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.
Sergeant First Class Juan Edward Moralis sat on the edge of his bed, tears running down his face and a crumpled letter in his hands. Sgt. Moralis, United States Army, soon to be medically retired, had read and reread that letter until he knew the words by heart. "Juan, I am taking Danny and we are leaving, don't try to find us. I am not going to live with a half of a man. I can't say it hasn't been fun, but goodbye, Janice." Juan Moralis had been in Army Special Forces fighting the Viet Cong in the jungles of Viet Nam when a grenade was dropped in his lap while he was in a boat headed down river. He remembered screaming and the next thing he remembered was on a hospital ship headed to Hawaii. He spent a year at Walter Reed Army Hospital and then they sent him for another year of rehabilitation at the VA Hospital in Tucson, Arizona. Tomorrow, May 1, 1969, he would be retired and sent home to Hurley, New Mexico, on a prosthetic leg and a cane, to an empty house, no family and no job.
Juan struggled off the steps of the train at the small station in Deming, New Mexico. Looking around, he spotted his sister, Anita, along with his brother-in-law, John and his twin nephews, Juanito and Carlos.
The twins ran to him and hugged him fiercely; they had been only 6 when he last saw them, now they were young men at 13 years old! The two boys stood back from their Uncle and saluted him, holding the salute until he returned it.
Juan looked around, knowing he would not see his beloved Danny, who was the same age as his nephews.
Carlos, always the shy one of the two, took Juan's hand and whispered to him, "We have been looking for Danny, last week Daddy took us to Dallas looking for him."
Juan had always been close to his brother-in-law, John, they had grown up together, almost like brothers. John walked up to him and hugged him, saying, "Welcome home Brother." At that, Juan, lost all control of his emotions and had to be supported to keep him from falling to the ground.
Anita came to Juan's other side and wrapped her arms around her brother, "Juanny, the boys and I have cleaned up your house and there is food in the ‘fridge, let's get you home."
They guided Juan to their car and drove around to the baggage claim to rescue his few belongings before heading up the mountains to Hurley. As they rode along, John said to Juan, "I got you a new car with the money you sent, I got a brand new International Scout, complete with automatic transmission."
Juanito spoke up and said, "Yeah Unca' Juan, and its bright red!"
Juan smiled at his nephew and told him, "Ok, but I get to drive it first!" Juanito giggled and sat back, holding his Uncle's hand. Carlos was on Juan's other side, snuggled under his arm. Juan leaned back and closed his eyes, wondering how hard it would be to go into that empty house, with all its memories. He had grown up in that house, gotten married in that house and brought his infant son, Danny, home to that house.
The long drive was finally over and John drove into the yard of the rambling old house. The lawn had been trimmed, the bushes were neat and a new glider sat on the wide front porch.
Juan got out of the car and struggled up the steps, John and the boys carried his suitcases and trunk into the house. Juan turned to his sister, "Nita, I need to be alone for a while maybe tomorrow we can all get together, ok?"
Anita hugged her older brother and said, "Sure, Juanny, you get some rest and we'll come over in the morning with all your mail and get you settled in." She kissed her brother and gathered up her brood, over her shoulder she said, "Love ya', welcome home."
After they had left, Juan limped over to the recliner that had been his father's and sat down heavily. After a few minutes, great racking sobs tore at his body, he was unable to stop before his shirt was soaked with tears. He held his face in his hands, wailing in despair, he was a cripple and alone.
He finally succumbed to weariness and fell into a deep sleep. About 3 am, he woke and decided he had at least better make an attempt to sleep in his bed, surprisingly, he fell back asleep in the bed and did not resurface until nearly 9 am!
He struggled into consciousness hungry as a bear, so he washed up and slipped on a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt. He wandered into the kitchen and found that his sister, ‘Nita, had gone all out stocking the pantry and refrigerator. He started cooking some bacon and eggs, slicing some fresh Hatch green peppers and swirling them into the eggs.
He heard a knock on his door, thinking it was his sister, he hollered out, "It's unlocked, come on in" He continued stirring his eggs when a quiet knock on the door jam to the kitchen made him look up and see a young man, about 25 years old, shocking red hair sticking out in every which direction and a smile on his freckled face saying, "Mr. Moralis, I hope?"
Juan nearly dropped his stirring spoon in surprise, he stammered, "Uuuuh, yeah, Juan Moralis, I was expecting my Sis."
The man replied, "I'm sorry, I'm Bill Cochran, I tried calling yesterday, but nobody was home."
Juan chuckled and said, "Yeah, I just got in from Tucson last night, what can I do for you, Mr. Cochran?"
The man explained, "Just call me Bill, Mr. Cochran is my Dad. We are Cochran & Son, and I would like to talk to you about your 5,000 acre property just to the east of us."
Juan looked at the man sharply, "That is just rangeland and scrub pine out there." He continued, "How about joining me for a cup of coffee while I feed the beast under my belt?" Bill Cochran sat to the table and said, "Viet Nam?" Juan replied, "Yeah"
The man continued, "My Brother didn't come back, we didn't even have a body to bury. We used to be Cochran and Sons." Juan remained quiet, not really knowing what to say as the visitor tried to control his own emotions.
All was quiet while Juan ate his breakfast and they drank their coffee, the man began, "Mr. Moralis, we have reason to believe there is a substantial deposit of copper under your property. We are not a big outfit like Kennecott up the road, but we would like to take an option on your property and see if it can be developed."
Juan asked, "What terms would you offer?"
Bill Cochran replied, "Dad thought that $250,000 a year for a five year option would be about right. After that, if the deposit proved out, 20% of the profits until the ore body is depleted."
Juan sat there, kind of stunned, then he stammered, "WOW!" Continuing, Juan said, "How about I pass this by my Brother-in-law, John Peters?"
