It had been many years before her current situation she and the Turner’s had been neighbours. Peggy Sue Judd remembered pausing from grooming her pony. Her Dad had given it to her on her twelfth birthday the day before and she and the animal had bonded quickly. Noise from the road had taken her attention and she turned and shaded her eyes from the sun as a truck lumbered by stacked high with furniture. In the distance she saw her Dad and Mom standing on the porch watching the truck go by so she turned and ran as fast as she could to join her parents the little pony galloping by her side. She joined her Dad and put her arm around him as they silently watched.
Dad turned and called to his son Joel who was reading in the house. “Joel we’re going over to help the new neighbours who purchased the local gas station from old man Craig now he’s too old to manage the workshop. We need your help.” Dad squeezed his daughter’s hand. “Why don’t you come with us Peggy Sue?” She nodded her head.
The new neighbour father Wan Turner extended his hand as the Judd family approached and introduced his family, wife Tina, Grandpa Billy and son Jack. Old Grandpa Billy’s handshake was so strong even powerfully built Adam Judd winced under the pressure. Old Billy gave a snort of pleasure as he observed the reaction.
Wan shook his head. “Pa stop showing off these are our new neighbours, so you be nice. I know you’re missing Ma and the ranch but you’re staying with us now your eyesight’s bad and must get used to living with us. Politeness rules in this house.”
Wan Turner turned apologetically to Adam Judd. “Old Billy recently lost his wife of sixty years and is having a hard time adjusting.”
Adam Judd laughed. “Tell us where you want everything placed and we’ll help you unload and settle things. I’m looking forward to having you as a neighbour. Used to help old Craig at the repair shop when he needed me, so I offer you the same service when I’m not out at the ranches fixing things for them.”
Wan smiled in relief casting an accusing look at his Pa Old Billy.
Teenage Joel Judd introduced himself to Jack Turner who nodded shyly. Then he introduced his sister Peggy Sue who it appeared was about the same age as Jack. They joined parents doing their bidding as the load was transferred into the new home. Later the Judd’s invited their new neighbours over and prepared a meal for them. Even Old Billy thawed out after taking seconds of Margaret Judd’s famed cooking.
A firm friendship developed between the families over time. About a month after their first introduction Peggy Sue happened to be with her pony at the boundary fence between the two properties in town and spied Jack Turner with his head over the motor of a small car by a shed and an assortment of tools at his feet. When he came up to retrieve another tool their eyes met over the fence.
“Can I come over and help you?” Peggy Sue had always been fascinated with machinery and had accompanied her Dad on his trip to the ranches watching his every move carefully.
Jack Turner looked at her incredulously. “You know how to work on cars? But you’re a girl!”
Peggy Sue shrugged and climbed over the fence as the pony whinnied nervously. She’d never worked on machinery before, but she was confident she could learn. “Why don’t you teach me. I’ve been watching my Dad fix things as far back as I can remember.”
Jack stood with his mouth open thinking over this strange situation, then turned back to the car. “My Dad bought this old car and said it would be mine if I learned how to fix it. Every evening when he comes home he explains things to me and corrects my mistakes, but I like doing this work and someday I want to have that garage he bought for myself when he’s too old to work, so I need to learn. If you want to help that would be great if you can learn the size and name of tools. It would save me bending down to search for the right tools to use when needed.”
When Peggy Sue reported her late afternoon activity to her family that evening her brother Joel looked at her and frowned. “Look I have to protect you from those bully boys the Mahoney’s at school and I don’t want this neighbour kid using you like a slave, so I’ll be watching him closely.”
Adam Judd laughed. “Peggy Sue has been watching me at work for years now and seems interested in mechanics, so I don’t see any harm in her learning and the boy seems like a decent boy Joel, but I appreciate you keeping an eye on your sister. That’s what family does for each other.”
“I’ll be watching!” Said Joel tucking into his Mom’s cooked meal. Then he returned to study the legal books his Dad had purchased at his request. Just a couple more years and he’d be off to boarding school and eventually a legal degree. Someday he’d like to be the Sheriff of their town and the present Sheriff was beginning to slow down and rely on his deputies to cover the area. If the opportunity arose Joel would grab it but first he’d have to study then do his rookie years training somewhere before he could achieve that ambition.
More time went by. The afternoons re-build on the old car had continued until the motor was working at peak performance and given clearance by Jack’s Dad Wan. Then there were months of sanding puttying and repainting the body a bright yellow with black racing stripes along the side. Wan provided re-tread tyres and rubber white side walls. Tina Turner worked her magic on seat covers and soon it was all set to be inspected and registered as road worthy.
Then at age sixteen Jack and Peggy Sue were licenced to drive through the goodwill of one of the friendly town officials known to Adam and Wan. Even Joel was impressed with his sister’s advancement and had long since grown to trust Jack. Joel had been most impressed when he learned about that evening at the dance hall when the Mahoney boys had made their move and Jack had knocked Bart out cold and thrown him outside the hall into the dark night.
So, with his departure for college imminent he paid Jack a visit. “I’m placing my sister under your protection while I’m at College and won’t be around to keep an eye on her in town. Out of all the young adults around here I’m a little concerned about the Mahoney boys. I think she’s tough enough to handle them but sometimes it takes a man to make sure our women are cared for. Would you do that for me? Oh, and don’t you go making any moves on her without my Dad’s permission. Understand?”
Jack put his head back and roared with laughter. “Cool it Joel, she’s not interested in me other than as a friend and I’ll always respect your parent’s wishes.” He quickly sobered as he thought of Peggy Sue’s seeming lack of interest in him as more than a close friend. Sometimes he wished he was more to her than that.
Joel was embarrassed as he thought about what he just said. He’d be very happy to see his sister link up for life with a person like Jack. Their families were close now and he had good feelings about such a match. But what he’d said could not be taken back and he hoped his foolish words hadn’t put a damper on the possibility of a link up in marriage between the two families.
To be continued.
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