When Andy and Jamie came home from school, they changed clothes and got the deuce-and-a-half, put the dump bed on it and went to the grove where Dek, Ethan and Alfred were working. Jamie took Ethan’s chain saw and Ethan drove the truck to the stacks of blocks which Andy and Alfred loaded. When they finished with what had been cut, Andy went to help his dad and Alfred helped Jamie. Ethan sat in the truck and relaxed. He had to admit to himself his being shot and the infection had left him in much worse shape than he had thought, but he was recovering. As Dek started cutting the last cull tree in the grove, Ethan again drove the truck and the others loaded it. By the time Dek had finished, they were waiting to load the last of the blocks.
There had not been as many cull trees at Pleasant Grove as Dek and Ethan had first thought and the groves were taking shape. Even with the neglect, the trees had set a fair crop of nuts and they had been able to get control of the pests before they did damage to the crop. No doubt the nuts would be small, but salable. They probably would pay for the herbicide, insecticide, fungicide, etc. so the money spent on the groves would not all be outgo.
The crew had been unloading and stacking the blocks for almost half an hour when the pasture crew arrived. They immediately headed for the washroom and cleaned up. When they came out, Randy said, “You cowboys, come with me. We are going to talk grass.”
The unloading finished, Dek, Ethan and Alfred headed home. Ethan was interested in seeing the progress on the Kistler house. When they reached the Hickeys’, Dek stopped at his mail box, took out an envelope, took a look at it, frowned, then looked up and said, “See you guys in the morning.”
As they approached the Kistler house, they could see the cowboys sitting in a circle in the backyard. As they got closer, Ethan couldn’t understand what they were saying, but it was clear this was serious talk.
As he approached the house, he saw about a third of the outside had been prepared for paint. The repaired screens were being painted on the front porch and a few had been painted and a large stack was waiting. The floor of the front porch had been replaced as had the front steps. Inside the rewiring was in progress and new underlayment had been placed on the kitchen floor. When he and Alfred stepped out on the back porch, the cowboys were still in deep conversation. As they walked up, Randy asked, “Okay, you are sure about your recommendations?” There was a lot of head nodding. “All right, you recommend 1) mowing, 2) aerating, 3) fertilizing following results of a soil test, 4) irrigation and 5) overseeding this fall.” Again, nods. “Then I’m going home.”
“Michael, I’ll help you with the soil sampling after work tomorrow,” Andy said and “you can borrow our mower since we are right next door.”
Michael thanked him and turned and said, “Alfred, let’s go home.”
High school society is a complex one, one which has often been studied by sociologists who publish very learned essays in academic journals, essays which, surprise, surprise, universally get it all wrong. The society called Bragg High School could be a prime example. Two broad groups made up the student body, the town dwellers—called townies—and the rural dwellers—called farmers. While there was some crossing the unspoken boundary by the two, there was very little. The rules were townie boys could date farmer girls if 1) the girl was very loose or 2) exceptionally beautiful. Townie girls do not date farmers, period. Should a farmer invade the town herd, the girl could expect to be shunned by the other townie females and the farmer dating a town girl could expect to suffer.
Jamie Taylor was not only a farmer, but he belonged to the lowest subgroup in that lower social class—he was a sharecropper who bought his clothes at the thrift store. Actually, that was no longer true but, like an Indian caste, once you belonged to a social group you were pretty much stuck there. So it was that when one of the most popular girls at Bragg High School, a townie, started dating Jamie, her girlfriends were horrified and tried to get her to come to her senses without success. Even shunning was not convincing her how wrong her choice was. The males were left in a quandary. Jamie was a good athlete, a good student and well-liked, but he was a sharecropper even if he dressed well these days. Besides, he had made friends with a black boy who was also a sharecropper. For a change, the farmers made it very clear that they had Jamie’s back and no-one had laid a hand on him.
As is true in a lot of small towns, certain families had certain ‘rights.’ In Braggton, the daughters of the male descendants of Syd Bryant and of Avery Cleveland were the homecoming queens. The daughters of the two families alternated the honor. They always had. Until this year. This year there was no alternating for the first time since there had been homecoming at Bragg High School. Both families’ baby daughter was a senior and a potential candidate for homecoming queen. Two weeks before the homecoming game, campaigns for class queens began. The senior class queen was automatically homecoming queen.
