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4 thoughts on “Submit your work to our Facebook Anthology for free right here

    “Damn”, Bear said out loud as he turned the steering wheel hard to the right and drove his motor home onto the shoulder of the road while hitting the brakes hard, hoping that he had missed the person standing in the center of the on ramp as it connected to the Interstate from the old highway he was exiting. He felt the horse trailer he was pulling trying to jackknife and feared the worse. With heart pounding he was barely able to keep his rig under control on the icy, snow covered road. But with a bit of luck he managed to bring the motor home to a stop on the shoulder of the Interstate. He was shaking so much he had to lay his head on the steering wheel. He prayed out loud “Please God, let that fool be all right.” After taking several deep breaths, he stood up and walked to the door and opened it.
    The air was cold and choked with snowflakes as Bear stepped down to the ground. Right away he saw a vague form running towards the motor home. As the person drew nearer he could see that it was a girl carrying a small suitcase and knapsack. He also noticed that she was wearing green cargo pants and a dark jacket that was too light for this cold, stormy March night out here on the Kansas prairie.
    “Girl are you crazy, standing out in the middle of the road like that!” shouted Bear, as his heart raced from anger. The thought that he might have run her over had scared him. Without answering the girl ran right past him and jumped into the open door disappearing from his sight. Shaking his head, Bear walked back to the horse trailer to check on his four horses. As he turned on the cargo light he could see that all four were still on their feet. After he was sure his horses were fine he trotted back to the open door of the coach and climbed in where it was warm. As he pulled the door closed behind him, Bear glanced around looking for the girl. He spotted her sitting on the floor just as far back as she could possibly get. He was amazed to realize that she couldn’t be more than twelve or thirteen years old. He walked back to where she sat crying and shivering uncontrollably. Bear’s anger began to evaporate seeing her crouched by the corner of the bed also looking scared to death. Changing his tone from anger to concern, he knelt down in front of her. She slowly tilted her face to look up at him, and even though her eyes were puffy from crying, he could see that they were the prettiest light green eyes he had ever seen. And yet, something about her eyes reminded him of someone. But the faint wisp of memory faded before he could place a face with it.
    “Girl”, he asked, “How in tarnation did you get way out here by yourself?” The girl shrank back and didn’t answer him.
    As Bear waited for her to speak, he pulled a blanket out of a closet and draped it over her shoulders. As he stood up she suddenly reached out and grabbed the cuff of his jeans.
    “Please Mister, don’t kick me out of here, I’ll freeze to death,” she pleaded through chattering teeth.

    He looked down at the poor half frozen wisp of a girl and said, “Of course I won’t put you out in the cold, child. You are safe now.” Bear scratched his head in puzzlement. “What is your name?” He asked her gently. She looked up from his well worn cowboy boots and into his rough leathery face as if trying to decide if he was dangerous. Something in his eyes made her feel that he could be trusted.
    “Jersey,” she said in a whisper. Then a little louder she said, “My name is Jersey Mister.” Bear looked at her as she continued to shiver.
    “Okay Jersey, I will take you as far as the next town. Then I will take you to the authorities there.”
    Suddenly Jersey looked like she had just been slapped. She began to cry harder as she said, “Please don’t do that Mister! They will just send me back to that awful Juvy Hall back east again.” She paused to catch her breath, and then continued. “I’m not a bad girl, really I’m not!”
    Bear knelt down and held out his arms. As distraught as she was, Jersey leaned into his arms to be comforted. The kindness and strength she felt in those arms made her feel protected as she wept. “How can a stranger make me feel safe?” She wondered as she fell asleep.
    Bear soon realized that the distraught child had cried herself to sleep and he stood up slowly with her still in his arms. He cradled her in his massive arms as if she were an infant. He reached down with one hand and pulled the covers back on the bed. He knew that she should get out of the wet, cold clothes but since she had fallen asleep he decided to just put plenty of blankets on her and hope it would be enough to bring up her body temperature. He felt her hands and cheeks and they felt like ice and he was worried about her possibly having hypothermia.
    Bear made himself a pot of coffee before starting the motor home and pulling back onto the interstate heading west towards the Nebraska and Wyoming state lines. Deep in thought he drove on to Lincoln. There he fueled up, watered and put out some hay for the horses. After he was finished he climbed back inside the coach to check on the sleeping child. As he stood near the bed looking down at her he couldn’t help but think how close she came to perishing on this cold stormy, early spring night. He looked at the coaches gages that also monitored the outside temperature. He shuddered as he saw that the temperature had dropped into the teens.
    Bear turned and walked up front and sat down in the driver’s seat struggling with the decision as to whether he should call and have the authorities come and pick her up, or just wait and let her sleep while he drove on to the next town. After a few minutes he made up his mind. He based it from what his gut and heart told him more than what he knew should be done. He decided she needed to sleep right now so she could be rested to deal with life.

