Castle Roland

The Collector Series

by Charles Bird

In Progress

Chapter 3

Posted: N/A


A Collector Series Story


Charles W. Bird

©2011 - 2014

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental. This story is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced by any means without the express, written permission of the author.


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 his 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.

A Flood Of Boys

Things seemed under control at the JM2, Donnie had graduated to a walking cast and the three new boys, John Ellis, Richard Graham and Dan Reed had recovered sufficiently that they could go to school. Juan was looking seriously at the school building with the idea of adding a third classroom next summer, what they had would not accommodate very many more students.

All the new boys knew of the story of "Mr. Joe", it apparently was common street lore now. Joe was mystified as to how it had come about and spread so rapidly.

The state department of Child Welfare came and inspected their facilities. The woman was not particularly pleasant and tried to find deficiencies, but she was reminded by Chet Neumann, who ushered her around, just how politically powerful Josiah Meister was and, unless she had an airtight case, her job hung in the balance. She went stomping off, saying that she would come back for "unscheduled" inspections. Chet just laughed, she still has to get through that gate out at the road, that old bag isn't going to walk 5 miles up a dirt road!

Juan had hired a contractor to build a new wing of nothing but bedrooms and bathrooms. They had converted the old ballroom to a dining hall and hired extra kitchen help to serve food for the boys. Mama Rosa still ruled the kitchen with an Iron Spoon, but it was getting too much for just one person to feed everyone.

The weather began to improve as spring approached, the willows were the first herald that spring was arriving and the next notice arrived that Saturday morning, just before daylight.

Joe, as usual, was up at 5 am looking for a cup of coffee. As he was rummaging around in Mama Rosa's kitchen, he heard a voice calling, "Help me, help me, I need help, PLEASE somebody help me!"

Joe threw on the outside floodlights and opened the front door. There was an older teen boy, with a small boy in his arms and two more holding on to his belt. The teen said, "Help me, my baby brother is hurt!"

Joe nearly beat that old iron triangle to death, calling out an emergency. People came from every direction, Carl, only half dressed was the first to respond, he took the injured boy from his brother's arms and ran to the Infirmary with the others close behind.

As he laid the injured boy on the examining table, he asked the older boy what happened. The boy said, "Snake, a rattle snake"

Sure enough, Carl found two fang marks on the boy's leg and it was beginning to swell already. As he was cleaning the boy's leg, he hollered at Joe to get him three vials of anti-venom out of the refrigerator, and he told Jordan to call Dr. Bob, he was going to need help to save the boy's life! He had not yet learned about, "YESTERDAY"!

Carl injected all three vials, one after the other. He then undressed the boy and cleaned him up, carefully checking to make sure there were no other bites or injuries. While monitoring the bitten boy, he asked the teen if anyone else had been struck by the snake and the boy replied that nobody else had been bitten.

The boy was continuing to deteriorate, so Carl asked for three more vials and quickly administered them. They had a total of twenty on hand, so he told Joe to get on the phone to Sheriff Jeans and have them run another 20 vials down from the hospital – RED LIGHT!

By now, the entire ranch was awake and gathered outside the Infirmary. Mama began running coffee to those helping save the boy, she spotted the older teen as he began to slump to the ground. She dropped the coffee pot and grabbed the boy, calling for Jordan to help her.

Jordan quickly determined that it was fatigue. The boy had run, carrying his brother, the entire 5 miles from the county road!

By the time it was over, Carl had administered 24 vials of anti-venom before the boy turned around. Carl figured it must have been a very big snake! When turn around finally took place, Carl had been working on the boy for 8 hours! Dr. Bob assisted, but let Carl run the treatment.

It was a tired, but happy group when the boy's breathing eased and his heart rate slowly returned to near normal. Sheriff Jeans had remained at the ranch on standby in case any other emergency runs had to be made.

Johnny Jeans remarked to Joe that he had a gold mine in Carl Traminer!

