Going back to town Heath retrieves his belongings checks out goes and gets his horse Gal from the livery and then heads back to the Barkley Ranch.
Returning to the ranch Heath brings Gal to a stop outside the barn’s door. Being greeted by one of the hands, he returns the greeting addressing him as ‘Sir’.
“My name is Duke McCall,” the hand informs him. “You could call me Duke.”
As Duke extends his hand out, Heath replies, “Hi Duke, I am Heath,” taking the gesture and exchanging handshakes.
Duke then says, “Yes, Nick told me to expect you. He asked me to take your horse for you while you go inside and get settled in.”
Thanking him, Heath informs him, “I am not use to anyone taking care of Gal but me Duke. I’ll take care of her myself if you don’t mind.”
“If you wish,” Duke replies.
Heath then tells him “But thanks for the offer.”
“How about if I show you which stall to put her in,” Duke offers.
Heath replies, “That’ll be fine, Duke.”
“Right this way,” Duke says as he guides Heath to the stables. He then shows him which stall to put her in, which happens to be the last one.
Heath responds, “Thank you.”
Duke tells him, “Anytime. Oh, welcome to the Barkley Ranch, I hope you will find living and working here to be a rewarding experience.”
Heath replies, “We will see.”
Duke walks away and he takes Gal to her new stall. After removing her gear, he hands her a carrot, grabs the saddlebag and the bedroll and goes up to the front door and knocks.
After opening the door and greeting Heath, Silas tells him, “Welcome back. Come right in.”
Upon walking in, Heath thanks him and addresses him as ‘Sir’. As he removes his hat he is met by Victoria coming down the stairs, who also greets him.
Victoria then tells him, “So nice of you to return.”
“Thank you, Ma’am,” he replies, still holding onto his hat in one hand and his saddlebag over his shoulders and his belongings in the other.
“Is that all you brought with you?” Victoria inquires.
“Yes Ma’am,” Heath replies.
“Well alright,” Victoria tells him “Come with me; let me show you to your room.”
Guiding him up the stairs, he takes everything in from the staircase to the landing to the hallway and notices that each room has a door that is closed.
Reaching the first door to her right, “Heath,” Victoria says to him, “This will be your room” opening the door “You could hang your belongings there and fix up the room anyway you like.”
Once again Heath thanks her as ‘Ma’am’ and puts his things down on the bed.
“Here,” she then replies, “Come with me and let me show you where the bathroom is.”
After replying, “Yes um,” Heath quickly follows her down the hall.
“We have everything you may need,” she informs him as she opens the door. Noticing the faraway look in his eyes, she asks, “Heath, are you okay?”
“Yes um,” Heath tells her. “Just I never seen one before. It’s very nice.”
After telling him thank you, she tells him, “It has the latest of everything.”
She then asks of him, “Is there anything I could get for you?”
“No Ma’am,” he replies “I am fine.”
“Well,” she then tells him “How about after you get settled in you come downstairs and I will have Nick show you around the ranch a bit before dinnertime?”
“Yes um, that’ll be fine,” Heath replies as he is left alone to check out his room. First he starts off with the dresser then moving to the desk opening each drawer then after testing out the chair he goes over to the closet and looks at each of the hangers lined up.
Then walking over to the window he sees the black stallion walking about in the paddock. Finally, crossing to the bed he checks out the blankets, comforter and then the pillow which he lays his head on and staring up at the ceiling says, “Heath, what have you got yourself into?”
Minutes later hearing a knock at the door followed by Nick’s voice calling to him, he answers, “Yes Sir?”
Upon opening the door, “Are you ready?” Nick asks of him, “I will be showing you around a bit and introduce you to some of the men in the bunkhouse.”
Responding, “Yes sir, I’m ready,” Heath quickly goes with Nick out the door.
Going down the stairs “We’ll be back” Nick mentions passing by the parlor and going out the front door and upon closing the door “Heath,” he then says, “Let’s start off with the bunkhouse and then I will take you around and show you a little bit of the ranch.”
