“Sunshine”

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Delbert H. Rhodes

Toby sits high in the saddle as he rides the range. The Triple T Ranch has been in his family for three generations and he absolutely loves it. All of it. His Dad, Matt, is aging but ropes as good as he ever did, Granddad, although retired, remains agile and strong. He keeps the books, oversees everything. Marlene, Toby’s wife, runs the home and family, that’s right, the entire McTiernen Clan. In some ways, this lady is the Boss’s Boss. She is a big help to Granddad, assisting with the books and all matters of Finance.

Yep, ranching is the second love of Toby’s life, he’s a true Cowboy, and his first love, his family. Learning the business from the ground up, one day, as does his Dad, Dane would run The Tripe T.

While surveying the North Forty, something spurs the Boss’s breeches. A beautiful Chestnut grazes in the far meadow. The horse seems to brighten the sky, its coat shines like sunshine. “Let’s go boy,” he moves in for a closer look.

The meadow, a part of his lands, Toby wonders where this animal comes from and who owns it; or possibly, the horse is wild, a rogue. Careful not to spook him, the Cowboy watches from a distance; wow, what a beauty, “I gotta get closer,” and so he dismounts and approaches on foot. Lifting its head, sniffing, the animal wants nothing to do with the intruder. It runs. “Ok, fella, tomorrow’s another day.”

Back at the ranch, dinner conversation is filled by the usual talk; except, Toby’s story is new. None of the men knows of the Stallion, he is new to the range. Chris mentions that a cowboy from the Bar X once spoke of a strange horse, “Yours matches the description.” “Let’s get a better look tomorrow,” says Chris. Bright and early, the dust flies as the men ride out to the meadow. No sign of the Stallion. The sun is high, it’s about noon, and the men wait, spit a lot and then finally, the horse strides into view.

Strategically placed, the boys circle the animal, no luck, the creature is smart, too smart. It rears, stepping and stomping on its hind legs, loudly protesting; the meadow becomes a grassland of turmoil. With glaring eyes and vocal roars, the animal refuses captivity, and then it does something that nobody has ever seen a horse do, backing off, the animal seems crazy, running the circle at high speeds, too fast for anyone to get a rope on it, fearlessly charging the group, the big horse leaps into the air. Stretching like a Phoenix rising from fire, the beast flies above the men, breaks free and then high tails it.

The men are left with blank faces, they cannot believe what just happened. “What do we do now, Boss?” “Well, “no use chasing him, we’ll see him again, later.” “Tomorrow’s another day.”

On the ride back to the ranch the men feel kinda silly, that one horse could outsmart these Cowboys, well, the whole thing is a little embarrassing. (Some say the rogue sprayed piss as it flew over them. We’ll never know, for sure.) It’s not the sorta thing to brag about. The boys can’t wait to get back at that devil, except the Boss has another idea.

This time Toby tackles the Stallion without help, without the men. This time he is ready for a fight and cunning is his only weapon. “That beast thinks he is better than I am, well, he’s wrong.” While guzzling from his canteen, the Cowboy hears hooves pounding the earth; Toby glances to his left side. Well, now, the Chestnut seems to have come home. Rearing, the proud horse displays confidence, ownership, it seems to stake its claim here. “You like this place, don’t you.” “I knew you would come back. You like the grass, and the sparkling water in the nearby stream.” -“My grass, my stream.”

The Boss fetches some water in a large basin, he also adds a healthy patch of grass, to go with it. “I’m gonna make friends with that animal, one way or another.” Not far away, the powerful beast eats without worry. Strange that it seems to own the meadow, even stranger, Toby admires this animal.

“You’re smart, and if I’m gonna win this one, I gotta outsmart you.” Giving lots of slack to the big boy, Toby quietly speaks from a short distance, about twenty yards. Close enough for now. With ears high, eyes wide, it pauses while gazing at him, heck, the darned thing seems to offer a challenge. It snorts once or twice and then looks away, and without turning its head, the power of its stare torments Toby. Then suddenly, casually, lowering his head, the horse resumes grazing. (“Yeah, I know you’re laughing at me.”)

Toby eases closer, but slowly the animal moves away, creating more distance between them. “Smart Ass.” The Cowboy realizes what he’s up against and refuses to let the Stallion win. After all, who is boss, here. “Come here, boy, I have something for you, don’t you want it?” The horse pauses, staring at Toby’s outstretched hand. Cautiously, stepping closer, the Chestnut quickly darts off.

