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       Charlie the Great White Horse and the Story of the Magic Jingle Bells, p.1

           Kenneth Mullinix
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Charlie the Great White Horse and the Story of the Magic Jingle Bells


  Charlie the Great White Horse

  and the Story of the Magic Jingle Bells

  Written by: Kenneth Mullinix

  Dedicated to: Michael Thomas Mullinix

  "Charlie the Great White Horse"

  Trilogy of Books

  ~Book One~

  "Charlie the Great White Horse and the story of the Magic Jingle Bells", is a children's Christmas story that evokes the adventure, fantasy and magical happy-endings of a simpler time in America.

  This story is set in the town of Centerville, Indiana in the early 1900's.

  This wonderful Christmas fable is about tried and true values, and morals that all children should take to heart. There is a coming of age or our main characters and a strong since of family-values that should be relevant for children, parents, and adults?of all ages.

  We hope you enjoy this true magical Christmas tale:

  "Charlie the Great White Horse and the Story of the Magic Jingle Bells"

  ~Contents~

  Chapter 1 Luis and "The Big Catch"...........................................................3

  Chapter 2 Meet Charlie and his Barnyard Friends..............?????..20

  Chapter 3 Meet Mr. Beamer......................................................................31

  Chapter 4 The North Pole..........................................................................37

  Chapter 5 A Hay Ride................................................................................53

  Chapter 6 The County Fair.?.............................................................?..60

  Chapter 7 Jupiter the Show Horse.............................................................63

  Chapter 8 Black Jack Tilley.???..........................................................70

  Chapter 9 The Great Horse Race........................................................?...80

  Chapter 10 Thieves in the Night................................................................88

  Chapter 11 The Caper?............................................................................99

  Chapter 12 The Water Tower....?................................................?......104

  Chapter 13 A Parade?.....................................????...?.???...118

  Chapter 14 Christmas Eve ................................???..????...?.134

  Chapter 15 A Sleigh Ride........................................................................140

  Chapter 16 The Magic Jingle Bells??.....??.???????.......148

  Epilog?????????????..........................................??172

  ~Book Two~

  Preview: A Square Dance????????????......................175

  ~ Chapter 1~

  Louis and "The Big Catch"

  Dragging the wooden skid with the great bearskin down a side road into town as fast as he could Louis knew he was in trouble. As he turned the last bend in the road, and started up towards Algar the dwarf's home, the two tall, thin oddly dressed men in dark clothes spotted Louis again, afterwards they yelled out something insensible and hardhearted.

  They pointed at Louis in a very electrified fashion. Swiftly turning about they began to stalk Louis once again.

  Feeling a change in the cold wind and a change in his immediate future Louis began to run as fast as he could away from his detractors. Suddenly losing the grip on the skid holding Growlar the Cave Bear's fur, he high-tailed it, just as fast as he could towards Algar's front door, which was now coming into plain sight. All was about to be lost, including his life.

  Peering through the small round windows, Louis spied a few other elves sitting around a wooden table in the center of the room, all were singing and drinking ale. With sweat profusely dripping down his boyish face, and burning his eyes, Louis spun about and looked backwards towards the road; the two men dressed in black with long flowing capes on were gaining on him, and had quickly closed the distance between them.

  Louis shouted hysterically at the top of his voice as he banged on the window.

  "Algar, open the door."

  "Molly I'm here, it's your Louis."

  "Help me! Help me!"

  Louis looked backwards once again as he was pounding on the doors, seeing that the two strangers were now only about twenty yards away from him, and closing on him fast. Lunging at the door repeatedly, he banged on it with two tightly clenched fists as hard as he could, all the while screaming, out wildly over and over.

  "Let me in!"

  "Let me in!"

  At last, the horrid strangers were on him. One of the capped men suddenly grabbed him by the shoulder. Louis was spun around while the other outsider reached for his exposed, thin neck. Louis stumbled. He fell backwards to the ground. As Louis looked upwards at the awful strangers, he was simply horrified.

  "Vampires...!"

  "Vampires...!

  "Get me a wooden stake!" screamed out Louis.

  "Louis is you off daydreaming, it's not that dream about vampires again it is...Louis...Louis!" shouted out Short Stack from behind home plate.

  "Louis is you off wondering once more, oh man oh man..." yelled out Chug "get your head in the game!"

  "Hey, I'm watching the pitcher...lay off."

  "Man?oh?man?if you flub up again were gonna lose the game Louis."

  "Alright...already?Chug?don't be a blabbermouth?I'm paying

  attention?already?"

