A Collector Series Story
Charles W. Bird
©2011 - 2014
Josiah Meister was a lonely, unhappy old man at age 65. His only child, Josiah Meister, Jr. had just been returned to him in a body bag from Iraq and he was returning to his West Texas ranch after burying his boy, Captain Josiah Meister, United States Army. He had lost the boy's Mother in childbirth and had raised their son on their 6,000 acre cattle and horse ranch. Josiah Meister, Jr., always known just as Jr., had gone away to college at Texas A & M and then joined the United States Army to "do his duty". As he had in college, Jr. excelled in the Army, winning early promotion and commanded a battle tank company. The two had been extremely close, more like brothers than Father and Son, the Father cringed every time the telephone rang, but it was the arrival of a black car and a tall Army Officer stepping out of it that nearly crumpled him to the floor. He knew, before the officer ever knocked on his door what the message was. Now, as he drove back to his empty home, it was as if he had died himself.
Josiah drove slowly down the highway from Marfa, where they had buried Jr. He was paying little attention to his driving, the weather was bad, with lightly blowing snow and the tears streaming down his face helped cloud his vision.
About 10 miles out of town, he passed a small figure struggling against the blowing snow as the small person walked beside the highway. It took a few seconds for the event to register on Josiah's troubled mind, "What was a person doing out walking on the highway in this awful weather?" He thought to himself, "This is no place to be out walking!"
Being a generous man at heart, he stopped his truck and backed up to where he had seen the figure, but saw no one. Knowing that he had actually seen a person, not just his imagination, he got out of the truck and walked to the side of the road to look around.
He spotted disturbed snow and shoe prints leading down the embankment, he was becoming concerned that he had perhaps struck the walker as he drove past! He climbed down the embankment and found a small figure huddled against a fencepost.
Josiah knelt over the figure and bent down to speak, when the figure screamed, "Don't hurt me, please don't hurt me!"
It was the voice of a young boy, and a frightened one at that.
Josiah said, "Son, I won't hurt you, but you cannot survive out here in weather like this. I can't just leave you out here to die!"
At that, he picked up the small boy and carried him back to the truck, placing him on the passenger seat while he brushed as much of the snow off him as best he could.
Under the covering of snow, he found a young boy, perhaps 12 or 13 years old with shaggy blonde hair and a dirty face. He straightened the child upright and buckled his seatbelt before returning to the driver's side of the truck and climbing back inside the cab.
He turned the heater on full and waited for the boy to stop his violent shivering. He resumed driving while he waited for the boy to warm up, when he thought sufficient time had gone by, he asked, "Son, whatever are you doing out here walking in the snow?"
The boy began crying and said, "I have nowhere to go."
This struck Josiah as odd, but he replied, "Let me take you to my home, at least we can get you warm and dry there. Then you can call your folks and let them know where you are." At this, the boy started crying even harder and tried to get loose from the seatbelt and jump out of the truck.
Josiah stopped the truck again and held out his hand to the boy, "Son, I don't know what is troubling you, but I cannot let you out in this storm. Will you at least let me take you to my home and get you warm and dry?"
The boy, looking down at the floor, replied, "Sir, I am not anyone's son, I am a throwaway sinner."
Josiah thought to himself, "This boy is hurtin' bad, let's get him home and see what this is all about!"
The remainder of the trip back to the JM2 Ranch was silent, but, at least the cab of the truck was becoming comfortably warm. As Josiah turned onto the ranch road, he clicked the gate controller and a broad gate opened at two stone columns, to allow the truck to pass.
The weather began to clear a little as they drove into the ranch, the boy started looking around and Josiah saw his eyes go big as saucers.
When they drove up to the ranch house, the boy said, "This is too grand for me, I can stay in the barn or something…"
Josiah cut him off, saying, "Son, this is my home, you ARE my guest, now, come on here and let's get you inside and warmed up."
After saying that, Josiah walked around the truck and opened the cab door. He picked up the boy, who could not have weighed more than 80 pounds, and carried him into the house.
He carried the boy directly into the downstairs bathroom and started taking the sopping wet clothing off the boy. The boy cowered into a corner, whimpering, "Please don't hurt me".
Josiah thought to himself, "What kind of monster has so frightened this child? He isn't old enough to have done anything terrible wrong."
As he removed the clothing from the boy, ugly purple and green bruises could be seen on the boy's back and arms. Further down, the bruising was even worse on his buttocks and legs; even his genitals were not free of damage!"
He filled the tub with warm water and lifted the boy into the tub, handing him some soap and a wash cloth. He said, "Let me go get some towels and I will come back and help you."
The boy nodded his head and just stared down at the water's surface.
Josiah went into the kitchen and closed the door. He telephoned his Brother-in-Law, Dr. Robert Melon, "Bob, I got trouble here. I have a young boy who has been horribly abused. Can you come over and help?"
