grasped it and began to swing it against his assailants. He wielded it like a mighty weapon, striking down his attackers, one by one, until all of his assailants, a thousand in number, lay dead at his feet. It was only then that the man, whose name was Samson, was able to examine the mighty weapon he held in his hand and found that it was the jaw bone of a donkey.

 

What can be derived from this little story? Let us look at the donkey. The donkey was old and by the world’s standards past usefulness, but the Lord had a use for him. First the Lord fed the lions, and the vultures and the ants with the carcass of the donkey. And then, when one might think that the donkey was of no further use, the Lord used it’s jaw bone as a mighty weapon against the enemies of His people. This shows us that even though we might think that we have given all that we can give, there is always something left that the Lord can use.

 

Now, let us look at Samson, who despite great odds, refused to give up, even though he lacked a weapon he chose to fight. Samson had a need and his need was fulfilled by the Lord who provided him with exactly what he needed. When did the Lord know that Samson would have this need? The Lord knew long before Samson was set upon by his enemies, He knew before the ants, before the vultures and before the lions. The Lord knew what path that Samson would be on and He led the donkey down that same path and the Lord set the lions upon the donkey at just the right spot. The weapon provided by the Lord was not what might be expected. Samson might have prayed for a sharp, two edged sword, but the weapon provided by the Lord was a mighty weapon; A weapon not made by the hands of man but one made by God himself; A weapon that more than fulfilled Samson’s need.

 

Like Samson, in a time of need, we might pray for one thing and receive another. We might not expect what we receive, but we must not reject it, as it is likely the very thing we need the most. We must stand and fight with whatever the Lord provides, for He knows what position we are in and He knows exactly what we need.

 

PRAYER: Lord give us the courage and determination to fight and let us be wise enough to recognize your provision in our lives and let us not reject your provision, but give us the ability to use it to fight valiantly and stand victorious against all that comes against us. In Jesus’ mighty name we give you thanks for watching over us and fulfilling our needs; Amen.


 

***** 

 

(9) 




The Lamb

 

By

Mike Boudreaux

 

 

Actually this is my son, Christopher’s story, but since I was there and shared in it, I feel like it is partly mine also.

One afternoon in the summer of 1996, Christopher, who is called Chris, was driving back to Porterville, California from Bakersfield, where he worked as a California Highway Patrolman.

 

Before I go on, I must back up and tell you about my grandson, Christian. Christian was born in January, 1996; at birth he seemed to be a healthy, bouncing, baby boy with no problems; but at age three months it was discovered that he was born with only three chambers in his heart. The doctors advised of many major surgeries and the likelihood of him not living past his third birthday. At the time Chris was 26 years old and had been married for four years. Of course he was very worried about his son and it weighed heavily on his mind. Many hours were spent in prayer for Christian; and Chris had ample prayer time as he commuted to work in Bakersfield from Porterville; a 100 mile round trip each day.

 

One afternoon as Chris was driving home, north along Hwy. 65, he felt an urgency to pull over to the side of the road. Chris said that he felt that God was telling him to climb to the top of a small hill just off of the roadway. Chris stood there beside his car and looked at the hill, it was not a large hill, but it was hot and he decided that there was nothing he could see from the top of the hill that he could not see from where he stood. Chris looked around and saw nothing, except a slow moving diesel truck, approaching from the south, which he had passed several miles back. Chris let the devil tell him that if he did not get back on the road soon, that he would have to again find a place to pass this approaching truck. So he quickly jumped back into his car and sped off towards home ahead of the diesel truck.


When he arrived in Porterville he stopped by our house for a visit and he told me of the incident. I could not believe that Chris had not obeyed what he felt was a word from God. I encouraged Chris to return to the hill and be obedient to what he felt God had told him. I gladly volunteered to go along to keep him company. So within a few minutes we were on the road headed back to that hill. When we arrived at the hill, Chris pulled to the side of the road, we got out of the car and looked at the hill. Chris said, “Now what?” I said, “Well, if God said to go to the top, then you had better go to the top.” Chris then said, “Well, lets’ go.” “Oh no!”, I replied, “God told you to go up that hill, He didn’t tell me to go.” Chris then crawled through a barbed wire fence and headed up to the top of the hill alone. I stayed by the car and prayed, while Chris climbed to the top of the hill and then went over the crest out of my sight. In about twenty minutes he came back to the car and sat in the front seat without saying a word. We sat in the car for a few minutes and finally Chris said, “You know Dad, just over that hill is a large flock of sheep, maybe two or three hundred. I watched the sheep for a while and all was very peaceful and serene. As I watched those sheep, I saw a little lamb stray away from the flock, with it’s head down grazing on the grass. And then I saw movement in the tall weeds near the flock and saw a big coyote stalking through the weeds, inching ever closer to the little lamb. There was a shepherd sitting on a small knoll, watching the flock; but he didn’t seem to be watching the lamb which had strayed and was now in imminent danger. I called out and whistled trying to alert the shepherd to the danger but I was unable to get his attention. The coyote kept inching it’s way closer and closer to the lamb and I had to watch helplessly knowing that the coyote would soon be upon the lamb. I was too far away and unable to do anything about the impending attack upon the lamb. I was so frustrated in my attempts to get the shepherd’s attention and I knew that soon it would be too late. Suddenly the coyote ran out from the cover of the tall weeds and raced towards the defenseless lamb, rapidly closing the distance between them. Even if I managed to get the shepherd’s attention he was too far from the lamb to be able to save it. All I could do was watch in horror. I was sure it would be over in seconds, but just then the shepherd raised his arm and pointed toward the lamb. Then two of the biggest dogs that I have ever seen burst forth out of the tall weeds and headed straight for the coyote at full speed. The coyote slammed on the brakes at the sight of these two huge dogs bearing down on it. The coyote nearly lost it’s footing as it turned and headed in the opposite direction as fast as its legs could carry it. The last I saw of the coyote it was three hills over, still running at top speed with the two huge dogs nipping at its heels. The little lamb never looked up, never saw either the coyote or the dogs and never knew how much danger it had been in. The shepherd then turned towards me, gave a little wave and then turned his attention back to the flock. In a few moments I saw the dogs trot back as they returned to lie back down in the tall weeds near the flock. All was again very peaceful and serene.

 

Chris then started the car and we headed back to Porterville. Neither of us said a word for about ten miles. I finally said, “Chris, your little lamb is going to be just fine. His shepherd has His eye on him and when the time comes He will raise His arm and the next thing you know the devil will be three hills over running at top speed with his tail between his legs, being chased by the biggest angels your ever saw. God may seem to be out of reach and too far away to do anything about little Christian but He is in control. Don’t get frustrated when you think that God doesn’t hear your prayers, He hears, and He sees all and He knows the situation. He’s not going to let the devil snatch one of His little lambs.

 

By the way, at this writing, Christian just celebrated his eighteenth birthday, to watch him you would never know that he has only three chambers in his heart and that he has endured three major operations. The doctors are amazed by him and say that he is a miracle. He is not the miracle, but the recipient of one of God’s miracles and is just one of God’s little lamb.

 

 

***** 

 

 (10)




THE SHEPHERD

 

 

By

Mike Boudreaux

 

 

 

I know where God lives; Well, maybe He doesn’t live there, but I know He spends a lot of time out there. The reason I know this is that He has spoken in this place on two occasions. Where is this place? It’s a lonely stretch of two lane highway located in southern California between Bakersfield and Porterville. In the summer of 1996 God spoke in this place and I wrote a story about that incident called “The Lamb”; Now He again has spoken in this place. It was not in the exact same place, but it was on the same stretch of road and just a few miles from the place where He had spoken before.

 

[This story is a sequel to “The Lamb” and it takes place eight years after the incident which resulted in that story. Perhaps it would be better if you read “The Lamb” first and then read this story afterwards. If you have not read “The Lamb”, you can find a copy on my web page at: http://mykboodrow.webs.com, it really should be read before reading this story.]

 

It was a Tuesday morning during the first part of March, 2005, that I was driving south along Highway 65 headed for Bakersfield. As I drove I was praying for my grandson, Christian. Christian was born with only three chambers in his heart. He has undergone three major operations in order to do some, for lack of a better term, re-plumbing, so as to enable his heart to supply blood to his body. His condition was first discovered when he was six months old, at that time the doctors gave him three years, at best; at this writing Christian is now thirteen years old. The doctors are amazed at his condition, which they accept, but are unable to explain. I attribute his progress to a miracle working God and the power of prayer.

 

The day before this incident, Christian’s mother had taken him to the doctor for a check-up, as he was not feeling well and was running a temperature. After the doctor examined Christian, he immediately admitted him to Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield. The doctor had discovered that Christian had a low white blood cell count, possibly due to a viral infection, was dehydrated and his blood oxygen level was very low. Because of his three chambered heart, Christian’s blood oxygen level is usually low, around 80 - 85%, but when the doctor examined him it was between 60 to 65%. The doctor started administering fluids by IV, an antibiotic and oxygen and had Christian transported to the hospital by ambulance.

 

Upon hearing of Christian’s hospitalization, my wife and I immediately drove to Bakersfield to make sure he was receiving the proper care. According to my wife, only grandparents are able to do this properly. It does not matter how closely he is attended by his parents, how good the doctor is or how well the nurses do their job, somewhere along the line the duty of checking to make sure everything is in proper order has fallen upon the grandparents. I don’t know how this rule came into being, but my wife tells me that the rule is explicit, and only grandparents are able to do this job properly.

 

By the time we arrived at the hospital Christian was in his room and we were allowed in to visit. As it turned out Christian was allergic to the antibiotic given by the doctor and had broken out in an itchy rash all over his body. The Antibiotic was changed to another and medications were given to counteract the allergic reaction to the antibiotic. They continued to administer IV fluids and oxygen and encouraged fluids by mouth. The best information we could get from the doctor was that Christian was a very sick little boy and it would require at least four to five days in the hospital to bring his numbers back to normal. After we made sure that Christian was receiving the proper care we left him in the care of his mother who stayed with him during this entire ordeal. As my wife was scheduled to work on the following day, I promised I would come back on the next day to check on him.

 

And that is how I happened to be on that stretch of highway when the Lord spoke. The family members were all very concerned about Christian’s condition and, like I said, I was praying for him as I drove along. As I came over the crest of a hill I saw a large herd of sheep in a pasture on the left side of the road. All of the sheep were facing south and the flock had begun to move. It appeared that the sheep had been in this place for some time as the grass had been grazed down to the dirt. The sheep were moving toward the south and had funneled down to where there was one single file line of sheep. This may be a common practice for sheep, I do not know, but I had never seen this before and it seemed very strange to me to see all of these sheep walking in a single file line. It appeared that at least ninety percent of the sheep were ewes which had little lambs with them. The lambs stayed very close to their mothers as they moved along in the single file line. I noted that there were a few sheep who were continuing to try to graze in this place, but it did not look like they were getting much for their efforts. I also noted that there were a few sheep that were also headed south but had chosen not to get into the single file line. These sheep seemed to be more or less wandering, and followed individual zig zag paths of their own choosing. The line of sheep went up and over the next hill to the south. As I continued on my way and went over the hill I saw the reason the sheep were in a single file line; they were following the shepherd. The sheep were not just going in the same direction as the shepherd, but they were each following exactly in his footsteps. Because the pasture they were leaving was almost devoid of grass, I presumed the shepherd was leading them into greener pastures. Up ahead I could see the path the shepherd intended to take. The shepherd was headed directly toward a narrow strip of ground which lay between two shallow ponds. The ponds were no more than large mud puddles, just a few inches deep. The ponds or mud puddles had been created by run off from the recent rains which had collected in the low places. One thing I have noticed about sheep is that they will not intentionally go into water or into a muddy or soggy place. It seems as if sheep prefer to keep their feet dry. So these large puddles formed effective barriers to the sheep. I thought of the sheep which were headed in this direction yet had chosen to make their own path. Those sheep would eventually have to get into that single file line and walk in the footsteps of the shepherd if they wanted to get to the place where the shepherd was taking the flock.

 

It took perhaps ten to twelve seconds to make my observations as I was driving along, however, I was unable to get what I had just seen out of my mind. I continued to think upon the things that I had seen and how they related to the Word of God. Immediately the twenty third Psalm came to mind and I could relate several of the verses of this Psalm to what I had just seen. As I continued to meditate on this scene a peace came over me and I somehow knew that Christian would be alright; His rod and His staff had comforted me. I could see that the shepherd was in control and that he was leading his flock to greener pastures, he was leading them beside the still waters. Another scripture which came to mind was Matthew 7:14, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” I asked myself, where was that shepherd leading his flock? He was leading them through a strait and narrow pathway; And where was he leading them? He was leading them “Unto life”. If the individual sheep in the flock were to follow exactly in the shepherds footsteps they would come to a better place, a place of life. I knew that if we continued to follow after God, walking in His footsteps, through the strait and narrow way, and put our trust in him that He would take care of Christian. Meditating on these things a peace that defies understanding came over me and I praised God for His goodness.

 

When I arrived at the hospital my daughter-in-law met me in the hallway outside of Christian’s room. She was elated and advised that the doctor had just left after examining Christian. The doctor advised that Christian’s condition had so improved that he was discharging him as soon as the nurses could get the IV out and get him dressed in his own clothes. Christian still had a rash due to the allergic reaction to the antibiotic but the doctor advised that it would clear up in 24 to 48 hours.

 

Christian continues to amaze his doctors and time after time he has far surpassed their prognosis. What the doctors have failed to do, is to factor in the power of God with their physical findings. Christian still has a ways to go but he is following in the Shepherd’s footsteps and he is walking in the strait and narrow way that leads unto life.

 

 

*****

 

(11)



 

 

LIFE AFTER BIRTH

 

 

By

Mike Boudreaux

 

 

One day when I didn’t have much else to do, I found a comfortable place under a shade tree and began to search my memory for some pleasant thoughts of the past. As I sat there and began to reminisce, I recalled a pleasant memory from my high school days. And then, another recollection of a fun time in grade school, splashed across the big screen of my mind. That’s when I began to wonder, just how far back could I reach into the recesses of my mind. I sat there in the cool shade of the big elm and began to search into the darkest corner of my mind. I wanted to reach back as far as I could, I wanted to find what was hidden away in the deepest part of my memory banks. The next thing I know I'm thinking about an incident that occurred in kindergarten. This was fun and also I was a bit astounded as to what a little concentration could reveal. Where was that very first memory filed away? I began to think as hard as I could and the next thing I know, I'm about six months old and Mom's powdering my little behind, OOOOHHHHH!, that felt so good. I remember trying  to tell Mom just how good that felt, but I couldn’t get the words out. All I could manage was a big grin and a little coo and squeal while I flailed my arms and legs about. Although I was unable to tell Mom just how good it felt, somehow I think she got the message.


So then I really put the old noodle in gear and went back as far as I could . . . .  and lo and behold!, I found myself back in the womb. Oh it felt so good just to lay there, relax and enjoy the moment. Then suddenly, I remember feeling a push and things started to get real cramped in there. Up until now I remembered being fairly comfortable, it was warm and cozy, and I was never hungry. However, there were some drawbacks, it was dark and there wasn't much to do, but I felt safe and comfortable and whenever I felt uncomfortable all I had to do was kick out, squirm around a little or turn over and things got better. Then suddenly there was another push and it felt like Mom was doing that on purpose just to make me turn over, sometimes she would do that. I had this cord thing fastened to my tummy and every now and again, if I was not careful, I would get it wound around my foot or arm and I would have to unwind it. Then I remember there was another push and I thought ‘Hey what's going on?’ And suddenly I realized that Mom was trying to birth me. I remember thinking, 'Hey! Wait a minute, I don't want this, I want to stay here!' I had heard about birth and it was a little scary to me, mostly because I was not sure there was life after birth; after all no one had ever come back from birth to tell me what was on the other side. There was a big unknown out there and I didn't want any part of it. I had heard all of the stories about going down a tunnel where there was a glorious light at the end, but I had never talked to anyone who had actually experienced that. Uh oh!, another push, this was getting serious, now I'm more than a little scared, now I'm terrified. Then I saw it, that long tunnel I had heard about, 'Oh No! I don't want this! Hey! Mom let's talk about this. Can't I just stay here?' Ooooh, I guess not, that was a big push, it felt like Mom is wanting to get rid of me in a hurry. I started moving further down that tunnel and I tried to put my arms and legs out to keep me from going any further, but it was to no avail. Each time I felt a push I would go further down that tunnel. That's when I saw it, the light I had heard so much about; it was so brilliant, it hurt my eyes to look at it. I had to keep my eyes closed tightly, which was okay with me, I wasn't ready for this. I could hear weird noises out there and the top of my head was getting cold, I didn't like this one little bit. Then there was this big push, bigger than any of the ones before and I shot out of that tunnel and into that glorious light.

 

What a rude awakening, I remember that it was cold and someone splashed water on me and someone else smacked me hard on my little bottom, and I screamed out in pain and terror. But there was hope, I still had my cord thing if I could just hang on to that everything would be alright; maybe I could reel myself back in. But just then . . . all hope was lost, they must have known my thoughts, because someone cut my cord thing and all of a sudden I found myself independent and all alone. I didn’t like this at all, this was going to be rough. I remember wondering just how long I would last before the end would come. Then they wrapped me up in a warm blanket, it was so soft and it felt pretty good, but it was not what I was used to. Then I felt myself being placed up against something warm and cuddly and I snuggled up real close to this warmth, the smell was familiar and that voice, 'I've heard that voice before', and for the first time, I felt love and I liked it, I liked it a whole lot. This birth thing might not be too bad, I could get used to this. I remember thinking,  'So this is birth . . . . . . there is life after birth after all.'

 

*****

(12) 





LISTEN



By 
Mike Boudreaux



It was late afternoon on a mid summer day in 1978 and I was responding to a search and rescue mission at Camp Wishon on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At the time I was the resident Deputy Sheriff in California Hot Springs, a small mountain community in Tulare County, California. This particular search was not in my assigned area, but as I had been trained as a man tracker, I was required to respond on all search and rescue missions in the county. Often my expertise was not required, but on several occasions I had successfully located lost persons by following the signs which they had left behind. When I learned that the lost person was a six year old boy my stomach tied in knots. It didn’t get any better when I thought that it could just as easily be my own little boy of about the same age. And to top it all off, there was the lingering thought of an eight year old boy who was lost in this same area about eight years previously. That boy’s remains were not found until six years after he had disappeared. I was determined that this would not be a repeat of that tragedy. Being a Christian, I started praying for the lost boy and continued to pray as I drove to the search site.


I arrived at the search site long past dark and attended a briefing where the details and a description of the lost boy were provided. I was then assigned to search the Aqueduct Trail for any sign of the lost boy. Myself and two other Deputies walked the Aqueduct Trail but were unable to locate any sign of the lost boy. It was well past midnight by the time we got back to the command post. It was decided to postpone the search until daylight with the exception of a couple of roving patrols on the roads in the area.

I crawled into the front seat of my patrol vehicle, a four wheel drive pickup truck, and tried to get some sleep, however, I would have settled for just getting comfortable. There was not much room left in the cab of the truck due to the radio equipment, shotgun, law enforcement paraphernalia and my search and rescue gear. I fell asleep praying for the lost boy, asking God that he would be located quickly and to comfort him until he was located.

I was awake at first light and had a cold breakfast of a government issued MRE, “meals ready to eat.” It wasn’t very tasty, but I knew I had to store up some calories for a big day ahead. After a morning briefing and a review of the strategy map, the search commander deployed search teams to various areas and assignments were given out. The search commander instructed me to remain at the base camp so that I could quickly respond to any location where sign, such as tracks, discarded clothing, etc., might be located by searchers. It was a difficult thing to do, as I wanted to get out into the brush and start looking for the lost boy, but I understood the strategy behind the decision to keep me at the base camp. I felt like a capable football player sitting idly on the bench anxiously awaiting to get out and play in the big game.


Even if I was idle, as far as the search effort was concerned, I was not idle with my prayers. I continued to pray hard for the lost boy to be located soon. I found a large sunny rock, climbed up on top, stretched out on my back making myself comfortable, and prayed.

I had prayed on the trip to the search area, I had prayed while searching the Aqueduct Trail on the night before, I prayed until I fell asleep and then again immediately after I woke up, and here I was praying again.


Prayer is simply talking to God, like you would talk to a friend and I suddenly realized that I was doing all of the talking. I realized that I had been monopolizing the conversation and had not given God a chance to respond to me. I became quite, meditated and waited for God’s response. I could hear the river as it flowed toward the valley below, I could hear the wind blowing trough the trees and could hear the birds singing. I could hear the various search vehicles operating in the area along with the shouts and conversations of the searchers; But I was not hearing God’s voice.


I watched a big fluffy cloud shaped like a boat move across the sky as a ship would move across the sea, as I watched, a passage of scripture came to mind from the 21st chapter of John. It was the story of Jesus having appeared to the disciples as they were fishing on the sea of Tiberias. The disciples had fished all night and had caught nothing, then Jesus told them to cast their net on the right side of the ship and they would find. We, (the search and rescue team), had fished all night and we and caught nothing. When I thought of the net, it made me think of the catch nets which had been set up down stream. The nets were designed and situated to ensnare a body as it was carried down stream by the current. Was the Lord trying to tell me that the lost boy’s body would be caught in the nets? This thought was troubling and I did not have a peace about it; I did not feel that this was what the Lord was trying to convey to me.

I went back to the command post and began studying the strategy map. The strategy map is a large map of the search area, that is covered by a clear sheet of Plexiglas. As search teams were assigned to a specific search area, the search commander would mark, with different colored grease pencils, which areas were being searched, which areas had been searched and which areas still needed to be searched. It also indicated the time of the search, which teams had made the search and by what means the area was searched; by vehicle, by air, on foot, on horseback, etc.


As I studied the map, my attention was drawn to the right side of the map, specifically to an area known as the Fox Farm Road. As I looked at the map I could tell that the Fox Farm Road had been searched by vehicle on the night before and also was presently being searched by vehicle again. As I continued to look at this area a portion of the scripture in John came back to me, “Cast your net on the right side and you shall find.” The Fox Farm Road was on the right side of the map, I felt confident that this was the area that the Lord wanted me to search. This is where He was telling me to cast my net.

At this time the search commander came over to the strategy map and after looking it over said, “Well, what do you think? Have you got any ideas or suggestions.” Without hesitation I pointed to the map and said, “I’d like to search Fox Farm Road.” He looked at the map and said, “It was searched last night and it’s being searched again right now.” “I know,” I said, “but it’s being searched by vehicle, if the boy is on or near the road I’m sure they could locate him, but it’s very difficult to spot sign from a vehicle. I want to search the road on foot. If there is any sign on that road I think I would stand a better chance at finding it on foot." The search commander looked back to the map and studied it for a while. He then turned to me and said, “Okay, you take two deputies and walk the road, but stay close to the road and keep your radio on, if any sign is located elsewhere, I’ll send a vehicle after you.”


It didn’t take long to find two deputies and gear up for a foot search along the Fox Farm Road. We started off walking the road and looking for sign. After about a half mile I dropped back from the other deputies and searched the road surface for any sign. The Fox Farm Road was a dirt road but it might as well have been asphalt. It was hard packed and rocky. I could not even see the sign left by the two deputies who were just a few seconds ahead of me. These deputies weighed about 200 pounds each and were wearing lug soled hiking boots, yet they were not leaving any notable sign. How in the world was I going to find any sign left by a barefooted, sixty pound, six year old who had now been missing for almost twenty four hours?

I began to pray again for the lost child and to seek God’s direction. As I was doing this I heard what I thought to be an audible whisper; “Listen”. I turned to see who had spoken and found that there was no one around, I was alone. The voice must have come over my radio, I checked  and found that my radio was turned off. In order to conserve the battery I had previously turned it off and was relying on the radios of the accompanying deputies for any messages.

Then, again came the whisper; “Listen”. Only this time I realized I had not actually heard the whisper but it was inside of my head. It was so intense, so strong, that I thought that it was actually audible. I knew it was the voice of the Lord and He wanted me to listen. Being obedient I stopped and stood still while I listened for his voice, I waited for Him to tell me what to do, what to look for, which direction to go. But I heard nothing, I couldn’t hear the river, I couldn’t hear the wind in the trees, I couldn’t hear the birds singing, it was silent, not a sound. I tried to concentrate, I strained to hear, but there was absolutely no sounds at all. Then way off in the distance I heard a small bird chirp. It was the only sound there was …..“Chirp”, just a little bird, somewhere off in the distance, almost out of ear shot. “Chirp”, the bird continued to call and I found myself listening hard to the call of that little bird. It seemed as if it were calling to me... “Chirp”. As I continued to listen to that little bird, I realized that it was not a “chirp”, but it was a small voice calling out; “Help”.

At this time the two deputies, who had walked on ahead, had wondered what had happened to me and returned to where I was standing in the road. As they came up I put my index finger to my lips signaling them to be quiet. They looked at me wondering what was happening and I said, “Listen”. They stood there poised with their heads cocked to the side in silence and listened. We all stood motionless as we listened. Just then there came the sound again, “Help”. “There,” I said, “did you hear that?” They just looked at me with questioning eyes. Then the small voice drifted in again, “Help”. “There!”, I said, “There it is again. Can’t you hear that?” They just stood there looking at me, wondering what I heard. Then it came again, “Help”. I was sure they had to hear it, but they indicated they heard nothing. By this time I had zeroed in on the direction of the sound. It was coming from the ridge top across the canyon from where we were standing. I pointed to the ridge and said, “There, that is where the lost boy is. I can hear him calling for help.” They looked to the ridge and then back to me. One of the deputies said, “No way! You can’t hear a little boy’s voice coming from up there, it’s too far.”

My thoughts went to Peter, in the 21st chapter of John, as he stood in that fishing boat and realized that who he was seeing on the shore was the Lord Jesus. He was so sure, that he immediately dove out of the boat and went to his Lord. I was so sure that I was hearing that lost boy calling for help that I jumped off the side of road and started climbing down into the canyon. I called back over my shoulder, “You two do whatever you want, but I’m going to go get that little boy.”


I eased my way down the side of the canyon until I got to the stream at the bottom. As I was picking my way across the stream, jumping from one rock to another, I looked back to see the two deputies scrambling down the side of the canyon toward me. I then started climbing up the opposite canyon wall. The canyon walls were steep, and there was no easy way of getting to the ridge top. The climb was exhausting, but somehow I found the strength and eventually reached the top. After I got my breath back I called out to the lost boy. Immediately I received a response and it was close. I continued to call and with each call I received a response. As I moved in the direction of those calls for help, they became louder and stronger with each response. Then as I topped over a small rise there he was standing in a big pile of pine needles. As I got close he reached up with outstretched arms and I knelt down, wrapped him in my arms and picked him up. Tears were streaming down his cheeks, leaving clean little trails through the dirt and grime on his face. He tried to speak but he was so hoarse from hollering that he was unable to speak above a whisper. I just told the boy to save his breath and that I was going to take him home.

I contacted the search commander by radio and advised that the lost boy had been located and we were on our way back to the command post. I lifted the boy up, sat him on my shoulders with his legs straddling my neck and headed back towards base camp. Just as we started out, the other two deputies arrived. The looks on their faces told me that they couldn’t believe what they were seeing, as they had thought we were on a wild goose chase and  they did not expect to find the lost boy. I just smiled at them and said, “Let’s get off of this mountain.”, and we all headed back along the ridge. As I walked along the ridge we came into a clearing where I could see the spot on the Fox Farm Road that I had first heard the lost boy calling for help. I thought to myself that the distance had to be well over a mile as the crow flies. I could see a pickup truck and a patrol car moving along on the road, but I could not hear any sounds that they were making. I wondered how I was able to hear that small little voice calling for help at that distance.


It didn’t take long to get back to the command post and re-unite the lost boy with his parents. One would have thought the boy was unable to walk, as he was hugged and passed along from one to another, who hugged him and passed him on down the line. This went on for about twenty minutes during which time his feet never touched the ground.

As Paul Harvey would say, ‘Now, for the rest of the story.’ A week later my lieutenant called me and asked me to come into the station as the boy who had been lost and his parents were there and they wanted to thank me. They had spent so much time hugging and loving on the boy when he was brought back to camp that by the time it got around to thanking the search and rescue team, we had all packed up and were gone. Actually, I got my thanks when the boy was found and then again when I witnessed his reunion with his parents. Anyway, I went in to the station and met the parents who expressed their gratitude and I got to meet the little boy again. The little boy told me that when he got lost, he wandered around for a while in hopes of finding a trail or his way back to camp, but when he realized he was lost, he decided to stay put and not wander around anymore. He told me he had learned that from Smokey Bear who had come to his school and taught him to 'Hug A Tree' if he got lost and not to wander around from place to place. He said that he called and called for help, over and over again and didn’t hear any cars or people. When it started to get dark he raked a pile of pine needles together and made him a “nest”. As the temperature dropped during the night the boy had crawled down into the middle of the pine needles and pulled the pine needles over the top of him to keep warm. The little boy said that he had yelled and yelled for help after he realized he was lost and had yelled all through the night, until he fell asleep. The little boy said that when he woke up the next morning he was so hoarse from yelling that he could only manage a whisper. The little boy said that he tried to call out, but he just could not speak above a whisper.

So what did I hear? Was it actually a bird, all that time, which just happened to sound like a little boy calling for help? If so, how did that little bird chirp from just the right position to lead me to where the little boy had made his “nest”? How had the “chirping” become louder as I got closer? You draw your own conclusions, but as for me, I have learned to listen for the still small voice of God, in whatever form it takes.



*****








 



(13)





LEARNING TO SWIM



By

Mike Boudreaux



I remember riding along in Grampa's beat up old pickup truck as we headed to the fishin' hole. Grampa's truck was an old Jeep, which at one time had been yellow, but had long since faded into a somewhat nondescript beige, which he lovingly called Ol’ Yella. The only reason I didn’t argue with Grampa, over his calling that old pickup truck “Ol’ Yella”, was that when you opened the doors you could see that along the inside edge of the door frame, it was indeed yellow. I sat there watching as he shifted the gears and turned the steering wheel, all the while depressing the three different pedals on the floorboard, first this one with one foot and that one with the other. I was awed by his amazing driving skills and I wondered if I would ever learn to operate machinery the way he could. It was early, on what was going to be a hot summer day and we were going fishing. Even though I was four years old, going on five, I had never been fishing before. I could tell, by the way Grampa got so excited when he asked me if I wanted to go, that I would like it, whatever it was.


For some reason, unknown to me, Grampa always called me Mickey Mike and I always called him Grampa, 'cause that's who he was. As we bounced along on a dirt road somewhere in the nothingness of the vast high desert plateau around Alpine, Texas, Grampa would slow down every now and then, point off in the distance and say, "Do you see the antelope?", or "Look! There’s a javelina." It seemed like we bounced along on that bumpy old road for hours and the conversation had waned when suddenly Grampa said, "See that windmill up ahead? That's where we're headed." I watched the windmill grow taller as we got closer and finally we were parked right along beside it. Grampa got out and began to unpack the fishing gear from Ol’ Yella. With his arms full of all kinds of stuff he said, "Come on Mickey Mike.", as he headed up to the top of a steep dirt bank. I followed along, with my bare feet slipping back two steps for every three taken. Finally I managed to reach the top and laying before me was a large expanse of water. I was only four years old, going on five, and this was the largest body of water I had ever seen and asked Grampa if this was the ocean. Grampa snickered a little and said, "No, Mickey Mike, this is just a dirt tank, but it's got some big fish in it just like the ocean." Grampa then set up a couple of little folding canvas stools, and prepared two fishing poles, making sure everything was just right for fishing. After he put a worm on a hook for me, he cast the line out into the water, handed me the pole and instructed me to keep an eye on the red an white bobber that was floating out in the water. If I were to see that bobber start to move, and then sink under the water, I was to pull back hard on my pole. Grampa then set me up on one of the little canvas stools and moved off a short distance where he also cast his line out into the water and sat down on his canvas stool. I still didn't know too much about this fishing thing, so far it had not been an unpleasant experience, but I could not see why Grampa got all excited about it. Every so often I would see Grampa stiffen a little and look out to his bobber only to ease up and relax. This went on for what seemed to me to be hours. Once I saw Grampa jerk back hard on his pole and then reel in his line and say, "He got my worm, Mickey Mike, next time I'll get him." I looked out to my bobber, which was just sitting there in the water and doing nothing. As the day wore on, the sun beat down and it got hotter. I was wishing for a piece of shade but the only shade I could see around there was under Ol’ Yella. Along about noon Grampa opened up the picnic basket that Gramma had sent with us and we had some bologna sandwiches and warm soda pop. After lunch we went back to fishing. Grampa reeled my line in, took off a droopy waterlogged worm and put on a fresh one that wriggled a lot as he threaded it onto the hook. Grampa cast my line out for me and then went to his spot and cast out his line. I kept my eye on Grampa, I wanted to do just like he did, so I could learn all about this fishing business. I thought that somehow, I was just not getting the hang of this fishing thing. As I was sitting there watching Grampa and copying his every move, he suddenly looked over at me, jumped up from his stool, knocking it over, and started running towards me saying, "You got him, you got him!" I had no idea who I had, but it sure got Grampa all excited. That's when I first felt the pole in my hand jiggle and I looked up to the end of the pole and saw it bending over and jerking around. I looked out to my bobber, which I admit, I had not been watching the way Grampa told me, and I could not see it anywhere. By that time Grampa got to where I was sitting and grabbed the fishing pole out of my hands. I just stood back and watched as Grampa made excited little squealing and grunting noises as he reeled in my line. He got right down to the water's edge and reached down into the water and extracted the ugliest thing I had ever seen in all of my four, going on five years. It was as long as my leg or maybe even a bit longer, it had a big ol' head with beady little eyes, whisker things around its mouth and kept wiggling and flopping its tail around. Grampa had grabbed this thing by its mouth and held it out towards me as he said, "Looky here what you caught Mickey Mike." I didn't know what it was, but I knew that I didn't want any part of whatever it was, and quickly backed away. Grampa just chuckled and poked it toward me causing me to back away even more. "He can't hurt ya none." he said as he took a pair of long nosed pliers from his hip pocket and extracted the hook from its mouth. Grampa then walked over to his tackle box and got out a piece of cord with a loop in one end and a spike on the other. Being curious I crept up behind Grampa to get a closer look at this thing. I peeked around from behind him, making sure that I kept Grampa between me and this thing and watched as he threaded the spike into its mouth and out a slit behind its head, then through the loop. Holding onto the spike, Grampa held that ugly thing up and looked at it like it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. For the life of me I could not figure out why he got so excited over that ugly ol’ thing. He then went down to the water's edge and threw this thing back into the water and pushed the spike into the soft mud at the water's edge. "Well, there's our first one. Let's catch us some more.", he said as he hastily re-baited my hook and cast it out into the water. Turns out that neither of us caught any more fish that day, which was no great disappointment to me, but it did somewhat take the edge off Grampa's enthusiasm.


Along toward mid afternoon a wind came up which made things a little more tolerable. Finally Grampa said, "Well, Mickey Mike, we better head back if we want to get home in time for supper. Grampa started gathering all the gear and was walking along the top of the dirt bank heading towards Ol’ Yella when a sudden gust of wind blew his wide brimmed straw hat right off of his head. As his hands were full of fishing gear he was unable to grab his hat, which sailed out into the middle of that dirt tank and floated there on the surface. Grampa set everything down, picked up his fishing pole and tried several times to snare his hat, to no avail. Grampa looked down at me and asked, "Can you swim, Mickey Mike?" "No", I replied. "Well it's about time you learned.", he said, as he reached down, picked me up, and with one swift motion, I found myself sailing out over the water and splashing down right next to his hat. Grampa cackled like an old hen as he said, "When you're done swimmin', bring my hat in with you when you come." I was in a panic, splashing and kicking, and trying to keep my head above water as I gasped for air. "Stop all that splashin' and stand up.", Grampa said. I did as he said and found that the water came to just above my waist. I then grabbed Grampa's hat and waded into shore. As I handed Grampa his hat, he said, "Go ahead and splash around till you learn how to swim." I wasn't too keen on the idea of swimming in the same water as that ugly thing that had attached itself to the end of my fishing pole, but it was pretty hot and the water felt good, so I did as he said. I kicked and stroked until I was able, although somewhat awkwardly, to negotiate through the water without touching bottom. Finally Grampa called to me and said it was getting late. Reluctantly I waded to shore, stepped up onto dry land and shook myself off like one of Grampa’s old huntin’ dogs and then climbed into Ol’ Yella with wet clothes. By the time we had reached the paved road my clothes were pert near dry and I was looking forward to telling Gramma about my day.


As we headed towards home I reminisced over the day’s events. What a day it had been! I felt like I was growing up fast. Here I was four years old, going on five, I had gone on my first fishing trip, I had caught my first fish and I had learned to swim all in the same day. From that day forward, every time Grampa said he was going fishing, I wanted to go with him, not for the fishing, but because I knew that when the fishing was over, I could go swimming.



*****


                                                                                                          (14)





THE RUNAWAY



By

Mike Boudreaux



I was around seven years old and thought that I was a man, and I could not understand why my parents continued to treat me like a child. My older brother was getting to spend the night at the home of one of his friends. So, I too, wanted to do a sleep over at one of my friends. My parents had told me that I was too young. That’s when the argument started and it continued throughout the day, until exasperated at not getting my way, I informed my mother that I was going to run away from home. It was just after lunch and with a full belly, I started out. But I didn’t leave without a plan. My plan was to get a job, rent one of Mrs. Parker’s rooms and spend the rest of my money on candy and going to the movies. A few months earlier my father had given me one of his old brief cases and that would make a good suitcase. It was just the right size to hold everything that I would need. I packed all that I thought I would need into that case. Two pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear, an extra T-shirt, an extra pair of pants and two long sleeved dress shirts, after all I would need something to wear to work. I emptied my piggy bank which amounted to $11.56, that should be enough to last me quite a while and then I would have to get me a job. I was sure that Jack would hire me on steady at his store. After all he would often give me a dime to sweep the sidewalk out in front of his market and empty his trash basket from behind the counter. And, if I worked at the store, I could cast as many votes for “Miss Rheingold” * as I wanted. Whenever I went into Jack’s Market I would stuff the ballot box with as many ballots as I could before Jack chased me out or put me to work sweeping the sidewalk. If I worked at the market I could cast hundreds of ballots for Anne Hogan, as she was the most beautiful of all of the Rheingold girls. If Anne was voted the new Miss Rheingold, I would go to her house and tell her how I had stuffed the ballot box with hundreds of votes for her, and I was sure she would be so grateful that she would marry me or at least invite me to live at her mansion with her. But, it would be several months before the ballots were counted and in the mean time I would get a room at Mrs. Parker’s boarding house. Mrs. Parker was a widow and lived in a big two story house over on Walnut street. She rented rooms to college students and I was sure that she would rent me one of her rooms even if I was not going to college. I headed straight for Mrs. Parker’s and found her watering her plants on her big front porch. Mrs. Parker had a wooden glider at one end of her porch and had once told me I could sit and swing on her glider whenever I wanted, as long as there were not any of her guests out on the porch. I said “hello” as soon as I turned off of the sidewalk and headed up the walk to her house. Mrs. Parker looked up from her watering and asked, “And what are we selling today, Dear?” Mrs. Parker always called me “Dear”, I didn’t mind too much as long as none of the other guys were around.


“I’m not selling nothing.”


“Then why are you carrying that briefcase?”


“Oh, that’s my suitcase, it’s got my extra clothes in it.”


“Why do you need extra clothes, Dear?”


“Well, I need ’em ’cause I’m not going home no more.”


“Oh, I see.”


“I came to rent one of your rooms.”


“Well, Dear, I’m sorry but I don’t have any spare rooms, they are all rented.”


“But, you still got your sign up.” 


Mrs. Parker had a big white poster board with red letters in her front window which read, “ROOMS FOR RENT”, and it was still being prominently displayed in her front window.


“Oh, I’m sorry Dear, I just rented out my last room and I have not had a chance to take it down yet. I was going to do that just as soon as I finished watering my plants.”


“Do you know of anyone else renting rooms?” I asked.


“No Dear, I don’t.”


“Well, okay, I’ll see ya.”


I turned and started walking down the sidewalk, I had no idea where I was going. I couldn’t go to any of my friends houses. As soon as their folks learned I had run away from home they would call my folks. I wandered the streets for several hours trying to think of a place to stay and could not think of one single place. It was about a week after Thanksgiving and the weather was pretty cold. It got dark early and it had been dark for about an hour when I discovered that I was tired, cold and hungry. After about a minute and a half of careful deliberation, I finally decided that I would return home and run away in the summer time when it was warm. And if by the summer Mrs. Parker still did not have an available room, I could stay in the park and sleep in one of the pavilions, it would be like camping out. Okay, it was decided, I would go back home and run away in the summer time.


It was a Friday, and my folks always played canasta with the Walkers on Fridays. The Walkers lived in the next block and they would play cards at our house one week and at the Walkers on the next. This week it was at our house. When I walked in the back door the Walkers and my folks were sitting at the kitchen table playing cards. I didn’t say a word, I just hastily walked right past them and headed straight to my room. I threw open the door to my room, reached up and flipped the light switch on and tossed my little “suitcase” on my bed. My “suitcase” sailed through the air and went “KAPLUNK” as if hit the bare floor. That sound brought me to my senses. Where was my bed? It had been right there against the wall, but now it was gone. And that’s not all that was gone. My dresser, my night stand, my desk and chair, the rug on of the floor, the drapes from the window and even the pictures on the walls, everything was gone. The room was completely empty, even the glass light fixture from the overhead light was gone. There were only two bare light bulbs hanging there. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I stood there for a few seconds as my eyes took it all in. I rushed over to my closet and flung open the door. The closet was stripped bare, there were only a couple of empty wire hangers hanging on the closet pole. I couldn’t see the top of the shelf, but somehow I knew there was nothing there either.


I ran into the kitchen where Mom and Dad were playing cards with the Walkers.


“Hey! Where’s my stuff? All my stuff is gone out of my room!”


My Dad, looked at me with a calm but firm look and said, “Oh! You’re back? I thought you had run away.”


“Well, I did, but I changed my mind. What happened to my stuff?”


“If you’re referring to the things that were in your room, we sold them. When I learned you had run away from home I called the second hand dealer and he came by and bought all of the things that were in your bedroom.”


“You sold it!… You sold all my stuff?”


“Well, we thought that you had run away. We didn’t know you were going to come back, so we thought that we would make your bedroom into an office.”


As these words began to sink in, I felt empty on the inside, even emptier than my room. I felt tears begin to well up in my eyes, but before they actually flowed, my Dad said, “Well, now that you are back, I guess we can try to get your things back. Would you want us to do that?”


“Yeah! Sure, I need my stuff.”


“Well, I’ll try to get your things back tomorrow. Let’s hope that the second hand dealer hasn’t sold them yet. If he still has them, maybe I can buy back your things, but I need a promise from you before I do that.”


“What’s that?”


“I’ll get your things back on one condition.”


“What’s the condition?”


“Well, you will have to promise to never run away again. There isn’t any sense in getting your things back if you are just going to run away again in a few months.”


I stood there thinking about moving in with Miss Rheingold and camping out in the park and decided that I could do without either one and would much rather stay at home with Mom and Dad.


“Well? What’s your decision?”, Dad asked.


“It’s a deal, I promise not to run away again, I’ll stay here with you and Mom.”


Mom grabbed me up and gave me a real big hug and said she was glad to have me home. Dad said that I would have to sleep on the couch that night and that he would try to get my things back in the morning.


Dad left the house early the next morning telling me that he hoped that the second hand dealer had not sold any of my things. I awaited his return with mounting suspense, not knowing if I would get my things back or not. It was almost noon when Dad drove up in Mr. Walker’s pickup truck with all my stuff in the back. It took me the rest of the day to get everything put back just like it was before. It sure felt good to be home with Mom and Dad and to have all my stuff back. I wasn’t ever going to run away again . . . ever; Miss Rheingold would just have to get by the best she could without me.


I was in my late teens before I learned the truth. Right after I left the house on that fateful day my mother had called my father and informed him as to my runaway status. My Dad called Mr. Walker and they quickly dismantled my room and took everything over to Mr. Walker’s, where they stored my stuff in his garage. Then right after leaving Mrs. Parker’s boarding house, she called my parents and told them that I had just tried to rent a room from her. Between Mrs. Parker and my mother calling around town, the now alerted friends and neighbors would call and keep my parents posted as to my location with my little suitcase.


All in all it was a lesson well learned and I always wanted to try it out on one of my offspring, but no matter how upset they got with our rules they never got to the point that they ran away from home. Did that disappoint me? Nope, not a bit.



The Liebmann Brewery who made Rheingold beer ran an advertising campaign in the 50’s where they had a poster with the pictures of six or eight beautiful girls. On the bottom of the poster was a tablet of blank ballots and a ballot box. The idea was to select the girl you thought most beautiful, mark a ballot and put it in the ballot box. The winner would be Miss Rheingold for a year.


 *****


(15)






A Trip To The City



By

Mike Boudreaux



This took place a few years back when I was about seven or eight years old. I was living in Texas at the time with Uncle Dudley and Aunt Martha. Aunt Martha had a doctor's appointment in El Paso and asked if I would like to go with them. I'd never been to a big city before, so I readily agreed to tag along. It was about a three to four hour drive to El Paso, especially in Uncle Dudley’s old '40 Ford pickup truck. There was not much room for me on the seat of that ol' truck. I had to straddle the gear shift, which came up through the floorboard, by placing one leg on each side. Aunt Martha took up most of the space, some might even say she was fat, but never to her face, if you wanted to walk normal for the next couple of days. I just thought she was pleasantly plump and she always made a good pillow if you wanted to take a nap. Uncle Dudley was more on the slender side, not what you'd call skinny, he had some meat on his bones but no where near Aunt Martha's bulk. 


As we pulled into the city I was utterly amazed at all of the tall buildings, up until then the tallest building I had seen was Kerr’s Mercantile, which had a second floor where they kept the women’s nighties, frilly stuff and the like. When we arrived in the city it was too early for the doctor's appointment so Aunt Martha decided that we were going to go shopping. We pulled up and parked outside of a huge department store it was the tallest building that I had ever seen, it had to be at least ten stories tall. Once inside I could not believe all of the stuff they had in there. Aunt Martha went off on her own to shop, she probably went up to the second floor where the frilly women's stuff was because that's where she always went when we went to the Mercantile. 


Anyway Uncle Dudley and I were left on our own. As we were walking around Uncle Dudley confessed that this was his first time in the big city too. We both just stared in amazement at all the fancy things that we saw. As we were exploring this new world we came up to these shiny metal doors on one wall that would slide open all by themselves and then would slide closed again. There was this little room on the other side of the doors that had a little hand rail on each of the walls. Neither one of us had ever seen anything like this before and it was just amazing to us that these doors would open and close all by themselves. At about that time this older, kinda dumpy and rather short, woman waddled up to these doors and stood there staring at the doors for a few minutes. I couldn't help but notice that this woman's hair was all straggly and she was real homely, to put it as kindly as I could. About that time those shiny metal doors slid open all by themselves, just like I told you before, and that little old lady stepped inside of that little room and those doors slid back shut, all by themselves. Uncle Dudley and I noticed that there was some little numbers up over the top of these doors and they started to light up, one right after another, until they got up to the number 10, then those numbers started to light up in reverse, one right after another, until they got back to the number 1. At about that time those shiny metal doors slid open again, all by themselves and there stood the most beautiful lady that I had ever seen. She was tall and slender and her hair was all combed real nice and she smelled real pretty and looked as good as she smelled. I looked her up one side and she looked so good that I looked her down on the very same side. I couldn't believe my eyes, she went in dumpy and ugly and she came out slim and beautiful. I looked at Uncle Dudley for an explanation and noticed his mouth had dropped open to where his chin was bobbing up and down on the top of his bib overalls, his tongue was hangin’ out of one side of his mouth and his eyes were as big as saucers. This lady walked out of that little room and Uncle Dudley never took his eyes off her as he reached over, grabbed me by the shoulder and said, "Quick, go get Aunt Martha." ......... Well I went and found Aunt Martha, who had already found whatever little frilly thing she was looking for and had it in this fancy little pink paper bag with handles on it. I tried to see what was in the bag but she said it weren't for young eyes. When I got her back to those shiny metal doors, Uncle Dudley tried to get Aunt Martha to go into that little room but she said that we didn't have time for such foolishness as we were going to be late for her doctor's appointment. Well despite Uncle Dudley's prodding and pleading with Aunt Martha to go into that little room, we left and went on to the doctor's and afterward headed back home. I remember that on the way back home Uncle Dudley was moaning and groaning like he was real sick and saying something about it would have only taken a few minutes. Aunt Martha told him to cheer up, that when they got home she was going put on whatever she had bought at that department store and model it for him and then she gave Uncle Dudley a peek into that fancy little pink paper bag with the handles on it. That just made Uncle Dudley groan all the louder and look all the sicker, I think I even heard him sobbing a little but I was getting pretty tired about then so I fluffed up Aunt Martha, laid my head over on her and slept all the way home.



*****



(16)






THE CATCHERMAN



By

Mike Boudreaux



Now, I can't vouch for any of this tale, since I was not there to witness it, however, Uncle Dudley, is a man of veracity and although he might put a strain on the truth, to my knowledge, he never snapped it completely in two. 


Now, Uncle Dudley liked his fishing and spent many an hour at it. He once said that he loved fishing, but he liked catching even better. Well now, Uncle Dudley was out fishing on this particular day and had not got around to the catching part yet, even though he had given it his utmost. Uncle Dudley had tried everything he had in his tackle box to no avail, the fish were just not biting on anything artificial. Uncle Dudley started looking around for live bait and spotted a little frog. He baited his hook with this little fella and on his first cast reeled in a six pound bass. This got Uncle Dudley real excited. Like I said, he liked catching a whole bunch better than fishing, anyway, he started to look around for another frog. Upon spotting one, he reached down to get it and snatched it just before a big rattler sank his fangs into it. Uncle Dudley was not one to deprive a forest critter of his vittles, but after all, this was fish bait and fishing came first. The disappointed look on that rattler's face made Uncle Dudley feel awful bad about beating him out of his vittles. Well now, just between you and me, Uncle Dudley carried a hip flask full of Kentucky's best, and we ain't talking fried chicken here. After a spell of contemplating the situation, Uncle Dudley felt he had hit upon a solution and taking out his flask he poured a healthy shot down that rattler's throat to make up for the meal it had missed. Now that he had another frog, Uncle Dudley went back to his catching, Uncle Dudley was reeling in another six pounder when he felt a tapping on his leg. When he looked down, there was that old rattler sitting there with another frog in his mouth, and a wanting to trade it for another sip from Uncle Dudley's flask. Uncle Dudley traded sips for frogs with that rattler for the rest of the day, right up until it got dark; That’s when Uncle Dudley had to quit catching and head on back home so that he would get there right at dark thirty. Now Uncle Dudley was right punctual, and if he set a time he would be somewhere, that is the time he would get there. Uncle Dudley once told me that he would rather be two hours early than two minutes late. Uncle Dudley packed up his gear and reached down to give that rattler a little pat on the head for all the frog catching it had done for him when he noticed that old rattler had taken so many sips from his flask that he was having a passel of trouble navigating. That snake was so inebriated that instead of its normal side to side slither, all it could do was move in a straight line, which made it somewhat difficult to move around rocks and over logs and such. Uncle Dudley said the last time he saw that snake, it had tried to go over a fallen log, but was so stiff that when it reached its pivot point it just sorta teetered there very slowly with its eyes closed, its tongue hanging out and a great big smile on its face. Uncle Dudley thought of going back and helping that snake off that log, but he had told Aunt Martha that he would be home at dark thirty; so, figuring that when the alcohol wore off the snake would return to normal, he continued on towards home. Now since Uncle Dudley had told Aunt Martha that he would be home at dark thirty, that is ‘zactly when he got there. I know ‘cause I was there when he got home and I also know this is a true story 'cause Uncle Dudley had a whole mess of big bass on his stringer and his hip flask was plumb empty. Yep, just like I said, Uncle Dudley is a man of veracity and a right good catcher too.



*****




(17)



ODD JOBS


By
Mike Boudreaux


Uncle Dudley has had many an odd job during his illustrious career. One of his jobs was a hull liquor licker. Uncle Dudley was very proud of being a hull liquor licker and he was heralded as one of the best in the world.  In case you are not familiar with exactly what it is that a hull liquor licker does, I will explain. You see, down at the docks when they launch a new ship the custom is to smash a bottle of champagne on its hull. It was discovered that champagne was highly corrosive to the hull and so it was decided they needed some way to remove it quickly before it could do any serious damage. They tried wiping it off, but found that no matter how hard or fast it was wiped, it would leave some residue behind. They thought of switching to a different beverage or creating a liquid that looked like champagne, however was made up of ingredients that would not damage the ship’s hull. They decided that since using champagne was a time honored tradition it would not be appropriate to use anything other than the real thing. Finally they hit upon the idea of having someone standing just below the platform, when the ship was launched, who would lick the champagne from the hull as the ship was sliding down the ramp into the sea. Who ever did this would have to be very fast and efficient so not even a drop was missed. Well, Uncle Dudley applied for the job and found, that after only a short training period, he was most proficient at hull liquor licking. Uncle Dudley was so good at his job that he was in demand at ship yards all over the world. And then World War II broke out, war ships and liberty ships were rolling off the assembly line at a rapid pace. Uncle Dudley was eager to do his part for his country and the war effort so he threw himself into his work. At the end of each work day Uncle Dudley had licked liquor off of so many hulls that he was unable to stand up much less to walk home.  At that time, due to hard times, Uncle Dudley did not have a car and Aunt Martha had to go down to the docks each evening to pick up Uncle Dudley in a wheel barrow and wheel him home. Despite the fact that Uncle Dudley would wake up with a terrific hangover, he would go off to work each morning with even more enthusiasm than the day before. Then one cold day in January tragedy struck. Uncle Dudley was eagerly engaged in his work, maybe even a little too eagerly, when he inadvertently let his tongue slip off of the area which was saturated with champagne and onto an area that was dry. Immediately Uncle Dudley’s tongue froze solid to the frigid metal hull. No matter how hard Uncle Dudley tried, he could not get his tongue unfrozen. The ship was sliding rapidly down the ramp into the sea. Uncle Dudley had no choice but to go along for the ride. His tongue was frozen to a part of the ship which was way below the water line and as the ship plunged into the water Uncle Dudley was dragged deep down below the surface. Fortunately, two electric eels were swimming by at that very moment and Uncle Dudley grabbed them, one in each hand, and applied them to the hull of the ship. As the startled eels turned on their electricity it heated up the metal hull causing Uncle Dudley‘s tongue to thaw and he was able to swim to the surface. Needless to say that was Uncle Dudley’s last day as a hull liquor licker. In fact if you even mention hull liquor licking, Uncle Dudley's tongue draws up into the back of his throat and he is unable to talk straight for at least a week.


~~~


Uncle Dudley worked as a wood cutter on a cattle ranch out in west Texas for a spell. It was Uncle Dudley’s job to cut firewood for the cook stoves and for the fireplaces. He would also cut fence posts to make corrals, fences and holding pens. One day he was bringing a load of firewood up to the cook shack when Stumpy, the cook for the ranch, stepped out of the cook shack onto the porch. The porch was elevated about a foot or so off of the ground. Stumpy walked to the edge of the porch and was just about to step off when Uncle Dudley saw a huge Texas, diamond back, rattle snake coiled up under the porch. Uncle Dudley shouted a warning to Stumpy, but it was too late. Just as Stumpy’s foot hit the ground, that rattler struck, hitting stumpy in the right leg just below the knee. Uncle Dudley dropped his load of firewood and ran to Stumpy’s side, where with one well placed swing of his trusty ax, chopped off that rattler’s head. He then turned to Stumpy who was standing there calmly pouring tobacco from a cloth tobacco pouch, held in his right hand, into a cigarette paper aptly curled in the fingers of his left hand. When the amount suited him, Stumpy grasped the yellow draw string at the top of the pouch in his teeth, jerked the tobacco pouch closed and returned it to his vest pocket. With one swift movement of his left hand Stumpy rolled, licked and inserted that cigarette into his mouth, indicating he had done this a few times before. Stumpy was patting his pockets in search of a match when Uncle Dudley shouted to him that he had been snake bit. Lucky thing Stumpy hadn’t lit that cigarette, ‘cause he swallowed it whole as he responded, “Where?” Uncle Dudley pointed to Stumpy’s right leg and said, “There!” Stumpy chuckled and sat back on the porch where he rolled up his pants leg exposing a wooden leg. “Why do you s’pose they call me Stumpy?”, asked Stumpy. Uncle Dudley and Stumpy then commenced to rolling around on the ground, holding their sides, slapping their knees, and kicking up the dust as they let out loud guffaws that bounced off the cook shack’s walls and ricocheted right on out unto the prairie. Then suddenly Stumpy stopped laughing and looked down at his wooden leg. Hearing that Stumpy had stopped laughing, Uncle Dudley turned toward Stumpy to see a very concerned look on Stumpy's face. Uncle Dudley saw that Stumpy was holding his wooden leg with both hands and noted that it was beginning to swell. Stumpy was from West Virginia and had no previous experience with Texas rattlers, therefore had no idea as to just how potent they were. Stumpy’s leg was swelling up real fast so Uncle Dudley quickly grabbed up his trusty ax and began to chop at Stumpy’s wooden leg. Uncle Dudley’s arms were a blur as he furiously hacked away and wood chips were flying twenty feet in every direction. Uncle Dudley was glad that he had just sharpened his ax or he would never have been able to keep up with the rapid swelling of Stumpy’s wooden leg. After about half an hour the swelling began to subside and Uncle Dudley was able to whittle Stumpy’s leg back down to it’s original size and shape. Uncle Dudley had saved Stumpy’s life that day, for which Stumpy was eternally grateful, and not only that, Uncle Dudley had chopped enough firewood from Stumpy's swollen wooden leg to last all winter.


