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AUDRY06 hurt when she was little And



Chapter 6 - Friends

A tale of Romance by The Star*

Our friend, George Lemmer, was coming to visit... and Audry was far too
pregnant to do much cooking, let alone entertaining. She loved being
pregnant, but hated the "waddling stage", and not being able to care for a

George had hinted that he'd really like a long ride up into the
Cascades, and maybe a chance to try deer hunting with a rifle--only
shotguns were allowed where he hunted in the east.

We already had three hunting parties on the ranch; one group out on the
leased grazing land in the national forest, the other two camped by the
spring up the draw from the ranch headquarters.

Well, we'd work it out. My frustration wasn't that I couldn't do
anything. It was that I wanted to spend my time with Audry, pampering her.
But I was just flat-out too busy.

First I had four horses to work and exercise regularly: Samarkand, my
big stallion, and Shannon, Audry's primary mount. And I also had to work
Clay, Audry's 3-day horse. Then there was my big colt. One of Sam's
offspring out of a big Appaloosa mare, his Indian name translated to "Moon
Wind"--so I called him 'Windy'. Windy retained the distinctive Appaloosa
markings. I hoped for great things from him.

mom helped a lot, especially with Windy. She had a half-dozen other
colts and foals to work, too. We enjoyed an exceptional year for horses.

Then I had to help dad with the other horses and make sure they got
moved around to different pastures--mares brought in for breeding and so
on. And finally, I insisted on spending at least an hour--normally
two--with the kids, Zach and Moira.

They were well looked-after. Grandma doted on them, spoiling them
outrageously. And Aunt Elin had regular 'school' for them, from the time
Zach was two. She taught them alphabet and numbers, and then simple
reading and arithmetic. All the while making it play, not toil.

mom taught them how to ride right. They were both in saddles before
they could walk. She taught them how to sit and how to 'listen' to the
horse. And how to 'tell' the horse what to do, by posture, knee and thigh,
and hands. Before they started public school, they were both taking jumps

Dad, Uncle Rick and I taught them about the cattle, and the care and
feeding of the horses and other ranch animals. We taught them about fences
and keeping gates closed. We taught them how to move cattle, on foot and
on horseback. We made Zach responsible for Moira, to keep her from getting
hurt when she was little. And Moira was responsible to do what Zach said,
when he was acting in that role. She didn't have to be his little slave,
though, and there was plenty of give and take.

When she wasn't in her third trimester, Audry was right beside me. But
right now, she was in her third trimester and just couldn't.

George had been very successful in the last year. We knew he was
well-to-do, but now we found he was wealthy in his own right. Evidence of
this came when he called from the airport.

"Hey, George. I thought you'd call from Portland, so we could send a
car to the airport in Redmond to pick you up."

"I am in Portland. I'll fly up in a helicopter. Can you clear a place
for me to land--maybe set out a sheet or something, so I'll know where you
want me?"

"Sure, George. Will your pilot go right back, or do we need to put him

Laughing, he said, "Yeah. Feed him and all... I'll fly myself up,

"Oh. OK, George. We'll look forward to seeing you. When shall we
expect you?"

"About three hours. I'll stop at Redmond to fill up the tanks."

He was polite enough to circle high, to not frighten the stock, before
he came in from downwind and settled into a space I'd marked for him.

He shut it down and climbed out. Then got a line on a rotor and tied it
down, to prevent unwanted rotation.

Finally coming over to where I was standing with the two kids and mom,
he grinned and gave mom a big kiss on the cheek. Then a hand to me and to
each kid, in turn.

After we'd slapped each other's back and allowed as how the other was
only getting uglier, George noticed how the kids were looking at the
helicopter. Squatting down to their level, he asked, "Do you like my
airplane?" They nodded solemnly. "Would you like to ride in it tomorrow?"
Big grins, squeals of glee, and they raced off to tell Audry and grandma.

"Didn't know you were a pilot, George," I commented.

"Yeah. The Marines taught me. But flying helicopters for them is like
being a high-paid bus driver. Investment banking is a lot more fun... I
do like to get in some stick time now and then, though."

"Well, you cheated yourself out of a pretty drive--but I imagine the
Cascades are pretty from the air, too."

Enthusiastically, "You bet! They're lots prettier than the Alleghenies
or Smokies. Real nice country."

"Well, come on in the house. Audry has a little trouble moving around,
so she's waiting to welcome you there."

"I can't wait to see her. She's a good one, Rob."

"Don't I know it! It bothers her when she gets to the 'waddling' stage.
But she has her heart set on at least two more and this is just a small
price to pay...she says, anyway."

"That's something I missed," George said. "My wife couldn't have any.
And I never met a woman to replace her."

Rounding a barn, George gasped. "Who is THAT on your porch?"

I laughed. "George, you were here before. That's my grandma."

"That's Hazel? ... She was away when I visited you. I can't believe
it. She's one attractive female, Rob."

"Well sure she is. But that's grandma, anyway. She's close to
sixty--maybe more, we don't ask."

"Hard to believe..." he muttered.

Dinner was a family affair; our parents joined us. They all liked
George and were happy to welcome him to the ranch. Grandma flirted
outrageously with him and George seemed to be lapping it up like a puppy.

We made an early night of it, putting the kids to bed; then Audry and I
turned in. George was tired, still being on 'east coast' time, so he soon
crashed too.

In the morning, George suggested a helicopter ride for the kids right
after breakfast. Then he and I could take a flight around the ranch--maybe
spot someplace he'd really like to ride to.

Grandma wanted to go with the kids. She'd never flown in a helicopter.
Grinning, George said maybe he'd make a special trip for her later--but she
could go with the kids, too. There was room.