Bill Cochran replied, "Sure thing, we have already contacted Mr. Peters; that is how I knew that you were due back home." He continued, "Here is our check for $50,000 as a non-refundable binder. We will contact you after you have spoken to Mr. Peters, he has a reputation as a fine and honest lawyer so we feel confident he will advise you well."
At that, Bill Cochran departed, leaving Juan's head swirling.
He struggled to his feet and called his brother-in-law's office up in Silver City. John answered the phone himself, "Well, that was fast, what did you think of Bill Cochran?" Juan replied, "You rat, John, the least you could have done was to warn me!"
John laughed and said, "Bro, you needed something like this to spring the cage you have built around yourself. The Cochrans are about as honest a bunch as you will ever find, I already know their offer and can tell you that it is far better than what Kennecott would give you! My advice is to sign that $50,000 check and go into the copper business!"
Juan locked the check in his father's old roll-top desk and stepped out into the garage. Parked there was a brand-new International Scout 4 X 4 and it truly WAS bright red as his nephew, Juanito, had exclaimed!
He tripped the switch to open the garage door and carefully backed the vehicle out. He engaged the 4-wheel drive lever and drove the new vehicle out, into the rangeland behind the house. He drove out through the scrub trees and finally came to the top of a low hill, where he could see for miles.
He shut off the engine and sat there in the quiet and finally said, more to himself than anything, "Well Pop, if I sign that check I will have enough money to look for Danny, but this land was settled by your father's father. What should I do?"
The wind blew gently through the trees, making them seem to nod. After a few minutes, Juan restarted the Scout and turned around for home, he had come to the conclusion that a one-legged man sure couldn't run cattle anymore! Little did he know just how wrong he was, but it would take a small boy to prove it to him!
When he returned to the house, he called the phone number on the card Bill Cochran had attached to the check, the phone was answered immediately by, what sounded like an older man. He asked for Bill Cochran and the voice replied, "Junior or Senior?" Juan stammered, "uuuuh, Junior, I guess."
He heard the voice call, "Hey, Billy, you got a phone call!" then, "This is Bill Cochran, how may I help you?" Juan replied, "Mr. Cochran, this is Juan Moralis, I have decided to accept your offer, what do I need to do?" Bill Cochran said, "For starters, STOP calling me Mr. Cochran, just call me Bill or, I will even answer to Billy."
Juan chuckled and replied, "Only if you call me Juan!" Thus began a relationship that was to last for nearly sixty years!
Juan's sister, Anita arrived with the Twin Terrors, as she called them, Juanito and Carlos and started in cleaning the breakfast dishes in the kitchen. She spotted the second coffee cup so she asked Juan, "Was a certain messy red head here already?"
Juan retorted, "Am I the last one to know about all this?"
Anita laughed and told him that nobody knew except them and the Cochrans, it has been kept secret until he got home. She went to him and hugged her big brother, saying, "Juanny, isn't it time something good happened to you?"
Later that day, Juan went up to Silver City to deposit his check and to sign the agreement with Cochran & Son. He learned they were Senior and Junior. Bill Sr. had a fringe of red/grey hair around an otherwise bald head, while Bill, Jr. had a wheat shock of fire engine red hair that defied all efforts to comb!
Juan stayed in Silver City and had supper with the Cochrans, he found them to be pleasant, down to earth good folks and he looked forward to working with them. It was just after 9 pm as he carefully drove the narrow mountain road back to Hurley. He was not all that familiar yet with the Scout and he was a bit unsteady still on his prosthesis.
He came around a curve and the headlights picked up a teen sized boy carrying a bundle. He jammed on the brakes, nearly locking them up as he was unused to power brakes. He got the Scout stopped and he backed up to where he had seen the boy, but saw nothing.
He struggled out of the car and walked with his cane to the side of the road, calling out, "Are you all right, did I hit you?"
A voice replied, "We are ok, please go away!"
Juan again called out, "Son, I can't leave you out here, it is too dangerous. I am coming down to you." He limped down the embankment in the direction he heard the voice and discovered a dark form huddled over a bundle.
The voice said, "Please mister, don't hurt us, it's just me and my baby brother." Juan said, "Son, I'm not gonna hurt anybody, come up to the car with me, at least I can take you to my house and we can call your folks."
The boy wailed, "NOOOOOO, they will hurt us!"
Juan was staggered by this so he put his arm on the boy's shoulder and said, "Come with me, we can get this straightened out and NOBODY is going to hurt you. THAT I promise you!"
The boy reluctantly followed Juan back to his car and they got in. Under the dome light, Juan could see that the boy was very dirty and had bloody scabs on his face, he looked to be about 15 years old.
Once they were in the car, he started up the Scout and headed for his home. When they got there, he helped the boy into the house and turned on the lights. The boy sat on the couch, holding the bundle tightly.
Juan said, "Is that your brother?" The boy nodded and Juan reached for the bundle, He opened it and found an infant, very dirty and obviously undernourished. He thought to himself, "There is something terrible wrong here!"
To the boy, he said, "I am going to call my younger sister, she will help us with your little brother, ok?" The boy nodded yes, so Juan, still holding the baby, hobbled over to the telephone and called Anita, "Nita, don't ask any questions, I am holding a sick baby boy in my arms and I need some help, NOW!"
Anita hung up without a word and told John briefly what Juan had said and then she jumped in their car and raced for Juan's house, which was only a few blocks away.
She ran up the front steps and burst into the room, the boy screamed, "Don't hurt us, don't hurt us!" She skidded to a halt and looked at the young boy. Kneeling beside him, she said, "Nobody is going to hurt you. May I help my brother with your brother?"
The boy just nodded and she took the bundle from Juan's arms. As she opened up the blanket that the child was wrapped in, she discovered and very dirty and malnourished baby, about 6 months old.
She turned to the boy and said, "Let's you and I give the baby a bath?" She walked into the bathroom and the boy followed her. The baby was incredibly dirty and it took three water changes before the baby boy was clean. She wrapped him is some clean dry towels and brought him out to Juan.