Responding, “Yes sir,” Heath follows Nick to the bunkhouse.
Catching a few of the men inside Nick calls out to them and they who are there respond, “Hello Mr. Barkley.” Standing there he asks, “Where is everyone?”
“Scattered Nick,” Duke informs him “Some still haven’t returned from their work, and some of the others went into town for a little bit.”
Replying, “Very well.” Nick introduces Heath to the men who happen to be there: Johnny, Jim, Bobby, Ron, Davy and Chad. Each one greets him accordingly with Bobby adding, “Welcome.” and Heath thanking him.
Nick then says to Heath, “You already met Duke,” with Heath replying, “Yes sir.”
Nick then tells Duke to place Heath on the roster with him so he could show him what needs to be done. Nodding his head, “You got it Nick,” Duke replies.
Johnny then asks of Heath, “Where you from?”
“Mining town called Strawberry,” Heath answers.
“Is this your first time in Stockton?” Bobby asks of him.
“Yes um,” Heath replies.
“We” Nick then says “Better be going. I just came in to quickly introduce Heath here. You’ll get to see him in the morning when you all go out.”
“Heath,” Davy asks, “Do you play cards?”
“Yes um,” Heath replies.
“Maybe some Friday or Saturday night.” Davy suggests, “You could sit in with us.”
Heath responds, “Thank you.”
As the men bid him goodbye and he is leaving Ron tells him, “Nice meeting you.”
Replying, “Thank you, sir,” Heath continues following Nick out the door.
Going inside the barn, grabbing and saddling up their horses they mount up and leading the way Nick shows Heath around various areas of the ranch.
Riding around for an hour or so Nick asks of him, “What do you think?”
“Pleased,” Heath replies, “All this yours, sir?”
Proudly Nick answers, “Every last bit of it. I think we have the biggest spread in this side of the state.”
Nodding in admiration “I wouldn’t be surprised,” Heath says.
“Have you,” Nick inquires, “Been anywhere’s besides Stockton and Strawberry?”
“Yes sir,” Heath replies “Jubilee, Corning, Nevada, New Mexico, Mexico, Texas…”
“They were okay,” Heath replies.
“Tell me,” Nick then says, “About your home in Strawberry. What was it like?”
“Okay sir,” Heath replies.
Watching as Heath starts to have a faraway look on his face and his eyes looking up at the sky, Nick says, “You like looking up at the sky?”
“Yes sir,” Heath replies.
“Why is that?” Nick inquires, “Any particular reason?”
“It goes on and on,” Heath explains.
“And you like that?” Nick asks.
Swallowing hard, “I do sir,” Heath replies.
“Why is that?” Nick asks.
Shrugging his shoulders, “Not know sir,” Heath replies.
Raising an eyebrow Nick then says “Seeing you’ve been to Nevada, New Mexico, Mexico, Texas, you must’ve seen quite a bit for your age.”
“Yes sir,” Heath replies.
“I know your Mama died,” Nick brings up, “But how did she feel about you traveling so much and so far away like that?”
“Didn’t like it sir,” Heath answers.
“Then,” Nick asks curiously, “Why did you do it? You like defying your mother?”
“Had to,” Heath answers testily.
“Had to?” Nick wanted to know, “Why did you have to?”
“Had to,” Heath replies, “Had to go.”
“Why do you say that?” Nick then asks.
“Had to,” Heath repeats.
“Well alright,” Nick tells him, “Just asking. We could drop the subject for now. Are there any questions you would like to ask me?”
Shaking his head, “No sir,” Heath replies.
“Then,” Nick says, “Let’s head back. I will show you some of the other areas another time.”
“Yes sir,” Heath replies. And then returning, they settle the horses in with Heath petting Gal before following Nick into the house.
Walking in the front door, “Well,” Victoria asks, “How did it go?”
“Went alright,” Nick answers, “I showed him areas of the ranch and introduced him to some of the men that were around.”