He gave them their money's worth. An hour after lift-off, they
returned, chattering gaily about all they'd seen and the 'cool' airplane
that could stop in the sky.

As soon as I was strapped into the left-hand seat** and had the
headphones on, we were off. George wanted me to point out the boundaries
of the ranch, which I happily did. Then I showed him a couple of places I
enjoyed riding to.

And he showed me a spot I'd never seen.

It was a small box canyon, with a zig-zag entrance. Inside, it was very
sheltered, but had a lot of grass and a stream running through it.

"I could land in there, but let's check it out on horseback," he

"Suits me. I'll be interested to see if I can even find it from the
ground." Though I knew I could. I'd ridden all around it--I guess I'd just
assumed it was a solid mesa. All those years, and I never suspected the
place existed...

When we got home, I made a point of riding out to where the deer hunters
were camped. I wanted them to know where we'd be going, so they wouldn't
see our movement and mistake it for deer. Besides, we made a point of
taking good care of those folks. They were good guests, good to the land
and careful about our stock, while thinning the deer population.

I thought George and I could head out in the morning and stay out two or
three nights. We'd check out the little canyon, then on up to a clearing
in the pine forest that I'd always enjoyed. We could each take two horses.
I'd take Sam and Windy. George could ride Shannon and Clay.

As we were packing that night, grandma asked if she could ride along.

"Sure, gran. If you're sure you want to...?"

"I haven't been on that kind of ride with you in a year, Rob. I think
it would be fun. Besides, that way, I can work on George here, without
Adoré and Elin distracting him all the time..."

We all grinned about that. Grandma was a randy old gal, but mom and
Elin had their men, and didn't bother flirting with others. Grandma, on
the other hand, never stopped.

Grandma took two horses, too. One was her 'everyday' horse, a mare she
rode regularly. The other was one of the colts we were working with. By
eight, we were on the trail.

As usual, we cantered the first couple of miles. The horses were on a
holiday, and enjoying themselves as much as we were. We clattered across
some rangeland three abreast, so we could chat as we went. When the trail
narrowed to single-file, I led.

We stopped for lunch by a little brook. Stripping the saddles so the
horses could roll, we saddled our other mounts. They weren't tired, but we
wanted to give all the animals a fair share of the work. Besides, the
horses that weren't ridden carried our bedrolls and food.

Grandma had taught Audry about camp cooking. But she hadn't taught
Audry all she knew about it! George and I elected her cook for the trip,
by acclimation. Grandma just smiled and allowed that it was 'women's
work'... And we could take care of her horses for her in exchange.

We arrived at the little canyon about 2. Then I had to find the
entrance. Once I'd done that, I had to figure out how to get in. It
involved chopping some brush, but in a half-hour, I'd opened a trail the
horses could use. Inside, I was amazed. We later explored thoroughly, but
never found any signs that the place had been visited in years. But people
had been there! There was a shallow bowl of dirt and grass with a few
junipers, and a tiny stream running out of the rock, disappearing into the
ground. A bit above the floor of the bowl was a layer of rim-rock, about
20 feet thick. Seamed and fractured, as most of that volcanic material is,
it contained numerous shallow caves or overhangs, as well as large flat
areas. The soil above the rock sloped gently to the top and down the other
side until it met the rock again. (I knew all about the outside of the
formation, having been there often, working cows.)

Under the overhangs, we found remains of ancient fires, and crude
drawings on the rock. Grandma discovered a half-dozen arrow and spearheads
in a half-hour, without working very hard at it.

You would not be exaggerating to say that all three of us were excited
by the finds. George had never seen anything like it. Grandma and I had,
but never outside a museum, or the homes of friends from the Warm Springs
Reservation. George, his businessman's mind always working, wanted to
know, "Rob? Is this place on your ranch? Or is it on the leased acreage?"

"This is ours," grandma and I said together.

"That simplifies things a bit. Do you know what the Oregon law is
regarding archeological sites?"

"I haven't a clue, George," I said. "But I think I'll find out... No.
I won't either. I'll call Gary. Let the Indians worry about it."

"Why would you get them involved?"

"Why not? I think this is marvelous. But I don't want the ranch to
become a tourist attraction--we have enough trouble with trespassers and
poachers now. If we give the tribe an easement to this place, we remain in
control, with them. And they can hire lawyers to protect us. After all,
we can give them the right to the artifacts here, and they can control any
archeological 'digs'. They're happy. We're happy." I was winging it,
thinking out loud. But it felt right. Grandma just smiled and nodded.

George looked unhappy.

"What's the matter, George?" grandma asked.

"This place could be a gold mine. There's money to be made here."

"Not without letting any and everybody and his brother come here. And
we don't want to do that," grandma stated, in a no-nonsense tone.

George walked over to a spot where the rock had a natural staircase in
it and climbed up to the grassy slope. There he sat, and just looked out
over the little cul-de-sac. After about an hour, he climbed to the top and
looked around at the ranch.

When he came back down, grandma and I had made a camp for the night.
Squatting by the fire, George accepted the cup of coffee grandma gave him.

"You're right, of course. It would ruin this part of the ranch, if this
became a tourist spot. It seems a shame to waste it, though."

"We won't waste it, George. The tribe will be thrilled to see this

"Too bad you can't make anything from it, though."

"George," grandma said. "We're doing OK. Really, we're doing quite
well. We're not rich, like you. But we are setting money aside to educate
the kids. We own the ranch outright and only carry small bank loans for
equipment where it gives us a tax advantage. Our money is in the ranch.
If we were to sell, we'd all be millionaires. But that won't
happen...there's another generation of Steeles growing up on the ranch.
Still, we're not concerned about ways to make more money."

