Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chapters 46 & 47

          Wow- so much to talk about. Last Monday evening, the sand storm in Lubbock was amazing... frightening, yet amazing. It was called a haboob... a huge dust storm that darkened the sky and left a thick layer of red sand over everything. I'm still trying to clean it out of the house, even when all the windows were closed tight!
          Here's a couple of photos with credit to the Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. And to Phil Garrett, thanks for sending these to me. 
          As you can see, there was some damage to some crops. Not good, with the way this year's crop is down 75% already. 

          And last night, I was so caught up in the Ranger's game, I didn't get to the blog.. sorry about that...Ben and Amanda had tickets and I talked to them afterwards. They were down the first base line and one errant foul ball almost knocked Ben in the head, but Amanda, quick as a wink, deflected it from hitting his head! And I saw it on TV! Thank goodness she had good reflexes! He'll probably never live it down, but at least he'll live.
          But what a game! Rangers are up three games to two, and only need one more for their first World Series win.. wouldn't that be something!?! 
          Go RANGERS!

Back to the rest of the hand-harvest story:

Chapter 46  

        As I climbed in the truck to leave the hand-harvest festivities, I was surprised when Colin opened the passenger door, case of wine in hand and said, “Tom’s finally paying off an old bet. Slide over to the middle, will you? I don’t want to put this in the back. It gets bumped around too much.”
   I undid my belt and moved over to the middle, fastening the middle seatbelt and resting my hand on top of the case even though Colin had cinched it up with its own belt. Precious stuff, I guess.
   When Colin got in the driver’s seat, I was immediately conscious of his closeness, although he seemed unfazed. As we drove away, I noticed every bump and every touch, and tried to ignore it ... he was a friend ... and we were comfortable the way things were. Just friends, dammit, I said to myself.
     It was rare for Colin to drive me home. Normally, we each drive our own vehicles to our “dates” so a goodnight kiss at the door or an invitation in for a nightcap isn’t an option.  It’s always a light peck on the cheek or a soft brush of the lips as we part, nothing more as each went our own way. I had wondered why he’d always asked to meet me. I supposed it was because he just liked me as a friend. This way it didn’t get complicated. 
   But that night? It was late, we were tired and I was sitting close to him, our bodies touching. What would he do if I just casually laid my head on his shoulder? 
   Don’t be ridiculous, I quickly chided myself inside my head. “You’re not in high school, Maggie. He’s a friend ... get over it. He’d probably be horrified and then you’d be embarrassed.” Rubbing my arms and stretching my sore fingers, I tried to take my mind off the way his jeans fit tightly, the way his cowboy hat tilted just so, the way he’d held me as we’d two-stepped. 
   I said, “I hurt in places I didn’t know I could hurt!”
   “But it’s a good hurt, isn’t it?” Colin asked.
  “Good hurt?” I laughed. “Yes, I guess it is. Do you do this every fall?”
“Ever since I’ve been here. I met Tom through Sean, and we started playing poker. That’s how I met your contractor, Campos – through Tom and cards. We don’t play as much as we used to, although Tom’s wife Julie doesn’t mind if we gather at their house. We all seem to be so busy.  Anyway, Tom invited me out the first year.”
  “I know Tom and Julie live at the other house, but this one is big enough for them all isn’t it? I thought ranch and farm families were often inter-generational?”
“They are sometimes, but I think where Tom and Julie are it’s a different, larger school district for their kids. And I know Julie likes the one-story, adobe-style house. I had been out there once. Tom and Julie’s house is beautiful with a huge courtyard. It’s about ten miles west, and in Hockley County, not Lubbock County, but still on Cotton A property. 
Colin said, “From his office out there, Tom mainly oversees the oil and cattle production side of the ranch which is away from the cotton. Someday his kids will live in the big house here, and then his grandkids will probably inherit his, if they take to ranching and farming. Unfortunately, it’s a dying profession. But they’ve been a family of farmers and ranchers since the early 1900s. Tom told me once his granddad first farmed this land with a mule and plow.”
“Wow,” I said. “What a difference. And in just three generations? From mule and plow to a tractor that plants ... how many rows at a time? “I think they use both eight- and sixteen-row planters now. And it is amazing. Good land, good people.”
       “And Father Fitz blesses each harvest?”
“And each spring planting. That one’s much easier and mainly ceremonial. We meet at sunup to sow the seeds at the end of each row in that same acre and then consume a breakfast along with the blessing.” 
   “When in the spring? The fields hadn’t been planted when I drove through last March.”
“March is way too early. Normally they wait until about the 10th of May to plant. Timing’s kind of tricky, depending on West Texas weather. You’ve got to get all those acres planted between the heavy rains, and then once the plants emerge five or six days later, you pray the hail storms don’t come.”
   “And if they do?” I asked.
  “If they get hailed out? Then they plow the damaged fields under and replant with milo —sorghum —if it’s too far into the season to replant with cotton. Or some plant sunflowers. Tom calls it their ‘catch crop.’ Happened a couple years back. Storm came up after the seedlings were about eight inches high and wiped out half the plants. It was a bad one. They plowed it under and started again. Wasn’t a great crop that year but good enough to keep them afloat. Still, not as bad as this year though. What a drought!”
  “I thought they were wealthy from the oil?”
“They are. Incredibly wealthy. And from property investments, too. They just refer to the cotton, cattle and oil as separate businesses, and they still want a success in each.”
“Property investments? Is this Tom the ‘Tom’ you bought the student housing from?” I asked, remembering a conversation from last July.
