You know something: There’s a lot of things good in this world and a lot of things equally bad. There is still plenty of good people in the world, one of the guys I’d gone to school with came to see me.
We were never really buddies but if we saw the other at a Playday we’d talk. A Playday was where the kids would show their skills as far as riding and roping.
His name was Byron Stokes, he was one of the good guys you know. He wasn’t a bully, and he always talked to people with respect. He was the type of guy that anybody would be lucky to have as a friend. Perhaps I was luckier than I thought.
His father had a serious drinking problem, and liked to take it out on his family. I’d see Byron with a battered face. This was when he was just a kid-a child. Again hushed talk.
What a lowlife. Anybody that would do that to a kid should be horsewhipped. I got my share of butt-bustin’s but never like what I saw was the results of Boris Stokes.
Byron rode up on his horse, which was odd, because he rarely ever rode a horse anywhere. “Can we go somewhere and talk?” he asked.
I was almost fully recovered, and nodded my head. He saddled Ricky for me, and he grew strangely silent. My first thought was that he’d got a bad beating.
I’d told Pa about what was going on. He asked if I’d ever seen it happen. No,
I’d answered. Has Byron ever told you that his father hurts him. Again the answer was No. Unasked unanswered questions really suck.
Without proof he’ll walk, and if it is happening it will get worse. What good will that do Byron? It sounded kinda lame at the time, but after I grew up I learned how the law worked.
Me and Byron rode in silence for a while, then he spoke. “Billy a friend of mine wants to talk to you about something, I have no real idea what it’s about. Going to meet us here shortly.”
“Who is this friend?”
“You really went after them convicts and killed them?”
I nodded my head, “I had no choice, they had my brothers and my sister.”
“What was it like? I hear that some get sick after they kill that first time.”
“I never did, maybe something is wrong with me, I didn’t feel anything at all. Do you ever feel remorse after you step on a cockroach?”
“No, they’re nothing.”
“That’s how I felt about them men I killed.”
Byron nodded his head, and seemed to be deep in thought for a moment. “Maybe that’s it then.” he whispered.
“Is there a point to this Byron?” I asked getting a bit nervous. I’d heard and read that once you. . . did what I did even nice guys may want to try you.
“Just getting some advice from someone who has been there. I have a very good friend that. . . well lets just say that he does what you did. I can’t stay a kid forever, and I have to think of a much better possible future.”
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as I child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I said softly.
Byron smiled brightly. “That’s exactly it my friend those are the thoughts brewing inside me. Kinda jumbled, but that’s it.”
“Whenever in doubt turn to the Bible, the answers are there.” I replied returning the smile.
“You gonna be a preacher when you get out of school?” Byron asked.
I could tell that he was kinda shocked, I had the reputation as a bit of a hell raiser, and here I was quoting the Good Book.
“No way. Too many rules. . . maybe that’s not the correct response. I’d backslide too much and my temper would get me into trouble. I try to follow the Lord’s word as close as possible, but like it says: For all have sinned and fallen short in the eyes of God. I may have messed up on that one a bit, but I think I hit it close enough.”
I should tell you that since the trouble, I rarely get too far from the house without my pistol. I should say Pa’s pistol, for some reason, he told me to keep it. That I was worthy of having it.
At the time I had no idea what he was talking about.
There are still times that I’m not for certain that what is happening around me is real. To tell you the truth: To escape the reality of my actions, I wanted to believe that maybe I’d got a head injury, and I was in a comma. That all this was just one very long intense dream.
But just like the biblical quote I’d told to Byron. I was no longer a child, and I no longer thought as a child. The moment I pulled a pistol and killed all innocence vanished forever.
I remember we both dismounted our horses, and I was checking the cinch on my saddle. Byron was pulling out two bottles of sarsaparilla.
I heard the slight whisper of movement, and I turned slightly and took the leather tong off the hammer of my pistol.
“Relax it’s probably. . .”
Jerome Slate smiled as he stepped into the clearing of the trees. “Macalister time we had a talk.” he said as he slowly brought his rifle up.
“You crazy or something?” Byron asked. “Put that rifle away.”
“Is this your friend?” I asked with a shake of my head.
Byron looked like he was truly insulted, “Hell Fuckin’ No!” he said hotly. “Billy! You gotta believe me on that. This shithead and I are not friends, pen-pals, or anything but total strangers. I don’t associate with shit.”
