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First pages

Prologue

Greenwich Village

January, 2011

 

Josh woke up at his usual early morning hour, even without the alarm on his phone going off. He sat up and stretched. Realizing it was a Sunday and he didn’t need to get up so early, he snuggled back under the summer weight down comforter. He listened to a winter storm blowing outside their Condo windows. Eyes wide open, he stared at the ceiling. Finally, he heard his father’s voice in his mind, repeating the advice heard so often as a youngster. “When you wake up, get up. When you get up, do something. When you do something, do it well.”

With a kiss on his lover, Art’s, bare shoulder, he slithered out of bed and headed for the bathroom. After washing his face, he prepared a single cup of French Roast Celebes Kalossi coffee in Art’s fancy gourmet kitchen and sat down at the little kitchen table. He smiled, relieved he didn’t have Spanish language lessons at 8:00 o’clock that morning. With a storm blowing outside, maybe we can stay in where its warm, today. I could always tell Art more of Grandpa Leo’s pursuit of the handsome Mexican-American rancher, Albert…

Chapter 1: Busy Bees

Wapello, Idaho

September, 1915

 

The sun shone brightly over his small homestead on the Snake River plains of southeast Idaho. A mild breeze kept things cool and pleasant. Leo sat on the corral fence behind his big barn and supervised the breeding of one of the five pretty mares from the Lazy H Ranch. He thought back three days earlier to young Danny’s first riding lesson and Albert’s first visit to Leo’s M & H Stud Ranch in Wapello, Idaho. A lazy Saturday, the 16th of September, he sat and fantasized about Albert’s tall lanky body. He couldn’t focus on the mare Albert had dropped off for servicing. Leo still missed Sean, his partner and lover since 1910, who had passed away last December. However, it didn’t keep him from daydreaming about Albert, his attractive new friend.

While Leo watched his handsome Arabian stud, Ace, mount the good-looking mare, a brazen ah-OOga, ah-OOga from the road distracted him.

“What now!” he complained as he hopped down off the fence.

Leo exited through the dim barn and took off towards his Sears bungalow. He saw his friend, Pastor Wenford, drive his fiancé’s large Model T up the lane from the county road and park it by the open barn door. Leo’s riding student, Danny, jumped out and cheerfully yelled, “Hi, Mister Hayes. I’m here to practice riding. Pastor Wenford drove me and cousin Jennifer. Are you ready? Where’s Afterglow? Can I saddle her? Are you going to ride with me? You said you might, remember?”

Wenford politely assisted Jennifer out of the horseless carriage. The Ford Touring Car looked rather like a Surrey, only with a boxy black and brass engine casing attached to the front. Leo smiled. He rested his left arm around Danny’s shoulders and held out his hand to shake with Jennifer, then Wenford. “Welcome back. Always good t’ see y’all. Well. Guess me chores’re done fer a while, then. Would y’all like some coffee? Come on in an’ set a spell.”

“Oh! Mister Hayes. We’ve come all this way to go riding. I need to practice. Don’t you remember? Can’t I see Afterglow now? I’ve been dying to see her again. Is she in the barn?”

Wenford pulled Leo into a quick hug while they shook hands. “Leo, old buddy, Miss Jennifer and I would enjoy taking Danny for a practice ride around your ranch, if you can spare us both mounts and saddles. I say, we are both out of shape and could use the practice, too. We would love it if you could join us. We could make an excursion out of it. Do you have the time?”

Delighted to see Wenford, Leo let himself be convinced he could postpone his work for a while. He whistled for his two cute teenage employees, Jimmy and Jack, to come help, then led them all into the dim, cavernous barn. Leo supervised Danny as he saddled up Afterglow. Jimmy and Jack helped Wenford and Jennifer. Quick as a wink, the twins had Sir Rabbit saddled up again, while Leo cinched up Danny’s saddle. Leo leaned over, interlaced his fingers into a stirrup, and nudged Danny with his shoulder. “Hey, Danny Boy, put yer foot here an’ I’ll help boost ya up. Don’t need th’ mountin’ block all th’ time. Put yer left hand on th’ saddle horn. That’s it. Now step up with yer left foot an’ I’ll give ya a lift. Oofah! That’s it. Good job. Now, remember yer balance like I taught ya on Wednesday, okay, Danny?”