   “One and the same. His oldest son Heath has a business degree from Tech and thought it would be a good idea to invest in property east of the university. Tom thought it would be good experience for Heath to learn the hard way, so he allowed his son to make some deals. Turns out Heath sorta has the Midas touch – those deals worked exceedingly well, and the student housing project came into being and made the family even wealthier. That’s one of the reasons they can afford to give so much of it away. They dare to take risks, knowing they still have other ventures to fall back on. They work hard and have been blessed with more success than most.”
   “You certainly wouldn’t know it, though. They’re so genuine, so nice. I like them both, or all ... how many Arbuckles did I meet today?”
“I think there’s about a dozen of them all together. Russ, Fern and Tom, Julie and their kids. Then spouses and more kids. Russ’ dad, Ted Arbuckle, died about four years ago at the age of 98, a couple years after his wife Hazel. He and Monsignor Fitz were good buddies. Tough old guy, but I liked him. Had two sons, but Russ’ older brother was killed at the end of World War II—a long time ago. So it fell to Russ to continue the farm and all. Fern’s from a ranching family up by Yellowhouse Draw, and they’ve been sweethearts since they were teenagers. Great couple.” 
   “Yellowhouse Draw? Where’s that?” I asked, not familiar with the name.
   “Why Maggie Grant...and you profess to be a Texas Tech-educated woman! It’s the old valley up north of town ... has a museum about the area’s Native Americans and animals? Fascinating exhibits ... even an archeological dig.”
   “No idea what you’re talking about. It’s not on my list of things to see.”
“Well, it should be. You really don’t know where it is?” Colin asked surprised. 
  “I’ve never even heard of it. What’s it close to that I would know?”
“Look there in the glove box. Should be a Lubbock map.”
I leaned over, pushed the old latch to open the ancient compartment, then gasped as papers and odd items fell out all over the floor even as I tried to grab them. “Arrughhh!” I cried as Colin winced.
   “Sorry. I forgot it was full. Here, let me pull over and I’ll take care of it.” He slowed, finding an empty dirt road going off the main road and pulled in. They were still on the Cotton A land, surrounded by fields, so no traffic. He got out to come around to the passenger side.
    I was attempting to straighten the items in my hands, when I jumped slightly as a wire fell out onto my lap from between some papers. 
   “What’s this?” I asked when he came around to the right side of the truck and opened the door. I held up two thin wires coiled together about eighteen inches long with small flat devices on each end. “Electrodes?” 
  “No, just an old radio transmitter, that’s all. Doesn’t work,” he said nonchalantly. 
   “Radio transmitter? Ooohh, like the cops use on TV? A bug? A wire?”
   “Yeah, like the cops use on TV, but it’s an old Bureau transmitter. Don’t know why I still have it. Here, let me put this stuff back in. Here’s the map,” he said, taking the wire and papers from me and handing her the Lubbock map. 
    “You actually used that wire when you were with the FBI? What else have you got in there? A gun?”
   “No, that’s under the driver’s seat.” My eyes widened. “I have a license for it, don’t worry,” he hastily added, and I could tell he was silently kicking himself for mentioning it. Evidently no one knew about it ... at least not until now.
   “Once a G-man, always a G-man, huh?” I said teasingly, but I was surprised he had a gun. I’ve never known anyone who carried one, at least not in Dallas. Maybe guns are more prevalent in West Texas.   
   Ignoring me, he replaced all the items and closed the glove box, and seemed a little flustered as he came around to the driver’s side again. “Yellowhouse Draw is in the northwest quadrant of the map. We should go to the museum sometime. I think you’d like it.”
   Smiling broadly at his discomfort, I said, “I’ll make a deal with you, Professor Murphy. I’ll go with you to Yellowhouse Draw if you’ll tell me the details of how you used that little wire when you were a G-Man.”
   “I don’t make deals, Mrs. Grant, and I don’t talk about those days,” he said in a flat, serious tone. “And I’d rather no one knew about the gun.” He turned the truck abruptly around.
   “Not a problem, Murphy,” I said solemnly, starring straight ahead, feeling as though I’d been chastised. 
Pulling back onto the main road toward town, we road in silence for a short while. Finally Colin said lightly, “Look on the map. You can turn the dash light on if you need it.” Tensions eased, so I unfolded it and looked in the northwest quadrant, but all I could find was Lubbock Lake.
  “Lubbock Lake! That’s it,” he said.
   “Well, I know where Lubbock Lake is. Everybody knows where Lubbock Lake is ... but Yellowhouse Draw? Still never heard of it,” I said refolding the map.
   “Same place, I guess, just called two different things. But you’d really like the museum, I think. And we were talking about the Arbuckles, weren’t we?”
“We were. Good people. So down to earth ... and into the earth,” I said as I raised my hands, examining the scratches and stains again. “It was a good day, Colin. Thanks.”
We rode in silence for a while, each deep in thought. My distraction tactic was working and I thought of my boys and their families. I hope they’d be described as a good family. I thought they were. I missed them, envying Russ and Fern their close-knit, as well as close-in-proximity family. But I know I am in a good place. I am comfortable here. 
Chapter 47
   Colin was lost in thought too, but definitely not comfortable. Damn, he thought, I should’ve put the wine between us. What was I thinking? I’ve been so careful with her, just like Sean said, that I’ve gotten too comfortable with her only as a friend. I shouldn’t be sitting so close. How can she still smell so good after an afternoon in a cotton patch? 
  And I shouldn’t have mentioned the gun. Stupid thing to do, Murphy. 
   Now what, Margaret Grant? Why’d you come into my life? I was content ... But there’s something about you that intrigues me. And when you smile, man. What would happen if I take it up a notch ... kissed you the way you should be kissed? The way a real G-Man kisses?