She then said, I am going to run to the corner store and get some food for the baby, why don't you get a bath yourself?" The boy nodded and Juan sat in the recliner, holding the baby while the boy went to get cleaned up.
Anita was back very quickly with an arm load of baby things, she took the baby from Juan and started to feed him, the little guy was almost frantic and slurped up three jars of baby food and drank a whole bottle of formula in almost one gulp!
Juan went to get some clothing that might fit the boy and handed them to him through the door. The boy came out, shyly and looked at his baby brother. He said, "Thank you, M'am, I don't think either of us would have lasted much longer."
Juan motioned for the boy to come to him, he asked, "Son, will you tell us your names and what is going on?" The boy replied, "Yes sir, I am Bobby Forester and this is my brother James. I am 15, our folks are drunks and they left us a week ago. The food finally ran out and I was headed to Hurley to get help for my brother."
At that he dissolved into tears and folded himself into Juan's arms. Both Juan and Anita were holding back their own tears with great difficulty. When the boy told them that their parents had beat him and the baby, breaking his arm, both Juan and his sister lost "it" completely.
Anita looked at Juan, who nodded his head, "Yes" so she stood, still cuddling the baby, and telephoned John, "John, we need you NOW!" It was just a few minutes when John came running on foot from their house. Two boys were scarcely inches behind him. All three skidded to a stop in Juan's living room, Juanito shouted, "Bobby! Bobby Forester, what is wrong?"
Juanito and Carlos ran to Bobby and held him, Bobby managed to tell them what he had told Juan. Juanito said, "This is my Uncle Juan, he is a soldier, he will make everything right for you!"
Juan could no longer restrain himself, he burst into tears and told John, "Do whatever you must, I WANT these boys! You know I have the resources now, do whatever you have to do so they can stay with me!"
Bobby looked at Juan and said, "You WANT us, sir, we are just road trash!" Juan pulled Bobby onto his lap and said, "Son, you are NOT road trash, you and baby James are precious little boys and I want you to live with me!"
That very afternoon, Juan had both boys with him in Penny's Department Store in Sliver City buying new clothes, shoes, a baby crib, baby toys, and a bicycle for Bobby.
He saw Bill Cochran on the street outside City Café, they stopped and talked for a few minutes then Bill noticed that Juan had a baby carrier on his arm and teen boy standing beside him. He said, "I didn't think you had any children?"
Juan replied, "These are my sons, Bobby and James!"
Bobby's eyes bugged out and he held onto Juan's hand almost to break his fingers!
That afternoon, Juan sat on the front porch rocking James as he watched Bobby ride his new bicycle around the front drive. John drove up and got out of his car, as he climbed the steps to the front porch, he said, "You owe me one, Bro! I actually out-talked Judge Sanchez!" "The boys are yours and after one year, if you want, you can apply for adoption"
Juan started to reply, "I will want..." Bobby came flying off his new bicycle and landed in Juan's lap, crying, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" The two boys went a long way towards healing Juan's heart, but he still longed for his son, Danny.
The summer was rapidly ending, Juan got Bobby registered for school and the contractors for Cochran & Son had begun tearing up the earth. They told him that the test bores showed the ore body to be about 100 feet below the surface and was nearly 8% copper! They had only to prove the assay and determine the size of the ore body and they would be in business.
Juan had contacted a detective agency to search for his missing wife and son, Danny. It would prove to be a futile effort. But there was a ray of sunshine to be found in the future. The agency had found where they had been!
Bobby was a big help with the baby, who was finally growing like a weed! Juan decided that the boys need an outing, so he told them they were going to spend the weekend before school started in Las Cruces. He felt much more comfortable now driving the Scout and he had gained a new steadiness on his prosthesis.
They left on Friday afternoon for Las Cruces; it was a nearly six hour drive, so it was late afternoon by the time they reached the hotel. They had driven through the University Campus to get to the hotel, Bobby was fascinated by the ROTC Cadets practicing marching on the quad. Bobby had Juan stop so he could watch, he could almost see the wheels turning in the boy's head. He thought, "Maybe I had better see if the high school offers JROTC!"
They had a fabulous weekend, they went to the zoo and a circus Saturday morning and Walt Disney movie in the afternoon. Sunday morning, they had breakfast at a new restaurant called "Cracker Barrel". Bobby had Pecan Pancakes until he had to unbutton the top of his jeans! He groaned most of the way back home!
The next day was the first day of school. That afternoon, Bobby came racing home on his bicycle, with a sheaf of papers. He raced into the house and handed Juan a form, saying, "You gotta sign, Dad, you gotta sign!"
At the word "Dad", Juan would have signed almost anything! The form was to join the Army JROTC! Juan had no choice, that boy was wound up like an 8-day clock! Again, the fates were at work, but neither knew it yet! In a couple years, an astounding revelation was to come out!
At the end of the first six weeks of school, Bobby brought home a note from his Homeroom Teacher, Mr. Hamilton. He said that Bobby had demonstrated an enormous improvement in grades and deportment and that he was well on the way to academic excellence!
Juan hugged the boy and told him how proud he was of him. Bobby cried a bit and told Juan that nobody had ever congratulated him like that. That evening, after supper, Bobby came to Juan and said, "Dad, can we talk?" Juan replied, "Sure, let's go sit down"
They sat in the living room and Bobby said, "Dad, do we have to wait a whole year for you to adopt us? Our old parents are not coming back, besides, they didn't like or want us anyway an' they hurt Jamie bad!"
Juan said, "Well, let's give Uncle John a call and see what he says. Why don't you call him and ask him over?" A few minutes later, John came up the steps and let himself in. He said, "OK, Bobby, what's so important?"
Bobby replied, "Uncle John, can you make Dad our REAL Dad, now and not wait for a year?"
John laughed, "Yup, all I needed was to hear you say that! I'll go see Gabby Sanchez in the morning!" Before the week was out, both Bobby and James were Moralis'!