  "I know, my mom picks on me too much but it's just out of her love for me that she does. I just know it. I have a bad habit of not doing my chores on time but it's, not my fault, I've got a lot of things to do. Being eleven years old is hard these days and adults just don't seem to understand that, and you know what else? I've been standing on first base here, for what seems like hours now, waiting for that batter to hit that darned ball.

  I would much rather be climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt right now or fighting off a gigantic ancient cave bear in his reeking old den, or crossing the Great Lake on the world's fastest Cutter Ship.

  That's what I would rather be doing right now, instead, I'm standing here on first base all day, in this pesky heat. Yeah, that sure would be fun, being famous. No one would be picking on me then.

  I tell ya, it's, tough being Robert Louis Parks, you should just try it for a day."

  "Louis pay attention over there" called out Growlin Harry from left field.

  "Aren't you watching the batter Louis? Is it cave bears or ogres, what are you daydreaming about now?" cried out Short Stack from behind

  home plate.

  "Yeah, you guys, I'm watching. I'm ready already" shouted back Louis.

  "I think?"

  "ST-EE-RI-KE...ONE!" bellowed out the home plate umpire in his booming voice.

  The voice was so deep and convincing, that no one present in the stands that day would dare to doubt, or second-guess his call. One large, impressive, stubby forefinger shot up into the air with authority, indicating that a strike had just been called.

  The umpire was an older man of extraordinary girth. He was wearing a large black umpire coat that was well tailored for him, and fit snugly on his squared and very broad shoulders. His neck was extremely thick, and there were large, well-defined muscled biceps, which grew from years of wielding his blacksmithing-tools, down at the town's local horse stables. He surely was a site to see behind home plate, and he certainly looked very menacing with his black cat
cher's mask on. He was beyond anyone's doubt, not a man to be trifled with.

  Most townsfolk that knew him well, called him "Turk".

  The umpire, slowly crouched back down behind the small catcher again, as the pitcher was addressing the mound, and getting ready to heave the next pitch. He pulled his baggy pants up a bit, placed his rear foot on the small rubber mat atop of the pitcher's mound, then and spit to his left side.

  The long slow wind up...the pitch.

  "ST-EE-RIKE TWO!" yelled out the umpire as he raised his other large stubby forefinger into the air, this time he showed two fingers to the crowd.

  The batter was a large boy for his size, with a grimacing face that showed of true-grit and determination. He was the leading hitter in the Cornfield league and was about as scary, and as imposing as a young boy can be at the tender age of twelve.

  This boy had extremely large forearms like a professional arm-wrestler might have, had a swollen black-eye from a fist fight from the game before, and his baseball cap was pulled way down in front of his plump face, to cover his steely dark eyes. What the future held for him was most likely as a bookie, a wise guy, or an inside man, on a future bank heist.

  Robert Louis Parks, the first baseman for the home team Centerville Giants, was staring out in the stands, not appearing to be concentrating on the game, as the last few pitches were being thrown. Chug Martin (Louis's best friend) was way out in right field covering for a possible deep fly ball.

  Short Stack, Louis's other good friend was the catcher behind the plate today, and was calling a perfect game, for the home team. As each pitch was thrown, and, each strike and ball was called by Turk the home plate umpire the crowd steadily booed the away team, the hated Logansport Tigers.

  The Tigers were the top team in the Cornfield League, with a perfect ten win and zero loss record for the season. Everyone on Louis's team detested this small group of misfits and oddballs, and especially by Louis because, they all thought they were just unbeatable and had absolutely no sportsmanship whenever they won a game, which they did quite often. Almost everyone doubted the age of most of the Tiger's players. Everyone thinking they were all a lot older than they were, due to the large size of most of the boys on the team.

  They all had very deep and mature voices which seemed to be out of place for kids of that age, but who would be brave enough to confront them? Certainly not Louis who was a small boy for his age, or any of his team mates who were not much bigger than he was. The Tigers were a scary and threatening looking bunch of kids if you ever saw one. Some of the boys on the team even had face hair and hairy knuckles at twelve years old!

  All Louis, Chug, Short Stack, and the rest of his teammates wanted today, was to beat these pompous brats and show them who was going to be the real champions. After all this was for bragging rights, for the rest of the year. This just had to be the year the home team won the league championship. Could the Centerville Giants finally win the "big game"? After all, they had practiced and practiced all they could, during the long hot summer months together in the large grassy field, out in front of Mr. Beamer's farmhouse.

  The game was played in Centerville Indiana which happenstance had it was located right in the center of Indiana. Centerville was a quaint, quiet little farming town with soft rolling hills, fields of corn that swayed in the warm summer breezes, had pleasant pastures and lush green meadows. The days spent there always had special charm. It was like time stood still there and the world's troubles and tribulations did not touch or really even affect them.