    Bear started his rig, pulled out of the fuel stop and headed out of town feeling that he had made the right decision, at least for now. After all, he thought, I do want to hear her story.
    As the sun came up Bear began to feel fatigued and decided to look for a place to pull off the highway to rest for awhile. Soon he spotted a likely area and pulled off the Interstate onto an old county road. About two miles up the road, he found a level spot wide enough to pull in to and still be able to turn around when he left. He could see a little creek running through a little channel about a hundred yards off. As soon as he got the motor home stopped, he stood and stretched. He looked back and saw that Jersey was still sleeping. He opened the door, stepped outside and walked to the back of the horse trailer where he proceeded to off load the four horses.
    Bear led them down to the creek so they could drink some water. Cherokee, his buckskin quarter horse, with a little mustang thrown in, playfully nudged him looking for a carrot. He reached into his pocket and pulled one out and gave it to his favorite roping horse. As usual, the other three horses let him know that they too wanted their carrot ration. Bear stood admiring the horses as they drank. He was pleased to see that Cherokee, Promiscuous Flags, Marca, and Cute as a Bugs Ear were all looking fit as a fiddle. After they had their fill of water he led them back to the motor home where he put them on a picket line, and tossed out hay for them. Only then did he go back into the coach and grab a blanket and laid down on the couch, where he was out before his head hit the pillow.
    Bear awoke a couple of hours later to the smell of coffee brewing and to the sound of bacon sizzling. He opened his eyes and sat up to see that Jersey was standing at the stove. He watched as she cracked some eggs and put them in with the bacon. She turned and saw that he was sitting up.
    “I thought you might like some breakfast,” she said. She then turned back around and flipped the eggs while still speaking, “don’t remember your name Mister.”
    Chuckling, Bear looked up at her while he pulled on his battered cowboy boots. “I didn’t get a chance to tell you it yet,” he explained to her. “My name is Lance, Lance Anderson.” He paused then continued, “But my friends call me Bear.”
    Jersey looked over her shoulder shyly, and then asked, “Would it be okay if I called you Bear, mister? I think it is a cool nickname.” He chuckled again and nodded. “I think that would be fine.” He told her.
    Jersey turned around holding two plates teaming with eggs, bacon, potatoes, and pan toast, walked over to the table and put them down. Then she looked at Bear and smiled. He was amazed how everything around her seemed to brighten up when she smiled. It is the prettiest smile I have ever seen, he thought to himself. And just like her eyes had, her smile seemed to be vaguely familiar to him.

    He took a closer look at this child before him and although her waist length, golden blonde hair was in disarray, and she could stand a bath, he thought she had a rare beauty about her.
    Bringing his thoughts back to breakfast, he got up off the couch and walked to the table and sat down. “Real thoughtful of you fixing breakfast.” he said.
    Jersey looked shyly up from her plate until her eyes met Bears, and then confessed. “I was hungry too. I haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday morning when I had some French toast that a nice old lady bought for me at a diner.
    Bear shook his head and told her, “Rough going for a child.”
    Suddenly she looked back up at him and snapped, “I am not a child Mr. Bear!”
    Taken off guard by her outburst Bear retorted back, “Oops, sorry lady.” This made her laugh, and the sound of her laughter was like the tinkling icicles in a breeze on a beautiful winter morning, clear and pure. It brought a joy to his heart that he had not known for years.
    After Bear finished eating he excused himself, “I need to tend to the horses Jersey. That was a delicious breakfast. Thank you.” She blushed and got up and began to put the dishes into the sink as he walked out the door.
    Bear went out and saddled up Cherokee, put his boot in the stirrup and swung his other leg up over his old battered saddle. Then, as was Cherokee’s habit, he began to hop and buck hard trying to work out the kinks in his legs and back.
    “Whoa there OLE’ boy, I’m getting too old for your games”, Bear said while laughing. When Cherokee settled down, Bear turned him around so he could gather up the lead ropes for the other horses. As he began to put Cherokee into a trot, Jersey opened the door and waved as he passed by. “I’ll be gone for an hour or two.” Bear told her as he squeezed his legs against the horses’ side causing Cherokee to break into a canter.
    Two and a half hours later when Bear returned to the motor home, he took the saddle off Cherokee and once again tied all four horses to the picket line. Then with curry comb in hand he brushed down each horse and checked their hooves for rocks. Once he had the horses taken care of, Bear began to wonder why he hadn’t heard or seen anything of the girl.

