Chapter 1: Truth and Consequences
1. The Burnt Brownie Caper
Even though all these many years have gone by, it seems like yesterday to me. You wouldn't believe how many times the whole thing had been classified, reclassified and declassified, then reclassified again. It's true that all the original records and facts are either gone or so altered as to make no good sense at all. Bureaucrats, politicians and preachers will always cover their own butts, every time. It's like second nature to them.
However, in almost every case, always a few know the original truth about the events. As one such, I was there from the beginning. Now, since I don't have much longer to live anyway, I shall try to tell the whole and unvarnished truth about how this whole project started a year or so before Pearl Harbor, helped win World War Two, and why it has continued to be hidden from the world up till the present.
I'll also tell you how the US Government spent almost three trillion dollars on a science project that existed only in Nancy's and my very fertile imaginations, mostly mine. The whole thing started back in the 1930s in Poverty, Oklahoma, part of another township that has all withered away until it's only another Depression ghost town.
Everybody has heard snippets of facts about "Project Dark Star, and how it was started with "alien science" and won the cold war and made the whole country safe and happy from the evil Commies and other figments of politicians' imaginations.
It all began by accident, just because we, the two high school students, almost got caught necking and groping in the home ec room after classes were all out one afternoon. It also proved how stupid bureaucrats and educators can be if they put their minds to it.
It all began in the Hard Times Oklahoma High School home ec room, which was also the "science lab" and assembly hall. A bunch of people from the Oklahoma Department of Education came nosing around and Principal Wiggins decided that since they asked about a "science lab," just maybe we ought to have one. But that's getting ahead of the story.
My name is Billy Joe Weaver. Nancy Jean Hunter and I had been sort of trying to get together for almost a year. It was just like the Montagues and the Capulets in Romeo and Juliet, except we were not a couple of twelve or thirteen year olds. We were mature and sophisticated high school seniors who were dumb as hell and didn't realize it.
Now the Weaver clan and the Hunter clan hated each other, with the exception of Billy Joe and Nancy Jean, that's us. We had the hots for each other like nobody's business. The problem was, we wouldn't admit it to each other or even to ourselves. Kids are so funny that way.
Every time we got near each other, I would get all nervous and shaky (and hard as baseball bat) and she would start acting all flustered and twitchy. So, we naturally had to snipe at each other and wisecrack because we couldn't admit our feelings of attraction to each other or to our classmates at school. That was especially true in our case because of the Weaver-Hunter feud. (They called it the Hunter-Weaver feud.)
On the other hand, we were at that age where boys and girls start to really notice each other and don't know how to act or react on a social level. So, they start saying and doing all sorts of stupid things. I guess it's been like that the world over from the time the first teenager was put on this Earth.
You know what I mean; a boy meets a girl in the hallway at school and he says, "Hi there, pork butt." Now what he really means is "You're cute." But he just can't say anything that stupid in front of his buddies, so he says something even more stupid instead. That's the way it was with Nancy and me. What I really wanted to do was to kiss her, take her out to a movie, and have a malted later on at the malt shop and all that kind of stuff. But I just couldn't break the "teen age code of stupidity," so I said, "Hi, big butt."
Of course, she got all ticked off, stuck her nose in the air, and make a big show of ignoring me. Then one of her friends would say something like, "Why are you such a jerk? Just go away, Billy Joe Weaver, get lost." So, I would go on down the hall, strutting my stuff and while inside I felt the strong desire to just go back and say, "I'm sorry" and make friends with Nancy. But that was not the "way things were (and probably still are) done.
Then came one particular day, Nancy was in the Home Ec Room, which was also the study hall and the English classroom and the chem and physics labs. That gives you an idea of how small our school was. We had a total student population of a little under one hundred in all grades from one through twelve. Kindergarten? Forget that. We had no money for frivolous things. Besides, that's what mothers were for, to watch after the kids until they were old enough to go to school, or to jail, just depending on the circumstances and which family was involved.
Right now, you must be wondering what all this has to do with anything, so I will tell you. But first, I have to give you the background so you will be able to understand things. My story is all about how our government, or rather the wooly brains who run it, can take a bad idea, make it worse, ignore the facts and invent a "truth" all their own with a new reality to match.
You see, as I said, my name is Billy Joe Weaver. Or rather it was until the government changed it "for security reasons." Anyway, the day it all started was when Nancy was baking fudge brownies for her home making project at school and I walked in on her while she was bent over looking in the oven. And I did what any red blooded real he man American teenager would do in a case like that. This was especially so, since I had been getting much more interested in her of late. She had started to get all those bumps and curves that made her irresistible to me. I kind of slipped up behind her real quiet and asked right into her ear, "Whatcha doin' there?"
