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RogerDuke

The Hazzard Hermit

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For the past week Jesse had made sure he was in the barn when the mail was delivered. Today was no exception as he tightened up the last bolt of the rebuilt starter starter he had just installed on the tractor. From a distance he could hear the revving of Miz Emma Tisdale's two stroke dirt bike and he got excited and walked briskly to the mailbox. Moments later she slammed on her brakes in front of him creating a dust cloud that made him lightly cough.

"Emma, yer gonna git killed on this thing some day."

She took off her helmet and smiled, "Well, if you'll take me to the barn dance on Saturday night I reckon I'll die happy."

He  shook his head no. "Now Emma I ain't got time fer no barn dance 'er any other kinda dance fer that matter. Now I just need my mail."

"Now don't get all bent out of shape you old ridge runner, Jesse Duke" She reached in her pouch and pulled out three envelopes and handed them to him. "What in the world is it you're waiting for? You've been out here every day lately just a waiting on me."

Jesse flipped through the envelopes and looked disappointed "Dag nabit. It ain't here again. It's a week late now."

Emma remarked, "Well, I think I might know what it is you're looking for and I'll be a keeping an eye out for you." She slipped the helmet back on, popped the clutch and road a wheelie, throwing dust in Jesse's face as she rode off.

Jesse coughed again then said to himself "Now how could it be that Emma knows what it is I'm a waiting fer? "

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"Uncle Jesse? Was that the mail?" A young female voice called from behind Jesse and he turned to see his niece Daisy walking towards him from the house.

Looking at her made him smile, and feel a little sad at the same time. She was a beautiful young woman, and so much like her aunt, his late wife... Jesse shook his head and handed over the letters. "Mostly bills again, I'm afraid."

"Well, whatever you're waiting for, I'm sure it'll turn up soon!" A quick hug and she turned back towards the house. Adding with a teasing smile "I've just taken an apple pie out of the oven, if you want to try it and see how it came out."

Jesse smiled in his turn. He never could keep anything from his family. Fresh apple pie, though... he forgot his disappointment and headed inside behind his niece.

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Jesse sat down and took a bite of pie but set his fork down quickly. 

He spoke firmly. "Daisy, there's something I need to say and before I do I don't want you asking any questions when I'm finished." 

He paused a moment to let Daisy soak it in. "I think I'm going to take a little trip tomorrow. Now I'll likely be gone the whole day and I'm gonna be out of CB range and I don't want you or the boys worrying or asking any questions. What I'm doing is my business and doesn't affect you kids in any way. And don't you worry none. I ain't in no trouble or anything. I just need to check on an old friend who might be in trouble. Its just that simple"

He paused but Daisy wasn't reacting, doing just as he instructed. Jesse continued "Well, it ain't quite that simple. Nothing around Hazzard is ever simple."

He stood up, stepped away from the pie he had only taken a bite of and walked back out to the barn

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Daisy watched him go, a sad look in her eyes, before she wrapped the almost untouched dessert and put it away in the refrigerator. She wished her cousins were here, but Bo and Luke were off visiting friends and she wasn't sure when they'd be back. For the time being she was on her own.

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Jesse sat in the barn for awhile thankful Daisy hadn't followed him to pry information from him. He has a lot of thinking to do. Should he make the trip tomorrow or tell the kids what was going on and how many people it could hurt. He made a promise to an old friend to keep this a secret. Breaking a promise was something he didn't want to do. On the other hand if he had to go looking for his old friend that wouldn't be easy either. In the end he determined he had to keep his word and make the dangerous trip tomorrow to see if his old friend was okay and if so, ask why he didn't send the envelope. He took a pencil and paper out of his overalls pocket and started a list of what he'd need for the trip.

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A little while later Daisy followed her Uncle out to the barn. "Uncle Jesse. I'm making a shopping list. Is there anything you need to add? I can go in before work, and I can do it then.

Jesse looked up at his niece, from his seat on the hay bale. "No, thankyou, sweetheart. Not at the moment. I think I've got everything I need, right now."