I grinned, "Hell, we could sell a few of the horses mom puts into the
'stock horse' pool as jumpers. They're better than a lot of jumpers you
see in your part of the country. That would make us more money right


That evening, I amused myself watching grandma flirting with George--and
George responding to the attention. I have to admit, grandma is a very
foxy lady and looks like a woman years younger.

In the morning, she managed to give us a bit of a skin show--very
innocently, of course. (And if you believe THAT, I have some ocean-front
property I'd like to show you!)

Riding out in the morning, grandma dropped back to ride beside George
whenever the trail was wide enough. I finally suggested that they give me
all the pack horses to lead, and the two of them could take the lead on the
trail. Grandma knew the way to the next night's camp as well as I.

"Why Robbie," she smiled at me. "I didn't know you cared."

She pushed the pace just a bit, so we arrived at our destination in the
early afternoon. When we'd taken care of the horses, she grabbed George's
hand and pulled him towards the woods. "Come on, there's something I want
to show you."

I just smiled and watched them go, then turned to set up our camp.

A couple of hours later, they emerged from the trees. Grandma had that
satisfied look on her face and George looked bemused. Grandma started to
prepare supper. She looked at me and sweetly suggested I put my bedroll
over on the other side of the horses. So I could be there if something
spooked them in the night, you understand?

I understood that she wanted to fuck George's brains out--whatever was
left from this afternoon. That was OK. George was a big boy--and closer
to grandma's age than mine, really.

In the morning, it was no surprise when grandma announced that she and
George would like to stay there a couple more days. Did I mind?

"Well, I need to get back to Audry. Would you two be OK if I just head
on back to the ranch?"

Grandma's broad grin was echoed by George's. I left them all the food,
except for a bit of coffee and jerky, saddled Sam, and was on my way.

We cantered most of the way until noon, when I stopped and threw the
saddle on Windy. After a short rest for all of us, I was on my way again.
An easy run brought us home before dark. mom and dad were in the training
ring, with one of the colts. "Where's Hazel and George?" I just grinned.
"Oh." She waved me on my way.

Audry wanted to know why I was back a day early. I answered after being
greeted by the kids, who swarmed over me as soon as I was off Windy's back.

"I was kind of a third wheel," I said. Audry's eyes widened for a
moment, then she got my meaning. "Grandma will be home in two or three
days. I hope she'll bring George along."

Audry just grinned at that.

"We're all going over to mom's for dinner. You're in time."

"Can I change and shower, first?"

"You'd better!"

I enjoyed meals at Aunt Elin's. The cooking was simple, but very good
and always plenty of it. Elin believed in cooking 'healthy'. So there was
usually a salad and not much flour, bread or fat in her food. Lots of
vegetables and enough meat for flavor and protein.

Over dinner, I told them about the little box canyon and the Indian
artifacts that littered it. I gave each kid an arrowhead and passed around
a few more. "Tomorrow, I think I'll take a little ride up to Warm Springs.
I want to talk to Gary, and the tribal elders about this." I explained my
idea about turning the site over to the tribes.

Rick nodded. "Good thinking. Did you talk to your dad?"

"Not yet. No chance to. Can you?"

"Sure. You're right and he'll agree."

That night, Audry cuddled up to me. "I see you're horny. Being around
grandma when she's in heat will do that to anybody. Think you can get in
the back door, darling?"

I could. I did.

Audry got off, too.

I made sure of it!

What a wonderful, loving evening!

Audry called Gary Butler, my friend from school who ran the resort
operation at KaNeeTah, on the Warm Springs Reservation, to tell him I was
on my way to see him.

"You know Mary won't let him go until she's fed him."

"Yeah. And tell her he's too fat now. She shouldn't push food at him.
He'll eat it all just to keep her happy."

"It's OK. It will give me a chance to lose a pound or two."

"Sure, it will. You two will eat as long as she's shoving it in front
of you. Why don't you all come down here? I'll get mom to feed you some
healthy food."

Gary laughed and promised that they'd all come down to admire the new
baby as soon as she had it--and Gary's kids could terrorize the horses and
all the deer in the area.

"What's he need me for, Audry?" Gary asked.

"I'll let him go into it, Gary. But I can tell you he needs to see the
tribal elders, too."

"You mean the old folks, or the council?"

"I suppose the council. But you might end up with the old folks, too."

"Sounds important."

"I think maybe. We'd rather be safe than sorry... and all that."

"OK, Audry. Take care of that little one. And remember that you and
the kids are welcome here any time. We'll give you a cabin." The 'cabins'
at the resort were pretty plush.

"When I'm in shape again, we'll take you up on it, Gary. Thanks."

"Any time, Audry... And Audry... Be sure someone calls us when you
have this one. Mary will want to drive down."

"Thanks, Gary. Tell her, 'soon'."

When I arrived, Gary brought me up to date on his family. They were all
getting bigger. And he was too--around. Then he called in the head of the
tribal council, who had been alerted to the meeting.

I explained what we'd found. Gary and Sam (Sam Two horse was head of
the council that year.) were excited by my description.

"Our people knew of the place, Rob," Sam said. "I recall a legend about
it. It was a home of the 'old ones'--the people who were here before us.
We don't know much about them. It's kind of like the Anasazi. No one
knows where they came from, why they left, or where they went. Maybe our
people drove them out. But the legends don't tell of any battles with

"So this place predates your people?"

"If it is what I think it is, yes. We didn't consider it a 'sacred
place' or anything like that. It was just... 'theirs' I guess. So we
left it alone... I thought it was a lot farther south."

"Come on, Sam," Gary said. "Distances in the legendary accounts are
anything but precise."