  The baseball field was built on the outskirts of Old Man Hicks cornfield and was used only in between growing seasons. The bleachers were really just an old jumbled mash-up of; abandoned farm equipment, large bales of hay, run down tractors, a few wooden carts, a small number of broken down wagons and some old packing crates. An old tattered chalkboard brought over from the Centerville middle school was found nearby, nailed onto Old Man Hick' barn. However, as far as everyone in the stands and participating in the game today was concerned, this game was as big as a game seven in a world series in the big leagues with a world championship to be awarded, to the winners.

  The Centerville Giants were better than they were last year but still not as good as they had hoped to be this year, they did make it to the championship game, but could they finally win the "big one" that had eluded them all of their young careers?

  Chug was a solid player, and always could be counted on for a good game and today was to be no different. He was tall and slender for his age, standing almost six foot tall, weighing all of eighty-five pounds with long arms and spidery fingers that almost reached down below his knees. Let's just say Chug never had a problem putting the groceries away for his mom at home in the upper cabinets of the kitchen, or have trouble removing cats out of the neighborhood tree branches, when they would get stuck.

  Cats being stuck in trees seemed to happen with great frequency in Centerville. That was probably due to, Mitch the Bulldog, who roamed and prowled the neighborhood freely and would terrorize those poor cats whenever he could.

  Mitch was seldom found to be a good-natured dog, or known to be in a very decent mood...ever. He always looked like he had eaten something awful or rancid every morning for breakfast and the reaction to the unpleasant food was frozen, steadfast upon his face.

  Now Short Stack (one of Louis' other teammates who was the catcher) was diminutive, and very small in stature smaller than Louis was, but that was sometimes found to be of his advantage. You see this made him very difficult to strikeout, due to his extremely low ground clearance. His strike zone could not have been wider than two feet at best.

  Short Stack had very long scraggly blond hair, which hung down over his beautiful soft gray eyes, and down the sides and rear of his baseball cap, the baseball cap was always found to be worn oddly sideways; as only, a kid of his age could get away with. Short Stack would be any barbers worst nightmare, on any given day.

  And worst than that he always smelled of old stinky heat balm. The particular type of heat balm that Short Stack wore had a very succinct smell and was ever lingering, even when he was off the ball field or had just taken a shower. No one ever quite understood or really could comprehend that smell, but everyone always tried to stay a little further away from Short Stack or else someday, they all might end up looking like Mitch the Bulldog.

  The smell was just plain awful.

  Now as for Louis, he was born and raised in Centerville, Indiana on a small humble farm, in a working-class neighborhood. He was always found to have a very polite manner about him and carried himself with a shy type of confidence, which the neighborhood girls all admired profusely. The girls would just smile and giggle amongst themselves, every time Louis rode his bicycle through the neighborhood pass them. The girls would wave to him and Louis would wave back, and that seemed to be just enough attention from Louis to send the girls into a wild flurry. He had very bright, clear, and honest cobalt colored blue eyes that were found to be very disarming and appealing to most people who gazed into them.

  Now as for all the neighborhood boys and Louis getting along that was different matter altogether. Louis found himself in fistfights every now and again with some of the bully's, or larger or meaner boys in school. His bright red hair flashed a neon sign on and off that read:

  "Pick on me!"

  "I'm right over here!"

  "Pick on me!"

  This was also an invitation for most the boys, and even some of the girls at times, to throw a line of jokes toward Louis, at Louis's expense. Louis had heard most of them at least once, some of them twice, and one or two of them thrice.

  Louis's bright red hair had its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation at the time.

  The old women in town just loved him to death, but his friends all teased him to no end. Louis's hair color was so bright red and shinny that sometimes i
n the sunshine it took on a strange florescent orange glow to it. His hair was always found nicely trimmed and well kept, but it forever had a large unruly cowl-lick on the top of his head that would rise and fall, whenever his emotions would get a hold of him. This happened often, but mostly it would happen from him being embarrassed, scared, or angry. He had to wrestle with this cowlick to keep it in place, which at times caused him great consternation and big troubles.

  Louis was also extremely freckle faced.

  The feckless were large, widely spaced, and found to be the color of a bright red apple. The freckles made Louis's face look like he had a bad case of the mumps or the measles, and of course these freckles caused daily problems for him all by themselves.

  Aside from the all the dazzling red freckles and neon red hair color engulfing little Louis, he did own a very handsome and cherubic face that held a wide and very pleasant smile. His teeth were pearly white and found to be set in two perfect rows, and when he did smile, it was found to be very disarming and soothing for anybody that he smiled upon.