    “Well,” he said to the horses, “I guess she got tired of waiting and walked back to the Interstate to catch another ride. Perhaps she figured I was going to turn her over to the sheriff”. In fact, Bear had been wrestling with that very dilemma. What he had decided was to take the runaway to the next truck stop and wait there for his ranch foreman and wife to catch up. Then they would decide whether to take her on to Colorado with them. There he was sure he could get an investigation started into what had caused Jersey to runaway.
    “Damn”, Bear swore out loud as he remembered that he had left his wallet on the dashboard in plain sight. He quickly opened the door and went into the motor home. Once inside, Bear spotted his wallet on the console instead of where he had left it. Bear reached down picked it up and opened it. He sighed in relief as he saw that all his cash and credit cards were still inside it. Bear began to look around and noticed how well she had cleaned and tidied up the coach before she had left. “Well”, he thought, “she had earned her breakfast anyway”.
    Bear needed to use the toilet, so he reached for the door and was about to open it when he heard a little splashing sound as if someone had just turned over in the tub. Bear pulled his hand away from the knob and knocked lightly.
    “Uh, Jersey are you in there girl?” Bear waited for a few seconds but didn’t get a reply. He knocked louder and repeated what he had just said. Startled Jersey sat up quickly as she tried to get her bearings.
    “Whaaa”! She exclaimed as she woke up. She remembered where she was and said, “Please wait Mister Bear, I’m taking a bath”.
    Bear backed away after telling her to take her time. “No wonder I didn’t see her”, he thought, “She must have fallen asleep in the little tub in there”. Bear sat at the table laughing quietly to himself. To his surprise he found that he was relieved that she hadn’t gone off hitchhiking again. “No telling what might befall such a young girl out there”, he mumbled.
    A few minutes later Jersey stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in a big towel carrying her dirty clothes, the little suitcase, and her knapsack. “It’s all yours”, she said, while blushing as she looked at her feet. Bear inched past her and went on into the bathroom.
    Fifteen minutes later Bear came back out to see that the girl was wearing one of his old flannel shirts. Bear noticed that because she was so petite, his shirt went clear down to the middle of her shins as she stood up from the couch. She blushed again and said,
    “Mister Bear, I hope you don’t mind that I borrowed one of your shirts I found in the closet”• She was still blushing and looking away as she continued to speak. “I don’t have any clean clothes to wear”, she said in a quiet voice, then continued, “And I was hoping that you wouldn’t mind if I washed my clothes out in your tub”.

    Bear shook his head and told her, “There is no need for you to go through all that Jersey, because there is a washer/dryer combo in the closet behind you”. Bear walked over to where she was standing and reached around her, opening the closet door and showed her how to op-erate the machine. Then he walked over to the coach’s control panel and flipped the switch that fired up the generator.
    Bear left the girl to her washing and went back outside into the cold to check on the horses again. A short time later as Bear was giving them all a carrot, he heard Jersey walking up behind him. When she stepped up beside him she was wearing his spare coat.
    “Would you like to give them a piece of carrot?” he asked her. She nodded, so he handed her four pieces. As she reached her hand forward Bear noticed that she seemed to be nervous.
    He gently pulled her hand back and asked, “Have you had much inte-raction with horses?”
    The girl answered, “A little bit. My mother and stepfather use to take me to a horse stable where I got to ride a pony a few times. But that was when I was very young.”
    Bear grinned, and asked, “You’re pretty much a city girl, right?”
    Jersey nodded and confided, “I was born in Roselle Park in New Jer-sey”. She then took a step closer to the horses and said, “Your horses are so much bigger than the pony my mother taught me to ride when I was a little kid.”
    Jersey reached out her hand holding a carrot in her fingers to give to Cherokee. Bear once again pulled her hand back and then patiently showed her how to hold the carrot in the palm of her hand while her fingers were straight out and let the horse lift it off.
    Jersey did as Bear instructed. When Cherokee nibbled the carrot out of her open hand she began to giggle, which then turned into a laugh as she nervously put her hand up to touch the side of Cherokee’s head. She jumped and jerked her hand back as the big horse shook his head. Bear laughed and told her that Cherokee was just playing with her. Bear then took her hand and told Cherokee to behave. This time he lowered his head to allow the girl to scratch his cheek.
    As Jersey turned around to leave, Cherokee laid his head across her right shoulder and sighed as if to say he was content. Bear then pro-ceeded to load the four horses into the trailer, wondering why Cherokee had acted as he had towards Jersey. Jersey and Bear then walked back to the coach and climbed inside.
    Bear felt hungry again so he proceeded to make each of them a ham sandwich. He carried the sandwiches to the table, grabbed two cokes out of the refrigerator and as he sat down at the table Jersey said, “Thank you Mister Bear”. Bear nodded as he saw the gratitude in her pretty green eyes. After they ate, Bear started the motor home, turned it around and headed back down the gravel road to the Interstate.
    Bear looked into the rear view mirror as Jersey teetered down the aisle to check on her clothes. She turned the machine off and opened the door to find that her clothes were dry. She began to pull what few clothes she owned out, and began to fold them on the back bed. Bear reached down to the control panel on the dash and flipped the switch to turn the generator off. After folding her clothes, Jersey packed them, except the ones she intended to wear, into her little suitcase. She was trying to figure out how to hang a blanket up so she could dress, when Bear looked in the rear view mirror again. “Push that button by your left shoulder”, he told her. She pushed the button and smiled as a room divider began to slide out of the wall. She waved as the divider was about to shut off the rear of the coach. After a minute or two, Bear asked her if she had remembered to close the curtains on the widows. Right about then a car began to pass and Bear heard the driver of the car honking his horn.
    “DAMMIT ALL” The girl yelled out.
    Bear chuckled and asked, “What did you say back there?”
    Jersey hesitated, and then said, “I said, Darn it all”.
    Bear chuckled again, and soon he heard the tiny motors kick in as she found the button to close the blinds, giving her complete privacy. A few minutes later the divider began to withdraw back into the wall. Jersey stepped out fully dressed and walked up to the copilot chair and set down. An hour had passed as Jersey sat quietly looking out the window at the flat countryside of Kansas sliding by as Bear drove west on the Interstate.
    She began to ask Bear a question that she had been avoiding all day. “Mister Bear”, she began in a low sad tone. Just then a semi truck pulling a large stock trailer went barreling by sounding off its air horn.
    As it began to pullover in front of the motor home, the CB radio on the dash crackled and a voice familiar to Bear said, “Hello Boss, I told you Nancy and I would catch up with you”!
    Bear picked up the mic and said, “You did at that Buck, “How are the new horses doing?”
    Buck, who was Bears ranch foreman replied, “They’re behaving like wild mustangs cornered in a small box canyon with no way out Boss”! Jersey was listening to the conversation, her question for the moment put on a back burner.
    Buck’s wife, Nancy, came over the radio asking, “Bear, who’s the little filly sitting next to you? She looks to be in her diapers still”.
    Bear flinched as he saw Jersey turning crimson with anger at Nancy’s remark. Bear keyed the mic and told Nancy, “It’s a long story lady, let’s save it until we stop up ahead”.
    Bear turned to Jersey who was still red as a rose. “I don’t wear diapers!” She blurted out. Bear put on his poker face deciding now wasn’t a good time for jesting.
    “Don’t take it wrong Jersey, that’s just Nancy’s curious way of asking me why I have an underage girl riding with me.”
    The semi truck that Buck was driving pulled away from Bear’s older motor home as he came back on the radio, “See ya’ up the road Boss, you buying dinner?”.
    Bear chuckled and told him, “Sure thing you young dead beat.”
    Bear and Jersey drove on in silence for a few miles and Bear decided it was time that he found out a few things about this mysterious girl setting next to him.
    “Look Jersey, I need to know why I shouldn’t turn you in to the au-thorities at the next town”.
    Jersey was sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest while she watched the countryside rolling by. Jersey wrapped her arms around her knees and dropped her head down on them. She seemed to be sighing deeply, and then turned with tears streaming down her cheeks. “My mother and stepfather died in a freak accident a little over four months ago”. Now sobbing, Jersey went on painfully, “I didn’t have any known relatives, so the state took me away”. Jersey wiped away tears from her eyes and continued, “The state didn’t have any foster families willing to take a teenage girl, so the state sent me to a juvenile detention center while they looked for a foster home for me.”
    Jersey began to look defiant as she continued her story. “I was there until last week when I ran away because a staff person tried to do things to me he shouldn’t do to me”.
    Bear’s heart was saddened and angered by all that this child had had to go through. She wiped her tears from her eyes and said with a sad smile on her lips, “Somehow I knew I had to travel west and keep going west no matter what. It was like something was calling to me, Mister Bear”.
    Bear then asked, “Jersey how did you come to be in the middle of nowhere when I found you hitchhiking?” She quickly told Bear of the nice old trucker woman that had picked her up. And how when the woman had turned south at the crossroads, she had insisted to be let out.
    “My way had to be west Mister Bear, it just had to be”. Jersey took a deep breath then smiled and continued, “When that snow storm came up suddenly and there was no traffic I thought it was the end for me. But then I saw you coming up the other highway to get on the Interstate and I ran out so you would have to stop”.

