Since I’ve gone to the tank show, you get this…
6 months after the Sniper Shoot…
The old man came in the house and let the screen door bang shut, as he did, Jesse called from the kitchen, “Is that you Papa?”
Walking into the kitchen, he responded, “Who else would it be at five thirty in the morning? And if you took your damn dog out yourself, ‘I’ wouldn’t have to do it!”
Juanita and Francisco laughed as Rex padded in behind the old man and came over and laid his head on Francisco’s lap for a scratching.
Jesse reached for the coffee pot and poured a cup of black coffee and sat it on the table next to the orange juice, “Thank you Papa, and I’ve got some news Papa,” Jesse said with a grin.
“Yeah, Aaron got orders and he’s going to be here Friday, right? Umm, Juanita could I have some of your delicious Huevos Rancheros please?” the old man said with a grin.
Juanita smiled and asked, “Anybody want anything different? Francisco, Jesse? REX, out of the kitchen!”
As the dog slunk out of the kitchen, Jesse shook her head and looked over at the old man with a stunned expression, “How did you know? He only emailed me an hour ago? Is it alright if he stays here?”
The old man rocked back in his chair, “Well, YOU are not the only one that has friends in low places; and I’m guessing it’ll be okay, we can ask Juanita to open up the mother-in-law suite for him.” He leaned back sipping his coffee, ostensibly ignoring Jesse with a little grin on his face.
Grinning, he turned to Jesse, “Matt called last night, he’s on orders too, he’s going to Pendleton to take charge of the range out there and be the senior enlisted instructor. He said Aaron is now a Staff Sgt and will be going to MARSOC at Pendleton, and then to the Marine First Special Operations Battalion after he completes training. They are driving out at the same time, and he’d asked if he could visit too.”
Juanita asked, “This Friday John? Do I need to get more food?” as she finished preparing four plates of Huevos.
“Well, they ARE Marines Juanita, and at least one of them has already ‘landed’ on somebody at the table, so yeah, we’re probably going to need more food. Speaking of which, Francisco are the Ramos brothers still doing the rolling BBQ setup?”
As Jesse blushed and opened her mouth to retort, Francisco laughingly replied, “Sure I think so, you want me to check? And if so, do you want them to get a beef and do the prep?”
The old man laughed, “Nah, I think it’s about time that old Brindle steer meets his maker, and I’ll check with Grissom today to see if he’s still got that half hog in the freezer. I figure we can do a little BBQ for a few folks, and maybe a little Tex-Mex if Juanita and the ladies are willing to do the fixins. You think you and Toby can wrinkle him outta the Mesquite?”
Juanita served the plates and took a seat at the far end of the table as Francisco thought out what would be needed, “Sure, I think he’s still up on the North 40; if we can’t get him out with the horses, I’ll go in there and drop him, Then we can go get him with the truck and trailer or take the tractor up there and just drag his ass outta there.”
“That should work okay Francisco, and you know Juanita, the more I think about it, I think we’ll just throw the Marines in the bunk house, it’s not like they don’t know how to live in cramped quarters!” The old man snuck a look at Jesse as he said it, and watched her trying to figure out how to respond.
Jesse just kept her head down and kept eating, so the old man decided to have a little fun, “At least this time, he’s coming here rather than you inventing reasons you had to fly to the East coast Jesse, and I figure feeding them is the cheaper alternative.”
Jesse wailed, “Papa THAT’s not nice, and I DID have good reasons to go, they sent me to that…”
All the others were laughing and the old man answered, “Sure you did hon, but all of a sudden you’re awful damn sensitive about it, and I haven’t seen that idiot Frank sniffing around lately.”
Francisco snorted into his coffee and Juanita had a coughing spell trying to cover her laughter; as Jesse, injured pride and all snipped, “Well, ‘I’ decided Frank was not what I wanted to spend, ah hell, I give up. I’m going to work, which sector are you in today Papa?” She picked up her plate, rinsed it in the sink and dropped it in the dishwasher, filling a to go cup with coffee as she headed toward the door.
The old man replied, “I’m in Sector three, so don’t get in any trouble today, cause I would hate to haul your butt to jail, and tell that speed demon Rick that if I catch him screwing around I WILL put his ass in jail.”
Kissing the old man on the cheek Jesse smirked, “Yes Papa, I won’t Papa, I’ll tell him Papa.” Dodging his attempt to swat her on the butt as she went by, she patted Rex as he snuck back into the kitchen and took his accustomed place at side of the old man’s chair.
The old man got up and took his dishes to the sink, rinsed them and put them in the dishwasher, picked up the coffee pot and tipped it toward Francisco, who nodded and held out his cup, as Juanita waved it off. The old man poured him a cup, then one for himself as the screen door slammed, and they heard Jesse start her car and pull out of the driveway.