Sam smiled and agreed with that.

"So," he asked me. "What about it?"

"Well, it seems to me that the little canyon is probably a pretty
important archeological site. We're not interested in making it a tourist
stop... We don't want tourists on the ranch at all. But we thought there
might be some value in the place. Would the tribe want to supervise its
excavation? Maybe with some arrangement about sharing of artifacts, if
things of value are discovered?"

Gary and Sam exchanged a glance.

"I think we need to meet with the elders after all. They will need to
approve anything involving disturbing the things of the old ones."

"Yeah. And the council will have to approve any arrangement with Rob
and his family."

I grinned and emptied a pocket. "Here. Show them these. That should
get their attention." I displayed a dozen arrow and spearheads of exquisite
workmanship and a design entirely different from any I'd seen attributed to
the Warm Springs tribes.

Gary's eyes got big. He knew, even better than I, that these were
pretty rare items. (It seems the northwest is covered with stone
arrowheads, but the common patterns are pretty well documented. Artifacts
can be identified, generally, as to tribe and age, by the pattern of the
flaking. From the dawn of time, a lively trade in obsidian--volcanic
glass--had flourished. The best obsidian was found near Paulina
Lake--where many discarded or fractured arrowheads and hand axes can also
be found. The pattern of the arrowheads I'd shown them was very rare. And
had never been associated with a tribe.) Gary took me home for Mary to
entertain while he and Sam got busy. I had a nice afternoon chatting with
Gary's kids and eating Mary's snacks. Gary called to say a full-blown
meeting would be held at 7 at the tribal headquarters. Mary was
disappointed, since she didn't get to go 'hog wild' with dinner. After her
snacks all afternoon, I was happier it worked out that way.

At seven, I found myself the only white man in the council room. My
artifacts were being passed from hand to hand.

Sam called the meeting to order. After an invocation, I was asked to
describe what I'd found.

"Just south of the center of our ranch is a low butte, standing alone,
surrounded by pine and juniper. It has water and is good country for
horses, but will not support many cows."

The Indians all nodded. They knew the country and many of them had been
to our ranch.

"We discovered that the butte is not a solid mass, but rather is hollow.
There is an entrance on the southwest side. It is a narrow passage with a
couple of very sharp bends. One can be right next to the butte and not see
this entrance, merely thinking it another fracture in the rock."

Again, nods around the table.

"We discovered the little canyon from the air. When I went to see it on
the ground, I had to cut my way through the juniper, to make a path a horse could take.

"Once inside, we found a lot of drawings on the rock and many artifacts
like those you hold."

The presence of drawings was news and started a hum of conversation in
the room.

"We knew the place was too important to just keep for ourselves. And we
know it contains Indian things. We do not want the government to try to
take it away from us--or some arrogant university professor use it for his
own reputation, at the expense of our privacy and our ability to raise our
animals in peace."

Even the oldest heads around the table nodded at this. They were all
too familiar with arrogance, both from government and academia.

"So, since we are friends, my family asks that you take over supervision
and control of the site. If money is made from it, we want a share. And
we want to be able to limit the amount of traffic in and out of it. We use
the land for our horses and cattle--and have too many deer hunters who
can't tell a cow from a deer as it is."

That feeble humor prompted some smiles. More genuine smiles resulted
from the idea that they would control the site.

One old man started speaking in native tongue. Sam interrupted,
politely. "Forgive me, grandfather. We have a guest who doesn't know our
language. Could you give us your thoughts in his tongue?"

The old man didn't want to, but had to accede to the politely phrased
request of his chief.

"That place has lain there for generations. It belongs to the old ones.
Our people have never disturbed their place. We should leave it as it is.
The old ones will bless us, if they are left in peace."

Another old man rejoined. "We do not know that! For all we know, it
was only a place they stopped for the night as they traveled from south to
north. Our people left it alone, because we had plenty of other places to
rest for a night. But we do not know that the place has any sacred things,
or that there are any spirits there who care one way or the other."

The oldest ended the argument, before it started. "I will go there. I
will placate the spirits of the place. We cannot pretend that the place
does not exist. We can only decide if we will preserve it and control how
its secrets are uncovered, or if we will let others do it."

That narrowed things right down. The consensus rapidly built that the
tribes would supervise the site and arrange its excavation, under their
supervision. They would try to maintain one of the elders on the site
while work was going on. And they agreed to keep the number of people
there to a minimum.

"No one wants a couple hundred people milling around, Rob," Sam assured
me. "I suspect we will have to bulldoze a jeep trail into the area,

"Yeah. I see that. If we can keep it looking like just another ranch
road and make it unattractive to the curious, that should be OK... You
know, you're not going to be able to get any equipment into the canyon that
you can't carry on horseback?"


"Yeah. The entrance is in rock and has a couple of really sharp
corners. It's not that easy getting a horse in there. Forget about a truck
or jeep."

(What we eventually worked out was that we fenced off a five-acre area
just outside the entrance to the canyon. There was a little water there.
This would be the 'base camp' site. All the activity of the site would
stay within the canyon or that fenced area. None of the students there for
the summer, for example, would be allowed to pitch a tent outside the
fence. Vehicles were parked inside and water was hauled in, to supplement
the small stream.)

The council and elders, after wrangling over every conceivable detail
for hours, finally woke up to the fact that they had decided they had to
take on this project... and that I didn't need to be there to hear them
argue about petty issues. They thanked me profusely and asked me to convey
to the family that they would accept our offer with gratitude. They'd give
us a detailed proposal in a day or two.

Gary took me home, for Mary to feed me--again!--and put me to bed. He
returned to the council session, to argue for our rights in the matter.

