By the time Zeke and his companions made it back to the main compound, Zeke was in a rather melancholy mood. For the time for him to board a flight from Tulsa (Oklahoma) to London (England) was rapidly approaching.
Skinny obviously shared in Zeke’s somber mood, as did Heckle and Jeckle. For instead of acting like they were unwilling to call it a day as usual, all three of them just silently watched him shuffle back to the main house, which added all the more to the funk he was feeling.
Nonetheless, Zeke believed that he had a destiny to be of as much true help to as many people as possible to fulfill, and he certainly had good reason to believe that he could fulfill it brilliantly. For being invited to complete advanced doctorate programs at both Oxford University and the London School of Economics and Political Science after graduating from the University of Arkansas with a 4.0 grade point average and doctorate degrees in business administration, civil engineering and political science at the very early age of eighteen left little doubt that his future was indeed meant to be intensely bright.
Not that Zeke was necessarily religious. For he had been raised to believe in God, who had a plan for what He had created, but the fulfillment of that plan was actually in the hands of mankind—especially the more special among them.
The first indication of just how special Zeke was came when he pointed out a shortcut on the map to his father that could save at least an hour of traveling time down to a cattle auction on a place outside of Russellville, Arkansas. For Zeke was not quite four years old at the time.
The shortcut was not the only help Zeke gave his father on that trip. For when his father went to bid on a lot of young Santa Gertrudis bulls, Zeke cautioned him against it on account of how temperamental Santa Gertrudis can be. When his father asked him how he knew that, Zeke answered that the last time they had visited the University of Arkansas extension office together, he had read a couple of articles suggesting that the breed was not for those who did not relish the possibility of a rodeo breaking out when they needed to be worked.
From then on, his parents started paying much closer attention to their apparent prodigy, and Zeke never failed to amaze them with a knowledge and understanding of a number of things well beyond their own. When it came time for him to begin kindergarten a little over a year after the trip to Russellville, Zeke was reading at an advanced collegiate level, and his writing skills were not far behind.
It was when his parents went to actually enroll Zeke in a local public school that some indication was given of just how problematic being so special could be. For the elementary school principal was listening from an adjacent room to his office when Zeke told his mother that what was hanging on the wall was the head of a javelina after she asked if it was a small razorback, and the principal burst into his office with accusations of them trying to humiliate him by attempting to pass off an obviously highly-educated midget as a four and a half year-old after hearing Zeke tell his mother that what was written on the plaque under the javelina head was: Seize The Day! Success Favors The Bold!
No, it was not time to schedule a commitment hearing yet, but the principal was headed there in a hurry. For a long-running feud with a prominent member of the local school board had him feeling plumb paranoid, and it was well beyond his faltering grasp on reality that someone so young would know the difference between a javelina and a feral hog—let alone be able to correctly translate Carpe Diem! Fortuna Audaces Iuvats!
Just in case you are confused, Arkansas schools allowed four year-olds to start kindergarten that early back then, just as long as the child turned five before the start of the second semester of the current school year. This applied to five year-olds starting first grade, as well.
Not that it mattered any more to Zeke’s parents. For after discovering that he had apparently learned how to read Latin all by himself, they went to have him take an I.Q. test, and when word leaked that his I.Q. was at least 200, which was based upon 200 being the highest possible score and that he had completed the test well before the allotted time, none of the schools (both public and private) in the area wanted to have a student who was much more intelligent than all of his would-be teachers put together.
However, several offers from elite prep schools around the world were received, but neither Zeke, nor his parents, gave them any serious consideration. For he did not want to leave home, and his parents certainly did not want to see him go anywhere else, anytime soon.
So, it would be home-schooling for Zeke. That is, at least for the foreseeable future.
Although, it turned out to not necessarily be the case. For Uncle Willie, who was actually of no relation at all, volunteered to help guide Zeke in his educational pursuits at his place and beyond, which was most agreeable to both Zeke and his parents.
One of the main reasons for why Zeke’s parents were so agreeable with the arrangement was that Uncle Willie was considered to be more than family to them, and he considered them to be more than family to him. This started when he helped to save the life of Zeke’s father after Zeke’s father had accidentally parachuted into the wrong area during the confusion in the last few hours before the first allied troops landed on the Normandy coast of France in a little World War II exercise called, Operation Overlord, which is most commonly referred to as being D-Day.