Judith Bryant and Meredith Cleveland had been friends since preschool. After all, they were co-queens of the in crowd. That is, they were friends until the campaign began. For them the campaign started weeks before the official one. The families foresaw a train wreck and had urged the two to cut cards, draw straws, play rock, paper, scissors, do anything to select one to be queen, Obviously only one would be and could be. The two girls were adamant: each thought she should be queen and produced more and more silly reasons why she was best. In the end the two ran a campaign that could have taught professionals mudslinging. Judith opened her campaign with posters featuring her in her coming-out dress and Meredith in a formal, passed-out drunk with a question separating the two photos, “Who do you want for queen?” Meredith’s featured a photo of her in a bridesmaid’s dress and one of Judith half-dressed smoking a joint with “Homecoming Queen?” in dayglo letters. Those were only the openings shots.
They were two junior candidates, but only one that really counted, Sharon Douglas from the country club set. The farmers seldom nominated a girl from their ranks knowing she would be treated with such disrespect and disdain that to nominate one would be to humiliate her. That is, until this year. This year they decided on revenge. They were sure a farmer girl couldn’t be elected, but they could nominate a townie to oppose Sharon. Hank Casper, a senior and acknowledged leader of the farmers asked Jamie if Kathryn might accept nomination. Jamie talked her into it and said the farmers were united in their effort to back her for junior class queen. It took some effort, but Kathryn finally agreed, knowing she’d never be elected.
Kathryn was popular among the farmers—male and female—even before she started dating Jamie, because she respected and was friendly to everyone. Dating Jamie only added to her popularity. The farmers united behind Kathryn and did a bang-up campaign for her. She didn’t have to lift a finger. Sharon tried all sorts of tricks and underhanded schemes, but she was such a bitch even the townies couldn’t really get very excited about electing her. Her arrogance and backbiting sometimes extended to them as well as the farmers. When the votes were counted, Kathryn had won with a fifteen-vote margin, remarkable because it meant a number of the townies had voted for her.
Sharon pitched a fit which would have done credit to a two-year-old. She demanded a recount and when the second count gave Kathryn a margin of sixteen votes, she had her parents at the school raising holy hell with Mr. Washburn, the principal. Much against his better judgment, he had the parents do a recount. Her parents counted the vote and found a mistake—unfortunately they announced it and then realized it was in Kathryn’s favor. They ordered Sharon in the car and took her home.
While Mr. Washburn was dealing with Sharon Douglas and her parents, another storm was brewing in the senior class. When the senior votes for class queen were counted, Judith and Meredith were tied. It was obvious there was something fishy as soon as Ms. Powers, senior class sponsor, posted the totals. She had barely written the numbers on the board when Hank Casper started laughing and, before long, most of the class was in stitches. Ms. Powers was getting very upset and kept trying to regain control of the class when both Judith and Meredith sent up a howl pointed a finger at the other and shouted, “She cheated!” and launched herself at the other. They fell to the floor, fighting like wild cats. “Stop biting me you bitch!” and “Get your fucking hands out of my hair!” were only two of the shouts coming from them.
Ms. Powers added to the confusion by crying in her mousy voice, “Girls, you’re not acting like ladies.”
“They’re acting like the jealous sluts they are,” someone said and Ms. Powers audibly gasped. When the two gave each other a bloody nose, Ms. Powers saw the blood, whimpered and fell back into her chair.
Alex Rayford finally said, “Okay, we’ve all wanted to see this since first grade, but it’s no longer entertaining,” walked over to the wall and pushed the panic button. When someone asked what the problem was, he said, “We need a couple of people to come up here and break up a fight.” He looked over toward the fighting girls and caught a glance of Ms. Powers out of the corner of his eye. “You might send up the nurse as well. Looks like Ms. Powers has fainted.”
Caleb and Hank had gone to the desk and managed to get Ms. Powers’ head between her knees and were rubbing her arms when Mr. Green and Mr. Crawford came running in. They took one look at the fighting girls and stopped. “No way in hell I am going to touch either
of those two. Mommy and Daddy would sue in a heartbeat and maybe charge me with sexual assault,” Mr. Green said. He walked and pushed the panic button. When someone answered, he said, “Send Ms. Dietrich and Ms. Fisher up here. We need women to break up this fight.”