~~~


I guess this is as good a place as any to tell you how Uncle Dudley came into possession of his trusty ax.  Uncle Dudley was working as a tree faller in the Mojave Forest. Now, just maybe, you have not heard of the Mojave Forest,  ’cause now it’s called the Mojave Desert, and that just goes to show you just how good of a tree faller Uncle Dudley was.  Anyway it was nigh on towards the end of the wood cutting season when Uncle Dudley chanced to meet a fellow tree faller by the name of  Henry M. Washington. Now Henry was down on his luck as he had squandered all of his hard earned pay on booze and wild women. Henry told Uncle Dudley that he wanted to get enough money for a train ticket back home and was willing to sell Uncle Dudley his ax in order to raise the money. Henry told Uncle Dudley that this was not just any old ordinary ax, but it was a very special ax. This was the ax that had made his great, great, great, grand pappy famous. Henry told Uncle Dudley that his great, great, great grandfather was none other than George Washington, the father of our country.  Henry told Uncle Dudley that this ax was the very same ax that his great, great, great grandfather, George Washington, had used to chop down the cherry tree. Henry offered to sell Uncle Dudley this treasured heirloom for a mere twenty dollars. Uncle Dudley was somewhat skeptical as the ax looked to be in very good condition for an ax that had to be close to two hundred years old, ‘cept for a few minor nicks and scratches on the handle. Henry assured Uncle Dudley that this was indeed the original ax. Henry went on to assure Uncle Dudley that like his great, great, great grandfather, he too, could not tell a lie. He couldn’t help it, it was an inherited gene or something.  Uncle Dudley was still reluctant to buy the ax, thinking that Henry was trying to pull the wool over his eyes.  Henry again assured Uncle Dudley that this ax was indeed the original ax and the only reason it looked as good as it did, was that over the years his family had kept it in good shape. Fact is, to keep it in the best condition possible, his family had replaced the head twice and replaced the handle five times. Henry evidently saw that Uncle Dudley was weakening and lowered the price to ten dollars. Uncle Dudley just could not pass up a bargain like that and bought that ax. After all it was a piece of history and just to protect his investment, and to preserve its condition, Uncle Dudley replaced the handle that very day. Uncle Dudley is mighty proud of that ax and keeps it in a special place on his mantle.


~~~ 


These are just a few of the jobs Uncle Dudley has had over his career and I will expound upon others at another time.



*****




(18)




The Squirrel




By
Mike Boudreaux



As I’ve previously related, Uncle Dudley is an avid outdoorsman and he loves to fish and hunt. Once, several years ago, Uncle Dudley, who was living in Louisiana at the time, went out to do some catfish catching. He set up on the banks of a quiet little bayou and cast out his line. It was a perfect day the surface of the water was glassy smooth and there was a cool gentle breeze whispering through the trees. As Uncle Dudley sat back on a fallen log, watching his bobber, he saw a squirrel running up and down on the bank near the water’s edge. Every now and again the squirrel would stop, stand up on its back legs and look out towards the water.  Uncle Dudley noticed that the squirrel was looking at a pecan which was sitting smack dab center on a flat topped cypress stump that was about fifteen feet out from the shore. The squirrel would run up the bank away from the water, then dash down towards the water, but draw up short, right at the water’s edge. Uncle Dudley watched the squirrel run along the bank and leap as far as it could, then turn and walk back along its path as if it were measuring the distance it had jumped. Uncle Dudley said that the actions of the squirrel spoke volumes. The squirrel had spotted the pecan and wanted to have it for lunch, but as squirrels are not aquatic animals it was trying to muster the courage to make the leap from the bank to the cypress stump. It was almost comical to watch that squirrel building up its courage and contemplating whether it could jump far enough to reach the stump. Then suddenly the squirrel dashed about ten yards up the bank, turned and ran back toward the water with all of the speed it could gather, reaching the water’s edge it launched itself out over the water, soaring through the air, its body stretching and reaching out for the cypress stump. Uncle Dudley held his breath as he watched the squirrel sail out over the water, straining every muscle and then make a perfect four point landing on the cypress stump. Uncle Dudley said that it was a beautiful and inspiring sight to see that little animal give all it had to accomplish a feat that would make any Olympic athlete proud. The squirrel seemed to be proud of itself for making the jump without landing in the water. The squirrel gave a couple of happy little barks and then pounced upon the pecan which was its gold medal award for making that championship jump. After the squirrel had cracked open the pecan and consumed the contents, it sat there on the stump facing the bank for a long while without moving. Every so often the squirrel would stand up on its hind legs and crane its head toward the bank, then sit back down on its haunches with its tail curled up over its back. As Uncle Dudley watched, he suddenly realized the predicament that the squirrel was now facing. That cypress stump was at least fifteen feet from the bank and it was only about four feet across. The squirrel had taken at least a ten yard run before it jumped from the bank to that cypress stump. Now it had only four feet of runway before it had to take flight. Uncle Dudley called out to the squirrel, “Well, little fella, was it worth it? ’Cause now you’re sure to get wet.”  The squirrel choose to ignore Uncle Dudley’s remarks, backed to the far side of the stump and sprinted the four feet before it flung itself out toward the bank. It was a magnificent effort, a valiant effort, but alas an inadequate effort, as the squirrel fell far short of its goal. It hit the water, shattering the glassy surface, and began to churn its little legs and swish its tail as it made its way toward the bank. Uncle Dudley had to admire that little squirrel and cheered it on as it swam towards the shore.  Then suddenly, without warning, an alligator surfaced, just inches from the squirrel. Its huge mouth, wide open and lined with sharp teeth, clamped down over the squirrel and then it sank quickly out of sight beneath the surface of the water.  Uncle Dudley could not believe his eyes, it was unusual for an alligator to be this far west, but not an impossibility. He just sat there watching as the ripples dissipated and the water’s surface once again became calm and smooth. Uncle Dudley said he had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach as he thought of the fate of that little squirrel.  At least the squirrel had enjoyed its last meal, but that seemed to be a small consolation for the price it had paid for that meal.  Even though Uncle Dudley had not yet done any catching, just fishing so far, he decided that he would forgo any catching for that day and began to reel in his line. Just then Uncle Dudley saw that alligator surface a few feet from the cypress stump, glide effortlessly up next to the stump and gently lay another pecan smack dab center on top of that stump, then disappear once again below the surface. 



*****



                                                                                              (19)




THE BELL RINGER



By

Mike Boudreaux



Several years ago I walked over to Uncle Dudley’s house just to pass some time with him. He invited me out to his back yard where we sprawled out on the lawn in the shade of his apple tree and talked of everything important and nothing of consequence. As we lay there I could hear the bell in the tower at the First Congregational Church peel three times. I glanced at my watch to see that it was right on time. Uncle Dudley said, "Did I ever tell you of the time I worked as the custodian for that church?" Now, Uncle Dudley has told me many stories, but I did not recall him ever telling me that he worked for the First Congregational Church or any other church as far as that goes. I do recall that he had once been a Ducorian Monk, but that is a whole ‘nother story for ‘nother time. Uncle Dudley did not wait for my reply he just started relating how he was sweeping the front walk at the church one morning when a stranger came up to him and asked if he were the parson. Uncle Dudley was plumb pleased to have been mistaken for a preacher man but told the young fella he was just the janitor and directed him to the pastor’s office. It seems as though the pastor was seeking a bell ringer and had advertised in the local paper for interested parties to apply at the church and this fella was apparently applying for the position. After just a few minutes the pastor came out of his office with this young fella in tow and asked Uncle Dudley to take him to the bell tower and show him the ropes. Uncle Dudley took the young man up to the bell tower and did just as the pastor had told him and said, ’Here is the rope for the big bell, and here is the one for the medium bell and here is the one for the little bell.’ The man smiled politely at Uncle Dudley and advised he was from a long line of bell ringers and he did not use ropes to ring the bells. The young man related that bell ringing was a lost art and that he rang the bells in the only way bells were meant to be rung. "And just how is that?" Uncle Dudley asked. The man told Uncle Dudley to watch and learn and he then climbed up higher into the tower where the bells were hanging. The man took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves and stood there facing the bells. And just then the man did something that Uncle Dudley could not believe. He ran at the bell head on and struck the bell with his face. The bell responded with the most beautiful tone that Uncle Dudley had ever heard. The man proceeded to strike each of the bells with his face and the most beautiful melody rang out as a result. Uncle Dudley had worked at the First Congregational Church for quite a few years and he had heard the bells rung many times but he had never heard the bells rung so beautifully. Suddenly Uncle Dudley remembered that there was a loose floorboard up in that bell tower so he called up to the man to watch his step and to be careful of the loose board. Uncle Dudley had no sooner gotten the words out of his mouth when the young fella backed up to make one more run at the bells and caught his heel on the loose floorboard. The young fella stumbled backwards and fell right out of the bell tower window. By the time Uncle Dudley made it to the window and looked out all he saw was the crumpled body of the young man sprawled on the sidewalk below. Uncle Dudley rushed down to the sidewalk, where by this time, a small crowd had gathered around the body of the young man. The people were in shock at the sight and began to ask who this young man was. No one seemed to know anything about the young man, no one even knew his name. When Uncle Dudley arrived the crowd opened a way for Uncle Dudley who knelt down beside the young man and they asked if he knew the young man’s name. Uncle Dudley picked up the young man’s lifeless body and stood there holding him in his arms as he turned to the crowd and said, "I don’t know who this young man is, but his face sure rings a bell."


Now you might think that was the end of the story but Uncle Dudley went on to say that about a week later as he was raking the yard at the church when young fella walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. As Uncle Dudley turned around he almost fainted as he saw the young man standing before him. For here was the young fella who had fallen out of the bell tower window to his death. Uncle Dudley gasped and took several steps backwards to get away from this apparition. The young fella reached out and grasped Uncle Dudley’s arm and quickly reassured him that he was not a ghost. He told Uncle Dudley that the young man who had fallen to his death from the bell tower was his brother and that they did greatly resemble one another. Uncle Dudley stared at the young man and was amazed at how he looked so much like the young man who had fallen to his death. He was a spittin’ image and it was just a little unsettling to be standing in front of this young fella. Finally Uncle Dudley managed to ask the young man of his purpose there at the church. The young man said that he came from a family of bell ringers and was himself an accomplished bell ringer and had come to fulfill his dead brother’s obligations as a bell ringer. Uncle Dudley said he then ushered the man into the pastor’s office. After a short time the pastor and the young man emerged and the pastor told Uncle Dudley that he had hired this young man to replace his brother as the bell ringer. The pastor told Uncle Dudley to take the young man to the bell tower so that he could practice ringing the bells. Uncle Dudley led the young man up into the bell tower where he showed him around and told him to be very careful about the loose floorboard so there would not be another tragic accident. The young man agreed to be careful and backed up a step or two in preparation of ringing the bells. Just as the young man advanced on the bell, a mouse scurried across the floor, distracting the young man who took his eyes off of the target and struck the bell with a glancing blow which caused him to ricochet off of the bell right out of the bell tower window. Uncle Dudley rushed to the bell tower window and looking out saw the body of the young man sprawled on the sidewalk below. Uncle Dudley rushed down to the side walk where a small curious crowd had already gathered. Of course they were all asking questions as to who this young man was and as Uncle Dudley approached they opened a way for him and he knelt down at the young man’s dead body. Several in the crowd asked, "Who was he, what was his name?" Uncle Dudley gently picked up the lifeless body of the young man, held him in his arms, turned to the crowd and said, “All I can tell you is that he is a dead ringer for his brother.”



*****



(20)



THE TASTE TEST



By
Mike Boudreaux



Back when I was a senior in high school my classmates and I were having a heated debate over which tasted better with peanuts,  RC or Coke. Of course everyone knows that the only way to eat peanuts is to pour them into a bottle of RC or Coke after you have taken a swig out to make room for the peanuts. Anyway there was quite a debate going on and it looked like the matter would never be settled. Then one of my classmates got the bright idea of letting my Uncle Dudley make the decision. That’s when all the trouble started.


You see, when Uncle Dudley made the taste test it resulted in his life’s work being destroyed. After it happened I had never seen Uncle Dudley so upset. Uncle Dudley tore out of the house and was headed straight for a conference with his attorney,  J. Noble Daggett, who is associated with the law offices of Willee, Cheetum and Howe,  and he was determined to file a lawsuit against all of the Porterville High School senior class alumni. Of course,  as I was a relative I was a hoping he would not name me in the suit, but then again he was pretty angry and I really didn‘t know for sure that he wouldn‘t include me in that law suit as well.


It all started when I told him about the great debate going on between my classmates over which tasted better with peanuts, Coke or RC. I told Uncle Dudley that there were some who thought that Coke tasted better, and then there were those who thought that RC was definitely the best tasting, and that this debate was on going, with no winner decided. I told Uncle Dudley that my classmates had said that they trusted him to make the taste test and felt he would be fair and impartial with his judgment. Uncle Dudley was somewhat reluctant to become involved in something that he felt would surely leave some with hard feelings.  Uncle Dudley was sure that no matter what he decided, there would be those who would not agree with his decision and he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I assured Uncle Dudley that all of my classmates knew that he would be unbiased, that they had complete faith in his ability, and that they would live by what ever decision he would render. Uncle Dudley was still somewhat reluctant to get involved and gave the excuse that he was really very busy with his life’s work, which was training his parrot, Bernard, to recite the entire set of the World Book Encyclopedias. Uncle Dudley had been working with that parrot for the past fifteen years and had just completed volume # 20.  Uncle Dudley told me that when he completed the training, he wanted to enter Bernard on a quiz show, like “You Bet Your Life”, hosted by Groucho Marks, or one similar, and he planned on making oodles and oodles of money.  I finally convinced Uncle Dudley that it would only take a few minutes of his valuable time and that he needed a little break, as he had been working many long hours with that parrot. 

Reluctantly Uncle Dudley conceded and I tied a blindfold over his eyes to insure complete fairness. I had purchased a bottle of RC and a bottle of Coke and put them into the refrigerator so they would be nice and cold. It would be an easy matter for anyone to tell which was which just by the feel of the shape of the bottle, so I also bought two bottles of Nehi grape drink, some of the foulest tasting stuff ever to have been placed on the market. I poured out the Nehi grape drink, and washed out the empty bottles real good. I then poured some RC into one of the bottles and marked it and I then poured some Coke into the other bottle and marked it. I then added an ample amount of Planters peanuts to both bottles and handed them to Uncle Dudley, asking him to sample each bottle and render his unbiased opinion. Well, Uncle Dudley took a big swig from the first bottle and of course received a big mouth full of peanuts, which, I might add,  he was not expecting. He later told me that he thought he was to eat the peanuts separately. His reaction to the unexpected peanuts caused Uncle Dudley to snort and gulp at the same time,  which resulted in the mouth full of fluid and nuts to expel from his nose. Normally this would have just been an embarrassing moment followed by a little clean up, but somehow one of those peanuts became lodged in Uncle Dudley’s left nostril. No matter how hard he tried, Uncle Dudley could not blow it out, nor could he suck it back. He tried to push it, pull it, pry it, and poke it but that peanut was thoroughly stuck in his nose. After Uncle Dudley had unsuccessfully tried several different procedures, Aunt Martha came into the room carrying a pepper shaker. She told Uncle Dudley to pour a little pepper into the palm of his hand, then take a big whiff of the pepper,  block off his right nostril and cover his mouth. Aunt Martha said the resulting sneeze should dislodge the peanut. Having tried all other methods he could think of, without success, Uncle Dudley was willing to try anything. So he poured an ample amount of pepper into his hand, held it under his nose and took a big whiff. Immediately he began the process of sneezing, sucking in big gulps of air with a resounding  “Ahhhhhh ……… Ahhhhhh ………Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”  As he was doing this he quickly jammed his right index finger into his right nostril, all the way up to the second knuckle and clamped his left hand over his mouth as tight as he could. Then Uncle Dudley exploded with a, “CHOOOOOO!”, that could be heard five city blocks away. That peanut was expelled from Uncle Dudley’s nose at near supersonic velocity. It streaked across the living room striking Uncle Dudley’s personally autographed picture of  Marlin Perkins wrestling a crocodile while dodging the poisoned darts of a band of pigmy head hunters, knocking it off of the mantle and smashing it to pieces on the floor. The peanut then ricocheted off of the picture, zipped across the room and struck Bernard right between the eyes. Bernard, as you will recall, is Uncle Dudley’s parrot. Well, it knocked Bernard right off of his perch and there he lay cold as a wedge on the living room floor. Uncle Dudley was knocked several steps backward from the force of the sneeze which had also bulged his eyeballs out so far that they had knocked both lenses out of his reading glasses leaving only the empty wire frames dangling from one ear. The lenses fell to the floor where Uncle Dudley inadvertently stepped on them, pulverizing both lenses. Uncle Dudley, although somewhat stunned, regained his composure and hurried over to where Aunt Martha and I were bending over Bernard’s crumpled body. Uncle Dudley scooped  Bernard up into his arms and rushed him off to the vet.


I am happy to report that Bernard will recover, however, he is now cross-eyed, has irreversible amnesia and thinks he’s a dog. Uncle Dudley felt that the entire  Porterville High School senior class was directly responsible, since he was conducting research for them at the time of this incident and he was seeking compensatory damages.  Uncle Dudley listed his losses as:  One pair of reading glasses; One irreplaceable personally autographed picture of Marlin Perkins; Compensation for the countless hours of training Bernard to recite the World Book Encyclopedia; Bernard’s irreversible loss of memory;  One veterinary bill; The loss of expected earnings from Bernard’s appearance on  “You Bet Your Life”; and, of course, treatment for Bernard’s crossed eyes.


It wouldn’t have been so bad but since that incident Bernard now howls every time he hears a siren, he has so far bitten the mailman twice and chases all the cats in the neighborhood, barking like a dog. The cats were in no danger as they had learned that all they had to do was run close to a tree and Bernard, with his crossed eyes, would see two trees and trying to go between them, he would run smack dab into the tree. Bernard could have caught the cats easily if he would’ve only flown,  but knowing that dogs didn’t fly, he didn‘t even attempt it.  I think that everything would have blown over and been forgotten but at least twice a day you could hear Bernard‘s,  “ARF, ARF, ARF!!”, as he ran across the yard in pursuit of a cat, and then, “BONK!”, as Bernard ran into a tree. Every time Uncle Dudley heard that , “BONK”, he would groan and go in search of Bernard, who he would find sprawled out at the base of one of the shade trees in the yard.


As I said before, Uncle Dudley was very angry over this situation with Bernard and he was determined to get his comeuppance.



*****



(21)



THE BIRD DOG



By

Mike Boudreaux



It had been about two weeks since Uncle Dudley had talked to his attorney, J. Noble Daggett III, about filing a law suit over Bernard’s condition. I felt Uncle Dudley had calmed down enough so that I could try to talk him out of the lawsuit that he was so bent on filing.


I also had another motive, I was a little concerned about Bernard. You see, I had visited Uncle Dudley a few days before and he was talking about a horse he once owned, named Old Nell. Old Nell was a Morgan mare who served Uncle Dudley faithfully for many years. Several years ago Old Nell had come up lame, it got worse and the vet said that Old Nell was just getting old, she was suffering and he didn't expect her to last much longer. Not many days afterward Old Nell started acting strange, she just wasn’t herself anymore, she was off her feed and was pining away. Uncle Dudley couldn’t bear to see Old Nell suffer so one day he took down his old shotgun from over the mantle, fed Old Nell her favorite breakfast, a feast of apples, carrots and oats. Uncle Dudley then led Old Nell across the field and into the woods. All was quite on that early summer morning when the silence was shattered by a single gun shot. About an hour later Uncle Dudley came out of the woods alone.

Uncle Dudley didn’t talk much for several weeks after that, other than occasionally muttering something about it being the best thing for Old Nell. On my last visit with Uncle Dudley he had started talking about Bernard in the same way he had talked about Old Nell just before that fateful summer morning.


On this occasion when I arrived at Uncle Dudley’s, I was met by Aunt Martha who said that Uncle Dudley had just left, but she expected him back soon. I decided to wait and eased into Uncle Dudley’s favorite chair while I waited. I slouched down into that big overstuffed chair, allowing myself to get real comfortable, as I glanced around the room, musing over the different souvenirs and keepsakes Uncle Dudley had collected over the years. There on the mantle was the “Original” ax with which young George Washington had cut down the cherry tree, and along side of that was a fragment of wood from Stumpy's wooden leg and on the other side of the mantle, mounted on a plaque, was the empty flask Uncle Dudley had brought back the day he had traded sips for frogs with a rattlesnake. And then there was the…………… WAIT JUST A MINUTE! ................ Where was Uncle Dudley’s shotgun? It always hung right over the center of the mantle, on a rack made from deer's hooves. All that was there now were empty deer's hooves pointing upward toward the ceiling as if they too were asking, “Where’s the shotgun?” I jumped up quickly and ran to the back yard calling for Bernard. Bernard always responded to his name and would come running up to you yapping and wagging his tail fathers, but there was nothing but silence and stillness in the back yard. Aunt Martha came outside into the back yard asking what all the commotion was about and I told her I was looking for Bernard. Aunt Martha said that she last saw Bernard out in the back yard where Uncle Dudley was feeding him his favorite breakfast, and right after that was when Uncle Dudley left. I asked Aunt Martha if she knew where Uncle Dudley had gone and she pointed toward the woods saying that he had gone for a walk and should be back soon. It didn’t take long for me to put two and two together, I knew that I had to save Bernard! I rushed out of the yard and ran across the field towards the woods.

Just as I got to the edge of the woods, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sound of a single gunshot…….. I was too late...... I stood there for a long while, looking down at the ground and pondering Bernard’s fate. Just then I heard a rustling and looked up to see Uncle Dudley coming out of the woods with his shotgun over his shoulder and whistling “The Stars And Stripes Forever”. “How Could You?”, I asked. Uncle Dudley looked at me quizzically and asked, “How could I what?”. He then slapped his leg and said, “Come on Bernard, let’s go home.” Just a few steps behind Uncle Dudley was Bernard with the fattest pheasant I have ever seen in his beak.


Uncle Dudley told me that right after feeding Bernard his breakfast he got to playing fetch with him and found that Bernard was real good at fetching. Uncle Dudley thought that if Bernard was good at fetching he would take him out to the woods to see if he would make a good bird dog. He then took Bernard out in the woods, where on the day before he had heard some pheasants calling back and forth to one another, but Uncle Dudley could never get close enough to the pheasants for a look at them. Uncle Dudley said that Bernard was only in those woods for a short time when he drew up on a point and kept easing in closer and closer until he was almost right on top of the bush where those birds were hiding. Bernard extended one wing pointing directly to where those birds were hunkered down, while he held the other up to his beak and softly uttered, '“Shhhh”.'

Uncle Dudley then told Bernard to flush, and sure enough Bernard jumped in the brush and flushed the birds. The birds took to flight and Uncle Dudley dropped the biggest one with one shot. Bernard wasted no time in fetching that downed pheasant bringing it right back to Uncle Dudley. Uncle Dudley was ever so proud of that parrot and said that Bernard was the best bird dog he ever hoped to own and he planned to enter him into competition at the Sportsman’'s Club over in Kern County.

Uncle Dudley said that Bernard had just one little drawback, his crossed eyes, which he said he had fixed. Sure enough, when I looked down at Bernard he was wearing a little eye patch over one eye, he looked just like a miniature pirate, ‘cept of course for that pheasant hanging out of his beak.


Off they went, headed back towards the house with Uncle Dudley whistling and Bernard following along behind, wagging his tail feathers, with an occasional happy little bark, somewhat muffled due to the pheasant still hanging out of his beak.

Uncle Dudley had always wanted a good bird dog and he was so pleased with the way Bernard had turned out. I just stood there watching as Uncle Dudley skipped along with delight, occasionally reaching down to pat Bernard on the top of his head. Uncle Dudley then turned and shouted back over his shoulder, “It ain’t gonna make Lawyer Daggett none too happy, but as soon as I get home I’m gonna call him up and drop that law suit.”


It was a relief to know that my fellow classmates and I were off of the hook and didn'’t have to worry none '‘bout going to court over Bernard’'s condition. Fact is, I was so happy, I too skipped along t'wards the house thinking how good that pheasant was gonna taste and whistling the same tune as Uncle Dudley.



*****


                                                                                                          (22)




THE RETRIEVER



By

Mike Boudreaux



After Uncle Dudley found out that his parrot, Bernard, was such a good Bird-Dog he decided to see if he was any good at being a retriever. Uncle Dudley had worked himself into a frenzy over this idea and was so excited that he could hardly wait to get out on the lake. Early one morning Uncle Dudley loaded Bernard into his fishing boat along with his shotgun and rowed out to the middle of the lake in hopes of getting a nice fat duck for supper. Uncle Dudley threw out the anchor and there they sat, dawn turned to mid morning, and then into high noon and no ducks came by. Uncle Dudley decided that he would throw a stick into the water to see if Bernard would swim after it and bring it back to him. The only problem was that Uncle Dudley had not brought a stick with him and looking around in the boat he found that he didn’t have anything that would float. Not wanting to row all the way back to shore just to find a stick, Uncle Dudley decided that he would throw his red felt hunting hat out in the lake for Bernard to retrieve. Uncle Dudley took off his hat and waved it in front of Bernard’s beak a couple of times for him to get the scent and then flung it as far as he could out into the lake. Bernard just sat there in the bow of the boat looking questioningly at the hat and then back at Uncle Dudley. Uncle Dudley kept pointing to the hat and instructing Bernard to “fetch”, but Bernard just sat there in the boat looking at the hat. As Uncle Dudley‘s hat got more and more water logged it started to sink. Uncle Dudley decided that he would place Bernard into the water and give him a little shove out toward his hat, in hopes that Bernard would get the idea and go fetch his hat. Uncle Dudley picked up Bernard and gently set him into the water and gave him a little shove in the direction of his hat. Bernard started barking excitedly, flapping his wings and kicking his little feet and then promptly sank out of sight. A few bubbles came up from the spot where Bernard had slipped under the surface and then his little eye patch floated to the surface, but no Bernard. Uncle Dudley was devastated, he never imagined that Bernard couldn't swim. Uncle Dudley started to haul in the anchor so he could row around and look for Bernard, however, when he pulled on the rope the anchor wouldn’t budge. Uncle Dudley quickly cut the rope and then rowed around for hours looking for Bernard, but his little body never surfaced. Finally after the sun had set and the last glow of light faded, Uncle Dudley reluctantly rowed to shore and plodded slowly home with a grieving heart.


Upon reaching home Uncle Dudley informed Aunt Martha of Bernard’s demise and then plopped down into his easy chair and stared at the wall. Aunt Martha tried to cheer Uncle Dudley up by modeling some of the frilly lingerie she had bought on her trip to El Paso and even modeled some she got on the second floor of the mercantile, but that just seemed to put Uncle Dudley into even a deeper depression. After remorsefully staring at the wall until around midnight, Uncle Dudley slowly got up and went out on the back porch where he stood staring up at the stars. Uncle Dudley was just about to go back into the house when he saw a light moving along the path from the lake. At first Uncle Dudley thought that there must be somebody out doing a little frog gigging or maybe coon hunting. Whoever was out there was moving real slow, and was hunkered down real close to the ground, Uncle Dudley thought maybe they were tracking a bear. Uncle Dudley kept watching the light and it got closer and closer to the house. The light came right up to the back gate and Uncle Dudley called out, “Who’s there?” The light stopped moving and just sat motionless by the back gate. Uncle Dudley grabbed his shotgun and approached the light, real cautious like. When Uncle Dudley got to the back gate there wasn’t anybody around. Sitting there on the ground was a kerosene lantern and right next to the lantern was the anchor from his fishing boat and his red felt hunting hat. Then Uncle Dudley saw something real peculiar, the lantern, that was sitting there, was his lantern, as his initials were scratched on the side. Fact is, Uncle Dudley only had one kerosene lantern and he had accidentally knocked it overboard while he was doing some night fishing at the lake two weeks earlier. Uncle Dudley reached down and picked up his red felt hunting hat which was still damp and when he did, right there under his hat, he was astounded to see that Bernard was sitting there on the ground, with his little tongue hanging out on one side of his beak, wagging his tail feathers and panting heavily. The cut end of the anchor rope was tucked under one wing and the bail to the lantern was tucked under his other wing. That lantern was shining brightly and Uncle Dudley could clearly see that Bernard was plumb tuckered out from lugging that lantern, and dragging the anchor along behind him while he was wearing Uncle Dudley’s red felt hunting hat on his head.


Aunt Martha had come out to see what all the commotion was about and wondered out loud as to how Bernard had managed to light that lantern. Uncle Dudley said ‘twern’t no mystery, as he recalled that the lantern was lit and plumb full of kerosene when he knocked it overboard and now it was nigh on to almost empty.


The next morning Uncle Dudley tracked Bernard back to the lake shore by following Bernard’s tracks and the drag marks from the anchor. Uncle Dudley said that it was a wonder that Bernard had managed to get back as soon as he did, because without his patch, Bernard had bumped, head on, into several trees. Uncle Dudley is a proficient tracker, but that's a whole ‘nother story for ‘nother time, and he could tell by the signs that sometimes when Bernard would bump into a tree it would knock him cold as a wedge and other times it would just knock him silly and he would wander around in circles until his head cleared. Uncle Dudley was just ecstatic over Bernard’s remarkable abilities as a retriever. Uncle Dudley is now contemplating using Bernard to salvage treasure from sunken pirate ships or to retrieve relics from the Titanic. Of course the first thing Uncle Dudley did was to make Bernard another eye patch so he wouldn’t be bumping into things.



*****



(23)




The Tarantula



By

Mike Boudreaux



Several years ago, when I was about 10 years old, my family was living in California near the Sequoia National Forest. My aunt, uncle and two cousins came to our house for a visit. One of the things my uncle wanted to do was to see the giant redwood trees, so one Sunday morning we all headed for Sequoia National Forest, where there was a redwood grove with a nearby picnic area. We had packed a picnic lunch and upon arrival at the picnic area all the kids hit the ground running and exploring the area. While on a hike to see the big redwood trees I found a large tarantula spider ambling along on the ground.

The tarantulas found in this area are known as the Mexican brown tarantula, they grow to an average of three to four inches across and their bite is non-lethal to humans. Although they are a really large scary looking spider, they move rather slowly and are really not a danger to handle, if it is done very carefully.


In later years I have learned that at certain times of the year the male tarantula spider will go in search of the female for mating purposes. Usually the tarantula is a nocturnal creature that will stay in hiding during the day but during mating season they come out during the day in search of their lady love.


Well, I had a small brown paper bag with me left over from the picnic lunch and used it to capture the tarantula and kept it captive by folding over the top of the bag several times. By carefully unfolding the top of the paper bag I showed the tarantula to my parents, my brother, aunt and uncle and my cousins. It just so happens that my cousins, upon seeing the huge spider, freaked out, screamed and took off running. Of course this only fired up my mischievous nature and I would extend that paper bag out towards them and chase them all over the woods. I would settle down for a while, at warnings from my mother, but whenever my cousins ventured close enough I would grab that bag and chase after them again. After a while I felt sorry for that spider bouncing around inside of that bag while I chased my cousins, so I went out into the woods alone and let it go. Not wanting to give up on my chasing game I found a piece of a pine cone and placed it into paper bag. By shaking the bag and rattling the piece of pine cone on the inside, I found I got the same results as if it were a real spider. I chased my cousins several more times, using my pretend spider, and found that I even got some astonishing results when I shook the bag at my parents.


As with any kid’s game it got old and I went about other activities and forgot about the pretend spider until we were in route back home. There were eight of us in a 1955 Chevrolet station wagon. We were seated in the following manner: My dad was driving, my mother was sitting in the front passenger seat with my older brother between them. My uncle was sitting behind my father, my aunt sitting behind my mother with my female cousin sitting between them. Myself and my other male cousin were riding in the cargo area behind the back seat. We were all tired from the day’s activities and there was not much talking or playing going on. I was bored, so looked around to find something to entertain myself. I found the paper bag with my pretend spider inside and not really giving it much thought, I took out the piece of pine cone, fiddled with it for a while, but as it was not that entertaining, I tossed it out an open window. I fiddled with the little paper bag for a while but that too offered no lasting entertainment so tossed it aside. This was in the days of no air conditioning, so the windows were open to offer as much ventilation as possible. After all there were eight people crammed in that car, and it was on the warm side to say the least. As I said, the windows were open, and a gust of wind caught that paper bag and blew it out of the cargo area and into the back seat area where it landed in my aunt’s lap. My aunt casually picked it up and looked inside. Just then she sat straight up in her seat and turned to me and asked, “Isn’t this the bag you had that spider in?” Not knowing the consequences of my answer I responded, “Yeah.” My aunt then went into hysterics as she said, “Well, it’s not in there now!” As she said this she screamed in an octave which I never knew possible for the human voice to reach and threw the bag into the front seat where it landed in my mother’s lap, Mom screamed and batted the bag towards my brother, who dodged it and dove into the back seat. The bag ended up in my father’s lap and he began slapping at it and trying to drive at the same time, swerving all over the road. My father hastily made a bee line for the side of the road where the car came to a screeching broad sided stop and seven hysterical, screaming people scrambled out of the car and huddled in a tight group along beside the road leaving me alone in the cargo area wondering what in the Sam Hill had just happened.


My mother started yelling at me using my middle name and I knew that somehow I was thought to be responsible for whatever had just happened. My dad came over to the car carrying a big stick and at first I thought that he was going to use it on me, but later I saw that he was just poking at the paper bag with it. Dad looked at me and said, “Where’s that spider?” I tried to explain to him that I had let the spider go back at the picnic area, but he was having no part of that. I told him about letting the spider go and replacing it with a piece of pine cone, but when I couldn’t produce the piece of pine cone my father said, “You had better find that spider and get it out of my car!” I could tell by the tone of his voice that he meant business and he, or nobody else, was going to get back into that car until they were satisfied there was no tarantula in there. I opened all of the doors wide and shoved my hand under the front seat and up under the dash, without looking, to demonstrate that there was no spider in that car. Finally after re-telling my story over and over again I was able to convince my father that I had indeed let the spider go back at the picnic site. My mother refused to get back into the car until she had personally looked under the seat and under the dash and had moved every item and article of clothing in the car. After everyone had climbed back into the car and we were headed home, I toyed with the idea of shouting, “SPIDER!”, but decided it would not be in my best interest to do that, and I think that decision is one of the reasons I am here to tell this story today.



*****


(24)





CHRISTMAS MONEY



By


Mike Boudreaux



It was about two weeks before Christmas and the weather was crisp and cold. It had not yet snowed, which was unusual, as by this time of the year there would normally have been at least two good snows. I was sitting at the kitchen table doing my homework when Uncle Dudley came home from work. He took off his coat and hung it on the hook behind the back door. He then sat down at the kitchen table with me, leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and let his body become adjusted to the warmth of the kitchen. Aunt Martha brought Uncle Dudley a hot cup of coffee, setting it down on the table in front of him. Uncle Dudley saucered a portion, blew upon it to cool it off, then being careful not to spill any held the saucer to his lips and noisily sucked some in between his puckered lips. He then gave Aunt Martha a nod of approval as he eased further back into his chair. Aunt Martha wiped her hands on her apron as she nervously cleared her throat and looked questioningly into Uncle Dudley’s face. Uncle Dudley looked at Aunt Martha and said, “Well, what is it woman?” Aunt Martha backed away a step and asked, “Isn’t today payday?” Uncle Dudley replied, “Yes, today’s payday, I’ve set aside your grocery money, I’ll give it to you later.” Aunt Martha stood silent for a long moment, still wiping her hands with her apron and continued to look at Uncle Dudley. Uncle Dudley took a long sip of his coffee and looked back to Aunt Martha as he said, “Well, woman, I said I’ll give you your grocery money, now go on, get back to your cooking.” Aunt Martha hesitated for a few moments, still wiping her hands nervously with her apron to the point I thought she would surely either wipe away a layer of skin or wear a hole in her apron. She finally said, “You know it’s almost Christmas and I was hoping you would give me some extra, so I could buy presents.” Uncle Dudley made good money, however, he liked to horde it and seldom gave Aunt Martha any extra. Uncle Dudley retorted, “Now, woman, what you can’t make, bake or take, we don’t need to be spending good money on.” And that’s when the argument started. Uncle Dudley and Aunt Martha argued back and forth for at least ten minutes with neither side giving any ground. Then Aunt Martha used her secret weapon. Suddenly, she stopped arguing, lowered her head, got a real sad look upon her face and let a tear ease out of the corner of her eye and run down her cheek. Uncle Dudley was just about to take full advantage of this moment of silence to let go with what was likely to be his best argument, when he looked up and saw that tear hanging there on Aunt Martha’s chin. Uncle Dudley could not bear to see a woman cry, any woman, especially Aunt Martha. He reluctantly reached to his right hip pocket and extracted his wallet, after thumbing through the contents he pulled out a one hundred dollar bill, wadded it up into a little ball and threw it at Aunt Martha as he said, “There, woman, take that and go buy your presents.”

Now, ordinarily this would have ended the matter, but Buster got involved. Buster was a three year old butterscotch colored cocker spaniel who had learned to beg at the table for scraps. When the scraps were tossed to him, Buster was accustomed to catching the scraps in his mouth before they hit the floor. When Uncle Dudley tossed that wadded up hundred dollar bill at Aunt Martha, Buster saw it coming and thinking it was a tasty treat leapt from the floor in a perfectly timed arc. He snapped up that hundred dollar bill and had it swallowed before he hit the floor. Uncle Dudley saw what was happening and made a mad dash over to Buster, grabbed him up and ran his finger down his throat in an attempt to retrieve the hundred dollar bill, but it was too late, Buster had already swallowed it. Without hesitation, Uncle Dudley tucked Buster under his arm and rushed to the telephone where he called the vet. He explained the situation to the vet who advised that there was nothing to worry about as paper money would not harm the dog in any way. Uncle Dudley advised that he didn’t care about the dog, but he did want to get his hundred dollars back. The vet advised Uncle Dudley to give the dog four tablespoons of castor oil and that the hundred dollar bill should pass in eight to ten hours. Uncle Dudley hung up and made another mad dash to the medicine cabinet where he located a bottle of castor oil and then headed back to the kitchen where he got a tablespoon from the kitchen drawer. Uncle Dudley then sat down on the floor with Buster held tightly between his legs and began to force feed him the castor oil. Uncle Dudley managed to get three tablespoons of castor oil down Buster’s throat before he emptied the bottle. The vet had prescribed four tablespoons, but since three was all there was, that was all Buster got. Uncle Dudley then took Buster to the garage and locked him inside over night. The next morning Uncle Dudley was out in the garage early. There were fresh little piles of runny dog droppings all over the garage floor and there was Uncle Dudley, using a garden trowel to poke through the little piles. By noon all that Uncle Dudley had managed to retrieve was two twenties, three tens and a five. Uncle Dudley quickly realized the problem, rushed to the drug store and returned with a new bottle of castor oil. He then gave poor old Buster one more tablespoon full and by three o’clock in the afternoon Uncle Dudley had managed to recover the remaining twenty five dollars.



*****



(25)





THE CLAY TABLET



By

Mike Boudreaux



Recently a portion of a clay tablet, dating back several centuries BC, was unearthed. Scholars deciphered the ancient Hebrew text on the tablet and found that there was a petition being put before the people to ban the jaw bone of an ass, as it was considered to be too destructive of a weapon. According to authorities the jawbone of an ass was even more destructive than an ox goad, known to have been used by Shamgar the son of Anath. All citizens who possessed ass jaw bones were being required to register them. Citizens were also being required to have a special permit in order to carry ass jaw bones concealed upon their person. There was discussion as to a special tax being levied upon those who owned jaw bones in an effort to regulate this awesome weapon. Citizens were outraged and stated that if jaw bones were outlawed only Philistines would have jaw bones. One philosopher hypothesized that it was not the jaw bones that were killing people it was the Israelites with the jaw bones who were killing people. There was an experimental program where rulers of the land had offered thirty changes of raiment and a free haircut for each jaw bone that was turned in; no questions asked. It was estimated that there were ass jaw bones in 85 - 90 percent of all Israelite homes. Concerned parents were marching on the capitol cities in an effort to have all jaw bones equipped with a special locking device to prevent children from accidentally slaying their little playmates. Unfortunately the tablet was broken in half and the bottom portion was missing, so I guess we will never know how this turned out.



*****


(26)




THE MULE


By

Mike Boudreaux



Well, seems that Uncle Dudley was a right smart business man and he knew how to turn a dime into a dollar. Back a spell, right after Uncle Dudley was mustered out of the service, he took his muster out pay and went to a livestock auction being held in Abe Bartlett's barn. Uncle Dudley figured he'd go into farming and everyone knows a farmer needs a mule to plow his field. As it was, there was only one mule up for auction, that being Abe Bartlett's prize mule, Trudy. Folks there 'bouts knew that Abe Bartlett's mule was the best in the county so bidding was fierce on the animal. The bidders in the first three rows were receiving a steady shower from the auctioneer's fluttering lips as he babbled on, auctioneer style, urging the bidders to increase their bid. This wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the fact that the auctioneer chewed t'backy. It didn't take long before the people in the first three rows were speckled with small brown flecks of t'backy juice. Fortunately, Uncle Dudley and I stood at the back of the crowd. The bidding increased rapidly and a mule which should have sold for around forty dollars was now receiving a bid of fifty dollars from Uncle Dudley. As the bidding climbed higher, one by one, the bidders dropped off until there were only Uncle Dudley and Delbert Dolittle left bidding on Trudy. Now Delbert was down right lazy and what he wanted with a mule was any body's guess, for he lived up to his name, in that when there was any work to be done, Delbert would do little. Folks around those parts suspected that Delbert's real last name had slipped into obscurity and what they were using for his last name was just a description of his life style. As the bidding inched its way up, Uncle Dudley happened to see Delbert slip his wallet from his back pocket and filter through the bills, then ease it back into his pocket and loudly proclaim, 'Eighty five dollars!' This bid drew some oohs and aahs from the crowd and plastered a big smirk of confidence across Dilbert's face. Uncle Dudley leaned back against a post, grasped his chin and slipped his forefinger up on his cheek. As he slowly tapped his cheek with his finger, Uncle Dudley studied Delbert and did some mental calculations of his own. Figuring that Delbert had at least ninety dollars in his wallet and that he was more than willing to bid all he had. Uncle Dudley straightened up and bellowed out in a clear voice, 'One hundred dollars!' A silence fell over the crowd, the auctioneer even quit sputtering as he gulped and almost swallowed the t'backy he'd been chawing. All eyes riveted on Delbert and watched as that confident smirk quickly vanished from his face. The auctioneer stammered a bit, but eventually found his voice and asked for the next bid; none came. The auctioneer looked at Delbert who hung his head, turned and made his way through the crowd toward the exit. The auctioneer then turned toward Uncle Dudley and said, 'One hundred dollars going once . . . . going twice . . . . Sold!', and pointed to Uncle Dudley.


Uncle Dudley was pleased to have won the auction and immediately contacted Abe Bartlett to pay him the one hundred dollars and make arrangements to board the mule until the next day when he would pick it up. Uncle Dudley and I then went to lunch at the local diner. As we were eating our lunch I recognized several of the patrons in the diner had been at the auction earlier. As Uncle Dudley and I had been at the back of the crowd at the auction, I did not recognize their faces, but readily picked up on the small brown specks of t'backy juice on their clothing. These powers of observation later proved of much value in my chosen profession. 


Around 'bout mid morning on the next day Uncle Dudley and I hitched a livestock trailer to his 1940 Ford pickup and headed out to Abe Bartlett's farm to pick up the mule. We went up to the front door but received no answer to our repeated knocks. We knew that Abe Bartlett was expecting us, so we headed around back to the barn where we suspected he was tending to chores. As we rounded the corner of the house we spotted Abe sitting on a bench in front of the barn with his head in his hands.  Uncle Dudley walked up to Mr. Bartlett, who appeared not to have noticed our approach, placed his hand on Mr. Bartlett's shoulder and asked, "You okay, Abe?"


Mr. Bartlett looked up and said, "I been spectin' you boys, I'm afraid I got some bad news for you."

"What's that, Abe?", asked Uncle Dudley.


Mr. Bartlett stood to his feet and jerked his head toward the barn and said, "Trudy's dead, don't know what kilt her but she's sure nuff dead. I came out to feed her this morning and say my good-byes and found her dead in her stall." 


Uncle Dudley was quiet for a moment and then said, "We're right sorry for your loss Abe. Now, if you'll . . ." 


Mr. Bartlett cut Uncle Dudley off in mid sentence saying, "Ain't my loss, it's yours, you bought her, she's your mule."


"That's true, but I bought a live mule and left her in your care. Now if you will just refund my money we will be on our way."


"Well, I'm a right fair hand at taking care of my own animals, but turns out I'm no good at taking care of other people's animals. And as far as your money goes, I've already spent it. The reason I sold Trudy in the first place was to raise money to pay my mortgage and that I done." 


Uncle Dudley could see it was no use to argue with Mr. Bartlett any further and just stood there thinking on this problem. Finally he turned to Mr. Bartlett and said, "If you will help me load the mule into my truck I'll take her with me."


Mr. Bartlett agreed to help load the mule and after some straining we finally got her loaded. Once loaded we covered Trudy with a tarp and climbed into the truck making ready to leave for town. Just before we drove away Mr. Bartlett asked, "What are you going to do with a dead mule?" Uncle Dudley stuck his head out the window and said, "Well, I ain't quite got that figured out yet, but one thing's for sure, I ain't gonna let you take care of her for me." And with that said Uncle Dudley waved goodbye to Mr. Bartlett and we headed for town with Trudy.


Just as we approached town Uncle Dudley said, "I got it, I know what I'm going to do with that mule."


"What you gonna do with her?", I asked.


"I'm gonna sell tickets and raffle her off."


"Whoa! Hold on there, ain't nobody gonna buy a ticket for a dead mule!"


"I ain't gonna tell them she's dead. Now you drop me off here at the edge of town and take that mule on out to the farm by the back roads. Don't stop to talk to nobody and don't tell anyone what's under that tarp, 'cept Aunt Martha, if she asks. When I'm finished with my business here in town I'll walk home." And with that said, Uncle Dudley walked on in to town and I headed out to the farm by the back roads, just like Uncle Dudley told me to.


Well, 'long about an hour after dark Aunt Martha and I were sitting out on the front stoop enjoying the cool of the evening when we heard someone whistling a merry little tune out in the darkness. As the whistling got closer we strained our eyes to see who it was, when out of the darkness Uncle Dudley came skipping up the lane leading up to the house. He had money bulging out of every pocket and a big smile on his face. "Where'd you get all that money?", asked Aunt Martha.


Uncle Dudley was down right beaming as he brushed passed us and went directly to the kitchen table where he started pulling dollar bills out of every pocket and tossing them into a big pile in the middle of the table.


I looked at that mound of money and asked Uncle Dudley how zackly he come by all that money.


Uncle Dudley Said, "Well, right after you dropped me off, I went directly to the printing office and had 500 raffle tickets printed for Abe Bartlett's mule. I then went all around town and sold the tickets for $2 each. Everyone I met was familiar with Abe Bartlett's mule and they were more than happy to pay $2 for a chance to win her; 'specially those with the little brown specks of t'backy juice on their clothes. By five o'clock I had sold all of the tickets and held the drawing on the court house steps at six o'clock."


"Good Golly!" said Aunt Martha, "Weren't there a bunch of people mad at you when they found out that mule was dead?"

"No, not zackly," Uncle Dudley replied, "Just the winner and he calmed right down once I gave him his money back."

What with the $100 Uncle Dudley had paid for the mule at the auction, and the $20 he paid to have the raffle tickets printed, minus the $2 refund to the winner, Uncle Dudley made a profit of $878. 


Like I said, Uncle Dudley was a right smart businessman and knew zackly how to turn a dime into a dollar. 


 

*****



(27)





FIRECRACKERS



By

Mike Boudreaux



When I was around 10 years old I was living in Porterville, California with my parents. Every summer we would load up the family car and drive back to Alpine, Texas where we would spend the summer visiting relatives. I spent most of my time playing with my cousins and getting into one type of mischief or another. Just prior to leaving Texas and heading back to California my cousins and I had bought some firecrackers. We loved to light a firecracker under a tin can to see how high it would go, blow up a model car or shoot a marble out of a short piece of old water pipe. All of this was lots of fun but we soon tired of it long before we ran out of firecrackers and went on to other things. I didn’t think too much about it when I was packing to leave, I just threw the remaining firecrackers into my suit case. I had 6 packs of twenty firecrackers and a couple of packs of a hundred left over. In Texas firecrackers were legal and a young boy had no trouble buying them, but in California they were illegal to possess.  When we got back to California and I was unpacking my suitcase, I tossed the firecrackers on top of my dresser and thought no more about them. Then one day a neighborhood friend came over to visit and we ended up in my bedroom. I thought his eyes would pop out of their sockets when he saw the firecrackers on my dresser. Immediately he wanted to buy them. I had paid a nickel each for the packs of twenty and a quarter a piece for the packs of one hundred. My spirit of entrepreneurship slipped into high gear when I saw the eagerness in his face. The last time I saw that look on his face we were getting a haircut down at Jack’s Barber Shop and he was looking at one of those girly magazines with the center folds in them. I told my friend that the packs of twenty would cost him a dollar each and the packs of a hundred were five dollars each. He could hardly contain himself and stopped drooling just long enough to say he’d be right back. If I had only known, I could have placed a much higher price on the firecrackers and my friend would have gladly paid whatever price I would have set. As I stood there in my room awaiting my friend’s return, I believe I might have heard my friend’s piggy bank breaking three houses away, but then I‘m not sure. The wait wasn’t long and soon he ran breathlessly back into my room holding out a fist full of dollars. I carefully counted out sixteen dollars and relinquished the firecrackers into his possession. I was pretty proud of myself and began to think of what I could buy with my new found riches. That’s when the idea hit me…………… I would save this money, and I would save even more before our next trip to Texas. Then I would buy all the firecrackers I could afford and re-sell them back in California. And that’s exactly what I did. I put the money away and whenever I had a spare dollar I would put it into my savings. By the time the following summer rolled around I had forty three dollars saved up and could hardly wait until we got to Texas. Of course I always enjoyed visiting with our relatives and playing with my cousins, but I had big plans to carry out. After arriving in Texas I immediately sought out the closest fireworks stand and made my purchases. I bought twenty dollars worth of the packs of one hundred firecrackers, twenty dollars worth of the packs of twenty firecrackers and three dollars worth of cherry bombs. Cherry bombs came five to a pack and cost ten cents a pack. I didn’t realize just how big a pile of fireworks I had until they were stacked up in front of me on the counter. The man behind the counter agreed to hold them for me until I could return with my cousin’s Radio Flyer. It only took a few minutes and I was back at the fireworks stand with my cousin’s wagon. I loaded my purchases and headed back to my cousin’s house. I stashed my firecrackers in the wood shed outback, knowing that at this time of the year no one would be needing any firewood. Then I realized I had a big problem. How was I going to get all of those firecrackers back to California? I couldn’t tell my folks about the firecrackers, they would never allow me to transport those firecrackers back to California. They didn’t mind me having a few and playing with them but they would never go for this many. So I began stashing them a few packs at a time into every cubby hole I could find in the family car. I put them, under the dash, under the front seat, under the back seat, under the mat in the trunk, under the spare tire, and in every place I could find to conceal the firecrackers. Plus I had as many as I could get into my suitcase and still have room for my clothes. Finally I had managed to conceal all of my firecrackers with no one being the wiser. I was sure that if for some unknown reason there was a spark or open flame in that car that it would have exploded and left a crater twenty feet across and five feet deep, I was sure glad that no one in the family smoked.


As we were driving back to California we had stopped to get breakfast and then we all piled back into our car to continue our journey. I was already sitting in the back seat when my Dad got into the car. As he shut the door he sniffed at the interior of the car and said, “I smell saltpeter.” I had no idea what saltpeter was so I paid it no mind. Then a little ways down the road he again said, “I still smell saltpeter.” I was beginning to form the question when my brother beat me to it, “What’s saltpeter?”, he asked. Dad explained that it was an ingredient in gunpowder. I immediately began choking on my own guilt and started a coughing spell. “What’s the matter with you, are you gonna be okay?”, my Dad asked. “Yeah, Yeah”, I finally managed to squeak out, “Something just went down the wrong way.” Fortunately it was hot and we had no air conditioning in that car so we drove with the windows down and if my father detected the odor of saltpeter again he never mentioned it. All was going well as we crossed the border into California and at one point we began to slow down. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Nothing, just the inspection station.”, my dad answered. ‘Oh mercy me!’ I thought. I had forgotten all about the inspection stations in California. Of course, now I realize that it was just an agriculture inspection station to prevent the transport of pest infected fruits and vegetables from entering the state, but then, to me, it was like a border crossing between East and West Germany. As we poked along in a long line of cars drawing closer and closer to the inspection station, my stomach began to feel queasy, my mouth began to salivate, my heart was beating wildly and my knees were knocking together so hard I was sure the inspector would hear all the racket I was making. I looked out of the window and saw a car up ahead with it’s trunk up and an inspector was moving things about inside of the trunk. I saw myself sitting inside of a jail cell and wondering how long I would have to serve in prison for smuggling contraband into the state. We moved ahead slowly, getting closer to it being our turn, I leaned forward and rested my chin on the back of the front seat. I’m sure my eyes were as big as saucers as our turn finally came. My Dad had smelled the saltpeter and I was sure the inspector had been especially trained to detect the odor of gunpowder. The inspector leaned down and looked into the car, looking at each person in the car. When his eyes met mine, I was sure he was going to tell us to get out of the car and line up against the wall. The inspector asked, “Anything to declare?” My Dad said, “Only that it’s hot.” The inspector just smiled and waved us through. My Dad accelerated away from the inspection station and as we picked up speed I kept looking back over my shoulder to make sure that a police car was not following us to pull us over. The further away from the inspection station we got the better I began to feel. After we had gone about ten miles I decided that I had successfully pulled it off and breathed a big sigh of relief.


After arriving back at our home, I had to wait until the other family members were occupied with other things before I could start unloading the firecrackers from the car. Eventually I was able to get all of the firecrackers out of the car and concealed them in the attic of our garage. On the next day I made my first sale to my neighbor, he bought fifteen dollars worth of firecrackers. I told him to spread the word that I had firecrackers for sale. I was selling the one hundred packs for five dollars each, the twenty packs for a dollar and the five packs of cherry bombs for a dollar each. It took exactly two weeks to sell all the firecrackers that I had brought back with me. When I counted my money I could hardly believe my eyes, I had $830.00. I was rich, I was more than rich I was wealthy. There were times that I would lock myself in my room and spread all of that money out on my bed and dive into it, roll around in it, throw it up into the air and let if fall back down on me. It was during one of these sessions that my brother walked in on me, I had apparently forgotten to lock the door. My brother was sure that I had robbed a bank and he wasted no time in ratting me off to my folks. Of course I had to come clean and explain exactly how I had come into so much money and why Dad had smelled saltpeter on the trip back to California. My Dad told me that what I had done was illegal and that I might have to pay the consequences for my actions. He asked me what would happen if one of my customers had gotten hurt by the use of the firecrackers, or had been arrested for possession of firecrackers? He asked how long I thought that it would take for the police to be knocking on my door wanting to know where those firecrackers had come from. Now, I didn’t feel so wealthy any more, I felt sick again and saw the inside of that jail cell again and wondered how long I would have to serve in jail. For the longest time I kept expecting the cops to surround my house and call me out with bull horns. Once two well dressed men came to my door, ‘Oh no!’, I thought, ’It’s Sgt. Joe Friday and Frank Smith from Dragnet, They’re here to take me away!’ I never thought that I would say that I was glad when Jehovah Witnesses came knocking on my door, but that day I was. Needless to say, I was out of the firecracker business. My Dad confiscated my riches and put it into a bank account in my name. He didn’t tell me at the time what he had done with the money and I knew better than to ask, I just wrote it off and was glad that I wasn’t serving hard time in Alcatraz. On my wedding day he handed me a bank pass book explaining what he had done with my firecracker money. I was astounded to see that it had accumulated interest over the years and I had a little over $1400 as a nest egg to start off married life. Who says crime doesn’t pay?



*****


(28)





SNAKE BITE



By

Mike Boudreaux



I woke up and thought to myself, ‘I’ll just lie here a few minutes before I get up and get dressed for work.’ As I lay there, with my eyes still closed, I heard strange noises and wondered what my wife was doing. Then suddenly there was a voice over an intercom, “Paging Doctor Logan, paging Doctor Logan, please call the operator.” I sat straight up in bed and found that I had tubes running into my left arm, my right arm was swollen three times it’s normal size and was bandaged from the shoulder to the finger tips. That’s when I remembered, I had been bitten by a rattle snake. I was still looking around the room and trying to set things straight in my mind when a nurse walked into my room, “Well,” she said, “I see you are awake, would you like to have your dinner?” ‘Dinner?’, I thought, ‘I haven’t even had breakfast yet.’ “What time is it?” I asked. “It’s almost 7:30 PM, but there is still time to get you some dinner if you want it. And maybe a razor too, you’re looking a bit scraggly, to say the least.” I reached up and felt my face, I had what felt like a four or five day growth. I thought to myself, ‘I shaved just this morning’, and then things began to start flooding back into my mind.


It was a mid summer morning in 1981, I had just finished shaving and walked into the kitchen where breakfast was being put on the table. I sat down and began eating when my oldest son, Michael, asked, “When are we going tracking?” I had promised my son that I would teach him how to man track. At the time I was the resident deputy sheriff in a rural mountain community in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I had been trained how to man track years earlier by expert trackers from the U.S. Border Patrol. Over the years I had used and perfected my tracking skills in many search and rescue operations. Michael, who was 12 years old, had expressed an interest in learning how to track, so I promised him I would take him out and teach him to track.


As soon we had finished breakfast, my two sons, Christopher, age 8, Michael and I headed out the back door and across a meadow to an area I planned on using to teach Michael how to track. Once we arrived on the other side of the meadow I instructed Christopher to take a hike in the woods, to walk for about half an hour, using any path he chose, and then sit down and wait for Michael and I to find him. After Christopher had been gone for about ten minutes, Michael and I started following the signs he had left behind. I began to point out to Michael what to look for, showing him how blades of grass had been bent over and bruised, how leaves had been stripped from over head branches and lay on the ground a few paces ahead, something 8 year old boys had a tendency to do. I showed him how to look for flat spots made by the sole of a shoe in sandy soil, how to look for over turned pebbles, dislodged or pushed aside by someone walking along. Any half blind 80 year old grandmother could track someone walking along a sandy beach or through a plowed field, but what about over rocky terrain, through a pine needle covered forest floor, or over sun baked soil so hard a Sherman tank would not leave any sign? These are the things I was teaching Michael as we tracked his younger brother through the woods.


After tracking Christopher for about three quarters of an hour we came to a dirt embankment which he had obviously climbed up and over. The signs were unmistakable, scrape marks where his feet had lost traction and slipped down the steep slope, dislodged rocks and freshly exposed soil which had not yet become dried out by the sun. The embankment was about 7 ½ to 8 feet tall. I placed my left foot into a small crevice about 2 ½ feet up on the embankment, grabbed a rock out cropping with my left hand, at about head height, and gave a little jump, reaching for the top of the embankment with my right hand. As my right hand came down on the top of the embankment my fingers found what at first I thought to be a fallen branch, but just then, the “branch” moved under my fingers and I felt a sharp prick at the base of my right thumb and heard the unmistakable sound of a buzzing rattle snake. Instantly I knew what had happened. What a stupid move, I cursed myself for putting my hand into an area I could not see, but it was too late to be critical, I had more urgent things to take care of. I pushed myself away from the embankment and ended up sitting on my backside at the base of the embankment. I quickly examined my right hand and found a single puncture wound at the base of my right thumb which was oozing a small drop of blood. I placed the wound into my mouth and sucked hard, spitting out a small amount of blood. Using my pocket knife I made a single small incision about an 1/8th of an inch deep and a ½ inch long, over the puncture wound, being careful to make the incision running in the same direction as the muscle and not across the muscle. After the incision was made, I again placed my mouth on the wound and sucked hard, spitting out any substance drawn out. In between sucking and spitting, I instructed Michael to call for his brother as we needed to get back to the house as quickly as we could. Michael then called for his brother and as we had been tracking him for almost an hour, I was not too surprised that he answered from close by. Once we were joined by Christopher, I instructed Michael to get back to our house as quickly as he could and advise his mother of the situation and have her meet us with the car at a location at the end of the meadow, which was the closest place a car could get to our position. Fortunately, Christopher had selected a route which was a large semi-circle, ending up near where we had begun. By cutting across country it saved us considerable time. I then began my trek towards the designated meeting place at the end of the meadow. I had to force myself not to run, but to walk at a good steady pace. I was close to panicking but knew I had to stay focused on the task at hand. If I ran my heart would pump blood much faster, which would mean that the poison would spread more rapidly through my system. As I walked along I felt my lips go numb, I don’t know if this was caused by any venom I might have sucked out of the wound or some reaction brought on internally by the venom. I saw our car pull up to the gate at the end of the meadow and forced myself to walk to the waiting car. As I got into the car I could see the worried look on my wife’s face and instructed her to head for the house. On the way back to our house I felt the first real pain in my hand, it felt like my hand was being squeezed in a vice. Before my wife had left the house she had the good sense to call the local fire station and advise of the situation, and also had called for an ambulance. When the fire department arrived, the fire captain, who was a close friend, placed a rubber suction cup over the bite and advised that there was nothing further they could do for the snake bite, however he volunteered to drive me to meet with the approaching ambulance. It was forty two miles to the closest hospital and by meeting the ambulance it would considerably cut down the time it would take to get to the hospital. It felt strange to climb into my patrol car as a passenger which was being driven by the fire captain. As we headed towards town I radioed the dispatcher and advised of the situation. Within just a few minutes my sergeant came on the radio and authorized a code three run, which meant that we could use red lights and siren to clear traffic. As we were headed down the mountain it felt as if the vice clamped around my hand was increasingly being tightened and the pain was beginning to move up my arm. As the pain moved up my arm so did the swelling. Now instead of my hand hurting, my hand, wrist and forearm were hurting. It was not just a little hurt, but an ever increasing, excruciating pain. Once I would get used to the pain, it would increase to an even more intense, agonizing pain. Time seemed to be almost at a standstill and even though we were racing down the mountain at top speed it seemed that we were just crawling along at a snail’s pace. As time passed I noted that the pain and swelling were moving slowly up my arm, by the time we met with the ambulance the pain and swelling was above my elbow. We met with the ambulance about 15 miles from the hospital where I was transferred from my patrol car to the ambulance. Several of the deputies in the area had over heard the radio transmissions and were now running interference for the ambulance as it passed through controlled intersections. They would pull into an intersection and block all traffic allowing the ambulance to roll trough unhindered and then they would rush ahead to the next intersection where the procedure was repeated. I remember arriving at the hospital and being rushed into the emergency room where I was placed on a gurney. Doctors and nurses hovered over me, doing whatever it is that doctors and nurses do in situations of this kind. I remember looking at my watch right after being bitten by the snake, it was 9:20 AM, as they removed my watch in the emergency room it was 10:35 AM. I remember thinking, an hour and fifteen minutes from bite to hospitalization, that seemed like good time, and I was hoping it was enough. The pain in my hand and arm were now unbearable and they administered some type of pain medication intravenously. That was the last thing I remembered until waking up in my hospital room and the nurse asking if I wanted dinner. “I really don’t have much of an appetite.” I told the nurse. “Well, you’ve been fed intravenously for three days, but I thought you might want something solid. How about some ice cream?”, she asked. “Three days?” “What day is this?”, I asked. “It’s Tuesday.” she replied. ’Tuesday!’, I thought to myself. I mentally counted the days. I had taken Michael out to teach him tracking on Friday morning and it was now Tuesday evening. I had lost four days, but apparently had not lost my life. “How am I doing?” I asked the nurse. “You’re doing just fine, but you’ll be here for a few more days. The doctor will see you in the morning and he can fill you in.”


Later that evening my wife and two children came for a visit and advised that the doctors had operated on my hand to remove necrotic tissue and to help reduce the swelling. Apparently snake venom has two functions, it is highly toxic, killing the animal it bites and it begins the digestive process from the inside out. The venom had began to digest some of my tissue which the doctors had removed and it had also destroyed the cartilage between the bones at the base of the thumb. Some months later I would have another operation to fuse these bones together to prevent the bone ends from rubbing together. My wife advised that they had administered anti-venom and it had been touch and go for the first two days but that during the third day I began to rally and kept making improvement. I spent four more days in the hospital and was then released to go home. The swelling in my arm had all but gone completely away, however, there was still some slight swelling in my hand which took another week to completely diminish. I was off work for a total of five months. I recovered about 97% of the use of my right hand. The only disability is the second knuckle of my right thumb no longer bends. It does not effect my grip and I think that it actually has made my grip stronger. I have three surgical scars on my right hand, which are not pretty but then again I would not call them hideous either. The scars have created curiosity among others and have opened many a conversation, giving me an opportunity to relate this story over and over again. It does not bother me to tell this story and I gladly relate it, thinking possibly it will prevent someone from making the same silly mistake that I did.


One last thought: On discharge from the hospital I had one doctor tell me that because of the amount of anti-venom they had used, I was now immune to snake venom. I had another doctor tell me that I had better be very careful as I was now very susceptible to snake venom and should not even get down wind of one. Believe me, I don’t plan on testing either one of those theories.



*****



(29)





FIRST DANCE



By

Mike Boudreaux



I stood over in the far corner of the gym, back in the shadows away from the band. I tried my best to be inconspicuous as I surveyed the girls who were standing on the opposite side of the gym. There were several couples out on the basketball court, or I should say dance floor. I watched the way they moved, and paid very close attention as to how they moved their feet and would try to imitate their movements without anyone noticing. I was sixteen years old and a sophomore in high school. I had been to several of the school dances, but I had not danced with anyone, unless you want to count the broom in my kitchen at home.


It’s not that dancing was against my religion or that I didn’t want to dance, but it was because I was scared to death. I was shy, not excessively shy but shy enough not to have the courage to walk up and ask a girl to dance. I had no idea as to how to move my feet or what to do with my hands. The thought of dancing was pleasurable, but actually doing it was a little unnerving. Did I say a “little”? I meant to say “very” unnerving. The slow songs were scary and the fast songs were absolutely terrifying. I don’t know which scared me the most, actually dancing or crossing over to the girls side of the gym and asking one of the girls to dance. The thought of being rejected had a definite bearing on my decision to dance or not. What if I finally managed to get the courage to ask one of the girls to dance and she turned me down? It would take months to get over being rejected, that is, if I ever recovered at all. I had to make sure that the girl I asked to dance would be receptive to my invitation. I looked over the girls who were standing on the opposite side of the gym. There were the obvious wall flowers who, I was sure, would jump at any opportunity to dance, but I also knew that if my buddies saw me dancing with one of these, that they would make fun of me. My buddies could be unmerciful when it came to teasing a fellow student and would take immense pleasure in verbally tearing me to pieces. They could easily set my social life back months if not years. No, I could not ask one of the wall flowers. The decision to actually dance is a difficult one for a young boy, but an even more difficult decision is which girl to ask. There were several requirements that needed to be fulfilled. My dance partner would have to be acceptable by my buddies, I would have to be pretty sure she would accept my invitation and most importantly she would have to be a potential life time partner. After all, why would anyone want to waste his time dancing with someone who was not a potential mate for life?


Okay, so there I was standing there staring at the group of girls standing on the other side of the gym. It was easy to make my decision as to which girl to ask, she stood out like a rose in a bouquet of dandelions. Her name was Sharon, she was in my English class, she was pretty, she had big brown eyes and shoulder length light brown hair and we were not exactly strangers, we had already had lunch together. Of course it was entirely by accident that we shared lunch that day. The cafeteria was crowded on that particular day and the only seat available was directly across from me. I had decided that I had all of the tamale pie I could stomach and was toying with the idea of having a bite or two of the lime Jell-O on a lettuce leaf, when Sharon set her tray down across the table from me. Just an instant before, I had decided that I couldn’t eat another bite, but now I suddenly developed an appetite. We had a casual conversation, mostly about the weather and the English class we shared. And then suddenly with empty trays, the bell rang, signaling there was ten minutes until next class. She definitely fit all the requirements. She was not a wall flower, my buddies would not tease me if they saw me dancing with her, I was not certain, but felt almost confident that she would accept my invitation to dance and she was definitely life time partner material.

I alternated my attention from watching the couples dancing to watching Sharon. Once, I thought that she had also been watching me, but then maybe it was just my imagination. When our eyes met, I hastily looked away as if I was examining the shine on my shoes and when I looked back, she started examining the polish on her nails.


For a whole week I had been battling with myself and, as the day of the dance rolled around, I had made up my mind that this was going to be the day; Today was the day I would ask for a dance. I waited rather impatiently for my opportunity. I decided that I would wait for a slow dance and then I would walk across the room and ask Sharon to dance. When the band had played the last slow dance I had told my feet to move, but they just stayed there as if they were nailed to the floor and by the time I managed to get my feet to work, the song was over. The dance had started at 8:00 PM and would be over at 10:00, it was now 9:15. I knew I had to make my move soon, after all, how many more slow dances were there left? The band was playing “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets, the couples were a jumping and a jiving and my stomach was doing the same. I knew that the next song would be a slow song and that I would either have to take that long walk across the dance floor or take an even longer walk out the front door of the gym. The music ended and the couples slowly vacated the dance floor. There was usually about a minute between dances as the members of the band decided between themselves what the next song would be. I was almost wishing that there would be another fast song, that would give me a few more minutes to bolster my courage. I saw the band members agree upon the next song and get ready to start playing. I could feel beads of sweat break out on my forehead. I hastily wiped them away with my handkerchief as I stole another look at Sharon, she was facing me with her arms wrapped around her slender waist. This time it was not my imagination, she was definitely looking in my direction, as our eyes met she dropped her arms to her sides with her palms turned out toward me and I thought that I detected a modest smile grace her face. My heart jumped up into my throat, my breathing became rapid and my stomach was doing flip flops. Then the first few notes of “To Know Him Is To Love Him” by the Teddy Bears filled the room. It seemed as though the lights in the gym had dimmed and a pale spotlight was shining down on Sharon. I told my feet to move and to my surprise they did. I found myself walking across “no mans land” headed straight for Sharon who was standing facing me instead of facing the band like the rest of the girls in the group. My legs felt like rubber and I thought that at any moment they would give out and I would find myself sprawled out on the floor. Somehow I managed to cross the dance floor and was standing in front of Sharon. I did not know if any words would come out, but knew what I wanted to say, so I opened my mouth, moved my lips and I heard myself saying,


“Uh…, will you a…… would you a…… would you … like to a”


“Dance?”, she asked as her head slightly tilted and she looked at me with those big brown questioning eyes.


“Yes, would you like to dance?”


“I’d love to.”


She said yes! She said yes! I wanted to give a triumphant Tarzan yell, but somehow I managed to keep my composure. I took her left hand into my right and led her out on the dance floor. I had previously selected the spot where we would dance. It was not too close to the band and was on the opposite side of the room from my buddies, so that if they did see us on the dance floor, they would not be able to get a real good view. Somehow, I managed to get through the dance without tripping over my own feet or falling down. If we talked during the dance, I don’t remember what either of us said, I was most likely concentrating on how to move my feet. And, if I have to say so myself, I did a pretty good job of dancing; at least I did not step on her toes, probably due to all the practice I had with the broom in my kitchen.


I would like to tell you that near the end of the dance, that the rest of the dancers moved back, giving us plenty of room to strut our stuff, and to be able to see how well Sharon and I danced together. I would also like to tell you that we went on to dance many dances together and eventually won the local and then moved on to win the state ballroom dancing contest. And I would like to also tell you that Sharon made a wonderful life time partner and that we married and had four children, who by the way, have also turned out to be great dancers. I would like to tell you all of these things, but they never happened.


I did dance with Sharon one more time that night and I did date her on a couple of occasions during high school. But things just did not click for us and we went our separate ways. However, every time I hear the song, “To Know Him Is To Love Him”, I think fondly of that first dance and of my first dance partner.



*****


(30)



BANG


By

Mike Boudreaux



I was a twenty five year old raw recruit and had been employed as a deputy with the Sheriff’s Office for six months. I had yet to go to the academy, and was assigned to such duties as desk officer, booking officer and jailer. After six months probation we were allowed to ride along with seasoned officers to learn the ropes. After a year, if we successfully passed our probationary period, they would send us to the academy to become full fledged patrol officers. As soon as I had six months on the job, I put in for the ride along program and was assigned to ride along with Senior Deputy Don Stockman. Don was a huge jovial man who had twenty three years experience as a field officer. He was a bit over weight but tough as nails and meaner than a junk yard dog when crossed. He loved telling stories and especially funny stories and jokes. I was assigned to the night shift and worked from 12 midnight until 8:00 AM. Don worked the day shift, 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM. The ride along program was completely voluntary and we had to put in the ride along hours on our own time. When I got off at 8:00 AM I would put in four hours with Don and then go home and get some sleep in preparation for my regular duty hours. I had ridden with Don about eight or nine times and we had become good friends.


