To STARMAN fans everywhere. Long may our blue lights glow.
A special thanks is given to all those who brought STARMAN to life and to those who continue to keep it alive. To all of you this work is dedicated.
This story follows my earlier story, "A Byte of Time", and fits into the time frame, preceding "Starscapes". Some dialog in this story deals with things I feel father and son might have discussed in the series, but did not. I include them here because I feel they need to be examined. I also consider this a STARMAN concept story.
As my friend Desertgal tells me this is a "Mary Sue story" based ultra loosely on characters and places around home. I find no reason for relocation from areas I am familiar with. Whidbey is an island in Puget Sound north and west of Seattle. My husband and I have a farm partly in and partly outside the small city of Langley and some of the matters set forth in this work refer directly to our farming situation.
The events taking place on the farm we experience each year, or from time to time, and if I have described some with too much detail, I beg your indulgence for I am a reaologist (realist x zoologist). I gain a certain self-satisfaction from delivering a lamb or a calf who would otherwise not have been born. I love nature and I love working with farm animals, but I also respect them for what they are; the unwilling servants of the human race, that part of us we must someday rise above.
The description of the mountains I re-experienced in August of 1990, and except for literary license, the areas described would be recognizable to someone traveling the same paths. I guess, one might say, the rest is a great love of STARMAN, the characters and concepts, wishful thinking and a vivid imagination. Again, I hope you enjoy reading "Down to Earth" as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Any and all comments are appreciated.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, or incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or to persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
"Down to Earth" is a non-profit, amateur publication written for the enjoyment of STARMAN fans, and is not meant to infringe upon copyrights, or otherwise, held by Bruce A Evans and Raynold Gideon, Henerson-Hirsch, Productions, Michael Douglas Productions, Columbia Pictures Television, or ABC-TV.
Materials contained herein may not be copied or reproduced without the express written permission of the author.
Down to Earth
© February 1992, Revised January 2010
Starman date, June 13, 1987
After leaving the Taylors, Starman and Scott caught the next bus that came along. It took them across the city. It was after eleven when they got off and were walking down a busy boulevard in north Seattle. Both realized it had been another close call this afternoon. Once again, without the help of friends they would have been in Fox's hands.
Starman glanced at his son, bearing his share of their combined burden on his young shoulders. If only I had understood sixteen years ago what life would be like for him and his mother, I know I could have found some way to stay. In a moment of human passion I created this child, and then offered him to Jenny Hayden. I believed money and a mother's care all he needed from me. That I had provided. I imprinted within the last of my landing craft's energy modules, all the information I felt allowable for his future education. Leaving these things with Jenny, I believed I had provided everything necessary and when the ship came, I left. The thought never crossed my mind I would ever return. When I felt him calling, somehow, I knew I must go. Now I know Scott has become an important part of me.
I can only wonder what the government will do to us. What might have happened to him if I had not come back? What if Scott had no one to care for him? Fox was in Seattle when I returned. What if he had found him? Would Scott now be in confinement while they try to find in him, some evidence of me? Paul took in a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. He looked again at the rapidly maturing young man walking beside him. Even now it can still happen. He grimaced and felt a chill go through his very human body. It almost happened this afternoon in East Wenatchee. He saw Scott turn his head, catching him watching. "Dad, don't you think it's time to look for a place to stay for the night?"
I must clear my mind of these thoughts, the Starman thought, and return to being Paul Forrester, a father of this world. After all, life these past couple of months has been good to us and having to start sleeping out again can be delayed at least one more day. "We have money now, so how about a motel?" he offered in consolation.
"Right on." Scott replied excitedly. "I see some up ahead."
As they walked along, Scott glanced again at his father. "What are we going to do now, stay in Seattle or move on?"
"We probably should move on just in case the Taylors' plan didn't work like they expected. We have no way of knowing where Fox might be looking for us now. He might have come back to Seattle."
"Dad, there's one thing I would like to do before we leave Seattle this time."
"What might that be?"
"I'd like to take some flowers up to the Lockharts' graves," Scott replied pensively. "They were always pretty good to me."
"That would be nice," Paul replied. "We'll do it first thing in the morning."
Hastening strides brought them to the cluster of motels. Viewing the marquees, a procedure they had done many times when finances had allowed, they simultaneously spotted the cheapest. This time Scott beat his father to the announcement. "Across the street."
"Good choice. At least the advertisement is appealing, clean rooms and $28 a night, double occupancy."
"And most important at this time of night, 'vacancy'," Scott replied with a grin. "That means the office is still open."
It was just after midnight when they finally crawled between the sheets and said goodnight. Morning would be when one of them awoke. The previous day had been another stressful one.
In the morning Paul awakened first. He looked at his watch and smiled. Seven-thirty. Time to get started on the gift of this new day.
His father's movements of getting up awakened Scott. He yawned, and then stretched and offered a hearty "Good morning." For a moment he watched his father, and then closed his eyes for one last minute and awakened again when his father returned from the shower wrapped in a towel. This time Scott sat up, rested momentarily on the edge of the bed, stretched fully and proceeded into the bathroom.
Paul was just tucking in the tails of his shirt when Scott returned from his shower. By the time Scott finished dressing Paul had gathered and packed the items they had taken out of the duffle the night before. He deposited it in an alcove beside the door.
"Do you have the key?" Scott asked, and observing his father's nod, they readied themselves to leave the motel to look for breakfast.
Over breakfast at a small cafe down the block, they discussed the trip up to the cemetery and decided to leave the bags at the motel until they returned. The cemetery was on top of the hill not far from the little flower shop his step-parents had owned. Scott, familiar with this area of the city, found the proper bus to take them the short distance to his old neighborhood. Wanting to take some flowers for the graves, he was drawn to the area of the shop where he had shared a good portion of his growing up years with the Lockharts.
A bell tinkled cheerfully as they walked in the front door and they heard movement in the back of someone obviously coming to answer its demanding summons. A short, dark skinned, middle-aged man came into view from behind a screen. His skin reflected the pre-mature wrinkles of someone who had spent many years in a sunny climate. A smile of recognition swept Scott's face. "Rick?"
The man did a double take of the young man standing just inside the doorway and responded with a heavy accent. "Scotty?" His eyes lit up and a wide grin appeared. "It's good to see you." His eyes ran up and down the lean youth. "My how you've grown." His smile faded. "I worried when I heard you ran away from the juvenile center."
Scott glanced at his father who stood silently watching him greet an old friend and decided he should introduce him even though the introduction might raise some further questions. "Rick, this is my dad, Paul Forrester. Dad, this is Rick Gonzalez. Rick used to work for us ...I mean for Kent and Eileen."
Paul extended his hand to accept the one coming toward him. "I'm very happy to meet you, Mr. Gonzalez."
"Likewise," the man replied, "and please call me Rick, Mr. Forrester. I hardly know how to answer to Mr."
"Paul, please." Starman advised.
Scott's attention returned quizzically to the man. "What are you doing here, Rick?"
"I bought the shop when the estate put it up for sale," he replied. A bewildered look appeared as his eyes moved to Paul, and then back again. "Scott, I understood your father had died."
"I found out he was alive when he came to get me. We've been all over looking for mom."
"Her name was Jenny, wasn't it?" Rick replied.
"Yes, Jenny Hayden," Paul confirmed, hopeful of receiving something positive. "Did you know her?"
"Please tell me what you know about her." Scott asked eagerly.
A deep frown wrinkled Rick's face even further, and then softened. "I can't say I knew her, Scott, but yes, I know of her," Rick replied. His face wrinkled again into a broad grin. "I think you have a right to find out about your roots and I guess it really doesn't make any difference now that Kent and Eileen are gone." He paused a long moment. "It was a long time ago, but I could never forget her." A frown now left deeper wrinkles. "I think it was because of the look on her face. She always seemed frightened ... kind of aloof; like she was always worried or watching for something. It was sad, for it was like she was personally carrying the problems of the whole world around on her shoulders."
Paul felt another stab of guilt as he listened to the man. If only I had known, he thought. He lowered his eyes then raised them again and heaved a deep sigh as the man continued.
"Eileen brought her here one day and found her an apartment somewhere in the neighborhood. I guessed she might be going to some kind of school because she always seemed to have a lot of papers with her. Eileen obviously had agreed to baby sit for her." Rick turned back to Scott and grinned. "She was only around for a few weeks and it surprised me when she came into the shop one day and I heard her agree to leave you with Eileen and Kent. It was really strange, because while she was around here, it didn't seem she was without the money to take care of you. It was ... something else. Something I couldn't put my finger on. I didn't mean to eavesdrop on their conversation that last day, but I was in the other room putting a delivery into water containers and couldn't help hearing. I will say one thing though, when she walked in that morning, the look on her face was one I could never forget. She was a mother who had made up her mind to give her child to somebody who could offer him something better in life than she could."
"She just left me?"
"Yes," Rick confirmed. "Afterward, I suspected she had come here to check out the Lockharts. I think she left feeling secure in her choice of parents for you, Scott." He looked despondently at Scott. "I'm sorry I can't tell you more."
Scott glanced at his father, catching an apologetic look. "It's all right. I kind of understand her problem, now."
"When Eileen realized I had heard them talking, she gave me instructions that I was never to ask or say anything about it. Until now, I've kept that confidence. Just before you ran off last year, there was a guy from some government agency sniffing around and acting kind of high and mighty with his questions. I didn't like him from the moment I saw and didn't tell him either."
Fox was here too, Paul thought. How close Scott had been to vanishing before I ever knew him. I might have found only the sphere.
Rick glanced at Paul then returned his attention to Scott. "I think your mother had all the necessary papers with her when she came that last day. Anyway, everyone signed something. Then she left and I never saw her again."
Rick's face beamed as memories rekindled. His broadening smile causing his smile wrinkles to deepen even more. "It was wonderful around here, though. Eileen and Kent were like new people. They had tried for so long to have children, but nothing happened. Having you fulfilled an empty spot in their lives." He paused briefly. "You know, Scott, they really did love you."
"I know," Scott confirmed, tears of anguish coming to his eyes, "and in exchange I was the cause of the accident that killed them. They were arguing with me when the car went off the road. When I found out they were dead, I asked myself, 'Why not me too'?"
"Scott," Paul interjected emphatically, "it was an accident!"
Scott looked at his father. "But it was still my fault. I was the one who wouldn't quit arguing."
"Remember, any argument requires more than one person," Paul returned. "If you were arguing with them, then they were also arguing with you. The accident might have been prevented if the driver had stopped the car and everybody had taken the time to quietly discuss the problem."
Scott looked at his father, appreciating his wisdom. Still he could not overcome his guilt and his face showed it.
Rick recognized the problem. "I knew Eileen and Kent for many years, Scott. They would have been very happy to know their child had survived. You were their son and like any good parents, no matter what the circumstances, they would have wanted you to live."
His tears now under control, Scott smiled weakly. "Thanks Dad ... Rick. I needed that."
"Then you knew the Lockharts a long time?" Paul asked, his eyebrows rising as he looked at the man.
"Yes," Rick replied, "I went to work for them just after they bought the shop."
"In our search for Scott's mother, the only clue we had was that she had a friend by the name of Kelly Simpson who lived at Spirit Lake. We were down there, but she left over four years ago."
"Kelly was Eileen's aunt," Rick replied knowingly. Rick turned his attention to Scott. "Maybe it was Kelly who made the arrangement. When they introduced your mother, I thought her name sounded familiar."
"My mom worked for Kelly," Scott advised. "But Mom never even came to check on me. It isn't that far to Spirit Lake from here."
"I suspect that might have been part of the arrangement. I know when the resort was slow Kelly would visit, but never when you were around. When they expected Kelly, Kent would usually take you somewhere. After you started school, they visited only during the day. Kelly was always full of questions about you. Now it makes more sense. I'd be willing to bet it was Kelly who suggested Kent and Eileen. She helped her friend and her sister and probably gave your mother information about how you were doing. Still, I'm afraid Eileen and Kent's arrangement is buried with them."
"Did Eileen ever say anything about Kelly selling the resort or mention where she might have gone afterward?" Paul asked hopefully.
"No," Rick frowned thoughtfully, "Kelly hadn't been around much at all for the last eight or nine years and I really had no reason to ask." There was a long pause as Rick seemed to be trying to remember anything useful and deep creases appeared again on his face. His expression changed suddenly at the revival of something that might be useful. "Kelly had a brother. He came with her a couple of times. She called him Ron or Rob ... something like that. I'm sure it began with an R and his last name is Johnson, with an 'o'. He and Kent hit it off; I guess they were both into flowers. He lived in Seattle. On one of Kelly's last visits, Kent asked about him and I heard he had retired and moved somewhere north of here. If you can find him, he might know where Kelly is now."
Paul saw a look of hope appear on Scott's face. "We'll find him, Scott," he said enthusiastically. "I'm glad you wanted to stop here."
Scott smiled at his father's confident look. He knew his father had no idea of how many Johnson's there might be to check out, but he responded encouragingly. "Right on, Dad."
Paul smiled back at Rick. "You've been very helpful. Now we have somebody else to look for. Thank you."
Scott glanced at his watch. "Dad, I think it's time we get going. We can start checking the Johnson's this afternoon. Oh, Rick," Scott announced, remembering his reason for visiting the shop, "We're going up to the cemetery and I'd like to buy some flowers."
"What do you have in mind?"
Scott thought for a moment then cast a glance at his father and smiled. "I like the color blue. Do you have anything in?"
Rick moved toward the rear of the shop. "I have some blue iris in back. They just came in this morning. I was getting them into water when you came."
They followed Rick into the back room. Scott selected two bunches and handed them to Rick. Paul started to take out his wallet, but Rick motioned to stop. "It's on the house. I feel kind of badly I haven't been up there. Say an extra hello for me."
"Thank you, we'll be sure to do that." Paul confirmed with a pleasant smile while he puzzled why someone would want to verbally converse with those who long ago had become one with the cosmos.
Rick wrapped the flower stems in a piece of florist's paper and handed them to Scott. Scott responded with a gracious, "Thank you."
"Good luck with finding your mother, Scott," Rick offered as the two turned to leave. He followed them to the door and stood there as they left the shop, muttering to himself, "The story Jenny Hayden told of the father being dead surely brought finality to further questions of another consenting parent. It amazes me, for Scott obviously thinks a great deal of this man who apparently deserted him, and his mother. Maybe there were reasons for keeping him a secret only they and the Lockharts understood. I certainly can't deny the man seems pleasant enough and definitely cares about the boy. I guess late is better than never and I'm sure happy he did come back to take care of his son." Rick's eyes followed as the two crossed the street and walked up the hill toward the cemetery. He was smiling as he returned to work. "I feel good about telling them what I know of the Lockharts' well kept secret."
Paul and Scott walked the several blocks to the top of the hill, and then through the heavy wrought iron gates into the cemetery. Each, in his own way, had been to the graves before, but this time it was Scott's route they used.
Paul watched respectfully while Scott filled the flower receptacles with water from a nearby faucet and placed the flowers on the two graves. When Scott was through with his visit and Rick's hellos, Paul looked around the area then led his son to a small group of trees. Pointing upward among the branches, he said, "This is where I was the first time I ever saw you."
Scott frowned. "Are you wiggling your eyebrows?"
"Me?" Paul questioned impishly, pointing to himself. "It's the truth."
Scott's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "You mean you were sitting here in a tree?"
"Not sitting ... observing, and very seriously I might add."
"Why didn't you climb down and introduce yourself?"
"I didn't know who you were. I was following a signal emitting from your sphere. I guess I expected to see your mother." Paul smiled again. "I looked you over very carefully. Finally, I felt a need to personally check this strange looking being."
Looking at his father, Scott narrowed one eye trying to decide if his father was joking. "What do you mean 'strange looking'?"
Paul could see his son was trying to decide whether he was kidding him again. He held a very straight face, but when Scott looked him directly in the eye, he could not hold back the grin he felt gathering inside and the smile spread over his face. Humor still baffles me, he thought. Even though I practice, there is something about this physical body that makes it very difficult not to smile at a humorous situation. "Well, you were strange looking to me," he offered. "Besides we wouldn't have been able to converse anyway. You would have run away faster than you did in the park the first time we met."
"Huh?" Scott questioned.
Paul twice raised and lowered his eyebrows swiftly, and then made a sweeping motion with his hands from his head toward his feet. "I hadn't..."
Scott realized what the gesture meant. "Oh. You mean you hadn't become..." He thought 'human', but seemed unable to say it for to him, his father was human. Instead he gave a responsive smile. "I keep forgetting."
Paul grinned back. Then his grin vanished and a pensive look appeared in its place. "Scott, do you feel comfortable being with me?"
"Yeah," Scott replied.
"I don't mean 'yeah' comfortable. I mean ... really comfortable."
Scott's face reflected the strangeness of his father's question. "What do you mean?"
"Do you ever think of me as... " He shrugged his shoulders. "Well ... as not human?"
"I used to, but not anymore," Scott replied, narrowing one eye ever so slightly, "even though you are a bit weird at times." He thought back over their time together. At first I hated thinking about my father's origin. I felt weird and often sorry for myself. Finally I think I realized Dad will always remain the same and I had to completely accept who he is. Suddenly he felt a sense of pride. "You're more human than many people I've met and I think of you as ... my dad."
Paul's eyebrows rose and his grin returned, quickly growing into a broad smile. "Thank you."
Scott looked again at his father. This is a good time to ask something that occasionally still bothers me, he thought. "Now, can I ask you something?"
"Anytime," Paul replied.
"But if you hadn't already..." Scott repeated his father's head to toe gesture. "How did you manage to find Paul Forrester? It isn't like Mount Hawthorne was next door."
"I contacted the ship and it was deemed satisfactory for me to continue investigating the unauthorized holder of my sphere. I was advised to return to the landing craft that brought me to the surface to search for a new host. We sensed the tragedy down below on the mountain and determined it easily provide me the materials to reproduce a human body. Luckily it also provided me with identification no longer useful to its owner."
"Flying around down here, weren't they afraid of being shot down?"
"We came better prepared than the first time. We knew of the danger here and were bending your radar. If you'll think back, it wasn't my return that attracted Fox."
"Right, Liz said it was the accident," Scott acknowledged. "So anybody would have been all right?"
"Yes, the process would have been the same. "I just would have looked different." Paul's face became contemplative again, "You asked once before, 'why Forrester', and named some alternatives. Would you really have preferred somebody else?"
"Sometimes. At times this Forrester character can be a real pain."
"Who knows what kind of pain someone else might have been."
"I guess you're right," Scott acknowledged as a sly smile came over his face. "You could have been someone really famous."
Paul acknowledged Scott's rebuttal with a smile, "I could have been another mother."
"I could have been ... well, female. Couldn't that present an interesting problem when we find your mother?"
Scott gave his father an unbelieving smile. "You wouldn't have, would you?"
"I might have," his father replied, still smiling. "It never occurred to me I would be staying here."
"But since you were my father, wouldn't you have preferred being a man?"
"To my kind it makes no difference. We're all equal. If the victim had been female, well..."
"What would I have to call you then?"
"Parent, I guess," Paul replied with a grin. "By the way, while we're dealing with old questions, I have one for you." Paul put his hand on Scott's shoulder, "Why hadn't you called me sooner?"
"I guess because I didn't have the sphere," Scott returned in a matter of fact manner. "Do you remember the tape recording from Mom?" Paul nodded. "A letter from an attorney said a personal item had been delivered to Kent and Eileen by mistake. That was the sphere. They were told it was a gift from you and was to be given to me when they saw fit. Well, the tape was supposed to be with it. I guess Kent and Eileen thought the sphere was everything so they just gave it to me. When somebody told the attorney they had died, he looked through his files and found the mistake. Then he sent the tape. He asked me to sign and return a paper saying I had received two items. It even required special mailing and my counselor, the lady you met at Leland Hall, took charge of returning it for me. After I listened to the tape, I remembered the hotel key you dropped and started calling around looking for you."
"Then when did you get the sphere?"
"Kent and Eileen had given it to me just before the accident. They told me it was from my father." Scott pulled out his sphere to display. "I didn't see much use for a steel marble and got angry thinking that it was all my father thought I ever needed from him. Mom must have told the Lockhart's something before she left me, because Kent was trying to tell me there was something special about it and to be patient and find out more before getting riled about any gift. That's what we were arguing about. Of course, now I know better, Dad. It was the greatest gift I'd ever receive. It finally brought you to me."
"Thank you," Paul stated simply. "I only wish your mother had left instructions to give it to you sooner."
"I'd probably have lost it if I had gotten it sooner. Actually if I hadn't been arguing with Kent, I probably would have rolled down the car window and tossed it. Then the accident happened." Scott's mouth contorted with distress at the memory. "A medic took me to the hospital and the doctor who examined me for injuries told me my mother and father had died. The hospital released me directly to a social worker. Some clothes were all she allowed me to take to Leland Hall. She didn't find the sphere. I guess I held on to it because it was all I really had left that the Lockharts and my real parents had ever touched."
Paul smiled then winked at his son. "With what I know of you, even now losing it is still a distinct possibility." The smile subsided and Paul put his hand on Scott's shoulder, directing him back toward the graves. "Besides, without your grief for them, you might never have called me."
Scott took another respectful look at the final resting places of two people he had loved and who had loved him in return. "It's rather strange that this place was the first time you saw me."
"Why do you say that?" his father asked with a frown.
"It's like, getting the sphere and their deaths brought to me the explanation of why I always felt different."
"But without the sphere the accident might not have happened. Fox might never have found you."
"But if he had, I could have been taken to some lab and wouldn't have received Mom's tape. I might never have been told anything about you." Scott smiled openly. "Thanks for coming back."
The Starman smiled. "Wouldn't have missed it for everything I had out there," he replied as he looked up toward the open sky."
Scott returned his father's smile with a widening grin of satisfaction and the pair turned to slowly walk out of the cemetery.
They decided to spend the rest of the week at the motel and called or visited every Johnson they found in the Seattle telephone directory whose name began with R. It was a long list and took a great amount of time. Days of searching garnered them nothing and they decided to move further north in the morning.
While on the bus back to the motel Scott saw an advertisement for a new space exhibit at the Seattle Center. After a brief discussion, they decided to take it in before quitting the city.
They arrived at the Seattle Center grounds at seven the next morning and wandered around. All paths seemed to lead to the International Fountain. The place brought back memories to Paul of coming here with Liz to meet Scott again. He told Scott what Liz had said that convinced him to follow and at least try to be a real father.
Crossing the Center grounds they walked by many of the places they had passed in their first combined effort to avoid George Fox, arriving finally at the Pacific Science Center. Waiting for the exhibit to open, they stood together leaning against the railing under the Arches of Knowledge where their journey together had begun. Scott turned, and then grinned. He put his arms around his father and hugged him.
Paul's eyebrows rose at the spontaneous gesture. "What was that for?"
"Just because," he replied with feeling. "I'm so glad I had nowhere to go and you found me here."
Paul willingly returned Scott's hug. "I'm glad Liz's very challenging lecture on responsibility and raising children convinced me to find you."
"There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then hasn't there, Dad?"
"Water under the bridge?" Paul questioned, looking quizzically at Scott. Following Scott's gaze he looked down and found himself looking into a pond of water extending under the sidewalk on which they stood.
"What I mean is, we've been through a lot haven't we?"
"I agree." Paul's eyes began to twinkle as he recalled their many adventures the past months. "We have had fun though, haven't we?"
"Except the very beginning," Scott returned with a totally straight face. "I really did think you were kind of weird."
"Well, you know," Starman returned with a gleam in his eye, "you were also a bit weird to me."
"In what way?"
"You acted rather ... like a human teenager."
"I was supposed to act like a human teenager."
"But I didn't understand what that meant," Paul returned solemnly. "I could only judge your actions by how I would act in a given situation."
Scott looked at his father sympathetically. "Do you understand now?"
"I think only partially, at times," Paul returned. "I see humans working hard to hurt one another. Sometimes, I think they do it only as a joke, but they do and say things to each other that are cruel."
Scott lowered his eyes. "You mean like I did to you?"
"Yes," Paul acknowledged. "Tell me, what was it that finally allowed you to accept me?"
"I think it started at Spirit Lake after the thing with the mountain lion. I looked into your eyes when you told me I was a part of you. At that moment I needed someone and I realized you really cared about what happened to me. You were there, you were real and though I resented you having left mom and me, you came back." Scott began to grin again. "I figured I couldn't change who I was, but if I didn't want to be alone, I'd just have to get used to you being ... different."
"Remember, you're also different," Paul reminded.
"I know that, but back then I didn't want to deal with it."
Paul frowned, remembering the first few weeks they were together. "Still I couldn't understand why you did and said so many things to purposely hurt me."
"I'm sorry," Scott replied.
"Well, when did I become 'okay'?"
"I think it was when you got sick. You weren't the weird stranger from space anymore, you were my father and I was afraid you were going to die. I guess I never appreciated what I had until I was about to lose it again. After my blood gave you the immunity you needed to live ... you became a part of me." Scott was now blinking away a persistent tear threatening to overflow and needed an upbeat thought to stifle it. "I realized, over time, I'd grown to love you."
Paul reveled in the emotion of the openly expressed love received from his child of this world. He put his arm around Scott's shoulders. "I love you too, Scott."
Scott wrapped his arms around his father and they remained in silent communion of the bond now existing between them. Minutes passed. Scott finally broke the silence when the ticket seller arrived and a window opened. "Shall we go in and see the exhibit?"
There was hardly anybody on the grounds yet and they wandered, unobstructed, around the exhibit looking at the various displays. Finally they came to a display about the Voyager Probes. Paul looked over at the display then punched the start button. They listened to a recorded narrative then he turned to Scott. "Do you remember the night we started talking to Katherine about the photographs from Odessey II?"
"Sure, about Jupiter and Io."
"Much of the information for this exhibit is credited to Voyager, but the interpretation of the information contained in it is very inaccurate," Paul offered, pointing to a surface feature of one of the outer planets. "This is nothing like the other side and many features are quite different."
"Different ... like the satellites on my project?" Scott asked critically, "Dad you have to be more careful when you try to explain features about space, from space. You can't keep correcting information when it's the best we have to date. You might attract the wrong people and get us in trouble again."
"I know, but look at this," Paul continued, again pointing out a chemical analysis. "It's very inaccurate. And this..."
Scott listened with total concentration, while his father continued to point out further inaccuracies in the display. He asked several questions, this time making mental notes of things his father offered that he could not pass on to anybody else. Neither noticed a man moving closer and listening attentively to their conversation.
The man, his interest apparently piqued by what he heard, suddenly walked boldly over the two additional steps and placed his hand on Paul's shoulder. "May I ask you something?"
Paul jumped nervously when he heard a strange voice from behind. When he felt the hand, he spun around to face the man. I don't know this person, he thought, but I also don't know how many men Fox may have looking for us.
"I'm sorry, I seem to have startled you," the man offered in retrospect for his bold gesture of touching a stranger. "I didn't intend to eavesdrop, but I couldn't keep from hearing you explain this exhibit. You sound like you're really up on this stuff, mister, and you sure seem to have an easy way of talking about it. Are you familiar with the Voyager programs?"
Without noticing a growing smile on the man's face, Scott jumped in nervously and tried to smooth over what might be a problem. Trying to sound convincing he said, "We have a friend who was with NASA. He told Dad a lot of stuff about space exploration."
Paul could sense a lack of aggression in the man and knew him not to be the anticipated threat. Now he looked at the person. He was slightly taller and more heavily built than his growing son and appeared to be about the same age as his host body. The man's eyes were blue and his hair somewhat the color of Scott's genetic father. His skin was somewhat lighter than his or Scott's and most important, his smile was friendly.
The man's interest was in Paul, not in Scott's explanation. "My name's Calvin Doran." He offered his hand. "Everyone calls me Cal. I'm a teacher in an alternative school for high school dropouts. We've been studying the various space projects and discussing why their discoveries are important enough to warrant continuation of similar, unmanned programs." He now looked Paul right in the eye and his brow wrinkled. "This may seem a strange request, but if you're not busy, would you consider giving a casual talk to a couple of my classes this afternoon?"
Puzzled, Paul looked at the man. "I'm not a teacher."
"But you seem to know the subject. Anytime someone knows a subject, students can get more out of it that they can't get from a teacher whose knowledge is deficient. That's why I'm here this morning. They seemed to be more than just a little interested, so I'm trying to find more to give them." He took a deep breath then let it go. "Please consider it. I know that somebody who can provide information and field questions like you've just done can have an impact on these dropouts. Some of them just need a boot in the right place to get them interested in something. Their youthful curiosity does the rest. I have some extremely interested students I know are worthy of my further efforts in this direction. I could give them a reading assignment, but I find it works best if they don't think its homework until they get hooked on the subject. I believe we need to provide more encouragement in math and science."
"You're correct," Paul stated without reservation.
"The school can't pay much," Cal continued, hopefully, "but it would certainly help me out and benefit all the kids. We're about twenty miles north of here. I'll provide the transportation up and back."
Scott's eyebrows rose at the mention of the school being north. This could be our ride out of the city in exchange for a bit of talk about something Dad does know.
"Please?" Cal asked hopefully. "I'm just not up to date on the space programs."
"But I don't know if I'm qualified," Paul replied, casting a questioning look at his son.
Scott shot his father a quick glance and tried to stifle back a grin about his father's choice of words. Dad, be realistic, he thought.
"From what I heard you tell your boy, you're almost more than qualified. It would only be a couple hours at the most," he begged hopefully.
Scott caught his father's questioning look and responded with a shrug of his shoulders. "Why not? We need to head north anyway."
Paul looked back at the man and nodded. "As I said before, I'm not a teacher, but I'll give it a try. We will need to check out of our motel first. It's not too far from here and since we don't have a car, a ride would be appreciated. Like Scott said, we are planning to head north anyway, so a ride back here will not be necessary." A look of gratitude appeared on Cal's face as he let out a deep breath.
Paul hoped he could present a program the students would enjoy, while not getting too technical. For assistance, before leaving the Science Center, he bought a book about the exhibit at the souvenir counter.
After a quick phone call, Cal drove them to the motel and soon they were headed up the ramp onto the northbound freeway out of the city. On the way Paul quickly perused his book, mentally noting information conflicting with what he knew. He made up his mind to present the truth to the classes, taking care not to exceed the information in the book by too much.
As they walked into the school, what had sounded to Scott like a good idea for getting a free ride north toward Mr. Johnson now made him somewhat nervous. What will Dad have to offer to a classroom of kids that will keep their interest and not give information they would seriously question? If Dad starts getting too technical the lecture will either go right over their heads, or raise questions he should not answer. Will Dad know when to stop? He grimaced. I think it's too late to start worrying now. I guess I'll have to trust his judgment and be ready to run.
They waited about thirty minutes then Cal introduced Paul to his combined science classes. Paul's main lecture followed the guidebook, but he easily fielded many other questions as the students prompted for more detail. He encouraged them to do further research on their own. At one point a glance from his son told him he was getting into details exceeding what was needed and he motioned Scott to the stage, introduced him and brought him in to the lecture. Now a father and son effort, the students related to Scott and his interest in the subjects and Paul delivered enough information to provide the desire to seek more. Together, they involved the students in hearty discussions about the challenges and opportunities in science, space and related fields, derived from Dale Taylor and heavily stressed education as a lifetime pursuit. Scott concluded the lecture with, "If you don't prepare ahead, you won't have the necessary background and when your job comes along, it will go to somebody else. Don't get left out because you haven't spent enough time in school."
The class time passed in what seemed like moments, but the students continued to field questions that Paul answered until all seemed satisfied. Cal dismissed the class and handed Paul a check. Paul refused it, for he had thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon with the students. It had cost them nothing and had provided them with a ride in the right direction. Though Cal argued payment for special programs was a part of the school's budget, Paul remained adamant.
When the issue was finally settled, Cal announced in total earnest, "From the way you two talk, one can begin to believe others really do exist out there and that it's important we keep trying to reach for the stars."
"Yes." Paul placed his fingers to his forehead. "Here inside, I know they exist," he offered with confidence. "Man must never stop reaching for that which he believes is beyond." He grinned when he saw Scott smirking coyly. Returning with a double flash of his eyebrows, he continued. "Now I think it's time for us to go."
Cal stood silently looking at Paul, appreciative of the man's convictions. "Could you wait about fifteen minutes while I wrap up my duties and make some calls?"
Paul shrugged then nodded. After Cal left, he wondered why they could not just walk to find another motel, but he remained because he had said they would. Soon a number of students returned to the classroom with additional questions. Others just popped in to say 'thanks' and it made him feel good. In what seemed like moments, Cal returned.
As they walked out of the school together Cal made his presentation. "If you're not doing anything special this weekend, I would like you to come over to the Island with me."
Paul looked questioningly at the man. "The Island?"
"You're not familiar with Whidbey Island?"
"No," Paul replied. "We haven't been around here long."
Though he knew of Whidbey Island, with the necessity of helping in the Lockhart's flower business, Scott never had an opportunity to see it. His father had already said they knew nothing about it and Scott merely shook his head.
"It's just a ferry's ride west of here," Cal offered. "My wife's father owns one of the few family farms left out there. I'd like to have you meet my family. We live in a mobile on the farm and we're having a little gathering of family and friends on Sunday." He awaited a response and hearing no outright rejection, a hopeful look appeared on his face. "Everyone seems to enjoy time on a farm."
"We wouldn't want to impose," Paul replied with concern.
"I've already checked with Dad and June. They said there's always room for two more. They're making up a room for you at the house. You'll be my guests." His eyebrows rose and he grinned. "The invitation includes meals and three nights."
"But ..." Paul tried to continue.
"Look," Cal offered earnestly, "you two really had the kids fired up about science and more important, about getting an education. You have to remember that most of these kids had already given up on school, and themselves. From their reaction and questions, I think you really impressed them. I think a weekend vacation is the least I can do in exchange for getting a message across."
"Are there any Johnson's living out there," Scott asked casually.
Cal looked at the boy quizzically. "Lots. The island has a large Scandinavian community."
Scott's eyes met his father's and he accepted with a shrug. "Why not? It is north of Seattle and I suppose we can continue our search out there."
"All right!" Cal confirmed with gusto. "We're out of here. If we hurry we can beat most of the weekend ferry traffic."
A twenty-minute drive, a half hour wait and Cal drove onto the ferry and parked in the vast lower deck area of the vessel reserved for automobiles. He took Paul and Scott upstairs to the passenger level, and then outside onto the deck where they watched the boat traffic moving up and down Puget Sound.
Paul felt a surge of power within the vessel as it moved away from the dock and turned to Scott. "This is different than the boat in San Francisco."
"That was a boat, Dad, a much appreciated fishing boat to be exact. This is almost a ship."
Paul took a deep breath, "Well, the air still smells the same. I think I would like to travel more on the waters of your oceans."
Scott grimaced. Cal is giving Dad another one of those strange looks. I'll have to remind him again about using 'the' instead of 'your'.
The crossing took only fifteen minutes and shortly the ferry was docking. They returned to the car and in another twenty minutes the car was rolling down a long driveway. A man walked out and Cal introduced them. "Paul and Scott Forrester, ... I'd like to introduce my wife's father, Roy Foster." A formal handshake followed.
Roy Foster was in his early seventies, about 6 feet tall, 190 pounds with a muscular build. Two striking feature were an almost bald head and dark blue-grey eyes. His body was short of leg and long in the waist. The blue-denim jeans he wore were held up by wide red suspenders and evidenced work that was both dirty and greasy. His face, showing at least a two-day growth of facial hair, but held a broad and impish grin.
They walked into the house and Cal greeted a woman standing at the stove with a hug, and then introduced Paul and Scott. "This is Roy's wife, June, ... my wife's step-mother."
Paul pondered the introduced relationship, and then remembering the relationship Ellen Taylor had with Dale's son, Ted, shook her proffered hand politely. June was a contrast from her husband. He guessed her to be in her early 50's. She was short, plump with a round face. Her eyes were blue, her hair short and light brown, showing an increasing amount of grey. She wore the same broad, friendly grin as her husband. Paul couldn't help but notice, as she led them to the spare room to deposit their bags, that like Dale and Ellen Taylor, there was a large age discrepancy between the two. Cal stepped to the phone and made a call. Shortly a woman and two girls walked in the front door.
