Chapter 1: The Beginning
How do you do this? Today was my eighteenth birthday, the age of majority. I was a kid, a minor, yesterday and no one would listen to me. They still don't listen to me today, but I was getting it across that I wasn't happy.
Mom and Dad were buried last week, after a hurried autopsy that declared their deaths accidental. I don't think so. The autopsy said they had both been drinking and were under the influence of not only booze, but some kind of drug that would make them a little crazy.
That was impossible because Dad had always been a teetotaler, although Mom liked a nip of wine and some Kentucky hooch when her family brought some down. That's probably how I had two younger brothers and three younger sisters. I know, I know, six kids are probably too many, but we were country people and a lot of the families around had ten, eleven, twelve, and one family had fifteen kids. The mother of that bunch was still 'Hot' in most of the neighborhood locals' minds. With a wife like that, I would have been breeding her every chance I had too. This was a very good Catholic neighborhood. My family wasn't Catholic, but we fit right in.
I was head of the family now since I was eighteen, and tried to figure out how to make ends meet. There was some money in the bank, but not that much.
I explained to all my siblings that we probably needed some more knowledgeable adult opinions. They all looked to me for direction. I couldn't tell them everything I felt, but I could tell them that we would all be taken care of. One of Dad's brothers showed up for the funeral and came out to the farm to talk to me. We talked for a while, until he finally said, "You have five brothers and sisters who could be homeless if you can't keep the farm up. My wife, Kate, and I would be willing to take them in if you sign the farm over to me."
I wanted to jump at the offer, but I also knew the farm had a value. I told my uncle, "Let me keep that in mind while I try to figure out where we are. The savings and loan told me that we were six months ahead in payments on the last farmer's crop loan, so we have a few months to figure out where we stand. I think we have enough to get through this winter and into spring planting. I don't have the figures from the grain elevator for our share of what we harvested this year yet. We had probably the best wheat crop that we've had in years and this year's corn is going to be way above average."
Uncle Seth said, "You'll never make it past spring planting with the cash your dad had on hand. You'll be selling the equipment at auction and the farm for a tax sale within a year. I'll make sure the kids are taken care of and you can find a job to make your life better."
Something still didn't sit right with me, so I went to town and walked into John Smith's office, the local lawyer's, the next day. It took me a couple hours to tell him the whole story."
The man looked at me and asked, "Can you handle taking care of the farm and the kids? It's pretty generous of your uncle to volunteer to take care of the kids."
"Yes Sir, it is, but he would be getting the farm and everything there and I would be homeless and broke. Where do I live? Do I find a highway overpass to live under? I would still have a home if I take responsibility for my brothers and sisters, and we might or should be able to make it. We all know what a farm is and we would work the land to give us the maximum income."
Mr. Smith told me, "I like your grit, but are you really willing to put up with what this will take? You'll have to be making loan payments soon, and you have to keep up with utilities and fuel for the winter."
I told the attorney, "I have the money to make the mortgage payments, fill up the big LP tank, and I think we have enough food stored to get through the winter. Dad taught me about what it costs for the farm, and showed me how much the utilities cost and how he budgeted for them. We will need clothes, and I'll figure out how to do that, but I think we're good for a while. I still want to find out why my dad had liquor in his system. He didn't drink, ever. Mom would have some of her home stuff, but never had anything out of the house. You need to help me find the answer to that."
John Smith lowered his voice and told me, "You have to sit back sometimes, and wait for the snakes to come from beneath their rocks. You could end up like your folks if you get in the way of someone who wants what you have and then wh ere would your brothers and sisters be?"
I sat there thinking about this, and he said, "I have a friend in the State Department of Law Enforcement, and I'll ask him to investigate your folks' death. This won't help you with your bills and spring planting, but it's possible that you will get some satisfaction if someone messed with your folks."
I went to the cemetery from the attorney's office, and stood in front of my folks' tombstone. I asked Dad, "How could this happen, Dad? We talked about this and we were on the way to making a good profit this year and next if we did exactly as we planned. You had everything in its place, and even planned for emergencies. I'll do all that, Dad, but I don't know how to take care of the kids. They're growing and need clothes for school. Do you think I have enough to do that kind of shopping?"