On this particular day I climbed in the passenger seat and waited for Don to load his gear into the trunk of the patrol car. As Don slid in behind the wheel he said, “This is not going to be a very exciting shift today, I’ve been assigned to stakeout duty and I’m afraid it will be pretty boring for you. If you would rather ride with one of the other deputies who will be working patrol, I can arrange it.” After giving it some thought, I responded, “No, being on stakeout is part of the job and I’m here to learn, so let’s go.” As we drove out into farming country Don explained that an unknown suspect or suspects had been using a high powered rifle to shoot at field workers while they were working in the fields. So far no one had been hit but there had been some pretty close calls. Don told me that it had all started about three weeks ago with just one or two incidents a week but that they had escalated and now there were four or five incidents a day. When I said that I had not heard about the shooting incidents Don told me that it was all very hush hush as they didn’t want the public to get a vigilante attitude and be running around with their guns trying to shoot or capture the sniper suspect. Don advised that we would probably be sitting around waiting and most likely there would be nothing happening and I could sleep if I wanted. ‘Was he kidding?’, I thought to myself, ‘This was exciting stuff, how could he even think I could sleep with some crazed gunman out there shooting at people and we had a chance to catch him.’ Don told me to check my pistol to make sure it was loaded and that if there were any shooting to make sure of my target before I pulled the trigger and, if at all possible, I was to clear it with him before shooting at anyone. By the time we arrived at the place Don had selected for the stakeout I was pretty pumped up. Don pulled off of the main road and drove along a corn field and then backed up and parked next to a large irrigation stand pipe. Don shut off the engine and we sat there in silence for a long time. “What’s that?” Don asked in a hushed whisper. “What? What?”, I responded . Don just put his index finger to his lips and uttered, “Shhhhhh!” He cocked his head to one side and listened. I too listened as hard as I could. It was very quiet. Then Don said, “I guess it was nothing, I thought I heard something.” He then eased back into his seat and leaned his head back on the head rest. After a few seconds he bolted straight up in his seat and said, “There it is again!” “What? What?”, I sputtered. Again Don just put his finger to his lips and said, “Shhhhhhh!” We both listened intently to every sound, but all I could hear was a rustling of the wind through the corn stalks and the sound of birds chirping. Then “BANG”, the unmistakable sound of a shot and it was just a few feet away coming from right behind the car. I threw the car door open, jerked my pistol from it’s holster and dove for the cover of the front fender. I was crouched down on one knee, pistol drawn and at the ready as I peered up over the hood of the car. I looked all around, trying to see where the shot had come from. I glanced over at Don who was still sitting in the front seat behind the steering wheel. The look on his face confused me, I couldn’t tell if it was a grimace of pain or .... could that be a smile? Don’s door flew open and he stood up holding his over sized belly, I was sure he had been hit. ‘Oh My Gosh’, I thought, ‘a gut wound! This was terrible! What do I do now?’ Don took a few paces and fell to the ground and began to roll around, loud guffaws of laughter exploded from him. I peered over the hood of the car at Don, he was sitting on the ground with his legs stretched out in front of him, holding his belly with one hand while pointing at me with the other and laughing so hard he could not catch his breath. Finally he said, “You should see your face!” Again, uncontrolled guffaws of laughter spewed forth from lips. Unable to form words he continued to point at me while his belly bounced up and down under his hand. Finally, after several minutes, he was able to choke back his laughter and get to his feet. I had replaced my pistol into it’s holster and stood there with my hands on my hips watching Don’s antics with stunned perplexity. And then, “BANG”, and I again dove for cover behind the front fender and Don began laughing all over again. He staggered to the patrol car and fell across the hood all the while loud guffaws of laughter erupted from deep within his being. Finally, he again was able to stifle his laughter and stood up. He motioned for me to come to him and when I got close enough, he reached out and put his arm around my shoulder. He gave me a little tug and said, “Come on, I want to show you something.” I was a bit reluctant, but another tug from that big bear of a man convinced me to accompany him as he walked towards the rear of the patrol car. Just at the back of the patrol car was a large concrete irrigation standpipe. On the back side of the standpipe was a metal tower about eight feet tall with some type of mechanical device on top of the tower. Don explained that this was a propane cannon. The device was used by the farmers to scare away crows and other pests from their corn field. The device was on a timer, set to start at 8:30 AM and then fire a blast every five minutes in order to scare away the crows. Don had been on patrol in the area several days prior and heard what he thought was a shot and upon investigation he found the propane cannon. While checking it out the farmer had come by and explained how it worked. The device would very slowly dispense propane into a firing chamber and then every five minutes a striker would ignite the collected gas and produce a loud blast. Don could not wait until he had an opportunity to pull this trick on me. He had set me up perfectly, I had fallen for his prank, hook line and sinker. For rest of the morning, every time I looked over at Don he had a silly grin on his face and occasionally he would look over at me and break out in laughter all over again. If that had been the end of it, it would have ended well, but the next morning, when I walked into the squad room, I saw him sitting at one of the report writing desks talking to some of the other deputies and suddenly he jumped up, reached down for his holster and came up with his finger extended and his thumb cocked back simulating a pistol. Don then spun around and crouched down by the desk with this wild crazy look on his face and the other deputies would laugh. I think that is when the scheme was hatched to play a prank on him in return, and to borrow a line, that’s a whole ‘nother story for ’nother time.



*****



(31)





SWEET REVENGE


(A sequel to BANG)



By

Mike Boudreaux



I was a rookie and had been the victim of a practical joke played on me by veteran officer, Don Stockman. I was determined to get even with Don for the prank. For several weeks I thought about just what kind of prank I could pull on Don. The problem being, that not only was he an experienced officer, he also had pulled every practical joke in the book and was wise to any attempted pranks. Every time I thought that I had the perfect joke to play on Don, I would find fault in it, reject the idea and search for another. This went on for several weeks until I hit on the perfect prank. It took some planning and some initial set up, but everything worked out perfectly.


First let me explain that there were several patrol beat areas in the section of the county where we were assigned and each beat area has a particular patrol car assigned to that beat. Whoever worked that beat drove the beat car assigned to that particular area. When an officer working a particular beat comes in at the end of his shift, the last thing he does is fill the car with gas and clean it, inside and out. Then when the next officer comes on duty all he has to do is get in and drive off in a clean car with a tank full of gas. Don worked a beat called the rover beat, which was assigned to the more seasoned experienced officers. The rover beat was an extra beat car which would take up the slack if the calls for service got too heavy in one of the other beat areas. If a beat area was being saturated with calls, then the rover beat officer would move over into that beat area and help to handle calls until things returned to normal. Sometimes Don would work a whole shift without having to answer a call. And sometimes he would respond to calls in several different beats during a shift. As the rover beat was an extra beat, any time there was not a full compliment of officers to fill all of the beats then the rover beat officer would fill that beat and there would be no rover beat for that shift. When the rover officer filled a beat he would drive the car assigned to that beat area and the rover beat car would remain in the parking lot.


I would have to wait for a time that the rover officer on the midnight to 8:00 AM shift had to fill in on one of the other beats and at the same time Deputy Stockman was scheduled to work his regular 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM shift as the rover beat officer on the following day. As I worked the night shift from 12:00 midnight until 8:00 AM, that would allow me my entire shift to “set up” Don’s assigned car, so it would be ready for him when he started his shift. I watched the schedule very closely and had all but one of the of the necessary props stashed in my locker, ready and waiting for the just the right time for me to be able to set Don up for the prank. One of the items, I bought on my way to work on the day I “set up” Don’s car.


Finally the day arrived, one of the regular patrol deputies had requested some extra time off for a family emergency, the deputy assigned to the rover beat was then assigned to fill in on his beat, that left the rover beat car parked at the station from midnight until 8:00 AM. Don was scheduled to start his shift on the rover beat at 8:00 AM the next day. Around 1:00 AM I found the time to sneak out into the parking lot where the rover beat car was parked. Well, I really didn’t have to sneak, as it was part of my duty assignment to check the parking area on a regular basis. Checking the parking lot normally took only a few minutes, however, on this particular morning I had a few extra items with me as I made my rounds. I had previously measured and constructed two heavy duty wooden blocks with a “V” notch cut into the top of each block. I then jacked up the rear end of the rover beat car and placed a block under the rear axle just inside of each rear tire and lowered the car back down onto the blocks. The rear axle fit into the “V” notch and it kept the wheels about 1/16th of an inch off of the ground. To stand back and look at the car it would appear normal and not to be up on blocks. When I went out to make a patrol check of the parking lot I had taken the keys to the rover beat car with me. I unlocked the vehicle and slipped into the drivers seat. I started the engine and slipped it into gear, the rear wheels just spun and the car did not move. I slipped it into reverse and then back into drive and the car just sat there on the blocks with its wheels spinning and going nowhere. On this particular model car the cigarette lighter did not work unless the ignition was on. Which worked out great for the next stage of my plan. I had a string of 100 firecrackers, I put the end of the fuse into the cigarette lighter receiver and then pushed the lighter in on top of the fuse so the fuse rested against the heating element. When the ignition was turned on the cigarette lighter would heat up and ignite the fuse on the string of firecrackers. The patrol cars were equipped with a small clip board mounted to the dash. The clip board on the rover beat car was mounted in such a position that it concealed the string of fire crackers. Next I unlatched the hood and laid five pounds of limburger cheese on the block of the engine. All was in readiness.


At 8:00 AM Don walked out of the rear of the station house and began loading his gear into the trunk of the rover beat car. I sat in my personal car and waited until he slid in behind the wheel and then I pulled right up next to the driver’s side of Don’s car. I made sure that I was as close as I could get without scraping the sides of the cars. I rolled down the passenger side window and said, “Hey Don, I have to drop my car off at the dealership for service. Will you follow me over and give me a ride home?” “Sure thing.”, he said as he started his engine. I just looked at him and waited with a big grin on my face. Don looked over at me with a puzzled look on his face obviously trying to figure out why I was just sitting there wearing that big silly grin. And then, “Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop“, and the interior of the car began to fill with smoke. At the first “Pop” Don jumped up off of his seat at least six inches and tried to open his door to exit the car, but it just opened a few inches before banging up against my car. Due to his bulk Don could not crawl out the window and the bucket seats, radios, shotgun and other police equipment installed in the patrol car prevented him from sliding over to the other door. The wire cage separating the rear passenger area from the front prevented Don from making his escape by hopping into the back seat. Don looked over at me and knew he had been set up. He jerked the car into reverse and gunned the engine, but the wheels just spun and the car did not move. He switched back and forth between drive and reverse, however, his efforts were futile, the patrol car just sat there spinning its wheels. All the while the firecrackers continued to go off inside of the car, which was now so full of smoke that the smoke was barreling out of the windows. I just looked over at Don with the biggest grin I could muster and watched him try to fan the smoke out of his car. Finally the last firecracker popped and all was silent. Don was covered in small bits of paper debris from the exploded firecrackers and he was puffed up like an over stuffed toad. I put my car in reverse and backed away so Don could open the door to his car and step out. As soon as I had backed up enough for Don to open his door, he flung the door open, stepped out of the patrol car and began to brush away the bits of exploded firecracker paper which covered him from head to toe. There were several other deputies in the parking lot who had witnessed the entire incident, they were pointing at Don, laughing loudly and harassing him with snide remarks; “Hey Don, you got a light?”...”Hey Don, I thought you quit smoking!”....“Hey Don, you got a little dandruff problem there.“ I was not about to exit my car until I knew how Don had received the joke. At first I thought he might have been upset enough to have taken it out on me physically, right there on the spot, but that soon passed and I saw a big smile come across his face as he looked at me, shook his finger and said, “One of these days, Little Buddy, one of these days!” Then, he too, began to laugh and I knew I was safe, well, at least for the moment. Feeling a bit sorry for Don, I helped him to jack up his patrol car and remove the wooden blocks. I had gained some respect from the big man and I had also gained a reputation with the other deputies as being one not to mess with. As I said, I felt sorry for Don and I almost told him of the limburger cheese on the manifold of his patrol car, but then I thought, ’Nah, he’ll find it soon enough....’    Revenge is so sweet.



*****



(32)




Shots Fired



By

Mike Boudreaux



It was mid-afternoon on a Saturday when I arrived at the Fountain Springs Resort. The title “Resort” did not quite fit this place. What it is, is a bar and grill with a dance floor, which is located at a rural intersection in a cattle ranching area. The building looked as if it were taken right out the old west. It had a false front, board walk, watering trough, hitching rail and frontier style swinging doors. As I pulled up to the building, I noticed that there were about six or seven cars in the parking lot. Generally there was a dance with a live band held on Saturday nights. It appeared as if there were several who were getting an early start for the evening. I decided to make a bar check and parked my patrol car at the front of the building. 


A bar check would accomplish several things, it would let me know who the patrons were and how far they had progressed towards a good time and it would let the patrons know that there was law enforcement in the area. If there were any rowdiness in mind, a bar check would usually put a damper on things and make my job a lot easier later on in the evening. 


As I entered the bar I recognized several of the patrons as being local area ranchers and ranch hands. They were gathered at one end of the bar, drinking beer and telling jokes. I ordered a cup of coffee and listened to the jokes for a while. It wasn’t long before I joined the group and we all started telling "Polack jokes." Each anxiously awaiting their turn to try to top the last joke told. We were all having a good time laughing and telling the Polack jokes. Just then a patron who had been sitting quietly at the far end of the bar stood up and approached the group of joke tellers. At first I thought that he was going to join in and tell a joke, but I soon found out just how wrong I was. When the stranger approached he cleared his throat and spoke with a heavy foreign accent as he said, “Excuse me, my name is Olav Bendowski and I happen to be Polish.” He gestured with his hand as he said, “I have been sitting down there, listening to you gentlemen make fun and slander my people. It would appreciated if you would not tell these little stories, as they are offensive to me.” Having said this he did not wait for a reply, turned and returned to his seat at the other end of the bar. We all just looked at each other not knowing exactly what to do or say. Just prior to the man making his little speech, I had been just about to tell another Polack joke, and now, holding it in was just about to make me burst. Finally, I thought, ‘What the heck, this is a really funny joke and I’m going to tell it.’ I then related my story and the locals all responded with hilarious laughter. I didn’t know if they were actually laughing at the joke or if they were in their own way telling the stranger, ‘Hey bub we’re having fun here, you can just butt out and stay out of our business.’ Just then the man slammed both hands palm down on top of the bar resounding in a loud bang. We all turned our attention to the man as he stood up and once again approached our group. He walked right up to me, and using his index finger, prodded me in the chest as he said, “What’s your name Mister Lawman?” I was in full uniform, gun, badge and name tag, so I pointed to my name tag and said, “Boudreaux.” The man then replied, “Okay, Mister Boudreaux, I warned you, now you will pay for this insult.” He punctuated his statement by turning on his heel and quickly striding out of the front door in a huff. We all looked at each other in silence and I wondered what was going to happen next. After a short wait, and the man not returning, I decided to check outside. I walked out of the front door and looked around. There was no one in sight. I checked my patrol car, thinking the man might have taken some kind of revenge on the vehicle. The patrol car was undamaged and all appeared secure. I then turned and walked down the boardwalk to the west end of the building and looked around the corner. Finding no one there, I turned and started to walk to the east end of the building. As I turned I saw the Polish man come around the corner at the east end of the building and step up onto the board walk. I took a step towards him and then froze as I saw that his right hand was concealed behind his back. I knew I had to say something quick to take the edge off of the situation. Using my best law enforcement voice, I said, “We need to talk, come on back inside and I'll buy you a drink.” The man retorted, “Too late, Mister Smart Mouth, you did all of the talking inside, now the time for talking is over.” These words put me on edge and take notice, all of my senses were on high alert. Again I said in my most assertive voice, “Listen friend, we need to talk and get this thing settled.” “You are not my friend,” the man responded, “and like I said, talking time is over.” I took a step forward in hopes that my assertiveness would cause him to back away. Instead he also took a step forward, all the while keeping his hand concealed behind his back. I then took two steps forward in an even greater show of aggressiveness, still hoping this action would cause him to back off. The man did not back away, but instead he also took two steps toward me. It was ironic, here we were in a scene just like out of a western movie, complete with all of the props. My right arm instinctively pressed against my right side where my pistol hung on my hip. It was comforting to feel my pistol at my side. I said, “Mister, I want you to take your hand out from behind your back and show me both of your hands, now!.” The man stood motionless and said nothing. The hair on the back of my neck was now standing straight up. I slowly, but deliberately, reached down and unsnapped the safety strap from my pistol. I placed my hand on the butt of my pistol and wrapped my fingers around the grip. Again I ordered the man to remove his hand from behind his back and show me both of his hands. The man stood there for a long moment with his eyes glaring at me and filled with hate. Just at that moment the man took a quick step forward while taking his right arm from behind him, he raised it high and I could see it held a razor. The way the man handled that razor told me he knew exactly how to use it and there was no mistaking that he fully intended to use that razor on me. My training took over and I found my pistol at the ready position, both hands firmly held the 357 magnum and I sighted in on a spot right at the bridge of the man’s nose. “FREEZE!”, I shouted as I felt my finger beginning to apply pressure to the trigger. My mind was racing, ‘How did this situation get so far out of hand so quickly and how in the world was I going to explain how I shot a man over a silly Polack joke.’ I could see myself in the near future bending over the man’s lifeless body as I shouted, “Shots fired!”, into my hand held two way radio. My mind was going in a thousand directions at once, oh how I wished I had never made this bar check and I especially wished I had never told that joke. The man then swung the razor menacingly as he advanced towards me. We were just a few feet apart at this time and the distance was narrowing rapidly. I began to squeeze the trigger and, although I was concentrating upon holding my sights on a spot between the man’s eyes, in my peripheral vision I could see the hammer move slowly back as my finger tightened on the trigger. I was just milliseconds from firing when I noticed that the razor, the man held so menacingly, was not even plugged in, the cord was dangling harmlessly at his side and there was no reason for concern. What can I say, after all . . . . . . . . . he was a Polack.



*****



(33)




THE SEARCH



By

Mike Boudreaux



It was a Wednesday morning in mid April, 1987, I had just received a call to respond to Merry Camp campground in the Sequoia National Forest, regarding a missing hiker. As I was driving to Merry Camp I thought that it was unusual at this time of the year to have a report of a missing hiker on a week day. Generally this type of call was received on the week-end or at the very latest on a Monday as school was not yet out so most of the visitors to this area came in on week ends.  Perhaps these campers had come in the middle of the week because the week-end had been a wet one; it had rained over the week-end on both Saturday and Sunday but it had been dry since then.


When I arrived at the campground there was only one campsite in use, an older model station wagon was parked next to a small tent at the site, also at the camp site was a forest service pick-up truck. I made contact with the ranger who was standing next to his truck. The ranger advised that he had been making a check of the campground when the old man flagged him down and reported that his uncle was over due. As he told me this the ranger jerked his thumb over his shoulder towards the campsite. I took a quick look over his shoulder at an elderly man sitting in a camp chair with his left leg propped up on an ice chest. As I walked over to contact the old man I glanced down at the license plate on the station wagon, noting that it was a current Wisconsin plate.


As I pulled up a camp chair and sat down next to the old man I saw that his left ankle was swollen and somewhat discolored. I could tell he was in some distress by the grimace on his face as he started to move his left leg.


“That’s okay, you’re fine right where you’re at. How’d you hurt your leg?”, I asked.


“Oh, I twisted it the first day we got here.” he said. “I was walkin’ up the trail with Benny an’ stepped on a loose rock an’ down I went. It's not broke, but it sure hurts and I can’t put much weight on it.”


After questioning the old man further I ascertained that his full name was Clarence Wilkins, he was 64 years old and was vacationing from Wisconsin. He and his uncle, Benjamin Wilkins, who was 68 years old, had arrived at the campsite on the previous Monday morning around 9 AM. After setting up a meager camp they had gone for a hike. Clarence advised that they had only gone about a half mile when he twisted his ankle. Clarence stated that he was unable to continue on the hike, but that Benny wanted to hike further. Clarence had told Benny to go on and that he would meet him back at camp later in the day. Clarence stated he managed to limp back to camp and waited for Benny to return. Clarence said that they had not set a specific time for Benny to return but that he had expected him to return in the late afternoon on Monday. Clarence had become concerned when Benny had not returned to camp by dark but thought possibly Benny had misjudged the time, it had gotten dark on him and he had decided to hold up for the night. Clarence stated that when Benny had not returned by noon on Tuesday he knew something was wrong,. Clarence thought that perhaps Benny had also fallen and hurt his ankle or maybe broken his leg. Clarence would have driven to the ranger station to report Benny as over due but advised that Benny had the car keys with him. Clarence was only able to hobble around a little with his injured ankle and definitely could not walk the six miles to the main road. Clarence had plenty of food and decided that all he could do was to wait until Benny came back or somebody came by so he could report Benny as missing.


I obtained a description of Benjamin Wilkins and his clothing. Wilkins was 68 years old but according to Clarence he was in pretty good shape for his age. Benny, as he was called by Clarence, was about 5 foot 10 inches tall and 155 pounds with short gray hair and wore prescription eye glasses with brown plastic frames. He was dressed in a blue flannel shirt, khaki pants, blue wind breaker, low cut leather shoes and a fedora style felt hat. As was procedure I had Clarence list all of the things which Benny might have with him. This is done so that if anything was found along the trail, it might be identified as belonging to the missing person. According to Clarence, Benny had been carrying a black Zebco fishing pole, a small, five shot, .22 caliber pistol and possibly a few extra rounds of .22 ammunition. Clarence advised the pistol was very small and easily fit into Benny’s pants pocket. Benny was not a smoker and did not carry a lighter or matches. Benny usually had a black plastic pocket comb in his left rear pocket and a black leather wallet in his right rear pocket. Benny was also carrying a small pancake canteen in a green cloth cover with a carrying strap. Clarence advised that Benny did not carry a knife and as far as he knew he did not have anything else with him, other than the car keys and possibly some loose change in his pocket.


It was very difficult for Clarence to walk, however, he agreed to be carried in a litter to the spot that he had last seen Benny on the trail. I had previously requested a search and rescue team to respond to this location. After the search and rescue team arrived we strapped Clarence on a litter and set off along a trail leading north out of the campsite. Shortly we arrived at a spot on the trail where Clarence said that he had twisted his ankle. Clarence pointed up the trail and stated that he had last seen Benny walking north up the trail which wandered along the east side of Rube Creek.


As we were walking along the trail leading to this spot I could see two sets of shoe tracks on the trail and also Clarence’s scuff marks that he made as he limped back to the campsite. By looking at the soles of Clarence’s shoes I eliminated his tracks and surmised that the other set of tracks must belong to Benny. From the spot Clarence said that he had fallen and then turned back towards camp I saw a single set shoe tracks headed north up the trail.


As I was making assignments to the search and rescue team members Clarence called to me from his litter. I walked over to where Clarence was lying on the litter, he hung his head and sheepishly said, “I guess I had better tell you all of the facts.” “What do you mean?”, I asked.


Clarence then stated that he had overheard me tell the search and rescue team members that Benny had been carrying a fishing pole so they should concentrate their search along Rube Creek as that was likely where he had headed. Clarence then advised that it was not Benny’s intent to go fishing, that he had only carried the fishing pole as a ruse in case he had encountered anyone. “Why would he want to make people think he was fishing when he wasn’t?”, I asked.


Clarence then related the following story: Years ago, just before World War II, Benny had been in the Army. Shortly after the war broke out Benny had received a furlough to go home for a visit before he was shipped out over seas. Benny didn’t mind being in the army during peace time, but he didn’t like the idea of being shipped over seas to fight in a war. Benny decided not to return to his outfit and went A.W.O.L. It wasn’t long before M.P.s showed up at Benny’s residence in Tulare to arrest him, luckily for Benny he was not at home at the time. Things got pretty rough for the family about this time, work was scarce and there were times when the family had very little food. Benny had traveled to the California Hot Springs area to hunt deer in order to put some meat on the table. Benny had camped out at Merry Camp and had hunted this area for deer. It was while he was hunting for deer that Benny stumbled upon an out cropping of quartz which had a very rich vein of gold ore. Benny returned from the hunt with a deer and with the story of the gold he had found. Benny was very vague about the exact location of the gold he had found, he only would say that it was near Merry Camp. Just a few days after Benny had returned from the deer hunt the M.P.s again came looking for him. This time, Benny had been at home but he saw them pull up out front and hid in the attic until they left. Benny wanted to file a claim on the gold mine, but because he was now a wanted man he could not file the claim without disclosing his identity and being arrested. After another close call with the M.P.s, Benny decided to move back east to Wisconsin where an older brother was living. So Benny moved back to Wisconsin to live with his older brother and assumed a false identity. While in Wisconsin Benny became close friends with his older brother’s son, Clarence, who was in fact Benny’s nephew. Benny became a factory worker, met and married a neighbor girl, but never had any children. Benny often spoke of returning to California and staking a claim on his gold mine, but two things prevented this from happening; Benny’s wife had refused to leave Wisconsin and Benny was afraid of being arrested if he were to return to California. After Benny’s wife passed away, Benny spoke more and more frequently about returning to California. And then one day Benny read an article in the paper about how he could obtain amnesty for his having gone A.W.O.L.  Benny had contacted the Army and arranged for amnesty and now after many years he was no longer a wanted man. Now there was nothing to stop him from returning to California and staking a claim on the gold mine. Benny had talked Clarence into accompanying him and sharing the gold mine with him. Clarence advised that they had arrived in California on the previous Saturday. It was raining and it had also rained on Sunday so they had visited with family and friends in Tulare. Then on Monday the weather had cleared so they wasted no time in heading to Merry Camp in search of Benny’s gold mine. They had arrived at Merry Camp on Monday morning, just as he previously stated, but instead of just going for a hike, they were actually going in search of Benny’s gold mine. Benny had taken the fishing pole with him just in case they happened to encounter anyone else in the area, they would tell them they were fishing.


Clarence advised that when he heard that the search was going to be concentrated along Rube Creek he became concerned that other areas would not be searched and possibly Benny would not be found. Clarence had no idea as to where Benny’s gold mine was, he said that Benny just kept telling him that he would show him where it was. Clarence said that the gold mine might be near the creek but then again it might be some distance from the creek, he just had no idea as to where it might be.

I was wondering why Benny had left Clarence to fend for himself after he had hurt his ankle, now I understood, Benny was just too anxious to re-locate his gold mine.


I asked Clarence if there was anything else I needed to know which would help to find Benny. Clarence assured me that he had told me everything. I asked if Benny had anything with him like a shovel or pick and he said that Benny was reluctant to take any mining tools with him as he was afraid that he might meet someone on the trail and then he would have to explain what he was doing with the tools. Clarence stated that Benny’s plan was to find the location, mark it, and after he had staked his claim he would come back with the proper tools to work the mine.


I was thankful for the recent rain, it had washed out any old tracks and made the conditions perfect for leaving new tracks. I thought that this search should go fairly fast as all I would have to do was to follow the tracks. And this is what I did for about an hour up the trail and then the tracks left the trail and headed down toward Rube Creek. Once at the creek it became more difficult to follow the tracks as it was very rocky along the creek. I found a place where Benny had crossed the creek and headed up a small ravine and then to the top of a steep bluff, only to return to the creek and re-cross it and head back to the trail. I was amazed that Benny had managed to navigate over some pretty rough country. Benny, at 68 years old, was hiking around in an area that a much younger man would have difficulty traversing, but then that younger man might not have had the motivation that Benny had. Once back on the trail the tracks were again easy to follow. A short distance up the trail Benny’s tracks left the trail and went to the top of a small knoll and then returned to the trail. But then only a quarter mile or so up the trail Benny’s tracks again left the trail and led into a very rocky section where I lost the tracks. Benny’s tracks showed that he was wandering all over the place; I tried to imagine what Benny was doing. Was he lost? Was he just trying to get his bearings? Did these areas look familiar and then once he got to them Benny had decided it wasn’t the place? I began to make a large circle in the area I had lost Benny’s tracks in a effort to cut his tracks and resume the search. As I circled the area I again came across Benny’s tracks, but instead of heading north they were now headed back to the south. I followed the tracks and came to an area of the trail that skirted along the top of a steep cliff. The trail was fairly narrow at this point with a sheer drop off on the left and a steep bluff on the right. Just ahead on the trail I spotted a black Zebco fishing pole lying at the edge of the trail. By the description provided by Clarence this appeared to be Benny’s fishing pole. Just inches from where the fishing pole was lying was an area of the trail that had recently fallen away into the ravine about forty feet below. This made the trail even narrower but if one was careful it was possible to get by. My stomach turned as I looked ahead on the trail and did not see any tracks. I edged myself closer to the edge of the trail where it had given way and while holding on to a tree root, looked over to the creek below. I could see an arm, wearing a blue windbreaker, sticking out from behind a large rock. I called out Benny’s name, but did not receive a response nor did the arm move. It was apparent that Benny had gotten too close to the edge of the trail and, possibly due to the wet soil, the edge of the trail had given way with his weight, plunging Benny over the cliff. As the incline was very steep it took a while to work my way down to where Benny was laying.


When I reached Benny it was apparent that he was deceased. I quickly checked for a pulse, but there were no signs of life. It was difficult to determine if Benny had died immediately from the fall or if he had lain at this spot for some time before he eventually died. I called in to headquarters, gave my location and requested a body bag be brought in. By the time the body bag arrived the sun was getting pretty low in the western sky. It would be dark before we got Benny’s body back to the campsite.

It was a rough trek but we managed to get Benny’s body back to Merry Camp around 9:30 PM. Before transferring Benny’s body to the coroner, an inventory of the body had to be made. Clarence was pretty accurate in his description as to what Benny had on his person. There was a wallet, a pocket comb, set of car keys, a .22 caliber pistol and some loose change. Benny had a canteen strung around his neck by a cloth strap and as I was removing it, the canteen didn’t feel right. Upon checking it I found it was not a canteen at all, just a canteen cover that was full of rocks. As I poured the rocks out on the ground, Clarence said, "Hey, where’s the canteen? I know there was a canteen in that cover when Benny headed up the trail." Clarence went on to explain that he had been carrying the canteen when he fell and hurt this ankle. And since Clarence was going to go back to camp where there was more water, he gave Benny the canteen so he would have water with him on the trail. There was about eight or nine quartz rocks in the canteen cover averaging in size from the size of a walnut to the size of a man’s fist. On closer examination I saw veins of what appeared to be pure gold as thick as a pencil lead running through each of the rocks. I have seen some rich ore in the past, but this was some of the richest I had ever seen. Clarence picked up a couple of the rocks and looking them over he said, “This is exactly what Benny said the ore from his mine looked like. I know Benny didn’t have these rocks when he headed up the trail.... Well I'll be......" Clarence's voice trailed off, "Benny must've found his mine."


I surmised that Benny did find his gold mine and that he had collected some of the gold bearing quartz rocks from the site. Not having anything to carry the rocks in, and to maintain his ruse, Benny had apparently taken the canteen out of the cover, discarded it and filled the cover with the gold bearing rocks to make it appear to be a canteen. As Benny did not have any mining tools with him, these rocks must have been lying on the surface or at least very easily collected.


When the coroner arrived we loaded Benny’s body into the coroner’s station wagon. I obtained a signed receipt from Clarence and turned over Benny’s belongings to him. After debriefing and thanking the search and rescue team for their help, I helped Clarence break camp and load everything into the station wagon. Clarence advised that as the station wagon had an automatic transmission he would be able to drive without any difficulty. My job was done and I headed for home; it was late and I was tired.


As I was driving home, I was making plans to return to the Merry Camp area on the next morning and backtrack Benny from where his body had been found. The tracks would be easy to follow and I knew that somewhere near that gold mine would be a canteen without a cover. It would be a piece of cake. One thing I didn’t know was just how far I would have to backtrack Benny. Had he found his gold mine very soon after leaving Clarence on the trail? Or had he kept looking until after dark, then spent the night and kept looking into the next day until finally finding the mine? One thing was sure he had found some rich gold bearing quartz, collected it in his canteen cover and then fell to his death on his return trip to the camp site. How far he had gone and how long he had been laying at the bottom of that cliff would be answered once I backtracked Benny and found the gold mine.

The lights from my house were a very welcome sight, I was tired and hungry and wanted to spend some time with my family. As I turned into the drive a few drops of rain fell on the windshield. Before I parked, got my gear and headed into the house it was really coming down hard. I sat at the kitchen table and watched the rain pelting the ground just outside of the kitchen window. I was thankful that we were able to complete the search before it rained and I was also disturbed, knowing that the rain was washing away Benny’s tracks. It rained hard the entire night and I knew there would be no sign of Benny’s tracks left to find.


I have since made several trips into the Merry Camp area and have yet to find that gold mine. The area is rough and there are many ravines that drain into Rube Creek. I have panned Rube Creek in several locations and have found a little color, but very little. That could be because I am not an expert gold panner or that Benny’s gold mine is not close enough to a ravine to wash a substantial amount of color into the creek. At any rate, I have taken several hikes into the area and during deer season, I hunt in the Merry Camp area. Who knows maybe one of these days I will come upon a pancake canteen without a cover out there in the woods or an outcropping of gold bearing quartz . . . . 



*****


(34)





THE STAKEOUT


(Part 1)



By

Mike Boudreaux



It was a clear night, each star seemed to be trying to out shine all of the others. There was no moon. The darkness held everything in its grasp. The only sound was that of a gentle breeze filtering through the trees. It was a little on the chilly side, but had not yet turned cold. Summer was just beginning to relinquish its reign to Fall. By all of the signs Fall would not sit on the throne long, before Winter marched in and seized the mountains all for himself. Winter was a cruel monarch and seldom shared even one day of his reign. Spring would eventually come, but Winter was not known to give up easily in these mountains. Perhaps there were other places where Winter was known to be mild, and easy to endure, but not here. Here, Winter was the supreme ruler and fought hard each day, striking mighty blows against these mountains and all that was in them. The only reason that Spring would subsequently succeed and come to claim the throne was that Winter, in his constant fight to hold onto the mountains, would grow weary, its icy grip would loosen and Spring would eventually wrench the mountains free, but it was always a struggle. If Winter had his way, these mountains would always be under his control. Even after Spring had acquired the throne and settled in for an interval, Winter would frequently launch a counter attack, trying to reclaim the realm he thought belonged only to him. These efforts, thus far, have always been futile, however, who knows, one day Winter may achieve supreme authority and banish the other seasons forever from these mountains.


I liked these quiet times to myself, it gave me time to relax and to think. Mostly, I found myself planning the construction of my new home. Mentally I would build a wall, tear it down, reconstruct it, add a brace, resize a window or move a door until I got it just the way I wanted. Then later, when the time came to actually build, I was able to move quickly, recalling these mental blueprints as I measured, sawed and hammered, joining the pieces together to bring into existence the picture that was so clear in my mind. I would often find myself mentally constructing the house, planning in advance, moving ahead to the next stage and then on the next, like a chess player, planning many moves ahead of the phase in which the match had actually progressed. When I would actually work on my home it was like stepping back in time. I would be nailing studs into place on walls that on the night before I had mentally wired, insulated, plastered and painted. I enjoyed building, it took the edge off, it gave me an outlet, a release for the frustration that my job often created.


It was the sound of an automobile engine that tore me away from mentally building a staircase, leading from the ground level garage to the upper floor of the main house, and brought me back to the present. It was just a faint hum at first but quickly grew into the unmistakable sound of an automobile engine. My eyes probed the darkness searching for the source of the sound. Then, on the hillside across the small valley, headlights illuminated the trees as a pickup truck came around a curve in the road. The shadows cast by the trees stretched, twisted and danced as the pickup truck bounced along the crooked mountain road. As it drew closer, I recognized the pickup as belonging to Jack Brannon, a local area rancher. Brannon would often patrol the area around his ranch, thinking that the sheriff’s department didn’t patrol often enough. Brannon’s vehicle passed within a hundred yards of where I was parked and he had no idea I was there. I watched Brannon’s tail lights until they were out of sight. Then I eased back into the seat, trying to make myself comfortable. The cab of the four wheel drive pickup truck was cramped. By the time it was equipped with three radios, special lights, switches, a shotgun, and a 30-30 rifle, not to mention my own personal gear, there was not much room left for me. I’m not a big man, five foot eleven inches and a hundred and ninety pounds but I could not find a place in that cab to stretch out and get comfortable. The handcuff case on my duty belt was boring a hole in the small of my back. I loosened the seat belt and tried to stretch my legs, it was no use, there just wasn’t enough room in that cab for a good stretch. I made sure the switch was off for the dome light and then eased the door open and stepped out, stretching, rubbing and shaking out my cramped muscles.


It was quiet, the wind had died down and I strained to hear a sound, any sound, there was none. After a long while the silence was broken as the voice of a deputy, working in the valley, called in a traffic stop. I looked at my watch, it was 2:20 AM. I decided to give it another hour before I broke off the stakeout. I had been parked on a small knoll over looking a rural intersection since 10:00 PM and Brannon’s was the first vehicle I had seen. The local area ranchers and been plagued by someone butchering their cattle. So far seven head had been butchered in a three month period. All of the cattle had been shot in the head with a small caliber firearm, then the front and hind quarters were taken, leaving only the head, hide, ribs and intestines. Each butchering had been expertly done with a very sharp knife. The cuts were neat and clean, right to the joints where the bones were easily separated. Whoever was responsible knew exactly what they were doing, they were not an amateur. So far there had been no real clues to indicate any possible suspects. Each of the butchered cattle had been shot in the head with a .22 caliber weapon. A bullet had been removed from the head of each carcass and ballistics revealed that they were all fired from the same gun. There were thousands, if not millions of .22 caliber firearms out there. The only other evidence were some shoe tracks indicating the suspect wore a size ten Nike athletic shoe which had a sole pattern consisting of small circles alternating with little squares. This was not much to go on and I had no idea as to who was responsible.

I saw the headlights first this time, they were approaching from the north, about a half a mile away. I watched the lights as the vehicle slowed at the intersection. It appeared as if the driver was unsure as to which direction to go. Then the vehicle picked up speed as it continued to head south. It was Brannon’s pickup again, this time he was headed back towards his ranch headquarters. I knew that the sheriff would be hearing from Brannon in the morning; Brannon would complain loudly that he had been out patrolling his ranch and that he had not seen even one patrol car in the area. Brannon had always been a thorn in the sheriff’s side, constantly complaining and threatening to have him thrown out of office. The sheriff didn’t like Brannon much, but being an elected official, he tolerated him. Brannon was the head of the cattlemen’s association and did have some influence among the other ranchers and these ranchers were voters. I thought about charging down off of the knoll with red lights flashing and siren blaring, making a traffic stop on Brannon and telling him that I had mistaken him for a rustler. I thought about it, but I decided to stay put for a while longer. And anyway, Brannon would not have called the sheriff with praise for the excellent patrol he had received, he only called when he wanted to complain about something.


I was still thinking about how startled Brannon would have been if I had pulled in behind him with red lights and siren, when my attention was drawn back to the road. Another vehicle was coming, the beam from its headlights darted back and forth as the vehicle negotiated the crooked mountain road. The vehicle came to a stop at the intersection, just below where I was parked. The headlights were shut off but the engine was left running. I could just make out voices and laughter, and the distinct sound of an empty aluminum can hitting the road surface. There was more talking, but I could not make out what was being said or how many people were talking. Then came the sound of two car doors slamming and the headlights came back on. The vehicle started moving, turned east and went up Sandy Creek Road.


From my location I would be able to watch the vehicle for almost a mile before it would go over a hill and out of sight. I watched the vehicle travel slowly up the road and saw a powerful spotlight come on. It was being directed from the passenger side of the vehicle and played over the hills, swinging back and forth piercing the darkness with its powerful beam. The light illuminated the rocks and trees as it searched the area.


Who ever was in that vehicle was up to no good. I decided to give it a closer look. I climbed back into the cab of my pickup and started the engine. I reached over to a bank of switches and flipped the switch that turned off my brake lights. I flipped another switch that turned on a small dim light that was concealed under the front bumper on the driver’s side. The light was directed downward and just in front and to the side of the left front wheel. I slipped the pickup in gear and drove slowly off of the knoll towards Sandy Creek Road. By looking out of the driver’s side window I had just enough light to see the road clearly for a few feet in front of my pickup. The lens was shielded from the front and pointed downward so even on a dark night, like this one, I knew the light was not easily detected. I eased my way along until I reached the intersection where the vehicle had stopped.

I knew that whoever was in the vehicle on Sandy Creek Road would not be able to see my headlights at this location. I turned on the headlights and saw two wet spots on the asphalt road surface about eight to ten feet apart. A golden liquid snaked its way along, from each of these spots, seeking the lower edge of the roadway. Nearby lay an empty aluminum beer can. Even in this remote area an empty aluminum beverage can was a rare sight. With the high redemption value on aluminum cans, a discarded can was soon snatched up and added to someone’s collection to be taken to a recycling center.


It appeared that there were only two people in the vehicle, but there could be more, and at least one was drinking beer. I saw nothing else that might help determine, who, how many or what these people might be up to. I turned off my headlights and headed up Sandy Creek Road. At the speed the vehicle was traveling I knew it wouldn’t be long before I caught up with it.

I could easily see the spot light being played about on the hillsides in front of me and as I rounded a curve I saw the tail lights of the vehicle. As the vehicle topped over a small rise I was able to see its silhouette. It was an older model station wagon. I drove closer, trying to make out how many people were in the car. The spot light was being used by the passenger in the front seat and appeared to be hand held. I eased closer, my eyes straining, trying to see all that I could in the darkness. The vehicle’s brake lights came on, the bright red lights were almost blinding. I had gotten too close, if anyone in the vehicle looked back while the brake lights were on, they could easily see me. Fortunately the attention of the occupants of the vehicle was on wherever the spot light was shining. I stopped and let the vehicle move further ahead, creating a buffer zone.


As I watched the vehicle move slowly up the road I saw the spot light become fixed on one place. Standing in the center of the beam of the spot light was a lone white faced Hereford steer, maybe three years old. It stared into the light while it chewed on a mouthful of rich green grass. Suddenly it dropped to its knees, rolled over on its side and lay still. At first this sight puzzled me, then came the unmistakable pop of a small caliber firearm. The spot light went out as well as the headlights of the vehicle. I quickly shut off my engine and listened. All was quiet, all was black, no sounds, nothing. The stillness was overwhelming, it engulfed the whole area, nothing moved. My grip on the steering wheel tightened. I could feel my palms sweating. Then I saw a small beam of light, apparently from a flash light, begin to move through the pasture toward the area where the steer had fallen. From out of the darkness I heard a mans voice shout, “Okay, go ahead.” At that moment the station wagon’s engine started, the headlights came on and the station wagon began to drive slowly up the road. I watched the tail lights until they disappeared around a curve in the road. Coming from out of the darkness I could hear the sounds of movement and could hear grunting as the man in the field labored with the steer. I focused my binoculars on a small sliver of light from the man’s flash light. I could see that the man was busying himself with the butchering of the steer. He quickly and expertly sliced into the carcass of the still warm animal. Even in poor light, I could see through the binoculars that the man knew how to use that knife, he was good. It didn’t take him long to quarter the animal and begin to drag the quarters of the steer towards the road.


Head lights shown around a curve ahead and came in my direction. It wouldn’t take long for the vehicle to be upon me. I thought about backing up to try to find a place of concealment, but knew there was nowhere to go. I knew the driver was going to see me at any second. Just then the vehicle stopped and its headlights shown out into the pasture. In the headlights I could see a man dragging the hind quarters of the steer toward the fence. Then another man appeared in the headlights, both men were dragging the large pieces of beef under the bottom strand of the barbed wire fence, then both men disappeared behind the headlights. I knew as soon as the beef was loaded, the station wagon would start back down the road, coming right at me. I quickly unlocked the mechanism holding the shotgun in place in anticipation of needing it in a hurry. I unsnapped the safety strap on my duty holster, wrapping my fingers around the grip of my forty five caliber automatic pistol, I eased it out a little and then slid it back into place. The feel of the pistol against the palm of my hand was reassuring and gave me confidence. I was ready……………


I picked up the microphone on the two way radio and called the dispatcher. I was startled at hearing my own voice, everything had been so quiet. I was sure that the men in the station wagon could hear me talking. My own voice sounded like cannon fire even though I was whispering into the microphone. I advised the dispatcher of my location, gave a brief description of the circumstances and that I would be making a traffic stop shortly on an older model cream colored station wagon. As the dispatcher acknowledged my transmission I could detect concern in her voice as she said, “10-4, is everything Code four?” Radio jargon for, “Received your transmission; Is the situation stable?” I responded with, “Unknown at this time, you could start a back-up rolling my way.”


I had just finished my transmission when the headlights of the station wagon began to move toward me. The confrontation would be any second now. I started my engine, put one hand on the handle of my spot light, my other on the head light switch, so I could turn them both on at the same time and waited. Every muscle was poised for action, my heart was pounding, it would not be long now………………..


As the station wagon came over the rise and its headlights dropped down and illuminated my pickup, I turned on the spot light aiming it directly into the drivers face and switched on the headlights putting them on high beam. I then reached over and flipped the switches activating the red and blue flashing over head lights. I could see the driver's face explode into shock and surprise. He squinted, turned his head away, and raised his hand to block the blinding lights. I heard the engine of the station wagon accelerate and watched in disbelief as the station wagon sped passed me. It went right by me, like a ghost. One second it was there before me and the next it was gone. I had fully expected the vehicle to stop. It didn’t.


I sat there questioning what had just happened. How it managed to get passed me on that narrow mountain road, I will never know. I am still amazed that the station wagon was able to pass without even so much as scraping the side of my pickup or running off of the side of the road and down into the steep canyon below. But it did, it passed by without so much as a scratch, almost as if it were a ghost. I looked into the rear view mirror and saw the tail lights disappear around a curve in the road behind me. This was no ghost, it was a pair of real life cattle butcherers and they were making good their get-a-way.


It seemed as though it took an eternity to turn that pickup around on that narrow mountain road. I jammed it into gear and roared forward, cranking the wheel to the left as far as it would go, lurching to a stop just before the front wheels went over the edge of the roadway. I jerked it into reverse, cranked the wheel around and gunned it until I felt the rear bumper collide with the embankment to the rear. Again, I jammed it into forward and gunned the engine, lurching forward and cranking the wheel hard. I still couldn’t make the turn without going over the edge. Frustration began to boil up inside of me as I jerked the shift lever into reverse and backed up again until the rear bumper struck the embankment. I pulled the shift lever into forward again and gunned the engine, cranking the wheel as far to the left as it would go. The pickup lunged forward, would there be enough room? It was going to be close. I decided to go for it. I pressed the accelerator to the floor, gripped the wheel hard and held my breath. I felt the right front wheel drop off of the edge of the road and then bump hard as it bounced back unto the road. I made it! I had managed to keep my vehicle on the road and was now headed in the right direction. I accelerated and roared around the first curve on two wheels. My eyes strained to see the tail lights of the station wagon, there was nothing but darkness ahead. The tell tail sign of dust which had not yet settled, indicated that the station wagon was still somewhere ahead in the darkness. I flew into the next curve, with wheels churning as they tried to grip the road surface. I pushed it hard into the next curve and just caught a glimpse of the tail lights before they disappeared over a hill about a half of a mile ahead. I couldn’t believe the station wagon had managed to get that far ahead. I cursed the time it had taken to maneuver that U-turn on the narrow mountain road. I began to wonder if I would be bale to catch them or were they gong to get away? “NO WAY!”, my thoughts screamed. There was no way these guys were going to get away, they were mine, bought and paid for. I had invested too much time, been on too many fruitless stakeouts, had to look into the faces of too many angry ranchers too many times when I had no answers. No, this time it was going to be different, they were not going to get away, I planned on making the ‘Gray Bar Hotel’ their new home.


(To be continued)



*****


(35)






THE STAKEOUT


(PART 2)


By

Mike Boudreaux



As I approached the intersection of Sandy Creek road and the paved county road I was unable to see the tail lights of the station wagon. At first I thought that they must have turned their headlights off, but I knew they could not have driven in this blackness without their lights on. There was no place they could have turned off of the road and blacked out, they had just managed to get so far ahead that I was unable to see their lights. I knew if they had turned north that I would have been able to see their lights for almost a mile, they must have turned south. When I reached the intersection I saw sand from the dirt road arching to the left, apparently strewn there from the tires of the station wagon as it raced through the intersection. They had turned south, this was good as they had no place to go. The road to the south eventually turned easterly and traveled up a canyon into the small mountain community of Oak Flat, it then wandered on a few miles before coming to a dead end. It erased my fears of losing them, I knew that they were somewhere ahead and that all I had to do was keep traveling on the Oak Flat Road until I located them.


I had informed the dispatcher of my pursuit and now I advised that I was headed south from the Sandy Creek Road, towards Oak Flat in search of the suspect vehicle. After the dispatcher acknowledged my transmission, I heard the voice of Deputy Frank Weston advise the dispatcher that he was in route to back me up. Frank was aware that I had heard his transmission, he had deliberately advised the dispatcher of his plans so I would know that help was on its way and by directing his transmission to the dispatcher he knew I would not have to acknowledge his transmission. In that way I could keep both hands on the steering wheel. It felt good to know that Frank would be backing me up on this call, he was a seasoned deputy who knew his stuff.


I had gone about two miles up the Oak Flat road when I saw headlights approaching. This had to be someone coming from Oak Flat, I slowed and prepared to flag the vehicle down. I wanted to know just how far ahead the station wagon was. My plan was to flag down the driver and ask about the station wagon. I hung out the window as far as I could and waved my arm wildly to let the driver know I wanted him to stop. Instead of slowing down the car picked up speed and deliberately came across the center line headed straight toward me. I jerked myself back into the cab and cranked the steering wheel hard to the right. The vehicle bore directly toward my driver’s side door. I managed to avoid a direct collision with the on coming car, however, the right rear fender of the car collided with the left rear fender of my pickup. The resulting impact spun my pickup sideways and it slid, passenger side first, towards the edge of the road.


As the car flashed by I saw that it was the station wagon I had been persuing. Apparently the suspects had realized they had made a mistake by going south and somewhere up ahead they had made a U-turn and were now headed north, back down into the valley floor and safety. The only thing that stood in their way was me. I believe that their plan was to run me off of the road by forcing me over the edge and into the steep canyon below. Thinking back, I’m sure that they had deliberately selected this particular section of road and had waited until I came to this stretch of road to implement their plan. On my side of the road was a very steep canyon and going over would have been certain death.


My truck skidded to a stop just before breaking through a barbed wire fence. The right front fender had pressed into the strands of barbed wire stretching them almost to their limit, yet had not broken any of the wires. That fence was the only thing between me and a hundred and fifty foot sheer drop off. The fence was designed to keep cattle in and not to keep vehicles out. Along this section of road were many stubs of broken fence posts and pieced together strands of barbed wire. These were reminders of the vehicles which had gone through the fence and plunged over the edge in the past. When the fence was originally constructed all of the posts were split rail cedar. Whenever a car went through the fence it would snap off a post and break several strands of barbed wire. In repairing the fence, the rancher would replace the cedar fence post with the newer metal fence posts and patch together the broken strands of wire. Each broken post marked the spot where a vehicle had gone through the fence and plunged over the edge. Just a few more inches and I would have left behind one of these memorials. My heart was in my throat as I shifted into reverse and backed away from the fence. I could hear the barbed wire sigh with relief as the tension was eased from the tightly stretched strands.


All of a sudden the butchered steer didn’t matter. I didn’t care about Jack Brannon’s or anyone’s cattle. I no longer cared that these bad guys had shot and butchered the steer earlier, that was no longer of any importance to me, I could care less about that; But these creeps, these low life scum bags, who had just tried to kill me, were definitely not getting away, they were mine. They belonged to me and I had every intention of taking physical possession of my property…………… preferably by the throat. Up until now I had just been trying to do my job, I was just a cop trying to enforce the law. But now these guys had made it personal, they had tried to take my life, which is something I wanted to hang on to for a while longer.


I became instantly angry, I could feel the heat rise up into my face as my blood begin to boil. I wanted a piece of that driver, I wanted to smash my fist into his face until he had no face. I wanted to see him hurt and hurt bad and I wanted to do the hurting.

Anger is unbecoming to any law enforcement officer and it is something that I have always tried my best to avoid. I knew that anger impaired the judgment and bad judgment often created dead cops. A law enforcement officer has got to be in control or he will definitely come out the loser. I knew I should not allow myself to become angry, but it was too late, I was angry, real angry and was getting angrier by the minute. Each time I thought about plunging over the edge of that cliff, I got even more angry, and I found myself thinking about that a lot. I wanted the person who had tried to send me over the edge.


The county road was much wider than Sandy Creek Road and I was able to negotiate a U-turn with little effort. I was quickly able to spin around and pursue after the fleeing bad guys. I informed the dispatcher of the change in direction and provided a full description of the station wagon. The time it took to back away from the fence and make the U-turn had given the culprits a healthy lead. I was determined to decrease that lead and smoke bellowed from my rear tires as I accelerated after them. Their car was old but it had a powerful V-8 engine which still had a lot of pep left in it. Their vehicle negotiated the mountain road easier than the four wheel drive pickup I was driving. I pushed hard trying to catch them. Each curve in the road was a major battle, I had to fight hard to keep my vehicle on the road. Too much acceleration coming out of the curves tended to make the pickup want to fishtail. I had often thought of adding some weight to the rear end and cursed my self for not doing it, as I sure needed it now. Without the extra weight it forced me to slow down in order to stay on the road. I didn’t want to slow down as I knew the bad guys were not slowing down.


As I roared past the intersection of Sandy Creek Road I could see the tail lights of the station wagon far ahead. They were still headed north on the county road. The next intersection was fourteen miles ahead at Mountain Springs. Mountain Springs was at the base of the foothills on the valley floor, just a rural intersection which had one building with a mobile home out back. Many years before the building was an overland stage stop that had been converted into a bar and grill, the mobile home was occupied by the owner operator.


Listening to the two way radio as I raced down the mountain road, I could hear patrol units advising the dispatcher that a road block had been set up at the Mountain Springs intersection. Normally I would have eased off of the accelerator a little and slowed down to a more comfortable speed, but I wasn’t in control any more. Anger had taken over and kept the accelerator pressed to the floor. Anger had transformed a perfectly rational man of once sound mind and even temper into a raging mass of protein that was reacting on instinct and bent on revenge.


There were no turn offs between my location and the road block at Mountain Springs. The bad guys had managed to out run me, but they didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in July of out running my Motorola. If they had been able to reach the intersection at Mountain Springs before a road block could have been set up the bad guys would have been able to have gone in any one of three different directions, which would have enabled them to take other turn offs within just a few miles and could have easily slipped away into the night, making good their escape.


As I continued to race down the mountain it seemed like time was standing still. Why had I not heard that the station wagon had been stopped at the road block? Had they somehow managed to slip through? Had they found a way around? Had they managed to find a hiding place, shut off their lights and let me speed past them? Maybe they had turned around again and were now speeding back towards me. I reached for the microphone, I wanted to call Deputy Weston and ask what was happening at the road block. I wanted to, but decided against it and pressed on, anxious to reach Mountain Springs. I was just minutes from Mountain Springs when I heard Deputy Weston advise the dispatcher that they had a cream colored station wagon occupied by two male suspects, stopped at the road block.


As a rounded a curve the red and blue lights from three patrol cars were flashing wildly. The patrol cars had been so situated that the suspects would not have been able to swerve around the road block. I slid to a stop just behind the station wagon. I don’t remember opening the door but found myself running down the road. I ran past the empty station wagon and towards a group of deputies who were standing around two men. The men were facing a patrol car with their feet spread wide and leaning on the rear fender with their palms down. Deputy Weston separated himself from the group and stepped in my direction. My eyes remained fixed on the two men, I did not slow my pace as I asked Frank which one of the men had been driving. Frank pointed to the man on my left. By this time I had reached the man and reached out grabbing him by his right shoulder and spun him around to face me. His face was a blur, but I took aim on his nose, cocked my arm back and planned on putting my fist somewhere about three inches behind his sinuses. Relief had already began to flow as I swung my fist hard, straight for the center of his face. Just then I felt it stop, it felt like my arm was caught in a huge vice. Frank’s voice sounded as if it were very, very far away, I could just barely make out his words, “Easy! Easy! Settle down, these creeps aren’t worth your job.” I still had the driver’s shoulder in my grip, again I took aim on his nose and swung hard but couldn’t break my arm free of Frank’s grip. I turned looking into Frank’s face, he was smiling as he said, “It’s okay, It’s okay! You got ’em. They ain‘t going nowhere, it‘s over.” His voice sounded closer now. I tried to jerk my arm free, but my heart was not in it. I felt a calm come over me, peace flooded in and replaced my anger. Tightening my grip on the suspect’s shoulder I looked hard into his face, I didn’t know him. I looked into his eyes and I saw fear and uncertainty but mostly I saw defeat and shame. I was sure he saw the anger in my face, he kept glancing towards Frank, then back to me and again at Frank. He didn’t say anything but I could see he was silently asking Frank to get this mad man away from him. He knew Frank had been his savior and had prevented a permanent dent in his face where he liked to keep his nose. I released my grip on his shoulder and he looked to Frank who pointed to the patrol car. The suspect turned quickly back to the car and flattened the palms of his hands on the fender. The man stood motionless, except for a shudder that rippled through his body causing his straw hat to vibrate on the top of his head.


I turned my attention to the second man who was standing next to the driver. This man was looking back at me over his shoulder, as our eyes met, he quickly turned away. I knew this man, when he wasn’t drunk, he occasionally worked for Jack Brannon. He was an Indian off of the Monache Reservation, his name was Kevin Long, but everyone called him Cutter. I didn’t know exactly how Cutter got to be his nick name; Some said that it was because he had been involved in knife fights where he had inflicted cuts upon his opponents, others said that it was because he had been taught the butchering trade. Because of his alcoholism he was unable to hold a steady job but often butchered animals for his friends and neighbors. I looked at his hands which were still covered with dried blood. I was positive that the crime lab technicians could match this blood with blood from the butchered steer on Sandy Creek Road. I reached down and grabbed the back of the cuff of his pants, pulled up his left leg, looking at the sole of the Nike athletic shoe he was wearing. The sole pattern was small circles with alternating little squares, just like the shoe tracks I had seen at the scene of all of the previous butcherings. I was positive the lab boys would not have any trouble matching these shoes with the tracks found at the other butcherings.


I walked back to the station wagon, a quick glance of the interior told me that all of the evidence necessary for a successful prosecution was there. Laying on the front seat was a powerful hand held spotlight; a .22 caliber rifle lay across the transmission hump. There was a blood stained leather sheath containing two butchering knives laying on the front seat. The back seat of the station wagon had been folded down to provide a larger cargo area. A canvas tarp had been spread out in the cargo area and four quarters of fresh beef took up most of the space.


I was tired and yet there was still lots of work to be done. The two suspects were transported to the Sheriff’s Office by two of the other deputies and were booked on charges of grand theft, assault on a peace officer, attempted murder and evading arrest. The sergeant had already called the crime lab and requested a team to come to the scene to photograph, collect and preserve the evidence. On arrival of the crime lab team, two officers were assigned to the station wagon to take tire tread impressions, and to photograph, collect and preserve it’s contents. One officer was assigned to return to the Sheriff’s Office where the suspects were being held to collect any evidence from their persons which might link them to the butchering. I took one crime lab technician with me and returned to the location on Sandy Creek Road where the steer had been butchered. At this location shoe and tire track photographs were taken, samples of the carcass were taken and a .22 caliber bullet was removed from the steer’s skull. By the time all of the evidence had been collected, tagged and stored and I had completed writing my report it was well past noon.


I walked out into the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Office and climbed into my pickup truck. I sat there for a while and reflected upon the events of the past several hours. I wanted to make sure that everything was done that needed to be done, so that I would not have to come back for some forgotten little detail. After satisfying myself that all was in order I headed back up the mountain and home. It had been a good day, the forty seven miles between the Sheriff’s Office and home would pass quickly.

As I pulled out of the parking lot onto the busy street I saw Jack Brannon pull into a parking space in front of the Sheriff’s Office. The expression on his face was not a happy one. I knew he had not yet heard of the capture of the two suspects and he was going in to complain about not receiving adequate patrol around his ranch. I would have like to have been a fly on the wall of the sheriff’s office when the sheriff told him that two cattle butcherers were in custody. Oh well, one can’t have everything I guess and sleep was now my number one priority.



*****



(36)






THE GOAL



By

Mike Boudreaux



How far had I gone? What’s more important, how much further must I go? I was beginning to run out of steam, but I knew if I stopped I would never reach my goal. Sweat began to form on my brow and run down my cheek. Why was I doing this, why had I even started? But start I did, and now I must go through with it, I couldn’t give up, I was determined to finish what I had started. Besides I had an audience. I had a goal to reach and it was just a little bit further. And that’s what I kept telling myself, “It’s just a little bit further . . . . . Come on, you can do it.” I mentally set small goals for myself in order to get closer to the actual goal, and when I would reach the mental goal I had set, I would set another, just a little further ahead. I would tell myself, “Just twenty more strides,” and at the end of twenty strides I would say, “Now just twenty more strides.” I was glad that I had invested the extra money in a really good pair of running shoes before setting off on this endeavor. At first my stride was graceful, like a gazelle, with my feet barely touching as I glided along but the further I went my stride turned into a clumsy stagger with my feet crashing down as gravity pulled hard against them. The steady kaplop, kaplop, kaplop of my feet striking the surface was beginning to get on my nerves. I must not let it get to me, I had to go on. Had I set my goal too high, had I bitten off more than I could chew? No, I decided that my goal was reasonable and that with perseverance I could do it. I forced myself to think pleasant thoughts about peaceful green fields filled with wild flowers and cool, gentle breezes. The muscle in my left calf was beginning to tighten, if it cramped I would be forced to stop. I was half praying that it would cramp and half praying that it would not. If it cramped I would have to stop, I would have no choice, I wouldn’t have to come up with an excuse for my audience, everyone would be able to see that I did not choose to stop, but that I was forced to stop, I would be able to save face and not feel guilty about not reaching the goal. The sweat was now covering my chest and back and was running down my arms. My light tank top was soaked. Why did I punish myself? Why did I ever start this? Had I set my goal too high, did I have the stamina to reach it? The thought of the green fields wasn’t working any more, my body was getting so tired, my muscles were aching, yet I had to go on. Then the thought of a big, black, raging bull charging me across that green, flowery field gave me just the adrenaline rush I needed to go on. “Come on, you can do it!”, “You’re almost there!”, “Don’t quit now!”, “Go, Go, Go!” All of my muscles were beginning to rebel. I didn’t have much energy left. I tried to look at my watch but the sweat had run down into my eyes and caused my vision to blur. If I could just see my watch I would have some idea as to how much longer I would have to endure this torture. I tried to wipe the sweat out of my eyes but it only made things worse, now my eyes were stinging. Not only did I have to endure my aching muscles, but I had to put up with stinging eyes and blurry vision. Had I set my goal too high? Maybe I should have started off with something easier. No, I decided that my goal was doable. I asked myself, “What else must I endure before this was over?” I shouldn’t have asked, for my body instantly came up with an answer. My lungs were beginning feel raspy. Each breath was a major endeavor. No longer was I breathing just through my nose, as there was no way I could get enough oxygen through those tiny little holes. Now I was gasping through flared nostrils and a mouth gaped wide open, striving to suck in the much needed oxygen. And with each breath my mouth got dryer and dryer, I needed water. I tried to work up some saliva just to moisten my tongue and throat, but there was none there. A drop of sweat ran down my nose and hung there. If I could just catch that drop on the end of my tongue. My eyes crossed as I took a bead on that little drop, then it fell and plummeted downward just missing my outstretched tongue. I made a mental note to make sure I had water available if I ever did this again. I thought of getting one of those backpack water carriers with a flexible straw that was always at the ready, but then I thought that it would be too much extra weight; I could barely carry me and the sparse clothing I was wearing. Now my throat and lungs felt like they were on fire. I was getting a terrific pain under my right rib cage. If I did not reach my goal soon, I was sure that my body would give up on me. I had heard about runners who collapsed and died after running in a marathon. Is this what was in store for me? Had I set my goal too high, would I ever be able to reach my goal? Again I tried to occupy my mind with other thoughts. “What year was it?” “2011”, I told myself and then wondered if I was right. “What month is it?” “December . . . . or was it January?” “What day was it?” “It was Monday.” It had to be a Monday, Mondays were always bad days and this was definitely a bad day. I kept thinking of how I would relish the well earned rest I would get after reaching my goal; I would languish in it at the end of this torture. My feet were burning, even in the high priced running shoes, my legs were burning, my lungs were burning, I was on fire. I had read of spontaneous human combustion, is that what was in store for me? I wondered how long it would be before I burst into flame. My heart rate was elevated, it was beating faster than I thought was ever possible, I was sure that at any moment it would give up the effort and conk out on me. I tried to get my fingers in just the right place on my wrist to get an accurate count, but with my irregular plodding along, I was unable to do it. Just when I thought that I could go no further the end was in sight. Just a few more paces now, I heard myself say, “I can do this, I can do this!” And then, 'Click', the odometer rolled over, I had done it, I had reached my goal. I reached up and switched off the treadmill. I grasped the back of the chair next to the treadmill and gingerly stepped off onto the floor. I tried to sit in the chair, but I was unable to force my legs to move, I just collapsed onto the floor and sprawled out on my back in a spread eagle position. I was still gasping for air, but my breathing was beginning to slow and my heart was beating at a more regular rate. I managed to turn my head to look at my audience; Teddy, my stuffed Teddy Bear, which I've had since a child, just sat there staring without saying a word, I knew he was amazed that I had actually finished. Tweety, my parakeet, was more verbal and was fluttering his wings and excitedly cheering by giving several long wolf whistles in a row; and Benny, my Cocker Spaniel, was excitedly licking the sweat from my face. I was so exhausted I was unable to lift my arms to push him away. After laying there for what seemed to be an eternity, I finally managed to stand to my feet, with the aid of the chair. I reached over and held onto the treadmill, I had to make sure I had reached my goal. I had to be sure my mind had not played tricks on me, making me think that I had gone the distance, when actually I had not. I checked the indicator. Sure enough, there it was in black and white, I had done it, I had reached my goal . . . . a full one quarter of a mile and it had only taken me fifteen minutes. I felt like Rocky Balboa at the top of the staircase at the Philadelphia Museum, hands raised, overlooking the city, I could almost hear the theme song in the background. This New Years resolution I had made wasn’t so bad after all - Maybe I’ll do it again next year. Right now, I’m gonna get me some ice cream and a big bag of chips.



*****



(37)






The Lion



By

Mike Boudreaux



I was deer hunting with a friend in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. My friend and I had split up making arrangements to meet at a predetermined location. I was moving along a well worn game trail when I spotted a deer in some thick brush at the crest of a hill. Due to the distance and the thickness of the shrubbery, I was unable to tell if the deer was a buck or a doe. The wind was blowing in my face and I knew the deer had not detected my presence. The deer moved over the crest of the hill out of my sight and I very quietly moved up towards the spot the deer was last seen. As I reached the crest of the hill I saw the deer and was able to view it trough binoculars, noting that it was a magnificent three point buck. The deer was on a small knoll with a steep bluff on the right. It was still too far away for a shot and I started to stealthily move closer. The deer casually moved off of the bluff and out of my sight. I was still confident that the deer was unaware of my presence. I moved quietly to the knoll where I last saw the deer. And stood there motionless scanning the area for any sign of the deer. As I looked around the deer was no where to be seen. I scanned the area again using my binoculars and as I scanned the steep bluff to my right the field of vision in the binoculars was filled with the massive head of a mountain lion staring right back at me. I quickly jerked the binoculars down and looked to see a large mountain lion sitting on it’s haunches and staring right at me. The lion was above me on the steep bluff about 35 yards away and so far it had not moved a muscle. I immediately raised my rifle to a ready position, but other than being very close and presenting a menacing image it had not made any threatening moves. In fact it had not moved at all and I toyed with the idea that it was a stuffed animal, put there by some joker to frighten hunters. Then the tail of the lion swished from one side to the other and again it became frozen, just sitting there, watching me. In California, mountain lions are a protected species and killing them was illegal. I was hoping that the lion was just as frightened of me as I was if it, so I decided to scare it off. I raised my arms and waved them vigorously as I jumped up and down and yelled at the top of my lungs. The lion just sat there on its haunches watching me, but it did start to clinch and relax its front paws as it shifted its weight from one side to the other in a slow deliberate swaying motion. Even though the body of the big cat was swaying, it’s head remained motionless and fixed on me. It appeared that the lion was sizing me up and making dinner plans, so I decided to fire a shot in front of the lion to kick up the dirt and scare it away. I raised my rifle, a Winchester, Model 94, 30-30 lever action, took careful aim and fired a shot into the dirt in front of the lion. It worked better than I had supposed, the round struck the ground in front of the lion and kicked up dirt, dust and debris into the lion’s face. For the first time since I spotted the lion it moved its head. It shook its head violently, opened its mouth wide exposing a huge set of teeth and let out a scream that to this day sets the hair on the back of my neck standing straight up, just to think about it. Even as I am writing this and remembering this incident it sends shivers up my spine. The lion now started to sway at a faster pace and began to flex it’s paws in a more rapid motion. It then began to crouch with its front legs, which lowered its body almost to the ground and then extending them again while it stretched its neck out towards me. In my opinion the cat was making its final preparations before leaping towards me. I quickly decided, that moratorium or not, I was going to shoot this lion while it was still sitting on the bluff rather than trying to hit it as it was bounding toward me on the attack. I raised my rifle and took aim, but just before I squeezed the trigger I saw the mountain lion turn its head quickly to its right. This was the first time the cat had taken its eyes off of me. The cat looked to the right and then it looked back at me, and again it looked to the right and back to me. It did this several times all the while its tail was swishing back and forth very rapidly. I stood ready to shoot with my finger on the trigger as I watched the cat continue to look to its right and back at me. Then suddenly it turned to its left and in two bounds was out of sight. I was astonished at the distance it could cover in a single bound and the thought of how quickly it could have been upon me gave me shivers. I stood motionless with my rifle at the ready for several minutes as I scanned the scene before me, paying special attention to the last place I saw the lion. Just then I heard a noise behind me and I whirled around, rifle at the ready, pointing it in the direction of the noise. There, in my sights, was my hunting companion, waving his arms and saying, “Whoa, Whoa, hold on, it’s only me!” He later told me that he had heard me yell and then heard a shot and had come to my location to see what was happening. He said that when he saw the look on my face that he could tell that I was a bit unnerved. A bit, holy cow, I was a whole bunch unnerved. After I told him the story and rested for a few minutes, we tried to resume the hunt, but it was no use, for me the hunt was over for the day. Every time I heard the wind rustle the leaves or a pine cone fall from a tree I would jump out of my skin and the hair would stand up on the back of my neck. Nature is a beautiful thing and I love to get out in it, I just don’t want to become a part of it by being dinner for a mountain lion.



*****



(38)






Valentine’s Day Card



By

Mike Boudreaux