Bob Melon's reply was, "WHAT have you got yourself into now, Joe? I'll get my bag and come over right away."
Josiah gathered up an armload of clean towels and returned to the bathroom. The boy was still sitting in the rapidly cooling water, staring at nothing.
He knelt down and gently began cleaning the boy with soap and the wash cloth. Other than wincing when Josiah washed the bruises, the boy remained silent. Josiah could see a steady drip of tears falling from the boy's eyes.
He had to refill the tub as the water had become so dirty that it required fresh water.
After the bath, Josiah lifted the boy from the tub and wrapped him in dry towels. He said, "My Brother-in-Law is a doctor and he is coming over to check you out. Those bruises don't look good to me."
At that, the boy burst into tears and started to shake in fright. Josiah held him and tried to sooth his fears, "Now, Now, I will not let ANYBODY hurt you. I don't know what your story is, but you are safe in MY house!"
The boy looked at him and said in a wavering voice, "But, you don't know him, he will find me again."
Josiah asked, "Who?"
His reply was, "My Father."
Josiah laid the boy on the bed and said, "This is the JM2 Ranch, MY RANCH, I say who will find who on MY RANCH! You just lay back and close your eyes if you want, Dr. Bob will be here shortly and he IS a good guy!"
With a sigh, the boy did close his eyes and was asleep in seconds.
Josiah heard Bob's car drive up, so he opened the door and motioned him in quietly.
They both went into the kitchen to talk, "Bob, this boy is terribly hurt and frightened of his father. I don't know what his name is yet, but, if we are not careful we will frighten him so badly he will injure himself. I know we have to call Sheriff Jeans, but let's let it go for a day or so and get this boy on a smoother trail?"
Dr. Bob agreed and suggested they have a cup of coffee and let the boy sleep for a while, so Josiah made coffee and they both sat in the living room talking about nothing.
Shortly, they heard footsteps in the hall. Josiah got up and found the boy trembling and shaking in the hall, with a towel wrapped around him. He picked up the trembling boy and hugged him, saying, "Son, the Doctor is here, we call him Dr. Bob, he just wants to look you over and make sure you are ok."
The boy nodded his head and Josiah carried the boy back to the bedroom, motioning the Doctor to come with them. He placed the boy between himself and Dr. Bob, saying, "Son, this is Dr. Bob and he needs to look you over, is that OK?" The boy nodded, but clutched the towel closer to himself.
Bob stood in front of the boy and asked him if he wanted Josiah to stay while he examined him, again, the boy just nodded.
Bob gently pulled the towel away from the boy's body and gasped, "My GOD, JOE, we need Johnny Jeans right NOW! Go call Sheriff Jeans."
The boy screamed, "NOOOOOOO!"
Bob held the boy and told him that Josiah could get in a lot of trouble if they didn't call the sheriff, but he AND Josiah would make sure that nobody would hurt him!
Josiah went and called Johnny Jeans and told him that just he should come as he had a badly hurt boy who was terrified. He added, "The boy looks like he went through a rock tumbler."
The Sheriff agreed and would head out to the JM2 immediately.
Bob continued his examination and asked him to roll over, the boy shook his head no, but Bob gently insisted.
Bob took one look, and his face turned red with rage, if his eyes could have flashed, he would have set the room on fire! "This boy has been raped multiple times and has been abused horribly!"
Josiah lifted the boy onto his lap and wrapped his arms around him, "Son, nobody, just NOBODY will ever hurt you again, they will have to get through me first and I am no pushover."
Bob knelt down in front of Billy and asked, "What is your name? We can't just call you son, although Josiah probably would be ok with that."
The boy sniffed a bit and then said, "Billy, Sir, Billy Hammond."
Bob told him, "You can call me Dr. Bob or just Bob and this is Joe, neither of us are SIR."
He then stood and stalked out of the room, then onto the porch, fuming with anger. He thought to himself, "Johnny had better hope he gets to whoever did this before I do! Worse, if Josiah ever catches up to him!"
Shortly, John Jeans, County Sheriff drove up with lights flashing.
Bob stopped him and told him that the boy's father, the Reverend William Hammond is the one who beat the boy and raped him, if John didn't arrest him, He would swear out a warrant for BOTH him and the monster who had hurt this child.
The Sheriff told him to calm down and went out to his car and ordered his deputies to bring the Reverend Hammond in and lock him up until he got back there!
After the Sheriff made the call, both he and Bob returned to the bedroom. Bob again knelt down in front of the boy and said, "Billy, we have to show Sheriff Jeans what your father did to you, will you let me show him?"
Billy nodded and as soon as Sheriff Jeans saw Billy's buttocks he jumped up and ran out to his car grabbing the radio, nearly tearing it off the dash. "Dispatch, order as many cars as are available, arrest the Reverend Hammond and anybody with him! IMMEDIATELY! Leave their handcuffs on them, I don't trust that guy's followers, they might just try to bust him outta my jail."