"Oooh." She shrieked and stood up straight all sudden like and smashed my nose with the back of her head. Dad gum it, but that smarted. Then she backed up and almost knocked me down. I threw my arms around her to steady myself and ended up hugging her. I also had two hands full of her fine frontal assets. I jerked my hands off that personal part of her and kept on hugging her close to me.
Nancy tried to jerk away from me and twisted around in my arms to see who was getting all that personal with her. She saw it was me and started to get mad. Her eyes got big and she started to get a frown on her face, so I kissed her on the lips. It was definitely in the beginners' class of a kiss. What it lacked in expertise, it made up for in enthusiasm. She looked at me kind of surprised and I kissed her again. Boy howdy but that felt good.
So, I kissed her yet again and this time she kissed me back. I held her closer to me, she threw her arms around me, and we really had a kissing party going when we finally smelled something burning.
All at once, she jumped back and shrieked, "My Brownies." We saw smoke billow in black clouds out of the oven. I just stood there and watched all that smoke come out around the oven door. "Oh no. And this batch was so perfect. Now look at what you did, Billy Weaver."
She opened the oven door and grabbed the flat baking pan with a towel. She was quick to set the shallow cookie sheet, with its load of burned to carbon brownies, on the cool stovetop.
Mister Wiggins, the school principal rushed in and asked, "Who screamed? What's wrong? What happened? Is anyone hurt?" From long experience he had come to expect at least one minor disaster or more every day.
"He burned them." she accused me.
"He burned what?" Mr. Wiggins asked, as worry seemed to be just dripping from his voice. He looked her breasts over to see if they were the "them" that got burned.
"Billy burned the best..." Nancy began, when I interrupted.
"It's our science project." I blurted out, trying to come up with some excuse. I operated on the same idea teenagers have for years, if the truth doesn't look so good, tell the most outlandish lie you can imagine. This one ranked right up there with, "The dog ate my home work." And, "The canary let that fart, not me."
Nancy started to say something, but shut her mouth again. She got that mean little grin on her face that said she was going to let me stew in my own dumb lies. Some girls are real mean that way. Her look seemed to say, "Let's see you talk your way out of this one, big boy."
He looked at Nancy, who had her poker face up and on by then, and asked, "What science project? I haven't authorized any money for some foolish science project."
"I'll let Billy Joe tell you about it. He knows so much more than I do about it." She gave me a look of pure murder.
"Well sir, I wasn't going to say anything unless we could get it right, but I found this stuff that seems to have some interesting properties. I, well, we wanted to make sure we had something of interest before we bothered you with it. If it didn't pan out, then no problem. But if it looked good, we might win at least honorable mention at the state competition."
The words "honorable and mention" could mean more funding for our little school. Principal Wiggins was never the smartest man alive about anything, but he was totally brain dead when it came to science. And like most school administrators, he was as greedy as he was stupid.
"Well, tell me about these 'properties' you think you have discovered." He started to stroke his chin, which was a sure sign he was trying to look "judicious." But it really meant, "I don't understand a thing you are going to say, so I'll fake it."
I decided to wing it and began to blabber. I told him, almost quoting an article from a magazine, "In its original state, it was heavier than water, but it may have been partially water soluble in its original state. Then, when we applied heat we induced it to change states, it proved to be partially water soluble at that time."
"Ah." said Principal Wiggins.
"Not only that, but it also displayed a resistance to electrical conduction after it was introduced to medium heat." I said. "After a while actually lost its ability to conduct an electric current for a period of time before regaining it later on. It bore an interesting resemblance to selenium but had none of selenium's photoelectric capabilities"
"Well." said Principal Wiggins.
"And it seems to display opposing electrical properties to that of selenium oxide which will conduct electricity in direct sunlight." I added for good luck.
"Very well, keep me informed of your progress. Honorable mention." he muttered under his breath, as he left. I was glad he did not understand what I said, because I sure didn't either. What I had done was to quote various portions of an article I read on photovoltaic cells another on electrical conductivity. I read them in a back issue of "Popular Science" I found beside the road. It must have blown out of some car passing by, headed down Route 66.
"Ah yes," Principal Wiggins told us and repeated himself, "Well, keep me informed of your progress." He wandered out of the smoke filled room in a daze.
"Oh Billy, you are a fool for certain. What are you going to tell him when he asks how you are coming along with your science project?" She was still angry about her brownies and happy about the necking, at the same time. She was, as they say, operating on mixed emotions. "In fact, what was all that nonsense you were telling him?
"Aw, I just said that brownie mix dissolved in water and didn't make a very good conductor of electricity, even when it was burnt to a crisp. "Besides, don't worry about it, he'll forget all about the whole thing before he gets back to his office."
However, that is exactly what did not happen. Wiggins was like so many men who are what some call "intellectually challenged" today and used to be called "stupid retards." He felt he had to call the principal of one of the other schools in the district and crow about "his" science project.
