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About this project

Sunrise at Mountain Creek

This was the last day of Spring Break for Alexandra Grace Harrison, who was named after her grandfather, Alexander Ross Harrison and known by most simply as Alex. Before daylight, she had saddled “Blue” her favorite quarter horse and rode up the ridge so she could spend some quiet time gazing out over the valley. What a beautiful sight it was as the sun peeked over the top of snow capped mountains. The sky seemed as if a child had pressed hard on a blue crayon to make it as blue as possible. White clouds floated lazily through the sky and the contrast between blue and white was spectacular. The grass had grown long and shaggy and swayed in the cool breeze, butterflies flew carelessly throughout stopping only a moment before moving on. The sight below could have been on any Colorado postcard. Sitting cross legged on a rock, Alex felt like she could look at this forever.

Alex and her family lived on a 200 acre working cattle ranch in Mountain Creek, Colorado. This was her spot and it always made her want to stop and thank God for creating such amazing beauty. She hoped she’d never take it for granted or the fact that it was all from Him. What was the scripture…”every good and perfect gift is from the Father above.”

The cattle, thin from a hard winter, grazed in delight on the long grass after having to scrounge for grass for months. Alex and her Dad, Ross Harrison, had brought the cattle to the pasture just this week. This was one of the many things Alex loved about living on the ranch, the time she spent with her Dad, moving the herds from one pasture to another. Alex had been helping him for the past several years and had yet to grow tired of it. It was a special time for both of them and had made them grow even closer over the years.

Alex’s Mom, Claire, used to help her Dad but now stayed home with Alex’s younger sister, Katie. Ross and Claire had been high school sweethearts and married right out of high school. They purchased the run down ranch as soon as they could come up with enough money and had ran it for 10 years before Alex was born. It was another 6 years before Katie was born. Alex’s family was a close one.

Alex and Katie were as different as daylight and dark. Some would say Alex was pretty while others would say she was plain. Her hair was the color of honey and although thick and full was rarely down. Alex’s hairstyle of choice was simply a ponytail, her complexion creamy with a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her noise and eyes that would match the color of the sky on this particular day. Her favorite clothes consisted of a pair of faded jeans, pearl snap shirts, and her worn down cowboy boots.

Katie, on the other hand, had hair the color of a deep rich chocolate and eyes only a shade lighter. Her hair was thick and curly and hung down to the middle of her back. Her lips looked like she had constantly just finished eating a bowlful of cherries. Katie was still too young to have decided whether to go the “girlie girl” route or the route Alex had taken….that of a somewhat tomboy. One thing for sure, Katie thought Alex was the greatest big sister ever.

Their family wholeheartedly enjoyed each other’s company and it was obvious to anyone and that knew them. They worked together, played together and worshipped together at Mountain Creek Baptist Church.

The winter had been a long, cold hard one but spring had finally arrived bringing with it a promise of new things. Alex loved this time of year, there would be new calves to tend to, the pastures would fill with rich long blades of grass, flowers in her mother’s beds would begin to bloom, the garden would need to be planted and there was always a sense of newness and expectation.

As she sat on the large boulder, she crossed her legs and kicked the dust off of her boots. She looked out again over the valley and could see the young calves running, playing and kicking their heels up as if they had not a care in the world. Katie felt the same way. She loved living on the ranch, the smell of horses, fresh cut hay, the sound each animal made unique to their selves and even the chores. It was a good life, she had a good family and for that she knew she had many reasons to be thankful.

As the sun rose higher, she could feel the morning breaking and a warmness overtaking the coolness she had felt when she first rode out. Something in her stirred and she wondered why she felt like there was a change coming her way as if a new chapter in her life was about to open. She rose, walked over to Blue and put her foot in the stirrup, grabbed hold of the saddle horn and threw her leg over the saddle. Looking back over her shoulder one last time and slowly she rode Blue down the ridge, toward home enjoying the last quiet of the morning. She was thankful she had gotten up early and made the ride out.

When she entered the barn, she caught sight of Bessie, their oldest cow. Bessie had been around as long as Alex could remember. Seeing her always brought a smile to Alex’s face because Bessie was like family. As soon as Bessie heard Alex she turned and hung her head over the edge of the stall waiting for Alex to come over and scratch her ears

“Bessie, how’s the day treated you so far”, said Katie as she threw a fresh block of hay into the rack. Bessie completely ignored the hay and pushed her head further out of the stall. “I’m going to scratch you, I promise” said Katie and Bessie stretched her head even further out of the stall. Katie shook her head in amusement. Katie honestly wondered if Bessie had been around for so long she had learned to understand the human language.

As Katie scratched and looked into Bessie’s deep brown eyes she felt good. The simple act of scratching and petting an old cow made Katie like she was doing something kind. She had always heard that animals or pets were good for people with high blood pressure or other things and having them, loving them and taking care of them had actually been proven to make some live longer. She thought, “It’s that unconditional love they show you.” “Has nothing to do with the way you look, the things you own, who you are… they love you because you’re you and you give them a part of yourself.” After a lengthy conversation with Bessie and plenty of scratching, Bessie turned to the hay block allowing Katie to move on with her chores.

Right on time Missie, their Australian Shepherd and cattle dog, along with Rex, a stray that had appeared one morning with his bones practically sticking through his skin, came through the barn door looking for breakfast.

You could tell they had been out running since Missie’s hair we wet from the dew and Rex was breathing hard. The dogs were a vital part of the ranch, helping to work and move the cows but at the same time, they were also family pets. Alex quickly went to the stall where they kept the feed and dog food. When Rex saw the direction she was headed he began his “dinner dance” as Alex called it. Nothing made Rex any happier than seeing his food bowl filled. He wagged his entire back end back and forth and his feet looked like one of those prancing horses when the food came out. As soon as Alex dumped the food in, Rex went straight for the bowl and continued his “dance” as he ate. Missie, always the lady and well-trained sat and waited patiently for hers. “Go on Missie”, said Katie and at that command Missed headed toward her bowl.

Alex needed to finish her chores and after that, the day was pretty much hers. She wanted to make the most of day because Monday she would return to school and her friends and as much as she loved that there was something about the being at the ranch that just made her feel as if she was “right with the world”. She remembered Mom had said something about going into town for a while so maybe she and Katie would tag along if she wasn’t going to be gone long.