    Bear shook his, head in wonderment. He felt that her story was true and from the heart. Bear shuddered when he thought that except for fate, the girl would more than likely have frozen to death by morning if he hadn’t came by when he did. Bear was surprised to feel a tear leaving his eye and begin to run down his leathery cheek. I can’t even remember the last tear I shed from these old tired eyes, Bear thought to himself.
    Jersey sat there composing herself. Once she felt better she asked, “Why did that man call you Boss?”
    Bear asked her to repeat the question since his mind was elsewhere. “I asked why that man on the radio called you Boss.”
    Bear chuckled and told her. “Because Buck works for me, Jersey. He’s my ranch foreman. Right now he, and his wife Nancy, are hauling some horses I just bought at an Auction up in South Dakota. And now we are all heading back to my ranch in Colorado.”
    Jersey twisted around to look straight at Bear and excitedly ex-claimed, “You mean we are on the way to a real Wild West ranch?”
    Bear looked over at her and said, “Well, I haven’t exactly decided what to do with you yet child”.
    “Oh”, Jersey said suddenly feeling and sounding depressed. “You will probably be taking me to a policeman soon”.
    Bear had already decided to wait until he could talk to Buck and Nancy before deciding what to do with Jersey. But for an unknown reason he dreaded the thought of parting with this child who he was getting to know in such a short time.
    “Well”, he said under his breath, “Perhaps when we eat dinner with Buck and Nancy we can figure a way for you to stay a little longer” To his surprise, Jersey jumped out of her seat and threw her arms around his neck and gave his cheek a quick peck. Suddenly she realized what she had done and turned beat red as she said,
    “Oh thank you Mister Bear, I really thought you would send me away when we got to the next town. I won’t be any trouble, you’ll see”. Bear started to tell her not to get her hopes up to high but for some reason he couldn’t bring himself to say it.
    Early in the evening Bear spotted his horse hauler as Buck was pulling into a truck stop. Bear turned on his turn signal and pulled over to the right lane and took the exit leading to the truck stop. Bear pulled in beside Buck and got out of the motor home to stretch. Buck began to fuel Bears rig as soon as his was topped off. Bear quickly gave Buck the low down on the child he had picked up the previous night.
    Buck shook his head and whistled, “Boss you always were too kind hearted. I guess I don’t need to tell you this is dangerous as hell, hauling a runaway kid around”.