In 1978 I was working as a resident deputy sheriff in a rural mountain area, approx. 40 miles from the nearest town. As I was driving around on routine patrol and listening to the AM radio the announcer reminded all the guys and gals out there in radio land that it was Valentine’s Day. At first I panicked, as I had not bought my wife a Valentine card. I didn't have time to drive into town to get a card before my wife was due home and there was no place in the area to buy one. At that time our children were young and they had colored construction paper, scissors, glue and all that I would need to make my own Valentine card. I rushed home and began cutting and gluing and then added a little poem, straight from the heart. It took me quite a while, but I finished the card just minutes before my wife arrived home. 


I presented my special made Valentine card to her and she gave me her store bought card. We then celebrated the day in our usual manner with a candle light dinner and other amenities. 


On the next day, while emptying the trash, I found my special made Valentine card in the bottom of the trash can. I couldn’t believe it, I had worked so hard on it, and there it lay, discarded in the trash. I fished it out and hid it away. Then on Valentine's Day, 1979, I retrieved the card, adding a note about where I had found it. Well, from that Valentine's Day until this, I have given her that very same card each year. Of course each year I have added a new note along with little gifts inside of the card. That old card has gotten dog eared and stained over the years but there is a lot of sentiment and ever increasing love added to it every succeeding year. I chuckle to myself as I walk past the greeting card displays in the stores as Valentine's Day draws near, seeing all of the husbands and boy friends trying to pick out the perfect card; knowing all the while, that I have the perfect card and will have it for many years to come. Of course each year I have to fish it out of the trash - Just kidding. My wife now hands it back to me after she reads it and takes out what ever little bauble I placed there, telling me to put it away until next year. Almost forgetting that Valentine's Day in 1978, has saved me many hours at trying to find just the right card and an untold fortune in the price of Valentine's Day cards. I don't know what I would do if ever that card were to be lost or misplaced, as it is now a priceless and highly treasured memento.



*****


(39)






DROP YOURS



By

Mike Boudreaux



The telephone rang and I was on my feet in an instant. I stood in the darkness not quite fully awake and wondering, “Why am I standing here?” On the second ring I realized what was happening and looked at the clock beside the bed, it was 2:10 AM. I knew before I answered, that I would be climbing into my patrol car rather than back into bed.

I grabbed the phone hoping it had not awakened my wife,


“Yes.”


The voice on the other end said, “Deputy Boudreaux?”


“Speaking”


“We have a call out for you. Sergeant Parks wants you to respond to Road 264 and Ave. 120 with your bloodhound.”


“What’s going on?”


“Patrol got into foot pursuit with two 211 suspects who took leg bail into an orange grove and they lost ‘em in there somewhere. They want you there as soon as possible with your dog.”


[ 211 is a Calif. Penal Code section for armed robbery. Leg bail is cop lingo for evading arrest on foot.]


“Okay, tell them driving time plus fifteen.”


As I hung up my wife asked, “Do you want me to fix you something before you leave?”


“No, you go back to sleep. I’ll grab something on my way out.”


It was mid summer and I had been working as the resident deputy of California Hot Springs for a little over two months. I was also in charge of the county’s bloodhound, a four year old female named Babe. Babe was a good tracker, she had produced excellent results in training but had yet to prove herself in a real life situation.


I had been a deputy sheriff for a little over four years when the position of resident deputy came open. I jumped at the chance and was selected from four other candidates. We sold our house in Porterville and moved to the mountains. I loved the mountains and I could not think of a better place to raise our two young sons, aged 2 and 6 years. At first my wife was reluctant to move to the mountains and I had promised her that if she didn’t like it in a year, I would put in a request for a transfer back to Porterville. To make a long story short, after fifteen years as resident deputy, I transferred back to Porterville as a detective. My wife cried when we left the mountains to live in Porterville.


It didn’t take long to suit up and head out the back door to Babe’s pen. She seemed to know that her services were needed. She was barking with excitement and bouncing off the ground at least two feet with each bark. Babe had a beautiful voice, a low throaty hound dog bark that came from deep within and burst out in a crisp melodic tone. I opened her gate and let her run around while I loaded what gear I thought I might need. Once the patrol car, a 1973 Chevrolet station wagon, was loaded, I called Babe and she ran to the back of the station wagon, prancing around impatiently waiting for the rear window to be lowered. When it lowered enough for her to fit through, she didn’t wait for it to lower further, she jumped in and sailed through the window without touching the frame or glass, turned around, stuck her head out the rear window and gave me a big wet slobbery kiss as the window was going back up.


I radioed the dispatcher advising that I was in route and gave an ETA of 40 to 45 minutes. The dispatcher advised that a command post had been set up at Road 264 and Avenue 120 and that Sgt. Parker had set up a perimeter around a one square mile area in which they believed the two suspects were hiding.


When I arrived at the scene I learned that two armed males wearing ski masks, had held up a Holiday Inn in Bakersfield and then had fled in a stolen 1968 Camero. After a series of high speed chases, involving two counties and several agencies, the suspects lost control of their vehicle and skidded broadside into an orange grove, disabling their vehicle. The suspects had fled the site on foot and the pursuing officers had lost them after a short chase in the orange grove.


I put on Babe’s harness and leash and led her to the suspect’s disabled vehicle. Within the vehicle were two knit ski masks which the suspects had worn during the armed robbery. I placed the ski masks separately into large paper bags, using a stick so as not to transfer my scent to the articles. I then allowed Babe to enter the suspect’s vehicle and get a scent from the front seat area. After she had scented, I called her out of the car and gave her the command to find. Babe took off like someone had set fire to her tail and she ran due south between the rows of orange trees for about fifteen trees, turned east and ran for about five trees then turned south again and ran to the end of the grove. At the south end of the grove was a fenced pasture used to graze cattle. At this point Babe pulled up short and put her nose to the ground and ran in small circles searching for the scent. I re-scented her from one of the ski masks but she indicated she did not have a scent trail. I then used the other ski mask and got the same results. I then back tracked to the vehicle and allowed Babe to re-scent the interior of the suspect’s vehicle. Once out of the vehicle she again took off enthusiastically and followed the exact same trail as before. But upon reaching the open field she drew up short and indicated she had lost the scent. Once more I took Babe back to the suspect’s vehicle and allowed her to scent it again. Just as before, Babe took off and ran the exact same trail and on reaching the empty field she again indicated that she had lost the scent. Re-scenting with the ski masks was to no avail. I then led Babe in a large circle about two hundred yards in diameter hoping to pick up the suspect’s scent but she was unable to do so.


Let me explain that Babe was a good bloodhound and did on several other occasions follow scent locating hiding suspects and lost individuals. There were several factors that I feel caused Babe to be unable to continue following the scent of the suspects. First, scent does not fall to the ground and stay in one place waiting for a scent dog to come along and sniff it. Wind plays a big factor on scent, even the slightest wind can move scent from a few feet to many yards off of the actual trail a suspect used. Scent will hold pretty tight in a grassy field or a brushy area, but in an empty field it can be completely blown away by a strong wind. In this case there was a moderate wind out of the west. The scent was held fairly close to the trail the suspects used in the grove because orange trees are close together and are low to the ground creating a buffer against the wind. The orange trees blocked the wind and the scent held tight, while in the grove, but once the suspects entered the open field, the wind had simply blown the scent away. There was no vegetation in the field due to it being heavily grazed by cattle. Without vegetation there was nothing to hold the scent and even a slight breeze could move it a long distance. And on top of everything else the cattle were still in the field creating their own scents which covered up and disguised any others.

As Babe was unable to continue tracking the scent, it was decided to increase the number of deputies around the perimeter, wait until daylight and then make a sweep to flush the suspects from their hiding place. I was assigned and took up a position on the western perimeter.


After taking my position we waited for daylight. As soon as there was enough light to see, a line of deputies began to make a sweep from the east end of the perimeter heading to the west end.


Unbeknownst to us the suspects had already slipped through the perimeter before it had been beefed up and had made their way into the Porterville area.



One of the detectives which had been assigned to a roving patrol around the perimeter had run low on gasoline and was given permission to discontinue his patrol and go into Porterville for fuel. The detective was in an unmarked car and in plain clothes as he pulled into a combination gas station and mini-market. As the detective was fueling his vehicle two subjects, matching the suspects description, walked out of the mini-market and headed north on a main thoroughfare. The detective did not want to approach possible armed suspects without a backup so he called the command post, advised of the situation and his location. Sgt. Parks then dispatched me to the detective’s location along with an additional two man unit.


As I was in route to the location, I was thinking that this was most likely a wild goose chase and that by the time it was checked out and discovered to be unfounded that the suspects would have already been located and captured and I would have missed out on the excitement. As I pulled into the gas station I saw the detective literally bouncing with excitement and pointing to the north. When I pulled up beside him, he pointed to two men walking north and said, “There they are, just now approaching the bridge.” I looked to where he was pointing and saw the two men he was referring to. Instantly I knew that these were the two suspects we were looking for. They matched every detail of the description given and they were acting very suspiciously. They had a quick pace, their hands were clutched at their waists and they kept looking nervously back over their shoulder. I accelerated and drove towards the suspects. The bridge was approx. 150 yards long and crossed over the Tule River. By the time I reached the south end of the bridge the suspects had made it about half way across. The suspects looked back over their shoulder, saw my marked patrol car approaching and started running toward the north end of the bridge. I pulled up and stopped about twenty yards from the suspects, just as they reached the north end of the bridge. I grabbed my microphone, advised of my location and that there were two subjects matching the suspect’s description at this location and requested immediate backup. I exited the patrol car with my shotgun in hand and ordered the two suspects to stop. The suspects refused to comply with my commands and continued to run. One of the suspects turned and ran down the bank into the dry river bed and the other ran east along the north bank. As I reached the bridge railing, shotgun in hand, the suspect who had ran into the river bed was directly below me, maybe twenty feet away. I aimed the shotgun at the suspect and ordered him to halt. The suspect looked up and seeing the shotgun pointed directly at him, instantly raised his hands and froze in his tracks. I then ordered him to turn around, keep his hands up and go down on his knees. The suspect quickly complied. The other suspect was now approx. 35 to 40 yards east of me, still on the bank. I then directed my attention to him while keeping the first suspect in my peripheral vision. I swung my shotgun toward the second suspect, took aim at him and ordered him to stop. The suspect looked back over his shoulder at me and then suddenly everything went into slow motion. The suspect began to turn towards me and as he did, his right hand went to his midsection while his left hand pulled up the front of his shirt. As the shirt came up it exposed a revolver protruding from the front of the suspect’s waist band. The suspect took the revolver into his right hand and began to extract it from the front of his trousers. I heard the words, “Drop your gun!”, and watched as the pistol cleared his trousers and slowly swung around to where it was pointing at me. Somewhere in a little cranny, deep in the recesses of my mind, I found myself thinking about my first real paying job, pumping gas at a Humble service station in Sanderson, Texas for .80 cents an hour. I remembered how I hated that job, it was dirty and boring, but I found myself thinking how I would much rather be sticking a gasoline nozzle into an empty tank rather than sticking that shotgun in the direction of an armed suspect who was aiming his gun at me. I was amazed at what a similar feeling that gasoline nozzle had with the pistol grip of my shotgun. Again, I heard the words, “Drop your gun!” It was only after hearing these words for the second time that I realized that both times they had come from my lips and I knew that I was not holding a gasoline nozzle in my hand but instead a deadly shotgun. The suspect then yelled back, “Drop yours!”, as he brought the pistol to the aim position. Looking into the muzzle of that gun it appeared as if a basket ball could easily fit into the barrel. I felt the stock of the shotgun against my cheek and felt my grip tighten on the stock, then I felt a jolt against my shoulder. Funny thing, I knew the shotgun had discharged, yet I never heard the sound of the shot. I saw the suspect turn slightly and drop his arm a few inches. Then the suspect turned back toward me and squared his shoulders as he raised the pistol taking aim at me a second time. I do not remember chambering another round into the pump action shotgun, but I must have done so, because when I again pulled the trigger I felt it kick against my shoulder as the shotgun discharged for a second time. After the second shot the suspect raised his hands high over his head without being told to do so, however, he still held the pistol in his right hand. I ordered him the drop the pistol, he hesitated for just a split second but when he saw me chamber another round into the shotgun he quickly complied. I then ordered the suspect to lay down on the ground, which he did without hesitation. At this time a another officer, Deputy Jerry Carlson, came up beside me with his shotgun at the ready. I jerked my head toward the suspect who was kneeling down in the river bed and said,


“You take that one, I’ll take the one on the bank.”


We then moved to the end of the bridge, never taking our shotguns off of the suspects. At the end of the bridge, Deputy Carlson moved down the bank and cautiously approached the suspect in the river bed. I slowly moved along the river bank until I reached the place where the suspect’s pistol was laying on the ground. It was too close to the suspect to suit me so I gave it a kick to get it beyond his reach. I then glanced back at Deputy Carlson who was handcuffing the other suspect and I could see the handle of a pistol protruding from the front of the suspect’s waist band. After the other suspect was cuffed, I saw Deputy Carlson reach around and remove the pistol from the suspect’s waist band. I then turned my full attention back to the suspect in front of me and placed my foot in the middle of his back to keep him pinned to the ground. At that time I noticed that he was bleeding from a wound at the back of his neck. I then contacted the radio dispatcher, advised we had two suspects in custody, that shots were fired and requested an ambulance be dispatched to my location. Instantly Sgt. Parks was on the radio asking,


“Officer, citizen or suspect?”


“Suspect.” I replied.


Right after this radio transmission there were a series of clicks on the radio that signaled that other deputies were keying their radios in approval.


Maintaining my shotgun in my right hand I knelt down placing my knee in the suspect’s back and instructed him to place his hands behind him at which time I cuffed his hands behind him. While handcuffing the suspect I noticed that he was also bleeding from a wound in his right wrist. The wound in the suspect’s neck was spurting blood with each heartbeat. I gave the suspect a quick pat search with my left hand, finding no additional weapons. I then placed my left index finger over the wound and applied pressure. Although I was trying to give aid to the suspect, he was agitated, and resisted by jerking his head away, allowing blood to spurt from the wound.


At this time Detective Sergeant James McBane arrived with two junior detectives. One of the junior detectives took charge of the suspect and Sgt. McBane relieved me of my shotgun. Sgt. McBane gave me a concerned look and asked,


“You okay?”


“I think so, things are happening way too fast right now.”


“As of this moment you are on administrative leave. You will have a report detailing your part in this incident on my desk by noon. You will not speak of this incident to any non Sheriff’s Office personnel, that includes friends, family and especially reporters. Is that clear?”


“That’s clear.”


“Okay, let’s get you out of here, this place is going to be crawling with looky loos and rubber neckers. I’ll have Detective Matthew's run you in to the station. You can write your report there and when your done go home.”


“What about my dog and my patrol car?”


“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of things.”


I knew the shooting was justified and yet there was a small portion of my mind that said, ‘what if the shooting team’s investigation showed I was not within policy?’ Although other deputies were close, none had actually been witness to the shooting. Deputy Carson later told me that he had heard me tell the suspect to drop his gun and had seen me fire my shotgun, but he could not see the suspect from his vantage point and had not seen the suspect with a pistol in his hand. The wound in the back of the suspect’s neck concerned me. I knew he was facing me when I fired and yet the wound in his neck appeared to have been received while he was facing away from me, with his back to me. I replayed the scene over and over in my mind and could not conceive as to how the suspect had been wounded in the back of his neck.


As I was being driven to the sub station my emotions were running wild. Everything had happened so quickly my body had a hard time knowing how to react. There was excitement, frustration, caution, fear, anger, aggression, name it and I was experiencing it. One minute I felt like screaming, the next I felt like laughing, and the next I felt like crying. If I had been by myself I probably would have done one or the other or all, but as I was with another officer, I bottled it up, restraining myself from displaying any emotions.


During lonely night patrols I recall playing different scenarios through my head and practicing in my mind exactly what actions I would take if this happened or what I would do if that happened. To tell the truth, I had no time to think about what to do, I just reacted and it was over before I knew it. Dispatch records indicated that I had advised of the suspects on the bridge at 6:31:27 AM and that I had requested the ambulance at 6:32:15 AM. From the time I stepped out of my patrol car on the bridge until I had hands on contact with the suspect was 48 seconds.


At the station I called my wife, advised I would be home in a couple of hours and that everything was alright. I wrote my report and placed it in Sgt. McBane's “in” basket. Everybody at the station gave me a pat on the back and said that I had done a good job, but I had not yet received the official word.


Two days later I got the official word. Lieutenant Dorcette, the sub station commander, called me and advised that the shooting team had just given him their report indicating it was a good shoot. He advised that the District Attorney’s office had not yet handed down their decision, but all indications were that the shooting was well within department policy. The suspect had been struck by two pellets from my shotgun. One had struck him in the back of the right wrist and had traveled just under the skin lodging in his right elbow. The only way this could have happened was if the suspect’s right arm had been extended towards me at the time. The other pellet had struck the suspect in the front, lower jaw, knocking out several of his lower front teeth, passing under his tongue and then exiting at the back of his neck. What I had thought to be an entry wound was actually an exit wound. The suspect did not receive any wounds to his lips indicating he had his mouth open at the time, most likely when he uttered the only words I heard him speak, “Drop yours!”  Detectives had interviewed the suspect in the hospital and he had admitted to aiming his gun at me. The lieutenant advised that the suspect had been shot at a distance of 53 yards. My shotgun was loaded with 00 buck shot which means that each time I pulled the trigger I sent nine .38 caliber lead pellets at the suspect. At 53 yards the spread of the shot was pretty wide and most of the shot had missed him. To this day I don’t know if I hit the suspect with both pellets on the first shot, on the second shot or with one on each shot. All I know for sure is that I don’t want to have to go through that again.



*****



(40)






THE STANDOFF



By

Mike Boudreaux



It was a Saturday night and I was making bar checks of the bars in my patrol area. My patrol area consisted of seven small mountain communities each with its own bar. I found that making the bar checks and showing the presence of law enforcement would generally keep things pretty calm and eliminate the necessity of a call out. I would start at the bar furthest from my home and plan my route to include all of the bars and then end up at the bar closest to my home, so when I was satisfied that all was in order, it would take me only a few minutes to drive home and log out for the night. I had just made my fourth bar check and was heading for number five when the call came over the radio. The dispatcher advised of a bar fight at the Deer Creek Lodge involving two subjects. I checked my watch it was 9:40 p.m. and from my location it would take 35 minutes to drive the distance to Deer Creek Lodge. I acknowledged having received the call and gave the dispatcher my estimated time of arrival. I had only been in route to the disturbance call for about five minutes when I received another call from the dispatcher. The dispatcher advised that a second call had been received from the bartender at Deer Creek Lodge who advised that the fight was over, but one of the combatants had left threatening to return with a gun. The dispatcher also advised that a another deputy was in route to the Deer Creek Lodge as a backup. 


It would take me another half hour to reach Deer Creek Lodge and depending on the other deputy's location it would take him at least 45 minutes to an hour to get there. The threat of one of the combatants returning to the bar with a gun gave the call an urgent status and the shift commander authorized a code three run for responding deputies. Code three means that the responding deputies are to use red lights and siren while in route to the call. There was little need for me to use red lights and siren as in my area there was little or no traffic at this time of night, however, it was comforting to know that the responding backup officer would be expediting his travel time.


I arrived at Deer Creek Lodge at 10:09 p.m. and when I checked out at the location the responding backup officer advised he was still 20 minutes out. I entered the bar, and saw there were only four patrons in the bar and the situation appeared calm. I made contact with the bartender who jerked his head toward a patron at the end of the bar and advised that this man and another patron by the name of Jolly Fairbanks had been involved in a fist fight. The bartender related that Jolly had come in around 8:00 p.m. and began drinking straight shots and beer. Shortly after Jolly came in a group of loggers came in and started playing pool and drinking beer. After playing a few games of pool among themselves, Jolly challenged the table, stating he could beat any one of them at pool. The loggers tried to ignore Jolly, but he got right in their face and was starting to become aggressive. Finally one of the loggers agreed to play Jolly a game of pool thinking that it would ease tensions and tone down his aggression. During the pool game Jolly accused the logger of cheating and an argument ensued which escalated into a pushing and shoving match, with raised voices and threats being made by both parties. The bartender then told them to take it outside. Both men agreed and went out into the parking lot followed by the other patrons in the bar. As soon as the crowd headed outside the bartender called the sheriff's office and reported a fight.


It turned out that there was not much of a fight. Both men were pretty evenly matched, however the logger worked every day and was in really good physical condition. Jolly, although fairly good sized, about 6'2" and 240 pounds, was soft and a bit pudgy due to his lazy life style. The two squared off in the parking lot and barked insults at one another. Finally Jolly reared back and launched a roundhouse, aimed at the logger's head. The logger easily ducked the punch and planted a right in Jolly's midsection followed quickly by a left to his chin. Jolly went down like a sack of potatoes and after lying there for a few seconds, crawled over to his vehicle and pulled himself to his feet by the front bumper. Holding his jaw with his right hand and stabilizing himself on the fender with his left, Jolly wobbled around to the driver's door and after fumbling with the key for a while finally managed to get the car door open. Jolly stood there at the open car door and yelled, "I'll be back with my gun to finish this!" Jolly then started his car and sped off in the direction of his house.  


I was familiar with Jolly Fairbanks who had moved into the area about six months previously. His real name was Francis Fairbanks, but he went by the nick name of Jolly. The nick name was not because he had a jolly attitude, but that his size was supposed to be like the 'Jolly Green Giant' on a brand name can of peas. Jolly was an ex-Hells Angel out of the L.A. area, if there is such a thing as an ex-Hells Angel. He had received a large settlement from a back injury and had moved to California Hot Springs, using part of his settlement to buy a piece of property with a small house on it. I knew when I first met him that he was trouble and that one day I would have to deal with him. Jolly was married and his wife, Carol, was altogether different. Somewhere along the way Carol had found the Lord, we attended the same church and she was friends with my wife.

I confirmed the story related to me by the bartender by speaking with the other combatant and the witnesses. The other combatant advised that he did not want to press any charges against Jolly and he was satisfied with the way things had turned out. It appeared to me that Jolly had gotten exactly what he had asked for, but I still needed to contact him to check for injuries and warn him about making threats about settling things with a firearm. By this time my back up officer, Kevin Lewis, had arrived at the bar and I briefed him concerning this incident. Deputy Lewis then followed me to Jolly Fairbanks' residence. 

Jolly lived only about a half of a mile from the Deer Creek Lodge and would have had plenty of time to have gone home after the incident, obtained a gun, of which I was told he had many, and returned to the bar if he had been serious about his threat. I pulled up about thirty yards from the front of the Fairbanks' residence and Dep. Lewis parked behind me. We then approached the residence on foot. As we were approaching the residence the Fairbanks' dog, which was kept chained to a tree near the front of the residence, began to bark, alerting its owner of our presence. At this time the front door opened and Carol Fairbanks poked her head out. I was carrying my flashlight in my left hand and shined it on her to let her know I was coming. Carol, raised her hand over her eyes trying to block out some of the glare from my flashlight and asked, "Is that you Mike?" "Yes" I replied. Carol stepped back into the house and beckoning with her right hand said, "Come on in." There was the sound of disgust in her voice, letting me know she was not pleased with her husband's actions. Carol had left the front door open and I stepped into the doorway with Dep. Lewis right behind me. Carol had stepped back into the living room and was standing on my right facing Jolly who was seated in a recliner chair, with the foot rest up, facing the front door. Even in his reclined position I could tell Jolly was pretty well intoxicated. Jolly looked up at me from his chair and crossed his right arm over his body reaching in between the arm of the chair and the cushion. Then he brought his arm back across his body holding an automatic pistol in his right hand and pointed it directly at me. "GUN!!" I yelled and quickly stepped back as I was drawing my service revolver only to bump into Deputy Lewis. Deputy Lewis stood there for what seemed to be an eternity which blocked me from stepping back out of the doorway. Carol saw the gun when I did and screamed, "Jolly don't do it!" Carol then stepped to her left and stood between Jolly and I. Carol screamed, "Put it down Jolly, put it down, he is going to shoot you!" Jolly then slurred the words, "Not if I shoot him first." Jolly's right arm was extended toward me and he kept trying to peer around Carol to get a better view of me. Jolly motioned with his gun hand, waving it to the side as he said, "Move outta the way woman." Carol said, "No, I'm not moving, you put that gun down!" I had my service revolver pointed towards Jolly, but I was unable to draw a bead on him due to Carol standing between us. I yelled at Carol, "Get out of the way, get out of the way!" Jolly would move around, while still seated in the recliner, trying to see around Carol to get a better view of me, but each time he would move Carol would move in the same direction, keeping herself between me and Jolly. I could not safely take a shot at Jolly as Carol continued to move as Jolly moved and she would step right into my line of fire. Suddenly I realized that Deputy Lewis was no longer behind me and it gave me the opportunity to step back through the doorway and move to my left around the door jamb, placing a wall between Jolly and I. I tried to make myself as small of a target as possible, however, my head, right shoulder and arm were still exposed to Jolly enabling me to maintain my view of him and keep my gun at the ready. A quick glance to my right revealed that Deputy Lewis had moved to a window where he was trying to get a good view of Jolly, I could tell by his bobbing and weaving as he stood in front of the window that he was unable to get Jolly in his view. Deputy Lewis glanced over at me and said, "All I can see are his legs from the knees down." Carol was still doing her little dance staying in between Jolly and I. I again yelled at Carol to move out of the way, she ignored my pleading and continued moving to keep herself between Jolly and I. Jolly remained seated in his recliner and would move from side to side in an effort to see around Carol. I said, "Look Jolly, you might want to shoot me, but as drunk as you are you're going to shoot at me and hit Carol, then I'm going to shoot you dead and who is going to look after your kids." At the mention of his children Jolly glanced over toward a hallway to his right where his two children were standing, a girl about six years old and a boy around four, they stood embracing each other, wide eyed and terrified. I could see the wheels turning in Jolly's mind as he mulled over what I had said. Slowly his arm lowered to where the pistol rested on his knee, but he still held the pistol in his right hand. "Drop the gun and put your hands up!" I demanded. Jolly just sat there, glassy eyed in a fog, still holding the gun. Again I said, "Drop the gun!" At this time Carol quickly stepped up to Jolly and took the pistol out of his limp hand. She then walked over to the kitchen table, placed the pistol on the table and quickly moved over to her children. Embracing the two children she ushered them down the hallway out of sight. As soon as the gun was out of Jolly's hand both Deputy Lewis and myself moved quickly through the open front door and pounced on Jolly. I had grabbed Jolly's right arm as Deputy Lewis grabbed his left and we lifted him out of the recliner and slammed him, face down, on the floor. His arms were forced behind him and handcuffs were quickly clamped into place. Jolly tuned his head toward me and said, "Mike, you know I wouldn't have shot you." I reached down, grabbed Jolly by his collar pulling his head toward me. I then put on my meanest face and growled, "You are real lucky that Carol was here, because if I had gotten a clear shot at you, you would be dead right now." Truthfully, I do not know if I would have shot Jolly, but I wanted him to think that I would have.


I moved over to the kitchen table and took possession of the pistol, which was a 9mm double action Berretta, it was found to be fully loaded with one in the chamber. I quickly unloaded the pistol rendering it safe. Deputy Lewis and I then escorted Jolly to Deputy Lewis' patrol car where Jolly was placed in the rear seat. I instructed Deputy Lewis to transport Jolly to the Porterville sub station and book him on charges of disturbing the peace and assault on a peace officer with a firearm, advising that I would be along shortly to file a full report.


I then contacted Carol and obtained a detailed written statement concerning this incident. I re-contacted the logger, who had been involved in the fight with Jolly and obtained his written statement along with the statements of the witnesses.  

Having satisfied myself that all was in order, I headed toward the Porterville sub station to complete the report. While I drove to the station I mulled over the events of this incident in preparation to writing my report. It struck me that from the time I first stepped into the doorway at Jolly's residence until he was lying cuffed on the floor was about 25 seconds. I thought to myself, that couldn't be right, it seemed more like twenty five minutes. I re-played the incident over in my mind while I timed it on my watch . . . . Yep, only 25 seconds, but it seemed like a life time  -  and in some ways maybe it was.



*****



(41)






THE GRADE BOOK



By

Mike Boudreaux




Three boys slipped unnoticed into the old box car which had sat on an unused siding for several years. It made a great club house and there was a neat little hidey hole in the floor near one of the corners in which they could stash secret things. On this occasion one of the boys reached into the hole and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a book of matches. They all lit up and sat in the open door of the box car with their legs dangling over the edge enjoying a smoke. Billy was in a foul mood as he had just taken a math test in high school that day and he knew he had done poorly,


“I really blew that test, I’m pretty sure I’m flunking math.”


“Yeah me too.” replied Paul.


I just sat there, thinking how lucky I was that I was a transfer student from California and had completed all the math courses this school required. So instead of math I was taking a required Texas history course. Seems that the Texas school system wants all Texas graduates to know just how great Texas is. Shucks, I could have told them that without having to take a class on Texas history, but as I said, it was a requirement for graduation.


“I just can’t flunk math, my dad will blister my butt good.”, Billy moaned


“I’ll be lucky to just get a whuppen,” Paul said, “my Dad’ll kill me for sure.”


“There has got to be something we can do to change those bad grades”, Paul said thoughtfully.


After a few minutes of silence Billy jumped up and said,


“That’s it! We’ll change the grades!”


“What’re ya talkin ‘bout?”, Paul asked.


Billy explained, “Let’s break into Mr. Gamble’s class room and change the grades in his grade book. All we have to do is erase the grades and put in new grades. We don’t have to make ‘em really good grades, just good enough to for us to barely pass the course.”


So a plan was formulated. I had nothing to gain by joining in on the scheme, but we were friends and we always did everything together. And besides that, there was absolutely nothing else to do in this one horse town and this sounded like it ought to be an exciting adventure.


The plan was to leave a window unlocked at the top of a fire escape, climb up the fire escape during the night, slip into Mr. Gamble’s class room and change grades in his grade book which he kept in his desk.


The high school building was a two story brick building which had a fire escape at one end of the upstairs corridor. The fire escape was a long metal slide which was located outside of a large window at the end of the second floor hallway. There would be a fire drill twice a year and it was a real treat to have a class in one of the second floor class rooms during one of these drills. Instead of using the stairway the students occupying the second floor would form a single file line at the end of the hallway, go out of the window onto the slide and then get to slide from the second floor down to the ground below.


On the day of the proposed raid, Billy was to leave the transom, over the door to Mr. Gamble’s ground floor class room, a little ajar. It would appear to be closed but a gentle nudge from the outside would allow it to open. As I had my last period class on the second floor, my assignment was to unlock the window at the top of the fire escape. And as my first period class was also on the second floor, I was to lock the window the very first thing on the next morning. Billy and I had completed our assignments and at around 8:00 PM we all met at a pre-arranged spot near the school. We had all dressed in dark clothes and had even discussed putting burnt cork on our faces, but had decided against doing that. From our location we had a good vantage point of the surrounding area and all we had to do was wait until the night janitors left the building.


At around 8:20 PM we saw the lights start to go off inside of the high school building. Then just after 8:30 the two janitors left the building got into their vehicles and drove away. We waited for a few minutes to make sure that they would not return for some forgotten object. When we felt the coast was clear we moved over to the base of the fire escape. The three of us then climbed up the slide to the second story window. This was quite an accomplishment as we were all wearing leather soled shoes and the slide was a bit slippery. We grasped the sides firmly and pulled our way upward with an occasional slide backward for a few feet. It was poor planning on our part, we should have worn our gym shoes. Eventually we all stood on the little platform at the top of the fire escape. Paul gingerly placed his fingers on the top of the window and pushed up. The window did not budge. At first we thought that one of the janitors had discovered the unlocked window and had locked it. I had brought one of those tiny little single cell flashlights and turned it on, shining it into the window just long enough to see that window latch was not locked and quickly shut it off.


“It’s just stuck Paul, come on, I’ll give you a hand. We’ll left together.”


Paul and I then pushed up on the window at the same time and it flew open making a loud bang when it struck the top of the sill. Being extremely nervous, the sound spooked us and Paul and I started to jump onto the slide and make our get away, but Billy blocked our way.


“Hold on guys,” Billy said, “Let’s just sit here a minute and if no one comes we’ll go on in.”


We sat there on the little platform and watched for any indication that we had been detected. Like I said before, this was a small one horse town in South West Texas where they rolled up the sidewalks at 7:00 PM and no one, and I do mean no one, was out and about at this hour. After a few minutes we decided that it was okay to continue with our plan. We then climbed through the window and made our way downstairs to Mr. Gamble’s class room. Billy and I clasped our hands together making a platform for Paul to step up on in order to reach the transom. Paul then stepped into our hands and climbed up through the transom. Once inside of the class room Paul opened the classroom door. We then stealthily moved over to Mr. Gamble’s desk and started carefully going through the drawers, being careful as not to disturb or move anything, it didn’t take long to find the grade book. I held the tiny light as Billy started to erase his grade and after just a moment he said,


“Damn! It’s in ink, what are we going to do now?”


Just a few days earlier I had watched as my grandmother used some ink eradicator to make some corrections on a form she had been filling out.


“Hey guys, my granny’s got some stuff at the house that will erase the ink.”


“Okay, there’s no one at my house,” Billy said, “let’s take the grade book there, make the corrections and then bring it back when we’re done.”


We then left the door to Mr. Gamble’s classroom unlocked and exited down the fire escape. I rushed home, snuck into the house and got the ink eradicator out of my grandmother’s desk. In just a few minutes I was knocking on the back door to Billy’s house. Billy opened the door and asked,


“You got the stuff?”


“Right here.” , I responded as I handed it to Billy.


The ink eradicator consisted of two small bottles of liquid. The instructions called for applying the contents of one bottle, waiting a few minutes and then applying the contents of the other bottle while gently massaging the ink spot with the tip of the applicator. The instructions sounded simple enough.


Billy applied a few drops of the contents of the first bottle and we waited a few minutes. Billy then applied a few drops of the contents from the second bottle and began to gently message the writing with the applicator. According to the instructions this should have eradicated the ink……. it didn’t. Billy rubbed harder and a hole appeared in the paper.

“Oh my gosh!”, Billy exclaimed, 


“What are we going to do now? The hole is right there on my grade, he’ll know it was me. We can’t put the grade book back now.”


After thinking about it for a while, Paul said, “Okay, we got to go back to the school and close everything up just like we were never there. We’ll figure something out tomorrow.”


We then returned to the school and re-entered the building by the fire escape and made our way to Mr. Gamble’s room. We then closed and locked the transom and then locked his door. We could not exit the building through the main doors as it required a key to lock the doors. We then exited by the fire escape and we each went to our respective homes. I don’t know about the others, but I didn’t get much sleep that night. I went to school early the next morning and as soon as the doors were opened I went directly to the window at the end of the second floor hall and locked it. I then went into the boys bathroom, which is where we met each morning, and waited for Billy and Paul to arrive. Paul showed up a few minutes later and told me that Billy was staying home, “Sick”, today so that he could work on the grade book. It was hoped that Billy would be able to do something to make things right and we could return the grade book before anyone found out. Our hopes were dashed when right after first period class it was learned that Mr. Gamble had discovered his grade book was missing. Mr. Gamble was sure that he had left the grade book in his desk at school, but he was going home for lunch to make sure he had not inadvertently taken it home. After the lunch break it didn’t take long to learn that Mr. Gamble was still unable to locate his grade book, but then we already knew that. Paul and I finished our classes that day trying to look as innocent as we could. Just as soon as school was over Paul and I rushed over to Billy’s house to see if he was “feeling any better.”


Billy gave us some bad news. Billy said that he tried to make further corrections to the grade book but that he just made things worse. Billy had even tried removing the entire page and filling in another page, but he was unable to forge Mr. Gamble’s writing and just managed to mess things up real good. Paul and I looked at the grade book and had to agree with Billy, it was a mess, a really big mess. There was no way we could return the grade book in this condition, even if we could figure out a way to get it back without being caught. Right then and there it was decided to burn the grade book and continue to act innocent over the matter. And that’s just what we did, we went out into the far end of Billy’s back yard and had ourselves a little grade book Bar B Que.


The next day at school there was a general assembly called for second period. The principal and Mr. Gamble made a presentation advising that it had been determined that Mr. Gamble’s grade book had been stolen. After a lecture expounding the virtues of honesty, telling the truth and being a good citizen, a plea was put forth for the responsible party to return the grade book. We were told that if the grade book were to be returned that no criminal charges would be filed against the perpetrator. And even if the grade book were returned anonymously the matter would be dropped, forgotten about and not mentioned again. The principal gave the perpetrator two days to return the grade book before he would call in the authorities to investigate.


We sat on the floor and leaned back against the wall of the old box car as we lit up our cigarettes. After smoking in silence for a few minutes we began to discuss what we should do about the grade book. I said that we shouldn’t do anything, but Billy suggested,


“Why don’t we just return the book?”


“We can’t do that, it’s all burned up.”


“Well, not entirely, the cover didn’t burn all the way. And he didn’t say what condition the book had to be in, he just said if it were returned they’d drop the whole thing.”


“He’s right, they didn’t say it had to be in the same condition, they just said that if the grade book were returned they would forget about it.”


“What if we get caught when we take it back?”


“We’ll just have to figure a way to get it back and not get caught. Today is Wednesday, that gives us until Friday to get the grade book back.”


“You can bet they will be watching the school real close to see who brings the book back. They said that they would not press any charges, but they didn’t say that there wouldn’t be any school disciplinary action taken.”


“Paul’s right, if we get caught, you can bet we’ll get punished and they’ll tell our folks.”


“Okay, Billy’s right, they will be watching the school, but they won’t be watching the post office. We’ll just put what’s left of the book in a big envelope and mail it back to the school. If we mail it tonight, they’re sure to get it by Friday.”


“We can’t just go buy one of those big envelopes, they’ll ask who bought it and they’ll trace it back to us.”


We won’t have to, my granny has a whole bunch of them stored in the closet, she won’t miss just one.”


“Okay, how about the stamps?”


“We’ll buy ‘em at the machine and put on extra to make sure there’s enough postage.”


“Then it’s decided. We’ll mail it back. I’ll go get the envelope and meet you guys at Billy’s.”


I was very careful when sneaking the big envelope out of my grandmother’s closet, I slipped into the bathroom, folded the envelope and stuck it under my T-shirt. I then ran over to Billy’s house and met Paul and Billy in the back yard. We went to the place where we had Bar B Qued the grade book and scooped up all the ashes and placed them into the envelope along with the front and back cover. The front and back covers of the grade book had been badly charred but they were not entirely burned, probably because they were covered in some kind of blue green cloth and had leather covered corners and binding. Mr. Gamble’s name could still be read on the front cover. We thought that we were lucky that his name could still be read as they could not argue that this was not Mr. Gamble’s grade book. We used our left hands and each, in turn, made a letter or a number as we addressed the envelope to the high school, “Attn: Mr. Gamble”. The writing was a little sloppy but readable. We then weighed the envelope and put on two extra stamps, just to be sure it reached it’s destination. We then waited until the post office was closed and watched until we were sure no one was inside. Billy then put the envelope under his shirt, went into the post office and dropped it into the local mail slot. We then took a vow of silence that neither of us would ever discuss this incident again and that if one happened to get caught, that person would not rat on the others, but would take the full blame by himself. We then went to the Dairy Queen and celebrated with a large order of fires and a milk shake.


On the first period after lunch on Friday there was another general assembly called. Mr. Gamble and the principal addressed the students advising that the grade book had been returned, however, it was in such a condition that it could not be read. They did not disclose what condition that was. As Mr. Gamble did not have a record of his pupil’s grades, it was decided that a math test would be given on the following Friday and the score on that test would determine the student’s grade for that semester. Both Mr. Gamble and the principal acknowledged that they had said they would forget this matter and would not mention it further if the grade book were returned, however, they felt under the circumstances they would mention it just this once and then would not mention it further. They then addressed the perpetrator and began to tell whoever it was just what they thought of him or her and how they felt about the actions they had taken in this matter. They were fairly descriptive and explicit in their recitation and I’ll tell you right now, I’m really glad we were never caught. I don’t know if they had any idea who was responsible for taking the grade book, but during their speech it felt like they were staring directly at Paul, Billy and myself.


I didn’t see much of Paul or Billy for the next week and spent a lot of time smoking in the old box car after school by myself as they were cramming for the big math test coming up on Friday.


I’ll let you wonder if the names in this story were changed to protect the innocent, maybe they were and maybe they weren‘t. And anyway, in this case, there are none who were innocent and I would also like to say that the statute of limitations has long since run out.


By the way, both Paul and Billy somehow managed to squeak by on their math test, their grades were nothing to shout about, but they did pass the course, so I guess it was all worth it . . . . . . maybe.



*****



(42)





The Construction Site



By

Mike Boudreaux



As I was growing up, back in the fifties, they were constructing a new, 4000 seat, memorial auditorium not far from where I lived. This was a massive place, to a ten year old it looked like the inside of a dinosaur. Even though my parents had warned me not to play there, I would meet four of five of my playmates there after school and watch the workmen as they went about their jobs. If we stayed out of the way and didn’t bother the workers, they would return the favor and not bother us. On this particular day the construction workers had stopped work for the day and the place was deserted. Now-a-days there would be a fence around the place, but back then, no such thing. Anyway, inside of the building they had a bucket with a rope tied to the handle. The rope went up to a pulley attached to the ceiling and back down to ground level. They used this bucket to haul tools and such from the ground level up to the scaffolding so they wouldn't have to climb down and back up every time they needed something. Well, we decided it would make a great elevator to take us up to the cat walks. One of my playmates stood in the bucket and tried to pull himself up with the rope, but he wasn't strong enough. I figured that I could do it, so I got in the bucket, with one leg on each side of the handle and tried to pull myself up; Well, I was wrong, I couldn't pull myself up either. I asked my playmates if they would help pull me up. They were more than eager to help. They all grabbed the rope and gave a mighty tug. The bucket was one of those five gallon metal buckets that paint came in. Well, it had been around awhile and the bottom was just a little rusted, well maybe a whole lot rusted. Anyway, the bottom came out of that bucket and for just a moment I stood there on the ground wondering what happened. That moment didn't last long, as the bucket shot up around my legs until the handle struck me in the groin; Let me tell you, I'm lucky that later in life, I was able to have children. But that's not all, my playmates were very enthusiastic and were determined to get me off of the ground. They had been so enthusiastic that now I'm about ten feet up in the air with a bucket around my legs, in great pain, hollering and screaming and holding on for dear life. Of course this so frightened the rope tuggers that they all let go and ran off. With no one holding on to the other end of the rope I found it didn’t take long to get back on the ground - face first. Now I find myself with a mouth full of dirt, rolling around on the ground, in agony, trying to get this bucket off of my legs and no one to help me. Somehow I managed to scramble out of that bucket and limp home where I kept my secret or, on top of everything else, I would have received a spanking for disobeying my parents. Needless to say I didn’t play around that construction site any more and I have a complete and thorough understanding as to why they put fences up around construction sites now-a-days.



***** 



(43)




THE MONASTERY



By

Mike Boudreaux



Uncle Dudley stopped by the other day and as we were basking in the afternoon sun, soaking up some of the glorious California sunshine and sipping the juice from some fresh squeezed oranges, we got into a discussion about religion. To my surprise Uncle Dudley informed me that he had once been a Ducorian monk. Uncle Dudley related that several years ago he had joined the Ducorian monastery and had become one of the Ducorian brothers.


It seems that some years back Uncle Dudley was out for a drive on the back roads, south and east of Ducor, when his car broke down, fortunately he was not too far from the little known and obscure Ducorian monastery. Uncle Dudley walked to the monastery and asked to use their telephone to call a tow truck. The high priest, or head monk, whatever you want to call him, informed Uncle Dudley that they did not have a telephone, electricity, indoor plumbing or other modern conveniences. As it was very late, the head monk invited Uncle Dudley to spend the night and advised that he would have some of the brothers look at his car. Uncle Dudley was shown to his room, which was a small but comfortable cubicle with only a bed and a night stand. As he was very tired Uncle Dudley crawled into bed and just as he was about to drift off to sleep he heard a strange humming sound coming from somewhere within the monastery.


Uncle Dudley advised that the sound was most unusual, very strange indeed, a sound that Uncle Dudley did not believe that he had ever heard before, yet it was hauntingly familiar, but still he was unable to identify this strange sound. On the next morning, during breakfast, Uncle Dudley asked about the strange sound, but was advised by the head monk that he could not divulge any information as to it’s source. The head monk quickly changed the subject, telling Uncle Dudley that his car had been repaired and it was ready for him to drive. Uncle Dudley tried to pay for the repairs to his car, but the brothers refused to except any payment. As Uncle Dudley drove away he was amazed at the performance of his car, it appeared to have better acceleration, more power and to run smoother than when it was brand new.


Uncle Dudley went on his merry way giving it no further thought at the time, but then several years later, he was out for a drive in the same area, south and east of Ducor, when he swerved to miss a large pot hole in the road, lost control of his car and ended up in a ditch. Uncle Dudley suffered no injuries but his car was seriously damaged, with a broken windshield, smashed fenders and was upside down in a ditch. Fortunately Uncle Dudley was near the Ducorian monastery and walked there to get help.


It was late when he arrived and was welcomed into the monastery by the very same head monk who he had met several years previously. Uncle Dudley explained his predicament and was advised that some of the brothers would have a look at his car. As it was very late the head monk invited Uncle Dudley to spend the night and again was shown to the same room which he had occupied before. As Uncle Dudley lay down to sleep, he again heard the strange humming sound coming from somewhere within the confines of the monastery.


On the next morning, as he was enjoying a wonderful breakfast with the brothers, he asked about the strange sound he had heard during the night. The brothers, who had been engaged in polite conversation, suddenly became quiet and one by one excused themselves from the table, leaving Uncle Dudley alone with the head monk. Uncle Dudley turned to the head monk and asked about the strange humming sound he had heard. Uncle Dudley told me that when he asked the head monk about the strange sound, the smile, which was constantly on the head monk’s face, quickly faded, he looked at Uncle Dudley with a cold deliberate stare, and told him that he was unable to discuss the source of the sound outside of the monastery or with anyone other than a fellow Ducorian monk. Uncle Dudley advised that he understood, thanked the head monk for his hospitality and told him that he would have to be going, as it was a long walk into town and he needed to get a tow truck for his car.

The head monk informed Uncle Dudley that his car had been repaired and was awaiting him outside. Uncle Dudley was amazed, how could his car be repaired, it had been seriously damaged. Uncle Dudley went outside and found his car, totally repaired, the windshield was no longer shattered, the fenders were no longer smashed and the paint appeared as it did when he bought the car new from the dealer. Uncle Dudley tried to pay for the repairs to his car, but the head monk politely refused any payment.


Uncle Dudley drove away from the monastery and was headed towards town, but he could not keep from wondering about the strange humming sound that was so hauntingly familiar, yet just out of his mind’s grasp. And his car, how had it been repaired so quickly and why did it operate better than when it was new?


Uncle Dudley could not endure it any longer, he turned around and returned to the monastery where he contacted the head monk. Without hesitation, Uncle Dudley put it right on the line, asking that if he were to join the monastery and become a Ducorian monk would he then be able to learn about the strange sound. The head monk advised that if he were to join the monastery and become a Ducorian monk he would then be able to learn all about the strange sound.


The head monk then informed Uncle Dudley that in order to become a Ducorian monk he would have to answer two questions correctly, however, he would only be given one chance to respond. Uncle Dudley agreed and the head monk then told him that he would have to tell him the precise number of grains of sand that were on the beaches of the world and tell him the exact number of stars that there were in the heavens.


Some years ago it would have taken decades upon decades to have calculated the correct answer to these questions, however, with the aid of libraries, stacks and stacks of reference materials, computer technology and Uncle Dudley’s own vast knowledge, he was able to calculate the answer to these questions in just two years, five months, and sixteen days. With his answers in hand Uncle Dudley returned to the monastery, contacted the head monk and announced that he had the answers to his questions. The head monk was somewhat skeptical, seeing as it had only been two years, five months and sixteen days since he had asked the questions, however, agreed to hear Uncle Dudley’s responses, reminding him that if he were wrong in one or both answers, that he would not get another chance to respond. Uncle Dudley advised that he understood and started to relay his answers, however, the head monk put his forefinger to his lips stopping Uncle Dudley from speaking, cautiously looked around, and told Uncle Dudley that he should whisper the answers into his ear, lest there be eaves droppers who would use this information to gain membership into the monastery unethically. Uncle Dudley then whispered the answers into the head monk’s ear. The head monk was amazed at Uncle Dudley's answers and double checked to make sure Uncle Dudley was correct. The head monk then announced to Uncle Dudley that he had indeed answered both questions correctly.

The head monk then called the other brothers together, announced that Uncle Dudley had responded with the correct answers and right there on the spot they conducted a ceremony inducting Uncle Dudley into the monastery and making him a Ducorian monk. During the ceremony Uncle Dudley was given the traditional clothing worn by the Ducorian monks, a hooded robe, a wide leather belt and sandals. Uncle Dudley was told that he must wear this clothing at all times when in contact with the public or other monks.


Uncle Dudley then asked about the strange humming sound and the head monk advised that Uncle Dudley could see for himself and he escorted Uncle Dudley down a long flight of nine hundred stairs, and then down a long, dark hall which ended at a very large iron door. The head monk then told Uncle Dudley that beyond this iron door he would find the answer to his question, but told Uncle Dudley that before he could go through the door he must first cleanse his mind of all evil thoughts. The head monk then left Uncle Dudley standing in front of the door, so that he could be alone with his thoughts. As Uncle Dudley began to cleanse his mind of all evil thoughts, he could hear the strange humming noise and could tell that the noise was coming from somewhere beyond this door.


After Uncle Dudley had cleared his mind of all evil thoughts, he tried to open the door and found that the door was locked. Uncle Dudley ran back along the long, dark hall and raced up the flight of nine hundred stairs and after locating the head monk, advised that the door was locked. The head monk informed Uncle Dudley that the key to the iron door was in the possession of Brother Sebastian who was tending the garden.


Uncle Dudley went to the garden and found Brother Sebastian, asking him for the key to the iron door. Brother Sebastian removed a golden chain from around his neck on which there was a large key and handed the key to Uncle Dudley, reminding him that he could only pass through the iron door if his mind was cleansed of all evil thoughts. Taking the key Uncle Dudley quickly descended the nine hundred steps and ran down the long, dark hall to the iron door. Uncle Dudley paused to cleanse his mind of all evil thoughts and then placed the key into the lock and turned it with eager anticipation. Uncle Dudley threw open the iron door and there before him was a very large oak door, which was covered in ornate carvings and was highly polished. Uncle Dudley tried to open the door but found that it was locked. Uncle Dudley then went back through the iron door, raced along the dark hall, ran up the long staircase and finding the head monk advised that he had passed through the iron door and beyond that he had found an oak door which was locked. The head monk informed Uncle Dudley that Brother Jonathan had the key to the oak door and he was tending to the baking in the kitchen.


Uncle Dudley found Brother Jonathan in the kitchen and requested the key to the oak door. Brother Jonathan removed a golden chain from around his neck on which there was a large key and handed it to Uncle Dudley. As he gave the key to Uncle Dudley he advised Uncle Dudley that he would need to remove his wide leather belt before going through the oak door and hang it on a silver hook which he would find beside the door. Uncle Dudley then raced down the long staircase and ran down the long, dark hall, cleansing his mind of all evil thoughts he passed through the open iron door and thrust the key into the lock on the oak door. Before turning the key, Uncle Dudley removed his wide leather belt and hung it on the silver hook beside the door. As Uncle Dudley turned the key in the lock he could hear the strange humming sound which was much louder and was coming from somewhere beyond this door. The door swung open and there before Uncle Dudley was a huge silver door which was ornately engraved with the most beautiful engravings he had ever seen. Uncle Dudley tried to open the silver door, but found that it was locked, he went back through oak door, stopping just long enough to get his wide leather belt and place it around his waist, then he went through the iron door, walked along the long, dark hall and up the long staircase and when he had located the head monk he advised that he had passed through he iron door and the oak door only to find a silver door which was locked. The head monk advised Uncle Dudley that Brother Nathaniel had the key to the silver door and he was tending to the livestock in the barn.


Uncle Dudley located Brother Nathaniel in the barn and asked for the key to the silver door. Brother Nathaniel removed a golden chain from around his neck on which there was a large key and handed it to Uncle Dudley. As he gave the key to Uncle Dudley he advised him that it would be necessary for him to remove his hooded robe prior to going through the silver door and hang it on a golden hook which he would find beside the door. Grasping the key Uncle Dudley returned to the long staircase, staggered slowly down and sauntered along the long, dark hall, went through the open iron door, stopping momentarily to cleanse his mind of all evil thoughts, then he went through the open oak door, only after he had removed his wide leather belt and hung it on the hook beside the door. Then, before placing the key into the lock on the silver door, he removed his hooded robe and hung it on the golden hook beside the door. As Uncle Dudley was turning the key in the lock he noted that the strange humming noise was much, much louder and was coming from somewhere beyond this door. The silver door swung open and there before Uncle Dudley was a huge golden door, the door was studded with precious jewels and was very ornately engraved. Uncle Dudley tried to open the golden door but found that it was locked. Uncle Dudley turned and staggered back through the silver door, donning his hooded robe, then he went through the oak door grabbing his wide leather belt as he passed, then on through the iron door, buckling his belt as he staggered back along the long, dark hall and hand over hand, climbed up the long nine hundred step staircase. He located the head monk and advised that he had reached the golden door only to find that it was locked. The head monk advised that he had the key to the golden door and removed a golden chain from around his neck on which there was a large key. As the head monk handed the key to Uncle Dudley he told him that before going through the golden door that he would have to remove his sandals and place them in a wooden box which he would find beside the door. Uncle Dudley then tottered back down the long staircase and then crawled on his hands and knees along the long, dark hall, being driven only by his intense curiosity, until he reached the iron door.


Nearing exhaustion Uncle Dudley pulled himself to his feet, and although it was now becoming very difficult, he cleansed his mind of all evil thoughts, especially towards the head monk, passed through the open iron door, removing his wide leather belt and hanging it on the hook beside the door, he went through the oak door, he then removed his hooded robe and hung it on the hook beside the open silver door, passing through the open silver door Uncle Dudley stood before the locked golden door. Uncle Dudley removed his sandals, placed them in the wooden box beside the golden door and stood before the huge golden door in only his Fruit Of The Loom tighty whities.


Uncle Dudley told me that the strange humming sound was very loud, louder than he had ever heard it, he could tell that whatever was making the strange humming noise was just beyond this golden door. Uncle Dudley’s hands were shaking as he inserted the key and turned it in the lock, he then pushed the golden door open and stared into the room. Uncle Dudley said that the room was very dark with only a faint eerie glow, and as his eyes adjusted to the dim light he began to see the outline of a most astonishing object, which stood before him in the middle of the room. The strange humming noise was coming from this object, which was just then becoming totally visible to Uncle Dudley. Uncle Dudley said that as he drew closer and his eyes became fully adjusted, he could see it most clearly. It was magnificent! Uncle Dudley could not believe his eyes, yet there it was, in it’s full glory. It was so simplistic and yet at the same time so intricately complex. Uncle Dudley shook his head and rubbed his eyes, and for good measure, he gave himself a pinch so that he could assure himself that what he was seeing was real. Uncle Dudley said that once it came into focus and he saw it clearly, that everything made sense and he instantly understood. Now he knew why his car ran even better than when it was new, he now knew how the broken windshield and smashed fenders had been so quickly and expertly repaired, and that sound, that strange humming sound, now he knew why it was so hauntingly familiar. As he was telling me his story Uncle Dudley became strangely silent and as I looked at him, I saw a tear begin to form in his right eye, well up until the lower lid could no longer contain it, then overflow onto his cheek. The tear ran down to his chin where it hung on for just an instant before it cast itself into space and plummeted downward until it splashed onto Uncle Dudley's chest where it was quickly absorbed into the fabric of his light blue, long sleeved, work shirt, leaving a dark spot on an otherwise unblemished garment.


Uncle Dudley tilted his head back and stared into the clear afternoon sky, as a look of peace and serenity came over him. Uncle Dudley then placed his hands over his chest, covering the tear stain with two massive meaty mitts, as he drew a deep breath and slowly, but noisily let it out. After a long moment of standing motionless in reverent silence, Uncle Dudley turned and walked towards the gate.


I could not believe that he was preparing to leave. “Wait!”, I said, “What was beyond all of those doors? What was it that was making that strange humming sound? What did you see?” Uncle Dudley stopped dead in his tracks, turned towards me, and the smile, which was constantly on his face, quickly faded, he looked at me with a cold deliberate stare, and told me that he was unable to discuss the source of the sound outside of the monastery or with anyone other than a fellow Ducorian monk. Uncle Dudley then turned and walked away without saying another word. I stood there exasperated, frustration welled up inside of me as I began to contemplate how long it would take to calculate the number of grains of sand on the beaches of the world and the number of stars in the heavens . . . . .



*****



(44)





THE WATERBED



By

Mike Boudreaux



Probably, like many others in the ‘70s, my wife and I just had to have one of those “new and innovative sleep systems” - - the water bed. After making our selection, hauling all of the pieces home, setting it up and filling it with water we were finally ready for our first night on this “new and innovative sleep system.” We crawled in and soon discovered that movement, any movement, would create an equal and opposite reaction, which in turn caused yet another equal and opposite reaction and so on and on, until it would eventually subside. Not only did we have to contend with the almost constant movement, but also with the constant gurgling and sloshing sounds. As we lay there trying to get used to this “new and innovative sleep system”, we realized that we were cold, very cold and the cold was radiating up from the huge plastic bladder which was filled with cold water. The cold was bone chilling and we soon had to get up and place not one, but two, sleeping bags plus a heavy blanket between us and the water filled mattress of this “new and innovative sleep system.” It did not take long to realize there were only two spots on the mattress that would allow sleep; either on complete opposite sides, where we would see-saw all night or right directly in the middle, where we felt we were down in a hole and unable to crawl out. Once in the hole we would tend to stay in the hole the entire night.


Now, getting out of this “new and innovative sleep system” was something else all together. The best method was to work my way over to the side of the bed, then throw my legs out and scoot over to where my feet were on the floor, then by pushing back with my arms and rocking forward, while trying to get my head between my knees, I would, rather awkwardly, fall out of the bed and then and then I would have to recover quickly or end up on the floor. We bought a water bed heater, but could never decide on which temperature was the most comfortable, so eventually we went back to the double sleeping bag and blanket method, which I might add, did tend to muffle the gurgling and sloshing sounds. Needless to say we did experience some new and innovative things with that water bed, but sleep was not one of them. After trying to live with it for about four weeks we decided we had made a mistake and decided to get rid of it and go back to an old conventional sleep system - - the mattress and box springs of yesteryear.


In preparation of removing the water bed I hooked up the little plastic gizmo to the filler/drain spout and attached a garden hose which I put outside on the lawn; no sense in wasting all that water, right? The bed was supposed to drain by gravity flow, but I was impatient, as it was taking quite a while to drain the bed in this fashion. I thought that I could help this along a little if I could get the drain end of the mattress lower than the rest of the mattress, then I was sure that it would drain faster. Water weighs a lot, eight pounds to the gallon, if I remember correctly. Anyway moving one end of that big plastic bladder was no easy chore when it was full of water. I finally managed to scoot it a little by sitting on the floor, placing my feet against the waterbed frame and pulling on the bladder. Using this method I finally managed to get a portion of the mattress over the edge of the bed. At this point, I will let you know, that water moves fairly fast when it’s running down hill, even if it is contained inside of plastic bladder. Once it started flowing over the end of the bed there was no stopping it. It surged up against me like an ocean wave, pushing me backwards into an open closet and pinning me up against the back wall of the closet. There I sat on the closet floor with my back up against wall and about six hundred pounds of water sitting on top of me. I don’t know about you, but I can’t lift six hundred pounds, especially when I’m sitting on the floor of the closet with my back up against the wall. I knew that all I had to do was wait until the mattress had a chance to drain and then I would be able to get out from beneath it. So there I was, unable to move. By the way, did I mention that I was sitting on the floor of a closet with my back against the wall and six hundred pounds of water in my lap? Since there was really nothing else I could do, I decided I would try out this “new and innovative sleep system” and soon found myself sound asleep. Can you imagine, all this time I was trying to sleep on top of the mattress, never realizing that the best sleep is achieved by sleeping under the mattress. Oh well, live and learn.



*****


(45)






The Launcher



By

Mike Boudreaux



It was all my Uncle Joe’s fault. If it were not for him I wouldn’t have gotten into all of that trouble. Uncle Joe was my Grandmother’s only son and was her youngest child, she had two other children, my Aunt Joyce and of course my mother, Catharine. One day I was sitting out in the back yard heavily engaged in the activity of being bored to tears. It was a warm summer day and I just could not think of any fun things to do. Uncle Joe came out of the house and looked over to where I was sitting, it was like he could read my mind. “Come on”, he said, as he headed towards the garage. I hopped up and followed after him, not knowing what to expect, but not caring either, as I was sure it was better than doing nothing. Once inside, Uncle Joe started rummaging through the refuse barrel and came out with four empty tin cans which were all the same size. After washing out the tin cans, Uncle Joe took them over to the work bench and using a can opener he removed the bottom from three of the cans which resulted in three short tubes. He left the bottom intact on the fourth can and using an ice pick he poked two holes, near the top open rim directly opposite of each other and one hole near the bottom, closed end of the tin can. Each time I asked him what he was doing he would just say, “You’ll see”, and he would continue with his work. Uncle Joe then took a small piece of bailing wire and threaded it through the two holes at the top open end of the can, pulled it taunt and bent the ends over the rim of the can. Then he set the can with the wire stretched across the top on the work bench with the open end up and set one of the other cans right on top. Then using duct tape he fastened the two cans end to end. He then got one of the other open ended cans and attached it to the open end of the can which he had just taped to the first can. Then he took the last can and fastened it to the end of the open end of the other cans with duct tape. Once all of the cans were fastened together they formed a tube, four cans long with one end open and the other end closed. Once the tube was made, Uncle Joe wrapped it very tightly with several layers of duct tape. And through out this entire project he would respond with, “You’ll see”, to my incessant question of, “What are you doing?”. Finally, he said, “There, it’s done, and a real beauty it is.” “What is it?” Uncle Joe, never taking his eyes from his creation, answered, "It's a launcher." "What's a launcher?", I asked, and again the inevitable, “You’ll see.” Uncle Joe then told me to wait in the garage and that he would be right back. He was true to his word and returned shortly with a tennis ball and a can of lighter fluid, the kind that came in a little, square, blue and yellow metal can which had a little nozzle on the top. Uncle Joe put the tennis ball into the end of the tube and let it roll down inside of the tube until it lodged up against the bailing wire stretched across the top of the bottom can. The cans were just the right size for the tennis ball to fit snuggly, but still be able to move freely within the tube. Uncle Joe then took the can of lighter fluid and stuck the nozzle into the hole he had punched in the base of the can and gave it a squeeze, forcing some lighter fluid inside of the bottom can. Uncle Joe then pointed the tube skyward and touched a lighted match to the pin hole in the bottom can. There was a muffled, “WHOOOMP”, as the lighter fluid ignited, creating a miniature explosion, which expelled the tennis ball out of the end of the tube with amazing force. The tennis ball sailed skyward and quickly went out of sight. In just a few seconds it fell back to earth, not too far from where we were standing. I retrieved the tennis ball and Uncle Joe re-charged the launcher and fired it skyward again. Uncle Joe and I then walked out into the empty field behind the house and fired the launcher out over the field. The tennis ball sailed out over the field more than a hundred yards. Boy!, this was fun. We set up targets at various distances and fired the launcher many times over the next hour or so, but then after firing it for distance, to see just how far it would go, we were unable to re-locate the tennis ball. Uncle Joe said that he had some errands to run and told me we would play with the launcher again at some other time. He then went back into the garage and placed the tennis ball launcher on a high shelf, telling me not to play with it unless he was with me.


The next day was Saturday and I was up bright and early and out in the empty field looking for the lost tennis ball. Unfortunately, due to lots of tall weeds, I was unable to find the tennis ball.


This story takes place around 1953, in Alpine, Texas, where I grew up. Alpine is a college town and I remembered that when passing by the tennis courts at Sol Ross State Teachers College, I had seen lots of tennis balls in the tall weeds around the tennis courts. At the time I had no need for tennis balls, but now I had a need and rushed off to search the weeds around the tennis courts. I could not believe my good fortune, in just a short time I had found thirty two tennis balls. As I had not anticipated finding this many tennis balls I had nothing to carry them in, so I took off my T-shirt and tied the arms together, this made a very nice sack in which to carry my new found treasure. I hurried home and awaited the return of my Uncle Joe, after a very long wait, I asked my grandmother where Uncle Joe was and she told me that he had gone fishing for the week end and would be back late Sunday night. I was disappointed that I would not be able to play with the tennis ball launcher. But wait! I knew where the launcher was, I also knew where the lighter fluid was and I knew where some matches were. I had watched how Uncle Joe had squirted a little lighter fluid into the pin hole in the bottom can and had dropped a tennis ball into the mouth of the launcher and then had touched a match to the pin hole in the bottom can. It seemed simple enough to me and I was real sure that I could do it. I went out to the garage and looked up on the high shelf where the tennis ball launcher was being stored. Now why did he put it way up there, couldn’t he have just as easily left it on the work bench? I looked around for something to stand on in order to reach the high shelf. Over in the corner was a large wooden crate. It was heavy but I managed to drag, push and shove it into position under the shelf. I stood on the crate but was still unable to reach the tennis ball launcher. I found an empty metal pail and turned it upside down on top of the wooden crate. I then climbed up on top of the inverted pail, which was a bit wobbly, but still I was just short of being able to reach the launcher. Looking around I spotted an old walking cane being stored in the garage and used it to hook onto the launcher and pull it off of the shelf. By the time I had retrieved the launcher and gathered together the lighter fluid and the matches, it was getting on towards dusk. I knew that on the next day the family was planning on visiting with yet another uncle, my father’s brother, and his family, who lived out in the country. This was going to be better than I had thought, as there were two cousins to play with and I couldn’t wait to show them the tennis ball launcher. I secreted the tennis ball launcher, tennis balls, lighter fluid and matches in the trunk of Grandpa’s car and retired for the night.


On the next day, after church service, we all loaded up in Grandpa’s car and headed out into the country where my aunt and uncle and two cousins lived. After a fine Sunday dinner the family settled down in the living room and started visiting. Seeing my chance, I grabbed my two cousins and we ran outside to Grandpa’s car. I opened the trunk and showed them the tennis ball launcher. They looked at it with wonderment in their eyes as I told them what it would do. They became so eager and excited to see it work that they tripped over each other as we grabbed it and all of the accessories and ran to our favorite place to play on the far corner of their property.


My aunt and uncle owed a ten acre piece of property right next to the Twin Peaks Drive-in Theater which proved to be a welcomed boon to us kids. On most evenings we would get permission to use one of the family cars and would drive across the property right up next to the drive-in theater’s fence, where we would watch whatever movie was showing. On warm summer evenings, when the patrons would have their car windows rolled down, we could even hear the sound if we were real quiet. There was a little swale in the land right up next to the fence where we knew we could not be seen from the house and it was a favored place to play as our activities went unobserved.


Without saying a word we all ran directly to the small depression next to the drive-in theater, as if it had been planned in advance. It didn’t take long to load the launcher with a tennis ball, squirt in some lighter fluid and touch a match to the pin hole. “WHOOMP”, and the tennis ball sailed high into the sky. After we had fired the launcher four or five times my eye was drawn to the drive-in theater screen and I wondered if I could hit it with a tennis ball fired from the launcher. I told my cousins that I was going to shoot at the screen and they bet me a quarter that I couldn’t hit it. I loaded the launcher, adjusted for elevation and windage, took careful aim, and fired. The tennis ball sailed straight and true and bounced off of the screen. “See there!”, I said, “I did hit it. Pay up.” Naturally they argued that they didn’t see it hit the screen and of course I said, “Did too!” They replied, “Did not!”, “Did too!” I responded. “Did not!” they retorted. As we bantered I noticed a mud puddle, left behind by a recent summer squall, in the bottom of the swale. I got the brainstorm that if I muddied up the tennis ball that it would leave a mark that they would be able to see when the tennis ball bounced off of the white screen. So I walked over to the mud puddle and muddied up one of the tennis balls real good, loaded the muddy ball and launched it at the screen. It worked better than I had anticipated. When that muddy ball hit the screen, it left a big muddy splotch that could easily be seen and anyone could tell that the tennis ball had found it’s mark. When that muddy ball hit and made that mark on the screen, both of my cousins let out an admiring, “WOW!”. They immediately clamored for the launcher, wanting their turn at launching a muddy tennis ball at the screen. Muddy tennis ball after muddy tennis ball sailed forth, leaving big muddy splotches all over the screen and wagers were made as to who could get the closest to dead center. Finally we were down to our last tennis ball and I was squirting some lighter fluid into the pin hole when I looked up and saw a red faced man bearing down on us from the direction of the drive-in theater. We had been so engrossed in the launching of the tennis balls, that we had not noticed the owner had arrived to do whatever owners of drive-in theaters do on a Sunday afternoon. I dropped that tennis ball launcher and high tailed it straight for the safety of my uncle’s house, being followed closely by my two cousins. If we had only known of the consequences that would follow we would have most likely ran in the other direction.


We had no sooner burst through the back door that there was a knock, or I should say, a pounding on the front door. Myself and my cousins huddled in the corner shaking as the man entered the house with the tennis ball launcher in his hand. It didn’t take him long to explain why he was there and then all eyes were upon me and my cousins. What could we do, we were caught in the act and readily admitted to launching muddy tennis balls at the drive-in theater screen. Then we all walked over to the drive-in to survey the damages. Since it was only water and dirt it would have been an easy matter to clean up, but it was at least twenty feet or more off of the ground. My father, grandfather, uncle and the man who owned the drive-in got into a huddle and talked in muffled tones, every once in a while one of them would turn their head and glance over at me and my cousins and then return their attention back to the big summit conference they were holding. All during the conference my cousins and I stood with our knees knocking and knots in our stomachs. I resigned to the fact that my life was over, it had been short, but all in all it had been full, I was ready to meet my maker and I had no regrets. Well, almost no regrets, I did regret that I had played with the tennis ball launcher against my uncle’s instructions. But then again it was all his fault for leaving it in such an easily accessible place.


Finally the summit conference was over, all the men came over to where we were standing and stood before us with their hands on their hips and glared at us for the longest time without saying a word. I wondered how the end would come, would it be done by hanging, firing squad, guillotine, drawn and quartered………….


