“I only ask for one favor, if Ringo finds a girlfriend don’t ya go and marry them, cause love stinks.”

The summer months passed Celeste by in a daze. Daily she would go out to the woods searching for her mother, but always come up empty handed. What made it harder for the little girl, is not having her horse to help her out. Even though she had her silly willy friend Ringo the raccoon, her carefree life was not the same without her equine and mother. As Celeste sat on a stump watching her father become animated when people bought their stock, she held onto Ringo tightly in fear her father would sell him.

The sun dipped it’s brilliant light over the horizon, as Celeste watched the last of their critters being sold. Claire the spotted milking cow, walked pass her with their new owner. Ringo who ticked and clicked happily in Celeste’s arms wiggled out quickly, and crawled on her shoulders to investigate inside the little girl’s ears.

Two screaming children came out of the barn yelling for their retreating father, and when they got up close to Celeste they stopped in their tracks. The dirty little boy and snotty nose girl stared at Celeste and the coon in awe. “Papa, I want me a raccoon like her’s, will ya git this one fer me.” Celeste gave the ten year old boy a death eating glare. The tiny little girl was no better than her dirty brother, she instantly held her arms out to Celeste to hold the coon. “Piss off!” Celeste spoke under her breath in anger, and was about to get off her stump and go into the woods when she was saved from exploding out her vexation on the brats.

“That critter ain’t goin’ nowhere, so git on out of here, and go follow ya papa.” Celeste beamed when Ernie saved the day. The two children immediately ran to catch up to their father down the driveway while voicing out they wanted him to buy the coon. Their father didn’t pay his kids no attention, he kept walking down the driveway with Claire in tow while his misbehave children screamed out they’re needs and wants.

“Hello little britches.” Ernie approached Celeste. She smile at her aged true friend, he lit up with joy to see his partner in crimes frown turn into a smirk. “I do believe it ain’t fittin’ for them brats to have your friend, and if I was their papa I be taking a hickory stick to their asses.” The moon shiners eyes twinkled with glee. “Well now I think we about sold the last item I’m willing to depart with girl. The truck is all loaded up and we are ready to hit the road.” Celeste’s father spoke as he joined the two rednecks while brushing off the dust, and dirt from his farm attire with his musical fingers.

Ernie and Celeste’s smiles were replaced by frowns the minute her father came into view. “Hello Ernie, thanks for coming by before we start our journey back to Ohio tonight.” Her father extended his hand to Ernie in greeting. The big burly southern woodsman shook his hand, “Yep I is, what ya need me fer?” Celeste could feel a nervous change in her father. “I would like to ask ya to keep an eye out for my woman.” Ernie procrastinated his reply for several moments watching the golden hair child stare at the ground. “I will.” he offered his short tidbit.

The air was so thick with twitchy energy she knew the time to say goodbye to her friend was at hand. Celeste softly put her coon on the ground and lifted her teary eyes upon her friend. Memories flooded her mind instantly of all the times Ernie patiently taught her life lessons and the process of skinning critters. She knew without a shadow of a doubt this would be her last time to ever see Ernie again. Her eagle eyes scanned the human being while retaining every inch of his body in her mind. It didn’t take her father no time to plunge in to ruin the teary moment, “I be thinkin’ Ernie if ya take the coon for a while till we get settled in Ohio, I send for him later.”

When her father asked the tracker to keep Ringo, Celeste’s gut felt like someone slugged her hard. Ernie quickly saw the whammy it caused to his little friend. Celeste didn’t move from her ridged stance. He was ready to say hell no, when the tomboy softly stated, “He was born here in the hollers, soon he will be coming on in age to be looking for a mate. I reckon Ernie he belongs here in the woods and is safer without me.” Her father was mesmerized by how easy Celeste released her raccoon.
Ernie was stupefied, his heart wanted to cry out the injustice to his friend, but knew it wasn’t his place to say. He nodded to the little spitfire, Celeste flew into his arms almost knocking him off balance. She never witness the blazing hateful glare Ernie gave to her father. Celeste hugged Ernie with all her might and whispered without crying. “I love ya my old tracker, may your path be always lit by the sun, and I thank ya kindly for being my best friend. I only ask for one favor, if Ringo finds a girlfriend don’t ya go and marry them, cause love stinks.” Ernie’s bushy gray eyebrows rose in wonder, she released her hold on the old man and snagged up Ringo not wanting Ernie to see her sad eyes. She walked away whispering to the coon her last endearments before she left Alabama while her heart broke into million of pieces.

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