"Okay, Uncle Jesse." She watched her uncle for a second, as he went back to whatever he was writing, before turning away herself and heading back inside. Daisy didnt want to pry, but it still upset her that her Uncle was hurting and there didn't seem to be anything she could do to help. She finished off her list and let Jesse know that she was leaving, then took Dixie into town.

.........................................

After finishing her shopping and stowing it all in the jeep, Daisy walked around to get in the driver's side. Not really paying attention to any oncoming traffic. The sound of a horn and screeching brakes roused her out of her thoughts. "Look out, girl!"

Looking up, Daisy realised the postmistress' bike had pulled to a stop only inches away from her.

"Oh, goodness, I'm sorry, Miz Tisdale. I was thinking about something else, and I wasn't looking where I was going."

"Well, you need to be more careful! What would Jesse say if I ran you over, hmmm?" Looking at the younger woman's face, she relented. "It's alright, Daisy. Nobody got hurt. You took a few more years off my life, but that's all." It was meant as a joke, but Daisy barely smiled.

"I'm sorry, Miz Tisdale. Im just worried about Uncle Jesse."

The postmistress looked at her searchingly, immediately concerned.. "Jesse? What's with him? He was fine when I was out at your place this morning."

"There's been something on his mind all week." Daisy confessed. "I don't know what it is, but it can't be good. He's usually one of the sweetest people alive, you know that, but well, the last few days, he's been..." She paused, not wanting to say anything bad about her beloved Uncle, but at the same time wanting the older woman's advice. "He's been almost bad-tempered. He even snapped at Luke last night. I mean he apologised, but..."

"Oh, Miz Tisdale, what do I do?"

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Miz Tisdale continued.

"I probably shouldn't say this since it's against regulations and all but I just love your uncle so much maybe I can help out a little. Every year now, right about this time your uncle gets an envelope about an inch thick. I don't know what it is but the return address  is a feller I ain't never heard of from Capitol City. This year that delivery is about a week late. Poor old Jesse is just worried sick about it. Now he doesn't realize that I remember he gets that mysterious delivery on an annual basis  but I got a memory like a steel trap when it comes to anything that has anything to do with that handsome hunk of an uncle of yours. So if you know what that yearly delivery could be you might know what it is that's been getting him down."

Daisy thought for a moment but had no clue what it could be. She shook her head no in disappointment.

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"It does explain, though..." she said thoughtfully.

"Explain what?" Emma Tisdale wasn't one to let anything go when it came to her beloved Jesse Duke. Any detail, no matter how small, was grist to her mill.

"Uncle Jesse said he was going away for a bit. Tomorrow. He didn't want any questions asked. Just that he had to check on an old friend, who might be in trouble. He said he'd be out of reach, but he didn't want us worrying about him, and that he should be back by supper." She looked at the older woman. 'Do you think there's something seriously wrong, Ms Tisdale? I mean, if he doesn't even want to talk about it with me or the boys?"

"Oh, I doubt it, Daisy." She tried to reassure the girl. " Probably just some old coot who's lost track of the days and forgotten it's time send Jesse his letter. You know what Jesse's like. He's got a heart as big as all Hazzard, and if he thinks there's something wrong, or that someone needs help, then he'll be the first one there. Friend or stranger."

" 'A stranger is only a friend you haven't met yet' " Daisy quoted one of her uncle's favorite sayings. Smiling slightly at the thought. "Thankyou, Ms Tisdale!" Bending down, she awkwardly hugged the older woman. "I'm sure you're right, and that everything will  be fine!"

Nevertheless, she wasn't looking forward to the next day or so. She wished her cousins would come home, soon.

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"This is Shepherd to Bo Peep, Shepherd to Bo Peep, do ya copy? " blared on the CB.

Daisy's voice was full of energy as always. "This is Bo Peep. I gotta copy on ya Shepherd."

"I was just looking around the farm and I see we're gittin' low on matches. Ya better pick some up in town."

"Watcha need those for Shepherd?"

"Well, ya never can tell. When I'm on this trip I just might end up in some unexpected trouble and hafta camp out or somethin'. A feller can't be too safe ya know."