By now, it was afternoon and all the new boys had been fed and cleaned up, Joe decided to talk to the oldest teen. The boy, who said he was 16 years old, gave his name as Joseph Duncan and the boy who was bitten was Brian Duncan his little brother. The other two boys, he didn't know, they just tagged along when he said they were looking for Mr. Joe.

Joseph said, "You ARE OUR MR. JOE, aren't you?" and Joe assured him that he was. At that, Joseph hurled himself into Joe's lap, hugging Joe and crying, "We are safe at last, that bitch can't hurt us anymore."

Joe said, "Son, I don't know what is going on yet, but I can tell you that NOBODY is gonna hurt you or any other child on MY RANCH! Not now, not ever! Now, let's get you and your friends a place to sleep and then I will talk to them, also."

It was getting a bit crowded in the bunk room, but the new addition would be ready soon. Joe found bunks for all four boys and left Joseph resting while he took the other two boys into his office to talk with them.

He held them and assured them they were safe now. One boy, who said his name was Bert Fowler, was 12 and the other was his cousin Frank Fowler and he was 10. They had been kicked out by their parents because Bert's father had found them naked together just looking at each other's boy parts.

It was all Joe could do to not snort like an enraged bull, he very calmly held each boy and told them that he would care for them and they could live here and go to school here. He sent them to go get some rest after their ordeal and he would see them at suppertime.

It took Joe some minutes before he felt safe enough to talk to anyone. The first thing he did was to put in a call to his attorney, Chet Neumann. He told Chet that he wanted to hire 6 men as security for the JM2. That he wanted them deputized by Johnny Jeans and to have firearms licenses. AND, he wanted it done YESTERDAY! Chet sighed and said, "Anything else, your Majesty?"

Joe said, "YEAH, tell the Ford agency to send me two 20 passenger vans, equipped with 4 wheel drive and air conditioning"

Chet said, somewhat sarcastically, "Yesterday?"

Joe laughed and said, "YOU BET!" He then asked, "Where is that geologist you were going to find for me?"

Chet said, "He will be in for an interview Monday! YOUR MAJESTY!" They both had a good laugh over that!

Joe sat thinking about Joseph's comment about ‘That Bitch'. "I am not qualified to help these boys over their emotional hurts, I need some help here!" He walked over to Jordan's little cubby office and said, "How would you like to take some of the load off Chet Neumann?"

Jordan replied, "Joe, I am here to do anything and everything I can to make this place a Happy Home for our Boys!"

Joe thought, "Just what I wanted to hear!" He continued to Jordan, "How about finding a qualified counselor to work with our boys and help them over the rough spots?"

Jordon's only reply was, "I'm on it, BOSS!"

The school boys were just arriving for supper, each group of 6 boys had a monitor, elected by themselves, to see to it that everyone had washed their hands and were seated at the table. A new monitor was elected each month, so everyone could share the responsibility. Joe walked in to the bunkroom and woke the new boys, "Guys, lunch is ready, wash your hands and let's EAT!"

Joseph asked, "What about my brother, Brian?"

Joe told him, "Let's you and I take him his supper before we sit down to eat?"

They walked into the small ward adjacent to the Infirmary, carrying a bowl of soup, Mama Rosa's Special Chicken Soup for sick boys, a plate of fresh baked biscuits, some butter and honey to go on them, a glass of milk and a wedge of cherry pie.

Brian was sitting up, wondering if he had been forgotten. When he saw his brother, carrying food on a tray, his eyes lit up and he began to cry. Joe sat on the side of the bed to comfort the boy and Joseph said, "Brian, this is Mr. JOE! You gotta get better, they have a school for us and everything!"

He continued, as he was spooning chicken soup into a starving boy, "Look, I even have new clothes!" Joseph turned to Joe and said, "Our Daddy died and left us with our stepmother. She didn't care anything for us. Everything was for her own daughter!" He continued, "She got our clothes at the Salvation Army and often we had no supper, except for a piece of stale bread and peanut butter."

Brian piped up, "Yeah, an' She and her fat daughter were eating steak!"

Joe asked, "Where did you live?"