Danny sat up straight and proud. A huge smile lit his face. Danny nodded his thanks, picked up the reins, and impatiently urged the others, “Well, come on, slowpokes. What are you waiting for? Let’s ride!”

Wenford played the perfect gentleman and helped his fiancé, Jennifer Pennyworth, to mount. She settled in to Muriel Anne’s side saddle and carefully tucked her long dress under the leaping horn beside the top pommel. Jennifer cheerily called out, “Right you are young man. Let’s Ride!”

Leo jumped up into his saddle and led the impromptu parade out of the open, ten-foot-tall by ten-foot-wide barn doors. He walked them through the barnyard. They turned right at the end of the corral and entered the pasture that went up the hill from his homestead. Leo hollered back to the twins, “Thanks fer yer help, boys. Now please get back t’ yer chores.”

Leo flipped his reins and urged Sir Rabbit on to a faster pace. He kept a close eye on his young student. Danny caught him watching and waved. “Faster, Mister Hayes. Faster!”

Leo pulled Sir Rabbit alongside Afterglow so he could reach out a steady hand if needed. “Okay, everyone. We’ll slowly increase th’ pace ‘til we’re canterin’ nice an’ easy like. That’ll give th’ boy a good workout fer his practice run today.”

They slowly increased their speed. Each rider struggled to find his seat with the changing rhythm of the horses’ strides. Wenford complained in his London public school accent, “I say old chap! Danny’s not the only one who will get a good workout at this pace.”

Jennifer laughed. She felt free. The breeze of their ride blew the veils on her hat away from her face.

Leo guided the party to a stop at the top of the hill, next to a small homemade windmill. The windmill powered an old pump that lifted artesian water into a trough. The overflow drained into a small irrigation feeder ditch that wound down the hill. The rustic old windmill stood fifteen foot tall, built of weathered wood. It held a wheel of tin vanes kept into the wind with a tail of a large vertical sheet of tin. They all dismounted so the horses could take some water.

“Y’all were lookin’ mighty good there, Danny Boy. Are ya sore from th’ ride?”

“Thank you, Mister Hayes. I’m a little winded, but not sore. That was fun. Can we run down the hill, now?”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s such a good idea. It’s actually harder t’ keep control o’ yer mount goin’ downhill than goin’ uphill, don’t ya know. We’ll take it easy now. We’ll ride th’ scenic route down an’ around th’ ol’ orchard an’ th’ other four homesteads.”

As Leo led his small parade around the outlying farm grounds, he bragged to them, “This is me second ride this mornin’, don’t ya know. This mornin’, I woke up in a huge tipi in a big Injun camp down on th’ Snake River. Was like livin’ in a different world.”

“Oh! I say. How did you ever come to spend the night in an Indian tipi, Leo?” Wenford looked at Leo all attentive, his interest and curiosity piqued.

“Well, it turns out me grandfather was friends with Chief Arimo o’ th’ Shoshone Injuns when he first got here t’ Utah an’ Idaho, back in the mid-eighteen-hundreds. Seems they saved each other’s life an’ became lifelong friends. Me Dad was friends with Arimo’s son, an’ now I’m friends with Arimo’s grandson, who’s now Chief Arimo fer th’ Shoshone tribe at th’ Fort Hall Reservation. Thursday mornin’, Arimo dropped by, jus’ bein’ neighborly, an’ invited me t’ go meet his family who’s travelin’ back from fishin’ up on th’ Salmon River. Had meself quite th’ adventure. Smokin’ peace pipes. Shootin’ bows and arrows. Real different – but, ya know what? Real nice, too. Friendly family. Great little kids. Had meself a real nice time.” Leo checked that Jennifer couldn’t see his face and winked at Wenford. “I’ll tell ya all about me adventures someday soon.”