Edited by RogerDuke

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  "Ok, Uncle Jesse. I'll do that." Daisy momentarily forgot about the 'handles' usually used over the air. She didn't bother telling her uncle that she had already bought them, along with some extra batteries for the flashlights they kept both in the house and the barn, having noticed Jesse packing what they had, in a bag, earlier on.

  "Was there anything else?"

  "No, that's all. I'll see you when you get home. Shepherd Out."

  "Bo Peep Out." Daisy continued on to work, and tried to put her worries to the back of her mind, at least until the end of her shift.

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The day wore on. Jesse had packed everything he needed for his trip. Being alone often put him in a thoughtful mood. He sat on the steps throwing crushed corn to the chickens who were scattering around his feet. He gently brushed a big rooster aside with his work boot. "Now you behave yourself Rodney. Stop being such a bully and share with the hens."

The patriarch sighed and spoke softly to himself. "I reckon I'm a gittin' too old fer stuff like this but when an old ridge runnin' friend from 50 years ago might be in trouble I ain't got much choice. I just gotta go. I just can't figure out how I'm gonna explain it to these kids. I did keep my word to him that I'd never say what was going on."

Then the old timer's face lit up. "Ha! I got an idea. I reckon I'll need more pencil and paper."

He got up, went inside wrote a note, sealed it tight in a secure envelope and set in on his dresser in his bedroom and waited for his nephews to come home.

 

Edited by RogerDuke

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  Well, as luck would have it, the boys stayed overnight with their friends, and didn't come back until the very next day.

  They were full of high spirits as the General Lee pulled into the yard in front of the farmhouse, both boys hopping out almost before they'd stopped properly. It'd been nice seeing their friends again, but they were both glad to be home.

  Daisy came out to meet them, submitting to their hugs - Bo almost lifting his cousin off the ground - and doing her best to smile and look like she was glad to see them, too. Which she was, but she was still worried about Jesse, and unfortunately, it showed.

  "Hey, Daisy, what's wrong?" Luke was the first to notice.

  "Aren't you glad to see us?" Bo pouted, trying to make his cousin smile.

  "Of course I am, Bo! I've missed you both!" The young woman hugged her cousin a second time. "I'm just worried about Uncle Jesse, that's all." she confessed, sobering.

  "Uncle Jesse? Is something wrong? / Is he sick?" the two men's voices overlapped, their smiles falling away, and being replaced with concern.

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Jesse walked outside carrying an overstuffed backpack. He smiled when he saw the boys. "There ya are. I was hoping I'd see you before I left."

Luke immediately responded. 'Where ya going Uncle Jesse?"

Jesse threw the backpack in the back of his truck and turned around. Now don't go gittin all out of shape but I got somethin' I hafta do and I just ain't able to talk about it."

The three of them just looked at him in silence. Jesse continued "Well, I just gotta give you kids a hug and then I gotta git rolling."

After hugging all three he got in the truck. His left foot on the ground and left hand on the wide open door he looked at all three of them. "Now I'm sure everything will be just fine but if I'm not back fer some reason there's a sealed envelope on my dresser. If ya haven't heard from me in two days, come Saturday morning open it and follow the simple instructions." 

He lifted his foot inside then slammed the door. The window was open. "Now I'm a big boy and I can take care of myself. If I see an orange car or white Jeep in my rear view mirror I'm sure you know I ain't gonna be tolerating ya sticking yer nose in my business.

He started the truck, stuck it in gear and started to slowly lurch forward. "And another thing. I love you kids." Seconds later he was a hundred feet down the road.

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  All three of the younger Dukes watched him go. A little upset that their Uncle wouldn't tell them what was going on - their family didn't usually keep secrets from each other - but knowing that he would have told them if he could.

  Luke finally broke the silence. "Well, I don't know about you two, but I could do with some coffee. That was a long drive, and we started early."

  "Yeah, and maybe something to eat, too. I've missed your cooking, Daisy!" Bo slid an arm around his cousin and watched her smile back at him.

  "I've got some apple pie that I made just yesterday."

  "Sounds good to me!"

  "Me, too. Come on, Bo. The quicker we wash up, the quicker we get that pie!" Both of them made their way inside, pushing each other in their haste. 

