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    CarlHoliday
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Flight of the Dodo - 27. Chapter 27

Thirty-three days later, Uncle Ted was at the door to my room and said, “Hey, Ed! Ready to go home?”

“Yes, I’m all packed, too,” I said.

“You’re not wearing your brace. What’s with that?”

“I can walk normal without it, so I don’t need it anymore. That is good, yes?”

“That’s great. Need help with your bag?”

“No, I’m okay.”

We walked out of the room and Uncle Ted stayed with me as we walked through the rehab facility. We came to the lobby and I thought we were going to go on out to Uncle Ted’s new blue Ford F-250 4X4 pickup, but most of the staff seemed to be there. They had a going-away cake with writing in red letters on the white frosting. The writing said, “Happy trails to you,” and had my name, too. That brought back a memory from long ago when I was a little kid and watched Roy Rogers’ TV show. Also, there were nineteen candles I had to blow out. That was because my birthday occurred while I was in the hospital in Pocatello and didn’t have a party. There was a fruit punch, too. Everybody was saying goodbye and offering me good luck in my future at the Rocking Bar Y.

“Ed, can I have a few words with you?” Father Lantham asked.

“Oh, sure, Father Lantham,” I said.

He guided me away from the party and out the side door into the garden. I was surprised at the chill in the air. It was nearly April and from what I had learned about this part of Wyoming it was probably not going to get warm around here until after Easter, that is if Easter came in April like this year. Also, snow wasn’t unheard of in June, but today it was just clear and cold with a slight breeze out of the north. We went over to the gazebo and sat on one of the benches.

“I wanted to talk about your baptism,” Father Lantham said.

“Okay, sure,” I said.

“You told me that you were probably baptized at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. I called the church and, yes, they have your baptism duly recorded. Therefore, I won’t insist that you be baptized at St. Catherine. But we need to plan on your introduction into the Catholic faith. Since Easter is so close, you won’t be able to formally join the faithful this year. Is this okay with you?”

“I suppose it has to be. I figured there would be a lot of things to learn so I’m willing to wait until the correct time.”

“Good, but in the meantime, I’m willing to offer you the Eucharist today here in the garden. Please kneel before me.”

I was glad that I had been practicing kneeling in physical therapy. I got down on my knees, bowed my head, and Father Lantham gave me a sip of wine and the bread.

“Now, I want to teach you how to do the sign of the cross. With your first two fingers of your right hand touch your forehead, now your heart, now your left shoulder, now your right shoulder, and finally put your hands together as if you are praying. See, that wasn’t hard at all. Now, every Sunday you come to St. Catherine at the door you will kneel on your right knee and do the sign of the cross.”

“I guess I’d better practice doing that considering all my support will be on my left leg. I worry about my prosthesis.”

“Oh, yes, that might be a problem. Tell you what, I’ll call the Bishop in Cheyenne and check with him. I’ll call you at the ranch before next Sunday and we can discuss this.”

“Thank you, Father, for giving me Communion, it’s been quite a while,” I said as I returned to sitting on the bench.

“Is there any chance you can come to St. Catherine during the week for instruction?” Father Lantham asked. “It would be helpful if you could, otherwise I’ll have to find someone in your area to give you instruction.”

“That is all up the Uncle Ted. Coming to church on Sunday won’t be a problem because I can ride with one of the families who come down for church. Unfortunately, I don’t know of anyone who will be coming down during the week.”

“Okay, I’ll see what I can do about that. Well, that’s all I have today.”

Father Lantham stood and offered me his hand to help me to my feet. We walked back to the party and saw that most everyone had gone back to their work. Uncle Ted was sitting in a chair over by the receptionist’s desk talking to an elderly man I’d seen around the facility, but I didn’t know who he was. I went over to where they were and Uncle Ted looked up to me.

“Ed, this is Charlie Mathis, he used to be the farrier at the ranch,” Uncle Ted said.

“Hello, sir, I’m glad to make your acquaintance,” I said.

“Nice proper young man you’ve got there, Ted,” Mr. Mathis said. “You know how to shake hands, young man?”

I offered him my hand and gave him a proper handshake. I saw him smile.

“And your nephew knows how to shake a man’s hand, too. Yep, you got yourself a good man there.”

I thought about what he said. He called me a man, not a boy. Was it possible that way out here in Wyoming a boy became a man earlier than they did back in North Park? That certainly gave me something to think about. I saw Father Lantham start to walk toward the door and I hurried over to where he was.

“Father Lantham, I want to thank you again for all you have done for me,” I said.

