Chapter 1

My story starts when I was just a kid. I loved western television shows as a tot and when I had a friend over to play, it was always Cowboys and Indians. My parents always said I was born in the wrong era.

As I got older, my parents moved into a rural area and bought me a pony. Pleasure riding was nice but I soon became board and wanted more. I wanted the true adventures of being a cowboy.

My Christmas and birthday presents always consisted of something to do with being a cowboy. One of the first gifts I received besides western clothes and boots was a lariat. I immediately began practicing and was soon lassoing anything from a corner post on the fence to the neighbor's dog. That same dog became my practice calf as I would take off after it on my pony to rope it with my lasso and then jump off to throw him onto his side and tie three legs.

As I got older my parents saw that my wanting to be a cowboy was not a passing faze I was going through and actually bought me a real horse. This horse was from a working cattle ranch and had what the owner called 'cow sense.' The owner said I could come out and ride with his hands anytime I wanted to learn how the real cowboys did things.

Being an only child, my parents indulged in allowing me to pursue my quest of being a cowboy. I would spend most of my weekends and a lot of holidays out on the ranch. Here I learned how different it was from roping the neighbor's dog to roping a real calf. I also learned about cutting cattle, team pinning and when I was in my mid-teens, bull dogging. Mr. Blanton, the ranch owner, told my parents I was pretty good and should enter me into some of the local rodeos. He showed me how to practice for the shows and three months later I had my first competition.

I had entered calf roping, bull dogging and team pinning. Mr. Blanton was going to be my spotter in bull dogging and he and one of the ranch hands would complete the three-man team for the team pinning.

I did well for a first-timer in the calf roping by placing second. I actually placed first in the bull dogging thanks to Mr. Blanton. He and his horse pushed the bull tight against me so I could drop around the bull's horns right out of the shoot. Being just over six feet and about 170 pounds of muscle, I was able to hook a horn and roll the bull onto his side in short order.

We placed fourth in the team pinning event but that wasn't really bad since there were twenty-two teams and our team had never practiced together before that day.

I competed in every rodeo held within a two hundred mile radius from the time I was fifteen until I was seventeen. Some of these were strictly amateur events and only gave trophies or ribbons but most I entered gave cash prize winnings. I'd always give this money to my dad and he would put it into an account he'd set up for me. It was my plan to eventually buy my own pickup and horse trailer.

Needless to say my social life during high school was all but non-existent. When a girl I liked learned that I had my own horse, they were fascinated and would jump at the chance to come out and go riding. Some of these rides became quite intement when we would stop to have a picnic lunch I'd prepared. It was on one of these picnic lunches that I lost my virginity.

Unfortunately, the girls could not accept the demands I placed on myself for being a cowboy and eventually left me for the preppy jocks that could spend time with them at the mall or upscale parties.

Right after I turned seventeen Mr. Blanton passed away. He had two children, a daughter and a son. The daughter competed in some barrel racing events when she was younger but lost interest about the time she graduated high school. The son, who was older than his sister, never had an interest in the ranch. In fact, I'd only seen him at the ranch one time in the years I'd been going there. They decided to sell the ranch which eventually ended my rodeo days.

Eight months after Mr. Blanton died, mom and dad were killed and a tragic car accident. They were broad sided by an eighteen wheeler driven by a guy that had one too many and was over the legal limit. Between the insurance policies on my parents and the settlement from the trucking company, I could live comfortably for the rest of my life. The money was set up into a trust fund until I turned eighteen.

Dad's brother, Uncle Frank, came to live with me because I had not yet reached that magic age of adulthood. I had never gotten along with Uncle Frank and hated to be around him. He could never hold down a regular job and thought his purpose in life was to drink beer and smoke cigarettes. I had to constantly stay on him about smoking in the house and he would say something smart and tell me he was the adult in the house. He also had a habit of slapping me on the back of the head much like the boss did in that television show, NCIS.

Before he died my dad would always purchased a lottery ticket and attach it to the refrigerator with a magnet. He'd say, "Jake, when we win this lottery, we're going to buy us a huge ranch and you can raise us some cattle."

I was opened the refrigerator to grab a soda when I noticed the lottery ticket. It had been there for almost three months now so I pulled it off and dropped it into the trash. After grabbing my soda I started to my room but stopped and looked at the trash can. After a minute of pondering, I reached into the trash, pulled out the ticket and put it into my wallet.

It was three days after my eighteenth birthday that I had stopped by the local convenience store to put gas in my truck. When I reached into my wallet for the cash I noticed the lottery ticket and pulled it out to have the clerk scan it. When she scanned the barcode under the red light, the machine started to play music and the display started flashing, "We have a winner." I looked at the clerk questioningly and she said the ticket was the unclaimed Mega-Million winner for $216 million.

The following day I skipped school to go to the lottery office. I took the cash option and after taxes got $108 million. The next day the newspapers were headlined with "Eighteen year old wins lottery for birthday."

It was about six weeks before my graduation. I talked to the lawyer who had handled my parent's settlement and asked what would be best to do with the winnings. He said a trust would be a better method than a bank because the entire amount would be insured whereas a bank only insured $200 thousand. I asked how accessible the money would be to me and he said I could have a regular bank account for my everyday expenses and if I needed to make a large transaction to simply call and he could set up the transfer. The lawyer had been a good friend of my parents for many years and I trusted him. I told him that would be good and would let him know when the money had been placed into my account.