I stood there in front of my father's and mother's grave, and wished I could talk to the dead. I walked back to the pickup and climbed in. I was driving back toward town when I began to pass the Salvation Army store. I had an idea and turned in there. I looked through their clothes and noted they had decent clothes the kids could wear through the winter. There were heavy coats and even some shoes. I wonder.
I gathered the three girls back at home, and asked them, "You know that our budget is meager and we have to figure out how to make what we have last. The Savings and Loan isn't going to give kids money for spring seed, fertilizer, and fuel, but we might have enough to make it work. I stopped at the Salvation Army store to see what kind of clothes they had and thought we might be able to keep clothes on our backs if we were to buy from them. Would you be willing to look?"
Josey, Monique, and June all came to hug me, and Josey said, "I think we would be willing to wear someone else's hand-me-downs if we can stay together. The boys won't care as long as they have clothes. Mom taught us girls how to take care of you guys, and even told us that something could happen to her and Dad, so we needed to pay attention and learn."
I went to bed every night with tears in my eyes, thinking of how the kids felt about losing our parents.
It was a week later when I was up late for no particular reason. The kids were in bed regretting that summer was almost over and school would be starting. We still had corn to pick, but we were already promised decent money for shelled corn. We would grind the cobs and stalks and spread them over the fields as compost for next year. I had gone outside to get some fresh air as there wasn't any stirring in the house.
I thought I heard something like tires on gravel, and the guineas then began making noise. It was almost one o'clock in the morning, so this was really strange. I had goose bumps down my back and ran inside, grabbed the Savage lever action, made sure it was full of rounds, and went back outside. I saw the shape of a crew cab pickup slowly coming up the lane. I went from the porch to the side of the pump house and watched what the truck was doing. It turned around and headed back toward where it had come from and stopped. A guy got out of the front passenger side and looked all around. It looked like he had something in his hand but I couldn't tell what it was. Then two men got out of the rear doors of the crew cab holding rifles. Now I was concerned.
I heard one of the men say fairly loud, "We need to take care of Kenny before we do anything else. He's our only threat."
Son-of-a-bitch, who were these guys? I didn't recognize them, but then I wasn't that active within what was going on in town.
One of the other men asked, "Where is his room? Do we kill any of the kids who wake up while we're taking care of Kenny?"
"They need to go if they see you."
That made my mind up, so I aimed at a guy who was moving toward the house and, 'Bang', he fell. All the others were moving back toward the truck, so I aimed at the front tire that was nearest to me and fired. 'Bang, the tire deflated and the guys were still trying to climb into the truck. I fired at the guy who climbed into the driver's seat, 'Bang' the guy slumped forward. The guy who was behind the driver opened the rear door, and then got out, opened the front door and pulled the driver from the driver's seat. 'Bang', he slumped forward too when he climbed in. With three down there was still at least one remaining and I didn't remember where he went.
My next younger brother, Chet, said from behind me, "I have your back. How many more are there?"
I told him, "I think only one." Knowing what his next question would be, I told him, "I don't know them, but they wanted to get into the house to kill me and would have killed any of you kids who woke up. That's why I shot the first one when he was going for the house."
Chet said, "I called the Sheriff's office and the State Police. They are both sending units."
"Let's stay right here where we can see all around us. I doubt someone will try to get to the truck again. We need to make sure we aren't illuminated or silhouetted."
We were crouched against the side of the pump house when we heard movement on the other side of the building. My heart rate went up higher than it should have, but we both crouched there with my rifle and Chet's shotgun pointing toward the edge of the building.
We waited but whoever was there didn't want to make himself known. We watched the horizon and could see the police car's flashing lights and wondered what the guy would do. He walked out into the middle of the gravel parking area and threw his rifle down. He kneeled with his hands behind his head. I cautioned my brother, "Don't trust the guy. He could have another gun somewhere and be waiting for us to show ourselves. The cops will be here in a minute."
A police car came roaring up the lane road and slid to a stop with his headlights on the man on his knees. A shot rang out as soon as the Sheriff's Deputy got out of the car, and the Deputy pitched backward. I noted where the shot came from, realizing there had been five not four, and then saw the guy who had been kneeling reach for his rifle. I aimed and fired, 'Bang', he fell over. Chet said, "The shot came from the barn's hayloft. You can see a shadow move back and forth around the window on the right if you watch."
