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Chapter Seven
Friends and Bosses

"I will bring the blind by a way that [he] knew not; I will lead [him] in paths that [he has] not known: I will make darkness light before [him], and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto [him], and not forsake [him]. [He] shall be turned back, [he] shall be greatly ashamed."
~ Isaiah 42:16, 17 ~

Except for Frank, Charlton was alone in every respect. He only left the apartment to go to work or buy groceries. Charlton's biggest fear was that he would have an episode in public-- especially in front of Frank, for Charlton had not told him about the diagnosis. Not only was Frank a friend, he was also a boss. Friend or not, Charlton was unsure what Frank would do if he found out. After all, the Alzheimer's was beginning to affect Charlton's work at Venture Outdoors. Frank had not said anything, but Charlton was uneasy all the same.

To avert any thoughts Frank might be thinking, Charlton organized another camping trip. Seven novice outdoor enthusiasts signed up for a five day excursion in the great outdoors with Charlton Overholt as their guide. Frank, as always, furnished the supplies and collected the fees for sponsoring this small "vacation." (Frank thought these trips were good for the store's image.) Frank agreed to meet the group five days from now at a spot preselected by Charlton and himself, so he could drive the group back to civilization without them experiencing the same hardships in reverse.

The first day was damp and overcast. The threat of rain smothered the group's expectations of a perfect trip, making that day's hike tedious and somewhat tense for Charlton. One of the group suggested that they go faster, to try and avoid the storm. The suggestion reminded Charlton of a story he had told Charlotte hundreds of times. The recollection of Charlotte lifted his spirits. With a lighthearted voice, Charlton entertained the unhappy group with a story called "The Cowboy Who Bulldogged A Cloud."

Back when the old American west was untamed, and the ranges were open and free, there lived an unassuming cowboy named Gritts. He had gotten his name from the way he would bare his teeth whenever he set his mind to do something. Gritts rode for the Four Brother Ranch, so named because four brothers shared ownership. It was a vast ranch, covering several thousands of acres. If you went to the center of it, you could see nothing but land owned by the Four Brother Ranch, from one horizon to the other.

This land was Gritts' idea of perfection, except for one major problem: it had no water. No water for mile upon mile. It had no ponds, no rivers, only wells that had finally dried out a few days earlier. The wells were fed by rain from the nearby mountain and it hadn't rained in months. If it didn't rain on the mountain soon, then the wells would remain dry, and the cattle on the Four Brother Ranch would die.

Now even though the cattle weren't his, Gritts hated to see such prime beef waste away on the prairie, so he set out to do something about it. The next day off he had, Gritts didn't join his fellow ranch hands into town, as he was in the habit of doing, but instead, saddled his horse, General, and set out for the mountain.

As Gritts and General climbed up the steep mountain, a spindly, dry cloud formed overhead, curious as to what this cowboy was up to. Gritts watched the cloud out of the corner of his eye, until at last, he and General made it to the summit of the highest peak.

"That there cloud sure ain't gonna be no drencher, General," remarked the cowboy, "but, mebbe I kin fix that."

Then Gritts took out his lasso, and with an expert hand, roped the cloud in one fail toss. General looked at his rider with admiration.

"It's all in muh wrist," grinned Gritts.

The cloud, seeing that it had been tricked, bucked and tugged at the lasso, until Gritts was pulled clean off his horse! Still gripping the rope, Gritts tied one end of the rope to General's saddle horn and climbed back on.

With every moment, the spindly cloud was becoming angry, dark, and threatening. With a tap of his spurs, Gritts nudged General backward, jerking the rope until the cloud was thrown down to the ground! At this, the cloud became furious, and rapidly doubled and tripled in size, until it's sides bulged with rain. Then, in one great rumble, the cloud gained altitude, until General's hooves were no longer touching the ground!

"I'm a gettin' a might onry," muttered Gritts.

Back at the bunkhouse, down the mountain, the ranch hands had noticed a large dark cloud with a cowboy and his horse dangling by a lasso beneath it.

continued on next page...
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