    Nancy had walked up and had been listening to most of the conversa-tion. She was a small woman who was very out spoken. She looked up at Jersey sitting quietly in the coach’s copilot seat, and her heart went out to her. “Bear,” She said, “When I was down in the gutter from drugs and I was stripping at the age of sixteen, I remember a gentleman cowboy who cared enough to dry me out and give me a chance at a better life. Now, because of your kind heart Bear, I am married to Buck and all is good”. Nancy nodded at Jersey and said, “She deserves a chance too, Boss”.
    After fueling, Bear and Buck parked their rigs and the four of them went inside the truck stop’s cafe to eat. Nancy took Jersey by the hand and they were off to powder their noses. Buck and Bear began to discuss the coming rodeo season.
    When Nancy and Jersey returned to the table forty five minutes later to find that Bear and Buck were in an argument over who was going to bring home the most honors at the end of the season. Nancy threw up her hands and clapped loudly, “Enough arguing you two!” she said. “Jersey and I don’t give a hoot who will out do who!”
    Bear looked at his watch and whistled, “Damn where have you two been for nearly an hour?” he asked. Nancy looked at Jersey and said, “I will tell you while we eat, so let’s order.”
    Their dinner arrived while they were talking about Bear’s ranch. Jersey stayed quiet and listened intently as they discussed things like, which mares were about to foal, how the ranch’s herd of cattle had fared against the past winter. When the talk drifted to the ranches finances, she began to daydream of what such a life would be like, when she heard her name mentioned and once again focused her attention on the adults.
    “Boss” Nancy began, “Jersey and I had a nice little talk while we were gone.” Bear turned to look at Jersey, then back at Nancy. “And?” he asked, knowing Nancy would not have brought it up unless it was im-portant. “Uh, well she told me her real name and I thought you might like to know it.” She said. “Shoot,” he replied. Nancy nudged Jersey and told her, “go ahead sweetie, tell them.”
    Jersey looked down at her plate and toyed with her peas like she was embarrassed. Then she mumbled, “Its Starlight, Starlight Aurora Carpenter.”
    Bear had been in the middle of chewing a piece of steak when he gasped and began to choke. “I’ll be dammed, Boss,” Buck said as he quickly reached over and slammed his palm onto Bears back dislodging the chunk of meat he had swallowed when he heard Jersey’s real name.
    Bear caught his breath and bellowed, “You’re kidding, aren’t you?” He took a deep breath then asked, “Where did you hear those names, Jersey?”