Cal introduced his wife, Kathy, who appeared to be in her late thirties, of medium height with long blonde hair pulled back and tied at the neck. Her blue eyes sparkled and her fair skin showed a slight hint of sunburn. Her clothes, neat and clean, covered a shapely figure and she spoke softly. "I'm very pleased to meet you."
Introductions then turned to Cal's daughters. Amy, the oldest, had already moved over to stand by Scott and was sizing up the young male visitor. She was fifteen, with almost black hair and a lovely dark brown and smooth complexion. Her very dark eyes balanced her high cheek bones. Though pleasant and extremely outgoing, her general appearance reminded Paul of Tonita Cordova, whom he had met in Mexico. Sandy, the younger, seemed like a youthful copy of her mother. She was thin with long blonde hair, large expressive blue eyes and a fair complexion. At her eleven years she had the look of a girl poised and ready to blossom into adolescence. She appeared shy, for when she noticed the strangers she quickly handed a large bowl of salad to June and after being introduced, disappeared into the kitchen.
June already had dinner underway and Kathy and the girls stepped in immediately to help. Paul noticed a great amount of friendly bantering between all the family members. A half hour later they were all sitting down together at the large dining room table.
The dinner consisted of the green salad Sandy had brought in, a meat dish, potatoes, green peas and a generous slice of wild blackberry pie with ice cream. The food was passed around the table in a casual way and everybody served themselves from the generous amounts on hand. Paul compared the meal with the many wonderful meals he had enjoyed at the Taylors. June Foster was obviously a good cook, but her cooking and serving style was much more casual than Ellen's. "Delicious meal, Mrs. Foster," Paul offered, unable to eat another bite.
"You're very welcome, Paul," she offered hesitantly, "and please, it's June," she replied. "I must admit I love to feed someone who enjoys a meal."
"Believe me, the meal was enjoyed," Paul returned, appreciating her offering of first names as he started to get up. "Now may Scott and I do the dishes?"
Before Paul got completely to his feet, Amy took Scott's hand and led him in the direction of the kitchen. It was obvious Amy wanted to talk further to the new kid on the block and Paul had been, without a word being spoken, summarily dismissed to remain with the adults. With a stern look from Cal, Sandy joined the two teenagers at cleanup duty.
A great amount of giggling and laughing emitted from the direction of the kitchen and Paul recognized it wasn't all female. It took a full forty-five minutes to complete the dishes.
Scott finally came out of the kitchen and walked over to his father. "Dad, is it all right if I go downtown with Amy and Sandy? They're meeting some friends and going to a movie."
Paul could see no reason to deny his son the social contact. "Do you have money?" he questioned.
Giving a positive nod, Scott bound back into the kitchen and soon the house was devoid of girls, giggles and Scott. Roy invited Paul to sit with them in the living room.
"I'd like to thank you all for your hospitality and the invitation to share your home with us," Paul said appreciatively as he sat down on the sofa.
"It's our pleasure," June replied as she picked up a newspaper from the coffee table and placed it on a growing stack of waste paper materials. "From what Cal says, you got him out of a bind today."
"Yes, Paul, I'd like to thank you again for taking the time," Cal offered earnestly. "You and your son were better than I could ever have hoped for. Where did you get your knowledge of space exploration? Your son mentioned something about having a friend with NASA."
"Yes," Paul replied confidently, "my friend Dale Taylor, worked at NASA. He also worked on your Voyager II program and the Space Shuttles."
"Is that how you learned so much about the probes?"
"I've studied space for quite some time," Paul replied. "I was quite familiar with the contents of the second probe, but not with the first or the shuttles. Dale did tell me much about them during a stay at his home."
"Your talk at school was more than just casual, Paul," Cal acknowledged earnestly. "Are you a scientist?"
"No. I'm a photojournalist, but I have studied the sciences quite extensively. I want my son to learn as much about the sciences of his world as possible," Paul said with a smile.
"Photojournalism must be interesting work," Cal returned. "Do you have a specialty?"
Paul smiled. "This body has been around the world photographing various events and projects. I have discovered being in photojournalism is a good way to study human nature."
June looked at Paul, a bewildered look on her face at his strange use of words. She shrugged it off as another question came to mind and she moved in that direction. "You must do a lot of traveling. What does Scott do while you're gone?"
"Until a short time ago, he lived with a family in Seattle. They died in an automobile accident last year. Now he travels with me."
"How does he continue his education?"
"He attends school whenever we happen to be in one place for a while. He passed into the tenth grade while we were living in East Wenatchee. When he's not in school, I teach him. That's why we were at the Center today."
"Well he's a real nice boy, Paul," June said with a smile. "You're to be commended on a job well done."
"I really can't take the credit. He really spent most of his young life in Seattle. I only found my son a little over a year ago. I guess he was told I was dead and when I came back he had a little bit of a problem accepting me as a father. We have both done quite a bit of adjusting."
"Well, I'd never guess it now. As I said, he's a nice boy and the two of you seem close."
"Thank you," Paul replied graciously.
"Tell us more about your work," Roy asked.
Paul started relating what he knew of the career of his predecessor gained from the television program he watched in Charlotte's apartment; a few articles he found; and from the book of Paul Forrester's photographs. He intentionally left out any mention of the special prize his mentor had won for his work. With his limited knowledge of his host's life, Paul soon decided he must change the subject. "You have a nice home. Have you always farmed?"
Now the subject was changing to one Roy and June knew and both loved talking farming to an interested listener. "I've farmed for as long as I can remember," Roy explained, "but my work hasn't been limited to farming. During the lean years I had to do just about everything I could think of just to keep the farm. I've been a logger and run a bulldozer to clear land for new home construction now. I guess you could say I'm semi-retired and do the same work in my spare time."
"Roy's first love has always been farming," June advised. He's raised a lot of different crops at one time or the other, like grains, milking cows, beef, sheep, turkeys, chickens, hogs and last, but not least, three children."
"You have other children besides Kathy, and then?" Paul questioned.
"Yes," June offered, "Roy has another daughter, who lives back east, and a son in Oregon."
There was a general discussion about the other children and an expanding number of grand children. June then disappeared briefly returning with a family photo album. Shortly she went for another album and showed Paul some photos of the early days on Whidbey Island. The conversation then moved on to a rapidly expanding influx of people into the area.
The evening passed quickly and soon a noise at the door heralded the return of the young people. Though Paul had learned long ago not to worry about Scott, he was happy they had returned. In this evening of casual conversation, he felt confident he had changed the subject to his hosts before making any slips in the discussion about space or Paul Forrester's life. Continuing practice is making social conversation easier.
Before departing for home, Kathy invited Paul and Scott to take the evening meal at their home the following day. They accepted graciously. At the door, each of the departing family members exchanged a brief hug. It was almost eleven and everybody agreed it was time to retire. On the farm the weekends were considered important, for they provided the two families days in which they could work and play together.
Paul awoke to the sounds of movement in the house and woke Scott. After dressing they wandered out into the living room. June peeked out from the kitchen with a smiling, "Good morning. Did you sleep well?" At almost simultaneous greetings and confirmations she replied, "Good. Breakfast will be ready soon. Do you want bacon and one egg or two?"
"Yes to the first and two to the second," Paul replied.
Scott indicated the same.
"I would estimate three pancakes each, right?" June asked with a grin. Again she received positive responses. "Juice is on the table already and there's coffee and tea available at the stove. Milk is in the refrigerator if you want some, Scott. Grab a glass and help yourself whenever you're ready."
"Thank you," Paul said politely as he saw Scott slip into the empty bathroom. Left alone talking to June, he said, "Is there anything I might do to help you?"
"I've been doing this for a lot of years," she replied with a smile. "I've got it, somewhat, down to a science. For the first couple of days you're company." She glanced up at Paul. "After that, I won't guarantee not to take you up on such an offer."
"Really, if there is anything either of us can do to help, we would be glad to do so."
"Thanks you, Paul, but really, I've got it under control. I don't mind the cooking, but I hate serving beverages, so help yourself to something to drink."
Paul got a cup of coffee from the pot on the stove. In a few minutes Scott reappeared and Paul disappeared. He returned just in time to see Roy come in from outside. "Good morning sleepy heads." Roy offered. "I've already been out and have the stock fed." They exchanged greetings then Roy went into the bathroom to wash-up. By the time he joined them at the table, breakfast had moved onto the table.
In Paul's estimation there was enough for a small army, but when breakfast was finished nothing was left. Roy Foster had a great capacity for breakfast.
Delighted at their visitor's strong show of interest in seeing the farm operation, Roy and June offered a guided tour. They walked outside and Roy pointed out the extent of the farm property. It surrounded the Foster's home completely, extending into the woods on the south, to roadways on the north and east and to adjoining small tracts on the west. A road divided the home acreage from the rest of the farm property to the south.
They walked into a sheep pasture to look over a flock of fat sheep and rapidly growing lambs. Two ewes walked over for some attention and Paul reached out his hand to one of the animals and tried stroking her. "The fur is different. It feels stiff and greasy." he commented. "And what is that smell?"
"Sheep," June returned. "Smell your hands." She grinned broadly as their guest withdrew his hand and sniffed it. "Her fleece is full of an oil called lanolin. It keeps the hair oiled and makes the animal somewhat waterproof from the weather."
"Why do the big sheep have shorter hair than the little ones?" Scott asked. Suddenly a lamb rushed over from some distance away and immediately began vigorously nudging his leg with an insistent nose.
"The grown ones have been sheared already," June advised.
"Sheared?" Scott questioned as the lamb started bumping his leg.
"They've had the long hair clipped off to be used for making clothing and other textiles. It's called wool."
Scott recognized the word wool, as the Lockharts had insisted on wool being in his winter shirts and good suit. His attention quickly returned to the lamb now nuzzling up his pant leg. He began laughing as it found one of his fingers and deftly sucked it into an active mouth. Scott hastily withdrew the finger and the lamb went back to his pant leg, giving him a decisive butt on the leg with its head. "What is it doing?" he questioned.
"Oh, don't mind Rambo," June laughed. "He just thinks you might have a bottle for him. We had to bottle feed him because his mother didn't seem to have enough milk for both of her lambs this year. Old Dinah is eleven and I'm afraid ready for recycling."
Scott looked at her, a quizzical frown on his face. "Recycling?"
"Slaughter," June replied sadly. "She's been a good old gal. For ten of her years she's raised two lambs each year for us. Now it's time for a youngster to take her place."
"You mean you're going to kill her?" Paul asked.
June could see both of their guests were unfamiliar with the realities of farming livestock and appeared sensitive to the thought of killing animals. With so many city folks moving in the past few years she observed the same reaction on too many other faces to act surprised. She knew most people never thought much about where the food they buy in their neighborhood supermarkets, comes from. Whenever anyone questioned the realities of operating a farm, she found it difficult to mince words and answered bluntly. "That's what they're raised for." She looked for a further reaction. "All of these lambs you see here, except the one we chose to save to replace Dinah, must end up the same."
"How can you do that!" Scott replied critically.
The lamb and the two ewes, bored with standing around without any handouts, started drifting back toward the flock. Having seen nothing but a thoughtful expression on Paul's face, June returned her attention to Scott's critical accusation. "I like to think of it as 'fulfilling their destiny'. Sheep have a tremendous reproductive rate. If these sheep are not killed by us, or a wild predator, in less than ten years there wouldn't be enough grass on this entire farm to continue feeding them. In nature, the natural predators serve that purpose. In farming we protect them from wild predators to provide the final predator, the human race, with a high protein food product. Since the largest majority of people today are unable, or unwilling, to provide anything for themselves, we have farmers. This is the specialized kind of farming we do." She smiled at him, "You did enjoy last night's dinner, didn't you?"
"Yes, very much."
June shook her head slowly and smiled. "Well, the meat dish was from one just like Dinah. Her name was Popcorn. The roasts, steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs and even the food for dogs and cats, come from animals as meat or meat by-products."
"I guess I've never really thought much about it before," Scott said with an unhappy frown.
"It's something most people never like to think about, particularly while they are actively enjoying a steak or fried chicken dinner, or have just fed their dog or cat. For those products something had to die. If they had to think about it, perhaps they wouldn't waste so much."
"If we think about it, we might think more about becoming vegetarians," Scott offered, grimacing.
"In the end it wouldn't make any difference, Scott, except we wouldn't be farming here any longer. The animals have to die anyway. It's the cycle of life, whether it is an animal or a plant. One thing must feed upon the other and mankind, right now, is luckily at the top of that ladder. The bottom line is, when we keep animals in a limited space, like we have to do on this farm, at the end of any year the numbers of each must be the same, or fewer, than when we started. If not, we will overgraze our pastures and all will suffer."
Paul studied the look on his son's face. The nature films I have seen on the television rarely deal with the final outcome of an animal's existence. He tried to think of a way of explaining the concept further. "It's a fact, Scott, all life forms must have a source of energy to continue. In some places they feed directly on abstract energy sources, but here on earth, life forms still feed upon biological sources."
Scott observed a quizzical frown again appear momentarily on June's face as she looked at his father. I think dad is getting a bit too technical again. "I think I understand that, Dad, and I guess you're both right. I've just never thought about it in exactly that way."
"Most people don't," June reiterated. "On the farm we accept the fact that one thing must die to provide for another, but we don't believe their lives should ever be wasted. Like Old Dinah; she has served us well in making our livelihood off the land, but there is little to no open market for an old sheep like her, except perhaps for animal food. I like to be sure she doesn't suffer while awaiting slaughter, so we do it. We sell or utilize everything we can. Some we give away to friends, the rest to those in need. She was born on this farm and she'll die here."
"But isn't she ... like a pet?" Scott remarked with distress. "How can you eat her?"
"From her beginning, we accept what her destiny will be and we appreciate her while she's with us. Any animal's purpose in life is fulfilled by raising offspring. Dinah simply isn't doing a good job any longer. If we hadn't fed Rambo, both of her lambs would have been hungry or possibly starved. Would it make you happier if we just buried all three, wasting food while people go hungry? Ten years ago she was selected out of a whole group of lambs like these, to continue in the flock. One of the ewes out there is her daughter and a couple years ago one of her son's fathered half of the lambs for that year. The rest of her offspring have served as food. In livestock farming we choose those that best suit our purposes. In nature, the most capable will survive to reproduce, but most become food for something else."
"You could just keep her," Scott proclaimed.
"But we can't keep them all. This is our business, Scott. Like your dad takes pictures for a living, we raise animals to feed people. When an animal doesn't produce any longer, it must leave here. Don't prejudge us; we care about, and for, all our animals and we accept the responsibility to take good care of them while they're with us. They have enough food to eat, medicine when they need it and in exchange their lives are taken as humanely as possible. In nature that is not always the case."
"I saw you drinking a glass of milk this morning, Scott," Roy interjected. "That's another animal product and it comes from a cow, not from a box."
"Yes, but the cow didn't have to die for it," Scott replied with assurance.
"To provide you with milk to drink, her calf had to be taken from her," Roy returned. "It takes a lot of cows to provide milk for the human race, so a lot of calves are born. They can't all live so most dairy calves are slaughtered when they get three or four months old. They appear in restaurants and supermarkets as veal. Besides, what do you think happens to the cow when she gets old or no longer gives enough milk? Like with our sheep, there are no rest homes for cows."
"What happens?" Scott asked cautiously.
"Hamburger, hot dogs, bologna and other processed meats. It's really the same cycle as nature, except it provides for people."
"But enough of this," June offered, seeing Scott still mildly upset by the conversation. "Let's get on with the grand tour."
Paul and Scott continued to follow their hosts and soon were looking at some young cattle lying down in the shade of a large tree re-chewing a stomach full of grass. The cattle paid little attention to them. "The story is about the same for these," Roy confirmed. "They'll all feed people and as by-products, peoples' carnivorous friends, dogs or cats, or zoo animals."
Walking across a roadway dividing the farm they looked at a group of cows with young calves. Scott now realized all these animals would ultimately become food.
They climbed over a wooden gate and the inquisitive noses of four horses accosted them. June started introducing the animals. "This dark brown and black horse is a color pattern known as bay. His name is Monty. He's the oldest of our horses." They walked over to a second animal. His long neck hairs, tail and lower legs are a rich dark brown, Paul thought. His body color is similar to the gold of a ripening wheat field I saw last fall. This one seems shyer than the others, for he is stepping away from June. He grinned. She is persisting in following him. Now she has grabbed his tail and he has stopped. June petted the animal on the rump then moved down one side. When she could pet his neck and head she motioned Paul and Scott to approach. "This buckskin is Duke. He's one of our strongest animals, but as you can see he can be a bit hard to catch, especially if there are strangers around. He's also more of a challenge to ride."
While Paul and Scott moved toward June the two other horses followed behind. One began nuzzling Scott in the back, seeking attention. Roy turned around to accost the two, pushing them sideways, "This mousey colored excuse for a horse is Burr. He's called a line-back dun. Don't let him grab any loose clothes with his teeth or he'll take off with it," Roy explained, "His sidekick is Blackie, for obvious reasons."
"I normally ride Blackie," June offered. "He and Burr are buddies. They've been together since birth and it takes a good rider to separate them. Usually we ride together so they almost always get their wish."
Paul thought about how different, this farm was from Antonia Wayburn's where the animals were kept inside a stable. I wonder what will become of these horses when they get old. June says the way of nature here is to be killed by some predator and provide food for something else. Do they also provide food for other animals? Paul's eyes narrowed in thought. I know Antonia had horses of great monetary value. Somehow, I don't think providing food to be the case at the Wayburn farm. If they die naturally, what is done with them? Are they buried, as with humans? I didn't see any cemetery. Perhaps they are recycled as on this farm. His thoughts returned to the cycles of his world. How different life is on planet Earth in comparison to my world where there are no animals. Our evolution finally produced a system where energy is consumed directly. Even so, each life, whether at home or away, requires a place to be and an energy source. The energy to continue must come from something and is not available to something else. Each system has its place, but this one in its youth is much more puzzling.
They walked toward a fifth horse that had not walked over. Roy walked up to him confidently. "And lastly, this bay horse is Red. He prefers you come to him. Though he's almost the same color as Monty, you can always tell them apart because Red has four white legs. We think of him as our beginners mount. He's a plodder, but he gets the job done. He's second in the pecking order of the herd, behind Monty."
"Pecking order?" Paul asked, his eyebrows rising with his question.
"Almost all animal populations develop what is called a pecking order," June advised. "That is, an order of superiority established among the group members. In this small band of horses, Monty is the undisputed lord and master. The other horses don't tamper with him or they know his bite or kick. He can boss all of them. Red can pick on the other three, but not Monty. Duke is third, and can discipline either Blackie or Burr, but must give to Red or Monty. Blackie and Burr are almost equal, picked on by the other three. It's hard to distinguish a leader between them, but I believe Blackie dominates Burr for the most part. It's somewhat the same in people; there are leaders and followers." She looked from Paul to Scott. "Do you ride?"
"I had a couple lessons when we were staying at a horse farm," Scott replied.
"The teacher said he was a natural," Paul offered innocently.
"And what about you, Paul?"
"Twice," he replied. "It seemed simple enough at the time, rather like riding a bicycle without handle bars."
June laughed openly, as followed by four of the five horses, they started walking back toward the gate. "I guess you could describe it that way, but I think it's a bit more complicated than that."
Roy, picking up on the conversation, took the initiative. "Perhaps you'd both like to try again?"
Paul could see sincerity in his offer. He glanced at Scott and seeing confirmation, graciously accepted. "I think we'd like that."
"Then we'll go out this afternoon," Roy confirmed. "The horses could certainly use it. It seems we never get enough time to ride and they need some conditioning for later this summer."
"I have people to visit and calls to make today, so it'll have to be the three of you," June advised.
Moments later Amy and Sandy appeared at the doorway of the mobile home next to the horse pasture. There was a quick exchange of hellos, but when Amy's eyes remained on Scott, Roy's attention turned to the girls. He could see a chance to do something with his granddaughters, whose time always seemed in short supply. "Would you girls like to go out riding this afternoon with your old grandpa?" He received a positive response from the younger, Sandy, who saw an opportunity of being away from Saturday chore assignments.
"Are you going, Scott," Amy asked, looking for confirmation before committing herself.
"Yeah, Dad and I."
Scott's affirmation brought Amy's response. "Love to, Grandpa."
"Okay then meet us at the hitching rail at two."
"Aw, Grandpa," Amy replied anxiously, "I was kind of hoping Scott might go downtown to the street fair with us after lunch. Sandy is meeting with Jennifer and Trudy and I'm supposed to meet some other kids from school. Can't we go this morning?"
Over the top of his gold-rimmed glasses Roy gave her a condescending look, but reneged to her enthusiasm to get Scott off away from adult supervision. "Okay. Far be it from me to interrupt the working schedules of the local young people. Is eleven all right with everyone?"
"How about ten?" Amy suggested in the spirit of bartering.
A one-sided, negotiated settlement was quickly reached. Roy repeated the time so everyone was sure. "Amy, Sandy, be there by eleven."
Roy and June continued their farm tour, showing their visitors the various barns, outbuildings and equipment used in the farm operation. When they returned to the house they had only ten minutes to get back to the horse corral.
Arriving early, the girls already had the five horses tied, roughly brushed and two already saddled. Another ten minutes and they were in the saddle and on their way out the driveway to the road. Roy led, riding a cantankerous Monty with Paul following on Old Red, the beginners mount. Sandy had Blackie and Amy rode Duke, following Scott mounted on Burr. They moved alongside a field of tall grass then up a long hill and into the woods on a path that seemed to be an established trail.
The area was for the most part wooded, but the trees ranged from stands of large evergreens to open areas of young growing forest. One part had obviously just been logged off a few years earlier and there was evidence of many small trees having been cut and left to die.
Paul noticed the dead trees. "Roy, why are all these dead trees laying around?"
Roy stopping his horse and turned it around. "After a logging operation we plant young evergreens to produce the next forest. When the earth has been disturbed, a tree called alder grows in profusion. Early this spring cutters came in to remove the faster growing alders. Those are the dead trees you see."
"But why did they have to be removed?" Paul asked curiously.
"To allow the evergreens the light they need to grow another crop."
"Can't they be used for something?" Paul asked.
"In twenty years or thirty years they would have some value, but by then they would have shaded out the more valuable evergreens," Roy replied with a smile, "They've already performed their service to us."
"Their service?" Paul asked quizzically, looking at the waste.
"We let them grow for a few years because they fix nitrogen in the soil for the evergreens. Now they'll just recycle all the nutrients back into the soil." He pointed to some evergreen trees just showing evidence of rapid growth. "To encourage maximum growth, in about twenty years all of these growing evergreens will likewise need thinning and spacing to leave only the best. By that time many will be large enough to be used for paper pulp. The same thinning processes happen in nature, but much slower and don't provide the paper by-product. Still it will take another fifty years before these evergreen are ready to harvest for lumber. Growing trees is just like growing any other farm crop. If you want a crop of onions, you plant, seed and finally get to harvest the bounty of your efforts. With trees, it's just a longer commitment."
Roy turned Monty around and the trail soon had them going down a long hill and back into some dense timber. Stopping again, Roy indicated with a broad sweep of his hand, "You see this stand of timber, Paul? This area was burned off by a fire sixty or seventy years ago. Alders don't seem to grow much unless the soil has been disturbed. In those days no one thought about replanting. They figured the trees would go on forever and reforestation was left for nature to do. The evergreens grew back, but the owner of this land never sent anyone in to thin. They're way too dense and growth has been slow. Finally the natural thinning process took over, you know ... 'survival of the fittest'. These tall, skinny trees, most of which are not more than six or seven inches in diameter, are already more than fifty years old. They didn't have the space and light available for maximum growth during the first twenty-five years when they grow fastest. In time, they will thin themselves completely, but will never amount to much during many human lifetimes. If this belonged to me, I'd cut, replant and manage it properly. If forests are managed and taken care of, we can have trees and forests to use and look at forever. Around here, however, I think people pressure will demand the land be used for other purposes."
"Why not let nature take care of it?" Paul asked.
"Because there is too much demand for lumber, wood and paper products in our wood and paper oriented, throwaway society."
"What about all of our recycling?" Scott asked, "We're going to decrease the paper demand."
"Recycling will certainly help, Scott," Roy returned, "but from what I've seen so far, people only recycle if it happens to be personally convenient or profitable. When it becomes messy the stuff just seems to end up in the general garbage. What apartment dweller can tolerate having several special sacks for collectibles standing around all the time? Even if all the recyclables are removed we still have a solid waste disposal crisis coming. Even now most large cities cannot site any new landfills. They have to ship their waste long distances for disposal. How long will it be before those places become communities that say 'no more'?
Roy continued. "Even our biodegradable waste gives constant trouble for the landfills because they give off methane gas. Some people say cattle give off methane that is destroying the ozone layer. While methane is a part of their digestive process, we also need to consider that domestic cattle have merely replaced the sixty to one hundred million buffalo who used to do the same thing. Methane is also an end product of the decomposition of our garbage commonly known as 'marsh gas'. Yet while snorting about the contribution of an integral part of their food supply, the same people are striving to preserve all the methane belching-swamps they call wetlands. Totally unrealistic!"
Roy moved Monty on, stopping often to comment on several other areas until a call was heard from the rear. "Come on, Grandpa," Amy shouted. "Let's go. This is supposed to be a horseback ride, not a lesson in forest practices and environmental awareness. We're coming to the open track. See what Monty can do if you open him up."
Roy laughed, for when he realized he had an interested listener, he responded by expounding on a subject of great interest to him. He had logged for many years to support his farm and got carried away. "Okay, you asked for it," Roy announced as they came out of the forest onto a long open stretch of dirt road. "What was it Captain Kirk said ... 'Let's see what she's got', except Monty is a he." Roy gave the horse a signal then took off at a brisk gallop. Everybody followed.
Paul remembered the gallop at Mrs. Wayburn's farm and relaxed in the saddle, allowing his body to go with the movements of the animal. He heard whoops of happiness from the two girls. As the speed increased, he could feel the power unwinding beneath him. The speed was invigorating and he decided he really did enjoy riding. While we travel we'll have to take advantage of any opportunity to do this again. More than a half mile disappeared under the thundering hooves before Roy slowed. The horses continued a prancing walk as they were not yet willing to quit.
"Paul, why don't you take the lead for a while? I'd like to see how you do with Red."
"But I don't know where we're going."
"I'll tell you when we have to turn again. Just move him forward." Roy turned Monty around and fell in behind. Paul placed his hand on Red's shoulder and he moved out briskly.
"Well I'll be," Roy remarked as he watched the normally plodding Red horse pick up a fast comfortable walk. "You say you've ridden only twice. I've noticed I haven't had to hold Monty back to let Red catch up. What have you been doing to him?"
"Dad has a way with animals," Scott said from his position behind Roy. "I think they like him".
"Well there's no doubt he has something going for him," Roy laughed. "We'll soon be coming to another open stretch. How about another gallop, Paul?"
As the trail came out onto a roadway with a wide shoulder, Paul put his hand on Red's neck. Asking, he received speed for a distance, and then asked for a walk again as they entered another trail with overhanging tree limbs. Directed to several more direction changes he soon saw the farm out across another field of tall grass. Five minutes and they were back at the hitching rail removing the saddles. The ride had taken well over an hour. They brushed the horses and while putting the balance of the gear away, Roy invited them to ride again in the morning. All agreed.
After listening to Scott and Amy discussing their visit to the street fair to meet with the other teenagers, Paul saw Scott looking his way. He caught Scott's look and smiled his approval with a double raise of his eyebrows. I can see Scott is captivated by Amy's attentions and I know trying to hold back natural hormones would be trying to go against Scott's very human nature.
Roy put his hand lovingly on Sandy's shoulder. "And what are you going to do this afternoon, granddaughter? It looks like your sister has a boyfriend."
Sandy blushed then regained her composure. "I'm meeting some girls from school, Grampa. Amy can have the boy friends."
Roy laughed at his granddaughter's reference to boys and was glad her time was yet to come. One blooming teenage girl at a time was all her family could tolerate. The telephone rings so often for Amy at the Doran house, everyone is beginning to answer, 'Amy's answering service'.
Amy and Sandy slipped into the house when they heard Kathy calling them and Paul, Scott and Roy led the horses back to the corral.
Roy urged Paul and Scott back home. Apologizing to June for being late for lunch, Roy told of their plans to ride again in the morning.
After a hearty lunch, Scott left to meet Amy and the Fosters invited Paul down to visit the street fair with them. The rest of the afternoon they looked at the displays of wares and artwork for sale by many local artists. Paul saw many beautiful things and marveled at the creativity of the human species, but with a vagabond lifestyle there was no way he could justify purchasing anything. A little while later he saw Scott, Amy and Sandy with groups of contemporaries. They had gathered in front of a grandstand built in the middle of what was obviously the main intersection of the small town and were enjoying the sounds of a very loud band. Paul motioned Scott over and reminded him to give himself enough time to clean up before their dinner engagement with the Dorans. Scott nodded his understanding and rejoined his group.
While Roy and June talked with some friends, Paul found a phone booth and called Liz Baynes with a status report. Liz agreed, without reservation, when Paul requested a special favor.
Kathy had a wonderful meal prepared for them. Afterward, as the adults talked freely about life on the farm, Paul glanced often at Scott and the girls sitting at the kitchen table involved in a noisy board game they apparently thought great. It always makes me feel good, to see Scott in a relaxed atmosphere with other young people, he thought. I appreciate what he's been missing with our life of being constantly on the move. I wish I could provide something better for him, but the major goal of our joint existence has to be staying ahead of Fox. He heaved a sigh. Wishing doesn't make things so and we can just try to make the best of everything life does offer. With time, perhaps the government can accept my presence and Scott's mixed heritage without fear, or demand. Then we can put all of this behind us.
When Paul and Scott returned to the Foster's around nine thirty, Roy noticed Scott looking contemplatively at the large rack of antlers mounted on the living room wall and he walked over. "They're from an elk I shot about fifteen years ago."
"You also hunt?" Scott asked grimly.
"This island was almost a wilderness when I was a boy. We had to hunt to survive during the hard times of the Great Depression. We didn't have money to buy much, and what meat and crops we raised had to be exchanged for the staples we needed. It was our way of life. I still love to go hunting and bring home game as it adds variety to our diets."
"But your wild animals are so beautiful," Paul said with sensitivity as he walked over.
"Are they any more or less beautiful than a cow or a sheep?" Roy asked, somewhat impatiently. "Does the fact an animal is considered domestic mean it wants to live any more or less than a wild animal? It's an animal with a will to live, but a destiny to die."
I guess that is the reason we run from Fox, Paul thought as he looked at the seriousness of Roy's look. "I guess everything does want to live, doesn't it?"
"Right," Roy returned. "That will to live is shared by everything alive. It goes back to what we were discussing this morning about the reproductive potential of the sheep. If everything born, lived, every species has the potential to destroy its habitat."
"That does seem to be true, if one thinks about it," Paul acknowledged.
"I have observed the life cycles with the deer," Roy offered. "They were an introduced species out here on the island," Roy continued. "Shortly after being introduced, their numbers increased rapidly because there were no natural predators here. They became crowded and constantly overgrazed their food supply. They also decreased in size as they continued interbreeding. Then hunting became popular as a sport and it reduced the numbers, bringing them back into balance. With people moving here in increasing numbers there is much more hunting, but less and less habitat. Now someone has seen fit to introduce coyotes, causing further stress on the deer populations. In addition the people who move from the city to the country always see the opportunity to have that big dog they always wanted. Seeing what a pack of dogs do to a deer is something one cannot soon forget."
Scott was almost afraid to ask the obvious question, but unable to stop, asked anyway. "What do they do?"
"I don't really think you want to know," Roy offered sincerely in deference to Scott's apparent sensitivity.
"Tell me?" Scott asked hesitantly.
"People won't believe it's the act of their friendly household pet. Selective breeding and human companionship has brought about changes in the dog. When something runs, it chases and becomes the wolf of its ancestors. The dog isn't really hungry. He just kills or maims, and then moves on to kill again and again, rarely eating anything. We've had dogs in the sheep before and I don't want to get into the graphics." Roy paused when he saw Scott grimacing and returned to what he wanted to say earlier about hunting. "Anyway, the deer numbers are diminishing, depleted by the combination of people and predators. I haven't hunted around here for years, because unless they become a pest, our deer need all the help they can get.
"I still like to hunt elk though, but even the elk hunt has become more of a social gathering of old friends. Where we go hunting is at the 6,000 foot elevation and the hunt is in early November. It isn't unusual to be hunting in snow. One year it snowed so much we never got to hunt at all. Everybody left their rifles in camp and spent the day with shovels in their hands digging a way out. If we had stayed, we would have had to walk out and leave our trucks there for the winter. Over the years our camp has managed to get an animal on the average of one year out of five and we divide whatever we get with the whole group, so everyone gets just a little."
"The guys can have the hunting," June laughed from the kitchen. "I don't like to be wet or cold. Believe me, shoveling snow is hard work and definitely out of my line." As everybody turned to look at her, she announced, "Roy, it's getting about time we turn in. We have guests coming by noon and if you're going riding in the morning, you're going to have to get an earlier start."
Morning dawned warm and sunny. As Paul started to roll out of bed he recognized serious pain in some of the muscles of the body and it became more evident as he tried to take a step. He got his sphere out of the pocket of his jeans and bathed himself for a few moments in its healing light. Replacing the sphere, he sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his pants. His movements woke Scott, who sat up and blinked his eyes.
"What time is it?"
"I think it's time to get up. I heard someone talking in the other room a little while ago and I think I smell bacon frying."
Scott got up and groaned then sat on the edge of the bed as he reached down to the floor to pull on his socks. He mimicked one of his father's old statements. "Something is wrong with this body."
Paul looked at him, somewhat surprised. "What?"
Scott began to laugh. "I think it was the long ride yesterday. I'm stiff."
"Stiff, that's what you call it?" Paul questioned.
Scott began to frown. "I wonder why I didn't get stiff when I rode the horse at Mrs. Wayburn's farm."
"Maybe you didn't ride as long," Paul offered. "I experienced 'stiff' that time too, but I was riding a lot longer at Antonia's than I did yesterday." Paul moved around the bed to get his shoes.
Scott noticed his father didn't seem to be walking strangely. "Aren't you stiff?"
"I didn't like 'stiff', so I fixed it."
Scott looked critically at his father, "You fixed it?"
Paul held up his sphere with an impish grin and observed his son's look of acknowledgment. "I did the same at Mrs. Wayburn's while she arranged our exchange with Fox." Paul put the sphere back into his pocket.
"Hey, what about me?"
His father shot him another kidding glance. "I figured you'd want to practice."
"Be serious, Dad, I might try to fix the wrong thing. A black eye, I can see, but this isn't visible."
"You know, you need to do more practice with your sphere or you'll never get the hang of it."
"I know, but time wise let's be practical. You're right, I think I smell bacon frying."
"Okay, this time," Paul conceded, "but next time you do it yourself." He graciously repeated the process for his son.
"Thanks," Scott said as he continued dressing. When he finished they wandered out. As with the preceding morning, June was making breakfast.
"Do you two still want to ride today?" she asked, certain they must have sore muscles and might not want to push it.
"I'm looking forward to it," Paul replied cheerfully, as he and Scott came over to the stove where June was pouring pancake batter on a grill. "I really enjoyed riding yesterday."
June watched as they walked around the house and could hardly believe neither seemed distressed at all by the long ride. She glanced at her watch. At bedtime, last night, Roy said there was something unusual about Paul. I want to see this for myself so I'm going to join them this morning. She addressed Scott with the message that provided her a horse for the ride. "Amy was over before you got up. She asked me to tell you she can't go riding this morning because she has to help Kathy prepare some things for the picnic." The phone rang and June answered.
Scott heaved a sigh. I am disappointed Amy will not be along, he thought. Even though, I can't be with her now, I can still enjoy the ride.
June hung up the phone as Roy walked out of the bathroom. "Hon, Kathy just called. Sandy is grounded again for not finishing her chores." As Roy poured himself a cup of coffee, June said with a tone of urgency, "I'd like to go with you, but we have to go right after breakfast. I have a lot of things to do yet to get ready for the picnic."
