The Richard Jackson Saga: Tenth Grade
Chapter 6

Copyright© 2016 by Banadin

Monday started out like all Mondays since they named the day, slowly and reluctantly. In my case, there was no good reason, nothing to dread about the coming week, just didn’t want to start it. Start it, though I did.

By the time I had finished my work out with weights and a good run I was ready to go. Breakfast was very quiet as each of us got ready for the week. I think Mary was sleep-eating.

When asked for my plans for the day, I really didn’t have any. Dad suggested I go to the studio school and make certain I was current in my school work. I knew I was more than current, but figured that a check in wouldn’t hurt. Besides I wanted to talk to them about a class ring.

Not that I wanted to go steady with anyone, but wanted to be prepared. There was no way that I would give my signet ring to anyone. I only wore it on special occasions as I didn’t want to damage it. Mum and Dad must have paid a small fortune for it.

I checked out with our guards, letting them know my approximate plans for the morning. I didn’t see any squirt guns in sight. They must have noticed the remaining water balloons on the front seat of the car. I had only used two of the five balloons.

Jim and Connie watched me closely as I tossed them out on the passenger side. I think I was in more danger at that moment than ever in my life. I then apologized for my actions. They were both gracious and told me that the great water battle was becoming a legend in their company.

It was being used in their training on what not to do. As all good stories there was a hero and a villain. Guess what my role was. With a laugh and a wave, I took off. Hmm, maybe a Hi-Yo Silver Away! would improve my image.

At the studio, the guard waved me down; Mr. Monroe wanted to see me.

I had to wait for about ten minutes and felt like I was sitting in the Principals office, but he was all smiles when I walked in. His smile got even bigger when I handed him the Judges check.

“I heard about that golf match Rick, you put that guy down hard. I talked to Jim Garner about it and he thought it was great. Apparently Smails was a real pain in the butt, true he brought money to the table, but not enough to be worth the aggravation. I doubt if we ever hear of him again.”

“I think I would deposit the check quickly if I were you.”

“Good point. Now what brings you in this morning Rick besides bearing gifts?”

I explained that I was checking up on my school work and was going to ask about a class ring.

“After you talk to them, ask them to discuss it with me, I have some ideas on the subject.”

“May I ask?”

“No, I would rather it be a surprise.”

“Okay.”

I went over to the school. I got lucky, not only was class being dismissed, the littles running out of the schoolroom didn’t knock me over. I was a lot bigger, but it was a thundering herd of a dozen or more of them.

Both Miss Sperry and Mr. Danson were there, so I had the two people I needed. Maybe this Monday wouldn’t be so bad after all.

I told them my thoughts on a class ring. I didn’t say I wanted a less expensive ring to give a girl if I ever wanted to go steady, just that all the other kids were starting to wear theirs, and that I felt a little left out.

They received it well; as a matter of fact, they went overboard. Their private company ran schools at all the studios, and for several foreign consulates. They excitedly started talking about having a class ring, with a little variation for each of their locations. Next it was school colors, and a mascot. They even thought of a yearbook.

The yearbook would be interesting because their student body would change continuously. Child actors may only work on movies for several years in a row and never be heard of again. I thought about that one, I could see a grandparent pulling out their yearbook to show they went to school with someone that really made it. Of course, there was a good chance the grandkids wouldn’t know who they were talking about.

I let them know that Mr. Monroe had some ideas on the subject and would like to talk to them. After stirring that pot I made my escape.

I went over to the stunt yard and ran into Dick Wyman. We caught up with each other. He and Janice were starting a family, she was expecting. I congratulated him and made a mental note to buy a gift for the new born, which was due in February. They were still living in the house attached to our property and the exit to the tunnel.

Everyone else was off on various jobs so I headed out to the airport to get a few hours flying.

I checked in at the office and was told the plane was ready; just make certain I did my walk around. It hadn’t been in the air since yesterday, so the wings might be ready to fall off.