Wenford gave Leo a shocked look, imagining all kinds of mischief. Dying of curiosity, he begged, “Tell me more, Leo. You know I’ve always been interested in the natives and their savage lifestyles. I’ve only met a few tame Indians in Pocatello. Please. Did you really sleep with Chief Arimo in his very own tipi? Tell me more.”

As they neared Bertha’s home, Scotty rushed out, barking frantically. His tail wagged a hundred miles an hour. After he recognized Leo, he stopped barking and accompanied the horses to Bertha’s house.

“Y’all want t’ stop in an’ see me twins? I haven’t seen ‘em fer two days, now, meself.”

Jennifer urged Wenford and Danny to stop in with her. “Oh, yes. Let’s do, please. We’ll only pay a short social call. It’s only neighborly, after all. The last time I saw Muriel Anne, when we took the twins to their mother’s funeral, she was heavy with child. I would love to see your babies, Leo.”

They dismounted and tied their horses to Bertha’s white picket fence. Leo led them along the rose garden’s winding flagstone path to the front door. He knocked loudly and called out, “Good morning, Mother Bertha. I’ve brought company. May we come in?”

Little Joslyn opened the door, with a bright and chipper, “Hi, Leo. Come in.”

The visitors entered a scene of post-breakfast domestic bliss. Muriel Anne sat between two open corner windows, nursing little Sean. A white baby blanket covered her breast for modesty’s sake. Bertha sat in an upright chair sewing flannel baby pajamas, complete with little booties attached to the end of the legs. Jane Eve sat between Muriel Anne and Grandpapa Goodbody, reading Pride and Prejudice aloud. Grandpapa Goodbody’s cataracts blurred his eyes too much for him read for himself anymore, even with his bifocals.

Wenford and Jennifer made the rounds. They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with everyone. They complimented Leo and Muriel Anne on their beautiful babies. Jennifer smiled when she saw Ely laying in her crib, holding her right foot up with both hands, her light-weight blanket kicked aside. With a glance at Muriel Anne for permission, Jennifer carefully picked up the newborn child. Jennifer carried Ely over, sat down in the chair vacated by Jane Eve, and settled in for a bit of friendly gossip, Ely propped up on her shoulder like for a burping.

Bertha cautiously tucked her straight needle into the pajama fabric. She carefully set her work down in her sewing basket on a small table next to her chair. “Oh! Pastor Wenford, what a lovely surprise. Do please come in. And your fiancé, Miss Jennifer Pennyworth. So delighted you have come calling. Please come in and take a seat. Leo told us all about your lovely engagement party last Sunday afternoon. Congratulations. We’re all so happy for you.”

Leo could tell that Danny wanted to be back riding Afterglow. When Bertha offered tea, Leo decided to leave the womenfolk to their tea and conversation. The men said their goodbyes and took their leave. Leo walked with Wenford and Danny out to their waiting mounts. Impatient, Danny took off as soon as Leo boosted him up into the saddle. Wenford happily held back so he could interrogate Leo without Danny overhearing.

As they began riding, Wenford leaned over. “So, Leo. Tell me all about your Great Indian Affair. Did you really meet a genuine live Indian Chief? Did you really sleep with him in his tipi? I want to know all! My imagination just boggles. How do you manage to get yourself into these interesting predicaments?”

Leo chuckled. They followed Danny back towards the barn at a slow walk. Leo teased Wenford with his silence. Wenford gave Leo a hard look, demanding an answer. Leo responded with a big, slow wink and a mischievous smirk.

When Danny reached the barn, Leo spurred Sir Rabbit ahead. “Let’s go in t’ th’ pasture where we had yer lesson, Danny. Yew can practice ridin’ there. Okay?”

For the next hour, the men watched Danny’s practice ride. Leo gave Wenford a quick overview of his experiences in the Indian camp, in between calling out pointers to Danny. Wenford ate up every word. His jaw dropped open. His eyes bugged out in amazement.