  Daisy couldn't help but laugh a little at the way her cousins - two grown men - reverted to little boys when faced with something as simple as pie. Following them inside, her smile dimmed slightly as she thought about her Uncle and just hoped that everything would be ok.

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A half hour later Jesse had arrived at his destination on the southwest corner of Hazzard Swamp. He parked his truck off the road far enough that it wasn't visible. Rain was forecast so he rolled the windows up. The old-timer got out, grabbed the backpack and put it on. He sighed, took two steps then noticed his boot was untied. He grumbled then stooped down, tied it and was on his way heading north on a well worn trail that bordered the swamp.

An hour later he noticed a massive oak tree, by far the largest tree he had seen on the trek. He then turned off the trail and made a left and traveled west through the thick woods for an hour, stopping often to orient himself and rest as well. He then arrived at his destination, an old run down shack two miles from the nearest road in any direction.

He wasted no time knocking on the door while yelling. "Amos! Amos, are you in there? This is Jesse Duke here!"

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Meanwhile, back in Hazzard, the boys were both tucking into thick slices of Daisy's apple pie. Bo asking for seconds before Luke had even finished his first, prompting a comment that he was going to get fat if he kept eating like that.

"No I won't. I work it off!" the blond returned with a grin.

"Yeah, chasing girls." his cousin responded. "How many different girls have you dated in the last two weeks alone, anyway? Not to mention Chad's sister that you were going gaga over while we were away."

"You were just as bad. I swear you forgot what you were supposed to be saying, every time she walked in the room!"

"At least I wasn't drooling!" His cousin shot back.

Bo ignored him, in favour of smiling at Daisy as she brought him a second helping, and then changed the subject. "Thanks, Daisy. Hey, what do you reckon Uncle Jesse's doing? Its not like him to go away and not say where he's going."

Luke sobered. "I dunno, but if something's wrong, it would explain why he's been so edgy all week."

"Well," Daisy spoke up, "According to Mis Tisdale, he usually gets a letter around this time every year,from somewheres in Capitol City. This year it hasn't turned up."

The boys looked at each other. "Oka-ay..." Luke started slowly. "So whoever's been keeping in touch hasn't been. Or not this time at least."

"Capitol City." Bo was just as thoughtful. "I don't think Uncle Jesse's mentioned anybody out that way."

"Don't mean he don't know anybody." His cousin returned, finishing his last mouthful of pie, and pushing the plate away. "You think Mis Tisdale knows anything about it?"

"Yeah, she's been Hazzard's postmistress forever. She knows everything that goes on around here."

"I don't think she knows much about this." Daisy put in, soberly, as she sat down again."I spoke to her yesterday." She repeated what the older woman had told her, adding"I think she'd have said if she knew any more. You know how she feels about Uncle Jesse."

"Yeah." Luke paused for a moment, thinking, before adding. "You know, Cooter's known Uncle Jesse even longer than we have. Do you think he might know who'd be writing to Uncle Jesse like this?"

"That's a thought. Or, "Bo looked up from his almost finished second slice of pie. "Daisy, are you going in to work, today?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Well, Boss hogg and Uncle Jesse used to run shine together. Ms Tisdale said this fella's been writing to Uncle Jesse for years, now. I was wondering if maybe it was something to do with their Ridge Runner days."

"Now that's an idea, too." Luke was impressed. His cousin wasn't usually a deep thinker, but he did come up with the occasional good idea.

"Except, that well... "Daisy hesitated. Looking down at her plate, as her cousins turned to look at her. "It's just that Uncle Jesse said we weren't to follow him, and this just feels like we're doing exactly what he's asked us not to do."

"But we're not actually following him. Bo argued. "We're just trying to find out what's going on. Just in case there's something wrong, then well know what to do. Heck, we're not even touching that letter he left."

"Yeah." Luke chimed in. "We're just gathering background data. Doing reconnaissance."" He smiled at his cousin. "Come on, Daisy. you're not scared of the Boss are you?" He teased.

"No. Okay." Daisy agreed reluctantly. Still feeling just a little uneasy. Almost like she was invading her Uncle's privacy.

