In the Heat of the Day
“Howdy Billy”, greeted Marty, lifting his weather-beaten hat as he smiled at Billy.
In River Creek where Billy lived with his family, Marty was their neighbour. Marty and William Rogers were, for many years, cattle ranchers and both had started to show a bit of old age.
“Saints in Heaven !” gasped Marty pulling on the reins of his horse: “Where did ya get that fine waistcoat lad? You look like a riding rainbow!”
“Pa gave me,” replied Billy proudly.
“Well, bless mi heart, I ain’ seen nottin’ like this in all mi born days.”
“Pa sent me to find my brothers but I ain’ seen ‘em.”
“They branding horses. Ride down to the old well and you sure will fin’ em. Careful a dem apache.”
“Giddy up!” shouted Billy as he rode along the gravel road to Rock River Valley. Freedom engulfed him. He was 17 years old and was learning about taking care of cattle. He had slept in open fields, learnt some survival skills and he and his Pa often rode as pards . The thought of seeing the horses branded excited him. However, as Billy neared his brothers he felt as if he was approaching a marked off, yellow line - v danger.
Rick, Dave, Sam, Jeffrey, Bert, Nicholas, Toby, Ozie and Ronald were feasting on rice cakes. Billy missed his younger brother Chip. Then he remembered his most recent dream. When his brothers had heard of the treasures which Billy had found in his dream, and how he had shared the valuables with them, they laughed scornfully at him.
Suddenly, in the heat of the day, Billy was grabbed from behind by Freddie.
“Gotcha!” shouted Freddie, as he ripped off Billy’s waistcoat.
“Throw him in the ol’ well”, shouted the others.
“Gi me that waistcoat you dern good-for-nottin’, I’ll dye it in blood and use it to white wash the ol’ man”, Bert said grinning.
But then came Billy’s white knight clad in a brown waistcoat, matching trousers, a bandana, fine cowboy boots, a badge and a broad rimmed hat.
“How much will you give us for this scoundrel?” asked Jeffrey.
“Take this pocket watch said the stranger. I know of someone further West who is short a han’.
“Keep ya eye on him”, said Jeffrey waving.
Billy began his journey into the blue. He admired the beautiful mountain ranges and the green plains almost covered by dust. At sunset, he arrived at the home of Mr. Pennycooke, the wealthiest man in Sackville Town. The merchant traded in gold and precious gems, had a winery and a chain of grocery stores.
Returning to the ranch at nightfall the brothers quickly dismounted from their horses.
“Quiet, ya all, said Jeffrey. I’ll do the talkin’ o.k.”
Mr. Rogers was almost paralyzed with fear when he saw the deep red waistcoat.
“My son,” he said faintly. Where is my son, my little Billy?”
Tears trickled from his weary eyes.
“Dem raw wolves got him Pa: Ain’ nottin’ we could do,” said Jeffrey, meanly.
“That’s jest life Pa”, added Ozie.
“He wandered off Pa, just like always,” Dave gulped.
At his new home Billy thought, “I like this kind o’ place. Now I don’t have to take off my brothers’ funky boots. He prayed that the God of his father would one day re-unite him with his family.
At the crack of dawn the old rancher headed in town to see Sheriff Evans who quickly organized a search for Billy.
“Let’s get going,” said Sheriff Evans: “Every second counts.”
After forty-eight hours the search was called off and it was agreed that Billy was dead.
At the funeral, all Billy’s brothers, except Chip stood around like white sepulchers. Reverend James in closing the service said, “Lord you knew the heart of little Billy, have mercy on his soul.”
Then the rain pelted - the last showers of rain before several months of drought which dried up crops and grass.
In Sackville, Billy beamed like a neon light and was promoted to Chief Business Manager. His father sent all his sons except Chip to Sackville Town to seek food.
“Take all the wagons, fill dem up as much as ya can”.
Bubbling with pink Billy served his brothers without prejudice and insisted that they bring their youngest brother to town.
Revealing himself to his family Billy knew that the God of his father had indeed fulfilled another dream.
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