Ms. Dietrich was a PE teacher and could put any male teacher on the floor. Ms. Fisher was an English teacher who taught martial arts and held all sorts of belts. She was small, but deadly. Ms. Fisher got Judith up, placed her hand at the back of her neck and said, “Judith, behave or you’re going to be in pain.” Ms. Dietrich had Meredith’s arm behind her back.
Mr. Washburn arrived, told the two teachers to take the girls down and place them in separate rooms. His secretary had followed him into the room and was waving smelling salts under Ms Powers’ nose. Sirens were heard coming into the parking lot and Mr. Washburn said, “Good. The EMS is here. Have them check out the girls and unless they need to go to the clinic, I’ll see them when I get the story from this class. Have them check out Ms. Powers as well. Send the janitor up here to clean up the mess and call the girls’ parents.”
When the girls had been removed, Mr. Washburn asked, “Okay, what happened here. You, Hank, what’s the story?”
“Take a look at the board, Sir,” Hank said.
“I see the totals for senior class queen. What am I supposed to ... Meredith and Judith tied ... wait a minute. Am I seeing right? I see a total vote count that is twelve more than there are students in the senior class.”
“You’re right, Sir,” Hank said. “I saw it at once and started laughing and then everyone except Ms Powers and Meredith and Judith saw it. All the two girls saw was that they had tied and immediately accused the other of cheating. In true lady-like form, they each grabbed a handful of hair and you saw the result. Sir, I know the zero tolerance is you throw, you go. Some of us have had personal experience with that rule in the past, but does it applies to girl fights?”
More than a few in the class had a hunch Hank had just made it impossible for the principal to allow the girls to escape. The standard punishment for a fight in which blows were exchanged was ten days out-of-school suspension.
By the end of the day, the whole school was abuzz with the fact that Meredith and Judith had been suspended for ten days, therefore they could not come back until Monday after homecoming. Since they were suspended, they couldn’t even attend the game or dance. They also knew the parents had threatened to sue and Mr. Washburn had said they could go before a school tribunal if the parents chose, instead of accepting the punishment. He also reminded them he’d be forced to include the fact that their stuffing the ballot box was what started the fight. Thus it was that an hour later when he made the afternoon announcements, Mr.Washburn announced Keisha Johnson was the homecoming queen. Keisha had been placed in nomination even though she was a farmer because she dated the captain of the basketball team. No-one, but no-one, expected her to get more than a handful of votes but, this year, that was enough. So it was that a townie who dated a farmer and a farmer who dated a townie ended up on the homecoming court.
The afternoon of the big game Jamie drove Scotty’s Triumph through Braggton with Kathryn sitting on the back waving royally as the homecoming parade moved through the small town. That was fine for the parade, Kathryn said, but Jamie was to pick her up in the truck for the game and dance. She hadn’t given a reason and Jamie hadn’t asked for one. He just did it.
Sunday morning, Ethan drove the truck because Sally Ann was again going with him and Scotty to St. Matthew’s. After the service, they said goodbye to Miss Mattie after telling her they were having Sunday dinner at home and getting the details of homecoming from Jamie. The three were busy getting Sunday dinner on the table when Jamie came down the stairs. “Morning y’all. See I am just in time for brunch,” he said as he walked into the kitchen.
As they started eating, Ethan asked, “Well, how was your night. Jamie?”
“Great! We won the game by seven points, the first time we have beat Choctaw in the last ten years. The dance was very nice and I was very proud of my date. Kathryn really was a queen. Only problem was I got to dance with her very little. I think she danced with every junior guy present. She was my date, but their queen and they were very proud of her. She was beautiful, well, she’s always beautiful, but she was especially beautiful last night. So was Keisha. I hope the ‘only townies can be queen’ thing is broken.
“Only fly in the ointment I saw was Jake Ballock. The rule is same as it has been: you go in the dance and stay. You can’t leave and come back. Saw that tricked-out truck of Jake’s parked just off the school grounds as we came in. Of course, he’s not allowed in a school dance since he’s no longer a student, but that didn’t hurt his business. He was dealing through the boys’ restroom window. There was a constant stream in and out of the bathroom. I guess it was too far upstairs to the faculty restroom or maybe he got wind of what was going on. Anyway, Mr. Washburn went to into the restroom and saw Jake passing something through the window and ordered him off the campus. I can tell you, I don’t know what Jake was selling, but four guys and their girls I know who bought something from him got very strange before the dance was over. After the dance Andy ...”
