What do you do when a trusted friend suddenly disappears? That’s what Ike and I were wondering as we sat in the feed room looking at each other. That was also the day I decided that if I were to go missing, I would want Ike looking for me.
I was a relative newcomer to Ike’s territory, a Yankee, he called me. He had taken my daughter on as a project when she decided to bring a horse into her life and had nowhere to keep it. He graciously provided the trailer to get it to Florida and a pasture when it got there. We had become good friends since then and I liked hanging around the stable. It seemed like Ike knew most everyone in town, and particularly, everyone connected with horses.
Although he had a “house”, loosely defined, he preferred to hatch his best morning plans in the feed room next to his coffee pot and a collection of mugs. I was always wary of using those mugs, but I’d never heard of anyone dying out there. Likely no germs could survive the strong coffee he put in them.
He had been thinking over the absence of his best hired hand, Juan, since earlier when he had come out to help feed the horses and found Juan wasn’t there. He had already done some calling around to friends. No one had seen the man.
“Let’s get in the truck and check the highway. Maybe he’s broke down and had to leave his van on the side of the road somewhere. He was going to the store last night.”
The old, red diesel truck, a dually, wasn’t my favorite ride but it was his favorite, so we went. It was alarming that he kept checking the ditches, not just for a vehicle, but for a person.
“You don’t think he could have been mugged and left for dead, do you?””
“Doesn’t hurt to check. He did carry a bit of money with him sometimes.”
We traveled the highway to the store and a few other likely places but didn’t find the van, or any bodies, thankfully.
Back in the feed room, Ike got on the phone calling the local hospitals to see if the missing hired hand might have been admitted, but that didn’t turn up anything either. We couldn’t decide what to do next. Juan wasn’t a drinker, a drug user or a rowdy so it didn’t occur to us that he would have gotten in trouble with the law. From what we knew, Juan was in Florida on a student visa and had no family or friends close by. If we couldn’t find him, who could? We were stumped.
Ike wasn’t going to give up though. That’s always been one of the things I like about him. There’s just not much he won’t do for you if you’re his friend.
Several days went by, and then, “I found him. He’s in jail up at Port Manatee! Let’s go see what we can find out.”
Although he was an old timer himself, Ike was well aware that the “good ol’ boys” weren’t necessarily all good. What we were about to find out was surprising to say the least.
(Continued tomorrow with the letter J, for Juan)