Josh Taylor, the principal of the larger and better-funded Waggoner High School, was the bureaucrat's bureaucrat. He knew how to part the waves and make things happen where government money was concerned. He was also aware that if that idiot Wiggins actually had a student who had come up with something new, he had better start looking for funding for a science project of his own in order to compete so he could come out looking good.
That bit about the compound having electrical properties similar to selenium oxide, and a mass with a similar atomic weight as that of water sounded too authentic. It was inconceivable to believe that buffoon had made it up.
Perhaps he had better call his cousin in Washington DC at the Bureau of Weights and Measures and see if they knew anything about this. It might be wise to also see if there was any government grant money lying around waiting to be funneled down his way. Another good idea would be to snoop around and try to find out what was really up over there.
So, I helped clean up the burned mess at school and then went home and did my chores. That was when Principal Taylor sent his very own Mata Hari over to spy on me. Her name was Violet Flowers and she was the world's most perfect tramp.
Now mind you, he didn't tell her to do anything immoral, well not exactly. He merely asked her to use every means at her command to find out what our "science project" was about. Violet loved her work as a spy because she was also a natural born snoop. Besides, Principal Waggoner promised ... and he always kept his promises.
Very early the next morning, Violet Flowers "just happened" to be walking by our barn as I was out there milking our three cows before I got ready to go to school. What made this interesting, about her just "passing by" was that Our barn was way out behind our house, which was three miles from the Poverty city limits sign.
Also, as she said, "Helloo, Billy." her hands got caught up in her skirt and it came up just barely enough for me to see a flash of her thigh and white underwear. Now back in the 1930s this was more than plenty to get young a guy's juices to start flowing through his body.
"I just sooo admire smart men." she cooed at me in her best Betty Davis tone of voice. "Tell me all about your new discovery," she whispered in my ear.
Now I was a young guy with the naturally high level of hormones that all young guys have, so my brain sort of short-circuited. Remember, I was still milking while all this was going on. What happened next was that when she stuck her tongue in my ear it felt like I got jolted by electricity.
The sensation made my already hormonally over abundant body jerk and spasm. I jerked my hand, just as I began to squeeze milk out of the cow's teat and the stream of milk went right down into her shoe. She snorted, gave me a dirty look, took a deep breath and continued, "You can tell me how you discovered all of ... of ... uh what you discovered."
All at once I realized that she wasn't interested in me, she wanted to find out about my non-existent "discovery." I was heart broken for almost five seconds over that. Then I got mad that she would try and use female trickery on me.
Since I really didn't have a "discovery" for her to find out about, I told her a bunch of bull about the "strange properties" of my material and she said "bye," in a breathless voice and hurried right back to Principal Taylor, who changed her failing grade in math to a brand new "A," just like he promised. The only time she ever failed a grade in school was in a woman teacher's class. I bet by now she has a doctorate in something or other and still has yet to open a book on purpose. Can you imagine her as a judge in a court of law? Come to think of it, I do believe I have seen a few who probably got their judgeships without knowing anything.
After that, everything went crazy. Something called serendipity happened about then. The previous year, I stole two glass jars of pigment from the local hardware store. One jar was filled with powdered aluminum used to make "silver" paint by adding it to clear varnish or lacquer. The other was finely powdered bronze used to make "gold" paint the same way.
My conscience bothered me and I got scared that I would get found out so I buried my loot under the floor of our storage cellar. (For those of you from California, a "cellar" is usually a basement without a house over it.) Anyway, I have absolutely no idea why I stole that pigment and probably never will. It was just one of those stupid urges that teen aged boys get and succumb to and regret later, I really didn't consider myself a thief. In fact, the only other thing that I remember ever to have stolen was a Hershey bar from the local Piggly Wiggly market. But boys do the dumbest things, sometimes. At least this boy did.
A week later, the REA, the Rural Electric Administration people began to install power lines all over our part of the state so farmers and small towns would have electricity. They rented our storage cellar from my pa to store explosives.
They brought in more than a thousand pounds of dynamite. The cellar was two feet above ground and six feet below ground level. This made it perfect for their purposes. Pa had built it out of dogwood, just about the hardest native wood to be found in Oklahoma. It seemed there was already a fly in the ointment, namely greedy bureaucrats. An explosives company had some old dynamite in storage that had settled and crystallized. That stuff was every bit as unstable as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. The crooked salesman sold the greedy bureaucrat all of that unstable explosive material, gave the bureaucrat a kickback and hired two Mexicans who spoke no English to deliver it to our shed. They planned to store it there until it was needed to blast down into the rocky soil so the high line poles could be planted.
The Mexicans delivered the dynamite on the following Sunday Morning after the REA rented the cellar. Of course, this meant we were all in church when it happened. First there was a dull "Whump!" sound you felt in your chest more than heard with your ears. The preacher stopped preaching about some old Jew asking God for a sign just as the shock wave from the explosion hit us. It blew out every window in the church and sprinkled us all with bits of glass.