"Let us help you with breakfast," Paul offered, as he watched June pour another round of pancakes onto the griddle. "We'll set the table." He gave Scott the high-sign and they commenced to get the dishes and silverware to the table. When Paul returned to the kitchen, June handed him a plate full of pancakes and Scott another with the eggs and bacon. Roy poured four glasses of apple juice and placed them at the table while June gathered the remaining beverages. They left their dishes in the kitchen sink. They would be done later with the picnic things.
Scott saw his father retreat into the bedroom. When he reappeared in a few moments, he had the camera hung around his neck. They all left for the horse corral.
Paul's success with Red the day before had intrigued Roy, and June heard him tell Paul to take Duke. I think I'll bring up the rear, she thought. In that way I can watch. Personally, I think Roy must be seeing things. If, as Scott said, Paul is gifted with animals, Duke will prove or disprove it. Duke is a great horse for someone with a little experience, but he always has to test his rider.
Not apprehensive at all when told to change mounts, Paul caught Duke and tied him at the hitching rail. He placed his hand in the middle of Duke's face and the animal's eyes almost closed as they stood there together. Roy and June could not help noticing there did seem to be some form of communion going on between man and animal.
Roy and June proceeded to instruct Paul and Scott in how to saddle and bridle their horses and soon they were on their way. Red's shrill whistle could be heard for some distance as they rode away for he was left alone.
Roy led them to a different trail than the prior day. He looked over his shoulder several times within the next few minutes then turned partially around in the saddle to face Paul. "Are you kidding me about having ridden only twice before?"
"Well, yesterday made it three times," Paul returned with a smile as he snapped Roy's photograph.
As they continued, June watched intently from the rear. I don't believe this. I've never seen Duke respond like this before. There is no contest of wills; no dancing to test the rider; yet this man, with hardly any rein contact, has Duke moving totally relaxed. I'm glad I decided to come. I can hardly believe this, but what Roy said is true. This man is a natural. She turned her attentions to watching Scott in his dealings with the mousey colored Burr. Burr is easier going than Duke, she thought, but has a tendency to get stubborn if he doesn't understand what a rider wants him to do. That tendency makes him a less desirable mount for a beginning rider. She watched for a while. I believe this gift is not limited solely to the father.
Paul took many action photographs as they walked, trotted and galloped along interconnecting trails. The pace this day was considerably faster than the day before.
Returning, June left for the house leaving the unsaddling to the guys and pondering over what she had observed. I never believed the stories Roy used to tell about natural horse tamers could be true, but now I have seen some. It's truly amazing. Are they so secure with the horse they are totally able to relax and relay that relaxation to the animal? Maybe that's why they weren't stiff. I know I'm going to be stiff in the morning, because I haven't ridden for weeks. It also could be they're not telling us the whole truth ... but why? Reaching home, her thoughts, of necessity, moved to the unfinished chores for the picnic.
Roy, Paul and Scott secured the gear, brushed down the horses and put them away. Roy then announced he had to return home to help with the arrangements. Paul and Scott followed, freely volunteering their services. Their first assigned chore was to wash a large log picnic table and benches under a spreading apple tree in the yard that provided guest seating. When dry they covered it with a table cloth. Then Roy sent them scurrying here and there gathering additional tables and chairs. Soon Cal came to the house with two large barbecues and got the charcoal started.
June gathered supplies and everyone helped carry things outside to distribute on the tables. Paul realized that putting on a picnic for a large group of people made plenty of jobs for everybody. The invitation stated that non-alcoholic beverages would be available for all and asked that each family bring their choice of something to do on the barbecue in addition to a vegetable, salad or dessert dish for general sharing. Guests would be coming and going at their convenience all afternoon to avoid everybody trying to eat, sit and barbecue at the same time.
Roy drafted Scott and the men and they set up two portable restrooms in the machine shed near the house. In addition to two horseshoe pits in the yard, the family's regulation size pool table in another nearby building promised a great amount of friendly competition. Prizes would be awarded for the most unusual horseshoe and pool shots, whether planned or not. Scott volunteered to help Cal wrap the prizes and when he saw one to be a tee-shirt of a popular rock group, he grinned broadly. "All right. That's the one I'd like to have. Maybe I can get Dad to win it for me."
"Does your dad play?" Cal asked.
Scott grinned broadly as he examined the shirt again. "Yeah, I've seen him clear the table before," he blurted out without thinking in a moment of family pride. Immediately realizing his mistake, he glanced at Cal hoping he wouldn't question him further. When Roy called for help, Cal passed the wrapping chore on to June, and Scott breathed a sigh of relief.
Kathy, Amy and Sandy came over at eleven to help with last minute preparations. They brought four steaks and a large bowl of potato salad to the gathering.
Sharing in the work made Paul and Scott begin to feel at home among these people and they happily pitched in whenever and with wherever they could. Paul would ask for definitions of many unfamiliar farm words and expressions they used and no one seemed to mind taking the time to answer. After a while Scott noticed the family seemed to be enjoying it and caught his father's attention enough to convey a cease and desist look.
Finally, with a sigh of relief, June advised she thought everything ready. Shortly neighbors and guests began arriving with food in amounts unbelievable to the two vagabond travelers. Most walked in, but some drove down the long driveway, delivered their food and passengers, and then drove out to park their cars along the road. After the first group of guests arrived and somebody added items earlier forgotten, the whole affair seemed to take care of itself.
Scott grimaced when he and Amy walked into the poolroom and Cal began kidding him about his boast about his father's ability with pool. Soon others joined in and in a moment of frustration Scott finally felt unable to do anything other than take the challenge. "I'll bet you he can take them in five." Almost immediately he received several takers. Having some money in his pocket, he now felt a very masculine pride to back his claim. A friend of Cal's stepped up to hold the wagers.
Paul had just been introduced to some newly arrived guests when Cal approached, tapping him on the shoulder. "Hey Paul, your son's been doing more than just a little bragging. He says you're a real pool shark."
"I ... uh," Paul stumbled, "need to help Roy and June."
Cal noted Paul's embarrassment. "Come on, give us country boys some real competition."
Paul looked at Roy, hoping for another introduction, but instead Roy said, "Go ahead, Paul."
"I don't, uh ... really think I...
As Cal had with his classes in mind two days earlier, it became obvious that 'no' was not an answer easily accepted. "Come on. It's all in good-natured fun. Besides your son picked out a prize for you to win for him."
Paul saw Scott standing in the doorway of the poolroom nodding his head. "Okay," Paul agreed, "but only if I can describe the geometrics of each shot." His mind centered on the speed, weight, loss of inertia from impact, distances and angles of this game known here as pool. In many ways it reminds me of games at home relating directly to calibrations in mapping and navigating aboard the ships.
I think I'll play it safe, Scott thought, as his father walked over toward him. "I told them you could clear the table in four shots," he whispered. He grinned as Paul moved to the other end of the table. I'm sure he probably can do it in the one he once offered, but suggesting a specific number will provide him more of a challenge.
Starting with the break, Paul narrated each shot with a detailed description of the angles and physical forces involved. The players watched and listened in total awe when a banked, fourth shot sent one ball into a side pocket; then clapped loudly as the cue ball banked three times amid the remaining seven ball and a light tap sent the eight ball into the designated corner pocket. Paul saw many of the guests handing Scott some money and asked Amy about it. He then motioned Scott outside, giving Amy a subtle look not to follow. When confronted Scott explained the bet, but received his father's firm decree. "You have to give it back. Now!"
"Dad, they wouldn't stop needling me," Scott returned immediately with conviction. "When they took me up on the bet I had to back it up. So I was forced into the bet. Besides your demonstration was worth the money." His jaw jutted out in defiance. "It was a valid wager, and they figured the odds of you making it were definitely in their favor. I should be able to keep it."
Paul gave his son a condescending look. "They might have thought the odds were in their favor, but are you proud of deceiving me, Scott? You were being slick again. You even gave yourself an edge by asking me to do it in four instead of the five you bet. This wasn't for bus fare or a tee shirt. All the people here today are Roy and June's guests."
Scott observed an unwavering look on his father's face and returned the four dollars for a clear conscience.
The party continued through the afternoon and into the early evening. By eight only one guest remained. He and his wife had arrived late and though she visited for only an hour then left for home, her husband challenged Roy to a couple games of pool. June joined the two in the poolroom when Kathy volunteered the rest of the family, including Paul and Scott, to complete the remaining clean up.
Sandy and Scott were doing dishes, while Kathy and Amy put away left over picnic supplies and made sure the dishes and pots returned to their usual places. Paul helped Cal put away the tables and chairs earlier collected.
"Hey, everybody," Amy volunteered, "we'll finish the rest. Why don't you go join Grandpa and Grandma."
"Yeah, Dad," Scott urged.
"No, thank you, daughter dear," Cal replied. "That's Charlie Fisher out with the folks. I'm kind of tired and don't feel like arguing."
"Arguing!" Paul returned in surprise. "About what?"
"Oh, Charlie's always on an environmental kick and now he's into controlling growth here in town. Kathy and I have already disagreed with him and I think he's given up on us, but he's going to try to get the folks cornered to gather supporters. That Charlie is really spaced out."
Paul's eyebrows shot upward. "Spaced out?"
"We think his ideas are shortsighted and self centered," Kathy replied. "Why don't you go out to the poolroom and listen if you're interested. You be the judge. But when things begin getting hot, will you try to rescue Dad and June."
Paul puzzled momentarily. "Will they need rescuing?" he asked.
"After about ten minutes with Charlie, I think they might really appreciate it. In fact, I'd be willing to wager they're not playing pool any longer."
"Why don't we all go out and rescue them?" Paul suggested.
"No, thank you," Cal stated bluntly. "This has been a really good day and I don't want to take a chance on ruining it now." He put his hand on Paul's shoulder. "You can go. We can take care of this."
"I think I will," Paul returned. "I would like to hear what somebody who is 'really spaced out' has to say." He turned to Scott, "How about it? Maybe after I rescue them, I can give you another pool lesson."
Scott looked around from his place at the sink. "You mean give me another geometry and physics lesson, don't you?" He grinned broadly. "I'll just finish helping Amy, and then she wants to listen to some tapes. Maybe later."
Paul smiled at his son and rapidly raised his eyebrows in understanding of Scott's more basic interest. As he walked into the pool room and looked around, he noticed the pool balls on the table and nobody playing. Smiling, he nodded to Roy and his friend and received reciprocating nods acknowledging his presence. Walking in front of the chair June occupied, he excused himself and quietly sat nearby.
"Charlie," Roy said, returning to his guest. "I'm not interested in this growth control you're trying to peddle."
"You've got to be interested. So many people are moving in, we're losing control of our own community."
"This isn't the only place people are moving. Does freedom of choice sound the least bit familiar?"
"I just want to keep so many people from moving here," Charlie returned. "Don't you?"
"I don't like to see this rapid growth either, but I see little you can do to stop somebody..."
"Yes, there is," Charlie interrupted. "We can band together behind strict regulation of future development. If we don't, these new people are going to destroy our way of life."
"So you think passing some laws will stop it. If you want to live under laws that can stop others from pursuing their dreams, you should have moved to China or Afghanistan," Roy returned. "In this democracy you can't tell people where they can or cannot live. I'm afraid I still support the basic American concept that an individual has a right to choose."
Frowning, June asked, "Charlie, how long have you been living here? Two, or three years?"
"It has been three wonderful years since we left the big city rat race," he replied, smiling pleasantly.
"Did you know Roy has lived here his entire life?"
"I've heard that from others around town."
June shook her head. "Then from his point of view, you' are one of 'these new people'. Without somebody making room, you wouldn't be here. Someday soon we will have to do the same for others."
Charlie looked gruffly from Roy to June. "I've heard around town, you're planning to sell out to a developer. Our open space will disappear to development and even more people will come."
"I've heard that rumor going around myself," Roy returned with a grin. "I will admit I didn't try to quash it because I wanted to see how people around here would react to possibly losing what they have come to think of as 'their' open space. You're acting like most everyone else about 'my', not 'your' open space."
"You mean it isn't true?" Charlie asked, hopefully.
"Charlie, before I was old enough to wear long pants, I decided I wanted to spend my life here. I will not deny developers have approached us, but I have no intention of selling out until I have no options left. Like June just mentioned, that time is getting closer every day because it's just taking too much of our income just to keep the farm."
"The offers they have dangled in front of us are almost like winning a lottery," June offered. "Still, as long as we have our health we're happy. We don't need a lot of money to do what we love."
"Good," Charlie returned, "because everyone enjoys the rural atmosphere your farm provides."
Listening to everyone, Paul's head moved from one to the other. I can think of questions to ask, he thought, but perhaps I can learn more by listening to them talking out their frustrations.
"Don't misunderstand," June corrected, "We still have expenses. Unless we manage to win a lottery, just the increasing taxes may make it necessary to sell parts of the farm. Having what someone else seems to value highly, makes it continually more expensive to keep it together."
Roy looked distressed. "Part of that responsibility is yours Charlie. You ran from your 'rat race'. You came here seeking a simpler life, and then brought big city ideas with you. Retired and with time on your hands, you form boards and committee's to impose restrictions and obligations on the serenity and quality of the life that attracted you. You call them improvements and by popular demand you move to finance what I feel is unnecessary with long term debts and higher taxes for me to help pay.
"This farmer didn't need or ask for an art center, a boat harbor, ball fields, a swimming pool, or more parks. Our livestock didn't need three new schools or a new fire truck. For most of my life I have gotten along without a hospital or a medical emergency unit. The stock also didn't impose the need for a sewage system and hopefully they don't get out on the road except for trips to the livestock market. We are part of a growing city, but this farm's impact has changed little in the past fifty years. Operating at a static capacity, our income doesn't increase noticeably, but our expenses have escalated. I can only say I hope being next to our open space isn't the reason you chose to build your new home."
"We chose this place because it provided open spaces and a chance to wander through green fields or a forest and have animals to watch right out our living room window."
"If you wanted a lot of open space why didn't you buy a place out in the country?" June asked. "That way you could enjoy your own' green places' and have animals to watch out of every window if you wanted."
"A big place is too much for us to take care of and Delia wants us free to do some traveling."
Roy laughed and shook his head. "Now you've admitted to something we've understood for a long time. The people around here want us to continue working for almost nothing on a place bigger than we need, so when they choose to be around they can enjoy animals on an open space they have no responsibility to take care of."
"I thought you liked farming," Charlie spouted.
"We do, ... but we're not getting any younger."
"But by planning, we can stop the growth around here so you can keep your place. The Urban Growth Plans being suggested will encourage people to live in the cities."
"Charlie, this is a city!" Roy returned his irritation evident. "Who is going to choose for everybody else in this city ... a city that according to you has too many people already."
"I'm talking about the big cities."
"And who is going to chose for them, you?" June rebuffed. "In a capitalistic society, wealth normally becomes the deciding factor. You know ... the ability to buy whatever you want. Is that what you want to have here, a place only for the rich with the big cities as convenient closets for the less fortunate? Out of sight, out of mind? We all know where you would choose to live."
"Like you said," Charlie replied smugly, "I'm already living in a city."
"But as the years go by, like us, you may not have the necessary capital wealth to live here either."
"For now I'm just going to enjoy the freedom I've found out here and not worry about it. I love seeing lush green fields and watching your animals."
"It seems everybody does," Roy groused, "Of course, last spring when we spread the manure from the barn on those green fields, one of those 'green field' lovers called the police complaining about the smell and demanding we stop doing the chore necessary to keep it green. We also hear complaints about flies and mud, but those things are a part of keeping animals. Hey, they moved around a farm, not the other way around. And another thing that bothered me. This spring we got a visit from the Health Department. It seems somebody filed a complaint accusing us of nurturing rats, another one of their wild creatures. They charged us with spreading 'our rats' around the neighborhood. I informed the official that if I feed our rats well, they don't leave home. He returned in a little while to tell me the rat farmer was the very person who filed the complaint. Perhaps I should have filed a complaint. Her massive compost pile had become a grocery store for rats."
"What really irked me," June offered, "is she called the law rather than us in the first place. So many people say they like country living because of the friendliness of their neighbors, and then ask the law to solve what has to be a neighborhood problem."
Roy's lower lip set firmly. "I can ignore all that crap, but most all of you are totally unrealistic. You move from the cities to enjoy country living but are ignorant about farm animals. The only animals most have known have been pets. You climb through our fences to take a walk in a pasture, not considering any animal, large or small, is unpredictable and therefore dangerous. Most nature shows on television depict animals as smart, cute and cuddly. A cow is none of the three, and unless she knows you, don't ever try to approach her when she has a new calf. Never walk in among them because they can kick with the speed of summer lightning. Even a ewe, the most docile of farm animals can become a force to contend with if you manage to get her in a corner or between her and the grain bucket.
"Earlier this year I remember it was your wife who climbed the fence into the pasture, apparently showing somebody our lambs. I used some feed to coax our ram from mischief that would have laid them both with their faces in the mud. The name 'ram' is no misnomer and the laws of trespass, to date, don't protect us from injury claims unless we put up volumes of ugly 'no trespassing' signs. I really don't think anybody would feel they would add to the quality of life around here. You moved to a small city and built a new home. Now, your 'new way of life' is rapidly decreeing 'our way of life' may not be around for much longer. So enjoy it while you can.
"Your choice and the choice of many others decree that the only clear living income potential for this farm is planting and selling houses ... or marijuana. Since we don't want to spend these golden years on the inside looking out, marijuana doesn't seem an acceptable option. Now we're getting boxed into a corner by property taxes for improvements you demand, and insurance to protect our investment from people who feel crawling through fences to enjoy the view from our green fields, acceptable behavior. However, if they get injured when they encounter a 2,000 pound bull on their walk, they don't think twice about suing their open space for keeping a dangerous animal."
"Back up a minute, Charlie," June interjected. "Let's go back to the basics of economic survival. I assume you're not working since you always seem to have time for these special interest groups."
"My only special interest is in saving this area from developers," Charlie shot back.
"Fine, but I'm interested in how you make ends meet," she insisted. "You know - the bottom line."
"I sold my business in Virginia. With the proceeds from that, the sale of our home and some good investments over the years, Delia and I have a comfortable income."
"Then you feel financially secure?"
"Better than most, I guess."
"I'm really very happy for you," June offered sadly. "Perhaps you should consider buying some of our land. Then you could save it from those terrible developers."
"Whoa, we haven't got that much we can afford to tie up," Charlie laughed.
"That's sad, because neither do we," she confirmed.
"You still have to agree we do need to do something to discourage the rapid growth out here. All developers do is blight the land and they're only in it for the money."
June looked at him, her eyes narrowing. "And you ran your business in Virginia for fun? That is not normally how one in business earns the living that provides the funding to retire financially secure."
"I ran an honest manufacturing business," Charlie returned. "Developers are greedy."
"Developers are in business, just like you were," June acknowledged. "That's the capitalistic way ... 'buy, produce and sell', and I would venture to bet you didn't sell to the lowest bidder when you sold your business or your home. If you did, you and Delia are truly unique individuals. I even think you might make a good farmer, for you would steadfastly remain the steward for someone else's life style."
"Look, in trying to control the growth around here I'm working for you too."
"I don't really think so," June returned. "I think we are actually on opposite sides."
Roy grinned. "June is right, Charlie. You're asking us to join you to control development. Have you ever thought that along with controlling those greedy developers you will make it virtually impossible for us to make an advantageous sale of our land? What happens when we need capital to live on? Finding that wealthy philanthropist farmer could be difficult. The bottom line is other people have just as much right to move here as you did."
June looked sternly at Charlie. "Since you are so into protecting what's left of the environment here, may I ask why you built a new home instead of buying one of the many for sale around town?"
"We didn't find an existing home adequate for our needs."
"Your home is in a relatively newly developed area and I would estimate it to be in the neighborhood of 3,000 square feet. I find that excessive for only two people."
"We figure our children will be visiting from time to time."
"So you built for your children to move here. That's more people."
"They probably won't be living here."
"Then this excessively large house is just for you." Her eyebrows narrowed, unsympathetically. "Right now I'm going to tell you why I would never support your group, Charlie. After three years of living here, you figure your purchase of a developed lot entitles you to control everything else around you. From our point of view, that is questionable ethics. To preserve your life style, you are attempting to regulate what belongs to us. In so doing you're just as greedy as you accused that developer of being. Greed remains greed, whether for money or personal lifestyle."
"I think of it as saving our 'environment'."
June smiled back. "'These other people' are searching for the same thing you did; ... the same thing we did many years ago. There is one universal constant, Charlie. 'Nothing is permanent, except change'."
Roy looked at Charlie, slowly shaking his head. "I can appreciate folks wanting this farm to remain here, but have you ever considered that someday soon we may not be able to continue the work? We're not getting any younger. Like you, maybe we'll decide to travel some. Everybody tells us how much they like to watch us work the land. If it's so interesting, I would think volunteers would be popping up from everywhere to learn about it ... after all it provides a part of the food chain they depend upon."
"If it's getting too much, why don't you give the place to your kids? Make it a family affair and just live here. I'll bet your children would accept responsibility for the work."
"They don't all live around here," June returned. "Cal and Kathy do what they can, but they have their own pursuits of happiness to fulfill."
Roy could see where Charlie was heading. "I'm sure you would appreciate my children working for nothing to preserve your lifestyle. I'm sure they would think that very considerate of you. Now, may I ask why you decided to sell your business and move west rather than give it to your children?"
"They didn't want to stay in the city either."
"Did you divide the money between them?"
Charlie stumbled, "Well ... no. How could we? We needed it to build the house and continue to maintain our independence."
"Can you tell me how we 'maintain our independence' if we give everything we own to the children?" Roy returned. "The years spent at this business has made this land our independence nest egg."
"Then sell it to them and take the tax break," Charlie snapped.
"We don't need a tax break because we're not making anything," June returned. "We need something to pay the bills."
"I'm sure Cal and Kathy would love to give farming a try," Roy confirmed. "But tell me, what makes anyone think if already owning the land, this farmer can't make it any longer, how could the children do better starting out with the burden of purchase?"
"I firmly believe everyone should make their way in the world," June offered. "It is not equality when some roll along from generation to generation on a parent's efforts, while others must start from scratch. We have too many deserving young people unable to get a start. We're all supposed to be created equal, but some are 'born' considerably more equal than others."
Charlie looked critically at her. "We're supposed to provide the best for our children."
"By giving them our love, encouragement, trust and a home that develops good ethical values. As a society, we need to demand the best educational opportunities from all schools and instill in our children the expectation that they do their best. That is providing them the necessary tools to realize their fullest potential." She smiled. "Now, can I ask what your boys are going to do when they finish high school?"
"We have three boys and a daughter."
"You have four children?" she questioned, her eyebrows rising. "I guess I only know the two."
"Our oldest son and daughter are still back east. We have them through college, married and out on their own." Charlie smiled proudly. "We're expecting a third grandchild next month."
"So two of your children have already gone out into the world, found a place and started families. I assume you expect the remaining two to do likewise?"
"Of course, the older will be a senior this fall. He can't expect to stay with us forever," Charlie replied impatiently.
She looked at Charlie stubbornly. "So he is entitled to move in on somebody else's way-of-life … right?" She shook her head slowly, gazing at the man. "Wherever he chooses to go, I hope he doesn't run into someone like 'dear old dad', who has done some planning and passed some laws."
Charlie grimaced at the implication. "Okay, okay, I see the point you're trying to make, but you're deviating from the reasons for managing the growth we know is coming," Charlie offered.
"With increasing numbers of people, the future is living closer together, my friend," Roy returned. "Just look at history. A few hundred years ago, European civilization started tramping across this continent, subduing those in their way. 'Go West Young Man', was the suggestion to those dissatisfied with the status quo. Now, we're spread across that continent and the world. The 'West' of those days, is no more."
"There are still vast areas of open land all over the west," Charlie returned.
"There is in the east, as well, but you talk about everything 'out west' like it belongs to no one. Like in the east, most land has an owner, and it seems wherever anyone goes today, those already there feel like you, Charlie: Go some place young man, but stay out of my back yard. Those moving here are merely trading back yards with your children."
Charlie frowned, "You do have to agree we need to preserve the environment to leave some quality of life for the future."
"Certainly," Roy returned. "Where do you want to start?"
"It has been determined we need to save wetlands."
"You want to leave your grandchildren only wetlands? Are you implying a marsh is more important than a field of growing wheat or peas?"
"They provide places for water to percolate down into the ground to provide water for the future," Charlie offered.
"It's true. Most of this country's water is supplied by ground water and aquifer recharge is vitally important, but water surely percolates better through sandy ground than a waterlogged swamp. Lakes and swamps exist because water doesn't penetrate so recharge I don't see as a major reason for grabbing all the wetlands unless it's to take control of all the water. It has long been understood that the one who controls the water supplies, controls the land. As far as diversity, many species need no more than a water hole not vast expanses of wetlands. Are you implying wetland critters are more important than those inhabiting dry lands? By preserving only wetlands isn't a greater value being placed on a goose or the moose than on the rabbit or the antelope; a frog than a lizard; a mosquito or a bee?"
"I don't know all the reasons," Charlie returned.
"You support such a vast locking away of private land without asking for details?"
"Since they're not asking for anything else, they must have more information about relative importance available to them than you do," Charlie said critically.
"That's just it, Charlie, they're not asking for anything else ... yet," Roy returned sharply. "What I see you supporting being put in motion is something that as an owner of open land, has me frightened for my family's future."
"Why? We all have an equal stake in environmental protection."
"Because most of those wetlands you so easily keep saying 'we need' to preserve are not public lands. Who exactly is 'we'. Charlie?" Roy prodded. "All and collectively, I believe 'we' refers to the environmental needs of everybody and right now I'm not looking at what I consider a very well informed 'we'."
"The methods being used to provide those 'we want and we needs' are forgetting our very basic laws," June added. "It is called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. A highly unequal burden for environmental preservation is being imposed on only one class of citizens, those who own larger parcels. That same class who now are being asked to carry the burden of preserving wetlands will next be required to provide your open space, forests and wildlife habitat and the 'we' majority are denying them compensation for the loss of their property. The laws that provide you the peaceful use of your home and lot are supposed to provide them with the same property rights. What you seek to establish are two classes of property ownership; that minority who are directed to contribute the resources 'we' decree necessary for everybody's quality of life; and the vast majority who benefit while contributing nothing."
"You can't just make a declaration to preserve something that belongs to somebody else, Charlie," Roy added. "The Bill of Rights clearly state that 'no person may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law'."
I remember due process in Scott's book, Paul thought. Charlotte considered the Constitution valuable enough to make its defense her life's work. On the taped interview I watched in her apartment, Paul Forrester said he received no due process when he was arrested and imprisoned in Moscow for photographing dissidents. After his experience, he said he considered Constitutional rights as very valuable. He thought the dissidents remained in prison. Paul narrowed one eye, wrinkling his brow. I wonder what is dissident?
"The drafting of our Constitution was well thought through by men with a firsthand understanding of land held by a chosen few who also maintained control of the government. Our founding fathers proposed a nation where the land remained in the hands of the people and wanted to protect the rights of all individuals. The documents they drafted and we, as a nation are still obliged to enforce, are definite in saying that private property cannot be taken for a public use without just compensation. That seems to be one thing you wish to forget."
June returned to the fray. "During the course of our history, many have been denied those rights because those in power did not believe all peoples, to be people. While we cannot turn back the clock to reverse what has gone before, we can show we have learned something from our past mistakes. If 'we' need wetlands, would you be so gung ho for preservation 'at all cost', if the landowners right to compensation cost you money?"
"Wetland protection isn't taking the land from anybody, June," Charlie returned belligerently.
"Just think a moment about what you're saying, Charlie," June rebuffed. "Damages are paid to people who live around an expanding airport because of increasing noise. This isn't any different. Whether you call it zoning, planning, environmental protection or noise abatement, when you deny an individual the use or enjoyment of any part of his property, it is depriving, plain and simple. Let's just say they can take control of our pond and lower field by calling it wetland that provides protection for an endangered species of frog. Your home, which borders ours, has the same characteristics and is an integral part of the same wetland ecosystem. What if they told you your home had to be removed to restore habitat for that frog?"
"They won't take somebody's home."
"That's exactly what I'm referring to. You infer protection of the environment is of the utmost importance. In equality, there should be no preferential treatment given to you just because you have a home there. In many cases inequality has already been granted, particularly if it also protects a water supply." She grinned. "What would you do?"
"I don't know for sure."
"Come on, Charlie," she thwarted. "Both you and I know you would demand compensation for your loss. What good would your lot and home provide you if you couldn't use it and also faced the cost of removing it? My fear is if this 'taking' attitude continues without proper compensation, how long will it be before those in power will be satisfied with frogs, toads, waterfowl, and mosquitoes? How long before some other group convinces them the forests are another vital ecosystem they need to control?"
"We do need to preserve our resource lands."
"'Our' resource lands? 'Our', is like the 'we' of wetlands, a collective. How long will it be before someone else determines deserts need protection as well? Do they come under another bureau with a limitless ability to claim control as though it was public resource? While things are free can 'we' consider the nation's agricultural land less than an essential national resource? While taking is free 'we' might as well have that too. Soon the individual rights of all landowners will be forgotten entirely and the right to take will apply equally to all. But I feel sure what belongs to the controllers and an all-powerful government that no longer answers to anybody will somehow be deemed exempted. That my friend, we called Communism! For my own peace of mind, I never want to see any government with too much power over its people."
"That couldn't happen here," Charlie retorted.
"It can if the trend I see continues to receive support from people like you."
"Besides all of our resource lands aren't private," Charlie replied.
"Correct," Roy returned. "I guess if the majority of the people vote to have all public resources locked up for the benefit of a few, the government will have to designate them all as public. In Washington State alone many millions of acres have already been set aside for future parks, wilderness and other designations of national interest. I think environmental protection requires the use of common sense choices by everybody. Locking things up will deny the people access to many resources designated as being more valuable for multiple uses. That hurts local economies and isn't without cost to everyone because the remaining private resources will have to make up for the future needs of an ever increasing number of all those people you wish to park in the cities."
"Have you ever taken the time to think about just how much land and resources it requires to supply one person living in a city?" June threw in. "I don't mean only food for we make substantially more impact on resources than just food. We need clothing and shelter. We want electricity or some energy source to heat or cool that shelter and refrigeration to preserve our food. We want fuel and roads to get to a job to earn the money for those necessities and more fuel and roads for pleasure. We want clean water to drink; water lawns and landscaping; flowers and gardens; and still more to keep our cars clean. We want the energy to provide hot water to bathe and wash clothes. We also desire entertainment and places to commune with nature for our mental wellbeing. Our wants represents the use of many more assets than our needs, and the list can go on and on."
"That's an interesting thought, June," Roy acknowledged. "In this rain rich area, we figure we can sustain five sheep and their current year lambs on about two acres of your open space per year. That includes grazing, hay for winter, and water. I would estimate a single person requires hundreds and hundreds of renewable and nonrenewable resource acres to provide food, power, water and other support necessities. The space and those resources required for each person to live are usually far away from where they reside. The United States covers just about three and a half million square miles, but there are over two hundred fifty million people and numbers are growing daily."
"They say the population might level off in the United States," Charlie offered. "It seems in the more industrialized nations people tend to have smaller families."
"But with better health care and food being provided, family size is increasing among the poor, and more so in the poorer developing nations," Roy countered.
"Then we take in millions of immigrants each year," Charlie added in dismay. "That's what I've been trying to tell you. Just look at what's happening already. They're flooding in from everywhere."
"Are you suggesting we stop providing food and medicine or that we stop taking in immigrants?" June asked critically. "We have always prided ourselves as being a nation of immigrants and being here first doesn't mean you're going to remain top dog. Can we just sit here in comfort and ignore starvation and misery around the world? If we can, we will have totally lost 'our' humanity."
"No, I'm not suggesting that," Charlie returned, slightly embarrassed. "We need to feed people, but they don't need to come here anymore."
"Their own land can't support them," June offered. "If they keep making them and we want to save them, they have to go somewhere."
"But why here? It isn't fair. My two oldest have voluntarily drawn the line at two kids. They decided it was the only way for them to maintain a decent standard of living."
"You should be proud of them, but even having only two children per family won't level general populations for a number of generations."
"How do you figure?" Charlie replied.
"Because infant deaths are down and longevity is increasing. Most extended families span as many as five or six generations. You also have to remember, even though family size in the United States has decreased, because of our standard of living an American child will consume far more natural resources during its lifetime, than ... let's say a child in India, China, or much of Africa. The American dream has become a goal the whole world would like to copy. Just imagine how fast we'll be using up resources then."
Charlie's brow wrinkled in frustration then he returned to his primary concern. "I can't do anything about the future of children in India, China or Africa. I can only try to get some laws regulating land use passed to protect the future of this community. I was hoping you'd do something to help, but I guess I was wrong." Charlie glanced at his watch then picked up his pool cue and returned it to the rack on the wall. "I guess I had better get on my way. I still have a number of places to stop tonight."
"Why don't we finish our game first?" Roy asked. "We only have a few balls left on the table."
"I'll take a rain check if that's all right with you?" "Goodnight," he said curtly as he headed toward the door.
Roy noticed Paul cocking his head to one side again with one eyebrow raised. He knew Paul had been listening very attentively to the exchange and decided to try for an outside opinion. "You haven't joined in, Paul. What do you think?"
Paul looked at Roy with concern and thought for a long moment. "Sometimes what seems a simple problem is not as simple as it first appears. You argued both sides of a variety of issues, but didn't come any closer to any long-term solutions. I would only like to ask if you feel there is a solution."
Roy heaved a heavy sigh. "I know we have to protect our environment, but I don't believe it is right to make it the financial responsibility of a minority who have, in good faith, maintained most of those open spaces. I cannot understand how judges can determine private landowners are not entitled to compensation for their losses, even if it was paying for an easement like they do around airports. Before supporting such legislation, too many people like Charlie are not looking at both sides of the issue. They can only think about what they want short term, not what they will lose in the long-term. The 'we need' attitude the preservationists are taking is to get as much as they can while they think it's free. Before agreeing wholeheartedly with their ideas, I'd like to check to see if they own a home then test their attitude toward the idea of ownership by planning a picnic in their yard. You will probably find a double standard existing."
"A double standard?" Paul asked.
"Yeah, it's 'what belongs to somebody else belongs to everybody, but what belongs to me is mine'."
"I don't think I quite understand entirely what you have been trying to say," Paul returned. "The government wants to take land away from farmers and other landowners like you, to save it for everybody?"
"In this growing residential area it doesn't affect us directly, Paul, but it does affect a great number of farmers and ranchers throughout the country. If we don't all fight against what is viewed as an unlawful taking of private property for a public use, the snowball will be starting to roll down the hill."
"The snowball?" Paul puzzled.
Roy looked strangely at him. "You know the way a snowball going down a hill gathers snow as it gains momentum? That is the way these laws will finally roll over everybody."
"I don't believe I have ever seen a snow ball."
Roy chuckled then shrugged his shoulders. "I just assumed..." Roy confessed. "I guess there are lots of people who have never seen snow. You must have lived much of your life in the southern states."
"I have lived in California," Paul offered hoping to avoid sounding slick with an answer that might lead only to more questions. He decided to offer comment instead. "I have read the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights. I believe the words provide good guidance."
"So do I, but too many in power are forgetting those words in this protectionism furor." Roy frowned deeply. "While I can support the concept of preservation, I greatly fear the precedents being set in motion to simply deprive landowners of their holdings. Farmers and ranchers are crying out for the Constitutional protection designed to protect everybody. Instead they call them greedy ... almost criminals against society's needs. Without compensation they will become the next endangered species."
"I am well aware that endangered species needing protection are not all criminals," Paul replied with conviction.
"Presently, those protections are only being fully practiced in the criminal justice system, but they are there to protect everybody," Roy said sadly. "Our Constitution is the strength of this nation, but I question how long the nation will prevail if it continues to move in its present direction. If we leave the violation of these most basic rules of law unchallenged, we will each have allowed the forging of another link in the chains of oppression. Around the world we talk big of freedom and human rights, but look the other way while ours disappears."