Joseph replied, "We lived in Fort Worth, our Daddy, was a doctor at Fort Worth General Hospital."

Joe told both boys that they now lived at the JM2 and not to worry about anything other than getting better!

The Ranch Expands

Joe sat at his desk, his head in his hands, "These boys need so much, Lord, am I enough for them?"

He received no answer but he continued that line of thinking as he walked to the dining room for his own supper. Carl was seated across the table from him. Carl had missed his lunch while he had been tending Brian's snake bite, so he was ravenous.

Joe laughed and told him not to eat the table, too! Joe said, thinking out loud, "Carl, when you were in Afghanistan, did your unit have a chaplain?"

Carl replied, "Yes we did, in fact, he came back at the same time I did."

Joe, still thinking, "What is he doing now?"

Carl told Joe that the last time he had heard from him, he was working for his father, selling cars, in Tucson.

Joe asked, "Do you think he could help our boys?"

Carl replied, "Heck yeah, Danny could help a stone if it needed it!" So Joe told him to give his friend a call and ask him if he was interested.

About that time, Chet Neumann arrived with a fist full of papers, "Joe, it's YESTERDAY! Here is the paperwork on those two passenger vans you wanted and I have an idea for your security people." He continued, "I called the Navy Reserve Center up in El Paso and they have some Marine Corps MPs who are looking for civilian work. What do you think?"

Carl spoke up and asked, "Is one of them Jeff Lasson and another Gil Bains?"

Chet replied, "Yeah, do you know them?"

Carl answered, "Yes, Joe, Chet, if those two are available, hire them NOW and anyone else who is with them! They are the BEST!"

Joe said, "You heard the man."

Chet walked off saying something about it's a damned nuthouse!

The next day was Friday and the school kids were busy taking tests. Joe asked Carl, Jordan and Juan to meet with him. They all sat around the table, nursing hot cups of coffee and eating Mama Rosa's to die for sticky buns. Joe started the discussion, "We need to plan out what we need over the next 6 months for our boys."

Carl started, "We could use a swimming pool. The boys need the exercise and the interactive recreation that swimming would provide."

Jordan continued, "We need to provide a suitable horse or pony for each boy who wants to ride, complete with saddles. Each boy would be responsible for the care of his own horse."

Juan added, "A bunkhouse is fine, but I think that a cottage for a group of 8 boys and a leader would be better, more like a home for them. We can still have a dining hall, but the boys need the stability of a HOME!"

Joe said, "What about a ball field and a play area for some of the younger boys?" He continued, "Juan, you can't run the ranch as foreman and do all the construction too, which to you want to be?"

Juan replied, "Boss, I am just a Ranch Foreman, you need a grounds manager for all this."

Joe looked at Jordan, who said, "Yeah, YESTERDAY, I know!"

The weekend was a relief for the school kids, the tests were over with and the weather was warm. Carl allowed Joseph to take his brother, Brian, out for a walk in the wheelchair. There were 9 boys, 8 ranch boys and two girls all out playing, Joe was happily watching them having carefree fun. He thought to himself, "This is what childhood is supposed to be! No hurts, no hunger, no fear, just fun! I wonder if Junior would approve of what I am doing?" Just thinking of his dead son gave him a sense of calm and relief.

About that time, Sheriff Jeans drove up and got out of his car. He walked up to Joe and said, "The Reverend Hammond made bail, I thought you ought to know that he has been heard making threats about you and the boys here."

Joe replied, "Thanks, Johnny, I may need some help."

The Sheriff told him he was as near as the telephone and then he left. Joe called for Carl and when they got together, he asked Carl, "Get the names of the security applicants from Chet Neumann and then call them, including your friends, if they are not on the list, and ask them to high-tail down here to the JM2. We will pay all their expenses, but we need them…"

Carl interrupted and said, "Yeah, YESTERDAY!"

As Carl was headed to the telephone, Joe called after him, "Tell them we will send a van to pick them up!" Carl made his phone calls and every one of the men were anxious to work at the JM2 and were willing to come right then, so Carl told them a JM2 van would pick them up at the El Paso Navy Reserve Center that evening.

