PASSING THROUGH (10 pgs)
In the hazy distance, I saw what I first took to be a lone tree on the horizon. Letting my horse slow, I stood tall in the stirrups as I fitted my spyglass to my eye for a better look. A tree meant water and water meant survival out here on the plains where nothing within view had seen a drop of water for several months.
Once I focused in, I dropped back down onto my saddle with momentary disappointment. What I had seen afar was nothing more than a tank of some sort up on a tall stand. Then I was struck by the obvious. This must be a water tank for filling locomotives during their pass through these miles and miles of flat, parched nothingness. Yes, beside it stood a windmill. If they had water for trains, it meant I had water to fill my canteen and give to my poor, exhausted horse.
It had been three days since I had come across another living soul and I was more than ready for any sort of contact with civilization. Even if it was nothing more than a lone, untended water tower.
Back in Bayard, where I had spent a couple of days resting up and bathing away some trail dust, there had been talk of another Indian outbreak from the reservation on west of there. Since it was to the west that I was riding, I had been especially vigilant of both my backtrail and any irregularities in the plains ahead. It would take no more than a shallow wash for Indians to lay in wait. Then, again, I told myself that was unlikely. Since the tallest grasses and sage were no more than a foot or so, I should see any other riders well in advance and before they could conceal themselves for a bushwhack. Any Indians from the pack that had broken out were probably well along their way up into the mountains where they could find water as well as hiding places. It seemed doubtful they would be bothering to attack a lone horseman when their own safety must surely be more of an immediate concern.
Stowing my glass, I encouraged my horse across the brittle grasses and in the direction of the distant tank. As I rode, I lifted my hat and wiped my brow for what must have been the fiftieth time since leaving my camp that morning. Not only was it dry out there, but it was a scorcher of a day at what seemed at least a hundred ten degrees.
Once where we could stop in the scant shade provided by the tank, I saw that I still had a problem. A gigantic padlock hung from the valve making it safe from any like myself who passed by. I shook my head in disbelief. Who could they fear taking their precious water? I could stretch my imagination and figure they were worried that someone who needed water might take what they needed, then leave the valve open for the tank to drain empty. Yep, that would sure mess up a steam engine when it arrived needing that water to make it the next leg of the journey.
But, all this supposition wasn’t quenching my thirst or that of Pal, my horse. The distant mountains were little more than a smoky outline from here, so not likely to be close enough for us. I know horses. I know the west fairly well. I can shoot straight, but I’m no fast draw. But, I don’t know padlocks or how to defeat them. I teach school. Small, one room schools mostly and sometimes in a town for a year or two where each grade might have their own classroom. But, as a teacher, I’ll admit to not being especially mechanically inclined.
Through the last twelve years, I have zigzagged my way from town to town as they have sprung up along the rivers as well as out on prairies much like this one. Reading, writing and arithmetic and a strong dose of history lessons tossed in. That’s what I do. I had never before taken the next position this far from the last one. To make matters a little worse, I had been unable to find any trail broken by those who had gone before. They had somehow crossed this area, and few used the rails when they moved west. But, a good and safe trail had eluded me, so I had given up and pointed my nose toward where I expected the little town of Larkspur to be found. Those far away foothills should have the town nestled into a valley at their base and my hope was that, when I was closer, I would see outlying ranches and such to guide me the remainder of the way to town.
Town. Not that I expected much. The school I had agreed to teach at this time was only one room for all grades, so I figured the town must be pretty small still. Take into account the adjacent ranch kids added to the few town kids it would take to have someone in each grade and you knew up front this was no thriving metropolis. The pay offered had been the going rate along with board and room and I had needed a change, so that’s why I was out here in the middle of God’s country on that day.
I had unsaddled my horse and fed him a little of the remaining grain supply and had kicked back in the tower shade with my hat down over my eyes to shade off the glare. Moving west from Cincinnati had helped satisfy my need to see new places and people from time to time. However, I had learned long ago that nothing happens fast out here and, to try would do little more than needlessly exhaust both my horse and me. A rest here to think through this dilemma, then maybe a solution would show itself. If not, we would have rested in some precious shade, then would head out in a little better shape than when we got there.