    Jersey looked up totally confused at his angry outburst, then stared at everyone in turn and asked, “What’s everyone staring at me for?” Nancy put her arm around Jersey and scolded Bear, “Lance Anderson, you are scaring her.”
    Bear took a deep breath and looked straight into Jersey’s eyes looking for some sign that this was a cruel joke. Finally he asked, “Girl what was your mother’s name?!” He realized that he had said it harshly though he had not intended too. The hurtful look in her eyes brought him to his senses and he apologized to her. Then in a calmer voice asked her again what her mother’s name was.
    Jersey still stunned by Bears angry outburst sat shaking and on the verge of tears. Nancy pulled Jersey to her and comforted her against her bosom as a mother would have done.
    Jersey felt like she was being accused of something and had no idea why. She tried to make herself smaller as she murmured, “Kim, Kimberly Joann Carpenter.”Why?” she hesitantly asked.
    Bear got up and stumbled out, too choked up to say anything. His old eyes would not focus as he reached the cafe’s exit. Buck jumped up as he said, “Holy Moly,” and trotted to catch up with Bear.
    Nancy held her hands as Jersey broke down and cried. She didn’t even understand why she was suddenly being treated like a criminal by someone she had started to trust.
    “It’ll be okay honey,” Nancy assured her, while she herself was not sure if it ever would be. Nancy leaned down and kissed the top of Jer-sey’s head and told her, “Jersey when you told me your name in the bathroom I couldn’t believe it either”. She patted Jersey’s thigh and told her, “Come on, I want to show you something that may explain things better than I can.” Nancy quickly paid the bill with the ranches credit card and led the still confused girl back outside.
    As they walked towards the parked rigs Jersey and Nancy could see Bear and Buck on the other side of the huge parking lot. It was obvious that Bear was agitated because they could see him waving his arms around while shouting at Buck. Nancy squeezed the bewildered girls hand and led her towards the ranch’s semi truck and out of sight of the two men. Jersey wrinkled her nose at the smell emanating from the ranch’s trailer as they walked the length of the horse hauler to the truck. When they had reached the cab of the truck, Nancy climbed up, opened the driver’s door, reached in and grabbed a rag from behind the seat. She hopped down and closed the door. Jersey watched her as she began to scrub the caked on road grime from the door. Jersey began to see a mural appearing on the side of the door as Nancy wiped off the grime. It showed a man and a woman standing between two horses while looking at the starry night from the top of a hill. She could also see a ranch far below in a valley. But it wasn’t until the grime over the lettering was wiped off that Jersey began to feel dizzy. For there before her were the words, “Starlight Ranch” she read out loud. She then turned to Nancy and told her, “Nancy, I don’t understand?”
    Nancy led Jersey around the truck to where Bear’s motor home was. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a key ring, selected a key and opened the door.
    “Jersey,” she asked, “do you have a picture of your mother?” The girl nodded slowly and climbed into the coach and walked back to where she had left her suitcase and knapsack. She opened the suitcase and pulled out an old envelope and reached in like she was handling a priceless treasure. She pulled out an old picture frame without any glass in it. This she handed gently to Nancy.
    Nancy looked and saw a pretty woman standing next to a balding man holding a younger Jersey. She handed the frame to the girl with the same reverence that Jersey had shown in handing it to her. “It’s the only picture I have left of my mother and father”. Jersey said as tears welled up in the corner of her eyes and began to freely flow down her cheeks.
    Jersey watched through blurred eyes as the older woman reached up and pulled down the sun visor over the driver’s seat. Then she pulled out something wrapped in tissue paper out of a holder that had been clipped to the visor. She then handed this to the bewildered girl who slowly began to unwrap the tissue paper not knowing what to expect. When she pulled the last layer of tissue off she found herself looking at an old photograph. She felt like she was caught up in some kind of dream.
    Jersey’s mind did not want to register what she saw. It was a picture of Bear when he was younger. And he was holding hands with her mother. Granted her mother was younger than she had ever seen her, but it was her mother all right. Jersey, still gripping both pictures sat down hard on the floor as her knees buckled.
    “But, but, how can this be?” she asked Nancy as she began to tremble.
    Bear and Buck had walked in just as Jersey asked Nancy the last question. The child was more confused than ever as she looked up into Bear’s powder blue eyes. He knew she needed some answers. He sat down on the couch that Jersey was now leaning against. It is true then, he thought to himself. He continued to run it through his mind. He was still having trouble believing what fate had dealt them. A runaway child from back east that he nearly ran over in the middle of nowhere had come upon a past she didn’t even know existed. He looked up as Nancy took Dan’s hand and eased out the door. As she shut it, he heard her say,
    “I think you two have a lot to talk about & explain.”
    Bear got up and went to the refrigerator, opened the door and took out two sodas. He handed one to Jersey who accepted it with a faint smile.
    “Thank you, I like crème sodas,” she murmured, not sure if it was safe to say anything.
    Bear smiled warmly and told her, “It figures, your mother liked them too”.
    He then sat back down on the couch and patted the cushion next to him. Jersey got off the floor and cautiously sat down beside him.
    “Jersey, did your mother or father ever talk about their life before you were born?” Bear asked her gently.
    “Not really,” she answered. He nodded, and then muttered under his breath, “That would be just like him.”
    “You knew my daddy too?” she asked in a tone filled with awe.
    He nodded at her. “Is that why my mom is in this picture with you”, she said while holding up the old photograph. Again he nodded.
    She then asked the question that he too was confused about. “How come your ranch has the same name as me? Mr. Bear.”
    He reached over with his rough weathered hand and clasped hers. “Jersey it doesn’t just have the same name as you sweetie, I think you were named after my ranch. And your middle name is the same as your mother’s favorite horse, Aurora.”
    “Huh?” she exclaimed. He then began to tell her about her mother in a time she knew nothing about.
    “Fourteen years ago, Jersey, your mom and I were engaged to be mar-ried. We had been in love since childhood.” Bear took a long swallow of soda and then continued. “She even moved in with my parents and me after her parents were killed one winter when an avalanche swept down onto their home while your mother was at school. She was 15 at the time. Well she and I both loved living in the country and we also loved the rodeo. She was a champion barrel racer, and I was a bull rider who once in a while came into the money.” He paused, and then went on. “My parents paid for her to go to college while I remained at home to work the ranch. Once she had graduated, she came back to become a veterinarian.” He leaned back and took a deep breath before going on. “I kept pestering her about getting married, but your mom wanted to get her career as a veterinarian on its way.”
    Jersey was listening so intently that she hadn’t noticed her pop was about to spill onto her lap. Bear reached over and righted her can just as a little spilled onto her leg.
    She blushed then asked, “What happened then Mr. Bear?”
    “Well, I found myself going away to rodeo’s more and more without your mother. Oh, she would join me once in awhile when she could get away from her job as an assistant veterinarian” Bear hung his head down as he murmured, “Then one day we got in an awful argument. I was so angry I left and was gone for two years before I cooled off and came back home.”
    Jersey reached up, and with her dainty thumb wiped away the tear rolling down the old cowboy’s leathery cheek.
    “Mr. Bear,” she whispered, “you really loved my mother didn’t you?”
    He composed himself then spoke again. “I had this best friend who was also friends with your mother.”
    Jersey showed her wisdom when she said, “He was my dad, right?” He nodded and finished the story.
    “Well by the time I had cooled off and came home I found that they had run off together. I tried to find them, but no one knew where they had gone to”. He looked intently at the child before him for several seconds, then stated, “And now I think I know why they left”.
    Bear looked at Jersey and asked her, “Girl, when is your birthday?” She was taken by surprise by his question and stammered, “Uh, uh, It’s July 4, 1994 Mr. Bear, why?”
    Bear swore under his breath as he did a quick calculation. He stood up and paced back and forth in the small aisle of the motor home. Jersey kept watching him shaking his head as if to clear it as he paced.
    “I’11 be dammed, I’ll be dammed!” she kept hearing him mutter. He stopped pacing and looked at her in a new light. She was born seven and a half months after the argument that he’d had with Kimberly. He thought to himself. “I’11 be doubled dammed!” He said loudly, causing her to flinch.
    Jersey cowered a little as Bear sat back down next to her. He reached over slowly and took both her hands into his left hand. She looked down at her small hands and was amazed how they were completely dwarfed by the largest hands that had ever held them. She looked up into his eyes and noticed that they were no longer a powered blue. Now she saw that they were more like a deep clear blue. It was almost as if she could see deep down inside him. She saw past the rough old man and saw for just a fleeting moment, a gentle giant within him.
    “Jersey,” he began then paused as Nancy and Buck opened the door and came in and sat down at the table. Bear cleared his throat and continued, “Jersey, this might be hard for you to grasp.” He paused again as she looked at him with those beautiful green eyes, eyes that he now knew why they were so familiar. She had her mother’s eyes. “I think your mother named you after my ranch in the hopes that one day I would find you, or you would find me,” he finished saying.
    Jersey looked even more confused as she pulled her hands out of Bears hand. She stood up quickly and backed away from him. “But why would my mommy want to do that”? She said in a quivering little voice.
    Nancy opened her arms and Jersey went to her and clutched Nancy tightly. Nancy stroked the top of her head as she said, “Because swee-theart, it is possible that Lance is your real father.” Jersey looked up and turned to each of them, and then her mind went black as she fainted.