He then told Joe what he had done and left to drive the van to El Paso to pick up his friends.

The Marines Have Landed

Joe was still concerned about any trouble the people who went to Hammond's church could cause, so he had Juan post two cowboys down at the gate and four more roving the grounds, all armed. The day passed without incident and nothing happened that night.

About 2 am, Carl returned with six young, ex-Marines in the van. Joe had been waiting up for them to arrive. His first impression was that Carl had hired six gorillas from the El Paso Zoo! All the young men were well over 6 feet tall and shoulders like line backers! As they got out of the van, Joe talked to them.

His first question was would any of them have problems with boys that might be gay.

The one, who seemed to be their leader and identified himself as Gil Bains, said, "Nope, Carl told us about that. Our job is to protect kids and you adults, NOTHING else is important!" All the rest of the men agreed with him. Joe showed them to a vacant bungalow where they could sleep the rest of the night, and then take over security first thing in the morning.

Joe thanked Carl and told him to get some sleep too. The remainder of the night was quiet, but it was not to last.

Joe was up early as usual and had grabbed a cup of coffee before heading to his office. He was about to sit, when the radio squawked, "Ranch 1, this is Gate 1, over…"

Joe snatched the mic and replied, "Gate 1, this is Ranch 1, go ahead."

"This is Gate 1. We have two trucks full of people demanding entrance. Over."

"Gate I, This is Ranch 1. Hold them off, shoot their tires out if you have to, we are on the way. Ranch 1, out."

At that, Joe was pounding on that poor old iron triangle for all he was worth – HIS BOYS WERE IN DANGER!

Men came running from all directions, as the Marines staggered out of their bungalow, Joe handed them rifles and told them to get in the van.

Carl was up by then and he jumped into the driver's seat and the van took off in a spray of gravel. He was taking the turns practically on two wheels as they sped out to the front gate.

When they arrived, the friends of Reverend Hammond were no longer facing just two armed cowboys. Now there were six angry Marines and a Navy Medic, all holding rifles, staring them in the face! They decided they were not quite as valiant as they thought they were and they departed as fast as they could turn around!

Gil had been elected leader, so he posted three of his men at the gate and loaded up the two cowboys. The van returned to the house, a bit slower this time!

Mama Rosa had started breakfast, so she fed the Marines, as they had become known, first so Gil could relieve the Marines he had left at the gate and they could get their breakfast.

After everyone had eaten, Gil asked Juan for three horses. When Juan got them saddled and ready, Gil and the other two Marines started making rounds to protect the JM2!

It wasn't long before Johnny Jeans was on the phone to Joe, "Hey Joe, what have you got down there, an army?"

Joe replied, "You can tell Hammond's bastards that the Marines have landed! If they are allergic to holes in them, they had best stay away from MY BOYS!"

Sheriff Jeans thought, "Oh Crap, I had better go put out some fires!"

He grabbed up a fist full of Deputy Badges and headed down the road to the JM2. When he arrived at the gate, two of the biggest bruisers he ever saw were standing there with rifles pointed at HIM! Suddenly, there was a third behind him doing the same thing!

He stammered, "Hey guys, I am one of the good guys. If you will lower your rifles and stand in front of me, I CAN MAKE THIS QUICK!"

He then proceeded to deputize all three men, saying, "Now you are legal!"

He then headed up the ranch road to the house and did the same for the three Marines on duty there. He stayed long enough to gulp a cup of coffee and snatch one of Mama Rosa's sticky buns before returning to his office.

It wasn't long that the story of the JM2 Marine Corps was all over town. Most folks were laughing, but the hard core fundies were furious. They all vowed to even the score the next night!

Gil and Joe were expecting trouble the next night, so, Juan and his cowboys, along with Carl. Jordan and Andy Baxter had all volunteered to patrol the ranch on horseback. Gil put four of his JM2 Marines on the front gate, Joe was posted on the front porch of the house, Andy in the back of the house and the rest were mounted and patrolling the grounds.