Juanita turned to face the old man as he leaned back against the sink. “Okay John, what is going on,” asked Juanita, “Marines? Where is this coming from?”
Taking a sip of coffee, the old man thought for a second, “Well, you remember when we went back East to that sniper shoot?”
“About six months ago?”
“Yep, we drove back and shot against a bunch of military and LEOs in West Virginia. We met a couple of pretty sharp Marines from Quantico and the young one took a shine to Jesse. That’s why she’s made a couple of trips to the East Coast, granted some of it was business, but mostly to see Aaron. I didn’t think much about it till Frank stopped coming around.”
“Okay John, where do you really want to put them?” Juanita asked grabbing a pad and pencil. “You’ve got one bedroom here, and two in the old house, and then there is the bunkhouse, but I wouldn’t want to put them in there with Toby, he’s such a slob.”
Francisco chimed in, “The window units both work in the old house, so that’s where I’d put them. But if Jesse and this Aaron are ‘friendly’, well that is going to complicate things.”
The old man grinned, “Yeah, you’re probably right, why don’t we put Matt in here and Aaron in the old house, that way I don’t have to listen to a bunch of noise, or react to a situation that I really ain’t worrying about if you know what I mean. Hell, Jesse is of age, and knows her own business.”
Francisco laughed and Juanita just shook her head saying, “YOU are a dirty old man John, but if that is what you want? So how many people do you want to invite?”
“Oh, I guess the usual suspects, and I’m assuming you’ll invite your usual suspects so we’ll be feeding what, fifty, a hundred? Plus kids? And do you feel up to doing the Tex-Mex?” the old man asked.
Poking Francisco Juanita replied, “Well, since this old man never takes me anywhere, I’ll get the girls together and we’ll put on a good feed for them and I’ll get to have a girls day too!”
Mumbling under his breath, Francisco got up and rinsed his dishes and headed out saying, “I never take you because you NEVER want to go, and unlike the rest of y’all I have work to do, this ranch doesn’t run itself. Stay safe today John.”
The old man nodded and replied, “Thanks Juanita, take whatever you need out of the operating account and I’ll leave the menu in your capable hands. I gotta get to work too, since I’m down South today.”
Juanita nodded as the old man went into the living room, picked up his gun belt and slung it around his hips, grabbed the radio out of the charger and put on his cowboy hat. Rex looked up hopefully and whined, but the old man gave him the stay command, and walked out the door.
At lunch the old man gave Grissom a call and determined there was a half a hog available, and passed that along to Francisco. He also talked to the Sheriff and switched his Friday patrol to sector four, figuring he’d have to go meet Matt and Aaron in Pecos and lead them back in rather than trying to give them directions on the back roads and farm roads in West Texas.
Back at the ranch, Francisco and Toby saddled up a couple of horses and rode up to the North 40 (which was really a 160 acre section), didn’t see the old brindle steer, and split up to try to bust him out of the mesquite and creek bottom. Francisco, knowing steers and this particular one was a nasty one, decided to keep Toby out of trouble if he could. Toby was 20, and becoming a pretty good hand, but he had a lot to learn about Longhorns and especially the nasty ones. He also loved to charge into things, sometimes getting himself in binds that took a bit to get out of, but this time that ‘bind’ could get him dead before Francisco could get there. After about three hours, Francisco called on the personal radio, “Toby, you seen anything yet?”
Toby replied, “No see boss, I working North to South on far side high ground but over by the bottoms, I not seeing him, see most the rest of the beeves but no him. How damn hell can something grande disappear?”
Francisco chuckled, “Cause he’s an old mossy back and he probably has a hidey hole in the bottoms that we just haven’t found. Come on down to the big rock on the west side of the creek and we’ll eat lunch and figure out what to do next.”
“On way boss!”
After sandwiches and bottles of water, Francisco decided to just run the creek out and see if the steer would show up. After about 15 minutes, they found him on Francisco’s side of the creek and moved him down to a corral at the back of the ranch house. Francisco called the Ramos brothers and set up for them to come out Friday and start the BBQ of the steer and the hog.
Meanwhile, Juanita had been on the phone to various friends and had come up with plenty of folks to help prepare the food, and meet Jesse’s new beau. Most of her friends thought it was a shame she hadn’t already married and had children, thinking she was going to be a spinster daughter. As Juanita was shopping for ingredients she reflected on how lucky she and Francisco were; making good money and having a nice house to live in, even if they didn’t own it, but that was made up for by working for Senor John and Jesse. She worried that if Jesse DID marry this Marine she would leave the ranch and then what would happen, but that was a thought for another time, not for now…
To be continued…