Glancing at Heath, “Heath,” Victoria asks, “How was it?”
“Fine Ma’am,” Heath replies.
“Why don’t,” Victoria suggests, “You both go upstairs and get ready for dinner? It will be ready shortly?”
“Sure” comes from Nick and “Yes Ma’am,” from Heath who goes with Nick.
Reaching the top of the stairs, “Heath,” Nick asks, “Want to go first or shall I?”
Shrugging his shoulders but not responding, “Alright,” Nick says, “I will be just a couple of minutes,” and going into the bathroom Nick closes the door and Heath waits outside in the hall patiently. Minutes later coming out Nick lets him know it’s his turn and then tells him, “Just help yourself and come and meet us downstairs for dinner.”
Responding, “Yes sir,” Heath goes into the bathroom while Nick descends to the main floor. Staring at the sink and calling out to Gene who is passing by, Heath says, “Excuse me, Eugene ‘Sir’?
Hearing his name being summoned and walking over to the bathroom Gene replies “Yes Heath?”
“Excuse me,” Heath says again, “But, how do you get the water out?”
Showing him, “It comes out of this here faucet,” Gene says, “Watch,” turning it on for him, “See Heath?”
“Yes sir,” Heath replies, “Thank you.”
“Want to see how the toilet works?” Gene offers to Heath who replies, “Yes sir.”
Demonstrating, “Like this,” Gene indicates, “Do you want to see the tub fill up?”
“No thank you,” Heath replies, “Boy Howdy, thank you sir.”
“You didn’t have these kinds of things in Strawberry?” Gene wanted to know.
“No sir,” Heath replies.
“How did you get the water into the tub or the toilet or the sink?” Gene inquires.
“Pumped from well,” Heath explains, “Fill up pails and bring it inside or in a basin to wash up in sir.”
“That is how it was done before they came out with these,” Gene notes.
“Interesting,” Heath comments.
Gene then tells him he’ll see him downstairs, Heath thanks him and as Gene descends the stairs he places his hand over his mouth suppressing a chuckle while Heath begins using the sink and the toilet.
As Gene comes into the study, “Gene,” Victoria says, “Did you get cleaned up?”
Responding “Yes Mother” and then chuckling he adds “Heath will be right down.”
Noticing the suppressed chuckle, “Gene,” Victoria asks, “What’s so funny?”
“Heath is,” Gene states, “He called me Eugene sir. I never been called sir before.”
“Don’t be doing that,” she lectures. “Maybe he is just being polite.”
“Sorry,” Gene says, “I had to show him how to use the sink and the toilet.”
Cutting in, “There are probably a lot of modern things we have” Jarrod brings up “That Heath” while indulging himself with a drink and Nick doing the same “May not have had the opportunity of using or having.”
“Jarrod’s right,” Victoria says, “And Gene, not everyone has the luxuries of what we have. We were fortunate to know people that knew how to put these things in for us. Not many around the country have what we have and probably won’t for quite some time, so please,” as Audra sits alongside of her, “Be thankful for what we have.” Gene responds, “Yes Mother.”
“Also,” Victoria says, “Please do not do anything that makes him feel like he’s being laughed at. I don’t think he will find it funny.”
As Gene replies “Yes Mother.”
Audra announces Heath is coming down the stairs.
As he is being welcomed by Victoria Heath responds with, “Howdy Ma’am.”
Next Jarrod welcomes him in the study and upon offering him a drink, Heath declines with him replying, “No sir.”
Victoria then says, “Heath, would you like to sit down?” Responding, “Yes Ma’am,” Heath then thanks her as he takes the empty seat on the sofa.
Noticing the tenseness in him, “Heath,” Victoria urges him, “You could relax. You are among family.” Heath once again responds, “Yes Ma’am.”
Just then Silas walks in and announces dinner is ready. Getting up, “Shall we?” Victoria says as she rises from her seat with Jarrod and Nick on each side of her taking an arm and escorting her into the dining room with Audra escorting Heath and Gene following next right behind them.