"Alright, then." Luke took charge. "Bo, you and I'll head in to town to talk to Cooter. Daisy, if you could have a word to Boss, while you're at work. Maybe we can find out what's going on. If it's nothomg, well, we don't have to mention it to Uncle Jesse, but if it is something, then we'll be prepared."

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Jesse yelled loudly this time "Amos Crabtree you better answer me or I'm knocking this door down!" There was still no response. Jesse grabbed the knob and it turned easily. He was thankful he didn't need to knock it down. He opened it halfway and looked in. "Amos....Amos....ya there?" Still nothing. He then opened it all the way and looked better.

To Jesse's horror was his old friend laying on the dirty floor of the primitive shack. Jesse hurried over to him and leaned over. "I sure hope you're just sleeping or drunk on your moonshine." 

He felt his pulse. "Thank the good Lord you're still with us you old ridge runner." Jesse said a prayer. "If you're listening Lord I sure could use a hand here." Seconds later his prayer was answered. Amos opened his eyes.

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Everybody went their separate ways after finishing eating and cleaning up, the boys looking for Cooter, and Daisy off to The Boars Nest to work and see if she could find out anything from the Boss.

Unfortunately, Cooter knew nothing more than the boys did. He left the car he was working on, and came outside. Pushing back the greasy old cap he was wearing and leaving a dirty smear across his forehead. "Capitol City? No. There's nothing I know out of in that direction. 'Cept maybe the old hermit." He grinned.

"The old hermit?" Luke frowned, turning to look at Bo as his cousin started laughing.

"Oh, come on Luke, you remember that old Halloween story. The one about the old hermit living out in Hazzard Swamp. How he'd chase you if you ever went out there, and if he caught you he'd keep you there. Make you his servant forever." The blond swapped glances wih Cooter, both of them grinning, remembering campfire storytellings and teenage highjinks.

"Yeah, I rember that." Luke was grinning now. "I remember you chasing Mary Lou Sellars one year, too, pretending to be the old hermit. Whooo!" All three laughed and Cooter sobered again.

"I'm sorry Luke, but that's all I can think of. You think Uncle Jesse's in trouble?" His brow furrowed with worry.

"I doubt it. Uncle Jesse's been taking care of himself for a lot of years. If he seriously needed help, he'd have asked. We're just trying to make sure we can head off anything before it starts. Just in case." He clapped his friend on the shoulder, and turned back towards the car. "C'mon, Bo. Let's see if Daisy's found anything." The two of them headed back to the General, leaving Cooter smiling and shaking his head behind them.

"You know, Luke, it's not that far out to the Swamp." Bo, driving, looked over at his cousin.

Edited by Susan
Spelling error.

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Jesse was excited. "Amos Crabtree, you old ridge runner! I thought you'd met your Maker!"

Amos was still plenty grumpy but his eyes opened wider while he continued laying on the floor. He grunted, then with Jesse's help sat up but didn't try to stand. Jesse kneeled beside him with his arm around his back holding him steady. His voice was weak and groggy. "Is that really you my old friend Jesse?" He coughed and then continued. "That means I must not be in Heaven 'cause I reckon them angels would be a lot better looking."

Jesse laughed. "Well, ya ain't in Heaven and if ya keep insulting me like that you'll never make it there when ya do pass on." They both smiled. "Now, Amos, how long have ya been laying there?" Amos responded, "Last I remember it was Sunday afternoon. What day is this?" Jesse looked shocked "Sunday afternoon? This here's Tuesday!!!'"

"Enough talk" declared Jesse. He then helped his old friend sit on a chair and brought him some fresh spring water since he was dehydrated. Amos thanked him then asked  "Jesse, how'd ya know I was in trouble? You ain't been here for years." Jesse quickly responded. "It's the envelope Amos. It never arrived. It's over a week late now. That just ain't like you."

Edited by RogerDuke

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Luke took a deep breath and let bit out in a sigh, as he looked over at his cousin. "Bo. You know Uncle Jesse asked us not to follow him."

"Yeah, but..."