So, I asked myself, can I break that padlock? No. my gun barrel was the closest thing I carried to a tool and I couldn’t afford to damage that in such futile efforts. A person would need a sizable crowbar from what I could tell. It was then, while nearly nodding off that I noticed the ground beneath me give off a feint quiver. The vibration gradually became stronger, causing me to give a conscious notice. Distant hoofbeats, I at first wondered? Then, lifting my hat brim, I looked down the glistening tracks. The sun must be playing tricks on my eyes, I decided. Beyond the shimmer of heat rising from the tracks, I could have sworn I saw something. To top that, the vibration was growing stronger by the minute. Fools luck, was it to be? Then, I saw the plume of steam billowing from the smoke stack and, sure enough, a train was coming west right toward where I sat.
After they had puffed to a halt, the engineer, seeing me there and preparing for the worst, came across the tracks toward me wearing an obvious holster and gun strapped around his bibbed overalls. I stood slowly and let him see that my hands were empty, no threat, then walked to meet him.
“Maybe you can guess why I’m sitting back here in the shade of your water tower.” I offered. “I’m a teacher and headed for Larkspur for my next position. Sort of lost and definitely low on water. I saw the tank and thought to fill my canteen, but that padlock sort of put a change to my plans. Any chance that, after you open the valve, I can get a little water for me and my horse?”
I must have convinced him I was harmless, because he came on up to me and offered his hand. “I’m Bob, the engineer of this train. Sure, you can have all the water you need and gladly. I’ll just need to see that padlock back in place, though, after I fill the boiler. We count on water to get on down the track, so the padlock helps assure it will still be pumped full when we get here. Sort of the middle of nowhere, as you can tell if you’re riding through it.”
Once again in the saddle, I waved my thanks to Bob as we rode on toward where he assured me Larkspur was located. Not only had I watered my horse and filled my canteen, but I had stood under the spout briefly and knocked off a lot of sweat and trail dust. As I headed west again, I felt mighty refreshed. Nice, too, to know I hadn’t been far off track toward my destination.
As the sun dropped low, the first ranch came into view. Even without any paint on the sides, you could tell it was a pretty new spread. The lumber still had color and hadn’t silvered out like it’s prone to after a couple of winters. House that probably had a separate bedroom, outhouse a ways out and a decent sized barn beyond that with board-sided corrals and a string of wire fence that came out near the untilled plains I rode in from. A lot of backbreaking work had gone into what I could see there.
I called out to the house and, behind me I heard a voice of welcome. A younger man was standing in the barn door, so I rode over to the barn and waited for him to invite me to dismount. He seemed to be making up his mind when I heard his wife call out from behind me and near the house, “Oh, for heaven sake, Henry, tell him to get down and offer the man some water. It looks as though he’s ridden a ways today.”
At his signal, I stepped from the saddle, stretched some, then extended my hand. “I’m Tom Leary. I’m to be the new teacher starting next week. Do you have kids school age?”
Usually, people immediately trust me because they figure a teacher is there to be of help and is harmless. It held true that time, too. His face lit up and he called past my shoulder to tell his wife the new teacher had arrived. “You’re still another mile and a half from town.” he explained and motioned toward where I figured he meant I’d find ‘town’. “We’d offer to put you up for the night, but it’s just one room. We hope to get set up better for guests by this time next year. By then, we’ll have a new baby and need more space, anyway. But, to answer you, nope. No kids school age from this farm. But, most all the other farms have a kid or three and there’s some live in town. Last year they didn’t find a teacher, so that means they’ll be especially glad to have you here. Kids need to learn to read and write so that they can someday run the farms and businesses. This town’s growing and not ready yet to stop. Good farming land hereabouts. Got a layer of the silt runoff from those mountains and that makes good rich soil out here on the flats.”
With that, he offered water, cold and fresh from the well and some grain for my horse, Pal. Then, with my thanks, they headed into their little house and I headed westward toward where I hoped to find bed and board for the night. I’d had enough of this dry camping bit to last me awhile.
Larkspur turned out to be a fairly new settlement. Maybe a hundred people in town and the business places one would expect. A saloon, a general store, a blacksmithy, a painted building that housed finery and fabrics. The thing I searched out when first riding in was the livery. Figuring I missed it or that it was at the other side of town, I swung into the saloon to inquire. Livery? No, that was one business they didn’t yet have. Not that much need, since everyone had stalls out behind their houses and tended their own horses and carriages. The bartender told me I could maybe talk to the Widow Pryor. Her husband had passed away and she had sold their carriage and team. She owned the milliners and walked the short distance from home to her shop and had no need of a ride. Her stall might be for rent, though, offering a place to board my horse. I thanked him, then went by the general store.
