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HEIRLOOM: "Something of special value handed on from one generation or person to another generation or person."
The name is John Theodore Chance and I'm the baby of the family. My older brother is Ethan Edward and my older sister is Mary Kate. My father is William; his favorite movie star is John Wayne so he decided to name us after characters from three of the "Duke's" movies. Shame on you if you don't recognize the names and don't know which movies the characters were in; your entertainment education seems sorely lacking.
My mother, Alyssa, was a fan of the "Duke" too so I guess that's how Dad talked her into giving us those names. I'm glad that Dad wasn't a fan of the movie "Horatio Hornblower". I would've had to fight all through school with that name. There are worse people to be named after than one of Wayne's characters.
We lived on a ranch outside of a medium size city in southeastern Missouri. I suppose it was just a big farm, about 500 acres, but my dad called it a ranch and he paid the bills so he could call it whatever he wanted. He even named our farm "26 Bar Ranch" after John Wayne's place in Arizona; Dad did actually raise Hereford cattle on the ranch.
He owned a building supply business and that's what paid the bills but he loved that ranch. "26 Bar Ranch" may have been a hobby for Dad but he worked hard at it. When Ethan got home after two years of college he took over the day by day running of the business and Dad spent a lot more of his time on the ranch. He would spend three or four mornings a week in the business office but the rest of the time he was with his cattle.
During elementary school and part of high school I was an average, skinny kid with big hands and feet. In the summer between my sophomore and junior year I got a growth spurt and grew like a weed. Like Wayne's character "Sheriff John T. Chance" I grew to 6' 4'' and now at 26 have the big body at 230 pounds to go with my height.
Dad is about an inch shorter than me and Mom was very tall for a woman at 5' 10". We kids all took after them; my brother is four years older and about an inch taller than me. Even my sister is the same height that Mom was. I say was because we lost Mom to cancer when I was 14. Mary Kate is three years my senior and took over the role of "mother" to a grieving and lost young boy.
My mother's death and the loss of her love and guidance caused me to become something of a rebel. Mary Kate tried to fill the void but it wasn't the same. I didn't get into a lot of trouble because my dad wouldn't put up with it.
But I developed an aversion to taking seemingly non-sensical orders or being told what to do without explanation. The only ones I listened to without question were my family or some people at school that I respected. I followed the rules that I had to but would become very stubborn when people tried to tell me what to do without some reasonable explanation. Well, reasonable to me at least.
After my mother passed away I would do my chores and then spend most of my time riding my dirt bike or one of the horses around the ranch. I didn't often feel like socializing, even with my family. The exception that I did spend a lot of time with was Roberta Cassidy.
"Bobbie" and I had known each other since the fourth grade and were best buddies. We spent a lot of time together and were totally comfortable with each other. She had her own dirt bike and would follow me on my rides or borrow one of our horses and keep me company. Sometimes we would swim in the stream running through our ranch after our rides or hikes.
Bobbie and I were in the same year in high school and had several classes together. She was the one person besides my dad and my older sister that I would listen to concerning problems and confrontations at school; unfortunately my sister went to a different school. Bobbie would notice me getting into one of my moods about something or someone at school and most times she would be able to defuse the situation by joking with me or taking my hand and leading me away.
My brother was there for my freshman year and he tried to help keep me out of trouble but he had a tendency to order me around. Sometimes I felt he was just another adult and I rebelled against him too.
Once we were alone, Bobbie would get me to explain the problem and discuss it with me. Mostly she was able to "talk me down" and get me to calm down. Sometimes it didn't work and then I would have a run in with the school administration. Without her influence I really don't know if I would have made it through high school. After one of several incidents at school Dad once asked me why I didn't just go along to get along. I told him that they hadn't earned the right to give me orders and I was smarter than them anyway. He didn't get mad or punish me but he made a comment that I didn't understand until years later. Dad said, "Son, you've got a lot to learn and as you get older you'll find out you're not as smart as you think."
As I started high school I had a growth spurt and sprouted up like a young oak. My brother Ethan was playing football for our school during his senior year and he suggested that I try out for the team. He said it would teach me discipline and allow me to work out some of my repressed anger and not so repressed aggression. It was a strange concept coming from an 18 year old; I found out later that one of the guidance counselors suggested the idea to Ethan.
The plan might have worked but the coach apparently had no use for a big clumsy kid that had never played organized football before. He told me to come back when I could run without tripping over my own feet. By my senior year I had gotten my full growth and coordination; the coach invited me to join the team. I just laughed in his face and told him that if I wasn't worth his time three years ago, he wasn't worth mine now.
I made it through high school without any serious trouble and continued my education. Dad wanted me to go to college and since I didn't know what else to do, I agreed to go. He paid for my college expenses such as tuition and books, plus room and board; I had it pretty good. Any extra spending money I had to earn; Dad told me working would teach me about the real world. He was right by the way.
I started as an apprentice and worked my way up to a framing carpenter during my summer breaks from college and thought I might continue working construction after graduation. During the summers I made enough to pay for all the extras and incidentals for the next year at school. I also did my share of chores on the ranch; Dad said I had to earn my room and board while I was living there during those summers.
It was working at my "summer" job that I begin to see that Dad was right; I wasn't as smart as I thought. I guess it was the no nonsense attitude of my foreman and my respect for his know-how that let me take orders from him without resentment. The guys I worked with sort of adopted me and taught me things that you only learned with experience; another instance to show me that I had a lot to learn, about work, people and life.
I was never shy with the young lovelies at school and my "Black Irish" heritage of dark hair and laser like blue eyes coupled with my size attracted the ladies. If a date was wanted, I had only to ask one of the coeds and a date was obtained. I was in lust a lot but never felt especially close to any of these playmates.
Bobbie was attending the same school; we were still buddies and hung around together most nights when I took a break from trying to bed every coed on campus. She would listen as I explained why this girl or that one wasn't interesting enough to pursue or to continue dating. Then I met a young lady that really caught my interest.
Amber Fleming was a tall, blond, browned eyed heart breaker with the stereotypical "cheerleader" type beauty. Along with three other guys, Amber and I were both assigned to an experiment in one of the fuzzy sciences during our junior year, a psychology test lab. I didn't make much of an impression the first time we met.
"Hi, I'm John Chance but everyone calls me J.T.," I told her.
"Hello J.T., I'm Amber Fleming," she said with a big Miss America type smile.
"Of course you are," I replied. I couldn't help it; it was all too perfect. Blond, beautiful, named Amber, and probably an airhead; I thought it was funnier than hell except I was stuck with her as a lab partner. It's going to be a tough assignment to complete I thought, and I have my work cut out for me.
Apparently Amber knew exactly what I thinking and put me in my place very quickly. "If you're going to continue to be an ass we're going to have a hard time completing this assignment." Her temper was up and she wasn't about to take any bullshit from me.
She shocked me out of my smug little mindset. I thought about the way kids in high school had treated a gangly, clumsy, 15 year old and how they prejudged me before they had a chance to know me. Now I was judging her based on her looks.
.... There is more of this story ...