"It is very easy to take freedom and individual rights for granted if it is not yours being taken," Paul offered.
"Well put," Roy returned.
"That taking may be achieved around here in the guise of planning for future growth," June added. "At that moment, many may feel satisfaction at obtaining their goal, but they do not see the looming threat of eventually losing their protection under the same laws."
"Wrong decisions made now, become the precedents for tomorrow," Roy added. "That is how law works. The impropriety of actions against those who have chosen to maintain their land while others chose to become rich, will ultimately affect everybody. When the individual becomes the most basic minority, and then the 'taking' will reach that wetland resource under Charlie's home as well. Then we will all be wearing the same chains."
"Wearing chains?" Paul questioned.
"Just a figure of speech. Like so many others around the world we will be like a colony of ants or a hive of bees; squeezed in as part of an organized society to serve a ruling government," Roy returned. "Freedom disappears one small step at a time and when everybody feels the effect, they will look back trying to figure out what happened," Roy said. "Then we can argue about who to blame. People should be considering the ramifications of what they are planning to do, before they do it. We must not let anybody take that responsibility away."
"Or don't criticize your neighbor for complaining until you have walked a mile in his footsteps," June offered.
"Yes," Paul said with conviction. "The ability to choose is necessary in any free society. It is deciding between right and wrong and accepting responsibility for one's actions." Paul thought of his decision to stay on earth. My friends on the ship disagreed with my choice, but they honored it. I also weighed the possible consequences, but I had to acknowledge Scott was my responsibility. Now, my choice has us in constant danger. He smiled, but I have also received many benefits. "Weighing the consequences of how your choices affect another and being able to feel how he might feel is the basis for all communication."
Responding to Paul's smile, Roy grinned. "I see a growing loss of ability to make individual choices when I see too many laws written to protect one from himself. It becomes most evident to me when I see somebody standing obediently at a traffic light waiting for the 'Walk' to appear when there isn't a car in sight. Personally, I interpret 'don't walk' to mean 'be ready to run'. Of course if a car or a police officer appears, I must accept the consequences of my decision; either being hit by the car or paying the ticket. That's freedom."
They heard somebody at the door and turned to see Cal stick his head in. "Dad, June, everything's put away so we're heading home."
"Hey," Roy urged, "how about another game before you go?"
"I'd like to, but I have to call it a day and take my brood home," he said as Kathy gently urged him back outside. "Tomorrow is Monday and it's back to the grindstone. In case you've forgotten, alternative schools operate year round."
Paul smiled at Cal. "I'm glad your school operates all year or we'd have missed seeing the farm and meeting everybody."
Cal returned Paul's smile. "I knew you'd enjoy coming out here. I'm assuming you'll need a ride back to town in the morning."
"Please," Paul confirmed.
"I'll pick you up at seven."
Roy looked at Cal, laughing half-heartedly. "So I guess the job must excuse you from the farm's biggest annual chore for another year. The long-range weather pattern indicates tomorrow is the day to start cutting the hay."
"I promise to be here and ready to work on the weekend," Cal confirmed.
"Frank called. Work also has him swamped. He said he'd be available only on the weekends."
Cal looked back meekly. "I sure didn't plan it this way, but the job feeds the family for the rest of the year. I'm really sorry."
"You can count on me to drive the hay truck, Dad," Kathy promised as she tried to urge Cal toward home.
"Thank you," Roy acknowledged. Looking dejectedly from one to the other, he heaved a sigh and feebly shot at one of the pool balls still on the table.
"Dad, I'm ready for that math lesson," Scott said as he and Amy walked into the room.
"I think Cal is right, Scott," Paul confirmed. "You and I better get ready to turn in. Tomorrow we hit the telephones again." Paul turned to Roy and June and smiled warmly. "Thank you for letting us stay with you. We have enjoyed it very much."
Roy returned Paul's smile. "You are more than welcome. We have enjoyed your company as well, and thanks for helping with the picnic."
As Cal's family left, Paul noticed the same personal exchanges of affection he had observed the night before. Can it be some form of family ritual? He wondered as he stored away the information for further contemplation. He heard Roy sigh deeply as the family left, and then saw him grinning impishly as their eyes met.
"Hey, maybe I can sucker you two into staying to help me... that is if you have the time and believe you have the muscles."
Paul wasn't sure, from the look on Roy's face, whether he was making a joke or not. "We can make the time if cutting hay is something important that we can help with." He remembered Roy's earlier statement about everybody's interest in watching the animals, but no one volunteering to help with the work. "About how much time will it take?"
"From two and a half to five weeks, depending on the weather," Roy confirmed.
Scott looked at his father, "Dad, what about finding Mr. Johnson ... and Mom? We need to get on with it."
Roy looked disappointed at the mention of the other commitment. "That's the way it always seems at haying time. Everybody has something else they need to do. I can't blame Cal, or Frank. They must have jobs to pay the bills." He heaved another heavy sigh. "It just seems like the timing is always wrong. Kathy and June always help, but they can't do the mowing or throw bales up onto the truck or stack in the barn. Putting up hay is work for men and there's not too many around anymore who want to work that hard."
Scott could tell by his father's look of concern he wanted to help. Somebody was asking and his father always found it difficult to say 'no' unless Fox was an obvious threat.
Paul read Scott's disappointment at delaying the search and decided to further explain. "We are searching for Scott's mother. Our first lead was she lived at a resort with a friend. We found the resort, but she and the friend had moved away without leaving a forwarding address. Now we have another lead we need to check on. She had a brother, a Mr. Johnson, who might know where she is. We understand he lives somewhere north of Seattle."
"Does this Mr. Johnson, have a first name?" Roy asked.
"Ron or Robert."
Roy's eyes rolled. "I can see why you need to get on with it. There are plenty of them and North of Seattle takes in a big area."
"We already noticed," Paul confirmed assuredly.
"But the haying wouldn't take all your time, Paul," June added. "You could use the farm as a base for your search. The job can include room and board and if you'll pay the long distance charges, you can use our telephone. That will make calling a lot cheaper."
Roy had already determined this man and his son learned quickly and always seemed willing to lend a hand. He saw a possibility of two extra sets of hands for at least the early part of the haying chores. "June's right. Except for the next few days of mowing, there will be plenty of time when June, Kathy and I can handle it. Also, most of the haying work is in the afternoon when the sun is warmest so most mornings and evenings will be available for making calls. While it's drying, you'll be free completely to follow up on any possibilities."
June, seeing a possibility of somebody to help her husband, continued. "Cal said you don't have any wheels. How do you plan to follow up on any leads? It's not an area with much public transportation."
"We might have to buy a car," Paul replied, "though I hate to spend the money for one."
"We have an old pickup truck we can let you use," Roy offered, picking up on June's hint. "It's not new or fancy, but serviceable. You supply the fuel and oil. The most I can afford to pay for your work is five bucks an hour, so you won't get rich; but you will have pocket money, transportation, and a roof over your head and full stomachs."
Paul thought on the combined offer. The pay doesn't compare to what I was making as a computer technician in East Wenatchee, he thought, but it's more than my starting pay had been. Each new experience makes it easier to blend in. It's also hard to turn down an offer of room and board, and the use of a vehicle to get around will definitely make the follow-ups easier. He looked over at Scott, silently seeking his approval.
Scott looked at Roy, and then back at his father. Shrugging his shoulders he thought of the young lady living across the street who liked movies, street fairs and horseback riding. "Okay," he said.
"We'll stay," Paul confirmed. "When do we start?"
Overjoyed at some masculine help, even if inexperienced, Roy replied with a broadening grin, "Early tomorrow morning. You can help me get the mowers on the tractors." A thought occurred, "Oh, for highway driving I will need your driver's license stats to get you covered on our insurance policy." Paul took out his billfold and handed Roy his driver's license. As Roy wrote down the necessary information he noticed the address. Paul is from Chicago and has never seen a snowball, Roy thought curiously. I guess I should question him further, but somehow I like this guy.
"This haying is a new concept to me, but I do like to learn new things," Paul confessed as he replaced his license in the billfold. "You're going to have to teach us what to do."
Roy looked at Paul and decided to find out just how much experience he had hired. "Have you ever operated any heavy machinery?"
"I've operated on some computers," he offered. "I've also operated some large and small machines, but I wouldn't consider any of them heavy for their size."
Roy smiled, "If you have any mechanical aptitude it should be easy. I'll teach you and Scott how to drive the tractors and operate all of the machinery we use for haying. That way if you're ever looking for a job with machinery, you can say you have experience."
"Thank you," Paul replied.
"All right!" Scott exclaimed, his eyes beaming. "I'm finally going to get a chance to drive something."
Scott's joy vanished when Paul replied, "Scott can't get a license to drive yet."
"He doesn't need one to drive farm tractors if he's doing farm work," Roy explained. He observed a grin return to the boy's face and grinned back. "I think I'll enjoy teaching you about farm machinery, Scott." Roy looked back at Paul for confirmation. "We have a deal, then?"
Paul's smiled broadened at his son's growing enthusiasm. "It sounds good to me. We have a deal." Paul accepted Roy's outstretched hand and they shook. "Well, I guess I better call Cal and tell him we no longer need a ride in the morning." June told Paul the number and directed him into the house to use the telephone. After a quick call, Paul returned. "Scott, if we're going to get an early start, I think we'd better say goodnight." Giving Scott a sign, they retreated back toward the house.
"Goodnight everybody," Scott echoed as he followed.
"Goodnight to you, and thanks," Roy returned, grinning broadly as he pushed the remaining pool balls off the table into the pockets.
"Goodnight," June added, happy her husband had some help. "We'll see you in the morning."
Safe within the confines of their bedroom Scott, asked: "Well what did everybody talk about this evening?"
"A lot of things," Paul replied honestly.
"Anything that would interest me?"
"Maybe," Paul offered, "but they talked about things I will have to investigate further. Yesterday, I saw a library downtown. Since we now have a job here, I believe I will spend some spare time there."
Not desiring an invitation to join his father, Scott decided to bring up something bothering him all day. "Dad, why have you been taking so many pictures?"
"I want us to have some memories of our travels."
"The way you've been taking pictures, we sure can't carry them with us even if they are small."
Paul's face reflected an impish grin. "I called Liz Baynes last night and asked if she would keep them for us. She said she would be glad to. So now when we get a bunch we can send them to her with a status report. I feel very strange about contacting her only when we need money."
"I know what you mean," Scott returned with a frown. "I feel guilty too." He started to grin. "But it is a great idea. I wonder why you never thought of it before."
"As I said once before ... I'm no genius. I only thought of it the other night after Roy and June showed me some old photographs of their family. I decided then that we should have something to show your mother. Then I got to thinking about Dale Taylor confronting me, saying I was a photographer who never took any pictures. If I'm going to be Paul Forrester, I have to think about taking pictures all the time like he would. If I don't carry and use the camera, I'd better join you in school and learn another trade."
"Well you should have thought about asking Liz earlier." Scott laughed. "Look at all the great shots of me you've already missed."
"You know there are two heads in this team," Paul laughed. "Why didn't you think of it?"
Scott laughed, "Like father, like son. I guess I'm no genius either."
Everyone was up by six. Paul and Scott accompanied Roy out to check the stock while June started breakfast. Breakfast was over by a quarter to seven and the three left for the machinery shed.
Roy showed them how to start the three tractors used on the farm. He explained the complex gear shifting and the load ranges to use for the jobs they would be doing later and he gave them time to practice driving the slow noisy machines around the buildings. Further experience would come while working. Paul hung the camera around his neck and took several pictures of a smiling Scott behind the wheel of a tractor. His son was happy for he was legally driving something, even though it wasn't a car.
It amazed Paul the ease with which Roy maneuvered a clumsy tractor into position next to the mowing machine. While Roy remained in the tractor seat, he gave instructions to Paul and Scott on how to attach two of the mowers. With a great amount of pushing, pulling and prying, tractors and the heavy grass-mowing machines became united. How simple this would have been with my sphere, Paul thought as he looked at his grease-blackened hands. Now I understand why Roy had his hands and clothes covered with grease and dirt the day we came to the farm. Paul looked around then back at his hands. I must refrain from wiping them on my pant legs as I see Roy doing. This is one of only two pair I have and both need to be preserved in good condition. Roy, noticing Paul's quandary, pulled a dirty rag out of his pocket and offered it.
By ten they started on the actual mowing job. Roy got Scott started with one mower and Paul on a second. It amazed Roy how quickly they caught on to mechanics of a job so obviously foreign to them.
When they returned to the house for lunch, Roy took June aside and told her about Paul being reluctant to get his clothes dirty. She disappeared up to the attic. Returning shortly she held out a pile of clothes. "Here are two sets of bib overalls for you Paul, and Scott here are some older Levi's to try on. They must have been put away when somebody outgrew them. They may not be fashionable, but they are in good condition. Feel free to get them dirty." She handed them over with a good-natured grin. "Roy says that's why they make washing machines." Paul and Scott thanked her and graciously took the work clothes.
June put an ample lunch on the table and everyone took a seat. Familiar with the amount of energy to be expended this afternoon, she knew the physically active bodies needed regular refueling.
With lunch over, the three walked out together to return to their respective jobs. Paul looked over what had already been done, and asked: "Roy, why do you want to cut off all the grass? What are your animals going to eat?"
As they walked out together Roy glanced at Paul quizzically. This man has no idea of why he's doing what he's doing yet he has put heart and soul into the project for over two hours. He frowned slightly before answering. "Hay is what we feed the animals, Paul."
"But the grass will lose moisture out in the sun."
"That's the general idea and I hope, very quickly. Hay is dry grass cut while the nutrition is still high in it. That's what hay making is all about."
"But why dry it?"
"To preserve it - the dried grass is what we feed our animals in the winter."
"Don't animals feed themselves?"
I can hardly believe this conversation is happening, Roy thought. I know many city people didn't know very much about farm life, but this one doesn't seem to know much about anything. "Grass doesn't grow in the winter when it's cold, so we gather the excess from spring and summer to provide food for the time when there is none."
With one eyebrow raised, Paul pondered Roy's answer for a long moment, the expressions on his face reflecting his deep contemplation of a principle totally foreign to him. While mowing, Paul had seen deer grazing along the edge of the field. "What do the wild deer do when grass is not growing?"
Scott watched a growing look of curiosity on Roy's face and gave his father the old 'enough' look.
"First, the deer were eating clover, not grass, Paul," Roy explained. "They are brush eaters and feed on the vegetation you saw growing in the replanted clear cuts when we went riding. In the winter, when things aren't growing they have to wander further and further to get enough to eat. On the farm our animals must be contained within fences. We can't let them eat our neighbor's gardens or rose bushes when grass is in short supply, so we provide for them. If we didn't they would starve in the winter." Roy chuckled to himself as he looked at his farmhand. "Just be patient. I think you'll understand more about the whys as we get further into the hows."
Scott gazed at Roy. Roy is puzzling again over why Dad doesn't understand. I didn't understand either, but I guess Roy assumes Dad should know just because he's older. I don't want to compound the problem by trying to cover for him because Roy might confront us like Dale did. Scott felt relieved when he saw his father's head cock sideways. Now I know Dad will just continue to observe.
Roy disappeared, returning shortly with a third tractor and mower borrowed from a friend. With three mowers going they made short work of two five-acre parcels of tall grass and started into a larger piece. In the afternoon, June came with snacks and drinks. She noticed Paul and Scott's pants were dirty, and laughed when they climbed down from the tractors and mimicked Roy by wiping their hands on them. "You two certainly learn bad habits quickly," she said with a wide grin. "After Roy and I got married, I chastised him for wiping his hands on his pants. What is it he always told me. Oh, yes. 'Isn't that what pants are for'?" She couldn't stop laughing at Paul's perplexed return look as he saw the grease and dirt already accumulated on his.
Paul continued to photograph various aspects of their current job and soon Scott approached him. "Dad, let me use the camera; I want to have you in some of our memories." Scott took a couple of shots of Roy and his father. Soon Roy confiscated the camera to take some pictures of them at work.
The mowing continued until June came out to announce dinner would be on the table in thirty minutes. It was eight o'clock and the end of a long working day.
After eating Paul discovered fatigue in the part of himself now composed of his very human body. Working with heavy machinery was hard and exhausting, but he felt good when Roy said they did amazingly well for beginners. Roy informed them the first round of mowing would be done the next day and they would be free for other pursuits.
After dinner, the three working-men opted for an early bedtime. June stayed up getting things prepared for morning. The lights finally went out and she joined her husband. Except for the musical chant of a large colony of frogs living in the pond near the house, quiet ruled over the Foster home.
At five-thirty, daylight was two hours old when Roy awoke everybody. After breakfast they checked the stock then returned to the tractors and completed the mowing by noon. Paul and Scott took control of the telephone to call all the Johnson's listed in the Whidbey Island phone books. A couple of possibilities took them into the pickup for a visit, but the day ended with no further leads toward Johnson or Kelly Simpson.
Paul noticed Scott's distress over their continuing lack of success as they got ready for bed. He felt badly and said with compassion, "Scott, we just have to keep looking. We will find him, and Mrs. Simpson, and we will find your mother." Scott simply nodded.
The next morning Roy approached Paul as he was consulting the phone directory to start calling again. "Can you and Scott stay around until noon? I need somebody on the tedder." Roy saw another inquisition coming.
"Tedder?" Paul repeated, his eyebrows rising at another unfamiliar word.
Roy smiled with amusement, marveling again at Paul's naiveté. He asks a question instead of waiting to see what the job requires. Sometimes I feel like a grade school teacher, but I do have to admit he learns fast. "The tedder lifts the drying grass up off the ground so it can dry faster. In this rainy climate our hay often gets rained on and it's necessary we get it to dry as quickly as possible."
"Oh," Paul returned, "and by lifting it off the ground the radiating energy from the sun better circulates the air through it."
"You've got it," Roy laughed.
Paul smiled, and fluttered his eyebrows. "Well, show me the way to the tedder."
"I'm going to get Scott started on that Paul, I want you to help me get the baler ready."
"Great," Scott replied eagerly, "I like driving, even if it is a tractor."
"Even if you've learned to drive already, its good practice, Scott," Roy laughed. "All my kids learned to drive on the tractors. There's no way you'll do any speeding; and out in the field you have ample room to learn to maneuver and shift gears smoothly without running into something."
"I'd like to learn the tedder too," Paul said as he snapped another picture. "Each new thing I learn is interesting." He looked at Roy and smiled. "I think I am enjoying helping you make hay."
"I'll check the stock this morning," Roy advised. "Would you mind moving what's left of last year's hay out of the big barn so we're ready to put in the new? It shouldn't take very long because there wasn't much left. Use the big truck and move it to the small shed over by the horses."
"Okay," Paul confirmed.
Paul had finished moving the hay long before Scott returned with the tractor and tedder. United they returned to the house. Roy came in ten minutes later. He looked worried. "Hon, it looks like that 475 cow is going to need some help."
June thought for a moment then frowned. "That's Anne. What seems to be the problem?"
"Water apparently broke sometime during the night. I watched her for a while. She's in heavy labor and not progressing."
"Is it something we need to take care of right away?"
Roy shrugged his shoulder and gave her a look of resignation. "I'm beginning to think so. Come on over and look."
"Okay, but we might as well go prepared. I'll be just a minute." June went down to the basement and brought back a large bucket and a bottle of disinfectant. She got some rags, and then went to the refrigerator and took out a syringe, needle and two small bottles from the bottom drawer.
"Do you want us to come along?" Paul asked. "Maybe we can help."
"I fully expected you'd come, Paul," Roy smiled. "You always said you like to learn new things." Roy turned to Scott. "Have you ever seen something born, Scott?" Roy observed a negative response from the boy. "Well, there's a first time for everything."
The four walked up the long driveway, across the road and over to a grove of fir trees behind the hay barn. They found the cow lying on her side straining. "There's still nothing showing to indicate a normal delivery," Roy said as he and June watched attentively. "Things just don't look right to me. June, you and Paul watch her. Scott you come give me a hand." Scott followed while June and Paul continued observing the animal from a distance.
"I don't like to help the birthing process unless we're sure it's necessary," June advised. Motioning to Paul to remain, she walked slowly toward the animal. Distressed, the cow got up and turned to watch her.
June walked back to Paul. "I don't want to spook her and have her run off. It's easier to handle her here."
"What are you looking for?" Paul asked.
"Any signs that the feet are coming and if there is one or two."
"But aren't they're four on a cow?"
June looked at him questioningly. "I'm guessing you've ever seen an animal born before, either?"
"I saw a baby born once," Paul replied, his eyes narrowing in wonder. "It was amazing."
June gave him a broad knowing smile. "... Scott?"
Paul, puzzled at first by her question, finally realized she was asking if he had seen Scott born. "No," he replied sadly. "It was another baby. I was far away when my son was born."
June noted his sad expression. "That's too bad. I think it's nice when a father wants to be there. I think it brings the family together."
"I'm sorry too. When Paula was born, I could see her parents drawn closer by the event."
June started explaining a normal birth as the animal laid down again to make another attempt at the final mission of mammalian procreation.
"It's all very much the same as with the baby except with most four legged animals the front legs are first to appear. Normally they're stretched out and the head is lying on top of them. The calf can't come if it's too large or the legs are not in that position. There isn't enough room." June grimaced as she saw the cow experience another heavy contraction. "They can also come back legs first. If it's backward we have to hurry the delivery or the calf might drown."
"Drown?" Paul asked with a look of concern.
"It starts to breathe when the umbilical cord can no longer pass oxygen. It gets pinched off as the body passes through the birth canal. At that point it will start to breathe. If not delivered rapidly the calf will inhale fluids into the lungs and drown." June looked back at the laboring cow. "There's a foot now. There should be another one very close by or were going to have to fish."
Paul's eyebrows shot skyward again then lowered just as quickly. Seeing June almost expected another question, he refrained from asking.
June could read the question on his face. Apparently he doesn't want to appear ignorant, she concluded. "I'll have to go inside and straighten it," she offered. Roy and Scott returned with Scott carrying the bucket full of hot water. Roy carried a set of heavy-duty obstetric chains and two long stiff ropes.
"There's only one foot showing, but I'm sure it's a front leg," June announced confidently. "My guess is a leg and shoulder are back. I don't think it's coming any further."
Roy dumped the chains into the water to which June added a tablespoon of disinfectant. She walked toward the animal, still lying on her side making another futile attempt to expel the fruit of her body. June motioned to Paul and Scott to follow her while Roy moved off in the opposite direction, rope in hand.
The animal saw three people approaching and began to struggle. As she got to her feet the visible foot slipped back inside. She looked apprehensively at them and tossed her head around threateningly. June kept snapping her fingers to draw the animal's attention while Roy circled around and approached from the rear. With one deft toss the rope encircled her neck and Roy ran toward a sturdy tree. The cow started moving away when she felt the rope, but Roy already had his end wrapped around a tree. She came to the end and bawled, fighting the restraint.
Paul and Scott just stood watching, unsure of what to do to help. Picking up a stout stick, June got behind and tapped the cow on the top of the tail. The animal rushed forward, leaving slack in the rope. Roy immediately pulled in the slack.
June followed and tapped again. Roy kept pulling up slack and with each rush the animal stood closer to the tree. Roy finally tied off the rope then approached her head and made a makeshift rope halter to replace the choking lasso. He made several attempts to get it on the cow's head, but she kept tossing her head and would not stand still long enough. As Paul walked into harm's way, Roy shouted a warning to his naive farmhand. "You better stay back, Paul. I don't want you to get hurt." When Paul persisted, Roy spoke forcefully. "Watch out for her head and hind feet!"
Without a word, Paul positioned himself directly in front of the terrified animal then put his hand out toward her. He stood silently and when she looked back, he looked directly into her eyes and stepped closer. As he placed his hand on the top of her head all fear vanished and she stood quietly.
"That's a neat trick, Paul. I never thought anybody could get through to a cow," Roy remarked. "I wish you'd tell me how you do it."
"I don't know how to explain, I just can," he replied nonchalantly, trying to have the matter pass as quickly as possible.
"Yes, we've noticed you and Scott share the ability, at least with horses," Roy added as he placed his halter on the animal's head and without further difficulty tied it to the tree. "I've heard of others with natural talents for taming and quieting animals."
Paul looked surprised. "You have?"
"I used to hear stories about horse tamers during the days when horses were our main source of power. Have you ever studied your family history? You could be related to one of them."
"I really don't think so," Paul replied confidently. "My family was not from around here."
Scott noticed Roy frown at his father's answer, but couldn't quite stifle back the smile that just happened. He knew his father was stating the truth, but a truth far different from anything Roy could have imagined.
June trimmed her fingernails short then took the rag and washed up in the warm disinfectant water. She then used the rag to wash the cow's present business end. Scott positioned himself to watch, while Paul moved to the rear, keeping his hand on the animal's hip.
June picked up one chain, pulled it back through the large oval ring at one end to form a sliding loop. She reached inside the cow and placed it snugly around the ankle she found near the opening and left the long chain end hanging. She reached further into the birth canal. Her hand passed by the head and pushed in further until she found the calf's chest. Gently searching by feel she found the problem. "The other front leg is back at the shoulder. I'm going to have to push the calf back into the womb to get that leg into a forward position." She started pushing against the calf. "The cow is going to have a contraction," she offered so the new farmhands could follow the process. As expected the effort met with opposition from the expectant mother. "Now I have to hold the calf in place until the contraction is over, and then I can continue pushing it back."
June held the calf firmly, pushing it back between contractions. The calf's leg disappeared again. She continued until her shoulder was against the cow. "Now I have to get things rearranged. I'm pushing its shoulder back and doubling the leg at the knee so I can bring it forward. ... Okay, here it comes. Now I need to get it alongside the other." She withdrew her arm and picked up the second chain, looped it around her wrist between thumb and forefinger and returned her arm inside. "Now I have to get the chain on the other leg." Another minute passed. "Okay it's on." She removed her arm again, and holding the chain taut, picked up the second. Tightening both, she offered them to Roy. "I think we're ready for the muscles."
Roy held the chains taut while June reached in again. "I want to double check the position of the head. Okay, it's in position on the legs," she confirmed as she withdrew. "We're ready when she is."
Roy applied pressure and the cow strained, moving the calf slowly back into the birth canal. "Scott, Paul, watch Roy. Do you notice he pulls with the cow's contractions?" She observed their nods and smiled. Two feet soon appeared together. A couple heavy pulls and the calf was fully into delivery position. "Notice that Roy is pulling harder but only on one chain at a time and now slightly downward rather than straight back. That follows the cow's natural shape and the curve of the calf's body. Here come the legs. There's the tongue," she announced. "Oh, oh, it's hanging out and imp." The nose appeared. "I wonder if it's still alive?" She squeezed the nose and wiped fluid from the nostrils.
"It doesn't look good. The nose and tongue are already getting dark," Roy noted. He continued pulling. The head was out and he began pulling downward. The shoulders slipped through and with a final pull, the calf fell heavily to the ground. "Sad, it looks like a nice heifer."
"Heifer?" Paul asked.
"A girl," June replied. "I don't see it breathing, but I'm not ready to give up yet." She picked up a piece of grass straw from a nearby clump and stuck it up the calf's nose. There was no response. She stuck the straw in again, further this time. The dark red nose wrinkled up and moments later responded with a mild sneeze and expelled fluid. Another sneeze, brought a great amount of fluid, and then it took a breath. June grinned happily, "We were in time, but I think not by too much."
As the newborn animal shook her head, throwing even more fluid out of its floppy ears, Roy turned to Paul and Scott. "Will you help me move her up to her mother's head? The cow needs to smell and see her struggling so she will identify it as hers. Until then I don't want to let mama loose. I don't want her to run away from us and forget her daughter. That's one problem we've run into before when we've had to help in a delivery."
Appreciating the complexity of the processes he had just seen, Paul grabbed hold of the slippery calf and helped Roy and Scott move it, and then turned to June. "You seemed to do that so easily."
"It's easy if you know what to do," June replied with a smile. "It's only a matter of learning to identify the different parts by feel, and then getting it into a normal position to be born. If you've been successful once, you never forget."
"June reads books and has practiced many times with the sheep," Roy offered in explanation.
"This was a common occurrence with the sheep, but not often with the cattle," she offered without hesitation.
"Why does it happen more often with sheep?" Scott questioned.
"One reason is sheep often have multiple births, but I also think it's because sheep have been more closely associated with man. It was normal for a flock of sheep to have a shepherd living with them. His job was to move his flock to new grazing, protect them from predators and provide birthing help whenever needed. I'll admit I used to stay pretty busy during lambing. Like now, when there's a problem we can't always wait for the veterinarian. Sometimes he can't get around for hours. I'm happy to say, things are much better, now."
"Why?" Scott asked.
"Some time ago we realized that easy delivery is a directly inherited trait. The sheep people have allowed that trait to weaken over many centuries of domestication. Most sheep producers concentrated, instead, on breeding for wool production and carcass quality. We're just beginning to realize, as year round shepherding becomes more expensive, that we must not keep breeding animals from those who need help. I've done that culling over the past few years and rarely have to deliver lambs any longer. I guess it could be called a return to nature's way. Though our efforts saved the life of this calf neither she nor any others from this cow will be saved for our herd or sold as a breeder."
"This calf would have died if you hadn't helped, wouldn't she?" Paul asked with a deep look of concern on his face.
June nodded. "I'm afraid so. We were almost too late already."
"What about the cow?"
June frowned deeply. "In the wild, she would have been playing by nature's rules. She would have delivered the calf or died trying."
Paul grimaced. "I guess that is how it works, isn't it?"
"Yes," June offered. "Of course we couldn't stand by and let them die, but in nature it's survival of the fittest. The result is the natural elimination of poor traits by eliminating the carriers. Even a very difficult birth leaves the young and the mother susceptible to hungry predators." As she explained, June moved toward the cow's head, taking a hypodermic needle from its sterile container. She attached it to a syringe and drew a calculated amount of antibiotic through the rubber stopper of one of the small glass bottles and handed both to Roy. "It doesn't happen very often in wild animals," she continued, automatically swabbing a place on the side of the animal's neck with alcohol from the second bottle. She exchanged the alcohol for the hypodermic syringe Roy held out to her. "Nature has always been a harsh taskmaster. In the wild there are no second chances."
Paul contemplated her explanation. "I guess I've never thought about your nature in quite that way."
June smiled. After giving the antibiotic injection, Roy started loosening the ropes. The new mother began acting totally unappreciative of the emergency medical assistance she had just received. Her interest had turned to cleaning her new offspring and protecting it from the invasive predators. She licked her calf then pawed at the ground with one foot. She gave the calf another lick and lowing softly to it, shook her head threateningly. The four helpers understood the message and left the mother the peace to complete the job nature intended; the reproduction of a life form that would ultimately feed others. June excused herself and left for home. A backward glance showed the calf beginning the struggle to get its long legs organized to stand and nurse. The remaining three returned to their projects.
"Go get the big tractor, Scott," Roy directed. "Bring it to the shed and we'll get the tedder hooked up." Scott took off at a run, returning shortly with the tractor and under Roy's direction, backed it up to the draw-bar of the tedder. Paul listened while Roy explained to Scott how the machine worked and it became clear to him that the revolving spider like sections picked the cut grass off the ground. Scott climbed back into the tractor seat and drove off toward the field of drying hay. "Be creative in your tedding pattern," Roy yelled, with increasing volume. "Just remember to work the fields in the order we cut them." Scott acknowledged his understanding with a nod of his head and a wave.
Roy and Paul then went to the shed to take care of the baler. First Paul helped Roy make some important adjustments on the crude, mechanical machine. When complete Roy showed him how to use a grease gun then gave him a diagram of the grease fittings needing attention. Using the diagram Paul started greasing the upper fittings while Roy worked on the lower ones. "Damn," Paul heard Roy remark from under the machine. "I need to cut an accumulation of hay off the gearbox. Would you hand me your pocket knife, Paul?"
"I'm sorry. I don't have a knife," Paul replied.
"What!" boomed the voice from a pair of flailing legs on the ground. "How can a man get through life without a pocket knife?"
"I'm sorry," Paul repeated.
"Would you get mine? It's lying on the tailgate of the pickup."
"Sure." Paul walked over to the pickup. Returning shortly, he placed the knife in a hand seeking from underneath the machine.
"Thanks," Roy replied gratefully. "Remind me when we get home to find you one." As Roy's hand disappeared again, Paul heard him muttering, "I still can't believe you don't own a pocket knife, but I'd be almost willing to bet you're going to need one around here."
Paul knew the mutterings did not require an answer. He would remind Roy later about the knife, though he really didn't feel any need for one.
Roy wiggled out from under the baler. "I think that does it. The old wreck is ready to have a go at another baling season. I'll relieve Scott on the tedder and you'll have the next three days off for your project. You don't know how much I've appreciated having you stay to help."
"You're more than welcome," Paul replied. "We have both learned a lot." They walked out into the field together to flag Scott down as he came around the field. Saying good-bye to Roy, Paul and Scott returned to the house and packed.
June watched them load their meager belongings into the back of the pickup and realized she was forming a strange attachment to this interesting pair. A thought crossed her mind and she walked outside after them. "Paul, why don't you back the pickup under the old camper that's sitting in the shed? It's an extra somebody gave us to use for parts. We haven't needed anything for our old one, so it's just taking space. Again, I don't promise fancy, but it is serviceable and will provide you with shelter wherever you are."
"Thank you," Paul replied graciously and soon the ancient camper was on the pickup. "Now we won't have to sleep on the ground."
"You've been sleeping outside?" she asked curiously.
"It's summer and much cheaper," Paul replied, confessing to a recurring fact of their lives. "Photo journalism doesn't always provide us with money to spend on motels. I will admit this body doesn't like the hard ground very much."
"Neither would mine," June quickly confirmed. She thought a moment longer as she watched them put their things inside. "If you'll wait a few minutes, I'll get you some things from the house." Not waiting for a reply, she disappeared soon returning with a box full of linens, blankets, pots, plates, silverware and other assorted kitchen items. She handed them to Paul. While Paul and Scott put things away she returned to the house and as they prepared to leave, placed another box inside the back door of the camper. She winked at them. "Just some staples to get you started, but you will need to stop for a block of ice for the icebox."
"But we can't take..."
"Hogwash. We promised you room and board and you agreed. No argument, now, understand."
Both smiled and thanked her, exchanged hugs then climbed into the cab. Waving good-bye, they heard her wish of 'good hunting'.
They traveled back across the ferry to continue the search. Endless questions got them several referrals to others who might have some information, but each lead ran to a dead end. The evening of the third day they returned to the farm to resume their obligation to the Fosters. They walked into the house to normal family greetings. Mentally tired, it felt good being back. Paul was really looking forward to some manual labor and new things to learn.
While Scott made a hasty phone call over to the Doran's to talk to Amy, Roy brought Paul up to date on their progress. "As soon as the dew is off the grass tomorrow morning, we'll rake the first two fields we cut. Weather permitting they should be ready to bale about mid afternoon."
In the early morning the grass was still wet. At breakfast Roy and June invited them to go riding. With Sandy off to camp for a week, and an extra horse available, Scott received a 'yes' when he asked if Amy could go along.
Before going over to the corral for the horses, Paul motioned Scott back to their bedroom. "I notice you've been spending most of your free time with Amy, Scott. You know you have to be honest with her and tell her we will be leaving soon."
Scott looked sadly back at his father. "I already have, Dad. I also told her it might be a quick departure. I didn't want to do to her what I did to Kelly. I think she understands."
"What did you give for a reason?"
"I told her a job might come up for you. I know, it's a fib, but I couldn't tell her about Fox." Scott started to smile. "She said it didn't matter."
"I'm proud you considered her feelings. I should have trusted you."
"It's all right, Dad. I think I've learned a lot from you."
"As I have from, and about you, Scott," Paul returned.
They heard June calling. Paul put his hand on his son's shoulder and motioned to the door. "After you, I'm next."
Scott grimaced. "Where'd you hear that?"
"In the poolroom from Roy - I found it one of his easier to understand sayings."
"He does say odd things a lot doesn't he?"