  Louis's clothes were baggy and appeared to be mostly hand-me-downs from some of the older kids in the neighborhood, purchased from a second-hand store, or donated to him from the local church. You see his family just did not have that much money or means, to buy Louis any new clothes.

  Louis was an only child.

  He had no brothers or sisters.

  Nevertheless, that did not bother him because he did come from a very loving and giving family. Louis's family had roots in Centerville that went back generations. His family did not have that much money to purchase many of the material things that life had to offer, but they were never lacking for the necessities of life.

  Most importantly, they never lacked in the things that mattered the most, the things that money just could not buy: a strong family-bond, a caring and loving mother, a strong feeling of belonging to a community, and living in a respectable neighborhood.

  Little Louis never seemed to mind too much, or to be bothered about being a disadvantaged boy, because he was always comfortable, within himself and with who he was. He would always help the family out whenever and however he could, when it came to these things. If this meant wearing older clothes and or never having a new bike, then so be it.

  Louis did have some troubles doing his household chores in a timely manner though, but most boys his age suffered from this very same problem. You see, Louis had a dire and ongoing habit of constantly daydreaming wherever he went, or where ever he was. It just drove his mother Hattie May, Mr. and Mrs. Beamer and most of his friends just plain crazy at times. Louis was always off somewhere in his own world, which no one else was allowed to enter except himself.

  Now as the ballgame continued on this day and as each additional strike or ball was called out by Turk Louis again appeared to be far away, daydreaming, or gazing off somewhere that he shouldn't be. In Louis's exceptional mind one moment, he was at first base playing for a major league baseball team. Then in the next moment, he was riding in the caboose of a great freight train wearing a pair of gray-stripped engineer pants, a blue engineer cap on backwards and steaming down the open railroad tracks barely visible, because he was engulfed from head to toe, in steam from the train's large belching engines.

  Louis in his mind could be on a mighty safari in Africa hunting dangerous wild lions one day, or another day, he could be transformed into a lonesome cowboy, riding on the open range in the Wild West, on a cattle drive. On the other hand, in another daydream he could find himself in Egypt drifting down the ancient Nile River in a Papyrus boat that was built by the ancient Pharos. The world that belonged to Louis was a wonderful one, which he found such delight in, each day.

  It was now the bottom of the ninth-inning with the other team at bat. The score was even at two runs to two with the bases loaded, and the speedy Claxton Hermes was on at third base. He was the fastest runner for his age in the county and had won many foot races over the years, with some of the older boys in their school.

  It could not be a worse situation for Louis, Chug, Short Stack, and the rest of his teammates. There was a very imposing and ominous batter hovering over home plate, and a speed-demon of a runner on a third base, just waiting to make a mad-dash for home to seal the victory for the detested Tigers.

  The batter had taken three balls and two strikes. The crowd was now on its feet and everyone was anticipating the next pitch, when all manner of confusion broke loose.

  The throw!

  It was a hard thrown fastball right down the middle of home plate. When the bat came around and connected with the ball there was this loud, "Thwa-aa-wack!" that made anyone who was sitting in the stands that day, stand up on their feet and jostle over and around each other to get a better view of the now unfolding play.

  The volume of the crowd grew to an ear-splitting level, as the play developed in front of them. For everyone in the stands, and especially for the player's on the field this would surely be one play that they would all absolutely remember for the rest of their young lives.

  The sizzling fastball came screaming across home plate. It connected forcefully off the heart of the bat, as it came around in front of home plate. This sent the ball heading awkwardly out toward Louis's position at first base. Louis could tell the dizzying fly ball was going to go over his head, so he immediately pivoted his left foot in the dirt jumped backwards and started to sprint out to right field, towards the right field foul line. The ball sort of changed directions as it was flying by, and was now coming in kind of clumsy and curving away from Louis, to the right side of the out of bounds fence.

  Chug the right fielder also had a great jump on the ball.

  He and Louis were both heading for the same spot on the field, just as fast as they both could run. The crowd roared in anticipation of seeing "the play" of the day developing, right before their eyes. As the ball passed overhead, Louis made a Herculean jump by the low right field fence nearby, he seemed to be suspended in mid air, and appeared to travel, in slow motion as the play proceed forward.

  Louis soared right past Chug who was diving for the ball as well, hitting him on the left shoulder, spinning him around backwards, and cutting him right out of the play. Louis was in fair territory when the ball hit him with a mighty force off the glove in his left hand, falling just short of the pocket. The ball sailed up into the air again a few feet, came back down with a crazy spin on it, bounced off the top of his baseball cap bouncing foul, out into the nearby grandstands.