“Andy went with you to the dance?” Sally Ann asked.
“Yeah. I think Kathryn asked me to drive the truck so he and A’isha could go. When I picked her up for the dance, she said we were to go by A’isha’s aunt’s to pick up Andy and A’isha. They went there after the game and had dinner. I was told we were picking them up and taking them home after the dance. I was looking forward to doing some heavy making out with Kathryn. Ha! The junior boys monopolized her at the dance and we had Andy and A’isha with us. Didn’t get home until much later than I planned because A’isha lives to hell and back in north county. She sure must be special for Andy to even think about someone that far away. It’s a sixty mile round trip from here. That plus the fact that Andy’s been with her for two weeks now. That’s a new longevity record for him.”
When Ethan asked the two younger Taylors what they were up to Sunday afternoon, Jamie said, “We’re going to Braggton. I’m spending most of the afternoon with Kathryn’s dad. He’s trying to teach me to play golf. I keep trying to come up with a good way to tell him I hate the game. Those golfers he plays with are nuts about the game. I can’t imagine a dumber or more boring game.”
Sally Ann was going with him. Keith’s parents were taking the them to a movie in Audubon.
Love-making had been in short supply the last week for Ethan and Scotty. They had exchanged a few kisses during the day and at night and a couple of nights had brought each other off, but that was it. They had been so busy, time was in short supply and Ethan still tired easily. Scotty was pretty tired from the work he was doing. In spite of the fact that Jamie and Sally Ann had encouraged Ethan to let Scotty know his feeling for him and later urged the two to start living together, the presence of ‘the children’ meant they placed some restraint on their love-making.
But ‘the children’ were leaving for the afternoon. As soon as the truck backed out of the drive, Ethan pulled Scotty into his arms and covered his mouth with his own. Scotty broke the kiss, jumped and wrapped his legs around Ethan’s waist and once again their lips met in a passionate kiss. The kiss continued as Ethan headed up the stairs, his lover still wrapped around his body. By the time he reached the bedroom, he was breathing hard, a sure sign he was not to the point he had been before he was shot.
In the bedroom, Ethan managed to disentangle Scotty from his body, toss him on the bed and cover his lover’s small body with his own. He held himself above the blond, resting on elbows and knees. Tongues were busy as they exchanged kisses. The kisses became more aggressive. They finally broke the kiss to practically rip the clothes from the other’s body. Naked, their very erect cocks stood out from their bodies, streaming hot precum.
Ethan kissed and tongued the crook of Scotty’s neck before moving on to his nipples, nipping first one and then the other. He ran his tongue down his lover’s body, stopping to tongue his belly button. He could wait no longer and kissed the precum from Scotty’s cock slit, then engulfed the hard man’s tool in his mouth. He had barely started sucking and jacking the hard seven inches when Scotty yelled and exploded in his mouth. Ethan knew he was teetering on the edge, but was surprised when Scotty’s hot seed in his mouth pushed him over the edge and his own cock erupted. Scotty pulled Ethan back up the bed and kissed him, thrusting his tongue deep in Ethan’s mouth, tasting his own seed.
They continued kissing and ten minutes later, they were both hard again. Scotty flipped Ethan over and lay on him. Ethan’s cum, now cold, still covered Scotty’s stomach, making it slippery. Scotty took advantage of it as he slowly slid up and down Ethan, their cocks pressed between them. The precum both were producing in abundance added lubrication and soon Scotty was sliding up and down Ethan, jacking their cocks between them. Ethan was shouting, “Yes! Oh yes, Scotty. Faster, faster, baby!” Scotty was groaning as well. Soon, Ethan fired hot lava between their bellies and Scotty followed suit.
After exchanging soft kisses for several minutes, Ethan laughed and said, “Scotty, cold cum is about as desirable as cold coffee.” The two got out of bed, walked down the hall to the shower and took a long, hot shower which included a lot of play and horsing around. They stepped out of the shower, dried each other and walked back the bedroom, soft cocks and low-hanging balls swinging between their legs. When they looked at the bed, Ethan stripped off the bottom sheet while Scotty got a clean one. Clean sheet on the bed, they lay down, exchanged a kiss and wrapped each other in arms and legs and drifted off to sleep.