The silence was like a vacuum. "It's a sign from the Lord. Hallelujah!" our preacher, Brother Johnson, screamed. "It's a sign from the Lord!" Well, many folks later on thought it was a warning to straighten up and fly right. Then, because, no one was cut from all the flying glass, it became an official miracle in Poverty, Oklahoma. Some people are just real easy to please.
Any way, when we got back to where our house used to be, to where our barn no longer was, to where our three cows ceased to exist and where the dynamite sure as hell wasn't, the woes were already multiplying, as the saying goes.
Ma cried, Pa cursed and we headed into town to get a room at the small hotel in down town Poverty. The next day a representative from the REA got scared and began to wring his hands. He was worried about a black mark on his record because a job under his ever-watchful eye blew up on him and perhaps might have killed a white American family.
He didn't care about the two Mexicans who evidently were not explosives trained. They weren't even Americans, so they didn't count in his narrow little world.
Well, I guess they did matter to their families back in Mexico, but I never heard one agonizing word about them from those government types who were nosing around. All I remember is how the one little guy had a mouth full of gold teeth. When he grinned, his mouth outshone the gold plated capital dome.
When the REA man saw that we were unscathed, he fell all over us apologizing for what had happened and promised us a new house, a new barn and three new young Jersey cows, freshened and giving rich, cream filled milk. He promised it and meant it. Right then he would have promised to hurry the Second Coming of Christ if it seemed like the expedient thing to say. I learned that day that bureaucrats kept their word when their own butts were on the line.
Because of his past experiences with the government people, my Pa already had such a great distrust in bureaucrats that he hurried out and brought Judge Walker back. The judge was running a special on justice that week and it only cost Pa five dollars.
Judge Walker had the whole thing drawn up as an agreement between the REA, an agency of the US Government and us, meaning Pa. Everybody signed and the judge officiated over the agreement. The REA man left and we, Ma, Pa, Sally and I, went for a walk together.
"How come it only cost your pa five dollars to get the judge to make a house call and it cost my pa seven dollars?" Sally asked.
"The Weavers and the Walkers is kin, twice removed back in Arkansas," I told her. "Also, Ma is blood kin to the Walkers."
"Oh," she nodded that she understood. After all family is everything in situations like this.
In the meantime, Principal Wiggins heard about the explosion and thought it was my "science project" that had blown up. He had the idea it had blown up because of the devastating power of the "results" of our experiment in burning brownies.
He even got the school board pay for our hotel bill for a week while the government rebuilt our house and barn. Now the man from the federal government had also given us a voucher to pay for that same hotel bill. So, no matter how you sliced it, we got paid twice for two rooms rented only once. I explained it to Pa and he liked the idea. He had a small streak of larceny in him, too.
Pa turned to me, once Principal Wiggins had given us the money for our hotel rooms and departed and asked, "What science project?"
Well, since Ma and my little sister Sally Mae were out of the hotel, taking in the wonders of the big city life there in Poverty, I told pa the truth, about the burnt brownies and me slipping up behind Nancy and all the rest. When I got to the part about her and me huggin' and a kissin'; and how she quit fighting and commenced to enjoying it when I got my hands on her. He started to turn red in the face as he roared out his laughter.
"You mean you got one of them Hunters to be huggin' and kissin with you? And she didn't try to cut you up even a little bit?
"No, Pa, actually the enjoyment was mutual; we had us a wonderful old time, right up till smoke started to pour out of that oven."
Pa actually read more into it than there actually was. When I said "huggin' an' kissin'," he was hearing so very much more. He wondered if I got her pregnant.
I didn't feel comfortable with that knowing smirk on his face. After all, Nancy and me, we had something pretty special started between us. Anyway, that's what I figured.
"Pa, why are we and the Hunters mad at each other, anyways?" I asked him.
"Hell, boy, I disremember now because it happened back when my great grand daddy was your age. It really don't matter because they are a no good bunch of red neck white trash, and you can take that to the bank and cash it."
I gave a mental sigh of relief because it looked like I was out from under the "project," since it "blew up" and we would get a new house and barn and stuff. All in all, I figured it looked like a great ending. I was relieved for the rest of that day. That was all the relief I was going to get, though.
The next morning, Nancy Hunter caught me as soon as I got to school. I was headed toward the classroom where I studied English and she was in the math class on the other side of the room. "You all are staying at the hotel," she accused me.
"Well yes. Our house got blown up, Nancy, you know that." I could not for the life of met see what the matter was with her.
"And the school district is paying for it," she accused me even more.
"Well, Principal Wiggins thought it was that phony "science project" had blown up and I can't tell him any different, now can I?" I began to get a little exasperated with this girl.
