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Lowell Teal - Author of the Bath Pond Series

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PROMISE TO POPPY
“With privilege and resources comes responsibility.”

Bath Pond
Promise to Poppy relates the story of a grandson’s fulfillment of a promise to his grandfather. While the entire series centers around people helping people, this volume takes the foundations’ efforts a bit further. It is a story of a young professional musician who finds himself in difficult situations. He and his companions succeed
in developing a method to help ordinary working people increase their income by educating them in order that they may serve in more responsible positions. This fun-filled volume will warm the depths of one’s soul. All four books were written as fictional self-help presented in wholesome and hilarious story form, yet there are undoubtedly resemblances between the characters
in the series and persons of my own acquaintance.
—Lowell Teal

Westward Beginning • 3
1

Rosita insisted that breakfast be served prior to daylight. She had been taught, “Honest folks should be working at daybreak.”

These were her instructions from her mother and Mr. Barton beginning with the very first day of her employment in the main house as a very young lady. The new man in the house couldn't seem to change her schedule. Of course, he was a young man who had never been subjected to such a schedule. He was not married and wasn't exactly a homebody. A young man has to have some fun, and a late night is not conducive to a daylight breakfast.

While Bart had only officially been living in Poppy’s house for a few months, he could have enjoyed a few more minutes of sleep in the mornings and sometimes tried to get by with it, only to finally fail miserably at Rosita’s persistence. He didn't mind the early rising as much as eating breakfast this early. His preference would be to rise early and eat later. Even though it was becoming a new habit, he still paid a fairly stiff price if the preceding night was a late one. He had more than a few of these, too.

Poppy was Bart’s name for his grandfather, Bob Barton. Poppy was Leigh, Bart’s mother’s, father. Poppy and Bart were very close, in fact, inseparable when they were together. Poppy’s wife had predeceased Bart’s birth and never knew him. Though Bart spent a great deal of time with Poppy in the West, Greg, Bart’s father, wanted him to know something of the mammoth spread on which Poppy lived and its operation. Poppy was a giant in the corporate world and decided he wanted to live out his last years in the West on a ranch he purchased years prior to retirement for hunting and fishing purposes. Because he bought the property prior to his retirement, it did give his wife plenty of time to plan and build their home. It was a home she enjoyed very little prior to her death.

Walking into the precisely manicured evergreen garden outside the kitchen, Bart could hear an animal grunting. He started toward the paddock to check out the noise.

“Hoya, what’s all the grunting in here?” Bart asked.

“Oh, it’s The Bishop. He is normally stiff and hurting a bit early in the morning from standing all night in his stable. It must be a type of arthritis or something. The vet says he is okay.”

The Bishop was Poppy’s personal horse. He was a purebred quarter horse. A black ball of fire in his younger days, nowadays he was old and stiff, and no one rode him since he did belong to Poppy, and more, his advanced age was a factor. Poppy was a person beginning with nothing who became an American corporate magnate. He loved the West and bought this western ranch to play out the last days of his life. He thoroughly loved every day of it, particularly since Bart also liked it and Bart was his close buddy. Who could know his wife would predecease him so soon and he would spend the last nineteen years of his life helping raise his only grandson, skipping back and forth to Florida each month, catching a ride on Greg’s, Bart’s father’s, company plane? Being a part of Bart’s life was one of the highlights of his later years. He and his employees
took every opportunity to welcome Bart to the ranch for periods of extended stays when his schooling permitted.

There was a special bond between the two. Poppy, while not up to speed regarding those things Greg did, was a fast study and became a fountain of knowledge in the “how to accomplish” department for Greg. These were important attributes that required skills coming only from years of learning and sensitive business acumen from within a highly competitive corporate climate. When his body wore out, his brain remained razor sharp.
Bart walked into The Bishop’s stall. “Bish” looked up at him and did a playful nibble at his arm but kept grunting.“When I get caught up in the mornings, I walk him around in the pasture close to the paddock. He loosens up and stops grunting,” Hoya said.

“Saddle my horse, please, Hoya,” Bart requested.

“Yes, sir,” he replied.

Poppy and “Bish” had a special relationship. Poppy reared him from a colt and taught him, in a playful manner, to act as if he were the meanest animal alive. He would squeal, back his ears, and run with large blood-streaked eyes at whomever Poppy wanted to frighten. Of course, he was taught never to hurt anyone, just nibble very lightly with his lips. Or he would spin around just before getting teeth on the culprit and act as if he was about to kick them with both rear feet. He put on a fearsome act, yet would never actually hurt anyone. Sometimes the victim was close to heart failure as his act became more fearsome with practice. He would abruptly stop in his tracks and expect a playful rub between his eyes, or a hug. Observing them, “Bish” had to know of Poppy’s special relationship with Bart.

The Bishop was shoe-polish black. His coat was shiny because Poppy required him to never be exposed to the hot sun unless he had to be. He had a coat for every kind of weather and was required to wear it outside when unsaddled. Hoya saw to it. He was muscularly built with a bulldog chest, his front legs widely spaced apart. A small head and ears, he was built close to the ground. The Bishop was also trained as a cutting horse and Poppy’s daily companion. It was almost as if they had a continuing conversation going at all times. The lines of communication were never severed as long as Poppy lived.