Just finishing her thoughts, she saw Katie come racing across the yard. As Alex looked up she realized Mom had let Katie dress herself again this morning. Katie had put on her cowboy boots, a pair of pink and brown polka dot leggings and had finished the outfit with a western shirt and a pink ballerina tutu. Her hair in pigtails, done “all by myself” as she like to say only added to the look of her outfit. She had obviously had a little trouble this morning as one pigtail was high, one was low some of her hair still hanging down her back. She had adorned each pigtail with a ribbon, one pink and one red. What a sight she was. “Look Alex, you like my outfit. “My did it all by myself.” “I look real pretty, huh?” She did several twirls with her arms outstretched so Alex could get the full picture. She ended the twirl with a skip and a bow.

“Beautiful Katie, you look beautiful”. “Thanks Alex, Mom said to come and tell you we’re going to town in a few minutes and come in and get ready, ok?”. “ I’ll be right in, just let me finish up out here” said Alex. Katie turned and headed back toward the house and about midway across the yard, stopped and did a cartwheel, a little lopsided but a cartwheel none the less.

Alex took a minute to look around and make sure she had finished all she was supposed to do and then turned and headed toward the house.

The old house had a warm comforting look to it. Built in the early 1940’s, the big porch seemed to open its arms to visitors as if to say “Welcome”. Alex walked up the wide steps onto the old wood planked porch, her boots making a thump thump as she walked across the boards. Just as she was approaching the screen door, she heard her Mother, Clair, call out “Alex, we need to get going.” “Here Mom, ready to go”, said Alex. Alex met her Mom and Katie in the entry. “Ok¸ let’s go girls, her Mom said in a cheerful voice. Claire was lucky to have such sweet girls and she loved having them go with her.

As they headed to the truck, an old 1995 Chevy pickup, Missie and Rex came running to greet them, both acting as if they hadn’t seen them in days, wagging their tails and waiting for someone to reach down and give them a pat. “Not today, guys. We may be gone too long,” said Claire. Many times when they headed into town Missie and Rex rode in the back of the truck but today Claire told them they had to stay home. Seeming to understand they waited to watch Claire and the girls ride off.

The ride into Mountain Creek wouldn’t take long. They traveled down the dirt road, through the gate that designated their property and hit the two lane road that headed into town. Mountain Creek had a population of about 2400 and still had the distinct look and charm of a small mountain town. There was one way in and one way out with just a few roads connecting each. The town housed two grocery stores, a sandwich shop, 2 gas stations, Fire and Police Department, Jenkins Feed & Grain, Davis’ Outfitters and several small retail shops. Traveling into town, a visitor would immediately notice that the store fronts looked as if they had been there forever.

As they Pulled in to Hamilton’s grocery store they saw the specials of the day posted on the windows with window chalk. As Claire stopped the Jeep, Katie noticed Ben’s Jeep at the Davis’ Outfitters and quickly asked if she and Katie could run across the street to see Ben.

“Absolutely” said Claire, just don’t be long. I don’t have a lot of shopping to do.” “Come on Katie, let’s go” and both girls headed across the street.

Ben and Alex had been friends since the 5th grade when his family had moved to Mountain Creek from Denver. They were both Juniors now and shared a lot of the same classes. Alex and Ben had been the same height until last summer when Ben had grown about 5 inches. He now stood a head taller than Alex but still had the frame of a lanky young man. His sandy brown hair stuck out from underneath his “Feed and Grain” cap and curled slightly up the back of his neck. Without his cap, he was always running his hand through it to push it back out of his eyes. His warm brown eyes began to sparkle as soon as he saw Alex and Katie.

“Hey ladies, what’s up with you this afternoon?” Katie ran toward Ben ready to answer. When he caught sight of her outfit, his face broke into an enormous smile. “Love that outfit Katie. Did you borrow that from Alex?” “No way, she said, My came up with this all by myself and look at my hair, Ben. My did that too. Do you like it?” questioned Katie.

“I think it looks great”, said Ben trying to get his smile under control. His eyes met Alex’s over the top of Katie’s head and she grinned and shook her head. That was one of the things Alex liked about Ben – no matter what or where they were, he always had a kind word for Katie. Katie looked up at Ben and then back at Alex thinking that these were two of her very most favorite people in the world.

Mom is over at Hamilton’s buying groceries, what are you doing in town? “Dad wanted me to pick up a new fly box. *********************************** Are you ready to head back to school tomorrow?” said Ben. “I guess, said Alex, but it’s been a really great week. “What about you?” “Yeah, it’s been good . Dad and I were able to get up to Firewood Creek and do I little fishing but I’m ready”. Both Ben and Alex liked school and were pretty good students. Ben had recently had a little trouble in Algebra but Alex had helped him out and together they had brought his grade up.

“Well, we better get go Mom said she didn’t have a lot of shopping to do. If you have time later Ben, come over and we’ll saddle Blue and Byrd and take a ride. “That sounds great, said Ben, I’ll see you this afternoon.”

Ben watched st Alex and Katie walked away. There was just something special about those girls, “Heck” there was something special about that entire family. It didn’t seem normal that a family should enjoy each other as much as they did he thought with a smile.

Ben and his parents had a good relationship but things weren’t always great. Ben’s dad, Phil was the Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church. They had left Denver to move to Mountain Creek and the change had been pretty drastic. Moving from a city with the population of 45,000 to a town of 2400 was considerably different. The entire family had been a little apprehensive about the move but Ben’s Dad felt like Mountain Creek was where God wanted him. After the move, everyone seemed to adjust to the differences except Ben’s brother, Jake.

From day one, Jake let it be known that he didn’t like the “hick” town and didn’t understand why anyone would want to live here. More and more Jake seem to take pleasure in telling everyone how miserable he was, how he missed living in Denver and how he couldn’t wait to leave. The last couple of years, Phil and Jake’s relationship had been one filled with disagreements, fights and the butting of two hard heads. Ben and his Mom, Emily stayed clear of the continual arguments but it took a toll of the whole family.

Jake left last fall for college, and said he was determined not to return to Mountain Creek. Ben thought with Jake gone things would be better but now it seemed both his father and mother worried about the fact that Jake seemed to be missing more classes than he attended and his grades were suffering. Ben loved his brother but saw the grief he dealt his parents and it made him more determined to do what was expected of him. That wasn’t terribly hard for him, because his nature was gentle and easy going. He liked to help out on the church, to help people in town, he worked hard and his attitude was one of pride and integrity. He classmates were always proud to call him their friend because they knew how respected Ben was both by his peers and adults.