Paul frowned questioningly. "You mean they also sound strange to you?"
"I think they must be from another generation." They both laughed.
As they galloped down a long straight stretch of trail, Paul thought about the gift Roy had given when he granted them permission to ride the horses at any time. It is a gift we have already enjoyed for many hours. I have ridden all the horses at least once and know any will give me whatever I ask, freely and without hesitation. Still, if asked to choose, I find I like Duke the best. It amazes me how much I enjoy riding. Control of the raw power of an animal beneath me requires coordination and cooperation instead of command; a taking and giving by each. It is a total contrast to the power I commanded in the ships in which I, and my kind, roamed the stars.
The ride consumed almost two hours and it was late morning when they returned the horses to the corral. The morning dew was off the grass and Roy introduced them to the use of another farm machine. Raking was a slow process. It put the dry grass into a long continuous single row round and round the field. It left it ready to be picked up by the baler. Paul and Scott began the raking and two hours later Roy came into the field to bale.
While the baling was in progress, Kathy, June, Amy and Sandy walked out into the field, gathered several bales together and began setting them up on end in neat pyramid shaped stacks. When finished with the raking, Paul and Scott joined the girls. "Kathy said the weather forecast she heard was for rain by tomorrow," June advised. She gave a quick lesson on how to balance the bales on end with the machine tied knots downward. They explained the method took advantage of density and direction of the grass in the bale and to shed any rain that might fall. Twenty tons of hay went through the baler before the day's work ended. Putting the crop in the barn for storage would have to wait on the weather and more help.
Morning brought cloudy skies. Roy was moody and it bothered Paul. He put his hand on Roy's arm, as he got ready to help grease the baler for another day's work. I can sense Roy is worrying it might rain, Paul thought. I hope it doesn't. He glanced at the sky and saw light places in the overcast before returning his attention to the task at hand.
When a few drops of rain fell, Scott and Amy took a lunch and went riding. One thing could be depended on; they would not return for some time.
By some wild chance of the weather in the Pacific Northwest, the rain didn't happen. Soon the sun came out and the temperature rose. By early afternoon it warmed. Roy and Paul started raking another field after lunch. Two hours later Scott returned and took over the second rake and Roy resumed baling again. Even with a late start, almost ten tons of hay pounded through the baler and was stood on end before sundown.
The following morning turned off cloudy again. Everybody could see Roy's dark mood return as clouds continued to gather. Trying to raise his spirits, Paul asked if he wanted to go riding, but Roy declined. Paul, Scott and Amy went and got a generous soaking. Roy announced as they returned, "It will require two days of warm, dry weather before the hay will be ready to bale again. June and I can handle what needs to be done. You're free to continue your search."
Paul and Scott departed after lunch. So far, the money earned on the farm paid expenses and they still had most of the money they had received from Dale Taylor. Financially they were in better shape than normal. Paul realized having the pickup and camper to be a blessing. They could stop anywhere and had secure sleeping and cooking facilities available. It also provided them the convenience of having all their things while on the road. They searched further north this time, but seemed no closer to the elusive Kelly Simpson than when they left Seattle. Finishing dinner in the camper, Scott looked across the table at his father. He gave a deep sigh and in a very distressed voice, said simply. "Dad, let's go home."
They cleaned and put away the dishes and turned the pickup back toward the farm. Paul glanced at his son and saw a look of anticipation. We're beginning to think of the Foster's as home now, as we did the Taylors. It feels good to think of having a home, but presently I know it cannot be. It's hard to believe we've been around the farm for over two weeks. The peace we've had has almost let me forget Fox again. I wonder how he manages to find us? A few times a police request for information brought him, but there are times I can't figure how the man just seems to appear. There is one thing I know for certain, ... I don't want to be in a position to ask him. He turned to Scott. "I think it's time we discuss a plan of action if Fox should show up."
They agreed to use the pickup and camper to escape if possible, and leave it parked in a secure place then call the family to come for it. On the island, escape using the pickup would not be possible and hiding somewhere seemed best. Riding horseback they had a good knowledge of the area and knew of many places where it would require an extensive search to find them. With Fox apparently trying to retain secrecy, they agreed it was unlikely he would seek the manpower required to search the heavy forests. It would be relatively easy to stay out of sight until he gave up, and then life would return to the normal walking, thumbing rides and changing directions. Arriving late Friday night, Paul backed the camper into the shed. Finding the house dark they decided not to disturb anybody and slept in the camper.
In the morning, as soon as activity began in the house, they walked in to breakfast in the making and the normal morning greetings. Paul offered what he felt a reasonable suggestion. "Roy, June, perhaps it would be easier if we continued to use the camper as our bedroom while we're here. We wouldn't have to keep moving our stuff or disturb you if we come back late. The camper is really very comfortable for the two of us and you would have the room available."
June seemed disappointed, but could not argue the logic of the suggestion. "That's okay, Paul, but there is one thing I must insist on," she said in almost a demanding tone.
Paul looked distressed as he turned to face her directly. He did not expect any restriction on their freedom in exchange for the camper. "What is that?" he asked guardedly.
Though she tried, June couldn't hold her forceful look. A broad smile just budded then came to full bloom when she saw Paul was taking her gruffness seriously. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye as she turned to flip a hotcake, and winked at him. "The camper can be your bedroom, but while you're helping us on this farm, you will eat with us." Her grin broadened, June put her arms around Scott and gave him a warm hug. "I miss you when you take off."
"We miss you too," Scott added with a grin. When she let go, she could see a responsive glow of appreciation for the remark.
Paul smiled back at her. "That will be fine," he confirmed as she ran her arms around him, likewise pulling him close. He could feel the intense human warmth in the gesture and reciprocated. Such a compromise, he thought. "We get to enjoy the best of everything, June. Your cooking is definitely superior to ours." Nights in the camper will give Scott and me the ability to talk freely. I have noticed I can hear through the walls in the house and have worried about being overheard. I don't believe anyone would eavesdrop on purpose, but like Rick Gonzalez, it is difficult to turn off one's sound perception. Overheard conversations can bring questions requiring we leave and our job is not finished.
Kathy walked in and asked to borrow a stapler as June began putting breakfast on the table. June went to find one and Kathy took over getting the food on the table. She poured herself a social cup of coffee and commandeered an empty chair across from Roy. "Well, Paul, how about filling me in on your search." The answer was always the same.
As June returned, Roy was bringing Paul up to date. "We baled the balance of the hay and stood it on end while you've been on the road. We'll be starting to haul tomorrow. The word is the weather is expected to remain good for the next couple of days. I have the necessary manpower arranged."
"Why wait until tomorrow?" Paul asked. "We could get started today."
"This is the Fourth," Roy advised, bluntly. "We can't work on the Fourth."
Paul looked at Roy, puzzling. "Fourth what?"
"The Fourth of July," Roy returned. "Have you lost track of time?"
"Fourth of July?" Paul questioned hesitantly.
Kathy smiled at the response. "Don't tell me you don't celebrate the Fourth where you come from?"
"Oh yes ... the Fourth," Paul acknowledged, as he glanced from one to the other trying his best to cover for another breach of general knowledge. He looked at Scott, hoping he might casually say something explaining the significance of the date before saying anything further.
Scott looked back at his father. Poor Dad, he thought. I know he has read about the Revolution in my history book. He even gave me a quiz on it. But he has no way of knowing what the Fourth of July now represents in the United States. History books don't mention national holidays of celebration. I've been planning for it all week. I spent all my money for some fireworks, but I sure didn't want to tell him about it. I figured he'd need a long explanation of why people set off explosives to celebrate independence and probably lecture me about wasting money. I can't start explaining now. I'll tell him next time we're alone. He rolled his eyes slightly hoping his father would understand and drop the subject.
Paul understood his son's hint, and gracefully moved in another direction. "Then what are you planning for this beautiful day? Shall we go riding?"
"Not this morning," Kathy returned. "The last few days Amy and Sandy have been working Red with the old wagon. They have him all cleaned up, the harness polished and have the wagon decorated really cute this year." She smiled, noting the look Paul so often used when he didn't understand something. It so delighted her for it seemed so innocent and childlike. There is no phoniness about this man. His questions and curiosity seem so natural for him. "They enter a float in the parade every year," she offered. "It's become a family tradition."
Paul glanced at Scott again and caught another subtle hint not to ask the question he knew was now forming. Instead he offered, "Oh, that's nice."
June frowned slightly as she caught the subtle, wordless interplay between them. Shrugging one shoulder ever so slightly, she continued, "The Fourth is a big day around here and it's going to be a full one. We're having a family picnic here at the house, and then we'll all go down to watch the parade. The rest of the afternoon we'll take in the carny and the festivities. It's a time to visit friends we haven't seen since last year."
"Parade, ... carny?" Paul questioned.
Still smiling at Paul's constant expressions and questions, Kathy explained. "I guess we just expect everyone knows about the celebration here in town. It seems so normal having you around; I think we all forget you and Scott have only been here a few weeks and much of that time you've been away. The paper published the schedule of events last week. There's always a big celebration for the Fourth. We have a community parade and a carnival is set up at the beach. There will be a big fireworks display tonight at the fairgrounds."
Paul caught another of Scott's cease and desist looks over his questions and purposely said nothing more. He knew Scott would explain.
Kathy thought for a minute. "Hey, everybody, why don't you ride with the girls? I'm going to take some pictures and it would be nice if they contain our new family members."
June looked at Roy for approval. "I know there's some old fashion clothing up in the attic."
"I'm game if the rest of you are," Roy challenged.
"No," Paul said with concern, as he thought of the possibility of some old friend they may not wish to see. "We don't want to do this, do we, Scott?"
Scott, full of boyish enthusiasm continued the challenge. "Come on, Dad. It'll be fun. I've never been in a parade before."
"I don't think so," Paul returned. "Why don't you go, Kathy? Let me take the pictures."
"I can be in it any year," she offered. "I would like to get pictures of you and Scott in our parade.
"Don't look so worried, Paul," Roy kidded. "No one of any importance will be looking for you. It's just a local thing. Television has too many big parades to cover."
While Paul continued to shake his head, no, Scott offered additional incentive. "Dad, where's your sense of adventure. You said you like to learn new things."
Scott really wants to do this parade thing, Paul thought as he watched Scott vigorously nodding a commitment. "Okay, but only if Kathy will give us some of her pictures."
"Sure," she offered. "Cal is the parade chair person this year and the parade starts promptly at two. Be downtown at least a half hour early so he can get everybody lined up." Kathy drank down the last swallow of coffee and headed for the door. "I'll go tell the girls they've got company. They'll be thrilled."
When breakfast was over, Paul motioned for Scott to follow him to the camper. Once safely inside he asked, "Scott, please explain why we are doing this?"
Solemnly, Scott reminded his father about his history book and the chapter on the nation's struggle for independence. He explained the national holiday established to celebrate the signing day and about the traditions emerging over more than two centuries of the nation's existence, picnics, parades, speeches and fireworks. Scott saw an enlightened look appear on his father's face.
"Okay. That is what these minor explosions I've been hearing the past couple of days are all about ... anticipation?"
"Yeah, some people can't wait," Scott confessed with a grin.
"Have you given any consideration to Fox?" Paul asked with concern.
"Dad, you heard what Roy said. It's just a local thing."
Paul's continuing contemplative look finally brought "It's interesting to me that your kind celebrate a war with what seems like another."
"I knew you were going to say something like that," Scott acknowledged, his eyes dancing. "Just wait until later. Tonight is when the celebration really gets going. It's really fun, Dad. A couple days ago, I bought some fireworks for us to set off. I wanted to surprise you."
Paul looked critically at his son. "You spent money on explosives?"
Scott grimaced, "I also knew you were going to say that Dad. As we learned before; don't make judgments until you have all the facts. Right now, go with the flow and let's talk again, tonight."
The family got together at the house for the traditional Fourth of July picnic fare; hot dogs, potato salad, Boston Baked Beans and apple pie alamode. As he finished a second piece of pie, Paul thought again of the Dutch apple pie and whipped cream he had shared so long ago with Jenny. He pictured her face in his mind and wondered if they would ever find her. So far the search for Johnson and Kelly Simpson has continued to be disappointing, though we still have many areas to the north to visit yet. If we find them, will either know where Jenny is? The lady at Spirit Lake Lodge didn't even recognize her name. If they all went separate ways, will anybody know where she is?
"Come on, Dad, it's time to go." Scott urged as he danced nimbly up the driveway. "Let's go watch Amy and Sandy get ready. We don't want to be late for our first parade."
The girls were doing the finishing touches on an extremely old, single horse drawn buckboard wagon. They had brown crepe paper woven into the wooden spokes of the yellow wagon wheels and the old iron wagon tires shined with a new coat of paint. The leaf-spring wooden seat showed the results of a new coat of brown paint as did the wagon's cargo box. Streamers of yellow crepe paper hung along the sides. Inside the wagon they had loose hay and some produce from both June and Kathy's gardens. Banners, stating the celebration's chosen theme for the year, hung on both sides: AMERICA, A LAND OF PLENTY, and underneath, Foster Farms. Amy and Sandy harnessed and hitched Red between the yellow wooden shafts and tied him at the hitching rail, and then went into the house to change. When they returned they looked as though they had stepped out of any early episode of 'Little House on the Prairie', dressed in gingham dresses and matching cloth bonnets Kathy had sewn. Roy and June walked over, dressed in old bib overalls, red plaid shirts and straw hats and brought similar old clothes for Paul and Scott.
Paul and Scott changed and everybody got into the wagon. Scott sat on the front seat with Amy. Amy slapped the reins on Red's rump and moved out the driveway toward the meeting area. They waited at the parade staging area until Cal gave the word to join in the procession. As they edged their entry out into the street Paul saw Roy and June waving to spectators, and did likewise. As several waved back he recognized people from the picnic and others who had visited the Foster home the past weeks. Scott, likewise, recognized many teenagers he had met with Amy. Many cameras lined the corridor. Paul relaxed when he realized they were people taking pictures of children and friends in and along the parade route, though many cameras took the girl's entry as well. The parade covered only a half-mile and soon they were home putting everything away. It had been a new and interesting experience, after all.
Everyone decided to go back downtown to take in the carnival and booths set up at the beach park. Amy and Scott went off to join some other teenagers and soon Sandy spotted a group of her friends and happily abandoned the adults. Paul saw Scott a number of times as the family wandered the many food and game booths. Soon he saw Scott and Amy running toward them, beaming with excitement.
"Hey everyone," a grinning Scott announced, "we won the top prize in the parade." He waved a large purple ribbon for all to see, "We got forty bucks, and this big ribbon."
"And they'll have our picture in the paper next week," Amy added with pride.
Paul looked at Scott questioningly. A picture in a newspaper was not exactly what he wished for them.
Scott saw the look on his father's face and walked over confidently. "Smile, Dad, and don't look so worried," he whispered in his ear. "Fox would never recognize us in the clothes we were wearing." Scott's face beamed with renewed excitement. "Hey, while the folks go with Amy to pick up the prize money, come with me." He took his father's hand and pulled Paul over to the carnival midway. "Do you have your druthers?"
His father looked puzzled. "Druthers?"
"I'm sorry." Scott laughed his enthusiasm undaunted. "I forgot. You've probably never seen a carnival before."
Paul thought as he looked at the gaudy lights and concession stands about their first escape together from the Seattle Center, the monorail ride and Liz Baynes offer of assistance. Suddenly aware Scott was pulling him along, he looked around. He felt a strange feeling of apprehension at the carnival rides. "I don't think I want to..."
"Come on," Scott pleaded. "It's part of the celebration and I want to spend some time with you. You can pick whatever one you want. I'll even go on the merry-go-round, but I hope you pick something a little more exciting."
Having a definite apprehensive feeling, Paul grudgingly followed, pulled along about a half a step behind his son. He pointed to a ride that seemed to be sitting still much of the time. "How about this one?"
Scott turned back and agreed enthusiastically. "Good choice! The Octopus is one of the greatest. I bought a book of tickets with Amy so let's get in line." A few minutes later Scott handed two tickets to the gate man and led his father to one of two cars loading. They climbed in and the attendant secured the safety bar across their laps. An additional car loaded and the ride started.
Paul's eyes got wider and wider as with increasing speed the centrifugal force threw them to the outside. Suddenly the seat dropped out from under him and he gulped hard. As suddenly as it had fallen it raced upward again. Scott threw himself from side to side and the car began spinning wildly. The ride continued round and round, up and down, side to side.
"Isn't this great, Dad?" Scott yelled in ecstasy as he turned to look at his father. Instead of the look of growing excitement he expected, he saw his father grimly gripping the safety bar.
"Scott," Paul finally offered nervously, "my stomach is full of bluebirds."
"Oh no, Dad, you're not..." Scott stopped, unable to say the terrible words.
"I'm not what?"
"You're not getting sick?"
"I feel too hot and have a funny feeling in my stomach ... like I'm about to un-swallow my lunch."
"You're getting sick all right!" Scott confirmed grimly. "You mean with all the traveling you've done you're going to get sick on a carnival ride? Can you hold it?"
"I don't think so unless this thing stops soon," Paul confirmed.
"Then use your sphere. No one will notice!"
"I don't think I can concentrate."
Scott began waving his arms frantically at the ride operator as they sped by his post, but the older man at the controls didn't seem to notice. The ride made another circle and began a second, and then after what seemed like an eternity, slowed and stopped at their car.
The operator ran over, removed the bar and helped Paul out, offering him a large open brown paper bag. With two sets of arms to lean on, Paul weaved down the off ramp. The man urged him around behind the ride away from everybody. With the bag still in his hand, Paul grabbed a fence to steady himself. "Are you all right, mister?" the man asked, slowly shaking his head.
"I'm not sure," Paul replied grimly. "Thank you for helping me."
Continuing to assist Paul in remaining upright, the man said, "If you want some advice, mister, us older guys really should leave this kind of ride to the kids". The man glanced upward as he heard whooping and hollering from his now stalled ride, "I've got to get back to my job or they'll start tearing my equipment apart. You sure you're all right, mister?"
The world around me is settling some, Paul thought, but I need firm control of this problem. "Yes," he replied half-heartedly as he eagerly motioned the ride operator to leave.
Retreating, the man muttered under his breath. "There's always at least one a day trying to show the kids they can still take it. I'm lucky this one cried uncle before it was too late or I'd be shutting down my ride to clean up."
Paul, still pale and sweating profusely, continued to hold onto the fence and swallowed often. "Scott," he pleaded, "can you see some place close by where we can be alone?"
Scott looked around and saw the carnival equipment trucks parked behind another ride. Offering his shoulder to lean on, he said, "We can go between the trucks." As they moved along he saw his father reaching for his sphere. When Scott determined they were out of sight between two large trucks, he stopped. "I don't think anyone can see us now." A pale blue light flickered weakly from the sphere then grew in intensity and briefly surrounded his father. Scott saw him take a deep breath then let it go. Relief had come. It amazes me, he thought, how fast Dad can do that.
"That was a close one," Paul confirmed. "Do you have any idea of what happened?"
"I think you got motion sickness."
"I don't understand what it really is, Dad," Scott offered consolingly. "Kent used to get it when he went out on a boat. I guess lots of people do, sometimes from just riding in a car. What I can't understand is why you should."
"Probably because under the same conditions so would Paul Forrester."
"But he did all sorts of things while he was taking photos. We know he also flew a lot."
Paul looked critically at his son. "Yes, but I would be willing to wager a bet that he might have felt the same way I just did if someone had coerced him into riding on that thing." Paul motioned toward the offensive ride. "Never again!"
Scott thought for a moment then his face contorted. "I still don't understand. If you can travel across the galaxies; get shot down, fall to earth and survive the crash without any problems, why should you get sick on a carnival ride?"
"Because I'm not the same any longer. It wasn't me that got sick ... it was him. We don't get sick. Everybody on the ship adapted long ago to the weightlessness of space and the ship's movements. It was our home ... our work. My ability to adapt to various conditions made me acceptable for space duty. It was also the reason I was chosen for the first attempt at contact with Earth. If I hadn't been adaptable, I would have remained at home as others must."
"I'm sorry," Scott said with increasing guilt. "I shouldn't have made you go."
Paul regained his perspective when he saw the guilty look on Scott's face and sought to reassure him. "No, Scott, I'm sorry," he said softly. "I shouldn't have blamed you. You didn't exactly force me and you had no way of knowing what would happen. I should have remembered, like with the cold virus, this body is new and might not be as well adapted as Paul Forrester's. I should have listened to the body because it was telling me, no. I probably could have suppressed it if I had known what was going to happen. I think these things are all a part of learning what it's like being human."
Scott looked at a smile growing on his father's face and figured some advice might be in order. "Dad, there's one suggestion I'd like to make." He saw his father eagerly awaiting his comment. "The first time we came across the ferry you said you thought you'd like to travel on Earth's oceans. I think you'd better take us on a short, rough voyage before you sign us up for a long one. I'd also suggest we get some medicine to take along because the same thing could happen again. I remember how sick Kent got the one time he agreed to take me out in a fishing boat." Scott grimaced. "When I wanted to go on a carnival ride Kent volunteered to hold my cotton candy and let Eileen take me on the rides."
Paul continued to smile at the deep look of concern on Scott's face and for his fatherly advice. "Scott, I'll check into the problem further and figure out a way to prevent it."
Scott returned his father's smile and watched him carefully folding the paper sack the ride attendant had provided. They turned their heads simultaneously when they heard voices and saw the Fosters and Dorans coming around the end of the truck.
"Paul, are you all right?" June asked with a look of genuine concern. "The ride attendant noticed we were looking for someone and told us he brought you back here."
"Dad just got a little sick on the ride," Scott advised. "He's all right now."
"Are you sure?" June returned, looking soulfully at him.
"I'm all right, really," Paul confirmed. "Things settled down just as soon as the earth stopped whirling around me."
"Why don't you come sit with us a while, just in case?" she suggested.
Paul looked at Scott, and then at the family. "I think that's a good idea."
Scott looked again at his father's smile and knew he was all right. "Gee Dad, I'm really sorry."
Paul put his hand on Scott's shoulder. "I'll bet Amy is anxious to go on that thing with you." He reached for his billfold, pulled out ten dollars and handed it to Scott. "Here, I'll even give you the money to buy more tickets. Now go, Mr. Younger Generation."
Unobserved by anyone, a bearded face appeared at the truck window high above their heads. He watched two, in particular, as they walked back toward the midway. "That was sure an odd conversation," he mumbled, "and what was that weird light? All they needed to say was their flying saucer was coming for them and I'd have been out of here. I can't wait to tell the guys."
I haven't seen much of Scott or Amy for the past couple of hours, Paul thought as the day progressed. Maybe they're still at the carnival enjoying my ten dollars and Amy's half of the prize money from the parade. There is an increase in the noise level and I am assuming Scott to be among the perpetrators. The rest of the family just had a hamburger and they're ready to go home. I guess I'll just go with them. Scott told me he'd be home for the fireworks tonight.
They all walked home together and while Roy and June went into the house, Paul stopped at the camper to stash the paper sack he still carried. He strolled over to the sheep pasture fence to look at some ducks that had come to the pond while they were gone. He counted thirty-two baby ducklings with them. There was a lot of calling and milling around and he winced when he saw one duckling receive a severe peck on the head from one of the unrelated adult birds. It scurried off, peeping loudly. His attention turned toward some other ducks, who seeing the possibility of a handout, began waddling over toward him. Having nothing to offer, he said, "I'm sorry." His attention then moved from the ducks to a large group of lambs out in the field that seemed to explode into activity. Some jumped straight upward while others raced off. The jumpers, returning to earth, then raced off in hot pursuit of their playmates. With the vigor of the young they charged wildly around the pasture. Paul smiled. They are totally unaware and unconcerned about the significance of this human day of celebration. To most young creatures of earth, every day seems a celebration.
To the dismay of the ducks, the lambs made a sharp turn that brought them over toward the fence. The massive invasion of privacy created, sent the older birds flying toward the water loudly voicing their protest at being deterred from a possible meal.
The lambs made another turn and were springing, stiff legged, around the pond. The racing stopped as quickly as it began when they reached the man made dam creating the impoundment. One young male planted himself firmly at a high spot. He butted heads with another and held the spot until another, proving more determined, took possession. Recognizing one larger young male had finally emerged victorious, Starman grinned. It appears animals also have matters that need resolving with force, he mused. It seems the more powerful becomes the victor.
June had been watching Paul through the kitchen window. She smiled at his deep involvement in what he was watching and decided to join him. Silently she walked over toward where he stood next to the fence. "They're playing 'King of the Mountain'," she offered from behind.
Unaware of her approach and so engrossed in his observation, Paul jumped nervously. Quickly regaining his composure, he turned toward her. "It's the pecking order you mentioned, isn't it?"
"Yes," she replied with a smile, "I'm surprised you remember. It's easy to recognize if you take the time to look. In most domestic animals it is still as natural as in the wild and it starts very young. In their play they establish an order that is necessary to all animal populations, particularly to those who live in larger groups. When two at the top remain almost even in dominance, it can get violent as they mature. Still, they finally manage to settle whose boss. As in nature, if all are left to mature together, only a couple of the most dominant males will father the next generation."
June watched Paul return his attention to the ducks and wondered if he might offer anything further. Smiling broadly she asked, "A penny for your thoughts, Paul?"
Familiar already with the expression from having questioned it on another occasion, he returned her smile. "Oh, I was thinking about your nature and how wonderful and diverse it is."
"'Our' nature?" she asked, this time questioning what she considered another of his unusual choice of words.
"I meant nature in general," Paul returned, softly, attempting to cover for his slip.
"If one takes the time to watch closely, it is very interesting," she confirmed. "A long time ago I read that in a flock or herd of wild animals one female will never willingly nurse the young of another. There are exceptions, but they are very, very rare. By careful observation, I've verified it in both the sheep and the cows. Did you notice it while you were watching the ducks that only the males come over to beg? Your appearance caused the two females that had just hatched their second clutch of ducklings, to gather their families together for protection."
Paul looked again and saw the ducklings had divided and were huddling close to their respective mothers. "A minute ago I saw a duck peck at a little one. Did she do that because it wasn't hers?"
"Yes, she rejected it," June confirmed. "I'll bet the other duck called it right away."
"I guess I really wasn't paying attention. I will watch closer next time."
"If you do, you'll notice the same thing in all our animals. They will not mother the offspring of even their mother or sister. At the time of birth, or hatching, the mother identifies only with her own and refuses all others."
"What happens if the mother dies?" Paul asked.
"If it isn't old enough to survive on its own, it will starve if it isn't in the care of people."
Paul hesitated momentarily. "Such a system seems cruel."
"Only at first glance," she returned with confidence. "I see it as an overall attempt at maintaining order. If a ewe loses her offspring, she'll check all the others many times, and then grieve, accept her loss and carry on. There is always next year. Imagine the chaos if she tried to steal from another ewe. If one offspring was lost, the rest of the season for rearing the young would be spent in conflict trying to steal from one another to fulfill an individual need. In nature the survival of the entire species is the primary objective. The individual is expendable. Those unsuccessful become food for other species." Remembering another observation, she grinned broadly. "I will admit it is interesting watching a bummer at work."
"A bummer?" Paul questioned.
June grinned for she felt sure he would question 'bummer' before mentioning it. "That's what we call an orphan lamb that manages to survive on its own. It is truly a bum. If a lamb loses its mother, it will try to remain with the rest of the lambs. When they get hungry they head for mom and the orphan runs along. When hungry a lamb acts instinctively and darts under for a meal. I guess the bummer survives if it can steal a sip or two before the ewe realizes she has a stranger at the table. Still a sip is all it will ever get for every ewe checks her lambs immediately and the intruder is kicked off. If successful, it finds another hungry friend. If it manages to fool enough ewes, enough times, it will survive. It seems a technique inherent with domestic sheep for I haven't seen it in the cattle. Still the ewe is determined to provide only for her own and never willingly accepts the stranger."
"That's interesting," Paul replied, as their fun and game time over, the lambs wander off again to nibble on grass. "I like watching the animals."
She grinned. "I never tire of watching them. So do many others. When the calves and lambs are being born, there is a regular parade of people at the fences watching and asking questions. One thing I find hard to accept, like when you and Scott first came here, is people want to believe we keep all of them. Unlike your eagerness to learn and an ability to accept the necessity of life and death; most people can't. They try to judge nature by human standards. While many will argue they see human characteristics in animals ... perhaps it is more realistic to say they are seeing animal characteristics in themselves."
"I now have something else to study," Paul offered.
"I have always been a realist and it disturbs visitors when I tell them these animals will not live to old age. Most people don't want to think about the source of the milk, eggs and meat they use as food. I explain they are the same as in all of nature; one thing feeding upon another, but find most have no realistic concept of the life and death struggles going on constantly for nature to maintain balance. The basic rule is, if all the young of any species, be it insect or elephant, live to breeding maturity, we would soon be up to our armpits in them. Nature provides in abundance for all to survive."
"To be truthful, until we came here I never thought about any of these things," Paul replied. "There are still many things I do not understand, but I do want to learn about nature, life and living here on Earth. I find studying animals almost as interesting as studying people."
June grinned again at another of his strange choice of words. "I really appreciate your totally open attitude Paul. I will say most people would be hard pressed to feed themselves even though nature has the table set for them. Most are part of a specialized society, always relying on others to do anything they find personally distasteful. I have often wondered, and almost fear what would happen if they got to the store and found empty shelves. It is becoming common in some countries. I don't think anyone needs to explain famine. In such a time I think we would quickly see the very worst side of human nature develop."
Paul looked at her, mulling over another unfamiliar word. I'd like to ask her to define famine, but better not, he thought. She said no one needs to have it explained. As I did a moment ago, I will surely receive another of her patient smiles. I guess I'll have to ask Scott. No, I have to go to the library. I meant to do that anyway, but Roy has kept me too busy. "I can't imagine anything else," he offered, attempting to sound worldly.
A car rolled down the driveway just as Roy came out of the house to join them. Recognizing the visitor, he walked out to greet him. "Hi Charlie. Did you come to finish that pool game we started at the picnic?"
"Don't you people ever stay home?" Charlie asked, impatiently. "I've been down here a half dozen times. There's never anyone around."
"We're usually around the farm somewhere," Roy returned. "Did you ever check up at the barn? You must have noticed we're haying." He grinned impishly. "I really appreciate you coming over and volunteering to help."
"I didn't come here to volunteer, or play pool," Charlie announced. "I came to ask you to come to our next meeting. I didn't think you'd mind telling everyone what you told me about donating your place for a park."
"I have no intention of doing anything of the sort," Roy returned adamantly. "And, as a matter of fact, I do mind. I only mentioned it to you because I was trying to make a point. Besides, if you will recall, that isn't exactly what I told you. I said, if 'conditions are right'. A key word you seem to have forgotten is 'if'. I will not promise anything to anybody."
Charlie looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I remember you did say not to say anything. I will keep your confidence."
"Thank you," Roy replied. "It's too bad you had to make so many trips to say I'm sorry,"
"It's all right; the trip isn't a waste anyway. I also wanted to get back over here to continue the discussion we started after the picnic. I've thought a great deal about it lately."
June walked over. "Hi, Charlie," she offered with a smile. "You say you want to continue with our earlier discussion. As a matter of fact, Paul and I were just talking about animals, nature and farming. You're welcome to join us."
"Thank you, I don't mind if I do."
She motioned across the yard. "In that case, let's go sit at the picnic table." Taking a seat she looked across the table at him. "We were just discussing how most people seem unable to comprehend what it takes for their sustenance. I was just telling Paul that I worry about what people will do if there isn't enough food in the stores. With the constantly increasing numbers of people I think that may not be as far off as we would like it."
Charlie frowned. "Why? We're not lacking for food products in the United States."
"At the moment that's true," Roy offered. "In 1920 we moved from a society where less than half the population lived on the land. Today, well over ninety percent live in cities and are incapable of raising anything to feed themselves. Of necessity, they live in, or close to cities where they can find work. They have no basic concept that the food they eat comes from anywhere other than a market. They are a majority and therefore rule the country."
June frowned. "Cities and suburbs have become massive consumption machines and while their inhabitants speak out vocally about saving the environment, they feel no responsibility for damaging it. They don't think about the fact that everything they need comes to them, ready to use, from a vague somewhere they vocalize about saving." She gave a broad sweep of her arm toward the field of grazing cattle. "They sit, well fed and comfortable in a wooden house or steel reinforced concrete apartment and speak out against logging, mining and hydroelectric dams on the rivers while everything in their home runs on electricity and the materials that went into the construction of that home or apartment used to be a natural resource.
"The truth is a miner doesn't mine, a logger log and additional power sources don't need to be built, if there aren't consumers demanding materials and services. They holler about someone's chemical waste degrading the environment and causing extermination of wildlife, while the squares of ground they occupy used to be wildlife habitat and their pollutants disappear down the toilet or sink and other waste is hauled away to landfills to foul someone else's groundwater. There is a lot of talk, but no one ever looks in the mirror. In the future we will continue using up resources at a staggering rate just to keep up with this dependant population's growing demands."
"I guess I've never thought much about it," Charlie replied.
"Most people don't because most working people belong to an economy based only on money. That is an economy that exists separate from the land and it feeds upon itself. An urban or suburban working person puts in an eight-hour day, gets paid by the week and with money alone buys what is considered necessary to live. If the job pays well, it provides something to spend on recreation and entertainment also. What will happen if these people go to the store someday and the money doesn't even buy groceries, or worse, if there are no groceries to buy? Not many in our 'me' oriented society will find much pride in being hungry. As their numbers grow, none will consider the consequences of their actions. They will ravage the countryside, so to speak, 'To the last buffalo'. Hunger doesn't think for a moment about leaving seed stock for another crop."
"For us a food shortage is highly unlikely," Charlie replied with conviction. "We have a good farm economy and some of the most productive farmlands in the world."
"Up until now, that might be so," Roy offered. "Since the discovery of effective pesticides like DDT in the late 40's, agriculture more than kept up with our rising demand for food products by cultivating more land, raising more productive food and forage crops and developing more efficient livestock. With pride, we called it the Green Revolution. We have been so successful, we produced large surpluses. That together with advances in medicine and antibiotics has created a worldwide population explosion. Take the time to listen and you'll hear of recurring famines in other parts of the world so overall, we're not really in such good condition. With more and more people to feed, many are unable to raise enough food already. Much of our present overproduction is going overseas to provide relief.
"Farm products have become one of our major balance of trade exports," Roy continued, "Now with environmental concerns those excesses are going to end. Movements are underway to curtail cultivation of marginal lands to stop soil erosion and water pollution and many are demanding more public lands be locked away for wildlife."
"That's only right," Charlie returned. "Wild creatures must be provided with a place to live."
"I agree," Roy offered, "but by productively using those lands over a period of years retail prices for farm products have only gone up by three hundred percent, while over the same period the prices for other consumer goods have gone up six to eight hundred percent, with some even more. How much can we afford to convert to wildlife habitat, in perpetuity, before endangering our future food supply needs and leaving stomachs empty? Besides, most of such lands are locked into wilderness and cannot be visited by the normal tourist, the elderly, the handicapped or anyone who cannot carry a heavy backpack for long distances. It is public land, but only a very, very small number of the general public will ever get a chance to enjoy it.
"Right now, under pressure from those special interest groups, government is leaning heavily toward such environmental protection and all will be well while it is only farmers, ranchers, and the owners of large parcels of land paying the price of this preservation. But I wonder what will happen when the same government is called upon to weigh the value of keeping open space for wildlife habitat and the recreation of a few, while generations of people are left homeless and hungry? I'm afraid there is only one decision possible; wildlife and recreation will be forfeited as people demands increase. Open space, quality of life and living in harmony with nature will become choices only the wealthy can afford."
"Don't forget, the government lands you want set aside will not provide habitat for all wildlife," June offered. "Many have been displaced from their habitat by expanding cities and existing food production. Those with limited habitats have and are disappearing entirely."
"We're conscious of how many species are disappearing," Charlie offered, pridefully. "Look at the California Condor. They're part of a highly successful survival program. At the rate chicks are hatching, we'll soon see them soaring in the California sky, again."