The owner was sweeping up the boardwalk out front and looked about to close for the day. However, when I introduced myself, he grabbed my hand like I was a long lost brother and shook me silly while explaining that it was with him and his wife that I’d be staying. The schoolhouse was out past the blacksmith, he pointed, and their house was right up the side street. Not far at all. I like that sort of feeling. Small towns are compact in the beginning. He went back inside, stashed his broom and flipped his closed sign in the window. Then, coming back out, he locked the door behind him and beckoned me to follow him. I grabbed up Pal’s reins and we walked the hundred yards or so to his freshly painted house. It offered a nice front porch, facing the north shade with a bench and a swing hanging from the ceiling. Very inviting after a hot and long day.
It turned out his name was Tuck and his wife was Jill. She came out right as we opened the gate into the yard. After a quick introduction all around, she insisted I tie Pal to the fence for the moment and come on in for a get-acquainted visit. I was shown the room that would be mine, told what was to be for dinner that night, offered the use of a tub on the back porch to wash away the trail grime, then a glass of iced tea was pushed into my hand and, without taking a breath, Jill disappeared inside while Tuck suggested we two sit on the porch and get some evening breeze.
So, that’s how it went and the pattern was soon set. A fellow out west a ways was said to have some sheep, so after seeing the condition of the fenced in school yard the next morning, my first chore was to ride out, introduce myself and convince him to bring his sheep in for a day or two and get rid of that tall grass. Once they had finished, it turned out there was a merry-go-round, a slide and a swing set that had been obscured within that weed patch. We had no flowers or such and no trees, but at least the sheep had made the school yard habitable for the kids who would spend their days there starting the next week.
They came. From farms on all sides of town, kids arrived on horseback or walking. They had cleaned up after their summer labor on the farms and were now carrying school books and lunch boxes, ready, and most even anxious to be taught the necessities. Since the school house was set back some way off the main trail that led into town, the planners had made room out front for a barn where the horses could be put up during the daytime. In fact, once we had cleaned up things, I found myself more inclined to board Pal there, rather than at the Widow Pryor’s. Her place was some way to the north and the school some way to the south of where I roomed, so having Pal closer for me to tend his needs just made good sense to me.
I soon developed the pattern of taking Pal out for a ride after school let out. We explored the areas surrounding town, then in time went out even farther if it was a nice day. The weather was cooling somewhat, so we sometimes rode off such a distance that we came back to town too late for supper. That lack of consideration was soon brought to a halt. Jill let me know that, if she fixed supper to include me, I should be there. Or, at the very least, stop by and let her know if I’d be back or not before I headed out on my rides. Supper at the saloon turned out to be a poor second to the food Jill fixed, so that decided me real soon. Shorter rides that allowed me to be back and cleaned up for supper with Jill and Tuck just made good sense.
Days, the schoolhouse was filled with fourteen kids of ages from five to seventeen. Once a routine is established and the grades are separated out, it becomes a full day’s work of teaching. In this instance, as with most, they were quite anxious to absorb anything they could. The classes being taught were attentive to the blackboard and the rest, while waiting their turn, had lessons to study. Often, the ones in lower classes finished their studies, then listened in on those being given some higher grade. It usually helped them prepare for the next year in advance and it also kept their minds occupied. A fifteen minute recess break to exercise and get the blood again flowing into their minds always helped. They would come back inside sweaty and out of breath, but better for the break. Some played when given this chance and some tended to their horses. Their parents always had the responsibility of bringing in hay and grain for each one, so the horse, left all day inside the barn at least had food and the water each carried to them a bucket full at a time from the well. All in all, things soon settled into a pattern with everyone being busy one way or another during those five days of each week.
At breakfast one morning, I asked Tuck of he could tell me of a good place to do a little target practicing on a Saturday. I liked to keep my touch, since a person relied on the gun those days for personal safety. You never knew what might happen, even if you needed nothing more than to shoot a snake from horseback. It paid to be able to make the first shot count.