Ben grabbed the fly box, paid and quickly headed out of the hardware store thanking Mr. Davis as he went out. “Remember Ben, if you ever want that stocking job, just let me know” said Mr. Davis. “I’ll sure do that and thanks,” said Ben. Ben always enjoyed going into the hardware store and had built a good relationship with Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis had opened the hardware store as a young man. Even though he was approaching 80, he was still as sharp as a tack. His once brown hair had now turned silver but he still had a sparkle in his eye and for years had always worn Dickie overalls, either blue, gray or khaki. He was one of Mountain Creek’s most respected citizens and loved by all. He was known to give things out on “loan” as he called it when someone was short of money.

The old bell rang as Ben opened the door to head outside. As soon as he walked out he noticed the sky, the color was incredible today. The blue was so blue you just couldn’t describe it, the air smelled clean and the mountain peaks still had snow on them. He wondered if the people who lived in Mountain Creek all of their lives took the beauty granted.

He started the old Jeep and headed home looking forward to riding this afternoon with Alex. He didn’t have a horse of his own and she had taught him how to ride. Now he was as comfortable on a horse as she was. It would be a great way to end the day.

As he pulled up in the church parking lot, he noticed his Mom’s car. She usually brought lunch for her and Dad to share. It amazed Ben the love and respect he saw between his parents. Even when things got rough, Ben saw that they stood together. He believed it was because they were so grounded in the things they believed. Ben’s Dad lived by the fact that there was right and there was wrong and it was best to stay out of the in between area. You did what was right, even when it was hard because that was what God’s Word taught. Some of the kids at school teased him about being a “preacher’s son” but Ben had always looked up to his Dad so it didn’t bother him. He was a good and fair man. The times he had been hard on Ben, Ben realized it was because he needed it. Doesn’t is say somewhere in the Bible that God disciplines those he loves.

Ben headed toward his Dad’s office to bring him the fly box and thought about Jake. He missed his brother and the things they had done together. He needed to remember to pray for him.

“Hey there”, Ben’s dad called, “did you get fly box. “Yes sir”, Mr. Davis said to tell you they have some new flys in and to stop by when you get a chance and look at them. I’ll do that. You know, I worry about him since Velma died. Married for 53 years and then to be all alone, that’s got to be hard for him. Turning to his wife, Emily, he said, “let’s invite him over for dinner one evening next week.” “OK, I’ll get out some fish you two caught and cook it, she said.


Hey, I ran into Alex while I was in town and she asked if I wanted to come over and ride this afternoon. “Is that Ok with you” Sure,

That afternoon Alex and Ben rode Blue and Byrd down through the valley and up the ridge talking nonstop about school, church and the things planned for the rest of the school year. Ben liked the fact that it seemed as if him and Alex never ran out of things to talk about and when things were quiet they were comfortable enough to just enjoy each other’s company. The afternoon began to turn cool and Ben noticed Alex shiver a couple of times. He said, “ Hey, take my jacket. I’m not cold.” “Are you sure?” she said glad for the offer. Yeah, I don’t need it. Ben handed it over and as soon as Alex put it on she could still feel the heat from Ben’s body and she started to warm up instantly. ‘Thanks a bunch, I didn’t expect the temperature to drop like this. “No problem, said Ben and as he looked at Alex in his jacket his heart did a little flip flop. She looked good in it even though it was about 2 times to big and he liked the thought of her wearing his jacket. “Wow, he thought, where did his come from? Alex had always been one of his closest friends but he didn’t think he had ever really thought of her as a girl, always just a friend. He looked again and shook his head to try and clear the thoughts.

“Are you OK, said Alex, you look kind of funny?” Yeah, I’m fine, Ben said trying to get things in his head back to normal. “OK, we better start heading back, I know Mom will probably have supper waiting. I’ll race you and the first one that ties his horse wins, OK?
Sure said Ben.. One, two, three and go.

Blue and Byrd loved to run so this was right down their alley. Ben was riding Blue and could have easily taken the “race” but held back only slightly so Alex could win. Wow, there it was again. He had never even thought about doing that as he was pretty competitive but today it seemed more important to let Alex be the first to tie her horse.

As they came up the hitching post, Alex jumped off and tied and through her hands up in the air as if she had just finished tying a calf in a rodeo. Ben made sure he was only a second or two behind.

Beat ya! Alex exclaimed. “Yeah, you did. I guess old Blue wasn’t on the top of his game today.” The entered the barn, unsaddled the horses, gave them both a good brushing and walked them to their stalls. Alex headed to the feed room and handed a Ben a block of hay for Blue and she carried one for Byrd. After both horses were taken care of, Ben said, “Well I guess I better head home.” “I know you’d be more than welcome to stay for supper if you want to, suggested Alex. Normally Ben would have jumped on the chance to stay. Mrs. Harrison was a great cook and he had shared many meals with their family but for some reason, that being the way Alex looked in his jacket and the way his heart had flip flopped, he thought it was best to pass this time and head on home.

I appreciate it but I should probably get on home and make sure Dad doesn’t need me to take care of anything at the church before tomorrow morning. Sometimes Ben’s Dad would ask him to make a quick run through of the sanctuary and church building just to make sure everything looked OK. The church didn’t have a full time custodian and the church was cleaned by volunteers. The members did a great job but some times they were busy and didn’t have time to do everything.

Ok, well I guess I’ll see you in the morning, she said. “Yeah” and Ben turned and headed toward his Jeep, kicking the dirt with his boots as he went. “Hey Ben, you forgot your jacket said Alex and began taking it off. The thought popped into Ben’s head that he wished she’d just ask to keep it. Ok, that’s just crazy, I mean why would Alex want to keep his jacket. She tossed it to him and said, I really appreciate you letting me wear it. Sure, he said and moved even fast to the jeep, mumbling “See ya tomorrow”. When he turned the ignition key, he shook his head as if to clear the cobwebs. It would take him only 20 minutes to get home and he had to focus on NOT returning to the way Alex looked in his jacket. “OK, get a grip here Ben”, he said to himself, “that’s Alex.” “I know” the next thought popped in and she looked good in it”. Enough of that he thought and luckily about that time he was pulling in the drive.