Uncle Willie, whose full name was William Wallace MacLister, was a British commando who had been working with members of the French Resistance in the area for several weeks beforehand, and he watched in horror as German soldiers shot Zeke’s father several times before he hit the ground. When he saw that Zeke’s father was still alive after the Germans had left him for dead, Uncle Willie was able to get him to a sympathetic local doctor, who was able to keep him alive while waiting to be transported to a hospital ship anchored off of the coast. A couple of days later, Zeke’s father was transported to a hospital in England.
After considering his recovery to be good enough, Zeke’s father escaped from the hospital in time to return the favor that he had received from Uncle Willie. For poor intelligence reports had Uncle Willie’s unit parachuting into a German stronghold during Operation Market Garden, and Zeke’s father played a major role in the rescue of Uncle Willie and what was left of his unit.
They hooked up a few more times before the war was over, and they stayed in touch after it finally was. Aside from exchanging letters on a regular basis, they and their families would meet for an extended visit of at least a couple of weeks every year.
The first reunion was held at the Triple E, and the next was in Edinburgh, Scotland. For this was Uncle Willie’s hometown, and after his military service to crown and country ended, he returned to being a professor of history at the University of Edinburgh.
When Uncle Willie started hinting about wanting to retire from formal teaching, Zeke’s father invited him to move his whole family to the Triple E, which placed him in a perfect position to take on the task of teaching Zeke. Although, there was some debate over just who would be teaching who, which Uncle Willie did not mind a bit. For he was of the opinion that a truly good educator is more about helping their students find what they would love doing as a profession so that they will not have to really work a day of their lives than actually teaching them anything, and if the teacher can learn a thing or two in the process—all the better for all concerned.
All the better, indeed. For both student and teacher dove headfirst into a different sea of knowledge and understanding each week, and the only reason why a faster pace was not kept was on account of Uncle Willie not being able to keep up.
Not that Zeke minded. For he dearly loved spending time with the old Scot, and while doing so, he was learning that there is often a big difference between theory and practice.
You see, Uncle Willie devoutly believed that there was no substitute for experience, but Zeke constantly proved to be an exception to the rule. For what would normally take most quite some time to master, Zeke would regularly display a very high degree of proficiency the very first time he tried his hand at something.
Uncle Willie had him out there actually doing everything from digging in the dirt at archeological sites to constructing buildings of all sorts and sizes. This sounds like an awful lot for someone so young to handle, I know, but Zeke’s mind was not the only thing about him racing far ahead of the norm. For on his fourteenth birthday, he stood a full six feet and four inches in height and weighed a rock solid 220 pounds.
Curiously, Zeke quit growing after that. He was big enough, nonetheless.
When it came to archaeological sites, Zeke and Uncle Willie did not have to travel far. For aside from several Civil War engagements of various sizes being fought both on and very near the Triple E, two major Osage Indian villages had been located on the property. According to a journal kept by Edwin Ezra Erickson, who was Zeke’s uncle ten times over, the largest Osage village had over 1,000 inhabitants in 1700 and was located around fifteen miles to the northwest of where the main house on the ranch was built in 1840.
During Edwin’s time, the Ericksons still lived in a fort that Edmund Emmanuel Erickson had built in 1680 around sixth miles to the west of where the main house now was. Since the fort was on the Oklahoma side of the border, the Erickson’s were forced to abandon it after the United States government took away that part of their land.
Quite surprisingly, several significant artifacts were unearthed at the site of the largest Osage village—including some spectacular ceremonial spear points made out of deep blue flint. For one would think that a documented location like that would have been thoroughly searched long ago. In any event, seeing Uncle Willie literally jumping for joy over the discoveries made the experience even more of a thrill for Zeke to cherish.
Uncle Willie also took Zeke on several visits to historic sites all over Europe, with Scotland being visited the most, of course. No, there was no digging in the dirt for buried treasures on those trips, but Zeke did not feel cheated. For he placed a high value on actually visiting places he had been merely reading about before.
The old Scot choked up upon his return to where he had helped to rescue Zeke’s father in France and where Zeke’s father had helped to rescue him in Holland. He was also very uncharacteristically at a loss for words when they visited where the Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau and Ravensbruck Concentrations Camps had been located in Poland and Germany.