My father was the first to speak. He introduced us to Mr. Stavely, who owned the drive-in theater, and told us we had done a lot of damage to his screen. The screen would have to be cleaned before the following Friday which was the next scheduled showing. He went on to explain that my cousins and I were too little to be able to clean the screen, so it would have to be cleaned by someone other than ourselves. However, we had to work off the debt we had incurred. We were to meet with Mr. Stavely every Sunday afternoon, at the drive-in, for the rest of the summer, and clean all of the litter left behind by the patrons. My uncle was the chief of the volunteer fire department and he was sure that he could arrange for a training session for the volunteers, at the drive-in, where they could practice using the fire hose by washing off the drive-in screen. I drew a breath of relief, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. But I was mistaken, My father was not yet finished with me. Then came the words I most dreaded, “Grab your ankles Son.” Once I had taken too long to bend over and grab my ankles and soon found out not to hesitate when those words were spoken. I quickly bent over, without bending my knees and grabbed my ankles which placed my posterior in a most convenient position for the administering of a whipping. “How old are you Son?”, my father asked. “Nine, Sir.” I replied. “Nine it is then.” he said. He then applied the palm of his hand nine times to the back side of my britches with stinging force, which would not have been so bad, but I was in those britches at the time. I looked over at my two cousins as my father was administering the whipping and saw grimaces on their faces each time my father’s hand connected with my bottom. They weren’t so much concerned about my welfare as they were for their own, for they knew what was happening to me, was just the preview of coming attractions. When that last blow came down I looked square into my cousins faces and smiled. There wasn’t anything funny about it and if my father had seen that smile he would have likely administered a few more swats for good measure, so I made sure only my cousins saw it. I knew mine was over and I knew theirs was coming, so I wanted to show them it wasn't so bad and that they would survive. Sure enough, no sooner had my father finished that my uncle looked over at my older cousin and said, “Grab your ankles Son.” As he bent over and grabbed his ankles I heard my uncle ask him, “How old are you?” My cousin replied, “Eleven, Sir.” My cousin had always been proud of the fact that he was two years older than me, but right at that moment I knew he wasn’t so proud and was likely wishing he was much younger.

After we had received our whippings my father turned to me and said, “Believe me son, when I tell you, that hurt me a lot more than it hurt you.” While I gently rubbed my still smarting posterior, I looked up to my father and said, “I sure am sorry I hurt you that much, Paw.” I thought I heard a muffled snicker come from my father, but I’m not sure and I wasn't about to ask.

On the following Wednesday the volunteer fire department had a training session at the drive-in and they used the high pressure fire hose to wash the muddy splotches from the drive-in screen. The previously polka dotted screen was now white as snow, Mr. Stavely was happy, the volunteer fire department was happy, my father, grandfather and uncles were happy, however, my cousins and I were not happy. We knew that our Sunday afternoons for the rest of the summer were to be occupied with cleaning the litter from the grounds at the drive-in theater.


On the following Sunday my two cousins and I met with Mr. Stavely and he gave us each a big burlap bag and told us to pick up all of the litter that was on the ground. Mr. Stavely told us to dump the bags in a trash trailer which was located next to the projection booth. I averaged filling up my bag three times on a clean up session, as did my cousins.

It’s been a while since I have been to a drive-in theater, but when I go, believe me, I do not discard any litter out of the window, I take it to a trash receptacle. I still get angry at anyone who throws litter out of their car while watching the movie and I‘ll yell out the window, “Hey! Who do you think is gonna clean that up?”



*****



(46)





FAKE SNAKE



By

Mike Boudreaux



Each year the Sheriff's Office schedules a mock search and rescue exercise. This serves to train the search and rescue volunteers and to sharpen the skills of the individual Sheriff's Office search and rescue team members. The Sheriff's Office had a specialized search and rescue team where each member of the team had a field of expertise. Some were skilled rock climbers, some were skilled in rough water river rescue, some were scuba divers, some were skilled man trackers, others were skilled horsemen. The scenario of the mock search would bring each of these skills into play in the endeavor of locating the "lost person." It was voluntary to become a member of the Sheriff's search and rescue team, unless you were a mountain resident deputy and then it was mandatory. Due to the fact that there were many search and rescue operations which occurred in the mountainous areas of the county, the mountain resident deputies were required to be on the Sheriff's Office search and rescue team. This was good strategy as most generally the mountain resident deputy was the first officer on the scene and he could assess the situation, call for the necessary support and initiate a search.


Being that I was a mountain resident deputy, I was headed to one of these mock search and rescue exercises. It was a Friday afternoon in the late spring and on this occasion I was not alone. Charlie Smith, who was a volunteer reserve officer with the sheriff’s office was with me. Charlie, who was the local school's principal/teacher, had volunteered for many hours of ride along training and had put in the necessary hours of classroom training to become a reserve officer. When I took my annual vacations, Charlie would take my place as resident deputy of California Hot Springs and was paid for his service. Charlie was a good friend, our families often socialized and we attended the same church. Charlie and I shared a good sense of humor and we both loved a good prank. Often our pranks were spur of the moment situations and we would feed off of each others sense of humor.


For example: We were once headed to a social event in Bakersfield, Calif. We were in separate vehicles, my family and I were in the lead and Charlie and his family were following right behind us. I stopped for a red light at a very busy intersection in downtown Bakersfield and Charlie honked his horn at me, I reached out of the driver's side window and shook my fist at him in fake agitation. Charlie then opened his door and shouted some disparaging remark at me, I then jumped out of the car and stomped back toward Charlie in an aggressive manner, Charlie exited his vehicle and advanced towards me, displaying mock aggression and we both took on fighting stances. Of course this drew the attention of the other motorists who were stopped at this intersection. We then continued with our put on aggression towards one another, circled one another with arms cocked in a fighting stance and fists clinched in what appeared to be the beginning of a big fist fight. Just then Charlie grabbed my hand and put his arm around my waist and we began a cheek to cheek tango in between the cars stopped at the intersection. The light turned green and Charlie released me, stepped back and bowed gracefully at the waist, as did I. We each then sprinted back to our vehicles and continued to our destination laughing all the way.


As Charley and I were driving to the mock search and rescue we spotted a snake stretched out across the road. I stopped and we approached the snake, which turned out to be an approx. three foot gopher snake. The snake was easily caught and Charlie said, "Too bad it wasn't a rattle snake." "Well, it could be," I said, "if it had some rattles." We both looked at each other and read one another's mind. We could make a rattle snake out of this gopher snake by attaching some rattles to it's tail. Whenever I would come upon a rattle snake I would kill it and cut off it's rattles which I kept in the glove box of my patrol vehicle. Charlie knew I had the rattles and now all we had to do was come up with some way to attach them to the gopher snake. In searching through my patrol car I found a roll of double faced tape, as it was all we could find it would have to do. The tape was about an inch wide, so I cut it into several narrow strips and began the delicate surgery of attaching rattle snake rattles to the tail of the gopher snake. As it turned out the double faced tape was exactly what we needed, it was very sticky and held firmly to both the rattle snake rattle and to the tail of the gopher snake. When the operation was completed it looked pretty good except for the fact that the tape was white and did not blend well with the color of the gopher snake or the rattle snake rattles. This was only a temporary set back as we soon discovered that the tape, being sticky on both sides, took on the brownish color of the gopher snake when a little dirt was rubbed onto it. We put the gopher snake into a burlap bag and placed it under the seat. Now that we had our "Gopher Rattler" we had to think of just what we were going to do with it.


We arrived at the designated camp site in the late afternoon and set up our tent and made ready for the night. The mock search and rescue exercise was scheduled to begin at 8 AM the next morning. Not wanting to interfere with the exercise on the next morning, we had to think of something to do with the "Gopher Rattler" before we went to bed for the night. We had just finished our evening meal and were still without a good idea for our "Gopher Rattler" when the com van pulled into the camp site. Com van is short for communications van which was a large walk-in van, much like a bread truck, which it might have been prior to it being revamped with desks, cabinets, chairs and a variety of radios, maps, first aid supplies and search and rescue gear. We saw that the com van was being driven by Sgt. Carter and we went over to greet him. As it turned out Sgt. Carter was going to be second in charge of the search and rescue exercise and we offered to help him set up his tent. Sgt. Carter advised us that he was not about to sleep outside as he didn't want any "Creepy Crawlers" to climb in his sleeping bag with him, so he was going to pump up an air mattress and sleep on the floor of the com van.


Charlie and I headed back to our tent and we were discussing what we should do with our gopher rattler. Sgt. Carter had all of the lights on inside of the com van and we could see him pumping up his air mattress and making ready for the night. Charlie looked over to me and said, "You thinking what I'm thinking?" "Oh Yeah!" I responded, "I'm sure I'm thinking what you're thinking."


We bided our time and when Sgt. Carter headed for the outhouse at the far end of the campground we retrieved our gopher rattler from my vehicle and rushed over to the com van. Sgt. Carter had left the door open and the lights on inside of the com van and we quickly slipped inside where we placed the gopher rattler inside of Sgt. Carter's sleeping bag which he had laid out on top an air mattress on the floor of the van.


Of course to set this up properly we had to get Sgt. Carter's mind on rattle snakes. So when Sgt. Carter came back from the outhouse he found us down on our hands and knees with flash lights looking under the com van. "What's going on?" he asked. "Well, we were sitting over there by our tent and we thought we saw a rattle snake crawl under the com van, so we were checking things out." I responded. Sgt. Carter became noticeably nervous and was adamant that we locate that snake. After searching around for a while longer we told him that the snake was nowhere to be seen, that it had probably crawled off somewhere and there was no need for concern. We did caution him, however, to be careful when he exited the van in the morning just in case the snake came back.


Now I should explain that Sgt. Carter was an "Administrative Sergeant" and not a field sergeant. He was working out of the headquarters division at the county seat in Visalia. Sgt. Carter reminded me of Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith TV show, he was a pencil pusher and paper shuffler and doing actual cop work was not his cup of tea. I strongly suspect that the administration purposely assigned him to this detail to see what kind of a field officer he would make. Sergeant Carter had made a lateral transfer to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office from the Roseville Police Department as he had also secured a position as a professor of criminology at the College of Sequoias in Visalia, Calif. Which brings to mind the old adage of, ‘Those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach.‘ I say this not to slight teachers, as I have had some great teachers who could both do and teach, but so as to provide a better description of Sgt. Carter. I doubt seriously that he had ever been in the field before or in the mountains either. Sgt. Carter also had an attitude, he looked down on those who he felt were not of his social and academic status. He exploited his rank to his subordinates and instead of leading he pushed.


Sgt. Carter moved very slowly and cautiously towards the com van, shining his flashlight all around. He peered cautiously under the com van and then hastily tippy toed up to the com van, clearing the last six feet with a graceful jump which I didn’t think him capable. Charlie and I ambled back to our tent and moved our camp chairs into position to get a good look at the com van. Sgt. Carter climbed into the drivers seat, opened his briefcase and began to shuffle through some paperwork.

Charlie and I were growing impatient with Sgt. Carter, wanting him to hurry and finish whatever it was he was doing and climb into his sleeping bag. I guess that gopher rattler got impatient as well, as it had slithered out of the sleeping bag and was making it’s way toward Sgt. Carter. Sgt. Carter spotted the snake and, after doing a double take, the papers in his hands exploded into the air filling the inside of the com van with cloud of raining paperwork. Somehow Sgt. Carter had managed to jump up into the driver’s seat with both feet and was doing the neatest little ’There’s a snake in the van’ dance as he was perched atop the seat. Then came an ear splitting screech that pierced the night and started the coyotes howling for miles around. Of course Charlie and I ran over to see what all of the commotion was about. As we slid the van door open Sgt. Carter, who was still perched on the drivers seat with both feet and looking somewhat like one of those gargoyles on an Italian cathedral, pointed toward the floor saying, "Sn sn sn SNAKE!!!!" Well, sure enough, we looked to where he was pointing and there was the "gopher rattler" half hidden under the scatted papers. The poor snake appeared to be confused and was rather lethargic, moving very slowly. Charlie reached in, grabbed the snake and held it by the head and tail. Charlie made sure that the tail of the snake, with the taped on rattles, was well visible and shook the tail vigorously to produce a rattling sound. It looked like Sgt. Carter was about to let go with another one of those screams and as the coyotes had settled back down I thought it best that he didn't get them all riled up again. "It’s okay, it’s okay," I assured, "We got snake, we’ll take it outside of the camp area and take care of it." As a crowd had begun to gather around the com van, we did not want anyone to get a real close look at that snake, so we scurried out into the darkness where we removed the rattles and let the snake go.


When we returned to the com van Sgt. Carter was standing in the door of the van extolling his heroic exploits to a small crowd which had gathered around the van. Sgt Carter related that he had fought off the deadly serpent until it had been captured. According to Sgt. Carter the snake had struck at him several times and he was only able to avoid certain death by his lightening quick reflexes. Sgt. Carter told of how the two inch fangs of this monstrous creature had barely missed him, once scraping across his pants leg in a near miss, leaving venom stains on his pants. (Well now, Sgt. Carter did have some stains on his pants, but it was not from snake venom.) Sgt. Carter told of how he had utilized an ancient Hindu snake charming method to mesmerize the snake, allowing Charlie to sneak up from behind and grab it.


Charlie and I looked at one another wondering just how we had missed out on the incident Sgt. Carter was describing as his story in no way resembled the scene we had witnessed.


Sgt. Carter saw Charlie and I return to the com van and motioned for us to join him inside of the van. Charlie and I stepped inside of the van and Sgt. Carter closed the door behind us. "What’d you do with the snake?" Sgt. Carter asked. Charlie reached up with his right forefinger extended, placed it just under his left ear and slid it around under his chin until reaching his right ear and said, "It is no longer with us, you wouldn’t recognize it. I did save you these." and held out a clinched fist, palm down." "What’s that?" asked Sgt Cater as he reached out with his right hand, palm up under Charlie's clinched fist. Charlie opened his fist allowing the rattle snake rattles to drop into Sgt. Carters hand. Sgt. Carter’s eyes bulged and I thought they just might pop right out as he stared at the rattles lying in his hand. He instantly dropped the rattles and bounding into the driver’s seat in the gargoyle position wiping his hand on his pants leg. "They can’t hurt you." said Charlie, as he picked up the rattlers and placed then into his shirt pocket. Sgt. Carter began to relax and uncoil from his perch on the driver’s seat. "Look," he said, "I know I might have embellished the facts a little . . ." "A little!?" I said, "I hink it was a lot more than just a little." "Well, I didn’t want to look bad in front of the men." "I can understand that." I said, "We’ll keep your little secret, that is, if you will not be so condescending to the men." "Me? Condescending??" "Yes you!" I said in my most authoritive voice, while giving him a deliberate, icy stare. Sgt. Carter’s Adam’s apple bounced wildly as he swallowed hard and then shakily said, "Well, okay, I’ll try." "That’s all we can ask." I said as I turned, slid open the com van’s door and stepped outside into the cool night air. As Charlie stepped out of the com van, I reached down, picked up a stick, about three feet long, and handed it to Sgt. Carter, saying, "Here you might need this." Sgt. Carter reached out took the stick and asked, "What for?" "Well," I said, "snakes usually travel in pairs and those little critters can get into the darnedest places. You might want to take that stick and poke around a little in the van before turning in. Goodnight, sleep tight." "Wait! What if I find one?” asked Sgt. Carter.

"Use your Hindu snake charming method.", Charlie called back over his shoulder as we disappeared into the darkness.

Needless to say Sgt. Carter did not get much sleep that night and neither did Charlie and I. As we were laying in our sleeping bags one of us would start to snicker, which would cause the other to snicker, the snickers turned into hardy laughter, which would turn into booming guffaws. We would eventually settle down and about that time the sound of cabinet doors and drawers opening and closing could be heard coming from the com van which would cause an explosion of laughter to come from our tent.



*****


(47)





CONTAINERS



By

Mike Boudreaux



One very hot summer day I waited until the coolness of the early evening to do some much needed yard work. After working in the yard I raked all of the leaves, hedge clippings and grass clippings into a big pile and then went to get the refuse container from where it was stored at the side of the garage. In this city each residence has three waste containers; a black one, for household garbage, another is dark green, for yard waste and a third, which is blue, for recyclable materials. Seeing that I had worked past sunset and the light was waning, I mistakenly grabbed the wrong container and filled the black one with all of the yard waste. When I say filled, I mean filled to the brim, packed down and filled to the brim again. The container was now extremely full and very heavy. I rolled the container out to the curb, as the following day was the day for the green container to be picked up. Just as I left the container at the curb my wife came home and the headlights from her car shown on the container and I realized that I had put yard waste into the wrong colored container. Being tired from the yard work, I really didn’t want to dump it all out and then re-load it into the correct container. I just left the lid open so the garbage man could see that, although it was not the right colored container, it did contain yard waste. On the next morning as I was preparing to go to town to run an errand, I saw the refuse truck approaching. Something told me that I should wait until the driver had picked up my yard waste before leaving. I was parked at the front of my drive near the curb when the truck rolled slowly up to my container and then proceeded to pass it by. I then laid on my horn and the driver stopped the truck and backed up. I got out of my car and explained to the driver what I had done the day before and asked him if he actually intended not to pick up my yard waste because it was in the wrong colored container. The driver looked at the container and then looked at it's contents and said, "Oh, I'm sorry, today’s the day to pick up the green container and I just saw the black container and didn't pay any attention as to what was inside." He then proceeded to empty my container and went on his merry way. As I was putting the empty container away, I thought about what the driver had said and wondered how often I had done this very same thing. How often had I looked at the outside of a human being and acted according to what I saw, instead of taking the time to look on the inside to see what was actually there? . . . . . . . And some people say that God does not speak to us anymore; Sometimes He speaks so loudly it is hard to ignore Him.



*****



(48)






THE CROW



By

Mike Boudreaux



I had just finished mowing the lawn and was relaxing on the front porch with a tall glass of iced tea. As I sat there inspecting my lawn and comparing it with the other lawns in the neighborhood I saw something fall from the sky and bounce in the middle of the street before rolling to a stop. As I looked closer I saw it was a pecan. ‘Funny,’ I thought, ‘there are no pecan trees on this block.’ and I wondered where it had come from. As I watched, a big black crow flew down next to the pecan cocking its head from one side to the other as it gave the nut a closer inspection. The crow then picked up the pecan in its beak and flew off. In just a few seconds I again saw the pecan fall from the sky and bounce in the middle of the street. Then the scene repeated itself as the crow again landed next to the pecan, inspected it, picked it up and flew off. Again and again the pecan hit the pavement, was picked up by the crow who flew off with it. I knew from experience that crows would often drop nuts on a hard surface in an attempt to crack the shell so they could get to the nut meat inside. I could see that the crow was attempting to crack this pecan, but it was proving to be a hard nut to crack. I had compassion for the crow and the next time the pecan hit the street, I walked out to where the pecan lay in the middle of the street. The crow circled noisily over head, warning me to back off. I placed my foot on the pecan and applied gentle pressure until I felt the shell of the pecan crack. I then walked back and sat down on the porch. It only took a little while for the crow to swoop down and inspect the pecan. After a quick inspection the crow began to eat the nut meat. It didn’t take long for the crow to pick the shell clean, consume the meat and then fly off. And with this, I thought that I had experienced a little piece of nature and that would be the end of it; But was I proved to be wrong.

Several days later when I was walking in my driveway a pecan fell out of the sky and landed just a few feet in front of me. My garage is located at the rear of my property and I have a long paved driveway from the street to the garage. I stopped and looked at the pecan and then heard a, “Caw Caw”, coming from the air above me. There I spotted a crow circling above which appeared to be watching me. I thought that possibly I was too close to the crow’s pecan so I backed away to distance myself from the pecan. The crow swooped down and landed near the pecan, but to my surprise, it did not pick up the pecan and fly away with it. Instead it pushed the pecan in my direction with its beak and cawed. I watched as the crow stood there next to his pecan and looked in my direction. I held my ground and watched as the crow picked up the pecan, flipped it in my direction with its beak and cawed. I took a few steps toward the crow and it flew off, landing in a nearby tree. I then walked up to the pecan, cracked the shell with my foot and backed away. As soon as I was far enough away to suit the crow it flew back to the pecan and after consuming the meat, it flew away.


A few days later I was working in my garage with the garage door open. I have a metal garage door that swings up and when in the open position the bottom of the door protrudes out in front of the garage about two feet. As I was working I heard a “plink” on the top of the garage door. Shortly after the plink, I heard little feet hopping along on the top of the door. As I started towards the open garage door to investigate these sounds I saw a pecan fall onto the drive from the top of the door. Then a crow came swooping down about twenty feet in front of the garage door and cawed. As I walked over to the pecan the crow hopped back a few feet and watched me. I put my foot on the pecan, cracked the shell and then backed away. As I retreated back into the garage the crow flew over to the pecan, ate the meat and flew away.


Many times, for the rest of that summer, when I was outside, a pecan would fall from the sky near me and I would hear the familiar, “Caw Caw”, from the air above. I would then stop what I was doing, obediently walk over to the pecan, crack it open and then continue about my business.


The crow got braver and braver as the summer wore on, and eventually it allowed me to come within about five feet before it would hop back a few feet. I never pushed myself on the crow, when I noticed that it was getting nervous over how close I was, I would back off and give it some space. As long as I remained at a distance where the crow was comfortable it would sit there on the ground and watch me. I never supplied the crow with anything to eat, but I was always faithful to crack open the pecans it would drop near me.


I don’t know if the crow migrated to another location or if it just ran out of pecans, but toward the end of the summer the crow ceased to come around. I looked for the crow the next summer, but as far as I know it never returned. At least it stopped dropping pecans near me if it did, possibly the crow learned to crack it's own pecans and I was no longer necessary in it's life.

I told this story to a friend who related that she had befriended a crow which she fed shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds. She claimed that the crow would follow her as she did her shopping around town. She related that the crow would see her get into her car at her home and would then follow the car to the market, where it would sit on top of the market and “Caw” at her as she went into the market and again when she exited. The crow would then follow her to the next store, sit on top and “Caw” at her as she entered and exited. The crow would follow her all over town from store to store until she returned home. My friend would feed the crow from a metal bowl which she kept on a patio table. When the bowl was empty the crow would peck on it like a woodpecker, making it ring. She would then fill the bowl with sunflower seeds and the crow would happily eat away. She said that the crow patrolled around her house and would not allow any other birds to come into her yard.


Crows, I am told, are extremely intelligent and have even been known to make and use “tools” to accomplish various tasks. I know one thing, they are able to teach people to crack their pecans for them.


As I reflect back on this little tale I can see an analogy to the crow's dilemma with the pecans and problems we face in our daily lives. When we find that we have a difficult problem which we repeatedly try to resolve on our own, only to find that our problem is a hard nut to crack, we should then lay our problem at the feet of our heavenly Father who is sure to help us resolve the problem. And unlike the crow, we need to remain at the feet of our Father and stay as close as possible, for He is faithful and is always willing to help us when we ask.



*****



(49)





INDIAN TALES



By

Mike Boudreaux



When I was around twelve years old Uncle Dudley, Aunt Martha, myself and a couple of my cousins went up into the mountains to hunt squirrel and campout for a few days. We had a pretty successful squirrel hunt on the first day and Aunt Martha cooked up a big batch of squirrel stew. After we had enjoyed Aunt Martha’s stew we were sitting around the campfire, as campers tend to do, watching the flames gobble up the wood we had gathered earlier in the day. As we stared into the fire, there were long periods of silence which were broken by an occasional burp, with the responsible party rubbing their protruding stomach, a result of eating too much of Aunt Martha’s stew. This was usually followed by a low toned, ’scuse me’, and if it wasn’t, Uncle Dudley would shift his weight a mite and clear his throat, which would prompt the offending party to utter a late, but well meant apology. This always brought a smile of satisfaction to Aunt Martha’s face as she knew it was their way of telling her just how good her stew had been.


Uncle Dudley stirred the fire with a stick causing embers to rise up into the night air and dance around in a circle before burning themselves out. “Ya know,” Uncle Dudley said, “When I was about your age I once lived with the Indians ’round these parts.” No one remarked, but we all knew that this was the prelude to an exciting saga, as all of Uncle Dudley’s stories were apt to be. We all then turned our attention to Uncle Dudley and leaned in a bit closer so as not to miss a word of his tale.

Uncle Dudley, who was sitting on a log, stretched his long legs out in front of him, crossing his legs he leaned back against a tree, and clasped his hands behind his head. As he cast his gaze up to the stars Uncle Dudley said, “It was on a night much like this one, when the chief of the tribe, Growling Bear, was visited by two of his best braves, Falling Rock and Running Stream. It seems as though that the two Indian braves wanted to marry the chief’s daughter, Little Fawn. Running Stream and Falling Rock told the chief of their intentions and asked him to choose one of them to be Little Fawn’s mate. The chief told the two braves that he was honored to have two such qualified suitors for Little Fawn’s hand in marriage, but he could not make a decision of this magnitude in haste and told them to come back in the morning for his decision. On the next morning Falling Rock and Running Steam stood outside of the chief’s teepee awaiting his decision. Finally the chief came out of his teepee, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders. Growling Bear told the two braves that he had spent a very sleepless night trying to make his decision, but was unable to do so. The two braves were sorely disappointed as they thought that surely one of them would have been chosen. The chief told them that he had come up with a plan which would make the decision for him, that is, if they both agreed to it. The two braves were anxious to hear of the chief’s plan and both said that no matter what the plan, each would agree to it. Growling Bear then said, ’As you know the great river divides our land - Running Stream, I give you all of the land on the left of the river and Falling Rock I give you all of the land on the right of the river. You are to go into the land I have given you and hunt, trade, trap and fish - the one who returns after one moon who has the largest dowry will win my daughter’s hand in marriage.’ The two braves wasted no time, hastily mounted their horses and rode off into the land they had been given.


After one moon had passed the chief looked off in the distance and saw a cloud of dust on the horizon. As the dust cloud came closer he saw that it was Running Stream who was leading in a herd of horses, some of which were being used to carry large packs. Running Stream presented himself to the chief and began to unload the packs from the horses. When he had finished there was a bountiful trove of treasures spread out before the chief. There were 25 horses, fifty beaver pelts, twenty buffalo robes, gold nuggets taken from the streams, strings of fresh fish and baskets full of dried fish, piles of blankets, many deer and antelope ready for the cook fires, and a variety of metal axes and firearms traded from the white man. Growling Bear was extremely impressed with all that Running Stream had brought back.


Falling Rock had not yet returned and as it was yet early in the day Growling Bear said that he would give Falling Rock until the setting of the sun to return. On the next morning, the first day of the new moon, Falling Rock had still not returned and so, true to his word, the chief gave Running Stream his daughter’s hand in marriage. On the following day there was a huge wedding ceremony and celebration. During the celebration Running Stream noticed that Growling Bear was sad and asked him if he was not happy that he and Little Fawn were now married. Growling Bear told Running Stream that he was very happy that they were now married, but that he was worried about Falling Rock who had still not returned. Running Stream told the chief that he would personally organize a search party and go out looking for Falling Rock. So, on the following day all of the braves of the tribe went out searching for Falling Rock. They searched for days and days, the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and the months into years and still they were unable to locate Falling Rock. The Indians are a patient and steadfast people who do not give up easily - in fact they are still looking for Falling Rock to this day. If you will notice along the roadways you will see a sign every once in a while that says, “WATCH FOR FALLING ROCK.” That being said, Uncle Dudley stood up and walked over to his tent where he waved a good night as he ducked inside.


We all sat there in silence for a moment until one of my cousins said, “Ya ‘spose that’s true?” “Must be,” I said, “I saw one of them signs on our way here.”


Aunt Martha Stood up and tossed a chunk of wood on the fire and said, “I know one thing that chief had a hard time sleeping after that and went to his medicine man, Leaping Lizard for a cure. The Medicine man was sure that it was ’cause of the hard cold ground the chief was sleeping on. So Leaping Lizard ordered the tribe members to gather moss to make Growling Bear a mattress. All of the tribe members began to gather up the moss in that area, ’cept for one big brave who just stood around with his arms folded across his chest watching the others gather the moss. Growling Bear looked out of his teepee and saw the brave standing there, not gathering moss like the other Indians and asked Leaping Lizard who was this brave and why was he not helping to gather moss. Leaping Lizard said, ’That’s Rolling Stone, everyone knows Rolling Stone gathers no moss.’ And with that being said Aunt Martha bid us a good night and joined Uncle Dudley in their tent.


My cousins and I just sat there around the fire in silence, contemplating the vast knowledge we now possessed.



*****



(50)





VALENTINE’S DAY DINNER



By

Mike Boudreaux



Several years ago the church where my wife and I attended decided that it would be nice to have a Valentine’s Day dinner for the congregation. The pastor suggested that it would be a nice gesture if the men wore our "heart on our sleeve" to show our love for our Valentine. Heart shaped pieces of cloth were to be handed out at the door, marker pens would be made available and we were to write our Valentine’s name on the heart and then pin it to our sleeve. 

On the day of the dinner my wife went shopping and I was left home alone. I got to thinking about the dinner to be held that evening and thought that it would be a nice gesture to make a huge heart to wear on my sleeve. While looking for a suitable piece of cloth, I found an old, long sleeved, white shirt which I felt would work nicely. As I was contemplating which section to cut out for the heart, I thought, why not cut off the entire sleeve and write my wife’s name on it. So I cut off the right sleeve and decorated it with my wife’s name in several prominent places and added loads and loads of different colored hearts of various sizes, various little Valentine phrases such as ‘Will you be mine’, ‘I love you’, etc. etc. and lots of Xs and Os to represent hugs and kisses. That evening as we were getting ready to go to the dinner I purposely left my suit coat hanging in the upstairs closet. Just before leaving for the dinner my wife asked if I was going to wear a coat. I told her I had intended to, but had left it upstairs. I then went upstairs, removed my valentine’s sleeve from it’s hiding place and put it on over my dress shirt. I then put on my coat to cover up the sleeve and off to the Valentine’s Day dinner we went. 

When we arrived at the banquet hall we were met by a couple who were handing out heart shaped pieces of cloth along with marker pens to write our Valentine’s name and then pin the heart to our sleeve. As he offered me a cloth heart I declined and said, “That’s a bunch of foolishness. I just came here for the food.” The man asked, “Don’t you want to show your love for your Valentine?” I replied, “I told her I loved her when we got married, if that changes, I’ll let her know.” The man was persistent and again tried to get me to wear a heart on my sleeve. I told him that I felt it was ridiculous, that I would not make a fool out of myself and refused to accept his offer of the cloth heart. Of coarse my wife was standing at my side when all of this transpired and needless to say she was more than a little embarrassed that I had declined to wear the cloth heart. As we walked off toward the banquet room to find our table the man called out, “Are you sure you won’t change your mind?” “I’m sure,” I called back over my shoulder, “I’m not into that mushy stuff, someone would have to love his wife a great deal to make a fool out of himself by wearing a heart on his sleeve.” My wife just lowered her head, quickened her pace and pulled me along toward our table. As we reached our table I pulled out my wife’s chair for her to sit and after she sat down, I remained behind her out of her sight. At this time the pastor approached our table and said, “I notice you are not wearing your heart on your sleeve.” I replied, “Pastor, only a silly immature man would display his affections on his sleeve, I keep my affections in my heart where they belong.” The pastor said, “But everyone is doing it, look at all of these people who are wearing hearts on their sleeve.” As we spoke I began to remove my coat and hang it on the chair next to my wife. I continued to tell the pastor that anyone who would make such an outward display of their love for their Valentine was an admirable thing to do and indeed it would show how much they loved their Valentine, however, I preferred doing it my way. At this time the Pastor saw my sleeve and with a knowing smile said, “Okay, you do it your way.” and walked off. Others around us also saw the sleeve and began to snicker and giggle, as it was obvious that my wife was unaware of the sleeve. My wife was humiliated, as I had been speaking in a voice loud enough for the whole room full of people to hear. I was still standing behind her when she said, “You just wait till I get you home!” I sat down next to her and asked, “And just what is it that you’re going to do when we get home?” For the first time since I had removed my coat my wife looked in my direction and I could tell by the fire in her eyes that she was just about to let loose with a tirade of well deserved remarks, when she noticed my sleeve. The fury in her eyes quickly melted away, her eyes softened and filled with tears of happiness and love as she read all of the little comments written on my sleeve. “I should have known.”, she said, as she gave me a great big hug and a kiss and whispered in my ear, “You just wait till I get you home.”

It was not too long ago, as I was looking for a lost tie tack, that I found that sleeve in the back of a drawer, rolled up and tied with a blue ribbon. Remembering the results I got on the first time I wore that sleeve, I think I will wear it again this Valentine’s Day.


*****



(51)



THE SOLDIER

(Part 1)



By

Mike Boudreaux



It was still dark when the soldier felt someone shake his shoulder and say, ‘get up soldier, you’re on duty in thirty minutes.’ The soldier grunted, rolled over and pulled his meager blanket up over his head. He thought to himself, ‘Only three more weeks of this, then my enlistment is up and I will not have to put up with this any more.‘ The soldier was a grizzled veteran, the scars on his hardened body told of many close quarter battles. Not only had the years hardened his body, but his heart was hardened as well.


It wasn’t long before the soldier felt a boot firmly in the middle of his back followed by a mighty shove resulting in him rolling out of his narrow bed unto the floor. ‘I said get up soldier!’ The soldier forced himself into a sitting position and reached under the bed for his boots. He heard the other soldiers in the darkened room getting into their gear and making themselves ready for the day. ‘Fall in for inspection,’ snarled the platoon leader and the soldiers hastily complied, forming themselves into a presentable military group. The platoon leader moved slowly from one soldier to another as he inspected each detail of their uniforms. ’You gotta look good today, there’s a lot of top brass and high class citizens who will be paying attention to this detail, so look sharp out there. Now fall out, get some chow and form up in the street in fifteen minutes.’ The soldiers complied, knowing that any sign of disobedience would result in strict disciplinary action.


As the platoon formed up in the street the platoon leader called them to attention and gave the order to march. The soldiers marched through the streets which were already becoming crowded even at this early hour. The soldier wondered why there were so many people in town, but before he could give it much thought they arrived at their destination. The platoon leader instructed the soldiers to stand down while he entered the walled structure. In just a short time the huge wooden gates in the outer wall of the prison swung open and the soldier could see four prisoners being led out of the building unto the street.

The prisoners were surrounded by guards and the platoon leader stood close by. Two guards then grabbed one of prisoners and shoved him towards the gathering crowd. The prisoner stumbled and fell to the ground as he was shoved. One of the guards gruffly picked him up and shoved him again, this time pointing in a direction away from the prison. The soldier recognized this man as he had been part of a detail that had arrested him just a few days before. He was an insurgent who was a known thief and a murderer. The soldier could not believe that they were releasing this man, but the man was indeed free to go and he ran away, looking back over his shoulder to make sure he was not being pursued. The soldier thought to himself, 'If they are releasing this man and keeping the others, then the others must be the baddest of the bad.'


The guards then escorted the other prisoners into the street where they were placed in the custody of the platoon leader. The platoon leader hastily assigned four soldiers to each of the prisoners and told the soldiers that they were to watch them closely and if a prisoner were to escape, then the soldiers who allowed the escape would take the place of the prisoner and would suffer their punishment. As the soldier passed by the first prisoner he heard him yell curses at the crowd and he saw bitterness and hatred in his eyes. Then the soldier passed the second prisoner who hung his head and sobbed. This prisoner looked at the platoon leader and pled for mercy, only to receive a smirk and a cold silent stare. The soldier then took his position beside the third prisoner along with three other soldiers. It was obvious that this third prisoner had been beaten and scourged, his face was bludgeoned and swollen, and almost unrecognizable as being human. His back was shredded and torn, obviously the result of being flogged with a scourge. The soldier thought that surely this man had been punished for horrible crimes and wondered what he had done to deserve such punishment. The soldier looked into the face of this man and saw a look that surprised him. It was as though the prisoner knew him, but he knew he had not seen this man before. The look in this man’s eyes reminded the soldier of his mother. The last time he saw his mother was when he left home to join the army and the look in his mother’s eyes was the same look this man gave to him. Somehow that look caused a peace to come over the soldier and made him think of home and his family.


As the soldier took his position beside his prisoner the prison guards brought out heavy wooden crosses from within the prison and dropped one beside his prisoner. The platoon leader then ordered the prisoner to pick it up and place it on his shoulder. As the prisoner complied, the prison guards moved on to the other prisoners and dropped wooden crosses beside each of them. The platoon leader then moved on to the other prisoners ordering each to pick up the cross and place it on their shoulder. When all of the prisoners had managed to shoulder their cross the platoon leader ordered the platoon to march and led the way down the narrow street.


The street was so packed with people that a squad of soldiers at the head of their column had to open a way for them by forcing the crowd of people to the sides of the street. As the soldier marched beside his prisoner he looked upon the faces of the people in the crowd and saw mixed emotions. The first two prisoners did not receive much attention from the crowd, while his prisoner seemed to get most of the attention. Some were stunned at what they saw, others were obviously saddened and were crying and there were those who mocked and hurled insults. The soldier noticed that the first prisoner spat at the people and cursed at them as he drug his cross down the street, the second prisoner hung his head, turned his face away from the crowd and sobbed. The soldier’s prisoner struggled under the weight of the cross, but he kept his head up and looked upon the crowd with the very same look he had given the soldier. This look upon the prisoner’s face puzzled the soldier, why was this man not returning the insults from the crowd and why did he not beg for mercy. Although there was agony on the prisoner’s face there was still that look in his eyes. The soldier had difficulty in understanding this look, the prisoner was in obvious pain and yet the look in his eyes was not one of pain, it was . . . it was . . . the soldier could not determine what it was.

As they marched along through the narrow street the soldier noted that, although it was difficult, the other two prisoners were managing to carry their cross, but his prisoner often stumbled under the weight of the cross and frequently fell; obviously his prisoner was weakened by the beating he had received. After each fall the prisoner managed to struggle to his feet, re-shoulder his cross and continue along the way, however, his pace was slowing and he began to lag behind. Just as the prisoner fell again, the platoon leader came back to see what was holding up their progress. The soldier explained how the prisoner was having difficulty in carrying the cross. The platoon leader analyzed the situation and reached out to a man standing nearby, grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to where the prisoner was again struggling back to his feet. The platoon leader gruffly demanded the man give his name and he responded, ‘I am Simon of Cyrene . . . I don’t want to get involved . . . I was just passing by . . . .’ The platoon leader ordered the man to pick up the cross and carry it for the prisoner. At first the man was hesitant, but as the platoon leader reached across his body and placed his hand on the handle of his sword, the man quickly complied, picking up the prisoner’s cross. The platoon leader looked at the soldier saying, ‘There will be no more straggling, you will keep up with the others.’ The procession then moved along the street which led to the crest of a small hill. Some called the place Golgotha, which meant the place of the skull, others called it Calvary.


When they arrived at the top of the hill the platoon leader ordered that the prisoners be nailed to the crosses which they had been carrying. The first two prisoners had to be forcibly held down on the cross and screams came from them as the nails were driven into their hands, their feet were crossed one over the other and a single nail was driven into their feet. The Soldier reached toward his prisoner to force him to lie on the cross, but to his surprise the prisoner willingly lay down upon his cross and stretched his arms out over the cross. As his prisoner lay upon his cross the other soldiers stripped him of his garments and positioned him upon the cross in preparation of driving nails into his hands and feet to affix him to the cross. As the nails were driven into the hands and feet of this prisoner he winced in pain, but no cry came from his lips. The soldier looked upon his prisoner’s face expecting anything but what he saw, that look was still in his eyes, the look which reminded him of his mother. That look penetrated deep within the soldier and an ever so small crack appeared on his hardened heart.


The other soldiers began to argue over the prisoner’s garments each wanting the garments for their own. As they jerked on one of the garments, trying to gain possession, it tore in two. The soldier stepped forward, took the torn garment and then tore each half in half again and handed each of the other soldiers a piece of the garment so that each had an equal share. Then there was the prisoner’s vesture, a truly fine piece of workmanship and to divide it among themselves as the other garment would have rendered it worthless. It was decided that they would cast lots to see who would possess the vesture. The soldier cast his lot, but alas he did not win. The soldier stuffed his piece of the torn garment under his breast plate and stood back to see who would possess the vesture.


The platoon leader then stepped forward handing the soldier a wooden plaque with words written upon it, instructing him to affix it to the top of the cross over the prisoner’s head. The soldier nailed the plaque to the cross as instructed and looked upon the words, wishing he had learned to read. The soldier wondered what these words said, maybe it had the prisoner’s name written on it or perhaps it told of the crimes the prisoner had committed. The soldier stood back and watched as the other soldiers lifted his prisoner’s cross and dropped it into a hole which had been previously prepared to receive the cross. The soldiers then packed rocks around the base of the cross to make it steady. The soldier looked over the crowd which had gathered and seeing the man who had carried the cross for his prisoner moved over to where he was standing. The soldier asked the man if he was able to read the sign over his prisoner’s head. The man told him that he could read the Hebrew words, but there were words in other languages he could not read. The soldier demanded that the man tell him the words that he could read. The man told the soldier that the part he could read said, “This is the king of the Jews.” The soldier was confused; he thought to himself, ’This man is a king, how could they do this to a king?’


The soldier could not take his eyes off of his prisoner as he hung there upon the cross. The prisoner was truly suffering and was in great pain, yet his eyes reflected a peace that was beyond his understanding. The soldier felt compassion for his prisoner and thought that he would offer him some wine mixed with myrrh, which the soldier knew would help to diminish the pain he was experiencing. The soldier dipped a sponge into the mixture and held it up to his prisoner’s lips on a rod. The prisoner tasted the mixture, but refused to accept it. This confused the soldier, why would his prisoner refuse to drink of this mixture which would ease his pain.



*****


(52)





THE SOLDIER

(Part Two)



by

Mike Boudreaux



The soldier had many things to think about, there were so many things that his prisoner had done that were confusing to him, it just didn’t make sense to him, the one thing he knew for sure, his prisoner was not like other men. As the soldier tried to make sense of the things which had happened, his prisoner looked out into the crowd and focused upon a certain woman and said, ’Woman, behold they son.’ The prisoner then turned his gaze to the man standing beside the woman and said, ’Behold thy mother.’ The soldier went into the crowd and stood in front of the woman to whom his prisoner had spoken. The woman looked at the soldier with questioning eyes. The soldier asked the woman if she were related to his prisoner. The woman did not hesitate to tell the soldier that she was the mother of his prisoner. The soldier had many questions for this woman, but before he could ask the first one, the skies became dark. ’This is odd,’ thought the soldier, ‘it is but the sixth hour and there are no clouds. Why is it so dark?’ The soldier took advantage of the darkness, lingering near the woman so that he could talk with her. For the next three hours the woman told the soldier many things about her son, she told how an angel had appeared to her when she was but a young unmarried woman, before she had ever known a man, and told her that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her and she would conceive and bring forth a son. The angel had told her that her child’s name would be Jesus and he would be called the son of God. She told him of the birth of her child in a lowly stable in Bethlehem and how wise men had visited them from the east, being guided to them by a star in the heavens, and how the wise men had brought expensive gifts and gold. She told the soldier how she, her husband and their young child had to flee into Egypt, being directed to do so by an angel of God because King Herod would try to kill her child. The woman told the soldier how she had watched her son grow, become strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him. She told the soldier of finding him, at age twelve, in the court of the temple expounding upon the word of God and how the rabbis and scribes were astonished at his words. She told the soldier of the miracles that he had done, how he had turned water into wine, fed five thousand people with but a few fishes and loaves and having many basketfuls left over, how he had opened blind eyes, caused the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the sick to be healed and that he had raised people from the dead. She explained how his teachings had caused many to follow after him and turn from the teachings of the Pharisees and the scribes; This had angered the religious leaders who plotted to kill him. The soldier asked this woman what crimes his prisoner had committed and she told him that her son had never violated any of their laws or committed any crime, that he had only spoken the truth and shared his love. She told the soldier that her son possessed a great love for all people and that he even loved those who despised him. As the woman spoke of her son’s love for others, the soldier realized what he had seen in his prisoner’s eyes, that look which had reminded him of his mother - it was love . As the soldier became aware of this love the small crack in his hardened heart became larger.

As the woman was talking with the soldier the darkness dispelled and the light returned. The soldier saw his prisoner’s lips move as though he were about to speak, so he moved closer to the cross to hear what he said. As he reached the base of the cross the prisoner raised his head and in a loud voice said, ‘It is finished!’ His prisoner then slumped down and the soldier knew there was no life in him.


Just as his prisoner spoke these words and died there was an earthquake which shook the area violently as if to emphasize the words he had spoken. When the ground had ceased shaking the platoon leader came up to the soldier telling him to break his prisoner’s legs so as to hasten his death. The soldier informed the platoon leader that his prisoner was already dead, so there was no need to break his legs. The platoon leader looked up at the prisoner and then ordered his aide to thrust a spear into the prisoner to insure he was not feigning death. The platoon leader’s aide did as he was told and thrust his spear deeply into the side of the prisoner and blood and water gushed out of the wound. The soldier, who had experienced battle many times, knew that such a wound from a spear would have caused certain death, that is, if his prisoner were not already dead.


The legs of the other prisoners were broken and soon all of the prisoners were dead, the crosses were taken down and their bodies were removed.


As the crowd was dispersing the platoon leader assembled his troops and marched them back to their barracks. The soldier spent a fitful night, every time he closed his eyes he saw his prisoner’s face with that look in his eyes. The soldier thought about all he had seen that day and mostly he thought about what the woman in the crowd had told him. Eventually the soldier did get to sleep, but it was a restless sleep, filled with dreams of men in glowing white clothing whispering strange things into his ear.


Early the next morning, as the soldier was finishing his breakfast, the platoon leader assembled the troops and asked for three volunteers. The soldier learned years ago to never volunteer for anything, but today he wanted to keep busy in order to keep his mind occupied so he would not think of the events of the previous day. The soldier stepped forward along with two others. The platoon leader told them that they would be guarding the sepulcher where they had buried the body of one of the prisoners which had been crucified on the day before. “Which one?”, the soldier asked. The platoon leader advised the soldier that it was the one called Jesus, who they claimed was the son of God, the one which had the plaque proclaiming that he was the ’King of the Jews.’ The soldier groaned within himself, he wanted no part of guarding the sepulcher of his prisoner, but he knew it was too late to back out. The platoon leader then instructed the volunteers to take up positions near the sepulcher and not allow anyone to remove the stone which had been set in place to seal the sepulcher closed. The platoon leader told the volunteers that they should take sufficient rations as they were to stand guard day and night until they were relieved.


The soldier gathered his rations, assembled his gear and met with the other volunteers outside of the barracks. The platoon leader then led the soldiers to the burial place instructing them to guard the sepulcher well until he relieved them from the detail. The soldiers took up positions near the sepulcher and the platoon leader left them as he headed back to the barracks in Jerusalem.


The soldier examined the stone which sealed the sepulcher, it was huge and he felt it would take at least ten strong men to move it. The first day was uneventful as was the second, no one came to the burial site and the hours passed slowly. The three soldiers guarding the tomb soon became bored and passed the time telling one another of their adventures and eating their rations. It was not long before the soldier found himself telling the others of his prisoner who had died upon the cross. The other soldiers were fascinated when the soldier told them about the look he had seen in his prisoner’s eyes, how it had reminded him of his mother and that it reflected the love he had for all people. They had many questions for the soldier and they wanted to know more about what the woman had told him. The soldier took the remnant of his prisoner’s garment from beneath his breast plate to show to them; it was strange to the soldier that this piece of cloth brought his such comfort and peace. The soldier talked for many hours about his prisoner and did not tire of telling about this man called Jesus.


On the next morning the soldier was hungry, but found he had eaten all of his rations in the previous days. The soldier asked the other soldiers if they had any rations left, however, they advised that they had also eaten all of their rations. The soldier told the others to remain on guard and that he would go into Jerusalem to get more rations for them all. The soldier walked the short distance into Jerusalem, stopped at the market place and bought supplies for himself and the other soldiers.


As the soldier was returning to the burial place there was an earthquake that shook the area violently. The soldier was knocked off his feet and the supplies he had bought were scattered about. As the soldier was gathering the supplies, while on his hands and knees, he heard voices coming from the sepulcher and cautiously crawled to a rock and peered over to see what was going on. The first thing the soldier saw was that the stone which had sealed the sepulcher was now rolled away from the opening and there was a man dressed in glowing white clothing sitting upon the stone. Then he saw his fellow soldiers sprawled upon the ground and not moving, he supposed that they were dead. At the opening of the sepulcher stood two women looking into the tomb. The man sitting upon the stone spoke with the women, but the soldier was too far away to hear what was said. After speaking with the man in glowing white clothing the two women quickly ran from the place and the soldier watched them until they were out of sight. When the soldier looked back to the sepulcher he saw that the man in glowing white clothes was no longer there and that his fellow soldiers were beginning to stir as if out of a deep sleep. The soldier quickly ran to the sepulcher and checked his fellow soldiers, finding they were unharmed. The soldier asked his comrades what had happened and they told him that they had seen a man, dressed in glowing white clothing, descend out of the sky and as he touched the stone, it rolled away from the sepulcher. They told the soldier that they were very frightened by this sight and started to run from this place, but found they were unable to move and fell unconscious to the ground. The soldier then walked over to the open sepulcher and looked inside. The soldier saw that there was no body inside of the sepulcher, just some linen clothes that had been neatly folded and lying where a body should have been.


The soldier saw no need for them to remain at the sepulcher since the tomb was empty, so he and the other soldiers returned to the barracks where they told the platoon leader all that had happened. The platoon leader was not happy with what the soldiers had told him and instructed them to confine themselves to the barracks and he would return shortly. The soldiers did as they were instructed and wondered what fate awaited them. They were sure that they would be severely punished, but had no idea what that punishment would be. It seemed as though the hours passed ever so slowly, but eventually the platoon leader returned and there were several very important looking citizens with him. One of the citizens stepped forward and said, “I am prepared to offer you a large sum of money if you will say that the followers of this Jesus, crept in while you slept, rolled away the stone from the sepulcher and took his body away.” The man assured the soldiers that if their superiors decided to punish them, they would convince them that the soldiers should go unpunished. Two of the soldiers looked at each other and almost stumbled over one another to get to the important looking man with their hands out stretched, eager to receive the promised money. The soldier, however, stood still with his head bowed. “What about you?” asked the important looking man as he shook a bag from which came the sound of jingling money, “Wouldn’t you like to be rich?” “Oh yes, I would like to be rich, but I know the truth and cannot be persuaded with money not to tell about what I have seen and heard.” “Is there anything that you want? What can I give you that will keep you from telling about what you have seen?” The soldier stood still for a moment, his hand slipped beneath his breastplate where he let his fingers caress the remnant of cloth he kept there, then he said, “I will strike a bargain with you. My enlistment is almost up, if you will arrange for an early discharge and book passage for me on the first ship bound for my homeland, I will leave this place and you will not have to worry about what I have to say.” The important looking men and the platoon leader huddled in conference as they discussed the soldier’s proposal. At the conclusion of the conference the platoon leader approached the soldier and said, “There is a detail leaving for Joppa in the morning, you will join this detail and when you arrive at Joppa, passage will be made for you on the first ship leaving for your homeland. At that time your enlistment will be up, turn in your uniform and weapons before boarding the ship.”


The soldier agreed to the arrangements, he was anxious to get out of the army, he did not want to be a soldier any longer. The things that the men, in glowing white clothing, had whispered in his ear in his dream began to make sense and the soldier wanted to tell the world about his prisoner, about this man called Jesus and he would start in his homeland - or perhaps he would start on his journey to Joppa.



*****



(53)





AUNT MARTHA'S BIRTHDAY



By

Mike Boudreaux



Now Aunt Martha is getting up there in years and she has three sons who have faired rather well over the years. Just before Aunt Martha's birthday this year I overheard her sons talking about what they planned on giving Aunt Martha for her birthday. Throckmorton, the youngest boy, we just call him Mort for short, no pun intended even though he is only five foot, one and a half inches tall, said he planned on giving her a large ten bedroom home over looking the lake, so she would be comfortable in her latter years. Beauregard, the middle son, we just call him Beau without any regard, was going to give her a big limousine complete with a chauffeur, so that she would be able to get around more easily. And Heathcliff, the oldest boy, we just call him Heath and let the cliff fall off, was planning on giving her a special gift. Heath knew Aunt Martha loved reading her bible, but that her eyesight was waning, so he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a parrot especially trained to recite the complete King James version of the bible, both the old and the new testaments. All one had to do was to give the book, chapter and verse and the parrot would start quoting the bible at that point and go on until it was told to stop. That Parrot was quite remarkable, as it never missed a word and never seemed to tire. Heath was mighty proud of his gift and related how several people had offered him well over a million dollars for that trained parrot, however, he refused to sell it as it was to be a birthday gift for his beloved mother.


Well, about a week or so after Aunt Martha's birthday I overheard Aunt Martha talking to Uncle Dudley about the gifts she had received from her boys. Aunt Martha said that the house Throckmorton had given her was lovely, but it was just way too big, 'cause all she needed was one little bedroom and she still had to clean all of those other rooms, which kept her plumb tuckered out most of the time. Aunt Martha said that the big fancy car that Beauregard had given her was beautiful, however, she didn't go to many places any more and when she did go anywhere she'd druther take the '40' Ford pickup truck 'cause it was easier to park and much handier to load stuff. And besides that, she didn't like that chauffeur, as he was just down right nosey, always wanting to know where she was going, it just 'tweren’t none of his business. Then Aunt Martha said that she really liked the gift that Heathcliff had given her, after all, he was the oldest and he knew her better than the others, so it stood to reason that he would know ‘zackly what she liked. Matter of fact she got on the telephone right then and there to thank Heathcliff for his thoughtfulness. She told him that she so appreciated his gift, however, she said that she did have to fatten it up a mite, but that chicken was right tasty. Right after that Aunt Martha said a tree musta fell 'cross the phone line again as the phone went dead.

Now as for me, I didn't have a lot of money to spend like Aunt Martha's boys, so I just got her some toilet water for her birthday. Uncle Dudley told me that she was always telling him how she really liked the toilet water he had gotten her for their first anniversary, so I thought I'd get her some too. Like I said, I didn't have much money to spend so I found me an empty pickle jar, washed it up real good and dipped up the toilet water myself. Why she'd like that stuff and what she does with it is more than I can understand, but women are real hard to figure out sometimes.


[This story was adapted from a joke told to me by my grandfather many years ago.]



*****



(54)





TRACKS



By

Mike Boudreaux



Well now, I have gotta tell you that my Uncle Dudley is most probably the best outdoorsman I have ever known, however, 'twern't always that-a-way. By Uncle Dudley's own admission, he will tell you that once he was plumb ignorant of the ways of the wild, but something happened when he was just a young'un that changed all of that. Seems that when Uncle Dudley was no more than post high he had a playmate that was his constant companion and they did everything together. Now one day Uncle Dudley and Wilbur, Wilbur being Uncle Dudley's constant companion, who he called Will and Wilbur called Uncle Dudley, Dud. Now let me warn you, don't be calling Uncle Dudley, Dud, as he will tell you one time not to call him that, and if'n you happen to slip up and call him Dud again he will light into you and I guarantee that you will not call him Dud a third time, but I digress. Like I was saying Uncle Dudley and Wilbur were deep into the piney woods exploring the forest and all it contained. As Uncle Dudley and Wilbur were trudging along a forest trail, Wilbur was in the lead, and suddenly he stopped in mid stride, throwing his arms out to his sides so as to prevent Uncle Dudley from moving past him. Uncle Dudley who was not paying that much attention, smacked right into Wilbur's backside and 'most knocked Wilbur face forward to the ground. Wilbur, however, having expected Uncle Dudley to run into him, had braced himself for the impact and was able to maintain an upright position, although he did have to do a little jig so as not to loose his footing. "What's the matter with you Will, how come you to stop like that?", Uncle Dudley exclaimed. "Looky there," said Wilbur, as he pointed to the trail just ahead of them. "What's that?", asked Uncle Dudley. "Not right sure," said Wilbur, "but I 'spect it's bear droppings." "Bear droppings?", said Uncle Dudley. "Yep! Pert sure it is", said Wilbur. Wilbur crept up real close and looked it over really good and said, "Sure looks like bear droppings." Wilbur then put his nose almost into it, took a big whiff and said, "Sure smells like bear droppings." Wilbur then reached out and stuck his forefinger into it, extracted it with a bit of it on the end of his finger. Wilbur then placed his thumb against his forefinger and rolled it around between his finger and thumb and said, "It sure feels like bear droppings." Wilbur then placed his forefinger into his mouth, quickly extracting it, he spit several times and said, "It sure tastes like bear droppings." Wilbur then looked squarely into Uncle Dudley's eyes and said, "You know, it's lucky we didn't step in it as I'm right sure it is bear droppings."


Now a bit further down the trail Uncle Dudley and Wilbur came upon a set of tracks. Wilbur looked at the tracks and said, "Dud, them there are bear tracks." Now, like I said, Uncle Dudley was not that wise when it came to outdoorsy stuff, but down in his heart he was almost positive that they weren't bear tracks so he said, "Will, I'm not all that sure that they're bear tracks, I reckon they're mountain lion tracks." Wilbur looked the tracks over and said, "Nope, Dud, them is surely bear tracks." Uncle Dudley reiterated saying, "Now Will, the way I see it, those are mountain lion tracks." "No way, Dud," Wilbur retorted, "them is bear tracks for sure." As the two boys were arguing over what kind of tracks they were, the train came along, run smack dab over Wilbur and kilt him dead.


It was for sure a tragedy and it affected Uncle Dudley deeply. Wilbur was the only one to ever call Uncle Dudley, Dud, and that's why Uncle Dudley don't hanker none to being called Dud as it brings to mind his childhood friend and how he met his demise.

Now, it is a rare thing that a dark cloud does not have a silver lining and so it was with this tragedy, as it made Uncle Dudley realize how ignorant he was of the outdoors. So Uncle Dudley swore on Wilbur's grave that he would learn all there was to learn about the outdoors. And so it was; Uncle Dudley learned to tell an oak from an elm, a pansy from a petunia, a flint from granite, he knew all of the animal's names and their habits and most importantly he could distinguish all of the animal's tracks and could tell a bear track from a train track. Uncle Dudley honed his woodsman skills over the years to the point he could track an ant across a pane of glass. If'n you were to give him a single animal hair he would tell you what kind of an animal it came from, whether it was male or female, how old it was, how much it weighed and what it had for breakfast.


Like I said, Uncle Dudley is the best outdoorsman I know, in fact he was once contracted by the National Geographical Society to track down a Dodo bird, but that is a whole 'nother story for 'nother time.



*****



(55)





My Heart



By

Mike Boudreaux



This is not a story per se, it is more of a documentation of my heart condition and operation. I have written it in hopes that it will encourage others to have regular medical examinations to check for possible heart problems. I have often heard of someone suddenly dying of a heart attack and those who knew them would say, ‘He was as healthy as a horse, never a sick day in his life and now he is gone.’ This was me, I felt fine, no indication of a heart problem, no symptoms which would indicate there was anything wrong with my heart. If I had not had a regular check-up and had just let things go because I did not feel sick, or have any symptoms, I would be that guy who suddenly died of a heart attack.


In early January, 2010, I went to my regular doctor for a yearly physical. I was not feeling bad nor did I have symptoms of any illness, it was just a regular check-up. The results of the physical revealed I had a high CRP reading which was indicative of cardio disease. My regular doctor then made an appointment for me to see a cardiologist. So in February, 2010, I had an examination and nuclear stress test, after which the cardiologist informed me that he wanted me to have an angiogram to check out why the results of my examination had shown some abnormalities. This was a shock to me as, like I said, I was not feeling bad nor did I have symptoms of any illness, much less any heart related problems. The angiogram was scheduled for the following Monday and I felt sure that it would reveal that all was okay with my heart, however, it resulted in two stints being placed in my heart.


I continued to regularly see my cardiologist and had yearly nuclear stress tests in 2011 and 2012, which showed I was doing well with no problems. In February, 2013, my cardiologist advised that the test results indicated I had some problems developing and he scheduled me for another angiogram. After the second angiogram my cardiologist advised me that my aortic valve was narrowing and it needed to be replaced. Again, I was shocked as I had very few symptoms of any heart problems. I worked hard around the house doing remodeling work and yard work and never experienced any shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness or pain. I regularly went to the gym and worked out, however, on a few occasions, after a strenuous exercise, I would get light headed and feel weak, but this would pass quickly and I mistakenly attributed it to low blood sugar levels.


My cardiologist advised of three possibilities; 1) have my defective valve replaced with a mechanical valve which should last the rest of my life, however, it would require I take Coumadin for the rest of my life, 2) have my valve replaced with a pig valve which did not have the longevity of the mechanical valve, but I would not have to take Coumadin, or 3) have what was termed a minimal invasive surgery where the valve is accessed through the vein, much like an angiogram, and a device is inserted into the valve to prevent it from narrowing. Of course this third procedure was my choice as it was almost an out-patient procedure with only two days of hospitalization, however one had to qualify for this procedure. My cardiologist scheduled me an appointment with a local heart surgeon; however I was not comfortable with the local surgeon and began to look elsewhere for a heart surgeon. Of course there was much prayer and seeking God to guide us to the best surgeon for me.


My grandson was born with a very serious heart condition and had to undergo several surgeries to correct the problem. His last surgery was performed by Dr. Vaughn Starnes at the Children’s Hospital in Hollywood who was able to correct his problem. At that time we were told that Dr. Starnes was one of the top heart surgeons in the US. In my search for a heart surgeon I saw where Dr. Starnes was performing heart surgery at USC in Los Angeles. My wife then took on the task of scheduling a consultation appointment with Dr. Starnes. This was a long drawn out procedure which consisted of many telephone calls and email communications, and the obtaining and transfer of medical records. Finally, in late May, a consultation appointment was made with Dr. Starnes at USC. This was definitely an answer to prayer as when we were in the waiting room we learned that it was very difficult to get an appointment with Dr. Starnes; some people had waited many months, up to a year, for an appointment.


As I went into the examining room to consult with Dr. Starnes, the first thing out of his mouth was, “I have reviewed your records and your aortic valve needs to be replaced and I am going to put in a pig valve.” He did not ask me what I preferred and went on to say that the pig valve was what he preferred to do as it performed better than the mechanical valve and I would not have to take Coumadin, which was a real hassle. Dr. Starnes advised that if, down the road, the pig valve needed some attention that it could be accessed by the minimal invasive method through the vein and repaired. Well, the pig valve was my second choice, however, I had wanted the minimal invasive procedure. Dr. Starnes advised me that I was not a candidate for the minimal invasive procedure as I was too young and too healthy. As it turns out the minimal invasive procedure is for the elderly, feeble or very young who were unable to withstand having open heart surgery. Although somewhat disappointed, it was good to hear I was not considered to be elderly or feeble. My surgery was scheduled for June 14th, however, I needed to be at USC on the 13th to have some pre-operative procedures done.


From the onset of learning I needed heart surgery I stood on 1 Peter 2:24 which told me that it was by the stripes of Jesus I was healed. I did not know how my healing would come, I just knew that it would come. God could have healed me with a miraculous touch, or He could use a surgeon to bring about my healing. Any way He chose to heal me was okay with me and I would accept my healing in whatever form it came. I did not waiver from this scripture and stood firm on knowing that I was healed. God is still manifesting my healing and soon I will be completely healed just as His word says.


My heart surgery was done on the early morning of June 14th during which, not only did they replace my aortic valve, but I also received two by passes. I awoke sometime later on that day in the ICU, I was really groggy and found that I had tubes and wires protruding from various places on my body. The next thing I discovered was that I was bound hand and foot to my bed rails, this was a good procedure as the first thing I tried to do was to remove the breathing tube from my mouth and found that due to being tied down I could not reach it; like I said I was groggy and not thinking straight. After several unsuccessful attempts at removing the breathing tube I gave up, resolving to just go back to sleep. I have no idea as to whether I had slept for two minutes or two hours, but the next thing I knew there were several people around my bed and they were removing the breathing tube from my mouth, it really felt good to be rid of that tube, to breathe on my own and to be free of my restraints.

I received excellent care from the doctors and nurses at USC, they were knowledgeable, considerate and quick to respond to my needs and wants. The only thing I didn’t like about my care was that I was unable to get any sleep.


I spent the next three days in ICU where I received the best of care from my nurses and was visited daily by my surgeon. Every two hours like clockwork I had a nurse at my bedside administering medication, checking my vitals or some other necessary procedure. I know that these procedures were necessary for my recuperation, but I got very little sleep because of them. I was able to snatch and hour here and there before being visited yet again by a nurse. Just as I would begin to slip into a deep sleep, there was a nurse at my bedside doing one thing or another. As soon as the nurse would leave I would try to go back to sleep, which was not an easy thing to do. When I would finally drift off into dreamland, again there was a nurse at my bedside doing her thing and preventing me from getting any decent sleep.   


I had wires and tubes everywhere which restricted my movements and made getting comfortable somewhat difficult. As time progressed they would remove a wire from here and a tube from there until finally all tubes and wires were removed. I was then moved to the “Floor”, which was on the same floor as the ICU and just a few yards away. I was glad to be out of the ICU, thinking that I would now be able to get some sleep and not be visited every two hours from the nurses, but I was wrong. The first thing that they did on the floor was to attach some more wires and tubes. The two hour visits continued and sleep became a precious commodity.


I was released from the hospital on June 19th at 2:30 PM and was driven home by my wife which was a three and a half hour trip. I slept the entire trip and upon arriving at home I climbed into bed and slept until 9:00 AM the next morning, it was wonderful!


We had a family vacation planned for June 28th through July 5th at Pismo Beach and I was determined to make that trip as it has become a family tradition over the past several years. I was feeling fine and was growing stronger every day and by the time it came to leave for Pismo Beach I felt really good and although I was not at 100%, I was operating at around 85% and was able to take short walks without getting too tired. We arrived at Pismo Beach and I was still feeling good and I took short walks in the area and even went on a brunch cruise on Morro Bay. On Sunday June 30th we went to the Avila Barn which is a family run farm where they sell their produce, and have other shops selling curios, jams & jellies, ice cream, baked goods, candies and roast corn on the cob. When we arrived at the Avila Barn and I stood up when exiting the car and felt a wave of dizziness and had to sit back down for a few minutes. The dizziness passed quickly and I went on to enjoy a roasted corn on the cob and an ice cream cone. Later that same day we decided to walk to the Pismo Yogurt shop to get a yogurt. It was a short walk to the yogurt shop from our condo, only about a block and a half, and I was feeling pretty good. I enjoyed a yogurt and then we headed back to the condo. One the way back I began to feel very weak and had to be assisted by a grandson under each arm to help me make it back to the condo. Although I did not feel bad I was extremely exhausted and had to lie down. My wife became concerned and took my vitals discovering that my pulse rate was 36 to 38. An on call physician was contacted and was advised of my condition and the medications I was taking. He advised to stop taking two medications, Coreg and Amiodarone, both are designed to lower the heart rate and prevent heart arrhythmia.  The physician advised to monitor my heart rate and if it continued to go down to take me to an emergency room. My pulse remained in the 36 to 38 range and as I had a previously scheduled appointment to remove sutures at USC on the following day, July 1st, it was decided to keep the appointment and advise them of my low heart rate.


At USC I was checked over and some sutures were removed. After learning of my low heart rate they immediately gave me an echocardiogram determining that there was no internal bleeding and my heart was operating well within parameters. However they advised they were going to admit me as my heart rate was dangerously low. So back to the “Floor” I went, which meant more wires and tubes and the two hour visits from the nursing staff. My wife was allowed to stay in the room with me and they provided her with a bed and bed linens. 


They continued to monitor my heart rate which at one time dipped down to 34. The doctors and nurses were amazed that I was feeling good and was able to get up and walk around, as they said that patients with such a low heart rate were generally confined to bed and barely conscious. They brought equipment into my room which would maintain or increase my heart rate if it were to drop too low. One doctor advised that if my heart rate did not increase on its own that they were considering a pace maker.


The following day my wife was in need of some clothing as she did not bring extra clothes for this unexpected stay. When she left the hospital at around 11:00 AM to go shopping she asked the nurse, who was monitoring my heart rate, to let her know if my heart rate were to come up to 40 beats a minute. At approx. 12:30 PM my wife returned from shopping and came into my room all excited informing me that as she passed by the nurses’ station there were several nurses gathered around the monitor where my heart rate was being recorded. One of the nurses looked up and told my wife that my heart rate had just shot up to 71 beats per minute. I could not believe what my wife was saying as a nurse had just left my room, about ten minutes earlier, after taking my vitals and told me that my heart rate was 38. I looked up at the clock on the wall and began taking my pulse and sure enough it was 71 beats a minute. Shortly a nurse came into my room wanting to check my vitals, just to make sure the monitor was registering correctly. After taking my vitals the nurse advised that my pulse was indeed 71 beats a minute. She said that this was not the normal way the pulse increased, usually it gradually increased over a much longer period of time. Of course that is the normal way a pulse increases, when God increases it, it can shoot up instantly, just as mine had done – truly an answer to prayer as God fulfilled His word.


A doctor later came into my room and said that if my heart rate would remain at this level or above that he would release me on the following day. My heart rate held steady at between 71 and 75 beats per minute. So, on the following day, July 3rd, I was released from the hospital and returned to Pismo Beach. On the following day I walked around the Pismo Beach area, taking a much longer walk than I had previously, and I did not get tired. I felt great and have gotten stronger every day. On July 26th I went to my cardiologist for an examination. After his examination my cardiologist told me that my heart was functioning properly, my vitals were well within the accepted range and he released me to be able to return to the gym for some light exercise.


I give glory to God for He is my healer and He is healing my body. I am not at 100% yet, but it will not be long before I am. PRAISE GOD!!! He is so good to His children.



*****



(56)





SEARCH AND RESCUE



By

Mike Boudreaux



It was the opening day of deer season in 1986, as usual the quiet, peaceful area where I was the resident deputy sheriff erupted with a multitude of hunters. Most of the hunters presented no problem, but there were always those who chose to do things that were outside of the law. As the day progressed I issued a citation for shooting from a vehicle while on the roadway and confiscated their rifle as evidence, had warned several groups of hunters that they were hunting on private property and directed them to the legal hunting areas and had validated two legal bucks. It was pretty much normal for an opening day and I was heading for home at the end of my shift when the Forest Service dispatcher advised me of a report of a lost hunter near Crane Meadow. As I was very near my home I decided to go to my house and contact the duty sergeant by telephone. I grabbed a quick bite to eat as I spoke to the duty sergeant advising of the call received from the Forest Service. I advised I had no further details other than a lost hunter near Crane Meadow, but that I would be heading that direction and would advise when I had further information.


Crane Meadow was approx. 22 miles from my residence which was the equivalent of a little more than an hour’s drive over what started out on a narrow, curvy, two laned, paved road, then that turned into a very narrow, even curvier, single lane, dirt road. I arrived at Crane Meadow around 8 PM and made contact with a Forest Service Ranger who advised that an eighteen year old female was missing and introduced me to the girl’s father. The father was distraught, but managed to give me the details of his missing daughter. Her name was Cassandra, but was called Cassie; she had just turned eighteen years old two weeks earlier. She was dressed in slacks, long sleeved shirt, hiking boots, a warm jacket and had a canteen of water with her. The father described Cassie as approx. 5’5”, 115 pounds with short blond hair and blue eyes. She was last seen on foot headed north just off of the roadway at around 7:00 AM that morning. Cassie and her father had agreed to split up and meet back on the roadway between noon and 1 PM. The father advised that he had arrived back on the roadway around 1 PM finding that Cassie was nowhere to be seen. The father drove to the very end of the road and then drove back to where the dirt road joined the paved road. The father stated that he continued to drive the road back and forth honking his horn and stopping occasionally to call out Cassie’s name and listen for any reply. The father had continued driving the road and calling out for Cassie until he encountered a Forest Service Ranger at around 6 PM and reported his daughter missing.


I asked the father if he had called home to see if possibly Cassie had found a ride to a telephone and had called home to say where she was. The father advised that he was reluctant to call home as his wife was easily upset and reporting Cassie missing would surely be very upsetting to her. He was hoping to find Cassie before he had to call home with the news that she was missing. This was at a time before everyone had a cell phone with them. I advised the father that Cassie could very well be safe somewhere in the area, had called home to report her location and was waiting for someone to pick her up. I advised the father that I could contact my dispatcher who could then call his home to see if Cassie had made contact with anyone there. I advised that our dispatchers were trained to handle these matters and were able to break the news in a professional manner so as to lessen the degree of anxiety produced from hearing that someone was missing.