He replied that, If I could wait till a Sunday, he’d go along and show me a good place up against an embankment past the Robinson’s place. We agreed to join up after breakfast the following Sunday. On the day, I walked to the school after breakfast, saddled up Pal and met Tuck back at his house. Once at the site, he and I each spent a few bullets shooting at rusted tin cans others had left behind. Then, as the day warmed, we decided the comfort of some breeze across us on the shade of his front porch sounded good. Nothing much was said about whether either of us hit the targets or how many times we did it. We had each been in our own world of concentration and each knew what he was there for and how good he felt it was necessary to be. I figured, keeping a store might also bring on a situation now and then whereby being good with a gun would come in handy. I had no idea what he thought of a teacher wanting to stay in practice.
Then, one day, after the kids had left for home and I was putting things away and cleaning the blackboard, I heard the jingle of horse’s bridles outside. When I went to look, I found Tuck and two others from local businesses coming across the school yard. It struck me odd that these people should come visiting. None had any kids that I knew of.
However, as they drew nearer and saw me standing there in the doorway, they removed their hats and asked if they might come in for a bit and talk. Sure, fine by me, although I could still not imagine what had brought them here. In my mind, I felt certain I was doing a good job as a teacher and, even with the slightly rowdy ones, I had settled them down in short order. Things were then going well into our third month of classes.
They each picked a chair and settled in before Tuck took up the lead and asked their burning question. Would I be interested in being sheriff of their town?
He quickly rushed on to assure me they hadn’t yet suffered any serious crimes. It was just that, with the town growing and all, they figured someone should be elected to keep the peace when and if it became necessary. Turned out Tuck had told them of my proficiency with a gun and he had been much more impressed than he had let on that Sunday when we went shooting.
Sheriff? Me? I was a teacher, not a gunslinger, I said to myself. A small wage was attached to the position and they hurried to remind me that it was unlikely I would ever be called on to do anything. But, a man who could shoot what he aimed at would have more confidence in himself and might more easily deter those who did mean trouble for the townspeople. Well, a couple of extra dollars is always welcome, I admitted. But, if the town needed me as sheriff and I was out here teaching, how would I know of trouble in time to do anything to help? It turned out they had planned long before my arrival to build a place across from the general store where a sheriff could have a desk and a jail cell. They planned to put up a bell tower on the roof and the bell could be rung to summon me if there was need. None of them expected their little town to stay little, so they were planning ahead to the time when they did have crime and did also have a sheriff to use the cell and the desk.
They talked me into it at last and told me that within a couple of weeks, they would have a star for me to pin on my shirt whenever I was acting as sheriff. Within a couple of months, they should also have the building up and ready for whatever use I needed. Me, sheriff! Now, that was a move I had never anticipated in my lifestyle. They left and I more or less stood there at the blackboard again making swipes at the lines and numbers left over from the days lessons. What was I getting myself into? Never, never had I put down roots anywhere. I always considered myself as merely passing through. A year or two, then I needed new places and new people. If I was to be teacher at their school, I could readily give notice, await a replacement if needed, then be on my way. Taking on the job of sheriff, too, would be an anchor that would further bind me to the town. Was that what I wanted? Was I ready to settle anywhere?
That night, over supper, Tuck admitted there had been talk behind my back while it was decided whether or not to make the offer. I wasn’t to make much of being sheriff since they didn’t expect trouble way out here at Larkspur. The townspeople just wanted to know they were protected when or if something came up. Each business owner was chipping in for the salary just like all those with kids chipped in to make up my salary as teacher. In the meantime, I should primarily consider myself their teacher. I agreed heartily and, after a piece of warm apple pie for desert, I took Pal out for a short ride before darkness fell. I always think at my best while in the saddle and right then, I felt the need to think on this change in my life. Both teacher and sheriff rang through my mind. Well, at least it wasn’t as contradictory as if I was the preacher and the sheriff. I decided I could do this and would be able to handle their needs of keeping peace in the town.
We all reloaded our own ammunition, so it paid to keep the target practicing to a limit. Everything we shot on a Sunday meant more to reload during the week. At first a few other business owners joined Tuck and me in a Sunday practice session. Then, when it got around that some of the farmers had seen us go out together and asked around to see what we were doing, farmers began to join us. Their first priority was, of course, to tend to their livestock and other chores. But, even the farmers tried to more or less keep the Sunday work load limited, so we soon found ourselves with a sizeable gathering on those days when we went out to shoot.