"And besides," Luke ruthlessly cut him off "Daisy's waiting for us, remember? We'll see what she's found out, and then we can decide where to go from there. All of us. Together. Ok?" He smiled at the frustrated look on his cousin's face.

"Yeah, ok." Bo gave in, and turned the steering wheel towards the bar. "Hey, maybe we can get something to eat, too. I'm, hungry."

His cousin laughed. "Are you ever anything else?"

Meanwhile, at the Boars Nest, Daisy had tried to pump the Boss inbetween serving customers - but without much luck.

"Boss - can I talk to you for a minute?"

Boss, working at his desk, looked up from his papers. "I can't aford to give you a raise," he said, taking the  cigar from his mouth, "and if you want time off, you'll hav to arrange for someone to cover for you." He replaced the cigar, and looked back down. Looking up again as he realised the young woman hadn't moved. "Well?"

"It not about time off." She advanced into the room. "Boss, you've known Uncle Jesse for a long time."

"Is somethng wrong with Jesse? Not my business!" Boss tried to mask his concern with brusqueness. He had a business to run, after all and sentiment just cost you money.

"No, Uncle Jesse's ok, but..." Daisy explained about the letters and how this year's hadn''t turned up and how Jesse had gone in search of the sender. Finishing off with "And the boys and I were wondering if you might know who's been sending them? Where Uncle Jesse might have gone? We're just kind of worried about him, that's all."

Now such a plea, from a beautiful young woman like Daisy, would have melted the heart of most people, but not the Boss. "I don't know. Why would I know? I've got a business to run - and it's not going to make any money with you in here, instead of serving drinks like I pay you to do!" He refused to look at her, and Daisy could tell she wasn't going to get any further, so she gave in.

"Alright Boss. Thankyou." and went back out to the main floor to wait for the boys to turn up.

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By the time they got out to the Boars Nest, it was almost lunchtime and it was starting to get crowded - with people celebrating the fact that it was Friday - and there were no free tables. They ended up with a man who had been sitting on his own in the corner, nursing a beer.

"Hey Hunter. Mind if we share your table? It's busy in here."

The man, slender and brown haired, looked up, having been lost in thought and not heard them approach. "Hey Bo. Luke. Sure, sit down." He waved them to seats as Daisy came over with her tray, and the boys ordered beers, Hunter holding up a still half-full glass in explanation for turning down their offer to buy him another.

As they waited for their drinks, Luke realised their companion had sunk back into whatever thoughts had been occupying him, previously. They didn't look like they were terribly good ones.

"Something wrong?" He asked. "You look a bit down."

"Hey, yeah." Bo chimed in. "Everything alright out at the orphanage?"

"Yeah. They made me a director." The other man smiled.

"Heard about that. Congratulations! You don't look particularly happy about it, though." Luke looked up as Daisy brought their drinks over. "Thanks, Daisy."

Another pause as they both sampled their beers and Bo asked again. "Is something wrong out there?"

"No more than usual. Kids need to be fed, after all, and they tend to grow." He added with a wry smile. "So they're always needing new clothes. Oh, people around here are pretty generous, and they're good about helping us out where they can..."

"But Hazzard isn't exactly wealthy." Luke surmised, nodding sympathetically.

"Yeah, and Boss has just raised the taxes on us."

"What? He can't do that!" Bo nearly spilled his beer in his agitation.

"Unfortunately, he can." Came back the quiet reply. "He's the comissioner around here. He can do whatever he wants. That's actually why I'm here. I came in to see if I could talk him into giving us some extra time to pay, but you you know what the Boss is like."All three grimaced. They knew the Boss.

"So now, we've got to try and find some extra money from somewhere. Quite a bit of extra money. It's going to take a miracle, I think." He finished his glass and saluted the boys, before putting it on thte table and standing. "I'd better be getting back. Nice to see you two, again, anyway."

"Yeah, you too."

The boys watched their friend walk away, and looked at each other. "That ain't right, Luke."

"No, it ain't, but there's not much we can do about it, right now. Unless you've got a secret bank account the rest of us don't know about?""

"Yeah right. Hey, it looks like Daisy's got her break. Maybe she found out something from the Boss."