Their house was located behind the church so he quickly ran in and asked his Dad if he needed to do a ‘run through” hoping this time he would because he thought it would take his mind off these crazy thoughts that kept jumping in and out. “No things look good, but I appreciate the offer.” Ok, well I’m go wash up for supper then.’

Phil, Ben and his mom, Emily enjoyed their supper together and as they finished they all began clearing the table. Each had a specific job which they did without complaint, clear the table, wash, dry and put away.

Sometimes on Saturday nights, Ben and his Mom would teasingly tell, Phil that they would give him a pass if he needed to go over his sermon for Sunday morning. They offered tonight but obviously he had things ready to go as he said everything was “good to go”. After the kitchen was put in order, Ben headed to his room and his parent to the living room. In to his head popped the thought he probably should hang out with his parents instead of being in his room with these crazy thoughts that kept popping into his head. He, however, headed on up and re-read his Sunday School lesson, thinking he’d be better prepared if he did.

Sunday morning broke with the sun streaming in his window and he could tell it was going to be another beautiful day. He could his him Mom in the kitchen preparing a quick breakfast so he headed to the bathroom to shower and get ready for church. He picked a pair of black Dockers, gray button down long-sleeve shirt, his boots and then the image of Alex popped into his head and considered wearing a tie. Ok that was too weird, a tie, seriously what in the world had come over him. He quickly said, No way, that just isn’t going to happen. Running a comb through his hair, he grabbed his Bible and headed down to the kitchen.

Dad was just finishing up and heading to the church. He sat down to bacon, eggs and toast and quickly devoured it all. He told his Mom, he clean up down here so she could go get ready for church. Emily smiled as she walked towards the bedroom thinking how lucky she was to have a son like Ben. Immediately she thought about Jake away at college, and the fact that his grades weren’t good, he seemed to be doing way more socializing than studying, in fact, leading a life in direct opposite of the way he was raised. She just stopped there in the hall and said prayer for him. She loved Jake, her firstborn, with all her heart and trusted that he would get his life back in order but had to admit, reluctantly, that life was much easier now that he was away at college. Except for the constant worrying that both she and Phil did.

His and Phil’s relationship had been a tough one. She always thought maybe Phil had been a little hard on Jake but on the other hand, he was the type of kid that needed direction. She held on to the scripture that said “Train up a child in the way that he should go and he will return to it”. That was what she was counting on and she thanked God for bringing that to her mind as it comforted her.

She had better get busy, she had less than 45 minutes to get ready and these days, it seemed to take every minute of that.

At 9:00 both, her and Ben headed to the church. They always walked over together splitting up only when the headed to their different Sunday School classes. Her heart lifted as she looked over at Ben and noticed he seemed to look especially nice this morning. He seemed to have taken a little extra time with himself. That made her smile and wonder what was up.
Alex’s family arrived at Mountain Creek Baptist Church at 9:05. The church was one of the oldest buildings in Mountain Creek. It looked like it came out of a storybook to Alex, the wide porch with stone pillars, the tall white steeple, and the stained glass on the windows.

Alex and her family all headed in different directions with Alex walking Katie to her class. She was glad Mom had only let Katie pick her shirt out “by herself” this morning, making sure that the rest of her outfit matched. Who knows what Katie would have picked out for church, probably the white fuzzy angel wings and her favorite white netted skirt she had worn in the Christmas play. That was always one of her favorites.

Sunday School and Church were both good and Alex had enjoyed Brother Phil’s sermon on how our lives should be a reflection of Christ. In all areas, Brother Phil had said. In the way we treat people, the things we do, the things we participate in and watch, the way we dress, in just every area.

Alex made a mental note to see if there were areas she needed to change or improve. Having become a Christian at a young age, Alex had always taken the fact that Jesus died for her sins seriously and knew that after accepting Christ she was to live for him so she was not against challenging herself to change in areas where change was needed. Didn’t Jesus say, If you love me you will obey my commands. She understood there were always areas for improvement and after listening to Bro. Phil’s sermon she would make sure she would examine those areas and see what action she needed to take.

Alex like having a plan and she liked having a purpose so where some might think they didn’t want anyone telling them what to do or not to do, she like the idea of becoming more of a reflection of Christ.

Walking through the parking lot, she saw Ben and ran over to talk to him before they left. Something must have been up because he usually sat with her and the rest of the youth group but this morning he sat by his Mom. She had caught him looking at her several times during the service and hoped everything was OK. “Hey, why didn’t you sit with us this morning? Is your Mom ok? Alex questioned. “Yeah, everything’s good, I just decided to sit with her. I think sometimes she misses Jake and , well I don’t know, I just thought it would be a good idea this morning.”

“That’s so sweet Ben. It’s a shame most guys don’t think like you”, smiled Katie. There it went again, flip flop went his heart at the compliment from Alex. Ben quickly dropped his eyes and said “thanks, guess I see you at school tomorrow, OK”. “Great, look for me in the morning when you get there and we’ll walk to class together, said Alex. Sure, said Ben, will do.

Both then went their separate ways and met up with their families. Alex’s family had stopped to visit with the Jenkins so her and Katie headed on to the car knowing they wouldn’t be long. Because of the ranch, Alex’s dad did a lot of business Jenkins Feed and Grain.

On the ride home, Alex brought up Bro. Phil’s sermon and her, and her mother and father all discussed what a good preacher they thought Mr. _______ was. He always seems to know how to get his message across in a way that is encouraging instead of condemning Alex’s Mom said.

Katie feeling a little left out quickly added that she knew she had trouble being good sometime so she was really going to try hard to be good for Jesus. That made the entire family smile because as much mischief as Katie could get into, it was never intentional. She just was a very busy little girl, with an active imagination and a free spirit.

The rest of the day passed quickly and before Alex knew it, it was time for bed. Laying in bed that night she relived her week. Moving the cows with her Dad had definitely been the highlight. Several funny things Katie did and said popped into her mind and made her smile and then she thought about her ride with Ben. He was such a good friend and when she said her prayers that night, she thanked God for the friendship she and Ben shared and then quickly remembered to ask God what she could do to become a little more like Him. Not expecting an verbal answer, she knew God would show her the things He wanted her to change or do.