Another police car was coming up the lane, so I had to do something to occupy the guy in the window. I fired three shots at the shadow in the window and then waited for some return fire. There was a flash from the window, so I aimed a few inches inside to give room for the two by four that framed the window. 'Bang', we both heard the moan that told us that the man had been hit. I told Chet, "Stay here and let me check on the Deputy."
I ran for the Deputy, waiting for the shot that could have come to cut me down. I reached the Deputy and couldn't find any blood, but I found a strong pulse and then the round buried in his vest. The man was just unconscious, not dead.
I waved at the Trooper when the State Police car stopped in the driveway behind the Sheriff's Deputy's car. He understood, got out of his car, and moved toward me. I told him the Deputy was just knocked out but might need attention. He went back to his car and called for a paramedic and backup.
He asked me what had happened when he came back. I told him the entire story of how I had been up late when I realized someone was sneaking up the lane. He understood why I had begun taking the opposition out when I told him what I heard what they wanted to do.
I called my brother to come to me, and he walked out in his undershorts and T-shirt, barefoot but carrying a twelve gauge that would do a number on anyone who got close.
I told him to go make sure the other kids were okay so they would go back to bed. The Deputy was coming out of it and asked the Trooper if he had arrested me yet. The Trooper looked at me and asked the Deputy why he should arrest me. The Deputy said, "Because the Sheriff wants him off this property and anything to get the job done is good."
The Trooper told him to lie still and went to his car. I couldn't hear the conversation, but it didn't sound good from where I was at.
Coming back to me, the Trooper told me the County Sheriff had issued a warrant for attacking possible trespassers. The problem was the warrant was issued at nine PM this evening. The attack began after midnight. The Trooper told me, "Let me talk to the State's Attorney about this and I'll make sure no one comes to exercise that warrant. I'll bet a judge would like to hear about this."
Another State Trooper car came up the lane and parked next to the first Trooper. The two had a long conversation. Another County Sheriff's car came along with the paramedics in an ambulance. The next to arrive was the County Coroner's van. The Sheriff's Deputies wanted the rifle I had used, and even told me to shut up when I asked for a receipt. He kept saying that it was used in the commission of a crime and would be confiscated. The Trooper who had come first told the Deputy he had to give me a receipt and that as far as he was concerned what had happened was self-defense. The Deputy became belligerent and was going to hit the Trooper when the other Trooper told him, "Do that and I'll arrest you for interfering with an Officer investigating a possible homicide."
That cooled the guy down for a few minutes.
This was nuts. Why the big deal about getting us off the land? Mom and Dad hadn't been in the ground but a little over a week, and people were fighting over the property. This had been my grandfather's place before Dad took over farming it. Our grandparents were still alive, but were in a nursing home in town. Dad had told me years ago that the place was legally still theirs, but the property had been willed to him a long time ago. He told me that there was a safe deposit box with enough for the inheritance taxes. I knew the key for the safe deposit box was taped to the underside of the middle drawer on the farm desk. No one needed it until Grandpa passed and the will probated.
Grandmother was pretty senile and couldn't remember any of us kids. She could remember her childhood and her wedding day in detail, but not what she had for breakfast. All we kids visited them a couple times a week, but the only one who really appreciated it was Grandpa. He was the angriest over the autopsy that said Dad was drunk when he died. He knew Dad didn't drink. No one listened to an old man with a senile wife.
I lay down on the kitchen table with the windows open so that I could hear the guineas if someone came up the lane. Josey, the oldest girl who wasn't quite a year younger than me, woke me up and said, "I have coffee for you. None of us got much sleep last night. We all heard the Sheriff has a warrant for you. Do you think they will come for you?"
"Don't know, Honey, I hope not. You'll be eighteen in a few months, so you might have to be the boss around here. You've learned about the books the same as me, and know we can make it on our own. We know how to farm and we'll do it."
Jeff came in from outside and said, "The Trooper is still here, but he's sound asleep in his car. At least he's here."
I had to wait until about eight thirty to call John Smith to find out what to do.
Josey asked me, "Where is the good-sized insurance policy that Mom and Dad bought to pay off any mortgages they may have on the farm and take care of us kids in the event something happened to them? I think it's a single policy that covers both of them and us kids all at the same time. I'm going to look for it. I wonder if they are in the safe deposit box."