Gil monitored the house patrols and carried a portable radio to keep in contact with the mounted patrols and the front gate.

He took the designation Marine 1.

Shortly after midnight, the radio sounded, "Marine 1, this is Gate 1…. over"

"This is Marine 1, go ahead Gate 1"

"Marine 1, we have an unusual amount of traffic on the highway, trucks and cars full of people. Over"

The radios began to squawk, "Gate 1, Patrols 1, 2 and 3 this is Marine 1 – LOCK AND LOAD. It's battle time. Marine 1 out" Shortly gunfire could be heard coming from the direction of the front gate.

The next sound was an awful sound of a shotgun! He heard Mama Rosa scream, "Next time it will be your face, you bastard!" Joe ran into the kitchen, Mama Rosa had the shotgun pointed out the window and someone was screaming outside the building!

Carl called out, "It's ok. It's just a wounded fundie. He'll keep!"

There were sporadic shots for the next several hours, Johnny Jeans and two cars of deputies were soon on the scene and they finally rounded up thirty members of Hammond's church. Ten of them suffered wounds ranging from serious to a broken leg from falling over a stump while running away from Mama Rosa's shotgun!

Carl treated a life threatening wound on a fundamentalist, but refused treatment to any other, saying they could suffer until Sheriff Jeans got them to jail.

The JM2 Marines finished up their mounted and gate patrols that night, but all remained quiet. With nearly the entire congregation of Hammond's church in jail, it was decided that only two mounted JM2 Marines were need at night thereafter.

The JM2 Marines were a big hit with all the boys, they played football with the older boys and taught them to shoot rifles, they took the younger boys on hikes and camping trips and they even led the boys in calisthenics and exercises.

To the young girls, who lived with their employee parents, the JM2 Marines were dream material, more than one Marine had a red face on occasion!

New Construction Ahead

The first week in June, end of term Examinations were given. Despite the interruptions, every student passed their grade level and was promoted.

With the help of the JM2 Marine Corps, summer activities were planned to keep all the children away from the construction zones. The first projects to start were the swimming pool and the additional classroom on the school building.

After Joe and Chet Neumann had fought the plans through the County Building Commission, the next project was eight small houses to be homes for eight boys and a mentor each. All six JM2 Marines had already signed up to be mentors and it would be a requirement of a chaplain and counselor, also.

Carl had called his friend who had been a chaplain in Afghanistan and he would be here for an interview the next day.

They were not having any success in finding a counselor.

John Leki drove in from Tucson for an interview. He stayed the night with Carl and met Joe the next day. Joe asked him why he had not found a congregation and John said, "The ones I have talked to don't have the same ideals as I have."

Joe replied, "Please explain."

John continued, "I want to work with real people, not just a set of preconceived ideals. I want to help people, not just tell them what they want to hear and how wonderful they are!"

Joe then asked him how he would handle working with boys who might be gay, had emotional troubles and needed counseling.

John became very excited and said, "THAT is what I am looking for, someone who NEEDS my help not just to hear me tell them they are doing the right things!"

Joe then asked, "Are you a trained counselor, also?"

John replied, "YES SIR, I most certainly am"

Joe thought for a few moments, then said, "Do you need to go back home or can you stay here on the job?"

John chuckled, "I can stay, Sir, Carl already warned me about YESTERDAY!"

Joe said, "Ok, let me help you with your bags." He turned back to John and asked, "Is there another like yourself?"

John replied, "Yes Sir, my cousin, Abner Leki. He is stuck selling used cars like I was!"

Joe replied, "Give him a call, YESTERDAY!" and left the room, chuckling to himself. He had also learned that both John and Abner were Native Americans, what a wonderful addition they would be to the JM2 Staff!

The next morning, almost before the coffee was ready, a car drove up to the JM2 and a man stepped out, saying he was looking for Mr. Joe. John ran down the front steps and hugged his cousin, Abner. He led him into Joe's office and started to introduce him to Joe. Abner interrupted him and turned to John, asking, "Do you know who this is?"