“But what about sleeping with the Chief? Was it real different? Did he act like a normal man? How was it, Leo?”

“Yep, Wenford, he acted jus’ like a real man, makin’ love t’ his wife while I was a sleepin’ on th’ ground not far away. He’s a man who likes his womenfolk, well, mostly. It’s too complicated t’ explain in a rush, so let’s jus’ leave it at that. I’ll tell ya more when we have time an’ no chance o’ bein’ overheard.” Louder, he called out, “So, Danny. Is yer butt sore yet? Are ya about done with this practice ride?”

“No. Nope. Huh-uh. I’m not done yet. Please? Let me ride a little while longer. I love it. Isn’t Glow the most beautiful horse ever? Isn’t she, Pastor? Mister Hayes? She seems to know exactly what I want her to do before I even start to direct her. She’s so smart and sweet. I don’t want to ever stop.”

Leo snapped his fingers loudly and pointed his thumb to the ground in front of him. Danny reluctantly guided Glow over to a stop in front of his two heroes, a frown on his face.

“Ya did real good, Danny Boy, fer jus’ yer second time mounted up. But, yew’ll be feelin’ th’ aches an’ pains tomorrow when ya get out o’ bed. Yer body’s not used t’ th’ exercise o’ ridin’. Besides, I jus’ spotted Jennifer ridin’ up th’ path from Mother Bertha’s. She’s done with her socializin’ an’ will be ready t’ head back home.”

Wenford agreed. “Yes, young man. Time to be off. You did a very good job riding this morning. Good carriage. Good seat. Firm but gentle hand. You didn’t saw the reins back and forth like a novice. I’ll be sure to tell your mother how you made excellent progress today.”

As they said their goodbyes, Wenford grabbed Leo’s shoulders for a manly hug and whispered, “Don’t forget. You promised. You have to tell me everything – and I do mean everything!”

Leo laughed. “Bye now. Thanks fer droppin’ by. See ya next Wednesday after school, Danny. So long, now!”

 

After dinner, as cowboys called their noon meal, Leo put Ace to work in the small corral with another mare from the Lazy H Ranch. It was her second time, to make sure she took. Out of nowhere, he heard Jimmy and Jack screaming bloody murder. Leo dropped the lead rein in his hand and ran full out towards the noise. When he rounded the corner of his Sears bungalow, he saw Jimmy over by the cottonwood tree. Jimmy slapped his face with both hands while kicking his legs out and shaking them. Jack frantically brushed his hands over Jimmy’s legs and torso, occasionally distracted to slap at his own neck or arms. Jimmy screamed a high-pitched keen of panic.

Leo ran up, “What’s th’ matter, boys?”

Jack yelled, “Jimmy’s done got stinged by bees, real bad. He was attacked by swarms o’ bees!”

Leo reached the twins just ahead of Juanita and Pedro. Benita brought up the rear. They all swatted and brushed off the yellow honeybees stinging Jimmy. Jimmy yelled, “Ouch. Owww.”

Leo decided to remove Jimmy from the swarming bees. He picked Jimmy up in his arms and jogged over to the wellhead. He plopped Jimmy into the water barrel then started pumping water over him. The stingers remained stuck in his skin. The others slapped the bees and brushed their dead bodies away.

Bertha also heard the screams and ran down the tree-lined lane between their houses. She held her long day dress up out of the way with both hands. As soon as she diagnosed the problem, she took charge. She grabbed both of Jimmy’s hands. “Stop that, young man. Don’t scratch. It will only make things worse.”

“But it hurts. It itches. Aiyee!”

“All right everybody, let’s carry the poor boy to my house and get him cleaned up. On a count of three.”

“One.”

“Two.”

“Three!”

Everyone quickly walked down the lane to Bertha’s. Bertha kept hold of his hands. Hurt, scared, Jimmy burst into tears. Jack began crying out of sympathy for his twin.