  Chug and Louis both wound up in the dirt in a tangled and snarled mess at the right side foul line, and were oblivious to what had just transpired until the clouds of dust had dispersed, and everything became clear again.

  In one wild frenzied moment, when the dust and dirt had cleared the play, it was clear to all...that all was lost. A ground ruled double was called by the right field line judge, due to interference from Louis and his now lumpy and bumpy head.

  Louis had flubbed up again.

  Why did he not just let the ball go foul which it most likely would have done, instead of trying to be the hero again? How could he have been so ambitious to think he could make "that play"...then knocking Chug right out of "the play" which was his to make in the first place?

  The game had now been lost, and Louis was to blame!

  It was just another disaster for poor Louis.

  Man oh man what a mess, thought Louis as he started to scratch his head and try to figure out what had just happened.

  The feared Logansport Tigers had won another Cornfield League title and all the glory that goes with it for another year. Everyone in the stands raced onto the ball field in a wild frenzy, to get closer to the wining players, while Louis and the rest of his teammates gathered in the outfield, to think over what just had happened. Afterwards they started to slink and slump their way out of the back of the ballpark in
utter bewilderment, only pausing for a moment or two, to look backwards at the celebration going on, on the field. Each could only dream about what might have been if only they had won the game. All of Louis's teammates were wondering at the dismal reality, of another season lost, and especially having lost to those hated, Tigers again this year.

  Louis thought it was bad enough going through life with bright red hair, a cowl-lick, and freckles, now this.

  How could Louis ever explain this one away?

  Last year, he was the reason his team had lost the horseshoe city championships, he was the reason they had lost the boxcar races at the county fair that same year, and the year before that he came in last with Short-Stack in the three-legged race, at the county fair. He tried to explain that loss away and blame it on Short Stack for being too short, but no one really believed him.

  The game today was over and lost because Louis "had done it again".

  He had been loafing off and daydreaming out at first base "as always" and had not been ready, when the play of the day, was his to make. He made the best play he could, but he always seemed to be a step behind or just not ready, to make the plays when he should. Louis just cannot concentrate like everyone else because his wild imagination and daydreaming would always send him off, to faraway places and long ago times.

  As the loosing team wandered off the field to the sounds of boos from the home fans, Chug bent down and started to rant and rave into Louis's right ear about how Louis appeared to be daydreaming right before the ball was hit.

  Louis tried to ignore Chug as he started to rub the large knot now found on the top of his aching head.

  "Boy Louis, it must be tough to be you sometimes. I was almost sure I saw you looking out in the right field stands, and staring off into space right before that last pitch was thrown.

  "Nah, I was watching. Why you being so mean to me? I really was paying attention Chug it's just sometimes I see things, visions. You don't understand."

  "Visions...yeah right...you know Louis you lost the championship and the game for us all in one play? How about saying something like, hey I'm sorry?

  "No apologies, nothing to say?" cried out Short Stack.

  "Come on Louis, this just keeps happening and happening over and over. You're always distracted and we losing more games, and this time it were the league championship," barked out Growlin Harry.

  Louis just shrugged his shoulders and stared at the ground upon hearing all of his friends, disappointment loudly ringing in his ears.

  Everyone walked along together out of the ballpark. Louis closed his eyes for a moment, tensed his face up in pain and hurt, and then just seemed to let it all roll right off his back. He did the best he could do at the ballpark today and he knew it.

  It is true that he did not concentrate fully the way he should have at times during the game, and was staring out into the stands before that last ball was hit, but he sure gave a lot of effort to make, that "big catch".

  There were no excuses today but he would surely get it right next time.

  He would have: other plays to make at other games, and would have other chances to prove himself in life, as he grew older and he sure knew that someday, he would be the hero in his dreams as he had dreamed of so many times before. Louis knew things would happen to him in life that would be more significant and bigger than making that catch, on that particular day, on that particular field.

  Someday he would show them.

  Little did he know how soon that would really be.

 

  Most of Louis's friends; Chug, Short-Stack, Sammy, Janie Parker, Mildred Waters, and Growlin-Harry Jaxson all went off together after the game, trying not wallow in their misery. As for Growlin-Harry, no one knew why he growled all the time, but most people thought it was because he had holes in the bottom his shoes and the soles of his bare feet dragged on the ground all day, as he walked around.

  You see Harry came from a family that was not very well off, they had so little money, and was a lot like Louis and his family in that way. That's one reason why Harry and Louis became such good friends over the years. Even with Harry's constant growling everyone still liked him anyway, because he was just a kind boy, with a big heart.

  Just because your family does not have a lot of money, or material wealth does not make you, any less of a person and that is the way Harry, and especially Louis approached it. You cannot change some things in life, and this was just one of those things. You have to learn to accept the hand you're dealt with, which can sometimes be hard to deal with, at such a gentle age.