    Buck carried Jersey to the back of the motor home and placed her on Bears bed while Nancy hurriedly gathered up water in a small pan and a washcloth. She walked back and pushed Buck out of the way and began to gently bathe Jersey’s forehead and face, reviving her.
    “Shh, just rest sweet girl.” Nancy told her as she tried to sit up. She laid her head back down and quickly fell asleep.
    The next thing Jersey was aware of was the murmur of voices in the front of the coach. She was only partially awake but thought she heard Bear’s growling voice saying,
    “No dammit, that is no longer an option Buck. Even if there is just a small chance she is my daughter, I will not hand her over to be sent back to a damn juvenile detention facility to wait for any parentage test results. Then have her waiting in hell for months while the bu-reaucratic red tape is done to release her to me anyway! My mind is made up Buck; she goes with me and to hell with the law! If it comes to me facing charges for taking her over the state line, well just let them try! I know in my heart she is my own flesh and blood. Soon as we get home I’ll get blood tests done and get my damn lawyer on it. That’s what I pay him for isn’t it!”
    Jersey drifted back to sleep feeling like she was being protected for the first time since her world had been crushed. She began to dream, and in her dream she was walking with her mother who was telling her, “He is why you felt you had to go west my Star. Your heart could sense his.” Her mother told her this without actually speaking. It was as if she and her mother shared each other’s minds and hearts. Just before the dream ended, she saw an image of her mother sleeping peacefully in a room that was all white.

  2. The Last Time We Got Gas
    By Julie DeGon

    I went over to my Mom’s house after work to have dinner with her and my son, Levi. Levi moved out of my house 9 months earlier to live with Mom after Dad passed away.
    Levi was telling Mom and I “I only have $10.00 for gas, my car insurance is due and where is my car payment going to come from?”
    I remember thinking, “Every month is the same thing. Who bails me out if I can’t pay my bills? Not my Mom.”
    After dinner I was going home. The Lord impressed on my “Give the kid some gas money. I blessed you with $40.00 in tips today. Share the tip with him one last time.”
    I went home, picked up $20.00 and took it to my son. Levi smiled, blushed and told me “Thank you Mom.”
    I felt impressed from the Lord to tell Levi, “I never get to ride in your car. Can we go get your gas together?”
    Levi and I went and filled his car up. After we got Levi’s tank filled, I asked him if we could ‘cruise’ Sherman Ave. He rolled his eyes and sighed “I guess.”
    We went down Sherman Ave (25 mph faster than I remember ever cruising)
    Levi told me, “I was almost on empty and now my gas tank is full. This was the least I could do Mom.”
    As Levi dropped me off at my car we said our ‘I love you’ and ‘goodbyes.’
    The next day Levi went to church and worked in the children’s ministry. A friend of his came to church late, so Levi sat in the service with his friend. Levi and his friends went to have a fun day floating the river. That evening Levi died in a tragic car accident.
    July 20, 2010 is the 3 year anniversary of Levi’s death. I wanted to honor my son’s memory by sharing this story of how much God’s love extends to us when we listen to Him. Had I not given my son gas money I wouldn’t have gotten the last precious 30 minutes with Levi. We laughed and joked in his car. What a great lasting memory I will always have with my son Levi.

