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John (youngsters:adventure, 746 words)
Author: whistlerAdded: Mar 02 2002Views/Reads: 3740/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
They thought him a fool. They didn't know about the dream.
 



The sun is as unrelenting as the cement mixer's appetite, which has two
men shoveling sand and gravel, wrestling bags of cement, eight hours a 
day. 

I'm eighteen. He's sixty-three. I doubt that he was a better man at
thirty-three. After each two-hour stint at the mixer, we are given an 
easier job. Except for John. He tells the foreman this is what he wants 
to do, all that he wants to do. He has his own scoop, says it ‘fits his 
hand'. 

Bookton, or rather Bookton's Ryan ranch, is one of John's stopping-off
places. Maybe once a year, sometimes less, rarely more. Been a routine, 
he says, for years. He doesn't know when he'll drop in. Neither does 
Mr. Ryan, but it doesn't matter. John is always welcome. 

When he arrives, Mr. Ryan makes a few weeks work for him; if just
mending fences. When he finishes, he looks for work in town. If he 
finds something, like this time, he continues to bunk at Ryan's. When 
the work is done he moves on. He doesn't have to. He is welcome to stay 
year round. But he won't hear of it. He doesn't accept charity, he says 


If he has roots anywhere, they are at Ryan's, though his real roots are
deep within himself. 

I learn this as I get a glimpse of him during our lunch hours.
Confident. Born of wanderlust, alone, but not lonely. Steely, but a 
little tattered. Much like his old Mercury. 

Most of its chrome has been shaved away by getting too close to
something, replaced with scrapes and bruises. Rather like a piece of 
Michaelangelo's work except unintentionally formed. He shears off the 
other side against a concrete fountain. He doesn't even shrug or survey 
the damage. 

Some of the guys snicker behind his back, or pass him off as mindless.
John knows about it. But, like the contact with the fountain, he knows 
about it, he just doesn't consider it worth his concern. 

There is as a penalty for their foolishness. John doesn't tell them of
the dream. Buried treasure, he says, buried treasure. He has stories. 
He has maps. He hopes to track it down. He's looked a time or two. 

Of course there is the obligatory Lost Dutchman's mine, and the
wagonload of Confederate gold that ended up hidden in a cave. And he 
has three or four tales of lesser wealth. This all sounds familiar to 
me. My dad often recites these yarns. Dad even has some that John 
hasn't heard, and vise-versa. 

“John, you have to meet my dad, you just have to.” 

“Why's that?” 

“Trust me.” 

He does. They sit on the sofa for hours, as excited as two little kids,
eyes sparkling. Before they finish, they both have all the stories 
memorized. 

Dreams are nice, but work is reality. Word is out that they are hiring
at the drilling site. The pay is better. I tell John. He tells me to go 
on and apply. They wouldn't have work for him, he says. 

I see him on a couple of occasions, and then I don't see him. I ask
about him when I run into Mr. Ryan. Apparently, John moved on about the 
time I saw him last. 

A year passes. 

A pickup is stalled on the road with its hood open. I stop. It is John.
He has been on an errand for Mr. Ryan, and the old truck just quit 
running. He is unfamiliar with it. While we tinker with it, we visit 
for a few minutes. He has been back at Ryan's for just a short time, he 
says. We finally give up trying to fix the truck. Mr. Ryan has been 
notified, and help will be here soon. I drive away. 

A few days later, I see John driving a new rig. A really, really nice
rig. Gee, I wonder if the pickup was so serious that Mr. Ryan decided 
to just trade it in? If so, this is pretty fancy for a ranch truck. I 
cringe as I have visions of John getting too cozy with a concrete wall, 
like he did with the old Mercury. 

When I next see Mr. Ryan I rib him about that possibility. “Oh, that
isn't my truck”, he says, “that's John's”. 

I gasp out that he must be paying awfully well for John to make the
payments on a rig like that. He smiles slyly. 

“John”, he says, “isn't making payments”. 


   


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