dontravis.com blog post #371
|Courtesy of publicdomaininvestors.org|
Chapter 4 might be a game-changer. Power denotes power, regardless of the circumstances, and a couple of phone calls shifts the balance considerably. Will Austin be impressed?
Donning Austin’s spare slicker, De la Roche joined his host in the front seat of the Jeep. Since the rain had quit, although roiling gray clouds almost touched the treetops, he tried his satellite phone again. This time, through irritating bursts of static, he heard the phone ring on the other end. A sleepy voice answered, coming awake when De la Roche barked into the phone.
De la Roche issued orders for someone to take his meeting today, arrange to have the Volvo picked up when the weather permitted, and agreed to take another call. “No, don’t try to pick me up today,” he said before closing the call. “Weather’s still too unsettled. Looks like it could break loose any minute.”
“That was one of my executive vice presidents. He’ll check with the weather bureau and let me know when they think they can pick me up.”
Austin peered out the windshield as the first of the raindrops splattered against the glass. “Won’t be today.”
The morning was a revelation to the engineer. He always enjoyed learning new things, and everything about the day was new. During a lull in the rain, while nature gathered her energy for the next inundation, low, scudding clouds ran before a wind that swept the high, mountain valley, shaking the trees like dogs shedding water. Austin had trained his cows to respond to the horn and a whistle, and in each pasture, the placid animals lifted their heads and walked with bovine dignity toward a central place where the young cowman spread a few pellets on the soaked ground.
“Don’t really need to feed,” he explained. “Grass is pretty good this year, but it’s the pellets that train them to come to me. Saves a lot of time hunting down a bunch of ornery critters spread out in the woods. We’re on leased land now, but I know how many are in each pasture, and if one’s missing, I go look for him.”
They ate thick beef sandwiches for lunch while sheltering from a steady rain in an open-sided shed that looked out over a broad meadow as beautiful as anything De la Roche had seen in this country. He had just finished the second of his sandwiches when his phone rang, the call he’d agreed to accept The voice was clear enough, although interrupted by short bursts of atmospheric interference.
“Hello, Bob,” he said to the White House Chief of Staff. “How are you this morning? Good. Believe it or not, I’ve been wrestling cows all morning in the middle of the northern New Mexico mountains. This local cowman saved my fanny in a raging storm and promptly put me to work to earn my keep.” He laughed at the man’s response. “You received my letter, I take it. No, it’s not subject to reconsideration. It’s hard to say no to the man, but I truthfully feel this is best. Yes, I’ll be available for an hour or so, providing the weather doesn’t deteriorate. But please warn him I won’t reconsider, despite his legendary powers of persuasion.”
There was a question mark on his young companion’s face, but De la Roche made no move to explain the call. He’d explain the next one. Provided it got through. The rain was falling harder now. Reluctantly he joined Austin in the cab of the Jeep and they headed to the next pasture.
An hour later, the phone burped as they were enroute to another bunch of cattle. De la Roche answered it respectfully. “Yes, I’ll hold,” he said, giving Austin a mute shrug. “Yes, Mr. President, this is Forrest De la Roche,” he said. “How are you today? Oh, he told you my current occupation, did he? No, I know nothing about cattle, but the man showing me the ropes certainly does. Austin Andino. Yes, sir. Circle-A’s his brand. I’ll tell him.” He paused for long minutes as the President of the United States made his pitch. Then he responded.
“Sir, I must respectfully decline. The overriding consideration is that we are in talks for a merger with Charles Industries. You know as well as I that I’ll have to argue that one before the SEC, the Federal Trade Commission, and probably Justice before it’s over, if for no other reason than it’s a fifteen-billion-dollar acquisition. That would still subject your administration to criticism if I were the sitting Secretary of the Interior. A pause. “No, sir. I can’t in good conscience put it on hold. I’m caught on a hook, Mr. President. It’s best for all concerned if I decline your offer.”
A few moment later, he he turned off the phone and noticed that they were sitting before a gate. Austin’s door was ajar and he flushed when De la Roche glanced over at him. The businessman eased the Jeep from the passenger’s seat so that Austin could close the gate behind them. The cowman got back into the cab dripping water all over everything.
