The two old ranchers were sitting in the Buckhorn Cafe early, working on plates of biscuits and gravy when the deputy sheriff walked in.
"Morning Mike, Kent," the deputy said as he sat down on one of the counter stools and turned to the waitress. "Morning to you, too, Mary Lou. Can I get a cup of coffee?” The last greeting was unnecessary as the waitress was already moving, a pot of coffee in one hand and a large white, porcelain cup in the other.
"Good morning, Bob," answered Kent while Mike, with a mouth full of breakfast, just waved a fork at the deputy.
As the waitress poured a cup of coffee, she asked, “Aren’t you getting off a little late this morning?”
Mike swallowed his biscuits and added, “Yeah, I thought you were on the graveyard shift.”
“I still work nights, but the whole department got a workout last night. I just now cleared all my calls. It’s the end of the school year and the high school had their damn prom last night. We had anxious parents calling in all night, wondering where their children were.”
“Probably afraid their young’uns were doing exactly what they had done on their own prom night,” said Kent. The old cowboy smiled, undoubtedly remembering his own high school adventures.
As Mike reached across the table for the bottle of Tabasco Sauce, he saw the smile on his friend’s face and snorted. “Don’t know what you’re grinnin’ at,” he said. “When we went to school, they hadn’t invented dancing yet.”
The deputy put his coffee cup down on the counter and swiveled his stool around to look at the two men. “As far as I can tell, no two teenagers in the county slept in their own beds last night, and less than half of them were sleeping anywhere! I think every pasture in the county has a family sedan stuck in the mud up to the floorboards. The tow trucks will be busy ‘til Memorial Day.”
The two ranchers laughed. “Is that what had you busy all night? Are we going to have some shotgun weddings in a few months?”
The lawman shook his head and answered, “As far as I can tell, there were more fathers worried about their cars than there were fathers worried about their daughters. There was one interesting moment last night—I think I met the smartest kid in the county and think that boy’s going to be a future congressman.”
“I hope you shot the little weasel, we already got more politicians than skunks,” said Mike.
“Pay no attention to him, Bob. He’s just acting ornery because Barbara’s got him on a low cholesterol diet again. The fat content in his head’s about a quart low. That’s why we snuck out to eat breakfast here. He’ll feel better after he finishes his bacon. Tell us what happened,” urged Kent.
“I was driving down the dirt maintenance road along the Brazos River, looking for couples out parking. The sheriff says not to bother anyone unless we suspect there is underage drinking or someone is a little young to be out there….y’all understand, we don’t go looking for trouble, but we are trying to prevent it before it happens.”
Both of the old ranchers nodded their heads in agreement and the deputy continued his story.
“Well, I was about a mile down from the bridge below Santo, almost to the catfish restaurant when I see this car pulled off the road, way back under the trees. That sure as hell wasn’t unusual last night, but the interior light was on and I could see a young man sitting in the front seat and a young girl in the back seat. That was unusual, so I decided to get a closer look.”
By now, Mary Lou had come out of the kitchen, and was listening as intently as the two ranchers while she refilled the deputy’s coffee cup.
“Well,” said the deputy. “I turned on the light bar, and pulled up behind their car. As I was walking up to their car, I could see the boy was reading a magazine and when I got up to the window, there was this young girl, sitting in the back seat doing her fingernails. They were just as cool and calm as a pitcher of buttermilk.”
“Well, the boy rolls down his window, and I start to question him,” said the deputy, and then he recounted his conversation with the two teenagers.
“Evening. What are y’all doing out here this late? Having car trouble?”
“No, sir. Just reading this hunting magazine, officer.”
“What’s she doing in the backseat?”
“She’s doing her nails.” At this, the young girl looks up and smiles sweetly at the deputy.
“How old are you?”
“I’m nineteen, sir.”
“How old is she?”, asks the deputy, pointing to the girl in the backseat.
The young man looks down at his watch for a second, then answers, “She’ll be eighteen in eleven minutes, sir.”
Both of the ranchers laughed while Mary Lou just smiled and walked back into the kitchen.
“Yeah, that sounds like a budding politician. What did you do then?” asked Mike.
“Wasn’t much I could do,” said the deputy. “I told her ‘Happy Birthday’ and left.”