As the frantic group funneled through the back kitchen door, Bertha ordered, “Put him down on the kitchen table. Watch out for his head, now. Okay, everyone please leave so I can attend to the poor boy. Benita and Jack, you stay and help, please. Everyone else out!”

Muriel Anne and her little sisters heard all the commotion and rushed into the kitchen. When Bertha saw her daughters, she ordered, “Jane Eve, go fetch my tweezers from my make-up dresser. Hurry, now, fast as you can! Muriel Anne, put some baking soda in a cereal bowl and moisten it with a little vinegar until it makes a paste. Joslyn, we’re going to need a damp compress, so fetch a washcloth and a bucket of cold water, quick as you can. Now, Benita and Jack, if you would be good enough to take off Jimmy’s wet clothes so I can get to the stings. I’ve got to get the stingers out before more poison gets into the skin.”

As the organized chaos continued around him, Jimmy began hyperventilating. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!” he squealed in a panic. Benita tilted his head back, opening up his throat. She patted him on the shoulder. “Calmense, mi hijo, calmense. Good. Good.”

Jane Eve ran into the room with Bertha’s tweezers, out of breath. Bertha pulled her reading glasses out of the pocket of her long sleeve blouse and perched them on the end of her nose. A black ribbon connected them to a safety pin on her blouse. She leaned down and pulled the stingers out as fast as she spotted them.

Young Joslyn arrived with a washcloth. Bertha directed her, “Wash his poor face, Joslyn. Try to cool it down. Look how red he is from the stings and the pain. Don’t worry about water dripping on the floor, for now.”

Bertha looked away from the stingers and glanced at Muriel Anne. “Thank you, dear. Now, would you and Benita put a dab of soda paste on each sting. Just use your finger. If you see a stinger still in, don’t touch it, or you could get stung yourself. Now, please, everyone, be quiet so I can concentrate.”

The ladies and girls silently ministered to Jimmy. Jack lent a hand where he could. When Jack saw Jimmy reach up to scratch some puffy red stings around his eyes, he took hold of Jimmy’s hands to stop him. By this time, Jimmy was reduced to whimpering, wordlessly.

Bertha shook her head. “Oh, lord. He’s already starting to swell up and turn red. He must be more allergic than most, and here he is stung all over his body, too. Quick now, everyone, we have to get the stingers out. Use your fingernails. Benita, you keep dabbing the baking soda on the swellings where the stings are removed. Do you understand me? Comprende?”

Benita, her entire attention on the victim, grunted, “Si.”

By the time they finished, Jimmy lay exhausted, whimpering on the kitchen table. By now he wore only his ragged, dirty gray underpants, pulled up around his genitals so the nurses could get to his legs, torso and buttocks. One eye was nearly swollen shut. The skin around the stings began burning red with fever. The areas close to the stings swelled up, a puffy darker red, a bright signal of where Benita still needed to apply the baking soda paste.

Jimmy looked as though he might go into shock. Jack patted Jimmy’s hand. “There, there. There, there. You’ll be okay. You’ll be okay.”

Muriel Anne ran upstairs to her bedroom and retrieved an old pillow from her clothing armoire. She grabbed a folded up spare quilt off her hope chest and ran back down to the kitchen. Gently, she lifted Jimmy’s head and placed the pillow underneath. She put the crumpled quilt on a chair for later.

The emergency nearly over, everyone slowed down. They took deep breaths and looked each other over. Everyone except Bertha had a sting or two, mostly on their faces and hands. Jack’s face and hands were covered with stings. His face started to swell in places. Little Joslyn burst into tears when Bertha removed three stings from the back of her hand with the tweezers. Benita calmly applied the white paste.

After leaving Bertha’s, Leo walked back towards his front yard hoping to discover the cause of the bee attack. He was amazed he hadn’t been stung more himself, especially when he carried Jimmy to the water barrel. As he walked, he inspected his hands. He saw a couple of stings, but they weren’t red and irritated like Jimmy’s stings.