"Well, my Pa says that if you get some good out of our science project, then I ought to get some good, too." That little girl put a whole lot of emphasis on the word "our." In fact, she almost yelled the word "our" and some heads turned our way as people looked to see what the disturbance was about.
Just then a man wearing a gray fedora and a black suit and tie came up to me and asked where I would find "William Joseph Weaver." I stared blankly at him and answered, "Mister, he could be about anywhere. I never heard of him."
Nancy nudged me, "This here gent means you, Billy Joe."
"Well, why didn't he say so?" I answered. "I'm Billy Joe Weaver, if that's who you mean, mister."
He stuck his thumbs in his vest and struck a pose to impress me with how important he was. "I," he said, full of himself, " am down here from the Department of Science and Technology to investigate your 'science project' and to determine if it has any merit or if the United States Government would benefit directly from it." He stood posing like a pouter pigeon, as he let us bask in his splendor and importance.
"Well, mister, it looks like you got here a little late. The whole dam' thing blew up yesterday while we were in church. You can go out and look at the hole in the ground the explosion left." I gave him directions to our place and he went of on his self-important way.
Just then, Principal Wiggins came hurrying up. "You two young people are wanted in my office right now. A representative from President Roosevelt, himself is waiting to talk to you. Oh my. We have put this town on the map." He looked like he was about to start jumping up and down, he was so excited.
Nancy and I hurried to the principal's office and stepped inside. This was something that kept growing and growing. No matter what I wanted, the whole thing just wouldn't go away. I was beginning to think that God Himself was ticked off at me for lying and that this was His punishment Hw meted out to me.
This time, there were three men waiting. "Are you Weaver and Hunter?" one asked as we entered.
"Yes sir," I answered, when Nancy butted in.
"Mister, this science project is both of ours and you got to talk to us both." She was so bound and determined not to be left out that I was afraid she would end up getting us both put in jail. I already knew from the books I read how a determined female had messed up many an enterprise.
"Shut up." I yelled at her. "Just shut up and let me handle this." She blinked her eyes and shut up. I guess nobody ever thought her important to talk to her like I just did. After all, everybody knows how the Hunters treat their women folk.
I turned to the man who had asked who we were. "First of all, we have had a very bad time of it. You may have heard about the explosion." I was winging it all the way here.
"Yes, that's why we are here. My two associates and I flew here at the orders of the President of The United States to investigate this matter. With the world political situation what it is, well..." He paused and let us use our own imaginations to fill in the rest.
"Well, sir, Nancy and I have all the trust in the world in our president and will do whatever he wants us to do. You just tell us." Nancy murmured something I didn't catch.
"Well, first, I want to know how you happened to make the discovery of a material that has all the properties of heavy water and the electrical properties similar to selenium oxide on a plate. You did mean a cathode plate didn't you? And how in god's name could something that earth shattering be discovered here, in this ... this shack which is not a big step up from a log cabin?"
Just then, Principal Wiggins came bouncing up. "This building is not all it seems. This is just, well..."
I cut in before he stuck all our feet in his mouth. "Well, you see, when Principal Wiggins saw how unusual our project was, he wanted to hide it from prying eyes. This building is a subterfuge. Who would ever dream that anything more than a plate of brownies could come from here?"
"Good thinking, sir." he congratulated Principal Wiggins, "The government could use a few more men with your mental capacity. You may be hearing from us in the future."
[Just a little aside, here. A year later, Principal Wiggins was recruited to be one of the masterminds behind the OSS that was famous in World War Two. He was the one they code named "The Teacher." He was dropped behind enemy lines and started a bunch of schools in France that taught French Lessons to Parisian students.
His own grasp of the French language was so basic and his French with an Eastern Oklahoma accent was so thick he confused the enemy as well as the Allies. When he was finally caught by the Germans, he tried to talk to them in his Okie flavored French. They somehow became convinced them he was one of them and they released him. Ten days later "The Teacher" was back with the Allied Forces, helping to plan the defeat of Germany. Thank God General Patton intervened, or we'd all be speaking German today. But that's another story.]
Principal Wiggins found a gap in the mental vacuum in Washington, D.C. and did his duty and filled it. His vacuum was a perfect fit.)
Any way, let's get back to the Hard Times High School "science project." The three men from the President's office left thinking they had just met with a master strategist and two brilliant children. The truth of the matter was that they had met with a bumbling Okie who got his job because nobody else wanted it and two horny teenagers who lied like troopers.
They left and went to the railroad station to send coded telegraph messages back to Washington, D.C.
Then the man from the REA asked us to come outside. "I just learned you were affected by the Weaver calamity," he told Nancy. "Did you lose your house as well?"
"We might as well have, the shape it's in now. It looks about ready to fall down." Nancy looked at him all woebegone.