  There will be plenty of time to change these things when you get older if that is what is important to you. However, there was nothing, Louis or Harry could do about it now. The best thing to do in this situation would be to just enjoy all the wonders of your childhood years, and keep your dreams intact, to act on when you get older and are mature enough to make your own decisions for yourself.

  Other friends of Louis's were Mildred Waters, Janie Parker and Tessie Whitman whose dad owned the Five and Dime downtown, and Hot-Tamale Molly (another neighborhood girl) who always dressed much older than her age and wore far too much makeup.

  Molly Jenkins had lovely almond colored hair, dark green eyes, and a delightful pale skin tone. She always wore brilliant red finger nail polish and a little too much make-up, which looked very out of place for a girl of her age. She also wore bright red lipstick wherever she went and whenever she could, which was a bit usual for a girl of her age but her mom never seemed to mind and neither did she.

  Molly would borrow the makeup and lipstick from her mother's vanity case or purse when she wasn't looking as most girls around her age are known to do, but Molly would just spatter it everywhere. Her lips were always a lustrous color of red like the color found on a hot-tamale or a red pepper. That is how her friends came up with the nickname of "Hot-Tamale Molly".

  Molly had a real crush on Louis and she endlessly chased Louis around trying to kiss him on the cheek with those big red lips. Louis just hated that, and every one of his friends would tease him to no end about Molly.

  "Hi Louis, do you like my new color of lip stick that I'm wearing today?" she would ask Louis when she would see him riding his bike down the street with Chug or one of his other friends.

  "That looks great Molly. Keep up the good work you, Hot-Tamale?you."

  "Is she yapping at you again Louis?" asked Chug.

  "Yeah, but it's alright..."

  "How can you stand her with those big red lips trying to get you everyday Louis?" replied Chug.

  "Awe, she doesn't mean any harm, and she really is a nice girl you know. I would hang out with her more if she would just take off those big red lips", said Louis while he acted as if he was wiping Molly's lipstick of his face.

  "You know Chug? Molly is very cute. Have you ever seen her without all that makeup on?" asked Louis.

  "Nope, never seen it and never want to" said Chug as he made another kissing sound just to irritate Louis.

  "Well, I still like her anyway Chug. She ain't so bad and besides, she's kind of fun to be around."

  Well after finally completely passing out of the ballpark back gates and down into the nearby cornfields, all of Louis's friends starting giving Louis the once-over once again about that missed catch, and how he had lost the game for them.

  "Can't you just make the right play, once in your life?" asked Molly while putting on more red lipstick.

  "Don't sign up next year for the team," said Mildred with distaste heard in her voice.

  "Yeah, we can't go through this again Louis," said Tessie.

  Louis just stared off into space.

  Harry growled out something unclear and unclear in Louis's direction, as he shuffled along with them but no one paid much attention to him anyway, because he was so strange.

 
He just growled all the time.

  All of his friends really loved Louis deep inside, but it sure was fun to rib him and watch his feisty red cowl-lick, stand up at the back of his head, as Louis got madder and angry. Louis just could not control that darned thing, for the life of him. He tried hair-wax, cutting his hair shorter and letting his hair grow out longer, tried hair creams, jells, and finally just gave up due to fatigue and anguish over the whole thing.

  After finally realizing that everyone was laughing at his lively cowl-lick again as they walked along. Louis tussled with it for a moment and then finally out of frustration just gave up, placing his baseball cap over his head, to cover his every growing appendage at the top of his head.

  As they walked back home after the game, passing down along the railroad tracks which Louis was daydreaming about earlier, past the old water tower at the Centerville train depot, through the cornfields, and down by the local swimming hole, all Louis could do was daydream about what might be around the next corner.

  By the railroad tracks, he found himself on that ole steam train again. Wild Indians were chasing the train, yelling and hollering as only Indians can do, and they were shooting flaming arrows right at him. At the Centerville rock quarry, he thought he saw a pirate ship flying a menacing skull and cross bones flag that spelled out the words, The Red Ghost. The flag fluttered triumphantly in the wind, on the top of the largest mast of the ship.

  Later on while Louis was passing a large cornfield on his left, he imagined himself riding on the most earth shattering tractor ever made, plowing great rows of corn on his own farm.

  Louis used his imagination most of all when things were not going so well for him, or when his mother would chide him for not getting his chores done on time. He would just close his eyes for a moment and drift off into another world, at the change of the wind. It just rather made the day a little more enjoyable and pleasing to live in when pirates, cave bears, steam trains, tractors, and Indians coexisted in the day with him.