I then contacted the dispatcher and requested that she contact Cassie’s residence to advise of this situation. It only took a few minutes for the dispatcher to advise that Cassie had not contacted her residence. I then contacted my sergeant and provided the details on the missing hunter and requested a search and rescue team be dispatched to the area. I advised that I would remain on scene, set up a base camp and occasionally sound my siren throughout the night in hopes the missing hunter would hear it and work her way towards the sounding siren or at least be comforted in knowing that someone was looking or her.

The first search and rescue team members arrived at 2:00 AM and continued arriving at the base camp until by first light there were 35 search team members including sheriff’s deputies, volunteer search and rescue teams and Forest Service personnel.

Sergeant Dale Cody arrived just before sunrise in the communication van and began to organize the search and rescue team members, assigning areas to be searched and assigning various duties. Deputy Rudy Fernandez and I were assigned to track the lost hunter, that is, if tracks could be located. Both Deputy Fernandez and I had received extensive specialized training in man tracking from the U.S. Border Patrol and over the years we had honed our skills becoming proficient in man tracking.

Sergeant Cody, accompanied by the lost hunter’s father, drove Deputy Fernandez and I to the location the lost hunter was last seen. It did not take long to locate a set of tracks in the area, the father advised that the tracks we had located were the size of his daughter’s hiking boots and the sole pattern was the same. Judging from the information from the father, the length of the stride and the depth of the shoe impression into the soil, Deputy Fernandez and I were 99% sure we had located Cassie’s tracks. 


To save time Dep. Fernandez and I began following the tracks using the jump track method. Once the tracks were identified one tracker would follow the tracks, step by step, to establish direction of travel, the second tracker would then hastily move ahead about one to two hundred yards, in the direction the tracks were headed and relocate the tracks. The second tracker would stay at least five yards off of the suspected trail the lost hunter was using so as not to obliterate any tracks and then cut across the trail to relocate the tracks. Once the tracks were relocated the second tracker would notify the first tracker that he was following the tracks, the first tracker would then hastily catch up with the second tracker, establish the direction of travel and then move on ahead to relocate the tracks several hundred yards ahead. This was then repeated over and over until the lost hunter is located. Using this method, known as jump tracking, two trackers could track a subject very quickly, whereas, a single tracker could only move as fast as he could track, which sometimes is a very slow process.


Depending on the terrain, tracking is not always locating big obvious shoe prints and following the shoe prints to locate the lost subject. Sometimes the tracks are very obvious, such as following someone walking along the wet sand at the beach and other times tracks, or sign, are very difficult to locate, such as someone walking through tall grass or over rocky terrain. Sometimes, instead of a big obvious shoeprint, all that can be found is a bent blade of grass, a scuff mark across a rock or a broken twig.


Deputy Fernandez and I were making good progress in following the lost hunter’s track, by 9 AM we had covered a little over two miles and were following tracks which led along the top of a ridge. The ridge top consisted of soft dirt, with few trees or vegetation, which made tracking easy. We were moving along the east side of the ridge top which was a portion of a box canyon that was the head waters of Rube Creek. Looking ahead, about half a mile, we could see where the east ridge top converged with the west ridge top forming the back of the box canyon. The sides of the canyon were very steep and I was hoping that the lost hunter had stayed on the ridge top. If she had stayed on the ridge top and continued moving north as she had been it would put her into a heavily forested area with very thick brush. I doubted that she would take that route as even experienced hunters with mountaineering skills would find that route very difficult to traverse. If she turned to the west it would put her onto the Tule Indian Reservation and would mean a steady uphill climb over some pretty steep rocky terrain. If she turned to the east it would take her down to a paved road within two miles, as the crow flies, but being on foot, that two miles would turn into three or four in the mountainous area. Never the less, I was hoping that the lost hunter would turn east as it would have been the easiest route back to civilization; that is if you want to call a two laned paved mountain road civilization.

Deputy Fernandez and I continued to follow the lost hunter’s tracks and at the north end of the box canyon found that her tracks turned south, dropping off of the ridge top directly down into the box canyon. I would never have thought that anyone would take that direction, as for the next mile or so it would mean that there were steep canyon walls on the left and right and the heavy brush and vegetation in the canyon bottom would make the going tough. However, we were dealing with a young inexperienced hunter with very little knowledge of the mountains.


It was 11:15 AM and Deputy Fernandez and I were just about to follow the tracks down into the canyon when we heard, “POW - POW - POW”, the international emergency signal for distress. The three rifle shots came from the south, deep within the canyon and were estimated to come from at least a mile away, maybe more. I got on the radio and called the base camp advising of the rifle shots and asked if any of the other search team members had heard the shots. Base camp took several minutes to contact the rest of the search team members, none of which had heard the rifle shots. Apparently Deputy Fernandez and I were in the perfect position to hear the shots as the sound bounced off of the canyon walls up to our location. In judging the distance of the shots, put whoever fired the shots deep down into the canyon. The heavy brush and steep canyon walls would make the going very difficult. Checking a terrain map and seeing that there was a logging road running just above where we suspected the shots had been fired, Deputy Fernandez and I decided we could save a lot of difficult hiking if we drove to the location near where we thought the shots had originated and then drop off into the canyon from that location. We then contacted Sergeant Cody by radio requesting to return to base camp to lay out a possible alternative plan to locate the lost hunter. Sergeant Cody granted our request and we hiked back to the base camp.


We arrived at the base camp at approx. 12:30 PM and contacted Sergeant Cody showing him our position on the terrain map at the time we heard the three shots. We then indicated the point on the map where we thought the shots had originated, showing him that there was a logging road just above the location we thought that the lost hunter had fired the shots. We suggested that we could drive out on the logging road, drop off into the canyon and either locate the lost hunter or relocate the lost hunter’s tracks and continue to track from that location, or we could return to the location we had heard the shots and follow the known tracks down into the canyon. We advised that by driving out on the logging road and dropping off into the canyon would save a lot of time. Sergeant Cody took a while to muse over the information we had presented to him. In fact he took so much time that I felt he was going to tell us to go back to the tracks we had been following and continue to follow those tracks. Sergeant Cody looked at us and asked, “How sure are you that you can locate the missing girl by dropping off of the logging road into the canyon?” “Sarge,” I responded, “The tracks we were following went straight down into the canyon, the shots we heard came from the canyon, I know she is down there and I am positive we can locate her by dropping off into the canyon from the logging road.” I looked Sergeant Cody straight in the eye and said, “I'll have her back at base camp before sunset.” Sergeant Cody took another long moment before he said, “Okay, you guys go ahead and don’t come back without her.”

It didn't take Deputy Fernandez and I long to grab a quick bite, refresh our canteens, climb into my patrol vehicle and head for the logging road. It took us about fifteen minutes to arrive at the location where we had determined the shots had been fired. It was exactly 1:30 PM when we dropped off into the canyon, sunset was at about 6:30, giving us five hours to locate Cassie and get her back to base camp.


The walls of the canyon were steep and the trees and other vegetation was thick slowing our progress. We would stop after covering 100 yards or so and call out for Cassie and then spend a few moments to listen intently for any reply. After a few minutes without a reply we would again make our way down into the canyon. I lost track of how many times we had stopped and called out to Cassie with no response, perhaps eight to ten times. We had just called out to Cassie and were listening for a reply without hearing anything. I started to move on when Deputy Fernandez grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “Listen!” I stood still and listened, but heard nothing. I again called out to Cassie and was listening intently; at first I heard nothing, but then I heard a very faint voice say, “I’m here!” The voice sounded very far away, north of our position and several hundred yards below us. Moving to the north we dropped down into the canyon a couple of hundred yards and stopped and called out to Cassie. This time the voice sounded nearer and the response came quickly. Again we moved north and dropped down a hundred yards and called to Cassie. “I’m here, I’m here!” Cassie called out. We continued moving toward the voice and calling out to Cassie until breaking through some heavy brush we saw Cassie about fifty yards north of our location. We covered the distance quickly and soon I was standing before Cassie who was holding her rifle, trembling and sobbing heavily as she said, “Thank you, thank you!” Cassie dropped her rifle to the ground and reached out towards me. I reached out to her, taking her hand in mine and she pulled me to her, wrapping her arms around me she gave me a huge bear hug saying, “Thank you, thank you!”  Just about the time I thought Cassie was going to squeeze the last of the air out of my lungs she released me, turned to Deputy Fernandez and threw her arms around him, squeezing him hard, and repeating, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Cassie was a mess, her hair was matted and had little pieces of leaves, twigs and other vegetation in it, her face was covered in thick dust with the exception to two clean streaks under her eyes where her tears had washed away the dirt from her cheeks. Although hungry, she was in good physical condition, she had some minor scratches and abrasions, but no serious injuries or health concerns. Cassie woofed down two granola bars without taking a breath and downed half a canteen in one gulp.

I contacted Sergeant Cody by radio advising that we had located Cassie and she was in good health. I advised that it was going to take us a while to climb back up to the logging road as the canyon walls were really steep. Sergeant Cody asked if there was any place a helicopter could set down as the California Highway Patrol helicopter crew had joined the search. I asked him to stand by while I searched for a possible landing site.


On the way down into the canyon I remembered seeing a small clearing on the opposite canyon wall which was not too far from our location. Deputy Fernandez stayed with Cassie as I headed toward the clearing I had seen. It only took about fifteen minutes to reach the clearing, it was small, but large enough for a helicopter to set down. The only problem being, was the steepness of the canyon wall; I did not know if a helicopter would be able to set down on the steep grade.


I radioed Sergeant Cody advising I was at a possible landing site for a helicopter, but was not sure a helicopter could land due to the steep canyon walls. Sergeant Cody advised he would dispatch the helicopter to my location for them to decide if they could land. Deputy Fernandez and Cassie arrived at the clearing prior to the helicopter getting there. Shortly we saw a helicopter slowly making its way up the canyon. I had a bright orange windbreaker in my back pack and began to wave it vigorously to attract the attention of the pilot. I knew when the pilot had spotted us as the helicopter turned towards our location and sounded its siren. I did not have direct radio communication with the helicopter and had to communicate with it through Sergeant Cody. Sergeant Cody advised that the pilot of the helicopter said that he was going to attempt to land in the clearing. We then moved out of the clearing and watched as the helicopter very slowly began to descend into the clearing. The helicopter was only able to put the left skid on the ground, keeping the helicopter level the right skid of the helicopter was four to five feet off of the ground and the blades were only a few feet away from the canyon wall. The pilot held this position as he motioned for us to approach the helicopter on the side that the skid was on the ground. The helicopter held four people, the pilot and co-pilot were in the front seats leaving the back seat available for two passengers. I won the flip of a coin and Cassie and I climbed into the back seat of the helicopter. As we lifted off of the ground and gained altitude I looked back at the clearing we had just left noting that there were no other clearings in that area, this was the only clearing which was large enough for a helicopter to set down for miles around.


I have worked many different calls for service during my career, but my most favorite type of call is a successful search and rescue mission. And my most favorite part of a successful search and rescue mission is when the lost person is re-united with their family. As we were coming in for a landing at the base camp Cassie looked out the window and exclaimed, “There’s my Mom and Dad and my little brother is there too!” Cassie was very excited and began to slap her hand on the window saying, “Hi Mon, hi Dad, hi Charlie!” even though there was no chance they would be able to hear her. Cassie was bouncing on the seat and could hardly wait to get off of the helicopter. As soon as the helicopter touched down Cassie unbuckled her seatbelt and bolted out of the door as soon as it was opened. Cassie ran to her family and began to hug each one with audible sobs and big tears of joy rolling down her cheeks. It was a sight that I shall never forget.


As soon as Cassie and I disembarked the helicopter it lifted off to retrieve Deputy Fernandez who was waiting back at the clearing to be extracted.


The trip to the base camp had only taken about five minutes. I looked at my watch noting it was exactly 4:35 PM. If the helicopter had not been available it would have taken us at least two hours, just to make it back to the logging road where Deputy Fernandez and I had dropped off into the canyon. I stayed at the landing zone waiting for the helicopter to return with Deputy Fernandez and while waiting I was approached by Sergeant Cody who said, “Good job. You guys kept your word. Truthfully, I had some doubts, I’m glad you proved me wrong. Tell you what, I’m going to buy your dinner, there’s some extra jail sandwiches at the com van, take all you want.” I just stood and stared after him as he walked off chuckling. It should be noted that on these search and rescue missions the Sheriff’s office supplies the meals. The meals are usually sandwiches made at the main jail by inmates and consisted of two slices of bread, bologna, cheese all held together with a glue like substance they called mayonnaise, but in no way resembled the true substance. Most of the time the meals were left uneaten, unless one was absolutely starving and had no other food source, such as a fresh road kill or a tree branch.


Soon the helicopter returned with Deputy Fernandez and I helped him unload all of the gear. When Cassie and I left the clearing we had left her rifle and canteen and my gear with Deputy Fernandez to give Cassie and me more room in the helicopter. As Deputy Fernandez was the only passenger on the second trip there was plenty of room for him and all of the gear.

Taking Cassie’s rifle and canteen I walked over to where she and her family were standing. They were still in the process of exchanging hugs and were listening intently to Cassie’s story of how she had gotten lost. Cassie’s back was to me so I just stood there with her rifle and canteen listening to her relate her adventure. It turns out that at the rim of the box canyon, Cassie had spooked a buck which ran down into the canyon. Cassie gave chase and before she knew it she was in the bottom of the canyon with no sign of the deer. She had tried to climb back out of the canyon but found the canyon walls too steep for her to negotiate, so she looked for an easier way out and soon became disorientated and did not know which way to go. Cassie had seen a bear at some distance just before it got dark which resulted in her spending a fretful night thinking the bear would attack her in the dark. Cassie had tried to climb a tree but found she was not very good at that so she climbed up on top of a large rock and spent the night there. Cassie stated that she had fired three shots just after dark, and two more times during the night, then she fired three shots when it got light and again at what she thought was around noon. Cassie stated that she only had four shells left and decided to keep the remainder of her shells in case she had to defend herself from a bear. Cassie stated that when she first heard someone calling her name she thought that she was just hearing things and did not immediately respond. But then when the voices got louder she responded and soon she saw two deputy sheriffs’ approaching her. Cassie said she was so relieved to see people as she thought that she would never get out of those woods alive.

Cassie’s father looked at Deputy Fernandez and me asking if we were the ones who had found Cassie. Before I could respond Cassie turned around and said, “Yes! These are the ones!” and then she wrapped her arms around me giving me yet another big bear hug. She then released me and wrapped her arms around Deputy Fernandez giving him a big bear hug asking, “How can I ever thank you guys?” Cassie’s mother and father chimed in and said, “Yes, how can we thank you?” I handed Cassie’s rifle and canteen to her father and said, “You don’t have to thank us, just seeing that Cassie is safe and she is back with her family is more than enough thanks.”


After a short debriefing the search team members were dismissed, we then broke base camp and everyone left the area. I have not seen Cassie or her family since this incident, however, about three weeks afterwards I received a thank you card from Cassie and her family advising of their appreciation and gratitude for our search efforts. In my thirty year law enforcement career this is one of my most memorable calls for service; and it is calls like this one which made my job well worth doing.

EPILOGUE: One thing that I did not mention in relating this story was that upon receiving this call I went to the Lord in prayer asking that the lost hunter be found safe. I continued to pray throughout this incident asking that the Lord guide and direct the searchers to the missing hunter’s location. When I look back over the details of this incident I can see the Lord’s hand was in it. For instance when we heard the three shots, we were in the perfect position at just the right time to hear them, no one else on the search and rescue team had heard the shots. The fact that the sergeant broke from established procedure to allow us to search in a separate area, based only on our assumption of the location that the shots were fired was not the norm. Normally once tracks are located, the trackers are to remain on the tracks until the lost person is found. The fact that the CHP helicopter joined in on the search shaved many hours off of the search and rescue mission. And finally the fact that the only clearing for miles around that a helicopter could land was just a short distance from where Cassie was located. Yes, the Lord surely had His hand on this situation.



*****



(57)





FAITH TO MOVE MOUNTAINS



By

Mike Boudreaux



In 1978 I was the resident deputy sheriff in California Hot Springs. It was a pleasant little mountain community, however, there was no church in the area that believed as my wife and I did. We would often travel to Porterville to attend church, but this became difficult in the winter with the bad weather and there was always the possibility of me receiving a call for service and having to leave in mid service. We learned of a retired body and fender man and his wife, Ted and Mae Parrot, who lived in the area and held church in their home. The problem was that they lived in a very small home and it would not hold very many people. We attended this home church until the Parrots sold their mountain home and moved to Porterville. There were a handful of families which would meet in different homes for church, but as we gained more families no one's home was large enough to accommodate all of the families. We needed to find a place that was large enough to hold all of the families plus any additional people who might join us. The problem was that in this small mountain community there were no buildings available. Those who attended the home church toyed with the idea of purchasing a parcel of ground and building a church. We made several inquiries around the community but could not locate a suitable site. It had already been a matter of prayer amongst our home church group, but we intensified our prayers setting a specific time every day that each one would pray earnestly about a building in which we could meet.


None of us were what anyone would call a preacher and our meetings consisted of singing worship songs, bible study and discussions. Then a retired service station owner and his wife, Floyd and Dee Lay, moved to California Hot Springs. Floyd believed as we did and had some experience in preaching and agreed to be our preacher. Now we had a congregation and a preacher, but no place to hold meetings other than in private homes.


About two months later I was approached by the owner of a bar and grill located in the community who advised me that his business was not doing well and he was thinking about selling his liquor license separately and was wondering if we would be interested in purchasing the building and property. The owner wanted $30,000 for the building and property which was more than a fair price, but still a pretty good sum of money. Banks were not willing to loan money to a fledgling church, however, we were able to secure a loan from a private party and bought the building and property. We had more than enough help from within our group to remodel the bar and soon made the bar into a church. The building was perfect for a small community church, it had two bathrooms, a kitchen, and two smaller rooms which made ideal classrooms. Once the bar was removed and pews were installed, with some paint here and some wallpaper there, one could not ask for a better place to hold services.

We soon discovered that although the building met our needs, there was one small problem. The parking lot was small and did not accommodate many cars. We had a little over three acres of land but only about a half acre was flat, the rest consisted of a pretty steep mountain side and was not suitable for parking or for outdoor activities for the youth.


After we had been in operation for about two months our original home church leader, Ted Parrot, came for a Sunday service. Afterwards several of the original families were showing Ted around the property. After taking a tour of the building, inside and out, Ted stood at the front of the property and said, “You have a lot of ground here, but you can't use much of it.” We agreed with him and he just stood there a moment and then said, “You know the word says that if we have faith and doubt not, that we can speak to the mountain and it will be removed.” We just stood there in silence, not really knowing what to say. Ted then said, “We have the mountain and we have the faith, now all we have to do is speak to this mountain telling it to be removed and doubt not in our heart that it will be removed.” Again we stood there in silence and I remember thinking to myself, 'I hope that Ted or one of these others have the faith', because truthfully I had some doubt. Ted then turned toward the mountain and said in a voice overflowing with authority, “Mountain, I speak to you in the name of Jesus, the Son of God, and tell you to be removed.” Ted then turned back to the group and said, “There, it's done. Now every time you look at that mountain I want you to see it in you mind's eye as being removed.”


Every time that I drove past our little church I would look at that mountain and try to see it removed, but each time I drove by, the mountain stood there in defiance, mocking God's word and whittling away at what little faith I did have.


After our little church had been in operation for about six months the board was approached by a local contractor who specialized in putting in septic tanks, making drive ways and preparing parcels for new home construction. He had a backhoe with a front end scoop and a dump truck. The contractor advised that the mountain behind the church was composed of good quality DG, [decomposed granite], and he asked if he could use some of the DG when he needed to make a base for a drive way or to fill in low places to make a more level lot for building. The board readily agreed and told him to take all he wanted.

One dump truck load at a time the mountain began to be removed. In this small mountain community the contractor did not have a lot of jobs to do and sometimes he would only take two or three dumb truck loads a month. As I said the mountain was being removed, one dump truck load at a time, but at this rate it would take fifty years before anyone could see some results. Never the less, each time I saw that contractor loading his dump truck with DG from the church property or driving down the road with a dump truck filled with DG, I would praise the lord and ask the Lord to bless him with more jobs.


As that mountain began to be removed, even if it were ever so slightly, my faith was beginning to get larger, even if it were ever so slightly. I could see God in the situation and I began to look at that mountain and see it removed.


A little over a year after we had opened the church we were approached by a county road construction engineer. He advised that the county was doing some new road construction in the area which required some DG and he had noticed the DG on our property. He asked if we were interested in selling the DG, advising that it would be less expensive to get the DG near the construction site rather than to truck it up from the valley. We readily agreed and told him to take all that he wanted. The engineer thanked us, stating that the county would pay us for each load removed from the property. We advised that it would not be necessary to pay for the DG, that it was free for the taking. The engineer advised that he could not take the DG free gratis, that he was required by the county to pay for each load removed from the property.


Who could argue with that? When construction started on the new road, dump truck after dump truck lined up and left the property on a daily basis, carrying 15 cubic yards of DG at a time. I do not recall how many dump truck loads left the property, but with each one came a dollar amount which went toward paying off our loan on the property. By the way we had acquired a fifteen year loan and it was paid off in eight years.


When we bought the property approx. a quarter of it was flat and most of that was taken up by the building. When the road construction was completed and the last dump truck left the property a little better than two thirds was flat. Not only had God removed that mountain, but He did it in such a way as to help pay off our loan and to build my faith, not over night, but step by step – dump truck load after dump truck load.


Sadly, Ted Parrot did not get to see that mountain removed, as he passed away shortly before the road construction started, but I know by faith he saw it removed in his minds eye.



*****



(58)





THE RUSE



By

Mike Boudreaux



On a Saturday morning in the summer of 1984, I was on routine patrol in the area of White River Campground above California Hot Springs. As I was travelling along a dirt road I was flagged down by an approaching motorist. I stopped in the road and the motorist pulled up opposite me and rolled down his window. I could tell he was noticeably upset as he said, “You need to do something about those motorcycles in the campground!” Before I could respond he rolled up his window and drove on in a huff. I have had problems with campers riding their motorcycles inside of the campgrounds before, stirring up the dust and creating a lot of noise, which is really annoying to other campers who are just trying to have a quiet week-end in the mountains. As I drove towards White River Campground I could picture a couple of teenagers racing around in the campground on their trail bakes as their parents ignored the disturbance they were making.


I turned off of the main road onto the road leading into White River Campground and was mentally preparing to scold the teenagers and then dress down the parents for allowing them to ride inside of the campground when there were hundreds of acres in the forest in which they could ride. As I pulled into the main section of the campground I was not prepared for what I saw. At one end of the campground was an estimated 55 to 60 chopper style motorcycles and a large banner that read, “Mongols MC California” and a smaller banner read, “LA 1%ers”. This was a far cry from teenagers stirring up dust and making noise.


It was too late to throw it in reverse and back out as there were several of the outlaw bikers who had already spotted me. No, I was committed and had to make contact with these bikers.  I should explain about radio communications in this area. Being that it is a mountainous area the radio communications are sketchy in some areas and in others are completely nil. White River Campground happens to be one of those areas where radio communication is nil. Like I said I had already been spotted by several of the bikers and by the time I had parked at the edge of their camp site, all eyes were on me. I said a quick prayer asking the Lord to protect and guide me.


I reached down and picked up the microphone, holding it before my mouth and began to mimic speaking into the microphone by reciting ‘Mary had a little lamb’. I knew there was no chance of anyone hearing my transmission as I had tried to make radio contact from this area before with absolutely no results. After finishing my poetic recital I returned the microphone to its holder, opened the door and stepped out into a sea of bikers who had began to gather around my vehicle. I knew that I could not show any fear, although there was plenty beginning to swirl around in the pit of my stomach.


One of the bikers stepped forward and asked, “Is there a problem?”  “We have received word of your group being here and I am here to assess the situation. I’d like to speak to whoever is in charge.”, I said, as I stared directly into his eyes trying not to blink. “I’m in charge”, he said, as he stared back unblinkingly. Taking a wide stance so as to keep my knees from knocking together, I said, “My sergeant and ten deputies are staged a half mile from here awaiting my assessment of your group.”  “Hey man, we aren’t here to cause any trouble. Look, we have our old ladies and our kids with us” he said, as he gestured back towards their campsite.  For the first time since he had approached me I broke eye contact and looked over at their camp site. I saw that there were small children and women in the camp site. The leader then said, “Hey man, we’re just here to kick back and have a good time. We ain’t gonna cause nobody no trouble. I’ll keep my guys in check and make sure they don’t hassle nobody.  “Okay,” I said, “You have a right to be here as long as you do not disturb the other campers or cause any problems.”  “If they’ll stay out of our camp we’ll stay out of theirs.”, he replied.  “Fine with me”, I said, “Now, if you will show me your drivers license, I’ll be on my way.”  “What’d I do? I didn’t do nothin!” “I did not say you did anything, but if there is a problem and all you bikers take off, I want to have someone I can look up to lay the blame on. After all, you’re the one who said you’re in charge and would keep your guys in check.” The leader stared back at me for a long moment and finally reached back towards his rear pocket and drew out his wallet. He then extracted his driver license, handing it to me. I copied down the information and then made sure the bikers saw me copy the license plate numbers from several of the motorcycles parked nearby. I handed the leader back his license and said, “Okay, I’ll notify my sergeant that they can stand down, but I will be back to check on how things are going.”  “Fine.” said the leader. I then climbed back into my patrol vehicle and picked up the microphone, again reciting ‘Mary had a little lamb’ and replaced the microphone into its holder.


I then made contact with each of the campers in the other camp sites in the campground. I advised each one to keep away from the biker group and if it looked like trouble was going to start to send someone to the nearest telephone to make a report. I reiterated for them not to wait until there was trouble, but if it appeared that trouble was beginning to send someone immediately to make a report. I advised the campers that I would be making regular patrol checks of the campground.

As I pulled out of the campground I gave a big sigh of relief and thanked the Lord for watching over me. As soon as I reached an area where I could make radio contact I called the sergeant of the day and reported the outlaw motorcycle group in the area and that they appeared to be peaceful. He asked if addition officers were required and I requested one additional deputy to help make patrol checks of the group so they would see that there were more than just the one officer in the area. The sergeant advised he would meet me inside of the White River Campground, in sight of the motorcycle group, at 12:30 PM. At exactly 12:30 PM I drove into the White River Campground and parked away from the motorcycle group, but within their sight. A few minutes later Sergeant Cody and a reserve officer pulled up and parked next to me. We then got out of our cars and stood watching the motorcycle group. Sergeant Cody advised that he was short handed in the valley and was unable to dispatch an additional deputy to assist, however, he advised that the reserve officer had driven a patrol car up to the area and had parked it at the Forest Service Ranger Station. Sergeant Cody handed me the keys to the patrol car and told me to make hourly patrol checks of the motorcycle group, and to alternate from my four wheel drive pick-up truck to the patrol car on every other visit so as to make it appear there were more than just one officer in the area. Sergeant Cody and the reserve officer then left the area. One hour later I switched to the patrol car and made a patrol check of White River Campground allowing the patrol car to be seen, but staying far enough away from the group so as not to be recognized. I continued to make hourly patrol checks of the campground, each time switching vehicles, until midnight at which time most everybody in the campground were asleep with the exception of a few of the bikers standing around their campfire.


Due to other calls in the area I was unable to check on the outlaw motorcycle group until 1:30 PM the following day. When I pulled into White River Campground I was surprised to see that the motorcycle group was gone, every man, woman and child. As I checked the campsite where they had been camped I found their campfire was dead out and the area was clean of any litter, not even a cigarette butt was on the ground. Before I left the campground I contacted one of the other campsites and was advised that the group was very quiet and well behaved and that they all had left at around noon. As I left the campground I again gave thanks to God for guiding and protecting me.



*****


(59)








THE TOWER



By

Mike Boudreaux



The two boys stood before us asking that they be allowed to join our gang. We didn’t really have a gang, it was just the four of us, Burt, Larry, Phil and myself. We had been buddies since first grade and would hang out together when there was nothing else to do. In fact we didn’t even have a name or a purpose, we just gathered on the street corner and talked about girls, teachers, girls, school, girls, movies, girls, cars and girls. We were all freshman in high school and our transportation was either walking or riding a bicycle. It was mostly walking as we were at that awkward stage where we were too cool to be seen riding a bicycle and too young to have a drivers license. Like I said we didn’t even have a name, well, not until that night when the two boys wanted to join our “gang.”


“We’d like to be members of your gang.” said one of the boys.


“Yeah, we would.” said the other, “What’s the name of your gang?”


Well, the other members of our “gang” looked around at each other not knowing exactly what to say, the idea of being a gang had never occurred to us, but the idea was intriguing. So not wanting to admit that we were just a group of kids who hung out on the corner, we hemmed, hawed and stammered a bit, but finally Larry blurted out, “We’re the Dare Devils.”  


It turned out that the boys were twin brothers and had just moved into the area from Illinois. Apparently in Illinois boys of our age belonged to a gang. We had seen the boys in the area for several weeks, but they had kept their distance until tonight and we had not spoken to them. Apparently they had seen us hanging out together and had presumed that we were a gang, like they had in Illinois.


“What do we have to do to become members of the Dare Devils?” one of the boys asked.


Thinking fast, I said, “Well, you have to take a dare, if you don’t do it, then you can’t join.”


“What’s the dare?”, one of the boys asked.


“I don’t know,” I said, “we’ll have to discuss it and get back to you. Why don’t you guys meet us back here tomorrow night about this time and we’ll let you know.”


The two boys agreed to meet us the next night and walked on down the street.


“What are we gonna have ‘em do?” asked Phil.


“I don’t know. Any of you guys got any ideas?” I asked.


After some thought Burt said, “Why don’t we have them ride down Lewis Hill from the top on a bike with no chain, like Danny did last summer?”


Danny wasn’t dared to ride down Lewis Hill on his bike with no chain, he just thought it would be a cool thing to do. If you take the chain off of a bike with coaster brakes, there is no way to slow down or stop, you’re at the mercy of gravity and your ability to ride a bike at high speed. Danny’s ability was not too good and he ended up crashing near the bottom of the hill, breaking his arm.


“No, that’s too dangerous, we don’t want anyone to get hurt. Any other ideas?” I asked.


“How about the tower?” asked Larry, “We could have them climb to the top of the water tower.”


“Now that’s a good idea, but we don’t want to be anywhere near the tower when they climb it.” I said.


Several weeks previous there was another group of boys who had attempted to climb the water tower, however, they had been caught by the police and everyone, even those who were just watching from the ground, were taken to the police station where their parents were called and the result of the matter was still pending.


“Well, then how are we going to know if they climbed the tower if we are not there to watch them?” Larry asked.


“That won’t be a problem,” I said, “see you here tomorrow night.”


When I arrived at the corner on the next night the others in our “gang” were already there.


“What you got there?” asked Burt.


“It’s a message in a bottle.” I said.


“Huh? It’s what?” Burt asked.


“It’s a message in a bottle. Look, I carefully removed the bottle cap from this Coke bottle so as not to bend it up too much, then I drank the Coke of course and washed out the bottle real good. Next I wrote, ‘Bring this note back to Mike Boudreaux’, on a piece of paper, rolled it up and put it inside of the bottle and placed the cap back on the bottle and crimped it down with a pair of pliers.”


“So, whatta ya gonna do with it?” Asked Burt.


“We’re gonna separate the guys who want to join our gang.” When I said, ‘gang’, the others in the group snickered and Burt even laughed out loud.


“Then I’m gonna give the bottle to one of the guys telling him not to open it and that we dare him to climb up to the top of the water tower and leave the bottle at the top and then come back here to the corner. When he gets back we’re gonna dare the other guy to climb to the top of the water tower, open the Coke bottle and do what the note says that he’ll find in the bottle. That way we’ll know that they both climbed to the top of the water tower and we won’t have to be any where near it when they do it.”


“That’s a good idea.” Larry said and then he added, “Hey, here they come now.”


When the two boys reached our group we made our formal introductions, learning that the boys were James and John Bradley. After I introduced myself I then introduced them to each of the other members of our “Gang”. After introductions were made I drew James aside and handed him the Coke bottle with my note inside and dared him to climb the water tower, leave it at the top of the tower and then return to the street corner where we would be waiting for him along with his brother. James’ eyes got big when he learned he would have to climb the water tower, he swallowed hard and asked, “How long do I have to do this?”

I looked at my watch, it was 7:05 PM, and said, “Allowing time to walk to the water tower, climb it and then walk back here shouldn’t take you more than an hour, so be back here no later than 8:15.” James again swallowed hard, cast a look at his brother and said “I can do this.” He then turned towards the water tower and strode off into the darkness.


John and our “gang” then hung out on the corner doing our usual thing, talking about girls, teachers, girls, school, girls, movies, girls, cars and girls. Time passed quickly and as it approached 8:00 PM we saw James walking towards us. James had a big smile on his face and was walking with pride in his step. As he got close to the group he called out, “I did it! I climbed right to the top and left the bottle up there just like you said.”


James then related how he had climbed up one of the metal legs until he was able to reach the ladder and then climbed the ladder on up to the top, left the bottle as he was told and then climbed back down. No one else in our group had ever climbed the water tower and we were mesmerized by the description of his escapade.


After a lot of questions and responses we all settled down and John asked what he had to do. I then told John that all he had to do was to climb up to the top of the water tower, open the Coke bottle and follow the instructions on the note inside. John seemed to be very nervous once he learned that he also had to climb the water tower and asked if there was not some other dare he could do. The group, in unison, said, “No. You have to climb the tower.” James looked at his brother with pleading eyes and his brother said, “Come on John, you can to it. It’s a piece of cake.”  John slowly turned toward the tower and shuffled off. I looked at my watch seeing that it was 8:15 PM and called after John saying, “You have to be back here by 9:20, no later.”  John didn’t reply, nor did he look back, he just raised his hand over his head, waved and plodded on with his head hung down.


James and the rest of our group waited on the corner and we returned to our usual activity, except this time we didn’t talk about teachers, school, movies or cars, we just talked about girls. We thought that John would be back by 9:00 PM, but it was now 9:05 and no sign of John. James was noticeably upset because his brother had not yet returned. When it got to be 9:15 PM James said, “I’m going to go check on John, he should have been back by now.”  Our group decided that we would go with James to see what happened to John. We all thought surely that on our way to the water tower that we would meet John headed back to our corner. However, we walked all the way to the tower and had not met him. When we got to the water tower we saw John sitting on the ground with his head between his knees and his back up against one of the metal legs. James ran up to John and asked him if he was okay. John looked up with tears in his eyes and said, “I couldn’t do it. I tried, I really tried. I got as far up as the first rung on the ladder, but I’m afraid of heights and I had to come back down. I just couldn’t do it, James, I’m sorry.” James put his arm around John and told him it was alright and not to worry about it. After a few moments James stood up and turned towards the group and said, “I guess this means John can’t join your gang.” Before anyone could respond James said, “That’s okay, if John can’t join, then I don’t want to be in your gang either.”  We all just stood there in silence, not knowing what to say. James then pulled on John’s arm helping him to stand and said, “Come on John, we’re going home.” James and John then walked off into the darkness without another word from anyone

.

After a few moments we decided we had better get away from the water tower in case the police came by. As we were walking back to our corner it suddenly hit me, “Oh No!!” I exclaimed, “There’s a note up there on the tower with my name on it! We have to get it back!!”


“What do you mean ‘We’?”, Phil said, “Our names aren’t up there, just yours.” Phil was right, I knew I had to climb the water tower and retrieve that Coke bottle with the note in it. I looked at my watch, it was 9:45 PM and I had to be home by 10:00.  “It’s too late to climb the tower tonight, I’ll have to climb it tomorrow night. We then all headed to our prospective homes to make it by curfew.


I tossed and turned all night and got very little sleep. All I could think about was that bottle up on the water tower with my name in it. I was sure that before too long someone would have to do some kind of maintenance check on the water tower and they would find the note and turn it over to the police. I was sure if that happened I would be in big trouble and end up with a criminal record of some sort, maybe even spend some time in a juvenile detention facility. I could picture myself in hand cuffs being led away from my house by the police with my mother crying on the front porch and all of the neighbors looking on. I had to get that note back.


The next evening, instead of meeting at our usual corner, we met at a location near the water tower. I had dressed all in black so I would not be easily seen in the darkness. I was more than a little nervous about climbing the water tower and asked if anyone would like to climb the tower for me. There were no takers, even after I lowered myself to pleading with them. Finally I resigned to the task at hand and they all wished me luck. I instructed the guys to wait for me at our usual corner, as I didn’t want the police to come by and see them looking up at the tower and stop to investigate why they were there. I waited until they were out of sight and I then crossed the street to the base of the water tower. There was a ladder leading to the top of the tower, however, the first rung was about ten feet off of the ground. The tower was held up by four steel legs, each leg was made up of four pieces of angle iron tied together with strips of metal on about a 45 degree angle. These strips of metal formed a usable ladder although somewhat uncomfortable on the feet. I stood at the base of one of the legs, looking up at the ladder which was about ten feet over my head. I stood there for a long while chastising myself for being such a idiot. I had thought I was so smart to have the two brothers have to climb the tower without any of our group being around to possibly get caught by the police except them and now here I was about to embark on a mission that could mean me being caught and thrown into juvenile hall. I had done a fine job of out smarting myself. Finally after weighing the possibility of getting caught, or removing the evidence so I wouldn’t get caught sometime in the future, I decided I needed to remove the evidence. I reached up and grabbed a metal cross member over my head, placed my foot on a lower cross member and started my climb. It didn’t take too long to get to the real ladder and continue my climb towards the top. Once on the real ladder it was an easier climb and I was making pretty good progress. I was about half way to the top when a gust of wind hit me and when it did the tower began to sway in the wind. I held on tight as the tower swayed back and forth, finally it stopped and I resumed my climb. I climbed up about another ten feet and the wind blew again and again the tower swayed and I held on for dear life until it stopped swaying. I thought very seriously about aborting this mission and letting the cops come and get me once the note was found, but then I thought of my mother crying as they led me away in hand cuffs, so I continued the climb. I finally reached the cat walk which went all the way around the base of the tank at the top of the water tower. No sooner than I was standing on the cat walk, that the wind blew hard again and the whole tower seemed to be swaying at least two feet to either side. Actually the tower probably only swayed a couple of inches, if that, but to me it seemed like it was about to tip over.  I closed my eyes and gripped the metal hand railing, holding so tight that I thought surely I would bend the railing. It seemed like an eternity, but eventually the wind died down and the swaying stopped. I opened my eyes and looked around the city, this was a magnificent sight. The lights of the city were like jewels set upon black velvet. The cars looked like toys and the stars seemed to be much clearer from this height. I saw a police car driving by on the street right next to the tower and it snapped me back to why I was there. I walked all the way around the water tank on the cat walk and there was no Coke bottle to be seen. James must have climbed the ladder leading to the top of the water tank and put the bottle up there. I slowly climber the ladder to the top of the water tank and right there on the roof of the tank, where the ladder was attached, was the Coke bottle. I picked it up and checked to see if the note was still inside, sure enough it was there and I felt some relief; But not for long. The wind again blew hard and I thought I would be blown right off of the ladder. From the top of the water tank the tower seemed as if it were swaying so much that the whole tower was about to fall down.  When the tower stopped swaying I shoved the Coke bottle into my right rear pants pocket and hastily climbed back down to the cat walk where I made my way over to the ladder that led to the ground. Just before climbing onto the ladder I reached into my pocket and pulled out three slips of paper which were neatly type written and said, ‘I have successfully climbed this tower’ and each piece of paper had the individual name of each of my fellow “gang” members printed on it. I then pulled out a roll of tape from my pocket and taped the pieces of paper to the side of the water tank. I started to turn and climb back down the tower, but I could not bring myself to do it. I got to thinking about all of the worry and stress I had gone through and I just could not do that to my friends. I took the pieces of paper down, wadded them up and stuffed them into my pocket. Now satisfied with my night’s work, I took one more look around the city and descended the ladder to the ground. When my feet touched the solid ground I was elated and felt somewhat proud of myself. I had a skip in my step as I made my way back to the corner where my friends were waiting for me.


As I drew near to the group I pulled the Coke bottle from my rear pocket and exclaimed, “I did it!!” The group gathered around me with a million questions which I answered and then related the details of my climb and how the wind made that tower sway so much I thought that it would surely collapse. After relating my adventure to my friends I said, “I dare you guys to climb the water tower.” They all said, “No way” “We ain’t going up there.” “Fat chance on that happening.”


I said, “Fine with me, but how are you going to get back the papers I left up there with your names on them?”  I then explained how I had typed out three notes each one with their individual names on it and had taped them to the water tank. I left out the part about me taking them down and wadding them up, in fact they were making a little bulge in my pocket, but I didn’t mention it.


“No way, you gotta be kidding me.” Burt said. 


“Oh yes way,” I said as I reached into my pocket, placed the roll of tape on my right index finger and twirled it around. “But I wouldn’t worry too much about it.”


“Why not?” Larry asked.


“Well, I just taped it to the water tank without anything to protect it from the rain. After it rains a couple of times I’m sure it will wash out the writing where it can’t be read. Of course I don’t know when they will make a maintenance check of the water tower, it may be tomorrow or it might not be for week or a month.”


“This is June it might not rain for three or four months.”


“Yeah, you’re right. Well it’s up to you guys, whatever you want to do. it’s getting late I think I’ll head on home for a good night’s sleep. Sleep well guys, see you later.”


I planned on telling them the truth before they actually climbed the water tower, but I thought that I would let them sweat a little, but then again, maybe I wouldn’t tell them . . . . .



*****



(60)






SANTA CLAUS



By

Mike Boudreaux



I was standing in front of the fireplace trying to thaw out after walking home from school. It had snowed on the night before and the temperature was hovering around the high twenties to the low thirties. My teeth had been chattering so badly on the walk home I thought surely I would chip a tooth. The fire felt really good and I had stood in front of for it so long that my britches had heated up to the point I had to pinch the fabric and pull it away from my skin to keep from being burned. As I stood there holding my britches away from my skin, I overheard my younger cousin, Heathcliff, who was seven years old, ask Uncle Dudley if Santa Clause was real. Heathcliff, who everyone called Cliffy, talked continuously and I had tuned out his conversation with Uncle Dudley until I heard Cliffy ask if Santa Claus was real. I was real interested in what Uncle Dudley was going to say. Not only was I interested in what Uncle Dudley was going to say, but so was Cliffy's two younger brothers, Beauregard, who was five, and everyone called Beau and Throckmorten, who was four and everyone called Morty. The two younger boys had knelt down on the floor beside Uncle Dudley’s chair. Uncle Dudley was sitting in his favorite overstuffed recliner and Cliffy was sitting on the right arm of the recliner with his legs across Uncle Dudley's lap. The three boys looked into Uncle Dudley's face waiting for his reply. By the look on Cliffy's face it appeared as if he knew he had dropped a bomb and was waiting for it to explode. Uncle Dudley had his right arm around Cliffy's waist to keep him from tipping over backwards and he placed his left hand on Cliffy's head and gently massaged it for a moment before he spoke.


“Well now, Cliffy, what makes you think Santa is not real?” asked Uncle Dudley.


“Well, Billy told me he put out some milk and cookies for Santa last Christmas and then he sneaked downstairs to see if he could catch Santa eating them and he saw his daddy eating the cookies and drinking the milk. Then on the next morning Billy's daddy called Billy downstairs and told him that Santa must have showed up during the night 'cause the cookies and milk were gone. Billy told his daddy that he had seen him eat the cookies and Billy said his daddy told him that he had gotten hungry and ate the cookies and drank the milk, then he put out some more cookies and milk for Santa. Billy said he knew his daddy was not telling the truth 'cause when he poured the milk for Santa he had used the last of the milk so he knew his daddy could not have poured more milk for Santa.”


Uncle Dudley then said, “Well, Cliffy, all that proves is that Billy's father likes cookies and milk and that he took Santa's cookies and milk hoping he would not get caught. Santa could have shown up at Billy's house and been very disappointed that there was no milk and cookies for him.”


“Well, maybe, but what about what Sally said?” asked Cliffy.


“What did Sally say?” asked Uncle Dudley.


Cliffy related, “Sally said she went down to the department store and stood in line to tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas. Sally was way back to the end of the line when Santa's helper told everyone that Santa needed to go check on his reindeer and would be back in fifteen minutes. Sally looked up to see Santa rise from his chair and walk to a door at the rear of the store. Sally said she went back to the door she had seen Santa go through and was gonna wait for Santa to come out and tell him what she wanted for Christmas so she wouldn’t have to wait in line. Sally said that Santa didn't close the door all the way so she peeked through the crack hoping to watch him take care of his reindeer. When Sally looked through the crack in the door she saw Santa take off his coat and he had a pillow stuffed in the front of his pants. She said that Santa then took off his hat and his hair along with his beard and he was bald. She said that Santa then sat down on a box and lit up a cigarette. And not only that, Sally told me that there weren't no reindeer back there at all.”


“Well, now Cliffy,” stammered Uncle Dudley as he glanced over to Beau and Morty who with wide eyes hung on Uncles Dudley's every word, “sometimes Santa gets so busy making toys up at the North Pole that he has to hire people to stand in for him so he can find out what the children want for Christmas. Santa knows that there are some children who will only tell him what they want for Christmas and no one else, so he has the people he hires to dress up to look like him. Then these people will make a list and send it to Santa so he will know what to bring the children.”


Cliffy looked at Uncle Dudley and said, “I'm beginning to think that maybe Santa Claus is just a fairy tale.” 


Morty stood there in silence as he contemplated what all had been said and I'm pretty sure I saw his little lip quiver and tears well up in his eyes, but he quickly turned away, wiping his eyes so I'm not real sure. Beau was also silent, but I could tell he was in deep thought about what he had heard.


“Now hold on there a minute,” Uncle Dudley said, “I'll think up a way to prove to you that Santa is real, now you boys go on up to bed.”


As the three children left the room Uncle Dudley looked over at me and said, “I know that Santa Claus ain't real, but I just could not burst their bubble, as long as they are young they should believe in Santa Claus.”


“What are you going to do?” I asked.


“Well, I got me an idea,” said Uncle Dudley, “remember last summer when we were camping and that sudden rain storm moved in on us and we had to break camp in a hurry?”


“Yep, I remember that, we almost drowned, that rain cut short a great camping trip.” I responded.


“Well,” Uncle Dudley went on to say, “we left in such a hurry that I lost one of my brand new hunting boots that I never even got to wear. I kept the other one in hopes that I would eventually find the one I lost. I'm going to fasten that boot up inside of the fireplace so that just the bottom part sticks out. Then I will take a picture of it with my Polaroid camera and tell the children that it is Santa's boot. On Christmas Eve I will rig up a string from the fireplace to my camera and tell the children that when Santa comes down the chimney he will trigger the camera and it will take his picture. When they see the boot hanging down from the chimney they are sure to think it is Santa's boot and it will bolster their belief in Santa Claus.


On Christmas Eve, just before bedtime, Uncle Dudley sat Cliffy, Beau and Morty down in front of the fireplace and explained to them how he planned on getting proof that Santa was real. He let the children watch as he set up his Polaroid camera on a tripod facing the fireplace. Uncle Dudley then tied a string to the camera and ran it over the fireplace explaining that as Santa came down the chimney he would trip the string and cause the camera to take a picture of him. This seemed to satisfy the children and off up to bed they went.


Uncle Dudley then dug out his one boot from the hall closet and fastened it up inside of the fireplace with only the bottom portion sticking out. He then took a Polaroid picture of his boot dangling down from the chimney. He looked at the photograph of his boot and felt confident that it resembled Santa's boot well enough to convince the children that Santa Claus was real and had taken his own picture when he came down the chimney. Uncle Dudley then carefully inserted the photograph into the little slot where the photographs came out of his Polaroid camera, took down his boot from the fireplace, placing it back into the hall closet and went upstairs to bed.


On Christmas morning the whole family rushed downstairs to see if Santa Claus had been there. The children ran over to Uncle Dudley's camera and pulled the Polaroid photograph from the camera. Their eyes widened and their jaws dropped as they stared at the photograph.


“We got Santa's picture!” Cliffy exclaimed.


“Yeah!” Beau said, “But it's only his boots.”


“Boots?” asked Uncle Dudley.


Yeah, just his boots.” said Morty.


Uncle Dudley snatched the photograph from Morty's hand and examined it closely. Uncle Dudley's eyes widened as he scrutinized the picture.


“Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!” exclaimed Uncle Dudley, “There are two boots in this photograph!”

“Yeah,” said Cliffy, “they're Santa's boots.”


Uncle Dudley went over to his favorite recliner and sat down, still holding the photograph and occasionally looking at it with a puzzled look on his face.


The children soon lost interest in the picture and scrambled around the Christmas tree where Aunt Martha was handing out presents after reading the names from the tags on the packages.


I walked over to Uncle Dudley and taking the photograph from his hand, I examined it and sure as shootin' there were two boots dangling down from inside of the fireplace.


Uncle Dudley looked up at me and said, “I don't know what happened. Some kind of double exposure I suppose, 'cause I only hung the one boot up there when I took the picture. When I looked at it last night I thought that there was just the one boot, but I was pretty tired and probably didn't focus in on the double exposure. No matter though, the children are convinced that Santa is real and that is what it was all about anyway.”


I handed the photograph back to Uncle Dudley just as Aunt Martha walked over and handed Uncle Dudley a wrapped package. “I thought we agreed not to buy each other anything this year.” said Uncle Dudley.


“I didn't buy you anything,” said Aunt Martha, “but this one has your name on it.”


Uncle Dudley took the package from Aunt Martha, noting that the tag read,  'To: Dudley  From: Santa.' Uncle Dudley began to carefully unwrap the package. Inside there was a plain white cardboard box with no markings. Uncle Dudley slowly lifted the lid, removed some tissue paper revealing the contents and stared into the box for a long moment in silence.  Finally Uncle Dudley stood up and walked to the hall closet carrying the box, he rummaged around in the closet for a moment, then turned around holding his one boot in one hand and the box in the other.


“Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!” he said as he walked back to his recliner and sat down placing the box on his lap and holding his one boot in his right hand, Uncle Dudley reached into the box with his left hand and took out the boot he had lost on his camping trip. Uncle Dudley then held them up side by side -  they were a matching pair.


“I guess Santa is real after all.” said Uncle Dudley.


Now, I never said anything to Uncle Dudley, but I suspect that after he went to bed on Christmas Eve that Aunt Martha had something to do with those boots. I think that Aunt Martha somehow found Uncle Dudley's missing boot when she went through all of the stuff we had hastily gathered up from the camping trip and had secreted it away somewhere for just such an occasion as this. After Uncle Dudley went to bed Aunt Martha likely dug out the boot she had found and retrieved the one Uncle Dudley kept in the hall closet, then she fastened them both inside of the fireplace. I suspect that Aunt Martha then took a Polaroid photograph of the two boots dangling down from the chimney and replaced it with the one Uncle Dudley had taken. Aunt Martha most likely then replaced Uncle Dudley's one boot back into the hall closet and wrapped the other one up in a package with a tag that had Uncle Dudley's name on it. Now, if this is what happened, Aunt Martha never confessed to it, but I suspect she gets a good chuckle every time she thinks about it. Uncle Dudley, on the other hand, is convinced that Santa Claus is real.



*****


(61)






THE FIELD TRIAL



By

Mike Boudreaux



Uncle Dudley was up early and out in the back yard working with Bernard, as He was bound and determined to make Bernard the best bird dog ever. You will remember Bernard from past stories, he was Uncle Dudley’s parrot who had been knocked silly by a errant peanut shot out of Uncle Dudley’s nose at supersonic speed and now he thinks he is a dog. Bernard, who at one time had a rather extensive vocabulary speaking clearly and fluently, now only barked and panted, like I said, Bernard thinks he is a dog and he possesses many other canine characteristics.  Uncle Dudley was busily teaching Bernard to respond to verbal and hand signal commands and Bernard was coming along rather nicely. When I walked out into the back yard, Uncle Dudley pointed to the patio table and said, “Read that.” I picked up a flyer from the patio table and looked at it. Right on the top in big bold letters it read, ‘Field Trials – June 12th – $500 grand prize.’ The remainder of the flyer provided the time and place of the field trials, which were to be held at the Sportsmen’s Club over in Kern County. Uncle Dudley patted Bernard on the head, commanded him to sit, which he obediently did by plopping his little tail feathers down on the grass. “Stay”, commanded Uncle Dudley as he walked over to the patio table and said, “I’m going to enter Bernard in that field trial.” “What!” I exclaimed. “Yep,” said Uncle Dudley, “he’s the best bird dog I ever had. When I finish up with his training, we are sure to bring home that five hundred dollar grand prize.” And with that Uncle Dudley returned to the back yard where he resumed Bernard’s training. I started to argue with Uncle Dudley, but I have argued with him before over one thing or ‘nother and I have yet to sway him once he had his mind made up and this was one of those times. I could plainly see that Uncle Dudley’s mind was set and there would be no persuading him otherwise. 


Uncle Dudley had a little over a month to polish Bernard’s training and get him ready for the field trials. I knew Uncle Dudley would spend every available moment with Bernard’s training so he could be assured of winning the cash prize.


One day Uncle Dudley had some errands to run in town so he asked me if I would watch Bernard while he was gone. I was glad to take on this chore as I wanted to see on my own just how good a bird dog Bernard really was. After Uncle Dudley had left for town I went out into the back yard in search of Bernard. I spotted him under a shade tree gnawing on a soup bone and when I approached Bernard he cocked his head to one side, looking at me from the corner of his eye, while he covered the bone with one wing and growled at me. I made every attempt to assure Bernard that I was not going to take his bone and eventually he relaxed and went back to gnawing on his bone. I waited patiently as Bernard gnawed on his bone and soon he was done, picking up the bone in his beak, he began looking for a place to bury it. Bernard drug that bone from one place to another, finally settling on a spot near one of Aunt Martha’s rose bushes where the soil was easy digging. Bernard then dug a hole with his skinny little legs swirling around like egg beaters and dirt flying in every direction. Satisfied with the depth of the hole, Bernard dropped the bone into the hole and then using his head and beak he began to shove dirt into the hole covering up his bone. Once the hole was filled, Bernard jumped up and down on it until the soil was compacted to his satisfaction.  Bernard then walked over to a tree, giving it a good sniff, then raised up one of his little legs cocking it back and away from him so as to relieve himself against the tree. Now when a real dog does this they have three other legs on the ground with which to stabilize themselves. Poor little Bernard only had two legs and one of those was raised in the air in true doggie fashion leaving him with only one leg to stand on. Now when Bernard began to relieve himself the force of that stream began to spin him around on that one skinny leg and before he was done he looked like a combination between a ballet dancer and lawn sprinkler. After watching Bernard I decided that he possessed enough canine traits to at least get him through the field trials even though he might not win the cash prize.


When the day of the field trials finally arrived, Uncle Dudley loaded up Bernard in a travel cage, placed it in the back of his pickup truck and covered it with a tarp, as it had clouded up a bit and looked like it might rain. Uncle Dudley had invited me to go along as he wanted me to take photographs of him and Bernard with the first place trophy. As we drove through the gate of the Sportsmen’s Club, a man at the gate directed us to the registration table where the entry forms needed to be filled out. Uncle Dudley took Bernard out of his cage, placed a leash on him and we walked over to the registration table. The man behind the table introduced himself as David Burns, one of the officials for the field trials, and handed Uncle Dudley the entrance forms telling him to fill out the forms and return to the table with the twenty five dollar entry fee and his dog. Uncle Dudley quickly filled out the forms and handed them back to Mr. Burns along with his twenty five dollar entry fee. Mr. Burns took the papers and the entry fee from Uncle Dudley, looking over the papers he said everything looked to be in order and asked where was his dog. Uncle Dudley held up his leash and said, “Right here.” Mr. Burns leaned forward, looked over the edge of the table and followed the leash down to where it was fastened around Bernard’s neck. “What!”, exclaimed Mr. Burns, “You can’t enter that animal into the field trials, it’s a bird, and the rules plainly state that it must be a recognized breed to be entered into the field trails.” Uncle Dudley stood there for a moment in silence as he gathered his thoughts. He then looked Mr. Burns in the eye and said, “You’re telling me that my entry is not eligible because you recognize him as a bird?” “That’s exactly correct,” said Mr. Burns, “I recognize your entry as a bird.” “I would like to get a second opinion.” said Uncle Dudley. “I’ll go get the president of the Sportsmen’s Club and be right back.” said Mr. Burns. “That’s fine, we’ll be waiting for you over at my truck.” said Uncle Dudley as he pointed to where we had parked. Uncle Dudley and I walked over to the truck where Uncle Dudley placed Bernard back into his cage and covered the cage with the tarp. It wasn’t long before we saw Mr. Burns approaching the truck with another man. As they reached us Mr. Burns said, “This is Edmond Smothers, the president of the Sportsmen’s Club.” “Glad to meet you.”, said Uncle Dudley, “Before we get started I would like to ask if you are able to determine the finer breeds?” “Why yes,” said Mr. Smothers, “I am well qualified and I have the final word as to`which animals are allowed to compete in the field trials. And mind you. it must be a recognized breed to enter” “Very good,” said Uncle Dudley, “Can you tell me what is under this tarp?”  And with asking that question, Uncle Dudley patted the tarp and said, “Speak, Bernard.” From beneath the tarp came a resounding “Rrruff Rrruff.” Without hesitation Mr. Smothers said, “Why, that’s a dog.” “You’re telling me,” said Uncle Dudley, “that you recognize that to be a dog under the tarp?” “Without a doubt,” said Mr. Smothers, “I recognize that to be a dog.” “Well,” said Uncle Dudley, “Mr. Burns here said that he recognized it to be a bird.” And with a flurry Uncle Dudley flipped the tarp off of Bernard’s cage. Mr. Smothers’ eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw that what he had identified as a dog was actually a parrot. Before Mr. Smothers could speak Uncle Dudley went on to say, “Now if Mr. Burns, who identified himself as an official at these here field trials, recognizes my entry to be a bird, and you, who said you had the final say, recognizes my entry as a dog, then my entry must be a ‘bird dog’. Now everybody knows that a bird dog is a recognized breed and therefore my entry is eligible to be entered into the field trials.” Mr. Burns and Mr. Smothers excused their selves and backed off a few paces to have a private conversation. After a few minutes the men broke from their huddle and started to step in our direction, Uncle Dudley quickly turned to me and in a low voice said, “Hang your head and rub your eyes.” Being obedient I did as Uncle Dudley had instructed. Then in voice loud enough for the two men to hear Uncle Dudley said, “There’s no need to cry, these are honorable men who are true sportsmen and if they have said that they have recognized Bernard as a bird dog, they will stand by their word or else they will surely gain the reputation of being lying scoundrels.”  The two men stopped in their tracks, rolled their eyes in thought and then quickly returned to their little huddle and again conversed among themselves.  After a few moments the men approached us and told us that they had decided to allow Uncle Dudley to enter his ‘bird dog’ in the field trials, however Bernard had to abide strictly by the rules and any violation would result in his immediate disqualification.


Uncle Dudley said that he was not worried one little bit as the rules were pretty simple and he saw no possibility of Bernard violating any of the rules. The officials had released twenty pheasants into an eighty acre field on the night before. The winner of the field trial would be determined by the most pheasants located and flushed from their hiding place. Once an entry was released into the eighty acre field, the handler could not touch the animal again until they were satisfied that their entry had located and flushed as many pheasants as they were able and they were ready to remove their entry from the field. The entry must stay in the field and actively hunt for thirty minutes and must not stay in the field for over one hour. The handler may enter the field and instruct their entry to flush with either audible command or hand signals.


As the time drew near for the field trial to begin and Uncle Dudley placed Bernard on a ten foot leash and led him to the starting point. When it came time for Bernard to begin his trial Uncle Dudley walked briskly to the starting point with Bernard tugging anxiously on the leash. Just as Uncle Dudley reached the starting point he reached down to take Bernard off the leash. Bernard had been so anxious to start the trial that he was tugging hard and lunging forward against the leash, and when Uncle Dudley reached down to unleash Bernard he was slightly off balance and the extra tugging caused Uncle Dudley to loose his balance and stumble forward, loosing his grip on the leash. Bernard, feeling the freedom of no pressure on the leash, streaked forward, crossing into the field and began his hunt. Uncle Dudley quickly recovered and started to chase after Bernard, but one of the officials stopped him, and reminded Uncle Dudley that once his entry had been released into the field he could not touch him until he was ready to remove him from the field. Uncle Dudley knew that there was no way he could get the leash off of Bernard without touching him so he had no choice other than to let Bernard continue to hunt with the leash still attached.


The field in which the field trial was being held was extremely brushy with a lot of tall grasses. With the field being covered with brush and tall grass, and Bernard being only fourteen inches tall on his tippy toes, it was nigh on to impossible to see Bernard as he worked the field. Every once in a while Bernard would jump up over the height of the grass with one wing pointed down into the grass as if he were pointing to a pheasant, but when no pheasant would be flushed, it was unknown as to what Bernard was pointing at or even if he was pointing. One could easily see the other dogs working the field as they were taller than the brush and grass. The judges were marking their score cards when they would see one of the other dogs point and then flush a pheasant. One by one the handlers of the other dogs began to bring them in from the field and then the judges would post the number of pheasants which had been pointed and flushed by each dog. All of the entries had completed their hunt and their scores were recorded on the tally board with the exception of Bernard. The top dog had pointed and flushed twenty pheasants. It had been quite a while since Bernard had been seen jumping up over the grass and pointing with his little wing. The officials reminded Uncle Dudley that his entry only had one hour to complete the field trail and Bernard had been in the field for fifty minutes. Uncle Dudley reluctantly whistled and called for Bernard to come to him, however, Bernard did not respond to his calling as he usually did. Once Uncle Dudley would call for Bernard, Bernard was quick to respond and he would be prancing around Uncle Dudley’s feet within just a few seconds after being called. It had now been over a minute since Uncle Dudley had called for Bernard and there was no Bernard to be seen. Again Uncle Dudley called and whistled for Bernard as the minutes quickly ticked away. It was down to only two minutes left when Uncle Dudley saw a rustling in the tall grass as something was making its way toward the starting point. With just one minute left Bernard burst forth out of the tall grass tugging on his leash which was dragging behind him. It was little wonder why Bernard was taking so long to respond to Uncle Dudley’s calling, as his leash had apparently snagged on something heavy and he was having to drag whatever it was along behind him. And then to everyone’s surprise a pheasant emerged from the tall grass right behind Bernard with the leash securely tied around its leg, and then another and another and another, each having the leash tied around its leg. Bernard crossed the starting point with twenty two pheasants tied to his leash with just seconds to spare. Apparently Bernard had located all twenty of the planted pheasants, plus two wild ones. When I stopped to think about it, it really should not have been too surprising that Bernard found all of those pheasants. Bernard might think that he is a dog, but subconsciously his brain still works like a bird, therefore he knew exactly where to look for those pheasants. And, being that Bernard is a bird, he was able to walk right on up those pheasants without them becoming alarmed and before they knew it, Bernard had them tied to his leash.


The judges were in a dither, they really didn’t want to proclaim Bernard the winner, however, they had all seen Bernard jump up out of the tall grass and point with his wing, in fact one judge had even counted the times Bernard had done this. Checking his tally sheet the judge reported that Bernard had jumped and pointed twenty two times, never the less, no one had seen Bernard flush any pheasants. Yet, here was Bernard with twenty two pheasants tied to his leash. It was a very unorthodox method, however the judges had to admit that Bernard had flushed twenty two pheasants from their hiding place. The officials recorded Bernard’s twenty two times at pointing and flushing on the tally board – it’s a record which still stands today. Bernard was also awarded a trophy and five hundred dollars in prize money and I got to take Uncle Dudley’s and Bernard’s picture while they held up the trophy and prize money.


While we were loading Bernard into Uncle Dudley’s pickup truck we were approached by all of the officials of the field trial. Mr. Smothers, the president of the Sportsmen’s Club, was the speaker for the group. Mr. Smothers told Uncle Dudley that he needn't bother to enter Bernard in any more field trials as they just held an emergency meeting and had changed the rules for the entries to the field trial competition. Mr. Smothers told Uncle Dudley that from this day forth no entry shall have feathers nor were they allowed to hog tie the pheasants and drag them out of the field. Uncle Dudley told the officials that it was their club, they had the right to make the rules and that he would abide by the rules of their club.


On our way home I looked over at Uncle Dudley as he was sitting there behind the wheel, he was a little hard to see as I had to look around the first place trophy which was sitting on the seat between us. He was quiet and I could tell he was thinking on something real hard. Then a big smile came across his face and I knew that he had come up with a way to get around those new rules of the Sportsmen’s Club. In my mind’s eye I could see Bernard standing there naked as a jay bird, without one single feather on his body - - Nah! Uncle Dudley wouldn’t go so far as to do that, but then again . . . . . . .



***** 


(62)







MY FIRST BEER



By

Mike Boudreaux



My mother worked in the cafeteria at the West Putnam Elementary School in the late forties - early fifties. I was in first grade and got out of school at three in the afternoon. My mother had to work until five so I would play on the school yard equipment until she got off work. I had pestered my mother for months to let me walk home after school instead of waiting for her to get off work, but she had not allowed me to do this. Finally one day she questioned me relentlessly about what I would do if confronted by strangers and satisfied with my answers she then questioned me about my route home and what turns I would take in order to get there. Then to my surprise she said it would be okay If I walked home. We lived three blocks from the school, in order to get home I had to walk one block east, turn north for one block and then turn east again for one block.

I was so excited I didn’t know whether to run home in exuberance or to walk home slowly relishing each step. I decided to walk and headed off on my great adventure. As I walked along the side of the road I spotted a beer can and gave it a kick as I came close. As I kicked the can it felt heavy and upon closer examination I found that it was a full unopened can of beer. Wow! This was a treasure! I had always wanted to find out what beer tasted like. Occasionally my parents would have a beer at a backyard barbecue or on a picnic, but they would not allow me to have a taste. And now, I had a whole can, all to myself.


I was afraid to carry the beer on my person as I thought someone might see me with the beer and take it from me, or worse, what if my mother left work early just to check if I was doing alright on my first trip home and found me with the beer. So, I thought I would just continue to kick the can along as I walked, and surely if anyone saw me they would think I was just kicking an empty can. This plan worked great, I would give the can a kick and then catch up to it and give it another kick. I did this all the way home and when I was sure no one was watching I quickly grabbed the can and rushed inside of the house where I was away from prying eyes.


Once inside I took the can into the kitchen and placed it on the kitchen counter while I looked for the can opener. This was way before the pop-top can and beverage cans were opened with metal device with a bottle opener on one end and the other end had a sharp point with a little hook designed to catch into the rim of the can while the curved pointed end pierced the top of the can with a little upward pressure. After searching through the utility drawer I located the can opener and anxiously placed it into position and applied upward pressure. The point of the can opener had no sooner pierced the top of the can when immediately the contents of the can began to spew forth under considerable pressure. The contents sprayed straight up onto the ceiling and panic exploded from within me. I was within five feet of the back door, but in my state of panic I grabbed the can and took off running for the front door with the can spewing it’s contents onto the ceiling all the way. I burst forth out of the front door and hurled the can onto the front lawn just as my mother pulled into the driveway. She saw me throw the can and watched it as it landed in the front yard and spun around in a tight little circle until the can emptied itself of its contents. My mother usually parked the car at the back of the driveway, but she stopped right where she was, exited the car, walked over to the can and picked it up. I was busted, I couldn’t place the blame on my brother or claim ignorance, I was caught in the act. Holding the empty can in one hand she walked over to me, grabbed my right ear and marched me into the house. She sat me down on the couch and said, “Young man, I think you have some explaining to do.”  My mother stood over me and gave me a look which told me she was in no mood for shenanigans. In fact, those were the next words out of her mouth, “I’m in no mood for shenanigans young man. What do you have to say for yourself?”  With a trembling voice and tears about to erupt from my eyes I told her of finding the can of beer and kicking it home, then of opening it and the contents spewing out and me running outside with the spewing can and throwing it into the yard. She stood there with her hands on her hips and I thought that I saw a twinkle in her eye and presumed her mood was softening, but just then a drop of beer fell from the ceiling and struck her on the bridge of her nose, right between her eyes. She looked up and for the first time she saw the trail of beer on the ceiling leading from just above the kitchen counter, across the kitchen into the living room, across the living room ceiling and out the front door. Again the ‘no shenanigans’ mood was displayed in full array as she said, “Young man, you go straight to your room and stay there until your father gets home!” 


Later I heard my father come into the house which was followed by muffled voices and I could have sworn I heard laughter, but I must have been mistaken, because when my father came into my room he was not in a cheerful mood. Again I had to relate the details of my little adventure. He looked at me in silence for a long time and then asked, “Well, how did it taste?” “I didn’t get to taste it, Dad,” I replied “it sprayed out everywhere, but on me.”  “Hmmm.” He said as he quickly covered his mouth with his hand and gave me a scowl, however, his eyes weren’t scowling, they were smiling. Again there was a long silence before my Father said, “Well, we were going to take the family to the river this weekend and have a picnic, but now I’ll be painting the ceilings in the kitchen and living room and you young man, you will be weeding the garden; and I had better not find one weed in that garden when you’re done.”  While my father painted the ceilings in the kitchen and living room, I spent the weekend making sure that the garden was weed free, I even went out and checked it every so often to make sure that no new weeds had sprouted up when I wasn’t looking. Needless to say, it was a really long time before I was allowed to walk home from school.



*****



(63)





ROBBI



By

Mike Boudreaux



I first laid eyes on her in the school library. I was a new student having joined the third grade class at mid term when I came to live with my grandmother in Texas. We lived in California where my father had been involved in a terrible accident and had to spend a long time in the hospital. My mother had difficulty taking care of me and holding down a job, so I came to live with my grandmother until my father was better. I was a little on the shy side and instead of going out on the playground at the noon recess I chose to go to the library to read. I had selected a book, sat down at a table and began reading. The book was large and I had propped it up on the table in front of me, as I reached up to turn a page I glanced across to the next table and saw her. She was also reading a large book and had propped it up in front of her as well. All I could see was her head from the neck up, she had light brown hair which curled up at her shoulders, she had delicate features and I thought she was beautiful. I found myself staring at her and studying her facial expressions as she read. I tried to imagine what she was reading by scrutinizing her facial expressions, one minute a scowl with a knitted brow, then a quizzical look and then her face would light up with the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. I was mesmerized and watched her for several minutes before I realized I was staring. As she reached up to turn a page I quickly glanced down and ducked behind my book. Slowly I inched upwards, and peered over the top of my book finding that she was looking directly at me. When our eyes met she flashed that beautiful smile at me and I was instantly in love. I returned her smile and thought about going over to her table to introduce myself, but who was I kidding, I could never talk to anyone I had never met, especially I girl. I really wanted to talk to her, but I did not have the courage. As I was wrestling with myself, trying to work up the courage to talk with her, the bell rang indicating the noon recess was over and I only had five minutes to get to the next class. I picked up the book I had chosen and rushed over to place it on the librarian's desk. As I placed the book on the desk I looked up to see her going out of the library door. She was having a little difficulty putting on her sweater and trying to hold on to her book at the same time. I rushed to the door, thinking I could help her with her sweater, I looked for her in the hallway, but she was gone. The girl’s restroom was just a few feet from the library door and I presumed she had gone in there. I thought about waiting for her to come out, but quickly changed my mind when I thought how that might look, so I rushed on to my class.