Leo walked the well-worn path between Bertha’s and his houses. He remembered back to a day in August, shortly after the twins arrived at the Stud Ranch. He noticed them kneeling down in the dirt path in the vegetable garden, keenly watching something on the ground. Curious, he approached stealthily. He bent over and saw them poke at an inch-long, shiny black stink bug with the stem of a weed. When it stood on its head, Leo stood up. He expected the odiferous extrusion from its tail. The twins evidently didn’t know better. They leaned in closer, amused by the beetle’s antics. When some of the smelly oil sprayed out and landed on Jimmy’s arm, they both toppled back in surprise. “Pee-yew! That stinks!” They ignored Leo and ran for the well to wash off the stink. They learned, to their chagrin, that the oily stuff doesn’t wash off. Benita refused to allow them to smell up her kitchen. They had to eat off their laps, alone on the back porch. Leo wondered if they had prodded the beehive and triggered its attack. Wouldn’t surprise me. Those scamps’re always curious, always in t’ mischief.

Leo stopped beside the cottonwood tree. Corpses of dead and dying honey bees littered the ground. His eyes followed the trail of dead bees to the far left side of his front porch. He slowly walked closer. He heard the buzz of an angry, stirred up bee colony. His eyes followed the sound upward towards the roof where he saw worker bees swarming in a solid mass around the top of the hollow wood column just under the eave. They occupied a column on his front porch. They must’ve been livin’ in me porch, an’ we jus’ never knew it, Leo thought, amazed, as he examined the square wood column. When he saw the agitated nest, he didn’t draw any closer. In fact, after he felt a bee sting his neck, Leo swatted it away, retreated, and left the beehive a clear field. Pedro walked up, but Leo ordered him, “Stay back, Pedro. The bees’re still angry. Jimmy must o’ done somethin’ t’ get ‘em all riled up. Best not get too close.”

Pedro didn’t understand all the words, but he saw and heard the threat. He didn’t need any warning.

Tarnation! Leo thought, pursing his lips in a frown. Guess I better go see if Dave Gilbert can give me a hand. He keeps some beehives back of his barn, so he must know somethin’ about ‘em. Bet there’s honey inside me hollow wood column. Dang! That means tearing the column apart t’ clean it. Me brand new house will get all messed up. More work. Dang!

Angry at the interruption and worried about poor Jimmy, Leo stomped across the county road to David and Hannah’s house. He knocked loudly on the front door, tapping his toe impatiently. Hannah opened the door. She wore a faded, old, cotton house dress with her hair tied up in a rag scarf. She took one look at Leo’s face and pushed the screen door open. “Good afternoon, Leo. Come in. What brings you calling?”

Without the usual courtesies, he blurted out, “We got bees livin’ in me house. They attacked poor Jimmy in a swarm. He’s at Bertha’s covered all over with stings. Is David here? I’m goin’ t’ need some help gettin’ rid o’ th’ hive.”

“Oh, my goodness gracious me! A wild beehive in yer house? That’s not good.” Hannah shouted loud enough to be heard on the back porch where David mended an old horse bridle in the shade, “Daaaviiiid! Leo’s got bees. Come quick!”

David jogged through the house. “Hi, Leo. What’s this about bees?”

“Yep. We got a beehive livin’ in one o’ th’ columns on me front porch. Pert near stung poor Jimmy t’ death a few minutes ago. Can ya help us, please?”

“Certainly. Let’s go take a survey of the situation. Can’t have a beehive livin’ close by to where people live. The poor little honeybees are fine enough when they are gathering pollen, but a riled up hive is a whole nother matter! They get real defensive about their queen bee and honeycombs. Let me just grab me hat. I’ll be right with you.”

Leo and David walked briskly to Leo’s front porch. Hannah changed her scarf for a sun bonnet. She headed across the county road to Bertha’s to see if she could help, muttering under her breath, “Always something. Never a quiet day. Always something.”

