As the medications wore off and the word of the virus was spreading, the household took on a different tone for the next couple of weeks. Ham wasn’t around much. He was at the hospital and giving news interviews about the pandemic. Billy was in his office doing videoconferencing with other oilmen trying to salvage oil prices that were reminding some of the Great Depression. Other operators and companies supplying equipment were letting crews go and shutting down. Local businesses were experiencing a domino effect.
Billy’s initial flirting and come-hither gestures had taken a back seat to the ails of the day. In his mind those “ails” were translating into a global earthquake affecting the 21st century ways of life. He couldn’t save the world, but he could safeguard his people.
His first step was to have “the boys,” his close associates and their families move into The Place. Yes, he realized that it would put a strain on Bertie and the Place’s accommodations, but it would be the best in the long run.
The usually tranquil setting was bustling with activity. Bertie was now cooking for nearly 100, three times a day. The dozens of kids now living at Pappy’s Place needed to stay up to date on their school assignments. Adjustments were made. Meals were served buffet-style. The party room was turned into a classroom during the day. Shen happily found her place working with the kids. Since it had been a long time since she had been in elementary school, it was a two-way learning process. “Do you mean they don’t teach cursive writing anymore?” Shen asked with surprise.
In turn, the youngsters would learn lessons that were not traditionally taught in classrooms. Before breakfast and classes, they were required to make their beds. This lesson came from the band’s keyboardist Joey Hernandez, who had served under Adm. William McRaven. “He always taught us the the first thing in the morning to make our beds because, ‘If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.’”
After school, the Hamilton boys were given the daily assignment of taking Shen to a different part of the estate, with Girlfriend joining the group. Shen now had a much better understanding of what Hannah had meant about it being quite a place. And, of course, the boys insisted they should try out each of the stops. One day it was to see and swim in the Olympic-size pool and change in the 2,400-square-foot cabana for dinner. The next day it was a game of tennis at the tennis courts. Shen didn’t do so well on the basketball court, but she did impress the boys with her weight lifting in the work room. And they only made it through four holes on the golf course.
The foursome took one of the ATVs to show her the runway that rose above the grounds, and a nearby helipad. There was just one road leading to it from the main house. “After all, if you’re going to land here, you’re only gonna be coming to see Uncle Billy,” the oldest boy said.
The favorite stop was the stable, where a dozen horses resided. After checking out the accommodations, the boys told Shen which horse she should ride and they rode over to one of the property’s lakes. They told her that next time they would return and fish. Then they headed the horses to the family cemetery, where Pappy and his wife Clarissa were buried along with Evangeline and Will.
On the way back to the main house, they rode past a house where the ranch manager and his family lived, and a couple of bunkhouses for hands when they were needed. Now the houses were being adapted to accommodate the additional people who were in need of temporary lodging.
After the daily tours, Shen would head to the kitchen to help Bertie with dinner. She learned that Bertie had been in her 20s when she went to work for Pappy after Clarissa died back in the 1980s. Bertie’s husband had been killed in Viet Nam. When Billy came to live with the old gentleman, she stayed on to provide some “mothering.” They built “Bertie’s Cottage” near the main house, where she grew a vegetable garden and raised chickens.
One night when she was peeling some potatoes, Shen asked Bertie about Billy’s parents. “I hardly knew them, but even from afar you could tell that was a match. When they were in a room, there was a special shine around them that made people just want to be with them. It was sorta magical. The night the police came to the house to tell Pappy that Billy’s folks had been killed… well, it nearly did him in. What saved him was Billy. Even as a four-year-old, he was a real scamp. He was smart and at times too smart, but he was never mean. When he did get out of line, Pappy would straighten him out in his own special way. Instead of using a belt, Pappy would use good, old common sense and talk to the boy man-to-man. He instilled a work ethic and a healthy respect and concern for others. Billy never feared being unloved. As a matter of fact, I don’t think he’s ever feared anything.
“On the other hand, the boy helped Pappy adjust to the loss of his wife and Billy’s parents. It was really tough for a while, but they came through it.”
… to be continued Monday, June 29