That would help, but it wouldn't bring our parents back. Josey had a project now. The youngest boy, Jeff came down and leaned his Remington .22 semi-automatic rifle and a Mossberg .410 bolt action up against the wall by the door. He smiled at me and said, "I can back you and Chet up now. I know not to get in the way, but I can protect my sisters."
I guess this was circling the wagons.
Josey left the room and came back with another Remington .22 semi-auto rifle. I had forgotten that I had given her my second rifle when I had been given the .22 Magnum semi-auto for my birthday. She had gone through a couple of bricks of .22 rounds learning to shoot and was pretty good now. I guess we were a force.
The Sheriff himself came about noon and wanted me to come to his offices. I told him that I had to wait until John Smith, my attorney was available. The State Trooper wanted to know why the Sheriff wanted me to come to his office, and the heavy set man said it was none of the Trooper's business. The Trooper said, "I have orders from the State's Attorney to not let anyone interfere with these kids, and that includes Kenny. The State Department of Law Enforcement has men who will be here and in your offices," the Trooper looked at his watch, "Right about now, actually."
The Sheriff turned red, jumped in his car, and spun around on our gravel parking area spraying us and the Trooper's car with rocks. The Trooper smiled at me and said, "That's another nail. I wasn't here last night and replaced the man who was here, but he told me all about a warrant that had been issued before the attack on your land. You kids are lucky to still be okay."
I told the Trooper, "Thanks for watching out for us. Something's going on with this land that makes someone want it bad enough to kill for it. This is our home, and we're going to protect and farm it. All we kids are going to stick together and make this work."
We needed to go to the Salvation Army store in town and the bigger city to see if we could find clothes. I wanted to make sure everyone had clean clothes for school that started on Monday. It was then that I began worrying about the kids being away at school and not being protected. I could handle myself here at the house, but even that was a maybe.
We were sitting at our picnic table outside having lunch with the State Trooper when a car came up the lane. The car had a sign on it that said, Murray Explorations. Two men got out and came to the picnic table. They introduced themselves and brought out a bunch of papers from a briefcase. The man in charge, George Canning, asked me if I was aware that our farm sat on a very large mineral deposit. I had to say no, but asked, "What kind of mineral deposit?"
George said, "Possibly as much oil as is below the sands in Saudi Arabia. It wouldn't be that much, but it is a lot and we should be pumping it out of there and selling it on the market to make the United States energy independent."
The Trooper said, "Son of gun, no wonder you guys have had trouble. He got up and walked away to use his cell phone."
I told Mr. Canning, "I'll let you talk to our attorney to work out anything that needs to be worked out. The man asked, "You're Kenneth, right?"
"Yes Sir, I am."
"You know that you can sign these documents and the deal will be done. You won't have to pay your attorney for anything."
I smiled and said, "Tell you what; go see John Smith across the street from the Court House and he'll make the deal. He knows what's right since I'm not that smart."
The two men were very aggravated, so I told them, "I have to act this way to protect these kids you see here. We are a family and we need to stick together and protect each other. Now go see our attorney so that we can get this settled."
The Trooper was acting funny around the two men, told them to stop and get on their knees with their hands behind their head when they began walking back to their car. The Trooper cuffed both men and then searched them, pulling guns from their waists. He had them lie face down while he called in for assistance. The Trooper called me to the side and said, "Call your attorney and ask him to find a real oil exploration company and see who might be trying to get mineral rights on your property. He said, "I've called my boss and the State's Attorney and they are looking into this as we speak. Now go call your lawyer."
John Smith was happy to hear that I hadn't been picked up on the improper warrant that the Sheriff had. I told him of the two men who came and that the State Trooper arrested them for something and took guns from them. I asked him to find an honest oil exploration company so that we could make a deal for them to drill. John Smith began laughing when I told him that I thought the land was still in Grandpa's name. He said, "Whoever is targeting you doesn't know the true ownership. You were named after your grandfather, so they think you're the owner."
I also told him about the insurance policies that were probably in the safe deposit box. He suggested that at least two of the kids come with him to open the box. He said he could help get the claim presented to the insurance company. Whoever came should have the death certificates.