I did the walk around and the wings were still holding on, but when I checked for water in the fuel there was some evidence of water. I took a sample in to Mr. McGarry and he agreed the fuel tank would have to be drained.

“Good catch Rick. This is exactly why we do these checks one hundred percent of the time, well unless they are strafing the airfield.”

At first, I thought he was joking, he wasn’t.

I thought I wouldn’t be flying today. I thought wrong. I learned how to pump fuel out of a fuel tank, use an airline with no water condensation to blow it dry and refill. It took an hour, but I was happy to learn this task.

I took off doing my usual area with no special targets.

I was over the ranch with the airstrip when I noticed something a little odd. In a far corner of the ranch was a semi-truck parked along the road. Flying closer but staying high I could see there was a ramp down. Further out in the field were men on horseback doing a round up.

This brought back memories of Texas and the cattle rustlers.

I circled back and landed on the ranch runway. I barely rolled to a stop and a man came roaring up in an open-topped jeep. He was dressed like a real working cowboy; denim jeans, work shirt, boots, and a battered straw hat.

“Problem, son?”

“I’m not certain, are you having a round up over near the county road on the backside of the ranch?”

“No, why?”

“Well some guys have a semi there and are rounding up cattle.”

“Dang! Since your plane is all wound up let’s go.”

“Well I only have a student license, so I can’t take passengers.”

“No problem I have a license.” He pointed towards an airplane that looked like mine, “Even checked out on this aircraft.”

We took off and were shortly over the truck. They were starting to put cattle on board.

“Well those are my cows they are stealing, let’s call the Sheriff.”

About that time, a Sheriff’s car pulled up. As we did a high lazy circle we could see some conversation and then it looked like something was being handed to the Sheriff. We weren’t really close enough to tell what was being handed over, and the only reason we thought it was the Sheriff or a Deputy was because of the patrol car.

“Maybe I won’t call the Sheriff; this looks like a job for the Highway Patrol.”

He used my radio to call his house. His wife was monitoring their home frequency. She patched him through to the State Highway Patrol. He was known to them, so he didn’t have to go through a lot of explaining.

After some discussion, they decided to let them load the truck, and we would follow them in the air to see where they would take the cattle. He did check to see if I had enough fuel.

It took an hour for them to reach their destination, a packing house out near Barstow. By the time they started to unload, the State Police had the area surrounded. From the air I could see forty or more units.

At a signal they all went charging in, the rustlers surrendered without a fight. At that I waggled my wings and turned to take Mr. Tunstall back to his ranch. He was upbeat about the whole event. He told me this was the most fun he had since Lincoln County.

Before I could ask him about that, the radio got busy. The State Police were going to meet us at his ranch to take our statements. By the time I thought of it again I was concentrating on landing. Not saying I wanted to show off, but I wanted to grease it in.

The tires didn’t even chirp it was so smooth. Sometimes things work out.

There were people waiting for us at the flight apron, three women from the looks of it. When we taxied up, I could see that it was a mother, probably Mr. Tunstall’s wife and daughters, who looked like twins. They were a few years older than me, but they were cute.

Mr. Tunstall introduced me to his daughters Jayne and Joan. One of them, I think Joan, said, “He’s cute can we keep him?”

The other daughter, Jayne blurted out, “I saw him first, and he’s mine.”

“Now girls, quit teasing the poor boy.”

I was thoroughly confused as to which was who, or was that which witch, but I knew I could never keep up with these two. It would be double the headache and half the fun.

It was interesting to meet them to say the least. They looked to be in their early twenties, so they were too old for me, which was probably a good thing.

Their Mom let me know they sang professionally, using her maiden name, had I heard of the Boyd sisters? I hadn’t.

One of the girls giggled as she told me they were famous, and I should get their autographs. They acted like it would be the greatest thing in the world for me.

Their Dad just shook his head, and turned to me.