June frowned at Charlie's expression. "Tell me, where can you return a condor to the wild, Charlie? It has very special needs to survive and as a scavenger, must have a tremendous range. California Condor Country, where the conditions are right is the coastal mountains of Southern California, a rapidly expanding living area for people trying to run from the cities. Few places remain where a condor will not have to live with, or around an increasing number of people. They will have to compete with people for space. In addition they must compete for their food, while not becoming the food of other scavengers and predators that have easily accommodated to and multiplied with human companionship; coyotes, foxes, dogs, feral cats seagulls and crows.
"The condor must also contend with the fact that people consider it a health hazard to leave dead or dying animals lying around. In a survival situation, the condor couldn't adapt to our encroachment before and I don't see where much has changed except lip service to their preservation. It all looks good on television, but released into the wild to fend for themselves, they will only die. To survive, any species must have the ability to adapt to a changing world. Extinction isn't new. Like the dinosaurs, saber tooth tigers and mastodons, plants and animals have been coming and going long before we came on the scene."
Starman smiled. A vision and description of the great reptiles in Scott's science book flashed to mind. Momentarily, Starman's thoughts returned home. I wonder if we experienced parallel ages and decisions in our history? With an almost imperceptible twitch of his head, he returned from his distant journey to the continuing conversation.
"The people who work on the programs must have something in mind for releasing them," Charlie offered.
"Over the long haul," June returned, "I feel sure the programs will provide no permanent solution. I haven't heard of any plans to move people out of the California foothills and I feel there are very few willing to move out of their homes to see a condor fly. Do we hatch thousands of condors to keep in zoos? On one thing you may be right; when enough have been hatched we may see condors fly, for of necessity, a few at a time may have to be sacrificed to justify the cost of the program. Other than that approach, I think cages will be home to the condor. Personally, I'd rather see a good National Geographic special of one condor in flight than see a thousand sitting in zoos."
"There are bears and wolves in survival programs too," Roy offered, "but the people working out the programs want to keep them protected even when they come into direct competition with your recreation and food supplies. The potential danger to people and damage to domestic livestock was the reason the government saw fit to reduce the numbers of these predators in the first place."
"They're being reintroduced into our parks," Charlie offered defensively.
"A predator released into a park can't read boundary signs, Charlie. For a while they will have a good food supply because of overproduction of grazing animals in our parks. They will multiply. But as their numbers increase, they will have to increase their range. Soon they will spread out of the parks and begin preying on domestic livestock and possibly become a threat to people as well."
"There have been no confirmed attacks on people by wolves," Charlie offered decisively.
"I've read those statements too, but do you really believe that, Charlie?" Roy returned. "Those statements are based on experiments, but under very controlled conditions. The subjects lived among the animals for a long period of time when food was abundant. They worked at becoming accepted by the pack. While the wolves, through familiarity may not attack them, it would not give anyone else immunity. Look at the history of wolf/dog crosses. The owner claims their wolf/dog is a wonderful dedicated household pet, but unprovoked, it kills or mauls a neighbor's child. You get a different story from an Alaskan who has been out in the open in the wilderness. They will tell you that wolves don't gather around their camps to keep warm."
June frowned. "To prove a point, do you think you would find somebody willing to volunteer to be left defenseless in wolf territory in the winter when food was scarce? It would be interesting to see how long they lasted. The wolf's job in nature is to dispose of the weak. That's the old, the undefended young and the foolish. I feel sure a pack of hungry wolves wouldn't turn down a fawn, an injured elk, a sheep, or if the opportunity arose, an unprotected child, or adult for that matter. Remember, a wolf is a survivor and not overly concerned with what it eats, only that it gets to eat. Without a fire or a weapon to protect you, you would become an easy meal. We can't blame them, for like most predators, we all tend to follow the course of least resistance. I will say for sure, it would be impossible for me to just turn my back and allow wolves, or even a dog, to continue killing our animals. I am their protector while they are with us and not only would it take away a part of our livelihood, but food from many others."
"With so many people living around here it's unlikely they'll introduce wolves here, June," Charlie offered honestly.
"I guess I should have used your 'we' for livestock producers, as a collective, Charlie. The principle is the same, wherever they're released. The same rancher, who raises your food and contributes to your wildlife, is to be doubly penalized by society's environmental protectionism. First grazing wildlife will displace part of his livestock. Then he is expected to lose livestock to the predators as they expand their territory out of the parks. Do you consider that a fair or equitable exchange? Like everybody else, he's trying to make a living. If reintroduced predators kill a rancher's livestock, adequate funding for damage, or a right to control those causing damage, must be provided without a lot of bureaucratic BS."
"They relocate the animals known to cause damage back to another area of the wilderness," Charlie offered.
"That hasn't proven very successful either," Roy countered. "The relocating practices do not take into consideration that as nature demands, most predatory animals are very territorial. Like people, when they're happily settled into a territory they call home, they don't like to change friends or lifestyle. When an animal is relocated into an area already claimed by others of the same species, there will be fighting for control of territory. Usually the introduced animal will be driven off for it is the intruder. It gets pushed from one conflict to another until it is either killed or finally works its way back home and the cycle starts again. The rules are if a troublesome animal returns, it must be destroyed. Of course the public isn't normally informed when an animal is destroyed because it's not considered good public relations with animal lovers. We might as well let the rancher properly care for his stock and save a lot of money and flaring tempers."
"Even if these animals could be contained by fencing," June offered, "our parks can't provide habitat for everything."
"We have plenty of other government land around," Charlie returned.
"Much of that 'other' government land also provides grazing for domestic livestock."
"Those lands belong to all of us and should be retained for recreation and wildlife," Charlie insisted.
"You favor a blanket policy of permanently locking away the public lands for wildlife and recreation? Are you aware that they already represent 40% of the United States? Outside of designated parks and wilderness, that land trust is designated for multiple uses to benefit the people of the entire country. While locking it away would certainly help wildlife and provide human playgrounds, remember, right now you're reaping benefits from those multiple use lands with food, fiber, minerals and forest products. This state's natural timber resource and range fees provide funding for schools and maintenance of your recreational areas. Take it out of useful production and user fees will have to be imposed to compensate for lost revenues. In addition, if only private lands are to provide all livestock grazing and timber growing resources, as supplies go down prices will rise dramatically."
"It's easy to solve the loss of livestock grazing. We just have to give up eating meat and eat grain and vegetable products," Charlie offered.
"Without people eating meat," June laughed, "this farm and these animals wouldn't exist for you to enjoy. You are suggesting reversing the millions of years of human evolution that produced a stomach acid different from vegetation eaters. That acid allows us to survive on almost anything except the grasses. That acid is a major reason we have been so successful. The various grasses cover our planet. Do we totally ignore making use of the by product?"
"I don't believe everyone is quite ready to give up all the products derived from animals," Roy offered. "It would also take much joy out of eating for meat is readily available and a very good source of complex amino acids. In addition to reversing civilization and evolution, can I also assume you'd agree to a national policy of using grain based fuels instead of coal or oil to reduce air pollution?"
"Look what it would do for your farm economy," Charlie rebutted.
"But if everyone starts using even a small percentage of grain alcohol for automobiles, home heating and power plants, it's going to require raising a lot more grain. You're encouraging a return to farming marginal lands and we're back to erosion and displacing wildlife. You've come full circle and you can't have it both ways."
June grinned. "If you ever decided to go visit 'your' rangelands for some recreation and to view the wildlife, you would probably find them uninteresting. Just driving through there is only a slight chance you would see any wildlife for they remain almost invisible except to those who know where to look. The scenery alone would probably hold your interest for about an hour. They do, however, provide meat and animal products at a reasonable cost to the consumer. By limiting predation, livestock and wildlife are co-existing together now. Most western rangeland is very marginal and erodible dry land, and animal use creates less erosion and fewer chemicals than intense cultivation trying to raise your grain crops. What will represent a better multiple use of these lands?
Roy shook his head. "In the intensive farming areas we're also discovering that most of the highly productive varieties developed during the Green Revolution are very dependent upon fertilizer, weed and insect control. They produce little without the use of large amounts of each."
"That's where most of the toxic chemicals come from that are polluting our land and water," Charlie replied with contempt.
"First, the source of your food is land and water, Charlie," Roy returned. "Second, please give us poor farmers some credit. As with almost every other human endeavor to date, hindsight is always better than foresight. We still have no crystal ball to see into the future, and learning from mistakes is not a realm solely of agriculture. Different seedbed preparation is used for different soil conditions. We also know what the overuse of chemicals can do, not only to the environment but to those who use them. Like with everything else, farming methods continue to change with understanding."
"Still you have to consider it is the consumer who dictates what goes on the food in the market," June countered. "I haven't observed too many homemakers in the supermarkets picking out wormy fruit or insect and disease damaged vegetables to get produce grown without those chemicals. If those blemished fruits and vegetables do not sell at the sufficiently higher prices needed to produce them organically, the public is demanding the grower raise food without blemishes. So far, the only way for the farmer to earn a living has been with the chemicals."
"Not by a long shot are most of your polluting chemicals the result of agricultural use," Roy added. "Hard as it may be for some to believe, more pounds of chemicals are used per acre keeping up lawns, golf courses, flower beds and gardens, than in general agriculture."
"How do you figure?" Charlie rebutted. "Look at the vast areas of agricultural lands sprayed each year."
"I'm talking about 'pounds applied per acre sprayed'," Roy emphasized. "For financial reasons a farmer sprays only when it's necessary to protect the crop. To him it is economically important he use only enough to get the job done. To a homeowner, a bug or brown spot on the lawn or a shrub is a matter of lost pride and can't be tolerated. They spray too often, at the wrong season, or use the wrong chemical. They also figure if the directions call for one teaspoon in a gallon of water to cover one hundred square feet; they use that gallon on only fifty square feet figuring it will do better."
"But that's still a drop in the bucket in relationship to all the land sprayed," Charlie reiterated.
"With the increasing number of homes over farms," June returned, "put all your drops into a bucket and it will soon be overflowing. Home use represents a sizeable amount of toxins seeping into the soil. Even worse, it pollutes right where people live and pump ground water for domestic use."
Roy grinned. "Another problem not too many think about is the commercial fertilizers used for the high yield crops are by-products of oil refining. Oil will become even more costly as supplies dwindle and there's no way Green Revolution agriculture can sustain yields without fertilizer. When a crop is harvested, the nutrients that went into growing it move from the farm into other food chains."
"They'll have to do it the way they used to," Charlie proclaimed. "Farmers will have to return to using animal waste for fertilizer."
"From experience," Roy countered, "I know animal waste is insufficient to maintain fertility under the heavy cultivation necessary to keep your stores full of cheap groceries. Our livestock produce enough manure to fertilize only about a quarter of this farm per year, yet productivity decreases drastically with the third year. Spreading animal waste is also labor intensive, and stockpiling it for application at the proper time is now considered to be adding to pollution. Passing the increasing costs on to the consumer means increasing prices. The days of cheap groceries will soon be over."
"If the farmers received the same percentage return on their investment that business and industry expects every time it handles a food item," June offered, "your groceries would already be priced above what most consumers can afford to pay. Just over four and a half cents of the cost of a one pound loaf of bread goes to farmers. The rest is paid to the other economy for labor, transportation, packaging and marketing."
Roy smiled. "One of our bottom lines is without commercial fertilizers and chemicals to keep insects and diseases at bay we're going to diminish our harvests each year. What is going to happen to our expanding world populations?"
"We continue to keep surpluses in reserve," Charlie replied. "We'll be all right for a while. At least until we can figure better ways to increase yields again."
Roy looked at him and shook his head. "Get your head out of the sand, Charlie. If a harvest year fails, stockpiles only represent a few months for even our present numbers. That's not enough time for another crop to be ready for harvest. In addition to the time factor, as people like you try to preserve your chosen way of life, productive land someone doesn't want declared open space or wildlife habitat is becoming scarce. We can't completely depend on technology to keep us ahead any longer because it still takes time and luck to raise any crop. We still haven't found a way to get a healthy calf in less than nine months, a lamb in less than 145 days or hatch a chick in less than twenty-one. In most of the country, even with fertilizer, the climate decrees we can't raise two crops in a single year. What will we do?"
June saw a perturbed frown appear on the man's face. "If 'we' must, we could survive on the land we own, can you, Charlie? Do you keep enough food on hand to last a year; a month ... even a week? Can you even raise a radish between the decorative shrubs you planted around your house so you wouldn't have to get any exercise doing yard work?" June began to frown. "Sometimes when I hear people talking about saving the environment and their feeling for animals and lost wildlife, I think we are almost too hard on ourselves."
"What do you mean?" Charlie asked.
"We're a part of the same nature as they are, Charlie. We're doing what comes naturally, multiplying and expanding our territory. Nature, like a man walking, is constantly striving to remain balanced." She lifted her hands then flattened them horizontally and alternately moved them up and down several times. Then she stopped with one hand higher than the other. "When too many of any species exist, either prey or predator, nature steps in to restore the necessary balance." Her hands stopped at the same level.
"While we need to show concern for the world around us, we must also remain objective about our place within nature itself. Someday, as our numbers continue to increase," one hand rose again, "we will have to live by those same rules. Like the animals must do, we will live from day to day, having to accept whatever comes our way. With nowhere else to go that could mean mass starvation." Her hands shifted past one another completely. "Speaking of which reminds me of one loud, self-proclaimed animal lover I heard spouting off a couple of years ago. He said he would rather see all the deer on an island north of here, starve than allow hunters to hunt them for food. He said, and I quote, 'starvation is a painless death'."
"It makes me sick to hear of anything starving," Charlie offered decisively.
"Me too," June returned. "I'm afraid I see starvation as a very terrible and permanent state and can only hope the man just had his mouth in motion before his brain was completely into gear. I thought at the time, about how his physical presence made it quite obvious he had little first person experience with starvation other than perhaps a mental deficiency."
"Did you set him straight?" Charlie questioned.
"No one could tell him anything, but his loud protests gained the support of enough other uninformed souls and they got the corporation that owned the property to stop the hunt. I guess rather than endure the publicity they figured to let nature take its course. With no predators controlling their numbers, there were almost 300 deer by that fall. They found thirty in the spring and all were in poor condition. In desperation the animals had denuded the island, even striping the bark from the trees. Then they ate what seaweed they could reach. It will take years for the island vegetation to recover under browsing by any deer."
"What happened was an inhumane waste," Roy added in disgust. "But being environmentally sensitive and still not wanting any bad press nothing appeared in the newspapers about the resulting devastation. The idiot and his supporters probably went along their merry way thinking they had saved deer from what they felt to be a socially unacceptable death. Personally, I think they should have been required to watch what they considered acceptable. Then they might really understand nature."
"Now someone else has suggested putting coyotes on the island after the deer recover to keep them in check," June offered. "It puzzles me when I see someone who doesn't believe a man should kill an animal to eat, but feel it's completely proper to feed their fawns to another animal. I wonder if any of them ever give consideration to what is in the food they buy to feed their dog or cat or goldfish?"
Roy frowned. "While the deer population will remain controlled, the coyotes have no way to take in more territory to accommodate much growth in their numbers. I wonder if anyone has thought about what will control the coyotes. While it will be nature performing the balancing act, can we consider it any more civilized than harvesting cattle or sheep to feed people?"
Again I see genuine concern for the future on their faces, the Starman pondered, his head bouncing back and forth as he listened to their bantering. I have contemplated on much since deciding to stay here with my son but I do feel it would be a shame if all the variety here disappeared.
"While talking about the results of making uninformed decisions, we really should look back at history," June offered. "Think of how ironic it is that archaeologists say the domestication of animals and development of agriculture by ancient man gave rise to civilization as we know it. It allowed ancient peoples, limited by a nomadic lifestyle, to remain in permanent settlements and gather possessions. Grouping led to the development of language then writing that allowed accumulated knowledge to pass easily from one generation to the next. These are things that made our species successful. Now the environmental movement is trying to convince everyone that livestock and agriculture will be the downfall of civilization because they are polluting."
"We can't live without a livable environment," Charlie rebutted.
"But what do we choose to eliminate to save it ... 'your' grandchildren?" June questioned. "It seems to me that the economics of civilized man and environmental quality are realities going in opposite directions and locked on a collision course."
"Huh?" Charlie returned, his face contorted in surprise.
June spoke with conviction. "Just think about our economics for a moment. For total economic health, everyone must have a job and be producing something. With better methods more is produced and to utilize that productivity there must be more people to buy and consume those goods or services, now and on into the future. Yet there has to be a saturation point, because as we multiply our demands increase and we are using up nonrenewable resources.
"Now examine the other extreme; a self-sufficient existence having everyone living in balance with nature. Of necessity, such a world must contain few people for in essence, everyone must return to a simplistic, self-sustaining lifestyle, perhaps even nomadic to follow the food supplies nature provides. It is asking that we forget everything we have learned, give up our inquisitive natures and reverse civilization. I don't think many people are ready for that, for living without agriculture providing abundant food will be difficult at the very least. The middle of the road concept is to stop utilizing the natural resources, save all of nature and maintain everything at a status quo. That will leave us with plants and animals to look at, but very little to eat."
"With the vast majority of our population living in cities almost incapable of self-sufficiency," Roy added, "I find all these options laughable, but not very funny." He looked at Charlie. "Just look around. There are as many differing opinions about what needs to be done to save the Earth as there are vocal groups. The irony is while one group proposes we ignore knowledge for a return to this limiting simplistic existence, another fights to save every human being ever conceived, functional or not. We have so many fires raging out of control it's hard to decide which one to try squelching first with only a teapot full of water."
Still following the conversation, the Starman's head movement slowed, and then ceased entirely. Deeply into his thoughts he left the farm and drifted infinitely further. Soon he saw his home from a different point of view. What did you look like in your youth? he asked himself. I can only wonder for I must admit to having little interest in learning what had been. In my time of formation I considered only the excitement of developing self. What difference could examining options earlier have made? I contain insufficient information about the things you lost. Might you have been similar to this, with choices made by individuals? Is what you and we have become, better ... or only more civilized?
June looked at Charlie and shook her head slowly. "I know you consider yourself an environmentalist; still I am hard pressed to visualize you with a desire to return to such a natural existence."
"I've worked a lot of years to enjoy what I have," Charlie returned.
"I understand how you feel and I don't think you're alone," she confirmed. "I can't believe it would be acceptable to many so I must consider it impossible, especially with our numbers expected to double in less than half a human lifetime. Most people enjoy the benefits of civilization, but cannot see the costs of their existence unless the damage they can see affects them directly."
"I question how many of those really outspoken preservationists types live, on even a semi-permanent basis, as they are suggesting massive dependent populations should?" Roy offered. "How many have traded away the roof over their heads to go sleep under a tree at night? How many have volunteered to give up electricity, heat, air conditioning, refrigeration and all those things we've come to consider basic creature comforts of home? Have they abandoned their car, stereos, calculators and computers?
"I seriously doubt they visualize themselves as one of the destroyers; it is only all those others. The list of convenience items we take for granted daily, like toilet paper, safety packaging and a convenient selection of food at a nearby grocery, would grow into another long list of things to forget. If even some of the most outspoken thought about it first, I wonder if they would personally choose to return to life as it was for the common man ... let's say even at the turn of the twentieth century."
"Life was certainly simpler then," Charlie grinned. "I know I enjoyed my youth, though it wasn't quite the turn of the century."
"But Charlie, you were a youngster. Children usually don't need to think about the realities of life," June returned. "We all tend to remember only the good things and suppress the unpleasant. As we get older we talk about them as 'good old days'." Leaving no chance for anyone to comment, her words continued to flow, "Think about the working conditions. I don't imagine you remember hearing your parents complain about the long work hours experienced by the average citizen well into this century. Sixteen to eighteen hours a day, seven days a week was the norm. Transportation was terrible. A short twenty-mile trip now then required many hours on or behind a horse. Walking, even for a good walker, required an overnight stay. The one thing I would almost be willing to wager, is your parents did their best to make sure you didn't have to endure the same.
"Medical care was crude, at best, and many died just from simple infections that now a shot of antibiotic can cure. Then there were the wonderful diseases that took the children; polio, smallpox, diphtheria, measles; and those that didn't discriminate; cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, malaria, to name a few. The reality was - people lived like the animals. The words written then tell of the high infant mortality rate nature decrees.
"My grandparents lived in that time frame and they had eleven children. Only five reached maturity. The truth is, by that time better health care had already increased infant survival rates and general longevity. In many parts of the world people wouldn't have to back up their civilization very far, but their goal is to try to catch up with us. An American family goes to pieces if they lose one child. Imagine what it would be like to have many, just to insure some might survive."
For fear she would carry on, Charlie returned hastily "Okay, perhaps it wasn't really all that great, but one thing you can't argue about is it certainly was simpler."
"Without a doubt," she offered. "Not many had time to fret themselves over causes like you do. Living from day to day and raising a family took all of their time and energy. The average man had very little opportunity to better himself; a woman almost none. We lost many great minds because of a lack of educational opportunities. I often think of just how ignorant they still were in the 'good old days'."
June blushed as she looked at Roy, his mouth slightly open at her outburst. "I'm sorry, but Charlie really hit a sore spot. Personally, I can see a much greater destiny for mankind than returning to the cave. We can never go backward into ignorance." She took a deep breath. "With that I'll step down from my soap box on the side of civilization."
Charlie looked almost apologetic. "I guess we do take improvements for granted. Maybe things just seemed good because I was young."
"Right," Roy replied quietly. "I think we all like to think back to our years of innocence. When I think of all we have learned in just my lifetime, I'm in awe. It makes me think of how much more remains for Amy and Sandy."
"When talk turns from learning to returning to the ways of nature, one thing bothers me," June offered. "Many of those who think themselves environmentally sensitive seem to feel it's their place to try to change nature. They choose to see only the beauty but refuse to see the violence and cruel realities of natural relationship required to remain balanced. They don't see what it really is ... beautiful, interesting, and constantly seeking perfection for any species to survive. The nearest to perfect I see is the shark, a killing machine. If not near that perfection it would not have lasted unchanged for so long.
"I guess in refusing to see nature as it is, people try to make it over in our own image of what they think we should be. Perhaps they feel man's destiny is truly a return to the Biblical, Garden of Eden. If the life described in that Garden is perfection ... you know; 'the lion shall lie down with the lamb', for anything with an inquisitive nature I'm afraid it would soon become a deadly bore." She smiled, lifting her eyebrows. "But things might pick up a little, when something got hungry."
Charlie frowned, and then noticed the silent visitor beside June cock his head sideways and raise his eyebrows as though shocked by the conversation. "Don't you have anything to add?" he rebuked. "After all, these things affect everyone."
"Yes, Paul," June asked, "do you have any thoughts you'd like to share?"
Paul thought for a long moment then spoke softly. "Since your last discussion, I have been using the library. I have read a great deal about what has been written of natural balances. Though at first they appear harsh, they are beautiful and complex systems." He looked at Roy and June. "The day you first showed us your farm, June said: 'The bottom line is, when we keep animals in a limited space, like on this farm, at the end of any year the numbers of each must be the same, or fewer, than when we started. If not, we will overgraze our pastures and all will suffer'."
June looked at Paul quizzically. I think he recited that word for word, she thought. I wonder why he remembered?
Starman continued. "After due consideration, I must conclude many of the environmental problems you have discussed are the result of man's successes. The increasing number of disappearing species must be the result of their need to compete with an ever-increasing number of people. With intelligence you see what happens to other creatures that get out of balance with food supplies. To compensate for nature's attempts to achieve balance, you develop medicines, farm vegetative crops and care for and protect chosen animals from predators so you might harvest their overproduction. Those efforts save many lives." He took a deep breath. "But the ultimate survival of any life form requires function within the total system, a source of sustenance and a space to exist. As human populations continue to increase, those less competitive will decrease. It cannot be otherwise."
"I think I understand what you're saying, Paul," Roy returned. "Like within the fences of this farm, everything must live within the confines of the planet?"
Paul nodded. "Yes, the area it provides is a larger scale, but it is self limiting just the same."
"I guess it's like we were talking about after the picnic," June offered. "We are in a tug of war for land resources between nature's reality, our way of life and our economic growth."
Roy grimaced. "But will we be able to choose to preserve land for wildlife and recreation for a few, when people are hungry? I'm afraid there is only one decision we can make. People will come first."
"On that point I believe June was right again," Paul replied. "She said 'the economics of civilized man and environmental quality are realities going in opposite directions and locked on a collision course'."
There he goes again with a direct word for word quote, June thought. This man must have a photographic memory.
"Individuals and even entire species can, and will, fail on their own," Paul continued. "But many are failing not because they have lost function…"
"…They fail because our needs are displacing them," Roy finished. "It's logical. If two things try to compete for the same area or food supply, the stronger, more resourceful succeeds."
"Correct, and it is beginning to appear that few species will prevail over the demands of an ever increasing human population," Paul added.
"Are you trying to say we have to stop multiplying?" Charlie asked.
"Not only must you stop multiplying, but you must find ways to reduce your numbers if it is your desire to continue to enjoy much of the diversity now existing. Every enterprise you undertake displaces more."
Roy shrugged his shoulders. "Sounds pretty basic. As long as people continue to make more and more people, everything but those that serve or can find a small niche among and between us will have to decrease or disappear."
"That is what I've been trying to say," Charlie huffed. "If we don't do something we'll ultimately be guilty of destroying the Earth. That's what this new Earth Day thing is all about. It's trying to raise everyone's awareness about what's happening to the quality of life."
"It's a good move," June returned. "It can get people and maybe eventually government's attention, but I feel sure if we don't figure it out soon, old mother earth could continue rolling around the sun quite well without us. I think the movement should acknowledge one thing, Charlie ... it should be called Man Day, because it is species Homo sapiens we mean to save."
Paul gazed serenely at Charlie. "On two occasions I have heard you speak only of the quality of 'your' life," he returned. "That is wrong, for there must be quality for 'all' life. As an intelligent species man cannot continue acting like an animal without choices. I think I see what sets man apart from the animals. Man can learn from mistakes and when he accepts responsibility for what he's doing, he can figure a way to fix things. If he wants quality, he must limit quantity. If not, like the deer on the island, nature will keep trying to balance it for you."
"But how do we get people and government to face the real problem?" June asked.
"I think people need to discuss it more often," Roy offered. "When citizens keep pointing out the problem, government has to listen."
"From your earlier comment, Charlie, I think your children have already recognized the principle," June offered.
"But only on the basis of a personal economic ability," Paul stated with purpose. "Choices must be made to benefit all. While it is quite evident you cannot save all species you continue to displace, you must rethink the basics of economics to maintain a livable world for all those capable of sharing it with you. These things you must do with equality and justice, and for the good of all. Take a good look at everything around you and give consideration that this miracle of life occurs so rarely."
"I think many saw the problem years ago," Charlie offered. "It's almost embarrassing that almost all governments continue to ignore it."
June shook her head. "I think the politicians ignore it because it's such an emotional topic with so many people. It's almost like saying you're against religion, the flag and motherhood. Even the words, population control, seem taboo in political circles. No one wants to acknowledge that by having a large family they may not be doing their children any favors."
"I think governments avoid it because it is in direct opposition to economic growth," Roy returned. "You know, the more consumers, the more gross national product, the more gross national product, the more taxes; the more taxes, the more money to spend on making the citizens feel secure in our economic growth. Economics is the major reason for the rise to power of bigger and more controlling government. I don't believe we will soon see them willingly relinquish the power of control."
Charlie shook his head slowly. "In America it is a crisis when we can't get enough gas for our cars. In the future, how might we respond to famine? It continues to make me shudder thinking about all those starving deer."
Paul's eyebrows rose. Starvation. Famine. He smiled. Now I won't have to ask Scott what famine means. The smile faded. Yes, I have seen this. I cannot forget the looks on the faces of those homeless and hungry people I photographed in Arizona.
"But in a democracy, what can government do without interfering with an individual's right to choose?" Roy asked.
"People must be educated about the consequences of not acting," June offered.
"Instead of rewarding a family with tax deductions, perhaps deductions should be given to those not having a child within the calendar year," Charlie returned. "That would slow down population growth at the same time it would provide more spending to benefit the economy."
"That sounds like a good start for us," June returned, "but what about the rest of the world? In the developing countries, many still have a dozen or more children and we can't impose our standards on them."
Charlie thought momentarily. "Maybe we should attach some strings to foreign aid and famine relief, like the mandatory use of the newer long term birth control drugs."
"But we can't force them do something they don't want to." Roy offered.
June smiled. "If given an option, I can hardly believe a woman anywhere wants to keep having children while she watches her growing ones dying from malnutrition."
Paul smiled. "To attain your goal you need give up no right other than acting irresponsibly toward those to follow. Make decisions because they are the right thing to do, or the human species may also become extinct."
Charlie's eyebrows shot up. "Extinct?"
"With aggressive behavior and weapons of mass destruction it remains a distinct possibility, if, when a crisis arises you resort first to weapons instead of thinking. Even intelligent life must continue to earn its place or disappear like your dinosaurs. Under nature's rules, some will likely survive, but either way many will suffer and die for lack of correct decision making. Your 'bottom line' is you too must adhere to the rules of balance established for all species, for as you said earlier, your excess numbers no longer have anywhere to go."
You? ... Your? ... Man's? ... Human species? ...Intelligent life? June puzzled. These past weeks, we have all noticed, in talking with Paul, that he often uses this detached point of view. Again I'm hearing a consistency of something being lost in translation. I feel sure he is foreign, but well aware of world problems. Still his use of language makes him sound like he isn't a part of them. Right now he sounds like some of those smug activists who drive home to a new wooden house from a meeting to save trees. She continued to study the genuine look of concern on his face. But somehow, I don't believe he is.
"We're not exactly out of places to go, yet," Charlie offered with a grin. "We have lots of planets to colonize."
"They are not suitable," Paul returned confidently.
"We can adapt," Charlie said smugly.
"Man does not yet have the necessary technology to adapt," Paul stated.
"We've adapted to every possible climate here on Earth."
"Earth is very different from any of the other planets in this star system. Settlements on any of them would require all basic life support be brought from Earth. That would be very expensive and would not solve any problems here."
Charlie returned Paul's calm gaze, and then his eyes narrowed. "How can you be so sure we can't live anywhere else?"
"I've studied the planets and they are not suitable for life as you know it. They are either too hot or too cold and it would be difficult to maintain body temperature for the available fuel resources that do exist are still beyond your technology. There is no free water on any of them and you cannot breathe the available gases. You also cannot obtain digestible nutrition from any available sources. Basically, you will find them very inhospitable. The day may come when you may leave this system to explore elsewhere, but problems must be solved here long before you will ever be welcome in space."
June frowned deeply. Star systems? Life, as you know it? All this is coming from a photographer? There is a secret side to this Paul Forrester. He is something more than a man with a camera searching for a picture. He's obviously well educated, sensitive, observant, truth seeking, yet, at the same time totally able to accept life's realities. Her eyes narrowed subtly. I also believe he is more involved in both the physical and natural sciences than he's letting on. Is he traveling to obtain information for a thesis ... a book? Maybe he feels he's been studying theory too long and it's time to observe life outside a laboratory.
"Welcome?" Charlie questioned.
"By those already out there," Paul offered innocently.
A broad grin spread over Charlie's face. "Okay ... now I get it. You're one of those people who believe life exists elsewhere?"
Paul's eyebrows rose when he realized what he had said. He smiled and covered gracefully. "Yes ... I must confess to being one of those."
As Charlie prepared to deliver another rebuttal, all heads turned to see Amy and Scott leading a charging group of noisy teenagers down the driveway. "I'm still raising two teenagers and I think I'm getting too old for them," Charlie announced, loud enough to be heard. "We'll have to talk again." His frown deepened and he bolted for his car, while within the ranks of teenage enthusiasm, one boy about Scott's age ducked to the rear of the group.
As Scott approached he recognized it was Charlie leaving, and grinned. "Did we rescue everybody?"
"I think you rescued your dad," June laughed. "He and Charlie were just about to get into it about the plight of being the first man on Mars."
"My dad always likes to argue," the evasive teenager offered as he performed another maneuver among the milling bodies that brought him over to the picnic table. "I'm glad he didn't see me. He'd surely have had something critical to say about fooling around all day." Hearing the comment, June and Roy exchanged smiles realizing they'd spent over an hour with Charlie.
Still on a roll from the day's excitement, Scott looked at his father. His grin widened, and then he laughed. "Would you have turned pink, Dad?" At what was apparently a joke, all the teenagers joined him in laughing. Scott observed a subtle frown from his father's face and noticed June's obvious interest in his response. "Family joke," he quickly offered and another Starman family slip passed smoothly into history.
Amy asked permission for her friends to play pool. Receiving an approving nod, the teenagers took over the poolroom. Almost constant, noise and laughter emitted from the poolroom for over an hour then slowly groups of young people left to return home. As the last departed, the family moved in and the gaming continued. To compete Paul had to play under a strict sliding handicap system Roy placed on any of the better players stopping by for a game. To produce equality with everybody else, Paul had to make special shots when anybody demanded. Outwardly it appeared to work well for he often missed. In reality he felt it important not to be left out of this aspect of the family life experiences Scott and he continued to enjoy. To do so meant he had to concede to less than his full potential in games of mathematical skill. He won some and lost many at his discretion. Planning plays to lose with no one becoming suspicious, became a much greater challenge.
Day faded into darkness and private fireworks became more frequent. Several families gathered at a vantage point on a high hill of the farm to watch the official fireworks display. Paul smiled when the fourth missile exploded into a multitude of bright blue lights. That reminds me of everyone on the ship, he thought. Momentarily two more of gracefully spiraling white specks erupted among the blue. And that looks like the rapidly passing lights always visible from the ship, he reveled. Leaning toward Scott, Paul whispered, "Now that I can enjoy."
"Yeah," Scott returned, his face continuing to reflect his excitement as another rocket lit up the night sky. "I wish you'd add some more interesting fireworks," he whispered back.
"You know I can't," Paul said.
"Not even a little one?"
Paul looked critically at his son, obviously still full of enthusiasm for his holiday, and whispered, "Not even a little one. You know what happened the other time." Momentarily, another skyrocket exploded in a splash of red and white. In its light Paul could see a return to reality on Scott's face. Scott has been enjoying his Fourth of July, he thought. Why did I have to ruin it? He placed his hand on Scott's shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze.
By the time the fireworks display ended, Scott had recouped most of his enthusiasm for he still had the major share of his sack of fireworks. Amy and Sandy eagerly helped set off the cones and fountains, joining other local neighborhood displays in a continuing flow of colored light and noise.
With Scott's entertainment over, the families agreed to retire before the 5th of July. Morning meant the start of hauling hay.
Scott turned to his father as he settled into bed. "Well, what did you think of the Fourth of July?"
"I'll say one thing about it, it's loud," Paul replied.
"That's celebrating, Dad." He frowned, "Don't they ever celebrate where you come from?"
Paul smiled. "We celebrate, but not like this. My world is much more..." he searched for a special word he thought his son could identify with, "...it is much more civilized."
Obviously disappointed Scott asked, "You mean you didn't enjoy today?"
"I didn't say I liked things more civilized any longer." His father paused briefly. "Yes, Scott, I did enjoy your independence celebration, even if it was noisy. I enjoyed the festivities, the picnic, the parade and I even enjoyed the fireworks, but I will admit I didn't think too much of carnival ride."
"I understand, but the noise is tradition." Remembering the look on his father's face, he chuckled. "You know, on our ride I think you traded your pink for green."
"I didn't feel pink either," Paul returned, grinning discretely.
"What I want to know," Scott asked hopefully, "is, overall, what did you think of it? It was fun wasn't it?"
"It was fun," Paul offered, "but 'overall' ... I think I like Christmas better."
Exchanging goodnights, quiet fell over the camper but the explosions continued long into the night.
Paul and Scott awakened to a bright sunny Sunday morning. They went into the house and found breakfast in the making. Afterward, Scott left promptly to go see Amy while Roy and Paul went out to feed and check the livestock. Returning to the house Paul glanced toward the pond. "Roy," he announced with concern, "I only see twenty-three little ducks on the pond."