“Ok, boy, I know, you don’t trust me.” Toby lays the clump of grass down and then steps away, far enough away, allowing the horse some room. The basin of water is laid another ten yards from the clump of grass. The Stallion waits, sniffs, snorts and then sniffs some more. Suddenly like a freight train, the horse rears, roars and then runs. “Where’re you going?” “Come back here, damned horse!”

After three weeks, still no luck, the Cowboy is about done. A rainy day and Toby rides out to the meadow, he hopes to see the Stallion. Luck is with him, the great horse grazes a stone throw away. Something isn’t right, its left hoof, the animal limps a little. For sure, a rock is caught between its pads. Calling out, “What’s the matter, boy?” “Something in your hoof?”

The Chestnut snorts, but seems to acknowledge what the Cowboy just said to it. Cautiously moving closer, Toby encourages the horse to trust him. “Let me take a look at that, maybe I can help you, boy.” Snorting, backing away, the horse obviously distrusts him, yet seems to stay just close enough. “Come on, now, I just want to help you, fella.”

For a while, Toby backs off, he simply waits, while staring at the Chestnut. Cocking its head, the injured animal whinnies and then lifts the affected hoof. Slightly applying weight to it the Stallion limps about but stays close by; the horse seems to ask for help even though it distrusts the man.

“Come here, boy, come on, now.” Moving closer, Toby stands only two feet away from the injured animal, it grunts, sniffs, snorts, but stays. Reaching out his hand, the Cowboy offers the Stallion a carrot. It stares and then extends its neck, sniffing, a slight grumble of uncertainty, slowly, the horse limps closer; then finally, it accepts the food. “That’s it… good boy.”

With a gentleness that maybe is uncommon to his hands, Toby strokes its snout, and as the Stallion softly whinnies, the stone is carefully removed, followed by a cool refreshing wash.

The Chestnut walks about testing its leg, sensing its hoof, then like lightning, the big horse sprints across the fields; but, doesn’t run away. Stopping, it stares over its shoulder at the Cowboy, then showing trust, the horse returns to him. Nuzzling closely, vocally, the animal thanks the man. “Ok, boy, I know, you’re welcome.” Suddenly, something wets Toby’s palm.

Tonight, a happy Cowboy shares a wonderful tale with his men, and somehow, from his stall in the barn, “Sunshine” hears it. With ears high, eyes big, the Chestnut repeatedly rocks its head, as though agreeing, supporting the Boss’s words. (Well bunch my breeches.)

Typically, the accounts in the North Forty are properly and eloquently documented; and unknown to his men, the Boss also pens a poem. Three weeks later, The Triple T receives mail by Pony Express. “A publishing house in Tucson put the poem on some fancy paper, and then put it inside a handsome picture frame.”

On a wall in Toby’s Den, Sunshine sheds a little more light:

The Stone

Eyes untrusting
Sensing the wind
Takes two steps closer
Then backwards again

Favoring one leg
Displaying a need
“Come on boy.”
He ponders my plead

Cautiously scanning
Ears standing tall
Artfully limping
Preventing a fall

Slowly advancing
Distrusting of me
A breathtaking beauty
Something to see

Finally there
A few feet away
Dare not speak loudly
He dares to stay

Near him I step
Nervous, he stood
Sniffing for bad air
Smelling the good

Verbally stroking
I gave him a name
Grunting and snorting
To me he came

Freeing the stone
The meadow he ran
Nuzzling closely,
A tear… in my hand

Copyright © 2003-2015 Delbert. H. Rhodes

Tommy

Delbert H. Rhodes

Today, he reaches his tenth birthday, a special day for him, and everyone who knows and loves him. Yet his Mother, strangely, feels somewhat distant, she seems to be just a little left of center. Mr. Reland passed away one year ago but although she terribly misses her husband he is not what troubles her. Tommy is a wonderful child, her boy, and she loves him and he her, should it matter that he is not truly her son. Still, she has always sensed and possibly, even known that the boy is different from other children, additionally, and although academically he soars above the rest, her feelings permit her only uncertainties.

2-4-07-15Tommy arrived into the care of the Relands ten years ago, and under strange circumstances. Travelers who were looking for a place to sleep entered an old farmhouse. In one of the bedrooms and all alone, a baby lie sleeping in its crib. The child, alas, abandoned, appeared uninjured and healthy. A search for the parents ended in failure; Child Services And Family Care aided the infant.

To his great fortune, the find soon provided Tommy a home. The lad and his newly found family love each other, nevertheless, he really never quite fit the mold, so unlike other children, so different, and including his stepbrother, Kamron.