In the end, everybody was happy. And over the years, the family all
felt we'd done the right thing.

It's good to have friends.

The evening after I returned from Warm Springs, grandma and George rode
in. They were smiling and holding hands, even on horseback.

After the horses were put up--properly; grandma isn't a shirker--she and
George disappeared into her bedroom.

When they appeared late in the morning, grandma made a point of inviting
everyone over for dinner.

That night, when we were all assembled and had made a first good effort
at demolishing the pile of food she'd prepared, she made her big
announcement. "I want you all to know that George asked me to marry him. I
said I'd be delighted."

Holding up a hand to interrupt the barrage of questions, from little
Moira to dad, she added, "I see I'd better just do a short run-down on what
we plan. THEN you can all ask your questions.

"We will live in George's home on Long Island. George has his work and
doesn't want to retire. It is my place to be with him. So, Robby, Audry:
this is your house, from now on."

Audry, though it was hard for her to move, got up and walked around to
hug grandma. Her eyes were filled with unshed tears. She knew how much
grandma missed grandpa--and what a lusty old bag she was. She wanted her
to be happy and was happy for her.

"Thanks, dear. Go sit... We want to build a 'retreat' cabin, on the
ridge by Bluejay Spring. Is that OK with everybody?"

No problem with me. Dad and Rick agreed, too.

"Before you get too worried about what you can and can't say about me,
where George might hear, I've told him everything I can think of..." A
little sly smile. "It's been a busy life and maybe I didn't remember quite
everything... Anyway, there are no secrets from George. OK?"

We all nodded.

"We discovered that we're really pretty close in age to each other.
George is older than he looks, too.

"Just one more thing we have in common. We both lost mates we loved
greatly. Neither wanted to settle for second best. Well, now we won't
have to."

"ALL RIGHT, GRANDMA!" I shouted, in unison with Audry.

It was a night for celebration. And we all did. George and grandma
were toasted with a bottle of good wine I'd been saving. We all offered
George all kinds of bad advice on how to 'handle' grandma when she got the point grandma threatened to have a long chat with the
social editor for the Bend newspaper and tell all our secrets to the whole

We were really happy for grandma. And for George, too. He was our
friend--we'd never thought of him as being that much older. He was another
rider who could compete at our level. And he was always a gentleman about
it. Outside of competition, he was a good friend, fun, and an interesting

Once we got to bed, Audry was very amorous. In her advanced pregnancy,
all we really could do was oral, but we managed to satisfy each other.
Boy, did we! Just as dawn started to outline the windows of our bedroom,
Audry shook me awake.

"Rob! Wake up!"

"Whaaa... Waddya wan' Audry?..."

"Rob. Dammit! Wake Up! It's time!"

"Huh? Oh? OH! It's time!"

It didn't matter that we already had two children. The birth of a child
of Audry's was always a momentous occasion. I turned on a light and ran
into the door, trying to get into the bathroom. The wine I'd consumed
contributed to my difficulty.

When I was finally mostly awake, I went down the hall to grandma's room.
I hated to wake her, but we'd need her to take care of the kids.

I knocked on her door. And again. And yet again, getting progressively
louder. Finally, George came to the door.

"What the hell is the matter?"

"Audry's having the baby. I wanted to tell grandma, so she'd take care
of the kids in the morning."

"Oh. Where are you taking her?"

"To the hospital in Bend. I hope she can hang on that long, anyway."

"Just a minute," George ordered, and shut the door in my face.

In just a minute, George reappeared, followed by grandma. She scooted
down the hall to our room, to check Audry and call Elin. (Audry already
had and her mother appeared in the hallway, just before disappearing into
my bedroom to check on Audry for herself.)

George said, "I'll fly you there. That will save a lot of time and be
much easier on Audry than the drive from here. Elin can go, too."

"Great! You prepare the bird, I'll round up the flock."

In minutes, we heard the turbine start to spool up, as George got ready
to fly. Meanwhile, grandma had called mom, so she wouldn't feel left out.
Elin had Audry ready to go and she and I helped Audry walk out to the
helicopter. Again, George put me in the left-hand seat, with Audry and
Elin in back. "They'll be happier together, don't you think?" he asked me,
when I tried to join Audry. I had to agree.

At least I didn't have to pace around in a waiting room. I was right
there in the delivery room with Audry and Elin when she delivered our
newest daughter, Erin. For me, of course, it was love at first sight--just
like with Audry and later with Moira. Good thing for me none of them are

Again, the delivery was a tough one for Audry, but she weathered it fine
and regained her normal, fantastic form rapidly. She also regained her
need for my touch and love.

When we arrived back at the ranch a couple days later--George had stayed
around, so he could fly us home...or at least that's the reason he
gave--Mary Butler was there, with her oldest daughter, Shawna, to help out.

The house was cleaner than I remember it and food was on the stove.

They had it all worked out with grandma. Shawna would stay on, to help
Audry with the cooking and cleaning and taking care of kids, so Audry could
get back on the horses as soon as she was able.

When she heard, Audry was amazed. "Shawna, won't this mess you up with
school? And don't I remember that you have a boyfriend? How can you do

While Mary smiled, Shawna said, "I finished high school and don'thave
any need to go to college--at least not until I've given school a break for
a year or two. My boyfriend wanted all the benefits of being married without being married. I didn't like the game and quit while I was
ahead... Anyway, mom and Hazel talked it over and decided you needed the

I grinned. Yes, we could use the help--especially since grandma was
leaving--and Shawna would fit right in.

A couple of days later, grandma--she asked us all to call her
'Hazel'--and George left. George insisted that she see his place on Long
Island and meet his friends before she made an irrevocable commitment.