Sitting around the table, Victoria takes her seat at the head with Gene to her right, Audra on her left, Nick next to Gene and Jarrod opposite Victoria at the other end of the table. Seeing Heath standing there, Victoria tells Heath to sit.
Replying, “Yes Ma’am,” he occupies the empty seat between Gene and Jarrod.
Coming in with dinner Silas places a piece of steak in the center between where Nick and Heath are seated, next he places a large bowl of mashed potatoes and a bowl of carrots next to the steak. Silas then asks, “Could I get you anything more Mrs. Barkley?”
Victoria replies, “No Silas; this is fine, thank you.”
As Silas walks out, Gene and Audra serve themselves and then passing them down to Nick who fixes his plate and to Heath who just holds onto his. Noticing Jarrod tells him, “Heath, fill your plate.”
Responding, “Yes sir,” Heath obediently complies with him slowly and nervously fixing his plate with both Audra and Gene quietly observing. Then handing the bowl to Jarrod he fills his plate with Nick filling his when it’s his turn.
Watching as Heath is eying the steak in the center of the table Jarrod asks, “Heath, do you want that piece of steak?”
Swallowing hard and looking over at Nick who is also eying it Heath answers, “No thank you sir.”
“You sure?” Jarrod asks.
Locking eye contact with Nick who is making a grab for it, “I’m sure,” he replies.
“Great,” Nick responds, as Heath watches as he picks it up with a devilish grin on his face and listens to the wicked laugh, “This is all mine.”
Taking his napkin Heath tucks it in the collar of his shirt. Once the bowls have been returned to the center of the table Victoria asks, “Shall we say grace?” and as everyone dutiful folds their hands together and bow their heads she recites, “Oh Heavenly Father, we thank thee for the blessing for the food on this table and for thy boundless love. Amen.”
Responding, “Amen,” the family starts eating. Noticing Heath not eating Victoria tells him, “Heath, eat your dinner it will get cold.”
Replying, “Yes Ma’am,” Heath picks up his fork and slowly eats with Audra and Gene once again quietly observing him.
Starting off the table conversations, “Eugene, Audra,” Victoria says, “I know neither one of you went to school today due to what happened but do either of you have any unfinished homework that needs getting done? Tomorrow is a school day and you will both be attending.”
While Audra tells her she finished all of hers, Gene mentions he has some that still needs getting done. Victoria informs Gene he will be doing his after dinner.
Jarrod asks of Heath, “Heath, did you go to school in Strawberry?”
Heath replies, “Yes sir.”
“Did you graduate?” Victoria asks.
“No Ma’am,” Heath replies.
“How come?” Victoria asks. Watching as he shrugs his shoulders “Did you like school?” she then inquires.
“No Ma’am” Heath replies.
“How come?” Victoria asks again.
“Not know,” Heath answers, “Just didn’t Ma’am; sorry.”
“That’s quite alright Heath” Victoria says “Not everyone likes school, Nick wasn’t fond of it.”
“What kind of a boy were you in school?” Nick joins in. Shrugging his shoulders staring down at his plate, “What’s the matter boy?” Nick sternly inquires as he continues nervously looks over at Nick and then back down at his plate again without uttering a single sound.
“Heath” Victoria asks compassionately “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing Ma’am” Heath replies.
“Can’t you open your mouth and come out with an answer?” Nick asks of him still talking sternly to him who continues to stare down at his plate.
“Nick” comes from Jarrod and “Nicholas” comes from Victoria, who backs off.
Glancing back over at Heath, “It’s okay Heath” Victoria replies “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
“And Heath,” Jarrod says, “It’s okay if you weren’t. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Brother Nick here,” exchanging glances with him, “Sure gave the teachers a run for their money.”
“Now Jarrod,” Nick replies, “I wasn’t that bad.”
“No Nick?” Jarrod asks, “Who was it that always had Mother or Father coming to the school for one reason or another?”