The classroom was about half full when I arrived, I quickly found my desk and sat down. Other students filed into the room, chattering as they moved to their desks and sat down. There were only two empty desks left, one right behind me and the other at the front of the class when she came into the room. I was elated to see her, my heart skipped a few beats. I was so wanting her desk to be near mine and watched anxiously as she moved toward the empty desk at the front of the room, then as she reached the empty desk, she turned down the aisle and walked directly to the desk behind me and sat down. I could hear her as she busied herself preparing for the class, but I dared not turn around. I sat there in silence waiting for the teacher to arrive, the time seemed to just crawl by. Then the idea hit me, I could “accidentally” knock my pencil off of my desk and then when I reached down to pick it up, I could sneak a peek at her. I inched my pencil toward the edge of my desk with my elbow and then gave it a little nudge sending it to the floor. When it hit the floor I turned and started to bend over to pick it up, but unnoticed by me, the teacher had entered the classroom and was passing out papers to each student, she was in my aisle near my desk and she reached down and picked up my pencil handing it to me along with the paper she was passing out - My plan was foiled.

The first part of the school day I was in a different classroom where I studied math and English, she was not in that class, but the last half of the day we were in the same classroom. I felt truly blessed of the Lord that we were in the same classroom. The afternoon class consisted of history and social studies, both were subjects in which I excelled so I was fairly confident I would not make a fool of myself in front of her. It was very important to me that I make a good impression on her, I wanted her to like me.


As the class began the teacher asked a question wanting a show of hands for those who knew the answer. I heard her feet shuffle and the rustle of her clothing as she raised her hand. I saw the teacher look right at her and say, “Yes, Robin do you know the answer?”  “Yes, I do.”, Robin responded and then rattled off the correct answer. “Her name is Robin,” I thought, ‘what a beautiful name. Robin like the red breasted bird that ushered in Spring. Oh how fitting. Robin, Robin, Robin.’ I repeated the name over in my mind.


The bell sounded indicating the end of the class and the beginning of the afternoon recess. Everyone hustled to get their books put away and scramble outside to play. I deliberately waited until Robin got up and walked past me headed out to the school yard. I followed right behind her watching her every move as she walked out on the playground. While the other students engaged in games of tag or tether ball, Robin walked over to a bench and sat down by herself. I stood on the steps of the school building watching her and decided to go over and speak with her. It was a difficult decision, due to my shyness, I had no idea what to say, but I knew I had to speak to her, my heart would not allow me not to. I walked over to the bench where she was sitting, cleared my throat and managed to get out the word, “Hi”, as I dug my toe into the ground and looked away pretending to be interested in a game of four square being played near by. “Hi,” she responded, “you’re new here aren’t you?” “Yes,” I answered, “I just started this morning.” “I’m Robin,” she said, “Robin Boroughs. What’s your name?”  “My name is Michael, but they call me Mike.” I responded. “Well, they call me Robbi,” she said, and that was the beginning of a most beautiful friendship. I found it easy to talk with Robbi, she was not like other girls who tended to dominate the conversation with a haughty attitude. She was genuinely interested in what I had to say and I was definitely interested in her and hung on her every word. We spent the remainder of the recess telling a little bit about ourselves and getting to know one another better. When the bell rang signaling the end of the afternoon recess I thought it was all too soon, I wanted to stay longer and talk with Robbi and I’m sure she felt the same. Reluctantly we stood up and walked into the school building, continuing our conversation as we went. The last class of the day went quickly and I gathered my school books and walked with Robbi out onto the school yard. I asked Robbi if I could walk her home and she told me that her father always picked her up and drove her home as she lived quite a distance from the school. I then heard a car horn and Robbi turned towards the sound, “He’s here now,” she said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” I watched as she walked over to a car and got in with a man behind the wheel and they drove off. As I walked home, I could not help myself, all I could think about was Robbi and the conversation we had at recess.

That evening at the supper table I told my grandmother about meeting Robbi and how we had hit it off so well. “That’s nice dear,” she said, “you be nice to her and don’t make fun of her arm.” Automatically I responded, “I won’t.”, without really thinking about what I had said. Later I thought, What a strange thing to say. What did she mean by that? I did not give it any further thought as all I wanted to think about was Robbi and was not about to clutter up my mind with other thoughts.

The next morning I arrived at school a little late and had to rush into my first class to avoid getting a tardy slip. I could hardly wait for the mid morning recess so I could talk with Robbi. When the bell rang ending the first class I rushed out onto the school yard looking for Robbi. It did not take long to find her, she was sitting on the same bench we had sat on the day before. “Hi Robbi.” I said as I approached her. Robbi looked up and gave me the biggest, warmest smile, I loved her smile, just receiving a smile from her made my whole day. She patted the bench beside her and I sat down and began to talk to her. During our conversation I noticed that she was wearing the same long sleeved red sweater she had worn the day before and she always kept her left hand in her lap covered with a part of her skirt. As it was a warm day, I asked her, “Aren't you hot in that sweater?” Robbi fidgeted a little and said, “No, I think it is a little cool.” Robbi looked at me for a long moment in silence and I could tell there was something heavy on her mind. Finally she looked me straight in the eye and said, “You might as well know, you will find out sooner or later.” “Find out what?”, I asked. Robbi turned her head, not looking at me and slowly started taking off her sweater. She had some difficulty in taking off her sweater as her left arm did not function very well. Once she had removed her sweater, Robbi turned towards me revealing a swollen, discolored arm, it was twice the size of her right arm, it was almost bluish in color with thick blue veins that could be seen just beneath the skin. “What happened, Robbi, is your arm broken?”, I asked. “No, I was born this way, it has always been like this. Isn’t it hideous?”, Robbi asked. “No.” I replied, “It is not hideous at all. Does it hurt?” “Sometimes, but it’s not hurting now.” She replied. “Can I touch it?”, I asked. “What! You want to touch it? Most people avoid any contact with my arm, it’s so ugly.”,  “No it’s not.” I said, “It’s just different. Would it hurt you if I touched it?” “No, it will not hurt. Are you sure you want to touch it?” she asked. “Only if you want me to and it will not hurt you.” I said. “Well, okay, if you really want to touch it go ahead.”, as she said this she turned towards me and placed her left arm on her lap. Robbi was able to bend her arm slightly at the elbow and at the shoulder, but she did not have full movement, she could grasp things with her fingers, but she did not have much strength in her fingers. I reached out and placed my hand on her forearm and gave it a little squeeze. Her arm was cold to the touch, her skin was soft and smooth and it felt squishy beneath my fingers. I massaged her forearm a little and asked, “Are you sure I am not hurting you?” “No it feels good,” she said, “sometimes when it’s hurting my mother will rub it to make it feel better.”  “I’m sorry it hurts you,” I said, “I will massage your arm for you if it starts hurting here at school and your mother is not around to do it for you.”  “You really don’t care about my arm do you?” Robbi asked. “Yes, I do care, because it is part of you, but how it looks doesn't bother me at all.” I said. Robbi looked hard into my face, studying the veracity of my statement and said, “Thank you, you’re really a sweet boy.” Just then the bell rang ending the mid morning recess period and every one filed back into the school building and into their individual class rooms.


Robbi and I spent most our time together, we were together during every recess and we ate our sack lunches together, sometimes sharing what each had brought. Mostly we just sat on our bench and talked, sometimes we would go to the library where we would read to each other. Sometimes I would push Robbi on the swings and she would laugh and giggle, telling me it made her stomach feel funny. It made me feel good to know I had made her happy.


One day during the afternoon recess the teacher wanted us to participate in a game of dodge ball. She instructed us to hold hands with the person on either side of us and form a circle. As the students began to clasp hands with the person on either side, Robbi reached out with her right hand and took my hand in hers, it felt so good to be holding hands with her. Then I noticed that as she reached out her left hand to the boy on the other side of her, the boy turned away repulsed by her arm and was not about to hold her hand. Robbi was looking at me when she held out her other hand toward the boy on her other side and did not see the boy grimace and turn away from her. I knew it would hurt Robbi’s feelings if she noticed the boy was repulsed by her swollen, discolored arm and I did not want her to be hurt. I pulled on Robbi’s arm drawing her away from the boy on the other side of her and then moved quickly to her left side where I clasped her swollen left hand in mine giving her a big smile. She smiled back and reached out her hand to the person on her right. She had not noticed that the boy had been repulsed and had refused to hold her swollen hand. I felt like poking the boy in the mouth, but settled on squeezing his hand as hard as I could. The teacher then instructed every other person to get into the middle of the circle, of course this put Robbi and I on opposite teams. When I got the ball I refused to throw it at Robbi, but I took deadly aim the boy who had refused to hold Robbi’s hand, taking him out early in the game.    


Once, during the noon recess, Robbi and I had just finished our sack lunches when a girl came up to Robbi asking if she would like to play jacks with her. Robbi was so excited that someone had asked her to play with them, most of the time she was shunned by the other girls. Jacks was a game that Robbi could play as it only required one arm to play. When the girl asked Robbi to play Robbi looked at me as if she were asking my permission, not to play jacks, but to be away from me. I realized that playing jacks with the other girl meant so much to Robbi and I was not about to deprive her of any happiness or of socializing with other people. I said, “You go ahead, I have some reading to do.”  I walked over to our bench and pretended to be reading a book, but I was actually watching Robbi play jacks with the other girl. She was having such a great time and really enjoying herself. Occasionally Robbi would look back over to me, I presume to check to see that I really didn’t mind that she was not with me. When she would look I pretended to be reading. I really did not mind that she was not with me, especially when I saw how she enjoyed playing with the other girl and how much fun she was having. The girls were playing jacks on a cement sidewalk and on one occasion when Robbi had tossed the ball up it came down on a crack and took a funny bounce out of her reach. Robbi got up to go to retrieve the ball, but just as she reached for it an older boy snatched it up. He held it out to her in the palm of his hand as if to give the ball to her, but when Robbi would reach for it he would quickly pull his hand back, only to offer it to her again and quickly jerk it away as she reached for it. When he did this a third time and laughed at her efforts to get the ball it infuriated me to see this older boy bullying Robbi. I jumped up and ran over to them and as the older boy extended the ball to Robbi I quickly snatched the ball from his hand and although the boy was head and shoulders taller than me, I mustered all of the strength I had, placed my hands on his stomach and gave him a shove. The boy staggered backwards trying to regain his balance, and he just might have been able to do so if he had not caught the edge of the sandbox with his heel. The boy fell backwards into the sandbox landing on his back with a thud. The boy jumped up and began to advance towards me with his fists clinched. I stood my ground ready to receive a pummeling from the boy. Just as the boy came close to me the playground monitor stepped in between us, grabbing each of us by the shoulder he said, “Hold on boys, there will be no fighting on the school grounds. I want you to shake hands and tell each other you are sorry.” I quickly extended my hand towards the older boy and said, “I’m sorry.” The boy just looked at me in anger, jerking his shoulder free from the playground monitor’s grip he quickly turned away and strutted off. “I saw the whole thing.” said the playground monitor, “Don’t you worry about it, I will have a talk with him.” Robbi quickly came to my side grabbed me by the arm and said, “You’re my hero, I’m so proud of you.” Suddenly I was ten feet tall and invincible, my chest swelled out and I felt as if I was walking on clouds.

As I was walking home from school one day I found a little heart shaped, gold locket with a broken chain lying in the gutter. I picked it up and thought that as Valentine’s Day was approaching that I would give the locket to Robbi. I took the locket home and asked my grandfather if he could fix the chain. My grandfather could do anything and fixing a broken chain would be an easy task for him. I told my grandmother of my plan to give the locket to Robbi and she said that I would need a box to put it in. My grandmother went into her bedroom and returned shortly with a little blue velvet ring box. She took the part out that held a ring and placed in a small piece of cotton. “Here you go,” she said, “that locket should fit very nicely in this box. My grandfather came into the room and said, “Let’s see if it fits.” as he handed the locket to my grandmother with its chain repaired. My grandmother took the locket and opened it up, saying, “Nothing in here, it’s empty.” Up until then I had thought that it was just a heart shaped pendant and did not know that it opened. My grandmother explained to me that the inside spaces on each side of the locket were intended for pictures and that people put pictures of their loved ones inside of the locket. She then placed the locket into the box, which by the way did fit very nicely. My grandmother found a small piece of red wrapping paper and wrapped the ring box for me. I could hardly wait for Valentine’s Day when I could give the locket to Robbi. 

When Valentine’s Day arrived I was so excited, I could hardly wait until I could give Robbi the locket. At the noon recess I waited until after we had finished eating our sack lunches, then I stood up and turned to Robbi and said, “I have a Valentine to give to you.” “Oh, and I have one for you!” said Robbi excitedly, as she reached into her school binder and extracted a big red envelope. Robbi handed me the envelope which I quickly opened and pulled out her card, it was a beautiful card and had a little hand written poem about friendship and was signed, “Love Robbi.” My heart skipped several beats when I saw how she had signed the card. “I made it myself.” Robbi said. “It’s beautiful Robbi, thank you, I really like it.”, I said. I then reached into my pocket and pulled out the ring box, which was wrapped in red paper, handing it to Robbi I said,  “And here’s yours.”  Robbi’s eyes got real big when she saw the little red package, she reached up and delicately took the package in her hand saying, “For me?”  Robbi very carefully unwrapped the package and opened the lid. She reached in, taking the chain in her hand, lifted out the locket and held it up before her eyes. “Oh! It’s beautiful, I love it!”, she said as she clutched it to her chest and stood up, giving me the biggest hug. I could feel the warmth of her cheek against mine and her soft hair tickled my nose. After what seemed like an eternity she released me, stepping back a little she handed me the locket and said, “Here, put it on.” She turned her back to me and held up her hair exposing the nape of her neck. I then placed the chain around her neck and fastened it in the back. “I’ll never take it off. Thank you, it’s the perfect Valentine gift.”, Robbi said. And then she gave me another big hug, and you know what, I really did not care that her hair tickled my nose.


As time passed our friendship grew stronger and stronger, she was my very best friend and I shared everything with her as she did with me, there were no secrets between us. And true to her word, I never saw her that she was not wearing the locket around her neck. Sometimes during our recesses I would massage Robbi’s arm because she would complain more and more of it hurting her. Sometimes my massages would make her arm feel better and sometimes they did no good at all. I did not like to see Robbi in pain, it bothered me.  


One Monday Robbi did not show up for school, I did not think too much about it as she had missed days before, especially if her arm was hurting really bad. When she did not show up on the second day I began to be a little concerned and then when she was not there on the third day I was very concerned. We seldom talked on the telephone because Robbi’s father was in some kind of a business that he needed the use of the telephone and when Robbi and I would get on the phone we would talk for long periods of time, and her father did not like us tying up the line. Robbi and I had decided that we would refrain from using the telephone unless it was something really important. I decided that this was one of those really important times so when I got home from school I immediately went to the telephone and called Robbi’s house. The phone rang and rang with no answer, this was way before the time that people had answering machines. I would let the telephone ring for two to three minutes at a time and I called every half hour until it was my bed time and still no answer. I did the same thing on the next day and still no one answered. I expressed my concern with my grandmother and she said that perhaps Robbi’s family had taken a vacation or possibly Robbi’s father had to go on a business trip and he had taken his family with him. I asked my grandfather if he would drive me to Robbi’s house so I could check on her and he agreed to take me there. I do not know how far Robbi’s house was from town, but it took about ten minutes to get there. As the minutes ticked by I kept thinking, Please be home Robbi, please be there. When we pulled into the driveway at Robbi’s house I could tell that the house looked empty. There was no garage and there were no cars in the driveway. My grandfather stayed in the car while I went to the door. I knocked on the door but no one came. I tried to look into the windows, but all of the drapes were drawn. I pressed my ear to the door and listened, I could not hear any sounds coming from within.


The week-end passed slowly and still no answer when I would call Robbi’s house. I was hoping that Robbi would be in school Monday morning. I arrived early at school on Monday and stood on the school house steps watching as different parents would drop off their children. I knew what Robbi’s father’s car looked like and I watched for it until the bell rang and I had to go into class. All that week Robbi did not show up for school and each day after school I would call Robbi’s house and not get an answer. Then on Monday of the following week as I sat in my first class of the day, a man entered the classroom and spoke quietly to the teacher. At first I did not recognize the man, but then I did recognize him, it was Robbi’s father. As the teacher and Robbi’s father spoke I saw the teacher point to me, with a yellow #2 pencil which she seemed to always have in her hand, Robbi’s father looked at me and nodded. Robbi’s father then left the classroom and the teacher called me up to her desk. The teacher told me that Robbi’s father, Mr. Boroughs, wanted to speak to me and that he was waiting for me out in the hall. The teacher told me it would be okay to go into the hall and talk to Mr. Boroughs. As I stepped out into the hall I saw Mr. Boroughs leaning with his back against the wall, staring up at the ceiling and when he saw me, he stood up straight and walked over to me. When he reached me he went down on one knee so he was at my level. “Hi Mike,” he said, “Robbi has told me so much about you. You’re quite a boy and I want to thank you for being Robbi’s friend.”  “Where is Robbi?” I blurted out , “I’ve been so worried about her.” “That’s why I’m here, Mike,” He said, “Robbi has gone to another place and will not be coming back to school.”  “Where, where did she go?” I asked, “Is it far, can I go visit her.”  “No, Mike,” he said, “you can not go there, not now. But one day you two might be able to get together and have a long visit.”  “When?” I asked, “When can I go visit her?”  “I don’t know, Mike,” he said, “but someday you will see her again, I’m sure of it.”  I stood there in silence, trying to let what he said sink in, I just did not understand why I could not go see Robbi. Robbi’s father reached into his pocket and pulled out a clinched hand, he held his hand out to me and said, “Robbi wanted you to have this.” He then reached out and took my hand and held it under his as he opened his hand the locket I had given Robbi for Valentine’s Day dropped into my open palm. “No!” I said, “that’s Robbi’s, I can’t take it.”  “You must take it, Mike,” he said, “Robbi wanted you to have it and she made me promise that I would give it to you. You have got to take it.”  I stared at the locket resting in my palm for a long moment in silence. Robbi’s father stood up and said, “I’ve got to go now Mike. You have been a very good friend to Robbi and I want to thank you again for all of the kindness you have shown to her, you made her very happy and I appreciate that you took the time to make my little girl happy.”  Mr. Boroughs then turned and walked down the hall towards the front entrance, leaving me standing there holding Robbi’s locket. After Robbi’s father had exited the building I moved over to the wall, placing my back against wall I slowly sank down to a sitting position, still holding the locket in my open palm. I then opened the locket and found that there were two pictures in the locket, one of Robbi and one of me. I recognized the pictures as being from the class photo we had taken earlier in the year. The whole class had gathered on the front steps to the school building with the girls in the first three rows and the boys in the back two rows. Apparently Robbi had cut out her photo and mine and placed them inside of the locket. They were the perfect size to fit inside of the two halves of the locket. I stared at Robbi’s photo for a long time and I remembered what my grandmother had said, “people put pictures of their loved ones inside of the locket.” I closed the locket and it made me feel good to think that inside of the locket, Robbi and I were face to face.


In three weeks school would be over and I would be returning to live with my parents. During those three weeks I was kept pretty busy studying for the final tests and completing the year’s end assignments. If my grandmother saw that I was not doing homework or studying she would assign various chores around the house to keep me busy. Finally the last day of school arrived and all of the students were involved in various games competing against one another to see who was the fastest runner, who could make the most basketball shots in a row, or who could jump the farthest, etc.. It was just a fun activity for the students and it really didn’t matter who won. As the other students were competing I walked over to our bench and sat there remembering all of the conversations Robbi and I had on that bench. Suddenly I felt a presence and looked up to see the playground monitor standing beside the bench. “You miss her don’t you?” she said. “Yes, I miss her a lot.” I said. “I just wanted to tell you that Robbi confided in me one day, telling me how special you were to her and how much you meant to her.” she said. “She meant a lot to me too.” I paused, thinking that if Robbi had confided in her I could too. “Robbi never said goodbye to me.” I said. “Don’t be mad at her, she would have told you goodbye if she could have. Everything happened so fast that she did not have the opportunity.” she said. “I could never be mad at Robbi," I said, “I just don’t know why she didn’t tell me goodbye.” “I know that she would have told you goodbye if she could have, it was really not her fault.” she said as she placed her hand on my shoulder, gave a little squeeze, turned and walked away.


On the next day my parents would arrive and I would go back to California with them. As I was packing all of my things into my suitcase, I reached under my pillow and took out Robbi’s locket, giving it a special place in my suitcase so it would be safe. I finished all of my packing, took my bath, put on my pajamas and climbed into bed. My parents would arrive early and I wanted to be well rested for the trip home. I was tired and fell asleep quickly.


I dreamed about Robbi that night, at least I think it was a dream, it was so very real. I was in my classroom when the bell rang signaling the beginning of the morning recess. I walked out into the warm sunshine and headed over to our bench and to my surprise and elation Robbi was sitting on our bench. She turned toward me and smiled that wonderful smile of hers. As I drew closer I could see that she was wearing her locket, as she reached up and touched it with her left hand I saw that her hand and arm were no longer swollen and discolored, it looked just like her other arm. “Robbi,” I said, “I have missed you so much.”  “I have missed you too,” she said, “I understand you are going home tomorrow.”  “Yes,” I said, “I’ll be leaving in the morning.” “Yes, I know,” said Robbi, “I came to tell you goodbye.”  Robbi stood up and held out her arms to me, two perfect arms. We embraced for a long quiet moment and then she stepped back slightly and took my hands in hers. I looked down at her left arm, which had been so swollen and discolored, and when she saw I was looking at her arm she said, “Isn’t it wonderful?” “Yes,” I responded, “it is wonderful, it’s how I have always pictured you.”  “It’s time for me to go now,” Robbi said, “goodbye Mike, I will miss you.”  “Goodbye Robbi,” I said, “I will miss you too.” Robbi turned and walked a few paces then she stopped, turning towards me she placed her left hand on her locket and said, “Thank you for the locket, I’ll never take it off again.” I started to respond, but Robbi’s image began to fade until I could see through her like a ghost and then she disappeared. The last thing I saw of her was her beautiful smile.


The next morning my parents arrived and they visited a short while with my grandparents. Afterwards we packed my things into the car and we left for the return trip to California. It had to be quick turn around trip for my parents as my mother needed to be back in California for her job. On arrival in California while I was unpacking my suitcase, I was unable to find Robbi’s locket anywhere. I thought I had placed it in a little pocket on the side of the suitcase, but it was not there. As I was so used to sleeping with the locket under my pillow, I thought that maybe I had taken it out of my suitcase so it would be under my pillow and then had forgotten to re-pack it the next morning. I called my grandmother on the telephone asking her to look under my pillow for Robbi’s locket and when she found it to mail it to me. My grandmother called back in a few days and said that she had thoroughly searched for the locket but she had been unable to find it.


The summer was filled with many fun days of renewing old acquaintances, swimming, biking and going to the movies. Soon school started and it was back to studying, completing assignments and making new friends. At first I thought of Robbi a lot, but as time passed days would pass without thinking of her which turned into weeks and then months.


One day, after I had graduated from high school, I had taken my grandmother to a doctor’s appointment and afterwards we went to lunch. As we were waiting for our meal to arrive my grandmother asked me, “Do you remember Robin 

Boroughs?” Wow!, I thought, There’s someone I have not thought about in years. “Of course I do,” I said, “She was my first love. How could anyone forget their first love?” “Well, she passed away.” she said. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. When did she die?” I asked. “She died back when you were in the third grade.”  “Really!” I said. “Yes; Right or wrong, we decided not to tell you she had died, instead we let you believe that she had moved away. You see, her arm was beginning to really cause her a lot of pain and they consulted a specialist who informed them that her arm was sapping the life out of her and it should be amputated as soon as possible to save her life. They took her to the Children’s Hospital in El Paso where her arm was amputated. She fought valiantly for her life, but four days later she died. She was so weak, she just could not hang on. I let what my grandmother had said sink in, as I sat quietly for a few moments. “Are you okay?” she asked. “Oh yeah, I’m fine.” I responded, “You probably did the best thing. It was hard thinking she had moved away, but I don’t know what I would have done if I had known she died.” “That’s what we thought,” she said, “Are we forgiven?” “Sure you are Gramma,” I said, “you were just doing what you thought was best. Tell me, I know I have asked before, but did you ever find that locket I gave Robbi for Valentine’s Day?”  “No, we never found that.” she said, “We knew how much it meant to you and we looked very carefully for it and never did find it.”  “That’s okay, Gramma,” I said, “I think I know where it is.”



***** 



(64)



THE LONG HAUL



By

Mike Boudreaux



She had been driving big rigs for a little over twelve years. She had started when she was eighteen years old, well, actually she started when she was twelve, having been taught by her father who was a trucker for over forty years before he retired. However, the state required that a commercial driver be eighteen years old before they could have a commercial driver license. In the twelve years she had been a licensed driver she had never received a citation for any reason nor had she been in an accident, she did have a couple of close calls, not of her doing, however she was able to avoid an accident. She was an attractive woman, about five foot nine inches and one hundred and thirty five pounds, with brown eyes and brown hair, cut just above her shoulders. She could hold her own with any man, both verbally and physically, her father made sure of that. She had several relationships over the years, but none had ever amounted to much, her long haul driving often had her away from her home town for weeks or even months at a time, which put a strain on any serious relationship. She did not mind that she was not in a serious relationship, she much preferred driving and the open road over male companionship.


On this particular day she was hauling a load of mattresses from a factory in Tennessee to a warehouse in Los Angeles. Pretty cushy load, she thought and chuckled out loud. She often talked to herself as there was no one else to talk to on her long hauls. She had a citizen’s band radio, however she seldom talked on it, preferring to just listen to the other truckers chatter, which kept her apprised of the traffic situations and road conditions.  In fact it was on the CB radio that she first heard about him. As she was driving along she heard a trucker make the remark, “There’s a boot jockey riding his thumb, headin’ west with a load.” She heard several other truckers remark about the pedestrian who was carrying some baggage and hitchhiking along the road. As she topped over a slight rise she saw him, carrying a duffle bag with his arm extended and his thumb raised indicating he was wanting a ride. She really could not blame him for wanting a ride, it was a very hot day and he was in the middle of a desert with no shade for miles. She was familiar with the road she was travelling and knew the next town was over seventy miles away. By the chatter on the CB radio she also knew the hitchhiker had been passed up by the other truckers, so she was beginning to feel sorry for him. She slowed a little and looked him over as she passed and the next thing she knew she was applying her brakes. What am I doing, she thought, I can see the headlines now, “Female trucker killed by hitchhiker.”  She brought her rig to a stop, exited the cab, walked around to the front of the truck and watched the hitchhiker scrambling to catch up to her truck. When he got close she said, “You can throw your gear up there behind the cab and strap it down with one of those bungee cords.” “Thanks,” said the hitchhiker as he tossed his duffle bag up behind the cab. She watched him carefully as he climbed up and took one of the bungee cords from its place behind the cab and strapped down his duffle bag. He looked to be about thirty five years old with a slight beard, sandy colored hair, well trimmed, slight of build, about six feet tall and maybe a hundred and seventy pounds. She looked him over pretty closely and did not see any suspicious bulges or other indications that he was carrying any kind of a weapon. I can take him down if I had to, she thought, and began to feel a little more comfortable about her decision to offer him a ride. He jumped down after securing his duffle bag and they stood face to face beside the truck scrutinizing one another for a long moment. He broke the silence, “Benjamin Franklin,” he said as he extended his hand. “You gotta be kidding me!”, she said. “Nope,” he said, “I get that reaction a lot. You can call me Ben.” “Okay, Ben,” she replied as she took his hand and gave it a shake, “I’m Carolyn, you can call me Lynn. Where are you headed, Ben?” “West,” said Ben, “I want to see the Pacific ocean.”  “Well, you’re headed in the right direction,” Lynn said, “mount up and we’ll be on our way.”  Ben reached up and opened the cab door as Lynn took the long way around her truck, checking each tire as she went. When Lynn climbed into the cab of the truck, Ben said, “I don’t see many female truckers.” “Is that a bad thing?”, asked Lynn. “Not in this case.” said Ben.


For the first ten miles or so the conversation was mostly small talk, the weather, home towns, schooling, past jobs. Ben had been a corporate lawyer for a shipping firm in Green Bay, Wisconsin when one day he realized he was in a box, stacked up on other boxes, in amongst a whole bunch of other boxes. He decided that he wanted out of his box so he turned in his resignation, sold his stocks, his house and his car and began to walk this great country. Ben had swam in all five great lakes, the Atlantic ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and now he wanted to swim in the Pacific ocean. Ben had visited all of the states but eleven and felt by the end of the year he would have visited them all. Lynn advised that she was way ahead of Ben on the states, she had been to them all and most of them several times. Lynn loved to be out on the open road and most weather did not bother her, but snow and ice were her least favorite.


After a few miles of silence, Ben looked over at Lynn and asked, “Do you know him?” “Know who?”, Lynn asked. “Jesus.” answered Ben. Uh Oh, thought Lynn, have I got a Jesus freak in my truck? “Jesus?” Lynn asked. “Yes, Jesus Christ.” replied Ben. Yep, sure enough, I have a Jesus freak riding in my truck, thought Lynn. “Well, do you know him?” Ben asked again. “Know him, do I know Jesus?,” Lynn replied, “I know who he is.” “Yes, but do you know him?” asked Ben and then added, “I know who the president is, but I don’t know him.” “Do you know Jesus?” Lynn asked. “Oh yes,” Ben answered, “I know him personally. We have a good relationship, I talk to him often.”  “You talk to Jesus?” asked Lynn. “Yes.” Ben replied. “And Jesus talks to you?” asked Lynn, “I mean, you hear his voice?” “Well, I don’t believe I have ever heard his audible voice, but he will speak to me through the Holy Spirit who will cause me to remember certain scriptures or will put thoughts in my head.” Ben replied. “Thoughts in your head,” asked Lynn, “what kind of thoughts?” You better watch it big boy, Lynn thought, your next answer just might put you right back on the side of the road.  “Well, for instance,” Ben said, “last month I was in Little Rock and I did not know whether to take I-40 towards Oklahoma City or take I-30 to Dallas. Either one would have taken me west, which is where I wanted to go, but I did not know which would be better. The bible tells me that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, so I asked the Lord to direct my path. I asked Jesus to show me which way he wanted me to go. I did not want to go the way I wanted to go, I wanted to go in the way Jesus wanted me to go. As  I contemplated which way to go, a scripture came to mind, it was John 21:6 which tells about Jesus telling his disciples, who were on a boat trying to catch fish, to cast their net on the right side of the boat and they would catch fish. The disciples did as Jesus instructed them and they caught many fish. So, as I consider myself to be a fisher of men, I decided to go to the right and take I-40. I no sooner got onto I-40 when a trucker picked me up. The trucker told me that I-30 was under construction and if I had gone that way travelling would have been very slow as traffic was stop and go for miles. And it turned out that the trucker was a Christian, however he had fallen away and had not been in church for years. After we talked and shared our faith, he told me that our talk had renewed his faith and that he planned on attending church on a regular basis again. So not only did I get a ride, but I also caught a fish right away, which indicated to me that I had made the right decision in taking I-40.”  “What do you mean you consider yourself to be a fisher of men?” asked Lynn. “Well, the bible tells about Jesus recruiting two fishermen to become his disciples by telling them that if they were to follow him, he would make them fishers of men. In other words if they were to follow his teachings then they would cast their nets and catch men instead of remaining fishermen and catching fish.”  “You mean they would catch men in their nets?” asked Lynn. “No, no, not literally,” said Ben, “they would learn what Jesus taught them and then they would tell others about Jesus and persuade them to be believers in Jesus and his teachings. So when I say I am a fisher of men it just means that I tell others about Jesus and his teachings in hopes of persuading them to become Christians.”  “Does that include catching women also?” asked Lynn. “Yes,” answered Ben, “when I say men, I mean man kind, men, women, boys and girls, it includes everybody.” “Well, you can reel in your net, Ben,” said Lynn, “this little fishy is not quite ready to be caught.” “Are you telling me you do not believe in Jesus?” asked Ben. “When I was a little girl,” said Lynn, “I went to Sunday school a few times and learned about some guy being swallowed by a whale and of another guy killing a giant with a slingshot, and of Jesus being born in a stable and some wise men giving him gifts when he was little and then later on when he was grown they captured him and nailed him up on a cross until he died.” “Didn’t those stories mean anything to you?” asked Ben. “They were just stories,” said Lynn, “like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, when you get older you find out they were just fairy tales.” “But the bible is not a fairy tale,” said Ben, “what’s written in the bible is true.”  “How do you know its true?” asked Lynn. “Well,” said Ben, “I cannot give you hard concrete proof that it is true, it takes faith to believe that the bible is true and I have the faith to believe that every word is true.”  “Well,” said Lynn, “that is where we differ, I don’t have any faith.” “Sure you do,” said Ben, “everyone has been given the measure of faith.” “Nope, not me,” said Lynn, “I must have been absent on the day they were passing out faith.”  “Oh you have faith,” said Ben, “it’s just that you have not applied it towards the bible being true.” “I’m sorry, Ben, but you’re wrong,” said Lynn, “I don’t have any faith.” “Yes, you do,” Ben said, “and I can prove it to you.” “You can,” asked Lynn, “how are you going to do that?” “How fast are you going?” asked Ben. Lynn glanced down at the speedometer and answered, “I’m doing 55 miles per hour.” “That’s pretty fast for a big rig carrying a load,” said Ben, “how are you going to stop it if you had to?” “Easy,” said Lynn, “all I have to do is step on the brake.” “And if you step on the brake then this rig will stop?” asked Ben. “Yes it will.” answered Lynn. “Are you sure it will?” asked Ben. “Yes, I’m sure.” answered Lynn. “Then, I am correct in stating that you believe this rig will stop if you apply the brake?” asked Ben. “Yes,” answered Lynn, “I believe that this rig will stop if I apply the brake.” “There you go,” said Ben, “that proves you have faith. Now all you have to do is to apply that same faith to the bible.” Lynn sat silently for a long while as she mulled over in her mind what Ben had said. Finally Lynn said, “I hate to admit it, but I guess you’re right. But, how do I apply my faith to the bible?” “That’s easy,” answered Ben, “all you have to do is to read it and earnestly ask Jesus to show himself to you in the scriptures that you read.” “And he will do that for me?” asked Lynn. “Sure he will,” replied Ben, “Jesus is always anxious to reveal himself. “You know,” said Lynn, “I was probably nine or ten years old the last time I read the bible and truthfully it was really difficult to read and understand.”  “I know,” replied Ben, “I was twenty two years old before I ever read the bible and with all of those “Thees” and “Thous” and “Begats” I found it difficult to read as well. But, you know what, I was persistent and continued to read a little every day and before I knew it I found it so interesting I could not put it down.” Ben paused for a minute and then he said, “You know, I have been watching you drive this rig and you do it very well. You shift the gears very smoothly, your eyes are always on the road and watching your mirrors and your speed is consistent with the traffic and road conditions. You are really a very good driver.” “Thank you, Ben,” said Lynn, “I try my best and it seems as if I am learning new techniques each time I get behind the wheel.” “How long have you been driving?” asked Ben. “I started when I was twelve years old, my dad taught me, so that would make . . . . aaa, well, let’s just say I have over ten years of driving experience.” “Well, you drive very well, it must have been easy for you.” “Easy!” said Lynn, “Are you kidding me! The first time I got behind the wheel I ground the gears, missed gears and killed the engine over and over again. But I was persistent, I kept trying and trying because I really wanted to be a good driver like my father. Finally I got to where I could shift smoothly, negotiate the turns and backing, oh my goodness, backing was very difficult, but with lots of practice I finally managed to be able to put this rig where I wanted it to go.” “You mean to tell me that you didn’t just climb in behind the wheel and all of your driving ability came to you easy and naturally?” asked Ben. “No way,” said Lynn, “it took a lot of hard work and years of learning before I was anywhere near what one might call proficient.” “That’s the same way it is with reading the bible, it takes lots of persistence and practice and one must really want to know what’s in the bible before they become proficient.”, as Ben said this he raised both hands with two fingers extended on each hand as he curled his fingers in a couple of times to indicate he was quoting the word proficient. “Hmmm,” said Lynn, “I hear what you’re saying. But you know what, I think I’m a good person. I treat others with kindness, I give to charities, I don’t smoke or cuss and I don’t drink to excess, a couple of beers to unwind after a long day every once in a while or a glass of wine with dinner and I have never been drunk.” “Well,” said Ben, “that’s admirable, but just being a good person will not get you into heaven. The bible teaches us that there is only one way to achieve heaven. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” To me that indicates that we must believe in Jesus and receive him as Lord if we want to go to heaven.”  “All that sounds pretty difficult to me.” said Lynn. “No,” said Ben, “it’s not difficult at all, it’s really simple. I call it the three step program.” “Three step?” Lynn quizzed. “Yes,” said Ben, “believe, repent and confess.” As Ben said this he held up three fingers. “What are they?” asked Lynn. “First,” Ben said, holding up one finger,  “you must believe that Jesus is the only begotten son of God, that he was born of a virgin, walked upon this earth as a man, taught the word of God and performed miracles, was crucified, died and rose from the dead three days later, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father.” “And all of that is in the bible?” Lynn asked. “Yes, you can find all of that in the scriptures,” answered Ben. Ben then held up two fingers and said, “And second you must repent of your sins. The bible tells us that only Jesus is without sin and all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We must regret our sins, turn away from them and ask God to forgive us and you know what, He will be faithful to forgive us of our sins.” “I’m not that bad,” said Lynn, “I haven’t killed anyone or robbed any banks.” “Sin is sin,” said Ben, “in God’s eyes it does not matter if you robbed a bank or turned your back on a beggar when you had some spare change in your pocket, it’s all the same to God. But the good thing is, God will forgive the bank robbery just as quick as he will forgive turning your back on someone in need, all we have to do is repent and sincerely ask for God’s forgiveness and he will forgive us.”  “Well, I like that part.” said Lynn, “So what’s the third thing?” “The third thing,” said Ben as he held up three fingers, “is that you must confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Lord and Savior and ask him to come and live in your heart.” “Is that all that has to be done?” asked Lynn. That’s it, it is just that simple, believe in Jesus Christ, turn from your evil ways asking for forgiveness and acknowledge Jesus as your Lord by speaking it out of your mouth.”  “So, I guess that means that I would have to find a church and a priest so I could get saved?” asked Lynn. “No, that is not necessary,” said Ben, “you can do it in any place, at any time, whether you are alone or with others, simply believe, repent and confess.” “That’s a lot to have to think about,” said Lynn, “you have almost twisted my arm enough for me to become a Christian.” “I’m sorry,” said Ben, “I didn’t mean to come off as being pushy. All I have attempted to do is present you with my beliefs and what the bible says. I don’t want you to think that I am pressuring you into making a decision. Your decision to be a Christian must be made of your own free will, just follow your heart.”  “Oh, I didn’t mean it that way,” Lynn said, “I don’t think you have been pushy, it’s just my own conscience that is nagging at me.” “When you are battling with yourself, that is the hardest battle you will ever fight. It’s like the two dog story.” “Two dog story?” Lynn questioned. “Yes,” answered Ben, “You see there was this evangelist who visited an Indian reservation and converted an old Indian to Christianity. A year later he returned to the same reservation and happened to meet the same old Indian and asked how his Christian walk was going. The old Indian told the evangelist that it was like having two dogs living inside of him who were always fighting with one another. One was a black dog who was constantly trying to get the old Indian to return to his old ways and do the things that he shouldn’t and the other dog was a white dog who was always trying to get the old Indian to do good and to become a better Christian. The evangelist asked the old Indian which dog was winning the fight and the old Indian told him that it was the dog that he fed the most.” “That’s pretty much how it is with me,” said Lynn, “I’ve been feeding that black dog for quite a while and he is big and strong, while I have not fed my white dog in years and he is nothing but skin and bones with no fight in him.” “All you gotta do,” said Ben, “is start feeding that white dog and he will fatten up in no time and soon he will be able to make that black dog run for his life with his tail tucked between his legs.” “You are probably right,” Lynn said, “I think I am ready to start feeding my white dog.” Ben looked up the road and said, “Why don’t we pull into that truck stop ahead, I could use a bathroom break and I’m a little hungry?” “Good idea,” said Lynn, “I’m getting low on fuel and I’m hungry too.” Lynn pulled up to the pumps at the truck stop and shut off the truck. Ben turned to Lynn and asked, “Are you sure you are ready to feed your white dog?” Lynn looked at Ben and said, “Yes, I’m ready.” Ben then led Lynn through the sinner’s prayer and Lynn accepted Jesus as her Savior, confessing him as Lord. After Lynn accepted Jesus, she and Ben shared a meal together and talked a lot about Jesus. At the end of the meal Ben said, “Lynn, you are an interesting person and I could travel and talk with you for as long as you could put up with me, but I think that I am going to go fishing.” “I understand, Ben,” said Lynn, “it’s been a pleasure meeting you and I want to thank you for showing me a better way.” “No problem,” said Ben, “it was my pleasure. I’ll just grab my bag and be on my way.” “Thanks again,” said Lynn, “maybe we will meet again.” “I would like that.” said Ben as he turned and walked away. “Good fishing.” Lynn called after him. Ben turned his head back towards Lynn and said, “Thanks, it looks like the fishing will be good here.”  Lynn freshened up in the ladies room and then returned to her truck. As she approached her truck, Lynn noticed that Ben’s duffle bag was no longer on her truck. Lynn climbed in the cab and started the truck, just before she put the truck into gear she glanced over and saw a sheet of paper with some writing lying on the passenger seat. Lynn picked up the paper and found that there was a bible under the paper. Lynn read the paper which read, “Thanks for the ride, here is some food for your white dog.”



*****


(65)

 





THE TREASURE HUNT



by

Mike Boudreaux



Uncle Dudley showed up at my house one morning and said, “Pack some gear, we’re going camping.” I was never one to say no to a camping trip, so immediately began packing a bag. “Don’t forget your fishing pole”, said Uncle Dudley. In just a few minutes we were on the road and heading south east into the foot hills. Uncle Dudley turned onto a dirt road and after bouncing over rocks and bottoming out in several of the pot holes we arrived at a public campground on White River and set up our camp.

As we were unpacking our gear I came across a cardboard mailing tube and asked Uncle Dudley, “What’s this?” Uncle Dudley took the mailing tube from my hands and said, “This, my boy, is our path to fame and fortune.” Later on that evening as we were sitting around our campfire, Uncle Dudley retrieved the mailing tube from his pickup truck. As I saw him carrying it towards the campfire my excitement began to mount, ‘What could this be?’, I thought. Uncle Dudley sat down on a log next to me, opened the mailing tube and gingerly extracted an old yellowing piece of paper. “What’s this?” I asked. “It’s a map.” Said Uncle Dudley. “What’s it to?” I asked. Uncle Dudley carefully handed me the map and I noticed it was drawn on the back of a wanted poster offering a reward for some guy named Jim McKinney. Uncle Dudley said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I know, and also what I have assumed and also what I have just flat out guessed and then you can tell me what you think. I acquired the map from a stove up old cowhand who had worked on the Guthrie Ranch. The cowhand had been badly injured while trying to break a wild horse, turned out he was the one who got broke instead. Mr. Guthrie felt sorry for the old cowhand and kept him on at the ranch even though he was unable to do much in the way of earning his keep. I had befriended the old cowhand and had visited with him every time I was in the area. One day Mr. Guthrie called me and told me the old cowhand was on his death bed and was asking for me.”


“Shortly after I arrived at the Guthrie ranch,” Uncle Dudley continued, “the old cowhand passed away, but not before he gave me this map.  As the old cowhand was lying on his death bed, he reached under his mattress, pulling out an old flour sack and handing it to me, he said, “Here, I want you to have this, it’s worth a fortune. There’s a map in there leading to a lot of money. I was going to follow it myself, but got hurt trying to earn a grubstake and was unable to travel. It’s all yours now.” And with those words, the old cowhand died.” Uncle Dudley related that Mr. Guthrie had told him that the old cowhand’s name was Bill, but he did not know his last name and as far as he knew there were no relatives. Uncle Dudley said, “That old cowhand was a cantankerous old codger, who trusted no one and did not have any friends, I am assuming that because I had befriended him that he wanted to return the favor.” Uncle Dudley told me that when he looked into the flour sack he found the wanted poster with the map drawn on the back and an old family bible. On the inside of the bible it indicated that the bible belonged to a Margaret McKinney who was married to Alvin McKinney and they had two sons, James and William. “I am presuming that James is the Jim McKinney who is on the wanted poster.” said Uncle Dudley. Uncle Dudley went on to say that he had done some research and found that there was an outlaw by the name of Jim McKinney who operated in this area around 1880 and 1890. McKinney had robbed several stage coaches and a bank. When McKinney robbed the bank he got away with a very large sum of money, in the thousands of dollars. Three weeks after robbing the bank McKinney showed up in Bakersfield flashing a lot of money. McKinney got into a drunken brawl with several of the local citizens and ended up stabbing one of them. The town marshal tried to arrest McKinney who resisted, drawing his pistol on the marshal, who shot McKinney to death. The money that McKinney had on him at the time was only a small fraction of the amount he had stolen in his crime spree. Further research through the county archives showed there was a record of a William McKinney marrying an Elizabeth Morris in 1898 and they had a son, William McKinney Jr., in 1905. Uncle Dudley then said, “Now this is only an assumption on my part, but I think that Jim McKinney buried his ill gotten gains somewhere, made this map to its location and gave it to his brother, William. Now William for some unknown reason chose not to follow the map and gave the map to his son, William Jr., who I am guessing is the old cowhand, Bill. Now the old cowhand died in 1992 and I am guessing he was in his late 80s at the time. After years of studying the map and the landmarks shown on it I think we are real close to McKinney’s buried loot right now. Well, there you have it in a nut shell. What do you think?” “Wow!” I said, “I think you are right. When do we get started looking for that buried treasure?” “First thing in the morning,” said Uncle Dudley, “let’s turn in, morning will be here real soon.” I was so excited I tossed and turned all night, all I could think about was finding Jim McKinney’s hidden treasure and becoming a rich man. I did not think I was ever going to go to sleep, but I must have, because I woke up to the smell of coffee and bacon. I got dressed and emerged from the tent rubbing my eyes. Uncle Dudley was drinking a cup of coffee and staring over to the other side of the campground. About a hundred yards away I saw a white pickup truck with a camper shell parked in one of the camp sites. “They pulled in last night; I haven’t seen anyone stirring around their campsite yet. I don’t want to worry you none, but I’m almost positive I saw that same rig following us on our way here. I could be wrong and maybe I’m being overly cautious, but one can never be too careful.”


After a quick, but hearty breakfast, Uncle Dudley said, “You put that campfire out and I’ll pack some gear.” After making sure the campfire was dead out I turned towards the tent and saw Uncle Dudley emerge from the tent with a back pack and I saw that he had his pistol shoved down the front of his pants. “What’s that for?” I asked, pointing to the pistol. “You never can tell when you might run into a bear or some other varmint who might want to do you some harm.” said Uncle Dudley as he glanced over to the pickup and camper. Besides his back pack, I also saw that Uncle Dudley was carrying a metal detector and a fishing pole. Uncle Dudley walked over to his truck and pulling the map out of the mailing tube, he spread it out over the hood of his truck. I walked over to stand beside him and we studied the map. “Look over there,” said Uncle Dudley, “as he pointed to a peak shaped like a raven’s head. You see the way that out cropping looks like a bird’s beak?” “Yeah I see it,” I responded. “That has got to be the same peak that’s right here on the map, and look at the river, see how it runs right along here, just like on the map and those twin peaks over there have got to be these right here on the map. According to this map we are right about here.”, said Uncle Dudley as he placed his finger at a spot on the map. “I think your right, it sure looks like we are in the right spot.” I said. My excitement mounted as I let my imagination run loose, imagining I was running my hands through thousands of dollars.


Uncle Dudley took a small cord and made a sling for the metal detector and hung it so it was in front of him. Uncle Dudley said “There, now if I keep my back to the campground no one will be able to see that I am carrying a metal detector. Get your fishing pole and let’s head east along the river and be sure to make a few casts so that anyone seeing us will think that we are fishing.” I did as Uncle Dudley said and walked along the river, casting out into the bigger pools so that it would appear that we were fishing. We had gone about two hundred yards and were just about to go around a bend in the river when Uncle Dudley looked back toward the campground and said, “Here they come, there’s two of them, they’re carrying fishing poles and coming our way. Let’s make it around the bend and when we are out of sight let’s conceal ourselves in the thick brush along the river. We went around the bend and when we were sure we were out of sight we jumped into the thick brush and pulled the leafy branches around us. We sat there for what seemed like an eternity and finally I could hear voices coming in our direction. We crouched down low and allowed the two men to pass us by. I could tell that these men were not interested in fishing. There was some really good looking pools in this location and the men did not even look at them, they just hurried along in what appeared to be an attempt to catch up to us. As soon as the men were out of earshot, Uncle Dudley said, “I know one of those men, he works for the records division at the county court house. He was the one who would pull up the archives for me when I was doing research on the McKinney family, although I did not discuss with him what I was doing, he would have known exactly which records I was interested in when I asked him to photocopy the material I wanted. I’ll bet he made two copies of each document, gave me one and kept one for himself. It’s my guess he figured out what I was doing, because the buried McKinney loot has been a rumor in these parts for years, but no one could prove it. I could be overly cautious and it’s possible these men are heading for a really good fishing hole and passing up the ones that are not so good. Just to make sure let’s head away from the river and see if they follow us.”


There was a dry wash not too far from where we had hidden in the brush and we started climbing up the wash. Uncle Dudley said, “If those men follow us up here, we can be sure they are following us, ‘cause sure as shootin’ there ain’t no fish up here.” We climbed steadily up the dry wash and the walls grew closer and closer together. It began to look like we had made a mistake and that this was a dead end with no way to reach the top of the ridge. But as we moved around a corner we found there was a rocky drainage that led up to the rim of the wash. I was about to make a step up when Uncle Dudley pulled on my pant leg and said, “Watch out! There’s a big hornet’s nest on that limb just above your head!” “What are we going to do now?” I asked. “Don’t panic,” Uncle Dudley said, “we have not disturbed them and if we use due caution and move slowly we should be able to get by that hornet’s nest.” Uncle Dudley and I moved very slowly and cautiously and made our way past the hornet’s nest and up to the rim of the canyon.


Once we reached the rim we found a place of concealment where we could see the river and watch the dry wash. It didn’t take long before we saw the two men moving along the river headed back towards the campground. When the men reached the place where we had concealed ourselves in the thick brush they stopped and milled around checking the ground very closely and then one of the men pointed towards the dry wash. It was obvious that the men were tracking us as they would walk along staring at the ground and occasionally they would kneel down and inspect the ground closely then point in the direction we had walked. Both men then began to climb up the dry wash and when they reached the rocky drainage, they began to climb it towards the rim. Now it was very obvious that the men were following us and were likely up to no good. I was glad that Uncle Dudley was carrying his pistol. It would not be long before the men would reach the top. I turned to Uncle Dudley and was about to ask what we were going to do and as I did I saw him rigging his fishing pole with a weight and a three prong hook. “What do you think you’re doing?” I asked. “This isn’t any time to be rigging your pole. We’ve got to get out of here!”  “Don’t get your knickers in a knot, just watch.” said Uncle Dudley as he stepped right up to the edge of the rim and cast his line down into the rocky drainage. The two men were too busy picking their way up the rocky drainage to notice that Uncle Dudley’s lure had snagged a branch hanging over the drainage. Uncle Dudley slowly reeled his line back in until the line was taunt. As the two men reached the area under where Uncle Dudley had snagged the limb he gave his line a mighty jerk, released it and then gave several more mighty jerks. “What in the world are you doing?” I asked. Uncle Dudley began laughing and pointing down into the drainage. I looked down into the drainage just in time to see a black cloud of hornets explode from their nest, which was on the limb Uncle Dudley had snagged, and converge around the two men. The two men began to swing their arms wildly, yelp and scream each time a hornet found its mark. To negotiate the drainage was not difficult if you were to move slowly and watch your step, but these men had no intentions of moving slow. As they scrambled down the drainage they were constantly falling, stumbling over rocks and each other, picking themselves up and scrambling even faster, all the while the black cloud of hornets hovered around the two men. From our vantage point on the rim of the canyon, we watched as the two men ran to the campground, still swinging their arms wildly and yelping as they jumped into their truck and hastily sped away in a cloud of dust. By the erratic driving I think several of those hornets also made it into the truck with the two men. Uncle Dudley and I were rolling on the ground, holding our sides and laughing so hard we could not speak. Finally after some time Uncle Dudley managed to get to his feet and gain some composure. “I don’t think those two will be bothering us for a while, let’s get back to following that map.” said Uncle Dudley.


We walked along the rim of the canyon until we found a way to descend back down to the river. We walked along the river for a while as Uncle Dudley constantly checked the map. “I feel we are getting pretty close to where McKinney buried his loot.” said Uncle Dudley. “Gee, do you think so? I’m starting to get real excited about finding all of that money.” I replied. “Yep,” said Uncle Dudley, “what we’re looking for now is a mountain or rock formation that looks like a gun sight,” said Uncle Dudley, “then all we have to do is to sight south along the gun sight and it will point to the place where Jim McKinney buried his loot. See, just like it shows here on the map.”


We continued along our path, keeping our eyes open for anything that resembled a gun sight. We topped over a small rise and there was a vast expanse of open ground dotted with oak trees and rock outcroppings. We stopped near a rock which appeared to be about twenty feet tall and I said to Uncle Dudley, “I’m going to climb up to the top of this rock. From up there I will be able to see for quite a distance in every direction.” “You go ahead,” said Uncle Dudley, “I’ll keep searching from down here, who knows I just might stumble across something,” I walked around the rock, looking for the easiest way to the top. On the opposite side of the rock I found several good footholds and was just about to start my climb when I heard Uncle Dudley exclaim, “Uhmph!! #*&$+#!!!, dadburned rock, blast that stupid %#&*$ rock!!”  I quickly ran around to the other side of the rock where I found Uncle Dudley sprawled out in the dirt rubbing his right shin. “Are you alright?” I asked. “Yeah, I guess,” said Uncle Dudley, “I tripped over that blasted rock; I guess I wasn’t looking where I was going. I was looking up when I should have been looking down.” I knelt down to inspect the rock Uncle Dudley had tripped over and discovered there was a groove about two inches wide and ten inches long in the top of the rock. “Look here Uncle Dudley,” I said, “there’s a groove in this rock and it is not a natural formation, it’s been cut into the rock with some type of tool. As Uncle Dudley had not yet picked himself up off of the ground he crawled on all fours over to the rock and closely inspected the rock. “You’re right,” said Uncle Dudley, “I can see chisel marks on the sides of that groove, it’s definitely a man made notch.”  The rock was about ten inches tall and roughly round, well almost round, it was a little lopsided. Uncle Dudley lay down on the ground and sighted down the groove to the south. About seventy five yards out there was a rock pinnacle about a foot in height. Using the groove in the rock and the rock pinnacle, Uncle Dudley drew a fine bead on a large valley oak. “I think that’s the spot we’ve been looking for,” said Uncle Dudley, “see what you think.” I lay down on the ground, using the groove in the rock as a rear gun sight and using the rock pinnacle as a front sight I sighted in on a large oak tree about 200 yards away.  There was no doubt that the groove in the rock and the rock pinnacle lined up directly on the large oak tree. Uncle Dudley then began to run towards the large oak and I did my best to keep up with him. When we reached the rock pinnacle we stopped momentarily to observe that this pinnacle was not in a natural position. In fact it was not a pinnacle at all, but a round, flat rock about two feet in diameter which had been set on its side and half buried in the ground, which when looked on from the end appeared to be a pinnacle. We then quickly raced on to the large oak tree. Upon reaching the oak tree, Uncle Dudley unslung his metal detector, turned it on and began to sweep the ground around the base of the oak. Uncle Dudley began at the base of the oak and then moved out in ever widening circles. After reaching a distance of about thirty feet from the oak tree Uncle Dudley stopped, reached into his pocket and extracted a coin, throwing it on the ground. Uncle Dudley then moved the metal detector over the coin and it beeped loudly. “Yep, it’s working,” said Uncle Dudley, “I just don’t understand, I was sure this was the place.” Uncle Dudley then reversed his steps and began circling back in toward the base of the tree. Upon reaching the base of the oak tree and still not a single beep from the metal detector, Uncle Dudley leaned back up against the tree with a look of exasperation on his face and slid down until he was sitting on the ground with his back leaning against the oak. Just to be sure we had sighted in on the oak tree correctly, I returned to the rock with the notch cut into it and re-sighted, using the half buried, upright, flat rock. There was no mistake, by sighting along these two stones, the big oak tree was the only thing that could possibly be considered as the “target”. I thought, ‘Perhaps the oak tree was not there when the stone “Gun sight” was made.’  I quickly ruled out that possibility as the oak tree was easily 300 years old. Then I thought, ‘Maybe someone else had already found McKinney’s stashed loot.’ The map was very clear and this had to be the place where McKinney had hidden his stolen loot, so the only logical thing was that the hidden treasure had already been found. I started walking slowly back to the big oak tree when I saw Uncle Dudley suddenly jump up to his feet, turn and look up into the oak tree and then he started jumping up and down and hollering, “I found it, I found it!”  Just before I arrived back at the oak tree, Uncle Dudley picked up his metal detector and held it up to a hole in the trunk of the oak tree. The metal detector was beeping loudly as Uncle Dudley moved it around the outside of the hole. “There it is,” said Uncle Dudley, “right there inside of this tree. When we were looking down we should have been looking up.” 

The hole in that oak tree was about ten feet from the ground. The oak tree was too large around to be climbed and there were no low branches that could be reached from the ground. “If we had a rope,” I said, “we could throw it over one of those big branches and pull ourselves up to that hole.” “Sorry,” said Uncle Dudley, “I’m fresh out of rope. A man with a horse could stand in the saddle and easily reach that hole, but I’m fresh out of horses too.”  “Wait a minute,” I said, “why don’t you be my horse? You’re taller than I am, if you face the tree and brace yourself against it, I can climb up on your shoulders and reach that hole.”  “That just might work.” said Uncle Dudley as he turned, faced the tree, leaned in and braced himself against the trunk. I quickly kicked off my boots and climbed up onto Uncle Dudley’s shoulders. I gingerly reached into the hole and felt all around. All I could feel were damp oak leaves and lots of them. Apparently the leaves had fallen into the hole over the years and had accumulated quite a pile. Not only had the leaves found their way into the hole, but rain also had gotten in, leaving a large pile of wet oak leaves. I started pulling out the wet leaves by handfuls and dropping them to the ground. Uncle Dudley began to get a little fussy playing the horse, especially since I was taking so long and had dropped a couple of handfuls of damp leaves down his collar, entirely by accident mind you, well, almost entirely by accident as sometimes I allow my mischievous side to emerge. Anyway just as my platform began to wriggle more and more my hand felt something other than leaves. “Hold still,” I said, “I think I found something.” Uncle Dudley steadied himself as best as he could and I grasped what I had found and pulled on it. Whatever it was, was stuck pretty good. I gave it a mighty jerk, almost catapulting myself from my perch, and it came loose. As I pulled my hand out of the hole I saw that I was holding a pair of saddle bags. I quickly slid down Uncle Dudley’s back to the ground and laid the saddle bags flat out on the ground. Uncle Dudley and I stood there for a long moment just looking down at the saddle bags as Uncle Dudley pulled wet oak leaves out of his collar. “Looky there,” said Uncle Dudley, “someone has scratched the initials “J M” in the flap on the right side.” “Do you think that those initials stand for Jim McKinney?”, I asked. “I certainly do,” said Uncle Dudley, “we’ve found Jim McKinney’s hidden treasure.”  I knelt down and ran my hand over the leather saddle bags;, they were in remarkably good condition for their age. Uncle Dudley knelt down next to me, picked up the saddle bags and said, “They’re pretty heavy.”  Uncle Dudley then flipped back the flap on the left side and poured the contents onto the ground. I’d estimate that about a hundred and fifty to two hundred heavily corroded .45 caliber pistol cartridges poured out of the saddle bags onto the ground. “No wonder my metal detector was beeping so loud.”, said Uncle Dudley. Uncle Dudley then flipped back the flap on the right side of the saddle bags, let out a long low whistle and said, “Wow! Will you look at that!” I looked into the saddle bag and saw bundle after bundle of what appeared to be paper money.  As Uncle Dudley held the saddle bag open I reached in and took hold of the top bundle and to my surprise it crumbled in my hand and turned into just so much confetti. I was more careful with the next bundle and gently eased it from the saddle bag. It was the size and shape of paper money, but it was blank, no printing or coloring on the front or back, just blank, dollar sized pieces of paper with a brownish tint, that were extremely brittle. As I was examining the bundle it also crumbled and fell to the ground in small pieces.  I gingerly extracted the other bundles, twenty two in all, and laid them gently on the ground. Uncle Dudley tried to pick up one of the bundles; however, it just crumbled into a pile of tiny flakes. “I don’t understand,” I said, “I know that money is old, but it should have held up better than this. Look at the saddle bags, they are in pretty good shape and they’re just as old as the money.” “I think I know what happened,” said Uncle Dudley, “of course, not being a chemist, I’m just guessing.” Uncle Dudley just sat there in silence looking at the crumbling bundles of worthless paper. Finally I could not stand it any longer and asked, “Well, what do you think happened?” Uncle Dudley looked up at the oak tree and said, “That there oak tree is just loaded with tannic acid. Now tannic acid is real good for preserving leather, but it is also good as a stain remover. I can remember my old granny using it to remove wine stains from of her linen table cloth. Anyway I think that over the years the rain would get into that hole and mix with the oak leaves and rotting tree trunk and pick up that tannic acid, then it seeped into the paper money and bleached it out over the years. Year after year as it rained the rain would get into that hole and carry the tannic acid into the saddle bags where it saturated the money. The tannic acid caused a chemical reaction in the paper which caused it to age more rapidly and also made it so brittle that it would crumble at the slightest touch. Anyway that’s my best guess. What do you think?”  “Well, I guess that’s as good of an explanation as there is,” I said, “What are we going to do now?”  “I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take these cartridges home, pull the lead out of the casings, melt them down and make fishing sinkers out of them. That way this treasure hunt will not be a total loss.” said Uncle Dudley as he began to scoop up the .45 caliber cartridges and put them back into the saddle bags. “Let me have one of those,” I said, “I’ll keep it for a souvenir.” I stuck the cartridge in my pocket and then knelt down and began to run my hands through the pile of crumbling bundles which had at one time been McKinney’s stolen loot. “What are you doing?” asked Uncle Dudley. “I’m living my dream,” I said, “I had fantasized about running my hands through thousands of dollars and now I’m doing it; well, what’s left of it anyway.” As I stood up and gave the crumbling bundles a disgusted kick, a swirling gust of wind hit the pile of crumbled flakes and began to scattered them in every direction into unknown places. 

  

As we were walking back to Uncle Dudley’s pickup truck I said, “I’ve learned several things today.” “What’s that?”, asked Uncle Dudley. “Well, first off, I’ve learned not to count my chickens before they hatch.” “Yes, and?” asked Uncle Dudley. “Then I learned that when we were looking up, we should have been looking down and when we were looking down we should have been looking up. So, I’ve learned to always keep an open mind and to explore all of the possibilities.”  “Yes, anything else?” asked Uncle Dudley.” “Yep,” I responded, “I’ve learned you don’t make a very good horse and, oh yes, I’ve learned that a swarm of mad hornets can be a pretty good ally.”



*****



(66)








OFFICER DOWN



By

Mike Boudreaux



I had just finished an interview with a witness to a residential burglary, gotten into my unmarked detective vehicle and started the engine. I looked at the clock on the cash and saw that it was 4:00 P.M., just one hour left on my shift, then I could head for home. I reached for the microphone to advise the dispatcher that I was back in service when, before I could speak, a broadcast came over the radio, “All available units respond code three to Ave. 196 and Rd. 234, Strathmore regarding shots fired, officer down.” I acknowledged the call and advised the dispatcher I was in route to the given location. I turned on my siren and displayed my red light, which was generally kept out of sight, except for times like this. When I was about a mile away the sergeant at the command post advised me to take up a position on Rd. 234 and Ave. 194 which was south of the scene. Within minutes I arrived at Rd. 234 and Ave. 194, grabbed my bullet proof vest, a .45 caliber rifle and several clips of ammunition from my trunk. As I carried a .45 caliber, Colt, semi-automatic pistol, I had selected the .45 caliber rifle so that I only had to carry one caliber of ammunition; the ammunition clips for both firearms were interchangeable. I then met with Sergeant Brodey who apprised me and other deputies, who had arrived at this location, of the situation. Two of our patrol deputies had gone to the home of Ronald McClain to serve a felony warrant. The deputies had parked their patrol vehicle and were approaching the McClain residence on foot, when McClain stepped out on his porch and without warning fired two shots at the deputies with a high powered rifle. One of the deputies had been struck in the upper chest and was gravely wounded, but managed to gain cover and was communicating with his hand held radio. The other deputy had returned to the patrol vehicle and had backed away to a safe position. The wounded officer was in a safe position, but anyone trying to approach his location was in a direct line of fire from the McClain residence. After firing at the deputies, McClain had retreated back into the inside of his residence and had not come out, however, several shots had periodically been fired from inside of the residence. The McClain residence was about half way between Ave, 194 and Ave. 196 on the west side of Rd. 234. There were no houses on the east side of Rd. 234 as the Friant / Kern Canal ran from north to south on the east side of the road.


Ronald McClain was a familiar figure to any deputy who had spent any time at all on patrol. Deputies were constantly being dispatched to the McClain residence on a variety of complaints from his neighbors. McClain was a heavy drinker and often, when intoxicated, fired shots from the front of his residence into the canal bank across the street from his residence. McClain did not get along well with any of his neighbors and they often called the sheriff’s office to report some type of disturbance concerning McClain. McClain had been arrested numerous times and seldom did he go peacefully, which required responding officers to forcefully arrest him after a scuffle.


Sergeant Brodey assigned Deputy John Word and me to take up a position on the Friant / Kern Canal directly east of the McClain residence. In this location the canal ran through a low land area and was built up with a high berm on both sides. Deputy Word and I were able to get into position by walking along the inside of the berm, above the flowing canal; it enabled us to remain out of sight of the McClain residence. Deputy Word and I took up a position on the canal bank directly east of the McClain residence. We were about fifteen feet apart, laying on our bellies with only our heads peering over the bank.


Up until this point I had not had time to pray, everything was happening so fast. I remember that while in route to the scene I had started a prayer, but radio calls from the command center and from the dispatcher had interrupted my prayers and I had not gotten back to praying. As there was now a quiet moment, I took advantage of it and prayed for the safety of all of the officers involved and especially for the downed officer. I also prayed for Ronald McClain, asking that he have a moment of rationality and that he would have the wisdom to give up peacefully before anyone else was hurt.


The command center would occasionally contact the downed officer by radio to see how he was doing. The downed officer would respond, but with each response his voice was getting weaker and weaker. An ambulance was standing by, but the paramedics were unable to get to the downed officer as they would have been exposed to possible rifle fire from the McClain residence. By listening to the radio traffic I could tell that something was about to happen. I could see members of the S.W.A.T. team maneuvering into position and were at the ready.


Occasionally there would be the sound of one or two rifle shots coming from the McClain residence. After each volley of fire the command center would contact each officer at the scene to make sure they were all okay. On one of these occasions, as Deputy Word and myself were peering over the canal bank, a cloud of dust and dirt sprayed into the air as a rifle bullet struck the top of the canal bank about three feet from Deputy Word's position. This was way too close and it caused Deputy Word and me to keep our heads down and only take quick glances over the top of the canal bank. On one of these glances I saw movement at the McClain residence. McClain had emerged from the front door and was crawling on his belly toward a van which was parked in the dirt driveway at his residence. McClain was not one for keeping his yard mowed and the lawn, if one wanted to refer to it as that, was about a foot to eighteen inches of tall weeds. I could see McClain crawling through the tall weeds towards the van. I contacted the command center and advised of my observations. Lieutenant Dorman, who was the area commander, immediately came on the air and asked, “Do you have a positive identification of the suspect?” I responded, “Yes, I can see him plainly, he's crawling towards the van in the driveway.” “Does anyone else have the suspect in sight?”, asked Lt. Dorman. The radio was silent for a moment and then Deputy Word said, “I can see him too, it's McClain and he has a rifle with him.” Lt. Dorman responded, “If you have a clear shot, take him out!”


Those words echoed within my head, becoming increasingly louder and louder until I had to shake my head to stop the almost unbelievable statement. 'Did I hear right?' I thought, 'Did the lieutenant just say what I thought he said?' I looked over to Deputy Word and found he was looking back at me with the same questioning look in his eyes. Without saying a word, we both turned our attention to the McClain residence and sighted down our rifles. 'Can I do this,' I thought. 'Am I able to take a man's life?' I quickly thought of the regulations governing the use of deadly force, 'To save my own life or to save the life of others.' I did not feel, at that particular moment, that my life was in danger. Yes, McClain had fired in my direction, but he was not aiming his rifle at me right now, I did not feel threatened by McClain's actions. Then I thought of the downed officer. 'How long could he hold on?' I knew that the sooner the wounded officer could get medical attention, the better were his chances of survival. I asked the Lord to give me wisdom and to guide my actions. No sooner had I prayed this short prayer than my attention was drawn to movement near the van parked in McClain's driveway. I saw McClain stand up and point his rifle over the hood of the van. I knew the location of every officer who was participating in this detail. In my opinion he was aiming his rifle in the direction of several of the members of the S.W.A.T. team. I quickly keyed my radio and said, “Everyone keep your head down we will be firing from the east of McClain's residence.”


I held my aim directly on McClain and fired. At the very same instance I heard Deputy Word fire his rifle. McClain lunged to his left side and spun around, disappearing out of my view in the front of the van. 'Did I hit him?', I thought. I was sure that I had heard the distinct sound of a bullet striking flesh. I had heard that “Thud” before when I had been hunting and my bullet had found it's mark. I thought, 'Did my bullet find it's mark in this case? Or was it Deputy Word's bullet? Or did either of us hit McClain?' I could not say for sure, however, I was only about sixty yards from McClain and I had brought deer down at over a hundred yards.


It seemed like an eternity since I had seen McClain disappear from my sight and then I heard the command center ask over the radio, “Is the suspect down?” I came back on the radio and said, “Unknown, he disappeared from our sight in front of the van.” A few seconds later the command post issued a warning over the radio, “Everyone hold your fire, no one is to fire unless expressly told to do so.” Within seconds I saw that the S.W.A.T. team was advancing on McClain's position. The S.W.A.T. team moved quickly and I heard a volley of shots. The shots came quickly and so close together that I was unable to count the number of shots fired. Seconds later all was quiet, I saw the S.W.A.T. team members move cautiously closer to the front of the van with weapons drawn and pointing downward to what I supposed to be McClain's position. The team members were intense in their purpose, then one of the team members stooped down and shortly stood back up. I then saw all of the S.W.A.T. members take relaxed stances and holster their weapons. I knew it was over and that McClain was dead. I then heard the sergeant of the S.W.A.T. team come on the radio and say, “Code four, suspect D.O.A., no officers injured.” This is police jargon meaning, situation is stable, the suspect is dead and no one else was injured. Shortly the area commander came on the radio and said, “All personnel stand down and report to the command center.” As Deputy Word and I stood up and began moving toward the command center I saw an ambulance, which had been standing by, move quickly to the downed officer's position and paramedics exit the ambulance and approach the wounded officer. Just as Deputy Word and I reached the command center I heard the siren of the ambulance blare as the ambulance sped away with the wounded officer.


A quick debriefing was held at the command center after which the lieutenant asked for all officers who had fired their weapons in this detail to remain at the scene and all other officers were dismissed with the exception of a few officers to maintain security at the scene.


Violent crime detectives were assigned to investigate this incident and began to question the officers who had fired their weapons. Det. Wallace sat down with me and asked if I thought I had hit McClain when I fired my weapon. I related to him that I had been about sixty yards away when I fired my rifle and I felt my aim was sure. I told him that McClain was standing with his right side toward me and that after firing I had heard what I thought to be a bullet striking flesh and I had seen McClain jerk to his left and spin around as if he had been struck by a bullet. I stated that Deputy Word, who was just to my left at the time, had fired at the very same instance that I had fired and I could not be sure if it were my bullet or Deputy Word's bullet which had struck McClain, or if either of our bullets had hit him. I advised that McClain's jerking to his left and spinning could have been a reaction to a bullet striking near him to which he took evasive action. Det. Wallace looked directly into my eyes and asked, “Can you positively say that you hit McClain when you fired your rifle?” “No,” I responded, “I can not say positively that I hit McClain.” “Okay,” said Det. Wallace, “we will have to seize your rifle. It will be returned to you on completion of this investigation.” After turning over my rifle to Det. Wallace I was dismissed.


I later learned that McClain had been hit by nine bullets, five of which were considered to be fatal wounds. Four of the bullets which had struck McCain had passed through his body and had not been recovered. Of the five bullets recovered from his body, four were 9mm rounds and one was a .45 caliber round. The S.W.A.T. team members carried mostly 9mm hand guns or 9 mm light sub-machine guns, however, some carried .45 caliber weapons. I was never told if the .45 caliber bullet recovered from McClain's body matched up with my rifle, and truthfully, I prefer not to know.


The wounded officer recovered from his wound and returned to duty after a lengthy stay in the hospital and additional recovery time at home. The bullet which had struck the officer had first struck his badge, was slightly deflected and then passed through his bullet proof vest before entering his body. The doctors in attendance related that if the bullet had not been deflected and slowed down by the vest, the officer would have been instantly killed. It should be noted that a bullet proof vest is designed to protect the wearer from most handgun ammunition, it is not designed to stop high powered rifle ammunition.



*****



(67)










THE RIDE



By

Mike Boudreaux