“Sir Richard, I think I see the State Police coming up the drive way, let’s go meet them.”

I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. As we walked away I heard one of the girls say, “Sir Richard?”

Our interview with the State Police didn’t take very long as we didn’t know very much. They were very interested in the fact that there had been a Sheriffs vehicle at the scene. We couldn’t even swear that it was from this county, since all counties in California used the same color scheme for their patrol cars.

In turn the State Police didn’t know very much, other than they had received word from the officers on site, that this was big, really big. Mr. Tunstall’s cattle were being returned even as we spoke. They would appreciate if he met the truck at the same point where they had been stolen from. He was to help count the cattle, and record the number off the plastic ear tags, so he knew that he had received all his cows back, and the police would have the evidence for court.

I started to offer to help, but Mr. Tunstall cut me off, and telling me I had helped enough today and that it would be a long and dirty job getting the cattle back into the pasture. I replied that I didn’t mind, but he insisted. I can’t say I was disappointed.

Walking back towards my airplane I cut towards the runway avoiding the twins. They made me think of double the trouble, double the ... What does rhyme with fun that means problems?

I returned the plane to Mr. McGarry. He got a kick out of the whole incident. He knew Mr. Tunstall and planned to give him a call that evening. He told me that Mr. Tunstall had settled down since he had a family, but in his younger days ran with a pretty-tough crowd.

It made a good story at dinner.

After dinner I called Emily. Her mother answered and was friendly enough but said, “She told me to tell you she’s not here.” I heard a “Mom!” in the background.

This really took me back, so I stood with the phone in my hand like a dummy.

“Rick, she doesn’t want to talk to you right now.”

“Oh, okay, I will try again later.” I hung up and wondered what this was all about. After thinking for a minute I dialed Bill Spurgeon to see if he knew what was going on. He didn’t but told me he would call Jill to see what she knew.

I started on my school studies while I waited. After half an hour or so, Bill called me back.

“According to Jill she saw a picture of you in the paper kissing some girl. Also it turns out she already has a date this Friday night with Roman that quarterback you met at the rink last weekend. ‘

“Thanks Bill, I don’t know what to think right now, the girl that I was kissing initiated it, and I knew it might be a problem, but didn’t realize it would get me dumped.”

“Rick, I’m not sure that is the whole story. Emily has been mooning over Roman for a long time. She never stood a chance until he saw her with you. The timing of the whole thing stinks.”

“I guess you are right, thanks for checking.”

“Good luck man.”

And there was another relationship in the dust.

I lay awake and worried about it all night, well at least five minutes.

At breakfast, Dad was all smiles as he read the paper.

“What’s going on Dad that has you so happy?”

You know that Sheriff I want out of office?”

“Yeah.”

“The State Police have arrested him for heading up a cattle rustling ring. The story also states that they are questioning a local judge and prominent business man.”

“You think it is our Judge?”

“I would bet on it. I also can give a good guess as to who the business man is, there might be a newspaper for sale sooner than I thought.”

“That would be too good to be true.”

“Stranger things have happened.”

Mum wanted to know where Emily and I were going Friday night. She just shook her head when I told her my latest tale of woe.

“That is a problem you will face the rest of your life Rick, you won’t know who is real and who is just trying to use you. Just don’t let it make you too cynical, or you will miss out on many of the good people in life.”

I granted that she had a point, but didn’t know how to handle it in the long run.

“That’s why you see famous people registering under false names and not going out a lot. They learn to be content with the people they met before the fame and fortune came along.”

That would be okay if you had met a lot of pretty girls before the fame and fortune. The next thoughts in my head were Cheryl and Judy. I owed them both letters; maybe I should keep up my correspondence. I met both before fame and fortune. They were certainly both good looking.

After the meal, I went back to my room with the thought of writing to both girls when my private line rang. It was the studio.

They wanted me to come over right away to begin my appearance on Maverick. I learned that TV works to a different schedule than the movies.