John responded, "Yeah, it's Mr. Meister."

Abner continued, "No John, this is MR. JOE! THE MR. JOE!"

John's only response was, "Oh My God, HE IS REAL!"

Joe said, "I hear THAT a lot!" Continuing, he said, "Are you ready to go to work?"

Abner responded, "Well, yeah but, well is it YESTERDAY?"

Joe just shook his head and told him to put his bags in the same bungalow as John.

That afternoon, the house phone rang and nobody answered, so Carl picked up in

the Infirmary, "JM2 Infirmary, Carl speaking. How may I help you?"

The voice on the other end said, "This is Mary Bidwell over on the Fort Davis Road, I have a group of boys here, looks like six of them and two are hurt pretty bad. They say they are looking for Mr. Joe. The only Joe I could think of is Joe Meister at the JM2."

Carl responded, "Yep, that's us, I will get someone over there as soon as possible, in fact, I will come myself as a couple boys are hurt! It will be at least an hour to get there, Ma'am."

She replied, "I will make them comfortable until you get here, bye."

There was nobody around, so Carl started banging on the iron triangle He ended up with Gil driving the van and Gary Paulson and himself riding shotgun. By the time they got to the Bidwell Ranch, Carl felt like we had been running the Indie 500! He checked the boys over, one had a broken arm and another, someone had mashed his face in! Gil drove the return route even faster, YESTERDAY, he guessed!

On the way back to the JM2, the four boys who he had NOT given pain killers to, were full of questions! "Is it REALLY MR. JOE?" "Will we be allowed to live there?" "Will we be safe and nobody hurt us?" "Can we go to school?"

Carl said, "Boys, boys, as soon as we get there, you can ask MR. JOE all your questions."

The JM2 Marine Corps was out in UNIFORM to greet the new boys. Gil had ordered desert cammies for his "troops" and they turned out as greeters. WOW, the four awake boys went bug-eyed! The two semi-awake hurt boys took one look and passed out!

After he got the two boys stabilized and had cornered John Leki, his old ‘stan buddy, Carl told him what the boys had said. Abner was with the other four, so John and he went to talk with Joe.

Carl told him the whole story, what Mrs. Bidwell had said and what the boys had said. He told him that we were going to have to put out the word to all the neighbors about this Mr. Joe stuff and we were going to need a permanently ready rescue team!

Joe called for Jordan and told him to order another van with no far back seats, but clips to hold down two stretchers, if needed. He wanted JM2 RESCUE painted on both sides! "We added six new boys today" Joe said, "Carl Anders, Phillip Anders, Roy Melton, Aldo Meeks, Ronnie James and Carson Bettner."

He continued, "All these boys were drawn by the MR. JOE legend!" He turned to Jordan and said, "First thing, get eight more cottages approved. Then, make it TWO more classrooms at the school and look for at least one more teacher."

Jordan replied, "I know, YESTERDAY!" Everyone chuckled.

Joe had interviewed the geologist that morning and he was not impressed. Juan spoke up, "Wasn't Mrs. Bidwell's Grandson a new minted geologist? It seems to me I heard that he worked for an oil rig company that went bust a while ago."

Joe said, "I believe you are right, let me give her a call" Joe went into his office and was back shortly. He reported, "Yes, Bobby Bidwell is a geologist and YES he is out of work right now. He will come tomorrow and Mrs. Bidwell will be with him to check up on HER grandchildren!"

Joe sat down and thought to himself, "Surely nothing MORE can happen today, can it? He was right, nothing other than a disturbed rattlesnake kicked up by the digging machine that was making the hole for the swimming pool.

At supper, Joe mentioned that Mrs. Bidwell was coming the next day with her grandson, Bobby. Mama Rosa spoke up and asked, "Nettie Bidwell?" Joe nodded yes and Mama Rosa continued, "Biddy and I went to high school together, if you ever need someone to comfort a frightened child, you call Nettie Bidwell, she is the world's #1 Grandma!"

Joe thought to himself, "THAT might not be such a bad idea!"