I smiled at the expression on Jerome’s face. Anything that he’d say to the
contrary would be a lie.
“Ah Byron, how can you say that after we set this up?”
Byron was shaking with rage, and started to take a step forward. Jerome’s rifle stopped him real quick. “Goddamn Fuckhead!” Byron said in an ice cold tone. “Put that fucking rifle down and try either one of us man to man.”
“I don’t think so. Either of you could clean my clock and yawn while you do it. I heard you setting this up and decided to take a chance. Billy, you’re to back off. Joanna is my girl. Back off or I’ll kill you.”
“That’s what this is about.” I said with a laugh. “Sorry can’t do that.”
“I mean it motherfucker. . . I’ll kill you here and now, agree to step aside and I’ll let you live.”
I forced a yawn. “Go fuck yourself.”
Byron whispered to me that somebody was coming. I nodded my head, I’d already heard them. In fact it was more than one person coming in.
It was at least four people coming in from two different directions.
The first man to come in was Jeremy Slate, Jerome’s father. I’d only seen the man in passing and knew only what the town had said about him. He was a complete cuckoo bird.(that was their choice of words) That somewhere along the lines he and a Macalister had fought, and he’d got his ass kicked royally.
“You ain’t kilt this piece of shit yet?”
The other group of people entered the area, and for a moment I was very confused. The man looked like Pa, but at the same time nothing like him at all. His face was harder, and the eyes seemed colder.
The woman. . . there was something very familiar about her, I’d seen her before.
The other man I had no idea who he was.
“Slate, I should have known you’d still be trying to cause trouble.” Pa’s lookalike said in a cold voice.
“Dobs Macalister, I knew that you were still alive. Wait til everybody hears that I was right.” Jeremy said as he pulled his coat back exposing the butt of the pistol.
“That suppose to impress us?” the woman asked.
“My boy is a very big disappointment, I sent him to kill that little bastard. After I kill the two of you, I’ll have to do it myself.”
The third man shook his head sadly. “I really hate it when you’re right Dobs. Federal agents Slate!” he said in a cold tone.
That must have meant the same as fire. Both the Slates opened up, Byron had hit the ground and I felt my pistol bucking in my hand.
I saw my first slug tear off the side of Jerome’s face, and the second punched a hole in his chest. The other two men and the woman opened up and Jeremy Slate hit the ground with three slugs in his chest.
“None of you will ever win. . . Borga has other plans.” he muttered.
I stood there and watched as the man slowly closed his eyes and die. The man and woman stood back as their partner slowly walked over to Byron. “You okay? You get hit?”
“No. I’m just fine.” Byron answered coolly.
“Good cause Bill, would personally shoot me, if you’d got hit in this,” he looked my way. “okay, lets you and I go for a walk.” He said softly.
The couple slowly walked up to me, and looked me over, I felt like I was a show horse at an auction. “Do I pass inspection?” I asked in a cold tone.
“Sorry Billy,” the woman said softly. “it’s just been a very long time since either of us have really seen you.”
“So I take it we’ve met before.” I said drily.
“He’s got the Macalister’s winning personality.” the woman said with a slight smile. The man took a deep breath and then I saw him smile, the hardness seemed to vanish completely, and he honestly did look just like Pa. Well except for the scar on his cheek.
“What we’re about to tell you, is going to sound really off the wall. All we ask is to listen with a very open mind.”
I nodded. Something told me that all the questions were about to be answered. All those hushed whispers I’d heard all my life. . . that these two people were the key, and in some way I was the door.
“I need to get somebody in here to clean this mess up,” the agent said as he
looked up at the sky. “I hate goddamn clean ups.”
“Exactly who in the hell are those people to him.” Byron asked.
“Let me put to you like this: They are the same to the other. Both a past, the present and a destiny. Never speak of this Byron. Agreed.”
Byron thought for a moment then nodded. “Agreed.”
It was the deepest conversation I’d ever had in my life, I listened with a very open mind as promised. There were a lot of questions answered, many that had always been there in my mind. There were also many that I just hadn’t thought of yet.
There was so many thoughts racing through my mind, and there were now plans that I wanted to make happen. I knew what I was capable of doing, once I got it set in my mind to do them.