That evening when I got home, Uncle Frank was in his usual place reclining back in my dad's favorite chair. Cigarette butts were spilling out of an ashtray sitting on an end table and several had rolled out while still lit and burned a mark into the table. There were several beer cans scattered on the floor.

"Damn it, Uncle Frank," I yelled. "I told you not to be smoking in the house. Look! Now you've ruined the fucking table."

He had been getting up to grab another beer about the time I dropped the ashtray into the trash. He slapped me on back of the head and started to say something about my language when I spun and grabbed him by the throat. I pushed him against the wall and lifted him up to where his feet were off the ground. Now at eighteen, I had grown to six feet three inches and weighed two hundred pounds. Wrestling bulls had kept me fit and solid.

"You will never hit me again," I told him. "Pack your shit and get the hell out of my house. I'm going out to eat and will be back in an hour. If you're still here when I get back, I'll help you find the door. Do you understand?"

His eyes were bulging out and his face was turning blue. He was grabbing at my hand to try to release his neck. There was a growing wet spot in his crotch where he urinated on himself. I jerked my hand away and he crumpled to the floor.

I left for my favorite steak house to get a good meal and hopefully settle down. I was a little worried about Uncle Frank stealing things from the house but quickly put it out of my mind. Hell, I had enough money to replace anything I needed. If he took anything with sentimental value, I'd hunt him down and get it back one way or the other.

It was the following Friday when the winnings were deposited into my account. I immediately called the attorney and told him the money had arrived. He said he had the paperwork prepared and to come by on Monday to sign them.

I couldn't sleep that night. A part of me was disappointed that my parents weren't here to enjoy the winnings of the lottery with me. Another part was wondering what I was going to do with my life. Graduation was the following week and I had no plans of going to college.

I got up and went into the kitchen to grab a soda. After turning on the television and sitting in my dad's chair, the rank odor of my uncle along with the smell of stale cigarette smoke wafted up at me. Then it hit me. I knew what I was going to do, what I had to do.

The next day I started going through my parent's personal items. Things I wanted to keep were placed into boxes I had gotten from a moving and storage company. Things I didn't want were sent to the dump. By Sunday evening I had been through everything and was ready to put my plan into action.

"Hi Mr. Naylor," I said to the attorney. "Thanks for getting this set up for me."

"Not a problem, Jake," he answered. "Understand that this is a separate trust from the one I set up using the insurance from your parents insurance and the settlement. That trust will automatically deposit four grand a month into your bank account. Even with that amount you will be a very old man before the trust is gone. However, when you turn twenty one, you can withdraw the remainder of the trust and do with it as you please. The new trust will simply sit and grow interest until you decide to transfer funds for a major purchase or investment."

"Well, I'm about to make a major purchase," I told him with a smile. "Can you have $100 thousand transferred into my account?"

Mr. Naylor laughed. "When you're talking about the amount of money you have, that is not necessarily a major purchase," he said, picking up his phone. "Lisa, please come in here."

A minute later Lisa, the secretary I had spoken to when I arrived, came into his office.

"Lisa, please transfer $100 thousand from Jake's trust into this account," he said, handing her the information. "That will be the trust we just set up."

"Yes sir," she dutifully said and walked back out of the office.

"Mr. Naylor," I said. "I have another request."

"Shoot, Jake. What's on your mind?"

"I'm going to sell the house. I've already packed everything that I'll need to put into storage. I will pay for the first year of storage. If I haven't removed the items by that time, I would like it set up to have monthly payments made to the storage company. Everything else in the house can go with the sale. I'll contact a realtor to advertise the house but I would like for you to handle the closing on my behalf."

"What's up, Jake," he asked. "Are you going to travel? Maybe see the world?"

"Let's just say I'm going to live a dream," I smiled. "A dream my parents and I have always had."

There were a few more forms I had to sign so he could sell the house and after thanking him, I started out. Lisa stopped me as I passed her desk and told me the money had been transferred as I had requested. I thanked her and went out to get into my truck.

An hour later I was the proud new owner of a Chevy 2500 Silverado 4X4 pickup. It had all the bells and whistles. The salesman was shocked when I told him I'd be paying in cash but it did allow me to get the truck at a good deal. They had to call the bank to verify the funds were available.

When the transaction was complete I headed out of town to a tack shop that sold horse trailers. There I purchased a four-horse aluminum slant load goose neck with a sleeper in the front. I wanted a two-horse with a sleeper but that would have been a special order and taken four to six weeks to deliver. The dealer also installed the necessary connections in my new truck to pull the trailer.

Wednesday afternoon I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma. It felt strange with no one to cheer as I was handed the piece of paper. When others walked across the stage to accept their diploma, relatives and friends would cheer from various locations throughout the auditorium. When my turn came, nothing.

After the ceremony there were well wishes from some of my friends and a few tears from others. I was asked by several to attend a graduation party being held that night. I respectfully declined saying I had already made plans.

When I got home I loaded the boxes I was taking with me into the new trailer. I put the ones going to storage into the back of the truck. After that was done I took one last look around the house just to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. I hadn't.

The next morning I placed the boxes into storage. I went ahead and paid for a year in advance and told the owner if I had not gotten my boxes by then I had already arrange for monthly payments. He seemed happy with the arrangement and I left.

I returned home, hooked up the trailer and loaded Blaze. After giving the house one more look, I got into the truck and pulled out. I had to stop by the realtor to drop off the keys to the house and give them my cell phone number if I needed to be reached. By 10:00, I was on my way west.

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