It was surprising to me how few were any good. Everyone owned guns, but a large majority of them couldn’t even come close to hitting what they aimed at. They would fire away and the dust would fly, but seldom even close to whatever they had selected as a target. A farmer, in my mind, had every bit as much need to be good with a gun as anyone else. You were out there alone and away from any help if the need were to arise. You should be able to protect what is yours, is the way I felt about it. I soon picked out a few who showed some mite of promise, then spent time with each, showing them the basics and a few tricks that would help when it came to shooting at something and actually doing it some damage. Surprisingly, several were not too bad after they got the idea. I began to feel I had been of help. Also, I could now see all the more why they thought they were in need of a sheriff. These people, with all their rifles, hand guns and shotguns, still needed protection. They were shop owners and farmers, first and foremost.
While all this was happening and the months had turned to winter, a foundation was being laid for another new building in town. We were to have a bank. The First Bank of Larkspur.
By the time Spring showed a thawing to the soil and snow had passed to become an occasional rainfall, they had the walls up and the roof was being shingled. The new guy in town who would be the banker admitted to me one day in private that, if the town hadn’t had a sheriff, he would have found somewhere else to build his bank. After all, a bank draws cash and cash draws those who would try to take it without first earning it. He had taken part in a few of our Sunday practice sessions and had seen my shooting, so decided I had the ability to keep the town, and his bank, safe. I felt, not just complimented, but also a little heavier load on my shoulders. These people were counting on me for their safety and the town was growing, seemingly, by leaps and bounds.
I stayed. A rowdy drunk from time to time seemed the most the town suffered. The bank was never robbed, nor were any of the other businesses. Nobody was killed, nor threatened bodily harm. Life as the sheriff/teacher remained pretty calm and predicable.
To my surprise, the year the railroad brought a rail that looped by Larkspur and back out to the main line celebrated my fourth year there. Children had been born, more farmland prospered under the plow, additional businesses had been built and side streets had finally been set aside as building sites for the residential portion of the rapidly growing town.
Farmers were now able to handily ship farm produce and livestock out by rail and the grocer and feed and grain store were able to maintain a far better stock of what people needed. All because we had rail service and were no longer isolated those two or three miles from where trains had formerly passed, barely seen or noticed.
So many more children had come to or been born in the community that we had been forced to add a room to the schoolhouse and hire another teacher. She was a marvel of organization and the young fell over themselves to please her. I had taken the new room where the four higher grades were to be taught and she was now teaching all the children from grades one through four in the original classroom. When adding the room, a hallway had been built between old and new for more convenient access to either. Perhaps, if growth continued, someday they would build a high school for the older ones and they would be able to learn even more. For now, though, the education level stopped after grade eight was completed.
The new teacher, Sally McGuire, had finished high school herself only a couple of years before, but she was proving to have more than sufficient skills as a teacher. In fact, the new rail spur had been how Sally had arrived in our growing town. Many now used it to travel east and west and many newcomers arrived by rail. Some merely as salesmen, others searching out a spot to settle and develop a new home.
Sally and I had hit it off well right from the first day. Something had sparked, at least for me. I found myself watching for her as the kids were let out at recess times and we would relax somewhere then and compare notes and thoughts about this kid or that. She was fast becoming a part of my life even though I was still convinced at that time that I would be moving on soon.
Although I had two years of college in Cincinnati, none of it had provided me knowledge of the law. After veiled, casual suggestions from Tuck as well as a couple of city councilmen at scattered times, I decided to send away for some law books. After all, I determined, I needed to know more of my own rights as well as my responsibilities as a lawman if I were to do the job properly. Using nothing more than common sense had sufficed to date, but the town was growing so fast and so many newcomers had arrived that, if anything serious were to happen, I should know how to properly handle it.
Another year passed. Another year during which Sally and I not only became better acquainted, but began seeing one another socially. A dance now and then, a walk in the evenings, She was boarding at the Widow Pryor’s, just down the street from Tuck and Jill’s place where I lived, so we were not only thrown together during the daytime at school, but might often run into one another on that street or in town proper. She and I became closer during that first year. Closer really than I had wanted. After all, I told myself, I’m a drifter. I’m only passing through. It was unfair to lead her on and perhaps become entangled when I planned to soon move on. Soon? The time had flown and I had been in town for five years and counting. Was I really going to be moving on or had I done the dreaded deed, taken root.