He returned to the bedroom and said gently to Billy, "Billy, I am also the Chief Child Protective Officer for the county and I am authorizing Josiah Meister to become your Temporary Foster Parent, is that OK?"
"You mean I can live here?" Billy asked.
Johnny Jeans smiled and said, "You sure can, and if you sweet talk this old buzzard ..."
Josiah just grinned and held the boy tighter.
Doctor Bob spread some soothing salve on Billy backside and gave Josiah a jar full of pills for Billy to take. Then both he and the Sheriff got in their cars and left the two to some peace and rest.
Josiah told Billy that he could call him Joe and then laid him down so he could get some rest, or better, some sleep. Billy was exhausted and was soon sound asleep.
The pills Dr. Bob gave him made him sleepy anyway.
Joe puttered around the house, with new life in his step. He called Rosa, his housekeeper/cook and told her about Billy living there and that he would need to go into Marfa to get clothes for the boy.
She told him that she still had some of Juanito's clothes, before he grew up and became Ranch Foreman in his Dad's place. She would bring them right over and also get some supper started.
Joe met her at the door with a smile on his face, she thought to herself, "At last"!
Billy slept for several hours, Joe sitting in the living room kept his ear tuned to the bedroom, so when he heard Billy stirring, he carried the clothing in for Billy to choose what he wanted to wear.
Billy could not believe that a stranger would just give him clothing and want nothing in return. After he dressed, he went out to the kitchen to thank Rosa, she hugged him and he just melted into her arms. He said, "Can I call you Mama Rosa?"
She beamed and said, "Billy, you can call me anything your heart desires." Mama Rosa was the queen of the kitchen!
Meanwhile, the Sheriff and his deputies arrived at Marfa Evangelical Bible Church and knocked on the door. There was no answer, so Sheriff Jeans ordered the door broken open.
As soon as it swung open, they were met with a hail of gunfire! Deputy Hanes smashed the window and fired his shotgun into the room several times, and then there was silence. When they entered the room, Reverend Hammond was sitting on the floor trying to stop his leg from bleeding.
When he saw the Sheriff he started screaming, "You're gonna burn in hell, you heathen!"
Johnny replied, "Not before you do for what you did to your boy!"
Hammond screamed, "He ain't my boy, he is just a no good tramp foisted on me by my ex-wife! Besides, he is just a filthy queer and don't count none before God Almighty!"
It was all the Sheriff could do to restrain himself from finishing the job Deputy Hanes started.
A Boy Blooms
The days rolled past and Billy began to heal, both physically and emotionally. Between Mama Rosa trying to fill out his skinny ribs and Joe's constant support, he slowly began to grin and laugh, just like any other young teenaged boy.
Juan, the Ranch Foreman, found a pinto pony just about made for Billy and dug out a spare saddle from the tack room. As soon as Dr. Bob said "OK", Billy was dragging the saddle over to the pony's stall. One of the hands, Old Jack, spotted the boy trying to lift the saddle onto the pony and helped him out.
All the Ranch Hands knew Billy's story and they all treated him like a little brother. They had all loved Josiah Junior and when the Army had sent him home in a body bag, they all carried a heavy burden of the young man's death at the hands of the "Ragheads" of the Middle East.
As soon as the saddle was secure, Billy got on the pony and headed out, where he joined Antonio, Juan's oldest son. Together they roamed the near pasture and ended by the water tower. Juan had clued Antonio and what had happened to him and Antonio was making sure Billy knew that he, Antonio, was his friend.
Billy looked downcast and started to move away. Antonio looked at him and asked him what was wrong.
Billy was crying and said, "Antonio, you don't want to be around me, I am bad."
Antonio knew what was going on, so he replied, "Billy, just because a rapist says you are bad doesn't make it so!"
Billy sputtered, "But, But..."
Antonio cut him off, "No buts about it, you belong here and we ALL love you! Besides, I think you are kinda nice."
Billy stuttered, "You DO?"
All he heard was, "YEAH" as Antonio galloped off towards the Ranch House.
Billy "kicked his pony into high gear" but was unable to catch Antonio.
By the time Billy had put his pony up, brushed him and hung the saddle on the rack like he had been taught, Antonio was nowhere to be found.
Billy wandered into the kitchen, where Mama Rosa was fixing supper and asked her where Antonio might be. She smiled and told Billy to look out in the garden.
Billy tore out of the kitchen like his pants were on fire and found Antonio sitting on a fence rail, staring at nothing. He sat beside Antonio and said, "You really like me?"
Antonio replied, "Yeah, I do, Billy and I am scared."
Billy said, "Don't be scared, we can work it out together. Let me speak with Papa Joe."