Each month the detective agency would send Juan report of where they had searched, always with negative results. Juan's dreams of Danny were getting more and more distant.
THE FAMILY GROWS
It was nearing Christmas Vacation from school and Juan received a notice from the VA (Veteran's Administration) that he was due for a six months checkup at the VA Hospital in Tucson. He thought that would be a fine vacation for the boys, so he made an appointment for the checkup.
They arrived in Tucson the night before and got up early for the appointment. There was a daycare center that James could stay but Bobby would have to stay with Juan, they didn't think that would be a big problem. Juan's records were updated to include the boys and Bobby was actually a big help in removing Juan's prosthesis and steadying him as he stood up for the physical.
It all went quickly and they were back at the hotel by mid-afternoon. With some free time, Juan took them sightseeing on the University Campus. As they drove around, Bobby spotted the ROTC Cadets out marching.
Juan did a double take, he saw an officer observing the marching cadets, he was looking at his old Commanding Officer Major Bellingham! Juan stopped the car and took the boys over to meet the man, only he was now Colonel Bellingham!
Juan introduced Bobby to the Colonel and said that he was in High School JROTC.
The Colonel asked Juan if he might show the boy around, Juan saw no harm and Bobby was flying high. Once they were out of earshot, the Colonel leaned over and said, "Can you keep a secret?"
Bobby said he could and the Colonel whispered something in Bobby's ear. Bobby's eyes flew wide open. The Colonel reminded Bobby that it was his secret and he was to say something ONLY at the appropriate time!
Bobby rejoined the Family and they returned to the hotel. Bobby kept looking at his Dad and smiling, but he said nothing. The next morning, they all headed back to Hurley, Juan decided to take the route from Lordsburg up to Silver City and then back down to Hurley.
They had lunch in Lordsburg and then headed out across the desert towards Silver City. About half way up the mountains Bobby screamed, "STOP!"
Juan jammed on the brakes and stopped the car. Bobby jumped out and ran into the bushes. Seconds later, he returned dragging an Indian boy by the hand.
Juan got out of the car and walked up to the two, he said, "Son, whatever are you doing out here?" The boy looked down at his feet and mumbled, "Got nowhere to go." Juan looked at Bobby, who nodded his head.
Juan picked the boy up, he looked to be about 14 years old but was skinny as a fence post. He put him in the back seat and they started out. It was getting late, so Juan decided to take the boy to their home and figure it out in the morning.
When they got home, Bobby held onto the boy and led him in the house. Juan sat down and Bobby brought the boy over to him. Juan said, "Son, who are you and why were you out there?" The boy began to sniffle and said, "You don't want me here, I am not a good person"
Juan started to get upset, "Why don't you let me be the judge of that, what is your name?" The boy replied, "Roger Knife and my Dad said to never come back!" Juan screamed, "WHAT?" then he said, "Bobby, go call Uncle John and tell we need him, yesterday!"
Bobby did just that and before he could get back to the living room, squealing tires were heard coming down the street! John came running into the house, he looked at Juan and the boy standing next to him and groaned, "Do I have to go listen to Gabby Sanchez again?"
The boy began to cry, "You don't want me here, I might infect your son, I think I am queer!"
Juan grabbed the boy and hugged him, "You can't infect Bobby unless he was born that way. I don't want to hear that ugly word again in this house. Ever! You might be Gay but being Gay is not a disease!"
He turned to John and said, "I want this boy, make it happen!"
At that, the boy dissolved into sobs, thoroughly wetting Juan's shirt. John finally got all the information he needed and left, muttering to himself about having to listen to Judge Sanchez's awful stories again.
After Roger was finally cried out, Bobby took him to the bathroom to get cleaned up and found some of his own clothes the boy could wear.
Juan and Bobby fixed supper that night, tacos, store bought enchiladas, refried beans and flan for dessert! Roger drank nearly a quart of milk by himself! Juan thought to himself, "What kind of home life did this kid have, any at all?"
It was two days before Christmas, Juan told the boys he had some errands to run, that he would be back in a short time. He rushed to the General Store, the only store in Hurley, and started grabbing things off the shelves. His cousin, Alfredo, was tending the store and asked, "You got a run on kids?"
Juan just laughed and said, "No, just a new son!" Alfredo thought it was just a joke, so he laughed. After snatching up an armload of wrapping paper, Juan checked out and headed home.
Roger was exhausted so Juan sent Bobby with him to bed. As soon as everything went quiet, Juan went out to the car and hauled in the presents.
He was busy wrapping when a pair of arms went around him. Bobby hugged him and said, "Thanks Dad, you're the greatest!" He then went back to bed. Juan thought, "No son, YOU ARE!"
He then stacked all the wrapped packages under the tree. Bobby was careful not to notice them, so Roger never realized that the stack had grown.
The next day, Christmas Eve, they were all invited to John and Anita's for dinner. She had cooked a turkey, made pumpkin pies plus all the traditional Mexican foods for Christmas. When Juan walked in with all the boys, they were overwhelmed with delicious smells.
John handed Juan an envelope and pointed to Roger shaking his head, "Yes". He then whispered, "You OWE me, Bro!"
The boys ate themselves into a stupor, even little James got to gnaw on a turkey bone! It was late when they returned to the house, Bobby steered Roger past the tree and into the bedroom, both boys were out like lights!
James had fallen asleep in the car and was out for the night. At the crack of dawn Bobby and Roger were wide awake, they tumbled into Juan's room and said together, "Is it Christmas yet?"
Juan mumbled and groaned and slid out from under the warm sheets. He dressed quickly and carried James out to the living room. Bobby was standing there with a fresh cup, of coffee for his Dad, Juan gratefully accepted the offering of the gods and sat in his chair. He told Roger to start distributing presents.
The first one said "Roger" so he put it on the couch. The next one did also and the next and the next! Finally one said "Bobby" and another said James and so on until all that was left was that envelope that John had handed Juan.