Just before lunch the next day, the Bidwells arrived and Joe took Bobby into his office for an interview.

Mrs. Bidwell had seen the sign "INFIRMARY" so she wandered over and knocked on the door. Carl opened and smiled, "Granny Bidwell! Come in, come in. There are two boys here who would love to see you, Aldo Meeks and Carson Bettner."

Mrs. Bidwell sat down and soon the three of them were old chums! When she left, the two boys were healthier than they had ever been, just from talking with her! Carl decided she was going to be a regular in his infirmary!

In the meantime, Joe was becoming more and more impressed with young Bobby Bidwell. Finally, he asked him, "If you were in charge of my properties over at Junction, what would you do first?"

Without hesitation, Bobby replied, "Fire Blackstone Drilling!"

Joe looked at him in question, "Why?"

Bobby replied, "Try matching their man hours with drilling hours! Drilling hours with feet drilled! Machine hours with drilling hours! Nothing will match up, they are frauds!"

So, Joe went and got the Blackstone Billing folder and said, "Show me."

Bobby did.

Joe thought to himself, "I wonder if Carl carries tranquilizers in that Infirmary of his?"

Joe told Bobby he was hired. Bobby replied, "YESTERDAY?"

Joe's thought was, "Oh Shit!"

After the Bidwells left, Joe sat thinking about how he was spending his days, he was running himself ragged and had no time to spend with all his boys!

Just then the telephone rang, it was Sheriff Jeans, "Joe, somebody broke into Chet Neumann's office and ransacked the place. Worse, they set part of it on fire, I am pretty sure it is Hammond's work but poor Chet is about to have a breakdown!"

Joe, replied, "I'll gather some help and we will be there as soon as we can, Chet deserves our total support for all he has done!"

Joe walked out of his office and found Gil drinking a well earned cup of coffee. He told Gil to gather up a couple JM2 Marines and some older boys. They had a lawyer to rescue!

Joe filled one of the vans with Marines and older boys, and headed for Marfa. When they got there, Chet Neumann was standing in the middle of the wreckage of his lifelong office. It had been his Father's before him and now was reduced to ashes and torn papers!

Joe wrapped his arm around the grieving man and said, "Chet, let my guys clean up here, you have a place at the JM2, it's time you moved in with us" He then chuckled and added, "YESTERDAY!"

While the JM2 crew cleaned up the mess, Joe drove Chet back to the JM2 and got him settled in a bungalow. He then cleared out an office and turned it over to Chet, saying to him, "Chet, how about working just for us. The boys love you and, maybe it's time we BOTH started slowing down?"

Chet replied, "Are you sure you want a crotchety old lawyer breathing down your neck 24/7?"

Joe just laughed and had one of the JM2 Marines take the van back to Marfa and the work crew there. Joe then told Chet, "When you feel up to it, we will move you out of your house and if the bungalow isn't big enough, we will build you a new house here."

At that, Chet Neumann lost whatever control he had over his emotions, Joe closed the door to his office and headed to the kitchen so Chet would have some privacy for his grieving.

Mama Rosa looked at him and said, "You need to take some of your own advice!"

That started him on a train of thought, he settled into a chair at the table, pondering how things had sped up since he had found Billy! He was caring for sixteen boys plus Antonio, Juan's son. There were six JM2 Marines, two chaplains/counselors, two school teachers, a medic and geologist, along with an office manager and a housekeeper! Not to mention the Ranch Hands and their families!

At that moment, the radio squawked and he went running to answer it, "Ranch 1, this is Marine 1. Over."

"Marine 1, Ranch 1, go ahead."

"Ranch 1, we have all of Mr. Neumann's papers in boxes and the trash in the dumpster. We will bring all the salvageable papers to the JM2, we are headed home now. Marine 1, out."

Joe suddenly realized that the radio was their lifeline and all they had was 1 telephone line! He walked to Jordan's office and sat down. Jordan looked up and said, "YESTERDAY?"