Half an hour later, Scotty awoke to find himself looking into Ethan’s sparkling dark eyes. Ethan smiled, kissed him and said, “Scotty, there is no way I can tell you how much I love you. You are the center of my life, my world.”
Scotty smiled and responded, “I am glad because you are the center of mine. Ethan, when I wasn’t sure you would live, I knew I would not be truly alive in a world without you.”
They continued to talk—saying those things that are important to lovers, but senseless to those who are not in love—and exchanged kisses for half an hour then Scotty said, “Ethan, drag that beautiful butt of yours out of bed.” They got dressed and went downstairs. Scotty grabbed cokes and Ethan chips and they went in the den and started watching an old movie. When they had finished their snack, Ethan cleaned up and instead of rejoining Scotty on the couch, he started pacing. After a few minutes of that, Scotty said, “Ethan, let’s go. You are not going to do anything but pace until you see what you are thinking about.”
Ethan grinned, grabbed Scotty and headed out the door. They walked to the equipment shed, climbed in one of the plantation’s field trucks and headed for Pleasant Grove. “I want to see what shape the company logging the grove left it in. It was supposed to be cleared, the brush burned, the stumps pulled and hauled away. The supervisor told Davis Wednesday they would finish Friday, but if they did, I don’t know it.” The former grove was as it should be, ready to be prepared for a cover crop. That would take several days and then it would be seeded.
Monday morning, as the youngsters headed for school, Ethan and Scotty joined those heading for the equipment shed. Ethan had talked to Randy and Davis about the week’s work and made assignments when they all reached the equipment shed. He had suggested they add an enclosed section adjoining the mudroom so the crew had some place to gather. It wasn’t so important now, but would be when it got colder. Randy, Michael and Alfred would be working on that. Ash and Dek would be working in a Pleasant Grove grove and Scotty would start using an offset disk on the cleared grove, preparing it for a cover crop. Ethan was meeting with Davis to talk about the present situation of the plantations and where things were headed.
When he and Davis had finished talking, Ethan took another tractor and offset disk and headed for the cleared field, joining Scotty.
When it was time for lunch, Scotty unhitched his disk and picked up Ethan and they headed in. Sally Ann had left lunch ready to pop in the microwave and the two were soon eating. Ethan was in mid-bite when Scotty leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Ethan Taylor, I’m in love with you.”
Ethan grinned, swallowed and leaned over to whisper, “Scotty McCarter, I would never have guessed,” and kissed his blond lover.
Wednesday at supper, Ethan noticed Jamie was very quiet and seemed withdrawn. After supper he went up to do homework and when he came down to say goodnight, he seemed okay.
Thursday while Ethan and Scotty were still at the house following lunch the phone rang.
“Taylor residence; this is Ethan,” he said.
“Mr. Taylor, this is Mrs. Anderson, Mr. Washburn’s secretary. We have Jamie in the office. He has apparently been in a fight, but will tell us nothing about what happened.”
“Is he okay?”
“Ms. Dietrich looked him over and cleaned him up. She put on a couple of butterfly bandages and says she thinks he’ll be fine.”
“Do I need to come get him?”
“Well, I guess that’s up to you. He’s not being sent home since he won’t admit he was in a fight. If you want to check him out, you would need to come. Mr. Washburn just wanted you to know.”
Ethan hung up, frustrated. No-one could ever get a straight answer out of Mrs. Anderson. He didn’t want to go to school and embarrass Jamie unless it would accomplish something. He had an inspired thought and called the PE department.
“Bragg High, Physical Education, Dietrich here.”
“Ms. Dietrich, Ethan Taylor.”
“Ethan! Good to hear your voice. Haven’t seen you in a coon’s age. Guess you are calling about that brother of yours. He’d be pissed if he knew I told you. In fact, he doesn’t know I know what happened. Tad Hayes and a couple other of our more mentally challenged athlete/heroes jumped him and gave him a fair beating. He got in some good blows—Tad is still walking funny and holding his balls—but he got a couple of cuts which I closed with butterflies. He’s okay, but you need to find out what’s going on. He’s not one I would have expected to have been jumped.