Roger carefully brought the envelope to Juan, who held it out to him, saying, "Roger, it has your name on it."
Roger looked at it and opened it up. Inside was a form, as he pulled it out he saw, "CERTIFICATE OF PERMANENT CUSTODY" and below that was his name and then Juan's name! It took a few seconds for it to register on the boy, then he screamed and leapt into Juan's lap, hugging him as tightly as he could.
After the boy had calmed down, Juan pointed out that he had lots more presents to open! First came a pair of cowboy boots and then a hat. Next was a traditional western shirt and a lariat.
The last box had both his and Bobby's name on it. They opened it together and found a piece of paper in the bottom of the box. It said, "GO OUT THE BACK DOOR"
Both boys tried to scramble through the door at the same time, there, tied to the hitching post were two ponies, one a paint and the other a roan. There were saddles and blankets sitting on the railing! That was the last Juan saw of the boys until hunger drove them home! With them came Juanito and Carlos on their new ponies!
Juan made them all go take a shower before lunch, they smelled like a horse barn!
The Christmas school vacation was soon over and Bobby was back in class, Juan took Roger and got him registered as a High School Freshman. Roger asked if he could be in JROTC like his big brother, Bobby and the counselor told him, "No problem."
It was a mild winter and every weekend the boys spent their free time on their horses. One sunny day in early April, Roger came racing back to the house, his pony all lathered up.
He dropped the reins and ran into the house screaming, "Dad, Dad, come quick! HURRY!"
Juan came into the kitchen and put his arm around Roger, "Slow down son, you are not making any sense." Roger shouted, "Boy, Boy, HURRY, HURT, BOBBY HELPING, HURRY!" Juan said, "Slow down son, can I get there in the Scout?"
Roger shook his head, "Yes, HURRY, COME ON, HURRY! LET'S GO"
Juan backed the Scout out of the garage and slipped it into 4-Wheel drive, Roger was back on his pony, waving at Juan to hurry up. They started off with Roger leading the way at a full gallop!
Juan was hard pressed to keep up with them, Roger and his pony leaped across a small stream and up a rocky hill with Juan bouncing from boulder to boulder trying to keep from losing sight of the boy. As he cleared the crest of the hill, he spotted Roger climbing off his pony and Bobby's pony standing patiently nearby. Juan stopped the Scout and climbed out, Roger took his hand, urging him to hurry.
Bobby was kneeling beside a boy laying on Bobby's spread out jacket. Another, smaller boy was standing there, crying. As Juan struggled over the rocks, Bobby called out, "This is Jason, he has fallen and I think his leg is broken.
Juan examined the boy and confirmed what Bobby had told him, the boy's leg was very definitely broken! Between them, they got the boy in the Scout, Juan told Bobby to sit beside him to keep him from falling over.
He told Roger to ride back to the house, leading Bobby's pony.
He then had the smaller boy sit on the other side of Jason to also help steady the injured boy and they headed back, much slower so as not to hurt the boy further.
As soon as they reached the house, Juan called the only doctor in town, Dr. Jefferson, and he said he would come right over.
Bobby and Roger carefully lifted Jason and carried him into the house, using the cross hands chair carry that they had been taught in JROTC a short time before. While they were waiting for Dr. Jefferson, Juan took the smaller boy and held him, "Son, are you Jason's brother?" The boy replied, "No sir, we are cousins, he was getting me away from my father, look."
At that, the boy lifted his shirt and exposed a black and blue beaten back, blood and pus were oozing out of the welts! One look was all Juan needed, Juan told Roger to go call Uncle John and ask him to come over fast!
He then went over and spoke with Jason, "Jason, can you tell me your father's name so I can call him?" Jason started to cry, "NOOOOO, he is worse than Phillip's father!" Juan thought, "Oh God, not again!"
Just then, Dr. Jefferson arrived, so Juan filled him in on what he knew. Dr. Jefferson was an old country doctor and he looked like somebody's favorite grandfather. He knelt beside Jason and said, "Son, I need to examine your leg, I will be as gentle as I can."
The boy nodded ok and the doctor started to slide Jason's pants off his hips. The boy screamed, "NOOOOOOOOO" and began to cry in earnest. The kindly old doctor said, "It's ok, there isn't anything I haven't seen before!" and continued to remove the boy's trousers. He discovered the boy had no underwear on and when he turned him, so he could examine the injured leg, he saw something that horrified him.
He stood up, his eyes blazing pure fire. He motioned Juan to come with him to the kitchen. Dr. Jefferson was so angry, he was stammering, "Juan, that boy has been raped! You get Sheriff Casey down here now, before I do something I will regret!"
Just then, John Peters stepped into the house. Juan quickly told him what they had discovered, John's face went ashen white and he grabbed Juan's phone off the wall and dialed the Sheriff's office himself. Whatever John told Sheriff Casey, he soon arrived with his Chief Deputy under sirens and red lights.
After talking to the two boys, Calvin Casey promised Juan that the jail would have two new residents within the hour! The two Sheriffs left and Dr. Jefferson took Jason back to his clinic for some x-rays and to set the broken leg. Juan and John took the boys and followed the doctor in Juan's Scout.
Juan said, "About your FRIEND, Gabby Sanchez", John interrupted him saying, "OK, I'm on it! You had better build some new bedrooms on your house if you are going to keep collecting boys!"
The doctor put Jason's leg in a cast and told him he had to stay home from school for a while. He also gave Juan some salve to put on the boy's raw bottom and also on the other boy's back. They found the other boy was Phillip and both boys' last name was Carson, their fathers were brothers. Phillip was only 11 years old and Jason was 15!
Juan was livid, that anyone would treat two young boys like that. He made himself a promise that ANY boy who suffered so in the future was going have a bedroom in Juan's house.