Should I put Ben’s evening in here????

Alex overslept the next morning and had to rush. Her feet hit the floor running, quickly grabbing a pair of jeans, T-shirt, slipping on her socks and then her boots. With an afterthought, she grabbed an old sweatshirt that had a Wolf Creek Ski resort logo on it, thinking it might be a little cool outside. After washing her face, brushing her teeth and quickly twisting her hair in a ponytail she went in the kitchen, ate a bowl of cereal and then grabbed her back pack and her, Mom and Katie headed out of the house. Outside, she realized the sweatshirt had been a good idea and quickly slipped it over her head, in the process, pulling several strands of her hair loose. She decided she’d worry about that later.

“Alex, your hair got messed up” said Katie from the backseat. Do you want me to fix it, I can you know, I’m good at ponytails. Want me to?” That’s OK Katie, I’ll re-do it when I get to school. “Ok but don’t forgot, cuz it don’t look too good right now, said Katie.

Katie’s use of the English language hadn’t quite been mastered yet and there was a part of Alex that hoped it never would because she could take a normal sentence and rearrange it her own way that just made you want to smile. Like her phrase of “My can do it all by myself” and “yesterdee could mean anything from yesterday or months ago, and then there was just specific words like “dult” meant adult, ELABORATE MORE HERE.

All in all, there was never a dull moment when Katie was around.

They were at the school before Alex knew and she leaned over kissed her Mom and reached in the back and tousled Katie’s hair and said, “You girls, have a good day and Katie, be sure and take care of Mom”. “No problem, said Katie, we’re supposed to bake cookies so we’ll have some for you this afternoon.” Love ya Alex. Love you too, Katie and with that Alex was out of the car.

Walking toward the entrance, she noticed Ben talking to his best friend Jason. Jason was the star basketball player at Mountain Creek. “Hey guys, said Alex. Both said “hi” and as Alex walked by Ben broke loose from the conversation to walk with Alex to class. Their first class was American History a subject Alex enjoyed and Ben tolerated. Entering the classroom they both went to their desks speaking to several friends as they passed.

Alex got her backpack and books situated as Mr. Sims walked in and asked everyone to open their books to page 159. Just as he did, Mrs. Scott, the principal knocked on the door and Alex could see someone standing behind her. Mr. Sims went to the door and after a brief conversation with Mrs. Scott the door opened wider and Mr. Sims came in with a young man and told the class his name was Corey Blackman and he would be joining them in American History.

Alex immediately noticed how incredibly uncomfortable the boy was. He looked as if he wished the floor would open up and swallow him whole. His baggy pants with the chain on the side and the black t-shirt he wore looked completely out of place in this rocky mountain town. His hair was longer than most of the guys and he stood with his shoulders slumped forward. Mr. Sims pointed him to a desk across from Alex which next to the window. He walked with a shuffle and made a point to not look at anyone as he went by. As he sat, he looked out the window as if there was his possible escape from this place.

After he settled in to his desk, Mr. Sims started the history lesson and the class passed quickly after that. As soon as the bell rang, Alex took the opportunity to try to introduce herself to Corey but he grabbed his stuff and practically rushed out of the classroom avoiding all of the students.

The rest of the day went without anything unusual happening. Alex saw the new student several times and each time he looked like he’d rather be anywhere in the world except here.

After the last class bell rang, Alex went to her locker and grabbed the things she need to study tonight. Ben walked up just as she closed her locker and asked her if she needed a ride home. “Not today, Mom and Katie are picking me up, but thanks anyway.” “Sure” he said, “and hey just wanted to tell you if your Mom ever needs me to pick you up and bring you to school, I can.” Ok, Ben and thanks. Alex thought that a little strange since she’d never needed a ride before but chalked it up to Ben just being nice.

“Hey, did you get a chance to introduce yourself to that Corey Blackman today, I tried but it was like he was avoiding me. “Nah, I didn’t”, said Ben. “I’ll make sure I do that tomorrow, it’s got to be hard being the new in school. I still remember when we moved here, of course that was 5th grade, not quite as hard as being in High School”. “You remember coming over to me at the lunch table and asking if I needed an apple because you had an extra one.” Ben said. “Sure do, I had Mom pack it especially for you because I had felt bad for you the day before because you didn’t have anyone to eat lunch with, said Alex with a smile. “I never knew that, you’re quite the sneaky one aren’t you?.” Ben laughed. “Guess so, replied Alex, “maybe I’ll get Mom to do the same tomorrow and offer it to the new kid, Corey.”

Ben shook his head thinking Alex always has a spot for anyone or anything in need. He’d seen her make a point to be nice to the kids that just didn’t seem to fit in anywhere, pick up strays to take home and care for, she was always rooting for the underdog. “Well it worked with me, maybe it’ll work with him too”, smiled Ben.

“Well I better get going, I don’t want to keep Mom and Katie waiting, see you tomorrow Ben,” she called and she went down the hall. Thinking she might have needed to get her Algebra book, she stopped and turned and then quickly realized that she had already put in in her back pack but when she had glanced back at her locker, she caught Ben looking at her with the strangest look on his face. She smiled at him and lifted her hand in a wave goodbye.

As Alex disappeared outside, Ben thought about his offering Alex a ride to school. Now where had that come from and then watching her until she was completely out of his sight. It was as if he didn’t really want her to leave. The day had been pretty busy since it was the first day back after spring break and he and Alex hadn’t had much time to talk. But why would that matter, there had been days when they were barely able to speak because of this or that. Why did it matter to him today?

His mind went immediately back to her on Byrd with his jacket on. It was like he could picture it perfectly. Long strands of her blond hair had come loose from her ponytail and rested on the collar and shoulders of his jacket. Her cheeks had been flushed and pink because of the coolness in the air and her eyes seem to sparkle and reflect color of the sky. As his mind continued to remember the smallest of details, he caught himself. “Great, I sound like some little kid with their first crush on a girl, he thought and as he did, he realized, it was true.”