“Thanks, Ms. Dietrich.”
“You’re more than welcome, Ethan. By the way, I have that sister of yours in class this year. She is something. All three of you are and I heard you are a big shot nut grower. You need to drop by and see us.”
“Thanks, I will as soon as I get kinda caught up around here.”
“Do and I want to meet that lover of yours. I hear he’s a real doll.” Ethan gasped and Ms. Dietrich said, “Bye,” and hung up.
“Trouble?” Scotty asked.
Ethan told him what had happened and said, “You know what that’s about.”
“Maybe,” Scotty responded. “You anticipated trouble when some of the kid’s fellow students—when, not if—found out we were a couple, but it could be over his dating a townie and especially since she was homecoming queen.” Ethan hadn’t thought about that possibility.
They went back to work, Ethan not expecting to see Jamie until he went in at 5:30, but shortly after time for him to get home from school, he drove up on a tractor with a third offset disk. Ethan and Scotty had done the initial disking in a north-south pattern and were now double disking the land, this time in an east-west direction. Jamie joined in and soon they had completed the job. The three then took much of the pitch off the disks, making them similar to a regular disk harrow and began disking in a diagonal pattern, leveling and pulverizing the soil, making a seed bed. With three tractors and little pitch on the disk, they could move much faster than when the were pulling disks that were cutting into the soil. As a result, they were almost finished at 5:30 and worked over twenty minutes. They left the former grove ready for a cover crop and eventually new trees.
When they got to the mudroom and undressed, Ethan saw Jamie had several large bruises in addition to the cuts on his jaw, but said nothing. They dressed after tossing their very dusty coveralls into the wash basket and headed home.
“You’re going to tell me what happened or are we going to have to go to the office?” Ethan asked as they walked down the road. ‘Go to the office’ was a code which meant you would have to deal with Ethan as your father. It was somewhat of an empty threat because neither of the younger Taylors had ever had to ‘go to the office.’
“Ethan, I got jumped. That’s all. No big deal.”
“Jamie, anytime one of mine is hurt, it’s a big deal. When someone intentionally hurts one of mine, it a damn big deal and when one of mine is piled on, it’s a ‘you’ve started WWIII’ damn big deal. Now we can either deal with a WWWIII damn big deal or I can go to the school and deal with it there, but it will be dealt with.”
Jamie knew that tone of voice and that Ethan’s stubborn streak was the mother of all stubborn streaks, but he had to try. “It’s over and done with, Ethan.”
“I don’t hear any fat lady singing, Jamie, and neither am I. Someone hurt my brother. It’s over when I say it’s over.”
Jamie thought about trying again, but knew it was useless. “Tad Hayes, Ox Blanton and Tiny Kamp jumped me.”
“Jamie, that’s about nine hundred pounds against your one seventy-five.”
“Well, at least I gave Tad a kick in the balls he won’t soon forget and gave Tiny a bloody nose.”
“Great! And all you got was a cut face and some bruises. Damn it, Jamie, I don’t care if you broke all their limbs, they jumped you and, so far as I can tell, without a reason.”
“Oh, they had a reason,” Jamie said. “At least to their mushed-up football brains. Two reasons, according to them.”
“Your brother’s a fag and you, a sharecropper, are dating a townie and not just any townie, the junior class homecoming queen townie.”
“How did you know?”
“I thought it was probably one or the other and when you say they had two reasons it was simple. You going to stop dating Kathryn?”
“Hell no! You going to stop sleeping with Scotty?”
“What do you think?”
“Not likely. Guess even if you kicked Scotty out of your bed, you’d still be gay—we don’t use the word fag at Arkadelphia, Mr. Taylor.”
“Sorry, Mr. Taylor.”
“You’re excused, Mr. Taylor.
“So what can be done about the situation, Jamie?”
“Well, Hank came to me after school and said we needed to talk. I’m to call him tonight. I suspect the farmers are ready to beat the living shit out of the three, but that would just get them in trouble. I’d like to see the three have to face up to the fact their being heroes to some at Bragg High doesn’t mean squat in the real world. I’m working on it, so don’t worry.”
“You know I will,” Ethan said, and seemed to dropped it.