Aside from the cultural and historical significance, Uncle Willie believed that visiting Europe was also an essential part to the proper study of architecture. Zeke was particularly impressed with the Gothic designs of cathedrals, but many of the great stone structures across Europe held his full attention for hours at a time. Castles (even the ruined ones) came in a close second behind the cathedrals.
No, Uncle Willie did not require Zeke to design and build a castle, but Zeke was tasked with helping to design and construct an indoor arena that could host everything from a rodeo to a rock music concert with enough seating capacity to comfortably accommodate at least 10,000 spectators. This involved active participation in every stage of the construction process, with each stage serving as opportunities for practical applications of his studies in all sorts of arts and sciences—including even political science.
The area was to be constructed upon Triple E land next to the western city limits of Springdale, but permits were still required for the construction of connecting streets, its own water and waste disposal systems, as well as its own electrical power generation. Zeke utilized some very advanced technologies to generate electrical power with the use of wind turbines and solar panels, and engineers from all over the world came to marvel at the efficiency of his designs.
When the Triple E Arena was completed, it looked like a scaled-down version of the Coliseum in Rome. Well, not exactly. For the Triple E Arena had a very special roof while the Roman Coliseum did not.
What made the roof of the Triple E Arena so special was that it doubled as a gigantic solar energy collector. This was accomplished by embedding the necessary components into thick sheets of clear acrylic glass held in place between high-test steel ribs that were curved to prevent rain and snow from collecting on top.
Adding more to the strength and aesthetics of the arena roof, another layer of clear acrylic glass sheets was placed on top of the ones made into solar panels, and a layer of colored acrylic glass sheets was placed underneath the two clear layers. The colored sheets were arranged in a pattern that rivaled the very best of stained-glass windows adorning cathedrals and other houses of worship the world over, and over the years, it became like a pilgrimage for many to pay a visit to the Triple E Arena at least once a year just to look up at the underneath roof with a child-like sense of wonder.
Although not nearly to the scale of the Triple E Arena, another project that Zeke received an enormous amount satisfaction from helping to see to completion was the building of a grand lodge on top of Boston Mountain for the purpose of entertaining business associates, as well as the friends and families of Triple E employees—complete with a year-round staff to meet their every desire (within reason, of course). For it involved finding a suitable site, building a road to the site, clearing the site, digging and filling in with concrete trenches for the foundation, drilling a well, running electrical wires and installing outlets, along with cutting enough logs for outside walls two-stories high.
Fireplaces and wood stoves provided most of the heat during the winter time, but a 1,000-pound propane tank was installed to provide gas for cooking. So, pipes for that were needed to be run, as well as pipes for water and sewage.
The lodge was connected to the regular electrical power grid, but wind turbines and solar panels kept the electric bill very low—even when every room was occupied. It was not long before wind turbines and solar panels could be seen at several locations on the Triple E, and there were some months when the electric company owed money back to the Ericksons.
Even more timber was needed to be cut and milled for interior walls, interior and exterior doors, window frames, the front and back full-length covered porches, floors and the roof. Cedar shake shingles were made and used to cover the parts of the roof not covered with the same set-up as used for the roof of the arena, and those solar panels were also utilized for the window panes.
Timber was also cut and milled for the making of cabinets and furniture, and Zeke fell madly in love with woodworking. He made perfect replicas of many classic designs (along with adding a few creative touches of his own) while working with cherry, walnut, maple, ash, hickory, pine, cedar and several different kinds of oak.
Before and after World War II, Uncle Willie was heavily involved in The Scottish Council of The Scout Association, and when he and his family moved to the Triple E, he became the scoutmaster of a local Boy Scouts of America troop. So, it was a given that Zeke would become a Boy Scout as soon as he was old enough, and as with everything else he was involved in, he shined. In fact, he made Eagle on the first day he was eligible to in accordance with the minimum age limit after actually fulfilling all of the other requirements in less than a year after he first joined.
On top of all that was work on the ranch. This included everything from doctoring cattle to shoeing horses, milking cows to catching chickens, building fence to hauling hay, planting corn to making blackstrap molasses, along with hundreds of other tasks and chores that Zeke delighted in doing.