David carefully examined the scene. He mumbled about needing his bee smoker, beekeeper’s hat, and long leather gloves. “Fortunately,” he told Leo, “one of me hives migrated a little while back and left me with an empty beehive. I just barely got it cleaned up. With a good bit of luck and some hard work, we should be able to get the hive moved into me beehive and transported back to behind me barn. What a bother!”

Leo clapped David on the back. “Thanks for yer help, David. Whatever ya need, however I can help, jus’ let me know, okay? Thanks.”

“I just thank the good Lord that it wasn’t a hive of wasps that the boy disturbed. Their stings are much worse, really dangerous, don’t ya know. I heard that a little girl over in Blackfoot was playing on an old buggy out in their carriage house, and disturbed a nest of yellow-jackets under the seat. They swarmed up and stung her bad all over. She died before her mother could get her to the doctor’s. Isn’t that plumb awful? These here are only honeybees, but they are bad enough when they react as a colony defending the hive.”

Leo left David to his planning and organizing and walked back over to Bertha’s to check on Jimmy. By the time he arrived, Jimmy lay wrapped up in an old quilt, sitting on the sofa with Jack. They both had their legs stretched out in front of them. Their heads rested wearily on the back cushions. Both boys’ faces and hands were puffy, covered with white polka dots rimmed in fever bright red. Leo pulled over a chair. He turned it around so he could rest his arms on its back. “How’re ya feelin’, boys?”

Jack mumbled, “Okay.” Jimmy silently shook his head from left to right, a frown on his face.

“So, tell me, Jimmy. What on earth happened? Why did the bees attack? Were ya playin’ with ‘em, teasin’ ‘em or somethin’?”

Jimmy whined, “No brother Leo. Honest. I saw where a big ol’ branch fell, out in front o’ th’ house, so I went an’ was draggin’ it around back t’ th’ wood pile, when the bushy end with all th’ leaves bumped up against the column on th’ porch. Next thing I knew, there was bees buzzin’ all around, comin’ straight fer me eyes! I yelled an’ ran away. Jack heard me an’ came a runnin’ t’ help. I don’t remember much after that. Me whole body’s hurtin’, brother Leo. I sting an’ itch all over like crazy.”

“Mother Bertha tol’ us not t’ scratch ‘cause it’ll jus’ make things worse. How things could be worser ‘an this, I can’t even imagine,” Jack finished up mournfully.

“Well. Can y’all walk? Why don’t ya go on back t’ th’ house an’ rest a spell. I think we can spare ya both fer th’ rest o’ th’ day. Dave Gilbert’s goin’ t’ take care o’ movin’ th’ bee colony t’ one of ‘is wood hives. So don’t go back by th’ porch ‘til he says it’s safe t’ do so. Okay, boys?”

By the end of the day, Leo was exhausted. He toed off his boots, then sat down on his bed and pulled off his socks and pants. Boy howdy! What a day. Late night last night. Early mornin’ watchin’ th’ sunrise at Arimo’s camp, then bee attacks, an’ doin’ th’ twins’ share o’ th’ milkin’. Work, work, work. Sure hope Chief Arimo’s okay. Hope he got t’ th’ troublemakers on his reservation in time. Leo took off his shirt and fell back on the bed, arms stretched above his head. Can’t wait t’ have another visit. Arimo’s a great guy. Great lookin’ body. So athletic. So muscular and strong.

Leo shook out the contents of his saddle bags on the floor in front of his closet, ready to put his clothes away before calling it a night. Out plopped the beautifully beaded moccasins Arimo had loaned him to wear during his visit. Well. Wasn’t that nice of ‘im. I gotta think o’ somethin’ I can do fer him, now. Probably should give him a gift, back. Isn’t that what Indian givers do? What could it be that he might like? Have t’ think on it, some.

Chapter 2: Troubled Men

Wapello, Idaho

September, 1915

 

The next few days flew by in a dull repetition of chores and work. Everyone focused on gathering in their fall harvest of fruits and vegetables before the first frost. Last year’s hard frost arrived the 5th of October, so everyone felt the pressure.