"Oh dear," he looked worried. "We already have an agreement in place for the Weavers' damage claim. Would your family accept the same reimbursement? We could take care of both places at once."
"I'll have to sign the agreement for my daddy. He doesn't write so well." What Nancy meant was he pa couldn't lie worth a damn. "However, we'll take it."
The REA man was accustomed to dealing with families where the eldest child was the first one to have any education at all. He thanked us and left.
Nancy and I were about to return to class when the representative from the explosives company hurried up. That man was sweating oceans. He knew he might go to prison if what happened was ever made public.
"I couldn't find your father, so I'll have to talk to you," he told me.
"Okay," I said.
"You'll talk to both of us," Nancy chimed in. I was glad she did. My brain was getting a little tired from all the lies I had to think up and remember. Lying is very strenuous work, even for a teenager who lies as a matter of course.
She sized him up and saw he was sweating, even though it was a cool spring morning. "Well, for starters, our property is almost right next to the Hunters. And you know how their herd was wiped out. Well you go over to our property and you'll not see one living cow left anywhere on the place. Not even the breeding bull." (Hell no there wasn't. Their "herd" had consisted of one old roan milk cow that dried up and died of old age and their "bull" was a steer that died of some disease and had to be buried.)
She continued, "Since the explosion, my Uncle Ott is so deaf that he can't hear anything at all." She dabbed an imaginary tear from her eye and continued, "The doctor said that his ear drums are so badly injured that he will never hear again." Actually, her Uncle Ott was dropped down a well headfirst when he was a baby and the pressure of the water exploding against his ears messed him up. But, it was true that he was deaf and the doctor said he couldn't do anything to fix him. The truth of the matter was that it all happened about thirty years before our explosion.
The man's face turned a whey color and he stepped back. He gasped, "Well, I had no idea. Oh my God. This is terrible. Er, do you have a lawyer yet?"
"Well, we're using Judge Walker," I told him. "I guess he could speak for the Hunters, as well."
"Is 'Judge' his first name?" the explosives man asked hopefully.
"Oh no, I told him, "he is a superior court judge, but he has friends in Oklahoma City. They listen to him more than they would to just a lawyer. You know how those judges stick together."
"Look," a desperate whine could be heard in his voice, "How much is it going to take to straighten this mess out? This is horrible."
"My sister was visiting us when the explosion happened. She is not going to be having her baby now. Who knows how many barren days she has left?" Nancy had really started to pile it on. I thought I better stop before their imaginary oil wells stopped pumping.
"Make us a firm offer, right now." I told him. "If it isn't good enough, we'll just have to stop our talk and let the judges all decide. Boy howdy, but I was getting to sound real official.
His shoulders drooped and he said, "I have twenty thousand dollars in the bank in the trouble fund. I will write a check out to each of you for ten thousand dollars. If that isn't enough, you will just have to take over my company."
Nancy started to grin and I saw that shark like look on her face. Before she could make a grab for the man's company, I said, "We'll take it, but with one small detail. We want two checks made out for five thousand dollars each and ten thousand in cash. We'll sign all the releases and you can go on your way."
"Come with me, he said and we all three walked out to his big black freight van. He got in and brought out a satchel full of twenty dollar bills that presented to both of us. I told Nancy to hold the money and waited for the two checks. He wrote them out and I accepted them and signed the releases. Then Nancy signed, and we walked back to school.
"How did you know he had this money?" she asked me. You acted like you knew just what we could do and what we couldn't."
"Well, Nancy," I grinned at her, "The man checked into our hotel last night. I found out he was from the explosives company.
"He told Mort, the desk clerk wanted a little female company and something to drink and I overheard him. So, when I found out who he was I decided to help him."
"Billy. You didn't go and turn into a 'female' sort of feller and do nasty things with him, did you?"
"Oh shoot no. I wouldn't never do nothing like that. I went and got sweet little Violet Flowers to do the job for me. I bought a quart of that corn whiskey her daddy sells and had her deliver it to the dynamite man. He gave her two dollars for the corn and three dollars for her company and they had a great old time. I just listened as he got drunk and blabbered all his business to her. She had got drunk and passed out so she didn't hear anything and I knew just what to do today."
Nancy looked at me and said, "I would never thought that Violet would stoop so low. She actually stayed up in that man's room and drank 'shine with him? That's terrible."
"Well, They didn't really do much of anything else. He was so worried that all he wanted to do was get drunk. Then, he wanted some female company to share his misery with him. What was so bad about that?" I didn't tell her that Violet only got half undressed before she passed out.
"It's not whether they did anything or not, Billy, it's how it looks that's important. Don't you understand anything?" I guess I didn't. I guess I'll never understand women, either.
Any way, we got back to the school and I got out one of the old oboe cases from the music room and put my half of the cash in it and gave Nancy her check to take home. I took the other check back to the hotel and found Pa there, sipping on a little corn, himself. I handed him the check.