Little Erin thrived on the ranch and seemed to double in size in a
couple of weeks. Moira thought a baby sister was 'neat', though we had to
be careful she didn't treat the baby like a doll. Zach, an 'old hand' at
having new baby sisters, was cool about it all. Yes, I assured him it was
still his job to keep Moira out of danger and Moira would be expected to
keep Erin out of trouble.

A week later, grandma...ah, Hazel, called. She was having a great time.
George lived in a regular mansion, with servants! He had a wonderful
stable and pastures for the horses, though he admitted that they got a bit
slack in the winter. Some of his friends were a bit snooty towards her,
until they found out she was related through two different lines to the
Parmentier family in Richmond. Then she was accepted anywhere, instantly.

She and George thought the whole thing was a hoot. And she found a
couple of ladies she thought could become friends, if she could get them
alone for a bit of 'girl talk'.

Anyway, they wanted to get married at the ranch, in a month. Hazel
thought the hillside above the house would be nice. It wasn't steep, but
enough pitch that everyone could see. Maybe a barbeque and dancing

A bunch of George's friends would be coming. They'd stay in Bend and
Redmond--and some in Sisters. George would charter a couple of busses to
haul them around. The best man would be dad, if he was willing. He was
surprised and honored, but willing. mom and Elin would stand with Hazel
and Audry would be 'Maid of Honor'. Rick and I would stand with them too.

Hazel faxed us a list of friends from the area she wanted invited--and a
couple of gentlemen from Portland, if they wanted to come. She
specifically asked that we invite all our friends from Warm Springs, too.

It was quite an affair. mom and Elin and Audry took charge of the
entire ranch operation for that month. They had Gerry's wife, Martha, and
Shawna involved, too. We moved stock around the pastures when they needed
it and the two hands kept busy up on the leased grazing. But a lot of the
work with the animals went by the boards. It was all we could do to keep
up with the breeding schedule and keep track of the foals. Gerry had to
keep track of the calves--we just didn't have time.

Finally, dad had it.

"Enough!" he bellowed, interrupting another session where the women were
giving us orders--contradicting what they'd told us the day before. "Hire
a caterer. We'll provide a prime steer and a good veal, as well as a few
hogs for the barbeque. The caterer can cook them. And he can arrange all
the other food, too. We'll all be too busy with our guests to worry about
cooking and serving food. The same for the dance floor. Hire it all done.
Tell us what to wear and when to be there... Come on guys, we have a ranch
to run!"

He didn't stomp out, but his body language said he meant it. We
adjourned to the den, where he poured us each a good shot of sour mash.
"To mom--God bless her randy old soul!" Rick and I raised our glasses and
sipped the good whiskey.

"I liked your act in there," Rick said. "Do you think we can get away
with it?"

"Sure, if we get up early and stay out of sight... In the morning, I'll
take Zack with me, Rob. He needs some training in getting away from women,

"OK, dad. He'll like that. I want to give all four horses a good
gallop tomorrow. I'll use my western saddle, though. If I'm lucky, I can
work it so I do two in the morning and two in the afternoon..."

Dad and my uncle grinned. "You're catching on."

Nobody could ever remember a time when there were that many people at
the ranch at once. Hazel looked great, in a tailored western-style dress
with a calf-length skirt. It showed her figure to perfection, while
covering everything appropriately for a ranch wedding.

George wore a dark suit--we all did. Our women wore dresses. They
looked fantastic, dressed up with makeup and their hair all done up.
George confided to the rest of us, as the women were coming toward us from
the house, "Not a dud in the bunch."

Uncle Rick answered, "Amen, brother."

Our preacher tied the knot and grandma Hazel tried to give George an
erection when she kissed him. The whole mob lined up to congratulate them,
then moved off towards the food, which we'd set up on tables outdoors,
partially shaded by the two big oaks in the yard.

With beef, veal, pork and chicken, there was plenty of food. Even some
of the easterners really tucked it away.

A few of George's friends were horse people, too, and asked to see our
horses. So many wanted to see, we took them in groups, mom, then dad, then
me and Audry.

Just as we were really getting into the serious eating, I heard the
unmistakable sound of a helicopter. Soon, I could see a new Bell, coming
in low and settling in beside George's bird. A couple of guys got out and
ran under the rotors, before it lifted off again.

They were two members of the Utah Jazz, who had played in Portland the
night before and heard about the wedding. They'd become friends at the
Olympics and the all too rare meetings since. Anyway, they chartered a
helicopter to bring them. Did we mind?

Hell no! We only minded that they'd missed the ceremony itself.

"Well, our pilot got a little lost."

"Because you were trying to 'help' him with directions."

"Stuff it. It was his fault. I told him about 20 miles south of
Sisters... Anyway, what's a guy got to do to get a bite to eat and a kiss
from a bride around here?"

Giggling, Audry took an arm of each of them--they were each about twice
as tall as she is--and steered them over to where George and Hazel were
surrounded by guests.

"Hazel, look what dropped in," she announced.

"Why you boys look right peaked," Hazel said, dropping into a fake 'Ma
Kettle' accent. "You set right down here and we'll see about gettin' some
nourishment in you."

Laughing, one of the NBA stars picked her up and kissed her soundly.
Then, without putting her down, he handed her to his pal, who repeated the
process. "Aren't they nice boys?" Hazel said to the group, when she was
back on her feet. "Thanks for coming, guys. I really appreciate it."

"Aw, Hazel. You know the whole league is going to be mad at us, 'cause
they didn't get here and we did."

"Serves them right. You made the effort. Now hustle over there to the
barbecue and tell the man what you want. I won't have you telling our
friends we didn't feed you properly."