Larkspur was now a city of nearly four thousand counting the outlying farmers and their families. Crime had, indeed, caught up with our quiet part of the world. I never was forced to shoot anyone and managed to jail only a few. For the most part, wearing a gun at my side and being preceded by the reputation of being good with it appeared to deter most before they cut up too badly. Breaking up a few fights, making decisions over land use rights, that sort of thing were about the limit of the risk I faced. The new knowledge of law was coming in handy and, especially so since the town had no lawyers, yet, to offer folks legal advice.
And, yet, with the size of town, more and more such duties called me and, all too often, called me from the school classroom.
At last, we had a meeting of nearly all the townspeople and many farmers. It was decided I should make up my mind which I was to be; a teacher or a lawman. They would hire someone new to take whichever position remained vacant, but I was to serve one responsibility and one only. This was tough for me. I was a teacher. I was a drifter who had always been merely passing through. I had now become a more than adequate lawman. But, I could see their dilemma. I had been leaving classes untended all too often to deal with the lawman responsibilities whenever I was summoned by the bell in the tower over the sheriff’s office.
I talked to Tuck about it. I talked at even more length to Sally about the need to go one way or the other. When Sally suggested that I seemed to be exactly what was needed as a lawman; fair, knowledgeable, respected and capable, my mind settled at last on which way I should go. Although she would sorely miss me at the school, she felt I would best serve the community as a full time sheriff. I handed in my notice and told them I’d stay and teach until they could bring in a replacement teacher.
A fellow of about mid twenties dropped from the train three weeks later. The council had shared his resume with me and I was pleased to find him well qualified, at least on paper, and surprisingly, available during mid school year. I met him and introduced myself, then stashed his boxes at the depot and walked him to the school. After all, I reasoned, this was where he would spend most of his time and this was where he should feel in his element, curious to see where he would be teaching. Along our walk to the school, he admitted to me that, even if he liked it here, he would likely move on in a year or two. His life was like that, he said. Always just passing through.
Later, a couple of council members showed up and took him under their wings. They would settle him in wherever he’d live and get his boxes delivered there. I went back to my students for what looked to be our final day together.
Naturally, the job of being sheriff for the town had provided me with a steadily increasing wage as growth had forced a steadily increasing amount of time spent by me as sheriff. Now, full time, the wage had again increased sizably. My earnings could support me in a place of my own and, due to the eventual loss of board and room as a teacher, I had been building a home for myself in my spare time over the last couple of months. It wouldn’t amount to much, two rooms and a good covered porch out front. But, it would be home and I was building on a parcel I had bought close by in town. Close enough for convenient walks to the sheriff’s office, yet out where I was surrounded by other houses and some peace and quiet. I had a stable out back all ready for Pal and hay, grain and a water tank within his fenced corral out back. The walls were closed in and the roof was shingled against the sun and winter weather, so I could now move there, live there and do the finishing touches.
With no excuse to be at school, I soon found I missed Sally far more than I had expected. Our evening walks still took place, but I was unable to see her all day long and found there to be an empty spot she had gradually filled, without my having admitted to it.
Once I felt the house completed, I approached Sally one evening as we walked through it and I proudly displayed my craftsmanship. I explained that, although I was thirty and she was a mere twenty one, I had fallen head over heels for her. Then, while that had her attention, I proposed.
The town now boasted a new church, complete with steeple and white paint. It was my hope that we would be married there and, if she accepted, we could actually become the first couple married in that church. I had met the pastor several times and we had become friends. I had attended his first two services along with a filled house of townspeople and farmers alike. A much needed addition to Larkspur.
She may have surprised herself as much as she did me when she immediately agreed to become my wife. I only know that we married eight years ago, we now share the joys of a boy of seven and a girl of six, we have added onto the house I built. Sally is the love of my life. I am teaching the kids to hold onto Pal’s mane while I lead him slowly around the corral. He’s old now and appreciates the lack of need to hurry as well as the lighter loads. Sally still teaches school, the new teacher is still there, too, even though he initially intended to be only passing through. And, — I have faced the fact that I am, also, no longer merely passing through. As I patrol the streets of Larkspur, my town, or sit down to supper with my family, I know —-——- I am home.
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