  Each of Louis's friends made their way home at the end of the day to their own farms and homes none really feeling, all the worse for what had transpired, earlier in the day at the ballpark.

  As the faint orange October sun was starting to wane in the western sky, Louis and his friends were all delighted to be back home with their families, and to have a warm comfortable fire, to take off the late fall chill.

  A cool air had settled over the Centerville valley in the last few weeks, and nothing was more comforting to the soul than a cozy fire in the hearth. There was a sweet smell of burning pine, cedar wood, birch and home cooking that filled the air over the quite valley. A hot inviting meal awaited each child as each entered through the front doors of their homes at the end of the day. There were boiled and mashed sweet potatoes, freshly baked cornbreads, buttered green beans, hot apple pies, and sizzling beefsteaks.

  All and all, everyone of Louis's friends, were gratified and content that it was all behind them, that the day was over and they could finally get home to their families but Louis.

  He needed to go visit his best friend in the whole wide world "Charlie" who lived down in Mr. Beamer's barn, to tell him all about everything that had taken place that day in the ballpark, at the swimming-hole, by the cornfields, down at the train tracks and over by the train station.

  As Louis bounded in through the front wooden gates to his family's farm, Muncy his golden retriever and best pal came running up the walkway with the widest of grins on his face. His tongue was flopping back and forth, his tail was wagging wildly back and forth, and he was ready to lick Louis to death. All four of Muncy's paws barely touched the earthen pathway as he feverishly scampered towards Louis. You could be gone five minutes, but to Muncy it was an eternity. Licks showered Louis. More kisses, more licks and more hugs. Ears were flopping, tail wagging and lots of drooling by Muncy.

  This made Louis feel considerably better after such a long, hot day.

  Louis crouched down and gave Muncy a big warm hug. It was all worth it to Muncy, waiting all day for Louis to come home just for that one hug.

  Louis's mom Hattie May Parks, who saw Louis coming up the walkway called out for him to go see Mrs. Beamer the next-door neighbor, about some chores he forgot to do earlier in the day.

  "Mrs. Beamer has been looking for you Louis, and Louis oh my just look at that knot on your head. What happened?"

  "Oh I'm OK mom. I got beaned on the head chasing a catch, but I'll be just fine."

  "Well maybe we should call Doc Wellman and have him take a look."

  "Nah I'm alright...," said Louis as he rubbed his head once more.

  "Oh Louis, if you say so, well then where were we? Oh it seems you forgot to do some chores for Mrs. Beamer this morning," exclaimed Hattie May in a chiding tone.

  "Yeah, I know mom. I forgot to do em, alright."

  Hattie May was a slightly older distinguished woman who was always seen in public no matter what befell her dressed to a tee. She sewed most of her own clothes on an old sewing machine that her mother had given her when she was a child. These garments showed some wear and tear, but were still in excellent condition and fit her almost as perfectly, as they had fit her mother when she was about the same age. Hattie May had excellent taste in clothing with every garment she created, or in every outfit she wore be it new or used.

  She subscribed to all the fashion books that she could afford and would pour over them endlessly over candlelight deep into the night.

  Today she was found well dressed in a blue house frock with small white speckles laced into the fabric. She wore a white apron tied around her slim waist with a large bow tied loosely in the back. It was crafted from the finest cotton from Atlanta. The red bow was a gift she had received from Mr. Beamer one year for Christmas, and she treasured it always.

  Hattie May had on an exceptional clean starched white shirt under the frock that was ruffled in the front and fit her as if was made by a professional tailor. On her well-manicured feet, she wore small black, flat-soled shoes that were made for comfort not style. You see she was just an old country girl from Indiana, who knew who she was and accepted that position in life. She was happy within herself, and that came from wisdom, confidence, and old age.

  With her, it was nothing fancy. She was comfortable with being herself.

  Her hair was a dull whitish color that gave away her advancing age. It was swept up in a loose bun, pulled to the rear of her head, and kept in place, by the loveliest of hairpins from London. Her mother had given her the pin as a small child, just as her grandmother had given it to her.

  Louis upon hearing his mom call out to him again through the open kitchen window, proceeded down the path off in the other direction towards Mrs. Beamer's farmhouse that was next door to his mother's house. All the while Muncy was right at Louis's feet, in case he might want to play.

  Mrs. Beamer was in her kitchen baking some apple pies, for the school PTA and looked up when she saw Louis springing upon the back porch. In a friendly, free-flowing voice, she spoke through her front kitchen window to Louis.

  "Louis when are going to make time to remove that old ragweed from my lovely rose garden, and plant those tomatoes seeds in the vegetable patch by the barn as you promised me last week? You promised me you would do it Louis. Do you hear me Louis...?"