“No problem, Ed, you’re a good boy and we’ll welcome you with open arms at St. Catherine,” Father Lantham said. He patted my shoulder and walked out the door.

Now, that got me to thinking about being a boy again. This was getting confusing. I saw Uncle Ted leave Mr. Mathis and walk toward me.

“Ready to go?” Uncle Ted asked.

“Yes,” I said.

I picked up my suitcase and followed him out to the pickup. I stopped to put the suitcase in the back of the pickup.

“You better put that in the cab,” Uncle Ted said. “As cold as it is, you’ll never get your clothes warm enough to wear until sometime this summer.”

I thought about that and although it didn’t sound quite right, I decided to follow Uncle Ted’s directions. After all, he had lived in Wyoming a lot longer that I had. It was a good thing that he bought a king cab pickup, so I was able to put the suitcase in the back seat.

“How’d it go with Father Lantham?” Uncle Ted asked as he backed out of his parking space.

“He gave me Communion, but he called it something else,” I said. “But I won’t be able to join his church until next Easter. I guess I have to take classes. He wanted me to come to the church during the week, but I told him I couldn’t do that. He said he is going to have find someone out near the ranch to give me the lessons. Also, he showed how to do the sign of the cross. Then he taught me how to do that kneeling thing they do in his church, but I was a little unsteady because of the prosthesis. He said he is going to ask the Bishop what I can do.”

“Wow, you were able to do that in the short time you were out there. Wasn’t it a bit cold?”

“I suppose so, but we got busy and, well, I did have my coat on.”

“If you’re not careful, you just might turn into a cowboy.”

“I’m not too certain about that. Oh, about my GED examinations, when do you think I’ll be able to start taking them?”

“Do you think you’re ready?”

“Yes, especially the mathematics portion. Now that I no longer think I’m a dummy, mathematics is fun.”

“Assuming you pass all the tests, what about going on to college?”

“Where would I go?”

“Well, there’s Casper College, but it’s only a junior college.”

“What is a junior college?”

“They only offer a two-year degree. But you can take classes to transfer to a four-year college.”

“If I was going to go to a four-year college, why not just go to the four-year college to begin with?”

“You remember that bookstore we stopped at in Yakima on our first day coming here from North Park?”

“Oh, yes, there was that old man who said he worked at the library at the university in Laramie. Could I go to that school?”

“I was talking to that man about you. He said, if you should consider going to Laramie, you need to get in contact with a Professor Alistair Eveningstar.”

“How would I do that?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe call the university and get his phone number or you could call Information and get his home phone number.”

“When should I do that?”

“After you get your GED would be my suggestion.”

“Oh, yes, I was getting ahead of myself again. Um, there is one other thing I was going to ask you. I remember Sam saying that he was going to give me an Appaloosa mare named Daisy Belle. Is he still at the ranch?”

“She.”

“Uh?”

“A mare is a girl horse. A stallion is a boy horse. A gelding is a castrated stallion.”

“Um, what does castrated mean?”

“When the foal is young, his testicles are removed.”

“Doesn’t that hurt?”

“They get over it.”

“But why is it done?”

“A stallion is a rather particularly testy animal and, in reality, you really only need a few to handle the breeding of your herd. So the extras are castrated to calm them down, unless, of course, you intend to sell the stallion, if he is of a specific bloodline, that is. We do that quite often.”

“Let me get this right, a mare is a female horse, a stallion is a male horse, and a gelding is a castrated stallion that is made that way to be a work horse on the ranch. Yes?”

“You got it.”

“Will I be expected to castrate young stallions?”

“No, that’s why we have a wrangler and other cowboys.”

“Sam was the wrangler. Yes?”

“Yep, Sam Fisher was my wrangler.”

“Was he married? Did he have a family?”

“His wife, April, went back to the reservation with their son, Steve. Our new wrangler is Sam’s nephew, Jim, but he’s still single and lives in the bunkhouse.”

“Is Buck working for you, now?”

“Yep, he helps Jim with the horses and, of course, helps the kids with their horses.”

“So he will help me with my horse. Yes?”

“Yep, also he’ll teach you everything you need to know about horses. Like being certain to mount your horse on the left side.”

“How do you mount a horse?”

“It’s quite simple, really, all you do is put your left foot in the stirrup, grab the reins and saddle horn with your left hand, and pushing with your left leg while pulling yourself up from the saddle horn you swing your right leg over your horse, and there you are.”