He and Alex had always been best of friends, had played together since the fifth grade and he had always treated her as a buddy or pal. Something had changed last Saturday on the ridge, yes she was still one of his best friends but he definitely wasn’t thinking of her as a buddy or pal when he saw her in his jacket. “She’s beautiful and she’s a girl” he thought and quickly grinned thinking, “well my, how brilliant you are … she’s a girl…. No kidding….but he realized this was the first time he had seen her this way.” As quick as thought came in another followed with “You better be careful, don’t want to mess up this friendship”. Yeah, better just leave this thinking of her a girl alone and go back to having her as a pal. He had seen too many of his friends with girlfriends end up not even speaking to one another after they ended their relationship. “Yeah, pals it would be,” he thought and with that closed his locker and headed toward his Jeep.

After he checked in at home, he decided to run by and see Mr. Davis and offer his help with anything he might need. From the time they moved to Mountain Creek, Ben had always liked going to the hardware so. Pa Pa Davis, in his Dickie overalls, always met you with a smile and seemed genuinely interested in whatever what happening with you. He’d say,
“Well Ben, what going on in your life today.”, and seemed to honestly want to know. He’d check with this Dad and see if they had decided what night they wanted to invite him over for dinner and Ben would ask while he was there.

Dad was at the church but Mom said they had decided on Tuesday. She thought it would be great if Ben went over for a visit and invited him. It took less than 10 minutes to get to town and as he pulled his Jeep up to the curb he saw Mr. Davis outside sweeping in front of the store.
He looked up and when he saw Ben, a smiled and said “Hey young man, what can I do for you today?” “Well I came to see if you needed any help around here this afternoon, Mr. Davis” “Thinking about that job offer, are you?” Mr. Davis said. “No, I don’t think with school and all I can have a job right now, I just didn’t have much homework today, so I thought I drop by and see if you needed any help with anything, said Ben and Mom wants to invite you over for dinner on Tuesday night if you don’t have plans.”

“Well, I guess this is just about the nicest thing that happened to me in quite a while. A young man offering to help just because he has time and a pretty lady like your Mom inviting me over to have dinner with you all. I guess it must be my lucky day and I believe I’ll take you up on both offers.”

“Great” said Ben, “what can I do to help”. “Well we just got a load of new waders in and the boxes are pretty heavy for me to move around. Would you mind moving to the front where the others are?” Sure, said Ben, no problem.

As they opened the door, the bell rang and Mr. Davis led Ben to the back. “You know, Ben, I’ll be glad to pay you for helping out,” he said. “That’s OK, Mr. Davis, I don’t mind, you know I’ve always like to hang out in here.”

As they walked to the back of the store, Ben remembered talking to his Dad and asking why Mr. Davis never came to church. Ben’s dad, Brother Phil had become a pretty good fly fisherman and owed most of it to Mr. Davis and his patient tutoring. When they moved to Mountain Creek, Ben’s Dad had wanted to learn to fly fish and Mr. Davis had not only helped him pick out the equipment he needed but had also taken him fly fishing several times. Dad always said he really enjoyed the time they spent together and it bothered him that every time he invited Mr. Davis to church, he politely declined. As far as they knew, he didn’t attend church and hadn’t in years. Mrs. Davis had been a faithful member of Mountain Creek Baptist church but always came alone.

When she came down with cancer, Brother Phil made it a point to visit the Davis’ at least once a week. At the end of each visit, he offered to pray with Helen and when he did, Bert always excused himself from the room.

On one of the fishing trips, Phil asked Bert if he had a relationship with Christ and Bert said “no just never seen the need”. He went on to explain that he had been on his own since he was a little boy and life hadn’t always been easy but he had made it ok.
Phil had then explained our need for a Savior and Bert listened attentively but never showed any interest after their discussion.

This was a man that was a kind to everyone, known and respected by almost everyone in Mountain Creek, was the first to volunteer to help at any town function or to extend credit to anyone in need. A fitting description of Bert Davis was he was a good man. However, Phil knew that good men needed Christ. That good did not outweigh or pay the penalty for our sins and that it was our sins that separated us from God. It was one of the hardest things about being a pastor, watching people not only miss the gift of salvation and forgiveness of their sins, but the abundant life that Jesus offered through Him and Himself only. His prayer was that one day Bert would recognize the goodness of Jesus Christ and his need for a Savior.

Ben and Mr. Davis chatted while he moved the new waders to the front of the store about everything from school, basketball to fishing and then Mr. Davis asked Ben if Alex was his girlfriend. For a moment Ben felt his throat close up, his face heat up and knew his cheeks were getting red. Getting a hold of himself, he said, “no, we’re just friends.” “That so, said Mr. Davis and sort of chuckled under his breath. “Yeah, just friends, we’ve known each other forever. Alex is just like one of the guys.” Again, his reply was “That so.” but his eyes seem to twinkle as he said it. Alex seemed felt himself getting more uncomfortable by the minute and finally Mr. Davis said, “Hey, don’t let an old man pry where he doesn’t need to be prying. It just seemed like the other day when she came in she was awfully glad to see you and your face lit up like a shiny red ball when you saw her. I guess I’m just an old romantic and it reminded me of the way Helen and I used to look at each other.” “Boy we had some good times together. We could do just about anything together and have a good time. I guess I knew right ‘bout from the start that she was the one for me. We had an awful lot of good years together. My, oh my, how I miss that woman.” Mr. Davis’ eyes had just started to mist up when he shook his head and said, “Well enough of that. Let’s go get another load.”
It took two more trips to the back and Ben had all the waders moved to the front. “Anything else, I can do for you today, Mr. Davis” he asked. “that’ll ‘bout do it Ben” “What do you say, I pay ya a little for your help?”
Nah, no need to do that, I enjoyed it. “Well son, I appreciate your help more than you can know and enjoyed your company even more. Smiled Mr. Davis.

I guess I’ll head on out then and I’ll be sure and tell Mom your coming for dinner tomorrow night said Ben.
“Be sure and tell her how much I appreciate the invite too, OK” he said. “Sure thing, see ya tomorrow” Ben said as he went out the door.

Driving the short distance home, Ben thought about Mr. Davis’ comments about his wife. You could tell how much he loved her, and they had a good life and he missed her terribly. Those thoughts led to the comment about Alex being his girlfriend. Did Mr. Davis see something he didn’t see. His mind had wrassled with what was going on inside his head. He didn’t want to admit it but something had changed that day on the ridge and it sort of scared him. Ben had never really dated any girls, his parents had always encouraged doing things as a group and he’d been fine with that. He now realized that group unusually had included Alex. Maybe he would talk to his Dad about this and get his thoughts on it. No, probably not, this was something he didn’t think he was ready to share with anyone. “I’ll just try to keep things the way they’ve always been,” he thought, “that’d be best.”