"We can hardly keep little ducks here, Paul," Roy offered. "There are too many predators. By tomorrow there will be less and usually at the end of four or five days, we'll be lucky if there are any left."
"I haven't seen anything chasing them," Paul replied with concern.
"I heard the ducks making noise last night, so there was either a raccoon or an owl after them. During the day it's hawks, crows and neighborhood cats. If they're caught out in the open, they're goners."
"Why don't you protect them like you do the sheep?"
"It would mean locking them up and we don't want to do that. We have them around to eat insects. If we lock them in a cage, they won't be doing the job. Just think of them as living by the laws of nature. This is the second time this year the ducks have hatched little ones, but only one lived to join them. That's nature at work. The predators have to eat too."
Paul grimaced, and then walked into the house.
By ten Roy officially declared the morning dew off the baled hay. Six men gathered and the work began when Roy brought the red flatbed truck out of the shed. Everyone jumped on and they rolled out into the field. Roy told Cal and Scott to remain on the truck with Cal instructing Scott on how to pack the bales efficiently for hauling to the barn.
Starman noticed sweat pouring off his body after heaving the first few sixty-pound bales up onto the truck. Fine grass chaff and dust constantly fell back into his face from each upward thrown bale. It sifted down the front and back of his shirt, sticking uncomfortably to his wet skin and equally wet shirt. Now I realize the work we have already done has been easy, he considered. This is the hard work Roy spoke of when he originally made his offer of employment to someone who believed he had muscles. Roy drove the truck between the stacks of bales until Cal yelled, "We're loaded. Let's get her tied up for home". Paul saw the apparently experienced help starting to walk across the field toward the barn.
Roy got out of the cab. The steep hills in the field made tying the hay on the truck necessary. He walked toward the back assuming the final tying as his job. Cal had two long ropes, earlier tied to the front bumper of the truck, hanging down over the rear. Paul watched curiously as Roy quickly tied the rope into a strange knot that left a loop, but Roy's hands had been in the way and he couldn't follow the full action. Roy ran the end of the rope under a hook on the truck, strung it back through the loop in the knot and pulled down hard. Another quick knot and Paul knew it was complete. The procedure had taken only a few seconds. Roy saw a puzzled look on Paul's face and laughed. "It's a knot known as a Truck Driver's Son of a Bitch," he offered. "It can be tied very tight by using the principles of leverage."
"Roy, we don't have time for any demonstrations if you want to get most of this in today," Cal advised as he climbed into the cab.
Ignoring the comment, Roy grinned then moved over to the second rope and proceeded to tie it slowly as Paul intently followed the motion. Seeing the man still pondering, Roy walked to the truck cab. He turned back toward Paul, grinning. "The rest of the guys are almost to the barn already. You might as well ride back with us." At the barn Paul untied the knot slowly, studying the sequence in reverse.
Cal and Scott remained on the truck and their strong arms moved the hay from the truck onto a conveyor that elevated the bales into the loft of the large old barn. Roy, Paul, and the other two men of the crew stacked the hay in neat layers as it came into the vast inside storage area. With the first load off, everyone jumped on the truck and Roy rolled out to the field again. Again Scott and Cal did the packing while the rest loaded.
Roy got out when he heard Cal shout 'we're loaded', and saw the men heading back. "Hey Cal, who tied things up?" Roy asked as he came to the rear to find the load neatly tied.
"Not me for sure," Cal advised from the top of the load.
Roy gave Paul a sideways glance for he was just starting toward the barn. His brow wrinkled. "Just a moment, Paul," he called. As Paul turned Roy motioned to the ropes. "Did you do those?"
Paul frowned apprehensively. "I watched you the last time. I thought I might save some time. Isn't it correct?"
"It is," Roy returned. "You mean you learned how to tie the Truck Driver's SOB by watching me twice?"
Sitting with Cal on top of the load and ready to enjoy the ride back to the barn, Scott heard the conversation. He scrambled toward the rear of the truck. To Dad, I know figuring out Roy's knot has to be simple, he thought. He looked down over the end of the truck. I see Dad's, 'did I do or say something wrong again' look. "Dad's always been good with figuring out complicated things," he offered hoping the matter would pass. "In addition to being a photographer, he's a computer repairman, you know."
Roy grinned and shook his head. He placed his hand on Paul's shoulder, urging him up toward the cab for another ride to the barn.
Cal, drawn by the conversation looked down at Paul climbing into the cab and frowned. He turned to Scott. "Roy calls it simple. Simple maybe to him, but I haven't been able to figure it out in almost eighteen years of doing this. It's a loop here, flop something over there and catch it all with another loop. I think it will always be a mystery to me. A few years ago I just gave up trying to have him teach me. Either I'm a slow learner or he's a poor teacher."
Roy parked the truck for unloading and got out. "Scott, will you go get a bucket of salt and bring it up to the loft? There are a few damp bales in this load and we need to salt it down to cure." He saw a confirming nod as Scott slid down off the hay. Paul walked over as Roy started untying the ropes. "You and Cal can unload this one." Still flabbergasted, Roy broached the subject of the knot again. "Paul, I've tried to teach Cal that knot for years. He never ties it right. How is it you learned to do it in a few minutes by just watching?"
"Perhaps his talents lie in other directions," Paul offered. "I like working with diagrams and figures."
"And jigsaw puzzles too, I'll bet," Roy chuckled, still shaking his head as he walked away on his way back inside the barn.
Cal came to the back of the loaded truck and pulled Paul up onto the stacked hay. He faced him. "You know, you just made me feel rather stupid. I guess you just confirmed I'm a slow learner."
"I didn't mean to do that, Cal," Paul replied sincerely. "Like Scott said, it's just easy for me. We each have things we do well and must not compare ourselves to another whose talents might lie in another direction. You do a wonderful job of teaching children who have given up trying." Cal smiled his appreciation as he heard the call to start the hay up the conveyor.
Kathy came out of the house on the third load and took over driving the truck so Roy could help with the loading. The next load was on and Paul tied it. Under close examination a highly observant person might have noticed each knot to be absolutely identical as though someone had reproduced a photograph of the first. This time Paul analyzed the knot as he tied it and devised a simplified explanation. He instructed Cal over the next two loads.
"Maybe I'm not so stupid," Cal announced, having just tied the present load unassisted. He winked at Paul. "Maybe Roy is just impatient."
"Everyone cannot be a good teacher just as everyone cannot be a good farmer," Paul offered as they rode back to the barn. "You have patience, Cal, and a gift for teaching. I could see it in the faces of your students the day we were at your school."
"You could see what?"
Paul smiled. "They sense you care about them and they respond to their feelings."
"I do like teaching these drop outs," Cal acknowledged with pride. "It's a challenge to pique their curiosity about anything. I have to admit it doesn't work with all of them, but each success is its own reward. I've devised a new teaching technique from your pool demonstration at the picnic."
"You did?" Paul questioned with surprise.
"I did the same thing with them as you did for your audience. We took a trip to a nearby pool hall and I used pool moves to demonstrate applicable geometry and physics. We analyzed the angles and responses observed on the table. I guess they related better to seeing geometry in action than reading a textbook or watching me draw lines on a blackboard." He smiled broadly. "My group tested beyond expectations in comprehension and had a good time learning. I've been thinking about other ways of using interesting demonstrations as teaching tools."
Paul smiled at him. "Your world needs teachers like you."
"Thank you. I appreciate that, especially coming from you. At the Seattle Center and at the school I could see immediately you possessed an unusually unique ability. Have you ever given any consideration to teaching, Paul?"
"Right now teaching and getting to know my son better is my first priority. Teenagers still confuse me and..." The conversation ended abruptly when a voice from inside the barn yelled, 'We need hay, not talk. We're wasting daylight."
With Cal working during the week, and visiting Johnson's a priority for the weekends, Paul had only spoken to him occasionally since the picnic. Now he enjoyed the opportunity to talk freely as they often unloaded the truck together. Paul decided to casually question Cal about an earlier observation. "I notice Roy and June, and your family, always say good-night or good-bye with a hug. Scott and I have been included and it makes us feel like part of the family. I haven't observed this often in others. Can you tell me something about this ritual?"
"Ritual," Cal laughed, "I guess you could call it a ritual, at that. I should start at the beginning." He grinned broadly at the renewal of a pleasant past memory. "When I met Kathy, with me it was a true case of love at first sight. I knew in my heart, she was the right one for me and I courted her until she said 'yes'. When she brought me to the island to introduce me to the family, it was a case of personal shock and I wondered, for the first time, what I was getting myself into."
"Shock?" Paul questioned.
"To me it was a shock," Cal confirmed. "I hate to admit this, but my parents never expressed affections, openly. I know they loved me and each other, but I don't remember seeing them ever hug each other in my presence. I grew up thinking it wasn't normal to express physical affection openly." He smiled. "I was almost overwhelmed by the 'ritual' until one day I realized what I had missed. I'm sure my mother must have comforted me when I got hurt, but I can't remember being hugged just, for me. When I was first introduced to the goodnight or good-bye hug among the family, I realized it embarrassed me to show affection. Growing up the word was that adults, and particularly men, do not hug each other."
"Why not?" Paul asked quizzically.
"I really don't understand where the idea came from, for after a while, with practice, I discovered it more and more gratifying."
"I have also found it gratifying," Paul returned.
"Do we share a similar background?" Cal asked curiously.
"In many ways," Paul replied. Then wishing to move the conversation in another direction, he raised his eyebrows and grinned. "It is quite obvious you and Kathy have a happy marriage."
"Yes. In addition to being husband and wife, she's also my best friend. A good relationship with my in-laws has been a generous bonus."
"From observation I have noticed that if they allow it to happen, most all human beings have a great ability to share themselves with others."
"After thinking about it, Paul, I came to the same conclusion. One day I asked Kathy about the 'ritual'. She said that the feeling among her family had always been that no one should ever leave for the day or go to sleep at night while angry. The reasoning was, if you feel forced to express such affection, freely, you should talk about it before leaving or saying goodnight. Each time we part it could be forever. With a hug we can have only closeness to remember."
Paul nodded his head in agreement. "True," he stated. "We never know what tomorrow will bring. We must live each day for itself."
"And we should enjoy them to the fullest," Cal confirmed. Unloading the truck had become almost second nature by now and during their conversation the bales had disappeared up the elevator into the barn. As they rode back to the field Paul thought how a lack of physical closeness and unshared feelings almost destroyed Dale, Ellen and Ted Taylors' relationship. He marveled at how much difference such simple and honest gestures make in human relationships.
They hauled hay from mid morning until almost dark. Often teamed together, Cal and Paul talked freely about teaching techniques, school and family. June prepared meals, and several times during the day brought liquid refreshments to the barn for the day was hot and heavy perspiration made replacing fluids a necessity.
Monday morning Cal returned to work and Paul worked equally as well with other members of the crew. He continued to listen and observe, storing away information for future use. Cal got home from work early and when the final bale entered the barn, joined in the whoops of joy. Haying on the Foster farm was over for another year and Roy paid everybody.
Paul watched as Scott walked up the driveway. My son is unable to wait another minute for Cal to pick him up. He has a date with Amy for a teen dance at the high school. Over the past weeks I have observed a growing bond between them. I have been happy for them, but as it was when we had to leave Kelly, Scott will be sad. I think I'll be sad as well. We have learned much and there is much still to learn about living closer to nature on this world. Seeing the calf born excited him and afterward we had a real son and father talk about the complexity of what we had seen. Now I realize how vitally alive and risky the renewal process of this world is compared with mine. As Scott disappeared in his attempt to save a few minutes by intercepting Cal, Paul turned to the Fosters. "Now that our work for you is finished, we will be leaving in the morning. Cal said he would give us a ride back to the mainland. I want to thank you for the work and for the use of the pickup and camper." He smiled warmly and handed the vehicle keys to Roy. "We've really enjoyed being at your farm."
"What do you mean you're leaving," Roy said, ignoring the offered keys. "You haven't finished your search."
"Well ... no," Paul returned, "but it is time we move on again. We've been here for almost a month."
"Haven't you been happy staying with us?" June asked.
"You've been very good to us and we have learned a lot," Paul replied with a smile. "Now we can say, truthfully, that we can operate heavy equipment."
"We thought you might want to stick around and continue to help on the farm," June said sadly. "You said you liked to learn new things and as the seasons pass there's always something new going on around here."
"I thought you might be getting tired of having guests."
"Never," she replied. "I guess I'm beginning to think of you both as part of the family. It makes me feel like a mother, having to answer so many questions, Paul." She smiled, looking curiously at him. "You're different than anyone I've ever met before."
Naturally interested when someone found him unusual, Paul actively sought a hint on how to blend in better. "Different in what way?"
June looked at him appreciatively. "Paul, do you remember when you and Scott first came here and we were talking about having to butcher Old Dinah?"
"Yes, the first day we were here when you took us around the farm."
"Right away I could see your sensitivity to what we accept to be the facts of life and death of living on a livestock farm. Yet the day it had to be done, you helped us. You seemed just as curious about the how, as you had been about listening to the why."
Paul returned her look serenely. "I find all aspects of life here interesting and the ending of life is part of it." Then smiling, he offered, "Though I will admit, I enjoyed helping save the calf's life better than ending your Dinah's."
"That feeling is shared," June, replied. "I don't like killing the animals either, but it must be."
"Now, I know how you feel," Paul replied. "I also understand that being born and dying are both a part of ... being. There are many things I have learned while we've been here on the farm. Still the fact remains, our work for you is finished and it is time for us to go. We must continue our search for Mr. Johnson and his sister or we will never find Scott's mother."
"Can't you just continue the search from here?" Roy asked, hopeful of swaying his decision.
"So far we have found little to encourage us. If we cannot find him we wish to continue to search for Jenny. In addition, there is also basic economics; I need to get more work. The search is taking us further and further and we are using up our funds."
"It's true we haven't got as much work for you and Scott any longer," Roy admitted, "but in the summer there are lots of other odd jobs available."
If you want, we can introduce you to the right people," June offered. "Cal is sure he can get you some more lecture work if you want. You just have to accept pay."
Paul turned toward her. "I can't understand why someone would want to get paid for helping others, especially children."
"While that may be true," she replied, "a basic fact is if you are using your time to do something for others, even children, you cannot be using the same time earning your living."
"But how much could one charge for just a lecture?" Paul questioned.
"A modest day's pay is probably fair," Roy offered. "If your presentation is as good as Cal says, any school district would be willing to pay a day's wages for your knowledge."
Paul frowned. "We couldn't expect a whole day's wages for only a couple hours work. That wouldn't be right. An hourly wage for a teacher and expenses would do."
"Do you want me to have Cal check the market?"
Paul looked at Roy with a curious frown. "The market?"
June could not keep herself from laughing at this questioning look. "Not the 'store' market, Paul, the 'employment' market," she offered. "In the one, items are sold - in the other, talents."
Paul shook his head slightly. "How can so many words in this language have so many different meanings?" he asked.
"I guess it gives us all a challenge to learn something complicated when we're growing up."
"It is a challenge," he replied.
"How is it that you know so little about the language, Paul?" June asked quizzically.
"I've been away from here."
"Somewhere English isn't spoken at all?" she quizzed. "I didn't think there were many places like that around any longer."
"Where I have been, it is not the language spoken."
"And where might that be?" she asked probingly.
Paul thought briefly of home and realized he couldn't continue to answer. "I come from a different kind of world," he replied truthfully. "It's far from here and I'm sure you wouldn't recognize the name."
I have noticed before Paul's hesitancy to talk about where he has been, she thought. Fleetingly she saw a prisoner of war camp. Many Vietnam veterans don't like to talk about their experiences either. It really isn't that important to know. What is important to me is to encourage him to stay. "Probably not," she replied, acceding to a perceived hint for privacy. "I was never very good at geography." Seeing a look of relief, she decided to present the piece de resistance. "At least think about staying on with us. You'll have a vehicle with living quarters, and not having to work steadily will give you the free time necessary to continue your search."
"The arrangement will be the same as for haying," Roy added. "Room, board, five bucks an hour for your work and time off when you need it."
"You make it sound too good," Paul returned earnestly. "I'll talk to Scott when he gets home.
Earlier I felt happy, Scott thought, his arms wrapped snugly around Amy as they danced. I know I'm hanging heavily on her, but that's the way I feel right now. This is the end of the evening and it is our last one together. I was happy when we got the hay in this afternoon. At the time I thought the big job was over and it was time to start having fun again. Then Dad reminded me that we have no job any more. By now he's already told Roy and June we're leaving. How did I let this happen to me again. I guess I'm torn between wanting to stay with Amy, who is real and right now, and finding Mom who is just an old photograph and a vague memory. The music ended, but Scott and Amy continued to hold each other for several moments longer.
Cal dropped Scott off about midnight and Paul told Scott of Roy and June's offer. They discussed it and Scott offered no argument about staying. Finding living in the camper enjoyable, they agreed the farm did make a good base to continue the search. In addition, taking odd jobs or doing lectures wasn't as likely to attract Fox as Paul Forrester's field of photojournalism. After all, the career change to computers had provided two months of peace.
June was working on breakfast when they came to the house in the morning. "We have decided to stay," Paul announced, "but we should pay for our groceries."
"If we don't feed you we'll have to pay more. If there is one thing we have plenty of on the farm, it's groceries," June replied with assurance. "Besides, I like having you eating with us. It gives us some time to chat. You have a way of encouraging deep thoughts about things I haven't thought much about. You make me think, and I believe we all need to do more of that."
Roy offered his hand. "The arrangements will be the same as before. ... Agreed?"
Paul, unable to think of a meaningful argument, conceded with a shrug of his shoulders. "Agreed."
July was passing rapidly. One morning June took Scott aside after breakfast. "From the insurance information Roy took from your dad, I see his birthday is Friday. We'd like to have a little party for him. Do you have any idea of something he might like?"
Dad's birthday is Friday? Scott thought. I never even considered he might have a real birthday. What could be better than to use Paul Forrester's? It is on his driver's license. This could be fun. Now reflecting on June's request, he thought of a lot of things his father could use, but had to reject them outright. "The only problem with any gift is it has to be something we can carry in our bags or pockets," he advised. Traveling and camping out doesn't allow us to take much with us."
"You camp out a lot, don't you?" she asked. Seeing Scott's nod, her eyes narrowed suddenly and a grin appeared on her face. "Never mind, Scott. I think I already know what to get him."
"Even if you don't give him anything a party would be great. He's never had a birthday party."
"His parents never gave him a birthday party?" she asked in disbelief. "What did his parents do to him, deposit him in a Tibetan monastery? No English, no pocket knife, no birthday party."
At June's surprise, Scott realized he had just pulled one the faux-pass's his father seemed to do so easily and had to cover for himself this time. "I guess Grandma must have given him a party when he was little," he offered. "What I meant is he hasn't had one since we've been together."
"Well, he's getting one this year," she confirmed. "We'll try to make it a surprise."
"He'll love it," Scott returned impishly. Then momentarily his thoughts drifted back to Stella Forrester. Though I haven't thought about grandma much lately, I'm glad I got the chance to know her. I like thinking about having a grandma, though I know I'm not really related to her at all. It gets confusing. Though my father is now her son, her son isn't really my father. My only relationship to Dad... He stumbled ... to Paul Forrester is alien. I'm sure glad I don't have to try to explain it to anyone. Once Dad tried to explain how I was different. Afterward I even read a book about genes and inheritance, but still I have to admit I don't exactly understand.
June could see instantly that Scott was miles away and made a guess about where. "Scott, you mentioned your grandmother. Does she live nearby? If you wish, we can invite her."
"I met her for the first time last year, just before Christmas. She died on Christmas Eve," Scott offered sadly.
"I'm very sorry," June replied sympathetically. "At least you did get to meet her."
"She was a nice lady and a great Grandma," Scott returned with a smile. "She taught me how to make pancakes. It was ... kind of a Christmas gift, and something I will always have with me to remind me of her."
Paul came to the house. "Scott," he called, "are you coming? We're supposed to be cleaning out the barn, and then Roy wants to split some more fence posts."
Winking, June said, "We're on for Friday night, right."
"Right," Scott whispered. Grinning broadly, he left to join his father.
June called family and the many neighbors Paul had met during their stay. The 'word' was 'surprise party'. Kathy convinced her to have the party at her place so decorations could be put up with Paul none the wiser.
Scott stood in the Dorans' living room looking at the crepe paper strung across the living room. Dad thinks we're all eating here tonight, he thought. Roy is keeping him busy until then. If he saw the decorations I wonder if he'd ask me why Cal and Kathy have changed their living room. Dad's only experience with decorations and gift giving was at Grandma's last Christmas.
He walked into the kitchen and stood watching Amy putting the finishing touches on the birthday cake. He forgot my birthday even though I dropped him some pretty subtle hints way in advance. At first I was hurt, but then I figured where he comes from they probably don't celebrate birthdays. I guess I should have told him, but now I'm glad I didn't. He grinned impishly at his thought. It's going to be fun seeing the expression on his face. This will probably be the only chance I'll ever get to really surprise him, for once he understands something is important he never forgets. He chuckled. I wonder if I'll be like that someday.
Everyone was in place when Roy brought Paul over to the Dorans'. Scott had the camera ready to make another candid memory.
When Paul walked in the front door, everyone stood up and yelled, 'surprise'. Looking around the room his eyes got as large as saucers, and then closed, momentarily blinded as the flash went off in his face. When the bright white spot finally disappeared, he realized he was the center of everyone's attention. A rousing, off tune, round of Happy Birthday followed. Though unsure of the basis for the occasion, he responded graciously by shaking hands and accepting hugs from those who offered.
Scott saw the semi-hidden look of confusion on his father's face and took him aside a brief moment. "We're celebrating your birthday ... actually his birthday," he whispered, poking his father in the side with one finger. "Roy saw it on your driver's license. A party makes it official."
Scott watched his father play his part in the manner of a true acting professional. Soon everyone enjoyed a buffet dinner June and Kathy had prepared. An hour later, Scott subtly guided his father through blowing out the birthday candles and cutting the decorated cake into pieces for everyone. The assembled friends urged Paul to begin opening several presents and cards others had brought even though all attending had been told presents were not necessary.
Scott's pocketknife was a big hit with his father and Paul proceeded to return the one Roy had loaned him, with a gracious, "Thank you for letting me use your pocketknife. Now my son has given me one."
Roy turned to Scott and handed it to him. "Your own pocketknife is a necessary addition to every man's wardrobe, Scott. This one is for your birthday."
"But this isn't my birthday," Scott confessed.
"Well, then it's for your last birthday," Roy returned.
Scott accepted the gift with a big smile and a 'Thank you' as everybody happily encouraged Paul to unwrap more presents. The next gift was a flint fire starter for camping from Amy and Sandy. Paul read the directions and knew he would have little or no need for such a device, but graciously thanked the beaming givers.
A welcome and needed gift was a new blue stripe shirt Kathy had made to replace the one she noticed rapidly wearing thin during haying. "Thank you, Kathy. I can certainly use this."
"It should fit," Kathy volunteered. "Scott let me use one of your shirts as a pattern. I hope you like the colors. I decided on the blue because it looks good on you."
"It's just right," he replied, seeing a broad grin coming from his son. He started unwrapping a gift from Roy and June. As Kathy took the wrapping paper away, he looked at the item and frowned curiously. It is cylindrical, about 21 inches long and three inches in diameter, he calculated. I can see it is rolled tightly. He tried unrolling it. It resists, he thought. What is it? He set it on the table, looked around the room at looks of anticipation. I think everyone else must know what it is, he confirmed. I wonder if Scott does. Hoping for a hint he glanced at Scott, but saw only a shrug in return. I think it is time to move on, he decided. He looked at Roy and June and smiled. "Thank you both."
He picked up another gift, but could not keep from looking back at the strange object nor stifle the puzzled expression on his face. Everyone joined June in laughing at his expression. Paul recognized his attempt at deception had been discovered and the logical question followed: "What is it?"
Roy, quite enjoying Paul's look of confusion, asked. "Want to make a guess?"
Raising his eyebrows, Paul replied. "I can't even begin to guess."
"See the valve on the end, Paul. Turn it," June offered.
Paul looked at the ends then found a piece of metal sticking out. He turned it and a low hissing emitted from the object. Instinctively, he leaned away and there was more laughter.
"Lay it on the floor," June instructed.
Joining the game, Paul laid it on the floor, expecting a loud bang that had followed a similar sound when Scott set off some of his fireworks on the Fourth of July. Instead of popping or exploding he watched the object slowly unroll and he realized it hissed because it was drawing in air. When it had grown to over one inch thick and over five feet long, he repeated, "What is it?"
Roy reached down and closed the valve. "Lay on it."
Paul kneeled down on the floor then climbed cautiously onto the strange object. He lay on his back, looking up at Roy awaiting further instructions. When none were immediately forthcoming, he asked, "Is something supposed to happen?"
"You still can't guess what it is?" Roy asked with a grin. When Paul continued to look directly at him, shaking his head negatively Roy smiled. "Can't you feel it," he hinted. "Or maybe a better question to ask is can you feel it?"
Paul turned and rubbed the surface and Scott cringed when there was more laughter. June finally came to his rescue. "When we were talking about camping out, you said something about your body not liking the hard ground. Well this will make sleeping on the ground a little more likeable."
Scott's eyes lit up with recognition. "It's a toy bed, Dad," he offered vigorously.
"A very modern air mattress," June grinned. "Cal, Kathy, Roy and I use them for camping and believe me, they are wonderful. It will provide you a cushion and insulation from the ground," she winked, "and the hard spots will disappear. Scott told me you can't carry too much and it doesn't take much room."
Paul began to grin for as he quit waiting for something to happen and paid closer attention, he realized he could not feel the hard floor. "Thank you both for being so thoughtful."
Paul continued to lie on the air mattress while he opened several funny cards that were passed around for everyone to enjoy. He sat up to open the last gifts, receiving a child's toy tractor and a rubber duck for the bathtub.
Paul finally got up from the floor and looked around the room at these friends. A feeling of warmth abounded and he smiled broadly. "Thanks to you, this has been a very special birthday for me."
The party broke up about ten and Paul and Scott walked home with the Fosters. Returning to the camper Scott got ready to crawl into bed. Paul, still on a roll, wasn't ready for sleep. "Scott, that was fun," he said.
"Yeah, I thought you'd like it."
"It was nice of Roy to give you the pocket knife."
Paul's wide grin disappeared, replaced by one of growing concern. "I forgot your birthday and it is important."
"Forget it, Dad. I understood you didn't realize what it meant."
"You should have told me."
"I did hint, but I didn't think it was right to just come out and tell you to get me a birthday present."
"If you don't tell me, how will I ever know what's important to you? What other important days are there people celebrate that I've not known to remember?"
"Of course you already know about Christmas and the Fourth of July. There are other regular holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving and some famous people's birthdays. I guess married people celebrate anniversaries too."
"They're like counting birthdays, but they count the number of years they've been married. Kent and Eileen had been married for nineteen years. On their anniversary they usually took off for a weekend trip to celebrate."
"Your mother and I have no anniversary then because we are not married. Like with Dale and Ellen, being married is important to all of us?"
"Would you like it if I married your mother?"
"Sure, but first we have to find her, right?"
"We will." Paul reached over and turned off the light and there was a brief period of silence.
Scott rolled over. "I love you. ... Goodnight." When there was only silence instead of a responding goodnight, Scott knew sleep was not yet coming.
"I'd still like to get you something for your last birthday," Paul finally offered.
"Dad, it's all right, really."
"No, it isn't all right, but is it all right with you if I keep thinking about the right thing?"
"Sure," Scott offered. "Now are you ready to go to sleep?"
Paul rolled over and laid his arm across his son. "Goodnight." Scott knew his father would not forget.
During the passing summer, Paul and Scott spoke of many things with their hosts and being good listeners, found Roy's first love was talking of past hunting trips. He liked to express the fun of seeing old friends that he hadn't seen the rest of the year and the camp camaraderie that always seemed present. When he realized he was talking hunting too much, he began talking fishing.
When Roy and June invited them to go fishing, Paul wanted to make sure he had his motion sickness under control and was carrying medicine on their first adventure out on one of the local lakes and then out in the salt water of Puget Sound.
Scott was also more relaxed at his father's constant questions, for he understood the Fosters seemed to enjoy answering them. He began asking many himself. They talked often about the growing of a variety of farm products and nature in all its aspects of checks and balances. Work on the farm continued, including building and machine repairs and they helped Roy plow one of the smaller pastures to get it ready for seeding in the fall. They split fence posts; repaired fences; cut and split a year's supply of firewood and stacked it neatly near the house; cut pasture grasses to encourage new growth and helped pick apples to press into apple cider. Work on the farm never seemed to be done.
Paul knew Scott enjoyed his association with Amy and her friends. Since Amy is aware we will have to move on soon, the opportunity to socialize is good for Scott, he considered. I have observed what I feel is a strange reaction from Sandy. Her greatest enjoyment seems to be kidding Amy with 'yuck' toward 'being in love'. Why should being in love be so distasteful to her? he thought. I will file this observation away for further study into the growth rituals I have already missed during my absence from Scott.
I do know that we feel very much at home again and this time we are continuing our search for Jenny in the only possibly productive way we can. I realized long ago, that rambling from one place to another is not likely to prove successful, but Fox does not give us any other option. We will stay here as long as we can, or until we have to give up hope of finding Mr. Johnson or Kelly Simpson. At this moment they are our only lead and must be investigated thoroughly.
July rolled into August as the warm days of summer continued. Paul helped Roy cut down some marketable trees that had been selected for thinning from the growing forestland the family owned. Roy taught Scott how to run the bulldozer and he practiced by grading some of the riding trails through the woods. With practice behind him, Roy called Scott and the bulldozer to pull the logs out of the woods to an area where they could be loaded on the truck. Paul delivered them to a local sawmill to be cut into lumber for a new building Roy planned to build the coming winter.
Projects needing doing were always available, but Roy planned it so that he, June and Scott could often do the routine work, leaving Paul free to seek better paying jobs around the area. Paul sold a couple of farm life picture essays to a mainland newspaper under the Foster name. Scott earned money for his work on the farm and felt good he could contribute to the finances. Paul managed to put most of the money received aside for their days of need.
With schools to be starting up soon, Cal began arranging lecture work for Paul and Scott in other schools. The fees were not large, but they welcomed the income and enjoyed teaching as a team.
When around the farm, they took every opportunity to ride, either together, or with family members. Most free time, however, they spent on the road searching for the elusive Mr. Johnson and Kelly Simpson.
Leaving a small town close to the Canadian border early one morning, they arrived home just after two. Paul backed the pickup into the shed. Checking the house they found no one home and walked over toward the barn. June was standing alongside a large van and they could hear a strange voice talking to someone on a static dominated two-way radio. The horror of George Fox flashed through Paul's mind and he instinctively turned, ready to run. June, seeing them coming, motioned them over. As Paul and Scott cautiously moved closer, a man got out of the van. He had on a long white coat and Paul relaxed when the smell of his clothes reminded him of the time spent in the hospital. Obviously this was not one of Fox's men.
June gave each a welcome back hug. "Paul ... Scott," she turned to the visitor, "I'd like you to meet Tom Dodge. Tom, I'd like to introduce our good friends and helpmates, Paul Forrester and his son, Scott. Tom is our veterinarian and until he got another call from his office, we were in the process of vaccinating the calves."
Paul extended his hand and they shook. He looked back at June. "Do you need any help?"
"We can always use help," she confirmed. "You help me with the catching and Scott, you go around to the corral and help Roy run them in." Scott signifying his understanding, headed around to the back of the barn where he heard Roy verbally accosting an unruly animal.
"Catching?" Paul questioned as they followed the vet to the side of the barn opposite where they had loaded the hay.
June chuckled, "I'm sorry, but you both seem to be familiar with almost everything on the farm now. I just assumed you knew what the squeeze was for."
June could see Paul was about to ask the obvious question and beat him to it. She pointed to a heavy steel apparatus forming part of an adjacent corral fence. "This is a squeeze chute."
I have often puzzled over this series of fences and gates, and this device made of tubular steel with many levers, Paul thought, but a graceful opportunity to ask about it did not arise. Now I see one of the calves is within its framework. He shuddered. It seems to have its head stuck between the two heavy metal uprights. June pulled down on a long lever and he saw the animal pinioned as the long sides of the apparatus came tight against its sides. It is struggling to get free, but is totally unable to move. His thoughts flashed back to the hooded falcon he had seen at the bird recovery farm. Appalled, he remembered the dream he had afterward in which he felt the bird's fright. The veterinarian moved over and gave it a general physical examination then two injections, one in the neck and one in the hip. Paul continued to stare. When he felt something take a hold of his arm, he turned in alarm until he saw June.
Holding Paul's arm, June urged him to the front of the device, describing what was happening. "Roy and Scott will drive another animal down this narrow lane and into the squeeze," she related. "It will push its head between the two front poles, trip the lock and be held by the neck. Just as soon as the head is secure, you pull down on the lever like I just did. That secures it. I'll weigh it, and then the vet can do a health exam and give the necessary shots." She looked over at the vet and saw him nod to continue. "Okay, we're through with this one, Paul. I'll release the head and you release the squeeze. Do you understand?"
"No," he replied, frowning deeply, again unable to take his eyes off the frightened animal.
June laughed as she pushed a bar near the animal's head. The gate opened, releasing the animal's head. She took Paul's hand and placed it on the long lever that had closed the apparatus just a couple minutes earlier. "Next time you release it ... like this." She demonstrated by pulling down on a short lever. "Now push what you're holding, up. It's a two handed operation."
Paul pushed and the side of the apparatus opened smoothly, releasing the calf down a lane and into the adjacent corral. Calling excitedly, it ran across the corral and stopped with several others. June handed Paul a rope. "Pull," she said. Paul pulled and the heavy open side closed with a decisive click.
I don't think Paul is really thrilled with this job, she thought, but he might as well get some more experience. "We've got quite a few to do yet," she announced, "so this will be another of those on the job training things. Just watch, listen, and go with the flow." The vet signified he was ready and she yelled. "Next." Paul heard Scott whooping and the snapping of a small whip. Soon another calf charged down the narrow lane.
"It's a heifer," Roy announced.
The frightened animal entered the apparatus and as it rushed forward looking for any exit it pushed its head between the heavy steel head gate. There was a click as the uprights locked down on either side of the neck. Instinctively it pulled back. "Now pull down on the lever, Paul," June reminded.
Paul pulled and the lever pinioning the young animal within the apparatus. Like the last, it was totally helpless, though it continued to struggle with no chance of escape. June balanced the scale and wrote down the weight and the veterinarian took over.
A moment later Paul heard the veterinarian give a painful yell. When he looked he saw the animal had caught part of the man's hand between its neck and the metal bar that held its head. Paul saw the veterinarian pull back a bloody finger. An unhappy expression covered his face as he vigorously shook his hand.
The vet noticed Paul's look of concern. "It's all right," he offered. "Kicks, bangs, bruises and broken or smashed fingers are the occupational hazards that go along with deciding to be a large animal vet." He grinned, preparing the next injections as though nothing had happened.
Paul looked back at the struggling animal and couldn't keep from laying his hand on its back to reassure it all would be well. A brief moment passed and the animal stood quietly. The vet completed the examination, gave three shots and after putting a tattoo and a metal tag into one ear, ordered its release. June released the head and Paul released the sides. The animal walked quietly out into the corral and turned around, looking at them. The entire procedure had taken less than four minutes.
Flexing his sore hand, the veterinarian remarked, "Man, after a bad start that was sure an easy one."
"Next," June called and shortly another animal rushed down the lane. This time Paul did not wait to reassure the animal. When released it joined the prior, standing and watching. By the fourth June was watching Paul more than the animals or the vet. He is relaxing the calves as he did Anne when she had trouble calving. She glanced at the vet. Tom is too busy while the animal is standing quietly, to notice. June, continuing watching in awe, said nothing.
Within the hour the last calf came into the squeeze and Roy and Scott followed it up the lane to watch. When it joined the others, they let themselves out through one of the gates to join the chute crew. "Boy was that quick!" Roy announced. "What a team we've got."
