One afternoon Little Shirley Jean watched as a car turned up the old road to Gramp’s farm. The car through up dust on both sides as it wound it’s way up towards Gramp’s house. Not many people came calling in the middle of the day so everyone stood watching and wondering if this was a good visit or bad. Gramp’s handy man slowly put down his pitch fork and stepped forward in case someone needed help. When the car finally reached the top of the road and rolled to a stop, a blond head popped out of the window. Shirley Jean clapped her hands and ran to welcome her favorite cousin, Kary. Gramp helped Kary out of the car then went around to help her mother, Gramp’s daughter, who had driven all that way. Just as everyone was hugging and talking all at once, two more heads popped out of the back seat. It was Kary and Shirley’s boy cousins. They were a little older than the girls but not by much. Kary and Shirley found them to be a bit dangerous but also very exciting to be around. Tom was their favorite because he secretly helped the girls when needed but Tim was their favorite also because he took chances and made things happen. Not that things always turned out but it was always exciting.
Kary’s mother was walking with Gramp towards the house as she was talking about a serious matter. Shirley Jean was always interested in adult conversations so she walked quickly behind them in order to find out what adults don’t tell children. Shirley thought it was better to know something than to worry about what you don’t know.
She heard her aunt say, “ It will only be for a few days. The boys can help with chores and the girls can certainly clean up things.”
Gramp replied, “Well, I’ll be glad to have a another teacher in the family. Your mother was one of the best in the entire northern territory. She was beautiful as well.” Gramp stopped for a minute, looking out at the softly blowing wheat. It seemed as though he was looking past the wheat fields, past the trees, past the clouds, to where something very precious to him did abide.
Shirley Jean’s aunt slipped her arm under her dad’s and went in the house, saying, “This is the weekend for my tests. I hope I pass but either way I’ll be back in two days.”
So, Aunt Mildred was going to be a teacher. That was fine but the real news was the cousins were staying for a few days and that was something to be happy about.
Everyone waved Aunt Mildred off as she drove back down the road. Gramp took a look at the four kids. “Well, do you think you can find something to do while I help Charlie here mend the fence?”
The boys looked at Gramp, nodding their heads, the girls looked at the boys, shaking their heads.
Gramp said, “I have a ram sheep in the maple woods. He’s mean and ornery. You’ve got the whole other hundred acres to play on.” Then Gramp turned and walked back to his business of mending fences.
The four cousins ran to the apple orchard, behind the horse barn. It was an exceptionally beautiful day. The cotton candy clouds were barely moving across the deep blue sky. The late summer apples were hanging like Christmas ornaments in the old gnarly trees. The boys were as high as they could get into the tree, throwing the wormy ones at the barn. The girls found a tuft of sweet grass to sit on while they munched the shiny red apples.
“So, how mean do you think that old ram is, anyway?” Tim was looking straight towards the maple woods.
“Gramp said not to go there.” Shirley Jean knew how this was going.
“He didn’t say anything about looking at him. Come on, Tom, let’s go take a look.”
Shirley and Kary jumped up and ran after them. They felt a buzz in their bones, which meant something was going to happen. They ran half way down the maple woods hill, out of breath and on high alert. The maple woods were fenced in with sturdy planks of wooden boards, higher than the kids’ heads. The boys jumped up on the fence searching thru the tall, smooth maples and both started to whistle and call out to the old ornery ram.
“There’s nothing in here but squirrels.”
Tom was disappointed but also a little relieved.
Seeing that the woods appeared to be empty of animals, Shirley and Kary ventured forth to stand on the board fence. All four children wrapped their arms over the inside of the fence and hung back feeling like kings and queens of everything they saw. That is, they felt that way until the mean and ornery ram walked out from behind a tree and tried to make sense of the children hanging on his fence. The ram had thick curled horns with points at the end. He was puffed out in wool, his beady little eyes surveying the strange sight.
Shirley and Kary jumped off in an instant, their hearts pounding like thundering elephants. Tim, however, needed very little coaxing to stand inside of the fence and make faces at the ram. Tom was on the side of adventure instead of safety on this day so as the girls were chanting, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” Tom was egging Tim on with taunts of, “Who’s a girl? Who’s a girl?” That’s all it took. Tim jumped down off the fence on the inside. Everyone was silent. No one made a move. Tim stood there long enough to feel a bit comfortable. The ram was a ways off and Tim could touch the fence but everyone knows if a boy goes that far for adventure, most likely he will go farther and that’s exactly what he did. He took a few steps forward. The ram did nothing, he took a few more steps, still the ram did nothing. Shirley Jean was whispering to Tim in order not to upset the ram. “You better get back here, now.” Tim didn’t hear her. The thrill was disappearing a bit because the ram cared less if Tim was in his territory. A few more steps towards the ram and all of a sudden Tim started doing a dance, waving his arms, shaking his booty, jumping up and down. The girls were horrified. Tom was saying in a very serious voice, “Tim, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” But Tim was having a ball. That is until the ram dropped his head, pawed the ground and ran straight for that annoying boy. Everyone was screaming, “Run, Tim, run! Tim’s legs move so fast they were a blur. He reached the fence, taking a leap and got over just as the ram ran full force into the fence, knocking everyone off. It took a few minutes for Tim’s legs to work, again, but that was some adventure!