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EXCERPT: In the eyes of the world Richard Bell never amounted to much.
But that bothered him very little. It wasn’t that he was dumb or lazy, it was simply that he was content living alone on the rundown family farm in the shadow of the grassy, rocky Aztec Ridge northwest of Buffalo Crossing, Kansas. The farm produced all he needed to make a living. Even if it didn’t, he would have been happy tending the well kept colorful flower gardens that surrounded the weathered farmhouse.
Richard wasn’t always that way. As a child he dreamed of being a fireman, a pilot, or a famous explorer. When he wandered along the edge of Heron Swamp at the foot of Aztec Ridge, of which a misty arm of the swamp almost encircled the farmhouse, or crossed the old highway to the wide, tree sheltered South Beaver Creek, he dreamed of adventure in mysterious lands populated by strange people.
When he was 18 years old the dreams of adventure, even of being a soldier in Afghanistan, was replaced by the desire to stay close to the farm. His parents never understood. His grandfather, Daniel Oates, understood.
At the age of 70 Richard enjoyed sitting on the front porch in the evening, sipping a special chocolate drink. He enjoyed the fading sunlight, the way the land grew silent until the creatures of the night woke and made their own music. The sky darkened until he could see the first stars, then as if with the wave of a hand, the night blazed with a glittering carpet of light.
From the first, as a young boy visiting Daniel, the silent stars and the night wind were comforting to him…
“You like the night, don’t you?” Daniel asked one summer as they stood on the dark porch. Richard looked at the tall, broad shouldered man with long white hair framing a deeply weathered face in which a pair of bright eyes gazed at him. He wore blue coveralls over a flannel shirt and held two cups in his hand.
“I do too, always have,” Daniel nodded. “Have some chocolate drink.”
“Don’t look like chocolate,” Richard replied as he looked at it, sniffed it, and poked a finger into the liquid. He licked his finger and said, “Tastes sweet…”