I was the last of my squadron to take off from the tiny airfield in southern France. I climbed to a cruising altitude of about 1500 feet joining the rest of the squadron. I was scouring the ground below for enemy activity when suddenly the Red Baron swooped down on me from out of the sun with machine guns blazing. I saw bullet holes suddenly appear in the fuselage of my Sopwith Camel. I pulled back hard on the stick and shoved the throttle hard forward as I rolled to the left. I felt myself being pressed back into my seat by the centrifugal force and felt the blood rush from my head making me a little woozy. Suddenly smoke boiled from the engine and seconds later flames began to lick the windshield from the engine cowling. I unfastened my seat belt and quickly stepped out on the wing. I gripped the rip cord on my parachute and just before I jumped from the wing I furiously shook my fist at the Red Baron as he peeled off and pursued another plane in my squadron.

I then hastily jumped behind the wheel of a Marmon Model 32 and pressed hard on the accelerator. I felt the wind whipping around my face as I sped down the straight-away. As the curve ahead drew closer, I down shifted, slowing as I entered the curve. I waited until I was half way through the curve before I again jammed the accelerator to the floor. I felt the surge of the powerful engine as the torque slid the racer’s rear tires to the right. I had to turn the wheel hard to the right to keep the racer straight on the track. I had successfully negotiated the curve and was speeding down the straight-away when a glance in my rear view mirror showed that a Stutz-Bearcat was gaining on me. Before I knew it the Stutz was pulling up beside me, I glanced over to see the driver of the Stutz glaring back at me with a sinister grin on his face. Suddenly the Stutz turned into me and its left front tire clipped my right rear wheel. I fought hard to keep control of my racer, but I lost the battle and my Marmon Model 32 began to spin violently eventually smashing into the guard rail right in front of the grandstand. I jumped out of the racer just seconds before it burst into flames.

I spied a saddled horse standing alone which seemed to be beckoning to me, approaching the horse I took the reins in my hand, slid one foot into a stirrup and quickly swung into the saddle. I spurred the horse and whipped the reins against its flanks. The horse surged forward and I had to grip hard with my knees in order to stay in the saddle. The horse was soon at full gallop and as I looked back over my shoulder I saw a band of marauding Indians approaching rapidly. An arrow streaked by my shoulder, so close it cut the fabric of my sleeve and then another whizzed by my head. I placed the reins in my teeth as I pulled matching .45 Colt Peace Makers from the holsters on my hips. Turning in the saddle I began to fire over my shoulder at the whooping renegades. I continued to fire upon the war party until both pistols were empty. Returning the empty pistols to their holsters I grabbed my Winchester lever action rifle from its scabbard. I spit the reins from my teeth, giving the horse its head, as I spurred it on. I then I swung my leg over the saddle horn and spun around in the saddle, riding backwards I now faced my approaching adversaries. Taking careful aim, I began to pick off the warriors one by one. I knew the Pony Express way station was just over the hill, all I had to do was ride hard and keep from being struck by an arrow before I reached the safety of the station. The horse seemed to know where it was going and appeared just as anxious to get away from the attacking Indians as I was. As I reached the way station I hastily dismounted and dove through the open door, slamming it behind me.  


In less than a minute after the alarm sounded, I was in my turn-out gear and sliding down the brass pole to the garage below the living quarters at the fire station. I quickly jumped into the driver’s seat and started the engine. The other firemen quickly took their places on the fire engine as we waited for what seemed to be an eternity for the garage door to raise high enough for the engine to pass safely underneath. As we waited the dispatcher provided the address where the fire was reported. As it turned out the address was not necessary, for when we pulled away from the station I could see the red glow of the fire against the night sky. With siren blaring and red lights flashing I maneuvered the big engine down the narrow streets towards the engulfed structure. Cars and trucks scurried to get out of the way so the fire engine could safely pass. Negotiating the corners with that big engine at high speeds was a real challenge, taking all of the skill I could muster. We were drawing closer to the fire and the night sky was now glowing bright red from horizon to horizon. I pulled the engine as close as I dared to the burning structure. Along with the other fire fighters we dismounted the engine and began our well rehearsed duties of rolling out hoses, setting up ladders and hooking up to the nearest fire hydrant.


And then it was over . . . . all too quickly as far as I was concerned. This was by far the best merry-go-round ride I had ever taken. As soon as the carrousel came to a stop I jumped off and headed for the exit. I then dashed to the ticket booth to get another ticket to ride again. The ride was over so quickly I did not have a chance to ride the speed boat or the rocket ship. I could hardly wait to go again.



*****



(68)





THE STRANGER


By
Mike Boudreaux


It was approaching mid day and the sun was beating down hard on the little village. Despite the heat the woman knew she had to get water for the household. The community well was located just a short distance from the village, but on a hot day like this the journey would not be a pleasant one; especially on the return trip when she would be carrying a full water jug. Nevertheless the trip had to be made. She would have liked to have gone earlier when it was cooler, however, that’s when most of the women from the village went to the well and she did not want to have to confront any of the other women. She preferred going when the possibility of an encounter with any of the other women was least likely. She had come to despise even the thought of passing another woman on the street, she knew the other women did not like her and, because of her life style, she was ostracized. She was an attractive woman and also brazen, she thought nothing of attending the gathering of the village elders at the gate to the village and entering into their conversations. She spoke her mind plainly and the men did listen to her words; this was another reason the other women did not like her. Other than the gathering at the village gate, she spent most of her time alone until her husband returned home from the fields. Well, he really was not her husband, but they lived together in the same house and they shared a bed, perhaps one day they would marry.

She had led a very difficult life up to this point, mostly because she was orphaned when only eleven years old. She was an only child and as far as she knew she had no relatives. So at a young age she was forced to fend for herself. She was not skilled at any trade nor was she good at cooking, sewing or cleaning. She spent her early years gleaning the fields and what she did not eat, she sold in order to buy other necessities. She married at fifteen, but due to her youth and the youth of her husband the marriage did not last. Shortly after her divorce she married again, her new husband was a soldier and it was not long after their marriage that she learned he was killed in battle. She married again, this time it was to a much older man who had two other wives, and again this marriage did not last long. After only a few months her elderly husband passed away and she found herself once again on the street with no where to live. It was out of necessity that she married again, as she had no other way of surviving. Her new husband fell sick shortly after the wedding and lived only a short time before he also died. As was the custom of the time, her deceased husband’s brother took her for a wife, as it was the law of the land that he do so. She did not get along with this man and it was mutually decided that they would divorce. She lived alone and existed as best that she could on the meager divorce settlement, however, that was soon gone and she again looked for yet another husband to support her. That is when she met the man she was living with now, they were compatible and she felt that she could love this man in time, but she was reluctant to marry him. She felt that as long as he would support her there was no need of an official marriage. Due to her having so many past husbands and was not married to the man she was now living with, the other women in the village snubbed her and choose not to associate with her. The fact that she was not accepted made her a bitter woman. 

She reluctantly picked up the water jug and stepped out into the bright sun light, she had not gone far when she wished she had worn cooler garments. She thought of returning to her house and changing, but decided against it and continued on her trip to the well. As she approached the well she saw a man sitting on the wall of the well. ‘Who is this man?’, she thought, the men of the village were either working in the fields, tending their flocks or busying themselves with their various trades. Perhaps this man was ill and had gone to the well to refresh himself. As she drew nearer to the well she saw that she did not recognize this man, he was not from her village. It was apparent that this man was not even from this part of the country, but was a stranger from another country. She could tell by his appearance that he was Jewish and wondered why he was in Samaria as the Jews did not associate with the Samaritans.

The woman approached the well on the opposite side of where the man was sitting. She did not look at the man as she unwound the cord which was wrapped around the water jug and lowered it into the well. When she drew the water jug from the well the man said, “Give me a drink of your water.” The woman was astonished and a little taken back that this Jewish man had spoken to her, a Samaritan. The woman asked the man, “Why do you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman, for you Jews have nothing to do with us?”  The stranger looked into the woman’s eyes and said, “If you only knew of the gift of God which is available to you and if you knew who it was that said to you, ‘Give me a drink of your water’, you would have asked him to give you a drink of living water and he would have given it to you.”  The woman looked at the stranger and said, “Sir, I see that you have nothing with which to draw the water out of this well, and it is deep, where are you going to get this ‘living water’?  Are you greater than our ancestor, Jacob, who gave us this well and he himself has drank from it, as did his children and his cattle?”  The stranger stood to his feet and gestured with his hand towards the well, as he said, “Who ever drinks the water from this well will become thirsty again; but who ever drinks of the water that I give, will never thirst again, and the water I give to him shall be like a fountain of water, bubbling up from within, into everlasting life.”  The woman took a step closer to the stranger and said, “Sir, give me this living water, so that I shall not thirst again and will not have to return here to draw water.” The stranger said to the woman, “Go get your husband and come back here.” The woman answered him, saying, “I do not have a husband.” The stranger said to the woman, You have spoken the truth by saying that you do not have a husband, for you have had five husbands and the man you are living with now is not your husband.”  The woman was shocked and raised her hand to cover her mouth as she gasped. She looked intently into the stranger’s eyes as she said, “Sir, you speak like one who is able to discern the secrets of the heart, you are surely a prophet.” The woman thought to herself, ‘As I am standing here before this prophet I shall ask him a question, which he being a prophet, can surely answer.’ Pointing to near by mount Gerizim the woman said, “Our forefathers have worshipped at this mountain, it being a sacred place, but you, being a Jew, say that Jerusalem is the place that men ought to worship; which is the true place of worship?”  The stranger looked into the woman’s face and with a gentle, but authoritative voice said, “Woman, believe me when I tell you that the time is coming when you shall not worship at this mountain, nor will you worship the Father in Jerusalem. For you do not know what you worship, some of you worship fire and another will worship a bird or some graven image. It does not matter where you worship, it is what you worship that matters. We, being Jews, know what we worship, for the promise of salvation is to the Jewish people. But the time is coming, and in fact now is, that true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth for the Father seeks after such to worship him.” The stranger paused, looked deeply into the woman’s eyes and said, “God is a Spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” The woman became defensive, for here was a man who was telling her that her worship was to no avail. ‘Who is this man?’, thought the woman, as she said, somewhat indignantly, to the stranger, “I know that the Messiah, who is called Christ, is coming and when he gets here he will tell us all things.” The stranger said, “I, to whom you are speaking, am the one you are speaking of.”  The woman looked at the stranger and thought, ‘Is this man truly the Messiah? Surely he must be, as he told me things that only the Christ would know.’ As the woman contemplated what the stranger had said to her, a group of men approached the well. The woman watched as the group approached and she was able to tell that these men and the stranger she was talking with knew one another. She could tell by the looks on the men’s faces that they were wondering why the stranger was talking with a woman, but they did not question the stranger’s actions or his motives.

The woman, without saying a word, left her water pot at the well and hastily returned to the village where she went directly to the gate where the elders were gathered together.  The woman ran up to the gathering of elders and being out of breath it took a moment to compose herself before she could speak. The elders could tell that the woman was excited about something and patiently waited until she could speak. After a moment the woman said, “Come with me, come to the well, there is a stranger there that you must see.” The elders looked at one another and finally one stood to his feet and asked, “Why should we go to see this man, who is he that is so important that we should leave the shade of these walls and venture out into the heat of the day?” The woman responded, “When I went to get water at the well this man asked me for some of my water and then he told me that he could give me living water. He was not talking about water from a well, but I’m sure he was speaking about a spiritual, life giving refreshment that springs up from within and insures of everlasting life. Then he told me of everything that I have ever done and spoke of things which have led me to believe that he is truly the Messiah.” Several of the elders sprang to their feet at the mention of the Messiah and one said, “Let us go to the well and see this stranger who this woman says is the Christ.”  The elders had heard the woman speak in the past and trusted her words, so that many of them believed what the woman had said, nevertheless, the elders decided to go to the well to see this man.

Upon the elders arrival at the well the stranger was speaking to his traveling companions and the elders heard him say, “As food refreshes and strengthens the body so it is for me to do the will of my Father and to complete the work He has sent me to do.” The stranger upon seeing the approaching elders gestured with his hand toward them and said, “Don’t say that there are yet four months until it is time for the harvest, for look upon the fields they are more than ready for harvest and he who works at reaping the harvest shall receive his wages and shall also store up fruit toward eternal life. And not only will the one who reaps rejoice over the harvest, but the one who has sown the seed shall also rejoice. This makes the saying true that one will sow while another reaps. I have sent you to reap where you did not toil, other men toiled before you and you entered into their labor to complete the harvest; both the sower and the reaper shall benefit from the harvest.”

The stranger turned and spoke to the elders while his companions mingled among them, sharing the gospel and expounding upon what they had witnessed of their companion. The elders were so intrigued by the words of the stranger that they pleaded with him and his companions to stay with them for a while so that they could learn more about his teachings. The stranger and his companions consented to stay for two days, all the while they were in the village they continued to teach and preach the gospel to the villagers.

The woman had persuaded the man she was living with to go and hear the words of the stranger, telling him that she believed this man to be the Christ because he had told her of everything she had ever done. Her companion agreed to go to see this man and afterwards he told her that he now also believed that this man was indeed the Christ. He told her that it was not because of what she had told him about the stranger, but he believed because of the words of the stranger. Not only did the woman’s living companion tell her that he believed the stranger to be the Christ, but many of the elders and other villagers also told her that they believed the stranger to be the Christ and the Savior of the world. They had told her that it was not only because of her testimony, but because of the words that the stranger had spoken.

It was now several weeks since the stranger had left the village and the woman could see a change in her village. The villagers were kinder towards one another and many gathered in small groups to discuss the teachings of the stranger. The other women of the village were friendly towards the woman and often visited with her at her house and also when they drew water from the well. Many of the women had agreed to help the woman with food and preparations for her up coming wedding. And most importantly the woman could see a change in herself, she felt a love towards the villagers and a special love for her soon to be husband. The woman enjoyed gathering together with some the other villagers as they talked about the things that the stranger had taught them. The villagers were anxious to hear the words of the stranger and all believed that this stranger was surely the Messiah. She felt that the bubbling water the stranger had offered her was springing up from within her. Although the man was a stranger when he came to her village the woman had learned that his companions called him Jesus and he was no stranger in her heart.

[John 4:1-43]


***** 

(69)






BLACK FRIDAY


By
Mike Boudreaux


I had never been to a Black Friday sale before, however, after my wife convinced me that I should take advantage of a very low price on a 50 inch flat screen television that was on sale at Wal-Mart, I thought I would give it a try. Actually instead of being on a Friday this sale began at 6:00 PM on a Thursday. It is my understanding that the Black Friday sales were started by the retail merchants to illustrate the point at which shops and stores start to make a profit, or go "into the black" and also to start off the Christmas shopping season. I do not know why Wal-Mart was not waiting until Friday to start their sale, my only guess is that they wanted to jump the gun and get an early start on the other merchants. After all, if the other shoppers were anything like me, they only had a certain amount to spend, so the first merchant to get the money is ahead of the game, the other merchants would have to take what was left, that is if there was anything left. Anyway my wife said that she would watch the grandchildren while my eldest son, his wife and I went to Wal-Mart to take advantage of the low prices and of course I was to get a 50 inch flat screen TV.

I was not in the mood for shopping as we had just finished eating a large Thanksgiving meal and, as always, I over ate, going back for seconds and then thirds. All I really wanted to do was lie down somewhere and digest the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, ambrosia, sweet potatoes, green salad, pecan pie, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and two scoops of ice cream. But that was not to be, my wife insisted I go to get the 50 inch flat screen TV.

We arrived at 5:30 PM, a half hour before the doors opened, to find a line that zig-zagged through a rout designated by yellow caution tape for about a block. The line reminded me of the line for one of the main attractions at Disneyland. As the line zig-zagged through it’s designated course we got to meet a lot of people who were also anxious to take advantage of the low sales prices. I must say that these were some of the friendliest people I have met in some time; we were all strangers, yet we all laughed and joked with one another as we moved through the line and I even heard some Christmas carols being sung somewhere up ahead in the line. A kindly little grandmother was showing photographs of her grandchildren to a person standing next to her, when she glanced over and noted that I was looking at her grandchildren’s pictures. This sweet little grandmother turned to me and showing me her pictures, introduced me to her grandchildren. This kindly little grandmother told me their ages, schooling, how wonderful each was and told what she planned on buying each one for Christmas. Behind me in line was a mother and her daughter, the daughter appeared to me to be about 10 years old. To put it politely, both were more than a little over weight, but they had bubbling personalities and spoke excitedly about what they planned on buying once they got into Wal-mart. The ten year old girl was very shy, turning her head into her mother’s bosom and averting her eyes when speaking, but she did tell me she wanted to buy a Barbie doll, a hula hoop and a make-up kit.
Then, right at the stroke of 6:00 PM, the doors opened and the line began to rapidly move forward. I got caught up in the excitement of the moment and pressed forward with the others in line. I soon discovered that I not only was caught up in the excitement, but was also caught up in the line. I was being pushed and shoved from every direction. As we approached the door the line seemed to speed up and I thought that if I could work myself over to the wall I would wait it out until the excitement and the line subsided. It was then that I discovered that I had no choice in the direction or speed I was going, it was like being caught in a surging river or a rip tide, there was no choice of direction, I was forced to go with the flow. I felt that if I were to trip that I would surely be trampled to death. The shy little ten year old girl was shoving me from behind with all of her 160 pounds and was assisted by her 350 pound mother. Their bubbling personalities had been replaced by outward aggression and vicious snarls. As the line exploded into the interior of the store people began to scatter in all directions, it reminded me of a covey of quail exploding from their roosting place when approached by a hunter. I managed to move over toward a shopping cart and just as I reached for the handle, the shy little ten year old girl, ducked under my arm and came up between me and the cart. She grabbed the cart’s handle and sped off, I suppose in the direction of the Barbie dolls and Hula hoops. Her mother waddled along behind her and as I watched them disappear into the crowd I shuddered as I thought what could have happened to me if I had tripped with these two behind me. I decided that I could move about easier in the store if I did not have to push a cart around. The decision was an easy one to make as apparently the shy little ten year old girl had taken the last available cart.  
I was there to get a 50 inch flat screen TV, so I headed for the electronics department. On arrival I saw a wall of flat screen televisions which ranged in sizes from 20 inch to 70 inch. They had three 50 inch televisions left on the shelf proudly displaying a price tag of $498.00. Being that I was unable to locate a sales person to help me, I called my wife on my cell phone and advised that the price for the 50 inch flat screen TV was $498.00. She advised that in the advertising paper she had, they were listed as selling for $218.00. I told her that possibly all of the TVs selling for that price had already been sold. After ending my call with my wife I thought that I might as well make my way to the front door and wait for my son and daughter-in-law to finish their shopping. As I hung up I spotted a sales person and made my way over to him asking about the 50 inch flat screens advertised for $218.00. He advised that they were in the housewares department and gave me directions. When I asked the sales person why televisions were in housewares all he did was shrug his shoulders.

I made my way toward housewares, all the while being jostled along by my fellow shoppers. I had never seen Wal-Mart, or any other store, so crowded. It was impossible to walk along at a leisurely pace, if you did not walk at the pace the crowd was moving you would get pushed from behind or shoved aside so that the crowd could pass. At least the aisles were self disciplined as far as walking to the right side of an aisle and allowing the left side for shoppers moving in the opposite direction. I was moving along at a pretty good pace when I noticed a female shopper in the left side of the aisle who had stopped her cart and was examining some item on the shelf. I continued to move forward as there was plenty of room to pass by, but just then I noticed a fully loaded cart stacked so high I was unable to see the person who was pushing it, start to move around the stopped cart. The highly packed cart moved from the left side of the aisle into the right side without slowing down. I felt like I was driving on a two lane highway with a stalled eighteen wheeler in the opposite lane and another eighteen wheeler coming into my lane in order to pass the stalled rig. I didn’t have anywhere to go, the shelves on my right blocked me from moving in that direction and the stopped cart on my left blocked my escape in that direction. I tried to stop to allow the loaded cart to pass, however with the crowd pushing from behind me I could not even slow down. The crash was inevitable, I braced myself for the impact and then, POW, the cart collided with me. In the collision one of the items from the top of the loaded cart fell to the floor. Fortunately the crowd behind me had observed the collision and had stopped their pushing from behind or else I surely would have been crushed between the approaching cart and the pushing crowd. I reached down picking up the item which had fallen from the cart and when I stood up my eyes met with the eyes of the operator of the highly stacked cart. It was the kindly little grandmother who had shown me pictures of her grandchildren while we waited in the line outside. I smiled at the kindly grandmother who snarled back at me as she snatched the item from my hand and demanded, “Give me that and get out of my way!” The lady who had been examining an item from the shelf realized that she was the root cause of this collision so she quickly replaced the item to the shelf and moved on. This gave the kindly little grandmother a chance to pull her cart back into the left side of the aisle and proceed on her way. I called after her, “I hope you got everything you wanted for your grandchildren.”  Without even turning around to face me the kindly little grandmother flipped me off over her shoulder. As the traffic jam was now relieved the crowd again began to push from behind and I moved along with the crowd in search of housewares.

Finally I found housewares and noted that there was a line of people moving along slowly around a corner and down an aisle lined with pots and pans. I moved to the front of the line where I saw a Wal-Mart employee standing at the front of the line and handing out some sort of tickets. I asked what it was that she was doing and was told that she was passing out tickets for the low priced 50 inch flat screen televisions, first come first serve. I quickly returned to the end of the line where I took my place and moved along toward the Wal-Mart employee who was handing out the tickets for the 50 inch flat screen TVs. The line moved slowly forward and I found myself becoming anxious, hoping that by the time I reached the head of the line that there would still be some tickets left. As I turned the corner and headed down the aisle with the pots and pans I counted the people in front of me and then estimated the amount of tickets the store employee still held in her hand. As the line moved along I continued to count the people ahead of me and then re-estimate the remaining tickets . . . . this was going to be close. 

As I got closer to the store employee who was passing out the tickets I saw she had four tickets left in her hand and there were three people in front of me, I sighed a big sigh of relief. Finally I stood before the store employee who held out the last ticket to me and said, “This is your lucky day, this is the last ticket.” As I reached out for the ticket I heard moans of disappointment coming from those in line behind me and saw two other hands also reach for the last remaining ticket. When I saw the other hands reach for the ticket I quickly snatched it from the store employee’s hand. I held the ticket close to my chest protecting it from the snatching hands just as a running back would protect the football from the opposite team. I looked at the other two people who had reached for the ticket and found that one of them was the shy little ten year old girl and the other was her mother. When the shy little ten year old saw that I had the ticket, a look of sorrow spread over her face and her mother said in a voice loud enough for all of those in the immediate area to hear, “It’s okay Marsha, let the stingy old man have the TV, we’ll have to save and sacrifice from our food allowance to pay full price for another TV.”  I felt so bad that I had gotten the ticket ahead of of this poor shy little ten year old and that she would have to sacrifice from her food money. I looked at the ticket in my hand and then looked at the sad face on the shy little ten year old girl. I thought to myself, ‘I should give her the ticket.’  I slowly stretched out my hand offering the ticket to the shy little ten year old girl, she reached out for the ticket and just before she grabbed it, I snatched it back and said, “You can use a little less food.” and quickly turned and walked away. As I headed towards the check out counter with my ticket in hand I thought to myself, ‘Good Golly! I have turned into one of them.’  I thought that I should turn around, go back and find the shy little ten year old girl and give her the ticket and then I remembered the shopping cart incident and said out loud in gruff voice, “No way!” Those around me who heard my remark must of thought I said, ‘Get out of the way’, for they gave me a wide birth allowing me to advance a little closer to the check out counter.

The check out line was by far the longest and slowest line of the night. All of those ahead of me had a basket full of merchandise and each item had to be checked out by the cashier. As I stood in line patiently waiting I heard a familiar voice, “Poppy, Poppy, come on up here.” I looked about fifteen people up towards the front of the line and saw my daughter-in-law beckoning for me to come up where she was. I stepped out of line and advanced towards the front of the line. As as I did so each person in line ahead of me gave me the “Just who do you think you are” look. I stuffed the ticket into my pants pocket and raised my hands showing that they were empty. This somewhat appeased those standing in line as I passed them by. If they had known I had the ticket in my possession I’m sure I would have met with some physical opposition. As I stepped into the line with my daughter-in-law, my son also joined us from the other direction, having gone to get a forgotten item. My son and daughter-in-law allowed me to go in front of them and acted as a buffer as I extracted the ticket from my pocket and presented it to the cashier. The cashier rang me up, handed the ticket back to me along with the receipt and instructed me to go outside and around behind the store where I could collect my 50 inch flat screen TV by presenting the ticket and the receipt to the warehouse workers. I made arrangements with my son to meet me at the rear of the store with his vehicle and I then headed outside to the rear of the store. When I turned the corner at the rear of the store I encountered yet another line of customers who were redeeming their merchandise. 

I stepped into the rear of the line and began to slowly advance towards the warehouse door. As I stood in line I dared not look around in case I should encounter the kindly little grandmother, the shy little ten year old girl or her mother. I stared directly ahead and did not speak to anyone until I finally reached the front of the line and handed my receipt and ticket to the warehouse worker.  The worker disappeared into the warehouse and within a few minutes emerged with a box measuring approx. five feet long, three feet tall and six inches wide. The worker was carrying it on a dolly which gave me some concern, as I had no idea how I was going to carry a box that he had to use a dolly to move. The worker set the box at my feet, marked my receipt as delivered and as he handed it back to me he said, “Have a nice day.” “I think it’s a little late for that.” I replied.

I took this huge box and began to drag it to where my son and daughter-in-law were waiting with their vehicle. I had not gone but a few paces when a voice asked, “Can I help you with that?” I turned to see a young man in his early twenties pointing to the box. “Sure,” I said, “I need to get it over there to my son’s car.”  “You lead the way.” said the young man as he picked up the back end of the box. I then picked up the front of the box and headed towards my son’s car as the young man followed along behind carrying his end of the box.  When we reached my son’s vehicle the young man helped to load the large box into my son’s vehicle. I reached for my wallet extracting a few bills and held them out toward the young man. The young man said, “You don’t owe me anything, I’m glad I could help”, and with that the young man smiled and walked away. The young man had restored my faith in humanity and I called after him, “Thanks again, God bless you!” The young man looked back over his shoulder, smiled and waved before he disappeared into the crowd.

Well, that was my first, and my last, Black Friday shopping experience. And as far as it being called Black Friday, I think it is because that is the color the shoppers hearts turn when they open the doors . . . . either that or it’s the color that the bruises turn on the following day.


*****
(70)





HOW CLOSE?

By
Mike Boudreaux


I have two grandsons which, for the lack of a better term, I am “baby sitting” while they attend Cuesta College, one is eighteen years old and the other is twenty. Actually, what is transpiring is that we have rented a condo in Pismo Beach, California, which is about fifteen miles from the college they attend. We provide them with housing and cook for them so they will not live off of nothing but hamburgers, pizza or some other fast food. We have few rules other than we want them to be home by mid-night on a school night and no partying at the condo.

One Friday afternoon I happened to overhear them talking about attending a beach party later in the evening. Later I asked them if they had any plans for the evening. They advised that there was going to be a bon fire on the beach where several of their classmates were going to be in attendance. I asked them if there was going to be any drinking or drugs at this gathering. They responded by saying they were sure that there was going to be some beer drinking and possibly some marijuana use. They both assured me that although there might be drinking and smoking going on that they were not going to indulge in either. They said that they just planned on attending the party and possibly meeting some girls, but assured me that they were not going to drink or smoke.

I was not pleased that they planned on attending the beach party, even with their assurance that they were not going to indulge in drinking or smoking. I knew that there was little I could do or say that would change their minds about going to the beach party. I could forbid them from leaving the condo, to which they would comply, but I knew this would just create hostilities and next time they would not be so free with their conversations. I felt it could possibly lead to secrecy, conspiracy and even out right lying about any future plans.
As I was cooking dinner I let their remarks roll around in my head, I could see them standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow students who were smoking marijuana and drinking beer. I knew there would be those who would tempt them to indulge and I also knew that peer pressure was a mighty strong force to have to overcome. Whereas, I knew that if they did not go to this party the temptation would not be present. While I was cooking I whispered a prayer asking God to give me the words to say that would persuade my grandsons to not attend the beach party.

During dinner I remembered a story which I had heard many years ago when I was just a teenager and I felt that perhaps the telling of this story would dissuade my grandsons from attending the beach party. I waited for a quiet moment during dinner and then said, “I want to tell you a little story and then I want you to tell me what you think.” My grandsons agreed to give me their opinions of the tale and I began to unwind my story:   There was once an owner of a logging company who was wanting to hire a driver for one of his logging trucks. There were three applicants who wanted the job and interviews with the prospective drivers were set up. The first prospective driver came into the owner’s office and the owner said, “We operate mostly on narrow mountain roads where there is often a sheer cliff on one side of the road and a steep mountain on the other side. Just how close to the edge of the cliff could you drive without going over the edge?” The prospect said, “Well, I have been driving for over twenty years and I believe that I could drive that rig within two inches of the edge and not go over the edge.” The owner thanked the prospect and told him he would let him know if he decided to hire him. The next prospective driver came into the owner’s office and the owner related the same circumstances and asked the same question, wanting to know how close he could drive to the edge without going over. The second prospect said, “I’m a very experienced driver and have been driving for over twenty five years. I could hang one tire of a set of duals off the edge and still not go over the edge.” The owner thanked the prospect and advised that he would let him know if he decided to hire him. The next prospective driver came into the owner’s office and the owner related the same circumstances asking him how close he could drive to the edge without going over. The prospective driver said, “Well, sir, I don’t think we will ever know, because I’m going to stay as far away from the edge of that road as I can get without running into the mountain.”

I then looked at my grandsons and asked, “Who do you think the owner hired to drive his logging truck?” Both boys agreed that the owner would hire the driver who would stay as far away from the edge of the cliff as possible. “Exactly!” I said as I continued with my meal and the conversation went on to other things.

After dinner I was cleaning up in the kitchen when my grandsons came down from their upstairs bedroom, they were dressed nicely in preparation for an evening out. They came into the kitchen and said they were leaving for the evening, promising that they would not be late. I said, “Okay boys, I’m trusting you to behave and not get into any trouble.” They assured me that they would be fine as they walked out the door. I stepped out onto the porch and asked, Do you remember the story I told you about the truck drivers?” The boys advised that they remembered the story. I then asked, “How close to sin do you think you can get without going over?” Without giving them a chance to respond, I stepped back into the condo and closed the door. A few minutes later I heard their car start and drive away.
Later on in the evening, around 11:00 PM, I was watching television when my grandsons came home and were talking excitedly as they came into the condo. “You’re home early.” I said, “How was the beach party?” “I don’t know,” said the oldest, “we decided to go to the movies instead.” “Yeah,” said the youngest, “we thought that would be far enough away from the edge to keep us on the road.”

“Thank you, Jesus.” I whispered.


*****

                                                                            (71)




                                                               THE INTRUDER         

                                                                                                                     By 
                                                                                                       Mike Boudreaux   
 
 
I received a radio call at 0930 hours advising of an intruder, there now. The address, 32 Bruin Lane, was in a rural, heavily wooded area. I arrived at the residence ten minutes later and was greeted at the front door by Mamma Bear who advised that she had made some porridge for breakfast, but had microwaved it too long and it was way too hot to eat. Mamma Bear said that she left the porridge in bowls on the kitchen table to cool as she, her husband, Papa bear, and her son, Baby bear, went for a walk while the porridge cooled. She said that when they returned they found the front door was standing open and when they entered their residence they found that someone had sampled her porridge and also sampled Papa Bear’s porridge had eaten all of Baby Bear’s porridge. Mamma Bear related that in checking their residence further, they found that someone had sat in Papa Bear’s chair in the living room and had also sat in her chair and that Baby Bear’s chair was smashed and lying in pieces on the floor. Papa Bear stated that he went upstairs and found that someone had mussed up his bed and that someone had mussed up Mamma Bear’s bed and when he checked Baby Bear’s room he found that the intruder was asleep in Baby Bear’s bed. Mamma Bear advised that the intruder was still in an upstairs, rear bedroom. I eased up the stairway and down the hallway to the rear bedroom. I carefully opened the door and spotted blond hair protruding from beneath a blanket. Standing at the foot of the bed, with gun in hand, I gently pulled the blanket down exposing the intruder, who was still sleeping. I could see both of her hands and noted that apparently she was not armed. I nudged her shoulder and she awoke with a start. “Don’t move!”, I commanded, “Roll over face down and place both hands behind your back.” She complied without saying a word and I placed her in handcuffs. I assisted her in standing and turned her to face me. She appeared to be around eight years old, well dressed and had long blond hair. “What’s your name?”, I asked. “Goldie,” she answered, “Goldie Locks.” “Why did you break into this cottage?”, I asked. “I didn’t break in,” she responded, “the door was open when I got here.” “What are you doing here?”, I asked. “I went for a walk in the woods and got lost,” Goldie said, “then I came upon this cottage. I knocked at the front door and it swung open. I called out, but no one answered so I went in. I found three bowls of porridge on the kitchen table and being hungry I decided to eat some of the porridge, the first bowl was too hot and the second bowl was too cold, but the third bowl was just right and and tasted so good that I ate it all. Then, being tired, I went into the living room where I found three rocking chairs. I sat in the first chair, but it was too tall, so I sat in another chair and it was too short, and then I tried the third chair and found it was just right. As I was rocking in the chair it broke all to pieces. As I was sleepy I then went upstairs looking for a place to take a nap. I tried the first bed and it was too hard, so I tried another bed and it was too soft and I then tried a third bed I found it was just right, so I crawled in and went to sleep. The next thing I know you woke me up and put handcuffs on me.”  “Well, little lady,” I said, “you are under arrest and I am taking you down to the station for further questioning by detectives.” “Why,” she asked, “what did I do?” “I’m booking you on charges of unlawful entry, destruction of property and consuming food without paying.” I answered. “But, I’m not a bad girl,” Goldie said, “I’ve just made some bad decisions.”  “Oh yeah, who can vouch for you?” I asked. “Red can vouch for me.” She answered. “Red who?” I asked. “Red Ridinghood.” She responded.  “Ha! That’s a laugh.” I said, “You can share a cell with her when we get to the station.” “What!”, Goldie exclaimed, “Red is in jail?” “Yep.”, I answered, “I booked her last night.” “On what charges?” asked Goldie. “She is suspected of conspiring with a huntsman in the murder of Big Bad Wolf.” I replied. “Oh dear!” Goldie exclaimed, “I guess you could call Jack.” “If you’re talking about Jack, Jill’s brother, he is in a coma from a falling down a hill while in the process of stealing a pail of water.” “Oh, that’s too bad,” said Goldie, “but I’m referring to Jack Beanstalk.” “Jack Beanstalk is in jail also.” I said. “Why is Jack in jail?” asked Goldie. “For stealing a golden harp from the giant.” I answered. “Well then,” said Goldie, “You can call Snow White, Snow will vouch for me.” “Well, little lady,” I said, “it appears that all of your friends are known criminals. Snow is presently serving time for human trafficking. She enslaved seven dwarves, forcing them to work in the mines while she took over their home.” Goldie turned to face me and looked at me intently with her big blues eyes as a smirk crept across her face she said, “I am so glad that this is just a fairy tale or I would be in a lot of trouble.”  And they all lived happily ever after.

                                                 *****



(72)







JAIRUS


                                                                                                             by
                                                                                                                 Mike Boudreaux     
 

 
Jairus rose from his breakfast and donned his priestly robes. His wife, Adina, said, “Oh, must you go to the synagogue today? Ketura, is so sick, I fear she might die.” Jairus took his wife by the shoulders and looked into her eyes as he said, “I am not going to the synagogue today, I am going to look for the man many of the people call Teacher and Healer, some even say he is the Messiah. This man has performed miracles and has healed many people.” “Do you think he will be able to heal Ketura?” Adina asked. “Yes, Adina, I truly believe that this man can heal our daughter. I have read and re-read the scriptures, trying to find something that would prove this man to be an imposter, however, what I have found is that he has fulfilled many of the words of the prophets.” “But, aren’t the elders trying to discredit this man? What will they do when they learn you have gone to him to ask him to heal our daughter?” asked Adina. “I do not care what they think.” answered Jairus. “But, they will surely be displeased,” said Adina, “they will at the very least remove you from the priesthood and they might even stone you.” “I will gladly give my life so that our daughter can live.” said Jairus. “At least do not wear your robes and wear something over your head so no one will recognize you.” pleaded Adina. “I do not go to him in secret, I go to him boldly because I know he can heal Ketura.” said Jairus. Jairus bid his wife goodbye and left his house in search of the healer.
 
Jairus began his desperate search of the streets of Capernaum and it was not long before he saw a large crowd of people thronging around a man. Jairus had seen this man before and knew he was the one the people referred to as the Healer. Jairus’ heart began to race as he ran towards the man, here was his hope, here was his daughter’s life standing before him. Jairus forced his way through the crowd that had pressed in around the man and fell at his feet, saying, “Sir, I beg of you, please come with me to my house where my daughter is lying gravely ill. She is only twelve years old and is my only daughter. If you will come with me and lay your hand upon her, she will be made well.”  Jairus knelt before this man, looked up into his eyes and anxiously awaited the man’s response. “I am Jesus of Nazareth,” said Jesus, “I will come with you.” Jairus felt relief swell up within him, he knew that Jesus would heal his daughter. In his mind’s eye he could see his daughter standing before him totally healed. 
 
They began to make their way through the crowd as they headed toward Jairus’ house when suddenly Jesus stopped in the street, turning around he asked, “Who touched me?”  Jairus thought this to be a strange question as there was such a throng of people surrounding Jesus, that there were several people touching him. Peter, one of Jesus’ followers, must have had the same thought for he asked, “Look at this crowd Master, how is it possible to tell which have touched you?” “Someone has touched me, for I have felt virtue flow out from me.” said Jesus, as he looked over the crowd. Jesus’ eyes fell upon a woman who stood trembling before him. When the woman saw that Jesus was looking at her she fell at his feet and confessed to him that it was she who had touched him and she explained to him how she had suffered from an issue of blood for twelve years, yet she knew, beyond any doubt, that if she could but touch his clothes that she would be healed. The woman went on to say how as soon as she had touched the hem of his garment that she had been instantly healed. As Jairus heard this woman speak he became even more confident that this man, Jesus, could heal his daughter. Jesus then said to the woman, “Go in peace, Daughter, it is your faith that has made you well.”
 
Jairus and Jesus, along with three of Jesus’ companions, continued toward Jairus’ house when one of Jairus’ servants approached the group. As the servant reached Jairus he said, “There is no need to bother this man any further, your daughter is dead.” The words were like a blow to Jairus and they almost knocked him from his feet. Jesus reached out and touched Jairus on the shoulder as he said, “Do not fear, only believe and your daughter will be made whole.” Jesus’ words encouraged Jairus and he remembered how the woman had said she had no doubt and how Jesus had told her it was because of her faith that she was healed. The words Jesus spoke to Jairus were not the same words he had spoken to the woman, but they had the same meaning. Jairus had witnessed how the woman was healed by her faith and within himself he knew he had that same kind of faith in Jesus healing his daughter.
 
As they reached Jairus’ house they encountered a group of people in the court yard, consisting of family members, servants and neighbors, who had gathered together to mourn the death of Jairus’ daughter. Jesus looked upon the group of people and said, “Do not weep, for the child is not dead, she is only sleeping.” The crowd began to mock what Jesus had said, for they had seen Jairus’ daughter and knew that she was dead. The group of mourners laughed at Jesus and ridiculed him over what they thought to be a foolish statement. Jesus, not wanting the doubt and unbelief of the group to influence Jairus, quickly ushered them out of the courtyard, allowing only his companions, Peter, James and John, and the parents of the young girl to go into the house with him.
 
Jesus then entered into the room where the young girl was lying, walked over to her and taking her by the hand said, “Damsel, I say unto you arise.” Jairus’ daughter immediately stood to her feet and it was evident that she was healed and made whole. Jesus then instructed Jairus and his wife that they should get her something to eat. Jairus was amazed at how quickly his daughter was healed, saying, “I knew that my daughter would be healed, but I thought that it would take a period of time for the healing to completely manifest. Thank you, Master, thank you for Ketura’s life. Jesus beckoned to his companions indicating that they would be leaving and as they reached the door, Jesus turned to Jairus and said, “Let this that has happened here not be noised about, but keep it to yourself.” Jesus and his companions then left Jairus’ residence.
 
After they had gone, Adina was the first to speak, turning to Jairus she asked, “Why do you suppose he did not want us to talk about his having healed our daughter? It seems as though he would have wanted his ability to heal the sick to be made known.” “I think there are several reasons he would not want it made public.” said Jairus. “Why is that?” asked Adina. “Well,” answered Jairus, “if you would have seen the way the people pressed in upon him and thronged about him just to be near him, to be able to touch him. The man could hardly walk down the street. I’m sure he has things he must do and the way the people pressed in upon him surely hindered him from doing his business. Even I staid him from his journey. If we told of how he has healed Ketura his fame would spread and even more of the people would throng about him.” “You said there were several reasons.” said Adina. “Yes,” continued Jairus “I think he was also thinking of us.”  “Thinking of us?” queried Adina. “Yes,” said Jairus, “If we made it known how he healed Ketura then we also would have been plagued for a time with people pressing in upon us, asking questions and prodding and poking Ketura, just as they now press in about him.” “I see,” said Adina, “is there another reason?” “I believe so,” said Jairus, “I believe that he has an even more important message to convey other than he is capable of healing.” “And what is that?” asked Adina. “I believe he would much rather the people to hear the message that they should repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” answered Jairus. “That is more important?” asked Adina. “Yes,” answered Jairus, “much more important. You see, even a sick person can enter into heaven if they repent of their sins and believe in God and his Messiah. But, a person who is healthy and does not believe will not enter into heaven, even if they were to make many sacrifices.” “Then we shall do as he has said and not make it known, but instead tell the people to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 


    
                                           ***** 









                                                                                                                    (73)






                                     
                                       THE LETTER
 
                                                                                                                     by
                                                                                                       Mike Boudreaux
 
 
 
I was in a dilemma, what should I do or more importantly, how should I say it? I knew what I had to do, I had to break off a relationship. Her name was Diane and through most of my senior year in high school I had dated her exclusively. We had never mentioned going steady, but that is what we were doing. From our first date neither of us had dated anyone else. We got along famously, we enjoyed each other’s company and I could talk with her for hours on any subject. I was a senior and she was a junior, I was on the football team and she was a cheerleader. And then the inevitable happened – I graduated.
 
Previously I had lived in California with my parents and the only reason I was in Texas was that my grandfather had died and my grandmother, having never learned to drive, needed a chauffeur. So, early in my junior year, I moved to Texas and became my grandmother’s chauffeur. My grandmother was a school teacher and when my grandfather died she had two years left before she could retire. When I graduated my grandmother had completed the time necessary for her to retire. My parents had come to Texas for my graduation and after graduation I was moving back to California to live with my parents and my grandmother was moving to California as well.
 
The last week I was in Texas I spent as much time as I could with Diane. I was helping with packing and shipping my grandmother’s belongings to California, but every spare moment I had was spent with Diane. On our last night together we barely spoke, we just held each other and there were long sighs and tears. Before we parted I promised to write often and told her that I would come back to Texas for her graduation and that I would make every effort to come back to visit as often as I could.
 
My trip back to California was a difficult one for I knew with each passing minute I was getting further and further away from Diane. I felt that surely I would not be able to survive our separation. I consoled myself by making plans to return to Texas as soon as I could.
 
After returning to California I kept my promise and wrote two or three times a week and Diane would write just as often. After about a month I got a job at the bowling alley and my hours were from 6PM until 2AM. When I got home I was always exhausted and would go straight to bed. I would sleep until noon and then get up to do my chores around the house until it was time to go back to work. I found that due to this schedule my letter writing fell off dramatically. Instead of writing two to three times a week, it became once a week, then once every other week and then once a month. And in a like manner Diane’s letters were few and far between. Also, our first letters to one another were two to three pages, filled with the expressions of our love for each other and now the letters were barely half a page and there was little mention, if any, of our burning love. The old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder is not true, it is more like the old adage, out of sight out of mind. Our love for one another had grown cold and in my case had gone completely out. It was not that I did not think of Diane and remember her fondly, but it was that I did not think of her as often as I once had. When I first returned to California Diane occupied my mind every moment and now I found that I was thinking of her less and less and as of late not at all.
 
It did not help that there were lots of pretty young girls who came to the bowling alley, I found myself flirting with them and eventually began to date several of them. At first I felt guilty that I was cheating on Diane, but that did not last long. Soon I found that instead of dating several of the girls, that I was dating one exclusively. That is when I came to the realization that I had to write Diane, explain the situation and break off our relationship.
 
I had written several letters to Diane and found that what I had written did not quite express what I wanted to say. The letters were crumpled and filled my waste basket to overflowing. I just could not get the right words on paper. I did not want to hurt Diane, I had to let her down easy. That was my dilemma; what words could I write that would explain the situation and yet not break her heart? I thought that possibly I would take a road trip to Texas and express my feelings to her in person. That idea sounded good, but was not very feasible, the old clunker I had bought was great to go back and forth to work and to pick up my dates, but it would never make a trip to Texas; and then there was the fact that I had not saved enough money to make such a trip. So here I was crumpling letter after letter and tossing them into the waste basket.
 
I could picture Diane receiving my letter with excitement and anticipation and then opening it to find the words which would devastate her. I could see her throwing herself onto her bed and burying her face into her pillow, soaking it with tears. I did not want to hurt Diane, but knew that I would have to. I dreaded to receive the response to my letter, I just knew it would be filled with questions and she would plead with me to reconsider. How would I answer her response to my ‘Dear Jane’ letter. Not only did I have to write a letter explaining the situation, but I knew I had to start planning my answer to her response. 
 
Finally, I managed to get just the right words on paper. I read and re-read my letter and was well satisfied that it would explain everything to her and it was worded just right so that the impact would not completely devastate her, but instead, would let her down easy. I actually had more trouble addressing the envelope than I did writing the letter. I even had trouble placing the stamp on the envelope and then there was the long, painful walk to the mailbox. I really did not want to mail this letter, but knew that I must. My hesitancy was the cause for me to have just missed the mailman. As I approached the mailbox the mailman was just pulling away. I was relieved that my letter was not on it’s way to Diane, but knew that it must be mailed on the next day.
 
On checking the mail I found a letter from Diane in the mailbox. I thought it was strange to receive a letter from her as I had just received a letter from her a little over a week ago and I had not yet answered it. I opened the letter and read it, it was short and to the point. Diane’s letter was almost word for word like the letter I had written to her. It was a ‘Dear John’ letter, she was breaking off our relationship, she had found another and things were getting serious between them.
 
I re-read Diane’s letter, I could not believe she was breaking off our relationship. How could she do this to me? What had happened to our burning love? Didn’t she have any compassion, didn’t she know that the words in her letter would devastate me? And then I began to laugh, I was not devastated, I was elated. I thought of how funny it would have been if I had not procrastinated and had mailed my letter a few days earlier making our letters to have crossed in the mail. I still held my letter to Diane in my hand with Diane’s ‘Dear John’ letter in my other hand; I knew how difficult it was to write these letters and I knew that the writers of each would go on to lead separate, but productive lives.
 
                                                                                                                                                         *****

(74)



THE WARNING

by
Mike Boudreaux
 
 
The state trooper was parked along the interstate with radar gun in hand. As traffic approached he would aim his radar gun at a car and read the speed it was travelling. The radar gun was a good tool and would accurately indicate the exact speed of a vehicle. The trooper was so seasoned that he really did not need the radar gun, he would see an approaching vehicle and be able to determine its speed without using the radar gun. He only used the radar gun to confirm his estimate and to be able to testify in court, if necessary, that the driver was indeed speeding. It seems that the court system would accept the reading of the radar gun, but would balk at an estimate by the seasoned officer. Human error would always be cited and the speeder was given the benefit of the doubt and often was found not guilty. However, when the officer would testify that his radar gun indicated the driver was driving at a speed above the speed limit, there was never an argument and the speeder would be found guilty.
 
As the officer sat in the shade of a tree watching the traffic come and go he saw an approaching vehicle which he knew was exceeding the speed limit and estimated the vehicle was travelling at 70 miles per hour. He raised his radar gun and took a reading, sure enough the radar gun indicated the vehicle was going 70 MPH, 15 miles an hour above the speed limit. He allowed the vehicle to pass and, when it was safe to do so, he made a U-turn and pursued the vehicle. It did not take long to catch up with the vehicle and he turned on his flashing red and blue lights. As soon as he had turned on his flashing lights the vehicle slowed and pulled over to the side of the road. The officer radioed his location and the license number of the vehicle before he exited his patrol car.
 
As the officer approached the driver’s side of the vehicle he noted that the driver was lowering her window. The driver was a very attractive woman with long blond hair and flashing green eyes. A warm smile spread across her face as she spoke.
 
“Hello officer. Did I do something wrong.” 
 
“Good afternoon ma’am. Yes ma’am, you were speeding. May I see your drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance?”
 
“Certainly officer, I’ll get it.”
 
The woman began to fumble around in her purse and in the glove box, finding the necessary documents she handed them to the officer. The woman cocked her head, smiled even bigger and moved a wisp of blond hair behind her left ear as she asked:
 
“Do you people ever give warnings?”
 
“Oh, yes ma’am, we certainly do. In fact you have pulled over right beside one.”
 
As the officer said this he stopped filling in the spaces on the citation and pointed with his pen at a sign posted right beside the road. The woman looked in the direction the officer was pointing and saw a white rectangular sign with large black letters which read, ‘Speed Limit 55 MPH’.
 
“We post them all along the highway so drivers will know how fast they can drive, and if that is not enough we also publish a booklet which you can get free of charge at any Department of Motor Vehicles, where you get you drivers license; the booklet plainly tells you the rules of the road. Sign here please.”
 
The woman complied and signed the citation which the officer held toward her through the open window. The officer tore off the woman’s copy of the citation and handed it to her.
 
“Thank you ma’am, have a nice day and obey the rules of the road so you will get where you are going.”
 
The officer tipped his hat, smiled and walked back to his patrol car. The woman sat there beside the road for a few minutes as she watched the officer drive away. She then neatly folded the citation, opened the glove box and placed it inside, right on top of a stack of citations she had previously received. The woman sighed knowing that when she appeared before the judge that he was not going to be lenient. The judge had warned her the last time she was before him that future violations would result in stern action.
 
 
How much are we like this woman? We hop in our car and start off on the road of life. We have our copy of rules of the road, (The Bible), and when we first start out we are very careful to do just as it says. But after we have travelled a while we discover that we can take “short cuts” by going a little faster, not coming to a complete stop or not yielding when we should. All along the way God posts warning signs to remind us of how we should drive, yet we choose to ignore these warnings and go on our merry way. We have our destination in mind and we want to reach it safely, however, in order to do that we have to obey the rules of the road and heed the warning signs. We might be able to get by with an occasional violation, especially if, when we realize that we have transgressed, we will repent, asking forgiveness. However, repeated and intentional violations are sure to result in stern action from the Judge.
 
Have a nice day, obey the rules of the road and heed the warning signs so you will get where you are going.



***** 

(75)


MORE OF UNCLE DUDLEY

by
Mike Boudreaux
 
 
Well, Folks, it’s been a while since I have related anything about my Uncle Dudley, so I reckon it is about time to elaborate on some of my Uncle Dudley’s adventures. My Uncle Dudley is a very humble man, matter of fact he has told me many times that he is most likely the most humble man in this country and possibly an few other countries as well. To be right truthful Uncle Dudley would be ever so proud to spend hours telling you all about just how he managed to achieve such a high level of humility.
 
Uncle Dudley is very proficient at many things and has held many different jobs over the years. Uncle Dudley did his level best to be the very best at whatsoever he did. However, there are a few things that Uncle Dudley has attempted that he found was just not his cup of tea. For instance he once tried his hand at being a tailor, but found he was not suited for the position as he didn’t quite measure up, mostly because he was too much of a cut up, which kept his customers on pins and needles. And then he tried switching to being a banker, but he lost interest on account of he couldn’t make the change. Uncle Dudley spread his wings and tried his hand at being a airline pilot, but found that his fellow crew members had airs and he considered them too flighty, so he bailed out of that job. 
 
Perhaps one of Uncle Dudley’s more interesting occupations was when he was the Indian agent on the Mowtellsics Indian Reservation. While there he experienced many exciting adventures. On one occasion while Uncle Dudley was touring the reservation, making his regular inspection, he noticed that all of the Indian braves were running along the mountain ridges. He thought this somewhat strange, so he went to Chief Growling Bear and asked why the braves were running along the ridges. Growling Bear said, “Me notice braves not in good shape, so me make braves run along ridges to get into shape.” As Uncle Dudley and Growling Bear were watching the braves, Uncle Dudley noticed that one of the braves was running deep down into the valley instead of running along the ridge top with the other braves. Uncle Dudley turned to Growling Bear and asked, “Why is that one brave running deep down into the valley instead of running on the ridge top with the other braves?” Growling Bear turned to Uncle Dudley and said, “That Still Waters, everyone knows Still Waters run deep.”
 
As Uncle Dudley continued making his inspection of the reservation, with Chief Growling Bear, an Indian brave came up to him and said, “Your horse dead.” Uncle Dudley turned and looked at his horse, finding it to be strong and healthy. The brave then said, “You standing on snake.” Uncle Dudley quickly jumped back, but there was no snake in sight. The brave then pointed to Uncle Dudley’s pants and said, “Your pants on fire.” Uncle Dudley quickly checked his pants and there was no sign of them being on fire. All of this time Growling Bear just stood there and said nothing. Uncle Dudley drew the chief aside and asked, “Why does that Indian brave tell all of those lies and why do you allow it?” Growling Bear said, “That Sleeping Dogs, he not right in head, if we try to stop him from lying he get very upset, throw big tantrum, so it has become our custom to let Sleeping Dogs lie.”
 
Well, as you can see Uncle Dudley has led a very exciting life and he has every right to be boisterous and brag, yet he remains ever so humble.
 
 
*****

(76)

BABE
 
by
Mike Boudreaux
 
 
I was a little nervous walking up to the door. I knew that I would be spending a lot of time with the one I would be meeting. Would we be compatible? Would we even like each other? I had a lot of questions and hoped that the answers would be positive. I stood at the front door, wanting to knock, but was hesitant because I was not sure what those answers would be. I raised my hand and was just about to knock when I heard a female voice say, “Hey, we’re out in the back yard. Come on around this way.” I looked in the direction of the voice and saw a rather attractive woman in her late twenties to early thirties, dressed in short shorts and a man’s long sleeved shirt tied by the tails around her slender waste. She was beckoning for me to follow her and turned around the corner of the house. By the time I reached the corner, the woman had made it to the rear of the house, turning slightly, she beckoned again and said, “This way.”, and then she passed through an open gate leading into the back yard.  As I stepped through the gate I saw her, her back was towards me so I had a chance to look her over without her knowing. The first thing that struck me were her legs, they were long and shapely, well suited to her body. Her body was magnificent, a body that she could be proud of. It was easy to see that she did not just lay around all day, but exercised to stay in shape. Sensing my presence she turned toward me and gave me a long searching stare. She slowly approached me and we exchanged glances without speaking. I could see that she was very curious about me, ‘She is really looking me over’, I thought to myself. I stood motionless, letting her get familiar with me on her terms. She moved in really close to me and our bodies touched, it was evident that she had done this purposely and that she expected a reaction from me. I pressed against her and she pressed back. I then reached out and placed my hand on her shoulder, she did not move away and I could tell she liked me touching her. I moved my hand to her back and slowly caressed her, moving my hand down along her back until I reached her hip. With my hand on her hip I pressed firmly, but gently, gripping her with my finger tips, I felt her muscles tighten. It was evident that she liked it and she pressed her body hard against me. It was plain to see she liked me and I liked her as well, I was beginning to get excited about our relationship. I know it was a bold move, but I reached out and placed my hands on each side of her face and turned her face to mine, I held her gently as we looked into each other’s eyes. She had big, beautiful brown eyes, she closed them and moved her face close to mine, our noses touched and she gave me a quick, wet kiss with more tongue than I expected. I pulled her body in against mine, giving her a warm hug to let her know I approved of her show of affection. With my hand still on her back I pulled her close to me as I dropped to one knee. For the first time she appeared a little hesitant, but with a low moan she dropped to the ground in front of me and rolled onto her back. I placed my hand on her flat belly and stroked it rapidly. Her legs gyrated, begging me for more. I could feel her body quiver beneath my touch and I knew that it would be no time at all that I would have her eating out of the palm my hand.
 
“You two seem to be getting along really well.”, said the woman who had beckoned me into the back yard. “She is a magnificent animal”, I said. “Her name is Babe,” said the woman, “well, really it is Morgan Hills Beautiful Baby, at least that is what it says on her papers, but I call her Babe. She came from the Morgan Hills Kennel and has a pedigree a mile long.” “She is beautiful", I said, “I have never seen a bloodhound with better lines.” 
 
And that is how I met Babe. The woman had been involved in a nasty divorce and she ended up with custody of the family dog. She did not really want the dog, but she was not about to let her ex-husband have her. She knew that her ex-husband really wanted her and she was not about to give him anything. She had contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Office asking if they would be interested in Babe as a tracking dog, free for the taking. Orange County advised her that they were not interested, but if it was okay with her, they would put out an information bulletin to the other sheriff’s departments informing them about the dog. One of those information bulletins ended up on the desk of the Tulare County Sheriff and after a few telephone calls I found myself on my way to Orange County to pick up the dog.
 
When I got Babe she was almost two years old, well, I say I, but Babe was the property of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office and I was her handler. I was the resident deputy in California Hot Springs at the time and Babe lived at my residence. I trained her to track human scent as she was to be used on search and rescue missions, and tracking lost persons or fleeing criminals. Babe was an eager learner and served the county well for several years.

 
*****

(77)


UNDERCOVER

by
Mike Boudreaux
 
 
I began working for the Tulare County Sheriff’s office in 1969. For the first four years I was assigned as a patrol deputy in the Porterville area. I then transferred to California Hot Springs where I was the resident deputy for fifteen years. I then decided that it was time for a change and transferred into the detective division at the Porterville Sheriff’s Sub Station. Shortly after being assigned to the detective division I was contacted by my lieutenant who asked if I would be interested in doing some undercover work. The position was voluntary, however, he advised that I was perfect for the job, because I had the experience, was good with people and had spent so many years assigned in the mountains that I would be a new face and would likely not be recognized as a deputy. The undercover assignment would be mainly in the north end of the county where I had spent very little time during my career, which was another plus for not being recognized. The assignment was not to start for three weeks and I was told to let my hair grow and to not shave. At the end of the three week period I was looking pretty scraggly. The undercover detail was a joint operation with the Visalia Police Department. Each department provided one officer to work the detail, I was to work with a partner who had just been hired by the Visalia Police Department. My partner was a veteran officer from a police department in another county, so like myself he would be a new face.
 
The first thing we did was to assume new identities, I became Charles Wooster, (Chuck), who had recently been dishonorably discharged from the Navy. My Partner became Rudolfo Mendoza, (Rudy), a petty thief and hustler who had recently moved to this area from out of state. We were sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento where we obtained drivers licenses bearing those names and our photos. Our cover was that we were business partners doing business as C & R Sales. We even had business cards printed which we passed out to all takers. We let it be known that we bought and sold just about anything, but specialized in electronics such as televisions, stereos, computers, etc. etc.  We also let it be known that we did not mind buying stolen property and that all of the property which we were selling was stolen.
 
We had an older model Ford van in which we installed a hidden video camera with a pinhole lens and microphones in several locations. The camera was activated when the side door was slid open, or it could be manually activated by a hidden switch. The camera was directed so as to film anything that was framed by the open side door. Whenever we had contact with anyone the incident was recorded, cataloged and filed. We had cell phones, which we kept off and out of sight in case we needed to make contact with our superiors. We also had a pager which was kept on silent and would vibrate if there was anyone who wanted to contact us. We would then check the number on the pager and call it for instructions or assignments.   
 
We filled our van with a variety of “stolen property”, mostly televisions, car stereos and computer equipment. These items were not actually stolen, but were obtained from the evidence room as unclaimed property or it was donated for the cause by department stores such as Sears, J C Penneys, Circuit City, etc, etc.
 
In order to establish our identities we went to the Fresno Police Department and had our mug shots taken. These mug shots were distributed among the Tulare County deputies and the Visalia Police Department officers, who were unaware that we were working an undercover detail, and were told that we were not wanted, but were persons of interest and to keep a watch out and report any contact. They were also instructed to show these mug shots around to people on the street, asking if they had seen these people. There were only a handful of officers who knew of this undercover detail, mostly high ranking officers or detectives, the majority of the street cops were unaware that we were working undercover.  One other thing that was done, was that we were arrested. Now I can truthfully say that Mike Boudreaux has never been arrested, however, I can not say that I have never been arrested. I was arrested twice, once by the Visalia Police Department and once by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office under the name of Charles Wooster. We were arrested and thrown into pre-detention holding cells where we hobnobbed with other people who had been arrested and were facing charges. After spending about six hours in the holding cells, the charges against us were dropped and we were released.
 
We were sent to Fresno County and Kern County to meet with undercover officers who were running a similar operation and we would spend the day with them observing how they ran their undercover operation so we could get a feel for how to work undercover.  
 
The original “sting” was that we would offer to sell “stolen property” at far below market prices. In our transaction we had to work into the conversation that the items we were selling were “hot”, that they had been stolen previously and we were wanting to get some cash for them. We had to make sure they acknowledged in some way that they were aware that the item was stolen. The acknowledgement did not necessarily have to be verbal, it could be a gesture or a nod of the head as long as it was recorded in our video of the transaction. The transaction had to be recorded and it must show them receiving the item and exchanging money or something of value for it. The idea behind the undercover operation was to curtail the increasing market for stolen property, making it more difficult for the thief to profit from their ill gotten gains. Not only was the thief targeted, but also the one who was buying the stolen property.
 
The Visalia Police Department had secured an old warehouse on the outskirts of the city which was surrounded by an eight foot chain link fence with a locked gate and had several large buildings on the grounds with large drive in doors. We kept our undercover van inside one of the buildings at this location. We would drive older unmarked vehicles to and from work each day, drive into the building, park, get into the van and head out on the street to do “business”.
 
Ever so often the department would release a news item to the local media telling of a burglary of a local merchant where a large amount of cigarettes were stolen and the next day we would be on the streets selling cartons of cigarettes. The cigarettes had actually been purchased at cost and were sold way under market value, the proceeds going back into our budget so other “stolen” items could be purchased. Of course we lost money, but we were gaining customers and our reputations were spreading. The news item would not always be about cigarettes, sometimes it was stereos or computers. Whatever it was, the next day we would be out on the streets selling that item.
 
As this undercover operation was to run for several months we could not make an arrest after the transaction had taken place or our cover would have been blown. So, after each transaction we would note the details of the incident, write a report and refer the report along with the video cassette tape to the District Attorney’s Office for review. The District Attorney’s Office would review the case and if it were determined that there was sufficient evidence for charges to be filed an arrest warrant would be issued for the individual and it would be kept on file at the D.A.’s Office until the end of the undercover operation at which time all of the warrants would be served at once.   
 
Now that I have provided the basics as to how this undercover operation was set up; next month I will tell of some of the individual incidents that occurred during this “sting” operation. 



*****



(78)

UNDERCOVER

(Sequel One)
By
Mike Boudreaux


After receiving our training and making all the necessary preparations we were anxious to begin our undercover operation. We were a bit apprehensive, but still we were eager to get out on the streets and begin. Our first assignment was a low income apartment complex, which had about 100 apartments, located just off of Mooney Blvd. on Walnut Ave. in Visalia, known as “Sin City”. I think the actual name of the apartments was The Walnut Apartments, but I am not sure, they since been torn down and have been replaced by a large shopping complex. These apartments were well deserving of their nick name, as a variety of crimes frequently occurred there. Officers responded to “Sin City” on a daily basis to answer such calls for service as family disputes, thefts, drug sales, fights, prostitution, auto theft and burglary, just to name a few. At about 9:00 AM we drove into the complex and parked our van. No one was around other than a few small children playing on the lawn in front of one of the apartments. We sat there for about half an hour before we saw any adults. Two women, in their mid twenties, walked down the sidewalk together and they really gave us the once over, but kept on walking. We got out of our van and stood on the sidewalk, leaning against the front of the van. Still no activity until the same two women came back from the other direction, again they really looked us over as they passed by, but they did not stop or speak. Another half hour passed and the same two women came walking down the sidewalk towards us. When they reached our location they stopped and one of the women said in a challenging voice, “You don’t live here. What you doing here?”  “We’re waiting for someone. He’s supposed to meet us here”, Rudy responded.  “Who you waiting for?” asked one of the women. “I don’t know his name,” answered Rudy, “we met him over at the Grub Stake when we were having breakfast earlier. We were going to do some business and he said to meet him here.” “What kind of business?” asked one of the women. I stepped out from in front of our van, walked to the side door and slid it open. “He was wanting to buy a car stereo from us.”, I said as I reached inside of the van, picked up a car stereo and showed it to the woman. The woman glanced at the stereo and it was evident she was not impressed. Looking inside our van the woman asked, “What’s all this stuff you got in here?”  “It’s all for sale and for real good prices”, Rudy responded. “How good?”, asked the woman. “Real good. See anything you like?”, asked Rudy. “How much for that?” asked the woman as she pointed to a Seth Thomas mantle clock. “Twenty bucks.” answered Rudy. “Will you take fifteen?” asked the woman. Rudy reached inside the van, picked up the clock, looked it over and said, “It’s worth a lot more than that. If it weren't stolen I’d ask at least forty bucks for this. “Stolen?” asked the woman. “Everything in this van is stolen”, said Rudy, “Do you want it or not?”  “I like it”, said the woman. “I’ll take fifteen dollars for it, but remember, if you get caught with it, you didn’t get it from us. If anyone asks, tell them you found it in a dumpster or bought it at the flea market.”  “I don’t know if I should, with it being stolen and all” said the woman. “Well,” said Rudy, “take it or leave it.” The woman mulled it over for a while and said, “Wait here, I’ll be right back.” The two women then walked away, back in the direction they had come. Rudy and I sat there in the van for about a half an hour and finally decided that the woman had changed her mind and did not want the clock after all. We were just about to leave when we saw a Visalia Police patrol car pull into the lane where we were parked. “Damn!”, said Rudy, “I think that broad ratted us off.” “Could be” I answered, as we watched the patrol car drive slowly towards us. We held our breath as the patrol car drove past us and then suddenly stopped, backed up until it was right behind us and stopped. Time stood still, I could feel my heart beating in my chest and I was almost afraid to breathe. The patrol car inched forward and pulled into an empty parking space right next to us. The officer got out of the patrol car, shut his door and walked toward the front of his car where he stepped up on the sidewalk. The officer glanced in our direction and then walked up to an apartment right in front of where we were parked and knocked on the door. An older, gray haired man came to the door and he and the officer engaged in a short conversation. The officer then handed the man a paper and pointed to the paper in several locations as the old man looked over the paper. The officer then turned and walked back to his patrol car, got in and drove away. The old man stood on the porch looking at the paper for several minutes and then turned and went back into his apartment. Rudy looked at me, smiled and slowly shook his head as he said, “Whew! I thought we had been ratted off.” “Me too”, I responded, “I actually felt guilty and we haven’t done anything.” Rudy started the van and was backing out of the parking space when the woman we had spoken to earlier came running down the sidewalk, shouting, “Wait! Wait!”  Rudy stopped and pulled back into the parking space. “I’m glad I caught you, I want to buy that clock”, said the woman, a bit breathless, “I would have been here earlier, but I saw that cop down here and didn’t want him to see me.” “Why not?” asked Rudy. “I got a warrant for failure to appear in court,” said the woman. I stepped out of the van and slid open the side door. The woman walked around and met me at the side door and said, “I can’t believe I’m getting this for fifteen dollars.” said the woman.  “Well,” I answered, “you wouldn’t be if it weren’t stolen.” “Oh, I don’t care about that,” said the woman, “ain’t no one going to see it in my house ‘cept my friends and I’m not telling ‘em that it’s stolen.” “Well, maybe I should sell it for more then,” I said. “Oh no, we done made a deal”, said the woman as she held out fifteen dollars. I shifted my position a little to insure the woman was facing the camera as I took the money from her. I then reached into the van for the clock and handed it to the woman, again making sure she was squarely framed in the door as she accepted the clock. “Thanks.” said the woman. “No, thank you”, I said, as I held up the fifteen dollars. The woman cradled the clock like it was a baby and hurried down the sidewalk. Rudy backed out of the parking place and we drove slowly down the lane watching the woman. She finally turned and went up a walk way leading to one of the apartments, opened the door without knocking and went inside. I wrote down the apartment number as we drove past.

Well, we had made our first sale and we were quite excited about it. All we knew at this time was that a white female with light brown, shoulder length hair, about 25 years of age, approx. 5’5”, 140 lbs. had bought a Seth Thomas mantle clock from us with the clear understanding that it was stolen. We reviewed the tape and found that the images were clear and we could easily see the woman’s face and see her exchange cash for the “stolen” item. Several days after this incident we happened to see this same woman driving a light blue, 1964, Ford Falcon and we obtained the license number from the vehicle. The vehicle was registered to a Carla M. Bridges and listed an address other than the apartment where we had seen her enter with the clock. We checked with the records division and found that a Carla Marie Bridges had been arrested and booked at the Tulare County jail for shop lifting. There was a recent mug shot on file and we positively identified the woman from the photograph. We also discovered that there was indeed an arrest warrant for Carla Maria Bridges for failure to appear.