While Scott walked over to join his father, Roy and June followed the vet back to the van. They didn't talk long, for having gained some time on a schedule that always seemed to run late, he was anxious to get on to his next appointment. While Roy and June walked back, June told Roy what she had observed. Roy laughed, offering his hand for a shake. "Paul, are you sure you can't teach us how to do that?"
"Do what?" Paul asked.
"June said she saw you calming the calves."
"I am able, but I don't think it's something I can teach you, Roy. It seemed needlessly cruel to leave them helpless and so afraid."
"I guess if you've sensitive and have never seen cattle man-handled like this. It might seem cruel, but cattle are actually pretty durable. One thing I want to say is this method is so much better than the way we used to do it. We roped them from a horse, threw them to the ground and tied them up completely. Even then there was a good possibility of injuries both to them and us. With the squeeze they're immobilized completely. It's all over in a few minutes and definitely less stressful. They can't hurt themselves and it minimizes injuries to the handlers, though I did see Tom wrapping up a finger at the truck. Last year he got caught in the arm by a horn."
"Isn't there any other way?" Paul asked with compassion.
"Not to date, I'm afraid since we don't share your talents. Short of knocking them all out with drugs, which is not economical in either time or money, this is the best we have. It's the law that all female cattle must be vaccinated to control brucellosis, a serious and contagious disease of both man and beast. As basic health care each calf also receives a five-way disease prevention vaccine and a trace mineral supplement. We do our best to take good care of our animal's health needs."
June laughed. "Maybe you don't remember, but I'll bet your mother hauled you off to the doctor when you were little. We all had to get our shots, didn't we? Well, I would be willing to bet you were afraid too."
Paul cocked his head slightly toward one side and looked at his son. Scott is shaking his head. He remembers shots and still has to get some every time he enters a new school. Covering, Paul answered: "Yes, I guess as a child I was entitled to be afraid."
"Usually the first time we run them through the squeeze they're a bit rambunctious," Roy offered. "After a couple more times, for one thing or another, they take it in stride." Hearing a chorus of anxious mooing, he looked back toward the pasture. "Now, may I suggest we get these abused babies back to their moms?" Roy strode off to open the gate back into the pasture. Soon they urged the calves through the opening. Reunited into pairs, each cow led her offspring away and both indulged in a calming period of nursing health care. A few minutes later Paul glanced at them and, nursing over, the calves gathered in a bunch and started kicking up their heels. There doesn't seem to be any lasting trauma. The herd started for the open pasture with tails high and kicking their heels. Roy, observing Paul's continuing concern, suggested they saddle the horses. The next two hours were shared in recreation.
One week melted into the next and Paul and Scott were returning home from one of their longest periods away from the farm. Encouraged when one of the Johnson's they spoke to remembered another who had lived briefly in her area, they moved north across the United States border into Canada. The one soon became more possibilities and they spent several long exhausting days driving from one disappointment to another. Finally, like all the others, they came to a dead end. Despondent, Scott had been extremely quiet all the way home. Paul placed a hand on Scott's knee as he drove down the driveway. "We'll find them," he said.
Roy came out to greet them as Paul backed the pickup into the shed. "Boy, am I glad to see you guys back. June has had a hitch in her get-along the past few days and we really need a couple of extra hands."
Paul looked at Roy, bewilderment on his face. I understand the Fosters like to use sayings not familiar to others, he thought. I have found some require a great deal of thought to figure out and with some I have to ask. I felt uneasy until I discovered it was a game; one, Roy in particular, enjoys playing not only with me. He enjoys being coerced into explaining, and expects questions from most everybody. I just decided to play my part and have many useful expressions filed away for future use in the blending in game. Just before our last departure from the farm, Roy used an expression for me to puzzle over: 'What's time to a hog'? Though I quickly figured him to mean, an animal doesn't need to keep track of time, I asked anyway. I guess I like seeing a pleased look appear on his face. June also uses many curious expressions. The answer to the last one she used on me, I experienced almost immediately. She said, 'If you don't use your head, you'll have to use your feet'. I forgot to pick up the camera when I left the house for the barn and had to walk all the way home again.
I noticed Scott do something similar more than once, so I tried it out on him. He acted like he knew what it meant. The second time I used the saying on him he reacted somewhat adversely to having what he forgot brought to his attention in addition to having to walk all the way home for it. These sayings are puzzling, but unlike acronyms, with study they can be figured out. Whoops, I think I've been daydreaming within the operation of Paul Forrester's human mind again. I often find myself doing so. I must return to the conversation and ask the question Roy seeks. "What is 'a hitch in her get-along'?" Expecting the usual chuckle to accompany an explanation, I see no look of satisfaction on his face this time.
"She did in her back the other day digging in the yard. She has to take it easy for another week. The garden needs weeding and several things need to be harvested and put up."
"We'll be glad to help," Scott volunteered, beating his father to the offer for once. "Just tell us what we need to do." They walked into the house to find June sitting in a chair in the living room.
Paul walked over to her, a look of grave concern on his face. "What seems to be the trouble?"
"It's just the arthritis acting up again," she replied as she looked up at him sheepishly, "It's the payment extracted for the indiscretions of one's youth. I should have known better than to dig in the garden so long. Using a shovel just irritates it." She got up and it was obvious she was experiencing a great amount of discomfort. "I'll be all right in a few days, but right now things are getting behind. Roy has been doing some dozing work and Kathy has the girls at camp and herself committed as a camp counselor this coming week. Roy said he'd have you two spend your time around the house."
"Just tell us what needs to be done," Paul offered.
"Berries need to be picked and the excess frozen. Peas, carrots, cauliflower and beets need harvesting and freezing. The peaches need to be canned. More apples need to be picked for cider and we were getting ready to slaughter some lambs."
Scott looked surprised. "You mean you do all that too?"
She smiled at him. "These are just normal chores, Scott. This time of the summer is always busy." She managed to get to her feet and started walking out to the kitchen. "I can help, but I just can't do any lifting, bending or long periods of standing right now."
Both Paul and Scott cringed at the stiff and painful way she moved. It was very different from the June they had seen days earlier. Paul saw Scott looking at him and his expression needed no words. I cannot do what I know Scott wants, Paul confirmed. I will discuss my reasons at our first opportunity. He looked back at June. "We'll get started on the chores right away."
The rest of the afternoon June supervised while they helped to put up the foodstuffs in most serious need of harvest. There was promise of many days of similar activity, as well as weeding and maintenance of the large garden plot and fruit orchard near the house.
Scott knew his father was aware of June's pain. By day's end he still had made no move to help her. As they walked into the camper, he had to know why. "Dad, why didn't you help June?"
"We have been helping her," Paul returned.
"I mean with her back. Can't you fix it?"
"I could, but I can't."
Scott's facial expression and voice reflected his compassion, "But she's hurting. How can you just look the other way?"
"Because she knows why she's hurting, Scott. She worked too long in the garden. She also knows it will heal if she rests and takes care of it."
"But you could take care of it in just a matter of minutes like you did for Tony Billingsley."
"I know that must confuse you, Scott. It even confuses me when I do decide to intervene as I did with Tony. I wonder if I'm doing the right thing for us."
"What if Tony has told a lot of people what happened that day? There's a good chance Fox might find out what direction we had gone and we could be in danger again. My first responsibility is to you, and to keep us away from George Fox so you might have a chance to grow up."
"I understand that, but June wouldn't tell anyone."
"I know that too, but you must remember, I have access to the power to do many things to help people and your world. Sometime in the future, so will you. Still we can't go around fixing everybody who has something wrong. What is wrong with June is the result of years of living and the normal wear that comes to all living things. People must carry on with living in spite of their problems."
"But she's our friend."
"That's where I run into a real problem because I desperately want to help," Paul said sadly, "but for us I must think ahead to the time the government does finally accept us. Though we might have employment for the rest of our lives if word got around of such ability, we would soon become too valuable to allow to remain free. Even if free, we would be considered different. I don't want that and I think you would tire of it also. The other alternative is to start selecting. Who do I choose to help and who not to? Do we hold a drawing, perhaps exchanging favors, or perform only for friends?"
"Of course not," Scott frowned. He looked contemplatively at his father, trying to think of any good reason to encourage him to bend his rule. His eyes narrowed and his lower lip twitched. "Then why did you decide help Mr. Billingsley?"
"Because Tony would have died as a result of a problem not of his own making. His failing heart was a complication of what was simply an accident. It was not a natural progression of life. With that knowledge I couldn't just walk away. I was there and I felt compelled to help because there was no one else. Still the gesture might have caused problems for us."
"What do you mean?"
"I never intended to tell the Taylors. The more people who know, the better the chance the wrong people will find out about us. Having George Fox after us all the time is no fun, but from stories I read about in your newspapers, there are many others I would desire even less. It's apparent to me that Fox and his Federal Security Agency are keeping us a secret. That is the way I want it to remain."
"Why did you decide to tell Dale and Ellen?" Scott questioned curiously.
"It was like you told me when I was going to leave Katherine Bradford without an explanation. I had to ask Ellen not to tell anyone about what we did. It wasn't fair to leave without explaining. She and Dale trusted us. They gave their friendship without question and put themselves in jeopardy when they helped us. I felt I owed them the truth to allow them to make an informed decision. If the truth had made them fearful and they decided against us, they could have called the authorities and tried to help themselves."
Paul noticed his son seemed satisfied with his reasoning and he sighed, and retreated into his own thoughts. When I touched Tony I sensed the heart close to failure. I did put us in jeopardy by intervening. If I could turn back time, I might have chosen differently. I might have simply alleviated his pain by allowing him to sleep until help arrived. And what about Stella? Was I right allowing her spirit to return to the cosmos? When should I, and when shouldn't I, interfere in the natural processes here? I'm the stranger and I have so much to learn yet of living as a human. And through this body, making such choices causes emotional pain to my own being. He heaved a heavy sigh. What's past is past and can't be changed. As Scott said, now it's all water under the bridge.
Scott watched his father and knew he was contemplating about something again. I know Dad's thoughts on things have to be much deeper than I can ever begin to imagine. Long ago I learned to remain quiet and wait until his meditation ended, but now I see distress on his face. I think I'll interrupt. "What are you thinking about Dad?"
With almost a startled expression, Paul looked at his son. "I was just thinking about Stella."
The distressed look has disappeared, Scott confirmed with satisfaction. "Why are you thinking about her?"
"I was wondering, since we were talking about helping Tony, why you didn't ask me why I let Stella die. Didn't it bother you?"
"It still bothers me," Scott replied with deepening concern. "I didn't want Stella to die."
"Then why didn't you ask me about it?" Paul questioned, looking directly into Scott's eyes.
"I thought you had already explained it. I thought I probably didn't understand."
"But you didn't ask any more questions," Paul returned. "Anytime you don't understand, please give me a chance to try to explain."
"I wanted to, but I know you're smarter than I am."
"That has nothing to do with it and you know it," his father replied with concern. "I ask you when I don't understand about being human. How do you ever expect to understand the part of you that is me, if you won't ask?"
Paul saw tears collected in the corners of Scott's eyes as he lowered his head. Paul put his hand under his son's chin, lifting it until their eyes met. I know the moisture I see in Scott's eyes is for Stella. She is probably the only grandmother Scott will ever know and like mothers and friends, grandmothers are also important. I made a false assumption that he understood what I was trying to say to him the other time. "I will try explaining again, Scott. Stella was sick and at the end of her 'natural' life. Throughout the universe, death comes to all things and is just as much a part of being as is the moment of creation. I felt I would have been interfering in the natural order of things to prolong it by interceding. Do you understand?"
"I think I understand now, and thanks for taking the time to bring it up. You're telling me it was time for Grandma's life to end."
"Yes," Paul smiled fondly at his son, "but there was much more. She had met her grandson, forgiven her son and was at peace with herself." He smiled at his son. "Stella accepted the end of her life with the satisfaction that an old wrong had been righted and a generation was here for continuation. That understanding made her passing easier." I too remember the last moments I spent with the mother of this physical body, he thought. Like now, tears of sadness formed in my eyes as I stood at her bedside. The first tears I ever saw appeared in Jenny's eyes from the grief she felt remembering her husband. I realize now it was tears of loss I saw when the ship came and she had to say good-bye to me. When Scott lost hope of finding his mother at Spirit Lake, tears of disappointment appeared in his eyes before he ran away from me. Still the tears I saw in Scott's eyes when I returned from Mexico were not sad tears, but tears of happiness. I am still surprised when they come, he thought, wiping some from his eyes. I believe I still only partly understand human emotions.
Scott looked reflectively at his father's faraway look. When he saw he had returned, he said, "The thing I really don't understand is why everything has to die."
"Death is a physical reality that follows life," Paul offered softly. "A change of form that is constant everywhere. The old die to make room for the young to follow, be it a tree; wild animal; star system; a particle of matter or a grandmother. We don't have to understand, but we must accept it."
Paul and Scott continued to help June for the next week. Neither would ever again take for granted the effort going into the foodstuffs they found in the camper each time they left to resume their search. Through Cal's efforts the lecture work continued to increase as word of the quality, availability and a reputation of being able to incite student interest in science spread from the alternative schools to teachers involved in the regular summer school programs. Soon appointments required scheduling for Paul accepted all invitations graciously unless it interfered with their farm obligation to Roy and June. Financial ends were in balance again. In addition, the jobs took them to outlying areas where they could continue to ask questions about Kelly Simpson and her brother.
It was Friday afternoon. Cal had scheduled a lecture for Saturday morning and Paul had made appointments with two Johnson's for early in the evening and several others over the next few days. Scott was late returning from horseback riding with Amy, and Paul drove over to the Doran's to wait. He found Kathy busy at the kitchen counter peeling apples. "What are you making?" he asked.
"Some applesauce to can for winter," she replied with a smile.
"Can I help you peel apples while I wait for Scott?" he offered, returning her smile.
"You don't have to do that Paul. Scott and Amy will be back soon and you'll want to get going."
"I don't mind," he offered, "I would be happy to help."
Returning his smile with a broadening grin, she handed him a paring knife. "I certainly can't turn down a willing helper."
Paul started peeling apples while Kathy quartered and cored. "Amy and Sandy are very nice girls, Kathy," he said. "You are a very good mother."
"Thank you, Paul, I appreciate the compliment. For the past twelve years I have worked hard at being a mother."
Paul thought for a brief moment, calculated, and then frowned. "But Amy is fifteen?"
"Hasn't anyone ever told you Amy is my step-daughter?"
Kathy smiled at his question. "Amy is Cal's daughter by a prior marriage."
"Oh," Paul replied with a broad grin, "you mean like June is to you."
"Yes," Kathy returned. "Haven't you ever noticed Amy's skin color is much darker than either Cal's or mine?"
"I noticed, but never thought much about it," Paul offered.
"You're truly color blind and that's beautiful, Paul," Kathy laughed.
"You look at everybody the same."
"Aren't they?" Paul questioned.
"We are," Kathy added, "but some people don't always see it that way."
Paul smiled. "When I first met Amy, "she reminded me of a young woman I met while in Mexico."
"Amy's mother was from Mexico," Kathy acknowledged. "Amy was only three years old when Cal and I got married. I don't think of her as a step-daughter any longer. She's my daughter."
"I have met others with this same family situation and it seems to work well." Remembering Dale's story about the problems he experienced with Ted's mother, Paul asked, "Do you know where her mother is now?"
"She died when Amy was little."
"I feel sorrow for Amy," Paul offered sincerely. He thought of Jenny and hoped they would be able to find her safe and well.
"I understand her mother was ill for a long time," Kathy offered. "I don't think Amy even remembers her."
"How did you meet Cal?"
Kathy smiled broadly. "We met during summer quarter at the university. Cal had been teaching for a couple years and had to bring his certificate current. I was finishing a couple courses to obtain my Bachelor's Degree in education and we shared a class."
"Bachelor's degree?" Paul asked, his eyebrows rising.
Kathy looked at him curiously, I know from the many times we've talked this summer, Paul must be well educated. Now he's questioning something that should be recognizable to any college bound high school student. I have often noticed such odd statements and questions since he and Scott came to the farm, but like everybody else around here, I'll shrug it off and just indulge him. "A bachelor's degree is what they call the four year degree necessary to graduate."
Paul's eyebrows shot upward. "You're a college graduate?"
"I have a teaching certificate," she replied, "but I've never taught other than as a student teacher. Cal and I got married before the end of summer quarter and I soon I got pregnant with Sandy. No school district would hire me so I stayed home and took on being a mother. I planned to find a teaching job after the baby was born. When the time came to make a decision about going to work, Amy was having some problems with some other children. They made fun of her because she was different. I liked mothering and figured she and Sandy could use the support of a full time mother. Cal was making enough for us to live on, so I stayed home. Since then I made mothering my full-time profession."
"Haven't you ever wanted to teach after putting so much time into getting an education?" Paul asked.
"I've often thought about it," she reminisced, "but I've always been too busy with the girls and their activities, I didn't have the time to do both jobs well." Kathy smiled. "Now, at my age, I think it would be a waste of time to attempt to resume that direction in my life. Besides, what could I possibly have to offer today's kids?"
"Anything you do to help others is not a waste of time," Paul returned. "One learns many important things just living day to day. You could pass on the knowledge you've gained to those who need it."
Kathy thought momentarily. "I would have to go back to school again, and I don't know if I can do it anymore."
"If you did it once, you can do it again," Paul replied. "Learning is a continuing process. You should think about it."
Kathy shook her head negatively. "I think the money could be better spent sending the girls to college."
"Like Cal, you have a wonderful way with children, Kathy, and that is a valuable asset to both you and the girls, but it could be a valuable asset to many other young people."
Kathy saw Paul finish peeling another apple and set it ready for her. "You're a fast peeler, Paul. I already have another kettle full. Thank you." Her head turned toward the window as she heard the horses. "I think they're back." She walked him to the door. "I guess I'll see you when you get back."
"Roy said he didn't need us for anything until the end of next week, so after tomorrow's lecture we're going to search further to the east." Kathy put her arms around him and laid her cheek next to his.
Paul felt her warm wishes. Wrapping his arms around her, he returned them. Thank you, he thought as he walked out the door to greet his son.
Scott spotted the camper parked near the Doran's and saw his father at the door. "Are we ready to go?" He called from the hitching rail.
"I've been waiting for some time already. Get Burr put away. We can catch the next ferry."
"Hi, Mr. Forrester," Amy called in dismay as she tied Monty. "I'm sorry we're so late. It was all my fault. I wanted to try a new trail and got us lost." Amy turned to Scott and gave him a good-bye hug. "You better go. Don't worry about Burr, I'll put him away."
"Thanks," Scott acknowledged, following his father to the pickup and another week of searching.
Returning Thursday evening, Paul and Scott walked into the house to Roy's warm grin. Paul saw June sitting in a chair. "How is your back?" he asked.
"It improved a lot this week," she replied. "Everything will be fine, Paul."
"I'm glad to hear that," he returned. "Is there anything you want us to do to help you?"
"Roy is done with his job and with the canning rush coming to a close things will stay pretty much under control from now on. Thank you anyway."
Roy walked over to the telephone. "I took a message for you," he offered. "It was another call about your lecture. It came in on Monday. Uh," he stumbled uncertainly looking at a piece of paper under the clip next to the telephone, "I think he said his name was Bilsey. He's the program director of a summer science program up the island. He just heard about your lecture. Anyway, tomorrow is the last day and he asked if you'd give your presentation. I told him I didn't expect you back until sometime today, but since it's so close to home for once, I told him you'd probably be available. I've got his number and I told him you'd call tonight about the time and place"
"We have been pretty busy with schools lately, Roy," Paul offered. "We don't want it to interfere with work around here. We do owe you for the room and board."
"Don't worry about it," June said. "You don't know how much we appreciate having you and Scott around. Just having you here to talk to is compensation enough. It has been good for Kathy and the family too. The other day, something you said made her take a long hard look at herself and where she's going. She is a wonderful mother, but has so much more to give than just being at home now. She finally made up her mind to go back to school. I think she has been putting if off, afraid to face the fact the girls are growing up and don't require her full time any longer. They actually need to assume more responsibility at home. She wants to start with substitute teaching. I think it would be perfect for her."
"I didn't do anything except tell her she has a great deal to offer young people. It's the truth."
June smiled at him. "I guess she saw the reality in what you told her. She's in town today to sign up for some of the courses she'll need to update her certificate."
"I think she was just ready to make a change in her life and would have done so anyway," Paul replied.
"You're too modest," June laughed. "I think Kathy was afraid of trying to go back to school. I believe one is never too old to learn."
"You're right," Paul confirmed, "learning is a process that goes on as long as life continues."
"My Kathy is a very conscientious and caring person," Roy offered. "She will do well in whatever she takes on and she'll get a lot more practice at decision making when she gets into the classroom routine again."
Roy removed a scratchy note from the note pad and handed it to Paul. "Right now, before I forget it Paul, here's Bilsey's number. You'd better give him a call."
As arranged, Friday morning Paul and Scott were waiting for Mr. Bilsey at the front door to the high school administration building. As a man came closer, they both recognized him as the man whose father they had helped when the Taylors rescued them from Fox. I wonder, he pondered apprehensively, how much detail of our physical reconstruction Tony kept a secret from his son. Smiling, Paul offered his hand as the man walked over. "Mr. Billingsley, how nice to see you again."
Jim Billingsley looked strangely at his lecturers, and then recognition bloomed on his face. He took a card out of his pocket and glanced at it. "Mr. Paul Forrester?" he questioned with raised eyebrows. "... and Scott? You were with the woman who helped us earlier this summer." He grinned broadly. "Is she your wife?"
"No, just friends," Paul replied.
"No matter. I really did want to thank you for taking your time to help."
"Your father did thank us," Paul returned.
"But I didn't," Billingsley replied. "At the time, I guess I was so relieved when she told me Dad wasn't hurt I didn't even think about getting anyone's name."
"How is your father?" Paul asked.
"Couldn't be better. He's more active than I've seen him in years. He hikes with us all the time. Acts like his trick knee doesn't bother him anymore. It's amazing what getting some exercise can do."
The man's words allowed Paul to relax. If Tony didn't tell his son what happened, more than likely he told no one. "I'm sure it does," he replied confidently.
"Can I have your address?" Jim asked.
Scott responded nervously. "We live in a camper and move around a lot. We really have no regular address."
"Besides, no thanks are necessary," Paul added. "People should help each other."
"Yes, but it's just common courtesy to say thank-you when it's you someone goes out of their way to help."
"Under the circumstances, everybody understood," Paul returned.
"What about your lady friend? Would you give me her name?" When he received a puzzling look, Jim thought Paul might be reluctant to give out the woman's name.
Paul read a hesitancy to ask in Jim's voice and looked questioningly over at Scott for assistance. Scott returned with a puzzled look and a shrug of his shoulders. Paul looked back at Jim. "Is there any reason I shouldn't give you her name?"
"Sometimes people, single women in particular, don't like to have people give out such information," Jim replied humbly.
Paul pondered a long moment on the statement and a deep crease appeared in his forehead. "Her name is Ellen Taylor and she isn't single. If you want to thank her, don't you want her address and telephone number? I'm certain she wouldn't have any reason to ask me to keep it a secret from you. I'm sure she'd be happy to hear your father is well." Paul proceeded to recite the telephone number and the rural delivery address of Comptronics East.
"Whoa," Jim returned quickly. "I need to get something to write with." He reached into his shirt pocket for a pen. Paul repeated the information and Jim wrote it down on the card on which he had their names and placed it snugly into his billfold. With a broad smile, he offered his hand and they shook. "From what I've heard from others, I'm anxious to see your presentation." With a gesture of direction they proceeded toward the auditorium. "Shall we all go face the audience?"
The crowd was the largest they had lectured so far and it amazed Paul, for many in the audience were adults. After Jim gave a brief, glowing introduction, he returned to a seat in the front row. Paul saw him pick up a video camera. Paul and Scott presented another rousing hour-long lecture. An open question and answer session followed and an additional half hour turned into history. A line formed as bold and shy students, and then parents and teachers continued to ask questions. Paul also spoke to representatives of several other schools who wanted the lecture. The session could have lasted hours. Jim finally took the initiative to rescue the two and led them away. Paul graciously accepted a check for the two-hour fee and expenses.
I see Jim has a video camera, Paul thought. I do not want any photographs to appear in public so I must approach him. "Jim, were you taping us?"
"Yes," he replied openly.
"May I ask why?"
"I heard from some teachers who scheduled your lecture earlier, that your methods are different. I wanted a tape so I can study them further before school starts. They were right. Your techniques are years ahead of what they're giving in college now and your knowledge of this subject is amazing."
How observant of the man, Scott thought. Since getting used to Dad's ways, I finally realized he is always teaching in one-way or another. I'm also confident his methods must be years ahead.
Paul looked at Jim, his face reflecting concern. "Is that all you're going to use it for?"
"I hadn't planned on anything else, but I have to admit the adult/youth combination is innovative and could become a highly successful teaching tool." Jim frowned, realizing he might be violating some professional rights. "I guess I should have asked permission first. I'm sorry." He started to open the recorder. "I'll give you the tape."
"I have reasons for not wanting it circulated," Paul advised.
"I have no plans to use it publicly and will respect your wishes. May I have your permission to show my father and perhaps you might allow me to show my wife and some colleagues who couldn't make the lecture?"
Paul smiled at the care Jim was now expressing. "I didn't mean it that way, Jim, and I appreciate your kind words. By all means, feel free to show your friends and use it as a teaching tool. Take it to show your father." Paul smiled warmly. "Now we should get on our way." Paul and Scott turned to leave, but after taking a couple steps, Paul turned back. "Would you please say hello to your father for us. Would you tell him..." Paul paused momentarily while he formulated an appropriate message, "Tell him thanks for the confidence."
"Thanks?" Jim questioned.
"He'll understand." Observing a friendly smile and nod, Paul followed Scott back toward the pickup.
Jim Billingsley had more than one reason to be happy he had come prepared to tape the session. He could hardly wait to get home to run the tape of his adventure into the 'small world'. He walked in the front door to his wife's greeting and questions about the session. "The lecture was everything I've heard and more, Terri, and it was certainly educational. What a great climax to the science fair. More interesting though, was the lecturers. I still can't believe it. Paul Forrester and his son were the two with the woman who helped Dad the day he fell. I figured I'd never see any of them again. Her name's Ellen Taylor and I have her address and phone number over in East Wenatchee. I'm going to call Dad right now and tell him we'll pick him up tonight. We're going to see her. I'd really like the opportunity to thank her personally."
"Good idea. It's time for an end of summer vacation anyway," Terri replied. Still caught up in her husband's excitement, Terri had forgotten some news of her own. "Cynthia, my friend from art class who's a staff reporter for the local paper, called. She's on her way over. She wants to talk to you. I guess she has been covering the Science Fair program for the paper, and is she excited. She thinks your teacher team might make a good news story. She said there are probably many experts around whose knowledge is being wasted and she wants to contact them for an in-depth interview. Some publicity might encourage more of them to step forward and volunteer to give a variety of lectures. It could even develop into an integrated school program."
"You're absolutely right." Jim stated with conviction, "To find others who can instill student and parent interest, like these Forresters' did, we need to take advantage of all the publicity we can get. Right now I want you to look at the tape." Jim started the video.
Shortly the doorbell rang and Terri answered it. After greeting her enthusiastic friend, Cynthia Tuttle followed Terri into the living room. Jim stood and Terri made introductions, and then Cynthia sat in an offered easy chair.
"I was next in line at the lecture when you rushed the Forresters out, Jim," Cynthia offered. "I wanted to arrange for an interview. Can I ask you a few things?" She looked apologetic as she noticed the freeze frame on the television screen. "Please, don't let me interrupt your program."
"We're just watching Jim's tape of the lecture," Terri replied.
Awakened from his nap by the doorbell, Jim and Terri's five year old, Little Tony, was drawn to the activity. He raced into the living room and seeing a stranger sitting next to his mother, climbed into his father's lap. After keeping a wary eye on Cynthia for a few moments, he turned to watch the television show.
Jim thought about his promise to Paul Forrester to use his tape only for professional or personal use and reached for the remote. "I'll just turn it off. We can watch it later."
"No, please." Cynthia replied enthusiastically, "If you don't mind, I'd like to see it again. I can take some additional notes." Jim was aware the woman had been at the lecture and seeing no harm, rewound the tape and started it again.
The child, surprised at recognizing somebody other than his family on the television, climbed down from his father's lap and ran over to the screen. He waited briefly then pointed to a close-up. With a big grin he announced, "There's the doctor who fixed Grampa's leg."
Jim and Terri looked at him questioningly. "What do you mean, 'fixed' Grandpa's leg, Tony? Grandpa wasn't hurt."
Tony looked back at his parents. "Oops," he said. Stiffening noticeably, a look of guilt rapidly spread across his face. "Grampa told me not to tell."
Cynthia's reporter nose, smelling another possible story, turned on her tape recorder.
"What did grandpa not want you to tell, Tony?" Jim asked.
"It was our secret," the boy replied with determination.
Cynthia looked at Terri and whispered an offer of assistance. "Maybe a stranger asking the questions will get you off the hook."
Terri shrugged her shoulders. "Go ahead, but unofficial, understand. Whatever this is, it's the first we know of it."
Cynthia nodded then asked, "What did your grandpa want you to keep secret, Tony?"
Confused by a stranger asking questions, Tony looked to his mother and father for guidance. His face now reflecting pain and a growing remorse, he answered slowly. "But Grampa said the help from the doctor was our secret. Grampa promised we wouldn't tell."
Terri now saw a lesson for her son to learn in the issue. "Tony, you have to tell the truth. If this doctor helped Grandpa, shouldn't we all thank him for what he did?"
Tony thought briefly about his mother's question. "But Grampa promised."
He saw a stern look on his father's face and ran crying to his mother. When he reached out to her, she lifted him into her arms and pulled him close. "Tony," she repeated softly, stroking his back soothingly, "you must always tell the truth."
Tony clung tightly to his mother until his crying stopped. Sniffling, he began a child's eye, narrative. "After Daddy left, Grampa got awful sick. He just cried and wouldn't even talk to me like Daddy told him. Then the people came and the mommy tried to help him. Then the doctor looked at Grampa's leg and said he was going to die if it wasn't fixed right away..."
With her tape recorder for back up, Cynthia listened as Tony described in his child's way, a story with players and incidents far different than a father told his son one day in the mountains. Cynthia knew this was another possible story and discussed it with the family. Together, they finished watching the video.
Cynthia made some additional notes for her Science Fair report. After sharing coffee and cookies, she returned to her office. She walked in to see the editor. "Sir, I know we're right on the inclusion deadline for this week and so I'd like to delay my article on the Science Fair until next issue."
"Why?" he questioned critically. "It will be old news by next week, Ms. Tuttle."
"I only have today's lecture to type out yet, sir, but I want to write another article to go along with it. Today I saw a father and son team at work and I watched it again on video. They're very good. I understand they've been doing a lecture for a couple of months already and I also found out they take hardly any pay. I think it's time we give them some recognition for their efforts. I'd like to do an in-depth companion article on them. I think my article might encourage more citizen participation in the school curriculum."
"Do you have pictures?"
"The only pictures I got are rather long shots. I was running late this morning and by the time I got there it was a standing room only crowd."
"Do you think you might get hold of the video? We can get some pictures off it to go along with the story."
"I asked for it, but Jim Billingsley said he had given his word he wouldn't let it out ... some professional courtesy thing. The Billingsley's have left for the other side of the state for a few days to do some visiting, but if you don't want to wait on the Science Fair piece, I'll write it up. If you have any interest in the human interest angle, I'll like to hold it for some pictures when I do the personal interview."
"By all means, follow up on it," the man replied enthusiastically. "The Science Fair report can easily wait until next week."
Cynthia's face contorted contemplatively. "When I was at the lecture, there was something familiar about the man. I've seen him before. I just can't place him. The name's familiar too ...Paul Forrester."
The editor sat upright. "You said Paul Forrester?" He reached to a shelf of books behind his desk and pulled out a copy of In the Eye of the Storm and displayed the rear cover. "This Paul Forrester? Pulitzer Prize, ... Vietnam, Cambodia, Moscow?"
Cynthia's eyes lit up at instant recognition. "That's him. That's why he looked familiar."
"You, a reporter, didn't recognize Paul Forrester," the man said in astonishment.
Feeling slightly sullied, she replied. "I've seen some of his work in school, but never followed his career. I'm not into his kind of journalism. My interests have always been more into the human interest end of writing and I like to take the pictures myself."
"You're good at human interest, Ms. Tuttle.
She smiled appreciatively then frowned. "It can't possibly be the same Paul Forrester. Why would he be giving lectures on science and the space programs? ... And with a teenager? From what I understand of his chosen lifestyle kids can't be exactly his thing."
"Who knows what Forrester's thing is?" the editor's replied. "He's always been a rogue."
"It has to be a coincidence, sir, though it seems impossible the name and face could match. Maybe that's the reason this guy didn't want anybody else using the video. He's probably been mistaken for Forrester before."
"That's possible," the editor agreed. "It's also possible this might be the real one. I haven't seen much of Forrester's work lately. He dropped out of sight last year after that chopper went down with him during that crazy attempt to photograph Mt. Hawthorne's eruption."
Cynthia looked at the picture again. "It's either him or he has a twin."
"You're going to have to dig deep on this one, Ms. Tuttle. Where does he live?"
Billingsley wouldn't say, but somebody at school should be able to give me a lead on how to reach him. After all, Billingsley found him."
The editor grinned. "I'll leave the leg work up to you, but I'm going to assume the in-depth will be ready for next week." The editor thought for a moment. "I saved space this week for your report. Do you have anything else to put in your space?"
"I have another story," Cynthia offered. "Off-beat, but interesting. I stumbled into it by accident and I do have it on audio. It isn't transcribed."
"The imagination of a five year old," she paused, remembering the boy's strange story. "Or maybe not? It involves this Forrester though. If you're interested I'll play the tape. I think you'll agree it's a very strange interview. Do you have a player handy?"
The editor looked at Cynthia strangely as the tape finished. "Who would have planted such a story in the mind of a child?"
She returned his look shaking her head slowly. "I wouldn't venture a guess. Children at that age don't usually continue to lie when questioned about being caught in one. It surprised the parents as much as it did me."
"Why ... and for what purpose?" Cynthia rebuffed. "And why would Forrester ask to keep it a secret?" She shrugged her shoulders. "What do you think?"
"Folks seem more into this spooky stuff now."
"I managed a release from the parents, but for the child's sake, they insisted on not being identified."
"You get something typed up in the next two hours that leaves the readers asking questions and waiting for next week's edition and we'll run it. To play it safe, though, don't use any names."
Awakening in the camper one morning far from home, Paul realized the search for Kelly Simpson's brother had taken a great deal more time than he ever imagined. They had been living on and off the farm for well over two months. After breakfast they would be returning to the farm for the last time. They had checked and rechecked every East Puget Sound phone directory from Seattle to the Canadian border. They checked Vital Statistics death records in four counties and even followed secondary leads into Canada. They had talked to or visited every Hayden, R, Ro, Ronald or Robert Johnson, and Kelly or K Simpson and followed up on all referrals. The search had come full circle. Sadly they had to agree it was time to hit the road again to continue searching for Jenny Hayden.
Arriving in the afternoon, Paul parked the pickup in the shed. They walked into the house to 'welcome home' from Roy and June. And a few minutes later Scott left to find Amy.
"The horses are out of hay, Paul. Can I get you to help me move some over from the barn?" Paul walked off with Roy. As they loaded the hay Paul advised Roy of their plan to move on the beginning of the week.
"June and I were talking last night. We were afraid this would be coming soon," Roy returned unhappily. "Can't you stay just a little while longer? We're taking off for the mountains with the horses within the next week or two. We started collecting the gear while you were gone and everybody agreed that you've earned a trip. We're going into one of the nicest places I know in the Cascade Mountains and I know you'll enjoy it."
"But we really should get going," Paul advised. "We need to continue our search."
"You just finished telling me you exhausted all your leads. Without one, what difference will another couple of weeks make?" Roy countered.
Paul smiled at Roy's perception. They continued to load and unload bales while Roy talked about the trip and what it would require.
End Part 1