Bart placed a halter on “Bish” and led him out of his stall. He mounted his own horse, taking the halter rope from Hoya, and slowly led “Bish” out into the chilled morning air. Bart took a personal look around and promptly recognized the beauty of the morning. It was a very cool, feel-good type of morning, with the sun coming up strong and brilliant. “Bish” took his own inventory of the day as well and followed slowly.

Bart’s horse was a fast walking horse and had to be held back to accommodate the old horse’s slow gait. After about five minutes, Bart removed the rope from the halter and “Bish” ambled along at his own pace. Bart began to talk to him, and “Bish” appeared as if he understood everything that was being said. From that morning, “Bish” always followed. He was never led again. Bart took it as his job to go for a walk with him daily when he was at home in the West. When out of town, Hoya took care of “Bish” in the same way. When “Bish” was ready for breakfast, he’d nibble at the person walking him and they’d return to the paddock. Or if the person walking him didn't respond quickly, “Bish” simply turned around and ambled back to the paddock by himself.

The Bishop was recognized for his superior intelligence and speed. Because of this, his semen was in great demand. He was the father of hundreds of colts and had never been off the Barton Ranch since arriving there years before.

The Bishop’s life was now one of ease. He might have been a little stiff in the mornings, but Bart soon recognized the fact that he might stumble on a rock and stumbling didn't seem to hurt him; therefore, some of the grunting might have been a put-on. It was also true that his eyesight wasn't as good as it once was, and he was just a bit long of tooth, as horse lovers say of an old horse. He was gathering a bit of age at somewhere around nineteen years old.

Returning home one morning after exercising the Bishop, Hoya said to Bart, “Your dad wants you to telephone him when you get into the office.”

“Thanks,” Bart replied as he handed over the reins to both horses to Hoya.

“Hi, Dad,” Bart said when he heard Greg’s voice.

“Morning, Son. You've already been out on horseback, your office tells me. Of course, you know it’s almost noon. You should be out.”

“Now, Dad, you can’t seem to understand the time difference. It is just now 7 a.m., and I'm the only one in the office.”

“Just having a little fun at your expense,” Greg replied.

“Casey needs to come west to handle some problems at the hospital, and I think the two of us need some time together.”

“Great! You want to hunt, fish, or talk?”

“Mostly talk. However, if you want to do other things, we can do those too.”

“What about Mom and Meg? Are they coming too?”

“Yes, can you put us up for a few days?” asked Greg. “Casey will probably be just overnight and head home. Your mom and I want to stay for a day or two.”

“Anything special I should prepare for?”

Greg replied, “No, just expect us at about dinner time tonight. Oh, yes, can we plan to spend the night at the hunting cabin tomorrow night, just the two of us?”

“Sure, I'll see that it is properly outfitted and cleaned out. See you later today.”

When the news hit Rosita that Greg, Leigh, and Meg were coming for a few days, she gathered all the household employees and went to work. She also had Hoya send someone to the grocery store for supplies and sent two maids to the cabin to be sure it was cleaned properly for Mr. Gregson.

The plane touched down at 6 p.m. sharp. Meg, Greg’s personal assistant, called the office prior to leaving and left word with Bart’s secretary regarding their time of arrival. When Meg told another person something, it happened just the way she said it would.

The same group had visited less than ten days earlier, yet somehow seeing each other was always a joyous affair. Leigh was escorted off first, and she was in Bart’s arms immediately.

It was as if she hadn't seen him for months. She backed up, looked him over, and said, “Well, I can see you haven't gained any weight since I last saw you.”

Before he could answer, Meg was wrapped around him as if he was her child. “You look good to me. How are the women out west treating you?”

“Now, Meg, you know I can’t talk in front of Mom about women.”

Before anyone else said anything, Greg embraced Bart. It was always a hug that one was well aware of receiving. It was called his “gorilla hug.”

“Don't let these women hassle you about the girls, Son. To help out in that department, why not help Casey get his things out of the plane? He needs to borrow some transportation for tonight.”

“Hey, Case. Are you going to the hospital now?” Bart asked.

“Unfortunately, and I have to go back early in the morning. Everything that could go wrong has at home and here,” he replied.

“You will be here for dinner, won’t you?”

“Sorry, but I doubt it. In fact, the jet is going now to be serviced and pick me up here in the morning early. I'll stay in the hospital and be back here for that. What about breakfast?”

Bart said, “Sure, I'll let Rosita know, and you'll have a full stomach all the way home.” After loading his briefcase, a couple of boxes, and a small overnight case in a car, Casey left.

It was a fun night. The foursome sat around the dinner table and talked about lots of things and then sprung the news on Bart that Meg was retiring. Meg had been with his dad all his life. He couldn't imagine life without her.

“What will you do with all your spare time, Meg?” Bart asked.

“For beginners, I'll rest. I certainly don’t need any more travel for a while. Maybe cultivate a few hobbies, or I might come here and live with you and help you get a girlfriend. That would be worthwhile.”

“I wouldn't mind you being here, but I'll pick my own girlfriend. Rosita has tried to take on that role since I moved out here, and so far I'm only about a half step in front of her.”