Nights while his brother sleeps, Tommy often lies awake staring at the stars. The heavens are beautiful but more than beauty their allure is incomprehensible to him. Then, one night the unimaginable happens, while transfixed by the celestials, the star gazer wonders of his home, his family.

Remarkably, a shiny coin, a penny, appears beside him on his bed. “Wow!” “But, where did you come from?” Unusually bright and warm to the touch, the coin is wonderful. Resting it inside his palm, the startled boy closely regards its inscriptions and graphics; and as much as the penny appears usual, it is not.

Within moments, Tommy begins to remember things, curiously, he recalls not only how the coin was created but its creators, a team of researchers, headed by his Father. “Somehow, this tiny penny holds,” the boy silently says, “the key to life and my life.”

After a short while, the true purpose of the coin is revealed: it is a Galactic Library, harnessing the histories of every world, every planet, solar system, galaxy and universe; it is a bridge to Tommy’s ancestry and the truth of his arrival to this distant star.

Although centuries older, today, a son celebrates his tenth birthday; in addition to which, his first responsibility is to his people, his family. As the party below takes shape, he calls to Mother. The two alone in the upstairs hallway, she notices that he hides something. “What is inside your hand?” “Mother,” he begins, “I want to ask you something.” Before answering, and somewhat bewildered, Mom, smiling, says, “Of course, honey, what?”

Almost gliding across the floor, Tommy opens his hand, “Tell me, Mother, what do you see?” Hesitating, thinking that her son is merely joking, Mrs. Reland remains speechless for a while. Then staring at the coin, she answers, although somewhat uneasily, “A penny, why?” Placing the coin inside Mother’s right hand and while staring deeply into her eyes, the look on her son’s face causes Mrs. Reland more discomfort.

Instructively: “Look again, Mother; less is the difference between more than plenty.” “Understanding the worth of this penny is to understand the worth of your people.” Returning him the penny, “My people?” “Tommy?!” “But, what exactly do you mean?” “Besides, you are just a little boy, what do you know?” Intently, “I am neither little nor a boy.” Mrs. Reland pensively regards her son; and as though a vision cloaks his face, her chest quickly rises, her breathing increases and her heart races.

Today, on her son’s tenth birthday, a Mother must wrest with an awesome realization and responsibility; she must somehow come to terms with an uncertainty that she has always known, and it not only changes ‘her’ life but life, itself.

Copyright (c) 2015 Delbert H. Rhodes

“Someone He Loved”

Vintage-Printable-Botanical-Rose-GraphicsFairy-sm-664x1024Ninety years since his birth and the old man thinks of his life. In many ways, living blemished his heart; still, he holds no malice. His body, once strong and powerful, is broken and tired. Years ago, vessels burst inside his eyes, he sees only shadows. The old man hears acutely; and his ability to identify voices, quite good.

The hands remain strong and powerful, able to give a hardy handshake or delicately caress a flower. The knees, sickened by osteoarthritis, are puffy and inflamed; his health declining, life ebbs away. Awakening him, soft hands touch his face, a kiss to his cheek.

“It’s been a long time, Xavier.” “I heard of your illness and wanted to visit you.” The woman’s tone, her touch, her closeness seems as memorable curiosity. “I am married now, and have four children.” “Do you remember me?” Xavier’s brow bends, “Who are you, how do I know you?” “I see only shadows.” Leaning closer, the woman says, “We once worked together, a long time ago.” “When…where?”

Xavier hears nothing and then recognizable words. Written about thirty years ago, the words and phrases, the metaphors, the style, his; a poem written for someone special, someone he loved.-“D’na?” “Is it really you?”

Although from the shadows, her eyes touch him; her smile warms him-the ravages of death nearby-holding him, shielding him from fate, D’na’s tears slide down Xavier’s cheek. “Yes, yes.” “I have missed you, D.” “I have missed you terribly.” For long moments they tremble.

“I’m sorry, Zavier.” “I should have talked more about it.” “That was a long time ago, and I never blamed you. We loved each other, things and people got in the way. Sometimes, even loving is too difficult.” “I know,” she sadly agrees, “you’re right.”

“Tell me about your children.” The weary man reclines, her lovely voice relaxes him. D’na returns to the beginning, her life and family clearly before him. She speaks of marriage, husband, job, pregnancy and excitement; but, does she truly know happiness. D’na sketches the faces of her children and a mother’s impregnable love-somehow, Xavier stares beyond the shadows, blue eyes, greying blond hair, lithe, and a lovely face-and her hands, Xavier always loved her hands-gorgeous. Customarily, D’na’s hands rest inside his, sweetly, she leans forward.