Joe's reply was, "Yep!" He continued, "Get someone from the telephone company down here. We need a switchboard and several incoming lines. I want a telephone in every bungalow, every cottage, the Infirmary, the school and anywhere else you can think of."

Thinking some more, he said, "Get together with Carl and find someone from that Navy Reserve Center who knows about radios. We need a manned central radio system that can reach any of our places, even as far as the oil field over at Junction. Yeah, YESTERDAY!"

The next day, an Applications Engineer from the telephone company arrived to analyze the needs of the JM2. He found that a central automatic switchboard would be best and recommended that they purchase six incoming lines, one of which was to be a dedicated emergency circuit.

Jordan approved the plan and work was to begin the next week. In the meantime, Carl had called his friend at the Naval Reserve Training Center in El Paso. They had a young Chief Petty Officer Radioman who was looking for employment.

He had gotten out of the service on a hardship release because his wife left him with two young boys to care for. Jordon spoke with the man briefly on the telephone, and then told him to come for an interview and bring his boys, too. He told the man that JM2 would cover all his expenses for the trip.

The man said he would be there the next day.

Joe wandered out to the Infirmary to visit with the recovering boys, Aldo Meeks and Carson Bettner. They were much improved and anxious to get out of the Infirmary. Aldo said, "Are you really Mr. Joe, the one we heard about in San Antonio?"

Joe replied, "Well, I guess I am, but it doesn't matter, you are a JM2 Boy now and nobody is going to hurt you again! You either, Carson!"

The two boys were all over Joe. When he left, the front of his shirt was soaked with boy tears, and maybe even a few of his own mixed in. Joe spotted the two Leki Brothers over near the pool construction, so he went to talk with them, "Guys, there are two boys in the Infirmary who need some counseling and I'll bet the rest of them in that bunch would love to talk with you also."

The two cousins headed for the Infirmary immediately.

While he was over at the construction site, he decided to speak with the School Teachers, Andrew Long and Jerry Baxter. He told them, "One of the new classrooms needs to be high school level. Can you see if there is a high school teacher, preferable a man, and also another elementary level teacher that can come for an interview?"

Andrew said they would get right on it. Joe thought to himself that maybe they would need a principal soon, also.

It was lunch time so he wandered back to the house, to be met by near bedlam! The table monitors were carrying food from the kitchen to the dining hall and Mama Rosa was trying to put lunch on the table for the adults at the same time. He thought that this had to be taken care of also!

Mama Rosa had two young women as helpers, but it was panic for everyone. After lunch, he sat down with Mama Rosa and asked her what she thought should be done. Mama Rosa thought for a moment, and then replied, "Joe, we need a central kitchen with industrial type ranges and ovens. Also dishwashers and serving lines are needed. While you are at it, we need an industrial laundry. Those boys go through clean clothes like salts through a goose!"

Jordan was standing behind Joe, listening to Mama Rosa telling of her needs, he spoke up, "I'm on it, Boss, YESTERDAY". He walked back to his office chuckling!

Joe hollered after him, "Enough of this YESTERDAY crap, already!"

Jordan laughed even harder at Joe's comment!

Over the next week, several new people were hired. Lenny Radford impressed Joe and was hired as Radio Central. His two sons, Joe and Kenny came along and all three were established in one of the new cottages that were just finished.

Abraham Long was hired as high school teacher and principal. His son, Jeffery, who was only 3 years old, became the youngest boy on the Ranch and everyone's special "lookout"!

They were not having much luck finding another elementary level teacher until Mrs. Bidwell was visiting. She said, "Why, my baby brother just retired from the Austin School system and he is looking for a teaching position around here.

Joe thought, "If he is as good as his grand nephew Bobby Bidwell, he is hired now." Gorman Bidwell came the very next day and was hired on the spot!

The general contractor had completed the additions to the school house and was nearly completed with the swimming pool, so his contract was amended to include a Communication Center, a new Central Kitchen and a Laundry. All were scheduled to be completed before the end of summer.

It was a warm summer evening when Gil, accompanied by three older teens asked Joe if they could talk with him…


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