"What's this for?" he asked.
"More 'science project' money, Pa, I answered. He stuck it in his hip pocket. "Pa," I told him, "If I was you, I would take that check to the bank right now and deposit it and tell the bank to wire the bank in Oklahoma City and put a hold on the cash there.
"Why is that, Son?" he wanted to know. My pa was just too trusting at times. Some ill intentioned types of people might call it dumb.
"Pa, that man is from out of town and if he has second thoughts, we are out all that money.
"Makes sense," he answered, "Let's go." That was Pa's way of acknowledging that I was now an adult man in most ways. By including me in the transaction, I had become a partner with him and not merely a son, any more. I was very proud to become an adult, and we went into the bank together.
Pa did as I said and the banker did as he was told and we had five thousand more dollars in our family bank account. This brought it up to a total of five thousand and forty dollars.
I told Pa I had to do a little banking business and he waited and watched as I opened the music case and dumped all that money on the banker's desk. My new account was opened and Pa asked me as we left the bank, "What in hell was that?"
"More Science Project, Pa," I told him. He nodded and let it lie. So far our science project had gotten us a new home, a new barn, three fresh Jersey cows and a lot of cash money. He was happy with my answer.
"Oh, Pa," I stopped him, "There is one more thing. He looked at me waiting.
"There may be some men from Washington DC who want to talk to me about my Science Project. Just don't say anything to them, okay?"
"That suits me fine, Billy Joe," he told me. Then he smiled at me and said, "I never know what to say to them goldam Democrats, anyway. But Boy, the next time you decide to get romantic with a gal, why don't you go for that Violet gal? She might be less complicated. Besides, her pap makes some mighty fine corn whiskey."
"I spent time with her the other morning while I was milking, Pa. Then I used her last night to get this money."
Again, Pa heard only what he wanted to hear. "Son, the way you keep getting involved with these females, you better get married fast before you burn out. Let's keep all this about the females from your Ma, okay?" Rather than try to argue and straighten things out, I just agreed and we left to go back to the hotel.
Just as we walked out of the bank, Nancy and her pa walked in. She gave me a big wink. Her pa and my Pa snarled at each other.
"Nancy, wait." I told her. Her Pa started to open his mouth at me and Nancy held up the check and said, "We got to discuss the Science Project, Daddy."
"That better be all he discusses with you, girl." He frowned hard at me and closed his mouth.
I told her what I did about my check and suggested she do the same. She agreed and I left her as she began to talk to her pa about how it was smarter to put a hold on the funds in the other man's bank to cover their check.
It was almost time for school to let out for the day, so I just sat out on the veranda in front of the hotel and relaxed. Nancy came by and sat next to me and we talked about the science project. She wanted to play things for all we could get out of them and I wanted to back off. I was afraid we might get into more trouble than we could get ourselves out of.
"Oh pooh," she said to me. "What could happen now that we would have to worry about?" We found out in due time.
Of course, we stayed in the hotel while the US Government built us a new house, at US government expense, of course. They filled it with new furniture and even a washing machine, one of those new Maytags with a gasoline engine. Now all I had to do was find a way to get out from under all the lies and deceit and just go back to being a teen aged boy wanting a teen aged girl, while the rest of our two families hated each other. Talk about Romeo and Juliet.
One of the things I began to learn was you did not have to be a genius to work for the federal government. In fact, to be intelligent would act as a draw back to happy employment. If you have any great amount of intelligence, you would know what you were doing and realize how useless ninety percent of your job description really was.
By then, Nancy and I began to come to an understanding of what was permissible and what wasn't in our personal relationship. We were barely becoming romantically involved beyond that initial hormones rushing through our bodies we had felt. In the days ahead, we only had each other to rely on so we grew to be very close. After all, everyone else was "the enemy."
President Roosevelt's personal emissary came and got us and told us that we were to take the train to Washington DC. "There is a Pullman waiting for you. Don't bother packing, appropriate clothing will be purchased for you as you need it." He actually sniffed at our patched but clean clothes.
Pa was there and tried to object to the whole proceedings. He was told that Nancy and I were no longer citizens of the United States, but were a part of something greater. My Pa was never the smartest man in any group, unless it was a group of one. He just shrugged and looked doleful.
On the other hand, Nancy's pa figured he had another daughter so what the hell, if the US Government needed one, let them have her. Besides, he thought he would be able to walk into the bank and get the other five thousand dollars.
Unbeknownst to either of our fathers, Nancy and I had already cleaned out both personal accounts. We accomplished that on the way to the train station and carried cashiers' checks for the full amount with us. We held back a hundred dollars each for whatever needs arose in the future.
Sure enough, there was a train engine with a single Pullman and a caboose waiting for us. As soon as we climbed aboard, off we went. This had begun to be too much trouble for us. The Pullman had two nice sleeping compartments, a toilet and a small galley and dinette combined.