When I arrived on set I was hustled into makeup.

In half and hour Ben Maverick was all set to be introduced to the world. It appeared that Ben is a nephew to Bret Maverick, son of his older sister Bea. Bret is at her home in St. Louis on a visit where the episode takes place. Bret had arrived on a huge sternwheeler steamboat from New Orleans. He had won a rather large sum of money on the trip. No surprise there, the real surprise was that he hadn’t got into any trouble on the way.

I was told all that in a hurry as we went to the set. It was a barroom set. I was taken onto a stage at the front of the room, handed a guitar and told to play, “Buffalo Girl.”

No problem, now if I only knew how to play the guitar! Well, I guess it would help if I knew the words to the song.

That’s where the magic of TV and the movies came into play. They had an actor dressed the same as me. He could play the guitar. The only appearance he would make would be shots of his hands as he played the song.

As far as the words, they had printed them out on large paper, and held up for me.

We had a couple of run throughs till I could fake it like I could really sing. Fortunately they had a couple of bargirls as my backup. That way my voice could get lost in the crowd. There were also four women who danced in front of me, doing a western version of the French Can-Can. That made a lot of commotion on the stage, which was the purpose of the whole scene. We were creating a diversion for Bret Maverick while he did sleight of hand card tricks on another cardsharp; this guy was supposed to be really good and would normally catch Bret at it.

I never did learn that day why he was playing cards with the guy. I guess I would have to wait till the episode was on the air.

We spent all morning on that. Mr. Garner and I went over to the canteen for lunch. A lot of the extras in the various ongoing productions ask for his autograph and he was a gracious gentleman about it. A few even asked for mine. I was using, “Sir Richard”. The United States didn’t recognize titles, but that didn’t mean they weren’t cool.

At lunch I had to give a blow by blow replay of Saturday’s golf match. Mr. Garner loved it. He told me that the Judge had been a pain ever since he had met him. He was arrogant and demanding thinking his money and position earned him the right to look down on the world.

It didn’t take long before I was told to stop the Mr. Garners, it was Jim. Jim wondered if they could work a variation of the golf match into the series. It would make a wonderful sting.

After lunch we returned to the set. My scene for the afternoon was me being followed. I was shown coming around a corner and apparently disappearing.

They tried several variations. The first was ducking into a doorway. The doorway was too shallow. Another was lying down behind a water trough. It was too low, you could still see me. I really got nervous being near that water trough.

Someone pointed out that I could slip under the water. I was quick to point out that it was way too short for me to get in and submerge. That bright someone sent a runner to see if there were any longer troughs on the lot. I knew where there were at least three others, but I wasn’t about to tell.

This was taking place on a main street on St. Louis during the daytime, so they had extras walking down the street.

I asked the Director if I could try something while we were waiting for a longer water trough. He was okay with it. I had a quick conversation with one of the extras, a guy about my height.

I then demonstrated what I had in mind. I strolled around the corner from an alley with my followers not that far behind. When out of sight I ran up to the extra. I handed him a coin, it was a quarter but I would mention to Bret he owed me a double eagle later.

We then did a quick exchange of hats and vests.

He walked on and I sat down on nearby steps with my head looking down.

The two guys following came around the corner and passed me. One of them pointed at the guy wearing my hat. I then took off back the way I came.

The Director loved it. I knew those losing a tail lessons would come in handy. Thanks Mum and CIA.

Those were the action scenes in which I appeared, there was a dinner where Bret explained my role in distracting the bad guys. Bea did not like this. Of course Ben was all in. Bea kept calling Bret by her childhood nickname for him, Slick.

Then there were several scenes where I received my orders from Bret; and of course the happy ending where Bret calls Bea by her childhood nickname, Buzzy, as in Buzzy Bee. She swats him and all is good.