John Smith told me, "I'm going to bill you regular attorney fees, but at half my regular rate. I'll probably do this whole thing pro-bono just to make myself feel good. Get someone in here right away and I'll look up an oil exploration company and run across the street to get a copy of the deed for that property."
I called all the kids to me and said to them, "Josey and Chet are going to take Mom's Suburban to town with the safe deposit box key and meet the lawyer. Get the insurance policies out of there and make note of what is still in the box. The attorney is going to help us file the claim."
"Go see grandpa before you come home, and tell him that he needs to call me. I think he's done something that will be really big for all of us."
The oldest sister and the next oldest brother cleaned up, dug the key out of the duct tape under the middle drawer of the desk, and took off for town. I couldn't take the chance of leaving the farm with the kids here and I couldn't take a chance of being seen in town where it would be easy to take me in and keep me without reason.
John called before Josey could have reached town, "I have just the company to help you. They are the people who found oil on my dad's place. I'm sure you remember the Smith discovery about fifteen years ago."
"I'm only eighteen, John, and haven't spent a lot of time reading about the history of the local area, even the new or recent history."
"Trust me, Kenny, these people are good guys and knew some people wanted to drill around your area. I'll negotiate a deal that you can say yes or no to."
I was pretty much stuck by the phone while Josey and Chet were gone. I was worried about them, but I also knew that the two were resourceful if something came up.
Josey called me from the nursing home, and said, "You should listen to our grandfather, and then I'm going to strangle him."
Grandpa asked, "Kenny?"
"I'm here, Grandpa."
"Well, Son, I had your father and mother use my lawyer to make a deal that will make a lot of sense for taxes before they were killed. I sold you all my land and assets for a rather ridiculous price, but it was within the IRS guidelines. Your dad and I wanted you and your siblings to have the farm and a part of me. The place would also be a part of your father too, and is. You were the obvious person to be the owner or manager because you would welcome each and every family member to your home as often as possible."
"I don't understand, Grandpa."
"What I'm trying to tell you is the property was put in your name two years ago, Kenny. Your grandmother and I, when she was lucid, agreed that we should sell it to you in order to keep the property in the family so that your mom and dad could continue to farm it, and we also knew that you would continue to farm it with your dad. You will be doing all the farming now. You and your brothers, that is. Your folks taught you and Josey all about the business side of the farm as well as how to grow crops and feed yourselves."
"Why didn't you tell us this before, Grandpa? Why didn't Mom and Dad tell us this before?"
The old man told me, "Your mom and dad wanted you to be eighteen before they told you, and it just didn't get done before they died. It's partly my fault because it's difficult for me to travel, and I don't like to be away from your grandmother." He paused a minute, "It's probably safer for me here than coming out to the place, Kenny, and since you and I have the exact same name, some people will think I still own the farm."
"Now I'm really concerned because I have to keep up the place for all us kids."
Grandpa said, "There is more to the property than what you're farming. Your dad always wanted to clear that entire valley next to the farm, but I loved how the animals grazed in that big meadow and how all the wildlife seemed to concentrate down there. That hundred and fifty acres are ours too, and probably where the oil's at. A couple of exploration companies wanted to do some drilling there before, but I just couldn't stand to chase all the wildlife away. I want you to build a good road to get back there and then clear only what they will use for their rig. You boys can do that. I want you to do that now because you need to pay off all the debts and have some income. You'll get your folks' insurance money and that'll keep you kids until the oil money begins to come in. I'll write Josey a check to tide you kids over if you're running short right now. You know that I'm still fixed pretty well, don't you?"
"I didn't know, Grandpa. I was trying to think how we could keep you two where you are because you're comfortable. Okay, Grandpa, we have enough cash for most stuff right now, and I think enough to get us through next spring's planting. The steers we have will feed us and we can sell one for some cash and for another calf. We're farmers, Grandpa, and have canned goods for the winter and meat for the freezer."
I wanted to tell him that we wanted him to come live with us if and when grandma passes. He didn't need to be reminded that his wife of the last fifty plus years wouldn't be around much longer. We had the room and food. He was mobile enough to wander around the outbuildings and barn, and could even help me out with his knowledge and advice.