It had been an exciting and tiring day, Juan made his mother's favorite recipe for hurt boys, chicken soup. With full stomachs, all the boys, including little James, decided on a nap.
Moralis Boy's Home
Juan sat in his chair, thinking about what his brother-in-law, John, had said, "COLLECTING BOYS". Why not, he reasoned, he had the funds, he had the land and he certainly had the time! He picked up the phone and called John, "John, do you think I could?"
John replied, "Could what?"
Juan continued, "Do you think I could start a Boy's Home here?"
John thought for a moment and then said, "Yeah, you could, but are you willing to fight the state for it and all the BS they will put you through?" Juan replied, "Why not, they can't hurt me any more than ‘Nam did! DO IT! Get the paperwork started, do whatever you have to do so I can help boys who have been hurt, thrown away or tossed in the gutter!"
It would be a year before they gained approval and, had it not been for the support of Superior Court Judge Alfredo Gabriel Sanchez, it might have been even longer.
In the meantime, Juan called in a contractor and had two more bedrooms built on the old farmhouse. Juan registered Phillip at the Elementary School and, as soon as Jason graduated to a walking cast, he registered him as a sophomore at the High School with Bobby and Roger.
The Carson brothers were convicted of felony child molestation, child abuse and criminal negligence towards a minor. The temporary custody order was changed to permanent and Juan was awarded custody of both boys. For the first time since he and Anita had been children, Juan's old farmhouse rang with the sound of happy children!
Just before school let out for the summer, the High School JROTC held a promotion ceremony for the cadets. It was a proud Juan who watched Jason promoted to Cadet First Sergeant, Bobby to Cadet Second Lieutenant and Roger to Cadet Master Sergeant! Phillip told Juan that as soon as he was in High School he WAS going to be a JROTC Cadet like his big brothers!
Juan could not have been more proud if they had all been his blood children! He took them all out to lunch at the Cattleman's Club up in Silver City. The boys were still in their uniforms and attracted a lot of attention from the other patrons, Juan beamed when he introduced them as HIS SONS!
As they returned home, they spotted Bill Cochran's car in the drive. Bill was standing on the porch waiting for them, seeing the boys all in their uniforms, he said, "Hmmm, Moralis Standing Army!" Juan laughed and said, "Don't try to start any wars here! Come on in, I'll fix some coffee."
Juan and Bill were drinking their coffee when Bill said, "Juan, the assays proved out even richer than we thought, we have a 10% ore body! We plan to open the pit and start hauling ore as soon as possible. Kennecott has contracted for 100% of our production, we can't be sure yet, but we are guessing that your 20% will amount to about $10,000,000 a year and we calculate there is 20 year's ore in the ground!"
Juan was staggered and had to sit down.
Bill continued, "If it is OK with you, we will write the production contract for monthly payments to you, probably starting in September of this year." Poor Juan's eyes were glazed and finally he said, "Bill, you have jampacked me. It is a good thing all my teeth are my own! Of course, I need to talk with John Peters, but, HELL YEAH!"
Bill continued, "Rumor has it that you have added two more boys to this circus!" Juan replied, "Yeah and now I see my way to make it even more – MORALIS BOY'S HOME will be a reality!"
It was a damp eyed Juan who hugged Bill Cochran as he left the house. The boys had been eavesdropping, they ran into the living room and hugged Juan; he wrapped his arms around the whole bunch and just cried, his dream of helping boys would become a real now!
Juan purchased two more ponies, one for Jason and the other for Phillip. The boys' favorite activity that summer was to take a picnic lunch and ride their horse's to the top of the rise overlooking the new open pit mine to watch the heavy equipment remove the overburden to expose the ore.
The four older boys formed and unbreakable bond that would last their lifetimes and their protection of their baby brother, James, was something fierce to behold!
Juanito and Carlos, Juan's two nephews became part of the Moralis Horde and they, also, became JROTC Cadets when school resumed in the fall.
With John's help, Juan formed the Moralis Foundation Corporation and he assigned all but $250,000 a year to the Foundation. In September, as Bill Cochran had promised, monthly payments of about $1,750,000 started and were paid to The Moralis Foundation Corporation.
Juan contracted with a firm out of Las Cruces to build a two story boy's home. It was to have bedrooms for each two boys and a small apartment on each floor for an adult mentor. Juan purchased land well away from the mine to place the building, there was sufficient space for an elementary school, should the need arise.
Bobby and Jason suggested a campground that could be used by the boys and also for the High School JROTC. Juan thought that was a great idea and had the plans incorporated into the Boy's Home project.
Juan became the CEO of Moralis Boy's Home Foundation Corporation and he Appointed John Peters as Legal Counsel. Unknown to the boys, Bobby, Roger, Jason, Juanito and Carlos were all named to the Board of Directors.
The License from the state arrived shortly before the construction was complete, a grand opening celebration was held in November. The JROTC Drill Team and Standard Bearers, under the command of Cadet Bobby Moralis opened the gates for visitors.
His brothers, Jason Carson, Juanito Peters and Carlos Peters served as tour guides. Phillip Carson looked on with envy until Juan took him by the hand as he led visitors through the new facility.
Judge Sanchez was among the first visitors to be shown around, he looked down at Phillip and said, "Next year, for you, son!" Phillip beamed and said in his very best military voice, "Sir, yes sir!" Judge Sanchez chuckled and turned to Juan, "You have a little general there, Juan!"
The Judge could not know how just prophetic his words were!
Juan was happy at how everything was coming together, but, at night he still yearned for his son, Danny. He kept the detective agency on the case, but his hopes were rapidly diminishing.
Juan put out the word that Moralis Boy's Home would accept boys who were "problems" elsewhere.
His first hires were two brothers, Albert and Raymond Corrigan. When he was interviewing them he asked them all the standard questions and then threw them a "stun" question, "Is there ANYTHING about either of you that would prevent you from working with troubled young boys or even gay boys?"
Albert looked down at his feet and stammered, "I am gay."