After they'd eaten, Audry and I made a point of showing them the whole
operation. They'd asked a lot of intelligent questions and seemed
interested. "Are those horses big enough to carry us?"

"Sure, as long as you don't ask too much of them. Probably shouldn't
try the jumps--except maybe on Sam or Clay."

Nobody wanted to try Olympic jumping. It looked dangerous. But they
would like a ride.

"Look, guys. Can you stay overnight? We could go out tomorrow and stay
out as long as your butts can stand it."

"Sorry, Audry. We've got to get back tonight. We fly to Phoenix in the

"Well, we'll let you get on and ride around a bit, anyway. Rob, saddle
the monsters."

Laughing, I put western saddles on Sam and Clay and rode them around the
ring myself, just to make sure they didn't need to unwind with guests
aboard. Then I let the stirrup leather out as far as it would go on the
saddles and invited our friends to climb aboard.

Neither had ever been on a horse--outside a pony ring when they were
kids. I had to give them instructions. But they soon had the well-trained
horses walking where they wanted them to go. Then a trot around the
ring--and finally a canter.

That was enough and they slid off, exhilarated, but impressed. That a
bit of a girl, like Audry, could control such a huge beast, and do it so
well, was really something!

At their request, I put on a bit of a show. It felt wrong, doing
dressage in a western saddle. But Sam figured out what I wanted. He was
confused at first, too. With Audry's commentary, I performed elementary
dressage movements. Then we did a couple of jumps. It was all wrong, with
that saddle. I wasn't up on Sam's neck properly. So we stopped.

"I've got the wrong equipment on the horse," I explained. "I need my
other saddle and different boots, to do it right." Our guests looked
perplexed. "Think of it like trying to sink a basket without your heels
leaving the floor." OK. They had the idea. It was a matter of balance.

Too soon, the helicopter came back and our friends had to leave. They
had a fine afternoon, visiting--and promised to come back in the summer
when they could stay longer. They enjoyed mixing with the other guests,
too. The Indian kids were awed.

About an hour before dusk, as the sun was approaching the treetops,
George and Hazel led a couple of horses out, with a packhorse in tow.
They'd spend their wedding night under the stars, in a little secluded draw
Hazel had in mind--not too far, yet not likely they'd be disturbed. In a
couple of days they'd be back and fly to New York.

Gary's family stayed overnight with us, when all the other guests
departed. And Tom Shaliko, one of the tribal elders, stayed with Rick and
Elin. In the morning, we'd all ride out to the little canyon we'd
found--so they could see it. Although the tribe knew of the place, none of
those alive had ever been there.

~~ * * * * ~~

We took a packhorse and camping gear, but didn't really expect to stay
overnight. Zach and I, along with Gary, Mary, and the elder, Tom, made up
our group.

Tom was the oldest on the tribal elders' council. It was he who said
he'd banish any spirits of the old ones from the site. Gary said he was a
medicine man... as well as a very good cowhand, when he was younger.

Arriving around noon, we pulled a bit of brush into the entrance path,
to make a gate, and turned the horses loose. They couldn't go anywhere and
it was nice for them and us not to have to worry about them.

After our lunch, I showed them what we'd found. Then Zach and I
wandered over to the little spring, to see how it flowed from the rock and
allow our friends to do what they needed to without our interference.

Pretty soon, old Tom started a low chant and let some dust drift from
his hands, in a circle. He didn't take long. After his short ritual, he
brushed his hands against his pants, looked at Gary and said, "Well, do you
need to see anything else?"

Gary smiled with genuine affection and said, "I'd like to have a quick
look at possible vehicle access routes, but I've seen all I need to here."
He turned to me. "The place is what you said it was, Rob. We're really
grateful. This isn't a tribal site for our people, but we'll take care of
it, on behalf of all Native Americans. Don't worry, we'll do it right."

I just smiled back. "Glad we had friends like you to take this on. I
know Prof. Arnesson at OSU would love to get his hands on this place. And
I'd hate for him to get his hooks into it." Gary grinned. He knew the man.
"Can't you just see that pompous asshole, driving a big Land Rover over to
the ranch, demanding that we string power and put in water for him?"

Gary laughed. "Yeah. Sends shivers up your spine, doesn't it?"

As we mounted up for the ride home, he said, "We'll get an easement
drawn up, giving the Tribal Council rights to come and go along one route,
for scientific purposes only. We'll restrict it every way we can, so no
one can get carried away later."

"Good. We'll have our lawyer, Al, in Bend, take a look at it. But the
idea is that the tribe will have exclusive control and will arrange to do
all the things appropriate for scientific study of the site. If anybody
makes any money off of it, it will be shared--maybe artifacts should be
shared, too. We can always give our share to a museum and take a

"Right," Tom said.

"And, of course, it cannot interfere with our work of ranching."

"Right, again," Tom agreed.

The lawyers worked for a couple of months, but they knew what we wanted
and their major effort was to prevent the state or federal governments from
stepping in. We felt we had it all covered in the final documents. Our
agreement, though, was that simple conversation on the way home from that
first visit.

Our Indian friends stayed another night. In the morning, with ritual
admonitions to Shawna to behave (she always did), they returned to Warm

Grandma Hazel and George were still out there, somewhere.

The next morning, we had other visitors. Three of the gymnasts we'd
befriended at the Olympics had learned about grandma's wedding--to a guy
who had a silver medal, too--and had to come. They weren't sure of the
wedding date, or how long it would take them to drive here from Los
Angeles, where they were in school. They were disappointed to learn that
they'd missed the big occasion, but were welcomed warmly nevertheless. We
told them that they could probably have a chance to congratulate Hazel in
person if they stuck around a day or two.