Josey got on the phone and said, "We're going to stop at the grocery store for a couple of things and be home in about an hour. Chet went to see Grandma and says she's really out of it today. She's looking pretty frail. Grandpa is putting some weight back on, so he's looking good. We'll see you in a bit."
Monique, June, and Jeff looked at me to tell them what that conversation meant. I explained to them, "Some of what we were worried about was taken care of, and we have a chance to possibly have oil down in the valley that we thought was owned by someone else. I now found out that it's part of our farm, and that Grandpa and Dad already put the farm in my name. We own the farm. I'll bet Uncle Seth doesn't realize that yet. Grandpa helped him get his place, but he doesn't farm his own land. He's always making some kind of deals in town or the city. I think he thought that he could just take over the farm, expecting that it either still belonged to Grandpa or that Dad had it heavily mortgaged. It does have a farmer's mortgage for seed, fertilizer, equipment, and fuel, but that will be paid off when we get the money from the winter wheat, oats, and finish with the corn."
My mind was racing because I knew that we would owe the property taxes, but they shouldn't be too high because this was a working farm.
The ringing phone startled me. It was John Smith, "Hey, Kenny, some good news. I talked to the claims adjuster for your parents' insurance policies, and he says that he thought the company would issue a check within a week since you're the named beneficiary. There was double indemnity on both their policies, so the face value is doubled. You kids should be fine now. And if any oil money comes in, you will be in good shape. There's something strange on the deed to your property, though. It shows the property was transferred from Kenneth Jeffery Shultz to Kenneth Jeffery Shultz for a price of one dollar an acre this past year. What do you know about that?"
"I just found out from Grandpa that he and Dad had the farm put in my name for future tax purposes and because I would be the most likely to continue farming. Grandpa says I'm supposed to share the place, and I will."
"That's amazing, Kenny. It looks like everything will fall in place for you and the kids. One more hurdle though. The Children and Family people were alerted by your Uncle Seth, and they might want to put the kids into a home or foster care. You should be able to have custody of them since you've reached the age of majority. Call me so I can be there with you when they come. They can get pushy sometimes. Make sure the refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards are full, and the house is clean and neat. It will show them that you kids can be on your own if you guys put on a good show."
Josey and Chet came in and said she saw Uncle Seth's pickup at the Sheriff's office. That wasn't good. She said she should tell the State Trooper who had replaced the one that had been there. We boys did the few evening chores we had while the girls fixed supper. The girls made sure they made enough to invite the Trooper in to join us. He couldn't get over how the girls could cook so well and how well we ate. I had to remind him that we were farmers and know how to create food. Most city people don't understand that.
Josey told the Trooper that she had seen our uncle's pickup parked in front of the Sheriff's office and that could mean they were planning something. The Trooper said, "The Commander said we would be here for a few more days because the State Law Enforcement Investigators said they might have evidence of some local problems. They think you kids might need protection. Another man will be here in a while, and I won't leave until he's here. We're only doing four hour shifts out here so that none of us get too bored and inattentive."
I sat at the desk where the farm's PC was and thought about the kids that evening when I thought everyone had gone to bed. I was eighteen, Josey was seventeen, Chet was sixteen, Monique was fifteen, June fourteen, and Jeff was thirteen. Jeff was big for his age and looked as old as Chet, but he was still a clown and a true kid. He worked hard doing his part of the field work, but then the girls also all worked in the fields when they were needed. It's funny how you don't ever look at your sisters as females the way you should. We never really thought of them as girls but as fellow workers because they worked with us, Josey was a knockout and had dates during the school year, but she liked to be around home during the summer. The other two girls were becoming interested in boys, but nothing serious yet. All the kids could drive the tractors and trucks. Monique and June now had their farmer's dawn to dusk license. Monique would be getting her regular license soon. She needed to take driver's education this fall. That reminded me that our trucks and car insurance policies might go up without older drivers on them. I wouldn't tell them and we wouldn't change vehicles in order not to remind anyone of the change.
I booted the PC and looked up the price of crude oil. That was confusing. There were too many types of oil and who knows what kind would be under our farm. If we had the same as West Texas Crude, the current price was just under fifty dollars a barrel. How much oil could an oil well in this area pump a day? Everything was priced by the barrel. How many gallons were in a barrel? I Googled that question to find out that a barrel of oil was forty two gallons. I then checked how big the tanker trucks that collected the oil were and found out they were limited to eighty-four hundred gallons, or two hundred barrels. Well, as long as someone pays us for it, it would help with the household costs and buy the kids some clothes. I'm sure Jeff probably needed clothes since he's been growing so much. He probably needed shoes too.