Yes, time was also made for play, but mere mortals would be hard-pressed to call it that. For Zeke was a fierce competitor when it came to sports, and woe be it unto anyone not taking their play serious enough for his satisfaction.
Being raised on a working cattle ranch, Zeke was practicing skills from a very early age that helped him to win quite a few rodeo events—even when competing against professionals. He was especially good at calf and team roping, and he was consistently timed at under four seconds when steer wrestling.
In all fairness, Zeke was always quick to give Skinny all of the credit for his winning ways in the arena, which was unnecessary when they would win a cutting event. For Skinny had to have been one of the most agile horses to have ever lived, and according to Zeke, Skinny was always focused as much upon keeping him in the saddle as keeping a wily calf from slipping past them.
The legend of Skinny was further enhanced when he and Zeke were invited to perform a cutting horse exhibition for the opening night of the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma one year. For they were tasked with cutting a rather rowdy Nubian (dairy goat) buck from a herd of thirty does, which provided quite a show for the overflowing crowd at the Myriad Convention Center.
They only performed such an exhibition once. For there were just too many more important things to do, but it was a memory that Zeke cherished for the rest of his life. Skinny, on the other hand, acted like it was just another day under the saddle.
It was while playing baseball that Zeke attracted the most notable attention very early on. For scouts from several major league teams could be seen in the stands whenever it was his turn to take the mound for his American Legion team after his first three starts were no-hitters.
Playing pick-up games with and against current and former members of the University of Arkansas basketball team also brought much attention Zeke’s way. For there appeared to not be a shot he could not make whenever he wanted to, but his dream was to play football with his beloved Razorbacks.
None of that mattered to the dean of admissions when the time came for Zeke to apply a few months before he turned fifteen later in the fall. For he was quite sure in his belief that no one under the age of seventeen could possibly have the maturity needed to succeed in a collegiate atmosphere—regardless of making a perfect score on both the SAT and ACT, and standing a full eight inches taller than him.
Zeke already knew that he would not be able to play football with the Razorbacks until he was at least eighteen years old on account of NCAA rules, but he still wanted to get most of his more formal education out of the way beforehand. So, he asked Uncle Willie to see if there were any strings he could pull in order to gain an audience with the dean, and when it was finally granted, Zeke made the most of the opportunity.
No, the dean had no idea who he was dealing with. For after respectfully listening to the dean drone on and on about how it would be a waste of time and resources for all concerned to admit him at the time, Zeke asked if it was indeed true that the main campus of the University of Arkansas (located in Fayetteville) is often referred to as being the Harvard of the Ozarks. When the dean visibly puffed out his chest and nodded his head in an affirmative motion, Zeke said he found it rather ironic that the Harvard of the Ozarks did not consider him ready for their educational curriculum while he has had a full-ride scholarship offer on the table from Harvard itself since he turned ten.
When Zeke started attending classes at the Fayetteville campus that fall, he was technically a junior and arguably a senior. For he had tested out of all of the prerequisite courses and many advanced courses required to obtain degrees during the placement process. In fact, he could have received several undergraduate degrees at the winter commencement of his first year in attendance, but he thoroughly enjoyed actually attending classes while bidding his time until he could don an Arkansas Razorbacks football uniform for real.
Three years and the enforcement of a special court-ordered injunction later, the day finally came. Oh, and what a day it was. For it was the beginning of arguably the most unbelievable year ever had by a college athlete.
Ironically, it was the University of Arkansas who pursued the special injunction that would allow Zeke to start playing football four months before his eighteenth birthday. For he had become quite famous for his academic prowess, and after the football coaches clocked him at 4.36 seconds in a 40-yard dash, along with seeing him bench press over 500 pounds on a regular basis, no one on the Fayetteville campus could think of any good reason to keep him regulated to the stands as a spectator—not even the dean of admissions.
It did not take long before Zeke became famous for more than academic prowess around Fayetteville. For on the very first day of official practice, he made an absolutely devastating tackle on a play involving the Razorbacks’ All-American fullback running the ball up the middle while Zeke was playing free safety.
No, I don’t think you are quite getting the picture. For what I am calling an absolutely devastating tackle was Zeke sticking his right shoulder into the fullback’s gut, wrapping his arms around the back of his legs and then picking up all 250 pounds of him completely off of the ground before slamming him back down on his back—all in one fluid motion.