The best part was right at the ending. Early Bret had told Ben he was concerned that Bea might be in the match making mode. She had mentioned a young lady that had been sweet on him when they were younger. She was okay but a little stout for him.

He hadn’t told me her name (Ben, I wouldn’t have had a clue) so I didn’t put it together when I heard Bea say oh Alice is here. I did see Bret take out the back door like his tail was on fire.

As he was going out the back an absolutely gorgeous young lady walked in the door.

Bea greeted her, “Alice I am so glad you came over, I’m certain Bret will be glad to see you.”

I had no lines so I kept my mouth shut. The two ladies went on for a bit then looked for Bret. He was long gone. Alice took her leave.

Bea shook her head, “That Bret, Alice so wanted to see him again, she has lost all the weight she had as a teenager and has kept it off these last five years. Well I guess that settles it, she has been dating that German brewer, Augie something or the other. I suppose she will marry him now.”

After they yelled cut, I ran over to the gorgeous young lady and lifted her off her feet in a hug. I wasn’t told that Sharon Branson was making an appearance.

Jim Garner came back onto the set and the three of us had a good chat. From the way Jim eyed Sharon I wondered, but she didn’t act interested. After a while they recalled previous appointments so we went our way. I couldn’t wait to see the show air, so I could find out-what the story line was. This TV piece meal of scenes seemed even worse than the movies.

It was a fun day, after I did all that work I had to sign some papers so I would get paid at scale. Heck I thought I was working for free as a walk on.

My day was of interest to everyone at dinner. The boys wondered if they could get a guest appearance. Mary was the one who stopped everyone cold. She announced she would appear as a girl who worked in the barroom. How I kept a straight face I will never know. Mum got a very pained look and Dad had to pretend he was wiping his face with his napkin.

After dinner we went in to listen to Walter Cronkite on the CBS nightly news. I loved his sign-off.

“And that’s the way it is.”

Of course that’s way it is according to Walter Cronkite. But who was I to question the most trusted man in America?

Mary fell asleep during the show which was unusually early for her. I asked Mum about it.

She told me that Mary was going through a growth spurt and would be very tired and a little emotional for the next few months. The Doctor had told Mum that Mary would be very tall, maybe five foot eleven inches; that made sense as the rest of us were tall for our ages. I wondered if she could be a model when she grows up.

After the news, I spent several hours on school work. Then read one of my favorite authors before falling asleep.

I dreamed about the fat red bearded farmer waving Tailbiter at the dragon.

On my morning run through the park I saw and waved at the people who had taken the lady with the sprained ankle to the hospital, but we didn’t stop to talk.

I took the time to examine the work being done on the stable. It looked good to me. I wondered when horses would appear. After the horses appeared there would be the product of having horses around. I had better behave myself or I would catch that duty.

After my shower I joined the family for breakfast. Dad had some interesting news. Apparently the Judge, the Sheriff and the newspaper owner had got involved in a land deal which went very bad. They tried to recoup their money by starting a rustling operation. We know how that ended.

The long and the short of it, to raise money for his lawyers, the newspaper was for sale. Dad had already this morning made some phone calls to try to buy it. This led to further conversation about the kid’s school. It seems after the first of the year the Jackson family, or its business subsidiary would own its own school.

Denny and Eddie loved the idea; they would always get passing grades. They were quickly disabused of that thought. Mary wanted to know if she could make them have longer recesses. Dad told her he would look into it. A glare from Mum scotched that.

This led into a very serious family discussion about how it wouldn’t be a good idea to tell anyone that we would own the school. Dad pointed out that it would still have an independent board setting policy, so that we may own it we weren’t running it.

I kept my mouth shut, Mum and Dad wouldn’t set policy, at least until the board tried to set bad policy, then Katie bar the door.

I decided to spend the morning at the studio. I was getting a little rusty on my various skills.

As I drove out the gate the guards gave a cheerful wave, so I guess all was forgiven.