We settled in and sat and looked out the window in the dinette and waited for the chef to prepare a meal for us. He was not too happy when I said all I wanted was a hamburger and mashed potatoes and gravy and Nancy wanted a fried egg sandwich and a glass of milk.
I found out later this was the Pullman the government used to haul VIPs around and the chef was more accustomed to preparing five and six course meals rather than mere sandwiches. A pair of Okie teenagers was more than he cared to contend with.
The next day, I tried to open a window and was physically restrained. We had acquired a whole new set of keepers who were very security conscious. The one I had mentally named "the Org" grabbed my wrist and said, "No."
I turned to him and asked, "No what?"
He answered me by saying, "No to whoever you were going to signal."
"I wasn't going to signal anyone." I protested.
"Maybe so and perhaps no, but you don't get a chance to on my watch." he answered. "You just sit quietly until we get to our destination."
"Are you crazy?" I argued, "I want a window open so I can get some fresh air. That's all I want." This guy started to make me mad.
He was a big so and so and he had a lot of beef to back him up. "We do things my way or you get hurt," he told me in a no nonsense voice.
In the face of that type of logic, I let go of the window and he let go of me and stood back. I stood up and took off my bib overalls and my shirt and my under drawers. I stood there in front of the window buck-naked. As it happened, we had just pulled into a railroad station and people on the platform saw me in all my glory. Mothers gasped and placed their hands over their children's eyes. School girls giggled and pointed. I got excited and pointed back at them no hands.
"Billy." Nancy exclaimed, "What are you doing? You're naked."
Then I went from being naked mad to being naked embarrassed. "Turn your back, Nancy. I'm naked."
"I can see that, Billy, I got eyes." She had a big grin plastered all over her face. Then she winked at me.
"Well put your eyes back in your head and turn around. You are being indecent, staring at a naked guy." I began to get self-righteous. After all girls are supposed to get embarrassed when they see a guy naked, no matter why he is naked.
She giggled and slowly turned her back to me and I got dressed again.
The Org said menacingly, "You do anything like that again and I'll shoot you."
Nancy turned around and told him, "No you won't."
"Yes I will." he yelled at her. His face turned a dark red, his cheeks puffed up and he looked like he wanted to shoot us both on general principles, he was so mad.
"No you won't, because I'll tell my uncle, the president, on you. Then he'll have you shot." That little gal can sure bluff, I thought to myself. I suddenly realized she was a better liar than me.
"I got into the spirit of things and said, "I'll tell everybody you let me send secret telegrams if you bother us any more.
"I hate you kids, especially the ones related to the president." He stomped away from us to sit at the far end of the car from us.
Another man came in, looked at the Org and asked, "What are you doing down here, Dewey?"
"She's the president's niece and he said he would tell lies about me if I bothered them." He pointed back at us.
The new man looked at the Org and said in an angry voice, "You are even more stupid than I thought you were. You are as dumb as you look."
Nancy just couldn't leave things alone. She hurried back to the two and told them both, "Nobody could be that dumb and still know how to breathe. Maybe he's only half as dumb as he looks." I couldn't see her face because her back was to me, but I knew she had that cruel grin on her face she got when she pissed somebody off.
"You," the new man ordered, "Get back there and settle down."
"You are crazy if you think we believe we have to do what you say. You shut up and sit down and don't move from your seat except to go to the bathroom." She was on a roll and would keep pushing until something happened.
I walked up behind her and said, "Nancy, you come back to the other end of the car or I'll tell everyone your Ma makes your under drawers out of flour sacks and you got Pillsbury printed on your rear end."
"How did you... ?" she caught herself and clamped her jaws down.
"I saw when you bent over one time," I lied. I never had seen the seat of her drawers. Since she didn't know for sure and she had let the cat out of the bag, she shut up.
"Billy Joe, what are we going to do when we get to Washington DC?" Nancy all at once realized that we just might be in great trouble if we got found out. After all, we had been messing with the US Government and those people don't like to be messed with.
"I don't know if they will do anything, Nancy. After all we didn't lie all that much and we'll just claim that we both got caught up in things and didn't even know what we were doing. If we act dumb enough, they might even give us government jobs and we'll be set for life."
"Oh," she said and snuggled up against me and relaxed.
"Just remember, this is an adventure we'll tell our grandkids about when we get old." That was the first time any mention was made of our possible future relationship, once the adventure had run its course.
Nancy relaxed even more and laid her head on my shoulder. She sighed and we both thought of our new closeness. I already had started to compose my "explanation" of how things worked out and why we weren't to blame. After all, sometimes things just happen.
My main worry right then was that I wasn't too certain I wanted to be married. This was especially so, since the end of the school year was almost upon us and I wanted to go fishing...