Edited by Susan
Spelling correction.

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Jesse made Amos comfortable but knew his old friend was in no condition to travel. "I'm guessing you've suffered a stroke Amos since you're not able to use your left side at all. I dropped my backpack on a rock on the way here and broke the walkie talkie but I'm gonna light a fire in the fireplace and put some logs nearby so you can keep it going and I'll put some food and water close to you. Then I'm heading out to git some help. It ain't gonna be easy gittin ya outta here but I'll get Bo and Luke to make up a stretcher and we're gonna git ya to the doctors."

Amos would have none of it. "I ain't going to no doctor Jesse. Just let me lay here in peace and meet my maker in the swamp. I want to be buried here and I want all my money to go to the orphanage. I've already made up my will. My brother up in Capitol City has it. I'm not sure why my donation didn't make it to the orphanage this year but I'll guess that little weasel JD Hogg had something to do with intercepting it."

Jesse was mad. "Now Amos, I ain't gonna stand fer you wasting away here. You're the greatest inventor I've ever met and it just doesn't make sense you living out here alone and letting your brother manage all your money for you. You're gitting millions from all them there patents you came up with back in the 50s and you ought to head up to Capitol City and git some of that money in yer bank account and enjoy life."

Amos displayed his anger as well. "Now Jesse I'm enjoying life just fine the way I am and I ain't going nowhere."

Jesse walked out the door, "Then I'm a bringing the doctor to you." He began the journey back to his truck.

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"Unfortunately not. He wouldn't even talk to me." Their cousin confessed sadly, after she joined them.

"Yeah, he was too busy raising the taxes on the orphanage!" Bo muttered disgustedly.

The comment had to be explained to Daisy, who was as horrified as the boys - and equally at a loss as to how to help. "Maybe we can talk to Uncle Jesse when he gets back." was the only thing she could come up with - which reminded them all of their missing relative and the reason that two of them were here in the first place.

"You know, maybe we should get back home." Bo broke the silence. "Just in case Uncle Jesse's trying to call us."

"Yeah." Luke finished his beer and Daisy collected their glasses as she got up. "I should get back to work, too. Let me know if you hear anything?"

The boys promised and headed back outside to the General Lee.

As they started home, "You know, Luke, I know it's only Friday, but maybe we should check out that letter."

"He asked us to wait until Saturday."

"Well, it's almost Saturday."

"No, Bo." Luke picked up the CB and called Cooter, checking to see if anybody had been trying to get hold of them while they'd been inside. Deliberately ignoring the look on his younger cousin's face. Nobody had been trying to reach them, apparently, so hey headed home, with Bo trying to talk Luke into opening Jesse's letter early, and Luke changing the subject every time.

"Bo, he trusted us, remember?" Were the dark-haired Duke's final words on the subject. '"And I better not see you anywhere near his room until tomorrow."

Bo finally gave in, realising he wasn't going to change his cousin's mind. Finishing the rest of the drive home in a silence the was unusual for the young blond.

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It was starting to get dark. Jesse had twisted his ankle an hour earlier. It was swelled up and walking was unbearable. He was moving slow and it had taken him two hours to make it back to the main trail and the massive oak tree that was the marker that had directed him to Amos's cabin. He couldn't stand the pain anymore and realized he wouldn't make it back to the truck before dark. He made a shelter out of dead long straight branches and put hemlock branches on top of them. He gathered kindling to start a fire but discovered he had left the matches with Amos. He was rubbing sticks together to start a fire but then it started to rain, soaking the small twigs he was trying to light. The old ridge runner laid in the shelter with no fire until it became completely dark. The rain intensified and he eventually became soaked. He started to shiver. He muttered to himself "I've been through worse" than added "but I was a lot younger then." He thought about the sealed letter and talked to himself some more "I'm lucky to have kids who listen to me but this is one time I hope they bend the rules a little and open that envelope telling them where I'm at. I'll likely die of hypothermia out here.....and I hope they bring Cooter's swamp buggy 'cause I don't know if they can carry me out by hand. That way they might be able to pick up Amos too."

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