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" screamed Antonio!
"Don't you worry, Papa Joe told me that I could tell him ANYTHING and he wouldn't get upset. Come on. Let's go talk to him, PLEASE?" Billy dragged a reluctant Antonio into the house.
Mama Rosa saw them and just smiled to herself, thinking, "About time."
The two boys found Josiah working on the accounts in the ranch office. When he saw them, he swiveled around and asked, "What's up, boys?"
Antonio tried to run, but Billy held on to his hand to prevent his leaving. He said, "Papa Joe, do you think Antonio and I can be friends?"
Josiah said, "Well aren't you friends already?"
Billy replied, "I mean REALLY, REALLY friends!"
Josiah said, "You mean like boyfriends?"
Antonio's face, by now, was burning scarlet and he was beginning to cry. Billy said, "Yeah, like that!"
Josiah replied, "I don't see anything against it, you boys will have to be careful, but … You need to talk to Antonio's Dad, Juan. Let's go see him right now!"
By now, poor Antonio's eyes were glazed and his head swimming! Josiah led the way out to the courtyard where Juan was standing. He has already been alerted by his mother, Mama Rosa, so he just stood there, smiling!
The boys stood before him and stuttered and stammered, Juan leaned over both boys and said, "YES!" and walked away, leaving them both speechless!
The Holiday Season was fast approaching and Christmas was always a time of joy on the JM2 and Josiah was determined to make this one extra special. He quietly made several trips in Marfa and even had driven to El Paso one time. Soon, mysterious boxes were being delivered by UPS and whisked away into hiding.
As Christmas Day drew near, the pile of packages under the tree grew alarmingly.
Billy really did not pay much attention, Christmas in his old family had always meant hours on his knees, praying for somebody else.
That special morning arrived with wondrous smells coming out of Mama Rosa's kitchen. Suddenly, Billy was awakened by a "gawdawful" racket. Someone was banging on the old steel triangle that hung on the front porch!
He stumbled out to the front door, thinking that maybe something was on fire. There was Papa Joe and Juan passing out packages to all the JM2 Ranch hands and Mama Rosa handing each man a plate piled high with burritos, beans and corn bread!
Joe spotted Billy and told him to go get dressed. It would be his turn in a few minutes. It still didn't register with Billy, but he did as he was told.
He had just gotten dressed when Antonio showed up. The two boys looked at each other as if to say, "What now?"
Finally, all the Ranch Hands had been served, even those riding picket on the herds. Joe and Antonio came back into the house and Mama Rosa starting banging pots and pans in the kitchen, pretty soon she announced that breakfast was ready.
She served the traditional burritos, beans and corn bread along with steaming hot apple tarts, and warm apple cider with cinnamon sticks in each glass. By that time, Dr. Bob had arrived and also Chester Neumann, the JM2 Lawyer. Both men were Family and always made it a point to eat Mama Rosa's food any chance they got.
After everyone had eaten their fill and more, Joe said, "OK, boys, its gift time! Since Billy is the newest AND the youngest present, he is delegated to distribute Christmas gifts."
The first package he picked up was labeled, "BILLY", so Papa Joe told him to just pile it on the couch and continue distributing gifts. The NEXT package also was labeled, "BILLY" and the next, and the, and the next! Then he came to a couple that had Antonio's name on them, Antonio's eyes went wide and he looked at his Dad, Juan, who motioned for him to be quiet.
Finally, there was a large envelope high up on the tree. It was the last gift to be delivered.
Billy pulled it down and saw his name on it. Papa Joe told him to open that one first.
As he opened the envelope, he pulled a folded document out; he saw the words, "CERTIFICATE OF FINAL ADOPTION" and the name "William Josiah Meister".
He stood staring at it for a few seconds before bursting into tears as it dawned on him what the words meant. Running for Papa Joe's lap he kept repeating, "DADDY, DADDY, DADDY" over and over.
Joe looked at everyone in the room and said, "THAT was the only important present for today!"
After Billy had gotten control of his emotions, kind of, he showed everyone in the room the certificate. Even Hector, the old dog, was not spared.
Joe finally said, "Billy, you still have a big stack of presents there to open, why don't you get busy?"
Billy opened a package and withdrew a traditional checkered cowboy shirt. The next package yielded two pair of tight jeans and the next was a pair of hand-made cowboy boots! A box gave up a cowboy hat and neckerchief and then a pair of hand-tooled chaps appeared.
The last package was two packages tied together with red ribbon. One package had his name on it and the other had Antonio's name on it. Billy carried both packages over to Antonio and gave him his. Antonio looked at his Dad, who just shrugged.
The two boys proceeded to open their packages and two Remington .30-.30 lever action rifles were in the boys' hands. Both rifles were identical except for their names chased in silver on the receiver!
It was a Christmas that would stand out in Billy's mind for the remainder of his life.