Meanwhile, we put them in a couple of guestrooms and asked if they'd
mind watching us work the horses. (Those lazy critters hadn't had any real
work for over a week.) They'd be delighted and sat on the bench atop the
training ring fence all day. They listened to mom's coaching, as she
watched us work the horses. Audry came out for the dressage work, but
wasn't up to jumping quite yet.

At lunch, they made a big fuss over Erin. Of course, Moira was in awe
of them. She didn't know it, but they were in awe of her, too, when they
saw her taking jumps and doing dressage with her pony.

That evening, Hazel and George came dragging in. I've often seen people
tired, even exhausted. But never before had I seen two people who were so
obviously fucked out. In fact, I'm surprised either of them could sit a

Grandma Hazel threw me the reins of her horse and headed into the house.
She was going to take a long soak in the big tub. George at least had the
courtesy to put up his own horse--although they hadn't ridden very far or
hard. I told him to hang up the tack. I'd take care of the feeding and
rubdown for him. He just smiled his thanks, nodded, and shuffled off to
the house.

In the morning, the girls gathered around the happy pair, offering
congratulations, and apologizing for being late for the wedding. Hazel got
a bit teary, thinking of the trip they'd made, just for that.

As soon as they packed, they fired up the helicopter and were off. We
didn't see them until the next major competition.

Our visitors went with Rick. He was only going to take them out
overnight, knowing what a saddle will do to someone not used to it. But
they really wanted to see my favorite meadow, with the spring that feeds
the rock basin--they remembered Audry and me talking about the place, over
dinner at the Olympics.

When they returned, just in time for dinner the next evening, they were
saddle-weary, but triumphantly proud of themselves. And very glad they'd
made the trip. They'd seen for themselves why we loved our ranch so much,
and the spot we held most dear, of all the beautiful places around us.

One of the girls asked Audry, "How can you leave this place? If I lived
here, I'd never leave it."

Audry quietly answered, "My home is where my husband is. About the
ranch: I was born here. It is in me. When I go, I carry it with me--and I
know I'm coming back."

Our friends stayed with us three more delightful days. Then they had to
return to California.

The night after they left, Shawna put the kids all in bed and was
reading in the study. Audry and I wandered over to mom's place.

mom commented, "You know, this business of riding horses over jumps is
something. We've not only managed to make a good living from the horses,
we've made lifelong friends from the competitions. Who would have believed
that we'd have multi-millionaire stars of the NBA in our living room? Or
those girls, whose faces are familiar in every home in the country, would
drive up here, just to congratulate Hazel on her wedding--and then go on a
trail ride with Rick?

"We have friends who would do almost anything for us--like our Indian
friends did when we had that poacher. You know something? We're really
blessed, by our friends. And doubly so, because our family are all
friends, too."

"I love you, too, mom," I said.

Our friends were far from through with us.

The campground of the old ones we'd discovered turned out to be a very
important find. One of the first things done to the place was detailed
mapping, and photography of every rock--and especially every drawing.
Prints of those photographs were soon hanging in museums and art galleries.

The artistry shown in the arrowheads and other stone tools was both
unique and beautiful. Those artifacts were in great demand by museums and
college anthropology and archeology departments. We were reminded almost
daily of how glad we were that we had put the Tribes in charge, because we
were constantly asked for permission to come and dig there. (All the
requests were referred to the Tribes, with the admonition that the site was
NOT on public land and trespassers would be prosecuted...and were in danger
approaching the area.)

A year later, Audry, pregnant again, and I were invited, with all the
family, to attend a special festival at Warm Springs. We were asked to
bring all the kids, too.

We found that, at the festival, we were all inducted into the tribe. We
were given our secret names and were told that we were registered in their
records as members. We and our children could go to any other tribe or
band and claim benefits as Native Americans, based on that membership. In
other words, we were, indeed, full members, as if we had been born to it.

When it all sunk in--the kids just thought it was 'cool'--I was stunned.
I'd never heard of this being done.

Gary smiled and said, "It isn't done, Rob. We wanted to thank you for
all you've done for us. This was the best way we could think up...
Actually, it was old Tom's idea. Once he suggested it, it seemed perfectly
logical to everyone."

I didn't know what to say. So I shut up.

Mary said, "Robby, Audry, you and your folks mean so much to us and have
been such good friends to us over the years, we had to do something. We
don't have much, but this was something we could give you, to thank you for
all you've given us."

Elin heard that, and said, "But Mary, you've given us much more than we
can ever repay. And now this, too..."

"No, Elin. We've only given you the duty of friendship. But you've
given us your lives, your hearts, beyond duty. And then the place of the
old ones... Well. You didn't have to give us that. We will probably, in
the long run, make a substantial amount of money from it. A lot
indirectly, as advertising for what we do here, at the resort. But it will
help us care for our elders and our sick. Our children can go to better
schools... All those things. And your generosity has helped. Elin,
Audry, I feel better about my children's future because of you. That's as
simple as I can put it."

We felt that they were helping us, by taking the hassle off our hands.
They thought we'd done them a big favor by giving them the hassle. So,
where's the beef?

What a dull life it would be, without our friends.

* Friends is the sixth in the series of Audry stories. (c) 1997, 2001,
Extar International, Ltd. All rights reserved. Single copies for
personal, non-commercial use may be downloaded or printed. Any other uses,
including reposting, or posting on an archive site, must have prior
permission from Extar International. Comments always welcome.

** The common practice in helicopters, unlike fixed-wing aircraft, is
for the pilot to sit in the right-hand seat, and the co-pilot or a
passenger in the left.


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