    Excerpt from “Healing in the Storms”

  3. The Sounding by Mary Smith
    In the maritime industry, ships must find their way by a different set of rules than for the road. Ships are made to sail in deep water, skillfully avoiding the obstacles in their path. In our modern times, ships have all kinds of electronics to help them avoid disaster. Many centuries ago, that was not the case; it was a very different perspective in successfully sailing a ship.
    In the days of the on-going Roman occupation of Palestine and many other countries, the apostle Paul was commissioned by the church in Jerusalem to visit many of these countries to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and establish churches. For many years Paul traveled and successfully established churches all over the known world. In the Bible New Testament, Paul talks extensively about the successes and perils of all the places he went.
    Toward the end of his life, he had become a prisoner of – yes, you guessed it – the very same group of the Jewish leadership that finagled their way around and managed to arrange the crucifixion of Jesus, Himself! Paul, being very aware of the Jewish religion as well as being a Jewish Roman citizen also, was taken before the local Roman magistrates in order to arrange his death. His only recourse became an appeal to Caesar, which would take him to Rome to stand directly before Caesar.
    The advantage Paul had was that, even though Paul was a Jew, he had the advantage of being a Roman citizen. Being a Roman citizen took him out of the class of Jewish occupation to having the rights of a Roman citizen; giving him the legal right to appeal to the highest Roman court of Caesar. The disadvantage was that he was a very long way from Rome, and it was getting late in the year when the weather was a definite disadvantage for sailing. In those days, he couldn’t go down and buy a ticket and book a trip! Besides that, he was still a prisoner, bound over to the Romans by the Jewish leaders because of Paul’s appeal to Caesar.
    The Roman soldiers had a lot more on their agenda than prisoner Paul; they had many more prisoners bound for Rome. They had to find a ship going that way; a ship captain brave enough to tackle the difficult and dangerous trip. They boarded a ship going in that general direction, a ship that was sailing along the coastline from town to town for safety’s sake. Even in this tedious travel, and being a prisoner, God protected Paul and made it possible for him to visit friends along the way. Paul was saying his “good-by’s” as he went along, for he already knew it would be the last time he would see them.
    The centurion, Julius, who had been assigned to manage the prisoners, had an uncanny trust in Paul, allowing him many privileges along the way. Along the way, the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Rome and transferred the prisoners to it. With much difficulty they
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    arrived at a protected port called Fair Haven. Although the centurion had much respect for Paul, and usually listened to his advice, he chose the advice of the ship’s captain to continue on the trip, since the harbor was not well-suited for wintering there. The weather was getting turbulent with not much hope of subsiding. Paul advised them not to continue because of certain disaster. They made a decision to try to make it to Phoenice in Crete. The soft wind blowing in their favor was the beginning of the end.
    Even in this pending disaster, Father God was in charge of their safety. Because they had not listened to Paul in the first place, they were soon caught in a disastrous, on-going storm for days on end. They unloaded all the heavy gear and cargo, trying to stay afloat in the storm. They finally gave up and let the ship drift, all hope abandoned. When they had done all they could do, Paul spoke up, chiding them for not listening to him in the first place, and advising them to eat food and be in good spirits – can you imagine?? Could you do that??
    As they listened to Paul, he shared with them that an angel of God has come to him and said, “Do not be frightened, Paul! It is necessary for you to stand before Caesar; and behold, God has given you all those who are sailing with you”, Acts 27:24. “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith – complete confidence – in God that it will be exactly as it was told me; but we shall have to be stranded on some island”, Paul related.
    On the fourteenth night, the sailors took soundings to see if they may be approaching land –they were!! They dropped the anchor and waited for daylight – sure enough they could see land! But again they sailors panicked and began lowering the escape boat, pretending they were lowering another anchor. Paul knew what they were doing and cautioned the soldiers to stop them or they would not be saved. Again, Paul encouraged all 276 of them to take food to be strengthened for the ordeal they were about to experience. Paul took the food and gave thanks to God for their safety. Guess what?? They all became more hopeful and more cheerful as they prepared to try to get to land.
    They cut the anchors, threw off the rest of the cargo, cut the ropes, and set the sail as they anticipated heading for the beach. More trouble! They immediately hit a crosscurrent and ran aground far from shore. As the stern began to break apart, the soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners for fear they would escape to freedom. Again, God’s grace intervened, and Julius, the centurion in charge, kept them from killing them. Julius commanded those who could swim to head for shore, and the rest to find something to cling to and make it to shore. They all made it just like God said!
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    Even in these last days of Paul’s life, even in the disastrous storm, every moment had a purpose. Even on his way to Rome as a prisoner, he was willing for God to use him to save lives and spread the Gospel! The island was Malta and was governed by Rome. As the worn out, bedraggled sailors, prisoners and soldiers struggled ashore, the people showed them unusual and remarkable kindness. As it began to rain and get cold, they helped them gather wood for a fire. When Paul threw his wood on the fire, a viper jumped out and bit him on the hand. The people thought he got bit because justice was being served for his crime.
    As you may know, it takes just a few seconds for a viper bite to turn deadly. When Paul didn’t die from the bite, they decided he was a god and tried to worship him. Once again, God had laid out a circumstance where the people would certainly listen to the Gospel. Because Paul was now held in high esteem, they ended up at the governor’s mansion, where Governor Publius entertained and took care of them for three days! Not only that, but Paul was given a chance to heal Publius’s father who was gravely ill. Not only Publius’s father, but all the people who needed healing!
    Because of Paul’s purpose, he was able to keep his faith in Father God through any disaster. Because of the Truth he shared with the people, they showed them tremendous respect, honoring them and giving them gifts, as well as providing them with all the provisions for the rest of their trip to Rome! As God would have it, they found an Alexandrian ship that had wintered there and went on their way. God was still in control of their safety and their destination.
    What a tremendous story of faith and trust! Paul would say to us, “Listen to God rather than man.” Our destination depends on it!

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