Oh, and did I fail to mention that Zeke had come from over twenty years away to make that stop a measly two yards over the line of scrimmage after he had seen the fullback heading for the hole that had been opened up in the middle of the defensive line? Yeah, I think you might be starting to get the picture now.
Well, even if you are not quite getting it yet, the entire team did, and when it came time to play the first game, Zeke was the starting free safety on defense, which allowed him to line up all over the field. He was also the starting tight end on offense.
Zeke was also on all of the special teams, which included being both the punt and kick-off returner. In other words, the only time he left the field was at halftime and the end of the game.
Aside from quickly becoming known as an incredible player, Zeke was building quite a reputation as a true sportsman, as well. For there were several times when he could have seriously hurt an opponent with a perfectly clean hit, but Zeke would hold back and be content with just getting the ball-carrier on the turf without embedding him into it. After recording twenty-seven tackles as the Razorbacks beat (quite literally) the University of Texas 42-0 in Austin, even rabid Longhorn fans stood up and cheered his extraordinarily gracious play.
Arkansas crushed Notre Dame 56-0 in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day to cap an undefeated season, and being voted the national champions was most definitely a thick layer of luscious buttercream icing on an already delicious cake. Yeah, some dreams can come true.
In regards to individual accolades, Zeke practically swept all of the major awards (including the Heisman Trophy) after shattering several records. A few of the records he set were scoring the most touchdowns in a season at 100, making the most tackles in a season at 347 and making the most interceptions in a season at thirty-two. Oh, and he also threw for twenty-four touchdowns on trick plays, which was the record for the most touchdowns thrown by a non-quarterback in a season.
The head basketball coach had been instrumental in winning the special injunction to allow Zeke to start playing football before he had actually turned eighteen. So, there was no surprise when Zeke donned a basketball jersey as soon as the football season was over, and the coach hoped that it was not too late. For season-ending injuries had left him with just nine players on a team yet to win a single game.
The tide turned immediately. For with Zeke averaging 36.6 points, 22.3 rebounds, 25.7 assists and 13.2 steals a game, the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team did not lose another game for the rest of the season. Yep, that added up to Zeke finding himself on another national championship team after the Razorbacks defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 103-74 in the final game of the NCAA men’s national basketball tournament.
Needlessly to say, Zeke was living a life that few ever dream of, but there was something about his time as a part of the basketball team that truly boggles the mind. For he did not miss a single shot the entire season, and a few of them were launched from well over the opposite side of the half-court line as time was expiring at the end of the first half of the game.
Oh, and arguably the most unbelievable year ever had by a college athlete was not over yet. For as soon as the basketball season ended, Zeke grabbed his glove and joined the baseball team. Three months later, Zeke found himself on yet another national championship team after Arkansas defeated the University of Southern California in the final game of the College World Series 8-0, and as if his basketball statistics were not enough to make most think that all of his numbers are made up, Zeke threw sixteen no-hitters, with him recording twenty-seven strikeouts on eighty-one pitches in five of them! If you are not all that familiar with the game of baseball, recording twenty-seven strike-outs on eighty-one pitches is the absolute minimum number of pitches needed to do this, and no one had ever done it once—let alone five times before.
No, it would not do for Zeke to be just sitting on the bench during games he was not scheduled to pitch in. For Zeke was considered quite offensive (trying to be funny here) when it was his turn to bat.
To remedy the situation, Zeke would play center field when he was not on the mound, where his great overall speed and arm-strength made for some spectacular defensive plays in support of his fellow pitchers. When it was his turn to bat, Zeke hit 180 home runs and recorded 417 runs-batted-in while maintaining a 1.000% batting average in 356 plate appearances. No, he never failed to either get a hit or be walked by the opposing pitcher, and he also stole a total of 139 bases along the way.
Much to the dismay of every Arkansas Razorbacks fan, Zeke announced that he would be leaving school after that one year of legendary feats, and he also declined offers to play football for the Dallas Cowboys, basketball for the Baltimore Bullets and baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. Aside from them being from his favorite team in each sport, all of the professional contracts offered to Zeke involved huge amounts of money, but he was determined to stay on the path he so clearly saw before him. Next stop: Great Britain.
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