  "I just didn't have time this week Mrs. Beamer. Tomorrow or the next day will work better. I promise really. I got busy at the ballpark and over by the swimming-hole today. You see there were two great big pirate ships at the swimming-hole. One of ships started to sink, after being rammed by the other one. You should have seen em Mrs. Beamer. I have to go see Charlie right now before it gets too dark. I just have to see him Mrs. Beamer. I miss Charlie a great deal and I have not seen him all day. My mom told me to say hi, and let you know I will do all of those chores later. I promise I will."

  "Louis I sincerely
doubt there were two pirate ships at the old swimming-hole, but if you said you saw them then they must have been there" said Mrs. Beamer with a friendly grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye.

  "All right Louis tomorrow. Can you do it tomorrow Louis? Please don't forget this time?"

  Mrs. Beamer stopped what she was doing to look out the window to see if Louis had heard a thing she said, before Louis was off again and well out of sight. As Louis turned and went back up the front walkway towards his mom's house Hattie May called out to him again from the side of the house, where she was now hanging the day's laundry out to dry.

  "Louie did you mend that rear fence, where you knocked out those two pickets this morning, and are you going to feed the chickens this evening? They've got to be hungry by now."

  "Mom, I gotta go down to Mr. Beamer's barn and talk with Charlie, if that's OK with you? Come on mom. I have to tell Charlie about everything that happened today.

  "Ok Louis, go ahead on to Mr. Beamer's barn."

  "Man, she's worse than Mrs. Beamer. All I seem to do is chores for everyone", said Louis under his breath.

  "But don't be late for dinner tonight. I fixed some more of those mashed potatoes and hot buttered corn on the cob that you like so much. And I'm calling Doc Wellman to look at that knot on your head Louis...Louis...!" shouted out Hattie May who appeared to be exasperated at Louis's lack of comprehending, the importance of what she was saying about getting, his chores done on time and before it gets too dark.

  "Everyday it's the same thing with that boy", she muttered as Louis skipped off the back porch, heading off, down to Mr. Beamer's barn.

  Again, today Louis had not done his chores as he was supposed to.

  "Again as long as you promise to do all your chores by the end of the day" Hattie May echoed again as Louis quickly scurried down the hill and out of sight.

  "Man I wish I would have caught that ball at the game today. What was I thinking!" said Louis once again, as he hung his head down now and started slumping over in despair and hopeless thought.

  Louis paused for a moment on the path then took a deep breath afterwards he leaned down and reached out with his arms to give Muncy a long warm, reassuring hug for his best friend. He just wanted to him know that everything would be all right, and that he was really just fine. Muncy did not believe him no matter how hard Louis tried to convince him otherwise. Muncy's eyes gave Louis a warm smile to try to comfort him, in his own loving way.

  Louis walked along a little further on down the pathway to Mr. Beamer barn after that he looked up toward the softening sunlight and darkening skies. He ambled over to a large rock, slowly sat down to give a willing Muncy another, big warm hug.

  Louis looked out over the valley below and started to reflect on the long day just as he has done so many times before. When the moment was just right and the entire world seemed perfectly still, Louis took another deep breath and began to sing a very heartfelt, slow sentimental song. Louis had learned this melody for days just like this, which he seemed to be having often lately.

  Louis had a wonderful voice and the notes seemed to just float out above the rolling valleys and drift out overhead, into the orange and yellow clouds that hung in the Centerville sky.

  Singing of certain songs always makes you feel better when you're down on your luck, and the singing of this song was no exception. After some soul searching and after taking a moment to enjoy the last of the waning warm sunlight, Louis felt like a heavy weight had been lifted off his burdensome heart.

  He surely did envy Muncy and the wonderful life he had. There were no "big catches", for him to make, and no household chores that needed to be finished every day. All Muncy had to do was be himself, enjoy the day, and have fun.

  After another long quite moment, Louis and Muncy were off again down the path, until each finally arrived at Mr. Beamer's barn and the large two front wooden doors.

  As Louis came upon the closed barn doors, they always seemed to be so extremely large and very ominous to him. The closed doors were latched with an enormous brass bolt that was held in place, by two mammoth screws. This kept all of the farm animals in the barn at night and all the wild animals out. The thick, broad brass bolt always gave Louis trouble unlatching it, because he was so small and the bolt was so very heavy, but he always knew that what lay behind the two large front doors, was well worth the effort to see because, this is where his other best friend in the world lived, "Charlie the Barnyard Horse".

  Louis knew one thing for sure.

  Charlie would really cheer him up after such sorrowful day.

 
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