The next day after they finished work, Jamie asked Ethan if he could discuss some business with him. After they had showered and changed clothes, they walked to the plantation office. Ethan had thought they’d go home and discuss something to do with Jamie’s being jumped, but Jamie said they needed to go to the ‘big office.’ When they were seated, Jamie said, “We’re planting crimson clover for cover crop, right?”
“Right,” Ethan answered, wondering where this was going.
“Well, I know we’re on the northern boundary of the climate zone, it can’t be grazed and the seed are more expensive than crimson, but I have talked to Joe about it and he agrees we could plant the new grove since we wouldn’t be grazing it any way.” Ethan was bracing for something terrible. When Jamie didn’t get right to the point you know what you were about to hear you would wish you hadn’t, but he didn’t rush Jamie. “Ethan, I’d like plant maybe an acre in blue lupine instead of crimson clover. We could find out if it would grow here and we could save seed so we could plant more if we wanted to if it grows okay here and not have a whole lot invested. From all I’ve read—and I’ve read a lot—it’s superior to crimson and you know how good crimson is. If we could and the money was a problem, I could pay some of it. You could take it out of my pay,” he said and sighed, looking at Ethan with his best puppy dog eyes. Ethan didn’t believe he even knew he was doing it.
“Jamie,” Ethan said slowly, “if you had one you’d be wagging your tail, begging. Just how expensive is this seed compared to clover?”
“At the recommended seeding rate clover costs about forty dollars per acre for seed, lupine costs sixty.”
“So we’re talking twenty dollars an acre difference and you’d like to plant an acre and you are willing to pay the difference.”
“Sure,” Jamie said and started taking out his wallet.
“Jamie, we’re supposed to be trying new things here,” Ethan said, extending his hand to stop him. “I’m sure we’ll blow more than twenty bucks on some failed projects, so if you want to try blue lupine, we’ll do it. Any special requirements? Where do we get the seed?”
“Nothing special since we’d be following the results of the soil analysis so far as lime and fertilizer are concerned in any case.” He took a folded paper from his wallet and handed it to Ethan. “You can get the seed from there. Thanks, Ethan.”
“You’re more than welcome, Jamie. This sort of thing is what Davis is hoping happens. It’s too easy to just go along because ‘it’s always been done that way.’ Even Joe can fall victim to that from time to time. Davis has us ‘not dry behind the ears’ kids to both learn from the experienced people and to explore new ideas. So, thank you and I’ll order the seed right away. Where were you thinking of trying it?”
“I first thought about the pasture, but I think it would be better to put it in the cleared field. We’ll be plowing under the cover crop in the pasture in late winter to sprig in grass. It would be plowed under before it goes to seed. There’d be no rush in the grove.”
“Makes sense. Question: anything further from the lummoxes at Bragg High.”
“Just verbal shit. Don’t worry.”
The next day when the crew was gathering for instructions, Ethan told them Jamie had ordered blue lupine. Randy laughed and said, “Good, now he can come up with something else. We have all heard a lot more about blue lupine than we wanted to know.”
“You can say that again,” Dek said. “I thought blue lupine was the name of a new woman Andy was chasing the way he was talking. Those two get an idea in their heads they hang on like bulldogs.”
“Well, you’ll have to admit they know about all there is to know about something they decide to investigate,” Ethan said.
Randy chuckled. “They do, but I had to laugh when they gave me the complete spiel and when they finished, Jamie said, ‘Besides, it’s prettier than crimson clover’ and Andy said, ‘Now I wouldn’t say that.’ Never thought about picking a cover crop by how pretty it was.”
“Why not, all thing being equal?” Ash laughed. “I always thought teen-aged boys were romantics, but those two are worse than most. They’re sweet.”
“Wouldn’t let them hear you say that,” Davis said. “Speaking of Jamie, won’t he turn seventeen soon?”
“Next week. Hard to believe,” Ethan said.
“Anything more on his being jumped? I was ready to take the place apart when I heard about that,” Davis said.
“Nothing more. I think Jamie and the farmers are brewing something, but he’s not talking.”
A week later, Jamie’s birthday, Ethan got a call from the sheriff’s department. He did a minimum clean up and headed to Braggton and the sheriff’s office. He could hardly get in when he arrived. The place was packed. Mavis, the desk deputy, sent eight people into the interrogation room and six into an empty cell. She said, “Write.” as she turned to leave. “Ah, Ethan, welcome to the mad house.”