Still, Zavier’s kiss electrifies the woman-his lifeless body collapses in her arms-even after thirty years, she could not talk more about it; she could not tell him about Bobby.
Copyright©2014 Delbert H. Rhodes

Crissa: In Her Final Moments

English: An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter lands a...

By Delbert H. Rhodes

 

The battle has ended for her; a woman of forty years, Crissa Johennsen has had a good life. Since childhood, she loves family friends and country. Born to a military family this lady learned early the importance of respect responsibility and dedication. Crissa’s dad, a Bird Colonel, stands tall in the shadows of right and wrong; always ready to answer the call; and to go wherever needed. The Colonel’s men respect and love him, and follow him into hell and back without second thinking the venture. All her life, Crissa has held a great pride for her dad, and her loving mother.

Crissa’s mom teaches English Literature in high school. Mrs. Branson’s students love her and thrill about the books they read and the engaging daily discussions. High School is where Crissa and Jack (Johennsen) met. They dated throughout their college years and married soon after graduation. Both individuals felt the call and quickly joined the military. Naturally, Crissa’s dad feels pride for his daughter.

Home for the Johennsens is California’s lovely west coast, and financially; Jack and Crissa are comfortable, though a military lifestyle offers little in terms of luxury. The Johennsen family supports various charities and volunteers at local shelters, whenever time permits. Crissa and Jack are like-minded and nothing is more important to them than helping family and people and country.

In the Johennsen household: the discussion about children occurs often; each individual is eager to begin a family, but now is not the time. Crissa hopes that a girl would be first to arrive, but no matter, as long as the child is healthy, and happy. Doubtless, the lady jokes, our child would be quite beautiful…especially if she looks like me (ha ha).

Today, and on a hillside far from home, Crissa is dying; while attacking an enemy unit, Crissa sustained serious damage to her chest wall and underlying tissues and organs. The medic did all he could to help her; but little more could be done, other soldiers needed aid.

Trying to think clearly, Crissa understands the costs of war; the Morphine the medic gave her helps, but the pain would soon return.

A medevac chopper is slow on arrival; precious moments pass as Crissa waits to be air lifted out of the strike zone. Time is critical and she is unable to hold on. Lying in the dirt Crissa thinks of the wonderful years she has shared with her husband. She focuses on the many sweet moments; Jack and she has laughed, played, and cried. The irreplaceable timeless moments when staring into each other’s eyes, the sweethearts became lost in the purity of love. Crissa loves her husband more than life; and misses him; she needs him-now.

Realizing that she probably would never see Jack again, Crissa reaches into her breast pocket for a pen and writing pad. (Crissa cries for her husband, she sorrows for the children they would never bring into the world.)

Crissa grows weaker, nevertheless, this woman mobilizes a love greater than the horrors of her circumstances; depending on her training and an impenetrable will, Crissa writes a note. The task is monumental: Crissa suffers with breathing, and soon develops problems with vision, the feeling in her hands is numbing, stabilizing the note pad and writing is extremely difficult.

Making matters worse, the injured woman is losing too much blood. Still, and though death waits, the brave lady holds on.  Crissa is determined to complete the note, her final moments with her beloved Jack. Lifeless, Crissa’s hand slides down the page.

One hour later the medevac crew arrives. While assessing the injured, a crewman notices a piece of paper lying next to Crissa’s body. Respectfully: Crissa’s corpse is placed on the chopper; the crewman takes a moment to read the note: To my husband and great love, Lt. Jack Johennsen, Company Headquarters.

News of Crissa’s death quickly arrives at headquarters (the crewman delivers her note to the Lt.). The words on the page are familiar, they are a quote that Jack often said to Crissa, and actually, the quote is “Allure,” a poem that Jack had written for her.

With tearing eyes, sadly Jack reads the note: “In the shadows of the waiting horizon, a cooling sun silhouettes the sky; and in the moonlight brightly reflecting are puffy whites tip toeing by; vigilant monoliths are the mountains, embracing a valley of rivers and green; and the winds artfully whooshing, are the brush painting a scene. My swelling heart feverishly throbs, the view before me I fondly adore; and beside me the woman I love; and her touch the sweetest allure.” -I love you Jack…

The loss of his sweet and loving wife is more than the brave Lt. can stand. With tears bathing his face, and then clutching the blood stained paper to his chest, the veteran commander collapses to his knees.

Copyright © 2012 Delbert H. Rhodes