There were also paths that I really didn’t want in my journey. I know that we each control our own destiny, some think that it’s a preplanned thing. But here’s what I think: We choose what we are to do, we may not always like the things we have to do. At times we may have that feeling of hopelessness and that it’s the only way out, but we still choose what we do.
I want only to have a good and fulfilling life, one where at the end of my ride I can go without shame. Yeah, I’d also like to fight the battles no sane man would ever take on..
That’s part of being fulfilled.
That way when I go to the gates of heaven or hell which ever is to be my fate, I can say: “I had one hell of a ride, and if you load her up in the chute I’d do it all over again and do it the same way.
I do wonder if all this is my own ego, or if it’s something I was born with. If somehow it’s hereditary. I was never the quiet kid not really, I usually was raising a fuss in some way or another.
That was better than just accepting things at face value, or because some teacher said it was so. They only know what is in the books, they weren’t there to see it happen. I always wondered: Books were only written by man, and wrote only what was told to him. How do we know they weren’t lied to. What if they left out important details that define events a different way. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
It was two years later, I was coming back from seeing Joanna, I had developed very deep feelings for her. She would look at me in a way that could make me really nervous. I‘d damn near broke my nose during one of those times.
Hell of a place to put a door.
Her parents knew of our feelings for each other, and thankfully they didn’t seem to mind. I rode Ricky home Sherry was running ahead of me, barking, and playing. I was eighteen, and I had decided to ask Joanna to marry me. I had saved money, from hogs and from doing other work here and there. I knew we could make it.
Mom and dad, met me at the fence, something told me there was trouble. We walked around the property, for about an hour, my chest felt like a ton of bricks was trying to crush it.
It seemed even with my mother working in town, and with my dad’s pension the farm was going down. I offered my money to be thrown into the pot, anything to help save it, but my parents smiled and said no. They each hugged my neck and started to walk off.
“Now wait just a damn minute!” I shouted. “We didn’t come all this way to loose it all, we can tighten our belts.” I said angrily. “This is our home and I’ll be damned, if I give up this easy! I want me and Joanna to raise our children out here. We can all work as a team and keep the farm.”
My parents smiled knowingly, as they walked back up to me, “You sure you want to do this?” my father asked already knowing the answer.
“Damn straight!” I replied.
For the first time mom didn’t give the standard lecture, that I needed to clean up my mouth. She looked at me the same way she did when the doctors said I was going to make it. Yeah, I remember that much. Some things are private between a parent and a son.
A first beer the first time you defend your dad, against some jerk, and the day you get on the right road to becoming a man. That’s the road where it all changes.
I’d only thought that I’d became a man the day I went out to save my brothers and sister. I’d merely got on the right highway, I became a man the day that I said
those words to my parents.
If a man is judged by his heroes, then judge me by those that I have: The men from the Alamo, the men that fight for our freedom in the armed forces, and those that wear a badge. And yeah my dad.
You might also add that everyday nobody, that will act on the God given right to take a positive stand. That particular nobody that will flat refuse, to take any crap off those self-righteous shitheads in our country.
I really should tell you about the talk me and those two people had. I call them those two people cause. . . well I don’t know what else to call them.
They answered all my questions and suddenly it all really made sense. They said that they’d never stopped loving me, that they had to do what they did to keep me safe. They also told me of a few other people, who will have their lives turned upside down one day.
They asked me to not say anything, and I had agreed. They were actually pretty likeable type people, and I found out where I got some the spunk from. I guess I jumped before I told you some facts. Dobs and June were my natural parents.
They told me of the war that had been fought here in Texas, and told me of their part and of Mamaw’s part. They said that dad had even played a role in Texas freedom. A very positive role.
They admired the way I handled myself with a gun, Dobs also told me that one day the liberals would try to take them from me. My response must have brought back some memory. “Yeah Right! Tell the stupid fucks to go to hell.”
Dobs looked back toward the area of the shootout. “You got any qualms about taking money on wanted men?”
“Depends on their crime. I do have some morals, but I’m not a fool.”
“That father and son duo were wanted by the Company, they really didn’t specify what condition they had to be in. It’s a sizeable amount of money Bill.”
“What was their crimes?”
“Like today, setting people up, and then killing them.”
“Hold on to it for me, I have a feeling we’re going to need it.” Like I’d told them. I do have morals, but I’m no fool.