   Pulling into my driveway, Colin thanked me for coming with him, and as we climbed out of the truck, I thanked him for letting me be a part of the wonderful event. The gratitude was getting a little nauseous, but it covered up other emotions and feelings. Why were we both nervous all of a sudden?
“Would you like to come in?” I said tentatively, then quickly added, “For some wine?”
   “I don’t think so, Maggie.” We’d reached the door and he stopped, thumbs hooked in his jeans front pockets. I turned to him, and looked up, disappointed, yet relieved at his answer. 
   “Well,” I said, “Thanks again, Murphy—-” Before I knew what was happening, he took me in his arms and crushed my mouth with a passionate kiss that left me breathless. 
    Just when I thought I would pass out, he let me go, turned abruptly, straightened his hat, and walked briskly back to the truck.  I leaned back against the closed door, trying to catch my breath.     
          “Oh, my,” was all I could say as I watched him drive away.  
     “Well, it’s about time,” Sharon said when I related the kiss.
    “What do you mean, about time?! We’re friends and he ... he ... goodness ... just thinking about it makes my heart race,” I told her when we met for lunch the next day.
   “And, so, that’s good, isn’t it?” Sharon asked.
   “I don’t know. I ... we were enjoying each other as friends. He’s a fascinating man ...”
“And damn good-looking.”
   “You know that doesn’t enter into it ... or shouldn’t, at least. I’m just a plain Jane. What’s he doing kissing me like that?” I said in exasperation.
   “Will you quit selling yourself short? You’re intelligent, fun to be with, interesting, and any man with a lick of sense would be lucky to be kissing you like that. I thought this was the man you were ga-ga over just a few months ago ... falling into his emerald eyes you said, or something like that?” 
   “That was before ... when the physical was there.”
“And it’s not there now?”
“It is,” It is, I said tentatively, “I’ve just sort of put it on the back burner while I get to know him as a person, that’s all.”
“And he’s wanting to move it to the front burner, is that what you’re telling me?”
  “I hope not, Phelps. I’m just not ready. Not yet.”

  Colin called later in the week, suggesting we meet at J&B Coffeehouse that evening. 
  “Oh, sorry,” I told him. “Promised Sharon I’d go to a recital tonight. One of Doug’s prize students is performing. Want to come?”
  “Uh, no thanks. I think I’ll just work on the cabinet tonight. Still a long way to gettin’ done. Maybe we can get together over the weekend?”
“Sure, Murphy. Call or I’ll call you and we’ll see what we can work out.”
   When he’d said goodbye, I thought his tone was a little too casual. Why in the world did he kiss me like that on Sunday? We hadn’t talked all week, and I was more than a little apprehensive about their next meeting. Surely the kiss meant he wanted to be more than friends? Dare I hope, or should I run away, scared out of my mind? Am I ready for more than friends? I don’t think so ... but that kiss ... 
   As it turned out, neither of us called the other that weekend, and it was another few days before we met for coffee. By then, whatever ardor there was had definitely cooled, and we were back to being comfortable friends. Just maybe, the kiss was only breathless on my side, and he wasn’t that impressed? I am out of practice, after all. 
   Good grief, Margaret Riley Grant, I chided myself again–I’m sure you’ve noticed I’m good at that–I need to get over my insecurity and get on with just enjoying his friendship. And quit looking into his damn green eyes.  

Colin, on the other hand, had been chiding himself severely for kissing her like that. He’d liked it, all right, but wondered how in the world that kiss could qualify as gentle as his twin had directed. He’d been afraid to call Maggie, thinking she might turn him down, which she had. Better back off, Buddy, he told himself. Now is not the time to ruin a good friendship with passion, no matter how much you’d like to kiss her again and again. Besides, Dad’s cabinet needed to get finished before December. He would pour his passion into the wood instead of into Margaret Grant.

        Go Rangers! 

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