At the stunt yard I first practiced archery. Not the shoot at a butt fifty yards away, but at a man-sized target at two hundred yards. This was known as flight or clout archery. Since I was hitting the target fifty percent of the time I wasn’t worried about the shorter distances. That said I loosed a few at fifty yards and had them all in the bull.

Several stunt men were hanging around. They weren’t any that I knew well. They razzed me for ‘only’ hitting the target at fifty percent of the time at the longer distance. As if!

I told them there was a call for extra’s on the furthest lot away. It was an easy way for them to pick up some spare cash, so they took off running as those spots filled quickly. That got me some peace and quiet. I would probably pay for that one way or the other, but it worked for now.

Next I went over to the boxing ring and sparred for a while. I would never be a great boxer, but my moves were good enough I could do my own work in a movie.

Mr. Palmer was in his office, so I talked to him about my unarmed combat lessons. I was up to what the Marines considered a brown belt, but my schedule was going to make it difficult to spend the forty hours needed for the next step.

He told me not to worry about it; maybe we could do it after the first of the year. I told him I was going to be in Hawaii for a movie so we would have to play it by ear. He was okay with that as long as I kept myself fresh by doing my exercises to keep myself limber and automatic on my reactions.

“How will I do that?”

“You have some time?”

“Yes.”

With a grin he told me to follow him. Well I wasn’t too rusty but he still threw me all over the place. The only saving grace was that he had to work up a sweat while doing it. He then went through a set of exercises I should do, they would only add fifteen minutes to my daily routine, so no big deal.

Afterwards I told him that I would rather shoot two arrows at him from two hundred yards. He agreed that was a better plan, his plan was two shots from an M1 at four hundred yards. Hmm, I need a new plan, maybe Mr. McGarry from four thousand feet. Of course he would then go to ICBM’s.

From there I looked for a partner for swords. The guys I had sent on the extra call were back. They gave me a little grief but not much.

One of them agreed to face off with me, using sabers, none of those foil toys for real men! Since sabers are one of my strengths I went for it. We went back and forth pretty heavy, and it was clear that I was the better swordsman. That is until one of his partners joined the fray.

Fighting two at once may look easy in the movies but real life is different. They quickly had me turned and were backing me up. I tried a flurry of swings but still had to give ground. I gave ground until my knees backed into a low object, and I went over backwards sitting down hard. Right into a water trough!

They stopped immediately and started laughing like loons. One of them gave me a hand out. I thought about trying to pull him in, but didn’t. Sometimes you go with the flow. This story would make the rounds.

It is said that revenge is a dish best served cold, but hot works most of the time. I did have some dark thoughts about digging two graves. That didn’t last. If you can’t take a joke, stay out of the water or something like that.

Since it was all a set-up, another stuntman had a camera and got the picture. I bought the film off him for one hundred dollars with the understanding if they turned out I would provide them all copies.

The originals would go to the newspaper spy in the Jackson household. I was going to get my money back from her.

At home for lunch I gave the film to Denny to be developed and told the family what it was about. They had fun coming up with captions for the photo; Ricky takes a dip, Splash another one, Ricky gets what’s coming. You get my drift. Once past my pride it was kind of funny. I wondered if I need to see a therapist about a growing fear of water troughs. I made the mistake of voicing that thought. I could guess the headline.

Mum and I went downtown to our normal evasion starting point. I dropped Mum off at an outdoor café where she ordered her normal Mexicali Delight beer to drink while waiting for me. She now let me go alone, before she walked with me and told me what to do and why. It didn’t take long to pick up my CIA friends.

Today I took them on a merry chase. At one point I came out on a back alley of a department store and took off running. A block down the alley was the back of the café where Mum waited. We had scouted the area out and realized the café left the backdoor open all day. For cross ventilation I supposed. It could get quite warm here in California.