Juan replied, I didn't ask about your preferences, just what you can do to help troubled or gay boys." Albert stammered, "You mean my being gay doesn't matter?"
Juan said, "Why should it matter? If that is all you have, can you both start this afternoon?"
The two brothers were still putting their clothes away when a State Department of Corrections van drove up to the front door. A Corrections Officer and a woman in a business suit got out and went into the office.
Juan had not yet hired a manager, so he was manning the office. He said, "Can I help you?" The lady said, I am Amelia Carelton from New Mexico State CPS, I called you yesterday about three boys that have been locked up at the Juvenile Prison because there was no other place for them."
Juan replied, "Of course Mrs. Carelton, we have rooms for them ready, may I meet them please?"
The officer brought in three very frightened boys in hand cuffs. Juan went ballistic, "How DARE you bring boys chained together like criminals! Take those off now or I will have the County Sheriff lock you BOTH up!"
As soon as the boys were unlocked, Juan put his arms around the three of them and led them away, leaving the two state officials to cool their heels in the lobby. He was so angry, he could hardly speak. He phoned up to the Corrigan Brothers' room and asked them to come down to Admitting right away.
As soon as they got there, out of breath because they run down the stairwell, Juan put the three boys in their care and he went stomping back out to the front lobby. He was still angry enough to set the carpeting on fire as he told them that if they ever brought boys to him like that, he would raise the roof from here to the state capitol and back!
He then signed their paperwork and sent them on their away. He immediately went back to where the boys were and sat down with them.
The three, Johnny Mears, Ralph Babbin and Mike Kerns, all 14 years old and so frightened their knees were shaking. The three adults each held a boy and Juan, who had finally calmed himself down, told them that, for now, they were going to be all in one bedroom but as soon as some more boys came, all bedrooms would hold just two boys each.
Mike Kearns spoke up, "Sir, you mean we will have a bedroom just our own?"
Juan looked at them and said, "Boys, this is a home, NOT a prison. Yes you will have a room and things of your very own. You will be expected to keep your room fairly neat and kind of clean but this is also NOT the military. I have sons, I know what goes on, we are not going to worry about a dirty sock on the floor or a toothbrush hanging crooked!"
The three boys looked at each other and began to sob, they hung onto Juan like he was a life raft. Perhaps, in a way, he was.
Before the month was out, eighteen boys were living at the Moralis Boy's Home. Both the Elementary and High Schools were getting worried about having sufficient classroom space. When they heard that, Juan had the contractor make up a set of plans for an Elementary School on the Home grounds, the School Board became excited and asked Juan to meet with them.
When he presented the plans to the school Board and told them he would build the school, they were delighted and willing to cooperate on teaching staff. The next week, the contractor started construction.
Juan finally found the man he was looking for to be the administrator. He had gone back to the VA Hospital in Tucson for his checkup and was talking to a man in the waiting room. He was a Navy Veteran who had been involved in a shipboard fire. He had been a Lieutenant Commander and the fire had so severely burned him that he had to have both legs amputated just below the knees. He was currently confined to a wheel chair, but they were working with a firm in Dallas that thought they could equip him with a new style articulating prosthesis that would allow him to walk!
The man was excited about the prospect and told Juan that he had a degree in Elementary Education from Duke University. He wanted to ask his girl friend to marry him, but felt he needed job before asking her.
Juan gave the man his card and asked him to come see him. If he needed help or transportation, give him a call and he would come get him. The man asked Juan if he should wait for the prosthesis' and Juan said "No, come anytime you are ready."
Juan had been back home only a couple of days when the phone rang. When he answered, it was the Lieutenant Commander, "Mr. Moralis, I am here in Hurley, my Dad drove me over from Tucson this morning." Juan replied, "Well, come on, I will wait here at the Home for you."
When they arrived, Juan met them and wheeled the man, Dennis Kaufmann, inside, telling the Father he could wander the grounds and speak to anyone he wished. Juan showed Dennis all over, even taking him upstairs on the new elevator, to see the boys' rooms and recreation area.
Dennis was very impressed and said to himself, "If there is any way, I am going to be part of this! I'll do anything Mr. Moralis asks of me to get this position!" When they returned to Juan's office, Juan asked, "Do you have any questions?" Dennis replied, "Where would be a good place for me to live?"
Juan pointed out the window, where carpenters were putting the finishing touches on a new house, "That is the Administrator's Home."He continued, "When can you start?" Dennis looked him straight in the eyes and said, "Yesterday!"
They met Dennis' father in the driveway and his father said, "Dennis if you don't take this position, I WILL!" Dennis laughed and said, "Sorry dad, the job's mine!"
Juan spoke up and asked him, "What kind of work do you do?" Mr. Kaufmann said, "I am a retired Elementary School Principal."
Juan said, "Hm, you see that new building over there?" He pointed to some new construction away a bit from the Home. Mr. Kaufmann said, "It kinda looks like a school!"
Juan replied, "It is an Elementary School and it needs a principal, interested?"
The man said, excitedly, "You bet I am!"
After some negotiations Dennis Kaufmann, Sr. was hired as Moralis Elementary School Principal. Since he was widowed, he decided to live with his son in the Administrator's House. They both started work the next week.
Summer was fast approaching and Bobby brought home the information that Major Davis, the JROTC instructor would like to meet with him. Juan called him at the school and made an appointment to meet with him the next day.
All the boys had lots of homework, they were all cramming for finals. The ponies were grumbling around in the corral, wondering where their boys were and the boys were as jumpy as a dog in a flea market!
Juan took the high school boys to school as he was going that way to meet with Major Davis anyway. He met the instructor in his office, the Major closed the door and said, I have two things I want to talk about and neither are dependent upon the other." Juan said, "OK, shoot"
The man continued, "Bobby tells me that you guys have a campground over on the other side of the Boy's Home that is big enough to handle a JROTC campout, is that correct? Juan replied, "Yes, that is one of the uses we built it for." The Major continued then, "Could we reserve it for the first two weeks after school lets out and how much will it cost?"