The girls were all about the same size except in the chest. Josey wasn't that busty, but Monique received grandma's genes and had some big ones. It looked like June was going to be big too. Josey was still the best looking, even without a big chest. It was always neat to check them out when we did some skinny-dipping in the little river fed by the spring. I loved the way their nipples would pop out when they went into the cool spring water. The water was almost too cold to swim in close to the spring.
I needed to be hunting for a wife one of these days. A lot of guys were going off to college, but I never wanted to leave and had planned on working on the farm with Dad all winter. I would still work the farm, but I would be doing it alone. Those damn tears were coming back. Was I crying for the loss, or feeling sorry for myself? Was I crying because I was so overwhelmed by the responsibility of taking care of the kids? Tears weren't going to help, and I needed to get over this and be strong for the kids.
A hand lay on my shoulder. It felt the way mom used to put her hand on my shoulder when I was focusing on something, but I knew it wasn't her. Josey turned me around and sat on my lap. She told me, "We'll make this work. We'll take care of the kids and make sure they become good adults. Mom and Dad taught us what good people did and didn't do, and we'll teach them. Meanwhile, you need to be checking the available women around here out to find one for yourself. You're probably too young to get married yet, but you should be looking."
I laughed because we always joked with each other that Josey would be an old maid and I would be a confirmed bachelor. Josey said, "People will start thinking that there is something going on between us if we don't begin to date more. That would be fun, but we should find someone outside the family."
I told her, "You mean that I can't consider Cousin Regina, Mom's niece? She's nice looking and always wanted to play in the hayloft."
Josey smacked me on the shoulder, and said, "You better not hook up with that one. She's been too wild and will probably stay that way. Her sister Judy is your age and she's sweet, but she's still a first cousin and I don't think you're supposed to marry a first cousin. Don't be a dolt; go to some of the dances in town. You're not old enough to drink anything but beer, and you don't drink anyway. Trust me, the girls will be interested when they begin seeing you out on a Friday or Saturday night. I know how the girls used to always ask about my handsome brother."
"Get out of here. I see myself in the mirror. I'm not the slick looking guy like a lot of the town guys I was in school with."
"Yeah, Kenny, but your rugged good looks and how courteous and the way you're soft-spoken are winning traits to attract a woman. Just be yourself, and you'll get a lot of attention. If you need someone to teach you how to act, I'll do it. I'll teach you how to kiss and all that stuff. I don't know everything, but Mom instructed me about most everything a boy and girl do. I always promised her I'd wait until I was eighteen to take that last step, and I will. Did she make you promise?"
I blushed and told Josey, "It was embarrassing to hear Mom talking about that stuff. She sure didn't mind. She kept asking me how I thought her and Dad ended up with six kids, each one not a year apart. She said she had the doctor fix her so that she could still make love with Dad but not have more babies. She would always make me blush."
"You are so sweet, Kenny. I wish you weren't my brother. You wouldn't have to worry about looking for a wife. I would drag you off to the preacher."
"Now you're embarrassing me, Josey. It's time for bed. Let's shut everything down and get there."
As I checked the back door and shut the lights off, Josey asked, "Who do you think is in your bed tonight? Monique and June have been alternating, trying to feel comfortable about our lives. They began sleeping with you after they realized that I used to come in and snuggle with you a few times a week. I still do when you're bed is empty. You need a bigger bed so all us girls can snuggle with you."
I always had to remember not to hug a sister in the morning so that I wasn't poking them. These girls knew what that was, but they also knew that they were safe with us boys. Monique and Chet were a worry sometimes because she would get all moony-eyed over Chet, and I know they did some touching and stuff. Josey knew it too, and sort of kept a watch on them. This family is a mess.
My bed was empty, but not for long. Josey came in and curled around me to snuggle even though it had to be nearly 80 degrees inside. My sister kissed me on the cheek, turned my head, and then kissed me on the lips. She snuggled, sighed, and fell asleep. I did the same.
Editing by Pepère