“What’s going on Mavis?”
Mavis sat down at her desk, sighed and said, “Apparently some farm boys were upset—rightly so—about Jamie being jumped. Kirk—she called Sheriff Jackson by his first name having, she said, changed his shitty diapers when he was a baby—said a couple days ago he expected there to be a major fight between the farmers and the townies over it. ‘And the farmers will get the blame,’ he said. Well, they may be farmers and some may be poor, but they’re not stupid. I guess a townie had a conscience or something because apparently the farmers knew what was brewing. Hank Casper decided since it was Jamie’s birthday, he’d be jumped again today. Well, he was, but the fourteen I have busy writing knew when and where it would happen and soon as the three who had jumped him before, joined by Chad Wallace, jumped him, Hank and the guys busy writing, pulled them apart and held the four cowards while one of the farmers called 911. We send a couple squad cars out, Jamie charged the four with assault and has fourteen witnesses.”
“Think anything will come of it?”
“Well, one of the farmers happens to be Clyde Shepherd’s son, Greg. Clyde’s filing a civil suit against the four and the school in addition to the assault charges Jamie has filed. Yeah, something will come out of this,” she chuckled.
“Clyde had someone take him to the clinic to be checked out. He wasn’t hurt, at least not as bad as before, but Clyde is out for blood. He was beaten up pretty badly when he was in high school for daring to date a townie. Broke them up. Lucky for Clyde, since I’m sure he’d take a beating any day over being married to that woman. She was arrested again last week for faking prescriptions. She’s hooked on prescription pain killers. And Clyde ended up married to Charlie. She’s about as pretty as I am but a fantastic woman who loves Clyde to death.”
It took the combined effort and influence of the town fathers to make it happen, but the judge finally held a bail hearing and the four were released into the custody of their parents. Clyde expected that to happen, but he got his request for bail to be set at a hundred thousand dollars into the record and did get a restraining order against them. After talking briefly with Clyde, Ethan took Jamie home before the four were released. Clyde had assured him the four would live to regret Jame’s birthday. “It will be a day of darkness and gloom for the rest of their lives when I get through with them,” he said.
The four who had attacked Jamie were all first string football players and the coach was pitching a fit about how dumb they were and, at the same time, scheming for a way to have them on the team when it hit the field Friday night. Mr. Washburn was an old coach himself and was looking at rules to bend so they could play. He finally decided if he waited until Monday to suspend them, they could play.
Clyde Shepherd knew well the way Washburn’s mind worked and called before school was out. “Evan, Clyde Shepherd here,” he said when Washburn answered. “I’m coming around to pick up copies of the suspension orders for the four who jumped James Taylor. Everett Hayes has engaged Smith, Smith and Jones to represent Tad in court and at the school Tribunal—they are going to Tribunal aren’t they?” Clyde paused, waited and then asked, “Well?”
Washburn sputtered a bit and answered, “Well, I’m not sure since this is their first offence.”
“That’s bullshit, Evan and you know it. It may be the first reported to the office ...”
“That’s all I can go on.”
“They’re being charged criminally with assault and James will be bringing a civil suit against them and the school. Now if you don’t follow the letter of the law on this, I am going to double my effort to nail your hide to the wall. I’ll need copies of those suspension notices today.” Clyde hung up the phone and grinned. He was going to love this.
As Mavis had told Ethan, Clyde had been a sharecropper when he was in high school. However, unlike Jamie, he was not handsome and well-built. He had been picked on at school and especially in high school. Because he was determined to be something, anything, other than a sharecropper, he worked his butt off and was always at the top of his class.
Evan Washburn had been coach when Clyde was in high school and had often poked fun at the awkward young man. Once Tad Hayes’ oldest brother had kneed Clyde on the basketball court, Coach Washburn had laughed and said, “Come on, Clyde, be a man.”
Leaving the school with copies of the suspensions in hand, Clyde laughed. The painful memory of the basketball court incident came back in vivid color as he watched Washburn attempt to find a way to keep the four on the team. Yes, he was going to enjoy this. ‘Mr. James Taylor doesn’t realize just how good an attorney he has,’ he mused to himself and laughed again.