Anyway I entered the back door and exited the front, sitting down with Mum. With great effort I didn’t look around. Mum did that. She casually told me that there was a watcher across the street. He was doing his job well as he didn’t just stand and stare. He would look around and stroll a few steps, as though he was waiting for someone and was bored. That probably was the truth.

As such he didn’t always have an eye on our table. Mum stifled a chuckle as she told me.

“Rick, he didn’t see you come out of the store. He looked away; when he looked back you were there. You should have seen the look on his face.”

I turned for a look as he headed to a payphone on the corner. I bet he was asking where my tails were. I hoped they all had to stay after school for doing a poor job today. I would also make it a point not to go down any blind alleys in the near future.

Waiting at home was a letter from Judy. We were exchanging letters about every fortnight as Mum would say. She didn’t have any great news. She wrote of the social life at her school, but I can’t say it was that interesting. What was interesting was that she had been a constant in my life for a long time while others came and went. Well her and Cheryl.

I would see Cheryl at the Whitehouse next month. After a few pleasant day dreams about the two girls, which I won’t share I cleaned up for dinner.

Dad up dated us on the rustling case. The Sheriff had been out on bail. He made the mistake of trying to flee to Mexico and had been caught. He now was locked up with his bail revoked. Unfortunately for the others the Judge on the case revoked their bails also.

This triggered a round of panic on the newspaper owner’s part. He accepted Dads offer immediately without any counters. Dad now owned two newspapers and a radio station.

The radio station started a round of bad jokes about playing my songs all day, both of them. Denny and Eddie I could understand, but Mum and Dad!

After the mirth and merriment at my expense died down, Mum brought out a package. She handed it to me.

“This is for you, Rick.” I had no idea what it could be or what the occasion was. It was a rather large box like it could hold an overcoat or something like it. There was no gift wrapping so all I had to do was lift the lid.

Staring out from the box were the glistening eyes of a tiger. It looked like it was going to jump out at me. Well not really, since it was just the head and skin of the tiger I had shot. I didn’t know what to say. I really mean I had no idea what to say.

“What are you going to do with it,” asked Mary.

What do you do with a tiger skin?

“I’m not certain; I guess I could use it as a rug in front of the fireplace in my bedroom”

Dad chimed in, “Or you could hang it on the wall in the basement recreation area.”

Mum thought it would make a nice bedspread. Denny and Eddie wanted to use it to scare the guards. This got shut down quickly by Mum, Dad, Mary and I. We had learned guards and games don’t go together.

Mary asked if she could take it to school for show and tell. I told her she could. I would love to see that presentation.

After much discussion and a round of desserts, a trifle, all agreed that in front of my fireplace was a good place to start.

After dinner I arranged the tiger skin on my bedroom floor. It did look neat. Then I spent the evening on my school work. It was well under control and I wanted to keep it that way.

The next morning there was a very light rain, but I did my run anyway. It was actually pleasant. It made me think of how the weather in Ohio must be right now. We had made a good decision moving to California. I no sooner had that thought than the ground started to shake under me.

It was an earthquake. I had felt mild tremors before, but this one was more serious. I raced home and found no problems to my great relief. What had seemed like the beginning of the end of the world to me was nothing but a little shaker according to the news on the radio.

Ohio looked a little better.

Mum and I headed downtown for my lesson on evasion. I had thought the rain might get me out of it. Instead I was to learn the glories of an umbrella and a reversible Macintosh. It was not actually a rubberized raincoat, but an ordinary raincoat made by Burberry.

What promised to be a trudge turned out as a fun day, my followers never had a chance. I lost them so quickly I purposely went back and let them pick me up again. Later, Mum scolded me once more for playing with my food.

Mum and I had a nice lunch at our favorite restaurant, the one with multiple entrances to front, side and rear. I then took her home and went to the airport to get in some flying time.

The weather had cleared somewhat, but there were still a lot of clouds. This gave me an entire new outlook on flying. Some of those clouds were thick enough they could have been rock filled and I wouldn’t know it until too late. I went around them.