He was pulling into the drive just as his Dad was coming out of the church. Time to head in take care of his chores and get ready for supper. Entering the kitchen he told his Mom that Mr. Davis had accepted their invitation and was looking forward to dinner tomorrow night. His Mom smiled, said “Good, I bet we all enjoy it and that was really nice of you to go over and help him this afternoon.” “No problem, I like Mr. Davis, said Ben and for a brief moment thought about sharing the comments about Alex with his Mom but quickly changed his mind and asked if she needed any help in the kitchen. “No you go on up and get your homework done, dinner will be ready in about 45 minutes,” she said.

At that Ben headed up to pull out his English Lit book and do a little studying for the upcoming test.


At the ranch, Alex had finished feeding Bessie, Rex, Missie and the chickens. It was a nice afternoon and she thought about a ride on Byrd but decided to see if Katie wanted to talk a walk. When she asked, Katie was delighted and ran to get her shoes on. When she came outside she was carrying an umbrella. “What’s that for Katie, I don’t think it’s going to rain. Said Alex. “No it’s not, I just wanna twirl it while we walk. I think it looks pretty when you do that, Ok Alex.” Well I never thought about that but I guess your right. Rex and Missie had just finished eating and came bounding out of the barn heading straight for Alex and Katie. When they got close, Katie leaned down to Missie and said, “Hey girl, you can walk under my umbrella with me if ya want.” Missie’s tail wagged furiously and Alex said, “What about Rex?” “Aww” Katie said, “him’s a boy and they don’t like to do things like us girls.” Alex smiled and thought, well that’s probably true Katie. They walked down to the pasture that held their cattle and watched as the cows lazily moved pulling grass, stopping and chewing and then moving forward. Amazingly Missie had stayed right by Katie’s side the entire walk down, Rex on the other hand, ran ahead, ran back to the girls, circling them and stopping long enough for Alex to drop her hand on his head and then he was off again to repeat the routine. Katie talked nonstop about the things her and mom had done that day saying, “Mom said we ‘ccomplished a lot.” “I like helping her and I’m gonna do things just like she does when I get my own house,” Katie had been witness to this before when she had walked up to Katie’s door to hear her talking to her dolls in the same way Mom talked to them, she even went as far as to imitate some of her Mother’s actions, like putting her hands on her hips and saying, “Now just WHERE did I put that “whatever it may be at the time”. It was obvious to Alex we were taught not only but books but by watching the actions of others. I guess that’s why Jesus called us to be imitators of him she thought.
They both heard their Mother call that supper was ready and headed to the house, Katie twirling her umbrella and Missie right by her side.

At the dinner table, Alex mentioned that there was a new boy at school and he was in her American History Class. “What’s his name, Ross Harrison questioned. “Corey Blackman, and he’s a little different, she said. With that comment, she received a stern look from both parents and her Mom said, Well Alex, not everyone is the same, what’s different about him.”

I don’t know, he wears those baggy pants and had a long chain hanging on them, his t-shirt was all black and his hair’s really long. He sat next to me and when he looked out the window I think I saw a tattoo on the back of his neck. I bet he’ll have to cut his hair and he just looked sad, like he didn’t want to be here and then let out a sigh. “I just felt sorry for him. I mean, I can’t even imagine having to go to a new school and not knowing anybody.” It’s just got to be horrible for him.

“Blackman you said, her Dad replied. “Yes sir”. Well I haven’t heard of anyone new moving into town, have you Claire.” “No, but we need to find out. We can atleast make a point to introduce ourselves, maybe take dinner over one night or at least a batch of welcome cookies or a cake.”. “I’ll check with Emily tomorrow. The pastor usually is one of the first to know when someone new comes to town.”

Well I already talked to Ben about us making a point to try to introduce ourselves to him. I tried today but he it seemed like everywhere he went, he kept his head down and didn’t even look at anyone. Maybe tomorrow will be easier for him.

That night as Alex got ready for bed, Corey Blackman came into her thoughts and how he looked in class today and then what it must be like to be in a place where you didn’t know anyone. As she said her prayers, she asked Jesus to show her a way to not only introduce herself to him but to make him feel welcome at school and with that she closed her eyes and sleep came not long after that.

Corey Blackman was one of the first people Alex saw when her Mom dropped her off the next morning. He was leaning with his back against a tree with no other students around him, Alex thought, no time like the present, and headed straight for him. He looked up and his eyes said, “Go away, I don’t want to meet you.” but Alex continued straight to him. Approaching she said, Hi my name’s Alex, short for Alexandra, we’re in the same history class. Mr.,,,,, had you sit next to me.” “Yeah, I know, he said not lifting his eyes or making eye contact.” “Well I wanted to meet you, when do you move here and where did you and your family move from? Do you have any brothers or sisters? Do you live in town or outside of town?”

“Man, you don’t believe in wasting time before getting up close and personal do you? And with that he lifted his head and looked at Alex. Catching her breath, she said, “Sorry, I guess that was a little much, huh?” and thought she had never seen eyes that looked so sad. They had no depth, sparkle or even much color, just a lost look; they looked way to old for a high school junior, as if they had seen too much and a lot of it dealing with pain.

Protectiveness surged through her like the time she had found the puppy someone had dumped, or when Rex had shown up with his bones sticking out, or the time one of the calves had been caught in wire and had torn its legs up. She wanted to help make what was wrong, right and the only way she knew to do that was the offer of friendship.

Yeah, a little much and with that the bell rang and Corey quickly headed inside leaving Alex watching him.
When Alex entered the classroom Corey had already taken his seat and had his eyes fixed on the row of windows looking outside. Ben rushed in right before the bell rang and quickly took his seat glancing over at Alex with a smile. Class went smoothly and before they knew it the bell rang indicating class was over. Alex and Ben headed out together and as Corey came into the hall, Alex nudged Ben towards him. Ben recognizing that Alex wanted him to introduce himself to Corey walked towards him. “Hey man, how ya doing? My name’s Ben Loggins. Corey looked up and said “Yeah whatever” and turned and walked away.