“Hmm, I hope my prothesis will be able to support me. Uh, why couldn’t I mount on the right side?”

“You could, but it’s more proper getting up on the other side.”

“Oh, I’m sure Buck will be there to help if need be.”

“It’s a good thing you’ll have Daisy Belle because she’s a smart horse and will help you, too.”

“Maybe she’ll let me get up on the right side.”

“She might. You never know about horses. Sometimes they surprise the heck out of you.”

“How long till we get to the ranch?”

“Oh, probably not for another thirty to forty-five minutes.”

“Can I shut my eyes until we get there.”

“Sure, no problem.”

————

I must not have been very much asleep because when the pickup went across the cattle guard I woke up. On the right and left sides of the entry road, there were the alfalfa fields. I remember asking Uncle Ted the first time he brought me out to the ranch why there were not any cattle or horse pastures out front, thinking that it would be good advertising for the ranch. Uncle Ted told me there were no animals out along the highway because that discouraged rustlers. I thought about that for a little bit before coming to the conclusion that it might be rather easy for someone to cut the fence and load up a trailer with horses or cattle. I told Uncle Ted I understood why that was the case and he complimented me on coming to that conclusion. Also, he said that if I wasn’t careful, I was going to turn into a real cowboy. I think that is his favorite joke.

The entry road was actually nearly two miles long and went behind a small knoll where the main ranch was located. I lived in the big house, a two-story Victorian ranch-style home with a broad porch out front that looked out on the main horse pastures, the two barns, three work sheds where the motorized equipment was kept and repaired, five small houses for the cowboys who were married, the bunkhouse where the unmarried cowboys lived, the covered arena where the children old enough to ride exercised their horses when the weather was bad, and the swimming pool, which was quite large considering the Rocking Bar Y was basically in the middle of nowhere. Douglas was to the south, Gillette was to the north, South Dakota was to the east, and a whole lot of Wyoming was to the west. Uncle Ted was of the opinion that you could fly in an airplane from the ranch all the way to the Pacific Ocean and not fly over another house. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an atlas in the house, so I couldn’t check to be sure.

My bedroom was on the second floor on the east side of the north end of the house. I had a door to the bathroom on that end. Mrs. Gardner, the housekeeper and cook, had her rooms on the south end of the second floor. Uncle Ted slept on the first floor. There were three guest rooms and an additional guest bathroom on the second floor, but in all the years I lived there, the only time any of those rooms were occupied was when Erika and Emmett came out after the Fourth of July and stayed until the fifteenth of August. I don’t know what Uncle Ted said to Syl, but whatever it was she quickly acquiesced to letting my sister and brother visit in the summer. Of course, E4 was never allowed to come and Uncle Ted didn’t press the issue.

The next morning I was down at the horse barn following Buck’s instructions on the care of a horse, or, more specifically, Daisy Belle who was a Chestnut Blanket Appaloosa. That means she was reddish brown with a white rump and hips that had chestnut spots. I guess that’s what a lot of people think of when they’re imagining what an Appaloosa looks like. I learned how to put on the bridle and the saddle, and then I walked her out into the arena. I was a little hesitant about mounting her, and Buck told me to just rest my foot in the stirrup and pull myself up by holding the saddle horn. That worked great and as I sat in the saddle, Buck adjusted the lengths of the stirrups. He had me dismount so I could see how he had done that. That way I would always know how my saddle needed to be in case someone inadvertently used my saddle.

I asked him about mounting on the right side because my prosthesis didn’t feel quite right going up on the left side. He said I needed to let Daisy Belle know what I intended to do and if she balked, to stop, pet her, say nice things, and when she calmed down, to try again. I went right up to her nose and rubbed it while telling her she was going to help me be a better horse rider. Then I slowly walked down the right side trailing my hand along her head, neck, and side. I took the reins and she tried to look behind her. Once again, I told her what we were going to do, and before she had a chance to disagree, I put my right foot in the stirrup and pulled myself up.

“Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” I said.

She whinnied in a way that I would come to recognize as her way of saying she liked me.

On May 6, 1970, I received my GED certificate in the mail. Once I saw what it was, I called Information and got the telephone number of that Professor Alistair Eveningstar at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. I called him and said that Hector Johnson, the man at the bookstore in Yakima, said I should call him if I wanted to attend the university although I only had a GED. He was very helpful and told me what books I needed to read. He also arranged for the university to send me an application. I told him that I was schizophrenic, but was on medication. Also, I told him who my psychiatrist was and gave him his telephone number. After I received the application in the mail, I filled it out with the assistance of Uncle Ted. He drove me down to Douglas so I could mail the large envelope from the post office.