Looking over at Heath who remains quiet, “Heath,” Victoria asks, “Are you alright?” As Heath replies, “Yes Ma’am,” Victoria says, “We don’t have to talk about school anymore. We could go onto another subject,” carefully watching as he is taking slow bites of his dinner.
“Heath,” Nick informs him, “In the morning you will be working with Duke; he expects you there at six. You got that?” Heath answers, “Yes sir.”
“Heath,” Victoria concerned asks, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing Ma’am,” Heath replies.
“Well alright,” Victoria then says, “But if you ever want to talk I am always here, okay?” Once again Heath replies, “Yes Ma’am,” as the family continues to eat in silence for the next couple of minutes.
After swallowing a couple bites Victoria asks Heath about other family he may have in Strawberry in which he mentions Aunt Rachel, Hannah, Uncle Matt and Aunt Martha. She then inquires if he sees them often in which he responds, “No Ma’am, and after her asking, “Are you close to them?” he shakes his head.
“What’s the matter?” Nick barks again, “Mother asked you a question. Are you close to your Uncle Matt or Aunt Martha?”
Locking eyes on Nick, “NO,” Heath answers sharply and quickly, “I hate them!”
“You hate them?” both Nick and Victoria say with Victoria asking, “Why?”
Staring down at his plate, “Just do,” Heath answers.
“You sure do hate,” Nick says harshly “You hate school; you hate your aunt, you hate your uncle. Are there any other things you hate?” Upon him responding “Yes sir” Nick asks “Like what?” As he remains silent “What’s the matter?” Nick says sternly “Can’t you open your mouth and speak?” Heath continues to keep quiet.
“Nick,” Victoria tells him “Leave him alone.” And backing off Victoria asks “Heath, do you have any other family members?” Heath replies “No Ma’am.”
Joining in the conversation at the table both Audra and Gene ask him about the kinds of games he plays with him answering, “Cards.”
Jarrod brings up if he ever played pool in which he once again answers, “No sir.”
After Nick brings up the card playing again, Audra joins in with the kinds of card games he knows how to play in which he tells them, “Many. Gin, poker…”
Hearing him mentioning poker both Jarrod and Nick question how good he is in the game in which Nick brings up, “I heard you mention to the men that you play.” Heath answers, “Not know sir.”
Nick then says, “Maybe we should try it sometime. Would you be interested?” After he replies, “Yes sir,” Nick asks, “Do you play for money?”
Heath answers, “I do.”
“Alright,” Nick tells him in a serious but teasing tone, “We’ll definitely have to try it. But I want to warn you when we do play and you don’t win I don’t want to hear you come crying that I took all your money.” Heath replies, “I won’t sir.”
Just then Silas walks in and upon asking if anyone wants seconds, Audra, Gene and Nick all respond “Dessert” and after asking Heath, Victoria tells Silas to bring in the dessert in which he obediently leaves taking some of the dishes with him.
Seconds later returning with a tray, Silas serves each of them apple pie with each one thanking him as he places it before them with Heath addressing him as, ‘Sir,’ when it’s his turn. Leaving the rest of the pie on the table Silas is asked to bring in the beverages of coffee and tea with Heath mentioning it doesn’t matter which one he is given.
While Silas walks out with a few more dishes, Nick asks of Heath “You drink tea?”
Heath replies, “Yes um” as he is once again made the center of attention as he watches everyone eating their pie, Victoria taking notice asks of him, “Heath is something wrong with the pie?”
Replying, “No Ma’am,” Victoria then tells him, “Then eat up, enjoy.”
Responding, “Yes Ma’am,” he picks up his forth and starts eating small bites of his pie with Audra and Gene once again observing and exchanging glances with one another. Moments later Victoria asks of Heath, “How’s the pie?”
“Good Ma’am,” Heath replies while he continues eating it.
Victoria then asks of him, “Did your mother or your Aunt Rachel or Hannah make pies for you?”
“If could Ma’am” Heath answers. Victoria then says “They probably cooked well?”
“Yes Ma’am,” Heath replies, “They did.”