Although he was obviously burning to ask questions, Austin displayed the virtue of a true cowman and minded his own business. When they arrived at the spot where the cattle in the pasture were congregating, De la Roche laid a hand on Austin’s arm.
“I know that it’s unnecessary, Austin,” he began, “but I have to ask you to keep what you heard confidential.”
The direct approach released the young man’s inhibitions. “Did I understand you correctly? You turned down the President of the United States when he offered to name you as Secretary of the Interior?”
“Yes,” De la Roche said.
“Jeez!” The young man exhaled. “And you told him my name?”
“He wanted to know who’d succeeded in making me do hard labor. So I told him. Did I do wrong?”
Austin flushed again. “No, but jeez! The President of the United States!”
“He sends his thanks for getting me out of a sticky situation.”
Late in the afternoon, they finished making the rounds of the pastures. De la Roche was physically exhausted, but Austin appeared as fresh as when they’d started out this morning. Thank God the electricity had come back on sometime during the day and there was hot water. This time he sat in the tub and soaked away the soreness in his muscles.
Austin had beef stew ready when he emerged wrapped in two soft blankets. Too tired to dress properly, he sat at the table and ate half wrapped in terrycloth. After they cleaned the dishes, Austin took his own bath and came out with a big bath towel wrapped around his trim waist.
Later, the two men sat at the table and discussed the day, De la Roche in designer sweats; Austin in clean, worn jeans and unbuttoned western shirt. The young rancher patiently answered a myriad of questions about what they had done and why and responded favorably to a couple of suggestions the older man made about the routine. Frankly, De la Roche admitted, Austin worked efficiently. The cowman could not quite hide his pleasure at the compliment.
A comfortable silence grew as they sipped good, strong coffee. At length, Austin leaned back and threw his arm over the back of his kitchen chair, exposing most of his chest and belly. More excited than the situation called for, the older man took in the expanse of impressive flesh. One brown nipple escaped from behind the open shirt causing De la Roche to react. Thank God the table was between them. He could almost see the workings of Austin’s mind. so he wasn’t surprised at the young man’s next words.
“Do you get calls from the White House often?”
“I knew the previous president better, so I was invited to the Oval Office more often then.” He gave a wry grin. “After turning this one down, I probably won’t hear from him again… until he wants a donation.”
Austin Andino studied him frankly. “I can’t begin to comprehend the power that represents. Probably an everyday occurrence for you, but not for me.”
“Oh, I don’t think you ever get over awe of the White House, no matter how jaded you become.”
The cowboy leaned forward, planted his elbows on the table, and took a sip of his coffee. “I can’t see you intimidated. Hell, you weren’t even intimidated when you were standing dripping wet in the middle of the road looking for a ride.”
“I can assure you I was. Slipping in the mud and falling on your ass is a great way to knock the false pride out of a man.”
Austin laughed, tightening the muscles in his stomach. Almost as if De la Roche willed it, the young man leaned back in his chair once more. The engineer could not help himself. His eyes focused on the broad chest. Glancing up, he saw that Austin had caught the look. The moment grew uncomfortable as Austin’s agate eyes watched him speculatively across the kitchen table. Neither said a word until the cowboy stood and announced his intention to retire.
“I’d like to go out with you again tomorrow,” De la Roche said quickly.
“Rain’s let up. Won’t they come for you?”
“They’ll call first.”
As if to remind them she wasn’t finished yet, Mother Nature unleashed another rainstorm.
Austin raised his head and listened to the drops drum against the roof. “Might not let up tomorrow.”
“Then they’ll come the day after. Hope you can stand me that long.” De la Roche sat where he was, admiring the exposed torso of the young cowman. He dropped his glance back to the table as Austin looked his way.
“However long it takes. An extra hand for room and board is a decent deal.”
“Only if the hand contributes,” he said depreciatingly.“A back’s a back. And for a big power broker you take instruction pretty good.” Austin smiled and turned toward his bedroom.
Wow! I’d be impressed, and I believe Austin was too. Still nothing’s happened. Each man went to his own bedroom. What will Chapter 5 bring?
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