Wednesday morning, David puffed cedar smoke out of his hand-held bee smoker’s funnel. The smoke calmed the bees as he cautiously removed the last remaining honeycomb from the hollow porch column on Leo’s house. He paused for a moment and watched the bees climb over the honeycomb in his gloved hands. The worker bees stored honey and preserved pollen. They tended the eggs and larvae maturing in their hexagonal, wax, brood chambers. David admired, again, the unique architecture of the honeycomb. He carefully placed it in the new hive so its wax and stored food could be reintegrated in the new hive and not go to waste.

Leo stopped by to check on David’s progress, the last stop on his usual early morning inspection walk-about. “Mornin’, David. Nearly finished, I see.”

“Yep. Doesn’t pay to rush these things. I’ve only now finished cleaning out the wild hive. Maybe you could have the twins come scrub it down with soap and hot water so you have time for it to dry clean before you put the column back together.”

Leo could barely make out David’s face. It was shaded behind the thick veil of his bee hat, improvised by sewing a fine netting to hang down from the brim of an old cowboy hat. The veil protected his face in a big closed sack. Every bit of David’s body was covered with layers of protective clothing. Leo shuddered when he saw honeybees crawling around on the veil and David’s clothes. Jimmy’s multiple stings had just barely cleared up.

“Uh, David? Given how allergic Jack and Jimmy are t’ bee stings, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Sides, I think they’re plumb scared t’ death o’ bees after their last unfortunate run-in. Maybe Pedro an’ Juanita could do it, once th’ bees’re all gone. I’ll wait a couple o’ days an’ ask ‘em t’ give it a go. Does this mean yer all done, David?”

“Yep. Just have to drag the hive up onto me wheelbarrow, then I can take it back behind me barn with the other hives. You know, Leo, I can’t help but wonder if this hive might not be the very one that migrated out of this here same hive box a couple of weeks ago. I wondered where they went to, but could never find them.”

Preoccupied with the carpentry and painting to be done to restore his new home to its former pristine glory, Leo mumbled, “Well. They had t’ come from somewheres, now, didn’t they?” David gently placed the outer cover over the stacked wooden boxes like a small roof. Leo took a deep breath of relief and crossed this chore off his list.

“Thanks, David. Great job. Really appreciate yer help. Please let me know when I can do somethin’ t’ pay ya back fer yer kind assistance. Couldn’t have done it, by meself, don’t ya know.”

“That’s all right, Leo. I appreciate having me hive back. I’ll save you and the twins some of the honey from this hive, when it’s ready to be harvested. The other hives are pretty much ready now, full and flowing with nectar after gathering pollen all the summer long. I think it will be a big harvest this year, maybe even enough to sell some.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Earle was born in Murtaugh, Idaho in 1950 and raised on the stories of his great-great-grandparents, some of the earliest pioneers and settlers of the intermountain west in the mid-1800's. Earle loves a good story and is a sucker for romance, gay or straight. His favorite genres are when a regular guy struggles to overcome adversity – and somehow manages to find love in the end despite all obstacles.

Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
Book One tells of Leo growing up on a ranch outside Blackfoot, Idaho, where he met a handsome cowboy named Sean who taught him the cowboy arts and how to love. They bought a stud ranch together, only Sean died of dyptheria. Leo is devestated from the loss and tries to make sense of his life.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
Book Two tells how Leo struggled out of depression and began looking for love and romance, again. He has several adventures and mis-adventures, making friends in Pocatello, adapting to being alone. Finally he meets a handsome Mexican-American on a nearby ranch.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
All my life, I heard my grandparents tell of their parents and grandparents' lives as they pioneered and settled in the old west, in what would become Utah and Idaho. They had exciting but very hard lives, encountering Indians, opening up new lands, struggling to make the desert support the them.

Next in:
Romance
Elodie
Tale of passion, shadows and vanishing smiles
Silent River
If you love me why am I in restraints
SCARS
She should have never taken that call.