“Well that didn’t go over so well did it?” as he looked at Alex. Alex shook her head and “No I guess not.”
“Maybe the apple will do the trick at lunch, did you bring it?” teased Ben “I think I might need it.”
“Oh Ben, you know I didn’t, I think he may just be shy”. Ben didn’t agree with Alex but thought better about saying so. He thought the guy was just kind of on the strange side and probably didn’t really care about making friends. Seemed like a loner to him anyway.

Lunch came and went and Alex took the time to invite Corey to sit at their table but he kept his head down and simply said “No thanks, I’m fine.” She returned to their table and looked back once more and it seemed like he was really sad. Ben seeing her look over, said, “He’s fine Alex. You invited him, he refused, that’s his choice.”
“Is he really?” she thought, but kept that thought to herself.

Throughout the day whenever she saw Corey she made a point to smile and say “Hi” but he barely acknowledged her, always keeping his head down as if he was fascinated by the floor. He just had this look, lost and sad and it weighed on Alex. She was a fixer, she liked to make things right and it appeared to her that he needed her help to do that even though he didn’t know it and with that thought, she smiled.

As soon as she got in the car that afternoon, she assaulted her Mom with questions about the Blackman’s. Did she call Mrs. Loggins? Did she know anything about the Blackmans? Where do they live? Where did they move from?

“Hold on there Alex, one question at a time”. I did talk to Emily and I want this kept between us, OK?” “Sure, Mom what did you find out?” To start with Corey and his sister, Brooke, don’t live with their parents. They are foster children staying with Mr. and Mrs. Scott. “What? Where are his parents, why is he in foster care, how old is his sister, older or younger? ‘Slow down Alex. That’s a lot of questions and I don’t have answers for all of them. His sister, Brooke is Katie’s age but as to why he is in foster care I’m not sure that’s something I need to share with you.

Oh Mom, why? It’s not like I’m going to go around telling people. It’s just that I’ve tried several times to talk to him and he just looks so sad and it bothers me.

Alex, he’s not like one of your wounded animals you rescue and take care of. This situation is much bigger than that. “Well it definitely won’t hurt me to try to help if I can. I mean, if I was a kid in a new school and was really, really said, I would hope there would be someone there that would notice and try to help. That’s all I want to do, Mom, help if I can. Wouldn’t that be what Jesus would want me to do?”

Claire smiled tenderly at her oldest daughter and thought “What a heart she has. Sometimes I think she’s much older and wiser than I give her credit for.”

“OK Alex but that has to be kept between you and I. Do you understand? You do not share this with anyone else? Am I clear? “Yes ma’am” she said and smiled because it wasn’t often that her mother had to put on her “stern face” as her and Katie like to call it.

Well the Blackman’s actually lived in New Mexico. Jenna and Clay Blackman are his parents names. Jenna met Clay Blackman when she was 15, he was 20 and by the time she turned 17 he had convinced her to run away with him. Not long after that she realized she was pregnant and even though there had been times she had considered going back home, she knew then it was too late. Her parents would disown her. Things seems to go downhill from there. It seems Clay had a drug problem had had hidden from Jenna but once she found out he no longer tried to hide it or keep it away from her. He tried his best to get her to use, even threatening her if she didn’t. She said she didn’t want to because she was pregnant and maybe after the baby was born she’d try it.
Drugs had always scared her and she had no intention of trying them but by this time she saw a lot of things about Clay she didn’t like. Not only was he using drugs, he seem to get angry quickly and became pretty abusive. It had gotten so bad that once she talked about visiting her parents, thinking she would risk their anger to get out of this, but he saw through it and told her if she ever tried to leave him, he’d kill her.
After Corey was born, things seem to get better for a while and she actually convinced Clay to check himself into rehab. He did and stayed clean for close to 5 years. During that time, he had trouble keeping a job and it finally got the best of him and he went back to using. Not long after that, Jenna found out she was pregnant
with Brooke. She pleaded that he go back to rehab but he told he was fine and he could quit using when he wanted and he’s laugh and say “I just don’t want to”. Things steadily went from bad to worse and Jenna’s life began to revolve around how to get away from Clay. Several times she had tried but when he caught her he’d beat her up pretty bad. Finally she asked her sister for help. They planned it all out. Karen would come over and get her, Clay and Brooke and take them to their Uncle’s in Nevada. She hadn’t ever mentioned her Uncle and hoped once they were gone, it would be too much trouble to Clay to even look for them and he’d just let them disappear from his life.

For some reason, the day they planned to leave, Clay came home early from work, catching them carrying their suitcases out the door. He went crazy and grapped Jenna by the hair, dragging her up the sidewalk. Both kids were screaming for him to stop and Corey ran toward his Mother. Just as he did, Clay lifted his foot and kicked Corey in the stomach dropping him instantly to the ground. Jenna was screaming for Karen to “take the kids and go” and she’d meet them later. Clay said “Yeah, get’em out of here or I’m gonna kill her and with that he pulled a knife and put it to her throat. I didn’t want those kids anyway and you better watch your back Karen, I may come after you next.’ “Go, begged Jenna, please leave, take them Karen, get’em out of here, they don’t need to see this. Go”.

Karen got both of the kids in the car but by this time both Corey and Brooke and crying. Corey’s saying we can’t leave my Mom, he’ll kill her, I know he will.” With one last threat from Clay, Karen pulled away, both kids staring back at their Mom.” To this day, they don’t know what happened after they left. Jenna’s sister, Karen has been trying to find her but it seems as if they both dropped completely out of sight. The authorities in Jackson, New Mexico are continuing to look for them.

Karen took the kids to their Uncle but he decided he didn’t want the trouble of raising a high school boy and a 4 yr old. Karen was scared to keep them because her home life wasn’t much better than her sisters. They contained Jenna and Karen’s parents but they said they hadn’t heard from Jenna in 17 years and didn’t want to have anything to do with her kids. After looking at all the options, foster care seemed to be the best. Karen worked with CPS in New Mexico and gave them the entire story and it seems like CPS felt like it would be best for Clay and Brooke to be moved out of state in case their father ever tried looking for them.” That’s how they ended up with the Scott’s. You know what a wonderful couple, Mr. and Mrs. Scott are. They’ll provide not only a secure place for them to live, but stability and love. Not ever being able to have kids of their own they had kept foster children before. They were a kind and loving Christian couple.
“Wow that’s way more than I could have imagined. No wonder his eyes look so sad and lost. I can’t imagine how terri