On June 25, 1970, I received a letter from the Admissions Office at the University of Wyoming. I was afraid to open it and waited until Uncle Ted came in for supper. Oh, that was another thing different about living on the ranch. Lunch was dinner and dinner was supper. It took me quite a bit of time to get that settled in my mind. Luckily, breakfast was still breakfast, although it did come awfully early in the morning. According to Uncle Ted, cowboys went to work at first light. I waited until after dessert to bring out the envelope.

“Well, open it,” he said.

“I’m afraid to,” I said. “If I didn’t get accepted, I may react improperly. You know how it is with me.”

“Want me to open it?”

“Would you?”

“Sure, no problem.”

I watched him use his dirty steak knife to cut open the envelope. He took out the letter and some brochures and other paper came out of the envelope, too. I had a feeling that it was probably good news because why would they send additional information unless I was accepted.

“Can I guess what it says?” I asked.

“Sure,” Uncle Ted said.

“I think it says welcome to the Class of, um, 1974?”

“That’s it!”

“Can I see the letter?”

Uncle Ted handed it to me and while I read the letter, he started to look through the additional material. I read through the letter, but stopped when I came to the paragraph that started with: “Due to the fact you are schizophrenic, you will be required to live in the home of a sponsoring adult. Professor Alistair C. Eveningstar, BA, MA, DLitt, has graciously volunteered to welcome you into his home along with his wife, Professor Katherine N. Schneider, BA, MA, PhD, and their three German Shepherds, Dotty, Daisy, and Spike.”

So my mental illness raised its ugly head once again. No matter how hard I tried to be normal, it always came down to how mentally ill I was and whether I had a real chance to meld into society without everyone pointing their finger at me all the time assuming I was something less than them.

“Well, what do you think?” Uncle Ted asked.

“I guess I’ll go,” I said. “Professor Eveningstar has already told me the books I need to study before going, so I guess I’d better get with the program and start thinking that quite possibly I can become someone important.”

“That’s the attitude and I hope you achieve all your goals. Have you thought about what your major will be?”

“Yes, Professor Eveningstar said a major in History with a minor in English should work quite well considering how I like to read. He did suggest I start reading poetry and fiction. He said if I’m accepted to the university I should call him and he’ll give me a list of authors I should start studying.”

“So you’ll need to go down to Douglas to the library?”

“No, he said I should go to the bookstore in Casper and buy the books or at least order them. If the books are mine, I can make notes as I read the poetry and novels.”

“Okay, I guess we’ll go tomorrow.”

“Is there anything on the ranch that will need your attention tomorrow?”

“No, it’s nothing that Tom can’t handle. Tell you what, we’ll leave at the crack of dawn, so we can get back in the afternoon. Okay?”

“Sure, whatever is good for you. I’d better go call Professor Eveningstar.”

From that moment on, I endeavored to put my schizophrenia behind me. Of course, it was directly behind me, but I had a possibility of being something other than a failure. I was no longer a dummy and, as long as I took my medications and went to my psychotherapist, I could be as lucid as I wanted to be. For the first time in my life I truly believed I had a future.

The End

I suppose everybody might want the story to continue into Ed's college years, but that's another story for another time. Good news, though, I've begun a sequel that takes place in the future when Ed is in his early 40s. He's single and a Professor of English at McClellan College in the small town of Lime, Colorado, which is on US-287 halfway between Limon and Lamar, Colorado. In reality, it would be in the immediate vicinity of Kit Carson.

Copyright © 2021 CarlHoliday; All Rights Reserved.
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👏🏻 It wasn’t until the end but things definitely started looking up for Ed. I’m sure his journey will eventually have more bumps in the road yet hopefully those will be only minor inconveniences.

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Thank you for sharing Ed's story! A lot of it was sad, but it ended well. The hints in the post script sound quite promising! I really loved Ed! He was a great character, and your writing really captured his unique thoughts and personality!

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13 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

Thank you for sharing Ed's story! A lot of it was sad, but it ended well. The hints in the post script sound quite promising! I really loved Ed! He was a great character, and your writing really captured his unique thoughts and personality!

Thank you for your comment. Mental illness is something that can be very difficult to handle for children. You don't have a temperature, a Band-Aid won't cover the hurt, and other people sometimes come up with excuses for why you're not acting right. I felt it necessary to give Ed the awareness that he was mentally ill and if he was to progress in life, he needed to acquire the skills to do so.

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