Juan said, "One of the requirements for use is that it costs the campers nothing and, yes, you may use it for those two weeks."
The Major continued, "Now that you are sat down, I want to tell you that Bobby Moralis is being promoted to Cadet Lt. Colonel and will command the JROTC unit next year, his senior year." Juan looked at him, gobsmacked! "My Bobby?" Major Davis smiled, "Yes, YOUR BOBBY!"
He continued, "Are you aware that Bobby Moralis is on the Dean's List this year and he is Number 1 in his class?" Juan stammered, "I knew he was running all A's, but Number 1? Lt. Colonel, Commanding? Oh my God!"
The Major let it all sink in and then he said, "Mr. Moralis, I am not sure exactly what it is you are doing, but ALL those boys, even John Peters's boys are straight A students now. They are popular and they are the top students in this school!"
Continuing, he said, "We all think you are running a miracle factory over there!"
The following week was the JROTC Change of Command Ceremony celebrating the end of the school year. The Instructor stood up and said, "This year we are going to do things a little different. Will Cadet Bobby Moralis please come to the stage."
Bobby marched up to the stage and smartly saluted Major Davis.
The Major continued, "Cadet Moralis has shown all the properties desired in an outstanding Cadet Officer, not only in his JROTC classes, but he is also the highest scoring student in our school! I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, Cadet Lt. Colonel Bobby Moralis"
Bobby stepped forward and said, "Thank you Major Davis, ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests. Nobody can do this alone, we all have those who support us and encourage us, those who lead us and those we lead are all part of our experience. A man I met some time ago is part of my experience, he so impressed me that I asked him to be here, will Colonel Matthew Bellingham please come to the stage."
The Colonel came up from the audience and stood in front of Booby, who snapped him a precision salute and then asked him to be seated on the stage.
Juan was becoming very uncomfortable and was wondering what was going on.
Bobby continued, "One of the most important figures in my life has been my Dad, Mr. Juan Edward Moralis. Not only is he a notable here in Hurley, he also was this during his time in the United States Army. Will Mr. Juan Moralis, Dad, please come to the stage.
Juan did so, wondering what Bobby was doing.
Bobby saluted his father and then asked him to face the audience. He began, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is my Father, Juan Edward Moralis, a son of Hurley and the man who saved my life, quite literally, he scooped me up out of a ditch. But my life was not the first he saved, nor was it the last. He saved lives in Viet Nam, he saved lives here in Hurley, New Mexico and it is my objective to make the heroism of this great man known to you all."
He then spoke directly to Juan, "Mr. Moralis, SIR, you are out of uniform, SIR!"
He then lifted a blue and white ribbon from the podium and hung it around his Father's neck, a medallion was strung at the bottom of the ribbon. It was a red, white and blue ribbon that all present recognized!
Bobby then ordered, "CADETS . HAND SALUTE!...... TWO!
Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you Army Sergeant First Class Juan Edward Moralis, retired, MEDAL OF HONOR AWARDEE SINCE 1967!"
Amid the thunder of applause, Bobby whispered to his dad, "I had to do it Dad, you are the best there ever will be!"
The remainder of the program was anti-climatic, poor Juan was seated in a complete daze, his 17 year old son had so completely flummoxed him, his sister, Anita, had to drive him home that night!
The remainder of the summer was much quieter, Dennis Kaufmann, Jr. got married, in a wedding that was held at the Elementary School. His Father was the Best Man and the boys of Moralis Boy's Home were in the cheering section.
The JROTC held their two-week campout and it was so successful that plans were begun immediately for the next year.
Juan still pined for his son, Danny, but the detective firm could find no trace of him. Juan finally cancelled the contract, he realized that it just was not going to be.
By August the Home had only two vacant bedrooms so, after conferring with Dennis, Juan let a contract to construct a second building. It was to be bigger and would include an indoor swimming pool and a basketball court.
He advertised for two additional mentors and was soon flooded with applicants, none of whom impressed him. On a hunch, he called the Social Services office at the VA Hospital in Tucson to ask if they had any young veterans looking for a job who would be suitable. The young lady on the telephone said they had four young men, but they were all handicapped.
Juan replied, "I am handicapped myself and it sure hasn't slowed me down! Send all four to see me, we will pay their expenses!"
Two days later four young men drove up in a battered old Ford pickup, billowing smoke out the exhaust like a locomotive! They all helped each other exit the truck, they had been packed in like sardines. Two were on crutches and one was obviously just learning to use his prosthetic leg. The fourth stumbled along on two canes.
Juan met them at the front door of the Home, the young men, Carl and Lonny Johnston, brothers from Medford, Oregon, Angel Suarez from Tucson, Arizona and Albert Conners from Seattle, Washington.
All had been Navy Sailors assigned to the River Boats in Viet Nam and had been injured in the same incident.
Albert Conners spoke up, "Mr. Moralis, sir, we four have been through hell together, is there any possibility that we can stay together?"
Juan's eyes misted over, looking at the four clean-cut young men who had been through so much together, he resolved to make it happen. He said, "First of all, my name is Juan, NOT sir! Do you guys think you can handle rowdy teen boys and some may even be gay to boot?"
Albert looked at his friends and they all nodded. He replied, "Sir, eeer, Juan, if we can stay together, we will handle the devil himself, anything!"
Juan had already seen their resumes and had decided that any of them would be ideal. He replied, "OK, go home and get your belongings. You ALL can start as soon as you get back here."
Albert said, "Juan, all that we own is in the back of my truck, can we start now?"
He was sure now that the young men were on their own and had no place, nor families to call their own. Not wanting to embarrass them, he said, "Great, you start now. Lunch is in twenty minutes!" He then called some of the boys to help bring in their belongings and the look of relief on the young men's faces was too great to hide.