I may be young and bold, but intended to become an old pilot. As the saying goes there are bold pilots, and old pilots, but no old bold pilots.

Flying over what I now knew as the Tunstall ranch, there was nothing going on. I had no urge to land and face the terrible twins. They come under the heading of double trouble.

I started to make another loop around the valley when the wind picked up. Not only up, but down and sideways. It was getting bumpy as all get out. I decided I would rather be an old pilot rather than a bold one so headed back to the Ontario airfield.

As I was tying the plane down, Mr. McGarry came out.

“Rick, I’m glad to see you come in out of the weather. It’s too dangerous to be up there in a light craft right now.”

I snorted and said, “This from the guy who flew fighters?”

“There’s a difference from doing what you have to do, and doing it from stupidity.”

Ouch.

“It just seems weird to be getting a lecture on safety from someone who risked his life constantly.”

“You risk your life when you have to. When I had to take a plane up I knew it was okay because I had worked on it beside the mechanics. Yeah somethings you can’t control, you try to offset the danger by taking care of those things you can control, and not flying in this mess you can control.”

“That’s why I landed, I hadn’t put it together like you are presenting it, but I knew it was not a good idea to stay up there.”

“You did the right thing. An example control what you can is how we fought in the air. The Japanese planes were better. We couldn’t go one on one in a dog fight. So we would fly high as a group, swoop down in one firing pass and run like heck. We fought to our strength. I’m glad you aren’t a crazy like Boyinton of the Hell’s Angels. Though I got to say he could fly his P-40 pretty well. Not as good as Jimmy Howard, but pretty good.”

“Who is Boyinton?”

“A story for another day, let’s just say he was a real black sheep. A self-promoter, but he could get the bad boys to follow him. If he would have left Olga alone he wouldn’t have got kicked out of the Tigers.”

I tried to get some follow up on this partial story but that’s all Mr. McGarry would say. I asked him why he didn’t talk about things and he told me he didn’t like to talk about anything that reminded him of Thailand. That left more questions than answers, but I also thought of the sound of bullets on the landing craft doors and shut up.

I headed on home. When I got there Dad asked for some help in the sub-basement, our hidden refuge. He had completed everything to make it a place where we could hide for days if needed. The only project he needed to finish was to paint the floor under the old roll-top desk.

He needed my help in moving it as it must have weighed a ton. He had emptied it out to reduce weight and pulled the drawers but it was a monster.

After dinner we put on some old work clothes and went down below.

Though brute force we managed to slide it over the floor. I suspected he would have to repaint the portion we had slid it over.

There was a surprise waiting for us after we had it out of the way.

There was a rectangle of different concrete where the roll-top had sat. It was about three feet wide and six feet long. The desk was so big that it hid it completely.

Dad and I looked at each other. We didn’t have to voice the thought, what was under there?

“I’ll break the concrete up tomorrow, it is too late now.”

“Okay, I would like to be here when you do it.”

“Okay we will do it immediately after breakfast, then I will have to get downtown for some meetings. I have to decide if we are going to keep the new newspaper. It turns out there are also two radio stations involved, and a small TV station out in the valley.”

“Why would you want to keep them?”

“My initial thought was no, but then Susan Wallace and your Mum got into the act. They feel that by having the media outlets we can get our own message out if need be. I don’t see where that would be an issue.”

“Also there could be legal problems with how the companies are set up. Congress is talking about limiting the ownership of all the media in one market. It may not come to pass, but if it did we would be forced to sell. Any forced sale is a loss as you have a timetable to meet. We will have to restructure the business to avoid that.”

“I’m glad you have those problems and not me.”

“Watch out or I will put you in charge of them.”

“Ah Dad, I have enough on my plate!”

“If you want a job done, give it to a busy man.”

“Huh?”

“Think about it.”

I was getting tired and didn’t want to think.

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